What About Other Baptisms?

Since the Restoration, members of the Lord’s church have grappled with the question of what to do with those we meet who have been immersed in water for some religious reason, but not for the forgiveness of sins.  For instance, there are those who teach that the purpose of baptism is to admit the already-saved believer to a particular denomination.  When we encounter someone like this, do they still need to obey the gospel (including the call to baptism for forgiveness of sins), or are they already a Christian by virtue of their earlier baptism, so that they need only to join a local church?

This is a question of great importance.  As with all matters that relate directly to salvation, our souls and the souls of others depend on us getting it right.  There’s certainly plenty of appeal to the second position.  None of us like having to say to somebody, “Um, you think you’re saved from your sins, but you’re actually not.”

However, this more comfortable view cannot be defended from Scripture.   To start with, we must recognize that obedience to God is often not a matter of merely doing the right thing.  Indeed, there are many places in the Bible when even a generalized desire to obey God is not enough to satisfy the mental aspects of a commandment.

Consider, for instance, the Lord’s Supper.  The outward form of obedience here is simple:  eat bread, drink cup.  However, sharing in the Lord’s Supper in a God-pleasing way requires a great deal more mental effort from us, and partaking only from a generic desire to please God doesn’t satisfy the Scriptural requirement.  Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 that as we eat, we must examine ourselves and discern the body (in context, the Lord’s body).  Anyone who doesn’t do this is eating and drinking judgment to themselves, and this is true even if they are thinking, “I’m doing this because God told me to.”

The same holds true for baptism.  As with the Lord’s Supper, satisfying God in this matter requires a specific mental intent from us.  Acts 2:38 doesn’t say “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, and you will receive the forgiveness of sins.”  If that were the case, the reason for baptism wouldn’t matter.

Instead, the text says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (in context, the salvation of Acts 2:21)  This is a passage that requires specific mental intent.  If we wish to receive the gift of salvation, we must come to baptism with the purpose of seeking forgiveness of sins.

Of course, there are many other texts in Scripture that express the same idea in slightly different language.  The objective of baptism is variously described as entering the kingdom of God (John 3:5), washing away sins (Acts 22:16), walking in newness of life (Romans 6:4), putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27, and, most simply, salvation (1 Peter 3:21).  Even this is far from a complete list of the relevant passages, but all of them teach the same truth.  We must come to the water in search of salvation, and if we do not, we are not going to be saved by accident!  Those who are not seeking are not going to find.

At this point, it’s worth noting that many of the other rationales advanced for baptism do not appear in Scripture.  For instance, nothing in the New Testament ever says that we should be baptized to join a church.  That’s teaching as doctrine the commandments of men, plain and simple.

Similarly, the baptism of Jesus is not an example for us.  He was baptized with the baptism of John, and the narrative of Acts 19:1-5 reveals that the baptism of John is no longer sufficient.  The Ephesian disciples had experienced the same baptism that Jesus did, but they still had to be “re-baptized” in the name of Jesus.  In our baptisms, we must seek to be united with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, not with His baptism.

In Paul’s great list of the essentials of the faith in Ephesians 4:4-5, he includes “one baptism”.  If we wish to enjoy the unity of the Spirit with others, all of us must believe in and accept Bible baptism—baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  Spiritual unity, whether with God or with His people, is impossible without agreement on and obedience to this fundamental doctrine.

Teaching otherwise is extraordinarily dangerous.  There are few things more perilous to the soul than the false assurance of salvation.  If someone has not fulfilled all the Scriptural requirements for baptism, they remain in their sins, and this is true even when they incorrectly believe that they have been saved.  When we assure someone like this that they’re already in a right relationship with God, we are doing nothing less than encouraging their feet down the path to hell.

Souls have already been eternally lost and will continue to be lost because of this pernicious false teaching.  We dare not accept it.  Otherwise, in addition to imperiling the souls of others, we endanger our own.

– Matt Bassford

Advertisements

The Bringer of Grace and Peace

Most people are familiar with the birth story of Jesus. They might be confused about how many wise men came to Jesus, where Jesus was when they came, and even when Jesus was born. But most at least know that He was born of a virgin named Mary. They know that He was born in the city of David (Bethlehem). They know that the angels of God celebrated after His birth was announced to shepherds in the field (Luke 2:8-18).

Personally, I am glad that many are aware of the amazing events surrounding the birth of our Lord. But there is one big thing that still bothers me. It is not the birth story of our Lord, but the way it is sometimes presented. Unfortunately, through various media outlets, the birth story of Jesus is often presented as though it was the end of something, rather than the beginning. Have you ever seen on television (maybe on the Hallmark channel) as the manger scene reaches a conclusion Silent Night softly plays in the background, then we cut to a commercial and you see “Next up: A Charlie Brown Christmas”? While it is true that Jesus was born and placed in a manger that is not the end of the story! This child was born with a specific purpose and mission from God. Luke 2:14 is one verse of many that declares the mission of our Lord.

While appearing to shepherds in the field the angels of God announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

This particular verse is often abused by religious teachers. So often it is interpreted that we ought to be at peace with one another and have goodwill towards others during the holiday season and year round. While it is indeed good that we do that, unfortunately that interpretation really misses the whole point of the verse. Kept in its context this verse is really talking about peace and goodwill from God to men on earth. It is a verse about the gospel and what it brings to mankind. It is a verse about Jesus and what He offers. The prophets foretold that Jesus would bring peace (Isaiah 9:6).

The gospel we preach today is a message of peace and glad tidings (Romans 10:15). It is a message that not only reveals the miraculous birth of the Savior, but it also speaks of His love, miracles, suffering, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension to heaven to sit at the right hand of God (Acts 2:22-36). The gospel reveals the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; John 3:16; Titus 2:11-14). The word grace means “unmerited favor.” It is an undeserved gift. Despite our rebellion against Him, God gave us His sinless Son to die on the cross for our sins. Through Jesus, God’s grace is now available to all men. Does the fact that God’s grace is made available to everyone mean that everyone is going to be saved? No (see Matthew 7:13-14)! Only those who obey and submit to God will receive the grace God offers. Salvation is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace covers all that God has done for us. Faith covers all we must do in response to God’s love. This even includes repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The faith that saves is the faith that obeys (Hebrews 5:8-9)! The fact that we have to meet conditions does not mean we earn God’s grace and peace.

Have you done what God requires to receive the gifts of grace and peace?  You may receive many material things on Christmas morning, but no gift can ever compare to the gifts God offers you through His Son.

– Shawn Jeffries

Three Gifts You Never Exchange

4391281523_35790a981d_o

Confession time: I know I don’t always give “the perfect gift” to my loved ones. My family is so gracious, I’ve probably missed even more often than I realize.

Even with the best of intentions, I’ve fallen short in creativity or attention to detail. My second-guessing and insecurity about this is heightened during the holidays, so I save receipts. They can always exchange a gift when it is the wrong color, wrong size, or otherwise unwanted. And there are no hard feelings about it. I’ve chosen to exchange gifts myself. Haven’t we all?

But God is not this sort of gift-giver. Rather, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Our good Father gives us exactly what we need when we need it (Matthew 7:11). There are no genuine exchanges for something better. Better gifts do not exist! In fact, only deception, foolishness, or selfishness would move people to exchange God’s good gifts for the devil’s inferior and damnable knock-offs. Let’s notice three of God’s gifts that the Bible warns us never to exchange.

  1. Never Exchange the Truth of God for Lies. The Wise man advised his son, “Buy the truth, and do not sell it; Also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23). The apostle Paul explained that wicked, idolatrous societies have exchanged the gift of Truth for lies and reap the disastrous results. “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 1:24-25). God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17) and Scripture is the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Perhaps we fail to recognize that every word from God is a gift from Him, the gift of Truth. The Bible is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange The Faith for Worldly Philosophies. There is only one faith, one gospel, and the doctrine of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 4:5; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9-10). Paul exhorted the young minister Timothy to guard the faith and don’t exchange it for fashionable worldly philosophies. “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith” (1 Timothy 6:20-21). Likewise, Christians at Colosse were warned. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Let us respect Christianity as it is revealed in Scripture and not attempt to wed it to worldly philosophies or discard it in favor of man-made religions. The Faith is a good and perfect gift from God.
  1. Never Exchange Salvation for Sin. The greatest gift that God gives us is salvation in Jesus Christ. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This gift is priceless because it is only obtainable by the precious death of Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:26; 1 Peter 1:18-21). Yet Temptation often offers us something in exchange for our salvation. The Hebrew writer warns Christians to view temptation to sin like Moses, these things are only “passing pleasures” and not worth exchanging our eternal reward (Hebrews 11:24-26). Furthermore, learn from Esau not to be shortsighted by the selfishness of the flesh to exchange our birthright of salvation (Hebrews 12:15-17). Salvation is a good and perfect gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God only gives perfect gifts. He doesn’t include gift receipts. The devil tries to fool us into thinking he can make an exchange for something better. But remember that no matter how Sin wraps the package, it only contains error, apostasy, and death (James 1:14-15). Never exchange God’s good gifts for that.

By Andrew Roberts

Black Friday

 

“…One- hundred two dollars and sixty four cents.” As you hear these numbers roll off of the cashiers tongue, you can’t help but be ecstatic. You’re tired, you’re wounded, beaten, and your feet are in distress, but you’re thrilled. You have just purchased a two hundred dollar T.V. for almost half the original sales price.

Strange things start to happen the Friday after Thanksgiving. Walmart’s become dojos, Parking lots turn into campsites, malls seem to be hosting the annual Olympic track and field games, and millions of people all across America simply lose their minds.

What is the cause for this madness? Two words: Black Friday.

Black Friday signifies the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day, major retailers open their doors exceptionally early, welcoming throngs of people who are seeking these one-time promotional sales. On this day, we get a glimpse of the incredible lengths many will go to save a pretty penny.

On a Friday just a little over two thousand years ago, we got a glimpse of the incredible lengths God was willing to go to save this world from destruction.  Much like this past Friday, strange things happened. There was betrayal, suicide, injustices, riots, mocking’s, scourging’s, crucifixions, redemption, and death.

The earth witnessed supernatural phenomena. At high noon, there was an unusual three hour period of darkness. The curtain to the temple was spontaneously torn in two, the earth shook, rocks were split, tombs were opened, and dead men rose.

“When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, ‘Truly this was the Son of God!’,” Matthew 27:54

This was a dark day indeed. The Son of Man was killed.

On this day, 1,500 years of prophecy was fulfilled; it was finished.

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, ‘It is finished’, and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit”, John 19:30

The blood of bulls and goats could no longer atone for the sins of men. A sacrifice had to be made. (Hebrews 10:4).

Someone had to die. This someone had to be perfect, He had to be blameless, He had to be sinless, He had to be the Son of God. The pure, undefiled, innocent, and spotless Lamb of God was slain for the sins of the world.

On this very dark and black Friday, there was a ray of hope. Hope lied in the resurrection. Not only did Jesus die for man, but three days later He got up.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen! Remember how He told you the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise”, Luke 24:6-7

Today, we can bask in even greater savings than any earthly Black Friday deal. On this Friday, over 2,000 years ago, despite our wretched and sinful nature, Jesus gave up His life, paying the ultimate price for our very lives, and saved the word.

By Timothy G. Ruffin

The Names of the Lord

Search your Bible carefully and you will discover that the Holy Spirit intentionally uses many different names to describe the Son of God. Each of these names tells us something special and unique about the Lord. In fact, several of these names can be found in Peter’s sermon preached in Acts 3:11-26. After healing a beggar (lame from birth) at the gate of the temple, Peter used the miracle to draw a large crowd of people and teach them some important lessons about the Savior. In fact, in the sermon he list six names for the Lord that solely are to be applied to Him. Most of these words may be already familiar to us, but perhaps their meanings are not.

  1. Jesus (Acts 3:13, 16, 21) – This is probably the most common name to us. It is used 970 times in the Bible. Unfortunately, some would say that this was just His fleshly names given by His earthly parents, but the Bible teaches otherwise. In Matthew 1:21 we learn that the name “Jesus” was not given to Him by Mary and Joseph. Instead it was a name specified by an angel of God the Father. It is, of course, a Hebrew word that means: “God is Salvation.” Jesus would indeed to live up to that name! (See Acts 3:19; 4:12)
  2. Christ (Acts 3:18, 20-21) – This is term is used to describe Jesus over 560 times in the Bible. The words “Christ” and “Messiah” are the same. In Matthew 1:1 some translations say “Christ” (KJV), while other says “Messiah” (NASB). The word simply means, “Anointed One.” It represents the idea that God specially chose Jesus to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world! We need to live in appreciation of God’s choice!
  3. Prophet (Acts 3:22-23) – A prophet is a messenger of divine revelation from God (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18-22). Jesus certainly met that criteria. All He spoke was confirmed (including prophecy about His own death and resurrection from the dead). In fact, He is not just a prophet, but The Prophet all prophets preached about (Acts 3:24-25). Will you listen to the words of the ultimate prophet? Will you obey His every command (Luke 13:3; Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:19)?
  4. His Servant (Acts 3:13, 26) – This phrase is used twice here and later in a prayer in Acts 4:27-28. It says something about, not who, but whose He is. Jesus belongs to His Father and serves His Father. He came to the earth to do the will of the Father (Matthew 26:39; John 6:38). He is not our genie in a bottle to perform for us whatever we ask. His mission from God was to lead people to turn away from sin and wickedness (Acts 3:26). He never let anyone deter Him from accomplishing the mission given by the Father. We need to follow in His footsteps (Matthew 6:33).
  5. Holy and Righteous One (Acts 3:14) – The word “holy” means to be set apart. The word “righteous” means to be good and upright. Without a doubt Jesus was both of those things to the highest degree! He was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Even a demon said to Him, “I know who you are, the Holy One of God!” This phrase that Peter uses is meant to bring shame to the Jews for putting perfection to death and it is also meant to humble us before God. Like those Jews in Jesus’ time, will we also disown the Holy and Righteous One of God? How we respond to His teachings will determine the answer to that question (Luke 6:46; John 14:15).
  6. Prince of Life (Acts 3:15) – A prince has rule and authority. Jesus certainly has that (Matthew 28:18). He is the “author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is also the giver of not just spiritual life, but ALL life. He is the Creator and Sustainer or ALL things (Colossians 1:13-18). Have we submitted ourselves completely to the Prince of Life?

These are six specific names that the Holy Spirit gives to our King in Peter’s second sermon in the book of Acts. The question is: what must this information cause one to do? Peter also provides the answer to that question in the sermon.

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

– By Shawn Jeffries

 

 

Cry Out All The More

2336784676_48c89369c5_o

Its 7:59 AM and you’re in the midst of a pleasant dream. You hear your alarm clock and you’re suddenly awake, back to reality. You open your eyes and you see black. You rub them, still black. Maybe you’re dreaming? You lie back down, wait a few minutes, open your eyes again; pure blackness. You’re blind. What are you going to do?

If this happened to me, I would be in a panic, desperately trying to find help; desperately trying to get a hold of a physician to correct this issue.

I’m reminded of one in Scripture who was faced with a similar dilemma. This man was blind, he was a beggar, and he was desperate.

I’m thinking about Bartimaeus in Mark 10. In this chapter, we read of an account where Jesus is leaving Jericho. As He’s passing through, a blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus hears Him. This beggar soon begins to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” As he shouts, people begin telling him to be quiet. At this, Bartimaeus shouts all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stops in His tracks and says to His disciples, “Call him.”  His disciples call the blind man, saying, “Take heart. Get up; He is calling you.” The text says Bartimaeus immediately threw off his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.

Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bartimaeus replies, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” Jesus says to him, “Go, your faith has made you well.” Bartimaeus immediately recieves his sight and follows Jesus.

Although we may not see many blind beggars on the side of Nashville Highway, I use this story to pose the question: Are you blind? I’m not asking are you physically blind, that’s obviously not the case or you wouldn’t be reading this article. I’m asking are you blind spiritually?

Maybe you’re like Bartimaeus. Maybe you’ve heard about this Jesus but you can’t see Him. You see all of these people proclaiming to be Christians, but they’re not acting like it. You see all of these churches, but they’re wearing different names. You’re reading all of these religious articles, but they’re all saying different things.

You feel lost. You don’t know where to begin. You don’t know where to go. You’re crying out for help, looking for answers, seeking encouragement, but you just can’t find the help you need.

Friends, I’m here to tell you, there are scores of people in this world, who feel the same way, much like Bartimaeus: blind and crying out for help. They are seeking a Savior; they are searching for answers, and looking for the Truth. I’m here to tell you, cry out all the more.

The search for Truth can be a daunting task. If this is how you feel, I can tell you one thing: You won’t find Truth from any source but from the One who is Truth, and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the right way to look.

“…Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6

Friends, Jesus is the Light of the world and He is able to illuminate this dark, desperate, and curious world into all paths of righteousness.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,” John 8:12

When we have questions look to Jesus Christ for answers. Open up His word and study it diligently. When Satan tries to quench your spirit, be like Bartimaeus and cry out all the more; never quit.

When you do, the Truth will be exposed and you will be able to see Christ for who He truly is—The Great Physician, the Savior, and the Light of the World.

By Timothy G. Ruffin

The Value of Water

If you were to a make a list of some vital things you need in life, what would you put on it? Would it be a cell phone, T.V., or computer?  What about water? How often do you consider the vital role water plays in your life?

  1. Roughly 70 percent of an adult’s body is made up of water.
  1. Somewhere between 70 and 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water.
  1. Nearly half of the water used in America is used in producing hydroelectric power.
  1. About 6,800 gallons of water is required to grow a day’s worth of food for a family of four.
  1. In the United States there is more than 20 times more water underground than in all the lakes and rivers in the country.
  1. Forty percent of the atmosphere’s moisture falls as precipitation each day.
  1. On average, Americans use 183 gallons of water a day for cooking, washing, flushing, and watering purposes. The average family turns on the tap between 70 and 100 times daily!
  1. Flushing the toilet requires two to seven gallons of water. About 2 gallons of water is used to brush our teeth.
  1. Forty trillion gallons of water a day are carried in the atmosphere across the United States.
  1. People need about 2.5 quarts of water a day to maintain good health. A person can live about a month without food, but only about a week without water.

In the Bible we learn that God has used water at various times to accomplish His will.

  1. It was through water that God brought judgment on a sinful world in the time of Noah. For forty days God used rain to cover and destroy the world in a global flood (Genesis 6:5, 17; 7:10-12).
  1. It was through water that God saved Noah and his family. While much of the world was wiped out in the flood, one man found favor in the eyes of God. This man was Noah. God told Noah to build an ark and while the flood covered the earth, he and seven members of his family “were brought safely through the water” (1 Peter 3:20).
  1. It was through water that God blessed Israel and punished Egypt. After their exodus from Egyptian slavery, God miraculously parted the Red Sea for His people, while drowning the Egyptian army that was pursuing them (Exodus 14:13-31).
  1. It was through water that God healed Naaman of his leprosy. Despite initial resistance, after dipping seven times in the Jordan River the Syrian army leader, Naaman, was cleansed of his terrible disease (2 Kings 5:8-14; Luke 5:7).
  1. God also uses water in His plan of salvation. The following verses make this point crystal clear.

“Jesus answers, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”’ (John 3:5).

“Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47).

Going back to the example of Noah, Peter says, “…eight persons were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” (1 Peter 3:20-21 RSV).

The Bible is clear. Water baptism does play a critical role in our salvation. Contrary to what many believe, a person cannot be saved by faith alone (James 2:24). After believing in Jesus, he must be baptized (immersed) in water to come into contact with the blood of Jesus (Romans 6:1-4; Mark 16:15-16). Only then can he get his sins washed away (Acts 22:16)!

Have you obeyed God when it comes to this? If not, what are you going to do? Will you harden your heart to this truth? Or, humbly submit to the will of God?

By Shawn Jeffries