3/5/18

The Thief on the Cross by Trevor Bowen

 

The Thief on the Cross

Introduction

The example of the thief's conversion on the cross is often used as a basis for discrediting the necessity of baptism.  However, the Bible teaches that his example is irrelevant for two reasons:  First, the thief lived under a different covenant than us, and second, the thief was the fortunate recipient of unpromised grace and mercy.  Now, let us first examine who this thief was and the Bible account of his conversion.  Then, we will be prepared to consider its relevancy.

Who was the "Thief on the Cross" ?

The thief was one of two robbers crucified on either side of Jesus.  The Scripture gives the following account of his conversion:
Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.  And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads.  ...  Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thingMatthew 27:38-39,44
However, we learn later that one of the thieves must have had a change of heart...
Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us." But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation?  And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong." Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise." Luke 23:39-43
The penitent thief was obviously saved by Jesus - and without baptism!  His salvation cannot be questioned, because it Jesus asserted that the thief would enjoy Paradise with Jesus.  But, a logical question would be, "If baptism was not necessary for the thief, then is it necessary for me?"  The Biblical answer is "yes".  There are two fundamental problems with assuming that baptism is not necessary for us, just because the thief was saved without it.

Different Covenant and Testament

The first point that should be observed is that the thief lived and was converted under a different covenant than us.  Please recall the following passage from our study of the differences between the Old and New Testaments:
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.  And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. ... So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.  Colossians 2:12-17
So, the Old Testament was done away when Christ died upon the cross - "having nailed it to the cross."  A result of it being removed was the removal of the Old Testament's authority.  Therefore, the old law's commandments about "food", "drink", and "regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths" are no longer bound upon people.  However, today we live under the New Covenant which commands us to be baptized.  That being demonstrated, we may wonder, "Under which covenant did the thief live?
Please recall this second passage from our study on the two covenants.  In it Paul uses the analogy of a woman bound to her husband through marriage to illustrate the transition between the two covenants.
For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another -- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God."  Romans 7:2-4
First, this passage teaches that the old covenant ended when Jesus died, which was after the thief's repentance and forgiveness by Jesus.  Second, recall that baptism symbolizes our selfish desires having "died with Christ" (please read Romans 6:1-10).  So, how could the thief have possibly been baptized into Christ's death when Christ had not even died yet?  Baptism by Jesus' name was not commanded until after His death. It was first commanded in Jesus' great commission, which occurred after the resurrection (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).   Therefore, the thief's example is irrelevant to us because he was saved under a different law, the old law, when baptism had not even been commanded yet.  But, there is a little more to this story.

Unpromised Mercy

The observant student may recognize that this sinful robber (Matthew 27:44) had not met the requirements for atonement of sins under the old law either.  Under the Old Law, the thief would have died condemned because he had not offered the appropriate sacrifices (Leviticus 1-7).  In fact, he should have been stoned for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:11-16).  We might ask, "So, how was the thief saved?"  He was saved through the unpromised mercy of Jesus. We know that Jesus had the power to forgive sins while He was on the earth.  He forgave the sins of both the paralyzed man and the adulterous woman (Luke 5:18-26; 7:36-50), and He even miraculously healed the paralytic just to prove His deity and power to forgive sins.  Jesus was able, and justified in doing this because He is the one who will actually judge us on Judgment Day (John 5:22-30; James 4:10-12).
We may continue to ask, "But, what does this all mean?  What is the application?  Can a person live a sinful life, call out to God at the last minute in repentance, and be saved?"
It is clear that the thief was mercifully forgiven of his sins by Jesus, just as all of God's people are mercifully forgiven.  But, there is a key difference between him and us, even besides the old covenant.  God does not promise mercy for such people!  He has promised that all who are baptized will be saved (Mark 16:15-16; I Peter 3:21).  However, no where in the Bible does God say that one can pray for forgiveness and receive it.  It's just not there.  But, what is there is the commandment for baptism and a fearful promise of wrath for those who do not obey God.  Please recall the example of King Saul and the following statement by Jesus, which teach us that God expects us to follow His pattern in all things:

Example of King Saul:

"So Samuel said: 'Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.'" I Samuel 15:22-23

Statement by Jesus:

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who work iniquity.' " Matthew 7:21-23
The simple truth is that no where in the Bible does God promise that the "sinner's prayer" will bring forgiveness of sins.  Moreover, the only promise we have on the matter is the one above where Jesus promises that calling out to God without obedience is not enough. The sinner's prayer alone will only result in condemnation.

Conclusion

The example of thief is irrelevant for two fundamental reasons.  First, under the old covenant, he was not subject to the commandment of baptism to which we are subject.  Second, he was an exceptional case that involved unpromised mercy from the Judge of all men, Jesus.  Since Jesus Christ is the Judge, it is His prerogative and right to grant mercy where He has not promised to do so.  But, just because He made a exception, that does not mandate that He will do so for us on Judgment Day.  Moreover, both the Old and New Testament examples of people who did not follow God's pattern teach us of God's wrath that fell upon those who willfully disobeyed God, even with the best of motives.
Therefore, the concluding questions for us are these, "Will you and I presume not to be baptized, ignoring all the Scripture's teaching on the essential role of baptism?"  "What does the Bible say that God has promised for those who are guilty of willful disobedience?"  Or, "Will we follow the simple instructions for salvation?" There is only one clear answer for which God has promised, "he shall be saved" (Mark 16:15-16). Have you met the conditions of this promise?
Trevor Bowen

"THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS" Two Ways To Walk (3:17-21) by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS"

                        Two Ways To Walk (3:17-21)

INTRODUCTION

1. As we continue our examination of Paul's "epistle of joy", we now find
   him discussing two different ways to walk in this life...
   a. The walk of one who is "a citizen of heaven"
   b. The walk of one who is "an enemy of the cross of Christ"

2. Hopefully, there should be no question as to which way we are to walk;
   but to better understand why, we will look closely at some reasons
   Paul gives in this passage

[First, we notice...]

I. AN ADMONITION TO WALK LIKE PAUL AND OTHERS (17)

   A. "JOIN IN FOLLOWING MY EXAMPLE"...
      1. Paul frequently encouraged others to follow his example - cf.
         Ph 4:9; 1 Co 4:16; 11:1
      2. Some brethren evidently took him up on it - e.g., 1 Th 1:6-9
      3. In what way were people to imitate Paul?
         a. To the degree he tried to imitate Christ - 1 Co 11:1
         b. Perhaps also in his devotion to Jesus Christ - cf. Ph 3:7-16

   B. "NOTE THOSE WHO SO WALK, AS YOU HAVE US FOR A PATTERN"...
      1. Just as there were some in Thessalonica who imitated Paul (1 Th
         1:6-9), so there were those at Philippi who did the same, and
         were thus worthy of emulation
      2. Noticing the examples of others can be very beneficial - cf. Ps 37:37
      3. Especially when we consider the outcome of their conduct - cf.
         He 13:7

   C. WE SHOULD NOT ONLY BE GOOD IMITATORS, BUT GOOD EXAMPLES OURSELVES!
      1. This is especially true of those who teach and preach God's Word
         - 1 Ti 4:12; Ti 2:7-8
      2. Which includes those who serve as elders - He 13:7; 1 Pe 5:1-3

[The reasons for noting those who are worthy of emulation is given
later in this passage.  But first there is...]

II. A WARNING CONCERNING THOSE WHO WALK AS "ENEMIES OF THE CROSS" (18-19)

   A. "OF WHOM I HAVE TOLD YOU OFTEN"...
      1. Paul found "repetition" to be a valuable tool - cf. Ga 1:8,9;5:21; Ph 3:1
      2. Also, that it was necessary to be "negative" at times - cf. Ph 3:2

   B. "AND NOW TELL YOU EVEN WEEPING"...
      1. Negative preaching, when necessary, should not be done without
         compassion - e.g., 2 Co 2:4
      2. Even here, Paul is setting the right example...
         a. To love our enemies
         b. Even those who are "enemies of the cross"!

   C. WHO ARE THESE "ENEMIES OF THE CROSS"?
      1. We know they are MANY people
         a. "For many walk" - cf. Mt 7:13-14
         b. So not just a few
      2. We know their END
         a. "whose end is destruction" - cf. 2 Th 1:7-9
         b. Have we seriously considered the outcome of their conduct?
      3. We know who is their GOD
         a. "whose god is their belly"
         b. I.e., those who are set on satisfying only their fleshly
            appetites
      4. We know wherein is their GLORY
         a. "whose glory is in their shame"
         b. They take pride in things that are actually shameful
      5. We know upon what they set their MINDS
         a. "who set their mind on earthly things"
         b. Contrast this with where Christians are to set their minds -
            Ph 4:8; Co 3:1-2

[Where is our "mindset"?  How we answer may determine whether or not WE
are "enemies of the cross of Christ"!

As a motivation not to be "enemies of the cross", we notice Paul now
shares a few...]

III. REASONS TO WALK LIKE PAUL AND OTHERS (20-21)

   A. "FOR OUR CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN"...
      1. Our true loyalty is to that above, not that on earth!
      2. It is there where our "inheritance" is reserved - 1 Pe 1:3-4
      3. Therefore, we have special responsibilities - cf. 1 Pe 2:9-12

   B. "WE EAGERLY WAIT FOR THE SAVIOR...WHO WILL TRANSFORM OUR LOWLY
      BODY"...
      1. Though now in heaven, our Savior is coming again one day! - Ac 1:9-11
      2. When He does, what glory there will be for those who are
         "citizens of heaven"!
         a. He will "transform our lowly body"!
         b. It will be "conformed to His glorious body"!
      3. This He will do by the same POWER by which He subdues all things
         to Himself - cf. Mt 28:18; 1 Pe 3:22

CONCLUSION

1. Are not these good reasons to walk like Paul?

2. Brethren, how are we walking in this life?
   a. As "citizens of heaven"?
   b. Or "enemies of the cross of Christ"?

3. The answer depends upon where we have set our MINDS:
   a. If on EARTHLY things...we are "enemies of the cross of Christ"!
      1) We make our bellies to be our god
      2) We glory in that which is shameful
      3) Our end will be destruction
   b. But if on HEAVENLY things...we are "citizens of heaven"!
      1) We eagerly await Christ's coming
      2) We eagerly await our transformation

4. Have you become...
   a. A "citizen of heaven"?  If not, why not become one today?  - Jn 3:5
   b. An "enemy of the cross"?  If so, why not "defect" today? - 1 Pe 4:1-3

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016eXTReMe Tracker

Apologetics and the Growth of the Early Church by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5308

Apologetics and the Growth of the Early Church

by  Eric Lyons, M.Min.

To say that the first-century church was a growing church would be a major understatement. The early church did not merely grow; she exploded onto the scene and continued multiplying in number for many years. About 3,000 souls obeyed the Gospel the very day the church was born in Jerusalem almost 2,000 years ago (Acts 2:41). To that number, “the Lord added…daily those who were being saved” (2:47). Despite attempts to stifle the preaching of Jesus and the growth of His church, “many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men1 came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). “Believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (5:14). In Jerusalem, “the disciples multiplied greatly;” even “a great many” of the Jewish priests were “obedient to the faith” (6:7). In Samaria, “the multitudes with one accorded heeded the things spoken by Philip” (8:6); “both men and women were baptized” (8:12). Indeed, “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria…continued to increase” (9:31, NASB).
After Paul’s conversion to Christ, He took the Gospel to Cilicia where the young “churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily” (16:5). Later, “all who dwelt in Asia [Minor] heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). Even Paul’s enemies testified to how “throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people” from idolatry (19:26). Paul and his companions also carried the Gospel to Europe, where “a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women” joined them (17:4). And what did Paul learn upon his return to Jerusalem following his third missionary journey? That “many myriads of Jews” had come to believe in Jesus (21:20). That is, within less than 30 years, the Lord’s church had increased to become many tens of thousands of Christians strong.2

Causes of Growth in the Early Church

The early church increased in number so dramatically in a relatively short period of time for a variety of reasons. First, the church of Christ was not established at “just anytime” in history. “Before time began” God purposed to offer salvation to the world through Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9). God planned for Jesus to come to Earth and for His church to be established at a special and specific point in time in human history, which God chose and foretold. So, “when the fullness of time had come” (Galatians 4:4), that is, “the time which God in His infinite wisdom counted best,”3 Jesus came to Earth and subsequently established His promised, prophesied, and prepared-for church.4 Thus, a rapidly growing early church should come as no surprise.
Still, human beings have free will. Simply because God foreknew that the early Christians would multiply in number throughout the world does not mean He overrode their ability to reject the Gospel or to reach out to others with it (even if they did initially obey it). The early church grew so rapidly because the apostles, evangelists, and early Christians were courageous in their constant teaching and preaching of the Word of God. The Christians increased in number because they put a priority on souls and eternal salvation rather than upon materialism and temporary, earthly matters. Despite negative peer pressure, poverty, and persecution, the early church grew because so many disciples were committed (individually and collectively) to telling the world that the Savior, the promised Messiah, had died and risen from the dead, and “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). They were a praying and preaching people who would not be stopped.5 In fact, for so many early Christians, death was the only thing that would keep them from spreading the Good News of Jesus.6 Ironically, it was the death of Stephen and the great persecution that arose against the church in Jerusalem which actually assisted in the spread of the Gospel in Judea, Samaria, Phoenicia, Cyprus, and many other places around the world (Acts 8:1-4; 11:19-20).

A Major (Yet Often-Overlooked) Contributing Factor to the Early Church’s Growth

Indeed, the kingdom of Christ grew so rapidly in the first century for a number of noteworthy reasons (which, incidentally, Christians in every generation desperately need to emulate in their work for the Lord). Yet, one reason for the rapidly expanding early church often gets ignored in today’s shallow, better-felt-than-told religious environment: the first-century Christians’ commitment to apologetics.

What Is Apologetics?

Sometime ago a Christian lady e-mailed our offices at Apologetics Press, saying, “I am leery of your name...apologetics…. I am a servant of the Living God and have no need to apologize for anything. But I am seeking an answer and saw your site. So please if you may, answer me this....” In truth, we were happy to respond to Jennifer and let her know that apologetics is, in fact, all about giving answers (and not “apologizing,” as so many think of it in 21st-century America). The English word apologetics is derived from the Greek apologia, meaning, “defense.”7 God does not want Christians to “apologize” (be sorry for) their allegiance to the Lord. Rather, as Peter declared, “[S]anctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense (apologian) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). The word apologetics can apply to almost any subject matter, but most often it is discussed in the context of Christian apologetics. God expects Christians to give an outward defense of their inward hope. He wants His people, not to take up swords in an attempt to spread Christianity with carnal warfare, but to charge ahead with “knowledge” and “the word of truth” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). Disciples of Christ look to “destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, RSV). God desires for Christians to base their actions upon Truth that is honestly and logically defended rather than false doctrine, which is dishonestly or naively accepted and emotionally driven.
Admittedly, the early Christians were full of emotions. They joyfully recognized that the long-awaited, much-anticipated Messiah had just recently come into the world and established His spiritual kingdom.8 They penitently acknowledged their sins (Acts 2:37; 8:24). They lovingly sacrificed their material possessions in order to help the poor among them (4:32-37). They were concerned for the safety of their brethren who preached openly in the face of their enemies (21:12). They rejoiced “that they were counted worthy to suffer shame” for the name of Jesus (4:41) and courageously continued “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence” (28:31). But in the end, whatever feelings they had, whatever emotions they felt—these sensations were not the driving force behind their allegiance to Jesus Christ. The early church grew in faith and number, not because they had a better-felt-than-told kind of religion, but because they sincerely believed Truth (cf. John 8:21-36), which they were joyfully committed to spreading and defending.

Luke’s Opening of Acts

Luke, the physician and inspired writer of Acts, sets the “defense” tone from the very beginning of his brief history of the first 30 years of the Lord’s church. In the first sentence, He reminds his readers of his previous account (the Gospel of Luke), where he recorded those things that Jesus did and taught. In the very next sentence, he concisely, yet reasonably, addressed one critical piece of evidence that would be repeated throughout Acts9 and that lies at the heart of the Good News: Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. How did Luke briefly convey the resurrection of Christ? Was it merely an unverifiable “hope” that he communicated? Did he make an emotionally based appeal using flowery words? Not at all. From the very outset, Luke set an apologetic tone for the book of Acts.
Luke indicated that to the apostles Jesus “presented Himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (1:3, ESV). Notice that Luke affirms that Jesus “presented” (parestasen) Himself alive. Jesus’ dead body was not stolen and buried elsewhere. He did not just escape the tomb to leave everyone in doubt about a possible resurrection. He “presented” or “showed” (NIV) Himself. Luke used this term 13 times in Acts, including in Acts 9:41 where, after God raised Dorcas from the dead, Luke noted that Peter “called the saints and widows” and “presented her alive” to them. He proved to them that she was no longer dead. Likewise, the once-lifeless body of the Lord rose from the dead, and then, over the next 40 days, Jesus repeatedly presented Himself alive to the apostles—offering “many proofs.”
Jesus did not offer vague, subliminal messages to His apostles in order to convince them of His resurrection. He did not offer mere whispers in the wind. Luke reminds his readers that Jesus offered “many proofs” (pollois tekmanriois). According to Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, tekmanriois is “that which causes something to be known in a convincing and decisive manner.”10 No wonder several reputable translations include the word “infallible” or “convincing” alongside “proofs” in Acts 1:3.11 Jesus did not just offer a little support of His resurrection; He gave many “surely and plainly known,”12 convincing proofs that He had risen from the dead.
So, to what exactly is Luke referring? No doubt to some of the very proofs that he discussed in his “former account” (and that the other gospel writers gave in their treatises). During the 40 days that Jesus was on Earth after His resurrection and prior to His ascension, He appeared to several individuals at different times, including on one occasion to more than 500 disciples (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). When He appeared to the apostles, He showed them His pierced hands and feet and challenged them to “handle” Him in order to “see” that He was not a mere spirit, “for a spirit does not have flesh and bones” as Jesus had (Luke 24:39). As further physical proof of His “flesh and bones” bodily resurrection, Jesus actually ate with the apostles (Luke 24:41-43). (If you want to prove to someone that you are a real, physical being, eating actual food in their presence would certainly be appropriate confirmation.) Lastly, the Master Teacher taught them the Scriptures (Luke 24:44-49). Indeed, as Luke testified, Jesus gave an apologia—He “presented Himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3, emp. added).

Peter’s Defense on Pentecost

On the first Pentecost after the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, Peter stood before thousands of Jews and reasoned with them about becoming followers of the recently crucified descendant of David. Consider that his sermon was not an emotionally based appeal for his hearers to “repent…and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). No, in contrast to incoherent, drunken babblers (2:15), Peter testified that what the assembly was hearing and witnessing—the apostles miraculously speaking in languages which they had never studied (2:6,8,11)—was a fulfillment of Joel’s 800-year-old prophecy. Furthermore, Peter reminded his hearers that God “attested” (apodedeigmenon) to the miracles that Jesus worked while He was alive and in their midst. That is, God “demonstrated”13 proof of the divine origin, message, and mission of Christ in such a way that people could actually see the evidence and make an informed, rational decision about Him.
The assembly on Pentecost knew that Jesus had been “put to death” only days earlier (2:23), but unlike the tomb of King David, Jesus’ tomb was empty only three days later. Unlike the body of David, which saw corruption, the dead body of Christ had been raised and would never see corruption. Notice that Peter directed the assembly to evaluate the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, including the implied empty tomb (2:24,29-32), the fulfillment of Psalm 16:8-11 (2:25-31), and the witnesses who stood before them testifying that they had actually seen the risen Savior (2:32).
The some 3,000 individuals who obeyed the Gospel on Pentecost were not swayed by flowery words, phony miracles, or mere emotional appeals. They were “cut to the heart” by reason-and-revelation-based preaching. They reacted to a sermon filled with sensible argumentation and properly applied Scriptures. They responded to the apologia of Christ—to Christian apologetics.

Apologetics and the Preaching of Paul

How did the second greatest missionary the world has ever known (the first being Jesus, of course; Luke 19:10) go about publicly and privately proclaiming the Word of God? What did he say to people? How did he lay out the Gospel before his hearers? Was he like so many modern-day preachers and televangelists who appear infatuated with entertaining audiences with emotionally based productions? Did he ramble on about needing a mere “self-help,” feel-good religion to get through the trials of life and onward to heaven? What did God do through Paul that resulted in so many people in the first century hearing the Gospel and becoming dedicated servants in the Kingdom of God?
Christians do not have to wonder or speculate what Paul did. The inspired book of Acts details more about Paul’s work and teachings than anyone else’s in the early church. Just read Acts and you will find that from the time Paul became a Christian until the close of the book (28:30-31), he preached rational, well-argued, truth-based, thought-provoking sermons, “proving (sumbibazon) that…Jesus is the Christ” (9:22). The Greek word sumbibazon means “to present a logical conclusion;” to “demonstrate.”14 Paul gave evidence that lead honest-hearted people to the logical conclusion that, indeed, Jesus is the promised, prophesied Messiah: the Savior of mankind.
Though space will not allow for an exhaustive review of all of Paul’s work as an evangelist, consider some of what Luke recorded about Paul’s preaching on just his second and third missionary journeys. Pay close attention to the words that Paul himself used in his preaching and that Luke, one of Paul’s traveling companions (16:10-16), recorded in describing Paul’s work.

Thessalonica

After planting the church in Philippi and being asked to depart the city by the unjust and cowardly magistrates (16:11-40), Paul travelled to Thessalonica and entered a Jewish synagogue (which was his custom—17:2).15 There he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ’” (17:3-4).
In contrast to his jealous, unbelieving enemies, who used intimidation tactics and mob-like violence to bring about a chaotic scene within the city (17:5-9), the life-changing Gospel of Christ that Paul preached was built upon facts that he explained and demonstrated using the Old Testament Scriptures and the historical life of Christ. To “explain” (dianoigo) is to “open” or to “interpret.”16 Just as Jesus “opened the Scriptures” to the uninformed disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:32), God used Paul “to open the sense of the Scriptures” to the Thessalonians.17 He demonstrated (paratithami) to them by “pointing out” what they were missing.18 Paul was pointing out or “bringing forward in proof passages of Scripture” and making “plain to the understanding the meaning.”19 As Wayne Jackson so capably observed:
The apostle’s method of argument, impeccably logical, was to: 1) Appeal to the authoritative Old Testament scriptures; 2) Direct attention to the prophecies concerning “the Christ;” 3) Introduce the fact of history relative to Jesus of Nazareth (e.g., His suffering, death, and resurrection); 4) Press the conclusion that Jesus fulfills the declarations regarding the promised Messiah.
This must be the foundation of all gospel preaching. Christianity is grounded in solid, provable history. There are facts to be believed or else man cannot be a Christian. No teacher who neglects this method of instruction can be effective in producing genuine converts.20
Those who were persuaded to become followers of Christ 2,000 years ago in Thessalonica responded to Truth and to the fair and reasonable interpretation of it.

Berea

The Bereans were open-hearted, honest investigators. Rather than immediately shut their ears at the teaching of Paul because of some bias, or rather than naively believing everything they heard without serious investigation, the Bereans “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (17:11). The Bereans had a more noble disposition than the many envious, strife-causing Thessalonian Jews. The Bereans listened enthusiastically (prothumias)21 to the teachings of Paul and Silas and searched or examined (anakrino) the Old Testament Scriptures daily. The Greek word anakrino means to “engage in careful study of a question;” to “question, examine.”22 It is to “sift up and down;” “to make careful and exact research as in a legal process.”23 In fact, Luke used this word elsewhere in the context of “a judicial inquiry or investigation.”24 Indeed, similar to how Pilate “examined” (anakrino) Jesus and found no fault with Him concerning the things of which He was being accused (Luke 23:14), the Bereans examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the things that Paul preached were true.
And how did the Bereans respond to the Word of God? “Many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (17:12). “Many” people who made a continual, careful examination of the Scriptures came to the conclusion that what Paul preached was true. Consider this important implication: if the Bereans were honest-hearted individuals who seriously investigated the teachings of Paul, and yet came to the reasoned conclusion that Paul’s word was factual, then Paul’s preaching was of such high caliber that it could withstand a daily, judicial-type inquiry. Yes, the early church grew out of the New Testament apostles’ and prophets’ commitment to “testable teaching” and “provable preaching.” Indeed, Christian apologetics played a critical role in the spiritual and numerical growth of the early church in Berea.

Athens

Paul journeyed from Berea down to Athens, where he found a city “full of idols” (17:16). Notice that he became emotionally agitated (“provoked;” paroxuneto) by the thoroughly idolatrous and spiritually ignorant city. “His spirit was aroused within him (by anger, grief, or a desire to convert them)”25—or perhaps all three.  He was not provoked in a sinful manner (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5), but with righteous exasperation he was moved to preach to a thoroughly pagan people. Interestingly, Paul’s emotional, inward stirring did not lead to an irrational, substanceless, emotional rant. On the contrary, upon given the opportunity to speak in the midst of the Council of the Areopogus,26 Paul delivered a masterful apologia before those who questioned his beliefs and teachings.
Paul did not begin with the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, which was his normal approach when reasoning with the Jews.27 Paul never even directly quoted from the Scriptures. Why? Because Paul knew that his audience on this occasion consisted of pagan Gentile philosophers who knew little-to-nothing about the Old Testament and certainly did not view it as divinely inspired and authoritative. So, Paul began with something the Greeks recognized—an altar with the inscription “TO THE UNKNOWN GOD” (17:23).
Paul enlightened the Athenians about this Deity (the true God) Whom they publicly acknowledged not knowing (17:18,23). He spoke powerful truths about the foolishness of idolatry, but seemingly as inoffensively as possible. Rather than attack the Athenians as ignorant idolaters, He reasoned with them about the existence of “God, who made the world and everything in it,” Who is “Lord of heaven and earth,” and “does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things” (17:24-25). The God Paul served and preached is the omnipotent Creator of the Universe and, marvelously, all human beings are His offspring.28 The clear conclusion that Paul wanted his hearers to understand is that the true Divine Nature could not possibly be represented by anything made of gold, silver, or stone. “God certainly must be conceived as being infinitely greater than man whom he has made; hence he cannot be like…anything that is far beneath man, namely metal and stone although it be worked up ever so artistically by man’s art and thought.”29
Although some mocked Paul when he later testified to the resurrection of Jesus (17:32), others were convinced by his sound reasoning “and believed,” including Dionysius the Areopagite, “one of the twelve judges of the Athenian Court,”30 the Council of the Areopagus (17:34). Indeed, Paul’s public apologia on the supremacy of the true God of the Universe (over manmade idols) had a positive impact on those who were sincerely interested in truth.

Ephesus

Whereas on Paul’s second missionary journey he only briefly visited the city of Ephesus (Acts 18:19-21), on his next mission trip he remained there for the next three years.31 He began his work by teaching a dozen disciples of John the Baptizer “the way of God more accurately” (cf. 18:26), which logically led to these honest-hearted souls being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (19:1-7). Paul then spent the next three months in the synagogue “reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (19:8). To “reason” (dialegomai) like Paul frequently did is “to engage in speech interchange;” to “converse, discuss, argue;”32 “to say thoroughly;”33 used especially “of instructional discourse.”34 Paul was an instructor of Truth that he could (and did) defend. He rightly divided the Old Testament Scriptures and accurately applied the relevant prophecies to Jesus and His kingdom. However, eventually “some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude” (19:9). Thus, Paul chose to take the disciples with him to the school of Tyrannus,35 where he spent the next two years “reasoning (dialegomai) daily” with them, “so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (19:9-10).
Although Paul decimated the illogicality of idolatry in Athens on his second missionary journey (Acts 17), perhaps nowhere in the book of Acts is the contrast between true, Christian apologetics and the irrationality of idolatry made clearer than in Ephesus (Acts 19). Paul had spent months in the local synagogue and years in the school of Tyrannus “reasoning” about Christianity. Furthermore, God worked amazing miracles through Paul as further proof that the apostle’s message was of divine origin and not merely a tall tale repeated in attempts to become rich and famous (19:11; cf. Hebrews 2:3-4). Paul “coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel” (20:33). His message was true; his defense was logical; and his intentions were honorable. The Ephesian idolaters, however, were the exact opposite. In fact, they did not even attempt to hide their religion-for-earthly-gain mindset. “Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: ‘Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade,’” and, if Paul is not silenced, “this trade of ours” is “in danger of falling into disrepute” and “the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed” (19:24-25,27). Whereas Paul reasoned that “they are not gods which are made with hands” (19:26), the pagan Ephesians were more concerned about money and tradition than truth and reason (19:25). They proceeded to be driven by angry emotions as “the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord…. [M]ost of them did not even know why they had come together,” yet for two hours “all with one voice cried out...‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’” (19:29,32,34). Imagine that—repeatedly shouting the same exact expression (“Megala a Artemis Ephesion”) for 120 minutes. As Lenski noted, such is “typical mob psychology. There was no leader, no sense, no object and purpose, no consideration even of the foolishness of its own demonstration.”36 Can you imagine repeating the same phrase hundreds of times for 120 minutes? Even the unbelieving city clerk of Ephesus could see that there was no legitimate “reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering” (19:40).
Again, do not miss the stark contrast between the true Gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul defended and the repetitive, emotionally charged nonsense that Demetrius and the pagan Gentiles preached. Paul “persuaded and turned away” (from idolatry to the true and living God) “many people” in Ephesus and “throughout almost all Asia” (19:26). He did it without force or the threat of force. He did it without reverting to dishonest, better-felt-than-told, foolish tactics (which were not only characteristic of the Ephesians, but also of many modern-day, phony faith-healers, covetous prosperity preachers, and the like). Paul sought to persuade open-minded, honest-hearted people to follow the Lord Jesus Christ with crystal-clear arguments that could withstand scrutiny, with Scripture that was rightly divided, and with genuine love for the Lord and lost souls.

Conclusion

The Acts of the Apostles could be titled Acts of the Apologists, for what the apostles and early disciples did throughout the book of Acts was repeatedly give rational defenses of the Christian faith. Though critics of Christianity often suggest that the Bible advocates a blind faith, the Bible writers themselves expressly noted that they “did not follow cunningly devised fables…but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). The apostles bore witness of things that they had actually “looked upon” and “handled” (1 John 1:1-2). They followed the example of the Lord, Who was (and is) the Master logician.37 They continually offered evidence for the case of Christianity as they spoke “words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25).
And what was the result? What effect did such unadulterated, courageous gospel teaching, preaching, and defending have on the world? Within 30 years of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ the Gospel had been “proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (Colossians 1:23) and many tens of thousands of souls turned to the Lord (Acts 21:20). May God help His church in the 21st century to have the same passion for lost souls and commitment to rationally defending the Way of Jesus Christ that the early church admirably exemplified.

Endnotes

1 Though the Greek aner may sometimes refer to both men and women (cf. Luke 11:31), “this word here appears to be used of men only” (R.J. Knowling [2002], The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson], 2:123-124). Cf. Matthew 14:21; Mark 6:44. Thus, only a few weeks after the Lord’s church had been established, it seems that she consisted of 5,000 men, plus all of the female Christians.
2 The word “myriad” is transliterated from the Greek muriades, which may mean strictly “ten thousand” or an indefinite “very large number” (Frederick Danker, et al. [2000], Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament [Chicago, IL: University of Chicago], p. 661). Considering that Luke had just used this word two chapters earlier to communicate “ten thousand” (19:19; where five muriadesis understood to mean 50,000), it seems appropriate to conclude that “many tens of thousands of Jews” had become Christians by the time Paul returned to Jerusalem.
3 Adam Clarke (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
4 Genesis 12:1-4; Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 4:1-2; Daniel 2:1-44; Matthew 3:1-3; Matthew 10:7; Mark 9:1; Matthew 16:18.
5 Acts 4:18-31; 5:25-32,40-42.
6 Consider the dedication of Peter and John (Acts 4-5), of Paul (14:19-22), and the many Christians who “went everywhere preaching the word,” even as their lives were in great danger (8:1-4).
7 Frederick Danker, et al. (2000), Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago), p. 117.
8 Cf. John 4:25-42; Acts 2:30-47; 8:12.
9 Acts 2:24-36; 3:15; 4:10,33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30-37; 17:3,31.
10 Danker, et al., p. 994, emp. added.
11 KJV; NKJV; NASB; etc.
12 J.H. Thayer (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), p. 617.
13 Knowling, 2:82.
14 Danker, et al., p. 957, emp. added.
15 Cf. Acts 9:20; 13:5,14; 17:10; 18:4; etc.
16 Danker, et al., p. 234.
17Dianoigoo” (2003), Thayer’s Abridged (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
18 Danker, et al., p. 772.
19 Knowling, 2:358.
20 Wayne Jackson (2005), The Acts of the Apostles: From Jerusalem to Rome (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications), p. 202, emp. added.
21 With “eagerness, rushing forward.” In Berea, they “joyfully welcomed” Paul and Silas (A.T. Robertson [1997], Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament [Electronic Database: Biblesoft]). Christians today should have the same Berean-type eagerness to study and learn the foundational truths of Christianity. Until such serious individual investigation takes place, one’s faith will be weak, and his defense of Christianity even weaker.
22 Danker, et al., p. 66.
23 Robertson.
24 Knowling, 2:362.
25 Danker, et al., p. 780.
26 Areopagus means “the hill of Ares,” the Greek god of war (which corresponds to the Roman “Mars”). According to F.F. Bruce, “The Council of the Areopagus,” was “so called because the hill of Ares was its original meeting place. In NT times, except for investigating cases of homicide, it met in the ‘Royal Porch’ in the Athenian market-place (agora), and it was probably here that Paul was brought before the Areogagus (Acts 17:19) and not, as AV puts it, ‘in the midst of Mars’ hill’ (v. 22). It was the most venerable institution in Athens, going back to legendary times, and, in spite of the curtailment of much of its ancient powers, it retained great prestige, and had special jurisdiction in matters of morals and religion. It was therefore natural that ‘a preacher of foreign divinities’ (Acts 17:18) should be subjected to its adjudication” (“Areogagus” [1996], New Bible Dictionary, ed. J.D. Douglas [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, third edition], p. 79).
27 Acts 13:17-41; 17:2-4,11.
28 Paul even quoted from the Athenians’ own poets to prove his point (Acts 17:28).
29 R.C.H. Lenski (2001 reprint), The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson), p. 734.
30 Lenski, p. 740.
31 Acts 19:8,10; 20:31.
32 Danker, et al., p. 232.
33Dialegomai: 1256” (1999), Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
34 Danker, et al., p. 232.
35 Tyrannus “is usually supposed to have been the lecturer who taught” in “the lecture hall of Tyrannus,” but it is possible that he was merely the owner of the building (F.F. Bruce [1988], The Book of the Acts [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans], p. 366).
36 Lenski, p. 812.
37 For more information on the logic and sound argumentation Jesus used throughout His ministry, see Dr. Dave Miller’s excellent two-part Reason & Revelation article titled “Is Christianity Logical?” (2011, 31[6-7]:50-52,56-59,62-64,68-71, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=3869&topic=92).

America and Atheistic Evolutionists by Dave Miller, Ph.D.




http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=2060

America and Atheistic Evolutionists

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Amid militant cries by evolutionists to ban God from science, the public school, and America, how ironic that such talk is permissible only because America was founded by theists. For some fifty years now, atheistic evolutionists have been chipping steadily away at belief in God and the Christian religion throughout the public school and university system of this country. They have successfully indoctrinated many young people with their godless theory. Virtually every department in state universities has been infiltrated by humanistic presuppositions. Study and research are conducted from an evolutionary, relativistic framework that either jettisons the notion of God altogether, or dilutes it sufficiently to exclude the biblical portrayal of deity. Many American universities are now firmly under the control of atheists, agnostics, and skeptics who forthrightly reject belief in God, embrace a materialistic view of origins, and are determined to eradicate any residue of belief in God that may linger in the minds of their victimized pupils.
But the United States was born under such drastically different circumstances. Indeed, the foundational premise for severing ties with England, and the central rationale and justification for establishing a new nation, was articulated by the Founders in their declared intention to establish their independence (Declaration of..., 1776). In the very first sentence of that seminal document, they insisted that “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle[d] them” to achieve “the separate and equal station” of a new nation. The “Nature’s God” to whom they referred was the God of the Bible. In the second sentence they declared that they had been “created” (not evolved) by their “Creator” who invested them with “certain unalienable Rights.” In other words, the American Republic had a right to exist on the basis of the authority of the God of the Bible. Further, they justified their intentions by “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world.” And they staked the entire enterprise on “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” Four times in the brief literary missive that launched the United States of America, the Founders alluded to the God of the Bible; yet now, over two centuries later, evolutionists have declared war on those who believe in that God!
The architects of this country would be outraged—and thoroughly alarmed for national survival. As Benjamin Franklin declared to Thomas Paine:
For without the Belief of a Providence that takes Cognizance of, guards and guides and may favour particular Persons, there is no Motive to Worship a Deity, to fear its Displeasure, or to pray for its Protection. If Men are so wicked as we now see them with Religion what would they be if without it? I intend this Letter itself as a Proof of my Friendship.... (1840, 10:281-282, emp. added).
John Adams played a central role in the birth of our nation, as delegate to the Continental Congress (1774-1777) where he signed the Declaration of Independence, signer of the peace treaty that ended the American Revolution (1783), two-time Vice-President under George Washington (1789-1797), and second President of the United States (1797-1801). In a letter to Thomas Jefferson on April 19, 1817, John Adams insisted: “Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell” (1856, 10:254). He declared in 1778 that atheism ought to be treated with “horror” and those who embrace it are traitors, hypocrites, and guilty of treason:
The idea of infidelity cannot be treated with too much resentment or too much horror. The man who can think of it with patience is a traitor in his heart and ought to be execrated as one who adds the deepest hypocrisy to the blackest treason (1977-1989, 6:348).
Writing to Noah Webster on July 20, 1798, Dr. Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, said: “I anticipate nothing but suffering to the human race while the present systems of paganism, deism, and atheism prevail in the world” (1951, 2:799). Another signer of the Declaration, Samuel Adams, stated in a letter written in 1772: “I have a thorough contempt for all men...who appear to be the irreclaimable enemies of religion” (1906, 2:381). Signer of the Constitution, Gouverneur Morris, insisted in 1816:
There must be religion. When that ligament is torn, society is disjointed and its members perish. The nation is exposed to foreign violence and domestic convulsion. Vicious rulers, chosen by vicious people, turn back the current of corruption to its source. Placed in a situation where they can exercise authority for their own emolument, they betray their trust. They take bribes. They sell statutes and decrees. They sell honor and office. They sell their conscience. They sell their country. By this vile traffic they become odious and contemptible.... But the most important of all lessons is the denunciation of ruin to every State that rejects the precepts of religion” (Collections of..., 1821, pp. 32,34, emp. added).
Speaking to the senior class at Princeton College in 1775, Declaration signer John Witherspoon declared: “Shun, as a contagious pestilence,...those especially whom you perceive to be infected with the principles of infidelity or [who are] enemies to the power of religion” (1802, 6:13).
With uncanny anticipation of the audacious, avowed determination by evolutionists to rid the nation of belief in God, Alexander Hamilton, another signer of the federal Constitution, condemned France in 1798 for a comparable aspiration: “The attempt by the rulers of a nation to destroy all religious opinion and to pervert a whole people to atheism is a phenomenon of profligacy.... [T]o establish atheism on the ruins of Christianity [is] to deprive mankind of its best consolations and most animating hopes and to make a gloomy desert of the universe” (1979, 21:402-404). Also describing France, John Jay, first chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, explained:
During my residence there, I do not recollect to have had more than two conversations with atheists about their tenets. The first was this: I was at a large party, of which were several of that description. They spoke freely and contemptuously of religion. I took no part in the conversation. In the course of it, one of them asked me if I believed in Christ? I answered that I did, and that I thanked God that I did.... Some time afterward, one of my family being dangerously ill, I was advised to send for an English physician who had resided many years at Paris.... But, it was added, he is an atheist.... [D]uring one of his visits, [he] very abruptly remarked that there was no God and he hoped the time would come when there would be no religion in the world. I very concisely remarked that if there was no God there could be no moral obligations, and I did not see how society could subsist without them... (Jay, 1833, 2:346-347, emp. added).
Even Benjamin Franklin chided the French with the near absence of atheism in early America:
[B]ad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced. Atheism is unknown there; infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country, without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an atheist or an infidel (1784, p. 24, emp. added).
Even Thomas Paine, who styled himself a deist and opponent of Christianity, nevertheless repudiated the atheism being perpetrated by today’s evolutionists. In his Age of Reason, he claimed to believe in God and afterlife: “I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life” (1794). He also wrote: “Were man impressed as fully and as strongly as he ought to be with the belief of a God, his moral life would be regulated by the force of that belief; he would stand in awe of God and of himself, and would not do the thing that could not be concealed from either” (1794). Paine not only believed in “the certainty of his existence and the immutability of his power,” he asserted that “it is the fool only, and not the philosopher, or even the prudent man, that would live as if there were no God.” In fact, he stated that it is “rational to believe” that God would call all people “to account for the manner in which we have lived here” (1794). According to Paine, today’s atheistic evolutionists are imprudent, irrational fools. The psalmist articulated the same conclusion centuries ago when he wrote: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1).
If atheistic evolutionists have their way in this country by having God expunged from public education, according to the Founders of America, this country will become a nightmare—a “gloomy desert,” or as John Adams believed, a living “hell” on Earth. Russia went down the same road of atheistic evolution a century ago. Because of their inability to discern spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14), the Soviet cosmonauts looked out of their spacecraft in the 1950s and, in ridicule, asked, “Where is God?,” echoing again the words of the psalmist: “Why should the nations say, ‘Where now is their God?’ But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:2-3). Pride is a deadly pitfall that blinds one to the truth: “The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 10:4).
The Father of our country, George Washington, would be heartsick to hear the intentions of today’s evolutionists:
I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a Divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that Agency which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them (1838, 10:222-223, emp. added).
Nevertheless, the physical evidence remains abundantly clear: the Universe “declares” the plain work of the Creator (Psalm 19:1). Those who see “the things that are made” and deny the very One Who made them—are “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).

REFERENCES

Adams, John (1856), The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, ed. Charles Adams (Boston, MA: Little, Brown, & Co.).
Adams, John (1977-1989), The Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert Taylor (Cambridge: Belknap Press).
Adams, Samuel (1906), The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Harry Cushing (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons).
Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1821 (1821), (New York: E. Bliss & E. White).
Declaration of Independence (1776), National Archives, [On-line], URL: http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience /charters/declaration.html.
Franklin, Benjamin (1784), Two Tracts: Information to Those Who Would Remove to America and Remarks Concerning the Savages of North America (London: John Stockdale).
Franklin, Benjamin (1840), The Works of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston, MA: Tappan, Whittemore, & Mason).
Hamilton, Alexander (1979), The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Harold Syrett (New York: Columbia University Press).
Jay, William (1833), The Life of John Jay (New York: J. & J. Harper).
Paine, Thomas (1794), Age of Reason, [On-line], URL: http://www.ushistory.org/paine/reason/singlehtml.htm.
Rush, Benjamin (1951), Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L.H. Butterfield (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Washington, George (1838), The Writings of George Washington, ed. Jared Sparks (Boston, MA: Ferdinand Andrews).
Witherspoon, John (1802), The Works of the Reverend John Witherspoon (Philadelphia, PA: William Woodward).

How They Became Christians by Ben Fronczek




http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?p=422

How They Became Christians

Acts 10     Cornelius (part 4)
In the past few lessons I have been talking about someone I feel is a very special, a Bible character that I never really looked at before. In Acts chapter 10 I’ve spent some time looking Cornelius. He is a special individual not only because of who he is, but also because what he does.
Who is he? He is a Roman soldier of high rank, a centurion, probably part of a squadron of men that were in charge of security, guarding the Roman governor  Marcellus in the capitol city of Caesarea.
Being a Roman soldier he had not only pledged his allegiance to Caesar who also claimed to be divine he  also had pledged his allegiance to the Roman many pagan Gods.
As mentioned in an earlier lesson, what made Cornelius unique was the fact that at some point he seemingly turned his back on those pagan Gods and after learning about the God of the Jews, he accepted Him as his new Lord and God. And we read in chapter 10 that he and his family were totally devoted to the Lord, and was on good terms with the Jews helping those who were in need.
In chapter 10 we also read about the angel that came to Cornelius one afternoon as he was praying. The angel instructed him to send for the Apostle Peter to listen to what he had to say. In the meantime the Lord also sent Peter a vision of unclean animals being lowered in a sheet to the earth from above with the command to kill and eat. After Peter responded saying that he couldn’t he was told that he should no longer consider things impure if the Lord has made it clean.  After repeating this three times, the sheet was taken back up to heaven and that’s when Cornelius’ men came searching for Peter to bring him back to Cornelius. And it is at this point that the Spirit tells Peter to go with these men.
Why is this story so important? Because when Peter goes to Cornelius’ house and preaches the good new about Jesus it is the first time we see non-Jews accepted into the kingdom of God. From the time of Abraham, who was literally the first Hebrew or Jew, until that day in Cornelius’ house, no one could be part God’s covenant people unless they were born a Jew or unless they became a proselyte Jew.
This is the first time in Bible history since before the time of Abraham that a non-Jew or gentile could become part of God’s family. This is a pivotal time in all Bible history!
And so that Peter and the other Jews that came with him would recognize this great event, that God was now going to accept gentiles into His kingdom and His Church,  the miraculous gifts and power of the Holy Spirit were poured out on these uncircumcised gentiles by God Himself, showing Peter and the Jews that these people were also accepted.(44)    God tore down the wall that divided the Jews from the gentiles.  Now we all can become God’s chosen people.
Later Paul would write about this in Ephesians 2:11-18 , he wrote,  Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.   For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,  by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,  and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.  He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”  (Notice he technically made peace by setting aside or doing away with the old Jewish covenant at the cross so that Jews and Gentiles are now on equal ground cf.. to Colossians 2:14) (Click on highlighted Bibles verses to read)
That’s why this story about what happens here with Cornelius’ is so special.  Because of it, we as gentiles (or non Jews) have the same hope as the chosen people of old. We can become part of God’s family and be saved from our sin without first becoming a Jew.
So why Cornelius? Why this household?
Well, as we already mentioned, he and his family are already devoted to God. It took a lot of courage to turn his back on the pagan Roman gods. He could be seen as a traitor.
They are more than just believers in our Lord, they are devoted and this devotion was reflected in how generous they were to others, and even in how the Jews saw Cornelius. We read that he was respected by all the Jews.
In the last less (part 3) I talked about Cornelius being a spiritual leader, a man who probably influenced people in a good way. Evidence of this is seen by how many people gathered at his home when Peter arrives. Friend s and family obviously liked him and had enough respect for him to show up when he invited them to his house to hear this Jew speak.
But I believe there’s more; it goes deeper. I believe Cornelius is what we would now call a seeker.
What he had, what he already knew and believed about the Lord, probably wasn’t enough. He wanted more. He was still open to hear more truth, more revelation. Maybe he wasn’t satisfied with his present spiritual condition or serve.
I almost wonder if when he prayed, he prayed, “Lord help me understand, I’m not a Jew but I want to be right with you. I want to serve you. Help me Lord.”
And so when the angel appeared to him and told him to send for Peter, I almost sense an excitement, some anticipation in the text.  This is something I fear many of us have forgotten. This desire, the thirst and hunger for wanting to know more about God and how we can fit into His plan.
Jesus Promised us something when He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (that is for God) he will be filled.”  (Matt. 5:6)
And this hunger grows into excitement.. Cornelius had to be excited about Peter coming to his home; otherwise he would not tried to pack his house so full of people.
We also see this great man’s humility.  Do you see his reaction when he first meets Peter? Verse 25 says that he fell at Peter’s feet in reverence.  It probably embarrassed the heck out of Peter because he told him, “get up, I’m just a man myself.” 
After Peter enters the house full of people he explains to them that Jews normally don’t associate  with non-Jews but he explain to them that God himself showed him not to call any man impure.
After Cornelius explained why he summoned Peter (because an angel told him to do so) I find what Peter has to says next is interesting. (Please click on Bible verses to read)  Acts 10:34-43
Did you notice what Peter said here. Did you notice how he began vss. 36 and 39? He said,  “YOU KNOW  the message about Jesus. YOU KNOW  what happened throughout Judea from the time of John’s baptism  to when they nailed Him on the cross.”
And then Peter let these people know that he was a witnesses of these facts and not only saw Jesus die on that cross but also witness of the fact that He rose on the third day and was seen by many. And then Jesus commanded them to go out and share this good news, that he will Judge both the living and the dead. Peter goes on and let’s Cornelius’ household know that even the prophets talked about Him and that everyone that believed in Him could receive forgiveness of Sin through His name.
And then ‘BAM’, that’s when the Holy Spirit poured out some miraculous gifts on these people.  Right then and there God was letting Peter and these Jews know that these people were ready, these people were believers; God was willing to accept them into his kingdom.
Were these people Christian yet? No, they only needed one more thing, the same thing that was needed in Acts 2 when the 3000 believed and repented. It was the same thing that the Samaritans needed in Acts 8 after they repented and believed. It was the same thing that the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:34-39 recognized, that he needed after he came to believe in Jesus; and the same thing Paul needed after he came to faith, fasting and repenting in Acts 9 and Acts 22. These people needed that master surgeon to cut away or remove their sin in the waters of Baptism. So in verse 47 Peter says,Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus.” 
So why did I use the terminology that Jesus is the Master surgeon?  In Colossians 2:9-12  Paul clearly tells us that Jesus cuts away our sin in the waters of baptism.     And in Roman 6 tells us that after we come up out of the water we rise to a newness of life.  (Click on the verses to READ)
Without hesitation Cornelius and his household allow themselves to be baptized so that Jesus could remove their sin and so fulfill what God had ordained as a final and necessary step in their redemption;  thus opening the door for us as believing gentiles to follow. So here we see another example like with the Samaritans in Acts 8,  where just belief in God was not enough. Knowledge of Jesus was not enough for they knew of Him. Praying was not enough. Even good works and a good reputation were not good enough.
There comes a point where we have to allow Jesus to purify us, and remove our sin. And based on   Colossians 2 Paul wrote that it is in the waters of baptism that Jesus Himself removes our sin. It is a circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism”.
You can’t pray your sin away.  Doing a bunch of good works is not going to get rid of our sin.  There is nothing we or any man can do to fix our sin problem. Only Jesus can do that. On the cross He died for our sin and based on this text and others, it is in the waters of Baptism, when we are buried with Him He personally removes our sin.
So what I hope you can take from this lesson today:
#1.  I don’t think we should ever stop seeking, and hungering and thirsting for righteousness and what God wants and expects from us. Continue to seek out his will for you. Pray, study the scriptures.
And as Jesus promised, you will be blessed, or happy, because if you seek with all sincerity you will find, and you will be filled.
2nd  Our own pride and stubbornness, and ‘know it all attitude,’ can be our greatest enemy. When it comes to truth and learning the things of God, and understanding your spiritual relationship with God,  don’t ever settle for what someone tells you what you should or should not do.  God has preserved His word in the Bible so that you can know the truth and that truth will set you free. Research it out for yourself!
#3. If you have not done what Cornelius and his family did that day, having consciously put their faith in Jesus and then allowed themselves to be baptized so that Jesus could remove their sin,  Then I suggest that you seriously consider looking  into this matter and doing what Cornelius and family decided to do.
I believe that there is a right way to be baptized, a right time to be baptized, and  and a right and a wrong reason to be baptized. If you this is new to you and you want to learn more about it email me for more information

God’s Plan of Salvation by Al Shannon, Jr.

https://biblicalproof.wordpress.com/2010/06/

God’s Plan of Salvation

Allow me to tell you how God from the beginning of time designed a plan that would save all of mankind. The scriptures instruct us that all of God’s works are known unto him from the beginning of the world . (Acts 15:18) In the beginning, God created man and woman. He placed them Garden of Eden with one simple law, which they brake almost immediately. It was then God punished not just them, but all mankind, even to this very day with death.(Gen 3:19)
Mankind sinned greatly after that, and God brought a flood upon the earth to cleanse it from sin. Noah and his family were the only ones saved, and that by the faith of Noah. (Heb. 11:7)
Abraham was a man of like faith when God told him to sacrifice his only son by Sarah, Isaac. Abraham was not only willing to do this, but would have if not for an angel of God preventing it from happening. God made a promise unto Abraham that his seed would live forever. A promise that would not be fulfilled until the coming of the Lord. (Gal 3:16)
Moses was a man who the bible says was very meek, and yet God asked him to go back to Egypt which he had fled forty years earlier for killing an Egyptian. It was by faith that Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and passed through the Red Sea as by dry land. This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. (Acts 7:37)
The prophets of old foretold of a Savior who would rise up from among his people, and would write the law of God upon their hearts Jer. 31:34. During all these times God gave man different laws from which to follow; from the law He gave to Adam and Eve, the law which He established with Abraham, to the law of Moses which He etched in stone with his own finger, the 10 commandments.
When the time came for the prophesies of the Messiah to come to pass, Israel had lost the promise land several times over because of their disobedience and unbelief. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Israel was under the rule of the Roman empire. Long ago had God divorced Israel, (Jer. 3:8) yet they hypocritically claimed to be following what had long been taken away from them. The law of Moses which they had confused with their own traditions was still in effect, but no longer was Israel the wife of God.
When Jesus ministry began some 30 years later, Jesus, the bridegroom, was in search of a new bride. As was the law, Jesus first sought reconciliation between him and his divorced wife, Israel, but they would not. (Lk 13:34-35) However, Jesus was not seeking Israel back under the same law which she had broken, but under a new law which he was prepared to die for, and pay for with his own blood, the perfect law of liberty. (Heb 1:3; James 1:25) In all this the bridegroom turned to a new bride in the Gentiles of which it was written of by Moses that God would provoke Israel to jealousy with those who were not a people. (Deut 32:21; Rom 15:9-12)
Thousands of years before Jesus’ appearance upon the earth, prophets of God foretold of Jesus life and death upon the cross. They foretold of his appearance being marred so badly that he was not to be desired. (Isa 53:2) They wrote how his words were to reach out to the Gentiles, and that they would believe him. They wrote about his crucifixion long before the barbaric practice ever existed. They wrote what he would say upon that cross, and even to the extent of his burial and resurrection. (Ps 22)
Jesus required of his new bride what was once only found in a select few, whose names were remembered in the book of Hebrews, faith. (Heb 11:6) Jesus requires each of us to have that one faith. (Eph 4:5)  It is not our personal faith, but The Faith of God. The faith the apostle Paul spoke of on this wise, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through The Faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” (Col 2:12)
Jesus required all of his servants to be baptized. Going back to the time of Noah who were all baptized in the flood, (1 Pet. 3:21) to the Israelites who were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the Red Sea. (1 Cor 10:1-4). God who by his unspeakable gift and grace gave unto man what Abraham was once willing to give unto God, his only begotten son. God was offering his new bride what he never offered unto his first, salvation through the blood of the lamb, Jesus. Jesus willingly offered his own life for you and I, but not without us doing something on our part, obedience.
This obedience is not burdensome, but is definitely required for our salvation. (1 Jn 5:3) We all are promised eternal life if we but subject ourselves to the obedience to the gospel of Christ. What is in this gospel that we must do? On the day of Pentecost, Peter was asked that same question. (Acts 2:37) His answer then is mine to you today, repent and be baptized. In other conversions in the book of Acts we discover that other converts were required to Hear the Word, (Acts 18:8) Understand what they had heard, (Acts 8:30) Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, Confess this belief before men, (Acts 8:37) and then to turn from their old life of sin, (Repent) and to be Baptized with water (Acts 2:38). It later books of the bible we are made to understand that we can fall away, (Gal 5:4) so we must remain faithful to the gospel until death. (Rev 2:10; Rev. 3:11).
Therefore is revealed unto you the mystery of the gospel of Christ which was was hid from the beginning of time, yet now is revealed unto all those who will believe it and obey it. (Rom 16:25) Like Adam and Eve who were punished with death, we today might conquer spiritual death by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:3) As in Adam all die, in Christ all are made alive. (1 Cor 15:22) For thus is revealed the love of God which gave his only begotten son (John 3:16), and that we through that mercy of grace might become obedient, being baptized unto his death. (Rom 6:3-4) Behold, God’s Plan of Salvation.

OF WORLDS AND A NEW CREATION by Jim McGuiggan

OF WORLDS AND A NEW CREATION

  1. What do we mean when we say, “North Korea is our enemy”?
  2. What do we mean when we say AMERICA declared war on Japan or Germany?
  1. What do we mean when we say, “The allies defeated Germany”?
  2. What is Peter talking about when he says [2 Peter 2.5] God brought the flood on “the world of the ungodly”?
  1. When God destroyed BABYLON what is it he destroyed?
  2. How does He picture its destruction in Isaiah 13:1-22?
  3. How does he picture his judgment on EDOM [and her allies] in Isaiah 34:1-17?
  4. And Judah in Zephaniah 1:2-4, Jeremiah 4:23-28?
  5. And ROME in Daniel 2:44; 7:3, 7-10, 17, 23, 26-27?
  6. This prophetic speech speaks of the “end of their world.” It’s the end of the empires or structures [religious, social, military or otherwise] they have created. The destruction of an empire is described in terms of uncreation. [See the texts above.]
  7. These creations are the creations of the powerful and not the marginalized, poor and vulnerable. Note texts like Ezekiel 16:49-50 and Daniel 4:27 with 2:37-38.
  1. Note that God raises up the various kingdoms [Daniel 2:37-38; 4:25, 32; 7:2; Romans 13:1, 4, 6; 1 Peter 2:13-17; 1 Timothy 2:1-4] and holds them responsible for the state of the world under their dominion [texts in previous paragraph]. These powers [governments, authorities and such] are structures God purposed to enable humans to live and prosper under Him [Colossians 1:15].
Rome, one of the powers God raised up to do good and to serve Him [Romans 13:1, 4], like Adam rejects God’s purpose and becomes satanic [Revelation 13:4] and God brings it down as he brought down Egypt. Note the use of the images of the Egyptian plagues as God attacks the Roman world. The Egyptian and Roman “worlds” that these two empires claimed were created by the gods and human power were dismantled by God who established he is the one true God to whom all the powers should subject themselves and serve. He ends the Roman world [Revelation 21-1] and brings about a new creation—it’s a world without Rome, a world without a sea out of which Rome will rise!
God destroys Babylon’s world and brings in a new creation [Isaiah 65:13-23; 66:18-24]. This is not the physical destruction of a physical world or the description of a new physical world—these are visionary descriptions of deliverance from an old satanic world—a world created by the corrupt and corrupting powerful ones.
The “world” that Jesus condemns is a satanic empire that makes itself visible and expresses itself through structures it has corrupted and by which it corrupts and abuses the vulnerable. Courts, schools, economic programs, military might, political and financial evil, religious perversion, industrial, educational, social and civil evils. The powerful, corrupt themselves, breed resentment and violence and despair and poverty and so make the world like themselves, hating and being hated.
Had God not brought Hitler and his Nazis down the world now would be unrecognizable. Germans would have been corrupted even more than they were—those that were—than they were while Hitler lived and ruled.
If God had not brought down Stalin’s regime who knows how deep and how wide the gulf would be between the nations though we can hardly be happy about how bad things are now who can say how much worse they might be. I purpose to develop this last point in a later piece.
To be continued, God enabling.