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Monday, January 29, 2024

Jesus As The Bread Of LIfe

Beginning in about John 6:27 Jesus begins a discussion with those with whom he is conversing that carries through most of the rest of the chapter about himself being the bread of life sent down from the Father (John 6:32-35) that man might eat of this bread and have eternal life.  There are many descriptive terms used about Jesus in the Bible of which the bread of life is but one.

In the book of John alone Jesus is described as the Word (John 1:1), the Light (John 1:9), the only begotten (John 1:14), the lamb of God (John 1:29), the Messiah (John 1:41), the Son of God (John 1:49), the bread of life (John 6:48), the light of the world (John 8:12), the door through which one must enter if he is to be saved (John 10:9), the good shepherd (John 10:11), the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), the true vine in which one must abide or be cast out and thrown into the fire (John 15:1,6), and the king of the Jews (John 19:19) and this list is not exhaustive of every term found in John that in one way or another is descriptive of Jesus.  Nave's Topical Bible lists a full page and a half of names, appellations, and titles given to Jesus in the scriptures.  Each descriptive term provides a lesson in itself on who Jesus was and is. 

In the John 6 passage, we see Jesus describing himself as the bread of life, a description we find appealing.  We see Jesus as one come down from God the Father to man to give unto man a bread which if he will eat of it gives life everlasting (John 6:50-51).  The language is figurative and the words spoken are spirit.  "The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63 NKJV)  Jesus said, "The bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." (John 6:51 NKJV)  For you and I to eat of this bread, keeping in mind the language is figurative and spiritual, means we partake of Jesus, of his life and teaching, by belief and obedience.  It involves surrendering one’s life to Jesus and begins with faith and obedience to the gospel for the gospel is the message of the cross (1 Cor. 15:1-4), the cross being where Jesus gave his flesh for man.

It means we allow ourselves by following after Christ to be remade in the image of Christ.  "But we all (speaking to Christians--DS), with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18 NKJV)  As Paul said, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20 NKJV)  Emphasis should be placed on the phrase "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." 

One eats of the bread of life by obeying the gospel.  There is no eating of the bread of life without obeying the gospel.  I am not a Greek scholar but one who is has said that the word "eats" as in "eats of this bread" in verse 51 of John 6 and the verbs "eat" and "drink" in verse 53 of the same chapter as in "eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood" denote a once for all action in the Greek thus a reference to initial gospel obedience (see Frank Pack, "The Living Word Commentary--The Gospel According to John, Part 1," page 112).  He goes on to say that in verse 56 the phrase, "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" denotes in the Greek continuous action thus is an ongoing action in a person's life.

I do not believe one has to be a Greek scholar to understand eating the bread of life begins with surrender to Christ in gospel faith and obedience nor do I think one has to be a Greek scholar to understand that if one later chooses to quit feeding on Christ spiritually he will also die spiritually.  In fact, the parable of the vine and branches deals with this very thing.  A branch cannot bear fruit if it does abide in the vine which is Christ (John 15:1).  If a branch does not abide in the vine it dies, is cast out, and is gathered to be cast into the fire (John 15:1-6).

To feed on Christ (John 6:57 in the NKJV and the ESV) is to allow him to direct our lives by his word and example.  "He who says he abides in him ought himself also to walk just as he walked." (1 John 2:6 NKJV)  How did Jesus walk?  He said, "I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." (John 6:38 NKJV)  Whose will are we here to do--ours or God's?  What will we end up doing?  Jesus said, "I always do those things that please him." (John 8:29 NKJV)  Are we walking in the footsteps of Jesus?  Are we feeding off his life?  Is our will as Jesus' was when he said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me." (John 4:34 NKJV)  To read and study the New Testament and obey its teachings is to feed on Christ the giver of the same.

Today many people in what is called Christendom feel as though one is being a legalist when he emphasizes strict obedience to keeping God's commandments and they somehow feel as though to do so is unspiritual.  If that is true what do you do with Jesus?  Has there ever been a stricter legalist if commandment keeping is your definition of being a legalist?  Think a long time about that before answering.  Was Jesus a legalist and unspiritual?  Is that what a man is today if he follows in the footsteps of Jesus trying to obey every commandment of God?

Paul told the Corinthians, and thus to you and me, to "imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." (1 Cor. 11:1 NKJV)  In John 13:15 Jesus said he had given the disciples "an example, that you should do as I have done to you." (NKJV)  This was said in reference to a specific act, that of washing the feet, which means being humble enough and servant enough to do the lowest of jobs to be of service to others.  Peter spoke of Christ being an example when he said, "Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps:  'Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth.'" (2 Peter 2:21-22 NKJV)

To eat of the bread of life, to eat Jesus' flesh and drink his blood, is to become a faithful dedicated Christian wholly committed to Christ, to his teaching, to his commandments, to follow his example in living life, it is to imbibe his spirit, and become as much like him as is humanly possible.  It is to make God's will our personal will in that we want what he wants.  Our goal in life is to please him even to the extent of becoming obsessed with doing so.  Was not Christ obsessed with pleasing the Father?

In closing it needs to be repeated for emphasis sake that it all begins with gospel obedience and contrary to the thoughts of the denominational world that does include not only faith and repentance but baptism as well.  It is only in baptism that we die to sin for it is there where we were crucified with Christ being baptized into his death.   Read carefully Rom. 6:2-8 and then read the conclusion of the first gospel sermon ever preached to man--Acts 2:38.  If the people of Jesus day were guilty of rejecting the counsel of God against themselves not being baptized with the baptism of John (see Luke 7:30) of how much greater sin do you think he will be guilty who rejects the counsel of Jesus to be baptized for the remission of sins? 

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Saturday, January 20, 2024

Behold The Judge Is Standing At The Door

It is sometimes hard for Christians to grasp emotionally that they will be judged by Christ on the Day of Judgment.  So much has been made of the grace of God and God's love that it is hard to come to grips with the idea of judgment but James in writing to Christians says, "Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.  Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:9 NKJV)  So he is.  "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written:  'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.'  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Rom. 14:10-12 NKJV)

If the Bible is true, and I say that without a doubt in my mind, then every person who has ever lived or will live in the future, or who lives now, will someday be found on their knees at the feet of Jesus the creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is.  I cannot imagine the terror of one who is forced into that situation knowing that he or she has lived a life of rebellion against God.  Terror is too mild a word for that experience.

Can a man fight against God and hope to win?  If not should we not consider the life we ought to be living?  We have today.  We ought to make use of it for "behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2 NKJV)  Today is the day God will accept us if we willingly accept him by faith and obedience to the gospel.  But as life has well taught us today is here and gone tomorrow.  We have all been to the cemetery too many times to fool ourselves into thinking that today will last indefinitely.  Our last day on earth shall arrive gradually with expectation or come as a surprise like a bolt of lightning out of the blue but when that day does arrive, as it will, then we pass from today into tomorrow and into too late--too late to obey the gospel and live life eternally with God in heaven. 

If I could beg you to obey the gospel and it would do any good I would do it but that is not how it works for obeying the gospel to please me would do you no good.  Gospel obedience must be from the heart, sincere in its desire to please God, not a man.  As Paul wrote to the Romans "You obeyed from the heart" (Rom. 6:17 NKJV) and so it must be with us all.  In Christianity, it is folly to think of using force of any kind to convert people.  In the Muslim world that might work but not in the faith God requires as found in the Bible.

Where does a man run to get away from God?  "Where can I go from your Spirit?  Or where can I flee from your presence?  If I ascend into heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, you are there." (Psalms 139:7-8 NKJV)  Jonah tried running away from God but did not get far.  I guess one could say though that he got far enough away to realize he could not flee.  It is hard for me to understand how people with advanced degrees, and great innate intelligence, think they can escape from God but it is as common with them as it is with the ordinary everyday man or woman.  Who can understand it?  Yes, we can run from God but we can’t outrun him, cannot hide from him. 

When the Lord returns in judgment he "will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts" (1 Cor. 4:5 NKJV) for "he knows the secrets of the heart." (Psalms 44:21 NKJV)  Yes, he knows your evil thoughts (Matt. 9:4) and we will be judged for ours as they are listed in a list of sins as found in Matt. 15:18-19.  "God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ." (Rom. 2:16 NKJV)  "All things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must give account." (Heb. 4:13 NKJV)

What I have written so far I have written both to the saint (the Christian) and to the sinner (the one who has never obeyed the gospel).  But, I want to direct my words now to those who are Christians.  Be forewarned, "The Lord will judge his people." (Heb. 10:30 NKJV) 

“If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." (Heb. 10:26 NKJV)  The writer here is speaking to those who are guilty of "forsaking the assembling of ourselves together." (Heb. 10:25 NKJV)  The entire book of Hebrews is directed primarily to a Christian audience.  The writer closes this section of his writing by saying, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Heb. 10:31 NKJV)

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul begins by talking about the journey out of Egypt to the Promised Land.  He speaks of some of the sins God's people fell into during that period and of the consequences of those sins saying, "With most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness." (1 Cor. 10:5 NKJV)  Then after recounting a number of those sins, he says, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Cor. 10:11-12 NKJV)  Paul is writing to Christians when he makes this statement.  The book of 1 Corinthians is addressed "to the church of God which is at Corinth." (1 Cor. 1:2 NKJV)

So all of mankind, saint and sinner both, shall stand before Christ on the day of judgment and give an account of their life. (2 Cor. 5:10)

Salvation is free in that we do not earn it nor do we deserve it but neither can we take it for granted or be indifferent toward it.  The Hebrew writer makes this clear when he speaks of "a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.  Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?”(Heb. 10:27-29 NKJV)

In the letter that was to be delivered to "the angel of the church in Thyatira" (Rev. 2:18 NKJV) Jesus said, "I am he who searches the minds and hearts.  And I will give to each one of you according to your works." (Rev. 2:23 NKJV)  Yes, the message is to Christians and I could not help but be reminded as I read this passage, reminded again of what I have heard over and over again, that works do not matter, it is all grace.  Jesus did not teach that. 

God " ’will render to each one according to his deeds’:  eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil." (Rom. 2:6-9 NKJV)  Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him." (Heb. 5:9 NKJV) No person can be saved without the grace of God but to imply the Christian has no obligations to meet for salvation, God's grace will just cover it all, is a perversion of the truth. 

Matt. 7:22-23 ought to be an eye opener to all who will give it serious consideration.  Jesus says, "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?'  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (NKJV)  He is speaking, of course, of the Day of Judgment.  Here is a group of men who had some religion about them.  Were they lying to Jesus about the things they had done?  I cannot conceive of a man who would be that big a fool at the Day of Judgment to lie to Jesus knowing what was at stake and knowing with whom he was dealing.  I thus take them at their word as did the commentators I consulted on this passage.  Furthermore, Jesus does not take them to task for lying to him.

So, what is the point?  Simply this--a man may claim to be on the Lord's side, he may do things that appear to be good and positive and they may be that up to a degree, and yet the bottom line is despite appearances, despite one's own I am satisfied with my religion, the man is lost.  Yes, a regular churchgoer (figuratively speaking), a religious man, who is lost.  Why is he lost?  Because he practiced lawlessness.  What is lawlessness?  "Sin is lawlessness." (1 John 3:4 NKJV)  Now note the text in Matthew says nothing about whether or not this sin was deliberate or not.  Sin does not have to be deliberate to be sin.  Many who crucified Christ or were in favor of it did it in ignorance, Peter says so in Acts 3:17, but it was nevertheless a sin as was Paul's later persecution of Christians before his conversion.

Who will be saved on the Day of Judgment?  "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)  Note this is the verse just before Matt. 7:22-23 quoted above, just before Jesus denies entry into heaven of those who had done many good works in his name but who practiced lawlessness.

It is time to give this line of thought a practical application to our own time.  There are hundreds and hundreds of denominations today each teaching a different doctrine or doctrines.  I would as soon believe that two plus three equals four the same as does two plus two as to believe that one can be saved in just any church of your choice.  It is just as logical to believe one as it is the other.  Everyone cannot be teaching truth while contradicting one another.  Now honest, how smart do you have to be to figure that out?    Yet, we hear it all the time we are all going to the same place, choose the church of your choice, and other such things.  There are not thousands of different truths out there.  Jesus said, "You shall know the truth" (John 8:32 NKJV) "the truth," one truth, not one thousand truths.

Modern-day denominationalism partakes of postmodernism in that each has his own truth.  If it is contradictory it matters not.  Each is true anyway.  Nonsense?  Yes, absolutely but that is postmodernism, that is denominationalism.

If we approached our secular educations the way we approach Bible study there would be no graduates, no degrees handed out.  Our instructors would rebuke us and rightly so for our lack of common sense and reasoning and for letting our emotions run wild overwhelming our ability to think rationally.  We are ruled by our traditions and emotions just as much as the Pharisees and until we get over that we will like them find truth hard to come by all the while convinced in heart and mind we have it.

The bottom line is every person ought to be reevaluating their life in light of what the scriptures say, not what their church (denomination) says.  Who cares about "their church" on the Day of Judgment?  In the first place, you do not have a church in any scriptural sense for the church belongs to Christ, not to you or me.  In the second place, we are not saved collectively but individually.  The vast majority ought to be getting out of what they call "their church" right away anyway for if we would reason correctly and study the scriptures with the reason and logic we do textbooks we would soon see the error in the one we hold allegiance to and begin to search wholeheartedly for a congregation that taught and practiced the truth. 

One advantage to getting older is that you are no longer concerned about what people think about you.  You are reaching the point where reality (death) is beginning to stare you in the face and you can truly say, "I will not fear.  What can man do to me?" (Heb. 13:6 NKJV)  Not to offend anyone deliberately but when you start getting older you have bigger fish to fry than what people think of you or will say about you.  Where you are headed they are not going, at least not so soon, but you can see you are.  Truth ought to become utmost in our desires then.  It ought to be that way all through life but often it is not.

Yes, "the Judge is standing at the door!" (James 5:9 NKJV)  He is expecting you.  He "was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead." (Acts 10:42 NKJV)  The day is appointed (Acts 17:31).  Christ will be there.  You will kneel and confess that Jesus is Lord and answer for your life.  Are you ready?  If not what are you going to do about it?  Surely you are not going to fritter away the time you have, are you? 

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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Is Holy Spirit Baptism The Baptism That Saves?

In an article I wrote some time ago I had a gentleman of the Pentecostal persuasion respond seemingly upset with me over the issue of baptism as I was emphasizing the importance of water baptism which he was discounting as being nothing more than a picture of salvation (whatever that means).  Of course, his emphasis was on Holy Spirit baptism.  In any case, since I said I would respond I will do so here thinking I might as well make an article out of my response. 

When one reads the gospels the very first mention of the subject of baptism comes with the introduction of John the Baptist.  Mark says, "Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins."  (Mark 1:5 NKJV)  We know Jesus when baptized, by John, "came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him."  (Matt. 3:16 NKJV)  So our very first introduction to the subject of baptism relates it to water, not the Holy Spirit. 

However, John did prophecy of two other baptisms to come.  He says, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire."  (Mat 3:11 NKJV) 

It is very important to note who will be doing the baptizing in the Holy Spirit and fire.  Will it be the apostles, will it be man?  No, for the text says "He," a reference to Jesus, which means what?  If you are going to receive Holy Spirit baptism it will not be at the hands of men.  It will have to come directly from heaven itself.  Jesus will be the administrator. 

But, it means even more.  It means it cannot be a command for it is something Christ does for you.  In other words, it is a baptism you cannot obey.  It is something you receive, not something you do.  Pentecostals ought to keep this in mind because it is going to cause problems down the road.  Indeed, it is going to cause problems before one even finishes the book of Matthew. 

In the Great Commission of Matt. 28:18-20 Jesus speaking to the apostles said, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (NKJV)  The reader already knows enough from what has been said previously that this is a command for water baptism for it is the only baptism men can administer.  Men could baptize others with water but not with the Holy Spirit.  Only Jesus could do that. 

Furthermore, the command of the Great Commission was to teach those they baptized to go out and do the same with others--make disciples and baptize them—thus making the Great Commission a perpetual command for the ages.  This means in Eph. 4:5 when Paul said there was "one baptism" we know which one it was. 

Before the time of Paul's writing of the book of Ephesians, there had been two baptisms--water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism (the baptism of fire being yet future at the Day of Judgment).  However, by the time Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, scholars say sometime between 61 and 64 AD, only one baptism remained.  This was approximately 30 years after Jesus had ascended back into heaven and Paul now says as he writes there is but one baptism. 

This puts Pentecostals in a tight spot.  If they say we still have Holy Spirit baptism then they must deny we have water baptism.  If they say we still have both they make Paul, speaking by the Holy Spirit, out to be a liar for that makes two baptisms rather than one. 

Did Jesus speak about baptizing some in the Holy Spirit?  Yes, he did, but to whom?  It was to those with whom he met in Luke 24:33-49.  It was with those who were to "tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49 NKJV)  It was to those who would first preach "repentance and remission of sins … in His name … beginning at Jerusalem."  Now who did that?  Was Peter the first one?  Did he preach baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) "beginning at Jerusalem"?  Yes, he did. 

In the book of John starting with chapter 13 and going through chapter 17 Jesus is with the apostles he had chosen at the Last Supper.  Here he again speaks about this select group being baptized with the Holy Spirit or words to that effect (John 14:16-18, 26, 16:13). 

Luke, in the book of Acts, speaks of "the apostles whom He had chosen" (Acts 1:2) and then says, "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; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'" (Acts 1:3-5 NKJV) 

Thus the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was only to a select few, not to all Christians.  All Christians received the Holy Spirit but not all received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and there is a difference.  Many received spiritual gifts and thus had a measure of the Holy Spirit in that special sense as well, but the promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit was only to those few Jesus chose.  I remind the reader that while Holy Spirit baptism had to come directly from heaven spiritual gifts could be received at the hands of the apostles.  "And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given."  (Act 8:18 NKJV) 

Even spiritual gifts were not to last endlessly until the Day of Judgment.  Paul says, in Eph. 4:11-14 (NAS), "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming."  

Apostles and prophets were obviously men with spiritual gifts.  Are there, apostles and prophets, still with us today?  The reader ought to highlight the word "until" in the above passage.  Words do have meaning.  "Until" places a time limit.  Then note the last verse that begins with "As a result."  The result is we will not be carried away "by every wind of doctrine" thus the earth will still be here when the apostles and prophets are gone and so will every wind of doctrine which we will not be carried away by. 

A passage that is even a little clearer is 1 Cor. 13:8-10, "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge (miraculous spiritual--DS), it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."  Some say this refers to Jesus' second coming.  Does it?  It is hard to see how you or I need to be told that there will not be prophecy in heaven.  Is that not self-evident?  Let me tell you what is "perfect" in addition to Jesus--his completed revelation to man in his word, the New Testament itself.  Do you doubt the word of God is perfect?  See Psalms 19:7. 

The one who takes issue with me says, "In John 3:5 water does not refer to Christian baptism in the name of the Lord.  Prove that it does."  If you recall John 3:5 reads as follows, "Jesus answered, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'" (NAS)  Well, what are the other options?  Is it "Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'"  That is how this sincere man would have it read, but I think it is readily seen that this will not work in the context of how the sentence is phrased. 

He also argues that Rom. 6:3, Gal. 3:27, and Col. 2:12 all refer to Holy Spirit baptism, not water baptism.  I have already shown that since there is only one baptism today, according to Paul, then it is an either/or option--either it is Holy Spirit baptism or water baptism.  If it is Holy Spirit baptism then the baptism Jesus commanded in the Great Commission is of no effect today and you cannot carry out the Great Commission. 

In Romans 6:3 Paul says, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?"  By using the word "us" Paul includes himself.  Let us hear Ananias at the time of Paul's baptism, Acts 22:16, "'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.'"  It sounds to me like the responsibility is on Paul to "arise and be baptized."  It sounds like it is something Paul can attend to.  He can't if it is Holy Spirit baptism as my critic claims.  He will have to wait on Jesus to do that.  Thus my critic is in error. 

Gal. 3:27 reads as follows, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." (NAS)  Am I baptized "into Christ" or am I baptized by Christ?  Holy Spirit baptism is by Christ, not into Christ.  If Christ both baptizes one and puts one into himself (salvation is in Christ--2 Tim. 2:10) then if you are lost it looks like it is his fault since there is something he did not do for you.  I can obey the command for water baptism but I cannot obey Holy Spirit baptism for Jesus has the responsibility for that.  I have not clothed myself with Christ, and cannot do so, if it is out of my hands which would be the case if this passage refers to Holy Spirit baptism. 

Finally, Col. 2:12, which he says is a reference to Holy Spirit baptism, reads as follows with me including verses 11 and 13 in order to read the text in context.  "And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions." (NAS) 

Beginning with Abraham if a male child was not circumcised the eighth day he fell out of covenant relationship with God.  This remained true on up through the entirety of the Mosaical Era.  You can read about it in Gen. 17:12-14.  If one is in covenant relationship with God he is a child of God.  He may or may not remain faithful and thus can be lost later but at the time he becomes a child of God he is saved. 

I have a question.  In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost when the first gospel sermon ever preached after Christ's ascension, after the giving of the Great Commission, when were those gathered there, the three thousand, placed into a covenant relationship with God?  Was it before water baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)?  Water baptism was necessary both for the forgiveness of sins and for the reception of the Holy Spirit and was prior to both.  Without the forgiveness of sins first, there was no covenant relationship with God, not under the new covenant. 

It would be good, perhaps, to quote Acts 2:38 here: "Then Peter said to them, "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." (NKJV) 

Circumcision placed one into covenant relationship with God under the Law of Moses.  When were people placed in that relationship in Acts 2--was it before or after the receiving of the gift of the Holy Spirit?  One can readily see it was before the receiving of the Holy Spirit but after water baptism.  If you have received "remission of sins" you are saved and in a covenant relationship with God.  Circumcision in the covenant of Christ, in Christianity, is baptism from the heart of faith for the remission of sins in water, not Holy Spirit baptism.  In that act, when based on faith, sins are cut away (removed).  Colossians 2:11-13 is a reference to water baptism. 

But, sometimes it is good to argue against ourselves so, putting myself in my critic's shoes, I would come back and say have you not read Rom.2:29, "But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God"? (NKJV) 

The same Paul who wrote Colossians wrote Romans.  We shall tie them together.  I remind the reader my critic believes the talk about baptism in Rom. 6, the first several verses, is a reference to baptism in the Holy Spirit.  But, Paul says in Rom 6:17-18, "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."  There are two points to be made.  (1) You cannot obey Holy Spirit baptism thus his argument fails when he says the baptism of Romans 6 is Holy Spirit baptism.  (2) When were they set free from sin according to Paul?  Answer--when they obeyed.  

This excursion off on Romans 6 throws light on Rom. 2:29.  As this passage—Rom. 2:29--relates back to Col. 2:12 it shows, when combined with the study of Romans 6, that one cannot divorce faith from obedience.  Obedience is from the heart.  What is in the heart to produce this obedience?  Faith!  When understood that obedience is a part of saving faith, that there is no such thing as saving faith apart from obedience, I readily concede that salvation is by that kind of faith.  This faith always includes as an integral part of itself obedience. 

The trouble is the advocates of salvation by faith are generally such as do not define faith this way.  Their faith does not necessarily include any ideas of obedience thus water baptism is just kind of an option if I get to it, if I do it, when I do it, sort of thing.  When God says jump you cannot say I will if I want to, and when I want to, if I decide to.  That is neither faith nor obedience, it is rebellion.  How can one claim a circumcision of heart and talk of having the Spirit all the while saying it does not matter whether you obey what the Spirit has said, you can be saved whether you obey or do not obey?  Jesus, a man full of the Spirit, did not disobey a single commandment but we do and say it is okay and that we have the Spirit.     

If the baptism of the Holy Spirit still exists today then along with it we must have as a necessity those things that accompany it which include the spiritual gifts of the first century.  All Holy Spirit baptized individuals (the apostles) had miraculous spiritual gifts (2 Cor. 12:11-12).   Who ever heard of having the baptism of the Holy Spirit and not having spiritual gifts?  Do we have prophets today, do we have miracle workers today, do we still have revelation being given today?  Let each reader judge for themselves. 

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Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Indifference – The Great Destroyer

Indifference refers to an attitude held by a person indicating a lack of zeal, commitment, and concern regarding whatever that individual is indifferent toward. 

I do not know of anything a person can succeed at long term with indifference dominating him or her.  Natural talent will only take a person so far.  There comes a time when to succeed you have to buckle down, get serious, and do the work.  This is true of the great athletes of the world, the great musicians, of people who are highly successful in their fields, and even the Einsteins of the world, and so how much more so of you and me? 

Of course, we are talking here about the significant things in life, things that matter and make a difference.  If you want to get a degree or degrees, a good education, if you want to have a successful marriage, if you want to succeed in your job or vocation, and if you want to go to heaven.  Yes, and if you want to go to heaven.

We are living in a time of a great falling away from spiritual matters, from Christianity.   The percentage of what are called the “Nones” continues to grow.  “Nones” are those who have abandoned faith in any kind of religion.  More and more people are coming to the decision that they do not need God in their life and they are not searching for him. 

From an article on the website published Aug. 5, 2019, I quote the title of an article found there, “‘Nones’ now as big as evangelicals, Catholics in the US.”  The article itself was dated March 21, 2019, but put online August 5th.  It may or may not be online by the time you read this and the numbers will no doubt change with time becoming more or less but that has been and remains the trend over the past several years.  

Most churches I know about living as I do in the rural Midwest have declined drastically in membership over the last 50 years, some having closed their doors and others are on the verge of doing so.  People have lost interest in Christianity which is another way of saying they have become indifferent.  They are not seeking and thus they shall not find.  “Seek, and you will find.” (Matt. 7:7 NKJV)

If God and his word are matters of no serious concern to me, if God is only going to make my top 100 list of the most important things to me in my life, if he gets that high, then realistically what kind of hope do I have of salvation, of going to heaven?  To be indifferent is to not care.  If you do not care about God, about his will, about going to heaven, if you are disinterested in living a Christian life what joy do you bring to God?  You bring grief and sorrow like Israel and Judah in the Old Testament before they went into exile but joy, no.      

But, there is a lot of indifference abounding in many who proclaim Christianity.  It is not just the “Nones.”  A lot has been made of the fact that salvation from sin is a free gift from God.  This while true is seldom understood properly because seldom taught properly.  People have gotten it into their heads that their soul's salvation is solely dependent on God.  This lends itself to indifference.  There is nothing for me to do if God is going to do it all.  No need to seek God, from their point of few, despite the fact he says in his word, "He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." (Heb. 11:6 NKJV)

The idea people seem to have is there is no need to study the Bible; God is love; God is grace; God is going to save everyone no matter what he or she believes or practices just as long as the person believes that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world and that belief can be held in the most abstract sort of way divorced from all action and commitment.  Put another way you can be indifferent and go to heaven. 

Attend services wherever you so desire, no matter what they teach or practice, or don't even attend anywhere if you don't want to.  It will make no difference just as long as you believe in Jesus.  That is generally the Christian (?) world we live in here in America today.  False teaching along this line has led to a lot of the indifference we see.

Indifference is one natural byproduct of denominationalism.  If it really does not matter what you believe or practice just so you believe in Jesus then certainly one can be indifferent about both doctrine and practice.  What difference does it make about either if we are all going to be saved anyway?  I thus see people who think they are going to be saved who never worship.  If they have a Bible they would have to hunt it before they could read it and then dust it off for it has sat that long unread and unused.  They never read it.

The scariest thing for me when it comes to one's loved ones having indifference towards God and salvation, toward spiritual matters, is that indifference is one of those types of sins that is nearly impossible to get people to see and thus to own up to and repent of.  They do not see themselves as being indifferent but are satisfied they are doing all that is necessary for salvation, even though it is nothing, and will be saved as they are.  Nothing is necessary for salvation for God will take care of it all is the thought.  This is a perversion of Eph. 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (NKJV) 

The modern-day exegesis of this passage is that man has absolutely no obligations in any way toward God.  There is no need to read his word, there is no need to worship, there is no need to obey any of the commandments.  Just show up at Judgment Day and all will be fine.  Heb. 5:9 thus becomes meaningless, “And having been perfected, he became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9 NKJV)

Indifference is accompanied by satisfaction.  The satisfied do not repent.  The satisfied does not seek, knock, or search in any way for anything other than what satisfied already has for satisfied is satisfied.  It becomes, as a result of that, nearly impossible to get people who fit into that state of mind to a mindset of repentance.  They are not interested in studying or searching the scriptures for they are indifferent and content. 

What does the Bible say or teach about indifference? 

One of the first passages that comes to mind is Rev. 3:15-16 where Jesus is directing a message to the members of the church at Laodicea and says, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth." (Rev. 3:15-16 NKJV)

Jesus is talking to Christians here.  Does it sound like they are in a saved state?  If you will read one verse further (verse 17) Jesus goes on explaining, "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.'" (Rev. 3:17 NKJV)  They were perfectly satisfied.  Please note carefully the words from this passage, "have need of nothing" expressing their satisfaction.   They were indifferent toward doing anything other than what they were doing.

"If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15 NKJV)  Can one go to heaven who does not love God?  “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” (1 Cor. 16:22 NKJV)  How do you keep the commandments if you are indifferent?  Is love indifferent?  Is love uncommitted? 

In another statement, Jesus said, "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:27 NKJV)  What kind of cross does the indifferent person bear for Christ?  Can such a person be a disciple of Jesus?  What does the text say? 

In the Old Testament God said with respect to the people of Israel through the prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (Hosea 4:6 NKJV)  If it happened to them could it not happen to people today?  The indifferent cannot gain knowledge of God for the attitude of indifference creates no desire to seek and learn.  Mr. Indifference is also Mr. Satisfied with the way things are and with what little knowledge he already has.

Jesus said, "Seek, and you will find," (Matt. 7:7 NKJV) but one's indifference keeps him from seeking and thus from finding.  We are to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matt. 6:33 NKJV) but the indifferent have no will to seek let alone seek first.

The Bible teaches the love of God, or love for God, is keeping his commandments.  "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments." (1 John 5:3 NKJV)  Jesus said, "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)

The indifferent cannot do that.  Why?  Because he/she is too indifferent to read, study, and learn the word that Jesus would have them keep.  They are satisfied with what they have.  They will never wear a Bible out from use.  They do not know the truth from study of the truth.  What they know is only what they have heard which may or may not be the truth and what they believe is that which has satisfied them whether it be truth or error (they know not the difference).

Many are going to die eternally simply because they did not care enough to be saved.  Jesus taught a great deal about the idea of being ready, of making preparation, for his return and the Day of Judgment.  The parable of the ten virgins comes immediately to mind.  Another passage that comes to mind is found in Matt. 22:11, the account of the man who came into the wedding unprepared and as a result was cast out. 

The indifferent, due to that indifference, are negligent and do not prepare and consequently, unless they can be brought to a change of heart cannot be saved.  They live in a continual state of unpreparedness.

Indifference is a symptom of a spiritually diseased heart.  The heart is not where it ought to be as it is concentrated on the self and this world.  It is full of pride; I'm okay; I don't need any more religion than I have.  It is presumptuous and assumes God will save me as I am.  It is rebellious against God (we will do it my way).

The question becomes, for those of us who care about people we fear may be in this state, is what can we do about it?  Here I must stop.  I cannot write any more for how does one answer this question?  If a person is indifferent, satisfied, does not care, then how do you get them to care?  This is why this is one of the most fearful sins a person will ever run up against.  How do you get a person to care that does not care?  How do you move a satisfied person into a state of dissatisfaction where he can repent?

If a person has committed a sexually immoral sin or sins of many other kinds, sinful acts versus sinful attitudes, he/she probably knows what they did was wrong and feels some pang of guilt.  There is hope there.  You can get a person like that to repent but how do you get the indifferent, those who do not care, to repent?  It is your turn now to write the next article and tell me the answer.   

(Originally written July 11, 2011)

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