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Friday, December 30, 2022

One Church—A Thing Hard to Accept

Many older Americans alive today can remember years ago when O. J. Simpson was arrested and put on trial for the murder of his ex-wife and Ron Goldman.  I remember a comment I heard on TV at the time that simply astounded me.  One lady that was being interviewed, for what reason I no longer recall, made the comment that if she had seen O. J. commit the murder with her own eyes she would not believe it.  I guess her idea was that she could not trust herself, she would have to be hallucinating, her mind would have to be playing tricks on her.  Assuredly, her mind was made up on the subject and any truth brought to bear upon it contrary to what she wanted truth to be would bounce off it like a rubber ball dropped on a hardwood floor.  Truth to her was what she already believed, what she wanted the truth to be, and do not bother me with any contrary facts even if they exist.  I will not believe them.

Is it any wonder people cannot or will not accept truth in religion?  Is it any wonder they will not accept clear statements made in scripture on various subjects?  There was a time in my life when I was yet relatively young and naive that I thought if a person was in error as it related to a religious matter correcting him or her would be as easy as going to the Bible and finding the book, chapter, and verse that told them the truth.  I learned over time that the real problem is not a matter of the mind but one of the heart and thus much more difficult to deal with. 

The kind of people I am talking about will not be convinced of the truth no matter how many scriptures you show them.  They would flunk out of a high school or college class for they will not accept factual statements or any kind of sound reasoning.  Show them a passage like Acts 2:38 on baptism for the remission of sins (add to that Acts 22:16 and 1 Peter 3:21) and they will say the text cannot mean what it says, that would be impossible from their point of view, for like the lady with O.J. it simply cannot be so.  It cannot be so for the heart has already made up its mind and evidence will not change it.  That was the way it was with Jesus' miracles, even his resurrection did not convince those who had already made up their mind that he could not be the Son of God (Matt. 28:11-14).  

In his last recorded meeting with the Jews in Rome during his imprisonment there Paul made this charge against the Jews, not all but some:

“So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: ‘The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, saying, 'Go to this people and say: "Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; for the heart of this people has grown dull.  Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their heart and turn, so that I should heal them.”  Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!’ ” (Acts 28:25-28 NKJV) 

Who had closed the eyes of these Jews who would not see?  Had God done it?  The text says "their eyes they have closed."  Why would a person do that?  Could it be they did not want to see?  Could it be they did not want to know?  Well, why would a person not want to see or not want to know?  Could it be because he or she was happy and satisfied with where they were at and had no desire to change, did not want change?

But this was not the first time the Jews had done such a thing.  Zechariah in talking about the Jews before the Babylonian captivity said of them, "They refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.  Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit." (Zech. 7:11-12 NKJV)  It was not a matter of they couldn't hear but rather that they wouldn't hear. 

When Paul says the Gentiles "will hear it" (the reference being to the gospel) it is the same as saying to those Jews to whom he was speaking in Rome "you won't hear but they will."  Both could have heard.  The only difference between the two parties was the heart.  The Jewish heart had grown dull.  The New Living Translation uses the word "hardened" rather than the phrase "grown dull."  The Jewish heart had been hardened but it was of their own doing, of their own will.  Man hardens his own heart and we are warned against doing that, "Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Heb. 3:15 NKJV)  The Jewish heart was that way because they were happy with their present state of affairs, their present state of being, and hardened against any disruption of what was satisfying to them.  It is hard to get a satisfied person to change. 

One also must remember that the human mind, one’s thinking, is influenced strongly by the emotions and will of man.  The heart the Bible speaks of consists of a man's mind, emotions, conscience, and will collectively (depending on the context).  It is hard for the mind to overcome the emotions.  Many marriages that have failed would never have been made in the first place had the mind ruled over the emotions and will.  Many have been able to see a failed marriage before the ceremony but the bride or groom couldn't see it for the emotions overrode rational thought and the will was strong.  The eyes were deliberately closed.   

This brings me to what I really want to talk about it.  I have recently taken an interest in reading books on the history of Christianity from the first century up to the present.  The most recent book I have completed on the subject was a book by Stephen Tomkins who has a Ph.D. in church history from the London School of Theology.  In his book entitled A Short History of Christianity, copyrighted in 2005, he states on page 245 that "there are 34,000 Christian denominations worldwide."  In doing a little Internet search on the subject of numbers I came up with an even greater number—38,000.  The number you come up with will vary due to the criteria you use to distinguish one denomination from another.

Why is it and how is it that when Jesus said "I will build my church" (singular, Matt. 16:18) and when Paul speaking by the Holy Spirit says "there is one body" (Eph. 4:4 NKJV) and has told us in two different places that the church is the body of Christ (see Eph. 1:22-23 and Col. 1:18) that men seem to think that one is equivalent to thirty some thousand?

How is it we have here in the Bible a plain statement of scripture as plain as anything Paul spoke to the Jews in centuries gone by and yet the eyes are closed today and the ears are hard of hearing and the hearts are grown dull so the plain statement of scripture cannot be understood and all mathematical laws are thrown out the window so that one is no longer equal to one but to thirty some thousand?  Yet, we think we are better than the Jews of old.  We think we are more rational.

Yes, I know the argument that all the thirty-some thousand different denominations make up the one church.  Where do you read that in your Bible?  What book is that in, what chapter, what verse or verses?  It is not in the parable of the vine and the branches as is sometimes said.  That parable is found in John 15.  Jesus was talking to individual disciples not denominations.  There was not a denomination on the face of the earth at that time.  When Jesus said "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5 NKJV) he was not speaking to a phantom that did not exist.

If it be said that the disciples Jesus spoke to at that time were representative of all future believers even though they are scattered throughout all the denominations I deny it.  Why?  Because the disciples Jesus spoke to on that occasion were the 12 apostles and the occasion was the Last Supper (compare Mark 14:17-18 with John 13:1-18:3).  Were the apostles divided in doctrine like the denominations?  It is the disciples united in doctrine, not divided, who are the branches in that account.  It is disciples who are in full fellowship with one another who are the branches, disciples who are unified, not divided.

The one church has one doctrine, not thirty-some thousand different doctrines.  When John, Peter, or Paul, or any of the apostles went anywhere preaching one did not contradict what the other one taught for every one of them was guided in his speech by the Holy Spirit (see Matt. 10:19-20, John 14:16-17, 26, 16:13, Gal. 1:11-12, 2 Tim. 3:16, 1 Cor. 7:40, etc.).  The idea that we have thirty-some thousand faithful denominations all chockfull of saved Christians is the thinking of hearts that have been hardened to the point they can no longer reason rationally.

If denomination A believes one thing, denomination B believes another, and denomination C believes something else and yet I have concluded that a man can be saved in any denomination then the reality is truth no longer matters.  Error is as good as truth for one will be saved either way—by believing and obeying truth or believing and obeying error.  Hardened hearts no longer think rationally.

It is sometimes said that all that really matters is that one believe in Jesus.  That sounds good until you ask people to define what that means.  What does it mean to believe in Jesus?  Does it just mean that all one must do is believe with the mind that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?  That was the confession Peter made in Matt. 16:16 and Jesus said that he would build his church on that rock.  Are all such believers then in the "one church" Jesus built?

If so what do you do with a passage like John 12:42 where John says, "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"? (NKJV)  Granted this was before the one church was established on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 but just for the sake of our discussion let us say we have a similar group of men or the same group of men do the same thing after Pentecost.  What then?  They are believers that Christ is the Son of God.  Is that all that matters?  Are they then in the "one church?"  Are they saved?  The failure to confess Jesus is the same as denying him.

I think you can see you have to be very careful in defining what it means to believe in Jesus when you talk about saving faith or belief.  When you begin to define saving faith in stricter terms than just an intellectual faith then you are putting yourself into a position where you are saying that doctrine does make a difference after all and if doctrine does make a difference then you do not and cannot have thirty-some thousand denominations with different doctrines making up the "one church."  The one church most of the denominational world today believes in cannot exist if doctrine matters.  

The same process, for want of a better word, that makes one a Christian also adds him to the one church Jesus built.  God adds you when you obey the gospel.  The Bible says, "The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved." (Acts 2:47 NKJV)

Well, who was being saved?  In Acts 2 in the verses prior to verse 47 (just quoted) we have Peter preaching the first gospel sermon ever to be preached.  It was the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit that had been promised to the twelve (Acts 1:1-5) had arrived, and Peter via the Holy Spirit preached the first gospel sermon ever to be preached by man in which by belief and obedience to it men were saved and added to the one church of which Jesus is the Savior (Eph. 5:23).  Added by the Lord.

What did Peter preach?  He preached Jesus concluding that part of his sermon with the words "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36 NKJV)  Based on the next verse, verse 37, it is clear men were brought to faith in Christ by what Peter had preached.  Did Peter then tell them their sins had been forgiven and to go on home and henceforth remain faithful?  Had he told them that we could safely conclude the Lord had added them to the one church and that an intellectual faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord and Savior, is all that is required for salvation.  If that is what had happened then the idea that all who believe in Jesus no matter what denomination they are in are in the one church and are saved would be a truthful doctrine but that is not what happened.  He next tells them to "repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38 NKJV)

Here is the point where men who claim to believe in Jesus get their back up and refuse to believe Jesus' words (John 16:13-14) spoken via the Holy Spirit through Peter.  So you have a situation where men supposedly believe in Jesus but won't believe what he says.  That is why I said earlier you have to be very careful about how you define "belief in Jesus."  There is such a thing as belief in Jesus that does not save (see John 12:42 again as just one example).  No one wants that kind of faith.  We are interested in saving faith, in the faith where the Lord adds us to his one church because of our faith.

Men will generally accept what Peter said about repentance as essential for their salvation but not baptism and that despite as plain a statement as one can find in scripture on any subject.  You can point them to other scriptures that say the exact same thing as what Peter said in Acts 2 (Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, John 3:5, Mark 16:16) but a thousand plain scriptures on the subject will not change their minds.  They have closed their eyes and hardened their hearts.  It will take far more than a few passages on baptism or a few passages on the one church to get them to believe either.  They will only believe "one church" if the number one can somehow be made the equivalent of thirty-some thousand.

I would like to ask a question.  Sometimes we cannot wrap our minds around concepts because the concepts are too big for our finite minds to comprehend and when that happens our defensive mechanism is to cast thoughts about such matters aside.  Here are some examples:  the universe, distances in space, the national debt, our own death, hell, eternity, etc.  These are some things that are hard to grasp hold of.  These are the kinds of things our minds do not dwell on long because they overwhelm the mind.

Now to my question.  Which concept is the hardest for the mind to believe, that there are 30,000 plus churches all of them right and in which any person can be saved in any one of them even though none agree and all teach different doctrines or on the other hand that there is only one church?  I grant you both concepts are kind of mind-boggling.  It is hard to believe there is only one church when the world has such a diversity of churches but is it any harder to believe that than to believe there are 30,000 plus churches all teaching different doctrines and yet it doesn't matter in the least to God and you can be saved in any one of them?  Which is the most outlandish belief?

The Bible does not teach what denominationalism teaches on the subject of the one church.  I include Catholicism as just another denomination.  It is true in the New Testament many of the congregations were not what they ought to be (check out the 7 churches of Asia for both the good and the bad).  But, this much they all had in common, in every congregation the membership had obeyed the gospel Jesus taught via the Holy Spirit through Peter (on the Day of Pentecost) or through the other apostles and inspired teachers and prophets and were thus made up of people who were a part of the one church Jesus built.   That is simply not true of modern-day denominationalism.

The doctrine taught by the apostles and inspired prophets and evangelists was a unified doctrine.  Every congregation was to abide in it.  There was no such thing as every man having a church of his choice each differing in doctrine.  It is not man's choice to make when it comes to the church.  It is God's choice and he has said there is but one church.  If that church is not found in your community why not restore it?  You will find the pattern for it in the pages of your New Testament, not in a book on the history of Christianity which is more the history of apostasy than of New Testament Christianity.

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Friday, December 23, 2022

Abuse Of The Old Testament

There are many things practiced in the name of Christianity today that have no scriptural basis in the law of Christ, in the new covenant.  The Old Testament, the old covenant, at times is appealed to as the source of authority.  Does the Old Testament have the same authority for Christians today as the New Testament?  How should Christians today relate to and handle the Old Testament scriptures?  These are questions we all ought to be interested in for we are saved by truth, not error. 

God has commanded us to rightly divide the truth (2 Tim. 2:15) and Peter says that the scriptures can be twisted to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:16) thus we must be careful and not make assumptions or just give our opinion.  We can only rightly divide the word of truth by following what God has said about how to do that.  Only then are we on safe ground. 

That the Old Testament scriptures have value for us today there can be no doubt for Paul says, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Rom.15:4 NAS)  We thus learn that we can receive instruction from the Old Testament scriptures and encouragement that combined with perseverance gives us hope. 

No better example can be given than what James said in illustrating this point.  He says, "Behold, we count those blessed who endured.  You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." (James 5:11 NAS) 

Hebrews chapter 11 is another good illustration.  We are taught by the examples of Old Testament characters what faith is and what it means to have faith.  We are encouraged to persevere as we see what some of those men and women were willing to do and endure to be faithful to God.  We compare our trials with theirs and ours seem but little things and we are given the strength to go on and not give up.  The Bible speaks of these as being those "of whom the world was not worthy." (Heb. 11:38 NKJV) 

We are told to remember Lot's wife (Luke 17:32), told in so many words that we ought to learn from the fact that "anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses" (Heb. 10:28 NKJV) and consider that in relation to our treatment of the Son of God (Heb. 10:29) where the punishment will be worse.  This list could be extended but the point has been adequately made that there is much to learn from the Old Testament as the New Testament reveals lesson after lesson we ought to learn from the more distant past. 

Furthermore, much of what we learn about God, who he is, his character, his attributes, his expectations for man, and his purposes are found in the Old Testament.  We find in the Old Testament the history of man.  We find the history of God's chosen people.  We see his eternal purpose set forth both in historical development and in prophecy. 

And then there is the book of Psalms.  Who is there among God's people who have not gone to the book of Psalms time and again to find comfort and hope, especially in times of sadness and sorrow? 

Want to learn how to pray?  Read David in the Psalms to see prayer from the heart.  Learn how to praise God in prayer and how to petition him for his blessings.  Learn how to thank God.  All of this can be learned by close attention in reading the Psalms. 

Need wisdom?  Go to the book of Proverbs.  Many, many New Testaments that one can buy also include as an addition the books of Psalms and Proverbs.  They are books that are often consulted by men today and rightly so. 

I have said many good and true things in praise of the Old Testament scriptures.  I believe everything I have said has been scriptural and so much so that I do not believe anyone who calls himself a Christian would disagree with me to this point. 

However, we have now come to the time where we need to divide the word—the old from the new--and make a distinction.  The Bible is very clear that the Old Testament is not meant for us today as law.  We readily see this when it comes to animal sacrifices but we too often want to bring in from the Old Testament other things that should have been left there as well. 

The Hebrew writer says, "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law." (Heb. 7:12 NKJV)  Read in context the argument has been that Jesus is now our high priest and he is not of the tribe of Levi as were all the priests under the old Law of Moses.  Jesus was of the tribe of Judah. 

But our point is that the inspired writer tells us as clearly as words can make it that the law has changed.  There is now a new law.  The Law of Moses is gone, fulfilled, completed, and is now history.  There is now a new law, the law of Christ.  In Gal. 6:2 Paul says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (NKJV) 

Everyone readily admits that Jesus gave man commandments to obey.  A commandment is nothing other than a law to be obeyed.  Disobey a law of God and you sin.  As the old King James translation puts it in 1 John 3:4, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law:  for sin is the transgression of the law."  In our day the law that is transgressed bringing sin is the law of Christ, not the Law of Moses. 

Hear God the Father speak from heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter wanted to make 3 tabernacles, one each for Moses, Elijah, and Christ.  "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5 NKJV)  Christ was not to be put on an equal plain with Moses and/or Elijah.  Neither was to be heard any longer as present-day authorities.  Henceforth Christ was the one to be heard and followed. 

In Hebrews 3 the Hebrew writer has been talking about Moses and Christ and how Christ is superior to Moses and then in verses 7 and 8 says, "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:  'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." (NKJV)  The day of hearing Moses is over as regards law to be followed.  Hear the voice of Christ which is the voice of God.  Hear it today.  Jesus says, "the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me." (John 14:24 NKJV) 

Paul says of himself in Gal. 2:19, "For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God." (NKJV)  He goes on to say "if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (Gal 2:21 NKJV)  And in Rom. 7:4 "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead." (NKJV)  The law referred to in these passages is the Law of Moses. 

And, then, in Gal. 3:24-25 he makes it clear enough that an older elementary school student ought to be able to easily understand it.  He says, "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." (NKJV)  The law (the Law of Moses) was our tutor; we are no longer under a tutor, thus no longer under the law.  (For that matter the Gentiles were never given the law anyway nor were they under it.  The law was for God's chosen people, the Jewish nation.) 

Part of the problem the Galatians were having was that they wanted at the very least an admixture of the old Law of Moses with Christ.  Paul called it a perversion of the gospel of Christ in chapter 1 verse 7.  Some were going so far as to want to go back to the Law of Moses for Paul says, "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law." (Gal. 4:21 NKJV)  The desire was wrong.  Remember, God said this is my beloved son, hear him, him not Moses (the Law of Moses). 

Paul goes so far as to say that being under the works of the law (reference to the Law of Moses) is a curse.  "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." (Gal. 3:10 NKJV)  He says, "Do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (Gal. 5:1 NKJV) 

I could go on and on with proof texts for the book of Galatians and the book of Hebrews both deal extensively about the change of the law telling us clearly that we are not under the Law of Moses today.  The book of Romans also gives us much the same.  But, my main interest is making an application as to how all of this affects us today as Christians and believers. 

The idea seems to be prevalent today that the Old Testament gives us authority to worship in ways we please if we can find an example for our practice in the Old Testament.  But, does it? 

Paul says of certain Galatians, Gal. 5:4 (NKJV), "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."  They wanted to bring over into Christianity circumcision, a requirement under the old covenant.  "Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law." (Gal. 5:2-3 NKJV) 

The only way these people could justify themselves, even in their own eyes, was by an appeal to the Old Testament scriptures, justification by Old Testament law.  It won't work.  Why not?  Because it is not a part of the law of Christ, not a part of the new covenant.  We do not have a problem with the issue of circumcision today but we often seek to do what that group did, the group who wanted it.  We attempt to justify our practice that cannot be found in the law of Christ, the New Testament, by an appeal to the Old Testament. 

We are given a choice of whose law and authority we will live by.  Will it be Moses' law or Christ's law?  We cannot mix them.  What Christ wanted from the old law to be observed today he brought with him and had it recorded in the pages of the New Testament.  We can go back to Moses or we can move forward to Christ.  That is our choice. 

There are things that seem so right to a man, how can they be wrong?  The writer of Proverbs says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." (Prov. 16:25 NKJV)  God speaking in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV) says, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord.  'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.'"  We greatly error when we think that because a thing pleases us it is automatically going to please God. 

We also ought to learn from this that we ought not to just accept without question the things that have been handed down to us from men who lived in the past but whose teachings have come to be accepted as a sort of a standard--it doesn't matter whether the man was Calvin, Luther, or the Pope, or whomever it might be.  Isaiah said in Isa. 2:22 (ESV), "Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?"  Good question.  I think Isaiah answered his own question, did he not? 

Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 "offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them" (verse 1) and the Bible says "so fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD." (Lev. 10:2 NKJV)  They had no authority from God to use profane fire or as some versions put it "strange fire." (NAS)  

What is the application?  To Nadab and Abihu worship was worship as long as it was directed to God and meant for his praise.  It seemed right to them.  Who could object to worshipping God?  Well, we found out.  God does not think as man thinks.  

What Nadab and Abihu did was no different than what we do today when we add to the worship things we cannot find in the law of Christ, the new covenant, the New Testament.  Col. 3:17 reads as follows, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (NKJV)  How does one do a thing in the name of the Lord Jesus about which the Lord Jesus spoke nothing? 

A careful reading of 1 Chron. 21:18-19 will show you that the phrase "in the name of the Lord" means by the Lord's authority.  The angel of the Lord had commanded Gad to go speak to David about building an altar and verse 19 says, "So David went up at the word of Gad, which he had spoken in the name of the Lord."  This clearly shows that "in the name of the Lord" means by the Lord's authority and that authority is expressed in his word, not outside it.  We are to do what we do "in the name of the Lord Jesus," by his authority found in his word.  Now reread Col. 3:17 and you will see this involves everything we do in religion and most assuredly in our worship.   

Nadab and Abihu were doing a thing in the name of God which God had spoken nothing about.  Nadab and Abihu were not condemned for doing a thing that was written or given but for what was not written or not given and doing it anyway because it pleased them.  Do you think for a single moment that Nadab and Abihu thought it would matter?  You know they didn't. 

Peter says, "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God."  You will need an oracle of God to do that.  When you have to go outside the word of God for your practice it is because there is no oracle.  

The New Testament tells us exactly how far we are allowed to go.  We can go that far and no farther.  How far?  In 1 Cor. 4:6 Paul says, "not to exceed what is written" (NAS)--"not to go beyond what is written" (ESV).  John says, (2 John 1:9 NKJV), "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God."  When we step outside what Christ has said, his written word, we step outside his doctrine and adopt the doctrine of man.  On the Day of Judgment you do not want to find yourself trying to explain to God why you did that. 

Today all kinds of things have been brought into the typical worship of churches for which man cannot find a New Testament book, chapter, and verse for and we all know that.  I am not telling anyone anything they do not know.  Most will readily admit it.  They say God will not care.  It makes no difference.  It is still worship to God they say.  It pleases him.  But what do you do with John 4:24 that says, in part, that worship must be in truth and then John 17:17 which says God's word is truth?  You then search the New Testament and cannot find a word about your practice, what then? 

Sometimes they say they did it in the Old Testament; Moses did it or David did it so it has to be okay. Instrumental music in worship is an example.  Which law did Moses and David live under?  Instrumental music was a command of worship under the Law of Moses (see 2 Chron. 29:25), that is to say during that era or under that dispensation of time.  Does one seek justification by an appeal to the Law of Moses?  God said to those with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, "This is My Beloved Son. … Hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5 NKJV)  

(You are aware that the church we find in the New Testament existed for hundreds of years before man brought the instrument into worship.  This in itself tells you where it came from, God or man.) 

But, the things brought from the Old Testament over to us today go far beyond just instrumental music.  Things like the special robes and/or priestly attire worn by those who are considered to be somewhat in the church, the idea that there are two classes of brethren--one priests and then the rest of us, the ritualism we find often in the churches, and so on all from the days of the Law of Moses and none of which can be justified without an appeal to it.  Will we hear Moses or Christ? 

The title of this article was abusing the Old Testament.  How is that done?  I think we see now it is by seeking justification from it, especially in the realm of public worship.  That is not where you will find justification, not today. 

I close with the words of God the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration.  "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5)

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Thursday, December 22, 2022

Does God Really Care?

Over the course of time just about all of us are confronted with the reality of suffering and abuse not just on newscasts but in our own personal world where we live day by day and experience life up close.  Why are small precious children abused?  Why do many of them from all outward appearances not have a chance from the get-go due to the circumstances they were born into?  Why do old people often get in such horrible conditions as you find them in substantial numbers in nursing homes?  Why are people born with physical or mental disabilities?  Why do we have earthquakes that kill thousands including infants and toddlers, why cyclones, why starvation?  And the list could go on and on and on. 

Does God care?  It is easy to give up on God as one contemplates what he has seen and heard.  It is easy to lose faith.  What is the answer?  This is a subject that is important to study because there has probably never been a person who at some point in time in his or her life that has not thought about these things.  It is important that people not lose faith.  When one loses faith in God what is left?   So, it is an important study. 

I would like to say contemplating all of this that it helps immensely to rephrase the question and ask does Christ care.  I grant you that Christ is God.  Jesus says, John 10:30, "I and My Father are one." (NKJV)  In John 14:9 he says, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." (NKJV) 

Other passages teach the same thing.  "God was manifested in the flesh." (1 Tim. 3:16 NKJV)  "Shepherd (feed in the old KJV--DS) the church of God which he purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28 NKJV)  "'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'" (Matt. 1:23 NKJV) 

I think we relate to Jesus who lived among us, suffered himself, and died from persecution, easier than to God in heaven although they are one.  Jesus suffered ridicule, hatred, continual persecution from his enemies in so far as they were able to do it, was continually judged to be evil, and finally was betrayed, beaten, and murdered without justice.  What a life to live.  Put yourself in his place.  During his lifetime every move he made, every word he spoke, was cast in the worst light possible by his enemies.  As far as they were concerned he could do no good.  How would you like to have people dogging you like that everyday of your adult life?  Would it wear you down?  Jesus himself suffered.  He had the same trials we face amplified and multiplied. 

His agony in the garden was such that the Bible says, "And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly.  Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground." (Luke 22:44 NKJV)  Vine's, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, says of the word agony, denotes "severe emotional strain and anguish."  That is most certainly a definition of suffering.  Isaiah says, in Isaiah 53:3, in reference to Jesus, that he was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." (NKJV) 

We too must suffer.  I would like to read a paraphrase that I believe to be accurate in terms of expressing the meaning of Rom. 8:17 from the New Living Translation.  "And since we are his children, we are his heirs.  In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God's glory.  But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering."  I hope you got the last sentence, "if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering." 

Jesus knew suffering.  We too must come to know it if we are to "be glorified with Him" as the NAS puts it. 

In Hebrews 5:8 the Bible says, speaking of Jesus, "although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered." (NAS)  Albert Barnes has an excellent comment on this in his discussion of this verse.  He says, "Some of the most valuable lessons of obedience are learned in the furnace of affliction; and many of the most submissive children of the Almighty have been made so as the result of protracted woes." 

He further says, "One of the objects of affliction is to lead us 'to obey God.'  In prosperity we forget it. We become self-confident and rebellious. 'Then' God lays his hand upon us; breaks up our plans; crushes our hopes; takes away our health, and teaches us that we 'must' be submissive to his will."  Jesus is our example.  Suffering should draw us nearer to God. 

Suffering did not begin in the twenty-first century nor has God not experienced it himself.  In Genesis 6:6 we read that due to the evil of mankind God "was grieved in his heart." (NKJV)  In the Old Testament prophets we read time and again of God's sorrow and pleading after Israel to turn from sin and evil and return to him.  In fact, why could not God justly turn the question around on us and ask does man care?  We ask does he care about us.  He could justly ask if we care about him. 

But our subject, for now, is does God care?  Let's take a look back at the Old Testament.  When God created man he placed him in the Garden of Eden.  We might well call it a Garden of Paradise for in it man could live forever in the most wonderful circumstances and most beautiful surroundings anyone could imagine.  God meant for man only the best.  He cared.  He did not place man in a slum of sorts.  He did not place man in dire poverty.  He did not give man a body that would suffer illness and pain (that came with the fall) but one capable of eternal life by eating of the tree of life which was not denied him until he sinned (compare Gen. 2:9, Gen. 3:16-17,  and Gen. 3:22-24).  God cared about his creation.  We were his and he took great joy in man that he had created, created in his own image. 

The Bible says he “blessed them.” (Gen. 1:28 NKJV)  They were to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28), an earth that had they been faithful to God would have been entirely a Garden of Eden worldwide.  While in the Garden, prior to their sin, God would speak directly with them, he too walked in the Garden.  Pain, suffering, and sorrow were unknown and could not be comprehended.  This was and remains God’s intent for man, that man be blessed with all the blessings God can give.  

That blessing will now, due to man’s sin, be obtained in heaven rather than on earth, a so-to-speak heavenly Garden of Eden figuratively if you will.  John, speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says of that time and that life to come that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4 NKJV)  Suffering will be done away once for all. 

God has always cared for his people and one can add to that all of mankind from the very beginning, not just the Jews.  It was sin that brought pain and suffering into the world. 

Yes, there was much suffering in the Old Testament.  Why?  A lot of it was God punishing sin.  God is so good, so pure, so holy, and so righteous that he cannot tolerate sin.  The Psalmist says, “God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalms 7:11 NKJV)  In reference to Jesus the Psalmist further states, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.  You love righteousness and hate wickedness.” (Psalms 45:6-7 NKJV) 

We often see Jesus as just a New Testament personality but Paul in 1 Cor. 10:4 in talking about the children of Israel coming out of Egypt says that they all “drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” (NKJV)  Jesus existed and was just as much God back then as he is in the New Testament so when we look back and see God doing this or that in the Old Testament we are talking about Jesus just as much as we are about God the Father and the Holy Spirit. 

God’s nature is such that he cannot abide sin.  He simply cannot tolerate it.  On a human level there are also things you and I cannot tolerate.  I cannot tolerate snakes; I cannot tolerate being up high.  If I find myself in the proximity of either a snake or height something has to give immediately.  There will be no abiding either. 

Thus when God punishes sin and it brings suffering it is just a natural consequence of who God is the same as it is with you or me when our nature prevents us from putting up with that which goes against our nature. 

Is God then an uncaring God who brings about suffering because of man’s sin and does not care about man?  No!  Why not?  There are two reasons.  (1) When we are warned about a consequence that will follow an act and yet we go ahead and do the thing whose fault is it when the negative consequence results?  Say we are warned not to ignore a stop sign in our driving and we choose to disregard the warning.  Whose fault is it when we are hit by another car?  Who brought on the suffering? 

(2)  In the second place, God begs and pleads with us through his word to repent and turn from disaster and avoid the suffering.  Peter says the Lord is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV)  He has given us a time to repent, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2 NKJV)  He pleads with us.  Hear the apostle Paul, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us:  we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20 NKJV) 

Read the Old Testament prophets to see God’s great love for his people even after they have turned from him.  He says, “How can I give you up, Israel?  How can I abandon you?  Could I ever destroy you as I did Admah, or treat you as I did Zeboiim?  My heart will not let me do it!  My love for you is too strong.” (Hosea 11:8 TEV) 

Again we read in Joel 2:13, “Come back to the Lord your God.  He is kind and full of mercy; he is patient and keeps his promise; he is always ready to forgive and not punish.” (TEV)  Here is the same verse from the ESV, “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”  

Jeremiah, in the book of Lamentations, is expressing sorrow over what has become of Jerusalem and his nation the result of sin but then says, “He may bring us sorrow, but his love for us is sure and strong.  He takes no pleasure in causing us grief or pain.” (Lamentations 3:32-33 TEV)  The ESV translates verse 33 with these words, “for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”  In verses 21 and 22 of the same chapter Jeremiah says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end.” (ESV)  And, by the way, who wrote the book of Lamentations expressing sorrow as one who does care?  In reality was it not the Holy Spirit, God himself? 

God has always cared but he has sometimes brought on suffering and sorrow for people’s well-being in order to bring about repentance and grant life eternal.  A good example is found in Amos 4 beginning in verse 6 and going through verse 10.  Here is a little flavor of the teaching of those verses, without quoting them all, taken from Today's English Version. 

“I was the one who brought famine to your cities, yet you did not come back to me.” (verse 6)  "The locusts ate up all your gardens and vineyards, your fig trees and olive trees.  Still you did not come back to me." (verse 9)  "I sent a plague on you like the one I sent on Egypt … Still you did not come back to me." (verse 10). 

Clearly, the purpose of this suffering God brought upon his people was for their eternal benefit.  When bad things happen to us if we are willing to learn from them we can grow spiritually stronger and have a better outlook and attitude on life and on our fellowman. 

The most compassionate man, as an example, is often the man who has himself suffered.  The man with the tenderest heart is often a man who has himself experienced sorrow, pain, and personal suffering.  The most uncaring are those who have no idea even what these things are. 

The Hebrew writer tells us quoting from the Old Testament, "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." (Heb. 12:5-6 NKJV) 

Then in verse 10 of Hebrews 12 he says of this chastening that God does it "for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness." (NKJV)  God does not chasten a person for that person's righteousness but for his sins.  Albert Barnes the commentator says "the idea is, not that God will afflict his people in general, but that if they wander away he will correct them for their faults."  Since we all sin we all need correction from time to time.  Part of our suffering is to make us more what we ought to be rather than what we have been. 

So we can explain much suffering that occurs.  We know of man's sin and man's cruelty and injustice to his fellow man.  We know we need chastening and will receive it for our good.  But, no man alive can explain all the suffering that occurs in the world.  If God had not told us by inspiration who could possibly known why Job a righteous man in no need of chastening suffered as he did?  Job himself did not understand it and was questioning God. 

In Job chapters 38-41 God speaks to Job without directly answering the question as to why.  In summarizing, he says who is man to question God's wisdom and power.  God has his reasons often behind the scenes where we will never see them in this life.  Who is to say but what it was God's intent to make Job an enduring example of perseverance for all generations to come?  That is certainly what he became.  James says, James 5:10-11, that Job is just such an example. 

Why did Joseph suffer so?  Betrayed by family, sold into slavery, put unjustly into prison, he had lost the love of family, and hope appeared to be non-existent.  His faith carried him through but his suffering could have caused him to give up on God.  He did not.  Neither should we.  

But, why did Joseph suffer?  He tells his brothers years later that while they had meant evil against him God meant it for good "to preserve many people alive."  (Gen. 50:20 NASU)  There was a great famine that came and through Joseph's leadership and the wisdom God gave him food was stored up so that thousands of people were saved from starvation including Joseph's own family.  God knows what he is doing even when man suffers.  He is able to bring good even from evil, even from suffering.  

In this life we will never have the answers we desire as to why there is all the suffering there is in the world.  Earthquakes that kill tens of thousands, cyclones that do the same, babies dying, things we will never understand while in this life.  But God knows what and why and who and I would add one other thought.  Death is not always the tragedy it may seem.  Who knows how glorious heaven will be?  Infants and children who die in their youth will be eternally in heaven--happy, safe, and free.  Do we believe heaven is a better place than here?  If so, then they are happy who depart this earth while children.  

As for Job and his suffering, James says this, "You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful." (James 5:11 NKJV)  The Bible says, Job 42:12, that "the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning." (NKJV)  God does care.  Peter instructs us to cast all of our care or anxiety upon him, "because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 NAS) 

In closing, I ran across a song on YouTube the other day that hit home and opened my eyes to a Bible verse in a way I had never known it before.  The song was entitled "His Eye Is On The Sparrow."  

You remember the verses, Luke 12:6-7 (NKJV), "Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."  

If God does not forget even the sparrow, if he cares, then God cares for me.  As the song goes, "His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me."  What a wonderful comforting thought.  God does care.  Do not let the suffering and sorrow that comes your way discourage you.  Remember Jesus too suffered and he knows.  God's eye is on the sparrow and he watches over you. 

I would like you to know how this song came to be by the person who wrote the words - a Mrs. Martin.

"Early in the spring of 1905, my hus­band and I were so­journ­ing in El­mi­ra, New York. We con­tract­ed a deep friend­ship for a cou­ple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doo­lit­tle—true saints of God. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle had been bed­rid­den for nigh twen­ty years. Her hus­band was an in­cur­a­ble crip­ple who had to pro­pel him­self to and from his bus­i­ness in a wheel chair. De­spite their af­flict­ions, they lived hap­py Christ­ian lives, bring­ing in­spir­a­tion and com­fort to all who knew them. One day while we were vi­sit­ing with the Doo­lit­tles, my hus­band com­ment­ed on their bright hope­ful­ness and asked them for the se­cret of it. Mrs. Doo­lit­tle’s re­ply was sim­ple: “His eye is on the spar­row, and I know He watch­es me.” The beau­ty of this sim­ple ex­press­ion of bound­less faith gripped the hearts and fired the imag­in­a­tion of Dr. Mar­tin and me. The hymn “His Eye Is on the Spar­row” was the out­come of that ex­per­i­ence.” *

Civilla Martin

Bedridden for 20 years and a husband confined to a wheel chair and yet she believes God cares for her and has faith.  We complain and say God does not care and yet our suffering is generally far less severe than was hers.

"And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,  And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads,  They shall obtain joy and gladness,  And sorrow and sighing shall flee away."  (Isa. 35:10 NKJV) 

God does care and has great and wondrous plans for you and me.  

* Source of quote:

While this is being posted in Dec. 2022 it is an old article written years ago and so the source link given above may or may not be available nowadays.

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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.

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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.

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