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Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Does Sin Even Exist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Disrespect for the Word of God is Disrespect for Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saturday, April 2, 2022

Baptized For The Dead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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