THE 500 DISCIPLES: WHEN WERE THEY BORN OF WATER AND SPIRIT?

 

When were the 500 disciples (a) born of water, (b) born of the Spirit, and (c) washed in the blood?

(1) The only text that mentions the “five hundred brethren” is 1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-6.

1 Now I make known (Γνωρίζω, GNORIDZO, present indicative active, to make known, “I draw your attention”)

unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached  unto you (ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, HO EUNGGELISAMEN HUMIN, aorist indicative middle, “the gospel that I myself preached to you”; “the gospel that I gospelized unto you” [Robertson’s Word Pictures]; “the good news that I good news-ed to you” [Jim Massey]. The gospel that was preached to the Corinthians included the facts to be believed and the commands to be obeyed),

which also ye received (ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, HO KAI PARELABETE, aorist indicative active, “[the gospel] which you did receive also”),

wherein also ye stand (ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, EN HO KAI ESTEKATE, perfect active indicative, “in [which gospel] you stand.” The perfect tense pictures the abiding results of their standing in the gospel after having received it),

2 by which also ye are saved (δι᾿ οὗ καὶ σώζεσθε, DI HOU KAI SODZESTHE, to save, to rescue, present indicative passive, the present tense portraying the continuing action of the saving and rescuing being performed on the believers. The theological passive structure portrays God as the one doing the saving and rescuing),

if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you (εἰ κατέχετε, EI KATECHETE, present indicative active, to hold down, to hold fast; indicative with εἰ is a first class conditional clause assuming that the condition is real [Rogers & Rogers, 384]. Saving and rescuing from every day sins continues as long as they hold on to the Word that has been preached to them),

except (ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ, EKTOS EI ME,  unless) ye believed (ἐπιστεύσατε, EPISTEUSATE, aorist indicative active)

in vain (εἰκῇ, EIKE, adverb, without cause, in vain, to no purpose).

3 For I delivered (παρέδωκα, PAREDOKA, aorist indicative active; the infinitive of this verb, PARADIDOMI, means “to deliver over, to pass on with authoritative teaching” [Rogers & Rogers, 384)

unto you first of all (ἐν πρώτοις, EN PROTOIS, in the first place, first of all. The words may indicate priority either in time or importance” [Rogers & Rogers, 384])

that which also I received (παρέλαβον, PARELABON, aorist indicative active, from PARALAMBANO, to receive, the same word Paul often used to express his reception of direct revelation):

that Christ died for our sins (Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, Christ died, literally, a crucial event recorded in history, in behalf of or over our sins. ἀπέθανεν, APETHANEN, died, is aorist active indicative) according to the scriptures (LUKE 22:37; 24:25; ACTS 2:25-27; 2:35; 13:24; 17:3).

4 and that he was buried (καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη, KAI HOTI ETAPHE, aorist indicative passive, from THAPTO, to bury; not only did He die, the grave offered by Joseph of Arimathea, in which they put His body in, too was a witness that He indeed lost His life for our gain);

and that he hath been raised (καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται, KAI HOTI EGEGERTAI, perfect indicative passive, from EGEIRO, to raise. He died, He was buried, and He rose again! “The perfect tense emphasizes that Christ is risen and indicates a continuing condition which has given rise to a new state of affairs” [Rogers & Rogers, 385]. Paul makes this change of tense to emphasize the permanence of Christ’s resurrection. “He is still risen” [Robertson’s Word Pictures]) on the third day according to the scriptures;

5 and that he appeared (ὤφθη, OPTHE, aorist indicative passive of ORAO, to see. “The appearances were not just visions; he could be seen by human eyes” [Rogers & Rogers, 385]) to Cephas; then to the twelve;

6 then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once (ἐφάπαξ, EPHAPAX, at once, at one time),

of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep (This incident is the one described in MATTHEW 28:16, the prearranged meeting on the mountain in Galilee. The strength of this witness lies in the fact that the majority (HOI PLEIOUS) of them were still living when Paul wrote this Epistle, say spring of AD 54 or 55, not over 25 years after Christ’s resurrection” [Robertson’s Word Pictures]).

(2) There is no record in the Scriptures that the Five Hundred had been SET by God into the church, like He did the apostles. It is useless to speculate.

(3) There is no proof either that they had been baptized in water on Pentecost. If they had, their rising up from the baptistery would have been the beginning of their newness of life, their being born of water and of the Spirit.

(4) This is not to say that the 500 disciples had never been born of water and of the Spirit and that their sins had not been washed away. This is to point out that much difficulty lies in finding proofs to support this opinion. I wish we knew. But I am content with the fact that we humans know nothing about this. If God in his mercy and love chose not to reveal the how, it is still good, better and best for our souls. The Bible contains other facts that are for us, and commands to do to please Him. These alone are important, nothing else is.

THE 120 DISCIPLES: WHEN WERE THEY BORN OF WATER AND SPIRIT?

 

When were the 120 disciples (a) born of water, (b) born of the Spirit, and (c) washed by the blood?

(1) The number of persons gathered that day waiting for the Holy Spirit’s coming were one hundred and twenty (ACTS 1:15), but among these were the eleven apostles, and Matthias, and other disciples that included Mary and Jesus’ brethren, and the women (e.g. Mary Magdalene). The real number, not including the apostolic band, should be one hundred and eight.

(2) With Peter presiding, they began the process of choosing one to replace Judas the man from Kerioth. The fellow with three names, called Joseph Barsabas Justus, was not appointed. If he was, it would be the first time in history we have an apostle with three names! But instead it was Matthias. Why?  ACTS 1:24 tells us. The one hundred and twenty put forward two names, they prayed, they cast lots, but the Lord still had the final say.

(3) If you keep tracking the pronouns “they,” “them,” and “these,” etc. from ACTS 1:14 till ACTS 2:1-4, you will be forced to conclude that the one hundred and eight, together with the Twelve Apostles, were also recipients of the Holy Spirit baptism that came with the signs of rushing mighty wind that filled the house where they sat, and cloven tongues like fire that sat on each of them. The Holy Spirit filled the house with its power and filled each of them. That is the language that speaks of overwhelming power! They each spoke in the tongues familiar to their listeners (ACTS 2:8).

(4) Were they baptized together with the apostles? I am torn between two opinions. First is the affirmative answer. I based that by considering the pronouns from ACTS 1 to Acts 2. I am, in a manner of speaking, tracing the footprints.

ACTS 1:17  For he (Judas of Kerioth) was numbered among us (HEMIN)

ACTS 1:21 Of the men therefore that have companied with us (HEMIN)… all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and went out among us (HEMAS)

ACTS 1:22  beginning from the baptism of John, unto the day that he (the Lord Jesus) was received up (referring to His ascension) from us (HEMON), of these must one become a witness with us (HEMIN) of his resurrection.

ACTS 1:23  And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, and Matthias

ACTS 1:24  And they prayed

ACTS 1:26  And they gave lots for them

ACTS 2:1  And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place.

ACTS 2:2  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

ACTS 2:3  And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them.

ACTS 2:4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

If they had been baptized together with the apostles, the one hundred eight too were SET into the kingdom-church.  However there is NO passage that says they were.

(5) Were they too baptized in water on Pentecost day? I lean more toward the opinion that they were. There is no record however that says they joined the three thousand in the dunking (ACTS 2:38). It would be a cute doctrine if we could prove it. For if God had chosen them to set an example in obeying the great commission given to the apostles, JOHN 3:3-5 too had been fulfilled in their obedience.

(6) It is not easy to answer the questions WHEN were they born of water, WHEN were they born of the Spirit, and WHEN were their sins washed away. There is no Scripture to guide us to these “facts,” which simply means they are no facts at all.  This is not to say that they had not been born of water and of Spirit and that their sins had not been washed away. It is not easy to presume things for which one has no proof.

Jay Ar Oloya: Hopping From One Church to Another and Finally Finding God

Jay Ar Oloya and his father Lino

THIS POST should have been written months ago. I started writing it now, because I am simply amazed, I am in a stupor, pondering  at the Lord’s ways and methods, wondering at how He wanted to convert a family, and began it by first converting the son, the only son in that family. The young man’s name is Jay Ar Oloya.  He was the first in the family to become a Christian; five months from his conversion, last Saturday, Sept. 8, to be specific, I also baptized his father. But that’s going ahead of the story.

It was one day in March. We had just scrapped from the list our 250th prospect for  study, an effort that began many months back,  having realized that our conversation about the Word with him got us nowhere. I suggested to Erwin, my young companion, that we try Malinta-Bukid; it’s not far away, and it’s not even a  kilometer’s walk from the house of another prospect we had studied with that noon. “Let’s look for another soul,” I said. Told him I am hungry and need some snacks.

Then I saw a vendor’s cart, and heard something burning, and smelled something sweet: Banana on sticks.

The young man was cooking something else, but my eyes were focused on the bananas that’s cooling by the side of the pan. I ordered two for both of us.

One of my favorite pastimes is talking while eating. As we ate, I asked the young man if he had read the Bible; I expected a negative answer, but no, he said, “Yes, in fact I have one given to me by a friend.” I quoted verses: Matthew 7:21. Matthew 7:13-14. “Yes,” he said, “I had read that too.” “Then,” I said, “could I show you more? Can you give me thirty minutes?”  “Yes,” he answered.

I sat on the bench beside his cart, opened my laptop and showed  him the first slide of my lesson series on the Bible. When people came to buy, I would stop; Jay Ar would pick up a stick of bananas and handed it to the customer, got the money and went back to the bench and signaled me to continue. We finished the first lesson that day.

Caloocan church baptistery

IT WAS just the beginning. I saw a hungering soul, a soul parched dry wanting drops, no, glassfuls of the water of life. When his attempt to introduce me to the family went pfft, he was tearful, not expecting that the father who loved him so much would love him less now that he was a learner of the Word. “Love him less,” at least that was how he understood his father’s actuation of rejecting me.

We would transfer venues of study, no longer by the wayside but inside our rented hall in Gallardo Building. He would come mornings when he’s not busy. In the afternoons when he was supposed to be vending his sugary, sticky bananas on sticks, he would invent an alibi so he could escape from the drudgery of a work that he felt was imposed on him . He wanted less to be a vendor, he wanted more to study the Bible.

He had plenty of questions, and the answers I gave from the Word opened to him new vistas that the Bible provides to the hearers. He told me he had been hopping from one sect to another, asking their preachers to teach him Bible. They simply did not have time. I have all the time he wanted! I would invite him to Caloocan and he would come, and I would introduce him to the brethren. He felt awed by the reception he got.

Jay Ar being baptized, April 14, 2012

FINALLY on April 14, more than a month since I met him on that road near Makipot-Rincon (Makipot means “Strait”), Jay Ar decided to enter the strait path that goes to heaven. The tenth lesson on “What Must I Do to be Saved?” was done in brother Randy Macapagal’s office, where I could talk with all my might, the better to explain and illustrate the finest points of history and doctrine of the early Christians without being distracted and without disturbing anyone.  It took two hours and I finally closed the deal. Jay Ar wanted to be baptized. He told me he did not bring any extra wear, and I said that’s no problem. In the cool waters of the baptistery of Caloocan, at 8:00 pm, I immersed him.

The days that followed made him think Christianity was no fun in the pool. He found out that the road to heaven was even straiter than Makipot Street near their home. His mother would castigate him for reading “too much Bible” and he would ran to me with tears in his eyes. And he would do this not just twice or thrice but many times. He said he found in me the big brother he had wanted, and the father figure that’s different from the father he knew. I decided to keep him under my wings, not literally; he became my ward, and I took care of him like the son I desired but never had; and the hours he was out of their home became days, and days were longer because he no longer wanted to go home. And when he told me that he would ignore his mother’s text message for him to come home, I said no, I wanted you to show respect to the mother and the father who brought you into the world, because it is what Jesus desires for every one who follows Him.

He said he wanted to train under me, and become a preacher too. And so by that statement that came from the lips of my first real convert in Valenzuela, I started a Bible school. He and Erwin Saligumba became my first students.

The young man has a good heart and a soul that’s ready to serve. He asked for the first lessons in evangelism, translated by me into Tagalog, and equipped with that, plus the Bible that I gave him, he began evangelizing the people of Dulong Tangke. With the lessons from the old laptop I gave him, he started to teach his father. And his mother. And his sister Donna. His parents never paid much attention, especially when he castigated their use of graven images. But his sister Donna listened. That was an opening. I proceeded to teach his sister too. That study is still ongoing.

He rebuked his parents for their lack of faith, and proceeded to tell them that their bad fortunes began when they bought and worshipped the images in their home. His mother had small Marys and big Marys. I taught him how to argue, and he perfected it using the flawless Tagalog dialect he has grown up with.

Jay Ar’s patience, and our prayers, finally paid off. His father Lino now expressed his interest in listening to the stranger who converted his son. Early one morning I came and they indeed were waiting for me. My first lesson on the Bible tackled the use of images. After that study, they decided to do away with the Marys they had, both big and small.

Jay Ar Oloya is one great lesson I learned. The lesson was that the drudgery that you call soul-winning that ended your days without winning a single soul may be the break that the Lord wanted you to do one more time. Jay Ar was our 251st prospect, a soul who hopped from one church to another and finally found God.

Jayson Quiniones: Finding Jesus in Midst of the Storm

I FIRST met this young man when he came over to our meeting place in Valenzuela City. That was a Sunday evening in August. The worship was done. The studies were done.  He came to visit Jay Ar, and he carried a cane. “What is he here for?” I asked Jay. “We are going to be practicing arnis de mano.” “Oh,” I said. “Good.”

Jayson was his name, and this I later learned from Jay Ar. As soon as he arrived, it was business. He was going to train another man, a much older one, I guess, whose name was not introduced to me, in the art of defending oneself by the use of the cane.  Jayson seemed to be very good at it, and I could see it from the strokes that he executed while engaging in arnis with the other fellow.

Jay Ar and I now sat before the table and invited our two visitors to eat. They both were too shy. But finally, after we were done eating, Jayson sat in front of us and started eating the food I prepared for him; the other man asked to be excused and hurriedly left.

I asked Jay Ar to buy some bread and make coffee for the three of us. In between sips of coffee, I engaged the young man in a conversation. I came to know that he is Jay Ar’s bosom buddy, that he lives in Meycauayan, Bulacan (next town to Valenzuela), and that he is now in his final year in high school. Nothing about the Bible at all. Just plain talk. But the guy knew I am a preacher.

If the good Lord of heaven sent this young man to us to be taught of His will, I had no idea then.

WEEKS WENT  by and Jayson texted me. How he got hold of my number, I would not know. Habagat, the storm that Pag-asa said  was no storm, brought more rains than winds, and rivers overflowed, much of Metro Manila including Valenzuela City were flooded, even in places where it should not, thanks to those hard-headed countrymen of mine who kept throwing plastics into the esteros and canals.  Jayson asked that he be allowed to stay in our meeting hall. I said yes. He said he would be transporting his younger siblings to another house that was out of harm’s way. I asked how he was doing. He said the waters were so deep that he and his siblings had to swim to get out of their house.

That day I took a bus going to Valenzuela and saw none but waters and a few men and women trying to cross Tullahan Bridge, the bridge that connects Valenzuela to Caloocan City. The trip that took me ordinarily 30 minutes took me an eternity. San Miguel’s Polo Brewery seemed abandoned except by the guards. The bus driver said we have to wait until Tullahan River gave up its rage. I prayed.

The trip was long but I arrived at our meeting place. No waters around us except along McArthur Highway. Jayson had braved the raging waters just to reach us! He brought nothing except clothes that had been wet. We fed him and made him comfortable.

He said he came to study the Bible. He heard Jay Ar say, quoting me, that calamities are God’s way of touching lives. It had touched him and set him into thinking. That day we finished two lessons. We did nothing but eat, and pray and study the Word. We turned on the fans to dry his clothes. For beddings he made do with cartons laid on top of plastic tables. It was the best sleep we had I think, with rains raging around us.

Finally, after two days he had to leave. But he promised to come back. And he was true to his promise. Every time he comes it’s communion of food and of the Word. He would say some in his family was sick and we would utter a prayer for them. And I would not let him leave without him bringing some medicines for the sick in his family. And he is always thankful.

WHEN WE had a relief distribution courtesy of the brethren from MARCH for Christ, his mother came to visit because she said she was wondering about the strange preacher with whom his son had struck friendship. And she saw me. We discovered that we are both Visayans and speak the same dialect.

Jayson kept studying with us. At the tenth lesson, which is about how to get rid of one’s sins, he made the decision, and that same day, Thursday, September 6, I immersed him in Caloocan church’s baptistery.

Love begets interest, and a display of love encourages another to learn to love likewise. And Jayson, seeing that Jay Ar his friend is now into evangelism, touching hearts and lives, said he wanted to learn to preach too.

The good Lord of heaven, who created storms that brought calamities, touched a life in a way that we often may not understand. Just follow His prodding, and preach. The next soul that comes to your doorstep may be one whom He wants you to evangelize in order that not you alone may enjoy heaven.

THE WORK OF THE LORD IN VALENZUELA CITY

THE SEED OF THE WORK that became Valenzuela church of Christ began with the conversion of brother Mauro Castro (deceased) and sister Leonor Castro, his wife.

The church of Valenzuela first met and worshipped in the home of the Castros in Karuhatan, Valenzuela City on Sunday afternoons. In the morning, the family worshipped in Caloocan.

Later conversions in Valenzuela included some names that sounds Chinese plus some prominent men in the neighborhood of Karuhatan.

THE SECOND ATTEMPT at planting a church in Valenzuela was in 2010 when Caloocan church hired brother Henry Lim and his wife. The support for brother Lim came from the brethren in South Korea. The church found a place that was to serve as its meeting hall in Gen. T. de Leon, Barrio Ugong, Valenzuela City, across the North Luzon Expressway. That work however did not last also.

JULY 2011 WAS CALOOCAN’S THIRD attempt to plant a church in this city. It was September last year when I began working here. Prospects to study with were difficult to find and we tried every means found in the book to find souls.

Our first break came when we baptized brother Danny Castro, brother Mauro’s son.  After two weeks of study daily in his mother’s home, he obeyed his Lord in baptism. I immersed him in a pool.

Our next break came with the conversion of a young man named Jay Ar Oloya of Bukid, Malinta. Although he had not left the Catholic Church, Jay had been hopping from one denomination to another. After ten lessons, I immersed him. Jay now trains to be a preacher together with another young man, Erwin Saligumba, grandson of my classmate Sid Saligumba.

We have had a lot of contacts and students now. However we just don’t dunk anyone easily to make good reports. What is important to us is faithfulness and the pledge of a convert to change lives. One student of mine wanted to be immersed but I made known to him in no uncertain terms he has to stop smoking and engaging in other vices. I require of him a commitment of worshipping the Lord every Sunday. Short of this, you are just taking a bath.

I am making a report here of the ministries we are now doing in Valenzuela, which the Lord in His great kindness and love has begun and continued to work on till this day.

TUTORIAL CENTER. In Valenzuela I teach a Friday Bible class consisting of 10 mothers and 2 fathers. These people are there to wait for their kids. The kids are students of our tutorial center, and they go to our tutorial center four days a week, from Tuesday to Friday.

While the kids learn their ABCs and Bible for four days, their parents too attend the once-a-week Bible class that I teach on Friday. This is a very effective way of evangelism as proven by the experiences of Kalookan and Marikina churches of Christ, and the growth that resulted from it; we too want to duplicate it in Valenzuela.

The children’s and parents’ classes have been ongoing now for a month. Already, one direct result is that our church attendance has increased (39 last Sunday, July 15!). We expect to invite more to attend worship in the coming Sundays ahead.

THE LESSONS WE TEACH. The parents, who sit down at my feet during the one-hour Bible class, learn the Bible, read Bible passages on screen (I am using the digital live projector supplied by Kalookan church), and listen to its divine principles being explained.

The lessons include an Introduction to the Bible (Lesson one, which discusses its divine origin and inspiration, its purpose, and its message); The Creation and the Coming of Sin (Lesson 2); Cain and Abel (Lesson 3, which discusses faith and works and worship and the principle of brotherly love); and many others. Our fourth lesson yesterday, July 20, was about Noah and His Obedience.

This Bible class program for parents will last for about a year, as long as the kids are in our tutorial center.

A CLASS TO ENCOURAGE THEM. In our classes, we encourage the mothers to attend worship in Valenzuela on Sunday afternoon. We also encourage them to share the lesson we have taught them to their husbands. The result is that some of the wives also bring their husbands to attend our Bible classes!

Our Bible class program will take the students in a journey through the Bible for ten months. Kalookan has experienced baptizing mothers after the tenth lesson (What Must I Do to be Saved), and we want to duplicate that here, with the help of God.

OUR GOAL. With this program we also hope to contribute to the community by teaching mothers on how to become good examples to the people around them, how to be good mothers to their kids and good wives to their husbands, to teach their husbands and their kids to fear God, and to prepare all for the judgment that is to come.

OUR EMPHASIS. I always emphasize in my classes the need to listen to God and His message for all mankind; we are given only one chance to live and after this the Bar (Hebrews 9:27), that we all shall face Him (Him whom they had pierced and hanged on that shameful cross) in a judgment that is just and fair (2 Corinthians 5:10); and that the Word of the Son of God, whom many among us have insulted and rejected, shall be the basis of that judgment (John 12:48). “Should we not all learn to fear Him?” I ask. Learn to be afraid and be wise, I urge them.

I also emphasize that the way to be blessed in our lifetime, and in the future, is to seek God and His ways through His Word (Matthew 6:33). I often see heads nodding in agreement.

THOUGH YOUR SINS BE DARKER THAN DARK. I also entertain questions and give advice. They invite me to listen to their most secret sins, and I listen with sympathy and pity for their souls. They now call me their brother, and these are people who belong to many sects! God has put under my care these men and women whom the devil has victimized and who now suffer the consequences of their past sins. I teach them a God whom anyone with sins darker than dark can approach through their prayers, a God who can understand them in their mistakes and faults and who bend backwards and care enough to send preachers and teachers to bring them back to His fold again.

OUR TRAINING SCHOOL. I have started training classes for two young men (Erwin Saligumba and Jay Ar Oloya) who work with me. I call them my Timothy and Titus. We have lessons on how to evangelize, lessons to teach in evangelism, proper approach in evangelism, how to answer religious objections. Many of Jay Ar’s friends are from the Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so we have a class that surveys the teachings of these sects and refute their errors. Erwin’s aunt is from the Iglesia group founded by Felix Manalo; we studied some errors of this sect too and how to refute them; and equipped with this partial knowledge about the Iglesia doctrines, Erwin started teaching his aunt last week.

We also have a training class in singing and song leading. Even the young people of Kalookan (who are being trained by brother Randy Macapagal), and Kris Ducusin (Randy’s assistant preacher) also wanted to attend my class. Problem is I cannot adjust my schedule to accommodate them. We hold our classes at night before we go to bed.

THE LIFE WE LIVE IN THE BIBLE SCHOOL. The young men who train under me live simple lives with me. Our food consists of rice and vegetables (like okra, camote tops, eggplant) and canned sardines. We work on a tight budget, on the support that some Christians in their kindness have sent me, for which I am most thankful. And the two young men understand. They understand that sometimes I have to go home to Pinyahan, Diliman, Quezon City, to eat when money is scarce. When that happens, Jay Ar, who lives nearby, goes home and get food to share with Erwin.

EVANGELISM RESULTS. Aside from the mothers and fathers that I teach in Bible classes at the building, I now have ongoing classes with Jay Ar’s parents, Lino and Lillian Oloya, and with Jay Ar’s sister Donna, and with Donna’s husband Randy.

Jay Ar’s parents attend our worship. Last Sunday, he also brought with him his aunt Agnes and his sister Kristel. I now have scheduled classes with Agnes and Kristel.

Jay Ar also bring his friends, Jayson and Joel, to the building, and I have studies with them. Last Thursday night, Joel came because his parents have been asking about the “sect” he has been studying with; he came and asked me questions, so I taught him a lesson on the true church. Our study lasted for two hours, until twelve midnight. He is a Jehovah’s Witness but has ceased attending that sect.

CHURCH ATTENDANCE. Our number has increased to 39 last Sunday. In past Sundays we had 30 people attending, which includes visitors and parents who study in our tutorial center.

Karen Luy Lazaro, a member of the church in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, married a man from Valenzuela. Her husband, Raffy Lazaro, was baptized by Jonathan Pag-arao, a former student of mine who now preaches in Bulihan, Silang, Cavite. Both are now attending. Raffy also brings with him his brother to church. They are regular attendees in our Sunday worship since February of this year.

Aldrin, a young man who formerly worshipped in Kalookan, has chosen to worship with us in Valenzuela, since they just live nearby. He brought with him his sister named Charm, who is also a member of the church. Aldrin assists in the prayers and the Lord’s table.

Another is a sister named Evelyn Bayog, who was a former student of a Bible school operated by the instrumental church of Christ. Evelyn is from Bacolod City, but she has married a man from Valenzuela and works in a factory here. Evelyn has chosen to worship with us who do not use instruments in worship!

Still another is Shekinah Dalit, a young Christian lady from Narra, Palawan, who has migrated to Valenzuela. Her father is the preacher in the church of Narra. The Lord’s business of gathering His people wherever they may be sees no end, and we are happy to be used as His instrument in this ministry.

In our attendance is a man whom I am trying to influence. He is a former soldier and one of those who plotted to force Cory Aquino out of presidency! He has mellowed now, and listens to me preach. I have a class with him on Friday nights.

Our attendance has also been increased by the coming of members of Kalookan church, some of whom have not been able to attend the morning worship there, and have chosen to attend the afternoon worship in Valenzuela.

DEBT OF GRATITUDE. We are thankful to God for the two teachers from Kalookan, sister Agnes Macapagal and sister Nerizz Arias, who volunteer to teach the kids. Both are graduates of education degree, and are endowed with a great love for little children.

We are thankful to brother Randy Macapagal and the leaders of Kalookan church too who envision a program like this in order to reach out to people whom we can’t influence by any other means except by the tutorial center program.

And we are thankful to Prissy Sellers and the church in the US who supplied the educational materials, the school bags, the school uniforms, the tables and chairs, the educational Bible videos and the equipment that goes with it.

We are thankful to Kalookan church too for their all-out support for the work in Valenzuela, for their effort and time and money and technical support (we do not have a sound system in Valenzuela and definitely we are in need of one, and Kalookan brings their sound system Sunday afternoons so we could use them. My voice is so low–blame it on my age! The sound system is indeed a great help!

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Note: We have been receiving text messages from brethren from as far as north of Luzon soliciting our help to visit the people they had baptized who now have transferred near Valenzuela. There is such a family of 8 Christians who came from Calapacuan, Subic, Zambales, who claim to be members of the church but have not seen the necessity to attend worship in Valenzuela. We visited them not only once but twice and thrice. That is all we could do. But we are not in the business of bringing a horse to the water if that horse does not see the need to drink; we neither can impose a stricture on a disciple who does not see the need to worship with God’s people here. We urge preachers of the Lord’s church to properly teach those disciples the need to be faithful. If I be given a chance to visit people of this kind, I would not hesitate to teach him again the same foundational lessons, and I would not hesitate about dunking him again either. I have already dunked many who in the past have been immersed by some preachers, simply because these disciples think they have never been taught well. Don’t blame the disciple nor the preacher; I think the real culprit is  that being whom many think is a winged creature with two horns who’s been blamed for the misfortune of us all! 

History of the Church of Christ in Silang

By Dolores de Venecia Thelmo

MY SEARCH FOR TRUTH. The story begins when after 18 years of spending our time and effort to serve God in the Baptist church denomination, dark clouds came to our spiritual life. We were now leaving this denomination because of some errors in it, and because of some sins that the group had refused to take account of.  My friends whom I had influenced to be Baptists too were confused, and fear was in our hearts. Everyone had a question: Where shall we go?

For a long time that we were members of this denomination, we were taught that the Baptist church is the only religion God recognized, that John the Baptist was given the authority to baptize Jesus, that Jesus was a Baptist, and Baptist members are the only church members who will be included in the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven. They also teach that once one is saved, he is saved forever.  Honestly, I have doubts of these teachings. I know who am I, and God knows my heart. I long for the truth. If I will leave the Baptist church, where shall I be on Sundays? What shall happen to us?

I went to God in prayer. “Lord, if you have a group called by your name, where your spiritual presence is there, please bring me to that group.” I wanted out, but I also wanted the truth.

God spoke to me through His Word, in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” For 18 years of reading my Bible, this verse made me endure many sleepless nights. I woke up at midnight just to read it and ask myself, “Why does this verse keep bothering me?  What message does God have for me?”

VISITING MY BROTHER. One summer, I decided to visit my family in Catbalogan, Samar and sought the help of my brother, Tony de Venecia. My mother informed me that he was now a preacher of the church of Christ. I was not sure if my brother could help me. But I had in my mind that if Kuya would answer me through the word of God, I would accept and study the verse. But if he would answer me through a preacher, I would just listen and forget what he said.  I needed Bible truths.

But alas, when I told him what I was suffering through at that time, he asked me to get his Bible because the answer is there. He told me to open and read Acts 2: 38. I did, and as I was reading this verse my heart beat faster. The teaching is contrary to what I learned as a Baptist! I found out that I was not even baptized for the remission of my sins, and that I had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. In other words, for 18 years of claiming that I was a Christian, I discovered I was not even saved! The next day, I asked him to baptize me.

GOING HOME TO CAVITE. After 10 days with my family in Catbalogan, I went back to Silang. I visited my Baptist friends and told them concerning the only church that I read about in the Bible, the church founded by Jesus, the church of Christ. Using my Bible, I told them of my experience in looking for the truth, and convinced them that there is indeed a church of which Christ is the owner, builder, ruler and head.

Baptist pastors who heard of my conversion tried to refute the truth that I had embraced, telling me that the teachings I heard from the church of Christ people are not applicable to our time. Other pastors told their members to shun me and avoid me like a plague, to never ever have any conversation with me about the teachings I heard. But I did not stop. I persisted until my friends were convinced to attend the worship service at Dasmariñas church of Christ, San Jose, Dasmariñas, Cavite.

HOME BIBLE STUDY IN SILANG. On September 7, 2004, we started a home Bible study in my home in Lalaan I, Silang, Cavite, with Bro. Neph Sico doing the teaching. He came with his wife Sis Bing and his Nanay Gloria. In attendance were me and my two daughters. It was scheduled every Sunday afternoon, after the worship in Dasmariñas.

BEGINNING OF THE WORK IN SILANG. After two months, we decided to start the work in the town of Silang, rented an apartment so we could invite our friends to attend the Bible study.  With continuous study of the Bible, praying, sharing the Word of God with other people, inviting them, God worked with us. To our number God added the Montegrande family. And so one afternoon of November 6, 2004, the church of Christ in Silang, Cavite started its first Sunday worship, together with our brethren from Dasmariñas. In attendance too were some old friends in Silang.

MORE ADDITIONS TO OUR NUMBER. After years of continuous services, prayers, visitation and sharing the Word of God, the Lord added again to his church people who are longing to find and serve Him in truth. Our recent addition for the year 2012 is a couple from Laguna, who visited, found a job and stayed for good. Praise the Lord for His greatness and love, for His unwavering plan to keep on looking for a people who will truly serve Him, outside of the denominations!

Unity: How Pleasant It Is!

This morning I had the honor of preaching on the Unity Theme at the joint worship of the Christians from De Castro and the Christians from Pasig-Kapitolyo. This was their third time to worship together, so I was told.

The Pasig-Kapitolyo church began with brother George Esmelia of Bacolod City. This is wonderful! George and I had been at loggerheads before because we could not agree on anything in our religious discussions at the Plaza of Bacolod City in the 1970’s. But while I disagreed with George, I too prayed that he would see the light of the Gospel. And God listened to my prayers. He worked wonders: George Esmelia was taught and baptized, not by me, but by other brethren; not in Bacolod, but in Metro Manila! I rejoiced at the conversion of my former antagonist! Calling him by phone in the 1990’s, we would often laugh out loud at how we had rationalized and justified our positions!

Early this decade, George left the Kapitolyo church in the care of the younger brethren, went to the US, then to Singapore. He was a restless man, but he also was a depressed man– because of the untimely death of his dear wife Marfe. The last news we heard was that he is back in Bacolod City.

The church in Kapitolyo was indeed in good hands, thanks to the Lord and to the few leaders who kept raising the torch of the gospel, fiery and bright and strong, even in the time of raging storms that life had brought them. Twenty years of existence! The Kapitolyo church that began with George  kept on and grew without George, and God be praised for that!

They talked of merger today, the De Castro Christians and the Kapitolyo Christians, and I too was in the meeting. There were seven of us present. They ironed out the kinks that remained. Brethren went another mile, loosened up a bit, and did some sacrifice to make this union a reality.

We owe it to the Lord and to the Father for Their having inspired the leaders of De Castro church (Aldous Echegoyen and Cesar Ola) and those of Kapitolyo church (Jun Cayanan, Bitoy Tagapolot, and one other brother), giving them the light to see the wisdom of the suggestions to pool their resources, their talents and their skills and their influences to promote the growth of the body of Christ in the area. They were now eager to convince the other members of their respective groups to merge as one. The merger is one best thing that has happened to the congregations of Christ in Pasig!

Unity they called it. It is more than that. In the coming Sundays and months and years we will be seeing the effects of this unity-merger-union in the lives and in the work of the two churches that have become one.

The young leaders of the two merging congregations have asked for my help, have solicited my mentoring skills, have desired to drink from the fount of knowledge that grew (they said) from my long experience of preaching the Gospel. In the words of brother Jun Cayanan, “Please reproduce yourself in us, help us to copy the Christianity that grew in you.” Flattered? That was not my feeling. All of a sudden I felt I had become small and needed the guidance from above in order to meet these brethren’s expectations!

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalms 133:1).

To see the photos, please click here…
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