Category Archives: 2016 – Oct

Editorial: “It Is Better To Take Refuge In The Lord Than To Trust In Princes…” (October, 2016) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

At the time of this writing, the 2016 election for president of the United States and other elected governmental offices on the federal, state, and local level will take place in a little over a month.  Much attention has been given to the presidential race over the past fifteen months or so since the first candidates in each party announced their candidacies.  Many in the brotherhood, myself included, follow politics closely, especially in presidential election years, and like to discuss the various candidates and races in person and online via social media and the like.

There was a time when I never thought much, if at all, about any connection between my Christian faith and political views.  However, that changed in 2000 when I became a preacher and, not coincidentally, began to take my Christian walk more seriously.  During that first year of full-time work I read and for the first time personally applied to myself Jesus’ command and promise in Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  I also read for the very first time ever Paul’s charge to Timothy:  “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Ti. 4:12).  These verses became very important to me, and still are.  I was 24 years old, a brand new preacher who had never planned to become one and had received no purposeful formal training.  My personal biblical studies and burgeoning experiences in dealing with brethren and the lost were, along with advice from older, more seasoned preachers and brethren, all I had to guide me.  I knew how easy it would be for people to condescend to me due to my age and inexperience, and so I was determined to do the best I could, however imperfectly that would be, to set the proper example before them in all areas of my life.  The only way I could do that would be to put God and his will as the top priority in every single aspect of my life as best I could.  That is still my goal today, and I still fallibly try to meet it.  It’s a good goal for all Christians to have.

I realized that if I as a Christian first and preacher second were going to “set the believers an example” by “seek(ing) first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” then my politics would have to completely coincide with God’s revealed will.  Otherwise, I would be guilty of choosing to follow Matthew 6:33…except in the voting booth.  Christ’s condemnation of the hypocritical example the Pharisees set before those who sat at their feet (Mt. 23:2-3), at the time newly discovered and studied by me, weighed heavily on my heart and I did not want that same condemnation.  Thus it was that during that 2000 election year I started diligently researching God’s Word for guidance as to what governmental policy positions God would approve of and what kind of leader God would want America or any country to have so I could vote accordingly.

Something God said in the Psalms jumped out at me:  “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (118:9), and again, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (146:3).  This was a stark contrast to how I had looked at politicians previously.  An honest retrospection of how I had viewed my choices for president in the 1990’s and in 2000 made me realize that I had thought them to be the only ones who could not only  save America from its woes, but also make my personal life more abundant and fulfilling.  My political discussions with my brethren that year—and every election year since, especially this one—made it clear that I am far from the only Christian who thinks this way.  If I was going to truly trust Jesus’ promise that he would provide for my needs if I put his will first (Mt. 6:33), then I would need to follow God’s directive to put my trust in him instead of princes and politicians.  Christians, please take this to heart.

David’s inspired words also caught my attention:  “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me:  ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God’” (2 Sa. 23:3).  Solomon wrote something similar:  “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness” (Pr. 16:12).  God wants men who are just, righteous, and who fear him to rule over nations.  My initial reaction to this was to wonder if I could only vote for faithful New Testament Christians since only we by the blood of Christ are completely justified and righteous…until I saw that the Bible also spoke of non-Christians possessing these attributes to a lesser degree (cf. Mt. 13:17; Ac. 10:1-2, 7, 22).  I concluded that I could follow God’s parameters if I supported a candidate who, as best as I could tell, showed by the fruits or evidences of his personal and political life that he was just, righteous, and feared God (cf. Mt. 7:16-18).  Any candidate whose personal life, personality, and policy positions were proven to be unrepentantly ungodly could not receive my support if I was to truly heed Matthew 6:33, 1 Timothy 4:12, Psalms 118:8 and 146:3, 2 Samuel 23:3, and Proverbs 16:12…no matter how much they promised to make my own life and the country better.

As I continued to study, I noted with interest how little the Bible had to say about the pros and cons of various domestic and foreign policy philosophies which held such prominence in what people looked for in candidates.  I couldn’t find guidance on which specific economic, educational, healthcare, or foreign policies God would endorse.  Rather, I found that God would rather his followers live in an impoverished nation which was rich in righteousness instead of a wealthy, unrighteous nation (Pr. 16:8).  I also saw that he was looking for leaders who surrounded themselves with wise counselors whose advice they would be willing to heed (Pr. 25:5; 29:2; cf. 1 Ki. 12:6-15), men and women who were tough on crime and evildoers (Pr. 20:8, 26; Ro. 13:3-4) and who would not oppress the poor while also refusing to enable the lazy (Pr. 28:15; 29:14; 31:9; cf. 2 Th. 3:10).

Thus, I realized that if I was to put God’s righteousness first in the voting booth, a candidate’s positions on promoting what God calls righteous in our nation would have to matter more to me than their domestic, economic, and foreign policies per se.  All my life, the killing of innocents in the womb and the legitimizing of the abomination of homosexuality have been matters of governmental policy.  Both have been promoted and fought to be further legitimized, by various candidates, even though God condemns both (Ps. 139:13-16;  Ro. 9:11-13; Ez. 18:1-20; Pr. 6:16-17; Mt. 19:4; Ro. 1:26-28; 1 Co. 6:9-10).  In addition, I’ve seen candidates excuse away or defend certain crimes and criminals, candidates who themselves have oppressed the poor and needy or have promoted policies which do the same, while also enabling the lazy to continue to avoid honest work.  Keeping Jesus’ and James’ admonitions to heed all of God’s will in mind (Mt. 23:23b; Ja. 2:10-11), I realized that I could not support a candidate unless I could see that they were making an honest effort to promote and defend God’s righteousness in all of these areas and  humbly listen to wise counselors who upheld the same.  This would have to be top priority, more important than any attractive promises about healthcare, education, foreign policy, taxes, and the like.

The last biblical truth I found was that God ultimately decides who will rule America (Da. 2:21; 4:17, 32, 34-35; 1 Ti. 6:15; Re. 1:5; cf. Ro. 13:1ff).  If it is his will that an ungodly person rule our country, he will make that happen and, as Habakkuk also taught me, will do so likely to punish our country in an effort to bring us back to him (Hab. 1:1-11).  Since righteousness exalts a nation and God abhors evil rulers (Pr. 14:34; 16:12), the only reason he would allow an evil ruler is to bring a nation low in order to motivate it to come back to him (cf. He. 12:5-11).

Normally as far as I can tell, there has always been at least one candidate who has come across both personally and in the policies he promotes as just and fearing God.  This year is different.  For the first time in my adult life, it is generally agreed in both religious and secular circles that both major candidates are personally abhorrent by biblical standards, and both promote various ungodly policies.  Both have recently been under investigation for wrongdoing.  Both are well known for personally saying and acting both publicly and privately in ways that are extremely ungodly.  Still, both are loudly supported by those who wear the name of Christ…and the lost in the world are noticing.  Social media and the blogosphere show that many  are turned off to Christianity by what they (correctly) perceive to be our inconsistency.

Many Christians loudly support these ungodly choices because they are understandably scared.  Yet, let’s remember that God wants us to live by faith (Hab. 2:4), to put his righteousness first, even if it seems that doing so will bring harder times, and trust that he will still take care of us.  He doesn’t want us to put our trust in princes, in Trump or Clinton or anyone else.  He just wants us to put our trust in him.

God doesn’t ask our help to put the ungodly into power…but he does want us to bring souls to him.  The Bible doesn’t require us to vote, but we are commanded to let our light shine, set the proper example, bring souls to Jesus, and put his righteousness first.  Lost souls are watching us to see if God’s standards matter outside the church building.  Let’s not give them a reason to think they don’t.  If we choose to vote, let’s trust in God and put his standards first.

— Jon

The Weekly Challenge — Dale Jenkins

Sundays seem to come about every seven days.

Most of us who preach prefer to just pick up our Bible and preach. But if you preach for every long at all you have to begin to evaluate what is most needed by a specific local church at a specific time.  Is there a need for lessons on leadership, on modesty, on humility, on evangelism, on handling disaster and difficulties, on dealing with disappointment. Yes, yes and yes. But the skill of knowing what to preach when is a very real one. It is as it was with the sons of Issachar, “…men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” (1 Ch. 12:32).  One of the questions that most often comes to us at The Jenkins Institute is “How do we know what to preach each week?”

Beyond that the next challenge is what resources do we choose?  Yes, our best is always to let the Bible be its own best interpreter and its on best commentary but even the sharpest of Bible students gets stuck sometimes with understanding a text, expositing a text, and applying a text properly.  While the Internet has provided us with many more materials, this is not a case where more necessarily means better.  Yes, there are more useful tools…but there is also much more junk out there. Sometimes with design skills and marketing savvy a false teacher can get more connection and influence than one who loves truth (Ro. 16:17-18).  Has there even been more of a need for wise discernment (Pr. 15:21; He. 5:14)?

When David Shannon approached me about the need to emphasize certain important Bible words, the significance of preaching the meaning of those words and of solidifying their place in the church, I agreed. When he unveiled a team of guys to work on a project, it was exciting!  As he talked more, it was of the many preachers who work full-time in the marketplace and struggle to eek out time for research and preparation.

We have noticed that in the church today, our Christian “vocabulary” is often lacking; we often use terms and just assume everyone knows what we mean. Our target audience would be any Christian who wants to learn more about some key terms in the Bible (grace, redemption, etc.). We envisioned a tool that would NOT provide a shortcut or write sermons for preachers but that would help them with their research on these words. We developed a list of nearly 100 Bible words and then narrowed that list down to one for each week for a year of Bible study.

Then we began to dream of a separate tool that would continue the lesson preached or taught on Sunday.  We asked, “What if there was a resource that helped your congregation grow together for an entire year?” So we determined to lead in creating such a tool.  To do that we invited 53 preachers to each write 5 daily devotionals to compliment the word emphasized that week. For instance if the word of the week was “kingdom,” there would be two tools. One would be for the preacher/teacher to aid them in the development of their lesson and the other would be a daily devotional thought for Monday through Friday of that week, each on the word “kingdom.”

The preacher/teacher resource includes three sections: “Understanding the Word” where the writer gives the meaning of the word in the original languages, “Reading the Word” that includes five biblical texts that show how the word is used in the Old and New Testament, and “Preaching the Word” which includes four of the following seven sermon helps: Introduction ideas for approaching the word in the sermon; Illustrations; Quotes; Applications; Object Lessons; and Invitation Song Ideas. We wanted to avoid complete sermon outlines, but asked our writers to feel free to include brief suggestions that could help each preacher formulate a sermon. The lessons are arranged in a logical sequence but each preacher/teacher can have the freedom to change the order to their own best uses.

Our next desire was to get this material to as many people as possible.  What good is a useful resource if no one can see it. Each of the five of us committed to doing this for no personal pay or reimbursement.  The congregations we are blessed to serve (Mount Juliet, Graymere and Spring Meadows) each provided funds to help make this project come to fruition. We have been able to put together a first class, matte finish, professionally produced, roughly 300 page devotional book that we can make available for $3 per book.  It is our hope that a congregation will make these available for 2017 for each member or family in their congregation. Imagine a church of roughly 100 members being able to provide a book that unites the entire congregation in an important and faith-building study for an full year for $300.  The preacher/teacher tool will cost roughly $4 and will include both a book and a digital download of that material.  This will help the congregation in a much needed emphasis of great words from God’s Word.

You can read all about it and contact us or order resources at OneWordStudy.com.

dale@edge.net

Dale is the minister of the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, TN.

 

Infant Baptism Debate Recap — Wes McAdams

I previously wrote an article on why it’s not biblical to baptize an infant. Because of that article, I was invited to join Presbyterian minister Randy Booth on the Moody Radio program Up For Debate to discuss the issue of infant baptism. After accepting this invitation, I took some time to educate myself about Booth’s position. I was actually surprised to learn I was mistaken in my assumptions about why many denominations baptize infants.

I had previously assumed all infant baptisms were done for the same reason, to wash away “original sin.” The Catholic church, of course, teaches children are born with sin and when the priest administers the water, inherited sin is washed away. There are several problems with this understanding, but this is actually not the understanding of many religious groups that practice so-called “infant baptism.”

My opponent in the debate, Randy Booth, not only explained his position on the radio program, but he also explained his position in his book, Children of the Promise: The Biblical Case for Infant Baptism. His two primary arguments are these:

  1. He believes the Old and New Covenants are one covenant, the New Covenant simply being a more inclusive version of the Old Covenant.
  2. Because he believes the Old Covenant is still in force, he sees baptism as merely a new form of circumcision, an outward sign that a person belongs to God’s covenant community.

Based on these two arguments, he (and millions of others who hold the same position) have concluded that infant baptism should be just as important for Christians as infant circumcision was for the Jews. Booth is so confident that baptism correlates directly with circumcision that he wrote, “Any argument against infant baptism is necessarily an argument against infant circumcision.”

The Old and New Covenants

The primary problem with Booth’s doctrine and practice is that it springs from a misunderstanding about how to read the Bible. His belief that the Old and New Testaments are one covenant is a fundamentally flawed understanding. The Hebrew writer, quoting from the prophet Jeremiah, expressly said a New (and better) Covenant had been established by Christ. He said this this New Covenant “makes the first one obsolete” (He. 8:13).

Ironically, one of the hallmarks of the New Covenant is that within the covenant people of God, “no one will have to teach his brother, “saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (He. 8:11). What does this mean? Why do New Covenant people (Christians) not have to say to their brethren, “Know the Lord” and why is this different from the Old Covenant?

Under the first covenant (the Old Testament), people became a part of the nation by simply being born and being circumcised as infants. They could (and many did) grow up not being taught about God. One Israelite could say to another, “God says such-and-such,” and his brother could respond, “Who is God?” and honestly not know the God with whom he was supposed to be in covenant. But that cannot happen under the New Covenant.

Under the New Covenant, the only way to come into the covenant community is by faith. You have to know the Lord before you ever come in. You have to hear who He is and what He has done, and upon this knowledge pass through the waters of baptism.

This is why an infant cannot enter into the covenant. If an infant could enter the covenant, the promise that no one would have to teach his brother to know the Lord would be invalidated. You can only enter the new and better covenant by faith in Jesus Christ (see Romans 10).

Baptism Is Not Circumcision

In his book, Booth spends the vast majority of time comparing baptism to circumcision. The problem is, there is only one verse in the Bible that makes any sort of comparison between baptism and circumcision and it is far from a one-to-one correlation. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:11-13:

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, 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…”

If you’ll notice, Paul is saying Gentiles were two things: they were uncircumcised AND dead in their trespasses. Paul says, in Christ we receive a spiritual circumcision; that is, our sin is done away with.  He also says, with another metaphor, we are “buried with [Christ] in baptism.”  And when we are buried with Him, we can be “made alive together with Him.”

Do you see?  Baptism is not even called circumcision; it is called a burial (see also Romans 6).  There are two different metaphors being employed here: a spiritual circumcision that Christ performs and a burial with Christ in baptism.  Yes, these things happen simultaneously, but the simple truth of the matter is, Paul did not call baptism a circumcision.

Baptism Is Not An “Outward Sign”

Booth was actually a Baptist minister before he transitioned to the Presbyterian denomination, changing his position on infant baptism. It probably sounds strange to many Baptists that someone would go from the biblical pattern of immersing adults upon a confession of faith to sprinkling babies. But if you consider the Baptist position on baptism, it actually makes perfect sense why he would make that transition.

Most Protestant denominations—whether they sprinkle or immerse—have essentially the same understanding about baptism. They believe baptism is “an outward sign of an inward grace.” In other words, like circumcision, they believe baptism is the sign of the covenant.

It is true that with a covenant, there needs to be a sign, seal, symbol, or token. When God made a covenant not to flood the earth again, He said about the rainbow, “It shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Ge. 9:13). Paul said about Abraham’s circumcision, “He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Ro. 4:11). So the rainbow and circumcision are examples of how God signifies His covenants with man.

But the problem is, baptism is NEVER called a sign or a seal. Never. Not once. This doctrine is completely made up. It is not taught in Scripture at all, but sadly it is believed by millions.

In fact, by saying baptism is the sign of the covenant, they are ignoring what the New Testament actually teaches about the sign of the covenant. The New Testament teaches, “[You] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Ep. 1:13-14). And, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ep. 4:30). And, “[God] has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Co. 1:22).

The Holy Spirit is the sign (or the seal) of the covenant, not baptism. There is no biblical support for saying baptism is an “outward sign” of being God’s covenant people.

Wedding Rings

I was not given an opportunity to respond when Booth made the argument in the radio debate that baptism is like a wedding ring. He said a wedding ring does not make people married, it is simply a sign that they are married and belong to one another. He said baptism is like the wedding ring—it doesn’t put us into a relationship with God, it is simply a sign that we are already in a relationship with God.

But a biblical comparison would be to compare baptism to the wedding ceremony (which actually does make the couple married) and the Holy Spirit would be like the wedding ring. Our baptism is when we make our vows to the Lord and then the Holy Spirit—like a wedding ring—is given as a guarantee, a seal, a sign that we belong to the Bridegroom.

When a person is immersed in water, like a wedding ceremony, he is making a commitment. Paul says at baptism we commit ourselves to be dead to sin (Ro. 6). Jesus says at baptism we commit ourselves to being His disciples (Mt. 28:18-20). Again, if we are going to use the wedding metaphor, baptism must relate to the wedding ceremony, not the wedding ring.

Household Baptisms

When asked if he could show a biblical example of infants being baptized, Booth referred to the book of Acts. He believes that when Scripture says whole households were baptized, it included infants. But there are several big problems with that argument:

First, even Booth admits there is no way to prove there were any infants in those households. So any attempt to argue for infant baptism from these passages is an argument from silence.

Second, the people in these households who were baptized, listened to the word being preached (Ac. 10:44), spoke in tongues and praised God (Ac. 10:46), repented of their sins (Ac. 11:18), and rejoiced after their baptisms (Ac. 16:34). These are all things in which infants could obviously not participate. So if there were any infants in these households, they were not baptized.

“But the Bible doesn’t say some in the households were baptized and some weren’t,” Booth might argue. The answer to that is found in passages like Mark 1:5, which says about John, “All the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Although Mark recorded that all of Judea and Jerusalem were baptized, he obviously didn’t mean infants, because infants couldn’t confess their sins. He also didn’t even mean all adults, because the Pharisees rejected John’s teaching and baptism (see Mt. 3:4-10; 21:25).

Whether in a household or in a region, when all the people were baptized, it is all the people who had repentant faith.

Faith, Baptism, and the Forgiveness of Sins

Many find it difficult to reconcile what the New Testament says about grace, faith, salvation, forgiveness, and baptism. They struggle to understand, “If we are saved by grace through faith, how can baptism have anything to do with that?” Because of their confusion, they concoct explanations for baptism (i.e. “outward sign of an inward grace”) which are not biblical.

The host of the radio program, Julie Roys —who is undecided about infant baptism—seemed stunned by the fact that I believe one must be baptized to be saved. She reacted as if she had never heard of such a position. I explained that the New Testament clearly teaches that baptism, when done in repentant faith, is the moment at which a person is saved.

To prove this point, I quoted passages like Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21 and Acts 22:16 to show that is exactly what the Bible teaches. Yet she, and so many others, are preconditioned to reject any doctrine that ties salvation to baptism…even if that doctrine comes straight from the pages of the Scripture.

It really isn’t that hard to understand. The Lord offers to deliver us from slavery to sin, if we will put our trust in Him and follow Him. Like the Israelites God delivered from slavery in Egypt, we must pass through the water into the Promised Land on the other side (see 1 Corinthians 10:2). When we pass through the water, we become a part of God’s covenant community (the church) and are sealed with the Holy Spirit for salvation.

www.RadicallyChristian.com

Wes McAdams is the preaching minister at the Baker Heights Church of Christ in Abilene, TX. 

Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Of all the false doctrines that have troubled brethren in the last 50 years, perhaps the weirdest of them all is that known as “Realized Eschatology,” or “Covenant Eschatology,” or “Max Kingism.” In short, it avers that the Second Coming of Christ, the final resurrection of the just and the unjust, and the Final Judgment all took place in in the year A. D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. Although this concept was first introduced in modern times in the denominational world in 1787 by James S. Russell, it was introduced to the Lord’s church in 1971, when C. D. Beagle presented this view to a number of preachers in Ohio. Beagle’s son-in-law, Max King, also accepted this teaching and began promoting it. He popularized the movement with the writing of two books: The Spirit of Prophecy (1971) and The Cross and the Parousia of Christ (1987).  Because of this, the teaching is sometimes referred to as “Max Kingism.”

In more recent years, Don Preston has assumed leadership among the adherents of this doctrine. Based out of Ardmore, Oklahoma, Preston has pushed this doctrine through his website, books and printed material, and an annual event he calls the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” in Ardmore. While ostensibly still affiliated with churches of Christ, Preston no longer preaches regularly but devotes almost all of his time and efforts in more ecumenical directions in promoting his doctrine.

In March 2016, I was contacted by a preacher inquiring whether I would be interested in debating Preston in Ardmore in concerning this doctrine. I initially agreed; contact was made with Preston through a close friend of mine and brother in Christ, Shawn Mathis. Shawn is a former preacher and experienced businessman; he negotiated the terms of the debate for me with Preston. Shawn did an outstanding job in finalizing the agreement that was signed, and nailing down the propositions to be debated. Thus it was that Preston and I agreed to a two night debate on July 14-15, 2016, in connection with the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend.” The propositions were: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester, and, “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston.

In preparation for the debate, I was fortunate to have a number of fellow gospel preachers to give me assistance. Several who had debated the subject in the past allowed me access to their notes. Additionally, I obtained three sources of information (which I cannot disclose at this time) from a preacher friend which proved to be crucial in putting together the line of argumentation I would use. Phil Sanders agreed to serve as my moderator and sit at my table; he proved to be invaluable with his advice, encouragement, and quick thinking. Kyle Massengale, who had sat at my table in 2011 when I debated Catholic theologian Robert Sungenis, helped from a distance with his strong suggestions and counsel. As the time for the debate drew closer, I felt more and more comfortable.

During the preparation period, an item of interest caught my attention. On his website, Preston posts a series of videos he calls “Morning Musings.” In them, he promotes and pushes his doctrine. The topic that interested me was on the Lord’s Supper. The advocates of the AD 70 doctrine have an insurmountable problem—if the Second Coming took place at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, then one is hard pressed to explain 1 Cor. 11:26: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.” Either the AD 70 advocates take the Supper, and thus contradict their own teaching, not take it altogether and violate Paul’s clear command, or else change the Law of Christ. Preston chose the last option.

In his video series on the subject, he claimed that we cannot know how often the early church ate the Supper; he also said that while it is “appropriate” to take the Supper, we do not have to take it today. While Preston once believed and taught that the Supper must be taken every first day of the week, he does not believe that now. He then claimed that the mention of the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 was not intended to be understood as advocating a universal practice, but only for Corinth. I knew that all of this would provide a major point of emphasis during the debate. Contrary to Don, we can know how often the Supper was taken—from the book of           1 Corinthians itself! Paul wrote, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup…” (1 Co. 11:26). When did the Corinthian brethren come together? “On the first day of every week” (1 Co. 16:2); the same day they met in Troas in Acts 20:7. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:2, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” So, contrary to Don, we can know not only when the Supper was taken, and how often, but also to whom it applies—everyone living today. The fact remains, “till he come” in 1 Corinthians 11:26 is a death blow to his AD 70 theory. The Lord is yet to come, and we are still to take the Supper.

During the time I was in Ardmore for the debate, I was struck by how ecumenical the gathering was. Many of those who participated in the “Preterist Pilgrim Weekend” were not members of the church, but rather members of various denominational groups. Nevertheless, Phil Sanders and I were treated with respect and courtesy, which we returned in kind. We were shown hospitality on a personal level throughout the proceedings. Also, Cougan Collins gave us much needed logistical support and personal encouragement. He opened the building of the Lone Grove Church of Christ, where he preaches, for us to use in studying and preparing. Cougan is a very sharp and solid young preacher, and is doing a great job with the Lone Grove congregation.

Two things were immediately apparent as the debate progressed. First, Preston did not define his proposition. The first rule of formal debate (which we both signed) is that “the terms in which the question in debate is expressed, and the precise point at issue, should be so clearly defined, that there could be no misunderstanding respecting them.” Beginning with his first affirmative speech, Don did not follow that rule. I made sure in my responses that this would not go unnoticed. He later said that he did not want to “bore” the audience with defining the proposition; yet, he himself had defined his propositions in many other debates in which he had participated. As I said to Phil Sanders at one point (and said publicly during the debate), “If this had been a collegiate style debate with judges, Don would have been disqualified.”

Second, almost from the start Don claimed that the Law of Moses was in place—with God’s approval—alongside the Law of Christ for 40 years (until AD 70). This was an amazing assertion. Romans 7:1-6 blows that out of the water. A fundamental assertion in Don’s doctrine is that the Law of Moses was in force during Christ’s reign from Acts 2 until AD 70. However, Paul says that Christians—long before AD 70—were joined to Christ and not to the law. Don’s doctrine teaches that spiritual adultery was scriptural from Pentecost until AD 70! To be joined to a husband and to marry another involved one in adultery. If one is discharged from the law of the husband, one is free to marry again and this marriage does not involve adultery. To be joined to the old covenant, the old law, and to be joined to the new covenant (joined to Christ), involves one in spiritual adultery. Before one can be joined to Christ, one must be discharged from the law (Ro. 7:2, 6). Christians were already “discharged from the law, having died to that wherein we were held” (Ro. 7:6). They were “made dead to the law through the body of Christ” (Ro. 7:4). The death of Christ was involved in the removal of the law (Ep. 2:13-17).

For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

During my affirmative arguments, I presented 23 arguments for Don to answer. He did not seriously attempt to do so, claiming he did not have enough time. The audience—both online and in person—knows that he did not respond to them. A few times during the debate, he tried to use passages from Hebrews to bolster his doctrine concerning the Law of Moses. His efforts were easily demonstrated to be false. I chided him a couple of times by saying, “You’d better stay out of Hebrews; it’ll kill you.” He finally responded to that in frustration by saying, “I’ll slather all over Hebrews.” What’s interesting is that the word “slather” means “to use or spend in a wasteful or lavish manner.” Needless to say, after each night’s session, I felt very good about how things went. I believe that in the long term, this debate will do much good.

There is a link to the recordings of the debate, where you can watch it online. The password is PPWLIVESTREAM. Part of the agreement that was signed committed me to make a good faith effort to schedule another debate between me and Don in Montgomery, AL. At the time of the publication of this article, we have just agreed to have a second debate in Montgomery in 2017.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

Baptism Debate Recap — Jack Honeycutt

On May 27-28, 2016, a public discussion took place in Lafayette, Tennessee, between Michael Brawner, a Missionary Baptist preacher, and myself, a minister of the gospel, on the question, “Is Water Baptism Essential For Salvation?”

Several months prior I had been invited to a study that one of our deacons was having with two Baptist preachers, one of them being Michael.  After three hours of a somewhat controversial engagement on the necessity of baptism being a requirement to obtain salvation, I ask Michael if he would be willing to go public with this.  He agreed and signed the proposition that night.

His proposition was:  The Scriptures teach: “a person’s last requirement for soul salvation is faith only in Jesus Christ coming from the heart.”  I told him his proposition was a contradiction in and of itself.  If salvation is by faith only, how can it be a last requirement?

My proposition was:  The Scriptures teach: “a person must be baptized in water as a requirement for salvation.”

We both wanted to conduct ourselves in a civil manner and we wanted the audience to do the same.  Thus, rules were announced each night prior to our speaking.  No one from the audience was to speak or make any kind of gestures.  If either participant became angry the discussion would immediately be over.

I was the first to speak.  In my affirmation I began by letting the hearers know this wasn’t about me.  I did not want attention or the praise of men, but it was about an eternal question — one mankind must get right in order to go to heaven.  It wasn’t an attack on Michael.  I expressed I wasn’t trying to cause division, but that division already exists.

I encouraged those present to have a humble attitude, an open mind, and an open Bible.  I expressed my love for all mankind — I want them to go to heaven.  I presented the fact that the Bible is like a puzzle and we have to put all the pieces together to arrive at truth.  My first affirming scripture was Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  I broke this down into the compound sentence it is, saying the “he” who will be saved is the one who “believes and is baptized.”  Since most denominational people use the latter part of the scripture, “…he who does not believe will be condemned,” to place the emphasis on believing being the only thing necessary, I used the familiar example of eating and digesting to make the point that the last clause in no way changes the meaning of the first clause.  “He who eats and digests shall live; he who eats not shall die.”

I also showed a picture of a Ford Mustang and used this scenario:  If there was an ad put out that read, “He who believes in Ford Motor Company and is baptized in our pool, shall receive a new Ford,” every person here would be at Ford Motor Company in the morning to say they believed in Ford Motor Company and to be baptized in order to receive a new car.  No one would argue, “I believe, give me the new Ford, and then I’ll be baptized.”  Why?  Because the ad said both belief and baptism are necessary before acquiring the car.

Next, I alluded to Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…”  The word “for,” which is eis in the Greek, has been abused and misused by those determined to make baptism unnecessary for salvation.  These would have us believe that “for” means “because of.”  In other words, one is baptized because their sins are already forgiven.  The word “for” (eis) is used 1,490 times in the King James Version and not one time does it mean “because of.”

Jesus Himself said in Matthew 26:28, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  Did Jesus shed His blood because we are already forgiven?  Does “for” here mean “because of”?  If so, this would read that Jesus shed His blood “because of” the remission of sins.  Friends, this in no way is logical.

My last text was Acts 22:16, “And now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”  Of course, we know these are the words of Ananias to Saul after Saul had been blinded on the road to Damascus.  How can the majority of denominationalists come up with the notion that Saul was already saved on the road when he was told to be baptized to wash away his sins after arriving at Damascus?  It cane be nothing more than a misconstruing of scriptures!

In Michael’s denial he said the “purpose” of baptism was the issue.  He quickly went to Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  Of course, he said baptism was a work.  He also went to Galatians 2:21, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”  I’m assuming the emphasis is on grace again.  Christians have no argument about the magnitude of God’s grace.  If not for God’s grace none would be saved!  I assume he is referring to righteousness coming through the law as obedience, or a work.  The correct rendering of Galatians 2:21 is that we cannot be saved under the old law.  We can read in the very next chapter of Galatians that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law (5:10-14).

When one tries to use the argument that baptism is a work to try to prove its irrelevance, they would also have to disregard faith.  Why?  In John 6:28-29 the people asked Jesus, “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.”  Like faith, baptism is also called a work of God.  “In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Co. 2:11-12).  There is a big difference in the works of man and the operation (work) of God.

In my second speech on the first night I replied to Michael’s accusation, “Mr. Honeycutt believes water washes away sin.”  My answer was, “I don’t know anyone who believes and teaches that water saves.  He who says we teach this says what is not so.”  I most assuredly pointed out that the blood of Christ is what washes sins away…but when does it wash them away?  This was the issue.  If Saul was saved on the road he didn’t know it.  Jesus didn’t know it because he told Saul to go into the city and it would be told him what he must do.  Ananias didn’t know it.  Otherwise, why would he tell Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins”?

I concluded in my ten-minute rebuttal on the first night with this:

  1. Salvation is in the name of Jesus (Ac. 4:12). We are baptized into the name of Jesus (Mt. 28:19).  Therefore, baptism is essential to salvation.
  2. Salvation is in the body, the church (Ep. 5:23). We are baptized into the body (1 Co. 12:13).
  3. Christ shed His blood in His death (Jn. 19:34). We are baptized into His death (Ro. 6:3).  Therefore, baptism is essential to reaching the blood of Jesus.
  4. Grace is in Christ (2 Ti. 2:1). We get into Christ through baptism (Ro. 6:3).  Therefore, baptism is essential to grace that saves.

On the second night Michael’s responsibility was to affirm his proposition: “The Scriptures teach a person’s last requirement for soul salvation is faith only in Jesus Christ coming from the heart.”

He said Cornelius (Ac. 10) received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized, and asked the question, “Do you really believe God would send His Spirit to someone before they were saved?”  Thus, his conclusion was Cornelius was a child of God before baptism.

My reply:  First, Cornelius’ reception of the Holy Spirit represented a very unique situation.  He was the first Gentile to be offered the gospel.  This was a revolutionary step in the unfolding of God’s scheme of redemption.  The fact is, the supernatural work of the Spirit in this case had nothing to do with Cornelius’ personal salvation.  The outpouring of the Spirit was to persuade the Jews that Gentiles also had a right to the kingdom of heaven (Ac. 11:16-18).

Michael used Acts 15:9 to teach Cornelius and his household were saved when they received the Spirit:  “and made no distinction between us (Jews) and them (Gentiles).”  My response to this reasoning was if one can learn what the Jews were required to do in order to secure the remission of sins (Ac. 2:36-47), he will be forced to conclude that the identical process be applied to Cornelius and his household as well (Ac. 10:48).

Concerning 1 Peter 3:21, Michael said the ark was what saved Noah, not the water.  He also said neither the ark, nor Noah, went under the water.  I explained the word “antitype.”  In the Greek it means “corresponding, similar, form, model, or example.”  Noah’s salvation through water is a “like figure” to salvation (Ge. 6:22).  His obedience to what God commanded saved him.

1 Peter 3:21 specifically says that “baptism does also now save us.”  I asked Michael and the audience, “‘Baptism DOES save us’ or ‘Baptism DOES NOT save us?’  Which statement do you believe?”

In Michael’s affirmation he said there was more than one faith.  He said there is a historical faith and a saving faith.  He said there was more than one baptism.  He disagreed with the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:5 when the inspired writer said, “…one faith, one baptism.”

He emphasized that faith comes from the heart, using Jeremiah 29:13.  Everything is done “in the heart” (with only mental assent).  He did admit one has to repent before this saving faith; thus he doesn’t really believe in “faith alone.”

I used Romans 6:17, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.”  I made it known that Christians also believe from the heart.

Concerning the eunuch in Acts 8, Michael said the eunuch only wanted to be baptized after he confessed his faith (equivalent to salvation).

He also made a comment I had never heard, even while I was growing up in the Baptist Church.  He said, “A saved person gets into Christ by baptism, but a lost person won’t ever get into Christ by baptism.”  How can one be saved if they are not in Christ?! Michael doesn’t understand that being in Christ is the only way one can be saved!  I tried to get this concept across by using Ephesians 2:12-13, Jesus here speaking to the Gentiles, “that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”

There is so much that hasn’t been included in this article.  I encourage you to order the DVD from World Video Bible School or watch it on YouTube.  I also strongly encourage you to show this to your young people.

At this writing there are ten precious souls that we are aware of which have obeyed the gospel as a result of this discussion.

Thank you for  your interest.

preach@twlakes.net

Jack has been preaching the gospel for over 30 years.  He is the coordinator of the Rampachodavaram/Tuni, India Mission Work. 

Addressing Society’s Problems — Adam Carlson

Editor’s Note:  Brother Carlson’s article on recent societal problems mentions the tragedies in Dallas, TX, in July, 2016.  Since the completion and submission of his article for publication, other similar tragic events have taken place and made national news in Baton Rouge, LA, Tulsa, OK, and Charlotte, NC.  These calamities and the similar afflictions which have taken place repeatedly in recent times show the relevancy of brother Carlson’s thoughts from scripture as expressed in this article.  May we take these words to heart, and pray for our nation, the friends and families of all those tragically affected by these violent acts, and each other.

—————————————-

There are many sad and heavy hearts in light of the recent shooting deaths of two civilians at the hands of law enforcement and the murder of five police officers in Dallas, Texas.  When these tragedies happen there is much debate as to whether anger at law enforcement or abuse of authority by law enforcement is justified.  During these trying times, Christians must be proactive rather than reactive so we can bring about the positive change so many in the world desire.  The following six points for consideration will now be proposed so that each of us as followers of Christ may live in a godly manner in this ungodly society in which we find ourselves.  My prayer is that this may be of benefit to everyone who reads this article.

First, we must pray.  Prayer is a given…but when one finds themselves in afflictions such as the Dallas shootings, for what are we to pray?  We should pray that God comfort the loved ones of the victims (2 Co. 1:3-4).  We should also pray for those who perpetrate these acts because God’s desire as stated by Paul is that “all people…be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Ti. 2:4).

These acts of violence sadden and anger us but we must not let our anger blind us to God’s love (Ep. 4:26-27, 31-32).  It is easy to resort to calls for justice in these situations; certainly there does need to be consequences for those who commit acts of violence.  Yet we must not let that blind us to the fact that Christ died even for these individuals (Mk. 2:17).  We must remember that even we, before our conversion, were ungodly (Co. 3:5-7; Ti. 3:3-7).  God’s grace is for all (T. 2:11-14).  We must also remember the commandment of Jesus to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:43-45).  These are not optional matters.  How can one proclaim the gospel but have animosity in their heart towards perpetrators of evil deeds?

Second, we must take action in a positive way.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (Ja. 1:23-25).

James calls Christians to put faith into action.  Listening is a good thing but one can listen to a sermon on loving our enemies and even agree with it…but it’s more challenging to put it into practice.  This is what must be done.  It goes beyond shouting slogans, hashtags, and updating profile pictures on social media.  This is a call to put our beliefs into practice by helping our fellow man.

Third, remember the real issue.  Violence against law enforcement or anyone for that matter is symptomatic of a larger issue.  It is easy to treat outward symptoms of a disease, but more difficult to treat the disease itself, said disease being how societal issues are manifested in the public arena.  Race or any issue which divides is used by Satan to his advantage.

We must heed Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Ephesus:  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12).  How sad it is that these matters may be used even to divide brethren!  This is why it is imperative that we must be on guard and remember that Christ died for all…including the ungodly (Ro. 5:6).  Remember that it is because of our own selfish desires that strife arises among the body.  “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?”  (Ja. 4:1)

Fourth, remember that the world needs the blood of Christ.  We are redeemed by His blood (Ep. 1:7).  If one wants society to change for the better, this is the message which needs to be proclaimed.  Catchy slogans, demonstrations in the streets, politicians’ legislations and proposals…none of these will solve these issues.

Only the message of redemption through Christ will solve these problems.  As the song we commonly sing with children says:  Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight.  Regardless of our outward appearances, His blood covers all.  It is only through that avenue that true peace and equality will be achieved.  Only when we all realize that everyone has value in God’s eyes and it’s only by Christ that this is made possible (Ga. 3:26-28).

Fifth, take note of your conduct while you react.  There already has been and for the foreseeable future there will continue to be much debate regarding these matters.  Emotions and tempers will be running high.  This is why Christians who choose to engage in discussion on these matters must continually examine themselves and their conduct.  If one chooses to participate in debate, regardless of which side of the issue you may fall into, God expects you to conduct yourself in a way which glorifies Him (Co. 4:6).

We can expect ungodly behavior from those in the world.  It is for that reason we must be cautious to set a good example for them.  Hateful, divisive rhetoric is no excuse for a Christian to stoop to that level; we’re called to put away things such as that (Ep. 4:29, 31; Co. 3:8; 1 Pe. 2:1, 21-23).  It’s easy for one to be carried away by inflammatory statements made by others, but Christians should be careful that we don’t do the same thing.

Apply the “Philippians 4:8 Test” before speaking, especially on the Internet, and ask before one verbalizes or writes for the world to see if what you are about to say is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise.  If there is any doubt, then simply find another way to say it or discard it completely.  There’s a reason we’ve been given two ears and only one tongue (Pr. 14:29; 15:1; Ja. 1:19-20).  There is a right way and a wrong way to speak, and at times it is even best to be silent altogether (Ec. 3:7).

Sixth, learn to listen.  Another problem which arises is the refusal to open our ears and listen to others.  This is due to either pride or the stubborn desire to be right in what we believe.  Paul gives Timothy attributes which the Christian must possess:  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Ti. 2:24-26).

We’re not always going to agree with thoughts or ideas put forth, but we must take the time to listen to other viewpoints.  This is not to say we must accept everything that’s said, but we should also not be quick to dismiss opposing viewpoints.

It’s easy to become angry and disillusioned when we see our society crumble before our very eyes at the sight of evil.  The prophet Habakkuk struggled with this very scenario as he questioned God about how ungodly Babylon could seem to get away with what they were doing:  “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise” (Hab. 1:2-3, emp. added).

Many today join him in struggling with this question.  In time the prophet learned to trust God and learned that God was using Babylon for His purpose:  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab. 3:17-19, emp. added).

As mere men we won’t always fully understand…yet we must trust.  Faith must be learned.  We must remember that God can and will use all things, regardless of how evil it is, for the purpose of His will.  Everything we do is to be done according to His will (Co. 3:17).  May everything which we do be done in a scriptural manner!

adamcarlson130@hotmail.com

Adam preaches at the Valley Church of Christ in Kingsport, TN.