Tuesday, October 30, 2012


On one occasion when Christ was eating and having social fellowship with tax-collectors and sinners, the self-righteous Pharisees severely criticized Him, claiming that anyone who professed to be of God would not be found associating with such people. Jesus' response was: "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.'  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance" (Matthew 9:12-13).

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). He did not come to save those who thought they were already in a right relationship with God.  Of course, no one is, though many think they are.  But the fact is "There is none righteous, no, not one . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of G" (Romans 3:10, 23). 

The first step toward getting well is to recognize that one is sick.  Once that is done it is advisable to find a competent doctor and take the medicine that he or she prescribes.  Likewise, the first step in being saved is to recognize that one is lost.  Once that is done it is advisable to turn to the only One who can save and follow His plan for being saved.  The only One who can save us is Christ.  "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

It goes without saying that we must have confidence in an earthly physician.  But if we want to get well we also must be willing to follow the doctor's orders. Christ is the Great Physician of the soul.  We need to learn as much about Him as we possibly can.  He alone can heal us of all our soul's diseases.  But He has a "prescription" for getting us well and we must follow that "prescription."

After Christ had died for the sins of all mankind, been buried, and resurrected (I Corinthians 15:1-5), He appeared to His disciples and said to them: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).  He told His apostles to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).  To those same men Jesus said: "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46-47). These passages encapsulate the Great Physician's "prescription."

When one turns to the book of Acts one finds the apostles carrying out the charge that Christ had given to them.  Beginning in the city of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and spreading out from there, they preached the gospel, urged people to believe in Christ, to repent of their sins, to confess their faith in Christ, and to be baptized for (eis = in order to) the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 8:26-40; 10:34-48; 16:30-34; 18:8; 22:16).     

It seems to me to be the ultimate cruelty for those who profess to be  preachers of the gospel (the good news) to talk constantly about the Great Physician but to never tell sin-sick souls what the "prescription" is by which they can be "healed" (that is, what they must do to be saved).  No one likes to keep going to a doctor for visits and consultation, but with no instructions as to how to get well.  Let those of us who preach tell people about the love and care and compassion of the Great Physician and of His power to "heal," but let us not fail to tell them what His "prescription" is for being saved and about the after-care that is so vital to maintaining good spiritual health.

Speaking Schedule:
November 11: Cottontown Church of Christ,CottontownTN
November 18: Oak Grove Church of Christ, Red Boiling Springs, TN

Hugh Fulford
October 30, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Jesus Christ lies at the heart of God's great meta-narrative of redemption about which we wrote last week.  Since He does, all people need to know the following Bible truths about Christ.

1. He co-existed with God from all eternity in a pre-incarnate (pre-fleshly) state.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2). 

2. He became flesh and dwelt among us.  "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…." (John 1:14).  This was accomplished through means of the virgin birth.  "And the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and call His name Jesus…Then Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I do not know (have not had sexual relations with, hf) a man?'  And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God"(Luke 1:30-35).  

3. He lived a sinless, perfect life.  "Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth" (I Peter 2:22, quoting Isaiah 53:9).

4. He spoke the words of life. "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63b). "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

5. He died to atone for the sins of all mankind.  "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). 

6. He was given an appropriate burial.  "And when Joseph (of Arimathea, hf) had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb and departed" (Matthew 27:59-60).

7. He arose from the grave.  "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

8. He ascended back to the Father in heaven.  "And when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud receive Him out of sight" (Acts 1:9).

9. He ascended to receive and to reign over His kingdom.  (Daniel 7:13-14).  This kingdom is not earthly or secular but spiritual, being comprised of all who have obeyed the gospel of Christ, been saved from their sins, and added to the church (John 18:36; Colossians 1:13-14; Acts 2:47).

10. He ever lives to make intercession for us. "Therefore He is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:22).

11. He will come again.  "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts1:11).

12. He will judge the world and deliver the kingdom to God the Father (II Timothy 4:1; I Corinthians15:24-26).

Hugh Fulford
October 9, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


A meta-narrative is an over-arching, comprehensive, controlling story.  God has such a story.  It is the story of human redemption from sin, culminating in eternal life in heaven.  This beautiful story is gradually unfolded on the pages of the Bible.  Far from being a disjointed collection of sixty-six documents, each book of the Bible is a part of this amazing meta-narrative, and each makes its own contribution to the unfolding of God's eternal purpose to save man through Christ.  Where does this tremendous story begin?

Paul, an apostle of Christ, wrote of God: ". . . who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the world began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Timothy 1:9).  Similarly, Paul spoke of the "hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began" (Titus 1:2).  Thus, God's grand meta-narrative was conceived in His infinite mind before the world ever existed, and though Christ did not suffer for the sins of the world in historical reality until the end of His earthly ministry, in the grand purpose of God Jesus was "the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).

The Old Testament, with its various promises and covenants, was only a precursor of Christ and the ultimate revelation of God's purpose as set forth in the New Testament.  The promised seed of woman (Genesis 3:15), the call of Abraham and God's promise to him (Genesis 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 18:17-18), the people chosen to bring forth Christ according to the flesh (the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews), the Law of Moses with its various institutions (commandments, tabernacle, temple, priests, sacrifices, rituals, and festivals), God's marvelous covenant with David (II Samuel 7:1-17)—all of these and more—provide pictures and previews of God's complete revelation of mankind's Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the gospel plan of salvation. But Old Testament laws and institutions were never intended to be the final word, "God having provided something better for us" (Hebrew 11:40), that "something" being Christ, the gospel, and the church (the community of the redeemed) which is "the fullness of Him who fills all in all" (Ephesians 1:22-23) and the magnificent manifestation of "the manifold wisdom of God" (3:8-12).

Many Old Testament prophecies speak of Christ, the new covenant He would inaugurate, and the spiritual kingdom He would set up.  Some of the more significant prophecies are those found in Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 53, Jeremiah 31:31-34, and Daniel 2:31-44.  Oddly, those  uttering the prophecies did not always comprehend their significance (see I Peter1:10-12), but God knew what He was doing in gradually unfolding His great meta-narrative!  "Known to God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18).

It remained for Christ, however, to begin to reveal all that God had had in mind from the beginning.  Thus, during His earthly ministry Christ began to "utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 13:34-35).  He spoke of His faithful followers being able to "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).  Because God's ultimate purpose and plan had been kept secret from the foundation of the world, it was referred to as "the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God" (Ephesians 3:9).  "Mystery" does not mean something mysterious or incomprehensible, but to the fact that up until a certain point in time God's grand scheme of redemption had not been revealed.  However, with the coming of Christ, His ministry, His death, burial, and resurrection, His ascension, the setting up of His kingdom (otherwise known as the church) on the first Pentecost following His resurrection (Acts 2), and His reign over that spiritual kingdom, the "mystery" has been revealed (Ephesians 3:3-7) and all that was "according to the eternal purpose which He (God, hf) purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Ephesians 3:11) has now been made known by "the word which by the gospel was preached to you" (I Peter 1:12, 25b).  (See also Colossians 1:24-29).

In a grand doxology to God's marvelous meta-narrative, Paul wrote: "Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began but now has been made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith—to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever.  Amen" (Romans16:25-27).

What an amazing story!  We all would do well to learn that beautiful story and how to avail ourselves of "the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (II Timothy 2:10).

Speaking Schedule:
October 7 (a.m.): Bethlehem Church of ChristLebanon, TN
October 7 (p.m.): Red Hill Church of Christ, ManchesterTN

Hugh Fulford  
October 2, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


It is interesting to note a number of brief, compact passages of Holy Scripture that nevertheless pack strong, powerful messages.  Consider the following (all from the New King James Version of the Bible).

Genesis 18:25b: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"

Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Proverbs 22:7: "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant of the lender."  (Did you ever take out a 25- or 30-year home mortgage?J )

John 11:35: "Jesus wept" (Message: Christ was tenderhearted and sympathetic; so should we be.)

Acts 20:35c: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

I Corinthians 14:33: "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints." (Question: Have you ever asked yourself, "Did all of the different kinds of churches and religions really originate with God?")

Ephesians 4:26: "Be angry and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath."

Ephesians 5:1: "Therefore be followers (imitators) of God as dear children."

Philippians 2:14-15: "Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world."

Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through Him."

Colossians 3:23: "And whatever you do, do it heartily to the Lord and not to men."

I Thessalonians 5:16: "Rejoice always."

I Thessalonians 5:17: "Pray without ceasing." (Translation: Don't leave prayer behind; don't leave prayer out of your life.)

I Thessalonians 5:21: "Test (prove) all things; hold fast what is good." (Meaning: Don't be gullible when it comes to spiritual matters.)

I Thessalonians 5:22: "Abstain from every form of evil." (Note: Just because the Bible does not specifically mention a thing as being a sin does not mean that it isn't.  Use a little common sense.)

Hebrews 10:31: "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

A passage of Scripture does not have to be long in order to convey a strong message.  Let us learn from the short verses of the Bible.

Speaking Schedule:
September 30: Cottontown Churchof ChristCottontownTN
October 7: Red Hill Church of Christ, ManchesterTN (p.m. only)

Hugh Fulford
September 18, 2012

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


My favorite season of the year is now underway – college football!  I look forward to Saturdays and watching my favorite teams play on TV.  I no longer enjoy going to the stadiums, dealing with the crowds, fighting the traffic, sitting on an uncomfortable seat in all kinds of weather, contending with long lines to get to an unsanitary restroom, paying six bucks for a cold wiener on a stale bun (erroneously called a hotdog), and four bucks for a small coke (which these days is about a half-gallon in size).  I much prefer the comfort of my Lazy-Boy recliner, just a few steps from a clean bathroom, and "free" concessions (including my own "Huford Hotdog") made possible by my wife's frequent trips to the nearby Kroger Marketplace.

My loyalty is to the Tennessee Vols.  Admittedly, they have fallen on hard times in recent years and still have a ways to go to get back to the National Championship days of 1998.  (Give us time!)  At the same time, it is no secret that I also love and root for the Alabama Crimson Tide.  My son, whose blood runs orange, likes to quote scripture to me and remind me that "no man can serve two masters." But as one born and bred in Alabama I have never been able to completely abandon the Tide.  (I still refer to all Alabama teams as "Bear's Bunch.") Since I do not think Tennessee has a chance at the National Championship this year, nothing would suit me better than to see the Crimson Tide repeat as National Champs.  I hope they will get to play USC in the Championship game and stick it to Lane ("Long Term") Kiffin, the Judas Iscariot who coached the Vols one season then high-tailed it back to the West Coast.  (Hey, guys, this is Hugh's News and Views.  I can say what I want to.  If you disagree, write your own News and Views!  J ).

Is there a better College Football Conference than the Southeastern?  Obviously not.  Everybody wants to get in it, whether they are geographically located in the Southeast or not.  That's fine with me.  Just be prepared for some hard-nosed football.  And don't go back home crying after running into teams like Alabama, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, and Georgia.  (Sorry I had to delete Auburn and Arkansasfrom this list.)

On a more sobering note, I am saddened by what happened at Penn State.  I always liked Joe Paterno and thought he was a straight arrow.  Even after he got too old to coach and insisted on hanging on, I was for him and his teams. (I like old preachers, old cowboys, old country music stars, and old football coaches.)  Yes, Joe Pa had eclipsed "The Bear" in the number of victories, but I still liked him and thought he ran a clean program.  Little did any of us know that he and the top officials at Penn State looked the other way and covered up for an accused perverted child molester on his coaching staff.  All wins going back to 1998 (111 as I recall) have been taken away from Penn State and Paterno, moving him from first to twelfth on the list of the winningest coaches in college football. His iconic statue has been removed from its pedestal outside Beaver Stadium.  How the mighty have fallen!  "Happy Valley" is not a very happy place these days.  What a sobering reminder of the biblical text: "For whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).  Or, as Ira North, a great gospel preacher, used to frequently say, "You can't do wrong and get by with it."

In many ways the game of football is a metaphor for life.  As we enjoy the new season, let us also learn valuable lessons, not the least of which is: Football is a game; our relationship with God is not.  If folks took the latter as seriously as many of them do the former they would be way ahead in the game of life.

In the meantime, "Go Vols!"  "Roll Tide!"

Speaking Schedule:
September 30: Cottontown Church of Christ, Cottontown, TN

Hugh Fulford
September 11, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Preaching: Then and Now

In 2006 I published a book titled The Kind of Preaching Needed Today.  In the opening chapter I emphasized that we need preaching that: 1) Informs, 2) Convicts, 3) Converts, 4) Confirms, 5) Comforts, and 6) is Relevant.  I have not changed my mind about the kind of preaching that is needed today.  I still believe all of the preceding points are essential to the kind of preaching that will result in the salvation of souls (see I Corinthians 1:21).

Pursuant to the above thoughts and as a sequel to last week's "News and Views" titled "Book, Chapter and Verse," I would like to draw a contrast between the kind preaching that was heard in the churches of Christ in an earlier time with the kind of preaching that is frequently heard today.

Things we used to preach:
The authority in religion
Rightly dividing the word of truth
The facts, commands, and promises of the gospel
The identity of the church of the New Testament
The difference between New Testament Christianity and modern-day denominationalism
A way that is right and cannot be wrong
The cases of conversion in the Book of Acts
Acceptable worship
Why we observe the Lord's Supper every Sunday
Why we do not use instrumental music in worship
God's law on marriage, divorce and re-marriage
Be thou faithful unto death
The day of judgment

Things preached today:
How to stay positive in a negative world
How to be a good husband and wife
How to raise good kids
How to be a good neighbor
Random acts of kindness
Principles of business and financial success
I'm okay, you're okay
How to be authentic
Kindness is the word
How to be tolerant and accepting of others
Maintaining good physical and mental health
Let's not be so dogmatic
Judge not
There are many right answers to a question
Doctrine divides, love unites

Some (though certainly not all) of the matters we now hear are good.  I am not suggesting that the Bible does not address any of them, because clearly it does. My concern is that too often today we hear messages that address only our earthly, temporal needs (the popular terminology is our "felt" needs), and fail to address those matters that have to do with the salvation of our souls. There needs to be a sense of Biblical balance in our preaching.  One should not hear only the latter kinds of sermons to the neglect of the former.  We need to be concerned about preaching "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).

And in addressing matters relating to the salvation of souls, we need to make sure the message does not come across as: "Unless you believe to some degree, repent to a certain extent, and are baptized by some mode, you may be in danger of being somewhat condemned."  That is a far cry from the clarion call to faith, repentance, and obedience that rang from the lips of Christ and His inspired apostles and prophets, and it stands in stark contrast to the clear and distinct message set forth in the New Testament.    

Speaking Schedule:
September 5: Bethlehem Church of ChristLebanon, TN
September 30: Cottontown Church of Christ,CottontownTN

Hugh Fulford
September 4, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book, Chapter and Verse

There was a time when all preachers in the church of Christ were known as "book, chapter and verse" preachers.  By this it was meant that they endeavored to "speak as the oracles of God" (I Peter 4:11), and to prove every point they made by the Scriptures.  They shunned the religious doctrines and commandments of men, they refused to preach their own opinions, and endeavored instead to set forth the will of God about any and every matter of which they spoke.  I am thankful that we still have many such preachers—men who wish to be known simply as gospel preachers, men who can back up what they proclaim by a "thus saith the Lord."

Unfortunately, "book, chapter and verse" preaching has sometimes been wrongly characterized as "proof texting."  Proof texting is an abuse and misuse of scripture.  It ignores the larger context of a verse and uses the verse to "prove" a preconceived notion or point of doctrine.  As someone has observed, a text taken out of context is a pretext.  Every passage of scripture must be understood in the light of its larger context, including the total teaching of the Scriptures on a particular subject.  For example, all the verses ascribing salvation to faith in Christ must be understood in the light of allthat the New Testament teaches with respect to what one does in response to the saving grace of God.

On the other hand, to cite a single verse of scripture in support of gospel truth, facts, commands, promises, threats, and warnings is not wrong.  In fact, we have biblical precedent for such.  In Romans 3:9-19, the apostle Paul, in establishing the sinfulness of the Jews (in spite of their numerous spiritual advantages), strings together a number of isolated "proof texts"(as some would label them) from widely separated passages in Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah to prove his point.  Often, he uses but part of an Old Testament passage.  And he is not averse to even combining parts of various verses in order to drive home his point! 
Similarly, one might spend time studying the Book of Hebrews and noting the frequent quotations from the Old Testament found in that "word of exhortation" (Hebrews13:22). Thus, before one speaks too condescendingly about "proof texts," it might be well to ask, "May gospel preachers today use the New Testament in the way the inspired writers of the New Testament used the Old Testament?"  May we cite book, chapter and verse (in context, of course) in support of what we preach? 

It is rather apparent why many in contemporary society (even religious society) do not appreciate book, chapter and verse preaching.  It condemns their life-style, their religious biases and prejudices, their religious practices and beliefs.  Little wonder that they do not want certain texts read or quoted to them!

Those who believe there are many ways to God and to heaven do not like to hear John 14:6 and Acts4:11-12.

Those who think that one church is as good as another do not want to hear Matthew 16:18, Ephesians 1:22-23 and Ephesians 4:4.

Those who believe that one is saved by faith only do not want to hear James 2:24, 26 and Mark 16:15-16.

Those who think that one living since the death of Christ and the inauguration of His last will and testament can be saved without baptism do not like to hear Acts 22:16 and I Peter 3:21.

Those who think that sprinkling or pouring constitute acceptable baptism do not want to hear Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12.

Those who profess to be able to be "good Christians" whether they go to church or not do not want to hear Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7 and Hebrews 10:24-25.

Those who advocate for women preachers and women church leaders do not like to hear I Corinthians 14:34 and I Timothy 2:11-14.

The practicing homosexual does not want to hear Romans 1:26-27 and I Corinthians 6:9-10, but how he/she so desperately needs to hear the next verse and the promise of forgiveness that it holds out to all who will repent of their sinful lifestyle.

Those who believe that everybody will ultimately be saved do not like to hear Matthew 7:13-14, 21 and II Thessalonians 1:6-10.

But make no mistake about it: We need book, chapter and verse preaching!  Such is the only way to accurately set forth the true will of God and to proclaim the gospel of Christ, the power of God for salvation to all who will believe and obey it (Romans 1:16-17; I Corinthians 15:1-4).

Speaking Schedule:
September 2: Bethlehem Church of Christ, Lebanon, TN (all services)
September 5: Bethlehem Church of ChristLebanon, TN
September 9: LaGuardo Church of Christ, Mount JulietTN (a.m. only)

Hugh Fulford
August 28, 2012