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Monday, November 28, 2022

Christ and Baptism in Colossians

The fact that baptism is essential to becoming a Christian and being saved is written on page after page in the New Testament despite being rejected by most who call themselves Christians.  I have never understood how something so clearly taught can so readily be rejected by so many other than through the power that tradition and religious heritage exerts on people.

Error believed has the same faith effect upon a man or woman as truth believed and can thus provide peace and comfort until the time truth exerts itself with such force that it cannot be denied.  Saul, before he became Paul the apostle, believed error and acted in all good conscience (Acts 23:1) while persecuting Christ (Acts 26:14).  He believed error and was at perfect peace with himself while sinning continually -- that is until the force of truth was exerted with power on him on the road to Damascus. 

Sincerity will never change error into truth nor will it ever lead to a pardon for disobedience.  The fact that Eve was deceived by Satan in the garden did not free her of her sin.  “And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.” (1 Tim. 2:14 NAS)  We need to read the Bible, even more, we need to study it, “a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of God.” (2 Tim. 2:15 NAS)  We need to read the book of Colossians and see what it teaches about Christ and baptism.  What Paul teaches there he teaches elsewhere in the New Testament as well.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory,” (Col. 1:27 NAS) is a central theme of the first two chapters of the book of Colossians.  Christ is all that is needed in a person’s life for in him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3 NAS)  In him we are “made complete.” (Col. 2:10 NAS)  We are not therefore to be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men.” (Col. 2:8 NAS)  We are not to submit ourselves to decrees “in accordance with the commandments and teaching of men.” (Col. 2:22 NAS)

With Christ we have all we need and should thus stay far away from all impositions upon our faith not found in the word of Christ which is just another way of saying stay away from the commandments of men.  “Anyone who goes too far (‘Lit., goes on ahead’-side margin note in the NAS reference edition, 1963 and 1995 – DS) and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God.” (2 John 9 NAS)

In chapter 2 Paul lists some examples of things we should not concern ourselves with because of men--food, drink, respect to festivals, new moons, and Sabbath days. (Col. 2:16); he does likewise in verses 21 and 23.  In 1 Tim. 4:3 he speaks of “men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods” going so far as to refer to such teachings as “doctrines of demons.” (NAS)  Does this remind you of any famous religious bodies today?  I remember when going to a state university back in the 60’s when Friday’s (I believe it was a Friday--it has been a long time ago) were special days in the college cafeteria because of what one religious body could and could not eat on that day.  Their numbers were such that they had that influence on the menu.

The bottom line is Christ is all a Christian needs.  Christ is found in his word and not in things that cannot be found in his word.  If one cannot find a book, chapter, and verse for his teaching and practice in the New Testament then his doctrine ought to be ignored.  This eliminates all creed books, church councils making decisions, etc.  Christ is the head of the church, “He is also head of the body, the church.” (Col. 1:18 NAS)  “He is the head over all rule and authority.” (Col. 2:10 NAS)  He says directly, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18 NAS)  Paul teaches in the book of Colossians that all we need is Christ, him and him alone, him and nothing else.  Christ is found in his word and not outside it in someone else’s ideas, thoughts, or imaginations, or as Paul says in the NAS “in self-made religion.” (Col. 2:23) 

If Christ in me is “the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27 NAS) how does Paul tell us this is brought about?  One must remember Paul is writing to people who have already heard, believed, and obeyed the gospel and thus are already Christians.  He says they had already been “delivered…from the domain of darkness, and transferred…to the kingdom of his beloved son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:13-14 NAS)  How had that happened?

The answer is found in Col. 2:11-13, “And in him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.  And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” (NAS)

The passage begins with the phrase “in him.”  In him, in Christ, is life, a new creation.  While Paul is speaking of a spiritual circumcision here in Colossians back in Galatians he speaks of a physical one when he says that the physical one does not matter one way or another but he says there is something that does matter -- a new creation.  “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15 NAS)  The side margin note in the New American Standard Version (reference edition previously referred to) says “Or, creature.”  That is what matters.  “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17 NAS)

Only in Christ does this spiritual circumcision take place in which “the removal of the body of the flesh” occurs.  One is baptized into Christ.  We are, Paul’s exact words, “baptized into Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:3)  See also Gal. 3:27.  It is “in him” where we “were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands.” (Col. 2:11 NAS)

Paul in talking about this circumcision in Col. 2 connects it directly with “having been buried with him in baptism.” (Col. 2:12 NAS)  The body of flesh, or as Paul calls it in Romans the “old self” (Rom. 6:6 NAS), is put to death in baptism for we are baptized “into death” (Rom. 6:4 NAS) but the good news is “you were also raised up with him through faith in the working of God,” (Col. 2:12 NAS) “he made you alive together with him.” (Col. 2:13 NAS)  But, this one who is made alive is a new man.  He is not the man that went down into the water and died.  This one that comes up from the water “made… alive together with him” (Col. 2:13 NAS) was raised to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4 NAS) for he is a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17 NAS).

He forgave the Colossians all their transgressions.  When?  When upon their faith they repented and were “baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38 NAS)  This is what was required on the Day of Pentecost when the first gospel sermon was preached by Peter; Paul teaches the same thing to the Colossians.  Does one want to say Peter and Paul were at odds?

There are a few other passages in Colossians teaching the same truth.  Paul in Col. 2:20 speaking to the Colossians says, “if you have died with Christ.” (NAS)  He is not expressing doubt but emphasizing a point.  He is saying, in so many words, if you are a Christian “why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees?” (Col. 2:20 NAS)  Question--how does one die with Christ?  He says, “if you have died with Christ.”  The answer is found in inspired words, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3 NAS)  Thus Paul teaches baptism in a verse many overlook without a thought.  We died with Christ in baptism.

Another verse along the same line is found in Col. 3:1, “If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above.” (NAS)  You cannot be raised up with Christ unless you have first been buried with him, can you?  “We have been buried with Him through baptism into death.” (Rom. 6:4 NAS)  Paul goes on in that same verse, “as Christ was raised from the dead…so we too might walk in newness of life.” (NAS)  When do we do that?  When we arise from the waters of baptism.  Many think they have been raised up with Christ who have never been buried with him.  Only in baptism is one raised up from spiritual death to spiritual life.

Paul says to the Colossians in Col. 3:3, “you have died.” (NAS)  We know how and when they died from what we have already read and studied but the question for men today is have we died and risen again as they did?

I close this with one more passage, Col. 3:9-10, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the one who created him.” (NAS)  When does one lay aside the old self?  Paul speaks of having “died to sin” in Rom. 6:2.  When one dies to sin the old self has been laid aside.  We die to sin, and thus to the old self, in baptism.  “We have been buried with him through baptism into death.” (Rom. 6:4 NAS)  Death to what?  To ask is to answer -- death to sin.  When we were baptized (if we were) “our old self was crucified with him, that our body of sin might be done away with.” (Rom. 6:6 NAS)  “He who died is freed from sin.” (Rom. 6:7 NAS)

The book of Colossians teaches clearly that salvation is found in Christ and that Christ is all any man or woman needs for salvation.  However, there are many today who are in error concerning how one enters into salvation in Christ Jesus.  Remember it is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 NAS)  Why not clothe yourself with Christ which Paul says in Gal. 3:27 is done by being baptized into Christ?  “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ.” (Gal. 3:27 NAS)  If you are clothed with Christ then certainly, if you live faithfully, you have “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 NAS)

Remember it was Jesus himself who said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16 NAS).  It is man who has said, “He who has believed and has not been baptized shall be saved.”  One gets to choose – choose Jesus’ way or man’s way.  The book of Colossians teaches you ought to choose Jesus’ way over man’s.

[To download this article or print it out click here.]

  

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Born Again At The Point Of Faith? - John 1:12-13

Many believe and many teach and preach that a person is born again (becomes a Christian) at the moment they come to believe in Jesus as the Savior.  This is a common misconception.  At first glance, without some thought, John 1:12-13 seems to support that idea.  The reality is that it does not.  But, let us read the passage. 

John 1:12-13, from the New American Standard Bible New Testament Reference Edition Version 1963, reads as follows:  "(12) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in his name:  (13) who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will on man, but of God." 

You can immediately see (if you are a careful student) that as written verse 12 is in conflict with verse 13.  Verse 12 says that those who believe have the right to become God's children, meaning they are not yet--not at the point of belief.  Yet, verse 13 says they were born of God. 

How does one deal with this apparent contradiction?  If you have a New American Standard Reference Edition Bible from 1995, or for that matter the New Testament reference edition I quoted from above, you will find in the reference notes on verse 13 that the word "born" could have been "begotten," it was a translator’s choice.  In fact, the Analytical-Literal Translation uses the word "begotten" as does the Literal Standard Version and Young’s Literal Translation.    Use the word "begotten" and the conflict between verses 12 and 13 disappears. 

How do we know the word "begotten" is the correct word to use here when either "begotten" or "born" can be used with justification as a translation of the Greek?  There are three reasons.  (1) The Bible cannot contradict itself and be true.  Use the word "born" here and you have a contradiction between the two verses.  (2) There is always a begetting before a birth.  (3) By Paul's conversion experience. 

Paul (known as Saul at that time) most certainly believed when confronted by Jesus himself on the road to Damascus (Acts 22) but when Ananias came to him 3 days later he told Paul to "'Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.'" (Acts 22:16 NAS)  Do you not find it strikingly strange that a man who believes with his whole heart still has sins 3 days later?  It shouldn't because Paul was begotten three days earlier, not yet born again. 

Jesus says water is a part of the new birth (John 3:1-7, see verse 5).  When we understand what is involved in the new birth, thus understanding how one becomes a Christian, we will know when to use the word "begotten" versus "born."  Remember as a correct translation of the Greek either word is correct but there are times when the context demands one or the other.  In John 1:13 there is really no choice unless you desire a Bible contradiction in which case the Bible cannot be true. 

When you understand John 1:12-13 you will understand that faith alone is not enough to make you a child of God no matter what anyone tells you.  If you are saved by faith alone Ananias lied to Paul in Acts 22 for Paul, being a strong believer in Christ, had no sins to be washed away. 

The believing world may hate it but baptism is a part of what makes one a Christian, born again.  Jesus says so in John 3:5 for being in the kingdom of God is equivalent to being a Christian.  If you disagree you are disagreeing with Jesus, not with me.

[To download this article or print it out click here.]

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Christianity and Multiculturalism

How does Christianity relate to the concept of multiculturalism?  The answer to that depends in large part on one's definition of multiculturalism and there are many definitions of it as you see when you begin researching the topic.  For this article, I will define it as the idea that all cultures are of equal value, none to be judged as superior to another, that society should be oriented around groups versus a common concept of a single united "we" working as a unit, that diversity is more important than unity.  It is a desire not for assimilation and oneness but for difference.  One site I looked at used the term "the politics of difference."  Often proponents of the concept argue that in democracies it is majority rule and thus minorities are held down and discriminated against.  The desire is to withdraw from the majority culture.

What does the Bible have to say, if anything, on the topic?  1 Cor. 1:10 reads as follows:  "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (NKJV)  Here we have a plea not for diversity but rather unity which brings up the question of whether or not Christianity is a multicultural religion.  If it is then in what sense is it?

That the gospel should be taken into the entire world and preached to every creature is clearly taught in the Great Commission.  "And he (Jesus--DS) said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.'" (Mark 16:15-16 NKJV)  God is "the Savior of all men" (1 Tim. 4:10 NKJV), not just the Savior of one nationality, or one language, or one race of people.  In this sense then certainly the gospel is multicultural.  Where you live, what color your skin is, what language you speak, whether or not you are rich or poor, handsome or plain, educated or uneducated, young or old, the way you dress, or what you eat, or the kind of work you do, etc., has nothing at all to do with God's desire to see you be saved.  "God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim. 2:3-4 NKJV)  Neither does any of that have anything at all to do with a true Christian's love for you as a brother or sister in Christ or in his/her desire to see you have the opportunity to become a fellow Christian if you are not already one. 

However, the word multiculturalism as it is often being used today (2011) in American society conveys the idea that every culture is to be embraced as it is and that all have equal value.  Does the Bible teach this to be the truth?  Can one become a Christian and then just go back and partake freely of whatever his society (culture) offers up? 

When Paul came to Athens, in Acts 17:16, the Bible says, "Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols." (NKJV)  Was Athenian culture to be embraced?  In Ephesus their culture called for the worship of the goddess (idol) Diana (see Acts 19).  Was this a culture Christians ought to value or embrace? 

If every culture has value in its own right why did God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah?  If every culture is good why did God drive out the inhabitants of Canaan before the Israelites?  If you do not know you can find out by reading Lev. 18 and Lev. 20.  God in both chapters list a long list of sins and then says in Lev. 18:24-25, "Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you.  For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants." (NKJV)  In the next verse, he says of those sins, "You…shall not commit any of these abominations." (Lev. 18:26 NKJV)  Compare this with his statement in Lev. 20:23 of similar import after reading the sins listed in the earlier part of that chapter. 

What were some of these sins?  Here is a sample--burning to death in fire one's children as a sacrifice to the idol God Molech (Lev. 18:21, Lev. 20:2-5), having sexual relations with animals (Lev. 18:23, Lev. 20:15-16), cursing one's father or mother (Lev. 20:9), homosexuality (Lev. 18:22, Lev. 20:13), and you can read the rest if you so desire to turn to those chapters and read them for yourself.  Now here is the point--did God value these cultures he destroyed?  Did he think one culture was as good as another? 

Now do not get me wrong.  Every man has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and there is no doubt the same can be said of all nations.  None are perfect.  But are we to say because of that all are equally good or equally bad?  Whether we are talking about nations, cultures, or congregations some are better than others, at least at a given point in time, or if you want to put it another way some are not as bad as others.  As you read about the seven churches of Asia in Rev. 2 and 3 you immediately see not all were equal in standing before God at that particular time.  Compare the church at Philadelphia, for example, with the church at Sardis or the church at Laodicea. 

Does one wish to value Nazi Germany and its culture back during the reign of the Nazis?  How about Russia under Stalin?  Does one honestly believe that sharia law is as good as democracy (say Afghanistan versus the U.S.)?  What happens to Christianity if Islamic law ever becomes the law of the land?  Are the women in democratic countries looking forward to that time with eager anticipation? 

Is one culture, one belief system, one ideology just as good as another?  What if the other guy's culture (say Iran's for example) says you ought to be destroyed (in Iran's case destroy Israel)?  If one guy's culture says it is a glorious thing to strap on an explosive device on your son or daughter and have them go off and kill themselves what difference does it make if you are a multiculturalist who believes all cultures are to be equally valued for who are you to judge?  

When the children of Israel entered the Promised Land the idea was not incorporating two cultures into one but destroying one--the one that for that moment was most evil.  God was not a multiculturalist.  It is utter folly to value equally every culture and to say no culture has any claim to be superior to another.  Some cultures need destroying, not embraced and built up--Nazi Germany, the Japanese culture of WWII days, the Khmer Rouge, and you can probably add to the list without any additional help from me.   

By its very nature multiculturalism is antagonistic to Christianity for it puts sin and righteousness on an equal plain; it basically says there is no sin for there can be no value judgment.  One can say the Bible supports not being judgmental.  Generally, Matt. 7:1 is quoted as a proof passage where Jesus said, "Judge not, that you be not judged." (NKJV)  This is one of the most abused and misrepresented passages in the Bible.  Read in context one very quickly comes to verse 6 which says, "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." (Matt. 7:6 NKJV--Jesus speaking)  Who is to judge who the dog is or who the swine is?  You are the one who is to do it.  You have to make that judgment.  The Bible does not, contrary to popular opinion, prohibit judging but only unjust judgment.  "Judge with righteous judgment," Jesus said (John 7:24 NKJV). 

To make no judgments at all, and yes I am speaking of value judgments, opposes everything taught in the New Testament and in life.  The New Testament praises those who because of full age are able to absorb solid food, "that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Heb. 5:14 NKJV)  To discern is to judge.  "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? … We shall judge angels?  How much more, things that pertain to this life?" (1 Cor. 6:2-3 NKJV)  Paul was being critical of the church at Corinth because they refused to judge?  "I say this to your shame.  Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?" (1 Cor. 6:5 NKJV) 

In life in general do we desire that our children go out into the world unwilling or unable to make value judgments?  Do we send them out without guidance or direction?  Is it our desire that they place the same value on the culture of a gang in an urban area as they do on the culture of a Christian brotherhood of believers?  We sometimes hear talk of the drug culture.  Are all cultures of equal value?  Should no judgments be made? 

Christianity is multicultural in the sense that was earlier stated in this article in that it is a gospel made for all without restrictions based on race, sex, nationality, economic or social status, etc.  However, once one becomes a Christian we are to become "one" people.  "He himself is our peace, who has made both one (a reference to Jew and Gentile of which all mankind is one or the other--DS), and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that he might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross." (Eph. 2:14-16 NKJV)  The end is not humanity divided as it once was between Jew and Gentile but now united as "one new man."  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28 NKJV) 

Jesus’ long prayer in John 17 includes this, "I do not pray for these alone but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one." (John 17:20-21 NKJV)  I would also recall to the reader's memory the verse that began this article, 1 Cor. 1:10, where the plea was (should we say command?) "that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (NKJV) 

Christianity does not do away with culture, not mine, not yours, not anyone's.  We all do not have to start eating the same foods, observe the same holidays, learn to speak the same language, wear the same style of clothes, etc.  However, our allowance for diversity must end where the pages of the New Testament speak giving us law to abide by, the law of Christ. 

Some might argue for multiculturalism in view of the fact that Christendom is divided into hundreds, if not even thousands, of denominations.  It is a poor argument to make.  Why?  Because God condemned anything but unity and it is an utter failure in men and their character, or an acknowledgment of their ignorance of scripture, when they rejoice that every man has a church of his choice different from all others in items of faith and practice when Christ prayed for just the opposite.  When men prefer division to unity the failure is in the men. 

Some multiculturalists fear that to not accept multiculturalism will only lead to trouble, division, and possibly even to violence or war.  The truth is just the opposite.  People have not gone to war because they were united as one but because they were divided.  Two people that agree and see eye to eye are not in danger of conflict with one another.  The American Civil War did not start because of unity of belief and practice but because of disunity.  

Neither America nor any other nation has anything to fear from within when all are in general agreement.  We have been a strong country in a large part because every family that came to our borders came not to remain what they once were (you name the nationality or country) but because they wanted to be something new--an American.  My family background is British by DNA but German in more recent descent.  My family has not considered itself either British or German for many generations.  We are not Germans living in America, not German-Americans, we are Americans. 

I fear while hoping I am wrong that we are trying to promote in multiculturalism an ideology that will lead those living in our nation as immigrants to have first allegiance not to America but to the nation or culture from whence they came.  What then?  Trouble!  Disunity!  A warring among ourselves!  That is certainly a possibility. 

So it is in Christianity.  When we become a Christian we are supposed to leave the old world and its ways from whence we came behind us.  We are to become a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17, Gal. 6:15, Rom. 6:4).  "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:17 NKJV)  One cannot be a new creation without being literally a new creation meaning he has to put off the old man and put on the new man (Eph. 4:21-24).  The old life, the old way of thinking and doing as one pleased, of doing what everyone else around us was/is doing is over.  The new life is one of faith and obedience to the word of God, to Jesus.  In so far as Christians bring their lives into accordance with that standard of conduct there will be unity of faith and practice.  

The goal of Christianity as it relates to culture is to make all people one, one in Christ.  There is only one way to do that--teaching the gospel to those who are then given the option through free will of either the obedience of faith or a rejection of the faith.  It is a personal choice that must come from the heart of the individual.  There is no such thing as forced obedience to the gospel.  Maybe the God (?) of Islam can accept converts at the point of a gun but the God of Christianity will not. 

The God of Christianity desires man's love.  Love cannot be forced.  It comes through getting to know the one who will become through our learning of him the beloved.  If a man sticks a gun in your back to convert you to his God you quickly learn what kind of God he worships--one who believes in bullets, blood, and guts. 

Some (most?) misunderstand Christianity thinking it has caused wars in the past, the Middle Ages.  It is simply not true for Catholicism is a religion separate from Christianity that does not depend on the Bible for its existence.  The Bible alone will never make one a Catholic, will never give you a Pope, will never allow you to pray to or worship the Virgin Mary, etc., etc., etc.  Catholics, if informed at all, will readily admit it is the teaching of their church that has the primacy and that the New Testament alone is insufficient.  Christianity is found in the pages of the New Testament, not outside it. 

Protestantism is not Christianity.  No man can take the New Testament and show where Jesus ever established a denomination (you can fill in any denominational name you want).  Every one of them was established hundreds and hundreds of years after Christ built his church starting on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 thus they are not the church he established.  Furthermore, it takes along with faith, repentance, and confession of Christ, baptism to make a Christian which virtually every denomination denies and rejects.  Peter said baptism was for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38), that it saves us (1 Peter 3:21), but they deny it making Peter out as one who despite being inspired had no idea what he was talking about.  As for Ananias telling Paul to "arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins" (Acts 22:16) he too was deluded according to denominational doctrine. 

No, let the Catholics and Protestants war all they want back in the Middle Ages.  It had nothing to do with Christianity.  Christianity is a striving for one culture (one belief, one mind) but only through teaching and persuasion as a means of obtaining that.  When you find the passage in the New Testament that shows a disciple taking up arms to promote the cause of Christ please write me and let me know where you find it.  Jesus himself said, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18:36 NKJV)  "The kingdom of God is within you." (John 17:21 NKJV)  It is found in the heart of the man who has become a true disciple of Jesus, who has become a Christian. 

Christians love people of all other races, nationalities, and cultures.  I write as an American Christian but Jesus was not an American.  Does his race or nationality matter?  Does any man's race or nationality matter?  No!  Paul said, "We regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Cor. 5:16-17 NKJV)  As Paul said, "we regard no one according to the flesh." 

One of the great experiences of my life was going to college and becoming acquainted with people of other races and from foreign lands and cultures.  It greatly enriched my life, a country boy from rural white America.  My personal doctor today, a man I like and a wonderful doctor, is from India.  I am glad we have restaurants today specializing in food from almost every nation in the world.  Cultural diversity is a wonderful thing in its place but we have to understand it has its place.  There are limits to it.  Go too far with it and it divides us into competing and warring factions and brings strife and trouble and sometimes even violence and war. 

God's way is always best, "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (1 Cor. 1:10 NKJV)  In doing so we will have peace and tranquility, be happy with one another, and at peace with God.  Both as a nation and as Christians there is much truth in the adage that united we stand and divided we fall or at least fail to achieve what could have been achieved had we stood together as one united people.      

[This article was written in 2011 and posted today with only the slightest bit of editing.  The thinking is it has more relevance today than 11 years ago when it was first written.]

[To download this article or print it out click here.]

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Faith Comes by Hearing the Word of God--the Implications

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)  On its surface, this proclamation by Paul is simple and easy to understand and yet the failure to grasp its implications has brought much division and strife among those who believe Jesus is the Son of God.  Faith and opinion are mixed and it seems no one is able to separate the two.  It appears to the casual observer that one man’s faith is another man’s opinion and that it is nearly hopeless to find objective truth.  This confusion comes not from God but from man.  God’s word is quite clear.

Faith is that which comes from hearing God’s word thus the direct and necessary implication is that if there is no word from God on a religious matter there can be no faith but only opinion.  Faith and opinion are not equal in God’s sight.  A man is saved by faith, not by opinion.  A man is to walk (live his daily life) by faith (Rom. 1:17, 2 Cor. 5:7).  The Christian religion is based on faith but it is an objective faith in that it is based on direct testimony as found in the word of God, testimony given by God himself.

Where God has spoken on a matter I can take his word to the bank, as the old saying goes.  I need not doubt.  His word is not just as good as gold, it is better, more valuable, perfect in purity and truth.  “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.  More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold.” (Psalms 19:9-10 NKJV)  Faith based on word from God is faith put on a sure and solid foundation that cannot fail.

But, some examples are needed to show the difference between faith based on God’s word and opinion that is mistaken for faith by so many.  I start with examples of things based on biblically defined faith (that which comes from hearing) as per Rom. 10:17. 

I can have faith that a man must repent of sins because God’s word says, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent.” (Acts 17:30 NKJV)  My faith is based on hearing the word of God.  It is not a matter of opinion whether a man ought to repent.   It is a matter of the revealed word of God.     

I can have faith that as a Christian I should sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.  “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:18-19 NKJV)  There is direct word from God on the subject.  My faith in singing comes from hearing God’s word.  It is objective, not subjective.  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)

I can have faith that as a Christian I should never speak evil of anyone for God’s word says “speak evil of no one.” (Titus 3:2 NKJV)  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)  I am sure you get the idea.  When you have the word of God that you can quote on a subject and you believe what the word says it can be said of your faith that it came by hearing the word of God.  It is scriptural faith defined as that which came from hearing God’s word.

But things are often said to be matters of faith which clearly are only matters of opinion.  Many years ago I knew a man that wanted to build--expand the physical building where local Christians met for worship (whether the church needed it was the big question).  To objectors he would say where is your faith?  His assumption was that God would be with this work for it would please God and thus God would see to it that the bills were paid and the work would prosper and the church would grow in numbers.

But here was the problem--God’s word does not once speak of building a house to worship in, not in the New Testament under which we live today.  One will read the pages of the New Testament until old age dims his eyes and never read one time of a church building such as you see on nearly every corner today.  There is no word from God on building a material brick and mortar building to worship God in.  It is not a matter of faith that God wants us to build or add on to a building but pure opinion, the subjective opinion of man.  If “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17), and that is what the Bible says, then where there is no word there is opinion only.

True, we are commanded to assemble together (Heb. 10:25) but that does not necessarily require a building owned by the brethren.  The church could rent, they could meet in a shelter house at a local park, they could meet at the home or property a brother might own sufficiently large to accommodate them.  In New Testament times we do not read even one time of the brethren investing in and building a structure to worship in.

Am I saying it is wrong to build a building?  Not at all!  Why not?  Because we have a command from God to assemble together (Heb. 10:25) necessitating a location, a place to do this.  Thus a place is required.  We could build or we could rent or maybe come up with some other option to fulfill the command to assemble but my point is that one cannot say a specific way of meeting this obligation is a matter of faith.  There is no word from God.  When we exercise our best judgment, as we must in this case, it still remains a matter of opinion as to whether it would be best to rent or build.  We ought not to go around laying guilt trips on people about their so-called lack of faith when in reality we are dealing with matters of opinion.

One sees this error over and over again.  Someone comes up with something that seems good or right, but lacks direct word from God on it, often even lacking generic authority (which is what we had above--generic authority to build or rent in order to keep a commandment), and then if you do not go along with it or embrace it wholeheartedly it is said “where is your faith.”  My response is “I know where your opinion is.”

But, I want to give some other examples of things that people say they have faith in but the word of God is lacking.  They cannot point to book, chapter, and verse nor can they appeal to generic authority.  What they have is an opinion being passed off as faith whether they realize it or not.

Earlier in this piece, I spoke of how one can have complete faith in singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God for we have word from God saying we should (Eph. 5:18-19).  Where is the word of God saying we should play musical instruments in worship?  We cannot find it in the pages of the New Testament, not one word.  If we go back to the Old Testament we find it there under Judaism, under the Law of Moses, but we live today under Christianity and the law of Christ.  I am sure you know there is a reason why our bibles are divided into an Old Testament and a New Testament.  Do we want to try and be justified under the Law of Moses?  Read Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews and you will change your mind if you do.

What we have is opinion that instrumental music is pleasing to God under Christianity, under the law of Christ, under the New Testament, and something we should use to worship God.  There is no word from God on using instrumental music so we do not have and cannot have the faith that comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17).   For about five to six hundred years after the church was established there were no instruments of music used in Christian worship.  When it is used today it is based on opinion, the assumption that it is okay.  It was not always so assumed.

David said, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins.” (Psalms 19:13 NKJV)  Albert Barnes, the well known commentator, said of the word presumptuous in this passage, “The prevailing thought is that of pride, and the reference is particularly to sins which proceed from self-confidence; from reliance on one’s own strength. The word does not mean open sins, or flagrant sins, so much as those which spring from self-reliance or pride.”  If we dare presume we may well find we have assumed wrong.

That is where we are at today with so many practices that have evolved in the Christian life and worship.  Things are just assumed, presumed, and all based on man’s opinion without a word from God.  It is said we have faith that this or that is okay but there is no word from God.  It is but man’s opinion but it is called faith by man.

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  (Rom. 10:17 NKJV)  


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