Too much of our writing, preaching, and visiting is directed to the weak and unfaithful. We want to reverse that order here. This article is not addressed to you who have to be begged, petted, and pampered before you will attend the services of the church, and still are absent as often as you are present. This is not for those who only give the church their excuses, and grumble, complain, that category can stop now, for this is not written for you. This is written for the faithful.
The vocabulary is not large enough to tell you wonderful people how much you are appreciated. It does not matter how many meetings the elders call in a week, you will be present. Neither the weather nor company of any kind is able to keep you from your responsibilities. Whatever attractions or distractions the world may offer, you will not forsake the Lord or His people. You make whatever sacrifices are necessary. You always support fully every program submitted by the elders and deacons. You will accept an assignment, when you do it is a forgone conclusion that you will successfully complete it.
You do not flirt with sin and see how worldly you can become without completely apostatizing. You are appreciated even more because you demand no special attention or praise or recognition for your service, and you do not consider regular and faithful attendance of each class or worship period in services to God as a grievous burden or a great feat of valor. You are a good example to the youngest member and an inspiration to all. You make the work of a preacher or Bible class teacher much lighter. Thank you for being what the Bible describes as a simple New Testament Christian! We love you!
Christians are to GROW! The Bible says, “As newborn babes, desire (long for - A.S.V.) the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13,14, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (emp. mine, D.B.). The Christian life is one of maturing and continual growth. We realize that when water stops flowing and stands still that it becomes stagnant and worthless. So it is with the Christian life. The Bible says, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1,2). It takes a great deal of effort in order to grow spiritually! Let’s notice a few ways that we as Christians can grow.
Bible study is a necessity in order to grow (1 Peter 2:2). Personal Bible study each day coupled with our Bible classes on Sunday and Wednesday helps us to grow in our knowledge of the Word. Preparation before each class will help even more. When we are too busy to study the Bible individually each day or with our brethren in Bible class, we are not interested in our spiritual growth.
We also grow spiritually through our worship. Our singing, praying and studying the Bible together helps us to be more spiritual and to grow. We should desire to be at every worship service! If we must be absent, our hearts are saddened. This will include our gospel meetings at home, but we should also enjoy the opportunity to support area gospel meetings. This will help us to grow spiritually and it will encourage our brethren. When we willfully forsake the assembling we are not only guilty of sin (Hebrews 10:25), but we are stating to others that spiritual growth is not a priority!
Godliness (spiritual exercise) will also help us to grow. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). The desire of every Christian should be to become more God-like or more Christ-like (Phillipians 2:5). By serving God, by helping our fellow-man (James 1:27; Matthew 25:31-46); in general by “letting our light shine” (Matthew 5:16).
Is spiritual growth a priority in YOUR life? Are YOU putting forth every possible effort to insure that YOU do not become stagnant or “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:14-16).
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). Love is seen in the way we react to each other as we meet and then as we later leave. The love of the father for the prodigal son was visibly seen as he rushed toward him. What did the father do to the barefooted son in ragged clothes who had been among the swine? He embraced him and kissed him. Contrast this with how the older brother reacted.
When Paul spoke of greeting one another with a holy kiss, he was not instituting a new form of greeting. Some focus only on the kiss, while Paul’s emphasis was on the nature of the kiss. The kiss of Judas in Gethsemane was far removed from being holy—it was hypocritical.
Kissing is only one way to greet. It varies in different cultures. Some reverently bow toward the other person with folded hands. In other places, there is kissing on the cheeks—either one or both. Then, there are those where greetings are shown by rubbing one’s nose against another’s. How each of these is done can show respect, honor or love. Paul’s emphasis was not on the kiss, but its genuine sincerity.
It is interesting to note how often the Bible talks about what happened after the kiss. Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. The text says he embraced Benjamin, kissed all his brothers and “…after that his brethren talked with him” (Gen. 45:15). The kiss was just the beginning. It was what followed that really showed his heart. Think again of the kiss of Judas and what followed.
In Acts 21, Paul arrived in Jerusalem and greeted the elders. What happened next? “He declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.” The emphasis is not on the greeting but what followed. Paul greeted in writings. He greeted 24 people in just 13 verses in Romans 16. Culture often determines the nature of the greeting. The heart determines how sincere it is.
We see genuine brotherly love so often. Think of what spontaneously happens after one is baptized and is welcomed into the kingdom. You see it again when one is restored. It is seen in the compassion at funerals.
Recently, we have experienced new ways of greeting. In view of the contagious virus, there are still shaking hands or embracing others. Far more will bump fists—where did that come from? Some teens bump toes as they greet. Who would have ever thought Americans would ever greet by bumping elbows! Remember there are holy kisses, holy hugs, holy fists, and holy elbows. It is what follows the greetings that matters!