The first century Jew living in Palestine did not know what to make of Jesus of Nazareth. Some thought he was a prophet. Others rejected Him completely. The Bible says, “There was a division therefore again among the Jews for…many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:19-21)
It’s a lot easier to call a man an idiot than to refute his claims. Thus some of the Jews, not knowing what to do about Jesus, simply said – the man is mad, he’s a lunatic. Certainly, as a general rule, we might say that any man who claims to be the Son of God is crazy. But with Jesus of Nazareth there are two reasons why we cannot dismiss His claim to divinity by crying “Lunatic.”
First, there are the works of Jesus. When some began to say of Jesus, “He hath a devil, and is mad,” others replied, “Can a devil open the eyes of the blind?” Jesus not only restored sight to the blind, he also caused the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and even raised the dead. Therefore many of his contemporaries rightly concluded that he could not be dismissed by crying “Madman.”
Second, there is his teaching. In reply to the charge, “He hath a devil, and is mad,” others said, “These are not the words of him that hath a devil.” Jesus was the master teacher. It is He who gave us the golden rule. It is He that taught us to love not only our friends but our enemies as well. Even infidels often admit that Jesus was a great teacher. Those who heard Him in person as well as those of us who read His words 2000 years later know that these are not the teachings of one who is mad.
What are we to make of Jesus of Nazareth? Certainly the combination of His words and works, His miracles and His teachings, are consistent with His claim to be the very Son of God. ￼
Somehow religious people seem to have forgotten the fundamental importance of obedience to the law of God. It seems to many that as long as they are sincere and serve God in their own way, then surely God will be pleased and their personal salvation will be assured. However, the Bible promises salvation only to those who are obedient. Jesus himself was obedient and we must be also. The Bible says of Jesus: “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Hebrews 5:8-9)
The original Greek word translated “obey” in this passage is hupakuo. It is a compound word; the first part of it meaning “under” and the second part meaning “to hear.” Therefore, its literal meaning is “to hear under.” Or as we might say: To be under someone’s command. We certainly understand this usage in the military. It means to obey orders. And that is exactly what it means when the Bible speaks of obeying God. It means to follow orders.
In the famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus made it clear that just calling upon Him as Lord was not enough, rather we must go about doing God’s will. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
What about your moral life? Are you conducting yourself according to God’s standards? What about your religious life? Are you worshiping as God directs? What did you do in order to be saved from your sins? Did you follow God’s plan or one of today’s popular fads? Are you living your life under God’s command?
Why are Americans reluctant to read the instructions that come with new products? Too often, consumers struggle with (or even end up returning) items they can’t figure out how to use. Consumers want instant satisfaction – they don’t want to wade through pages of directions, especially if the directions are hard to follow or understand. Customer service numbers only compound the problem, because many people would rather call for help than read the instructions. Many folks are too lazy or stubborn, and too quick to let others do their research for them.
God’s experience with humankind is exactly like that. We continually get ourselves into trouble and reek havoc on our lives because we don’t read the manual God has provided – the Bible. Everything we need to know to live acceptably before God is contained in this inspired book (Acts 20:32; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3). But how many people really read it? And of those who do make some attempt to study the Bible, how many apply it diligently to every circumstance and situation of life? And, like the consumer quick to dial the 800 number for help, many folks – including far too many Christians – are content to let someone else do the reading. “The preacher knows all that stuff,” they reason. But every individual is accountable to God for the contents of His word (John 12:48), because everyone will be judged by the same (Revelation 20:12-13). We all have the same responsibility to be diligent in our efforts to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus taught that “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32), and affirmed that God’s word is truth (John 17:17). If it’s freedom and wisdom that we desire, God’s word is the only legitimate source.
Jesus prayed for the unity of His followers “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.” (John 17:20-21) But look at the modern world of Christendom. There is not only the division between Catholic and Protestant but split further into numerous denominations. Mead, in his book Handbook of Denominations, lists several hundred and that is not all. What have we done?
Is the oneness for which Jesus prayed possible? Should it not be the aim of every believer to promote that unity? But how – how at this late date can it be achieved?
First, we can begin by abandoning those things which divide us. For starters the denominational system itself needs to be dissolved. In the New Testament each congregation was autonomous. There were no denominations. Neither Christ nor the inspired apostles saw fit to have such. Furthermore, the very idea of denominations is contrary to Jesus’ prayer that His followers be one. Also, we should discard all man-made creeds, disciplines, manuals, statements of faith, etc. They have no authority in Christianity and promote division. The Bible, and the Bible alone, is sufficient as a rule of faith and practice.
Second, we can begin to follow the pattern of the New Testament church. At that time, Christ Himself was the only head of the church and each individual congregation was autonomous – no denominational organization. All that came much later. At that time the only rule of faith and practice was the apostles’ doctrine. There were no man-made creeds to which to adhere – only the inspired word of God.