Embry Hills church of Christ
There’s so much that could be learned from all the good that is accomplished at the Emery Hills church of Christ. Of all the congregations we’ve visited on our Nomad Quest, we had no idea until after our visit, just how many of our friend’s lives have been touched in a positive way by their hard work over the years. In fact, our young friend, Sharon Driedger met us the day we worshipped there, and mentioned that the last time she visited, preacher Sewell Hall helped her connect to a hospitable family there, so she could stay for the night rather than drive a long way home in the dark.
Our visit happened to land on “Easter Sunday”, and we too were invited by elder Barry Caudill to crash quite the family feast of his lovely extended family (complete with “angel rolls”--- a name that well-suited their tasty manna-like bread, if you don’t mind my saying). It was an absolute delight to enjoy this happy family and exchange stories and encouragement over several hours while we were together.
Our hosts would be the first to agree that an annual celebration of Christ’s resurrection is completely foreign to the scriptures, and is thus just as foreign to Christians interested in restoring New Testament Christianity, but a weekly celebration? That’s actually how often the First Century Christians remembered the Lord's death, burial and resurrection, and so that’s how we roll! We can appreciate the Lord’s wisdom that we revisit and reflect on the cost of our Salvation weekly, so we can recenter our lives to reflect our gratitude for Christ’s violent death that purchased our redemption.
Rescues, throughout history, have often been at the ultimate cost of a sacrificial hero, whether during WWII or during the sinking of the Titanic and many stories in-between. What beauty there is in sacrifice. The church at Embry Hills has become the beacon of light it is today, because of countless hours of willing sacrifice over the years of its members. Sacrifice is necessary for everyone who would come to God. In fact, the scriptures refer to the sacrifice of self-destructive sin in our lives that we give up to live life God’s way, as “crucifying the flesh” when it says “...those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts…” (Gal. 5:24) That analogy tells us that if giving up sin is difficult, keep going. The resurrection is on the other side of the pain --- and that fresh start is beyond worth it!
Before our visit, Mark had an exceptionally encouraging conversation with one of Embry Hill’s preachers, Bill Sanchez, who recognized Mark’s name, then, to our delighted surprise, expressed heartfelt gratitude for everything Mark had written and shared online, for he’d often found it useful in his work, especially with regard to what God says on the topic of marriage, divorce and remarriage, and the sacrifices God says He expects of His children around that topic. It’s vital information for everyone, so we’d like to take this opportunity to share it with our readers. Are you familiar with what God says around what sacrifices God expects of His children with regard to marriage, divorce and remarriage? He doesn’t say much, but what He does say is quite counter-culture:
“I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” ( Jesus Christ - Mt. 5:32)
“And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery." (Jesus Christ - Mt.19:9)
“...He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery." (Jesus Christ - Mk. 10:11-12)
“...the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.” (Rom. 7:2-3)
“But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife. But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches.” (1 Cor. 7:10-17)
Marriage is a holy thing, in fact, it’s much more holy to God than many have realized because of what it symbolizes --- Christ’s relationship of Bridegroom to the church - His pure bride (Eph. 5:25-27;Rev. 21:7-9; 2 Cor. 11:2). Many have gone to great lengths to weasel out of the above truths, as they attempt to have a clear conscience while holding onto a relationship that does not comply with the words of the One before whom we will one day stand in judgment: “The one who rejects Me and does not accept My teachings has One who judges him: the word which I spoke. That will judge him on the last day.” - Jesus Christ John 12:48). We want to help.
The following is the best clarity I can offer on this important topic. These are my main reasons why I believe God means what He says in the above scriptures about marriage, divorce and remarriage.
1) Because Acts 2 says that the saved “repented”, I do not need a narrative of a drunkard giving up his alcohol to believe they repented, or a thief discontinuing his theft to know this sin was discontinued. I also don’t need a personal scenario of adulterers discontinuing (divorcing) an unlawful partner. However, just to make it clear, God does give us at least two examples, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament of what it means to repent of an unlawful marriage. Read it for yourself. Ezra 10:2-4 and Mark 6:17-18.
2) Because some of the Corinthian Christians “had been” adulterers and yet repented of that upon coming to Christ (1 Cor. 6:11), it would be an assumption that they would be allowed to keep an unlawful marriage, while Herod was commanded to discontinue his marriage to his brother’s wife. If Herod couldn’t keep his unlawful wife, why would it now be lawful for those who would come to Christ to keep someone else’s wife?
3) Because the scriptures make no distinction between how a non-Christian repents (discontinues) adultery and how a Christian repents (discontinues) adultery, although some congregations are erroneously making such a distinction. Such is the only form of fornication that some churches “allow” supposed new converts to continue in. To accept from them a lifetime of service and their financial contribution in the church, all the while they are in a Mark 6:17-18 situation is not love. We have done them no favors. Only the truth can set them free.
4) Because God’s marriage laws are said, by Jesus Himself, to go back to creation, not just back to the beginning of the New Covenant and (Matthew 19:4,8) Matthew 19:9 was originally spoken to an audience not yet under the New Covenant, so how can it apply only to Christians, as some claim?
5) Because Matthew 5:28 defines adultery as sexual sin (not merely the breaking of a covenant) and one cannot continue in sexual sin for the duration of their “marriage” and please God.
6) Because the proper understanding of Mt. 19:12 explains what Jesus meant when He said some would become “eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven”. We undermine people's abilities to "do all things through Christ" when we think them incapable of valuing eternal life over unlawful sexual experiences. We do a disservice to them when we imply a couple in an Ezra 10: 2-4 situation, cannot continue to raise together a family committed to God. Surely when their children see their parents sacrificing an unlawful sexual relationship in order to love and honor God, that example will speak volumes about the relative bargain of "removing your right eye" to obtain God's glory when necessary (Mt. 18:9).
7) Because baptism removes only sin that is repented of, it does not make lawful, unlawful unions. It's subjective to say that since a heterosexual's intimate relationship appears more normal than a homosexual's relationship that the heterosexual can keep their unlawful partner, but the homosexual must put their’s away. We must be consistent. Sin is sin. "Repentance" should look the same to everyone. Repentance is discontinuing sin. Always.
8) Because adultery is not a morally neutral, Romans 14 situation, regardless of the justification that some say which is that “each person or congregation should believe and practice as their own consciences dictate on the matter”. Such an approach was disastrous in the book of Judges where everyone “did what was right in his own sight” (Judges 17;21) instead of what was right in God’s sight. The truth is, only morally neutral issues can be governed by our individual consciences. And who would argue that adultery fits in the category of being “morally neutral”? Should our consciences be trained to be at peace when worshipping with a Christian (s) who are currently engaging in fornication? A lot of people united in error don't do anyone any good, because only when we tell the whole truth, do we love like Jesus loves. Truth saves.
The preacher at Embry Hills, Bill Sanchez, who had found Mark’s shared sermons so helpful on this topic, is himself a great example of how the truth can beautify one’s life in this area. This faithful husband and father has granted us permission to tell you that he came from a father that practiced black magic and fathered 27 other children in addition to Bill. We’ve all a history of sin, but how inspiring that no matter what your past, whether we’re talking nature or nurture, anyone and everyone can start a new generation because as Peter noted in Acts 10:34-35 “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”
Many souls have found the Emery Hills church of Christ a congregation that loves truth as much as they love souls, and because this church walks so closely to the Good Shepherd, many have found in them their church family. Here are a few of their own words from their “about” page to help you see why. We’d encourage you to visit!
What Are We About?
- Our goal is to practice Christianity as revealed in the examples of the New Testament (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Colossians 3:17).
- Our desire is to teach others to respect the authority of Jesus Christ to make true disciples (Matthew 28:19-20).
- Our prayer is that we will do this in a spirit of humility, so that God's name will be glorified (1 Peter 3:15; Ephesians 3:21).
What Can Guests Expect?
- Bible Classes are taught for all ages, and new topics are covered every 6 weeks. The children's classes introduce students to the major themes, characters and teachings of the Bible. Adult classes are available for new Christians and for those who have been studying the Bible for many years. Bible classes create a great opportunity to study and discuss God's word with about 30 people per class.
- Worship at Embry Hills is both joyful and respectful. In John chapter 4, Jesus commanded our worship to be offered "in spirit and truth" so we pray, give, sing, teach, and eat the Lord's Supper with faith and gratitude. You are welcome to freely participate in each part of our worship service, and can rest assured that guests are NOT expected to give any money.
- At any service, you'll see friends wearing clothes that range from dress suits to casual pants and shirts. We only desire to dress in a modest way that allows us to demonstrate love and respect for God and others.
- As a general guideline, Bible classes are about 45 minutes long followed by 15 minutes of worship. Our Sunday worship services range between an hour to an hour and a half in length.
Who Will Help Me Grow in Christ?
- If you would like to know more about following Jesus, there are many people at Embry Hills who would be glad to read and study the Bible with you. We are blessed with a wonderful team of loving volunteers who give their time, energy, and talents to serve God and one another. The New Testament provides a pattern of leadership and cooperation we are committed to following which includes teamwork between Elders, Deacons, Evangelists, Teachers, and all Christians to build up and encourage one another.
- The New Testament refers to the leaders within a local church with several terms such as: shepherds, elders, and overseers. To serve in this role a man must demonstrate the maturity and character outlined in Bible passages such as 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9. At Embry Hills we are thankful to have seven men currently serving as Elders to direct and strengthen the church. These men are: Larry Brown, Barry Caudill, Sam Freesmeyer, Ken Johnston, Russ LaGrone, Blaine Mellor, and James Newman. They may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- We are also blessed to have 24 Deacons serving the local church. These men help with everything from welcoming guests to taking attendance. It would be impossible for us to continue functioning without the significant time and energy the deacons dedicate.
- The evangelists at Embry Hills are devoted to the study and preaching of God's word in the pulpit, in the classroom, and in one-on-one Bible studies. They work to answer Bible questions and help people more closely follow God's commands. We have four men serving as evangelists at Embry Hills: Erik Borlaug, Sewell Hall, Bill Sanchez, and Phillip Shumake.
- Acts 13:1 mentions the excellent teachers who worked with the church at Antioch. Like Antioch, we are blessed to have many knowledgeable and skilled teachers leading classes each week for students from 18 months old and up. This includes our elders, deacons, and evangelists, but also dozens of other members too numerous to name!
Looking for Something Real?
- We are not a recreation center.
- We are not a welfare society.
- We are not a political action committee.
- We are not a country club.
- We are a church. And that's all we want to be.
Our single aim is to accomplish the Divine mission laid out for the church in Ephesians 4, where we are told that Jesus Christ has given gifts to individuals in the church, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Come Study and Learn With Us!
We pray you will find the resources available here to be useful to your spiritual growth. We also invite you to come and study God's Word and worship with us. You would be our honored guest!
Embry Hills church of Christ
3250 Chamblee-Tucker Road
Atlanta, GA 30341