Personal Standards (i)

Table of Contents / Overview


You have now reached the stage in your search for the Truth when you have acquired a great deal of knowledge of what are termed the "first principles" or the foundation doctrines of true Christianity. But knowledge in itself does not give us the hope of salvation. Knowledge is essential but, as we have already seen, it brings with it responsibilities. If this knowledge has the right effect it will create a change in mind and outlook. If you have been able to accept and believe the Bible teaching so far considered you should now be at the point when you are asking yourself: "What must I do to inherit everlasting life?" The next two lessons will explain the standard of life which God requires of us.

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Lesson 17 has already explained that once there is a clear understanding of the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ you must be baptized. It is only through baptism that we become genuine followers of Christ. A clean moral life and works of kindness and mercy, whilst essential, are no substitute for baptism.

In baptism we break with our past way of life and start a new life. Our life before baptism, however good it may have appeared to ourselves or others, is called by Paul a service to sin. When we are baptized we change masters and become servants to righteousness. Righteousness is doing what God commands. Man's conception of righteousness falls far short of the required standard. The only reliable standard of right and wrong is that given us by God in the Bible.

Romans 6 v 16-18

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Through baptism we become not only servants of God but also children of God. We become brethren and sisters of Christ and of each other. (The name "Christadelphian" means "brethren in Christ" (Matthew 23 v 8-9). Members of God's family must show the difference between themselves and the rest of the world by the way they live. Separation from the world is a command.

What do we mean by separation? It means standing aside from the ambitions, the worship and many of the pleasures of the world.

"... know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4,4)

Jesus said of his followers: "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world". The follower of Christ is preparing a character which will be pleasing to him when he returns to reward every man according to his works. This different aim and prospect results in separation from many of the ways in which the rest of mankind spend their time and energy.

James 4 v 4
John 17 v 16
I John 2 v 15-17
II Corinthians 6 v 14-18

This principle of separation is taught throughout the Bible and has been stressed in earlier lessons. See, for example, Lesson 9.

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Jesus has shown us what a godly life really means. He lived in complete dedication to the will of God but his life was spent among men. He grew up in the home and family but his mind was trained to think on the word of God. During his ministry he preached the Gospel, performed acts of kindness and forgiveness. At the same time his attitude was uncompromising to every form of ungodliness, wickedness, hypocrisy, hatred, immorality etc. He was in the world but not of it. He never broke the law of separation. His perfection was achieved by careful reading and reflection on the Word and prayer to his Father in whom he put complete trust.

The mind of Christ has to be developed in us and this is the result of careful training of our thoughts. Paul wrote, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report think on these things ... and the God of peace shall be with you." The mind feeds on what it hears and sees. This is why separation is important. The world has much which attracts but which also encourages impure and ungodly thoughts and ways. Much of the entertainment of today is geared to encourage the baser feelings and because of this is harmful to the development of the spiritual man and therefore will be avoided by those who try to be the true followers of Christ. We cannot now worship with those who do not believe the true Gospel. They that worship God "must worship Him in spirit and in truth". Many aspects of separation will become clearer as the Bible is carefully and prayerfully studied.

Philippians 4 v 8-9
John 4 v 24

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The regular daily reading of the Bible is essential if we are to grow in knowledge and appreciation of the Truth. When we are baptised we are new-born creatures and, therefore, babes in Christ. We must desire the "sincere milk" of the Word and gradually develop. First we absorb the simple things and later the "strong meat" of the word. As Job said "I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food".

I Peter 2 v 2-5
Hebrews 5 v 12-14
Job 23 v 12

You will already be aware that many things Israel experienced in their wilderness journey are "types" or "examples" from which we should learn essential lessons. They were fed by manna provided by God. They had to gather it every day, except on the Sabbath. Jesus tells us that he is the "bread of life". On his words we have to feed. The Bible gives us our spiritual food. Daily reading of it is essential for our spiritual development. A Christadelphian many years ago devised a reading plan known among us as "The Bible Companion" (which you received with Lesson 1). If carefully followed, the Old Testament is read once and the New Testament twice in a year. Most Christadelphians use this plan of daily reading because in addition to helping spiritual growth, it creates a family-feeling among us which is very important. Wherever we go we find our members all reading the same portions on the same day. You are recommended to adopt this practice immediately and, in doing so, determine that you will not allow anything to interfere with the regular habit every day. Our daily spiritual food is just as important as our ordinary food.

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From the time of his baptism, the believer has the special privilege of prayer to God through Jesus Christ. Once "in Christ" by baptism Jesus has a special relationship with us which we should treasure and which he asks us to use. He is our elder brother, our Mediator with the Great Eternal God and our High Priest.

John 16 v 23-24

He is now in heaven and we can present our prayers and requests for forgiveness to God through him. His work as a mediator is not available to us in its fullest sense before baptism. He is NOT the mediator for all men. To be acceptable our way of approach to God must always be through Jesus. He is the one offering for sin. He shed his own blood as a sacrifice. He is now at the right hand of the Father and when we come to God through him in prayer we obtain forgiveness of our sins when freely and honestly confessed.

"Pray without ceasing", advised Paul. Under the Law of Moses incense was offered in the tabernacle by the priest morning and evening. Incense is a symbol of prayer. So today we are wise to make use of the privilege we have in Christ morning and evening. We pray for forgiveness of our sins, for guidance in our daily problems, strength to resist temptation. We pray for the coming of God's Kingdom, we pray for others, especially our brethren and sisters in the faith who are in trouble, ill health, anxiety, pain or sadness. Prayer, however, can be offered at any time when we feel moved to give praise and thanks for the many blessings of life or when we feel the special need for God's help and guidance. In particular, we should always give thanks before partaking of a meal.

I Timothy 2 v 5
Hebrews 2 v 17-18
Hebrews 4 v 15-16
I Thessalonians 5 v 17
Exodus 30 v 7-8
Revelation 5 v 8
Revalation 8 v 3-4

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Apart from the act of baptism, there is one other act specifically required of us as brethren and sisters of Christ. Before Christ suffered he met with his disciples to eat the Passover meal. During the course of that meal the following incident took place:

"And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him. And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the Kingdom of God. And he took the cup and gave thanks, and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22,13-20)
Luke 22 v 14-20

Here is the origin of what some refer to as the "Communion Service" but which we prefer to call the "Breaking of Bread" as did the early disciples. To observe this is a command of our dear Lord made as he neared the last hours of his mortal life just before he suffered crucifixion. It is our duty as an act of love regularly to remember Jesus in this way. We come together as a company of believers to eat bread and drink wine in memory of him.

Carrying out this ceremony in an acceptable manner is both a test of obedience and a means of bringing all his followers to think again of what Jesus has done for them by his death and resurrection. It is an opportunity for self-examination, a time to compare our love with his, testing our obedience against his perfect example.

The Apostle Paul summarizes our duty very beautifully in these words:

"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread; and when he had given thanks, he brake it and said, Take, eat this is my body which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." (I Corinthians 11 v 23-29)
I Corinthians 11 v 23-29

The significance of the two emblems, bread and wine, is clear from this quotation. The bread represents his body, the wine his blood. They are of course only SYMBOLS. In absorbing a small piece of bread and also a sip of wine into our bodies we recognise together the need for his sacrifice on our behalf.

"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood ye have no life in you." (John 6:53)
John 6 v 53

The significance is not only in the physical act of eating and drinking but in the resolve to take on more of his mind or disposition. Where possible this act should be carried out with others who are located near enough to meet. The disciples originally shared this meal together. It was an act of fellowship or oneness with Jesus.

"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the COMMUNION of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the COMMUNION of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread." (I Corinthians 10 v 16-17)
I Corinthians 10 v 16-17

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The answer comes from a study of the examples set by the Apostles themselves. They heard Jesus give this command. They knew what he intended. We can read how they obeyed him in this matter. Here are two examples:

"And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart"
Acts 2 v 46
"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow: and continued his speech until midnight."
Acts 20 v 7

The second quotation is particularly interesting. You may be aware that there are certain communities who carry out the practice only once a year. They usually choose the Passover time to do it. This means they only give themselves one opportunity each year to perform the vital last command of Christ to remember him in this way. It is evident, however, that the practice of the first century was to meet weekly on the first day of the week to remember Christ by breaking bread and drinking wine. That day may have been chosen because it was most convenient, but more probably because it was the first day of the week (our own Sunday) when Christ rose from the dead. However, if it is not possible to break bread on the first day of the week, another day would be acceptable. The important point is that the New Testament indicates that the WEEKLY remembrance of Jesus is essential. To neglect the weekly remembrance is to endanger spiritual health. It is also an indication that our love of Jesus is not as great as it should be.

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The first day of the week is NOT the Sabbath. The Sabbath day was the seventh day. It was hallowed by God in the beginning because it was the day after the completion of the six days of creation.

"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made: and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made."
Genesis 2 v 2-3

Israel were commanded to keep the Sabbath day as a day of rest. It was the fourth of the ten commandments. It was a happy arrangement for the nation of Israel - a reminder of God's work in creation at the beginning and an opportunity to rest from labour and to concentrate the mind on God.

Exodus 20 v 8-11

That commandment has never been obligatory on followers of Christ. When Christ died he took the Law of Moses out of the way after having first perfectly fulfilled it in his own life. Although carrying out every commandment of the law of Moses as it applied to him, he came under its curse by the manner of his death and so redeemed those who were under it. Today, therefore, there is no obligation on any who become followers of Christ to observe the Sabbath law or for that matter any other day as being especially holy.

Colossians 2 v 14
Galatians 3 v 13-14
"Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink or in respect of an holy day or of the new moon or of the sabbath days which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
Colossians 2 v 16-17

Christ's whole life was dedicated to God's service. This is the "body" rather than the "shadow". The follower of Christ like, the master himself, tries to dedicate every waking hour to fulfilling some aspect of duty to God. For convenience Sunday can be set aside in most countries as a time when believers can join together to remember Jesus in breaking of bread and drinking wine.

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We pass now to other ways in which our belief and faith is expressed in our lives. From baptism onwards we should try to ensure that all we think, say and do is in accordance with the commandments of Christ. This is the way in which our characters are gradually developed and matured so that we take on the mind of Christ. Paul wrote:

"I beseech you, therefore, brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye trans formed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Romans 12 v 1-2

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It is important that we are open and honest in all our dealings. Dishonesty, bribery and deceit in any form, although natural to us all, must be avoided. The world practices deceit and lying and even regards these things as commendable especially if they help a good business deal. The followers of Christ are commanded to be strictly honest and open in all they say and do. This is one way in which we show to the world we are different. The commands are clear and uncompromising.

Read carefully the following examples:
Romans 13 v 13-14
II Corinthians 8 v 21
Ephesians 4 v 25
Colossians 3 v 9-10
I Thessalonians 4 v 11-12
Hebrews 13 v 18

This honesty is not only telling the truth but extends to honesty of purpose. For example, in daily employment followers of Christ are required to live consistently with what they believe. There must be conscientiousness, a willingness to serve and respect employers. All work to masters in the world is to be done as unto Christ.

Read the following:
Ephesians 6 v 5-7
I Timothy 6 v l-2
Titus 2 v 9-10

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This leads to another practical matter, very difficult to carry out but which forms part of the duty of the true believer. When the prophets foretold the first coming of Jesus, they described his character in the the following words:

"He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before his shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth and he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth."
Isaiah 53 v 7-9

Notice that two unusual characteristics are emphasized. First, he had no deceit, therefore he was completely honest. Second, his gentleness and lack of resistance to hatred and violence, he was like a lamb.

In his teaching he encouraged his followers to be like him. He said,

"But I say unto you that ye resist not evil." (Matthew 5 v 39)

Human nature easily resents injury. The temptation is to retaliate but Jesus commands us to refrain. Sometimes it is objected that if everybody did this, wickedness and violence would get the upper hand and the world would be an intolerable place to live in. There is some truth in this argument but it overlooks an important point. Christ's commands are not intended for world government but for his true followers. They have been called out of the world and are not therefore part of it. They are being prepared to be kings and priests when the Kingdom of God is set up on earth. Today is a period of character forming. When Jesus returns to the earth he will come as God's king. He will use force to take possession of the world and so will his followers. But that is in the future. For the present, like Jesus, his followers are not allowed to enforce their rights, avenge injustice, return evil for evil, but to be kind and gentle to all as Jesus has shown them.

Matthew 5 v 39-45

Carrying out this command is difficult but it is the only way to follow Christ. It has many implications, some of which will be considered in the next lesson. Meanwhile, please remember these are all commands, obedience to which is a test of love for Christ. He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments."

John 14 v 15

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  1. What changes does baptism bring to a convert 's life?
  2. "Be not conformed to this world'' (Romans 12 v 2).
    Explain what you under stand by this statement.
  3. Why are followers of Jesus referred to as his brethren and sisters?
  4. "Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (II Corinthians 8 v 21).
    Explain what you understand by this statement.
  5. What does the bread and wine symbolize at the "Breaking of Bread" service?
  6. Quote one Bible passage to show that the early believers kept the "Breaking of Bread" service weekly.
  7. Why is it essential to read the Bible daily? Are you doing this?
  8. "Resist not evil" (Matthew 5 v 39-41).
    Explain what you understand by this statement.
  9. "Continue in prayer and watch in the same with thanksgiving, withal praying also for us" (Colossians 4 v 2-3).
    Explain what you understand by this statement.

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