LEARNING FROM THINGS WRITTEN AFORETIME
Hebrews 1:1, 2 says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,….” We learn that, (1) God has spoken; (2) in time past; (3) unto the fathers; (4) by the prophets; (5) He has spoken unto us; (6) at the time of the writing of Hebrews, was speaking by His Son. Other inspired writings inform us that God continues to speak to man by His Son through the words of the Holy Spirit. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; John 14:26; Romans 1:16; James 1:21).
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:1) told “all that be at Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints” (Romans 1:7), “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). There are many things revealed in the Old Testament that can aid us greatly in understanding the New Testament.
First, we can learn much from the story of the serpent on a pole. (Numbers 21:1-9). See tract, entitled, “A Serpent on a Pole, and the Son of Man on a Cross”, by the same author. We learn from this incident that God saves in His way when we do His will without change. We learn that faith PLUS obedience brought healing from the poisonous snake bites. This event pointed to Jesus, who would heal the soul from sin by pouring out His blood upon the cross (John 3:14-17; Matthew 26:28; 19:34), when one believed AND obeyed His will in His way. Thus, believers (John 8:24), who repent (Acts 17:30, 31), confess Jesus (Acts 8:37; Romans 10:9, 10), AND are baptized receive remission of sins. (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). DO NOT MISS the word AND in each of these verses. Faith and repentance are inseparably tied to baptism. Elimination of either eliminates the other. Thus, if baptism is not necessary, neither is faith or repentance. One cannot have it both ways. So, to include faith and repentance is to include baptism. Our salvation is by grace through faith when we obey what God has ordained. (Ephesians 2:8-10). It is true that we save ourselves (Acts 2:40) by doing the will of God (Matthew 7:21), but, when we do all the things He commands, we must say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:9, 10). Beloved, James summarized it all in James 2:14-26. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Verses 17, 20, 24, 26). Cf. also. Hebrews 5:8, 9.
Second, we learn from the healing of Naaman. (2 Kings 5). “Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria…was a leper.” (Verse 1). He was sent by “a little maid…to Elisha the man of God…a prophet in Israel.” (Verses 2, 8). Elisha sent a messenger to Naaman, telling him to “go wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” (Verse 10). Naaman refused, and left for the prettier waters of Syria, the Abana and Pharpar to wash and be clean. (Verses 11, 12). His servants convinced him to do as he was told. “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (Verses 13, 14). Naaman’s thinking and personal action did nothing for his leprosy. Read Proverbs 16:25; 3:5, 6; Jeremiah 9:23, 24. However, when the leper did it God’s way, he was healed. He had to do something. He had to (1) dip (2) in the river (3) Jordan (4) seven times. He retained his leprosy even after six dippings. It was not until he dipped the seventh time that he was cleansed. Naaman, in doing what he was told, knew that God had healed him. (Verse 15). Coming to the New Testament we learn that God has spoken, and it is not until we do things God’s way that we are saved. Faith, repentance, confession of Jesus’ Deity (see prior verses), brings one to baptism, when and where salvation occurs. (Acts 22:16). It is not as some say, “by faith only”. Neither is it by “the sinner’s prayer.” Having believed, repented, and confessed, the word of God says, “The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us….” (1 Peter 3:21). Those “baptized into Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27), into His body, church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22, 23), know that God saves us by His grace when we obey Him. Paul was baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16), but he knew it was the grace of God and Jesus that saved him. (1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 2:13).
Third, the ark Noah built is a teaching tool. (Genesis 6-8). “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Genesis 6:5). “It repented the Lord that he had made man…and it grieved him at his heart.” (Verse 6). God decided to destroy man. (Verse 7). “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Verse 8), because “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” (Verse 9). God commanded Noah to “Make thee an ark of gopher wood”, giving him specific instructions as to how he was to build it, giving him the dimensions, materials, telling him to have one window placed above and one door in the side, how he was to seal it, telling him who and how many passengers would be taken aboard, and such like. (Verses 14-21). Verse 22 says, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” See 7:5. Peter was inspired of God to use this story to teach all of God’s saving power when His will is faithfully followed, without addition or subtraction. Read Deuteronomy 4:2; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18, 19. Noah did not use pine, cedar, or any other wood. He was told to use gopher, and “thus did Noah.” He did not build two or four floors, but three, “according to all that the Lord commanded him.” (7:5). Noah did not change anything God said, whether trimming the door and window with pine or other wood, adding to the length, width, and height, or any other. Noah did as he was instructed without change, whether by addition or subtraction. So must we!
People today need to learn from the story of Noah and the ark. For example, God used “unleavened” bread when instituting the Lord ’s Supper. (Matthew 26: 17-19, 26-29; Exodus 12:17-20). We do not have a right to change what Jesus used. The Lord’s memorial supper was observed “upon the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7), which is weekly, not annually, bi-annually, quarterly, monthly, or other. We have no authority to change this frequency. The New Testament speaks of the music of the church only eight times, nine, if one counts Mark’s account of Matthew’s record. Each time the words, sing, sang, sung, or singing are used. If one speaks as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), without change, one will sing, not hum, clap, add instruments of music, or any other. Preaching and teaching will not be “with enticing words of man’s wisdom” (1 Corinthians 2:4), but with “the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 1:16), “the doctrine of Christ.” (2 John 9-11). Baptism will not be done by sprinkling and pouring, but by “burial” “in water” (Romans 6:1-5; Colossians 2:12; Acts 8:38, 39), to “be saved” (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21), not, as some teach, “as a profession of faith because one has already been saved.” Salvation by faith, repentance, confession, and
baptism (Romans 10:17; Romans 10:9, 10; Acts 2:38), will not be replaced by “faith only.” Read James 2:14-16. Salvation is in Christ and His church (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:12; Ephesians 5:21-33), and must not be changed to a doctrine of “Jesus, yes; the church, no” as some have done. Forsaking the assembling (Hebrews 10:25) will never be acceptable. The first century church “came together.” (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:18, 20, 33, 34). Noah could not have pleased God building the ark with changes. Neither may we please God by changing His way to ours.
Fourth, “Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron” changed God’s will, and there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” (Leviticus 10:1, 2). Others died for disobeying God. (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Verse 5 says, “with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” 23,000 fell in one day for sinning. (Verse 8). Verse 9 says others died of serpent bites. (See third paragraph), or murmuring. (Verse 10). Even the great leaders Moses and Aaron were not permitted to enter the promised land for their transgressions. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52; 34:1-8; Numbers 20:7-13).
These are but a few lessons we learn from the things written aforetime. The plea and prayers of churches of Christ everywhere is that all will read and study the word of God, receiving it with all readiness of mind, searching the scriptures daily, whether the things heard are true. (Acts 17:11, 12). Call the one who gave you this tract, or the church of Christ nearest you, for more Bible studies.