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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Failure of Faith—Solomon—Part I

I was recently reading an author (C. S. Lewis) who to paraphrase it was making the declaration that faith must be fed if it is to survive.  I have thought about that quite a bit since reading it and I am persuaded he is right.  Just because a person holds a belief today does not mean he is going to hold it tomorrow.  People lose their faith.  The question is why?  Lewis would say that the faith was not fed and, as he said, most people who lose their faith just gradually drift away, drift until faith is gone. 

I was trying to think of a Bible example of a person like this, one who once believed in God and followed him and then lost his faith.  The one I know about that best fits into that category and certainly the best known would be Solomon, David's son and king of all Israel.

If you recall the story David had wanted to build a house for God but God told David that he would not be allowed to build it due to his having "shed much blood"(1 Chron. 22:7-8 NKJV) but went on to say that a son would be born to him, "his name shall be Solomon," (1 Chron. 22:9 NKJV) who would build the house and have the throne (1 Chron. 22:10, 2 Sam. 7:12-13). 

When Solomon was born the Bible says, "The Lord loved him." (2 Sam. 12:24 NKJV)  God sent word by Nathan the prophet to call him Jedidiah (2 Sam. 12:25 NKJV) which literally means "Beloved of the Lord" (see the footnote in the NKJV).  That is a good start in life and his life did start out well.  He listened to his father David who gave him the kingdom, instructed him as to the building of a temple for God, and warned him to be faithful to God and not to depart from him.  "Keep the charge of the Lord your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn." (1 Kings 2:3 NKJV)

These things Solomon seemed to do in the early years of his kingdom.  The Bible says of Solomon in those days that "Solomon loved the Lord." (1 Kings 3:3 NKJV)  It was about this time, very early in Solomon's reign, that "the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night" (1 Kings 3:5 NKJV, see also 2 Chron. 1:7) before the building of the temple and asked Solomon what he could give to him.  I am sure you know the story how Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge (2 Chron. 1:10, see also 1 Kings 3:9) and it was granted to him (2 Chron. 1:12, see also 1 Kings 3:12 and 1 Kings 4:29-31) and his desire for these things so pleased the Lord that God chose to grant him also riches, wealth, and honor (2 Chron. 1:12, see also 1 Kings 3:13-14). 

It is important to point out something here at this point in the life of Solomon.  Solomon had a personal relationship with God the likes of which men do not have today.  How often has God appeared to you?  We think that if he did it would strengthen our faith to the point that we would never lose our faith.  Why then did Solomon lose his faith?  Are we stronger than Solomon? 

Solomon again had direct contact with God during the building of the temple for we read in 1 Kings 6:11 where the Bible says, "Then the word of the Lord came to Solomon, saying." (NKJV)  This was an admonition to be obedient so the Lord could fulfill his word to Solomon which he had spoken to David earlier.  Here is another instance of what should have been a faith-building event in the life of Solomon of such a nature that he would never forget it—the word of God coming to him in a direct way. 

So far, so good in Solomon's life.  The temple is built and when it is completed the ark is brought down and placed within it.  There was an incident here that occurred showing God's presence, another faith builder.  When the ark was set in its place, "the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not continue ministering because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God." (2 Chron. 5:13-14 NKJV)  Solomon was fully aware of this (2 Chron. 6:1).

Solomon on this occasion is a faithful obedient servant of God.  Immediately after the event just described Solomon says "blessed be the Lord God of Israel" (2 Chron. 6:4 NKJV) and goes on to tell how God has fulfilled his word.  He then offers a prayer of what some might call a dedication in which he says, and I repeat this here to show the state of his faith at this point in time, "Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like you, who keep your covenant and mercy with your servants who walk before you with all their hearts." (2 Chron. 6:14 NKJV)  When the prayer is completed the Bible says, "Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple." (2 Chron. 7:1 NKJV)  Solomon believes in God and Solomon has experienced God in supernatural acts.

The Lord then appears to Solomon for the second time in Solomon's life after all the ceremonies associated with the temple have passed (2 Chron. 7:12-22).  On this occasion, God tells Solomon that he has heard his prayer and basically says he will be attentive to Solomon's requests for forgiveness on the basis of repentance for the children of Israel but he also issues a warning, "But if you turn away and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods, and worship them..." (2 Chron. 7:19 NKJV) and the reader knows the rest as regards the consequences of such acts.

This applied not only to the nation but also to Solomon himself.  His father David while still living had said to him, "As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever." (1 Chron. 28:9 NKJV)

Throughout the rest of his life the Bible does not tell us much to enlighten us on the state of Solomon's faith.  We are told about his wealth, the visit of the Queen of Sheba, and some of his accomplishments but not anything about his faith until near the end of his days.  We do know he reigned for 40 years (1 Kings 11:42), started building the temple in his 4th year (1 Kings 6:1), and 1 Kings 6:38 tells us it took 7 years to build.  What am I getting at?  We know Solomon lived a life of faith for a number of years after becoming king.

We also know much of the book of Proverbs is attributed to him as is the book of Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, and even a couple of the Psalms (Psalms 72 and 127).  We know, "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV) and we thus know God's Holy Spirit was with Solomon for a time.

At what period during Solomon's reign he wrote one can only say with certainty that it had to be either in the earlier years of his reign or at the latest his middle years.  An important point to be made here is that not only has God appeared to Solomon in his life, spoken to him, and worked a miracle before his eyes at the dedication of the temple, but also inspired him with his Holy Spirit yet his faith eventually fails.  If his faith can fail how about the faith of the average man or woman, can their faith fail? 

The Bible tells us "when Solomon was old…his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God." (1 Kings 11:4 NKJV)  As is well known Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3).  Solomon worshiped Ashtoreth and Milcom and evidently also Chemosh and Molech (1 Kings 11:5, 7 and 2 Kings 23:13) in his old age.  He also built what were called high places where the worship of these gods took place and based on the text of 1 Kings 11:8 one can surmise there were even more idolatrous gods involved than just these 4 mentioned.

God grew angry with Solomon and spoke to him one last time, "Because you have done this, and have not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant." (1 Kings 11:11 NKJV)  This was to occur after Solomon's death during the reign of his son Rehoboam but nevertheless Solomon spent his last days trying to kill the one who was to be the recipient of the kingdom—Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:34-35, 40).  What a sorry way for a man of God to end his life—as an idolater, as a man in rebellion against God (a God who speaks to him), as a man who is actively fighting to keep God's decree from fulfillment by attempting to kill Jeroboam.

How could such a thing happen?  How could a man who once loved the Lord (1 Kings 3:3) fall away?  How could his faith fail him?  How could a man who wrote things like "trust in the Lord with all your heart" (Prov. 3:5 NKJV), "the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life" (Prov. 14:27 NKJV), "righteousness leads to life" (Prov. 11:19 NKJV), etc., come to the point in life where he falls away?  How does his heart become so hardened that when the Lord tells him he is taking the kingdom away from him he does not repent?  What can we personally learn from this account that would be applicable to us today for "whatever things were written before were written for our learning?" (Rom. 15:4 NKJV)

[The lessons learned will be found in Part II of this article.  Click here for that.]  

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Christ Did Not Send Paul to Baptize

Sometimes it is easy to misunderstand passages of scripture and especially so if we are getting all kinds of help doing so.  Because of Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 1:17 where he says, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (NKJV) some have been inclined to believe Paul felt baptism was not essential.  A careful reading of the context should make one reconsider.  Just four verses earlier Paul had asked the Corinthians to whom he was writing, "were you baptized in the name of Paul?" (1 Cor. 1:13 NKJV)  Paul knew they had been baptized, in someone’s name, for if they had not been the question is nonsensical.  The Corinthians to whom he wrote were a baptized people.   

What is Paul saying in 1 Cor. 1:17?  Is he saying that Christ does not care whether or not disciples are baptized as some so believe?  Is he saying it is unimportant and makes no difference to one's salvation whether or not a person is baptized?  It is the purpose of this article to show the folly of taking that kind of stance based on this scripture. 

Let me begin by asking a question that must be answered if one is to take the position that baptism does not matter and that Paul was teaching that in this passage.  Here is the question--if it did not matter, if it has nothing to do with salvation, if Christ did not want Paul to baptize why did Paul baptize?  He says in verses 14 and 16 that he baptized Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanas.  In Acts 19:1-7 Paul came to Ephesus and found 12 men there that had not been baptized properly and he baptized them.  Why?  Why if Paul felt it was unnecessary?  One also finds others who were baptized either by Paul or by a companion of his as a result of Paul's teaching on the subject--Lydia and her household (Acts 16:14-15), the Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16:29-33).   

Why if Paul felt baptism was unnecessary did he teach baptism in Rom. 6:1-7, 1 Cor. 6:11, 1 Cor. 12:13, Gal. 3:26-27, Eph. 5:25-26, Col. 2:11-12, Titus 3:5, and if Paul wrote Hebrews as many believe he did in Heb. 10:22? 

If baptism does not matter and Paul did not care whether people were baptized or not then why was Paul baptized?  Was more required of Paul than anyone else in becoming a Christian?  The command to Paul by Ananias, a man sent directly by the Lord himself (see Acts 9:10-16) to Paul (at that time called Saul), was "arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins." (Acts 22:16 NKJV)

Most today, if they were to be consistent in what they teach, would have to tell you that Ananias was mistaken and could not possibly have meant what he said about Paul having sins to be washed away for they say a man is saved from his sins at the point of faith and thus Paul had no sins to be washed away so they know more about it than the man sent directly by the Lord himself to Paul.  They also would have to tell you, because they believe man has no part in his own salvation other than faith, there was nothing Paul could do to help himself contrary to what Ananias told him.

One also has to ask another question if one is to interpret 1 Cor. 1:17 as teaching that baptism does not matter to Paul or to Christ.  Actually, two questions.  (1) Why was Paul, an apostle, exempt from the command Jesus gave to the other apostles just before his ascension to heaven in Matt. 28:19-20 where the command was, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"? (NKJV)  Is he some kind of special apostle who was exempted from this command to baptize?  Did the disciples made by Peter, John, and the other apostles have to be baptized but not those made by Paul?  I hope you do not believe that.  What Peter, John, and the other apostles were commanded to do Paul was also commanded to do or else he was not required to fulfill the Great Commission as they were and who believes that?

(2) Which disciple was it in Matt. 28:18-20 that Jesus said would not need to be baptized?  I might add the disciples that were made were to be taught "to observe all things I have commanded you" which was what--to go make disciples and baptize them.  Matthew 28:19-20 settles the matter of whether baptism is essential to salvation by itself, no other passage is needed unless, of course, one can deliberately disobey Jesus and still be saved.  But, there are many, many other passages teaching the same necessity of baptism as essential to salvation.

Paul in 1 Corinthians was writing to the church that he established there.  He says of it "I planted" (1 Cor. 3:6 NKJV); "I have laid the foundation" (1 Cor. 3:10 NKJV); "For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15 NKJV).

The record of the establishment of the church at Corinth is found in Acts chapter 18.  As a result of Paul's preaching the text says, "And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8 NKJV)  Were the converts Paul made left unbaptized because Paul thought it was unimportant and did not teach it?  Not according to this text.  He said in his letter to the church at Corinth he was not sent to baptize but it is certain he taught it or else how did the Corinthians learn about it and why were they baptized?  If Paul did not do the actual baptizing (and he did not do it according to 1 Cor. 1:17) then it is certain some of his helpers or assistants did on his behalf.

According to the Acts 18 account the Lord spoke to Paul telling him he had many people in Corinth (verse 10) and directing Paul to not hold his peace but to speak up in preaching the gospel (verse 9).  Paul spent 18 months in Corinth preaching (verse 11).

In 1 Cor. 6:11, after speaking of sins that will prohibit one from inheriting the kingdom of God (verses 9 and 10), Paul says to the Corinthians, "And such were some of you.  But you were washed … ." (NKJV)  Now what kind of washing would it be that would make a difference in one's salvation (as this one clearly did)--that would cleanse one?  Might it not well be the same washing Paul had when he was baptized?  "Now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16 NKJV)  Yes, washing (baptism) makes a difference in that it spiritually speaking washes away sins in obedience to the command of God.

But, that is not all Paul has to say to the Corinthians on the subject of baptism.  In 1 Cor. 12:13 he says to them, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. 12:13 NKJV)  That body, the only body that matters with regards to one's salvation, is the body of Christ of which he (Christ) is the Savior (Eph. 5:23).  Now read Paul's words carefully here.  He says "we were all baptized into one body."  The word "all" means every one of us, no exceptions.  How many disciples did Jesus say should be baptized back in Matt. 28:19?  None were to be exempted, not a single one.  In New Testament times there was no such thing as a Christian who had not been baptized.  That has not changed with time despite the howls and protests of many if not most.

Did Paul personally do a lot of baptizing in Corinth?  No!  Did he preach it and see that it was done?  Yes!  Why did he not do a lot of the baptizing himself?  The answer is he had those working with him who could and would do the work.

Just as Jesus is said to have made and baptized more disciples than John (John 4:1) and we then read in the next verse, "though Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples" (John 4:2 NKJV) just, in the same manner, we can surmise that in Corinth though Paul himself actually baptized very few personally (1 Cor. 1:14-16) yet the work was done through helpers of his and through other preachers and teachers.  "And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8 ESV)

Paul's primary mission was to preach the gospel as an inspired man.  An uninspired man can baptize another but in the days before they had a written New Testament it took inspiration to preach the gospel and thus it is easy to understand why an inspired man's first duty would be to preach.  Such a man could always, or nearly always, find help to do the baptizing.  As already shown 1 Cor. 12:13 and Matt. 28:19 proves that every Christian at Corinth was baptized (see also again 1 Cor. 6:11). 

Paul most certainly did not mean that Christ sent him out into the world to preach that baptism was a non-essential and that none need to be baptized for it was Jesus himself who said, "he who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16 NKJV) and that "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:5 NKJV) and it was Paul who was commanded to "arise and be baptized" to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:16 NKJV).  One can also read the passages Paul wrote on the subject of baptism listed but not discussed earlier in this article (Rom. 6:1-7, Gal. 3:26-27, Eph. 5:25-26, Col. 2:11-12, Titus 3:5) to see Paul's teaching on the subject and the importance he placed on it. 


(Originally written in 2011, revised in 2022 – Denny Smith)

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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Does Sin Even Exist

“I will certainly judge you because you have said, ‘I have not sinned.’” (God speaking through Jeremiah to Judah, Jer. 2:35b HCSB)

In a nation that is increasingly rejecting Christianity and the Bible, one must ask the question “what then becomes of sin?”  If sin is, as the King James Version of the Bible reads, “the transgression of the law” (John 3:4) but there is no validity to the Bible which is supposed to be God’s law what then becomes of sin?  Does it cease to exist?  Do those who reject the Bible as the word of the living God totally abandon the concept of sin?  If they do not then upon what basis do they propose to define sin?

If sin is not to be defined by God’s word and if sin is something other than the transgression of God’s law then:  (1) What is sin and how is it defined; what are the rules that if broken constitute sin?  (2) What authority decides these things?  (3) On what basis does that authority exist, that is how is authority established?  Is it political and/or military power that makes the authority so that sin is defined by power?  How is such authority obtained?  If the God of the Bible and his word are taken out of the picture then the authority cannot be of Christian origin so what is its origin?     

Without the acceptance of the New Testament as the authority for defining sin, the reality is there is no other alternative but man himself becoming the authority either as an individual or as a ruling party or institution made up of men.  The problem then becomes what man or what group of men for we know not all are agreed.  A democrat and a republican are likely to have far differing views on a whole host of issues that call for moral and value judgments. 

Likewise, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao had vastly different values than did Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan so who becomes the authority?  Who decides?  When Christianity is removed from the field whose ideology or worldview do we follow?  Is it communism, Islam (Isis?), Hinduism, where do we go, what ideology or religion rules us?    

If we proclaim a world without sin since we reject Christianity, God, and the New Testament as God’s word, then the only lawman can break is manmade and solely dependent on the fist, the hand of power, for enforcement.  Why then should I obey your set of values even if you enshrine them into law when the only reason you were able to do so was that you had the power that I lacked to enforce your will?  Political and legal power that comes from man does not equate with moral superiority; it never has and never will.  Why is one individual to be respected over another as an authority figure on values if there is no God? 

In such a world, much like the one that seems to be developing here in the West, sin becomes whatever some man or group of men or even the culture itself says it is but men do not live forever.  A generation is soon gone and the next one takes its place.  What the prior generation called sin now becomes righteousness under their new rule.  Is this not exactly what we had with the gay marriage issue?  So will this present generation who is determined to have its own way minus God be praised by the next or will it be the case that it, in turn, will be denigrated for its narrow, restrictive, judgmental view on polygamy?

Liberalism once it gains momentum is hard to stop short of license.  Just because one has not yet arrived at his destination does not mean he never will.  A world without God is just that.  There is no moral persuasion, no fear of God, to hold a man back.  Only the gun can do that in a world without God.  Liberalism given time to reap what it sows eventually ends up in an ungovernable society.  When that happens democracy is lost either by revolution or force of arms by the party that has the might to step in and restore order.

Once we reject Christianity, the word of God as found in the New Testament as our guide for life, for the development of a set of values by which we will live, we have no firm ground to stand on for human values are ever-shifting.  Compare how Americans felt about such subjects as abortion, divorce, shacking up, having children out of wedlock, and homosexuality in the 1950s and compare it with how they feel about those same moral issues today.  Human values change with time unless they are based on that which is unchangeable – God’s word.

Not all change in societal values is bad for in the matter of attitudes about segregation change has been positive but when one builds his life on the public consensus of what is culturally correct at any given point in time he/she is building a life while standing on shifting sands that cannot be depended upon for stability.  Those same sands are sure to shift under you with time and are shifting inconspicuously under you as you stand on them in any given year.  And, as regards segregation, there would never have been segregation had the scriptures been followed.

One might wish to argue that Christians themselves have changed their views on moral issues over the years so that if you just take the word of God alone as your basis for building a moral life you are no better off than anyone else.  Sounds like a good argument but is it?

If I take a passage of scripture, say 1 Cor. 6:9-10, and quote it to you I ask has the wording of that passage when correctly translated changed in the last two thousand years?  Here is the passage:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (NKJV) 

Have some men who call themselves Christians rejected parts or all of the passage?  Surely so but the teaching (wording) of the passage itself is set in stone and will never change until the earth itself ceases to be.  Each individual either has to accept what it says, reject what it says, or take a smorgasbord approach to it taking this and leaving that but it says what it says.  (Yes, all men can repent.  The passage is talking about the unrepentant.) 

The word of God itself is never changing.  “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25 NKJV)  The Bible says what it says whether men will accept it or not.  The words endure forever. 

For the man who is willing to accept the word of God as a foundation for building a set of life values by which to live he can be assured he will not be building on shifting sands.  The word of God is written as if in stone even if what men do with it or decide about it is not.  Men get into trouble with the word of God when they begin to doubt it and that is generally brought on by pressures that develop within them, often unawares, from group or societal thinking or family pressures. 

Here is an example from my youth.  When I was young in the 60’s religious people were generally dead set against divorce and remarriage in my part of the world but when their children, people my age, the baby boomer generation, began marrying and divorcing and remarrying I noticed that the attitudes of the older generation were changing.  Had the word of God that they once believed on the subject changed?  No, but family problems got between them and the word of God so that they could no longer read it the way they once did and have peace of mind with regards to their children’s spiritual state.  They began to see things “differently” even though the word they read had not changed one iota.  

We are all constantly being pressured to read the Bible in a way that justifies what the Bible, as written, will not justify—justify the sins we do not want to be sin.  If we succumb to that temptation we end up cutting and pasting scripture and making a Bible that suits us.  We pick this scripture over that one, have the Bible writers in disagreement with one another, and we contort and distort it until we get it to read the way we want it to read.  But it does not have to be that way. 

Man can build a life (a value system) on the solid bedrock of the New Testament (the new covenant of Christ) if he is willing which is the very thing that cannot be done when building upon cultural consensus.  He can read the text and say “that is what it says” and so that is my foundation, the value I must incorporate into my life no matter what the culture of the time is. 

Even if all of society justifies you in building upon the cultural consensus in the time in which you live the very next generation may vilify you and your generation for the values it held.  Seeking justification from society and the approval of the society in which you live means what?  Well, in the 1930s and 40s in Germany it would mean you were a Nazi.  A society’s values should not necessarily be your own.  They must be weighed in light of God’s word. 

One cannot condone those religious bodies who call themselves Christian but whose doctrines change with every shifting cultural wind, who seemingly are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, who one day believe this until it becomes unpopular in the culture and then the next day proclaim they believe just the opposite but a Christian does not have to follow the crowd, even the religious crowd.  He can follow what is in print, what will not deviate, nor leave him, nor forsake him but will be solid rock under his feet.  He can build a life built on a solid foundation, on the New Testament scriptures. 

Your blueprint for life is not the so-called history of Christianity, the doctrines of the church, or of church councils, but the always enduring, never changing New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  That is your solid foundation, not the ever-changing traditions of the Roman Catholic Church or of any other religious body or the values of the culture in which you live. 

And, rest assured, no matter what modern man believes about it Jesus would tell you that yes, sin still exists.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Disrespect for the Word of God is Disrespect for Jesus

There is little respect for the word of God in America today.  It is now common to hear the term post-Christian used to describe our society and the West in general.  Of course, if we are post-Christian it necessarily follows we have also become post-scriptural, people who no longer value the things of scripture, believe them, or abide in them. 

The liberal secularists and progressives in America who have come to dominate much of the media, politics, academia, and the sports and entertainment industries see this as a positive thing.  We are growing up, outgrowing silly myths and superstitions, becoming at last mature adults able to deal with reality—God is a myth. 

With such a mindset obedience or disobedience to the word of God as found in the Christian scriptures means nothing.  The scriptures are not to be taken seriously.  At best they teach good life lessons on how to order your own personal life but if you follow them too meticulously they will lead you into intolerance and judgment.  You will become a despicable bigoted person for after all not everything the Bible calls sin is actually sin.  Modern man is a better judge of sin than the scriptures. 

Accordingly, modern man has, so he thinks, refuted outdated ideas like there being any sin in adultery (as scripture defines it), fornication, abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, attempting to change one's sex, etc.  Since discarding scripture is now in vogue one must ask what we have in place of it to guide us through life?  The answer is nothing other than whatever the latest fashion is.  Our values and ethics change it seems like the passing seasons of the year.  Anyone now living who can remember just fifty years ago can tell you we are no longer the same people we were then.  

In modern thought what one needs to do is embrace everyone in whatever lifestyle they engage in, meaning you remain uncritical of it and accepting, and it will be okay with you.  Be a good person as judged by society’s standards and it will go well with you in whatever life is to come--if there is a life to come—which, by the way, we don’t believe.  But even if there is a God he thinks the same way we do so don’t worry, it will go well with you.  So we think, so we live our lives. 

Did Jesus teach any of this?  No he did not, none of it.  First of all he never believed nor taught it was going to go well with the majority of society based on being a good person in society.  “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:14 NKJV)  The few is not the many.  Do not be misled by those who seem to be teaching or implying that all is going to go well with the mass of humanity, those judged good by society’s standards; unless Jesus is a liar that will not be the case.  A good Roman citizen in the first or second century was still lost unless he/she was also a Christian.  The same can be said of citizens in all societies since then. 

Secondly, Jesus never had the attitude that one could be indifferent about scripture; one cannot be indifferent about doing God’s will.  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matt 7:21 NKJV)  If doing the will of the Father is necessary, as Jesus says, the will of the Father must be discerned.  That necessarily implies that God’s word is of utmost importance as it is the vehicle by which God’s will is made known to man.  

Did Jesus respect scripture?  If he did how can we say we respect him while disrespecting what he honors?  In John 5:45-47 Jesus rebukes the Jews he is speaking to for not believing the writings of Moses, “if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:47 NKJV)  Earlier in John 5:39 he says the scriptures are “they which testify of me.”  In John 10:35 he says, “The scripture cannot be broken.” (NKJV) 

In just these three passages alone from the book of John we see Jesus’ respect for Moses’ writings and the trustworthiness of scripture as it relates to the testimony of and about himself as well as the fact that scripture is rock solid; it cannot be broken.  This is Jesus’ view of scripture.  

One is reminded of Jesus' comments about creation in the book of Matthew when he said, "Have you not read (read what?—scripture—DS) that he who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?” (Matt. 19:4-5 NKJV)  Jesus quotes Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:24, Moses’ writings, and in doing so is telling us he respects what was written and with the direct implication that we should too.  Jesus destroys any thoughts about the evolution of man from lower life forms in this passage and establishes marriage as being between a man and a woman by accepting what Moses wrote. 

Moses’ writings are reliable but our culture does not want to accept them or what Jesus said about them for if Moses’ writings are true it means that marriage is between a man and a woman and our culture is no longer willing to accept that kind of a restriction on God’s institution.  God institutes marriage but he has no right, as we see it, to be exclusive about it.  It is his institution but we are determined to grasp it from him and rule it ourselves.  God has no right in the matter. 

We will not respect the scripture.  Jesus did but we won’t and many of us want nothing to do with a Jesus who will not endorse and celebrate gay marriages.  God has no right to regulate sin.  Thank you but we can very well do that on our own (we think).  If we don’t want it to be sin we will not allow it to be.  We have that much power?  Wow!  Impressive! 

Jesus also spoke of Noah, the flood, and the ark as historical fact (Luke 17:27), of Moses and the burning bush (Mark 12:26, Luke 20:37), of Jonah being in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights (Matt. 12:40), of Sodom and Gomorrah (Mark 6:11, Luke 17:29), of Daniel’s “abomination of desolation” (Mark 13:14), and of David saying "have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry?” (Luke 6:3 NKJV) 

Jesus endorsed the scriptures as authentic, historical, and reliable.  To cast aspersion upon the scriptures is to reflect upon the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus, to make him out a fool for accepting things we will not accept.  Our society is no longer willing to believe and laughs at divine creation, a worldwide flood, Jonah (a fish story), Sodom and Gomorrah, homosexuality as a sin, etc. 

Let me drive a point home here.  We sometimes make a distinction between what we believe (believe in the sense of having a strong opinion) and what we know.  We say we do not believe a thing—we know it.  So the question arises did Jesus believe the things he spoke of, that is just have a strong opinion, or did he know them? 

If he just believed them like you and I believe things when we speak that way then he was just a man and could not be God and man’s savior.  If on the other hand he knew as fact the things of which he spoke then we enter into the realm of his being more than just a man.  He spoke as one who knew.  So where do we stand?  What do we believe about Jesus?  Did he speak as a man or as God?  Will we believe Jesus?  If so it forces us to believe the scriptures.  When we doubt the scriptures we doubt Jesus and doubt is not faith. 

Jesus spoke of Old Testament scripture as the New Testament scriptures had not yet been written.  How important is not just Old Testament scripture but also New Testament scripture? 

Jesus said, “He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that his command is everlasting life.  Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told me, so I speak." (John 12:48-50 NKJV) 

Jesus spoke the word of God (John 12:48-50, 14:10, 24, 17:8,14) but lest we think that means we need only a red letter edition of the New Testament where we can pick Jesus’ words out by the red print and can ignore the rest of the New Testament we need to read further.  Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles.  “I will pray the Father, and he will give you another helper…even the Spirit of truth…he dwells with you and will be in you…I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18 NKJV)  As Jesus and the Father are one so are Jesus and the Holy Spirit. 

When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles it was the same as if Jesus had come back to them in person.  This is clarified in Jesus’ own words in John 16:12-14, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  However, when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak; and he will tell you things to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take of what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:12-14 NKJV)  Jesus still has many things to say.  When is he going to say them and how?  He will say them through the Holy Spirit when the Holy Spirit is sent to the apostles (and granted as a spiritual gift to others in the scriptures after Pentecost). 

The apostle Peter spoke of Paul’s writings as being twisted by some to their destruction comparing Paul’s writings to “the rest of the scriptures.” (2 Peter 3:14-16 NKJV) 

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” (2 Tim. 3:16 NKJV)  Jesus is God (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 1:8, Acts 20:28).  Jesus is the one of whom John proclaimed, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NKJV)  To disrespect scripture, to belittle passages, make light of scriptural teaching, etc., is showing disrespect for the author of those scriptures, the one who said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4 NKJV) 

This Jesus is the one Peter was referring to in Acts 3 when he quoted Moses saying, “For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren.  Him you shall hear in all things, whatever he says to you.  And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’” (Acts 3:22-23 NKJV)  Jesus is a prophet, priest, and king but above all he is a part of the Godhead.  We can hear him or we can be “utterly destroyed from among the people.” (Acts 3:23 NKJV)     

Jesus says many times, “if you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15 NKJV) or words to that end (see John 14:21, 23, 24, John 15:10, 14).  He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Heb. 5:9 NKJV)  How does one obey Jesus while disrespecting the scriptures that teach us his commandments that we are to obey?  “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.” (1 John 5:3 NKJV)  Disrespecting the word of God is not an ingredient in the love of God and it certainly does not show respect for Jesus. 

America is truly becoming an anti-Christian nation or should one say an anti-Christ nation?  The America we once knew where God-haters and Bible haters were rare is disappearing and I think most Americans know that and would no longer disagree about it.  We are becoming Europe but we saved Europe twice from themselves last century.  Who will save us from ourselves when we have to reap what we are now sowing?

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Saturday, April 2, 2022

Baptized For The Dead

 In 1 Cor. 15:29 Paul says, “Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” (NKJV)  It is said by commentators that there is broad disagreement over the meaning of the phrase “baptized for the dead.”  No doubt this is true.  But the point to be made in this article is that we are always looking at this passage wondering who the dead were and what the meaning is but in doing so we overlook the obvious lesson.  

Taking the verse as a whole I have no doubt that baptism (or baptized) is a reference to water baptism for the remission of sins.  Why do I say that?  In the very first chapter of First Corinthians Paul begins a discussion of the divisions in the church at Corinth, a church he established.  To show the brethren the error they were following in dividing up into followers of men he says, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.” (1 Cor. 1:13-15 NKJV) 

This does not mean that only a few of those whom Paul converted in Corinth were baptized, not at all.  Paul established the church in Corinth in Acts 18 and it is said there that “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” (Act 18:8 NKJV)  What were the Corinthians hearing? 

They were hearing the entire gospel message, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3-4 NKJV)  They were hearing what was demanded of them to do—believe the message preached, repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins. 

Paul established the church at Corinth.  He is the one doing the preaching.  He is the one Ananias spoke to in Acts 22:16 saying, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (NKJV)  Is Paul who had to be baptized to wash away his sins, according to Ananias’ command, going to then turn around and tell the Corinthians, "Yes, I had to be baptized to wash away my sins but you don’t?"  Why are many of the Corinthians being baptized under Paul’s preaching? (Acts 18:8)  To ask is to answer. 

But, there is even more.  In 1 Cor. 6:9-10 Paul gives a list of some sins and then says in the next verse, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:11 NKJV)  Does the word “washed” here remind you of the word “wash” as in “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16), the words of Ananias to Paul when he was yet known as Saul?  So the church at Corinth, meaning each Christian in it, had been washed of their sins the same way Paul himself had been in the waters of baptism (the place where the blood of Jesus is contacted spiritually). 

Every Christian in Corinth, as were all in the first century, was baptized into Christ.  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27 NKJV)  That being the case, the truth, it necessarily follows that “as many of you as were not baptized into Christ have not put on Christ.”  If one is true the other has to be as well. 

But, we do not have to reason our way into getting the Corinthians baptized.  Paul tells us specifically.  “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (1 Cor. 12:13 NKJV)  He is writing to the Corinthians.  He uses the word “all.”  This is not a passage about Holy Spirit baptism which only the apostles received as far as we are told.  It is the Spirit that taught the Corinthians the need to be baptized; it was the Holy Spirit, within the inspired apostle, teaching truth, which would lead men and women to desire to be baptized and to do it. 

What does all of this have to do with 1 Cor. 15:29 and the baptism for the dead?  A lot.  As Paul spoke to the Corinthians through his writing he was speaking to them of that which they knew--baptism for the remission of sins--and that which they had done. 

1 Cor. 15:29 shows beyond any doubt that the Corinthians had been taught and firmly believed that baptism was essential to salvation or else why be baptized for the dead?  If baptism is a meaningless thing, only a symbol or sign, then why be bothered with it at Corinth or anywhere else whether for the living or the dead?  

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Thursday, March 31, 2022

Receiving the Gospel--Acts 2:41

 "So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41 NAS) 

In my younger days before computers I use to hear about preachers on TV or radio who would tell their listening audience that if they wanted to receive Jesus and salvation just lay their hands on top the device, say certain words in the form of a prayer, and as a result you would be saved provided of course that you were sincere.  For all I know they may still be telling them that as I do not watch TV evangelists.  It sounds good but was there ever any truth to it? 

In Acts 2 just about everyone admits that Peter preached the first gospel sermon ever to be preached.  The text then says, "those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls." (Acts 2:41 NAS)  What was his word they received?  Was it the gospel?  If it was not the gospel there was no power in it to save for Paul says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Rom. 1:16 NKJV) 

Most denominational bodies run into serious trouble with this verse (Acts 2:41) for if Peter did indeed preach the gospel then to receive it means one is baptized.  It was only those who did not receive his words who were not baptized.  They cannot accept that nor are they willing to. 

The New Living Translation, a dynamic equivalence translation now more generally known as functional equivalence, puts it this way, "Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day …”.   The International Standard Version translates this way, "So those who welcomed his message were baptized …”.   The New King James Version says, "Then those who gladly received his word were baptized …".    

I guess one who does not believe that baptism is essential for remission of sins can choose his poison here.  What had Peter preached?  "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins ...”. (Acts 2:38 NAS) 

Will one "believe" what Peter said as per the New Living Translation, or will he "welcome Peter's message" as per the International Standard Version, or will he "gladly receive" his message as per the New King James Version?  Most denominationalists will do none of the above.  Not only will they not receive Peter's words, words spoken by the Holy Spirit, but they are ashamed of them.  You could not pay them to preach the sermon Peter did with its closing of "repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."  (Acts 2:38 KJV)  They do not believe what Peter spoke, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to be true.  They are not willing to receive his words. 

Be all of that as it may do not be misled.  God is able to say what he means to say.  He is able to communicate clearly.  If you gladly receive the word Peter preached (I ask again did he preach the gospel?) you will do what he by the Holy Spirit told you to do.  

Please note those who did not receive his word, the gospel, were those who did not repent and were not baptized and were not added to them (to the disciples) that day.  

I know religion is full of emotion and emotion often overpowers the ability to think and reason correctly.  We have so much invested in a false proposition we will not allow our minds to even think it could be otherwise or even consider such a thing.  However, the Christian religion is based on truth (not error), and the overcoming of self, and acceptance of God which means accepting what he says.  You can obey Jesus by obeying the words of Peter if you will.  Emotions can change over time.  Truth cannot. 

Denny Smith

Originally written April 2011

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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Everlasting Life--The Believer of John 3:16

 Who has everlasting life?  Is it the man Jesus spoke of in John 3:16 when he said, "whoever believes in him (speaking of himself--DS) should not perish but have everlasting life" (NKJV) or is it the man he spoke of in John 5:24 when he said, "I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life" (NKJV)?  Jesus says in the former passage believe in him for everlasting life while later in the latter passage he says hear my words and believe in him who sent me (God the Father).

Many cling to John 3:16 with the idea being that all Jesus requires of man for salvation is a belief in Jesus without ever giving any real serious thought as to how Jesus would define a believer in himself, one whose faith is sufficient to save.  They merely assume they know so every man becomes a law unto himself, declares himself a believer, and is in his mind (and often in his family and friend's minds) saved without ever offering any real concern about God's commands or any serious obedience to them.  Many have made no real attempt in years to worship God or read his word let alone put him first in their life yet they are saved, they say, because they say they believe in Jesus.

Jesus never taught even once what such men have assumed.  John 5:24 offers a commentary on John 3:16, as do many other passages throughout the New Testament, concerning who the believer of John 3:16 is.  When Jesus says in John 5:24, "he who hears my word" (and, of course, believes in God the Father) will have everlasting life he is not adding to what is required of man for salvation for hearing the word of God has been required of man every since Adam and Eve.  But, who is the believer in Jesus who will be saved?  Who is that man?  It is the man who hears Jesus' word.  A man cannot hear Jesus' word, disregard it or consider it unimportant, even unnecessary, and at the same time in truthfulness say he believes in Jesus.

It goes without saying when Jesus spoke of hearing his word he was not speaking of hearing with the physical ear only but of heeding the words, of obeying those words.  The next verse, verse 25, makes this clear.  "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live." (John 5:25 NKJV)  The dead spoken of here are not the physically dead but the spiritually dead and the meaning is not that just by hearing Jesus speak one would be saved but rather if you hear what he says and you believe it enough to act on it (obey it) you will live.  No man has truly heard Jesus who does not believe what he says enough to take him at his word and obey him.  Those who crucified Jesus heard him speak through the physical ear but never heard Jesus in the sense of which Jesus spoke of hearing for salvation.

Further proof is provided in John 5:38 (a verse in the same chapter) where Jesus speaking of himself tells those he was speaking to, "Him you do not believe."  (NKJV)  They heard him okay with the physical ear but they had not heard him in the sense Jesus spoke of in John 5:24.  They were not heeding the message he was delivering.

Jesus closes this conversation in verses 46 and 47 where he says, "For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me.  But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (John 5:46-47 NKJV)  You see it is not enough to just believe in Jesus that he is the Son of God.  (See John 12:42-43 as an example of those who believed that but were nevertheless lost.)  You must, as Jesus put it, "believe my words" and that is where the rub comes in with so many people.  They are glad to believe in Jesus as being God's son, to believe in Jesus as being the Savior, but they are not glad to believe other words he spoke and indeed reject many of them.

Belief cannot be a smorgasbord of Jesus' sayings where we get to go down the line and say I will take this, and I will take that, but I will have none of that.  How can we do that sort of thing and say we believe in Jesus?  Do we really believe him if that is what we do?  If we don't "believe him" how can we say we "believe in him?"

Most people do not believe Jesus when he said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16 NKJV) but rather believe "He who believes and is baptized, or not (either way), will be saved" (Mark 16:16--man's version not God's).  In the Great Commission, as found in Matt. 28, Jesus commanded that disciples be baptized (Matt. 28:19) but man while he says he believes in Jesus says it does not matter whether a disciple is baptized on not.  He can be saved without it, says man.  Yet, this very man declares his faith in Christ, faith in the very being whose word he questions.  Believe in Jesus but just don't believe everything Jesus says seems to be the idea.  You will then be saved by faith in Jesus.  That is the claim even though none would dare put it so bluntly.

The world may believe this kind of perversion but I am not among their number.  It all comes down to the question of "what is belief in Jesus?"  Of what does that faith consist?  We are worlds apart on that.  To believe in Jesus is to believe what the Son of Man, the Son of God, said.  If you can't believe or won't believe what the Son of man--the Son of God--said you are not a believer in him.  If I can't believe a man's word out in the everyday world it is quite a stretch to say I believe in him.  It is no different in the Bible as one considers Jesus and his word.

When Jesus declares a man has everlasting life based on a certain condition then that condition becomes mandatory and is not a matter of personal preference as to whether it is required for salvation or not.  The same holds true if he phrases it some other way--for instance, uses the term "eternal life," or the phrase "is saved," or the words "will see the kingdom of heaven."  Whatever Jesus states as necessary to salvation under any and all such descriptive terms is required of man, man's thoughts to the contrary notwithstanding.  To fail to believe Jesus (fail to believe what he says) is to fail to believe in him.

A good example of what I am talking about is found in Matt. 7:21 where Jesus says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven." (Matt. 7:21 NKJV)  If you really believe in Jesus you must believe what he said here and thus understand that salvation is dependent on keeping the commands of God.  You will either believe that or else you will not believe Jesus and thus do not believe in him in any sense of having a faith that will save you.

If you say doing the will of God, keeping his commands is salvation by works, not by grace, I say in response it is salvation by believing in Jesus, believing what he says.

We must always remember that while we are saved by faith it is only a certain type of faith, a faith that is inclusive of trust and obedience.  James makes light of a non-obedient faith, "What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?  Can faith save him?" (James 2:14 NKJV)  "Faith without works is dead." (James 2:26 NKJV)

In closing, I ask who is the believer of John 3:16 who has everlasting life?  I answer by saying he is not the man most of the world thinks he is.  He is a man who has the faith of Abraham of whom the Bible says, "By faith Abraham obeyed." (Heb. 11:8 NKJV)  To what extent did Abraham obey?  To the extent he was in the very act of offering Isaac as a burnt offering to God because God had commanded it before God stopped him.  This is the Abraham whom the Bible says is "the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also." (Rom. 4:11 NKJV)

The believer who is blessed by God, the believer in Jesus of John 3:16, is the believer who does not question Jesus or declare some of his commands as unnecessary but obeys them all to the best of his ability because in believing in Jesus it necessarily follows that he believes Jesus.  He is the true believer of whom it can be said he has everlasting life.

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