Forum Summary: A Hidden Key to Success

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 48 seconds.

In the staff meeting room at Headquarters, Mr. Frank introduced Mr. Mario Hernandez as the Forum speaker. Mr. Hernandez asked, “Do you remember the laws of success?” The students nodded and recited them. The seventh law of success, Mr. Hernandez explained, is to acknowledge God in all your ways. “I’m going to give you an indispensable key to being successful. Without it,” he said, “even if you have all the others, you won’t succeed before God or man… What is the fifth commandment?”

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

– Ephesians 6:1-3

For those who obey and honor their parents, God gives a two-fold promise: a long life and a successful life. Mr. Hernandez turned to Exodus 21:15-17 to show God takes the fifth commandment seriously. Children who struck or cursed their parents were to be put to death. Yet, Mr. Hernandez noted that disrespect towards parents parallels this sin. In Leviticus 19:3, God commanded Israel to revere their parents. Mr. Hernandez said, “Treat them with great respect no matter what. They represent God.”

Respect as a Facet of the Culture of God

“We’re living in a generation where children are oppressors of their parents. They’re not taught to respect.” He read Leviticus 19:32, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man….” The custom to rise and acknowledge an older person when they enter a room may seem outdated or not culturally practiced. But, Mr. Hernandez said, “That’s a lack of culture, my friends. We are here to learn the culture of God and not to say, Oh, in my country we don’t do that.” Young people should acknowledge the presence of an older person rather than ignoring them and turning to their peers. “In this country, which I love and respect, there is a tendency for there to be different cultures for the youth and for the elderly. Each [group] lives in their own world, and there is not much communication.” This phenomenon, which Mr. Hernandez termed “the teenage syndrome,” is nurtured in the modern education system. In tomorrow’s world, a family-oriented learning system will encourage young people to respect and interact appropriately with the older generation.

“The commandment goes all the way to the adult age until the end of your parents’ lives.”

In Mark 7:1-13, Christ rebuked the Pharisees for disobeying God’s command to honor one’s parents. In 1 Timothy 5:4-8, Paul commands, “if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents….” Mr. Hernandez explained that adult children—who are at the productive stage of life—are still obligated to honor their parents.


“Now we’re going to see the story of a man who honored his father and was greatly blessed. That is the story of Joseph.” Out of all the sons of Jacob, only Joseph truly honored his parents. The “bad report” Joseph brought to Jacob in Genesis 37:2 indicates the brothers had a poor reputation in the community. When Jacob called to Joseph to send him to his brothers in the field, Joseph replied, “Here I am.” Abraham had this same response when God tested him by commanding him to kill Isaac (Genesis 22:1). Mr. Hernandez compared it to saying, “Whatever You say, here I am to obey you.”

“Here I am.”

Reuben committed adultery with one of his father’s wives (Genesis 35:22), in contrast to Joseph, who refused to lie with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:10). At the end of Jacob’s life, in a final act of respect, Joseph bowed down to the ground as Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:12). Joseph was 110 years old when he died, and he had become the second most powerful man in Egypt. “God was fulfilling His promise because Joseph obeyed and respected his father.”

Honor the Hoary Head

Mr. Hernandez concluded, “Don’t just stay among the youth, having your different culture apart. Open your heart and talk to the older person… They feel dishonored—although they don’t complain—when a youth passes by and ignores them or rarely comes to greet them. The hoary-head are becoming weak because of age, and they need respect.” Mr. Hernandez explained that respect to one’s parents and older people is respect towards God. He challenged the students to honor older people, revere their parents, and fear God by keeping the fifth commandment—so they may live a long and successful life as God promises.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: The Role of God’s Holy Spirit

Peter told his listeners on the day of Pentecost that following repentance and baptism they would “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). What is receiving the Holy Spirit intended to accomplish in our lives?

Course Spotlight From The Life Ministry and Teachings of Jesus Christ: (Unit 1) The Early Life of Christ

Digging Deeper: Plenteous Redemption

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 7 min., 22 sec.

Did you know that God’s redemption is described in Scripture as plenteous?

Bible readers discover through diligent study that God has set in motion a plan to redeem those willing to confess their sins, repent of them, and seek God’s forgiveness. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer. One may wonder if there are limits to His redemption. We will encounter in this study a fitting psalm that is often recited at funerals because of the comfort it affords. This Digging Deeper introduces our topic with an inspirational verse that will encourage and strengthen God’s people through His commitment to save them.

Our focus verse is: (Psalm 130:7 KJV) “Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.” Psalm 130 is the sixth of seven traditionally-named Penitential Psalms that include Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. They are expressive of sorrow for sin, repentance, and change of behavior. The Book of Psalms was Israel’s hymnbook of praises to the Almighty. Believers have found solace time and again from its abundant instruction and assurances.

The Dake Annotated Reference Bible under its note for Psalm 130:1 calls this “A Backslider’s Psalm” and outlines the psalm in this manner:

            1. “His state or condition (Psa 130:1)

            2. His prayer (Psa 130:1-4)

            3. His questioning (Psa 130:3)

            4. His promise (Psa 130:4; 130:7-8)

            5. His sincerity and longing (Psa 130:5-6)

            6. His hope (Psa 130:5; 130:7)

            7. His faith and assurance (Psa 130:4; 130:7-8)” (Bible Analyzer

A price paid for deliverance

The word redeem means “to deliver by paying a price.” Redemption is a major New Testament doctrine. The CARM Theological Dictionary defines this noun more fully: “Redemption means to free someone from bondage. It often involves the paying of a ransom, a price that makes redemption possible. The Israelites were redeemed from Egypt. We were redeemed from the power of sin and the curse [penalty] of the Law (Galatians 3:13) through Jesus (Romans 3:24; Colossians 1:14). We were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23)” (e-Sword 13.0). Sinners were held captive by the archenemy of humankind, the Devil. Christ the Liberator sets them free when they trust in Him through the ransom He paid by His sacrificial death.

There is more than one nuance to the word redemption. The Bridgeway Bible Dictionary elaborates redemption further: “In Bible days a slave could be set free from bondage by the payment of a price, often called the ransom. The whole affair was known as the redemption of the slave (Leviticus 25:47-48). (The words ‘redeem’ and ‘ransom’ are related to the same root in the original languages.) The Bible speaks of redemption both literally (concerning everyday affairs) and pictorially (concerning what God has done for his people) (Psalm 77:15; Titus 2:14)” (e-Sword 13.0). Our God has come to our rescue, remitting the full price for our liberation from Satan’s kingdom.

Sinners must be redeemed from the penalty for violating God’s law. Concerning God’s transaction through redemption from sin, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary offers this summary definition: “In theology, the purchase of God’s favor by the death and sufferings of Christ; the ransom or deliverance of sinners from the bondage of sin and the penalties of God’s violated law by the atonement of Christ” (e-Sword 13.0). This older dictionary so well defines this doctrine since it drew many of its definitions from the Bible unlike many modern dictionaries.

The Scofield Reference Bible in its note for Exodus 14:30 elaborates on this major biblical doctrine: “Exodus is the book of redemption and teaches:

            (1) redemption is wholly of God Exodus 3:7; 3:8; John 3:16.

(2) redemption is through a person. (See Scofield “Exodus 2:2“). John 3:16-17

            (3) redemption is by blood Exodus 12:13, 23, 27; 1 Peter 1:18.

            (4) redemption is by power Exodus 6:6; 13:14; Romans 8:2.” (e-Sword 13.0).

Perfect and plenteous atonement

There are other doctrines related to redemption. B.J. Carroll’s An Interpretation of the English Bible elaborates: “When applied to the sacred work of the Lord Jesus Christ, it generally means ‘deliverance through atonement.’ Thus understood, it means both atonement and deliverance” (e-Sword 13.0). Christ is the great Deliverer whose blood atonement sets us free from our sins. This source further adds: “Man has always been endeavoring to find some atonement for his sin, and has always failed, but we have received a perfect atonement in Him; it is plenteous. (1) Plenteous to cover the sins of the whole world. (2) Plenteous to cover all the sins of each one” (Ibid.). God’s grace is truly all-sufficient! This is what our focus verse means by using the word plenteous.

Let us explore this theme even further. Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible provides this additional note: “It is ample; it is full; it abounds. It is not limited; it is not exhausted; it cannot be exhausted. So we may always feel when we come before God, that his mercy is ample for all the needs of all the sinful and the suffering; that the provisions of his grace are unexhausted and inexhaustible” (e-Sword 13.0).

The following quotation from The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, edited by Joseph S. Exell, should leave us awestruck: “’And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities’ (Psalm 130:8). It is no temporary, or indistinct, blessing that is so anxiously sought; it is nothing less than a complete deliverance from all iniquity. Redemption from sin includes redemption from all other evils: it is the greatest and most perfect work of God, and bestows the most exalted blessings on man” (e-Sword 13.0). Does this not remove any lingering doubts? This source continues: “LESSONS: —1. Redemption is a Divine work. 2. The most degraded soul is not beyond the hope of recovery. 3. Redemption must be eagerly and prayerfully sought” (Ibid.). Only God can accomplish this consequential redemption.

In this light, look at this supporting scripture: (Hebrews 7:25 KJV) “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost [most extensive degree] that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Christ delivers believers not only from the consequences of sin but even from sin itself. Sinners who imagine themselves beyond redemption will find it if they turn to the Savior in sincere repentance, confession, and contrition. It must be accepted on God’s terms, not as we would imagine it. This is true for returning sinners as well (1 John 1:8-2:2).

Not willing that any should perish…

We have multiple examples of God’s enduring mercy. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges illustrates one notable example for us: “Observe how the thought that God’s manifold mercy and patience have not been exhausted by Israel’s persistent rebellion runs through the confession in Nehemiah 9; Nehemiah 9:17; 9:19; 9:27-28; 9:30-31; 9:35. Cp. Isaiah 43:25; 55:7” (e-Sword 13.0). Bible readers are awed by God’s abiding patience and desire for Israel to turn back to Him since He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

The Dake Annotated Reference Bible for its note on Psalm 130:7 offers “Five Reasons Israel Should Hope in God:

            1. God does not mark iniquities for punishment without extending mercy (Psa 130:3).

            2. There is forgiveness with Him (Psa 130:4).

            3. There is mercy with Him (Psa 130:7).

            4. There is abundant redemption (Psa 130:7).

            5. He shall redeem from all sin (Psa 130:8).” (Ibid.)

This is not a purely individualistic endeavor. It is essential to realize that this process is a family experience. Bob Utley’s You Can Understand the Bible explains: “Remember biblical faith is corporate. It is a family! Be careful of the modern western over-emphasis on the individual. Salvation has a corporate focus! We are saved to serve. The goal of individual salvation is the health and growth of the body of believers” (e-Sword 13.0)! God’s church is to be filled with consecrated and spiritually clean sons and daughters of God who have received and continue to receive His plenteous redemption.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Assembly Summary: Embrace Your Trials

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

Mr. Wallace Smith, the executive editor for Editorial, walked into the classroom with a homemade lightsaber hilt, a replica Star Wars lightsaber, and a samurai sword. A young man built the hilt for Mr. Smith last year as a gift. It consisted of various pipes and fixtures, along with some electrical tape and rubber bands. Mr. Smith borrowed the glowing green lightsaber—sans accompanying sound-effects—from one of his sons. While it looked deadly, the lightsaber was essentially a harmless prop—compared to the sword he pulled out next.

“Some swords are battle-ready, and some are not.”

“This is a katana, actually formed in Japan, according to the traditional methods.” These samurai swords have a single-edged blade, curving in the traditional Japanese style. The blade does not end at the handle but extends into it—a characteristic of well-built swords. Underneath the cloth binding of the handle, on the metal of the blade that lies within, the creator etches his signature. Mr. Smith explained a samurai warrior’s daily business was deeply connected to the concepts of life and death. The making of a katana was a work of passion, and the creator would purify himself before forging the sword—a process that took months to complete.

The Steel

The forge used to make a katana is kept extremely hot by containing and turning the fire in on itself. “A katana,” Mr. Smith noted, “is made up of multiple metals that are forged into one thing, but not necessarily mixed.” Iron ore, coal, sand, and sometimes other materials are added. The steel is hardened by adding carbon. But if too much carbon is used, the blade will turn brittle. Iron, which is a softer element, provides the necessary flexibility in the weapon. The metals are mixed at different stages and the swordsmith produces a material called tamahagane—translated, “steel jewel.” This material is broken into different-colored cubes, which contain varying amounts of carbon. The cubes are sorted depending on the level of carbon and hammered into sheets. “The real work,” Mr. Smith said, “goes into forging the blade.”

Forging the Sword

“If you take a piece of paper and fold it, it doesn’t take many folds, and it gets almost impossible to fold.” Some of the hammered sheets are selected to make the kawagane, “leather steel,” and the hagane, “blade steel.” The steel is layered, hammered, and folded several times over until a plank with thousands of layers is formed. At this point, the smith prepares the “heart-steel,” the shingane. The low-carbon shingane is more flexible and is placed inside the folded kawagane. “You need the edge to be extremely hard.” Mr. Smith said, “What is the hardest substance that we know of? Diamonds. The carbon bonds are capable of making it extremely hard.” The swordsmith fuses the steel, creating a blade with a “diamond-hard” exterior and a flexible core that can absorb the force of impacts.

The Blade

To temper the weapon, it is plunged into water or oil to drop the temperature of the metal. But before it is dipped in liquid, the spine of the sword is encased with a protective clay layer that allows it to be tempered differently across its width and leaves tell-tale markings on the edge of the blade—another sure sign of an authentic katana. Even at this final stage, the edge hardens as the metal changes molecularly. When a katana was completed, the quality of the sword was normally tested on prisoners. “How sharp is it? They say, made properly, you can throw a piece of silk in the air and a master would be able to slice right through the silk, not having to hold it taut—just allowing the silk to float in the air.”

Embrace Your Trials

“Of these three weapons I’ve shown you today,” Mr. Smith held up the katana, “this one has been through the toughest time.” The steel was heated up to 1600 degrees Fahrenheit, hammered, fragmented, pounded, and tempered with a drastic drop in temperature. Mr. Smith explained Christians are forged into weapons of righteousness (Romans 6:13). “Too often, we think of trials as what God is supposed to deliver us from.” He pointed out that God is not like the “genie” from the Disney movie Aladdin. James 1:2-3 reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” The “testing of your faith,” Mr. Smith said, does not mean one’s faith causes the trial to end. Faith is developed and forged through hardship.

Mr. Smith concluded his Assembly with a lesson he had learned from another pastor. There are different levels to trials. He said, “We can go through the middle level where we begrudgingly go through them… But it’s not quite the same as embracing it, where, when you go to God, you can say, ‘Father, I don’t know why I’m going through this. But I do trust You are working the ‘long game’ in my life, not just for now but for eternity. If this is a burden I have to face for a month, a year, or a lifetime, I trust you.” Trials are the heat, hammering, and tempering God uses to forge His people into the perfectly balanced tools He desires.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: The Best Laid Plans

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 29 seconds.

Mr. McNair introduced the manager of the Mail Processing Department at Headquarters, an elder in the Charlotte congregation, and a long-time member of God’s Church. “Mr. Gaylyn Bonjour, as you all know, is responsible for all of that major operation that happens downstairs—it’s the heart of the Work.”

“Either good or bad, what happened this year is going to be a memory that you’ll build on all the way through your life.” Mr. Bonjour spoke to the students about planning their futures. At a time when many of the students are making decisions regarding their educations, careers, or even whether to remain in Charlotte, Mr. Bonjour reminded them that their lives would not unfold exactly according to plan. He joked, “I was going to be retired at thirty-five. I’m 77 and I’m still working. Sometimes, as we go through life, all the things that you plan and the direction you that you’re trying to go—it seems to go the other way…”

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry…”

– Robert Burns

“You have your plan, and God has His plan.” In 1971, Mr. Bonjour bought twenty-seven acres in Kingsburg, California on which to plant plum trees and raise a farm. Yet, the timing was not good—many other people had the same idea, and the market was competitive. There was little profit in their endeavor, Mr. Bonjour had to work as a masonry contractor to support the farm. Finally, years later, after his son finished high school, Mr. Bonjour and his wife decided to sell the ranch, and they began managing a mini-storage center. He was eventually ordained and hired by the Church. He said, “We may be frustrated that our plan is not working, but we can be assured His plan is.”

“Remember the time you were here.” Isaiah 46:9-10 reads, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other… Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand….’” Mr. Bonjour advised the students to use the lessons they learned at Living Ed to seek God early in their lives. He said, “The most precious, tangible thing you have is your time. Every minute you spend is lost. You’re not getting it back.” As he read through Ecclesiastes 3, Mr. Bonjour reminded the students that now is the time for them to seek God, so they will have fewer opportunities to make mistakes in the future. “Every sin committed is a little scar on the brain.”

“Our character is built through adversity.” God allows His people—and their plans—to be tested. Mr. Bonjour explained, “God wants us to be able to stand upright before Him and to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.” In his first year of being called into the truth, Mr. Bonjour was tested on the Sabbath. His boss needed him to work seven days a week, but Mr. Bonjour refused to do it and was let go. When he registered for the “out of work” list in the Piledrivers Union, his name was dropped to the bottom of the list, because he would not work on Saturday. For a year, he supported his family by working at a junkyard, earning two dollars an hour. “I’ve never been tested on the Sabbath after that.” God is interested in a Christian’s character, not their intelligence or wealth. “When you go through difficulties, you learn and then you can empathize.” Mr. Bonjour explained God uses a “hands-off” approach with His people to see what they will do. But if a Christian does not judge himself—if he fails to align his plan with God’s plan—God will step in and correct it.

“If you’ve got God, you’ve got everything. If you don’t have God, you have nothing.”

Mr. Bonjour concluded, “Looking back, I can see God very gently moved me in a direction where I can benefit not only me and my family but the Church. You don’t always get to go in the direction you want to go. You don’t always get to do the things you want to do. But you trust God, and you know that God is involved in your life.”

“And, as Mr. Armstrong said, ‘I read the book, and, in the end, we win.’”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: Speaking in Tongues

The focal point of the Pentecostal movement is its emphasis on speaking in tongues, or “glossolalia”—a term derived from the Greek words for “tongue” and “speaking.” But just what does the Bible mean when it mentions speaking in tongues? Is it identical to what happens in the modern charismatic movement?

Course Spotlight From Acts of the Apostles (Unit 1) The Church Begins

Digging Deeper: A Lesson from Barabbas

Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education

Estimated reading time: 7 min., 44 sec.

Did you know that many people of first-century Jerusalem demanded the release of an insurrectionist against the Roman Empire named Barabbas in exchange for the Son of God?

The Four Gospels describe Pilate’s attempt to set Jesus free from the charges brought against Him by the hysterical populace through a customary Passover release of one prisoner. Pilate offered the people the choice of Jesus or Barabbas. Without hesitation, the people chose Barabbas over Jesus. Only days before they had welcomed Jesus riding into Jerusalem with Hosanna (“save, we pray”) (John 12:12-16). This Digging Deeper explores this troubling account to illustrate an important spiritual lesson for Christians.

All four Gospel writers record this incident: Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:17-25; John 18:39-40. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia notes that “Matthew calls him ‘a notable (i.e. notorious) prisoner’ (Matthew 27:16). Mark says that he was ‘bound with them that had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder’ (Mark 15:7). Luke states that he was cast into prison ‘for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder’ (Luke 23:19; compare Acts 3:14). John calls him a ‘robber’ or ‘brigand’” (John 18:40) (e-Sword 13.0).

Who was Barabbas?

John Lightfoot in his Commentary on the Gospels records that Barabbas was a common name in the Jewish Talmud (Bible Analyzer The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, edited by Merrill C. Tenney, adds further: “The name Barabbas may simply be a conventional proper name. It is found as the surname of several rabbis” (Zondervan Publishing Company, 1976, p. 472).

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary, edited by Joseph S. Exell, proposes a derivation of this criminal’s name: “Barabbas.—’Son of Abba,’ i.e. Son of Father (so-and-so). The name would originally be given to one who was the son of some Rabbi who had been known in his locality as Father (so-and-so). Not unlikely Barabbas would thus be a person of respectable parentage, though for long he had gravitated toward the lowest stratum of society (Morison)” (e-Sword 13.0). The respectful title “father” was sometimes applied to mentors and teachers (2 Kings 2:12; 5:13; 6:21; 13:14).

Barabbas’ description as “notable” in Matthew 27:16 means he was distinguished in either great virtues or great crimes; in his case, he was infamous. Daniel Whedon in his Commentary on the Old and New Testaments paints this picture: “As a fierce and brave Jewish patriot, he had become notable or famous among the populace. He was, perhaps, like Robin Hood among the old English, hateful to the government but popular with the masses” (e-Sword 13.0).

No ordinary villian

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein provides the Greek word used in our Gospels to describe Barabbas as: “…no ordinary villain but a lestes (cf. Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19; John 18:40). Although lestes can refer to a robber (as perhaps in John 10:1), it more probably refers to insurrectionists (cf. 26:55; John 18:40); and Josephus constantly uses it of the Zealots. Neither theft nor violent robbery was a capital offense, but insurrection was. Revolts and bloodshed fostered by guerrilla action were common (cf. Jos. Antiq. XVIII, 3-10 [i. 1], 60-62 [iii. 2]; Luke 13:1), and Barabbas had been caught. In the eyes of many of the people he would not be a ‘notorious’ villain but a hero” (Zondervan, 1984, p. 568-569).

Barabbas may have been a Zealot, as described by The Expositor’s Dictionary of Texts, edited by W. Robertson Nicoll and Jane T. Stoddart: “There was a fierce and defiant Home Rule party in Judea whose unresting aim was to drive the Roman garrison from the Holy Land. Their chosen name was that of Zealots, because of their unquenchable zeal for the restoration of the Jewish Dominion. Out of their ranks came one of Christ’s disciples, Simon Zelotes, whom Jesus taught a wider truth and, a better way than his fiery heart had at first conceived” (Bible Analyzer

The Expository Notes of Dr. [Thomas L.] Constable describes Barabbas: “He was a famous prisoner but not necessarily one that the Jews regarded as an undesirable character. On the contrary, he had evidently been leading an insurrection against the Roman government as a freedom fighter (cf. Mark 15:7; Luke 23:19; John 18:40). His guerrilla actions were fairly common then. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 18:1:1.]  Many of the Jews would have viewed Barabbas as a hero rather than as a villain. He was more of a messianic figure, in the minds of most Jews, than Jesus was” (e-Sword 13.0).

Political rebel for the Son of God

The Fourfold Gospel by J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton provides a possible historical background to this insurrection: “Josephus tells us that there had been an insurrection against Pilate’s government about that time caused by his taking money from the temple treasury for the construction of an aqueduct (The Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.2). This may have been the affair here referred to, for in it many lost their lives” (BP Bible

Insurrection was a serious crime against the state. The New Bible Dictionary, edited by J.D. Douglas notes that Barabbas was: “A bandit (John 18:40), arrested for homicidal political terrorism (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18+)” (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, p. 132). Barabbas was such an insurrectionist, yet Jesus was falsely accused of this crime by the Jews (Luke 23:2). Pilate later realized that Jesus was innocent (Luke 23:22) and that for envy the Jews had accused Him (Matthew 27:18). The chief priests and elders had persuaded the Jerusalem crowd to demand Barabbas’ release and Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:20).

When the overexcited Jews demanded Barabbas’ freedom instead of Jesus’ they preferred the political rebel and nationalist hero over the Son of God. Fausset’s Bible Dictionary explains that Barabbas (son of the father) was a ” … contrast to the true Son of the Father! The Jews asked the murderous taker of life to be given as a favor to them (it being customary to release one prisoner at the passover), and killed the Prince of life (Acts 3:14-15)” (e-Sword 13.0)!

The New Bible Dictionary, edited by J.D. Douglas offers an intriguing spiritual note to this story: “The priests, possibly taking up an initial demand from his [Barabbas’] supporters (cf. Mark 15:8), engineered a movement for his release to counter Pilate’s intended offer of that of Jesus (Matthew 27:20; Mark 15:11) – and Barabbas became an exemplification of the effects of substitutionary atonement” (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1965, p. 132). The College Press Explanatory Notes by Rhoderick D. Ice explains further: “Some have made him a ‘symbol’ of the guilty human race which is set free from punishment by the substitution of the innocent Christ” (e-Sword 13.0).

Barabbas: A type for mankind

This takes our brief study to a deeper level. Barabbas committed treason against the Roman Empire and Pilate the governor. Each of us, in his or her way, has committed high treason against the Governor of the universe by our sins (Romans 3:23). Accordingly, we brought the death penalty down upon our heads (Romans 6:23). We are helpless and hopeless in ourselves to find deliverance from this undesirable fate.

In His love for humankind, God sent His only begotten Son to earth. As part of His preaching, Jesus announced His coming substitutionary death during His earthly ministry (John 12:32). He suffered vicariously for all humanity. His disciples did not understand what He meant. Only after His death, as the apostles and early Church of God began to digest this tragic account did they realize the full spiritual significance of His death (John 12:16). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead confirmed God’s redemptive plan to forgive humanity and instead offer them life – even life forevermore (1 Corinthians 15:22).

Jesus died in our place, as surely as He died in Barabbas’ place (Romans 5:7-8; Galatians 6:14). Each of us deserves the death penalty. Jesus became our substitutionary atonement to release us from our sins and enable us to be reconciled to God with the hopeful prospect of eternal life. In this way, Barabbas was a type of every sinner who has been redeemed by God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

We do not know what happened to Barabbas after Jesus was exchanged for him. Nonetheless, Barabbas serves as a type of every sin-laden human who deserves death but through repentance and confession of sin has been released, rescued, and redeemed by the Savior of the world instead.

Kenneth Frank headshot

Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.

Assembly Summary: Church Administration—The Story in Stats

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 57 seconds. 

“I would like to talk today a little about something I’ve been a part of for some years.” Mr. Rod McNair has worked as the Assistant Director of Church Administration (CAD) since 2005. He began, “I thought maybe the best way to do it is to tell the story in statistics.”

“What is our mission in CAD?”

The Church’s main goal is to preach the Gospel to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). But the second primary aim is to feed the flock. In John 21:15-17, Christ commanded Peter three times to care for His flock. Mr. McNair pointed out two different words are used in this passage for “feed” and “tend.” The Greek word, bosko, means to pasture or feed,and poimaino, means to rule or govern. The mission of CAD is “to serve the ministry of God’s flock in fulfilling the second commission of the Church, feeding the flock by providing coordination, communication, and administrative support.”


Genesis 6:5-8 is the account of how Noah “found grace in the eyes of the LORD” in a wicked world. He was a “preacher of righteousness” (1 Peter 2:5), yet not one person was called and baptized through his ministry. Mr. McNair asked the students, “What was the first statistic? How many coworkers did Noah have?” He pointed to a single number projected on the whiteboard behind him. “Zero… We may get discouraged. But as we go through the statistics, I think it’s good to keep things in perspective.”

In an Assembly last semester, Mr. McNair discussed the Festival Office. Today, two other major components of CAD were covered: Tomorrow’s World presentations and local ministry and churches.

Tomorrow’s World Presentations

In years past, Mr. Armstrong went on preaching campaigns in cities all over the country, speaking at convention centers or large venues. These programs were advertised in advance, with titles such as, “A Voice Cries Out.” In 2006, in LCG, several ministers proposed having pastors speak at local presentations. Since then, a system was developed for planning TWPs. Mr. McNair showed the students the chart that displays the process. At least eight weeks are required to coordinate the topic, time, venue, brochures, and invites for the meetings.


To date, 30,164 people have attended 1,195 presentations in the U.S and around the world. In the U.S.A, about two percent of invitees attend. Outside America, 4.2 % of invited people attend. “It does seem to be that our people in this country are less interested in the message than people overseas.” The top two topics requested from attendee surveys are prophetic topics (40-50% of requests) and the Holy Days (30%). Many who call and write Headquarters believe Tomorrow’s World is purely a media effort. “The presentations show we are friendly, warm, and welcoming. They show we are a Church.”

Local Ministry and Churches

There are 398 congregations worldwide. Over 160 of these are in the U.S.A. Last year, there were about 2,600 people under the age of seventeen in the Church—out of an average total of 12,000 members. “We do have a lot of older people, but we also have an awful lot of young people—about 20%.” Since 1999, 5,950 people have been baptized. Mr. McNair mentioned, “Those are not all people who have grown up in the Church… There are still people being called today. There is still Work to be done.”


There are 5,986 prospective members, baptized members, and Church youth in the U.S, compared with 6,417 in ninety-one other countries. “Does this tell you anything about how God has blessed the U.S. materially—with the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression, and the ability to do the Work—with the ability to be the engine of the Work? What a blessing that God has allowed us to do the Work in this country… And it shows that we have a responsibility.” 116 brethren are “scattered members.” These are brave members who stand alone in their countries as pillars for the truth.

“… providing for the needs.”

Since 2004, the Personal Correspondence Department has responded to 56,000 emails, calls, or letters. There are twenty volunteers who transcribe sermons for the hard of hearing—thirty-six deaf members receive these transcriptions. The transcriptions are translated into nine languages.

Feeding the Flock

Matthew 24:45-47 is the account of the “faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season….” God commissioned the Church, like that servant, to feed and care for His household. Mr. McNair concluded, “If we put our focus and our attention on being a part of preaching the Gospel to the world and also supporting the back-end of what happens to people once they do come, God is going to give us so many more opportunities in the future, because we’ve been faithful with these very tiny opportunities.”

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Forum Summary: Develop the Superpower of Deep Work

Author: Juliette McNair | Student, Living Education Charlotte 2021

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes.

Mr. Josh Lyons is the assistant pastor for three congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Mr. Lyons grew up in South Carolina and went to the College of Charleston. He graduated with a Master’s degree in accounting in 2010. Growing up in the Church, he attended Living Youth Camp for several summers as a camper, counselor, and staff member.

“Decisions you make in early adulthood cast this long shadow… And they’re not easy to change.”

Mr. Lyons described “an early life crisis” he experienced in his senior year of college. He was rethinking pursuing a career in accounting. “I knew I had invested a good bit of time and money, and I was thinking, Is accounting really for me?” He prayed about it and considered going into counseling. He applied and was accepted to a college program for counseling when he happened to speak with Mr. Jerry Ruddlesden, who advised him to apply for the accounting position at Headquarters. After an interview, he was hired directly after graduating. “Looking back, it was so clear that God showed me what path to take… When you’re in these moments, sometimes, you sincerely just don’t know where to go.” Mr. Lyons studied to get his Certified Public Accountant degree and had only just taken the exam in 2017 when Mr. Weston asked him to work in the ministry.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.”

– Psalm 143:8 (NIV)

“I’d like to transition and talk about a skill—something I’ve tried to implement. I’ve come to think it’s almost like a superpower.” In his book, Deep Work, Cal Newport explains how society is losing its ability to work, study, think, and read deeply. Newport wrote, “The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.” Using Deep Work as a reference, Mr. Lyons gave the students six practical steps that would help them develop the skill of doing deep work in their lives.

“Do as little shallow work as possible.”

Shallow work is defined as logistical, easy-to-replicate tasks. Writing emails, setting up a printer, or getting office supplies fall into this category. Mr. Lyons told the students to recognize that shallow tasks, while necessary, do not add value. Shallow work should be limited or batched together to be taken care of all at once.

“Ruthlessly block distractions.”

At one point in his talk, Mr. Lyons admitted, “While I was here [writing] my speech notes, I went and checked my email… I forced myself to put a confession here… I wrote, ‘Literally, while my cursor was here in my notes, I checked my email and totally didn’t need to. Bad.’” To do deep work, phones should be silenced, email alerts turned off, and any distractions removed.

“Block out chunks of time.”

The mind must focus for a substantial period of time to really do deep work. Ideally, up to three or four hours should be set aside to concentrate on a task. Mr. Lyons explains he likes to use the morning to write commentaries and prepare sermons without interruption. Devoting a substantial chunk of time to a task allows the mind to dive deep into one’s work.

“Go to a good location.”

Mr. Lyons mentioned the library at his college was an exceptional place to study and focus. “The library was so nice it almost made you want to study. Almost.” Libraries are quiet, and convenient corners scattered around can provide an ideal environment to focus on a task. A good location promotes deep work.

“Learn to love deep work.”

“It’s satisfying to reach our potential.” Deep work is valuable, meaningful, and rare—it is rewarding to produce quality work that others can’t necessarily replicate. “Adding value is satisfying.” Mr. Lyons encouraged the students to learn to love doing difficult, deep work because it is rewarding.

“Be intentional to improve your ability to do deep work.”

Deep work isn’t a habit, it is a skill. Newport wrote, “The ability to concentrate intensely is a skill that must be trained.” This ability isn’t picked up overnight. It is like a conditioned mental muscle that must be purposefully developed.

“If there is any one ‘secret’ to effectiveness, it is concentration.”

– Peter Drucker

Whether in one’s profession, education, or Bible study, concentration brings success. “Deep work,” Mr. Lyons pointed out, “is really about doing something to a depth of difficulty that stretches us to push us out of our comfort zone to make progress.” In a world full of distractions, Mr. Lyons inspired the students to develop the superpower of deep work.

This post is part of our new series of student-written content for LivingEd-Charlotte. These summaries cover topics originally presented by our faculty and guest speakers in our weekly Forum and Assembly. For more Assembly-related content check out our Second Thoughts posts.

Course Spotlight: The Death of James

We know from secular history that James died a martyr. Exactly how that happened is unclear, as there is more than one account describing his demise.

Course Spotlight From The General Epistles: (Part 1) The Letters of James and Peter