By Jady W. Copeland
For several years I have thought that materialism is a major hindrance to the church. Young preachers often ask, “What will the next major issue be among God’s people?” Materialism will not likely divide brethren into “camps” as did institutionalism, but it is stifling the church and causing a hindrance to the teaching of people to say nothing about the fact that it could jeopardize the soul of the individual. Before getting to specifics let us lay the groundwork by looking at the mission of Christ and his people the church.
Jesus came to the earth to save mankind (Lk. 19:10). We see by this that his mission was spiritual. He was the “word,” the logos or the “personal word,” which, according to scholars, was an expression of his deity. But he became flesh (Jn. 1:1,4). He was both flesh and deity while on earth and he was “life” (Jn. 1:4) and the “light of men.” He came to bring life that only deity could give. In describing man’s walk as a Christian Paul tells us that men were alienated from the “life of God” because of their sins and that the life of sin must be put away. The life of Jesus is found in putting on the “new man that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:17-24).
Note that the “life” which Paul praises is in contrast to the life “alienated from” God. Therefore, the new life is the life in Christ. No longer “aliens” but children of God.
In Romans 6:19 he adds, “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.” We have long (and well) preached the first part of Romans 6 where Paul has told us when we enter this new life (baptism into death), so that being the case we as saints are to live as the new life dictates.
Just as the mission of Jesus on earth was spiritual so is the word he gave. Jesus came as a sacrifice for sin (Eph. 5:2) which was a spiritual mission, and he also gave us a message that addressed the spirit of man for the salvation of his soul. Paul said the gospel is God’s power to save (1 Cor. 15:1-2) and this salvation was the salvation of the soul. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” On. 8:31-32).
Two questions we may ask here. First, what is the “truth” of which Jesus speaks? In defining “truth” W.E. Vine says in his Dictionary of New Testament Words, “the word has an absolute force in John 14:6; 17:17; 18:37,38” (v. 4, p. 159). In Galatians 2:5 Paul speaks of the “truth of the gospel.” This is the same gospel as Paul mentions in Romans 1:16 that he says saves people. In Ephesians 4:21 Paul says the “truth is in Jesus.” Jesus who is the “way, the truth and the life” (Jn. 14:6) left us (with the inspired men after he left) the truth of the gospel which will save the soul. This is a spiritual message.
Secondly, from what will the gospel free? It will not make us free of disease. It will not make us free of war in the world. It did not make us free to walk on the moon science know-how freed us to do this. So from what will it make us free?
Let us go back to our passage in Romans 6. When Paul said we are “under grace” (v. 14) some may have concluded that we may sin because we are under grace. “God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye pre-sent yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness? But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness” (vv. 15-18, emp. mine, JWC). What had the Romans obeyed? The gospel, God’s power of salvation (Rom. 1:16). Peter says that obedience to the gospel will free from sin (Acts 2:38). We are saved by God’s grace for sure (Rom. 6:14; Eph. 2:8-9). Without God’s mercy there would be no offer of salvation, but this grace is made possible to sinners by faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1-2). God’s offer of salvation is extended to all, his salvation is given to the believer (Rom. 5:1). God cannot save the unbeliever (Mk. 16:16b).
Now in summary, let us note that Jesus came to the world for the purpose of saving souls. He did not come to keep us from dying a natural death, but he came to make us alive when we all die a spiritual death (Rom. 6:23). We have no choice about physical death (Heb. 9:27) but we do have a choice as to whether we sin causing spiritual death (Rom. 6:23). When he left, he gave the apostles instructions in giving out his pattern for salvation, and after his sacrificial death, he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God (Acts 1 and 2). He there reigns as king until time shall end. The message that the apostles gave us by inspiration is a spiritual message that gives us all that we need for the salvation of the soul (2 Pet. 1:3). The life he instructed us to live is one that will prepare us for heaven, the home of the soul. It is a spirit world and our lives here must be centered in the eternal, not in the material world. As Jesus’ mission was spiritual, and as our mission here is spiritual, just so we must keep our minds on the spiritual life. Material things are temporal, and we need them only to prepare for heaven. Think on these things; the Bible is right.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 1, p. 12
January 7, 1993