"Take Ye Away The Stone"

Raymond E. Harris
Muscle Shoals, Alabama

The foregoing command of Jesus is found in John 11:39. The occasion was the resurrection of Lazarus from his tomb.

Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus worked this great miracle to prove that he truly is the Son of God. I would like to borrow the expression, "Take ye away the stone" and apply it in a different, but appropriate, way.

In New Testament times when a cave or carved out tomb was prepared for the dead, a large round wheel shaped stone was carved to cover the entrance. The wheel-like stone was often four or five feet in diameter. Obviously it would weigh several hundred pounds and require the combined strength of several men to move it. Hence, the great round stone sealed the opening of the tomb and separated the living from the dead.

Stones Separating Men From God

The Scriptures describe those who are not Christians as "the living dead." The word "death" means separation. And, so all who are not Christians are said to be spiritually dead since they are separated from God by their sins (Isa. 59:1-2).

This separation from God could end if certain "stones" were rolled away.

(1) In some cases the stone of ignorance needs to be rolled away. It is tragic that so many far and near, know so little about the Bible and Jesus. How sad for millions to live and die without ever understanding how Jesus died to extend to one and all the opportunity of salvation (John 3:16).

(2) With others the great barrier to salvation is the stone of prejudice! Often mis-informed or un-informed people become offended or antagonistic toward the Church or religion in general. It is sad to realize that countless multitudes will spend eternity in a devil's hell because some stone of prejudice became a mental barrier that kept them from ever realizing the love that God has for them (Acts 2:38).

(3) From time to time we find self-righteousness is the stone that needs to be taken away. The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith. "It is the gift of God." However, the gift is not unconditional. Sinners must believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, confess that Jesus is the Messiah and be baptized for the remission of sins. Indeed it is sad when so many reject God's simple way and suppose they can work or buy or serve or suffer their way into heaven (Rom. 6-3-8).

To lose one's soul is to lose all. To save one's soul is the ultimate victory. For the sake of your own eternal welfare, we implore you to roll aside anything and everything that stands between you and a proper relationship with the Almighty.

Stones Affecting The Indifferent

Jesus taught another lesson. He was about to call the dead back to life (which no man could do). But, mortals could roll aside the stone – and this they were commanded to do. Hence, we see the principle that God will do for man that which is beyond his power; but, man must do his part by responding to the grace of God. Man must do for himself all that he is,capable of doing.

The principle can be applied today to church members who have grown cold and drifted back into the world. It is obvious that real or imagined barriers separate them from God. Anything standing between man and God should be removed at once. Some such "stones" that need to be rolled away are:

(1) Anything that hinders a lack of spiritual growth and development.

a. "Desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2).

b. "Study to show theyself approved unto God" (2 Tim. 2:15).

c. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness" (Matt. 5:6). The Bible says faith comes from hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). We suggest that one's faith can only be maintained and sustained by continued study.

(2) Anything that hinders total commitment and genders indifference.

a. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Rom. 12:1).

b. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58).

(3) Anything that hinders church attendance and worship.

a. "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Heb. 10:25).

b. "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world . . . the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (1 John 2:15-17).

Roll the stone away. Worship this Sunday with the church of Christ.

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Author: jfm

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