Tag Archives: baptism

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.

 

Is Baptism Immersion? — Dale Barger

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Those words of our Lord have sparked many religious debate, caused many to turn away in anger and unbelief, and many to simply do what that passage says. Yet, sadly many who have attempted to turn to the Lord in baptism have still not met His requirements. The reason they have failed in this attempt is a misunderstanding of what Jesus means when He commands to be baptized. This misunderstanding is a result of following man-made religions. Various religions have polluted not only the meaning of baptism but also the method acceptable to God. This study will not focus on the many false ideas surrounding the essential nature of baptism, but rather it will focus on what method of baptism is scriptural. Just what did Jesus mean when He commanded to be baptized? Did He teach that a person may be saved by being sprinkled? Will having water poured onto one’s head washes away sin? Or was Jesus speaking of immersion in water to receive forgiveness of sins?

Various denominations practice various methods to baptize a candidate. One denominational website states, “Our church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Sprinkling is a common practice, but the person being baptized (or their sponsors) can choose the method most meaningful to them.”1 This claim, made by the United Methodist Church, clearly identifies a major problem: the baptismal candidate can choose based on what is most “meaningful to them.” In this particular article by UMC, symbolism for the acts of sprinkling and pouring, as well as immersion are identified as they teach them. Whatever symbolism the candidate wants to experience is what they are free to choose. The attitude of man that we can choose based on what we desire is dangerous attitude when it comes to serving God. One doesn’t have to look very far in Scripture to find examples that our desires are not what pleases God! Consider just a few: Cain (Gen. 4:3-7), Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2), and Saul (1 Sam. 15:13-15). If one is attempting to obey God by being baptized, why does what they desire outweigh that which God commands? Why do they feel that the symbolism that is most meaningful to them is acceptable to God? How arrogant to tell God how you will obey Him! This is where religion driven by emotion has taken many worshippers: to think that they are accepted by God because it feels right to them.

A careful study of baptism in the New Testament will identify that immersion is what was practiced as well as commanded. Considering the terms themselves, baptism or baptisma is defined by Vine as “consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence.”The term baptize or baptizo  means “to dip, was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another.” In consideration of the usage by those who spoke the language in the first century it becomes clear that total immersion would be the common understanding of the terms.

Consider also the baptism of John. The gospel records speak of John and his commission of God to prepare for the coming Messiah (cf. Matt 3; Mark 1; Luke 3 and John 1). The record of Luke teaches that John was “preaching baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). Other gospel records speak of a reason that John was located in such an area was the abundance of water (John 3:23). If the forerunner of Christ was baptizing by means of sprinkling and pouring, it seems that it would not be necessary to locate oneself near “much water.” However, if total immersion of the subject is needed it makes perfect sense! When Jesus was baptized by John there is further evidence that it was by immersion. Matthew as well as Mark make reference to Jesus coming up out of the water (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10). Again, if the acceptable method of baptism were sprinkling or pouring, why would Jesus need to come up out of the water? It seems that He went into the water to be immersed by John.

Baptism commanded by Jesus and practiced by the apostles was clearly immersion of one submitting to the gospel. The apostle Paul illustrates this by his words in the sixth chapter of Romans. While building an argument that Christians should totally put away sin he states, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). In this passage, Paul teaches that one buries the old man of sin that has been put to death; becoming a new creature by emerging from the watery grave of baptism. We understand that one is completely covered if they have been buried. Other passages written by Paul also mention that baptism is burial (cf. Col. 2:14). The conversion of the Ethiopian nobleman is another prime example of baptism in the Bible. The historian records that both Phillip and the eunuch went into the water and came up out of it in order for him to be baptized (Acts 8:38-39). If sprinkling or pouring water onto one’s head were sufficient methods or the practiced methods in these examples there would be no need for enter and exiting the water.

If one seeks to submit to the command of baptism, why would they desire to do anything other than what those of the New Testament did? Why would they feel that some other symbolic form of such a sacred ritual would be acceptable to God? Dear friend, when God’s Word speaks of baptism it clearly speaks of immersion. There is no other way for the sinner to wash away sin so they might be saved.

dalebarger@hotmail.com

Dale is a 2009 graduate of the Tri-Cities School of Preaching in Elizabethton, TN.  He preaches for the Wheeler Hill Church of Christ in Pikeville, TN.  Dale and his wife Lydia have two daughters, Kenzie and Kasidy, and one daughter due to be born in February, 2017.

Footnotes

1 http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/is-sprinkling-the-only-way-that-united-methodists-baptize  accessed 12/16/16

2  W.E., Vine. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson 1997 pg88-89

 

 

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. 

Lessons Learned From The Jerusalem Church – Tim Bench

Acts chapter 2 discusses in great detail many of the attributes and details of the church established in Jerusalem. It can and often has been often argued that the ideal, perfect, and biblical precepts of how a church is to be operated is exhibited within this chapter of Acts. In this article, we will briefly analyze and discuss four facets of this first century congregation and how the church of the 21st century can, and should, in many ways emulate this example.

The amazing effectiveness of the evangelistic efforts of the Jerusalem church

We are to “take the Gospel into the whole world” and “unto every creature” (Mark 16:15). Nowhere in scripture does a church fulfill this command and commission more effectively than the church at Jerusalem.

In Acts 2:41, we see 3,000 conversions from a largely Jewish audience in a single day, with 5,000 more on another day (Acts 4:4). Mass numbers of Jews had ventured to Jerusalem for Pentecost, one of the three feasts of the Jews (2 Chr. 8:12-13), with the others being Passover and Tabernacles. “Pentecost” was also known as “Firstfruits,” “Harvest Festival,” and “Feast of Weeks” (Lev. 23:15). Having such a massive Jewish audience would provide the perfect opportunity for these earliest Christians to widen their following. These mass baptisms likely occurred at the pool of Siloam, just south of the Jerusalem Temple, or possibly Upper Gihon or Lower Gihon (“Pool of the Sultan”).

The sheer numerical tallies, impressive as they may seem, of these early evangelistic efforts do not serve to adequately express the impact of these early efforts. We can certainly assume there were uncounted and unrecognized results from that first sermon in the power of Pentecost, lost to history. Masses of people heard the Word, and were converted, and obeyed and received baptism, and were thus added to the Lord; these people would soon return to their homes and native lands across the known world of the time, and would thus help dramatically to help spread Christ’s message. We can never know precisely how many souls were ultimately affected and influenced for the cause of Jesus Christ due to the Jerusalem church efforts, but certainly it would be exponentially higher than the specific numbers we are provided in Acts 2. A seed was planted, so to speak, which would spread across the Middle East, and ultimately the world.

Even Jewish priests, seemingly the ones who would be the most resolute in their dedication to Judaism, were brought to the gospel (Acts 6:7). Souls were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47), proving that these jaw-dropping evangelistic results were ongoing, consistent, and startlingly effective.

We may well never equal the amazing numerical conversion results, but we certainly can, and should, apply the evangelism efforts seen in Acts 2 to today’s world, largely apathetic and indifferent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As is stated above, we cannot know the effect, for untold generations to come, of a person who obeys Christ…saving “merely one” might well be the prelude to saving many, many more. One saved soul, fervent and dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ, may influence many more to follow, across geographical areas as well as for the future.

Stewardship and need

We see a startling view of wealth, money, and stewardship from these early saints. Let us briefly consider the circumstances and atmosphere of the day. There were literally thousands of people on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, many of them hundreds of miles from their homes, with no effective way to provide for themselves food and shelter. The only realistic way to provide for the gathered masses was for followers of Jesus Christ to surrender their own possessions, selling what they owned so that the proceeds might be given to the church for “distribution” to every man who had need (see Acts 4:31-35).

The Jerusalem church was filled with cheerful and supportive givers (2 Cor. 9:7). There was no rampant greed, no thought of self, no hoarding or desire to gather and accumulate the temporal possessions of this world. Possessions were “all things common,” the expressed ideal of community of goods, lands, wealth, and possessions. This phrase does not, as some would claim, indicate that everyone was obligated to sell off everything that was owned, but instead illustrates the ideal that all held their possessions not for satisfaction of their own wants and lusts, but as a communal trust for the good and benefit of all. We see this theme expressed in 1 John 3:17 as well.

Many of the Jews present had traveled vast distances and had few, if any, supplies. People willingly give what they had so that others might have what they needed. This is a startling and foreign mindset for many in modern culture, where the pursuit of wealth and “things” is tantamount to self-worth and “success” for many people. The Jerusalem church did not merely give from convenience, as we often do today, but gave until they impoverished themselves (see Heb. 10:32-34, Acts 11:27-30, Rom. 15:25-27) for the cause and the mission of Jesus Christ. These amazing first century Christians did not regard their possessions and wealth as belonging to them, but instead as the property of the brethren as a whole, and thus to be shared as need arose (see Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32).

How many of us today would truly be able to say that we would do likewise? Could you literally sacrifice EVERYTHING you owned in the name of Jesus, to help provide for the needs of others you do not even know?

Necessity of baptism clearly established

Numerous faiths, denominations, and “churches” of today will claim that baptism is not at all necessary for salvation, or that salvation may be a necessity but somehow precedes salvation. It is imperative that churches of today can effectively address this all-too-common viewpoint, which is also thwarted in Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, etc.

A cursory reading of Acts 2:37-38 seems to clearly illustrate the necessity of baptism, except for those who simply choose to not read the text openly. The Jews, upon hearing the preaching, were “pricked in their hearts” and ask the eternal question of “What shall we do?” for salvation (this clearly demolishes the viewpoint that “faith alone” or “faith only” provides salvation). Peter does NOT tell them that they are saved by faith alone, and replies “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Scripture is abundantly clear here in response to the “What shall we DO?” query. What they were “to DO” in response to hearing the Gospel is stated with no ambiguity by Peter. They were to be baptized for the remission of their sins.

Earthly leadership established

The church at Jerusalem was established and organized as per biblical principle, not upon the whims of culture of popular opinion. Specifically, elders were selected and installed to oversee the church (Acts 15:6 and Acts 15:22). Deacons were likewise selected (Acts 6:1-7). These men (and contrary to popular public opinion amongst many today, elders and deacons were NOT to be women) were selected based on qualifications very clearly specified and described in 1 Tim. 3:1-10.

It is important to note that the church at Jerusalem, established biblically, did NOT belong to or adhere to dogma from any “society”, national group, “accrediting agency”, “convention”, denomination, ecumenical “alliances”, board of directors, or any other earthly foundation. Each individual church was to be established and overseen by elders, who would be responsible for their individual congregation (Acts 11:29-30).

In summary, the Jerusalem church serves as the epitome of Christianity in its most pure, first century-form. The structure, function, and amazing effectiveness of this church should serve as the inspiration and goal of Christians every bit as much today as it did nearly 2000 years ago. We have no better model to emulate or imitate than the Jerusalem church.

Tulsa4@aol.com

Thoughts on Acts 19:1-5 – David R. Pharr

Acts 19:1-5 provides precedent for a person being “re-baptized” when his previous baptism was not according to scriptural instructions.  In the case of the persons in the text they had been immersed according to the preaching of John the Baptist, which had only anticipated the redemptive work of Christ.  John never baptized in the name of Jesus.  Baptism in Jesus’ name began on Pentecost (Acts 2:38; cf. Luke 24:46f).  They needed to know and believe that John’s preparatory work had been finished and that the “one baptism” of the Christian dispensation must be in Christ’s name.

The issue, however, is not whether one’s baptism is said to be “in the name of Christ.”  Much error and evil occurs with mere claims of being in his name (Matt. 24:5; Acts 19:13ff).  Various baptisms performed in various groups may be said to be in Christ’s name, but are not in fact if they are not in harmony with Christ’s instructions.  Only when a penitent believer is being baptized that his sins might be washed away is he “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). – DRP