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Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Faith and Baptism in Paul's Preaching in Philippi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Faith is Not Just What You Believe

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

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

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

But, the response is made you are judging, you do not know my heart.  What I do know is that James says, “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14 NKJV)  You know that is a rhetorical question, to ask is to answer.  James later says “faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20 NKJV)  Can one be saved by a dead faith?  The demons had a dead faith. (James 2:19). 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Friday, July 22, 2022

Christian Wars--A Misnomer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, July 15, 2022

How We Are Reconciled to God by Grace

It is so easy in life to take things for granted.  We tend to take our life, our health, our family, our friends, our peace, our happiness, our possessions, just about everything one can imagine for granted the thought being tomorrow will be much like today.  We often fail to realize how pleasant we have it until suddenly we lose what we thought we had.

Love, friendship, and fellowship also fall into this category of things so often taken for granted.  We have a family member, a close friend, a colleague whose love and friendship we have enjoyed in a harmonious relationship up until the moment something arises in the relationship that causes friction, disruption, and alienation.  We soon learn how great it once was back before discord entered the picture and estrangement came, back when we were taking it all for granted thinking there would always be peace, affection, and harmony between us, never giving it a thought it would ever be otherwise.

Adam and Eve were the first two to experience the sorrow and despondency that estrangement brings into a relationship.  As long as they believed and trusted God life was good.  Eve, however, becoming dissatisfied convinced herself she and Adam could do better than what God had given and acting on that belief sinned, along with Adam, and broke the relationship they both had with God.  They broke trust with God.  Mankind has been doing the same sort of thing every since that day.

Adam is not the cause of my sin and estrangement from God nor is he the cause of yours.  It is our own personal sin that is the problem.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23 ESV)  “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8 ESV)  “If we say we have not sinned, we make him (God – DS) a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:10 ESV)  “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.” (Ezek 18:20 ESV)  No, Adam is not my problem.  I am my problem.

As a consequence of our sin we become alienated from God.  “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isa 59:2 ESV)  “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Prov. 28:9 ESV)  “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23 ESV)

If you are new to Christianity it might sound as though you are doomed.  That is not at all the case.  God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezek. 18:32 ESV)  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise (a reference to the second coming of Christ, of Judgment Day – DS) as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV)  The message of the Bible to mankind is “repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21 ESV)

As the apostle Paul would say in his preaching, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20 ESV)  God sent Christ into the world to save the world.  Jesus says himself, “I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” (John 12:47 ESV)

Once an individual becomes alienated from God through sin he/she is left powerless on their own initiative to restore the breach that sin made in the relationship.  God was offended by man’s sin and after all God is God and man is man; there is a hierarchy of power and authority.  That is why salvation is by grace, by God’s choice.  It was his choice to restore us, to reconcile us to himself, to accept us back once again.  However, it is left up to the individual to decide whether or not he/she will accept the reconciliation God offers.

“In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19 ESV)  The message of reconciliation Paul speaks of is the gospel of Christ.

Humanity is reconciled to God by the cross of Jesus.  Peace between God and mankind became possible once again, as in the beginning in the Garden of Eden before the fall, by the blood of his cross, the cross of Jesus (Col. 1:20).  It was at the cross that the price of man’s sins was paid, the price paid for our redemption from sin.  It was with “the precious blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:19 ESV)  We were “bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:20 ESV)

“Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom. 5:6 ESV)  “We were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom. 5:10 ESV) and “have now been justified by his blood.” (Rom. 5:9 ESV)  It is through Jesus Christ that we have now “received reconciliation.” (Rom. 5:11 ESV)

It is a wonderful thing when alienation between persons is resolved and old feelings of affection and friendship are restored, when the past is forgiven and put behind and peace and joy are brought back into a relationship.  Reconciliation is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes in this life reconciliation between two parties is not possible for it does indeed take two and sometimes the other party maybe will just not budge.  But we should never be that other person who will not reconcile.  God’s command is, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Rom. 12:18 ESV)

While we always ought to seek reconciliation among men and women how much more so between ourselves and God who is our God.  He is all for us; he desires that we be saved and brought into fellowship with him, and not be lost in the last day.  He has made provision at great sacrifice to himself and his son to bring about our reconciliation.  It was by his grace that these things were done.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 ESV)  We have all been invited to come and partake of the water of life freely.  “The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:17 ESV)  It is time to obey the gospel if you have not done so.  Obedience to the gospel message is reconciliation to God.  The message of reconciliation is the message of the cross.  

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Monday, July 11, 2022

Canaan and Heaven - How God’s Grace Gives

How God’s grace gives to men is not only an interesting study but also one of utmost importance as it relates to our salvation, a salvation which is clearly set forth in the scriptures as being a free gift of God to man.  “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24 NKJV)  It is by grace through faith we are saved and not by works. (Eph. 2:8-9)  Salvation is specifically said to be “the gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8 NKJV)

Many more or less assume this gift of God freely given has no conditions attached, that it is unconditional, or else works would be included in its obtainment.  We sometimes jump to conclusions rather than crawl to them the latter being the much safer route as it involves thought and process, study and meditation, rather than the fire of emotionalism.

While salvation (and thus heaven itself--our promised land) is said to be a free gift from God it is no more said to be a free gift than was the promised land to the children of Israel in the Old Testament beginning with the original promise to Abraham in Gen. 12:7, “To your descendants I will give this land.” (NKJV) (See also Gen. 13:15, 17)

To Moses God said, regarding Abraham’s descendants, the children of Israel, “I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan.” (Exodus 6:4 NKJV)  Look up the word “given” or “give” in any Bible concordance and you will find time and again passage after passage stating that God either had given the children of Israel the land of Canaan or would do so.

But if it was a gift from God freely given then surely there was nothing the children of Israel had to do to obtain it other than believe - was there?  The way people reason today, if they were to be consistent, they would have to answer “no there was not” but they know better.  They will not do that for they know their Old Testament history well enough to know that while God had given them the land and they were assured of it they still had to fight battle after battle to drive out those who lived there.

How can a person say a gift is free if effort is required to receive it?  That is a fair question deserving an answer.  By definition, a gift is the giving of something that does not have to be given.  There is no legal necessity to give a gift.  I give to the government tax money but none of us would say that is a gift.  On the other hand, if I give to an orphanage that is a gift freely given for there is nothing compelling me to give other than the desire of my heart to do so.  If God gave the land of Canaan to the children of Israel, as he did, what forced him to do that?  Was he under obligation or was it the desire of his heart?

Man can complain all he wants about the children of Israel having to fight all those battles and say to himself “what kind of gift was that?”  It is an argument with God for he is the one who said he was “giving” the land.  Man would say man was earning the land, earning it the hard way with combat, but God called it giving.  There is an important lesson here.  We need to learn to think the way God thinks, not the way mankind thinks.  “My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8 NKJV) is what God says.  When God gives to man a gift it does not necessarily mean no effort is required to take possession of the gift.  It does mean, however, because God is giving it, obey and you will succeed (no doubt about it) and you will become a recipient of the gift of God.   

God speaks in the New Testament of salvation as being a gift.  Men thinking the way they do this means to most “sit back, relax, and dump it into my lap.”  Bad mistake!  The children of Israel received the land of Canaan by God’s grace.  It was a free gift that did not have to be given.  They defeated the inhabitants of the land not because they were a stronger military force but because God was fighting with them and for them delivering the inhabitants into their hands. 

God’s gift of grace means opportunity.  God’s grace in giving the children of Israel the land of Canaan meant believe and obey and I (God) guarantee your success.  It is no different today with us other than the location of the Promised Land.  By God’s grace, we are given an opportunity to reach the promised land of heaven itself and our success is guaranteed if we will believe and obey.

Lest the reader thinks I am setting up an analogy that is invalid comparing the children of Israel and their promised land and God’s children today and our promised land this is the very thing the writer of the book of Hebrews does beginning in Heb. 3:7 and going through about Heb. 4:11.

In Heb. 3:18-19 the writer says a thing of utmost importance to you and me if we are to learn the lesson he desires us to learn.  “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who did not obey?  So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (NKJV)  The reader ought to note carefully how the Hebrew writer ties together faith and obedience or unbelief and disobedience.  Those who believe obey; those who disbelieve disobey.

Why did the adults of that group we refer to as the children of Israel who left Egypt with Moses to go to the Promised Land fail to enter in?  They disobeyed God who told them, “Go up and possess the land which I have given to you.” (Deut. 9:23 NKJV)  They feared the inhabitants of the land and did not believe God’s word that he had given them the land (and thus would fight with them in all their battles allowing victory).  Moses speaking to them says, “You rebelled against the commandment of the Lord your God, and you did not believe him nor obey his voice.” (Deut. 9:23 NKJV)

When men do not believe they do not obey.  Obedience then is a matter of faith, disobedience a matter of a lack of faith.  Why are people today, people who claim to believe, not baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38 NKJV) as Peter preached and commanded in the very first Holy Spirit inspired gospel sermon ever to be preached?  The answer is because disbelief leads naturally to disobedience.  The Hebrew writer sums it up well, “the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” (Heb. 4:2 NKJV)  Yes, he was speaking of a generation long gone but speaking for our benefit today so that we can learn from it.  Will we learn?

The Hebrew writer goes on in speaking of those Israelites who failed to enter the promised land saying, “those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience” (Heb. 4:6 NKJV) and then warns us not to fall “according to the same example of disobedience.” (Heb. 4:11 NKJV) 

What should we learn from all of this?  Genuine faith that saves is a faith that when it hears believes and obeys.  Men can call obedience salvation by works if they want to, that is their choice, but the wise man will obey and not seek salvation without obedience.  To seek salvation without obedience is to seek salvation without any real faith.  “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26 NKJV) and things that are dead no longer have life and are ready to be buried.  Willful disobedience manifests a lack of faith and is rebellion.

God’s gifts and grace, in the context of the subject of which we are talking, always require more of man than a dead faith that refuses to act.  When God speaks (gives a command in his word) our obligation is to obey and not sit around and meditate on how doing so means works and not grace.  The children of Israel would have been glad to walk into Canaan under other circumstances more pleasing to themselves.  They were just not willing to believe God and do it his way.  His grace, his gift, was not to them sufficient grace.  Will we be that way about going to heaven?  Are we only going to heaven if we can get there our way?  Are we only willing to go if God requires absolutely nothing of us?  I hope that does not prove to be the case.

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Monday, July 4, 2022

Revelation Has Ended – Its Proof and Consequences

Sometimes we fail to see what is in front of our eyes.  Anyone who has ever pulled out in front of a car or truck even after having looked beforehand knows the truth of this statement.  Evidently, our mind does not process what our eyes have seen so that with the mind there is nothing there.  One can see and yet not see all at the same time.

All of us human beings are prone to this syndrome not only in the physical realm but also in matters dealing with the intellect, including in the spiritual realm.  We ought to see and come to the proper conclusions but we often don’t.  Jesus said the reason he spoke in parables was “while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matt. 13:13 NAS 2020)  Or, as the NIV puts it, “though seeing, they do not see.”  None of us wants to be in that camp but sometimes we are.

I just recently discovered how I too had not seen what was right before my eyes all these years in a passage I have read who knows how many dozens of times – John 16:13.  I had not grasped its full significance.  I owe my newfound insight to an article written by a preacher named Dub McClish as found in the book Studies in Hebrews (The Second Annual Denton Lectures, Nov. 13-17, 1983), pages 108-122.  In his article entitled “God Has Spoken The Living Word” page 121 is the relevant page.  If it was not for copyright laws I would just quote the passage verbatim but as it is I will reword the material.  I think it is well worth your consideration.

John 16:13 reads as follows: “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth … “  This is the portion of the passage Mr. McClish expounds upon and which I want to consider.  While the argument made is not mine I will state it and expand upon it.

This was clearly a passage promising the Holy Spirit, a passage that is looking forward to a future event.  The question is who is Jesus speaking to?  The answer is those with whom he was gathered at the time and who was that?  It was clearly the apostles.  Read John 16:13 in context (chapters 13–17).  It was those of whom he said, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16 NKJV)

Who did Jesus choose?  “And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.” (Luke 6:13 NKJV)  Again, one reads in Acts 1:2b-5 the following, “after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, To whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.  And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me (likely a reference to Luke 24:49—DS); for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." (NKJV)

In Acts 2:4 we see the apostles filled with the Holy Spirit.  “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Act 2:4 NKJV)

To further confirm it was the apostles to whom Jesus gave his address one needs to take into account the fact that John chapters 13 – 16 is one extended discourse given to the same group of individuals.  And who was here listed by name?  We have Peter (John 13:6), Thomas (John 14:5), Philip (John 14:8), and Judas, not Iscariot (John 14:22) mentioned by name and who might these be?  Apostles all.

The point so far has been to show that those to whom Jesus was speaking in John 16:13 were the twelve apostles.  That is extremely important.  When you or I are talking to a person that is who we are talking to.  We are not addressing someone down the street, across town, in another state, another nation, or another time.

Now I think most people who call themselves Christian have believed and do believe John 16:13 as I have but we have often overlooked a necessary implication of that verse.  Does “all” mean “all?”  If it does then it implies directly, forcibly, and without dispute, that revelation ended with the death of the last apostle.  All truth is all truth.  Once you have all there is of a thing that is all there is to be had.  There will be no more.

That concept destroys any and all religions that lay claim to having any further revelations of truth since the end of the first century, since the death of the last apostle.  It destroys Roman Catholicism with its ever-changing and often new added doctrines.  It ruins Mormonism.  It (John 16:13) set a time limit on the deliverance of new doctrines – the lifetime of the last of the apostles appointed by Jesus.  Most scholars say the last living apostle of the New Testament era was John and his life ended near the end of the first century.

If the apostles were guided into all truth there was no more truth to be guided into by Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, or by any other group out there that has claimed revelation after the first century.

I believe this is irrefutable.  However, I do not think for a minute it will be accepted for I well know religion is based with most of mankind more on emotion and tradition rather than rational thought.  Tradition and emotion are hard nuts to crack.  Nevertheless, truth stands on its own and always wins out in the end.  To fight against it is like fighting against growing old.  You may fight but you will not win. 

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