All posts by Jon Mitchell

Editorial: Why Do Churches of Christ Observe The Lord’s Supper Every Sunday? (March/April, 2017) — Jon Mitchell

Sunday is a very special day for those in the Lord’s church.  It is the first day of the week, the day we assemble together to worship our God in spirit and truth (John 4:24) while encouraging each other to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24-25).  It is also the day we observe communion or the Lord’s Supper.  The majority of denominations in Christendom do not do this.  Thus, many regular visitors from other religious bodies have seen us observe communion each Sunday and wonder why we don’t partake of it on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis.   It is proper that New Testament Christians know exactly why we practice what we do (1 Pet. 3:15).

First, God commands us to have authority from His Son on what we do concerning the Lord’s Supper and everything else (Col. 3:17).  Jesus speaks to us today through the inspired writings of the New Testament (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1-4; 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Pet. 1:20-21), so we must go there to find the authority of how and when to partake of communion.

There we read of how Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper on the night in which He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23), which was a Thursday night.  So why do we not partake of communion on Thursdays?  It is because the church of Christ was not yet in existence when He instituted the Supper.

On that night, Jesus said to the apostles, “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom(Matt. 26:29; cf. Mark 14:25, emp. added).  Luke records, “…for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God…for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes(Luke 22:16, 18, emp. added), and then after instituting the Supper, “…just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you that you may eat and drink at my table in My kingdom…” (vs. 29-30, emp. added).

Note that Christ promised them He would not partake of the Supper with them until “that day” when He drinks it with them in His Father’s kingdom, that it would fulfilled in the kingdom of God, and they would eat and drink at His table in His kingdom.  This is significant because Scripture teaches that the church of Christ is God’s kingdom.  Both Jesus and John the Baptizer preached that God’s kingdom was “at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15), i.e., that it was coming soon.  Jesus told His disciples that the kingdom would come in their lifetimes (Mark 9:1).  He promised Peter He would build “My church” upon the rock of Peter’s confession, and then promised to give Peter “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 16:15-19).

Do you see how Christ refers interchangeably to the church and kingdom, thereby proving they are the same? All three terms are always talked about in these passages in the future tense, signifying that at the time they were not in existence but would soon come in power.  Keeping this in mind, remember that before His ascension He answered a question about when the kingdom would come by telling the apostles that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them (Acts 1:6-8), a promise fulfilled ten days later on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).  This was also the day three thousand souls were added by the Lord to His church (Acts 2:41, 47).  Starting in Acts 2, the rest of the New Testament would always interchangeably refer to the kingdom of God and Christ’s church as having already come and presently existing (Rom. 14:17; 16:16; 1 Cor. 1:2; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; Heb. 12:28; Rev. 1:4, 6, 9).

Thus, the kingdom of heaven — the Lord’s church — came on the day of Pentecost, a Jewish holy day referred to as the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23:15-16.  From this passage, we learn that the day of Pentecost (a Greek term meaning “fiftieth day”) would always be “fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath.”  In other words, Pentecost was always observed on the first day of the week.  Thus, God’s kingdom — the church of Christ — came on a Sunday.

Remember how we saw earlier that Christ promised He would not again drink of the fruit of the vine of the Lord’s Supper with His disciples until “that day” when the kingdom of God came (Matt. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16, 18)?    The day the kingdom came was on a Sunday.

This is why Luke records that one of the very first things these newly baptized and converted three thousand souls did on the first day of the church’s existence that Sunday was to “continually devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:41-42, emp. added).  “The breaking of the bread” refers to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 10:16-17; cf. 11:23-25).  Thus, the apostles directed the Jerusalem church to observe communion on the day the kingdom came and the church began, which was the first day of the week.  The fact that they were “continually” doing so suggests by definition that it was a fixed habit.

Further evidence that this is so is found in Luke’s account of the church at Troas (Acts 20:7).  As with the Jerusalem church, these Christians gathered together for the purpose to observe the Lord’s Supper (“break bread”) on Sunday, and did so with the apostle Paul’s approval.  Additionally, remember Paul’s directions to both the churches of Galatia and Corinth to take up collections every first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  This implies that he knew they had the assembling together every Sunday.  Since he taught the same thing at every congregation (1 Cor. 4:17; cf. 1 Cor. 16:1), we can be confident that all the early churches gathered together to observe communion and give of their means on Sundays under his direction.  And just as the Jews under the Old Law knew that God’s command to observe the Sabbath applied to every Sabbath (Ex. 20:8-11; Num. 15:32-36), we can learn from their example (1 Cor. 10:11) and know that the New Testament teaching concerning communion applies to every Sunday.

Many profess to be followers of Christ and observe communion only a few times a year, or during special occasions like weddings.  Undoubtedly this is done sincerely, but their practices nonetheless are traditions of men (Matt. 15:7-9).  Christians must have authority from Christ on everything we do, and we find that authority only in the New Testament.  In those pages we read of Jesus promising not to partake of communion with His disciples again until the day the kingdom came, a Sunday.  We read in Scripture of how the early Christians observed the Lord’s Supper only on Sundays.  This is how we can and must observe communion each Sunday in the name of Christ and be confident that He is with us when we do so as He promised (Matt. 18:20; 26:29; cf. Heb. 2:11-12).

— Jon

 

 

Jesus Doesn’t Want To Be Your Political Comeback — Ben Giselbach

When it comes to social issues people are passionate about, the “Jesus” card is likely to be found in abundance.  Note just a few ways the name of Jesus is invoked as a political comeback:

“Jesus Was A Refugee”

While an angel did appear to Mary and Joseph, telling them to temporarily flee to Egypt to save their child from Herod (cf. Matt. 2:13-15), the statement “Jesus was a refugee” has as much bearing on American immigration policy as “Jesus ate fish” as on the American Department of Agriculture.

“Jesus was a refugee” is just a neutral fact; kind of like saying “Jesus wore sandals,” or “Jesus was of Hebrew descent.”  So what?  It is not politically relevant today.  The simple truth is Jesus didn’t have much to say about a secular nation’s border policy.  It is irrational to focus on one isolated area of Jesus’ life and form a political opinion at the neglect of everything else He actually did have to say.

The Bible does, however, condemn Herod for murdering children.  And given the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy, Jesus was a perfect candidate for an abortion. Yet among those who argue against the right of a sovereign nation to protect its borders, where is the outrage over the legalized murder of millions of innocent babies in the womb?

Mary and Joseph’s temporary escape to Egypt was a means to the end (Matt. 2:15).  It was not the most significant thing Jesus did.  We are guilty of secularizing and cheapening the message of Christ when we point to Jesus and claim He has something against the right of a country to scrutinize foreigners who wish to enter its land.

Furthermore, why is it the state’s job to care for displaced people?  Isn’t this the role of the church?  Some of the most vocal proponents for the so-called “separation of church and state” are eager to ask the state to fulfill this important role of the church.  Yes, “Jesus was a refugee,” and He specifically asked His church — not secular nations — to care for strangers (Matt. 25:31-46).

It’s commendable to care for refugees.  But regardless of your political feelings, don’t bring Jesus into it — He didn’t ask you to assign Him a position in the matter.

“Jesus Was A Socialist”

No, He wasn’t.  He did command His followers to love and care for one another from the heart (John 13:35; James 2:16).  And the early Christians likewise freely shared their wealth with their fellow brethren in need (Acts 4:34-35).  But this is vastly different than government-enforced wealth re-distribution.

Jesus said a lot of things opposed to the very foundation of true socialism.  In Jesus’ parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), Jesus stressed not only the importance of using our assets wisely, but also implied that individuals have the right to personally benefit from their investments.  He commanded in His New Testament:  “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10).  His apostles recognized that people have the freedom to control the use of their property (Acts 5:4).

“Jesus Was A Feminist”

The ministry of Jesus had revolutionary implications for how men and women treat one another.  Everything Jesus did and taught was an attack on the pride that makes men and women belittle one another.  He removed pride from leadership, and oppression from submission.  He called lust “adultery” and threatened those who were guilty of it with hell (Matt. 5:28-29).  He condemned divorce when you simply get tired of your wife (Matt. 19:8).  He called into account every careless word (Matt. 12:36).  He commanded us to treat others how we want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).

He taught women, He was accompanied by women, and women bore witness to His resurrection.  In this way, Jesus was a feminist.  He treated women with dignity, because women are made as much as men in the image of God.

But Jesus was far from a feminist — in the modern sense of the word — when it comes to role equality (in the home and in the church), abortion, and sexuality.  Jesus said all people — including those in the womb from the moment of conception — are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6).  He commanded in His New Testament for wives to submit to their husbands as Christ submits to God (Eph. 5:22; 1 Cor. 11:3).  He said sex is reserved exclusively for the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4).  He willed that men are to be the leaders in the church (1 Tim. 2:12).  He commanded all people to be submissive to those in authority (Eph. 6:5; Heb. 13:7, 17).

Jesus Isn’t Your Mic Drop

People disagree on issues like immigration, welfare, and women’s  rights.  Of course, not all opinions are equally valid; some positions are right, others are wrong.  But when Jesus is taken out of the spiritual realm and brought into the political realm, He will respond, “Who made Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:14).

After the 5,000 had heard Jesus preach about His kingdom and had been miraculously fed by Him (Luke 9:11-13), they knew that He was a special prophet (John 6:14).  But Jesus had to flee from them, because they were trying to pervert His spiritual mission into a political one (John 6:15).

This does not mean that Jesus was oblivious to political issues involving God’s Word, for He preached submission to the government (Luke 20:22f), and candidly judged their exploitation (22:25ff).  He and His apostles spoke clearly about issues that are politically-charged today: abortion, prostitution, homosexuality, divorce and remarriage, alcohol and drugs, education of children, crime, and racism, just to mention a few.  Yet, the rule of Christ was never designed to band His followers into political entities on earth, whether they be civil states or political parties.  WE must not allow His church to become such entities, just as Christ refused to become an earthly king.

Yet, when politics does enter into the realm of God’s revelation, we must always side with God (Gal. 1:10).

Jesus isn’t some tool.  He won’t bow to your political ideology.  But He does command you to bow before Him as Lord.  For it is written:  “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Rom. 14:11).

http://www.plainsimplefaith.com

Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and is married to Hannah.  Together they have two children, Ezra and Colleyanna.  Ben currently preaches at the Edgewood Church of Christ in Columbus, GA.

 

 

The Baptism of Infants — Stephen Hughes

At the time that this will be published, my wife will have just given birth to our first child. It is a very emotional time for both of us, and it is one that I look forward to with great anticipation. There is, however, some trepidation involved in this undertaking. We now have the task of raising this little girl in a Christian household with Christian values. I pray every day that we are up to this task. I also pray that she will grow up to be an amazing Christian woman so that she will be with the Lord in eternity some day. The weight of bringing a soul into the world that may one day end up in hell motivates me to be the best Christian father I can be.

It is the common practice among many, including Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians, to baptize infants. If my wife and I were members of these denominations, then we would have already scheduled a baptismal service for our baby girl in a few months. This practice of infant baptism, also known as paedobaptism, runs counter to the teachings of Scripture as this article will prove.

Throughout the New Testament, there are only accounts of adults who were baptized. Each candidate for baptism had the capability to believe in Jesus and repent of his or her sins—infants cannot do either. Despite these facts the proponents for infant baptism will bring up certain passages of Scripture to defend their practice. This article will examine the most widely used of those passages to see whether or not this practice is authorized by Christ in His Word.

Jesus And The Little Children

The first passage under consideration is recorded in three of the four gospel accounts. Matthew’s reads, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matt. 19:13-14). The problem is that baptism is not mentioned at all in this passage. Luke does record that infants were involved, but this is hardly conclusive concerning baptism (Luke 18:15-17).

This passage teaches something much more profound. Jesus says in Mark’s account that, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15). It is not possible for someone to enter into the kingdom of God unless he receives it as a little child would, with sincerity and trust. One should not be gullible when he hears something of a religious nature, but when it comes to Scripture, he ought to be humble, trust it, and obey it as a little child would. This passage has nothing to do with the baptism of infants.

Whole Households

One of the most widely used argument for infant baptism is the fact that whole households in apostolic times were baptized. Some even argue that surely there were infants in these households. There are five instances in the New Testament where whole households were baptized: Cornelius (Acts 10:2; 11:14), Lydia (Acts 16:15), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:34), Crispus (Acts 18:8), and Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16). J. W. McGarvey commented on this very issue, saying that “There is positive proof that in three of these [households] there was not an infant. In that of Cornelius there was none, for they all spoke in tongues and believed [Acts 10:46; 15:9]; none in that of the jailer, for they all believed and rejoiced in the Lord [Acts 16:34]; and none in that of Stephanas, for ‘they set themselves to minister to the saints’ [1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15]” (McGarvey 94). McGarvey leaves out Crispus in his analysis, but Luke records that his whole household believed. His point is that in none of these three cases do we see infants, for infants cannot believe, speak, let alone speak in tongues, or become ministers, yet Luke records that all the members of these respective households did these things.

Luke’s account of the conversion of Lydia, however, does not mention the faith of Lydia or her household. It says, “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized …” (Acts 16:14-15a). While the faith of Lydia is not explicitly mentioned, it is implied, just as the faith of her household is implied. Even many paedobaptists of McGarvey’s day admitted that there is no evidence one way or the other whether or not Lydia had infants in her home. He quotes Dean Plumptre who said, “… there is no evidence that she had children, or even that she was married. The household may well have consisted of female slaves and freed-women whom she employed, and who made up her familia” (McGarvey 95).

Baptism Unites With Christ

The question the paedobaptist will ask is why anyone would wish to exclude infants from the blessings found in Christ.  The person who is baptized is baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Sin, however, is what separates someone from God (Is. 59:2).  An infant has not sinned and is therefore not separated from God.  The guilt of sin is not passed down through the generations (Ezek. 18:20), but one does often bear the earthly consequences of the sins of his predecessors (Rom. 5:12; Ex. 20:5).

Paul described himself as a child then as an adult, saying, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Rom. 7:9). Similarly, when one is born, he is alive spiritually. When he becomes an adult, he begins to understand what God requires of him, and the commandment has come. Then only after he breaks the commandment does he die being separated from God. An act to bring reconciliation to God is not necessary for an infant who has not yet been separated from Him.

Typically the paedobaptist will resort to tradition when it comes to the practice under consideration. Some do attempt to use the Bible, but their reasoning falls flat. There is no record within Scripture of an infant being baptized.

As I consider these arguments with the birth of my daughter, I cannot help but desire the best for her and for her to be in heaven one day. Baptizing her as an infant, however, will not increase her devotion nor will it alter what my wife and I teach her. Most importantly, the Bible does not require it nor teach it. I do pray that one day she will be baptized, but it will be after she has heard and understood the gospel, believed it, repented of her sins, and confessed the beautiful name of Christ. Only then can she have her sins washed away with the blood of Christ in baptism. That will be a glorious and beautiful day—not only for my wife and me, but for the angels in glory as well. 

Stephen and his family worship at the Walterboro Church of Christ in Walterboro, SC.

 

 

Baptism: Are We Saved By Works? — Jon Mitchell

The Scriptures clearly teach that baptism is something one must do in order to be saved and have sins forgiven (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Yet many disagree with this for several reasons.  One such objection stems from a very understandable line of thought, mainly this.  The Bible says we are not saved by works in Ephesians 2:8-9.  Baptism is a work.  Therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Certainly baptism is something one does, and therefore is a “work.”  However, is it a work of merit (by which one earns salvation)…or is it a work of faith (by which one receives salvation)?  Furthermore, who is the one doing the work?  Is it the man or woman who submits to being immersed…or is it God who forgives and regenerates them through the blood of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit?

In answering these legitimate questions, it must first be pointed out that there are different kinds of works.  There are works of merit which are done to earn something.  Those who have done such works believe they deserve something; they believe they will be saved because they did good deeds and went to church, or read their Bibles, or something to that effect.  Yet all the good we might do cannot outweigh even one sin (James 2:10).  That’s why we need God’s grace and our faith in order to be saved (Rom. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:4-5).

There are also works of faith which are done to receive something.  Those who do works of faith believe that they deserve nothing because they understand that their obedience does not earn or merit their salvation.  They know their salvation rests upon God’s grace and mercy, not because God owes them anything.

This is why works of faith could also be called works of God.  In fact, Jesus calls faith exactly that (John 6:28-29).  Other works of faith which God commands are repentance (Acts 17:30) and confession (Rom. 10:9-10).  Jesus Himself will specifically state on the day of judgment that those who enter Heaven do so because of the benevolent deeds done by them in their lives, while those condemned to hell are in that terrible state because of the lack of benevolent deeds done in their lives (Matt. 25:31-46).

To those who say one does not have to be baptized in order to be saved because baptism is a work, I ask this.  Does one have to have faith in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (John 3:16; Mark 16:16).  Does faith require works, something done by you?  Yes (James 2:14-26).  Does one have to repent of sins in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  Is repentance a work, a deed done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to confess their faith in Christ before men in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10).  Is confession a work, an action done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to do good to all men at every opportunity in order to go to heaven?  Jesus thinks so (Matt. 25:31-46; Gal. 6:10).  Are benevolent deeds works, deeds done by you?  Yes.

So what’s the difference between obeying God’s commands to have faith, repent of sins, confess one’s faith before men, and do good to all men at every opportunity in order to be saved…and obeying God’s command to be baptized in order to be saved?  To ask is to answer.  Would one say that one does not have to have faith, repent of sins, confess faith, and do good to others in order to go to heaven?  Such notions blatantly contradict what the Bible teaches.  Yet if faith, repentance, confession, and doing good are required of us in order to be saved…why not baptism also, since it also is commanded by God?

What’s hard for some to understand is that even though works such as faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds are commanded by God, they are not meritorious works; we do not earn salvation through them (Luke 17:10).  Instead, they are works God has ordained we do in order to receive His salvation.  When all is said and done, salvation is still by God’s grace and mercy.

Baptism, therefore, is a work of faith.  It requires faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37), and is an act of faith by which one receives (not earns) forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Through it one receives (not earns) union with Christ in His death and is raised with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27).  The fact that baptism is not a work of merit is emphasized by Paul when he wrote that God saves us “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:4-5).  This alludes to baptism, especially when we compare this phrase to John 3:5, 23 and Acts 8:36-39 and 10:47-48.  Yet Paul still says that baptism does not save us by “works of righteousness” (i.e., works of merit).  God does not owe us salvation because we were baptized.

Baptism, like faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds, is simply an act of faith by which we receive salvation.  This is so because baptism involves the working of God (Col. 2:11-13).  God does the work, not us!  It’s God who makes us alive through baptism, praise His name!

 

Being Saved Like The Thief On The Cross — Byran Hatcher

There is a sense in which everyone is saved just like the thief on the cross. Every person that will stand justified and reign with the Savior is saved the same way the thief was as he hung nailed on a Roman cross next to the Lord. Paul wrote, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). From Adam until the Lord returns, every person is saved by God’s grace (His part in man’s salvation) and man’s faith (man’s part in salvation).

Every human being that has lived or will live can have peace with the God of peace and reside in the Heavenly realm for eternity. Such is the love of the Father. He desires that all men everywhere are saved from sin so that Heaven can be their eternal abode (2 Pet. 3:9).

Because the God of all Creation longs for His special creation to be with Him, He has revealed the plan, or eternal scheme, of how man can lay hold of eternal life. The Bible reveals God’s thoughts, plans, and Divine execution concerning the salvation of mankind.

The central figure of salvation is His Son, Jesus the Christ. God did not send His Son immediately into the world at the dawn of creation when sin first enslaved mortal man. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). He chose instead to make salvation a process.

In that process man came to realize: 1. He was eternally lost in sin; 2. He desperately needed to find a way back to God; 3. He was powerless to reach God again, and so required help; 4. Nothing in the physical realm would help him attain heaven; 5. Without an adequate sacrifice, any law that God gave would just serve to remind man of his sinful condition.

When rightly divided (2 Tim. 2:15), the Bible student finds three distinct laws, or periods of a particular kind of law. In these three periods of time — the Patriarchal Era, the Mosaic Era, and the Christian Era — there were commandments given that might only pertain to one person for a short period of time. There were laws that only affected a specific group of people for a long period of time. How does the student of God’s Word determine which is which? Context. The context of the commandment is to be studied as well as the command. A sincere contextual study will lead the reader to understand if the commandment being studied is for him to obey.

An example of this is Abraham. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen. 12:1). Does the Bible student read this passage and come to the immediate conclusion that it is necessary to leave their native land and become a pilgrim in some foreign place? It never would enter the mind. It is very clear that this commandment given by God (“The Lord said” is a commandment!) was to a specific person at a specific time and did not need to be obeyed by anyone else.

Now the Bible student comes to this passage:  And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

After reading this passage, many have concluded that merely saying “Lord save me” results in salvation. Is merely an acknowledgment enough for salvation today? It was not enough then, and it is not enough now. The Bible student must apply the same reasoning to this passage as to the one concerning Abraham: keep it in its context.

It must be kept in mind that other than these few spoken phrases and the fact that he is a thief being executed beside the Lord, there is no knowledge of his past. However, the things he does say exposes some things that he knows and believes.

“Dost Thou Not Fear God?”

This man believed in God. The question was uttered as a response to the other thief as he mocked Jesus and said, “If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us” (Luke 23:38). The conclusion the faithful thief made was that he and the other man were being punished, not by Rome or circumstance, but by the providence of God (Rom. 13:3). He also knew the Law. This demonstrates further to the reader that knowing the Law does not equate to obedience in every area.

“Due Reward Of Our Deeds”

He displayed godly sorrow.  Godly sorrow leads to repentance and repentance leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10).  This man knew that when one did right God was pleased, but when one did evil punishment was a just reward.  Every man sins (Rom. 3:23), and this man was no exception.  Even though the consequence of his sin on earth was death, it did not have to be his eternal consequence.

The mocking thief was only sorry he got caught.  He demonstrated worldly sorrow.  His sorrow not only led him to physical death, but also to eternal punishment.  The Lord only said to the one, “Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

“This Man Hath Done Nothing Amiss”

Jesus was innocent! Even the men that were condemned to die with Him knew that He had done nothing to deserve death. The faithful thief knew the character and works of the Lord. Jesus was very popular because of His miraculous works and His doctrine (Luke 9:11). It was this very popularity coupled with His leadership that caused the Jewish council and chief priests to hate Him so fiercely. Their lawless hands raised Him on that cross, and all the people knew it.

“Remember Me In Thy Kingdom”

Such a phrase could not have been expressed unless it was heard and explained. This man was exposed to the teaching of John the Baptist, the disciples of the Lord, and Jesus the Christ. John taught the people, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). The disciples were told to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). The Lord said, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

The thief must also have known something of the spiritual nature of the kingdom. He recognized the fact that he and the Lord were about to die. Yet, he still requested that he be a part of the kingdom – when the Lord comes into it. What great faith! Perhaps he heard the Lord say, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).

Taking all of this evidence of what the faithful thief said, is it reasonable that he heard about baptism as well? Spoken of John the baptizer, “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). So, if the faithful thief heard John, then he heard about baptism.

Perhaps the thief was not in the Jordan valley. “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized” (John 3:22). When John the baptizer, the disciples, and the Lord preached repentance and the kingdom, they also baptized. Since the thief repented and spoke of the kingdom it is reasonable to conclude at the very least he heard of baptism, if not was even baptized.

To say that the thief was not baptized is like saying he had no wife and children.  There is no way to know if he did or did not because those facts are not revealed.

The New Testament Was Not In Effect

Assuming that this faithful thief was not baptized, does that extend to salvation today? The Hebrews writer records, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:16,17). Jesus spoke to the thief that he should be in Paradise, signifying that He was still alive and that His New Covenant was not yet in effect. Since this is the case, Jesus could save anyone He so desired in any fashion that He desired. Salvation is His power to give and to withhold.

Now that He has died and is at the right hand of God, His will is in full effect. That will commands, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). From Acts 2 forward, there is not one example of anyone being saved that was not baptized.

What is the main reason for desiring to be “saved like the thief on the cross”?  A desire to be saved without water baptism.  In essence, the masses crave a cheap salvation.

Conclusion

Salvation today comes like the faithful thief on the cross. From his very words, there is revealed a process of salvation. He heard the Word; He believed that Word; He demonstrated Godly sorrow and repented; He proclaimed his belief before men that Jesus was going to His kingdom and that he desired to be a part of that kingdom. Jesus granted that request. Jesus gave His grace and mercy to that man just before his legs were broken, and he gasped his last painful breath.

That man turned to Jesus as the source of his salvation.  Today all sinners that desire salvation must submit to that process in His revealed will and call on His name (Acts 22:16).

bulldband24@gmail.com

Byran is the preacher for the Cape Fear Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC.  He does mission work in Southeast Asia, is a part-time instructor of Fishers of Men, and is an instructor at Central Carolina School of Preaching.  He is married to Jennifer and they have two children in college.

 

 

The Necessity of Baptism For Salvation — Hugh Fulford

Baptism is an old and much discussed topic by gospel preachers.  It has long been a theological battleground, the subject of much discussion and many debates.  Preachers who want to be true to the word of God must continue to set forth what the Bible says about this subject.

Nearly every church as an “official position” on baptism.  However, the churches of Christ have no humanly determined “official position” on baptism or any other subject.  We strive to occupy the Bible position on this as well as every other spiritual matter.  The Bible alone is our “creed book,” “catechism,” and “church manual.”  It is the height of denominational thinking to talk about “Church of Christ belief, doctrine and practice.”  What we believe, teach and practice must always be that which God’s Word authorizes — nothing more, less, or else!

Three areas of disagreement exist where baptism is concerned.  The first is the subject or candidate for baptism.  Is baptism for infants or is it only for repentant believers?  The second concerns the action of baptism.  May baptism be performed by sprinkling, pouring, and/or immersion?  The third concerns the purpose of baptism.  Is baptism just a ritual that unites one with a particular religious fellowship or denomination after one has been saved, or is it a condition of salvation from sin and thus ultimately of eternal salvation in heaven?  It is on this last area that this article will address.

It should first be said that baptism stands between the sinner and salvation (Mark 16:15-16).  “But,” it is claimed, “one is not condemned for a lack of baptism, only for a lack of belief.  Therefore, belief is really the only thing necessary for salvation.”  No, lack of belief is the only thing necessary for condemnation because “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Christ clearly included both belief and baptism as essential for salvation.  However, baptism is not essential to salvation if one has no interest in doing what Christ said!

We must also note that baptism stands between the sinner and remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  “For” is eis in the Greek, and means “in order to,” never “because of.”  It is the same word used in Matthew 26:28 where Christ declared that He was to shed His blood “for the remission of sins,” obviously meaning that He did not shed His blood because the sins of mankind had already been remitted!  No reputable translation of Acts 2:38 renders it “because of.”  If one can be saved without receiving the remission of sins, one can be saved without baptism.

It must also be pointed out that baptism stands between the sinner and his sins being washed away (Acts 22:16).  Again, if one can be saved without having his sins washed away, one can be saved without baptism!

Consider also that baptism stands between the sinner and the benefits of the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3).  If one can be saved without the benefits of Christ’s death, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Baptism also stands between the sinner and the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4-6).  If one can be saved without experiencing the new life in Christ, baptism is not essential for salvation.

Note that baptism also stands between the sinner and them being able to legitimately wear the name of Christ (1 Cor. 1:12-13).  The inspired apostle Peter declared, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Yet if one can be saved without wearing the name of Christ, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Baptism also stands between the sinner and being in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).  The body of Christ is the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18).  One is added to the church when he is saved from sin (Acts 2:47).  However, baptism is not essential to salvation if one can be saved outside of the body or church of Christ.

Consider that baptism also stands between the sinner and being in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Gal. 3:27; Eph. 1:3).  One of these blessings is salvation (2 Tim. 2:10).  So if one can be saved without being in Christ and receiving His spiritual blessings, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

We must point out that baptism also stands between the sinner and the benefits of the spiritual circumcision which Christ performs (Col. 2:11-12).  However, if one can be saved without undergoing this spiritual circumcision in which the body of the sins of the flesh are cut off, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Finally, consider that baptism stands between the sinner and being saved and having a good conscience before God (1 Pet. 3:21).  Yet, if being saved and having a good conscience toward God is not necessary then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Brother J.D. Tant held eight debates with Ben M. Bogard, a famous Baptist preacher and debater.  The last one was conducted in 1937 in the Lone Start community about eight miles east of Greenwood, AR.  When brother Tant introduced 1 Peter 3:21 into the discussion as evidence of the necessity of baptism for salvation, Mr. Bogard responded, “Why yes, baptism is just a figure — a picture — of the salvation we receive at the moment we believe.”  He kept stressing that baptism was only a “picture” of salvation, but not a condition of salvation.

Brother Tant replied, “Well, it’s a pity Peter did not know that on Pentecost; otherwise, he would have said: ‘Repent, and get your picture taken for the remission of sins!”

Our study began with Christ’s statement in Mark 16:16 and ended with Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 3:21.  These statements serve as fitting summaries of all that the New Testament says with reference to baptism’s purpose.  Both of them declare baptism to be essential to salvation.  All of the other passages are but different ways of saying the same thing.

Have you been baptized — not because you believed you were already saved — but in order to be saved and enter into Christ?

huford@comcast.net

Hugh has been preaching the gospel of Christ for many years.  He lives in Gallatin, TN.

 

 

An Immersion of Forgiveness — Gantt Carter

Sin…humanity’s most common and deadly problem ever.  Every mentally competent person has committed rebellion against the God who created everything from nothing. The apostle Paul declares that “all have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). If we are among that accountable group of people, then we have acted in ways that are contrary to the standard of right and wrong: God’s perfect nature.

Why did God create us in the beginning? Notice the way God sets forth our purpose at the very outset of creation:  “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  And God blessed them.  And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28).

God created us as Divine image bearers; to exist like mirrors set up at 45-degree angles to reflect the glory of our Creator to the universe and to spread His reign. Sin is whenever we focus on and reflect a different “glory” (cf. Rom. 1:18-32; etc.)

We exist for His pleasure (Rev. 4:9-11). One well might sing, “For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation” (Ps. 149:4). When we sin, we depart from our created purpose, and we ultimately sacrifice our right to life (cf. Rom. 6:23a).

Throughout history God has worked to provide forgiveness for lost humanity. From the time of the first sin, God promised a coming Savior to deliver from sin and death (Gen. 3:15). God made several covenants with different individuals and groups, often connected to forgiveness of sins and restoring communion between God and mankind.

Due to the nature of sin and its fruit, the shedding of blood was always associated with forgiveness and reconciliation. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev. 17:11). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).

God has made two major covenants with humanity, and they are often called “the Old Covenant” and “the New Covenant.” Both covenants were ratified with blood (cf. Heb. 9). However, the first one was made and operated on the basis of animal blood which cannot actually remove sins (cf. Heb. 10:1-4). The New Covenant was created by the power of the blood of Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate (cf. Heb. 9:11-28; etc.)

One enters the New Covenant by being washed in the blood of Jesus, by being spiritually circumcised by God’s power. For example, Paul told a group of Christians to be careful about being captivated by the philosophies of men, and to remember the fully Divine nature of the Messiah (Col. 2:8-9). He reminds them that they were filled in Jesus, “who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col. 2:10). He then writes:  “In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of the Messiah, having been buried with Him in immersion, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling out the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him” (Col. 2:11-15).

The spiritual circumcision which allows us entrance into the covenant is set forth as immersion or what is often called baptism. When someone submits to being immersed, then they are putting off their ways of living in sin, and they are initially forgiven of their rebellion against God. Ephesians 2:1-10, a parallel text to this section of the letter to the Colossians, also teaches this.

Some argue that immersion is a work of man to earn salvation from God. But the inspired apostle tells us that immersion, when done per God’s teachings, is not a human work but rather a work of God. If we have obeyed the teaching of immersion, then we were “raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God.”

The Greek term which most English versions of the Bible translate as “baptism” means immersion.  Thayer states that this word is “properly, to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge” (Thayer, Joseph H.  Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody Hendrickson, 2007, p. 94).  Practices such as pouring or sprinkling in the place of actual immersion in water contradict the plain teachings of God.

Not only does the Greek term refer to immersion, but the text also describes immersion as being buried with Jesus, and then resurrected with Him to be in His covenant. The very idea of a burial eliminates any practice other than a complete immersion in a watery grave.

Jesus shed His precious life blood in His death upon the cross, and we are reenacting that His death, burial, and resurrection in our submission to immersion (cf. Rom. 6). If we have obeyed in that way, then we are washed in His blood from the filth of sin (Rev. 1:5). The washing away of sins by Jesus’ blood is what Paul calls the “washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5) and the “washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). We are united with Jesus, our Savior and King, by being immersed into His death (Rom. 6:3-6). If we continue to live for Him, then we are continually cleansed from all sin by His blood (Rom. 6:1-2, 11-15; 1 John 1:5-10).

When Peter preaches the first full gospel sermon as recorded by Luke in the second chapter of Acts, He proclaimed that God has made Jesus both Master and Messiah (Acts 2:36). Those who heard his words about Jesus inquire as to their proper response. Peter replied, “Repent and be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Is repentance essential for obtaining forgiveness of our sins? It should not surprise us that Peter says that repentance and immersion are both “for the forgiveness of your sins.” According to this inspired apostle, if immersion is not necessary for entering the covenant, then neither is repentance. The words of Peter are perfectly consistent with the rest of the preaching and conversions recorded for us in the book of Acts. Compare these commands and examples with Jesus’ very own words of commission to the apostles prior to His ascension to the throne in heaven (cf. Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:44-53; Matt. 28:18-20).

The phrase “for the forgiveness of your sins” in Acts 2:38 is almost identical to what Jesus Himself expressed about His blood. When teaching about communion, He says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin (Matt. 26:28, emphasis added). Jesus shed His blood for our forgiveness, and we obtain that forgiveness by being in His covenant. We enter the covenant by being immersed into Him.

Prior to his conversion, Paul had been praying what one might label a “sinner’s prayer” for three days (Acts 9:1-9), but he was still in his sins and had not yet called on the name of the Master.  God sent a man named Ananias to Paul with this message: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be immersed and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). Please notice that immersion is an appeal to Jesus’ authority to wash away our sins by the power of His blood.

Immersion is for the forgiveness of sins because it is what the Word of God teaches.  Immersion in water is how we contact the saving blood of the Lamb to enter a covenant with God where we are constantly forgiven of our sins (1 John 1:5-10). Have you made that appeal to God (1 Pet. 3:18-21) to be saved through immersion by the resurrection of Jesus? As a Christian, are you living the covenant lifestyle set forth in the writings of the New Covenant?

koinewords@gmail.com 

Gantt currently resides with his wife and two children in Elk City, OK.  He has been preaching in some form since 2007, and is currently the preaching minister for the 2nd & Adams congregation in Elk City.