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In Mark 16:17,18 Jesus gives us signs that would be common among believers in the infancy of His Church. Here Jesus says, "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
Most Churches today are of the belief that such works of the Holy Spirit are not manifest in believers. However there are some, mainly Pentecostals that fervently maintain that at the very least every believer will speak in tongues. In fact many Pentecostals believe that the ecstatic display of speaking in tongues is the evidence that an individual has been saved.
As is the case with any issue spoken of in Scripture, it is necessary that we have a complete understanding of what Scripture actually says. After all Scripture is all-sufficient. The Apostle Paul verifies this truth for us in 2 Tim. 3:16,17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." With this in mind let us see what Scripture says about the gift of speaking in tongues.
The first occurrence of tongues being spoken among believers happened on the day of Pentecost. This was one of the gifts that was given to those who received this outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that day.
So who received this gift? Was it all the disciples of Jesus? Or was it only some? Some have erroneously concluded that since Acts 2:1 begins, "When the day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place."; that this must be all of the disciples. However, we find that the final thought given in the previous verse (1:26) is that Matthias was included as one of the twelve Apostles. This proof that it is only the twelve Apostles who received this baptism of the Holy Spirit and it's gifts becomes clear when we arrive at Acts 2:14 where Luke tells us, "But Peter, standing up with the eleven,". Again we see those who were present among the believers were the Apostles.
A second question which is pivotal in our understanding of why the gift of tongues was needful is "What were these tongues?" This question is answered here in Acts 2:8, where those who heard these tongues uttered by the Apostles say, "and how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born?" Obviously these tongues were known languages of people of various nations. Luke even gives us a list of fifteen different regions and nations in Acts 2:9-11; further proof these utterances were languages and not some celestial language as Pentecostals maintain.
It is a given that the purpose in these tongues was to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. That is too obvious to be misunderstood. You had people present who did not speak Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic, the three languages common in Judea. Without this working of the Holy Spirit then the Gospel could not have been proclaimed with success.
So the question that anyone who maintains that tongues are still spoken today must answer is this: "What purpose would this gift be to our generation?" After all, God would never give us a useless gift, would He? Consider that today we have the ability to proclaim the Gospel message in every language! We can do this without this manifestation. Today God's word is available in every known language and men and women have the means to learn every known language.
With this in mind let us look at what the Apostle Paul told the Church at Corinth about the gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge. In 1 Cor. 13:8, "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away." Paul makes it clear these three specific gifts would end. They were temporary. Given to an infant Church that did not have the complete Scriptures of the New Testament, nor the ability to communicate them and their gift of salvation to the whole world as the Lord had commanded them in Mt. 28:19, "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." These tongues were specifically given for this purpose.
When we continue this teaching in part two we will look at what the Pentecostals falsely believe about the "language of angels." Until next time, God bless and keep you. -David Miller
In part one of this teaching regarding Sin and Suffering we discovered that both sin and suffering are the result of Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden. All creation was corrupted. The very mind set of man was corrupted as well. This accounts for suffering and evil that exists in our world today. Now in part two we examine the impact that the free will of man has on sin and suffering in our world.
From the very beginning God made man with the ability to choose to do right or wrong. To obey God or disobey God. To treat his fellow man well or to do him great harm. Man is an agent of free will. This freedom of choice that man has to exercise in his life serves the highest glory when man chooses to love, worship and serve God. But when man chooses to sin against God or his fellow man, evil and suffering can be the result.
A man chooses to drive while drunk and an innocent life perishes. A man chooses to rob a store, the clerk resists and another life tragically ends. An innocent wife is infected with HIV by her unfaithful husband. An unborn infant dies when his mother chooses abortion 15 weeks after conception. All these are the result of the choices that men and women make.
What if God did not allow us to choose? Would our lives be better? I think not. Without the capacity to choose what would our lives be like? Without choice we would eat the same food. We would have no chance to better ourselves. No choice in who we marry. What would games, sports and other competitive events look like? Certainly safer, but better?
Along with the capacity to make poor and evil choices comes the capacity to choose wisely and decide to help others. I could not choose to stop and help the elderly couple with the flat tire. I couldn't choose to donate my blood or a kidney to show my compassion for someone dying. I couldn't choose to sacrificially give to help someone in a financial crisis. Perhaps the greatest loss for a world without free will is that you and I could not choose to love someone and act with only their best interests in mind.
Our relationship with God would be sadly different as well. You see God has everything He needs. There is absolutely nothing that God needs from me. But there is something He desires from me. More than anything else God desires me to love Him. Literally this is the only gift any of us can ever give to God. But, take away my free will and I am nothing but a robot. Nothing I will do will be done from love, but from the compulsion of instinct.
Most of all our free will allows us to comprehend God's love for us. In Rom. 5:6-8 the Apostle Paul writes, "For while we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us." Without the freedom to reject God, could we ever experience the joy and comfort of knowing God's "own" love for us? A love like none other?
In conclusion while eliminating the freedom to choose would make life less painful and tragic, we would still experience a different kind of loss that would also be tragic. That loss is the freedom to choose to follow Christ Jesus, be saved from our sins and love God. Without the ability to understand the love behind God's sacrifice we would never know the greatest love of all. That is the love of God. David Miller
Many people struggle with the question "Why does a good God allow evil and suffering to exist in a world that He created?" This is an age old question. After all if God is indeed good and loves man why does He allow man to suffer?
The answer begins in the story of God's creation of the world and man. In Genesis 1:31 God at the conclusion of His creating the world declares that everything was good, "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day." In stating that everything was good, God affirms that this was how He desired and designed all things to be. Nothing was less than it should be. Nothing was lacking.
The ideal creation also included an ideal man and woman. Their relationship with all things was perfect. In Gen. 2:25 we are told, "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." Why were they not ashamed? Because they were innocent as children. Every thought was pure, holy and God-honoring. They had no desire to exploit or deceive one another. No ego, no pride, no feeling of competition and no desire to dominate the other.
But all that changed when Adam and Eve sinned. Sin brought immediate consequences. "Their eyes were opened." In an instant they recognized their base desires and felt and looked at their nakedness in a very different way. Gen. 3:7 tells us, "they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings." In the next verse we find them hiding from God. The same God whom they previously walked with and trusted they now HID THEMSELVES FROM. Sin changed how they thought. They were no longer godly and accepting of each other, but now motivated by shame and fear they thought selfishly according to what they now felt was best for them as individuals.
All sin comes from selfish motives. We steal to gain. We kill out of anger and fear. We lie to escape accountability or to gain the smallest measure of the opinion of others. We lust to satisfy unhealthy desires. We covet the things of others because we resent their success and prosperity.
Adam and Eve's sin brought curses upon life that punish all. In Gen. 3:16, Eve brought affliction on all women; their pain in childbirth was multiplied and their marital relationship with the husband would be marked by "a desire" to be in control of him. Because of Adam, men would find the soil cursed with thorns and thistles. An occupation that once was a work of love would now be a work of great labor. And because of Adam's sin in v.19 man and woman "would return to the ground"; meaning they would die.
Pain, labor, contention in relationships, a world that is cursed and the certainty of death. These are all the consequences of sin. And it is passed on to all men regardless of what they do, good or bad. In Rom. 5:12-14 we read, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned- For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed where there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come,"
So as we come to the end of part one of this study, we see that the first sin brought the consequences of sin into the world and they are shared by all who live. We also find that the innocent nature which God placed in man was lost when sin entered the world. Also we find that every relationship that man has is cursed because of sin.
In part two we will examine the impact of the free will of man on the problem of suffering and evil in the world that God made. I hope you will join us then. - David Miller
There are many opinions concerning the partaking of the Lord's Supper, commonly known as the Communion. The vast majority of Protestant denominations do not partake of this act of worship on a weekly basis, citing a concern that somehow it might lessen the impact of this event in the spiritual lives of their congregants. The Roman Catholic Church has long held to the belief that once the emblems (the bread and the cup) have been properly blessed by a priest and are consumed by the believer, they then become the literal flesh and blood of Our Lord. But what does the Bible say concerning this? After all, the Bible ought to always be our authority on all spiritual matters.
First, the Lord's Supper was instituted by Jesus, Himself on the night that He was betrayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke each record this event. Paul also recounts the event as well in 1 Cor. 11:23-32. And for our purpose we will use this account.
"For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take eat, this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me."
"In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." 1 Cor. 11:23-25
Here are the points that the Lord makes. First, the bread and the cup are emblematic of His body and His blood. The point that they are emblems is made clear by the Lord's statement, "Do this in remembrance of Me." This makes it clear that the objective hear is for the believer to "remember" the Lord's sacrificial death on the Cross. A death that Christ died in the flesh. The idea that the Lord's flesh and blood is what is consumed is absent from the Lord's words. It is the symbolic ritual that is in mind here.
Second, the Lord makes a point of reminding us that the cup "is the new covenant in My blood." Jesus' death on the Cross fulfilled the first covenant, the covenant made by God with Abraham. It replaced this covenant with a New Covenant. Why? Because the first was imperfect. Heb. 8:7, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." This covenant offers us "eternal redemption" through His death. Heb. 9:12, "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption." The price of this covenant was the blood (life) of Christ Jesus. It is certainly the "why" of "Why we partake?" By reason of logic those who partake must be those who are now under this New Covenant, those who have through belief, repentance of sins and baptism have had their sins removed and have been born again by the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38, Jn. 3:3-6)
Now let's continue our look at what additional comments Paul the Apostle makes in 1 Cor. 11:26-29, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread and drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
But let a man examine himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body."
First, Paul tells us that this observance is an ongoing act of worship that the church should continue to observe "till He comes." Obviously this coming is the Lord's return to claim His Church. While this is certainly not a "Thou shalt do this every week." it certainly implies a regular event. Compare this with what Luke the author of Acts states in Acts 20:7, "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." It seems that the purpose of the Church of Troas' coming together is by context, to "break bread." The fact that this occurred at such a late hour likely rules out this being a meal. The more likely meaning is that they came together to partake of the Lord's Supper and their custom was to do this weekly.
Secondly in verse 26 Paul states a second purpose in this observance, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." Here we find that the Church is in this act of worship "proclaiming the Lord's death." In essence we are bearing witness to the world that Christ Jesus has died for our sins.
Thirdly, Paul warns all that those who partake must be mindful not to partake "unworthily". To do so will bring judgment upon the offender. The reason why is given to us in verse 29, they are "not discerning the Lord's body." The likely offense here is that the offender did not pause to remember the suffering and death of the Lord. After all it is His body "broken for us" and the cup of His shed blood to give us redemption that we partake of.
But there is a second and equally valid interpretation that may also apply to "not discerning the Lord's body". We know the Church is the Lord's body as well, (1 Cor. 12:27, Eph. 5:30). So what if this "not discerning the Lord's body" also refers to those who have sinned against their fellow believers and have yet to repent and ask for forgiveness?
Consider the Lord's teaching in Mt. 5:23,24, "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there, before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Jesus is literally saying that offenses against our brethren that we have not made right will make our worship to God null and void. This is why He states so clearly a need to go and be "reconciled" before God's throne is approached. Should not the same mandate apply to the Lord's disciples when they come together at the Lord's table? In each instance we are entering into an act of worship and fellowship (communion). My firm belief is that Paul's warning of "not discerning the Lord's body" is two-fold. First I MUST remember the Lord's death for me. Second I MUST NOT be at odds with a brother in Christ. After all, this act of worship is just as much a corporate act as an individual act.
In summary the Lord's Supper should be observed as part of the Sunday acts of worship. We do in fact assemble because Christ died for us. It would be fruitless to even attend church services if Christ did not die to save us! So why not proclaim His death to the world each Sunday? Are we so weak in our conviction that we fear an inability to pause and remember His death? This weekly reminder can only make a Church stronger.
Also, this observance is a memorial. The emblems are only symbolic, but no less important to the truly regenerate. To read any type of supernatural purpose or experience of transubstantiation into this act of worship is just that; to be reading something in the text that is absent!
Finally, it is a serious occasion. It requires us to "discern" our remembrance of our Savior's death and our relationship with our brethren. If either is not present then we ought to decline that invitation to partake until we can do so in good conscience.David Miller
Just last week the United Methodist Church at it's conference in St. Louis narrowly voted not to recognize same-sex marriage or to ordain homosexuals into their clergy. In the days since there has been much emotional response and comment concerning these decisions in various media. Many are deeply hurt because they had found acceptance in these churches. Many are hurt at the prospect of seeing many exit their churches. Many are beginning to express their desire to see their church stand more on Scripture than cultural norm. All are very concerned. So with all of this in mind, let's talk about Scripture, the Church and sexual immorality.
The very first time that God speaks regarding sexual orientation is found in Gen. 1:27, "So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." It is expressed here that God's design at the time of creation was that human sexual identity should be found in how we are created; either male or female. Clearly God is the one who chooses.
Next we find that God ordains marriage. In Gen. 2:23,24, "And Adam said: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man." Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." Adam readily understood that the woman was made for the man and God had made her to be so. With the coming together of man and woman in sexual consummation they are no longer two, but one flesh. The implication is that a family has been established and a bond has been forged.
Jesus understood this as well, and He publicly upheld God's original design for marriage in Mt. 19:4-6. This is very important, because concerning the UMC's acceptance of homosexuality in the past was three contentions: 1.) The Apostle Paul wrote concerning sexual immorality with a "cultural bias", 2.) The Levitical texts found in Lev. 18 concerning homosexuality were intended only for members of the priesthood, and 3.) Jesus NEVER spoke directly concerning homosexuality.
Understand that the context in Mt. 19 in which Jesus affirmed God's design for marriage was given because the Pharisees had advocated "divorce for any reason". They were attacking God's design on the grounds that Moses had given them an allowance for divorce. Jesus' point is that "from the beginning it was not so." (19:8) What Jesus is stating is very clear; Man has no right to alter or change God's design. Therefore if the only design that God ever gave for human sexuality is within the confines of Scriptural marriage ( a man and a woman ) then man HAS NO RIGHT to redefine human sexuality or marriage. God's model is still God's model. Any sexual relationship other than that model is wrong. It does not matter if it is adultery, fornication, pedophilia, beastiality, homosexuality or lesbianism it is by virtue of not being God's model; sexual immorality.
So are there other reasons why God does not want any other model for human sexuality? Yes there is. In 1 Cor. 6:15-20, the Apostle Paul affirms that once we belong to Christ our body as well as our soul belongs to Christ and we are obligated to: "glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God's". In verses 18,19 Paul states, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" When we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ we not only receive the remission of our sins, we also are given the Holy Spirit to dwell inside us. (Acts 2:38, Jn.14:21-23) Our bodies become a "temple"; they are set apart for the purposes of God! When we commit acts of sexual immorality we are literally desecrating God's Temple! Again, remember God has given only ONE MODEL for human sexuality. Any other sexuality besides the sexual activity between a man and a woman in marriage is not the model and is sexual immorality.
Also, we find that a church cannot have fellowship with anyone who fails to repent and ask forgiveness of their sexual immorality. In 1 Cor. 5:1-13 Paul commands in the strongest language that the church must expel a brother who was in an adulterous relationship. Paul makes it clear that his sin must be called out in front of the church assembled. (5:4,5) He also warns that they are obligated to protect the body of Christ. (the church) In v. 6 he states, "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump." His concern is two-fold; 1.) other brethren might see this as an acceptable lifestyle and be caught up in this kind of sin, and 2.) the church would lose their credibility as Christ's church if they behaved as the rest of the sinful Corinthian culture. The church must always break fellowship with any who continue to bring reproach on her by their public sins. Paul again in 2 Cor. 6:14 states, "What fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" SIN IS ALWAYS DARKNESS.
So what should be the response of a Church towards those who are practicing any form of sexual immorality. First, we have an obligation to love them; sin is the enemy, not the sinner. If we love them and make them welcome when they visit our churches then we are showing Christ's love for them. Secondly, when the topic of becoming a Christian or placing membership is approached we should be very forthcoming with the truth revealed to us in Scripture. In becoming a Christian we repent of our sins. (Acts 2:38) Sexual immorality is a sin. Also in the very act of baptism we are to die to sin. (Rom. 6;4-6) We cannot expect to be saved if we wish to continue in any sinful habit. (Rom. 6:1,2) We must also express our confidence that with the help of Christ Jesus we can overcome any sin issue in our lives including sexual sins. And we should strive to make help, support and pastoral counseling available once Christ is received in baptism. In Christ Jesus there is love and transformation. (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 12:1,2)
In our two previous lessons on baptism we have focused on the flaws of objections to baptism. In today's study we want to look at what other Scriptures that we have not previously looked at tell us about the believer's need for Christian baptism.
In Romans chapter six the Apostle Paul gives us several powerful statements concerning what baptism does for us. Turn to Rom. 6:3-6, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin."
The first significant truth that Paul shares with us is that "we are baptized into Christ." This same image of us putting on Christ is also stated in Gal. 3:27, where Paul states, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." To say that "we have put on Christ" is to establish that we have a new identity in Christ. Secondly Paul in v. 4 tells us that in baptism we experience a death. This death is equated by Paul in v.6 to be "the old man of sin" being "crucified" with Christ. In Col. 3:3, Paul writes, "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Again a death has occurred and we are hidden or covered by Christ Jesus! This is how it can be said that we "walk in newness of life." Thirdly in v.5 it is plainly stated that "if we are united in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection." The meaning here is that as Christ was resurrected so to in like manner we will be resurrected. But only if we have also shared in the likeness of His death! And finally, we are now held in captivity by sin (v.6). This is not just our release from the sinful habits we have, but also, and more importantly we are set free from the consequences of sin; which is death, Rom. 6:23.
In 1 Peter 3:20,21 we read, "who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an anti-type 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."
Here Peter is drawing a comparison between the ark which saved Noah and his family and baptism which now is the final step in the process of our salvation. Peter states that baptism is the anti-type of the ark. But what does that mean? In Col. 2:16,17 we read, "So let no one judge you in food or drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." The OT covenant was full of types and shadows; less than perfect ceremonies, observances and food and drink laws. Each of these types in the OT have a more perfect anti-type in the New covenant of Christ. In this case the ark was a less than perfect version of baptism because the salvation it gave was only temporary. Ultimately Noah and his family would die. On the other hand, the anti-type, baptism now saves more perfectly; for it saves us eternally. We must note that while both work "through water", it is incorrect to say we are saved by water. In fact Peter states "but the answer of a good conscience toward God." In other words; we are not saved by the water, but in the act of baptism we have properly answered or said "yes" to His offer to save us. We can conclude from this passage, just as Martin Luther did that "in the waters of baptism we receive the forgiveness of our sins."
Finally, let's take a quick look at what Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul) stated that he was told by Ananias that he must do. In Acts 22:10 Saul states that the Lord told him, "Arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do." Again remember this is the Lord Jesus speaking to Saul. He makes it clear to Saul that he (Saul) will be "told all things which are appointed for you to do." This means simply; whatever Ananias tells you, that you MUST DO! In 22:16 after Ananias has told Saul of the plans that God has for his new life in Christ, he then tells Saul in the form of an imperative command, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord."
Though God had Saul's future mapped out we find there was one thing that Saul had to do. He had to be baptized. This baptism was to "wash away" his sins. Here the effect of baptism presented by Ananias is the same as the effect of baptism presented by Peter on Pentecost. To achieve the removal of his sins or the forgiveness of sins. Ananias also here equates the act of baptism as "calling on the name of the Lord", quite similar as the "answer of a good conscience toward God" in 1 Pe. 3:21; in each case it is the Lord who grants this salvation through the act of baptism as opposed to the physical act being the agent of our salvation.
Did your obedience to the invitation of our Lord's salvation include being "baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins?" If not, Triad Church of Christ would love to help steer you into the proper form of obedience to the gospel of Christ. Let us know either with a call or by e-mail how we can assist you in taking that final step of obedience that you might know that you are saved!God bless, David Miller
In our previous study "Why should all believers be baptized? Part One we spoke of no part of God's word (the Bible) ever contradicting another part of God's word. The Holy Spirit of God is the assurance that though some Scriptures may present challenges, they in no way contradict other Scriptures. In our second part of our study on "Why should all believers be baptized?" we will focus on the chief argument against baptism's role in salvation. This argument is that baptism is a "work of man" and therefore cannot save or contribute to our salvation.
This doctrine never surfaced until some 1500 years after Peter offered the first invitation to be saved in the name of Jesus Christ and stated clearly to those who responded to his message on Pentecost, "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." It was Huldreich Zwingli who first put forth this doctrine of salvation by faith only.
Surprisingly, Zwingli's German counterpart, Martin Luther who is highly regarded by most denominations differed with Zwingli, taking the historical view that baptism is a "saving work of God". In fact, Luther states, "Through baptism man is saved." ( Small Catechism IV:6)
Zwingli's main contention is based on what Paul states in Eph. 2:8,9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast." Zwingli's assumption is that anything which a man does to receive salvation is a "work of man." This would certainly seem to contradict what Paul clearly states here in Eph. 2: 8,9.
But there is a key question that must be asked here. That question is: "Can someone other than God perform a work of God?" Look at John 6:27-29. Here Jesus has just fed 5,000 people and they are now determined to make Him their King. And for good reason;p Jesus could feed the whole nation of Israel with the most insignificant amount of food. Now Jesus is determined to shift their focus from the temporary needs of this earthly life to the eternal need of every man. The need of salvation.
"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal upon Him. Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
Here Jesus makes it clear that there is a "work of God" that MAN MUST DO in order to have "everlasting life". That work is "to believe in Jesus".
This "work of God" is faith, just as Paul stated in Eph. 2:8,9. But what manner of work is this? Is it not an act of obedience? Bear in mind this faith that Paul speaks of in Eph. 2:8,9 is not "the gift of God", grace is. Neither here in John 6:29 is this faith (believe) a gift. It is said by Jesus to be "the work of God". So obviously, this type of work, though said to be a "work of God", MUST BE DONE BY MAN.
So it should logically follow that any acts of obedience that the Bible tells us we need to do to receive salvation should fall under the category of a "work of God." Therefore, when Peter commanded those who cried out for salvation from the wrath of God and the penalty of their sins on the day of Pentecost, that they "Repent, and let everyone 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) he was telling them to do these acts of obedience because they are "works of God." When viewed properly as "doing the works of God" baptism is kept in the same role in which it was practiced by the Apostles and subsequent generations of the Church for the first 1,500 years of it's existence. And is in no way in conflict with what Paul writes in Eph. 2: 8,9.
As always, if you desire to speak with me on this subject or others, feel free to send me an e-mail through our contact page at this website. Until next time, God bless you richly.
The necessity of baptism of the believer has been debated since the Reformation Movement. Many churches see no reason to baptize, believing that a simple prayer to God asking for forgiveness of sins and for "Jesus to come into their hearts" is sufficient.
It would come as a surprise to most members of American denominations to learn that the church practiced baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins for nearly 1,500 years. This only changed when a Swiss reformer, Huldreich Zwingli formulated a doctrine that contrary to Scripture teaches that baptism cannot be for the purpose of salvation because it is a "work of man" and the total work of atonement has been done for us through Christ Jesus. Zwingli primarily based his conclusion on a faulty understanding of Ephesians 2:8,9, where the Apostle Paul states, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
Zwingli's objection was based on the notion that anything that a man might do in an effort to receive this gift is a work and thus violates the concept of salvation being a gift. Essentially he saw this as discrediting God.
There are two things that must be recognized about baptism in the writings and practices of the early church that put the Zwinglian view at odds with NT Scripture. One of the primary assumptions that any student of God's word must observe when handling the Scriptures is that no part of Scripture will ever be in conflict with another part of Scripture. If this is the case then God's word would be contradicting itself! This would lead some to discredit the Bible as God's word based on the conclusion that some passages are in opposition to others. The Bible must have agreement and harmony on every subject if it is indeed God's word.
So with this in mind, let's take a look at what the Apostles of the Lord Jesus practiced and preached concerning baptism and salvation on day one of the church that Christ established. Look at Acts 2:37,38. Here we find that Peter has just stated that his audience was responsible for the murder of Jesus, who was (is) the Son of God and their long awaited Christ (Messiah). They had rejected Him and thereby participated in His murder! (v.36)
Now Luke tells us of the response of the audience that day, "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, What shall we do?" "Then Peter said to them, "Repent and let every one of you be baptized for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
Now understand that Peter along with the rest of the twelve Apostles had received the Apostolic measure of the Holy Spirit that day. Not only did this special measure of the Holy Spirit enable them to preach to others in their own languages, per Acts 2: 7,8, but just as importantly they were "guided into all truth" by this measure of the Holy Spirit. This was promised to the Apostles by the Lord Himself in Jn. 16:13 where Jesus told them, "However when He the Spirit of Truth has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will tell you of things to come."
Now with this knowledge that the Holy Spirit personally guided and led the Apostles into "all truth", it would be impossible for Peter to have given an answer in Acts 2:38 that WAS NOT THE TRUTH! Because he was under the direction of the Holy Spirit. What Peter stated was exactly what God had directed him to state through the Holy Spirit.
What Peter told them was directly given to him by the Holy Spirit. In order to be saved from God's wrath and punishment these men MUST do two things; 1.) repent of their sins, and 2.) be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins and so they might receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. How important are these two benefits that Peter promised through baptism? They are essential. They must occur if one is to be saved! One must have their sins remitted (forgiven) and one must have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in order to be "born again" as Jesus stated to Nicodemus in Jn. 3:5, "Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." The only way to be saved is to be "born again". The only way to be born again is to be "born of water and the Spirit." There is NO OTHER act in Scripture that a believer is told to do that fulfills these requirements! NONE.
To deny one baptism for the remission of sins and to receive the Holy Spirit is in direct conflict with what the Apostles taught and practiced beginning on the day of Pentecost. It is also to dispute that the Holy Spirit gave proper instruction to Peter. It is to say that the hand chosen Apostles of our Lord, in spite of the direction of the Holy Spirit somehow got the answer to the most important question WRONG!
In part two of our study we will look at the question, "Is baptism a work of man or a work of God?" Should you desire to speak with me personally on this topic or present another question to me, please feel free to contact me through the contact page here at triadcc.org. Until next time, may God bless you richly.
One of the truly great hymns the Church has ever used is the hymn, "Just as I am." The point of this wonderful hymn is that Christ Jesus will accept us as we are with all of our sins and flaws. Christ has never told anyone, "Come back and see me when you get your life right!" He will take you as you are.
But this is not where the story of our relationship with Christ Jesus ends. From that point where we emerge from the waters of baptism, "we are raised to walk in newness of life." (Rom. 6:4) Paul also makes the idea of change clear to us in 2 Cor. 5:17 where he tells us, "Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." The implication is that we must leave our old life of sin and selfishness behind.
This transformation really begins before we are baptized when we repent of our sins. The Greek word which is rendered in our New Testaments as "repent" literally means to "turn away". We must thus "turn away" from our sins when we are baptized into Christ. (Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:1-4)
Our help in this matter comes four key resources. In Gal. 5:25 we read, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." Allowing the Holy Spirit, Whom we received upon baptism to guide us we will surely change our sinful behaviors. The study of God's word is also essential for true transformation. This is especially true of learning Christ's teachings. In Jn. 6:68 when Jesus asked the twelve if they would leave Him as many others had; Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." There is NO SUBSTITUTE for knowing the teachings of Christ Jesus!
Much time in prayer each day is a must. Praise God with your prayers and declare your dependence upon God for all things. This was the very thing Jesus asked us to do when He gave us the model prayer in Mt. 6:8-15. And finally, realize Christ has redeemed you so you might be a member of HIS Church. Too many believers today discount attendance and participation in the body of Christ ( HIS Church). Upon your salvation you are automatically added to HIS Church (Acts 2:47). So take your place in the local body of Christ. It is God's will for your life. Think about it...David
"Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore also that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called "barren". For with God nothing will be impossible."
"Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her." Lu. 1:34-38.
Has God ever called on you to do "the impossible?" Maybe it was a ministry or task within the Church that you did not feel qualified to do. Maybe it was to abandon a sin issue in your life which you had tried for years to end. Perhaps it was to take a "leap of faith" and leave a career that left no time for service in Christ's kingdom.
I'm sure many of us have had or still have those areas of our lives that we need to surrender to Christ and trust that He will give us the equipping or the strength or the daily provision to be submitted to His will. Usually in these cases, FEAR is our worst enemy. FEAR tells us "You can't do this!" Truly FEAR is a part of our fallen human nature.
To the many of you who live in FEAR that God cannot or will not help you with these "impossible" challenges, I give you Mary. Mary was likely 13 or 14 years old when the Angel Gabriel told her of the most unique ministry she must perform for God. She freely confessed that she could not understand "how" this miraculous birth could occur since she was single and apparently not to become Joseph's wife anytime soon. She likely could have given 1,000 reasons (excuses) why she was not right for the job. But she didn't. She simply trusted God and He did the rest. Her response in v.38 validates that inside this young heart was a servant who trusted God to make up for her inadequacies.
The Apostles Paul, Peter and the New Testament author James each chose to refer to themselves as "a bond servant of the Lord." A bond servant is one who has voluntarily placed himself in the service of another. In the case of these men and Mary, the other was Christ Jesus. Before any of us can have the "true heart of a servant" we must defeat FEAR. FEAR will only be defeated when we trust Christ. Check out what Jesus promised those who "put the kingdom first" in Mt. 6:31-33. God never fails the faithful...Think about it...David
"For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isa. 9:6. To most of us who have a relationship with Christ Jesus this is a familiar passage. It is a prophecy concerning the birth of Christ. Here Isaiah reveals to us four names by which the Savior would be called. Each is grand and majestic and speaks to Jesus' pre-eminence, power, wisdom and glory.
In Scripture Jesus is referred to by nearly 150 different names, titles and personifications. Among these are Christ, the Son of the Most High, the Bread from Heaven, the Good Shepherd, the Alpha and Omega and Emmanuel. The name by which Jesus most often referred to Himself was Son of Man. Seventy-seven times Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man.
It is an appropriate title. It infers that God chose to become man. I like the idea that God chose to become man. It means that He has experienced everything that I go through and with the same feelings that I would have. Literally the Son of Man has walked many miles in our shoes! He knows my disappointments, my fears, my joy, my grief, and my anxieties. He has been there!
The Hebrew writer is quick to point out to us that Jesus' life experience from a human perspective leads Him to be able to understand and have empathy for our struggle. In Heb. 4:15 we are told, "For we have not a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin." What a comforting thought to know that the Son of God is also the Son of Man and understands just how I feel. Think about it...David.
Do you remember the most anticipated Christmas that you experienced as a child? That one year that you really wanted that one toy more than anything you had ever wanted. My most anticipated Christmas as a child was the year I got a new bicycle. It was a three speed "Sting ray", lime green in color with a sparkling green banana seat and knobby tires. I anticipated getting that bike for over three months. And it was well worth the wait!
Somethings are well worth the wait. Waiting for the right spouse. Waiting for the right job. Waiting for the best deal on a car or a home all fall in this category. Unfortunately, sometimes we get tired of waiting. A hasty decision might only cost us money or time lost, but sometimes it will haunt us for the rest of our life.
God can easily identify with the value of waiting patiently. After He had created a perfect world and two perfect people God watched as the sin of Adam and Eve literally destroyed His perfect work. But being God He already knew that was going to happen and already had a plan to restore His creation and redeem mankind from sin. The only catch was that it wouldn't happen immediately.
From the moment of sin in Genesis 3:6 until the resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 28:6 approximately 4,000 years came and went. Yet God waited patiently. Paul comments on God's timing in Gal. 4:4,5, saying, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."
God's plan worked out over a period of 4,000 years. All the details; people, places, kingdoms, triumphs, losses, miracles, prophecies, sins, revivals, apostasies practically too numerous to list had to occur before you and I could be saved from our sins! It did not simply happen in one single day! Yet God was patient and God was faithful.
So, when you are impatiently awaiting that answer to prayer; the restoration of relationship, the healing of a spouse, happier times, the arrival of a child or any other event that you have prayed countless times for, remember this: Everything comes in God's time, not your time. Be patient. Be faithful. And above all things be prayerful as you await the time when God will grant your petition. Good things happen when we wait. Think about it....David
Many of our heroes of the faith had moral failures. Peter denied the Lord thrice on the night of His betrayal. Samson was immoral and violated his Nazrite vow repeatedly. The prophet Jonah thought he could ignore the call that God had placed on him to go preach against Nineveh. Lot became drunk and slept with his two daughters. Even Abraham showed a lack of faith in God on at least three occasions.
Most of us are aware of the sin of King David. David was said by God to be "a man after My own heart", yet in spite of his wonderful relationship with God the Father, David committed heinous sins before God. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, though he had several wives and concubines. Then when he realized that her pregnancy would reveal his sin before all Israel David had her husband Uriah killed. David literally gave the command that Uriah should be murdered. You can read of David's sins in 2 Samuel chapter 11.
Ultimately God had Nathan the prophet confront David about his sin. David then recognized and repented of his sin. Though he was forgiven still there were consequences; the child would die and one of David's sons, Absalom would betray him. Anytime we sin there are some consequences we must still bear.
David records his own prayer to God concerning his sin and his desire to be forgiven in Ps. 51. It is not only a beautiful prayer, but it also reveals a truly penitent heart. In v. 2 we read, "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." In v. 7, David continues saying, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow." And in v.10, "Create in me a clean heart, O' God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." David's desire was not only to be forgiven, but also restored.
The wonderful thing about our relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ is that even when we fail we can still be forgiven and restored. All we need is to confess our sin and ask for forgiveness. A helpful resource on this matter can be found in 1 Jn. 1: 5-10. Think about it....David
"Now Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died when he wads one hundred and ten years old. And they buried him within the border of his inheritance at Timnath Heres, in the mountains of Ephraim, on the north side of Mount Gaash. When all that generation had been gathered with their fathers, another generation rose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel." Jdgs. 2:8-10
The generation of Joshua was the generation of Israel that that inherited the promised land of Canaan. They had first-hand evidence of God. They had experienced His power when He dried up the Jordan River to allow them to cross. They watched as He leveled the mighty walls that surrounded Jericho. They beheld the ground splitting open and swallowing Achan who had sinned against God, as well as his family. Yet once this generation had passed, their children DID NOT KNOW GOD!
How could that be? Simple, the Israelites did not teach their children about God. They failed to praise God in the presence of their children. They did not boast of the great blessings they had received from God's hand.
Beloved, their is great danger to our children when we fail to teach them the reality of God! When we fail to share the story of the One True God with our children they often accept the false gods of this present age that CANNOT SAVE THEM! When we fail to tell them that God loved all men so much "that He gave His only begotten Son" for their sins, they will likely die in their sins and WILL BE LOST FOR ETERNITY! When we fail to share the pattern of teachings found in the New Testament that tell us exactly what the real Church that was founded by the real Jesus practiced and believed, then we leave them with the erroneous concept that ANY CHURCH WILL DO!
We must teach our children the Bible! We must see to it that their view of God, Jesus and His Church is correct and meshes with Scripture. True New Testament Christianity is always only one generation removed from vanishing when the older generation fails to do their part. Truth matters, let no one deceive you. As God, Himself declared in Deut. 6:6,7, "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." Think about it...David
"For we know that if our earthly house, this tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven." 2 Cor. 5:1,2
Most of us do not like to think of our death. This is natural because we fear the great unknown. What happens once we die? Most of us whether we have chosen Christ or not are a little unsettled in what will become of us.
Paul refers to our body here as our earthly house, our tent. The fact that he refers to our bodies as tents is of great significance because a tent is never meant as a permanent structure, only a temporary measure. And so it is for those who trust in Christ our bodies are only temporary as is our lives here on earth. There is something much better. Something permanent. Something eternal. It here called "our habitation which is from heaven." And it is not made by "hands". Instead it comes from God, the perfect engineer, the flawless designer, the authority on what is best for all men.
Most of us are never happy with our bodies. We are too short or too tall. We are too skinny or as is the case most often, too fat. If we have straight hair we would rather have curls. And of course "brunettes want to be blondes." This lack of contentment stems from the curse of sin. The perfect creation was spoiled and God's design for us was damaged. Beloved only God can make you what you want to be. I am ever convinced that what God chooses to clothe us with in eternity will not only be flawless, but also will make us content with our new and eternal appearance.
So do not fret and worry over the decay of our human bodies. It was only a temporary covering. One that will one Day be replaced by a perfect body given to us by a Perfect God to all who trust in His Perfect Son Christ Jesus. Be encouraged and Think about it! David.
Years ago on Christmas Eve I discovered my water pipes were frozen, so I crawled under my house to begin the long process of thawing out the water line. Moments later I heard a friendly voice, asking the question, "Did your pipes freeze?' It was a neighbor, who quickly volunteered to help me with my problem. After a quick trip to a hardware store for heating tape and pipe wrap and the heat from a small propane torch wielded by my neighbor, we managed to solve the problem in roughly three hours.
That neighbor had been a great source of help to me in my time of need. Gene Mosley was his name and I doubt if I will ever forget his kindness and his desire to help his clueless 27 year old neighbor.
You and I have a helper who is available to us in this life. He is the Lord Jesus Christ. In Heb. 13:5,6 we are told, "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you, So we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" The Lord's help to us is two-fold. First he supplies our needs. When we accept this fact we will overcome our temptation towards covetousness. This point is brought to bear in Mt. 6:33 where we are told by the Lord, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you." If you and I are faithful to Him and trust Him, He will never cease to meet our needs. Secondly, the Hebrew writer tells us there is no need for us to fear anything that man may do to us. We live in times where violence and cruelty are ever increasing. With Christ it does not matter what man may do to us. To this point Paul reminds us in 2 Cor. 5: 7,8, "For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present in the Lord." Should we perish we have not lost a thing, but instead we have gain our reward in Christ.
Is there a greater helper to be found? One who supplies our needs. One who has promised, "I will never leave you nor forsake you? May the Lord be your helper. For there is none to have with you as you walk through the uncertainty that is this life. Think about it...David
What makes church feel like home? Though proper doctrine and practice are essential, we must realize that the church is a family. All who are in Christ are a part of this family. We are brothers and sisters and as such we are all obligated to practice hospitality to one another.
The writer of Hebrews makes a great point that God's people should be given to hospitality. In Heb. 13: 1,2 we read, "Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels." I suspect that the Hebrew writer had in mind the hospitality that Abraham showed the heavenly visitors who showed up at his tents in Gen. 18. One of these three visitors is identified as "the Lord", and it is commonly believed this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ Himself. On that day Abraham gave rest and refreshment to these three "strangers."
The point that is firmly established by the Hebrews author is that God sees our hospitality or lack thereof. And while one may not be literally entertaining an angel, it is still our duty to promote love within the body of Christ by hosting others in our homes. In the post modern era of the church this seems to be a lost grace. With many of us not wanting such intrusions of our privacy. Yet we must always realize that we are expected to be different from the ordinary citizens of this world. Paul in Phil. 3:20 reminds us that "our citizenship is in heaven." This truth alone should cause us to make a serious effort to open our homes to the brethren. The family of God is a wonderful thing. It is to bad that many will never experience the joy and love of true fellowship with the brethren on this side of eternity. Think about it...David
"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." Col. 4:5,6. A new day for the believer in Christ is not just a gift, but also an opportunity. It is an opportunity that must be used wisely.
Those who are outside of Christ Jesus are watching us. Do they see our joy? Do they see the difference in our behavior. In our priorities? If they do then we are truly "redeeming the time." Another way of saying this is, "make everyday count for Christ Jesus." After all He is the Lord of our life. We should glorify Him in all that we do. Col. 3:17
The "lost" do not read the Bible, nor do they frequent churches looking for eternal life. To them we are the Bible and we are the only sermon that they may hear. For this reason we must "walk in wisdom". Understanding that they may only be reached through our efforts and examples.
It is too easy to get side tracked in the worries and cares of this life. When we do we can come across as discouraged and less than joyful. When this happens the "lost" hear the same negatives that everyone else around them are expressing.
Beloved we have true joy because "our names are written in heaven." (Lu. 10:20) Even when everything is crumbling we have this great promise that Paul constantly reminded himself of; "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." Rom. 8:18. Knowing this let us be ever mindful of putting our best foot forward to those who do not know Christ. Think about it...David
Who has the most influence on your life? Your parents? A teacher? A political party? A spouse? A mentor? Maybe a philosophy or religion? All of these will ultimately shape the way we act and think.
For the Christian it is Christ who ought to have the greatest influence on our lives. Paul in Gal. 3:27 tells us, "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." His point is that upon our rebirth in Christ we begin to live a life that should change how we act, how we think, how we behave and what truly guides us through life.
There are really three things that all disciples must embrace to become more like Christ. First we must die to sin. Paul makes this clear to us in Rom. 6:1-4. It is against the will of Christ for us to continue to live in sin. Secondly, we must employ the teaching of the Lord Jesus in our daily lives. Jesus stated that the wise man would "hear His teachings and do them." Mt. 7:24-27. And thirdly we must "follow Him". In Mt. 16:24 He tells all who would be disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." One must truly be committed to a life of serving the Lord. The very definition of the word "disciple" is "one who follows."
Now if this seems difficult, that's because it is. It is a process, not a sudden supernatural act. It takes years, maybe a lifetime. And be aware that you still will not be perfect on this side of eternity. The Apostle Paul, great follower of Christ understood that even his best efforts were still indicative of a need for improvement. In a verse that should serve as both encouragement and comfort for all of us, he said in Phil. 3:12, "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Here Paul confesses that he was still striving, because he was lacking. So to we must "press on". But we must also realize that Christ "has laid hold" of us as well and we can rest assured that He will help us daily as we strive to do His will. Think about it...David
"Blessed assurance Jesus is mine, O' what a foretaste of glory Divine. Heir of salvation, purchase of love. Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood." The words are familiar and comforting. In Jesus we have this assurance if we continue to walk faithfully with Him.
We have had our sins forgiven through the blood of Christ. (Eph. 1:7) We have received the mark of the circumcision that is not of human hands when we were baptized into Christ. (Col. 2:11,12). The grace of God has saved us. (Eph. 2:8) We are saved, but yet we still often fall short of the standard that Christ expects of us. And sometimes we are troubled with doubts about whether we are indeed saved. After all, we supposedly have died to sin. (Rom. 6:1,2) Are we right to feel this way?
The answer as is always the case, is found in the Scriptures. In 1 Jn. 1:7-9, "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Here John reveals two great truths about walking faithfully in Christ. The first is that if we are "walking in the light" our sins will continue to be forgiven. This is not to be interpreted as our past sins, but rather our future sins. If we are striving to follow Christ and apply His teachings to our lives, then even when we stumble, we will be forgiven! This does not apply to "willful sin" as the Hebrew writer points to in Heb. 6:4-6, but rather it pertains to the believer who strives daily to "walk in the light".
The second great truth is that we must "confess our sins". The truth is that WE WILL SIN, even after we have repented and been baptized into Christ. Salvation guarantees forgiveness not perfection! So each day as I come to God in prayer I must confess my sins, both the ones I am aware of and the one's I might have forgotten. This will guarantee that I enjoy the gift of continual cleansing.
So the great lesson for every child of God is that though we might stumble as we walk in the light, our daily confession on our sins will cover us with the blood of Christ Jesus. While conscience is most often a good barometer of our spiritual health, we must acknowledge that try as we might we will never be perfect on this side of eternity. Keep walking in the Light and cling to that "Blessed Assurance". Think about it.
"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 Indeed these are some of the most beautiful words ever penned, "I have been crucified with Christ." All of us should seek to die with Christ if for no other reason than to be saved.
To my knowledge no other religion requires that one die to self as Christianity does. But for most this is not an easy task. By nature we are selfish. We want what we want. Self-sacrifice goes against everything that culture encourages us to be. Yet like Paul we too must be dead to self.
Jesus made it clear to all that our freedom as His followers was not without cost. In Jn. 8:31,32 Jesus encouraged a number of Jews who had begun to believe in Him with these words: "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Here we find the key principle to our dying to self; it is to obey or abide in the "words" or teachings of Christ. Our lives must be surrendered to His will. No exceptions.
This principle requires that WE KNOW His teachings. Sadly there are many churches that now refuse to accept some of the Lord's teachings. Some encourage the most common form of idolatry; the desire to have God always subject to our will. Some, especially within the "word of faith" movement, blatantly encourage covetousness. And now, more and more are willing to accept sexual immorality.
Because false teachers abound, as do false churches we must NEVER accept any man or woman's teaching without question. We also must do as the people of Berea did in Acts 17:11 when Paul was preaching and teaching Christ there. Luke says of them, "they searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether those things were so."
With this in mind we all must search the Scriptures to be able to validate or refute what is being offered to us by those who claim to be ministers of Christ. The greatest asset to living a life surrendered to Christ is a sound knowledge of His teachings. So study the Gospels. They are the record of Our Lord's teachings. Preserved so you and I might "know the truth and the truth shall set us free." Study what He taught that you might be "dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. 6:11 Think about it.
The times we live in are quite dangerous! Just watch the news on a regular basis and you will know what I mean. Recently I heard a news report which informed me that over the weekend fifty-nine people had lost their lives in the greater Chicago area because of gun violence. This was not the total of one mass shooting, but instead, a person here and a person there.
When we hear such terrible news, we often feel a need arm ourselves that we might defend ourselves. We do have a constitutional right to do so. But how does God feel about a child of God who is prepared to wound, injure or kill another human being?
In the Old Testament God's people not only defended themselves as individuals, but as a nation as well. Some of God's best known servants wielded the sword. Abraham did. Joshua did. David did. Of course they for the most part acted on God's will.
But what of God's will for His people today? The Lord Jesus told His followers to "turn the other cheek" Mt. 5:39, and to "love your enemies", Mt. 5:44. Do we as Christ's followers REALLY feel that way? Are we prepared to set aside our rights when we are threatened?
Paul instructed the church in Philippi to, "Do all things without complaining or disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Phil. 2:14,15.
So here is the wisdom of God concerning our right to kill or hurt others in an effort to defend ourselves. First, the only threat to you and I comes from those who are sinners. Those who are not God's children. Secondly, we are called to SHINE as lights in this world. We are to be different! Jesus said as much in Mt. 5:14-16. If I act in darkness, I CANNOT be light! And thirdly, to that extent the child of God MUST be "harmless". I am not free to harm or injure anyone at my discretion because God says I must be different!
This teaching from the Lord is not very popular in a world where we cherish our rights. However anyone who is in Christ must surrender to HIS authority if he wants to be Jesus' disciple, ( Jn. 8:31,32, Lu. 9:23). So to this end, as in all cases we must make every attempt to do the will of Christ. If we choose not, then we may not be truly His disciple. Think about it....
Most of us can honestly say that we have received many things of which we are grateful for. Perhaps it was a birthday or Christmas present that we really wanted. Maybe it was job that we desperately needed. Maybe it was a stranger who saw we were having car trouble and came to our rescue. It might have been a debt that we couldn't pay that we were forgiven of.
Whatever the case, we likely expressed our gratitude with very sincere thank yous, maybe a card, or a small heartfelt gift. A former neighbor whose small yard adjoined mine once baked me a pan of brownies because I had mowed their small yard every time I mowed mine one summer. The brownies were delicious and it felt good to be appreciated.
But in some instances we have likely found that we could never do or say enough for someone else' act of kindness. Such was the case in Luke, chapter seven, when Jesus was invited to the home of a Pharisee named Simon. As Jesus sat at the table, a woman who was known by Simon to be a sinner, likely a prostitute came to Jesus and washed his feet with her tears. She then dried the Lord's feet with her hair. Then taking an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, she anointed His feet with this oil.
Jesus, knowing what was in Simon's heart told him a story of two men who owed sums of money to a certain creditor. One owed 500 denarii, the other 50. The creditor forgave both because neither had the money to pay him. Jesus then asked Simon, "which of them will love him more?" Simon logically stated, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more."
After Jesus had reminded Simon of all that the woman had done to show her love for Him and reminded of the social customs which Simon had failed to show the Him, Jesus then amplified Simon's own answer to the Lord's story. In Lu. 7:47, "Therefore I say to you, her sins which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."
You and I owed God a debt that we could not pay. That debt was paid by Jesus, though Jesus owed nothing to us. Paul pointed to this in Rom. 5:8, "But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly." Does your life show the kind of gratitude that the sinful woman showed Christ?
"And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen." Mt. 6:13. When Jesus taught the disciples to pray in Mt. 6:8-15 He clearly asks that they pray, "Lead us not into temptation." The question arises, "Why would a God who loves us and desires the best for us ever lead us into temptation?" To say the least it seems as if this is contrary of a loving God. But yet we know these words are the words of the Savior and therefore must be true.
The answer would seem to be that while God does not tempt us Himself, He does at times "test" us. This was true of Abraham in Gen. 22:1-14, when He asked Abraham to "offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering." In this instance, while God asked Abraham to do something immoral and contrary to God's general character, God would have never allowed Abraham to actually sacrifice his son. In short, Abraham could only fail this test if he never purposed in his heart to offer up Isaac.
Temptation, on the other hand comes from within. James verifies this for us in Jas. 1:12-15. James clearly states that the source of temptation comes from our own "desires". Sinful desires are a part of the sinful nature of man. A nature that should in time change after one has obeyed the Gospel of Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17, Rom.12:2
Our perspective on temptation is often incorrect. Because James tells us in Jas. 1:12 that there is a "crown of life" to be gained if we love Christ more than any pleasure or treasure that yielding to temptation might bring. Paul reminds us as well that "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Literally God always gives us an escape hatch.
So while God does test us, it is our own sinful desires that tempt us. It is a mark of Christian maturity when we pass the test and refuse to submit to sin.
"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." Col. 3:17. So you talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? It's a question we who claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior must ask ourselves periodically. Is my life wholly surrendered to treating others with love and dignity, regardless of how they may treat me? Or do I just love those who love me. You know Jesus said, "Even the tax collectors do the same." Mt. 5:46
What if everyone I ran into today was Jesus? My boss, my wife, the clerk at the store, the guy who delivers my pizza, or even the couple that live next door. Would I act differently? I'm sure I would.
The truth is that anyone I encounter ought to receive my brightest smile. Don't they all deserve an encouraging word? Would I complain as much as I currently do if Jesus was my foreman? Of course not. Jesus would always get a cheerful employee ready to do a good days work.
The point is this; Jesus wants everyone I serve, work for or encounter to get the royal treatment. Be my best, do my best to everyone I come in contact with. That is so unlike the rest of the world. Right? But, then again Jesus expects us to be different from the world. The Greek word for "church" means "the called out". And that is exactly what Jesus wants you and I to be. Called out of the world, called out of sin and called out of our self-interest. So glorify Christ Jesus in all you do!
Mt. 5:223,24 "Therefore if you bring your gift before the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Growing up with a brother two years younger than myself I discovered that I could play the part of the bully anytime I wanted to play with something that he was playing with. I'm sure he would agree that I got away with that kind of behavior frequently.
But sometimes I got caught. And when I got caught there were consequences. Usually a "switching" or a few lashes with Dad's belt. This was their way of keeping peace in the family. And over time it worked. By the time I had entered the teenage years I recognized that if my relationship with my brother wasn't good, then my relationship with my father would not be good either.
Jesus makes it clear to all who desire to worship God the Father that our relationship with our church brethren must be good. If it isn't then there will be a major consequence; God won't accept our worship!
Just as there will be relationship issues in any earthly family, there will, from time to time be relationship issues between members of the family of God. When we ignore our wrongs against our brethren there are two huge risks we run. First we risk causing the brother we have hurt to stumble or fall. But even if he doesn't fall God will still hold us accountable for making things right. His punishment is that He won't receive our worship.
So how would you like to have to explain to God someday why you refused to apologize to another member of the body of Christ? The easy answer is that we wouldn't like that task. But yet, hear what Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:10, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." I think this knowledge really puts everything in proper perspective. Don't you? Think about it.
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?- Unless indeed you are disqualified." 2 Cor. 13:5
"Christians are not perfect, only forgiven." The quote is not attributed to anyone, yet it is just as true as Scripture. In spite of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord and the on-going work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are still vulnerable to sin. While the grace of God will cover our sins provided that we ask for forgiveness, we must realize that God's will for our lives is that we be free from sin and "slaves to righteousness." Rom. 6:17,18.
But what about sinful habits that we become complacent about? What about those areas of our lives that seem to always be a "work in progress"? Are there consequences for the Christian who seems to continue in sin?
Paul's reminder to us in 2 Cor. 13:5 should be a sobering reminder that our daily walk with Christ might very well be a daily struggle to overcome sin. Paul himself acknowledged the possibility that even he could be "disqualified", 1 Cor. 9:27. Wow! If the greatest missionary the world has ever known, the man who wrote nearly two thirds of the New Testament could be "disqualified" by sin, how much more can most of us?
Now don't start out on a never-ending guilt trip just because you recognize that you too have reoccurring sin issues in your life. While that is not what God wants, the very fact you recognize them means you are still capable of true heartfelt repentance. This alone means that God will still forgive you when you go to Him daily for help and forgiveness. 2 Cor. 7:10, Jas. 5:16.
The advice Paul gives us to "examine ourselves" is needful to all. After all, we all want to please God. Self examination not only leads to true repentance, but to a greater desire to improve oneself. Intense prayer accompanied by regular fasting can be a great tool for overcoming these sin issues. Finding a trusted brother or sister in Christ in whom you can confide your needs to, is well within the context of Jas. 5:16. Therefore examine yourselves to see if you re in the faith. May God bless you richly.