April 25

John Koontz died on this day in 1832. He was buried in a small family graveyard on a hill overlooking the Shenandoah river. Bro. Koontz was perhaps the first Baptist preacher to proclaim the gospel in what was then known as Shenandoah County, Virginia. His ministry was such a success that he nearly died years before 1832. His preaching roused the violent hatred of many native Virginians. On one occasion, near Smith’s Creek, he was met by a gang who forbade his preaching. When a highly respected local man, Captain Learhorn, insisted that he preach, he proceeded, but after the meeting the gang threatened the preacher with death if he ever came back. Undeterred he eventually returned. When he was discovered and beaten with the butt end of a large cane. Again refusing to promise never to return, the beating continued until Bro. Koontz was nearly disabled with broken bones and internal injuries. Sometime later, he and a close friend, Martin Kaufman were in a house awaiting the announced preaching hour. Koontz was in separate room when a man burst in and began beating Kaufman with a stick, thinking he was the preacher. Many blows fell before the man became aware that he was mistaken. Shame made him slink away, but Kaufman had been severely wounded. On another occasion a group of men had arrested Bro. Koontz and were transporting him to jail. When a man, who had earlier heard the preacher, tried to rescue him, he was beaten off. A few miles further up the road, the evangelist warned the mob to be careful, because if he was...

What Paul Didn’t Say – Galatians 2:20

The well-known Greek expert A.W. Robertson says of this verse – “One of Paul’s greatest mystical sayings.” I’m not sure what he means by the word “mystical,” but I have to agree that this is a wonderful statement. I hope you have it memorized and can quote it to yourself when you need it. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” I have preached from this verse two or three times, and I have read dozens of other messages. One common outline is to point the apparent contradictions – which aren’t contradictions at all. “I have been crucified, NEVERTHELESS I live.” “I live, YET NOT I, but Christ liveth in me.” These statements make no sense to the unbeliever. But to Paul they were clear, because as he said, “I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Paul understood, through the Spirit, that his life was hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). I hope that is something you understand to some degree as well. Then he concluded his thought – “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Perhaps the greatest conundrum of the verse is in this last clause. The Son of God “loved me, and gave himself for me.” “Why should He love me so? Why should He love me so? Why should my Savior to Calvary...

Distractions, Deviations and Divergencies – I Corinthians 15:51-58

We have just read the conclusion of Paul’s exposition of the doctrine of resurrection. This may have been the most controversial Christian doctrine of his day. The details of this doctrine are often debated in our day, but it was even more important in Paul’s. One of the major Jewish sects, the Sadducees, denied this doctrine entirely (Matthew 22:18). And even though the Pharisees believed in resurrection generally, they refused to accept the proof that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead, proving Himself to be the eternal Son of God. As I’ve pointed out before, nearly every sermon in the Book of Acts expressly declares Jesus’ resurrection, because it was such a hot topic. One of Paul’s conclusions here is – “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” As I say, Jesus’ resurrection was under attack, and souls were in jeopardy as a result. So I Corinthians 15 – one of the longest chapters in any of Paul’s epistles – definitively teaches the importance of Christ’s resurrection – and our resurrection in Him. Then he concludes with a statement about the Christian life and doctrine in general – “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye STEDFAST, UNMOVEABLE, always ABOUNDING in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” One of the problems with American society is a lack of consistency. The media tries to tell us that the police are not consistent in their application of force and the law. Parents are not consistent and uniform in the raising...

April 18

The father of James Fife was an elder in an Edinburgh Presbyterian Church. When a baby was presented to the church for sprinkling, the pastor, knowing that the mother was not a Christian, questioned who would “sponsor” the child. This lead to an extended church discussion and then a study of baptism as found in the Bible. As a result, the pastor and half the congregation united with the local Baptist church – that included the senior Mr. Fife. Shortly after that, one by one the rest of the family trusted Christ, were baptized and began serving the Saviour. When a wealthy uncle left his estate to James Fife and his brothers, the siblings left Scotland for Virginia. After serving as engineer for the city of Richmond, James once again took up preaching the gospel, as he had done in the old country. Soon he was the spiritual leader of four churches in Goochland County. James Fife was a powerful preacher – in part because he committed the entire New Testament to memory. He could quote chapter and verse for any thing he needed, giving him authority which the Church of England vicars lacked. It is said that he preached with unction, and people often responded with great emotion and shouting, although he discouraged extended outbursts. On this day in 1820 he began a trip to Philadelphia by stagecoach and steamboat to participate in the third annual meeting of the Baptist Missionary Society, which became known as the Triennial Convention. After eventually settling in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bro. Fife served seven different churches all within about twenty-miles. On one occasion...

Men and Brethren, Say On – Acts 13:14-44

I trust everyone is aware that we are having a service on Friday night which includes a visiting speaker. We have extended a invitation to Bro. Scott Silvers to come and preach for us. And of course, he will be with us Friday and then again on Sunday. Bro. Austin will also be speaking Friday, and after leading the singing, I will sit back and enjoy. But I thought that perhaps this evening I might be able to participate with a preparatory message. We have read this entire passage, because I want you to understand from where I am coming. But now let me paraphrase the first part of our text to show you where I am going. Look again at verse 14 – “When the Silvers family departed from Oklahoma, they came to Post Falls in Idaho, and went into the Lord’s church, and sat down. And after a couple hymns and a message from God’s word by Bro. Fulton, the pastor of the church invited Bro. Silvers to the pulpit saying, unto him, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. Then he stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, Men of Lord, and ye that fear God, listen up.” Paul and Barnabas were only months into their first missionary journey. When they first reached Salamis, Cyprus, they preached the word in the synagogues of the Jews. Later in the capital city of Paphos, they had do deal with a false prophet named Elymas before they could share the gospel with the governor, Sergius Paulus. After that they traveled north to Perga...

More than Conquerors – Romans 8:33-39

When I was a boy, living in Omaha, Nebraska, I played with two brothers who lived up the street. After Craig LeMaster – my best friends were Mark and David Wormington. My mother enjoyed visiting with Mrs. Wormington, but she did not like her husband. The man owned a shady used-car dealership. He sold cars to poor people, taking as much down-payment as possible and financing the balance. Then when they missed a payment or two, he repossessed their cars and sold them again to others. He basically just re-circulated his stock, looking for new buyers all the time. But it wasn’t so much the man’s occupation which upset my Mom – she disliked a particular habit he had. The man like to argue. She said that whatever position she, or anyone else, held, he would take the opposite, just to irritate them. And he had a particular way with words – twisting and turning them in every direction. Plus, he loved to win – he would pull out all the stops to win every argument, even if it meant hurting and alienating people. Perhaps you know, or have known like this – they are miserable unless they in a fight and winning. They are “always” right – whether they are or not – and they make sure that you know it. I hope you are not like that. Generally speaking, Christians should be “blameless… of good behaviour, given to hospitality…not given to wine, no STRIKER, not greedy of filthy lucre… not a BRAWLER, not covetous.” “No striker… not a brawler, not covetous” – not even covetous for wins...

April 11

We need to keep in mind that although we Baptists treasure the King James Bible, England’s King James was no lover of our doctrines or our forefathers. On this day in 1612, a year after the publication of the King’s Authorized Version of the Bible, Edward Wightman was burned to death at Lichfield. Some say he was the last Baptist to be so murdered in Britain. Other than the prelates of the Church, the English people were growing tired of such brutality, so stir their growing antipathy Wightman was charged with a litany of offenses, most of which were not true. They said he was guilty of accepting the doctrines of “Ebion, Cerinthus, Valentinus, Arius, Macedonius, Simon Magus, Manes, Photinus, and of the Anabaptists, and other arch-heretics.” Actually, he was nothing more than an Anabaptist, but that was enough to stir up the priests of the Church of England. Historian Thomas Crosby wrote of Wightman’s martyrdom. “Among other charges brought against him were these: ‘That the baptizing of infants is an abominable custom; the Lord’s supper and baptism are not to be celebrated as they are now practiced in the church of England and that Christianity is not wholly professed and preached in the church of England, but only in part.’” The sort of man Edward Wightman really was might be seen in some of his progeny. Valentine Wightman, the great grandson of Edward, established the first Baptist church in Connecticut. His son Timothy Wightman pastored that church in Groton after his father, and he was succeeded by his son, John Gano Wightman. These were all good men whose...

Sojourners of the Dispersion – I Peter 1:1

Something to always remember is that the entire Bible is meant for all of us. Even though it speaks about people from a different time and culture, the lessons are still for us today. Even though many promises may be meant for specific people, we can still learn from them. And even though some prophesies are meant for future generations, we have the obligation to believe them and pass them on to those specific generations. Shouldn’t we try to understand what Peter was saying to the residents of Asia, even though we live here? If this wasn’t the case, then it might argued that we shouldn’t bother with any of the Word of God. The fact is – the Bible is the eternal Word of God – and the people of God should listen carefully to everything that Jehovah has to say. So even though Peter mentions places most Christians couldn’t find on a map, his letters are meant for us. Notice that Peter’s readers were described in exactly the same way we are described. “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” …. Another thing Peter says about his readers is – they are “strangers scattered.” No matter where and when Christians might live in this world, they are “scattered strangers.” But these words “strangers scattered” had some special meaning to the Jews of Peter’s day. Away back in Psalm 147:2 the Septuagint uses the same Greek words to translate “outcasts of Israel.” It was a title used of the Jews in...

Baptist Distinctives – Jude 1-4

What I have for you this evening will not be much more than an outline – or maybe two or three outlines. There won’t be too much meat on these bare bones, but I have reasons for this. First – the points I’d like to make this evening should we well-known to most of you. In fact we are going over some of these in our morning Bible studies. So there is no reason to re-teach them tonight. Anyway, it could take more than one message to treat them adequately. And yet, at the very least, they need to be reiterated from time to time – “This is what we believe, and this is who we are.” My third purpose is to lay the groundwork for another message or two which I hope to share with you in the not too distant future. You could consider this to be the introduction to a future message or messages. Several weeks ago, I mentioned that I like to hear your questions – easy questions, complex, whatever. I want you to bring to me those things which perplex you or which are disturbing you. I said that sometimes I will have a quick and ready answer. On the other hand, in my diminishing brain-power, you might have to wait while I study the question. And sometimes I will be as perplexed as you, and we’ll have to leave the answers to Bro. Fulton. And then sometimes your questions will develop into a message to share with the entire church. In this case, after Ellie Kjeldgaard came forward for baptism a couple of...

Convinced – Acts 9:1-22

  This is the day in which most of Christendom celebrates the resurrection of Christ. I have no problem with celebrating Jesus’ resurrection, but I do have problems with the superstitious and unbiblical fashion which this celebration so often takes. Tradition should not be allowed to dictate to people what they believe – or how they should celebrate what they believe. Taking our cue from the Bible, I believe that it is wrong to confine our thoughts on this subject to just one day. The resurrection of Christ has been a part of the theme of every chapter and every sermon preached in the first eight chapters of the Book of Acts. It is at the core of Christianity, and it was the reason the disciples gave their lives for Jesus’ sake. With Christ’s resurrection the disciples had hope, and without that resurrection they had nothing. If those Apostles were in the world today, I’m not sure whether they would laugh or cry, watching people walking into their fancy churches wearing their fancy hats on Easter Sunday, especially if they knew that those people hadn’t been to church in three months or a year. I believe that Easter Bunnies and painted eggs are an abomination when laid along side Jesus’ resurrection. And then there is the Biblical fact that the Lord Jesus didn’t arise from the grave on Sunday morning, Easter morning, or any other morning. When the ladies came to Joseph’s tomb at the break of the Lord’s day morning, it was already empty. Christ Jesus prophesied that he’d be three days and three nights in that tomb....