3/21/18

The God Who Forgives by Trevor Bowen

http://insearchoftruth.org/articles/forgives.html

The God Who Forgives

"Why should I be a Christian?" The very posing of this question implies that some people believe reasons exists why one should not be a Christian. Let us think about why someone would not want to become a Christian. Sometimes, a person hesitates in becoming a Christian because he believes that he is too wicked for God to forgive him. Often this person might feel like if he has not already, then some day he will inevitably go so far that God will not forgive him. The hesitant student is not the only person that fears this fate. Sometime even Christians wonder about God's continuing capacity to forgive, so let us consider what the Bible has to say about the God who forgives.

God Does Not Want Anyone to be Lost

Often people feel like God is a ferocious and cruel god, who longingly waits to instantly punish any man caught in sin. However, the Bible paints a different picture of God.
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." II Peter 3:9
God does not want anybody to be lost. In fact, he is patient with us so that we might not be lost. Being longsuffering, God mercifully provides frequent opportunities to repent. Although it is clear that God wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:4), we still may wonder why God does not want people to be lost.
"But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live?" Ezekiel 18:21-23
From these verses we learn that God takes no pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. He does not enjoy their death because He loves them. This love was the reason why Jesus died on the cross for the whole world (John 3:16-17). How can a God who loves us and desires us to be saved not forgive the repentant who humbles himself before God?

Extreme Examples of God's Forgiveness

The extent of God's forgiveness can be seen in extreme examples from the Bible. One of the single-most extreme examples is that of the Judean king, Manasseh. Late in the history of the divided kingdom, King Manasseh proved himself to be one of the most wicked kings that Israel had seen.
"Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. ... Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. ... So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. And the LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen." II Chronicles 33:1-10
Although we see this stubborn king being more wicked than any before him, notice how he responds when he is punished by the Lord.
"Therefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God." II Chronicles 33:11-13
The text continues, mentioning how the penitent Manasseh destroyed all of the idols upon his return, repaired the Lord's altar, sacrificed peace and thanksgiving offerings, and commanded the people to worship God. This man was able to turn back to God, and God was willing to receive him back. How can we do more wickedly than this king, who among other evils sacrificed his own children to idols?
Among other examples, the apostle Paul could be mentioned who persecuted and killed Christians, but eventually repented and became one of the most well-known and influential servants of the Lord (Acts 9:1-22). The Corinthian church was filled with once worldly people, who committed grievous sins.
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." I Corinthians 6:9-11
Friend, there is not much that God has not forgiven. From murder (II Samuel 12:7-14) to the sacrificing of children (II Chronicles 33:1-13), we have record of God forgiving the most horrific sins. Even though we have examined these compelling examples, one more extreme example of God's forgiveness exists that we need to study.

Us

We are all extreme examples of God's forgiveness. No man can boast that he is deserving of heaven because he earned it, or even because he sinned less than others. Sin is a terrible thing that separates all of us from God (Romans 3:23), condemning all of us to hell (Romans 6:23), even if someone committed only a single sin (James 2:10-13). Sin is just that bad.
Even though each of us would have stood without hope before God, the gospel reveals that God loved us before we loved Him (I John 4:9-19). Jesus came and died in our place for us, not as though we were deserving, but while we were ungodly (Romans 5:6-8). Though God requires that we respond to his gospel plea (Matthew 7:21-23; James 2:14-26), the Bible teaches that we have been saved by grace, not by meritorious works (Ephesians 2:1-10). Consequently, no man can boast of his salvation as if it was accomplished by his own merit. Therefore, each one of us is an extreme example of God's forgiveness to one who was undeserving.

Conclusion

Although sin and the temptations of the world may lure us into believing that we are too wicked for God to forgive, the Bible teaches that God does not want anyone to be lost. He desires that all men should be saved. The examples of King Manasseh, Kind David, the apostle Paul, the Corinthians, and many more illustrate God's capacity to forgive even the most wicked sinners. Finally, God extends his mercy to each one of us. We are equally in need of God's mercy. No one can boast in himself. Therefore, just as God has forgiven every previous convert, He will also graciously accept your repentance, if you are willing to humble yourself before the God who forgives.
May we assist you in accomplishing your desire to be saved? You may read more material on what the Bible says about the requirements for salvation, e-mail any of our local contacts, or complete one of our on-line Bible studies to learn more about your role in God's salvation for you.
Trevor Bowen

"THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS" Paul's Thank-You Note (4:10-23) by Mark Copeland

                    "THE EPISTLE TO THE PHILIPPIANS"

                     Paul's Thank-You Note (4:10-23)

INTRODUCTION

1. In our study of Philippians, we come to point where Paul mentions the
   occasion which prompted the writing of this epistle

2. In these verses we find an expression of Paul's gratitude, a
   "Thank-You Note", if you will - Php 4:10-23

3. In these concluding verses, there are a number of notable things I
   would like to emphasize

[The first being...]

I. THE PHILIPPIANS' GENEROSITY

   A. AS DESCRIBED BY PAUL...
      1. Notice especially verses 10,14-18
      2. Clearly they demonstrated an "on-going" support and concern for
         the apostle
         a. When Paul first departed from Macedonia, they shared with him
         b. Even before leaving Macedonia, while still in Thessalonica,
            they sent aid on several occasions
         c. Now at last, while in Rome, they sent a gift by the hands of
            Epaphroditus

   B. WHAT A WONDERFUL PICTURE OF FELLOWSHIP BETWEEN A CHURCH AND A
      PREACHER!
      1. The kind that ought to exist today!
      2. Where churches and preachers continue to maintain their
         fellowship in the gospel of Christ as the need calls for it,
         long after the preacher has gone on to other works
      3. How sad, that in many cases preachers leave a congregation in
         such a way that there is no desire on the part of the
         congregation to maintain such fellowship!

[Another notable thing in this passage is...]

II. PAUL'S CONTENTMENT
       
   A. AS EXPRESSED BY PAUL...
      1. His expression of thanks was not to hint that he was in great
         need - Php 4:11a
      2. For he was quite content with the "state" or condition he found
         himself in - Php 4:11b
      3. This "contentment" was something he had learned - Php 4:11b-12

   B. WHAT WAS THE "KEY" TO PAUL'S CONTENTMENT?
      1. As expressed in Php 4:13, it involved strength given by the
         Lord
         a. Who enabled him to be content whether full or hungry
         b. Who enabled him to be content whether abounding or in need
      2. Part of this strength from the Lord may have been the proper
         perspective which Paul likely received from the Lord
         a. The proper perspective about life and death - cf. Php 1:21-24
         b. The proper perspective about the true necessities in life 
            - cf. 1Ti 6:6-8

[Having mentioned the strength given by the Lord, let's look a little 
closer at...]

III. CHRIST'S POWER

   A. THERE IS INDEED WONDERFUL POWER AVAILABLE FOR THE CHRISTIAN!
      1. As Paul indicates, this power enables one to do all things
         necessary in serving the Lord- Php 4:13
      2. We learn more about this wonderful power in Paul's epistle to
         the Ephesians...
         a. It is power about which Paul wanted them to know - Ep 1:
            18-19
         b. It is power that is in accordance with the power used to
            raise Jesus from the dead, and to seat Him at the right hand
            of God! - Ep 1:19-21
         c. Paul attributes such power to the Holy Spirit, dwelling in
            the Christian - cf. Ro 8:11-14
         d. He prayed that God would strengthen the Ephesians with such
            power, which is described as being able to accomplish great
            things - Ep 3:16,20-21
      3. In other words, with the Spirit as the instrumental agent, God
         and Christ enables the Christian to do all that he or she is
         required to do!

   B. THE RAMIFICATION OF THIS POWER...
      1. We are not alone in our efforts to "work out our own salvation"
         - cf. Php 2:12-13
      2. There is no excuse for not doing what God desires!
      3. When we fall, it is usually a problem of the will, not the
         ability! (unlike those outside of Christ, where it is a problem
         of ability - cf. Ro 7:18,22-25)
      4. For Christians who sin knowingly, it is not that they CAN'T do
         the will of God, but they WON'T!
         a. Of course, because we have imperfect knowledge, we may
            sometimes sin ignorantly, and therefore are always in need of
            the cleansing blood of Jesus
         b. But when we know the will of God, there are no excuses for
            not doing it!

[What a wonderful blessing for those who are in Christ, to have that
power!  But there is even a hint of more blessings in our text, as we
notice what is said about...]

IV. GOD'S RICHES

   A. AS DEFINED BY PAUL...
      1. These are "riches in glory" which God supplies by Jesus Christ 
         - Php 4:19
         a. I.e., one must be "in Christ" to enjoy these "riches"
         b. Indeed, "in Christ" is the realm in which God provides every
            spiritual blessing - cf. Ep 1:3-13 (note the use of the
            phrase "in Christ", or "in Him")
      2. But God provides not only spiritual needs, but "all your needs"
         a. Which includes the necessities of life, like food and
            clothing
         b. As Jesus Himself taught in Mt 6:30-33

   B. WITH "RICHES" LIKE THESE...
      1. How can we not be content?
      2. We have an abundance of "spiritual" blessings, and an assurance
         of "physical" needs, how could we ever be less than satisfied?

[May God forgive us when we take these "riches" lightly and begin to 
feel discontented with what we have!

Finally, we note...]

V. THE SAINT'S GREETINGS

   A. AS READ HERE IN PHILIPPIANS...
      1. Paul first sends his greetings - Php 4:21a
      2. The brethren with him (Luke?  Timothy?) send their greetings 
         - Php 4:21b
      3. Then "all the saints...especially those who are of Caesar's
         household" send their greetings - Php 4:22

   B. THE SIMPLE ACT OF GREETING CAN SERVE AN IMPORTANT FUNCTION...
      1. Clearly, Paul thought so - cf. Ro 16:3-16,21-23
      2. Some possible benefits of greeting one another:
         a. Greeting one another expresses our love and appreciation for
            one another
         b. Greeting one another frequently (in letter or in person)
            nourishes the relationship we have as brethren in Christ
      3. Note that Paul desired to greet "every" saint in Christ Jesus;
         no room for favoritism here! - Php 4:21
      4. How we greet (or fail to greet) other Christians in our
         assemblies reveals a lot about ourselves
         a. Either that we are caring and loving without partiality
         b. Or cold and insensitive, except to those in our "clique"!

CONCLUSION

1. Such are some the things we can glean from a simple "thank-you
   note"...
   a. The Philippians' generosity
   b. Paul's contentment
   c. Christ's power
   d. God's riches
   e. The saints' greetings

2. What this reveals is the high quality of life experienced by those in
   Christ!
   a. Who despite the sort of circumstances faced by Paul...
   b. Could still feel and write such a letter as the epistle to the
      Philippians!

3. As we close this study on this wonderful epistle, I leave with you two
   words:  "glory" and "grace"
   a. "Now to our God and Father be GLORY forever and ever.  Amen." 
      - Php 4:20
   b. "The GRACE of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen." 
      - Php 4:23

Have you received the wonderful GRACE of our Lord in your life, by 
obeying His gospel?  Are you living so as to offer GLORY to God, both 
in word and deed?

May such portions of God's Word like the Epistle to the Philippians 
inspire you to do both!
 
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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13 Objections to Baptism by Dave Miller, Ph.D.





http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5314

13 Objections to Baptism

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Some churches historically have taught that water immersion is the dividing line between the lost and the saved. This means that a penitent believer remains unforgiven of sin until buried in the waters of baptism (Romans 6:4). Much of the denominational world disagrees with this analysis of Bible teaching, holding instead that one is saved at the point of “belief,” before and without water baptism. Consider some of the points that are advanced in an effort to minimize the essentiality of baptism for salvation.

Objection #1: “Jesus could not have been baptized for the remission of sins because He was sinless; therefore, people today are not baptized in order to be forgiven. They merely imitate Jesus’ example.”

The baptism to which Jesus submitted Himself was John’s baptism (Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:9). John’s baptism was for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). This truth is particularly evident from the fact that when Jesus presented Himself to John for baptism, John sought to deter Him, noting that, if anything, Jesus needed to baptize John (Matthew 3:14). Jesus did not correct John, as many seek to do today, by falsely arguing that baptism is not for remission of sins. Rather, Jesus, in effect, agreed with John, but made clear that His baptism was an exception to the rule.
Jesus’ baptism was unique and not to be compared to anyone else’s baptism. Jesus’ baptism had the unique purpose of “fulfilling all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). In other words, it was necessary for Jesus to submit to John’s baptism (1) to show His contemporaries that no one is exempt from submitting to God’s will and (2) more specifically, Christ’s baptism was God’s appointed means of pinpointing for the world the precise identity of His Son. It was not until John saw the Spirit of God descending on Jesus and heard the voice (“This is My Son...”) that he knew that “this is the Son of God” (John 1:31-34; Matthew 3:16-17).
Of course, John’s baptism is no longer valid (Acts 18:24-19:5). John’s baptism paralleled New Testament baptism in the sense that both were for the forgiveness of sins. But John’s baptism was transitional in nature, preparing Jews for their Messiah. Baptism after the cross is for all people (Matthew 28:19), in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 19:5), into His death (Romans 6:3), in order to be clothed with Him (Galatians 3:27), and added to His church (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:13). We must not use Jesus’ baptism to suggest that salvation occurs prior to baptism.

Objection #2: “The thief on the cross was not baptized, and he was saved.”

When we “handle aright the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), we see that the thief was not subject to the New Testament command of immersion because this command was not given until after the thief’s death.¹ It was not until Christ was resurrected that He said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). It was not until Christ’s death that the Old Testament ceased, signified by the tearing of the Temple curtain (Matthew 27:51). When Jesus died, He took away the Old Testament, “nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
The word “testament” means “covenant” or “will.” The last will and testament of Christ is the New Testament, which consists of those teachings that apply to people after the death of Christ. If we expect to receive the benefits of the New Testament (salvation, forgiveness of sin, eternal life), we must submit to the terms of the will for which Christ is mediator (Hebrews 9:15), for “where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator; for a testament is of force after men are dead; otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives” (Hebrews 9:16-17).
So prior to the Lord’s death and the sealing of the New Testament, the baptism for the forgiveness of sins that would be in effect after the crucifixion was not a requirement for those who sought to be acceptable to God. Indeed, while Jesus was on Earth in person, He exercised His authority to forgive sin (Matthew 9:6). People now, however, live during the Christian era of religious history. Prior to Christ’s death, there were no Christians (Acts 11:26). For a person to reject water baptism as a prerequisite to salvation on the basis of what the thief did or did not do, is comparable to Abraham seeking salvation by building an ark—because that’s what Noah did to please God. It would be like the rich young ruler (Matthew 19) refusing Christ’s directive to sell all his possessions—because wealthy King David did not have to sell his possessions in order to please God.
The thief on the cross could not have been baptized the way the new covenant stipulates you and I must be baptized. Why? Romans 6:3-4 teaches that if we wish to acquire “newness of life,” we must be baptized into Christ’s death, be buried with Christ in baptism, and then be raised from the dead. There was no way for the thief to comply with this New Testament baptism—Christ had not died! Christ had not been buried! Christ had not been raised! In fact, none of God’s ordained teachings pertaining to salvation in Christ (2 Timothy 2:10), and in His body the Church (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22-23), had been given. The church, which Christ’s shed blood purchased (Acts 20:28), had not been established, and was not set up until weeks later (Acts 2).2
We must not look to the thief as an example of salvation. Instead, we must obey “from the heart that form of doctrine” (Romans 6:17)—the form of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection through baptism (Romans 6:3-4). Only then can we be “made free from sin to become the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

Objection #3: “The Bible says, ‘Christ stands at the door of your heart,’ and all we have to do to be forgiven of sin and become a Christian is to invite Him into our hearts.”

It is no doubt startling to discover that the Bible simply does not say such a thing. The phraseology is reminiscent of Revelation 3:20—the passage usually invoked to support the idea. But examine what Revelation 3:20 actually teaches. Revelation chapters 2 and 3 consist of seven specific messages directed to seven churches of Christ in Asia Minor in the first century. Thus, at the outset, we must recognize that Revelation 3:20 is addressed to Christians—not non-Christians seeking conversion to Christ.
Second, Revelation 3:20 is found among Christ’s remarks to the church in Laodicea. Jesus made clear that the church had moved into a lost condition. The members were unacceptable to God since they were “lukewarm” (3:16). They had become unsaved since their spiritual condition was “wretched and miserable and poor” (3:17). Thus, in a very real sense, Jesus had abandoned them by removing His presence from their midst. Now He was on the outside looking in. He still wanted to be among them, but the decision was up to them. They had to recognize His absence, hear Him knocking for admission, and open the door—all of which is figurative language indicating their need to repent (3:19). They needed to return to the obedient lifestyle essential to sustaining God’s favor (John 14:21,23).
Observe that Revelation 3:20 in no way supports the idea that non-Christians merely have to “open the door of their heart” and “invite Jesus in” with the assurance that the moment they mentally/verbally do so, Jesus comes into their heart and they are simultaneously saved from all past sin and have become Christians. The context of Revelation 3:20 shows that Jesus was seeking readmission into an apostate church.
Does the Bible teach that Christ comes into a person’s heart? Yes, but not in the way the religious world suggests. For instance, Ephesians 3:17 states that Christ dwells in the heart through faith. Faith can be acquired only by hearing biblical truth (Romans 10:17). When Bible truth is obeyed, the individual is “saved by faith” (Hebrews 5:9; James 2:22; 1 Peter 1:22). Thus Christ enters our lives when we “draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience [i.e, repentance—DM] and our bodies washed with pure water [i.e., baptism—DM]” (Hebrews 10:22).

Objection #4: “A person is saved the moment he accepts Christ as his personal Savior—which precedes and therefore excludes water baptism.”

To suggest that all one has to do to receive the forgiveness of God and become a Christian is to mentally accept Jesus into his heart and make a verbal statement to that effect, is to dispute the declaration of Jesus in Matthew 7:21—“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.” To be sure, oral confession of Christ is one of the prerequisites to salvation (Romans 10:10). But Jesus said there is more to becoming a blood-bought follower of His than verbally “calling on his name”3 or “inwardly accepting Him as Savior.” He stated that before we can even consider ourselves as God’s children (Christians), we must show our acceptance of His gift through outward obedience—“He that does the will of My Father.” Notice the significant contrast Jesus made: the difference between mental/verbal determination to accept and follow the Lord, versus verbal confession coupled with action or obedience (cf. James 2:14,17). This is why we must do everything the Lord has indicated must be done prior to salvation. Jesus is telling us that it is possible to make the mistake of claiming we have found the Lord, when we have not done what He plainly told us to do.
Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus also stated: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Honestly, have you accepted Christ as your personal savior—in the way He said it must be done? He asks: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46, emp. added).

Objection #5: “We are clothed with Christ and become His children when we place our faith in Him.”

Read Galatians 3:26-27: “You are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The words “put on” (NKJV) are a translation of the Greek verb enduo which signifies “to enter into, get into, as into clothes, to put on.” Can we be saved prior to “putting Christ on” or “being clothed” with Christ? Of course not. But when and how does one put on Christ—according to Paul? When one is baptized in water. Those who teach we can be saved before baptism are, in reality, teaching we can be saved while spiritually naked and without Christ! Paul affirms that we “put on” Christ at the point of our baptism—not before.
Paul wrote these words to people who were already saved. They had been made “sons of God by faith.” But how? At what point had they “been clothed with Christ”? When were they made “sons of God by faith”? When were they saved? Paul makes the answer to these questions very plain: they were united with Christ, had put on Christ, and were clothed with Christ—when they were baptized. Ask yourself if you have been clothed with Christ.

Objection #6: “Baptism is like a badge on a uniform that merely gives evidence that the person is already saved.”

The New Testament nowhere expounds the idea that baptism is merely a “badge” or “outward sign of an inward grace.” Yes, baptism can biblically be referred to as a symbolic act; but what does it symbolize? Previous forgiveness? No! Romans 6 indicates that baptism symbolizes the previous death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Thus the benefits of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (remember, Jesus’ blood, which blots out sin, was shed in the context of His death, burial, and resurrection) are realized and received by the individual when he obediently (in penitent faith) submits to a similar ordeal, i.e., the death of his own “old man” or “body of sin” (Romans 6:6), burial (immersion into a watery tomb), and resurrection (rising from the watery tomb).
Denominational doctrine maintains that forgiveness of sin is received prior to baptism. If so, the “new life” of the saved individual would also begin prior to baptism. Yet Paul said the “new life” occurs after baptism. He reiterated this to the Colossians. The “putting off of the body of the flesh by Christ’s circumcision” (Colossians 2:11) is accomplished in the context of water immersion and being “risen with Him” (Colossians 2:12). Chapter 3 then draws the important observation: “If then you were raised with Christ [an undeniable reference to baptism—DM], seek those things which are above” [an undeniable reference to the new life which follows—not precedes—baptism].

Objection #7: “Baptism is a meritorious work, whereas we are saved by grace, not works.”

“Works” or “steps” of salvation do not imply that one “merits” his salvation upon obedient compliance with those actions. Rather, “steps” or “a process” signifies the biblical concept of preconditions, stipulations of faith, or acts of obedience—what James called “works” (James 2:17). James was not saying that one can earn his justification (James 2:24). Rather, he was describing the active nature of faith, showing that saving faith, faith that is alive—as opposed to dead and therefore utterly useless (2:20)—is the only kind that is acceptable to God, a faith that obeys whatever actions God has indicated must be done. The obedience of both Abraham and Rahab is set forth as illustrative of the kind of faith James says is acceptable. They manifested their trust by actively doing what God wanted done. Such obedient or active trust is the only kind that avails anything. Thus, an obedient response is essential.
The actions themselves are manifestations of this trust that justifies, not the trust itself. But notice that according to James, you cannot have one without the other. Trust, or faith, is dead, until it leads one to obey the specifications God assigned. Here is the essence of salvation that separates those who adhere to biblical teaching from those who have been adversely influenced by the Protestant reformers. The reformers reacted to the unbiblical concept of stacking bad deeds against good deeds in an effort to offset the former by the latter (cf. Islam). Unfortunately, the reactionary reformers went to the equally unacceptable, opposite extreme by asserting that man need “only believe” (Luther) or man can do nothing at all (Calvin). The truth is between these two unbiblical extremes.
From Genesis to Revelation, faith is the trusting, obedient reaction that humans manifest in response to what God offers. This is the kind of “justification by faith” that Paul expounded in Romans. Like red flags at the very beginning (1:5) and at the end (16:26) of his divinely inspired treatise, he defined what he meant by “faith” with the words “obedient faith” (hupakoeinpisteos), i.e., faith that obeys, obedience which springs from faith.4 This fact is precisely why God declared His willingness to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham: “because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws” (Genesis 26:5). Hence, in Romans Paul could speak of the necessity of walking “in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had” (Romans 4:12). Until faith obeys, it is useless and cannot justify.
The Hebrews writer made the same point in Hebrews 11. The faith we see in Old Testament “men of faith” availed only after they obeyed God-given stipulations. God rewards those who “diligently seek Him” in faith (vs. 6). Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” when he “prepared an ark.” If he had not complied with divine instructions, he would have been branded as “unfaithful.” The thing that made the difference, that constituted the line of demarcation between faith and lack of faith, was obedient action—what James called “works,” and Paul called “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). In this sense, even faith is a “work” (John 6:29). Hebrews 11 repeatedly reinforces this eternal principle: (1) God offers grace (which may at any point in history consist of physical blessings, e.g., healing, salvation from enemies, land or property, etc., or spiritual blessings, e.g., justification, forgiveness, salvation from sin, being made righteous, etc.); (2) man responds in obedient trust (i.e., “faith”) by complying with the stipulated terms; and (3) God bestows the blessing.
It would be wrong to think that man’s obedient response earns or merits the subsequent blessing. Such simply does not logically follow. All blessings God bestows on man are undeserved (Luke 17:10). His rich mercy and loving grace is freely offered and made available—though man never deserves such kindness (Titus 2:11). Still, a non-meritorious response is absolutely necessary if unworthy man is to receive certain blessings.

Objection #8: “Not only is baptism nonessential to salvation, even faith is a gift from God to a person. Man is so depraved that he is incapable of believing.”

Surely, God’s infinite justice would not permit Him to force man to desire God’s blessings. God’s intervention into man’s woeful condition was not in the form of causing man to desire help or miraculously generating faith within man. God intervened by giving His inspired Word, which tells how He gave His Son to make a way for man to escape eternal calamity. Faith is then generated in the individual by God’s words which the person must read and understand (Romans 10:17; Acts 8:30). The individual then demonstrates his faith in obedience.
Did the walls of Jericho fall down “by faith” (Hebrews 11:30)? Absolutely. But the salient question is: “When?” Did the walls fall the moment the Israelites merely “believed” that they would fall? No! Rather, when the people obeyed the divine directives. The walls fell “by faith” after the people met God’s conditions. If the conditions had not been met, the walls would not have fallen down “by faith.” The Israelites could not claim that the walls fell by their own effort, or that they earned the collapse of the walls. The city was given to them by God as an undeserved act of His grace (Joshua 6:2). To receive the free gift of the city, the people had to obey the divinely stipulated prerequisites.
Notice the capsuling nature of Hebrews 11:6. Faith or belief is not given by God. It is something that man does in order to please God. The whole chapter is predicated on the fundamental idea that man is personally responsible for mustering obedient trust. God does not “regenerate man by His call, thus enabling man to respond.” God “calls” individuals through, by means of, His written Word (2 Thessalonians 2:14). In turn, the written Word can generate faith in the individual (Romans 10:17). How unscriptural to suggest that man is so “totally depraved” that he cannot even believe, thus placing God in the position of demanding something from man (John 8:24) of which man is inherently incapable. But the God of the Bible would not be guilty of such injustice.
Some people approach passages like Romans 10:17 in this fashion: (1) God chooses to save an individual; (2) God gives him the free gift of faith; and (3) God uses the Gospel to stir up the faith which He has given the person. Yet neither Romans 10:17, nor any other passage, even hints at such an idea. The text states explicitly that faith comes from hearing Christ’s Word. Notice verse 14, where the true sequence is given: (1) the preacher preaches; (2) the individual hears the preached word; and (3) believes. This sequence is a far cry from suggesting that God miraculously imparts faith to a person, and then the Holy Spirit “stirs up” the faith. Such a notion has God giving man a defective faith which then needs to be stirred up. The text makes clear that God has provided for faith to be generated (i.e., originated) by the preached Word. God does not arbitrarily intervene and impose faith upon the hearts of a select group of individuals.
According to 1 Corinthians 1:21, mankind did not know God, so God transmitted His message through inspired preachers so that those who respond in faith would be saved. Paul wrote in Romans 1:16 that this gospel message is God’s power to save those who believe it. Notice that the Gospel is what Paul preached (vs. 15). Thus the preached message from God generates faith and enables people to be saved.
We see the same in Acts 2:37. What pierced the hearts of the listeners? Obviously, the sermon. Acts 2:37 is a demonstration of Romans 10:17—“faith comes by hearing…the word of God.” God did not change the hearts of the people miraculously; Peter’s words did. If denominational doctrine is correct, when the Jews asked the apostles what they should do, Peter should have said: “There’s nothing you can do. You are so totally depraved, you can’t do anything. God will regenerate you; He will cause you to believe (since faith is His ‘free gift’).” Yet, quite to the contrary, Peter told them that they needed to do some things. And they were things that God could not do for them.
First, they were required to “repent.” Biblical repentance is a change of mind (Matthew 21:29). A “turning” follows repentance (Acts 3:19) and consists of some specified action subsequent to the change of mind. John the Baptizer called this turning activity, which follows repentance and serves as evidence that repentance has occurred, “fruits” (Matthew 3:8). After being convicted (Acts 2:37—i.e., believing the truth of Peter’s contentions), they were told to “repent,” to change their minds about their previous course of life. What else were they to do?
Peter did not tell them to “repent and believe.” Their belief was already abundantly evident in their pricked hearts and their fervent petition for instructions. What was lacking? Peter said (i.e., God said) they still lacked baptism. Remember, the only difference between dead faith and saving faith is outward action—compliance with all actions that God specifies as necessary before He will freely bestow unmerited favor in the form of forgiveness.
Thus baptism marked the point at which God would count them righteous if they first believed and repented. Baptism served as the line of demarcation between the saved and the lost. Jesus’ blood could wash their sins away only at the point of baptism.

Objection #9: “The preposition ‘for’ in the phrase ‘for the remission of sins’ in Acts 2:38 means ‘because of.’ Hence, they were baptized because of sins for which they were forgiven when they believed.”

The English word “for” has, as one of its meanings, “because of.” However, the Greek preposition eis that underlies the English word “for” never has a causal function. It always has its primary, basic, accusative thrust: unto, into, to, toward. We must not go to the text, decide what we think it means, and assign a grammatical meaning that coincides with our preconceived understanding. We must begin with the inspired grammar and seek to understand every text in light of the normal, natural, common meaning of the grammatical and lexical construction. The same grammatical construction of Acts 2:38 is found in Matthew 26:28—“into the remission of sins” (eisaphesin hamartion). Jesus’ blood, the blood of the covenant, was undeniably shed for many “in order to acquire remission of sins.” This is the natural and normal meaning of the Greek preposition—toward, in the direction of. Had the Holy Spirit intended to say that baptism is “because of” or “on account of” past forgiveness, He would have used the Greek preposition that conveys that very idea: dia with the accusative.
Similarly, in Acts 2:38, if repentance is not “because of” remission of sins, neither is baptism. Regardless of person and number considerations, Peter told his hearers to do both things. The act of baptism (connected to the act of repentance by the coordinate conjunction) cannot be extricated from the context of remission of sins by any stretch.

Objection #10: “When the Philippian jailer asked what to do to be saved, he was simply told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As further proof that God does not miraculously bestow faith on a person through the Holy Spirit, observe that Paul told the jailer that he (the jailer) had to believe; he did not answer the jailer’s question with: “You don’t have to do anything. God will give you faith.” On the contrary, Paul and Silas told him that he had to manifest faith in Jesus. But was this pagan jailer in a position at that moment to do so? No, he would have to be taught Who, how, and what to believe. No wonder, then, Luke records immediately: “they spoke the word of the Lord to him” (Acts 16:32). If Romans 10:17 can be trusted, the words which Paul and Silas proclaimed generated faith in the jailer. And those same words surely included the necessity of repentance and baptism, because the jailer immediately manifested the fruit of repentance (by washing their stripes), and likewise was immediately baptized (not waiting until morning or the weekend). Observe carefully Luke’s meticulous documentation, that it was only after the jailer believed, repented, and was baptized, that the jailer was in a position to rejoice. Only then did Luke describe the jailer as “having believed in God” (vs. 34), i.e., now standing in a state of perfected belief.5

Objection #11: “Saul was saved before and without baptism while he was on the road to Damascus when Jesus appeared to him.”

The actual sequence of events delineated in Acts shows that Saul was not saved while on the road to Damascus. Jesus identified Himself and then accused Saul of being a persecutor (Acts 9:5). Saul “trembled” and was “astonished” (hardly the description of a saved individual), and pleadingly asked what he should do—a clear indication that he had just been struck with his lost and undone condition.
This question has the exact same force as the Pentecostians’ question (Acts 2:37) and the jailer’s question (Acts 16:30). All three passages are analogous in their characterization of individuals who had acted wrongly (i.e., the Pentecostians had crucified Jesus, Saul was persecuting Christians, and the jailer had kept innocent Christians jailed). Likewise, in each instance, the candidates for conversion are portrayed as unhappy (i.e., the Pentecostians were “cut to the heart,” Saul “trembled” and “was astonished,” and the jailer “came trembling”—i.e., he was frightened). They were scared, miserable individuals, suddenly brought face to face with their horribly unacceptable status before God. Such is hardly an apt description for saved individuals. Where is the joy, peace, and excitement that comes when one’s sins have been washed away?
Saul was not forgiven on the road to Damascus—he still needed to be told what he “must do” (Acts 9:6). He still lacked “hearing the word of the Lord.” The only way for Saul to hear the Gospel was through the agency of a preacher (Romans 10:14; 1 Corinthians 1:21).  Similarly, an angel told Cornelius (Acts 10:4) that his prayers and money had gone up for a memorial before God—yet he was unsaved. He needed to contact an inspired preacher, Peter, “who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). Likewise, before Saul could learn of God’s plan that he be the great “apostle of the Gentiles,” he first needed to hear the Gospel expounded and told how to respond to what God offered in Christ.
Rather than tell him what he needed to do to be saved, Jesus told him to go into the city, where a preacher (Ananias) would expound to him the necessity of salvation. Notice: Saul waited in Damascus for three days without food and drink, and was still blind. Here’s an individual who was still miserable, unhappy, and unsaved, awaiting instructions on how to change his unfortunate status. Acts 9:18 condenses Saul’s response to the preached Word, while Acts 22 elaborates a little further on the significance of Saul’s response. Ananias said, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
Notice Ananias’ inspired connection between baptism and sins being cleansed. If Saul was saved prior to baptism, it was wrong for Ananias to say that Saul still had sins that needed to be washed away. Ananias did not congratulate Saul because his sins already were washed away, and tell him that he needed to be baptized only as a “badge” or “outward symbol” or “picture” of what had already occurred. He plainly said Saul’s sins yet needed to be washed away. That can be accomplished only by Jesus’ blood in the act of baptism. The water does not cleanse the sin-stained soul—Jesus does. And Ananias clearly stated when (not how or by Whom) that occurs. If Saul’s penitent faith would not lead him to submit to water immersion, he could not have had his sins washed away by Jesus. Instead, he would have remained in opposition to Jesus. Remember, Scripture never portrays baptism as symbolic of previous sin removal. The only symbolism ever attached to the act of baptism is its (1) likeness to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5); (2) its comparison to the removal of sin like circumcision removes skin (Colossians 2:12); and (3) its likeness to Noah’s emergence from a sinful world (1 Peter 3:20-21). God literally (not symbolically) removes sin and justifies the individual by grace, through faith, at the point of baptism.

Objection #12: “If baptism is necessary to salvation, Jesus would have said, ‘but he who does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned’ in Mark 16:16. And besides, the last twelve verses of Mark 16 are not included in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts.”

The omission of “and is not baptized” in Mark 16:16 is completely logical and necessary. The first phrase (“he who believes and is baptized”) describes man’s complete response necessitated by the preaching of the Gospel: Faith must precede baptism, since obviously one would not submit to baptism if he did not first believe. It is non-essential to ascribe condemnation in the second clause to the individual who is not baptized, since the individual being condemned is the one who does not initially believe. The person who refuses to believe “is condemned already” (John 3:18) and certainly would not be interested in the next item of compliance—baptism. He who does not believe would obviously not be baptized—and even if he would, his failure to first believe disqualifies him from being immersed. Only penitent believers are candidates for baptism. An exact grammatical parallel would be: “He who goes to the store and buys coffee for his father will receive $5.00. He who does not go to the store will be spanked.” Obviously, if the child refuses to go to the store, he would not be in a position to buy coffee, and it would be redundant—even grammatically and linguistically inappropriate—to include the failure to purchase the coffee in the pronouncement of an impending spanking.
Are the last verses of Mark 16 uninspired? The textual evidence supporting the authenticity of Mark 16:9-20 is exceptional in light of the vast sources available for establishing the original text. While it is true that Vaticanus and Sinaiticus omit the last 12 verses, it is positively misleading to assume that “the validity of these verses is weak.” In fact, the vast number of witnesses are in favor of the authenticity of verses 9-20. The rejection of Vaticanus is less weighty in light of its comparable exclusion of the Pastoral Epistles, the last part of Hebrews, and Revelation. The rejection of Sinaiticus is similarly unconvincing, since it includes some of the Apocryphal books.6

Objection #13: “Romans 10:9-10 indicates that all one needs to do is believe and confess Jesus.”

The use of eis in Romans 10:10 cannot mean “because of.” Verse nine explicitly says one will be saved “if” he confesses and believes in the heart. Confession and faith are therefore prerequisites to forgiveness. They are God-ordained “responses” to the preached Word (vs. 8) and must occur before salvation is imparted by God. In other words, one’s soul is purified when he obeys the truth (1 Peter 1:22). Jesus provides eternal salvation to those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:9).
But is baptism excluded from salvation since only faith and confession are mentioned in Romans 10:9-10? Notice, four chapters earlier, the order of Romans 6:17-18: (1) slaves to sin; (2) person obeys; (3) made free from sin (righteous). Item (3) cannot occur unless item (2) occurs first. The “whole” of man is to reverence God and keep His commands (Ecclesiastes 12:13). To whom does God give the Holy Spirit? To those whom He arbitrarily chooses, without any consideration of the individual’s necessitated response? No. Acts 5:32 says God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him. God has always conditioned the bestowal of spiritual blessing upon prior obedient response (Jeremiah 7:23; Genesis 26:4-5). Deuteronomy 5:10 says God shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commands.
In Romans 10, Paul is not stressing the specific aspects of the conversion process. That is not the context. Rather, the context addresses whether one is acceptable to God in the Christian dispensation due to physical heritage (i.e., race/ethnicity), versus whether one is saved when one complies with God’s instruction. Paul was stressing that their nationality could not bring the Jews into God’s favor. Rather, people are saved when they render obedience to the Gospel. He quoted Joel 2:32, where the emphasis is on the word “whosoever” in contrast to “Jews only.” Verse 12 argues that God does not distinguish on the basis of race. The individual’s response to the preached Word is the deciding factor. However, Romans 10 does not reveal all of the details of that obedient response. One must be willing to search out the whole truth on such a subject.
If repentance is essential to salvation, one must concede that such teaching must come from some passage other than Romans 10. Does Romans 10:10 mean that repentance is unnecessary, just because it is unmentioned in the text? No, since repentance is required in chapter 2:4. If not, then why assume baptism to be nonessential simply because it is not mentioned in this particular text? It is enjoined in chapter 6:3-4. To ascertain the significance of baptism in God’s sight, one must go to passages that discuss that subject, rather than dismiss them in deference to verses on faith. If God says, “faith saves” (Romans 5:1), let us accept that truth. If God says, “baptism saves” (1 Peter 3:21), let us accept that truth, too! Jesus Himself said: belief + baptism = salvation (Mark 16:16), not belief = salvation + baptism.
Notice also, Romans 10:10,13 does not say that salvation can be acquired by mere verbal confession (e.g., “I accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior”). Why?
(1) Nowhere is the statement, “Accept Jesus as your personal Savior,” found in Scripture.
(2) Jesus forever dashed the idea of salvation by mental acceptance/verbal profession alone in Matthew 7:21 and Luke 6:46, where He showed that oral confession alone is unacceptable. In every age, there have been specified actions of obedience that God has required before He would count individuals as pleasing or acceptable. In fact, if faith is not coupled with the appropriate obedient action (like baptism), then such faith is unable to justify. Such faith is imperfect (James 2:17,20,26) and therefore cannot save!
(3) The phrase “call on the name of the Lord” is an idiomatic way to say: “respond with appropriate obedient actions.” It is the figure of speech known as synecdoche (i.e., the part stands for the whole). To “call” on God’s name is equivalent to saying, “Do what He tells you to do.” Isaiah 55:6 told the Jews of Isaiah’s day to call on God. Verse 7 explains how: (1) forsake wicked ways, (2) forsake wicked thoughts, (3) return to the Lord. To obey these three stipulations constituted “calling on God.”
Likewise, those in Jerusalem who “called on the Lord’s name” (Acts 9:14,21) had done so, not solely by verbal confession, but by repentance and baptism for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Similarly, Paul himself became a Christian, that is, he “called on the name of the Lord”—not by verbally confessing Christ—but by being baptized (Acts 22:16). For Paul, “calling on the Lord’s name” was equivalent to (not precedent to) being baptized. God washed his sins away by the blood of Jesus at the point of his baptism.

CONCLUSION

Though the bulk of Christendom for centuries has veered off into Calvinism and other post-first century theological thought, the meaning and design of baptism is determined by the New Testament. The verses in the New Testament that speak about baptism are definitive. They indicate that water immersion precedes salvation—along with faith, repentance, and confession of Christ’s deity. No objection has ever overturned this divinely intended function.

ENDNOTES

1 Although the thief may well have submitted to the precursor to NT baptism, i.e., John’s baptism, it also was “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).
2 See also Dave Miller (2003), “The Thief on the Cross,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1274&topic=86.
3 Cf. Eric Lyons (2004), “Calling on the Name of the Lord,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/597.
4 Rudolf Bultmann (1968), “πιστεύω,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982 reprint), 6:206; Fredrick William Danker (2000), “ὑπακοη,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago), third edition, p. 1028; James Denny (no date), “St. Paul’s Epistles to the Romans” in The Expositor’s Greek Testament, ed. W. Robertson Nicoll (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 2:587; J.B. Lightfoot (1895), Notes on Epistles of St. Paul (London: Macmillan), p. 246; H.P.V. Nunn (1912), A Short Syntax of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. 42; Geoffrey H. Parke-Taylor (1944), “A Note on ‘είς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως’ in Romans 1.5 and xvi.26,” The Expository Times, 55:305-306; A.T. Robertson (1931), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press), 4:324; Marvin Vincent (1946), Word Studies in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 3:5; W.E. Vine (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell), p. 123.
5 W.M. Ramsay (1915), The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Houghton and Stoughton), p. 165.
6 For a more thorough discussion of this matter, see Dave Miller (2005), “Is Mark 16:9-20 Inspired?” Reason & Revelation, 25[12]:89-95, December, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2780.

Christian Morality Is...UnChristian? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.




http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=7&article=1756

Christian Morality Is...UnChristian?

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

In their ongoing attempt to withstand the massive assault on traditional moral values, Christians recently experienced a momentary victory when NBC decided to cancel one of its programs after airing only three episodes. The program featured a troubled, pill-popping Episcopal priest as its main character, a wife who relied on midday martinis, a 16-year-old daughter who was a drug dealer, a 16-year-old adopted son who was sexually active with the bishop’s daughter, and the priest’s lesbian secretary who was sleeping with his sister-in-law (“NBC Pulls Plug...,” 2006). The fact that the program ever saw the light of day speaks volumes concerning the degeneracy of the entertainment industry. The pious post-whimpering by the show’s supporters further demonstrates the audacious, militant gall possessed by those who wish to inundate American society with obscenity and moral filth. The show’s creator is quoted as having condemned the opposition to the program as “censorship, pure and simple—and that is both un-Christian and un-American” (Brown and Jackson, 2006, emp. added).
It is one thing to be honest and straightforward about one’s moral bankruptcy. If the Hollywood crowd does not believe in God, they ought to have enough gumption to say so. If they believe that “morality” and “right and wrong” are relative, fluid, and determined solely on the basis of subjective, personal preference, they ought to have the courage to admit it. If they believe their “barnyard morality” lifestyles and their sick preoccupation with illicit sex is superior, let them openly declare it. But, no, they seem to feel the need to disguise their thoroughgoing hedonism with pious, high-sounding claims of moral superiority—even to the point of chiding American Christians with being “un-Christian and un-American”! And, of course, to really bolster one’s righteous airs, one must throw in a frenzied appeal to “censorship!”—a term that now conjures up images of medieval torture chambers inflicted on the persecuted, oppressed, deprived population of Hollywood.
As usual, social liberals are self-contradictory, hypocritical, and guilty of the very thing of which they accuse others. If liberals have a right to set forth their perverted machinations via the media, does it not logically follow that those who disagree have the same right to express their disagreement? If liberals have the right to say: “We are for homosexuality, abortion, and pornography,” then, on the same basis, Christians have the right to say: “We are against homosexuality, abortion, and pornography.” If opposing sexual immorality on television is “censorship,” what shall we call the conspiratorial success in banning Christianity from the classroom, the government, the community, and, yes, the entertainment industry? Indeed, in their incessant drive to celebrate and normalize use of drugs and alcohol, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality, the Hollywood crowd is skilled at launching an intolerant, abusive tirade against their opponents by denouncing them as demonic censors. Yet, even they have their limits. They have not yet stepped forward and publicly endorsed television programming that celebrates bestiality, pedophilia, incest, and necrophilia. Will they endorse scenes in which the actors actually kill each other (as long as the acts are consensual)? No, since they, too, “draw lines”—and thereby are guilty of the very “censorship” as they, themselves, have defined the term.
Further, the claim that opposing obscene television programming is “un-Christian” is laughable, not only because the Hollywood crowd is hardly qualified to define what constitutes Christian behavior, but because they have demonstrated a longstanding hostility, even hatred, toward Christianity and Christian morality. Their definition of “compassion” is as warped and distorted as it can possibly be. Likewise, to label opposition to obscenity as “un-American” flies directly in the face of historical fact. From the Founders and Framers down through American history (until the last 50 years), the vast majority of Americans recognized immorality when they saw it. They knew the difference between right and wrong based on the moral framework of the Bible—and the courts upheld that value system (e.g., People v. Ruggles [1811]; The Commonwealth against Sharpless [1815]; Updegraph v. The Commonwealth [1824]; City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin [1848].
Indeed, in 1848, the Supreme Court of South Carolina articulated the standard that characterized America for the first 185 years:
What constitutes the standard of good morals? Is it not Christianity? There certainly is none other. Say that cannot be appealed to and...what would be good morals? The day of moral virtue in which we live would, in an instant, if that standard were abolished, lapse into the dark and murky night of pagan immorality (City Council of Charleston..., emp. added).
The court’s words were prophetic. We are literally witnessing American civilization in the throes of pagan immorality—spearheaded by, among others, a sizable segment of the entertainment industry.
In reality, this entire issue comes down quite simply to whether a Supreme Being exists Who has the right to legislate the moral behavior of His creatures. If so, then He has already given humans a moral framework—a standard of behavior to which all humans are accountable. In that case, “censorship” occurs only when a person attempts to oppose or stifle that which God does not want stifled (an apt description of precisely what the Hollywood crowd endeavors to do). Consequently, suppressing evil and immorality is not “censorship”! Rather, it is righteous, heroic, spiritually courageous, American, and very Christian!

REFERENCES

Brown, Jody and Fred Jackson (2006), “NBC Closes the Book on Daniel,” AgapePress, January 24, [On-line], URL: http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/1/242006a.asp.
City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin (1848), 2 Strob. L. 508 (S. C. 1848).
The Commonwealth v. Sharpless (1815), 2 Serg. & Rawle 91; 1815 Pa. LEXIS 81.
NBC Pulls the Plug on ‘Book of Daniel’” (2006), World Net Daily, January 23, [On-line], URL: http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=48476.
The People v. Ruggles (1811), 8 Johns 290 (Sup. Ct. NY.), N.Y. Lexis 124.
Updegraph v. The Commonwealth (1824), Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, [On-line], URL: http://80-web.lexis-nexis.com.library.fhu.edu:2048/universe/document? _m=083294452aab2484abf17cb283bb244a&_docnum=1&wchp=dGLbVlz-zSkVb&_md5 =d6703819f222838c8fe93f045ebc0282.

Acts 16 – When God Closes one door… by Ben Fronczek





http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?p=244


Acts 16 – When God Closes one door…

When God Closes One Door and Opens Another
Read Acts 16:1-18
Have you ever had something like this happen?  You are going along with plans or doing this or that and all of a sudden, ‘BAM’  it’s like God closes a door and prevents you from heading in that direction or doing some activity anymore.  ( eg. a career, Job, a relationship, a vacation, or even something as simple as a planned trip the grocery store. )
A. Have you ever wondered why God closes some doors and opens others?  In God’s sovereign wisdom, grace, and love I have to believe He is leading us to what is best.  You know what Paul said in Romans 8:28, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,  who  have been called according to his purpose.”
No person, no organization, or group really knows what’s best for you, whether it be for the short term, or for eternity. Only God really knows what’s best for us, and He’s the only one really able to do something about it.
In this story that we just read here in Acts 16, when the Spirit prohibited Paul and Timothy from preaching in Asia, I don’t know what they thought about when these doors closed, but I can’t help but believe that they knew God had something else in mind. That He would eventually open up another door, and possibly a better door for them.
It’s not like Paul was unfamiliar with something like this happening.  When we first started reading about Paul, do you remember what he was doing? He was persecuting Christians. In other places he talked about how he was advancing quite well as a young Jew.  He had even acquired permission from the Jewish leaders to go off to other communities to arrest Christians. He thought he was doing something real good, a service to God. But then, do you remember what happened, ‘BAM!’  God closed that door and his whole life changed from that point on.
Now the whole point of this sermon is that I don’t what you to get overly discouraged when you get a door slammed in your life, when you get a rejected for that special job, or you don’t get that promotions you hoped for, or if certain relationship doesn’t work out,  or if something blocks you from going on that planned vacation,  or whatever.
The point I want you see here today is that God understands things, and can see things that we just can’t see, things that will hurt us or others, things that are not in our best interest. He even knows which things are better for us and will help us grow. He even knows what will bless us in the long run.
Like a loving parent who tells their child, ‘No’ when they want to do something that may cause that child harm. Or when the parent forces their kid to do something that the kid may not want to do at first, but then they excels and even like what he was forced to do, we have to believe that God knows us even better than a loving parent.
We need to learn and be convinced of the fact that God sees beyond these closed doors, and so we need to learn to trust Him when those doors close. Like Paul in this story, God may close one door or even two, but He may have one that He is about to open that may be a greater blessing for you or someone else.
I what you to notice a few things in this story:
#1. God may close a door even though we are doing a good job.  Do you remember what Paul and his companions were doing here? Paul left the well established church in Antioch to visit and encourage those churches he had helped establish on his first missionary journey. He deeply cared for those new Christians and he wanted to make sure they were fairing well, and there is nothing like a personal visit from their father in the faith. And of course he continued to spread the Good News about Jesus where ever he could.
(Re-read verse 5) “So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.”
What he and his companions were doing was good, but God not only closed one door but also another. They text say that they were kept from going into Asia, that door closes, and then into Bithynia, and  ‘Bam!’  Those doors shut, but notice another opens. 6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”
There are times in life when you are also doing a good job, or doing all the right things, doing your best, and then ‘BAM’ a door closes. It may surprise you or even disappoint you when it happens, but you need to trust God and believe He knows something that you do not know.
#2. Another observation: They were open to a plan B.   Even a plan C. 
They didn’t give up and go home because things didn’t work out.
– They remained open to God’s Spiritual suggestion
Listen to what  Alexander Graham Bell once said   “When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” 
– Helen Keller also once said   “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”
Are you guilty of that. If a door closes in your life; if you don’t get that one Job you expected and hoped for, do you focus so much on what you lost that you don’t see any other opportunities that may be opening up right in front of you?  If you were hoping to buy a certain car and all of a sudden  that door closes and someone else buys the car before you, do you mope around so much that you don’t see other cars that are just as good if not better right in front of you?
If a door closes it closed, move on to another. These men remained open to other opportunities, and when the Spirit spoke to Paul about Macedonia, they did not hesitate and focused on what could have been, rather they trusted in God’s providence and moved on through a open door that they would have never considered beforehand.
Sometimes God will close a door to protect us from a situation, or even bless us in ways that we may never have thought about.  But there is also something else that we also need to consider as we look at this text, and I see this more than anything else in scripture…
#3. Sometimes God may close a door in our life for someone else’s sake; maybe even someone  that we don’t even know yet.
As this story continues on, we read that Paul and his companions eventually wind up in Philippi and we see a number of people turning to the Lord because Paul and his companions went through this open door.  In this chapter we read about an influential woman by the name of Lydia and her whole household who turned to the Lord and were baptized. Later in the same chapter we read about a jailer and his whole household accepting  Jesus and then being baptized. What we have here is the birth of the Philippian church, and who knows how many more were converted to Christ  because God closed a couple of doors in Paul’s path, but then opened another.
God will sometimes close a door in our life to redirect us for someone else’s benefit.  You have to realize, IT”S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU. God loves others as well.
Do you remember the story about Joseph? I’m sure you do. The boy with the coat of many colors. Talk about having a few doors closed in his life:  – Favorite son – ‘BAM’, Sold into slavery and dad thought he was dead.  -Potiphar’s favorite servant – “BAM”, thrown into prison and falsely accused of groping Potiphar’s wife.
But in his case you know the rest of the story   –God opened a huge door of opportunity – to become 2nd in charge over Egypt.   Do you remember why?   Was it for his benefit only?   Was it all about him?   No! God chose to close certain doors in his life and then opened another, ultimately, to save his family and all of Egypt in a time of great famine. And this also opened up the door for the Israelitesto settle into the richest part of Egypt for 400 years and grow from a handful into a mighty nation..
Sometimes God just may close a door in your life to bless another. He may just keep your where you are because he wants you there or He may open door of opportunity so you can help someone else that you don’t even know or may never get to know..
#4. Sometimes God may choose to close a door in our life to help us, even force us to grow. How do you know what potential you have unless you learn,  or unless you try something new.
Someone once said, “Closed doors are opportunities to move forward in our lives. They are the universe’s way of telling us to move on from a situation that doesn’t serve our highest good.”  It’s not the universe’s way of telling us to move on to a higher good, it God way of telling us….
We are all created in God’s image, that’s what scripture tells us. That means you have unlimited potential. In most cases the one holding you back, more than anyone else, is the person you see when you look in the mirror.
Does a baby bird know that he or she can fly. Probably not until mama bird pushes them out of the nest. Likewise God will sometime kick you out of your nest in order to get you to experience something new and hopefully grow.
God may say, ‘no’ to certain prayers in order to direct you to roads that will lead you to what he wants and expects from you.
So in Conclusion:
I say, Ask the Lord to give you the courage, tenacity and toughness to overcome rejection when it comes your way. Ask Him to help you exhibit a resilient attitude in your pursuit of His best interest.
Ask the Lord to keep your mind open to whom you should be ministering to while putting away any of your personal preferences, expectations or prejudices.
Ask the Spirit  to help you recognize His open doors.
And don’t let your self get too discouraged or depressed about a door that closed in your life.
Remember God is in control and He wants not only to bless you, but also others as well.
Trust Him and his judgments and plans!

Baptism Saves by Alfred Shannon Jr.




https://biblicalproof.wordpress.com/2011/02/page/3/

Baptism Saves

The same water that makes flowers to bloom, crops to grow and quenches the thirst of every human alive upon this earth, also has a greater use than all of these. God used water to save. It saved Noah and his family, it saved Israel when passing through the red sea, and it saves us today through baptism. If you desire to live forever in the presence of God, come to the one who will give you the water of life freely, by your obedience to the gospel of Christ. Baptism saves!
1 Cor 15:1-4; Rom 10:17; Rom 10:10; Acts 2:38; Rom 6:3,4; 1 Pet 3:21; Rev 2:10; Rev 21:6

(The Gospel) 1 Cor 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand,
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,  NKJV
  1. Hear the GospelRom:10:14,17; 1 Thess 2:13
  2. Understand the Gospel – Mt 15:10; Acts 8:30,31
  3. Believe that Jesus is the Christ – Jn 8:24; Mk 16:16
  4. Repent of your sins – Acts 17:30; Acts 8:22
  5. Confess that Jesus is the Christ – Rom 10:10; Acts 8:36,37
  6. Baptized (Immersed) into Christ – Acts 22:16; Acts 2:38; Gal 3:27
  7. Faithfulness to the Gospel – Rev 2:10; Rev 3:11

IT ISN’T STRANGE by Jim McGuiggan

https://jimmcguiggan.wordpress.com/2016/11/

IT ISN’T STRANGE

In Philippians 3 Paul took out all his prized possessions, one by one and looked them over. People ooh and aah over and sometimes wish they had such things and Paul himself thought highly of them but a time came in his life when he thought, “Still, compared with Christ and what I have in Him, these are all no better than rubbish.”
It was more than thinking of them as dispensable; he actually experienced the loss of them (3:7-8). This was the kind of loss that people understandably stagger under and sob about. Paul was no Stoic; after examining them in detail he said, “But they aren’t worthy to be compared with the glory I find in Christ Jesus and will one day experience in full.”
When Paul urged people to image him even as he imaged the Lord Jesus he wasn’t speaking as if he was close to sinless or even that he was pursuing sinlessness. That was never his point. Of course he believed that followers of Christ were to pursue holiness without which no one can “see” God but he was talking about the shape of his life as a whole. In Chapter 2 Christ thought in a certain way and consequently acted in a certain way and in chapter 3 Paul thought in a certain way and then acted in a certain way. As one member in the Body of Christ he knew he was to rehearse before the world the redeeming work of the Lord Jesus. He wanted to enter deeper and deeper into fellowship with Jesus Christ in His redeeming life, suffering and death that he might experience the fellowship of His resurrection (3:7-11 and 2:5-11).
This is one of the central ways that suffering functions in Philippians and elsewhere. In Romans 8:17-39, a section that is about the experience of suffering and how it “clashes” with the victory of Jesus and the (therefore) expected fulfillment of blessings which haven’t arrived. In 8:29 Paul insists that just as Jesus suffered and then was glorified so his People were commissioned by God to be conformed to the image of His Son. That text isn’t talking about the pursuit of moral excellence—the passage has to do with rehearsing the Story of the entire Bible which culminates with the Lord Christ and His suffering and glory.
Peter finally grasped what he once thought was “strange”. He fervently protested against the Messiah’s suffering and death (Matthew 16:16-23) and what that would have meant but in 1 Peter 1:11; 2:1-10; 3:13—4:6 he shows he “got it” and says, “Don’t think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed you may also be glad with exceeding joy…” (4:12-14).
Christians suffering! Their inheritance in Christ is heavenly, incorruptible, undefiled, unfading and glorious (1 Peter 1:3, passim) and yet they suffer in all the ways humans suffer, in all the ways that Jesus their Lord suffered. The NT witness would have us believe that Christians in suffering along with the world are rehearsing the redemptive suffering and glory of Christ. They are to do it for God, for the Church and for the world—they are to see themselves as the form the living Christ now takes in the world and by faith they are to choose it to be their destiny—suffering and glory to follow
To reduce all of Christ’s suffering to persecution is foolishness and to claim that only faith-filled endurance of suffering as persecution reflects Jesus—that’s nonsense. It robs people of the possibility of joy in faithfully enduring disease and hurt and loneliness and weariness (see Paul’s list of his troubles in 2 Corinthians 6 & 11).
Believe this: your faith-filled and God-trusting endurance of all he troubles that humans suffer is your part in the “extension” of the Incarnation of God in Christ.
This too is noteworthy. Here’s a man (Paul) who went the distance in pursuit of Christ and still confessed he couldn’t catch up to Him. We’re tempted to think if anyone has fully entered into all that union with Christ means it must have been Paul. He hurries to make clear (3:12), “I’m not suggesting I’ve arrived. Far from it! But I continue the pursuit.” This says a lot about Paul, of course, but it says a lot about Jesus Christ. How much is there to him? If someone pursues him as recklessly as Paul, without counting the cost or holding back, what treasures of joy and pain and longing and achievement must be hidden in Christ?
Hmmm, what treasures can I pull out of my experience? What precious things, what gifts from God for which I should be grateful? And what would lead me without despising them or denying their loveliness to see them as trivia in comparison with Christ and what it means to be part of Him? What would lead me to do more than point to Paul’s experience and wish it were my own? I wonder.