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Monday, August 1, 2022

Are the New Testament Scriptures Alone Sufficient

Sometimes we take it for granted that everyone who calls themselves a Christian holds the New Testament scriptures in as high a regard as we do.  However, that is not the case.  Some, while calling themselves Christians, do not believe in the all-sufficiency of the New Testament scriptures to save a person.  They feel we need more guidance and direction than can be found in the scriptures alone.

Who are these Christian (God will decide) groups who are not satisfied with the New Testament scriptures alone?  I can think of three groups off-hand and there may well be others.  (1) The Catholic Church and they do not deny it.  (2) The Mormons.  (3) Those groups or individuals who believe they need and receive direct guidance from the Holy Spirit in addition to the scriptures. 

What do the scriptures themselves teach on the subject?  If the scriptures make the claim to be sufficient then those denying such make it clear they are not Bible believers despite all claims to the contrary.  

The Holy Spirit speaking through Paul the apostle said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16-17 NKJV) 

Who was Paul, at that time, writing to?  To Timothy but it is obvious that what applied to Timothy as to how he was to view scripture was and is applicable to all.  Paul says scripture is able to make us complete.  If we are complete we lack nothing.

However, the objection is made that Paul was obviously speaking of the Old Testament scriptures, at least primarily, as not all of the New Testament had yet been written.  Well, what is that supposed to imply?  Is it supposed to cast doubt on scripture given at a later date?  Is it designed to cast doubt on books written later as to their inspiration, books that are included in our New Testaments? 

Were none of the New Testament books written when Paul wrote the words found in 2 Tim. 3:16-17?  Most scholars believe 2 Timothy, quoted above, was written somewhere in the range of 66 to 68 AD.  While dates are all over the place on some New Testament books all scholars I know about concede that Second Timothy was the last book written by Paul.  Was Paul excluding his own writings when he spoke of scripture being given by inspiration of God, books he had already written? 

To the Corinthians Paul said "the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Cor. 14:37 NKJV)  Paul issued commands (1 Cor. 7:10, 2 Thess. 3:4, 6, 12) and directed Timothy to do so (1 Tim. 4:11, 5:7, 6:17).  To the Galatians he claimed inspiration for his message.  “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:10-11 NKJV)  He says the same thing again in Ephesians 3:3.  Paul recognized his own inspiration. 

But we also have Peter's testimony on the subject when he says, "as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures." (2 Peter 3:15-16 NKJV) 

Sounds like when Peter wrote this Paul was still living but had already written many epistles which Peter compares to "the rest of the scriptures."  He says Paul's writings could be twisted to the destruction of untaught and unstable people.  Peter considered Paul's writings to be scripture just like "the rest of the scriptures."

When Paul wrote what he did in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 he was not excluding his own writings or talking merely about the Old Testament scriptures.  Neither was he excluding what might be written later in other New Testament books by other apostles or men of inspiration.  

But now note something else.  What is the purpose of scripture?  It is, as Paul puts it, "that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim. 3:17 NKJV)  If that is the case then the one who says the New Testament scriptures alone are insufficient is in an awful bind.  Why?  Because his position is that the man of God cannot be complete, cannot be thoroughly equipped for every good work by the scriptures alone and he thus puts himself in opposition to what the word of God says. 

An objection might well be made here by those in opposition that I have left the barn door open for later revelation.  Indeed I did for as I said Paul's statement was not just about scripture already written but about all scripture given by God regardless of the date it would be given.  The door was left open but only for a limited period of time. 

The key here is the term or phrase Paul used when he said "given by inspiration of God."  As you well know some speak of latter-day revelation hundreds of years after the completion of the New Testament.  How can we be sure revelation ceased when the New Testament scriptures as we now have them were completed?

When God gave scripture he gave mankind a means by which man could be assured that the message was from God.  The message was given orally and then later written down by inspired men.  The Bible says the word was confirmed as the apostles went out everywhere, "the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." (Mark 16:16 NKJV) 

The Hebrew writer says salvation (speaking of the word of salvation) "began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?" (Heb. 2:3-4 NKJV) 

All through Acts we see miracles being performed.  There were the tongues from God that sat upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost and the speaking in tongues that day as the word was first preached to man after Christ's resurrection.  

A little later in Acts 4 upon the release of Peter and John from arrest and imprisonment a prayer is uttered by the disciples.  "Lord … grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus." (Acts 4: 29-30 NKJV)  Then in verse 33 we read, no doubt in answer to their prayer, "with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." 

In Acts 5:12 Luke says, "And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people." (NKJV)  Both Peter and Paul raised the dead through the power of God.  Philip worked miracles in Samaria.  Paul spoke of preaching the gospel from Jerusalem to Illyricum with "mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God." (Rom. 15:19 NKJV)  Here is the point--if there has been latter-day revelation there has to have been of necessity confirmation from God by means of miracles. 

If we have additional scripture that has been given since the New Testament scriptures were written where are they and where is the proof that shows God confirmed them?  Now I understand some are ready and willing to show me these additional scriptures they claim are from God but where is their proof?  We need some confirmation from God in the same way we got it in the first century. 

Miracles were only to last as long as they were needed and they were needed only as long as there was revelation being given that needed confirmation.  It is too long to quote here but read Eph. 4:7-14.  Paul was here talking about God giving gifts (miraculous abilities) to men which he says was for "the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." (Eph. 4:12 NKJV) 

But, I want you to note that he sets a time limit on this.  He says in verse 13 "till."  And I want you to look closely at verse 14 which shows us when this "till" shall have come to pass for many think it will be when Jesus returns.  Not so.  It was to be while the earth still stood and prior to Jesus' return. 

Paul says when that "till" arrives we will "no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ." (Eph. 4:14-15 NKJV)  Thus Christians will still be on the earth when the till that is to come arrives but they will no longer be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  Why not?  Simply because they will have God’s completed revelation available to them and can compare its teaching versus man’s teaching. 

The till that is to come is the completed scriptures.  In Eph. 4:13 he says, "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man." (NKJV)  That perfect man is the mature man, the man who has been made complete by the scriptures, the perfect man of Eph. 4:13 (NKJV) is the complete man of 2 Tim. 3:17 (NKJV). 

Paul speaks of this also over in 1 Cor. 13:8-12.  "Whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." (NKJV)  

That which is perfect which was to come was the completed scriptures or as you might put it the completed revelation of God to man.  How can we be sure this passage is not a reference to Christ's second coming?  Do you think knowledge will vanish when Jesus comes?  I think there will be a great increase in knowledge.  People will know things they never knew before.  Obviously, the knowledge that is being spoken of here that is to vanish away is miraculous knowledge that God gave to man in the days of spiritual gifts (see 1 Cor. 12:8). 

Now consider this, if we continued to have revelation after the death of those granted spiritual gifts in the first century even up to modern times it means no one has yet been able to overcome the “trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness by which they lie in wait to deceive.” (Eph. 4:14 NKJV)  Why not?  Because they lacked the whole truth of God’s revelation that would allow them to know truth from error.  It means all those who lived from the second century on up to today have lacked part of what they needed to combat error.

If part of inspiration came say in the sixteenth century then where does that leave the man or woman who lived and died before then?  This is the dilemma all so-called Christian groups face who claim inspiration and revelation outside the New Testament.  Catholics, for example, have added untold numbers of new doctrines across the ages.  Truth in many of these religious bodies is never fully attainable for you never know what is coming down the road in the next generation.  

Let us take a second look at 1 Cor. 13:8-12 quoted above.  What is to vanish in addition to knowledge and tongues?  Prophesy. 

This eliminates latter-day prophecy and Mormon prophets.  When?  When scripture is completed.  How can we know when that is?  When miraculous confirmation by miracles has ceased.  Has that happened?  If you define a miracle as being the kind of miracle performed in the book of Acts, and how else can one define one, then they ceased sometime around the end of the first century. 

If prophecy has ceased we no longer have apostles.  If we do we seek the signs of an apostle which Paul talked about.  He says, "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds." (2 Cor. 2:12 NKJV)  Some still claim we have and need apostles today.  Where are their signs and wonders and mighty deeds? 

Thus when miracles ceased revelation had ended; the scriptures had been completed; the man of God had the means to be made perfect (Eph. 4:14), to be made complete (2 Tim. 3:17), to become mature.  Henceforth nothing else would ever be needed. 

The New Testament scriptures alone are a sufficient guide to heaven and all you need.  God warns us about adding to his word.  The New Testament is enough; the New Testament scriptures are sufficient.  Anything more than that is man playing God.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Faith and Baptism in Paul's Preaching in Philippi

How does a person become a Christian?  What does it take to make a person a Christian (a saved individual)?  Over the years there has been an enormous amount of debate over this very question.  It is a question that can only be resolved by seeing what the Holy Spirit inspired apostles preached, taught, and practiced as they went out into the world preaching the gospel.

In this article, I want to take a look at the apostle Paul and what he taught and practiced in making Christians in the city of Philippi as recorded in Acts 16:12-34.  We have in that chapter two conversions made by Paul--that of Lydia (Acts 16:12-15) and that of the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30-34).  We begin with Lydia.

The story of Lydia's conversion is so short we can quote all scripture has to say about it here: 

"And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.  And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, 'If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.' And she prevailed upon us." (Acts 16:14-15 NAS)

We are not told exactly what Paul said in his sermon but we know he preached at least the following:  (1) Man as a sinner in need of salvation, (2) Jesus as Lord and Savior, (3) Faith in Jesus, (4) Repentance, and (5) Baptism. 

We can glean a lot about Paul's preaching from Lydia's statement to Paul and Silas, "if you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay," (Acts 16:15 NAS) and then making logical deductions from their response to her invitation by accepting it.  The things then that Lydia did were the things that made her faithful in Paul and Silas' eyes.

Certainly, they would not have judged her "faithful to the Lord" without faith in the Lord which required an expression of the same (confession of Jesus--Rom. 10:9) in order for them to know of her faith.  Baptism was both an expression of a penitent heart (indicating repentance) and a response to Paul's preaching (to a command given in that preaching).  If he didn't preach baptism how did she know about it?  If he preached it then it is a part of gospel obedience or else he preached something other than just the gospel.  The text says, "the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14 NAS) and thus her baptism was a response to the things spoken by Paul.

Lydia's actions indicated to Paul and Silas that she had been "faithful to the Lord."  I have a question to ask.  What if Lydia had refused baptism?  Many say it is not essential to salvation and is not a part of gospel obedience.  Would she then have been considered to have been "faithful to the Lord" had she done that?  Paul preached it, but she refuses it, in which case it could not be said that "the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul."  Is she saved in such a state?  Those who exclude baptism as a part of the gospel ought to think on this.

A little later in the same city, Paul and Silas find themselves in prison when an earthquake occurs freeing them and all the other prisoners if they so chose to flee. (Acts 16:26)  The Philippian jailer, trembling with fear, comes in and falls down before Paul and Silas (Acts 16:29), brings them out, and asks them the question, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30 NAS)  The entire conversion account follows:

"And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.'  And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.  And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.  And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household." (Acts 16:31-34 NAS)

Did Paul preach faith in Jesus?  We know he did.  Did he preach baptism as a part of faith in Jesus?  We know he did.  Again, if Paul did not preach baptism where did the Philippian jailer get the idea to be baptized and why at "that very hour of the night?"  It was around midnight when the earthquake hit (Acts 16:25), it is getting late, the jailer has duties to attend to with the other prisoners and a jail that needs cleaning up, and this cannot be the most convenient time to be baptized if baptism does not matter and is not part of the gospel.

It is said of the Philippian jailer that he believed in God (Acts 16:34) after, not before, he was baptized.  Baptism is obedience to the command of God but it is more.  It is also a test of faith.  Do you believe in Jesus who said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved?" (Mark 16:16 NAS)  To believe in Jesus is to take him at his word; it is to believe his word.

Paul received, "grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for his name's sake." (Rom. 1:5 NAS)  The gospel is not just facts to believe but also acts to obey (repentance, confession of Jesus, and baptism).  The gospel must be "obeyed" if one is to avoid the vengeance of Jesus at his second coming (read 2 Thess. 1:8 NKJV).  Both Lydia and the Philippian jailer exercised the obedience of faith in being baptized. 

Those who believe faith excludes baptism, who believe baptism is no part of faith, who believe Paul taught a justification by faith that excluded baptism in Romans ought to look closely at Paul's actual practice.  Jesus taught, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16 NAS)  Do you think Paul might have taught that as well?  Do you think “believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved” as Paul and Silas told the jailer might include believing what Jesus says? 

Those so concerned with Paul's teaching in Romans erroneously misconstruing it to exclude baptism as essential to salvation ought to look closely at Acts 16 and look over Paul's gospel preaching in Philippi.  When that is done it would be good to go back and reread Rom. 6:1-8 and consider carefully what Paul says there about baptism.  It would be good to remember also that Paul took 12 men in Ephesus and had them baptized (Acts 19:1-7).  Why?

Of Paul's preaching at Corinth it is said, "many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized." (Acts 18:8 NAS)  Paul did not do much of the actual baptizing at Corinth personally but his preaching led his associates and others to do it.  His job was to preach but as has clearly been seen at Philippi the preaching he did included baptism as a part of the gospel.  Paul's gospel included faith and baptism as a part of gospel obedience.  Do not be led astray by those who teach otherwise for it is the obedience of faith that saves.  Faith without obedience is dead.  

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Faith is Not Just What You Believe

Most people are fairly confident they know what Christian faith is.  It is simple, right?  It is what you believe to be true.  That, however, is a pretty superficial answer.  There is a lot to faith other than just what one believes. 

Faith is not just thought but action.  It is a driving force, an inward power that drives a person to act and do, to sacrifice, to seek, to suffer, to endure, to commit, and drive on when there appears to be no longer reason or common sense in doing so. 

Much is made about the faith people have.  What I have observed over the years is that many who speak of their faith seem to have a faith that by all outward appearances has driven them to do nothing.  It is as dead as a doornail by all outward measurements.  Many who talk about their personal faith cannot even make it out to worship once a week but they are saved by faith.  

But, the response is made you are judging, you do not know my heart.  What I do know is that James says, “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)  You know that is a rhetorical question, to ask is to answer.  James later says “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20 NKJV)  Can one be saved by a dead faith?  The demons had a dead faith. (James 2:19). 

What kind of faith saves?  “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24 NKJV)  The faith that saves is thus a working faith, a faith that leads to action, to doing, to be specific it is a faith that obeys. 

So many emphasize faith and grace to the extent that works (obedience) is discounted.  Who needs to obey?  Just believe is the cry.  That is not what Jesus taught. 

Jesus taught that a failure to obey was a failure to love.  Hear Jesus, "If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15 NKJV)  “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21 NKJV)  "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” (John 14:23 NKJV)  “He who does not love Me does not keep My words.” (John 14:24 NKJV)  Paul says, “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” (1 Cor. 16:22 NKJV) 

Jesus again says, “why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46 NKJV)  He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:9 NKJV) 

Thus salvation by faith without works of obedience would also be salvation without love for God.  Faith only advocates will not have baptism as an element of salvation for they fear it is a work.  Well, no more so than repentance.  When the Bible teaches we are saved by grace through faith and not of works, Eph. 2:8-9, is that passage teaching we are saved by disobedience because to obey would be a work and we cannot be saved by works?  Is that what it teaches?  

When one interprets a passage of scripture in such a way that puts it into conflict with other scriptures it is time to go back and do some rethinking.  That is exactly where those are at who interpret Eph. 2:8-9 in such a way as to make it exclude baptism or any work whatsoever.  James teaches you can try to get to heaven by faith alone but it will not work, not without works.  Paul, the author of Eph. 2:8-9, was himself baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16) but never once complained to Ananias, the one sent from God who directed him to do it.  Paul never replied to Ananias, "I can’t do it for it would be salvation by works."  

But, my goal in this article (I have allowed myself to be sidetracked) is to show how scriptural faith drives a man to obedience, to suffering and sacrifice, and all the other things mentioned earlier in this article.  Abraham’s faith drove him so strongly that it forced him to sacrifice Isaac his son.  Only God’s direct intervention prevented the deed from being done. 

In the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11, we find this (speaking of how others were driven by faith): 

“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith … .” (Heb. 11:35-39 NKJV) 

The passage has reference to men and women of faith under the Mosaical dispensation of time. 

Those mentioned in the Hebrews passage quoted had a choice.  They did not need to suffer these things.  In fact, the first verse quoted speaks of not accepting deliverance but why not -- because faith is a driving force in the person’s life that has it.  It is not just a feeble thought or opinion.  It will force you to obey when it becomes as strong as God desires it to be. 

Paul speaks of his own life as a Christian in the New Testament and says: 

“Are they ministers of Christ?--I speak as a fool--I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.” (2 Cor. 11:23-27 NKJV)  What would drive a man to endure such things?  He could have stopped preaching and evangelizing at any time and ended the persecution had he so desired.  What drove him on?  One word, the word "faith" drove him. 

But what is faith--this inward driving force within a man or woman that drives them to such extremes?  The Hebrew writer says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1 NKJV)  I want to note the words “assurance” and “conviction.”  After Paul saw Jesus on the road to Damascus do you think he had assurance and conviction?  Our faith needs to become what Paul’s was. 

Bible faith is meant to develop and grow and become strong.  The Bible says Abraham’s faith was so strong that he believed God would raise Isaac up from the dead in order to fulfill the promise he had made that “In Isaac your seed shall be called.”  So, Abraham would sacrifice Isaac in full faith that God would raise him back up from the dead. (Heb. 11:17-19)  

But, I think we have perhaps as strong a statement of faith as we will likely find anywhere in a statement Job made when he said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15 NKJV)  This is the degree of faith that we all ought to seek to attain.  

When we are able to say Father do with me as you will yet you will always be my hope then we can find comfort in the most difficult situations life may bring to us.  Too often our faith is of the fair weather variety.  When life begins to go sour on us our faith starts to vanish.  We begin to doubt God and start losing faith. 

As long as our faith is not tested it is fine but it will not stand the test when tried.   The test is often obedience and obedience under trying circumstances.  There is no test if obedience is easy with no trial to it. 

When Jesus was explaining the parable of the soils he spoke of the kind of faith we are inclined to have and must fight against.  He said, “He who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.” (Matt. 13:20-21 NKJV)  It is a faith that cannot stand the test.  

Peter speaks of our faith being tested by fire and of its preciousness. (1 Peter 1:7 NKJV)  Then a little later he says to those to whom he wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you.” (1 Peter 4:12 NKJV)  James goes so far as to say, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 NKJV) 

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 ESV)  Remember, love equals obedience. 

Do you remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego?  They were to be cast into the furnace of fire unless they worshipped the idol Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  Here is part of the account of what happened: 

“’But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?’  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ’O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.’" (Dan 3:15-18 NKJV) 

Did you get the part where they said: “if not”?  This reminds me of Job’s statement in Job 13:15, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (NKJV)  These are men whose faith has reached a point of such strength that they are able to say even if God lets me die so what?  I will trust in him.  I will be faithful.  When one gets to that point in their life fear and worry are pretty much gone from life.  What is to fear if one does not fear suffering or death?  “I will not fear.  What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6 NKJV) 

Faith can overcome poverty, sickness, betrayal, desertion, homelessness, ill-treatment, pain, sorrow, suffering, persecution, every ill known to man.  We feel sorry for the wrong people oftentimes.  We feel sorry for others when our sorrow ought to be for ourselves and our lack of genuine Bible faith.  

I close with the words of Job describing the faith he still had after losing everything: 

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21 NKJV) 

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10 NKJV) 

“Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15 NKJV) 

When it seems God has deserted you and no longer cares will you still trust him?  If not him whom will you trust?  Where will you go?

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Friday, July 22, 2022

Christian Wars--A Misnomer

Christians, God's children, have for years taken a beating by those who make the claim that Christians have been responsible for religious wars that killed tens of thousands of people during the Crusades and in Europe itself during the Middle Ages.  There never was any truth to it and never will be. 

Just because a Catholic claims to be a Christian does not make him one.  Just because a Protestant makes the claim to be a Christian does not make him one.  Neither Catholics nor the majority of Protestants are Christians.  Neither group has been willing to accept what the New Testament teaches that it takes for a person to become a Christian.  I will deal with each group in this article in due time.  Until then I ask the reader to use a little reason, a little common sense. 

Name one passage in the New Testament that teaches that a Christian ought to organize with other Christians and go to war and kill those of another religion in order to establish the faith in a geographic locality.  Jesus told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36 NKJV)  Servants of Christ do not fight physical battles on behalf of the kingdom, a kingdom not of this world. 

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12 NKJV)  Christians battle with a spiritual weapon, the sword of the spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). 

Jesus told the one who sought to protect him by physical force at the time of his arrest, the one who used his physical sword and cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, to "Put your sword in its place.” (Matt. 26:52 NKJV)  

And we all know the multitude of passages in the New Testament teaching us to love our fellow man, to be kind and tender-hearted, longsuffering and forbearing, and yet we seemingly are unable to put two and two together and say that hey, there is something wrong here.  Would true Christians in the tens of thousands voluntarily offer to go to war to destroy pagans?  Do we not know the Bible teaches we are to teach and convert them rather than destroy them? 

And yet what is so apparent is not seen by us for we have come to fully accept a perverted gospel as being the genuine thing.  Paul dealt with a perverted gospel in the book of Galatians but we act as though that was a one-time historical event and the gospel has never been perverted since then. 

What I have said above is simply reason and common sense.  If you have ever read your New Testament you know these things are true.  Do you really think a true Christian could call for such wars and true Christians answer the call to arms for such wars?  Let us go kill the pagans.  Do you believe that?  You might subdue by force of arms those of another religion but you could not convert them that way, not to Christianity.  One can only become a Christian by genuine faith and sincerity of heart.  Force of arms cannot change hearts. 

The Catholic Church is not the New Testament church and the Catholic religion has nothing to do with Christianity.  The Catholic Church cannot exist without going outside the pages of the Bible for authority and when they do so that authority comes from mere men.  The New Testament knows nothing about Popes, praying to Mary, indulgences, burning people at the stake, authority residing in the church, or a thousand and one other things practiced by the Catholic Church either today or in days gone by. 

I remind the reader it was the Catholic Church that sought to have the Bibles burned and kept out of the hands of the average man and woman.  Now I ask you do you think the God of heaven looked with favor on that and was behind it? 

The Catholic hierarchy reminds one much of the scribes and Pharisees of New Testament times.  "But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, 'Rabbi, Rabbi.' But you do not be called 'Rabbi'; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven." (Matt. 23:5-9 NKJV) 

Verse 9 certainly has no meaning to a Catholic--"do not call anyone on earth your father."  The Pope even makes the claim he can speak for God.  When one researches the history of Catholic popes he will find many who were far, far from righteous by any standard you might want to use.  But, when you can convince people that the Bible is an insufficient guide and that only you (the Catholic hierarchy) can lead them spiritually you can pretty much develop your religion any way you desire and if it profits you well you deserve it don't you?  You are worthy are you not? 

This is not an attack on the average Catholic man or woman.  Catholicism is basically a religion one is physically born into, an inherited religion, and in that sense far more like Judaism than Christianity.  One is not born again (John 3:3-5) into the Catholic Church.  This is not to say one cannot be converted to Catholicism but when he is that is exactly what has happened—he was converted to Catholicism, not to Christianity. 

If one has never known anything else or been exposed to anything else, it is not a strange thing that he takes for granted what he has been told from childhood.  And who can help what he is born into?  (This is not to say no one ever converts to Catholicism but only that the vast majority are born into it.) 

However, when one gets older he/she does become responsible before God.  John said, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1 NKJV)  There will be some, maybe many, who will say I am one of those false prophets because of the things I have written here but you know what, they will have to go outside of the pages of the Bible for their proof. 

There is not a Catholic on earth that can take the New Testament and the New Testament alone and get today's Catholic Church out of it.  I venture even further--they know better than try and will not try.  They live not by what the Bible says but by what the Catholic hierarchy has handed down from one generation to the next and that is outside the pages of the New Testament.  They thus become their own authority and have convinced people it is God's will that it be so. 

However, Protestants have their own problems and it centers primarily around one thing.  They are wedded to the idea that a man is saved by faith alone and that the new birth, born of water and the spirit, has nothing to do with becoming a Christian.  The new birth involves baptism in water for the remission of sins.  That they will not accept.  Water to them is only symbolic.  

It was not symbolic to Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38 for he said it was for the remission of sins.  I have said it before and say it here again--you cannot find a denominational preacher (a Protestant) that will get up in the pulpit and preach what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and that only.  He will not preach it because he does not believe it. 

It doesn't matter what Peter said about baptism saving us (1 Peter 3:21), it does not matter what Ananias told Saul concerning arising and being baptized and washing away his sins (Acts 22:16), and it doesn't even matter what Jesus said in Mark 16:16, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (NKJV)  We will just explain it all away.  It does not matter, none of that will be sufficient for a Protestant immersed in the faith-only doctrine. 

Modern Protestant doctrine which I have been describing evolved out of the Reformation but in the earliest days of the Reformation there was not that much difference between Protestants and Catholics on who was a Christian.  Those early religious wars between the groups were more about heresy, which side was guilty of heresy.  It was about that and about who got to rule, about power, and who had the authority.  Each religious war had its own specific motivation. 

My point though is that neither of the two parties involved were New Testament Christians based on what the New Testament teaches about the subject.  Thus they were not Christian wars they were involved in.  How can one be a Christian without obeying the gospel?

What does the New Testament teach a person must do to become a Christian?  A person must come to have faith that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and the Savior of the world.  Heb. 11:6, Rom. 10:9, 1 Cor. 15:1-4, John 3:18, John 3:36, John 8:24, John 11:26-27, and a whole host of other passages far too numerous to mention all teach this. 

The Bible also teaches that a man must repent of his sins.  Faith alone will not save one (John 12:42, James 2:19, James 2:24).  The Bible teaches it is repent or perish, "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3 NKJV)  "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Luke 5:32 NKJV)  See the following passages--Acts 26:20, 2 Cor. 7:10, 2 Peter 3:9, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 17:30. 

A man then must confess his faith in Jesus as the Christ, the son of God and Savior of the world.  Rom. 10:9-10, "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (NKJV)  

Those in John 12:42-43 were condemned for this very failure, "Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." (NKJV) 

Timothy "confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (1 Tim. 6:12 NKJV)  Why?  Because God required it and because no man can be baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27) who is a non-believer.  It cannot be known that you are a believer unless you confess it. 

Jesus confessed his deity on more than one occasion but one such occasion was in Mark 14:61-62, "But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." (NKJV)  This is the confession (that is the truth contained in the confession) upon which the church is built contrary to Catholic doctrine which says it was Peter.  

When Peter made the confession that "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16 NKJV) that foundational truth is that upon which the church was built.  "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1Cor. 3:11NKJV)  That foundation is solid only because Jesus was and is the Son of God.  Jesus, not Peter, was the rock the church was built upon. 

Finally, to become a Christian, or as the Bible sometimes phrases it, a new creation, one must be baptized into Christ.  Outside of Christ there is no salvation for he is the Savior of the body and that body is his body, the church.  (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:23)  There is not a man on earth who can find a Bible passage that teaches how a man enters that body other than through baptism.  "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal 3:26-27 NKJV) 

Rom. 6:3 "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (NKJV)  "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body." (1Co 12:13 NKJV)  What body, the body of Christ.  Inside Christ there is salvation.  Inside Christ there is the remission of sins.  Thus Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38 told those believers in the crowd that day to, "repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (KJV) 

This put them inside the body of Christ of which he is the Savior.  The reader might ask himself one question.  How is one baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, Acts 2:38, if Jesus Christ never commanded it?  It would be impossible.  Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mark 16:16 NKJV)  Jesus also commanded it in Matt. 28:19-20.  Protestants rephrase Mark 16:16 in their teaching to say he who believes and is not baptized will be saved, or at least that baptism makes no difference which is to say the same thing. 

Yes, Catholics say they baptize--baptize infants.  No infant has ever needed salvation for they have no sin nor are they conscious of such nor can they be.  In Catholicism, you can be a Catholic and not even have faith - the case with infants.  You cannot be a Christian without faith.  Furthermore, sprinkling is not now and never has been baptism, unless one wants to go outside the pages of the New Testament and get his authority for sprinkling from man rather than God.  Baptism is immersion and the word itself means that very thing. 

Yes, there were many religious wars killing thousands upon thousands in history but we ought to cease placing liability on Christians for them as Christians had nothing to do with them.  Do not blame God's own people or else you may someday be held accountable for your false charges against his people.    

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