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Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Denominationalism’s Attitude Toward Peter

The apostle Peter has taken a beating among denominationalists.  I would feel sorry for him save for the fact that I would be feeling sorry for the wrong party seeing as how he was an inspired apostle of God and his antagonists are but mere men, men without inspiration. 

It was not always the way it is today.  For at least a few hundred years after his sermon in Acts 2 he was honored by those who proclaimed faith in God and belief in Christ as the Son of God.  Today, however, men who claim Christianity pretty much just ignore his sermon that day on Pentecost approximately two thousand years ago for they do not like what he said and they no longer believe it. 

Peter was given the keys of the kingdom of heaven by Jesus himself in Matt. 16:19, "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (NKJV)  He used those keys on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 for the first time, did so by preaching God's plan of salvation for man.  I have never heard anyone argue against that point.  

However, few to no denominationalists believe that what he said that day is bound in heaven thus fight against both Jesus and Peter as well as the Holy Spirit by which Peter spoke that day.  Wow!  Is there no one they will not take on? 

On that day in Acts 2 when those to whom Peter spoke "were cut to the heart (by Peter's sermon--DS), and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do'" (Act 2:37 NKJV) Peter responded to them by saying, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (Act 2:38 NKJV)  Their faith was evident by their asking the question. 

Denominationalists say Peter could not have meant what the words he spoke seem to be saying--baptism is for the remission of sins.  Hmmm!  I thought he was inspired; I thought the Holy Spirit fell on him and the other apostles that day prior to the sermon.  If so, and I thought it was, I thought God was capable of saying what he meant to say.  Have I been wrong?  But then Jesus did say that "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." (Mar 16:16 NKJV)  Did Jesus promise in this Mark passage that he who is not baptized will be saved?  Some seem to think so the way they talk.  The reality of Mark 16:16, according to their interpretation, is "he who believes and is not baptized will be saved."  

But they would object and say I am misrepresenting them.  They would say they never said that.  Aren't things that are equal to the same thing equal to each other?  If they say baptism does not save us, has no role in doing so, one can be saved without it, they are saying "he who believes and is not baptized will be saved" and they can object all day long if they desire but that is exactly where their doctrine leads them. 

Poor Peter never did get it right his whole life.  If only he could have received some counseling by today's Christians (?) who are in the know.  In Acts 10:48 he is again commanding people to be baptized at the house of Cornelius.  "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." (NKJV)  The gall of the man, commanding a non-essential, but then if memory recalls correctly I believe that man was inspired was he not?  Maybe it is not Peter who has the problem.  

Sadly, many years later (approximately 30) Peter is still preaching error according to denominationalists for he goes so far as to say now for a second time that baptism is for salvation (Acts 2:38 & 1 Peter 3:21).  He says, "There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 3:21 NKJV) 

I am in a minority but I think I will just go with Peter's misunderstanding and let the denominationalists go their own way.  If they are saving a seat for me this coming Sunday it will be free for someone else's use.  I am sure they are nice enough people and people who mean well but at my age I cannot afford to go along with the crowd.  I want to go with Peter.  I'll just take a chance that he knew what he was talking about and that God was able to use language plain and clear enough that a simpleton like me can understand.  I will take him at his word.

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Saturday, February 18, 2023

The Case of Cornelius and the Holy Spirit

There are many who believe beyond doubt that Cornelius was saved at the time the Holy Spirit came upon him and his household.  It is a topic that ought to be discussed.  While I have written once before on this subject more needs to be said as there has been some objection to what was written. 

I know of no person who claims to be a Christian who would deny the fact that the very first gospel sermon ever preached after Christ's death, burial, and resurrection was in the city of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts chapter two.  Neither do I know a man who would deny but what the words spoken by Peter were given by the Holy Spirit. 

The reader ought to note and carefully digest what the Holy Spirit, speaking through Peter, said on that occasion in response to those who asked "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37 NKJV)  They had heard the sermon Peter preached, believed it, and now these men who were "cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37 NKJV) find themselves in need of forgiveness.  What is Peter's reply speaking by the Holy Spirit?  It is "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) 

Now note, when does the Holy Spirit speaking through Peter promise these believers they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?  Is it before repentance and baptism for the remission of sins or after?  The answer is evident.  This raises a question.  Is there one gospel in one location and another in a different location so that we can never really know what the gospel is?  Does the Holy Spirit preach one message concerning salvation in one location but a different one elsewhere?  Does God show partiality toward some?  Are some saved one way and others in a different way?  The Bible says, "there is no partiality with God" (Rom 2:11 NKJV) and Paul says there is but "one faith" (Eph. 4:4) while saying also of one who preaches another gospel "let him be accursed." (Gal. 1:8). 

All of this being the case then how does one account for the fact that in the account of Cornelius' conversion we have the Holy Spirit arriving before, rather than after, baptism?  Has the Holy Spirit suddenly changed his mind on repentance and baptism being for the forgiveness of sins as he formerly taught?  And, if he has changed his mind this one time is it possible he may change his mind again?  Has he changed his mind on there even being but one gospel? 

The answer is obviously no.  What the Holy Spirit taught on the day of Pentecost he also taught approximately 10 years later at the household of Cornelius.  Repentance and baptism still retain the same position in God's plan of salvation for man as they did on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. 

How then does one account for the Spirit arriving before baptism in the case of Cornelius?  If one reads carefully all of Acts 10 and 11 he will see God's reason.  The gospel was meant to be preached to all men of all races and nationalities.  And, yet, quite a number of years have gone by since Pentecost and where are we at?  We are still at the point where the vast majority of Jewish Christians cannot believe the gospel is for Gentiles as well as Jews.  Judaism, out of which they came, had been an exclusive religion to the Jewish race.  Yes, there were proselytes to it but there was never a Great Commission in Judaism to go out into the world and make converts of the Gentiles. 

Even Peter, an apostle, though inspired so he could teach and preach without the possibility of error, does not fully comprehend the meaning of the message Christ taught in Matt. 28:18-19--the Great Commission.  This was nothing new for prophets often did not know the full import of the inspired words they spoke. (see 1 Peter 1:10-12) 

In reading Acts 10 one learns by seeing Peter's initial reaction to the heavenly sent vision he had that Peter was still observing as law the dietary restrictions found under the Law of Moses all the while living under the law of Christ.  Then in verse 28 of chapter 10 he says, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation.  But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean."  This was the purpose of the vision—to bring about a change in Peter's attitude toward going to the Gentiles. 

Note the word "unlawful" in that verse.  Up until the time of this vision Peter was lacking a full understanding of how the Law of Moses had now been completely done away with.  He was still, up to this time, concerned about dietary commands and keeping a distance from Gentiles.  It took the vision of the sheet let down from heaven and the Spirit speaking to him directly (Acts 10:19-20) to convince Peter it was God's will to go to the Gentiles and preach. 

Why did the Holy Spirit fall upon Cornelius and his household before baptism for the remission of sins?  Was it because that was the means of salvation or because Cornelius was already a saved man without repentance and baptism?  No.  It was because it was going to take a miracle, not now so much for Peter because he seems to be getting the idea, but in order for the whole Jewish Christian body to come to an understanding that the gospel was for all and not just for Jews and to get them out preaching and teaching the Gentiles.  In fact, when the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household the Bible says of those Jews who had traveled with Peter that they were "astonished" that this had happened, that God would grant this to Gentiles. (Acts 10:45) 

When Peter went back to Jerusalem, to show you and me how great the prejudice was against the Gentiles, the Bible says, and it is speaking of Jewish Christians (read the context), that "those of the circumcision contended with him." (Acts 11:2 NKJV)  Peter had to rehearse the whole account of what had happened to silence his critics but having done so they realize for the first time that "God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." (Acts 11:18)  The world has now changed in that henceforth the gospel will be preached to all men everywhere as God intended but it took a miracle to get the job done.  They, the Jewish Christians, would never have been convinced without it.  They now confess, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life." (Acts 11:18 NKJV) 

Thus we have the real reason the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household prior to baptism.  It was not for the forgiveness of sins for the gospel had not changed.  Peter still needed to "command them to be baptized." (Acts 10:48)  But, who really commanded them to be baptized?  Was it Peter the man or the Holy Spirit?  If the Holy Spirit commanded it why did he do so?  

I know one who argues that Cornelius and his household were already saved having received the Holy Spirit.  Yet, the Holy Spirit commands them to be baptized.  Is this baptism to be for some other reason than what the Holy Spirit first said in Peter's inspired sermon in Acts 2:38?  Is baptism for one reason or purpose at one time and place but then for another reason in another time and place? 

God granted, in the case of Cornelius and his household, the Spirit prior to baptism (baptism for the remission of sins which the Spirit taught in Acts 2:38) for a special reason but the reader must bear in mind that God knows our hearts and what we will do before we do it.  God knew Cornelius would obey the command and be baptized for the very reason those on the day of Pentecost were--because they believed every word Peter spoke and part of that word was baptism for the remission of sins (or to be saved which is one and the same thing).  This is as it was on the day of Pentecost for the message never changed.  What was preached in one place was preached in every place. 

They were the things the angel said Peter would tell them--"tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved." (Acts 11:14 NKJV)  An essential part of that word that we know Peter spoke was baptism for the text says "he commanded them to be baptized."  (Acts 10:48 NKJV)  Without preaching on that topic Cornelius and his household would have no idea of what, why, or how. 

Yes, some say baptism is just a symbol or a picture and is meaningless other than as a symbol.  Tell Peter that.  Better yet tell the Holy Spirit he did not know what he was talking about in Acts 2:38 on the day of Pentecost.  If those in the audience on the day of Pentecost were saved without baptism they did not know it for they are asking what they must do after they had already come to faith.  Furthermore, Peter did not know it for he told them what to do.  That is pretty much the end of the story. 

Yes, the case of Cornelius was unique and an exception to the rule but it is not the only such case for when God has seen a need he has acted for the specific purpose he had in mind.  Saul was converted and became the apostle Paul but not because he heard the gospel in the normal way and responded.  We doubt that would ever have happened with Saul left to his own devices with the attitude he had.  But, God acted directly and the Lord appeared to Saul on the road to Damascus.  Why, because he had a special reason for doing so.  The case of Cornelius is similar in that regards. 

I close with this.  One who has objected to my position has said that 1 John 4:13 means Cornelius was saved before baptism.  I deny that.  1 John 4:13 is the word of God and truth.  But, the case of Cornelius and his household, like the case of Saul in his conversion, was a special act of God for a specific purpose God had in mind but neither set aside the commands God himself had given.  Cornelius still had to be baptized for the remission of sins and Saul still had to do the same (Acts 22:16).  God is not in a battle with his own law.  

I might add this as I close.  What if Cornelius that day after receiving the Holy Spirit had responded to Peter's command to be baptized by refusing to do it?  Would he have been saved?  The Holy Spirit does not force a man to do right against his will.  What if Cornelius had said no?  If he was already saved and baptism does not matter, as so many teach, it is hard to see how a refusal would have mattered.

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Saturday, February 4, 2023

He Rejoiced Greatly Having Believed in God

In Acts 16 verses 23 through 34 we have the account of the conversion of the Philippian jailer at the hands of Paul and Silas who preached the gospel to him and his household.  As you recall Paul and Silas had been imprisoned in Philippi when an earthquake struck at midnight, their bonds were loosed, and all the prison doors were opened.  Being responsible for the prisoners the jailer assuming all had escaped was ready to take his own life when Paul called out to him.  The opportunity was given to preach the gospel to him and his household. 

The first recorded words of the jailer after bringing Paul and Silas out of their confinement was "what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30 NAS)  There is a lot of information that can be gleaned from those few words.  First, it can be fairly inferred that the jailer was convinced that Paul and Silas were men of God who knew God's will.  Perhaps their reputation had proceeded them here in Philippi as not long before this they had converted Lydia (Acts 16:14-15) and also had cast out a spirit of divination from a slave girl, a spirit that was telling all that "these men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation." (Acts 16:17 NAS)  All of this had occurred in the city before the jailing of Paul and Silas.     

Secondly, it is clear the jailer felt confident that there were things that he would have to do to be saved.  It was just not clear to him what those things were. 

In response to the jailer's question Paul and Silas tell him to "believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31 NAS)  This was a statement that needed clarification calling for preaching.  What does it mean to "believe in the Lord Jesus"?  The jailer needed to know.  What was to be believed?  He was receptive if he could only learn what it was he was to believe. 

Verse 32 indicates that Paul and Silas did speak "the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house." (Acts 16:32 NAS)  But, that is all that is said about the preaching.  We have to look elsewhere to find what the gospel is for we are all certain he preached the gospel to the jailer.  The gospel is, after all, “the power of God for salvation to every one who believes.” (Rom. 1:16 NAS) 

We find what the gospel is in 1 Cor. 15:1-4 where Paul says, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you." (NAS)  He then goes on to explain it to us – that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised the third day. 

So, yes, we have a good idea of some of the things Paul and Silas preached to the Philippian jailer.  But, was believing in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for the remission of our sins all there was to it?  Those who believe that put themselves in a bind.  How? 

Because the demons also believe and shudder (James 2:19), are they saved?  Because "many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him," (John 12:42 NAS) were they saved?  Can one be saved who is unwilling to confess Jesus?  Can one believe in Jesus but refuse to confess him and yet be saved?  Paul says, "With the mouth confession is made to salvation." (Rom. 10:10 NKJV)  In the verse just before that (Rom. 10:9) he says, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus."  Yes, "if" you do.  The word "if" has meaning. 

Another bind that those find themselves in who say all one has to do is believe in order to be saved is that they leave out repentance altogether.  If you can leave out repentance that ought to save the demons then, hadn't it?  

Yes, I am sure Paul taught faith in the Lord Jesus and when understood properly that will save a man.  However, faith in the Lord Jesus means you believe what Jesus taught and believe it so strongly you obey him.  Faith in the Lord Jesus is not just mental assent.  Faith in the Lord Jesus is not disregarding his word as of no account. 

Jesus said, "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved."  (Mark 16:16 NAS)  We in so-called Christendom say yes, I believe in Jesus.  I just cannot believe what he says.  Well, that is an impressive statement of faith is it not?  

We know with certainty Paul once again preached baptism to the Philippian jailer for the text says of the jailer, "immediately he was baptized, he and all his household." (Acts 16:33 NAS)  I say Paul preached baptism again for earlier in the same city and in this very same chapter he preached it to Lydia as well (Acts 16:15).  Unless he preached another gospel in other places than what he did in Philippi he always preached baptism in preaching the gospel whether it is mentioned specifically or not.  Baptism is the water part when Jesus said, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5 NAS)   

Every sincere seeker after God ought to pay close attention to verse 34.  Do you want to know what it means to believe in God?  The text says of the jailer that he "rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household."  We know of a certainty that whatever else that phrase means it means at least this much - baptism is a part of the gospel to be believed.  Paul and Silas taught it to the jailer and his household, they believed what they were taught, they obeyed it, and they were baptized immediately in the very late night hours (after midnight).  When this was done it is said then that the jailer "rejoiced greatly, having believed in God."  

Let me ask a question.  Would the jailer have rejoiced had he heard Paul and Silas preach baptism but then said I don't believe it and I refuse to do it?  Could it have been said in that scenario that he believed the word of the Lord?  Even the skeptic must admit that if Paul and Silas preached baptism then it must have been part of "the word of the Lord." (Acts 16:32 NAS)  It was a part, I might add, which they believed--believed and obeyed.  

But, all of this raises other questions.  Why preach baptism to the jailer or anyone else?  Might it not be that Paul and Silas spoke by inspiration?  Might it not be that baptism is a part of the gospel to be believed and obeyed?  Might it not be that Peter speaking by inspiration in Acts 2:38 knew what he was talking about and that baptism is actually and literally for the remission of sins?  Yes, I say, it might be.  I say even more, it is.  It is not to say it comes alone without faith and repentance but it comes with them.

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