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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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