1/11/19

"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Marks Of Spiritual Immaturity (5:11-14) by Mark Copeland



 "THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

Marks Of Spiritual Immaturity (5:11-14)


INTRODUCTION

1. Just because one has been a Christian for many years, does not mean
   they are "mature"
   a. They may be like the person who had been teacher for twenty-five years...
      1) When she heard about a job that would mean a promotion, she
         applied for the position.  However, someone who had been 
         teaching for only one year was hired instead.
      2) She went to the principal and asked why.  The principal 
         responded, "I'm sorry, but you haven't had 25 years of 
         experience as you claim; you've had only one year's experience 25 times."
      -- During that whole time the teacher had not improved!
   b. So it may be with many Christians; they have not grown, but 
      simply repeated their first year of spiritual life many times!

2. The lack of spiritual growth (i.e., spiritual immaturity) is a
   dangerous thing...
   a. For there may be blessings to be enjoyed in Christ that only the
      mature Christian can truly understand and appropriate
   b. If one remains spiritually immature, they do not come to fully
      appreciate their standing and blessings that they have in Christ!
   -- Deprived of a greater understanding, they are more susceptible to
      the wiles of the devil

3. The author of the book of Hebrews found himself faced with this problem...
   a. He had much to say about Christ as our High Priest
   b. But the spiritual immaturity of his readers made it difficult
   -- And so he thought it necessary to temporarily digress - He 5:11-14

4. How about you?
   a. Are you growing as a Christian?
   b. Or are you repeating your first year over and over again,
      remaining spiritual immature?
   -- Do you know how to determine whether you are spiritually mature?

[In our text we find some of the identifying "Marks Of Spiritual 
Immaturity", indicators that reveal when one is in need of "growing up"
spiritually.  For example, one mark of spiritual immaturity is...]

I. DULLNESS OF HEARING (11)

   A. THE HEBREWS HAD BECOME "DULL OF HEARING"...
      1. This prevented the writer from continuing with his argument at the moment
      2. While the material he had to share was "hard to explain"...
         a. It wasn't so much the difficulty of the material itself
         b. As it was their own inability to receive it!
      3. That they had "become" dull of hearing may imply a regression...
         a. At one time they were not "dull of hearing"
         b. They may have been like the Bereans at one time, "who 
            received the word with all readiness" - Ac 17:11
         c. Indeed, most converts are truly "sharp" in their listening at the first
            1) They are excited about what they are learning
            2) They listen with great "readiness", and spiritual growth occurs
         d. But it is not uncommon for apathy to set in, making one 
            "dull of hearing"
         -- When one becomes "dull of hearing", they begin to regress 
            to a state of spiritual immaturity

   B.  ARE YOU "DULL OF HEARING"?
      1. Ask yourself these questions:
         a. Is the Bible dull?
         b. Are the Bible classes dull?
         c. Are the sermons dull?
         d. Is anything that is spiritual in nature (like singing, 
            praying) dull?
      2. If so, then you have become "dull of hearing"!
         a. If you listen at all, it will be to those who are willing 
            to "tickle your ears"
         b. And you will be susceptible to being mislead - 2Ti 4:3-4

[When one is "dull of hearing", it is only natural that the next "mark
of spiritual immaturity" will be evident...]

II. THE INABILITY TO TEACH OTHERS (12a)

   A. THE HEBREWS SHOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO TEACH OTHERS...
      1. They had been Christians for some time ("by this time you 
         ought to be teachers")
         a. They had time to learn, to grow
         b. A natural response to growth is to bear fruit
         c. One way we bear fruit is by teaching others
      2. In one way or another, they should have been able to teach others
         a. Perhaps not in a formal sense, for not all are gifted in 
            that way - cf. 1Co 12:29; Ep 4:11; Jm 3:1
         b. But all can share the good news and hope they have with 
            others - cf. Ac 8:4; 1Pe 3:15; Tit 2:3-5
      -- Their need for someone to teach them again "the first
         principles" demonstrated their spiritual immaturity

   B. ARE YOU ABLE TO TEACH OTHERS?
      1. Assuming that sufficient time has passed, are you teaching others?
         a. Either formally as a teacher instructing others in the faith?
         b. Or informally by sharing your faith with others?
      2. Do you find yourself saying "I don't know what to say?"
         a. Then it sounds like you have forgotten "the first principles"
         b. And you need to have someone teach you again!

[If one has not progressed to the point where they are somehow teaching
others about Christ, then they are still spiritually immature!  One 
reason why this may be true is also another indicator of spiritual 
immaturity...]

III. A DIET OF "MILK" (12b,13)

   A. NOW, A DIET OF "MILK" IS OFTEN NECESSARY...
      1. Certainly it is needed for those who are "babes in Christ" 
         - e.g., 1Co 3:1-2
      2. Also for those who have regressed (as with the Hebrews) - cf. He 5:12b
      3. Such a diet includes what is described as "the first
         principles of the oracles of God" (later called "the 
         elementary principles of Christ" in He 6:1-3)

   B. BUT OUR DIET MUST ONE DAY INCLUDE "SOLID FOOD"...
      1. Just as a physical baby must graduate to solid foods in order
         to grow to maturity
      2. So a "babe in Christ" cannot mature unless the diet goes 
         beyond the "first principles"
      3. Wiersbe offers an interesting explanation as to what may be 
         the difference...
         a. "milk" refers to what Jesus did on earth:  His birth, life,
            teaching, death, burial and resurrection
         b. "solid food" refers to what Jesus is now doing in heaven:
             e.g., His priesthood
      4. If our diet remains "milk only"...
         a. Then we will be "unskilled" (lit., without experience) in
            the word of God
         b. We will remain "babes" in Christ - cf. He 5:13

   C. WHAT HAS YOUR "DIET" BEEN LATELY?
      1. Has it been limited to "milk"? 
         a. Has it even included "milk"?
         b. Some Christians may not even be getting the "milk" of the Word!
      2. Are you getting any "meat"?
         a. Studying portions of God's Word that challenges your understanding?
         b. Stay with us in this study in Hebrews, and you will be sure to get some!

[A "milk only" diet leaves one immature, and by default one who is 
"unskilled in the word of righteousness".  This will in turn produce 
another trait of spiritual immaturity...]

IV. THE INABILITY TO DISCERN (14)

   A. NORMAL SPIRITUAL GROWTH EXERCISES THE SENSES...
      1. Even the "milk" of the word is designed to train one's faculties
         a. By exposing us to the difference between right and wrong
         b. In this way our spiritual sense is "exercised"
      2. Then "by reason of use" we learn to "discern both good and evil"
         a. With clear examples set before us in the Scriptures, we 
            learn right from wrong
         b. We thereby develop the ability to "distinguish" between good and evil
         c. We become able to apply general principles to specific situations
            1) Specific condemnation of a practice is not always necessary
            2) We can discern when something is more like the good, or
               more like the bad

   B. SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY LACKS THIS ABILITY TO DISCERN...
      1. A babe in Christ often has difficulty discerning the difference between:
         a. Good teaching (truth) and bad teaching (error)
         b. Good conduct (righteousness) and bad conduct (wickedness)
      2. Inability to discern leaves them open to being...
         a. "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of 
            doctrine" - cf. Ep 4:14
         b. Like "a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind...a 
            double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" - Jm 1:6-8

   C. DO YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO DISCERN?
      1. Can you apply general principles to a specific situation, or 
         do you require a clear "Thou shalt not" to determine if something is wrong?
      2. Are you able to recognize when a doctrine is true to God's word?
      3. Or are you dependent upon someone else...
         a. To "spoon feed" you?
         b. To "take you by the hand and lead" you?
         -- I.e., to tell you what is right and wrong, what is truth 
            and what is error

CONCLUSION

1. There are certainly other indicators of spiritual immaturity...
   a. E.g., behaving in a carnal way
   b. E.g., possessing strife, envy, and jealousy - cf. 1Co 3:1-4

2. But in our present text we have focused our attention on the four 
   presented here...
   a. Dullness of hearing
   b. The inability to teach others
   c. A diet of "milk"
   d. The inability to discern
   -- All of these should serve as "warning signs" that something is 
      amiss in our lives as Christians, for they are truly "Marks Of
      Spiritual Immaturity"

In our next lesson ("The Peril Of Not Progressing"), we shall see why
it is so important to grow spiritually.  As Peter warned, growth is the
"antidote" to falling away:
 
   "You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware
   lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away 
   with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge
   of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now
   and forever. Amen." - 2 Pet 3:18

Are you growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Who was Guided into all Truth? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1252


Who was Guided into all Truth?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Just before Jesus was betrayed and killed by the hands of lawless men, He informed His apostles that there were many things that He did not have the opportunity to teach them before His death. Because the apostles could not “bear” those teachings at that time, Jesus promised them that the Spirit of truth would come after His departure. Concerning the Spirit, Jesus said: “…when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” Some have read this verse, and assumed that all people who become Christians, and who have the Holy Spirit living in them (1 John 3:24), will be guided into all truth. A closer look at the situation, however, shows that the promise to be “guided into all truth” was given only to the apostles and first-century prophets, not to all Christians in general.

Consider, first, that in the context of John 16, the Lord was addressing the apostles exclusively. In John 16:32, Jesus informed them, saying, “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone”—an exact prediction of what the apostles did in Gethsemane the night of the betrayal. This verse can be closely connected to Mark 13:11, where Jesus spoke to the apostles, saying, “But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Here, Jesus detailed the process by which the apostles would be inspired to preach God’s Word without having prepared a sermon or researched their topic.

In the New Testament books following the gospel accounts, we read about how Jesus’ promise to the apostles came true. Acts 2 informs us that the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and gave them miraculous powers, thereby inspiring them to preach the Word. Acts 2:42 explains that the converts continued in the “apostle’s doctrine,” which would be the case because that doctrine was given to them by the Holy Spirit. Paul, in writing to the brethren at Ephesus, described the Gospel of Christ, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men,” as having “now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5). And just a few verses prior to this statement, he told the Ephesian brethren that they were members of the “household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20). The apostle Peter wrote to remind his readers of “the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior” (2 Peter 3:2). In writing to the Thessalonians, Paul rejoiced that the brethren received his words “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). He also reminded the Christians in Corinth: “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).

After the ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, and brought to their minds all the things that Jesus had said (John 14:26), in addition to further revelations that entailed “all truth.” When the apostles was brought before rulers or councils, they did not have to premeditate their speech, because the Holy Spirit provided the substance of it for them. The inspired apostles and prophets recorded those inspired thoughts in the various books of the Bible. The revelation recorded in the Bible was so complete that the apostle Peter wrote to his readers that God “has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Jude recorded that the faith (meaning the body of teaching) was “once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And the apostle Paul wrote that even if an angel of heaven preached another Gospel than that which was delivered by the apostles, that angel was to be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).

The apostles and first-century prophets were led into all truth, which was recorded in the Bible and faithfully passed down to us. The promise of being guided into “all truth” was never intended for every Christian, and it is clear that it does not apply to Christians today. If any Christian wants to speak the Word of God, he or she cannot refuse to study God’s Word, and simply assume that the Holy Spirit will directly put God’s Word on his or her heart. In fact, Christians today, instead of being promised a miraculous knowledge endowed by the Holy Spirit without thought on their part, are commanded “to study” or “be diligent” to know God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), and to “give attention to reading” the Word of God (1 Timothy 4:13). There is no truth pertinent to the salvation of the lost that the apostles and first-century prophets did not receive. We, therefore, can conclude that Jesus’ promise that the apostles would be guided into all truth was fulfilled. We further can conclude that no one living today has been given that promise, and that God’s Word has been definitively delivered to the saints once and for all.

Who Hardened Pharaoh's Heart? by Dave Miller, Ph.D. Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1205


Who Hardened Pharaoh's Heart?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.
Kyle Butt, M.Div.


In their perpetual quest to find discrepancies in the Bible, to undermine biblical ethics, and to find fault with the actions of God, skeptics have charged that God mistreated Pharaoh by overriding his free will and forcing him to resist the demand of Moses to allow the Israelites to exit Egypt. The skeptics focus on the verses about Pharaoh’s heart, demanding that the God of the Bible is an unjust, cruel being. Steve Wells, the well-known skeptic writer, said: “God begins the process of ‘hardening Pharaoh’s heart’ (see also Exodus 7:3,13, 9:12, 10:1, 20,27, 11:10, 14:4,8), thus making it impossible for any of the plagues that God sends to have any beneficial effect. But according to 1 Samuel 6:6, God didn’t harden the Pharaoh’s heart; the Pharaoh did it himself” (Wells, 2001). Kendall Hobbs, in an essay titled “Why I Am No Longer a Christian,” added Pharaoh’s story to a list of alleged atrocities committed by the God of the Bible. “There are plenty of other atrocities committed by God or at his command,” Hobbs comments, then lists “the Exodus story when the Egyptian Pharaoh was repeatedly ready and willing to let Moses and his people go, until God hardened his heart, and then God punished him for his hardened heart by sending plagues or killing children throughout all of Egypt” (Hobbs, 2003).
The Protestant Calvinist response to the skeptic is simply to say that God can do what He chooses to do, and that humans have no right to question God. To him, the answer is “not to retract the sovereignty of God’s election, or to try to give a rational explanation to doubting men” (Palmer, 1972, p. 33). Since Calvinism has largely dominated the Protestant landscape for the last five centuries, most skeptics have dismissed Christianity as absurd, and have turned away in utter disgust in order to embrace atheism. The smug Calvinist declares, “So be it! You have the problem!”

But why would many otherwise right-thinking people reject the Calvinistic brand of Christianity? Must their rejection necessarily be due to a desire to be free from the moral and social restraints that come with the acceptance of the Christian religion? Must the unbeliever’s unbelief inevitably be the result of an unwillingness to accept truth? While it is true that most human beings in history have rejected the correct pathway in life due to stubborn pride, selfishness, and a desire to gratify fleshly desires (cf. Matthew 7:13-14; 1 John 2:15-17), there are exceptions. Some people reject Christianity because they have been presented with pseudo-Christianity—a Catholic or Protestant version of it—what Paul called “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6), that is, a diluted, distorted form, rather than pure, New Testament Christianity.

The reason rational, honest people would reject Calvinism’s claim that God arbitrarily (i.e., for His own sovereign reasons) rejects some people, or overrides their free will, is because they recognize that a perfect God, i.e., One Who is infinite in all of His attributes (including justice, fairness, and impartiality), would not do so. God cannot be just, while unjustly rejecting some people. God cannot be God, and yet conduct Himself in an ungodly manner. Even the biggest sinner, who has violated his conscience repeatedly, and has dulled his spiritual sensibilities, has enough sense to comprehend the principle of being fair—even if he chooses not to treat people fairly.

Turning to the book of Exodus, most Bible readers must admit that they were at least slightly startled the first time they read about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and then His punishing Pharaoh for that same hard-heartedness. In dealing with these allegations, three distinct declarations are made with regard to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. First, the text states that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8), and the hearts of the Egyptians (14:17). Second, it is said that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (8:15,32; 9:34), that he refused to humble himself (10:3), and that he was stubborn (13:15). Third, the text uses the passive form to indicate that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, without giving any indication as to the source (7:13,14,22; 8:19; 9:7,35). The questions that arise from this state of affairs are: (1) did God harden Pharaoh on some occasions, while Pharaoh hardened himself on others? (2) Did God do all the hardening of Pharaoh, with the references to Pharaoh hardening himself being the result of God forcing him to do so against his own will? (3) Are all three declarations given in the text actually parallel expressions that mean the same thing? (4) Are the three declarations distinct from one another in their meaning, but all true in their own respects? Is the God of the Bible an unjust, cruel Being?

Two excellent explanations are available that account for the Exodus declarations, each perfectly plausible and sufficient to demonstrate that both the skeptic and Calvinist interpretations are incorrect. Both explanations pertain to the fact that every language has its own way of using certain types of words and phrases that might appear odd to a person not familiar with the language. For instance, suppose a person commented that his boss became angry and “bit his head off.” Would anyone think that the speaker actually had his head bitten off? Of course not! English-speaking people understand this example of figurative speech. Or suppose a person went looking for a job, and someone said that she was “hitting the streets.” She was not literally hitting the streets with her fists. Most English speakers would understand the idiom. In the same way, the biblical languages had idioms, colloquialisms, Semitisms, and word usages peculiar to them, which those familiar with the language would understand.

In his copious work on biblical figures of speech, E.W. Bullinger listed several ways that the Hebrew and Greek languages used verbs to mean something other than their strict, literal usage. He listed several verses that show that the languages “used active verbs to express the agent’s design or attempt to do anything, even though the thing was not actually done” (1898, p. 821). To illustrate, in discussing the Israelites, Deuteronomy 28:68 states: “Ye shall be sold (i.e., put up for sale) unto your enemies…and no man shall buy you.” The translators of the New King James Version recognized the idiom and rendered the verse, “you shall be offered for sale.” The text clearly indicated that they would not be sold, because there would be no buyer, yet the Hebrew active verb for “sold” was used. In the New Testament, a clear example of this type of usage is found in 1 John 1:10, which states, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him [God—KB/DM] a liar.” No one can make God a liar, but the attempt to deny sin is the equivalent of attempting to make God a liar, which is rendered with an active verb as if it actually happened. Verbs, therefore, can have idiomatic usages that may convey something other than a strict, literal meaning.

With that in mind, Bullinger’s fourth list of idiomatic verbs deals with active verbs that “were used by the Hebrews to express, not the doing of the thing, but the permission of the thing which the agent is said to do” (p. 823, emp. in orig.). To illustrate, in commenting on Exodus 4:21, Bullinger stated: “ ‘I will harden his heart (i.e., I will permit or suffer his heart to be hardened), that he shall not let the people go.’ So in all the passages which speak of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. As is clear from the common use of the same Idiom in the following passages” (1968, p. 823). He then listed Jeremiah 4:10, “ ‘Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people’: i.e., thou hast suffered this People to be greatly deceived, by the false prophets….’ ” Ezekiel 14:9 is also given as an example of this type of usage: “ ‘If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet’: i.e., I have permitted him to deceive himself.” James MacKnight, in a lengthy section on biblical idioms, agrees with Bullinger’s assessment that in Hebrew active verbs can express permission and not direct action. This explanation unquestionably clarifies the question of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. When the text says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, it means that God would permit or allow Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened.

A second equally legitimate explanation for the Exodus text is that the allusions to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart are a form of figurative speech, very closely associated with metaphor, known as “metonymy,” where one name or word is employed for another. For example, when we speak of “reading Shakespeare,” we mean that we read his writings or plays. God hardening Pharaoh’s heart would be “metonymy of the subject,” that is, the subject is announced, while some property or circumstance belonging to it is meant. Specifically, under this form of the figure, “[a]n action is sometimes said to have been accomplished, when all that is meant by it is that an occasion was given” (Dungan, 1888, p. 287; cf. Bullinger, 1898, p. 570).

The Bible is replete with examples that illustrate this figure of speech. John reported that “Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John” (John 4:1). In reality, Jesus did not personally baptize anyone (John 4:2). But His teaching and influence caused it to be done. Jesus, the subject, is mentioned, but it is the circumstance of His influence that is intended. His teaching was responsible for people being baptized. Repeatedly in the book of 1 Kings, various kings of Israel are said to have “walked in the way of Jeroboam…who had made Israel sin” (e.g., 1 Kings 16:19,26; 22:52). But Jeroboam did not force either his contemporaries or his successors to sin. Rather, he set an example that they chose to follow. Judas was said to have purchased a field with the money he obtained by betraying Christ (Acts 1:18). But, in reality, he returned the money to the chief priests and then hung himself. The blood money was then used to purchase the field (Matthew 27:5-7). By metonymy of the subject, Judas was said to have done that which his action occasioned. Paul warned Roman Christians: “Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15). What he meant was that they should not set an example that lures weaker brothers into doing what they consider to be wrong. Paul told Corinthian Christians that they were in a position to “save” their unbelieving spouses (1 Corinthians 7:16). He told Timothy that he was in a position to “save” those who listened to his teaching (1 Timothy 4:16). In both cases, Paul meant that proper teaching and a proper example could influence the recipients to obey God’s will for their lives.
Another instance of metonymy of the subject, closely aligned with the example of Pharaoh in Exodus, is the occasion of the conversion of Lydia, the businesswoman from Thyatira. The text states that the “Lord opened her heart” (Acts 16:14). However, the specific means by which God achieved this action was the preaching of Paul. God’s Word, spoken through Paul, created within her a receptive and responsive mind. In like fashion, Jesus is said to have preached to Gentiles as well as to the antediluvian population of Noah’s day (Ephesians 2:17; 1 Peter 3:19). Of course, Jesus did neither—directly. Rather, He operated through agents—through Paul in the first case and through Noah in the latter. Similarly, Nathan accused king David: “You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Samuel 12:9). In reality, David sent a letter to his general ordering him to arrange battle positions where Uriah would be more vulnerable to enemy fire. On the basis of metonymy of the subject, David, the subject, is said to have done something that, in actuality, he simply arranged for others to do.

In the case of Pharaoh, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” in the sense that God provided the circumstances and the occasion for Pharaoh to be forced to make a decision. God sent Moses to place His demands before Pharaoh. Moses merely announced God’s instructions. God even accompanied His Word with miracles—to confirm the divine origin of the message (cf. Mark 16:20). Pharaoh made up his own mind to resist God’s demands. Of his own accord, he stubbornly refused to comply. Of course, God provided the occasion for Pharaoh to demonstrate his unyielding attitude. If God had not sent Moses, Pharaoh would not have been faced with the dilemma of whether to release the Israelites. So God was certainly the instigator and initiator. But He was not the author of Pharaoh’s defiance.

Notice that in a very real sense, all four of the following statements are true: (1) God hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (2) Moses hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (3) the words that Moses spoke hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (4) Pharaoh hardened his own heart. All four of these observations are accurate, depicting the same truth from different perspectives. In this sense, God is responsible for everything in the Universe, i.e., He has provided the occasion, the circumstances, and the environment in which all things (including people) operate. But He is not guilty of wrong in so doing. From a quick look at a simple Hebrew idiom, it is clear that God did not unjustly or directly harden Pharaoh’s heart. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), He does not act unjustly (Psalms 33:5), and He has always allowed humans to exercise their free moral agency (Deuteronomy 30:19). God, however, does use the wrong, stubborn decisions committed by rebellious sinners to further His causes (Isaiah 10:5-11). In the case of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, God can be charged with no injustice, and the Bible can be charged with no contradiction. Humans were created with free moral agency and are culpable for their own actions.

REFERENCES

Bullinger, E.W. (1898), Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1968 reprint).
Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
Hobbs, Kendall (2003), “Why I Am No Longer a Christian: Ruminations on a Spiritual Journey out of and into the Material World,” [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/kendall_hobbs/no_longer.shtml.
MacKnight, James (1954 reprint), Apostolic Epistles (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Palmer, Edwin (1972), The Five Points of Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Wells, Steve (2001), Skeptic’s Annotated Bible, [On-line], URL: http://www.Skepticsannotatedbible.com>.

Who Can Baptize Another Person? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=766


Who Can Baptize Another Person?

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


When a person reads through the New Testament, he is struck by how much the 27 books have to say about water baptism. When the Jews on the Day of Pentecost asked Peter what they needed to do to be right with God, Peter told them to “repent and let every one of you be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). After Saul of Tarsus had spent three days praying and fasting, Ananias came to him and 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). Paul, in the book of Romans, explained that in the waters of baptism we come in contact with the death of Christ (Romans 6:3), and it is through that contact that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7). That is why Paul could write in Galatians, “for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). The importance of baptism in God’s plan of salvation is repeatedly stressed in the New Testament. [For a thorough dealing of this topic, see Lyons and Butt, n.d.]
After realizing the importance of baptism, many honest-hearted truth seekers have asked several sincere questions. One of those questions often is: “Who can baptize another person?” In recent months, we at Apologetics Press have been asked this question on several occasions. It is obvious that it is a question that springs from a genuine desire to be right with God. The place to go for the answer, of course, is the New Testament—the very place we learned about God-ordained baptism in the first place.
When we turn to the New Testament, we learn several things about the person doing the baptizing. The primary lesson learned is that the personal characteristics of the individual doing the baptizing have no bearing on the effectiveness of the baptism. In other words, it does not matter who does the baptizing, as long as the baptism is complete immersion in water (Romans 6:4; Acts 8:38), in the proper name (Matthew 28:19; Acts 19:1-9), and for the proper reason (Acts 2:38). In the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to a group of Christians that were dividing themselves into factions based on their favorite preachers. Some were saying they were of Paul, others of Cephas, others of Apollos, and others of Christ. Paul chastised them for claiming allegiance to any person other than Christ, and he stated: “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name…. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 1:14-17). Paul was not minimizing the importance of baptism in this text (see Lyons, 2003), he was minimizing the importance of the person who does the baptizing. He was not saying that baptism is not a part of God’s plan of salvation; he was saying that the person who does the baptizing does not make a difference. The effectiveness of the Corinthians’ baptism was not based on the characteristics of the person who baptized them, but was based on their baptism as it related to God’s overall plan of salvation.
In a similar passage in John 4:1-3, we read that “the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.” The next verse of the text states, “though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples.” If the characteristics of the one doing the baptizing were important, then Jesus would certainly have been involved in the actual baptizing process of all his disciples due to His perfect, sinless life. Yet what we see in these verses is that the effectiveness of the baptism of those in John 4 was not lessened or diminished because the apostles did the baptizing instead of Jesus.

DOES THE ONE BAPTIZING HAVE TO BE A CHRISTIAN MAN?

Some have looked into the New Testament and concluded that every instance of baptism in the New Testament is one in which a Christian man does the baptizing. Thus, they have concluded, that in order to be properly baptized, a person must be baptized by a man who is a Christian. The principle of following biblical examples and precedents is often an important key to determining biblical authority for certain actions, when explicit commands and other information have not been given. In this case, however, there is major problem with this approach. What if a person claimed to be a Christian, but was not, and baptized people while claiming to be a Christian? Would the fact that he was not a Christian negate the validity of the baptisms that he performed? Think through that scenario. Suppose a person was baptized by this charlatan. That person then went out and baptized 100 people who each baptized 100 people, who each baptized 100, etc. If the original person who was baptized by the fraudulent “Christian” later found out that the man was not a Christian, would that negate the baptism of all those who were subsequently baptized? Certainly not.
Furthermore, how “faithful” would a person need to be in order to be eligible to baptize people? It is most likely the case that many people were baptized by Judas Iscariot in John 4:1-3 when Jesus’ disciples were doing the baptizing. Did all those who were baptized by the “son of perdition” need to be re-baptized based on the traitorous character of Judas? No. The truth of the matter is, it would be virtually, if not actually, impossible to verify the “saved” status of all those across the globe who have baptized or will baptize people. Fortunately, the characteristics of the one doing the baptizing have no bearing on the legitimacy of the baptism. When Paul instructed the 12 men in Acts 19:1-9 to be re-baptized, he did not ask them who baptized them, or what were the characteristics of the person who baptized them. He asked them about their baptism, not their baptizer.
In addition, some have gone so far as to say that the person who baptizes another person must have some type of “official” status in the church as a “pastor” or “ordained” minister. When we look into the New Testament, however, we do not see any such stipulation. In fact, the episode of Saul of Tarsus’ conversion offers some pertinent insight into this question. After Saul had seen the Lord on the Road to Damascus, he was instructed to go into the city and wait for a person named Ananias to come to him. In the texts of the narrative, there is no indication that Ananias held any type of official leadership position in the church. The text says he was “a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews” (Acts 22:16), but there is no reference that he was an elder, a deacon, and certainly not an apostle. The suggestion that only an “official” of the church can baptize falls prey to the same fallacy inherent in the idea that only a Christian man can baptize.

CAN A WOMAN BAPTIZE?

The New Testament makes a clear distinction between the roles of men and women in the Lord’s Church (see Miller, 2005). [NOTE: It is important to understand that different gender roles in no way imply a different status or value, see Butt, 2011.] Based on that distinction, some have wondered if women are permitted to baptize, since the Bible teaches that men are to be the public teachers and elders in the church. In addition, it is the case that every example we have in the New Testament of a person being baptized has a male doing the baptizing. Does that mean that a woman cannot baptize, or that a baptism that might be performed by a woman would be nullified?
If we are correct that the characteristics of the baptizer do not matter (as we have shown from previous biblical passages), then we must conclude that the gender of the person would not matter either. One can easily envision a scenario in which a non-Christian couple, that might be geographically isolated from others, studies the Bible and learn the importance of contacting Jesus’ blood through water baptism. Upon learning this, they immediately want to be baptized, but there is no Christian man available to perform the baptism. Could they baptize each other? Yes, they could. In fact, not too long ago, a sincere couple contacted our office with that very question. They had been members of what they called “faith only” churches all their lives. When they realized the importance of baptism, they approached several of their religious friends, none of whom were Christians. Since they could find no one to baptize them, they wrote us asking if the Bible permits such a couple to baptize each other. We explained just what has been explained in this article, that the characteristics of the baptizer do not matter, and that such reciprocal baptism would be permissible. We did, however, advise them to find a body of the Lord’s church nearby and begin to assemble and work with the church. In addition, suppose that a group of women, in which no men were available, wanted to become Christians. Would it be permissible for them to baptize each other? Yes, it would.
What do we do with the idea that all the baptisms that are recorded in the New Testament were performed by men? When looking to the New Testament for approved examples, we must be sure that we do not carry the example farther than it is intended to be taken. We do not want to bind where God has not bound. For instance, the apostles met in an upper room to partake of the Lord’s Supper with Jesus, and Paul in an upper room in Troas in Acts 20. Does that mean that we need to eat the Lord’s Supper and preach in upper rooms? No. Those were incidental details that surrounded the relevant example of eating the Lord’s Supper and preaching (see Warren, 1975). As this idea relates to baptism, the examples in the Bible show us (among other things) that (1) immersion is the “mode” of baptism, (2) a believing person is the candidate for baptism, and (3) the remission of sins to contact the blood of Christ is the reason for baptism. But the examples are not given in an attempt to dictate every aspect of baptism. For instance, there is no case in which a person was baptized in a heated baptistery in a church building. Does that mean that those who are baptized in such a way have been “unscripturally” baptized? No, it simply means that the aspects of baptism that are different from the examples in the New Testament can been shown through proper study of the New Testament to be irrelevant. Again, every person in the New Testament who is recorded to have baptized a person was a Jewish male. Does that mean that only Jewish men can perform scriptural baptisms? No, the fact that they were Jewish was incidental and irrelevant to the purpose and effectiveness of the baptisms they performed. The gender of the baptizer has nothing to do with God’s recognition of a scriptural baptism.

All Things Are Lawful, But All Things are Not Helpful

In 1 Corinthians 10:23, the apostle Paul stated: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.” Paul did not mean that things like sexual immorality were lawful for him (1 Corinthians 9:21). He meant that there were (and are) some things, like eating meat that was offered to idols, that were lawful to a Christian, but even though such things might be lawful, there may be other circumstances to consider that would be reasons not to engage in the practice. In the context, Paul says that since an idol is not really a “god,” but is merely a stone or clump of metal, then any food offered to such a thing is not in some way spiritually contaminated. He concludes that if we know that an idol is nothing, then eating meat offered to a clump of wood or stone has no spiritual significance. Thus, it is “lawful” for a Christian to eat meat offered to idols. He qualifies that statement, however, by saying that some people in Corinth did not understand that idols were not really spiritual powers. These Christians still believed that such food was contaminated. Thus, it could be the case that a Christian who knew eating meat offered to idols was lawful might cause a weaker, less knowledgeable Christian to stumble. Paul then concluded that, even though eating meat offered to idols is technically “lawful,” under certain circumstances it would not be the most “helpful” or wisest course of action.
This passage relates to our baptism discussion in the following way. In the previous sections, we discussed the fact that there is nothing inherently wrong with the scenario in which those who are not Christians baptize people. We also saw that it would be permissible under certain circumstances for a woman to baptize. But we need to ask ourselves if the practical application of these ideas would, under normal circumstances, be helpful. It seems that the best-case scenario, which would be the wisest course of action, would be that those who baptize others are Christian men. Here are a few reasons why. First, if a person was baptized by a non-Christian, he or she might not have thought through the fact that the qualities of the baptizer do not matter, and he or she might later question the effectiveness of the baptism and be filled with internal doubt about the situation. Second, those who are not Christians viewed the baptism might misunderstand and think that baptism is not associated with God’s plan of salvation and can be done for any reason in any way.
Third, women baptizing could lead some to have a misunderstanding about the woman’s role in the church. While it is true that nothing technically precludes the possibility of a woman performing a scriptural baptism, that could easily lead to the scenario in which those who were viewing the baptism, or who hear of it, might think that performing a baptism indicates a public leadership position in the church.
Paul, through inspiration, wrote, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12). His statement was designed to instruct the church that positions of authority and public teaching positions in assemblies were to be filled by men (Miller, 2005). Sometimes a position of “authority” might be different in one culture than in another. For instance, in the Corinthian church, some women were engaging in acts of worship with their heads uncovered (1 Corinthians 11:1-16). This was a sign in that culture that the women were not under the authority of the men. Thus, Paul explained to them that in their culture, in order to show proper respect for the authority of male leadership in the church, those women should cover their heads (or otherwise go to the logical extreme by shaving their head, since doing so was viewed as a cultural sign of prostitution). The women should not flout the culturally understood modes of showing submission (Moore, 1998). Applying this principle to baptism, then, we would need to assess whether our culture perceives the act of baptizing a person as an action to be performed by the leadership of the church. If we conclude that baptizing is viewed as something done by those in a leadership position, as is often the case with baptisms in mixed church assemblies in the United States, then we would conclude that it should be done by Christian men. If no Christian men are present, however, a woman could perform a baptism and it would not be usurping authority over a man, since none were available.

CONCLUSION

From our study, we have looked briefly at the importance of baptism in God’s plan of salvation. We have seen that while there are certain vital aspects of baptism that must be maintained, there are other aspects of the process that are incidental and irrelevant. By analyzing several passages, we have seen that the personal qualities of the baptizer do not alter or affect the effectiveness of the baptism. The truth of this fact is understood from the biblical passages, as well as from the ridiculous nature of the situations that would occur if a person faked being a Christian and baptized others. From this conclusion, it has been established that, technically speaking, both non-Christians and women can baptize. Looking at the principle of the most “helpful” or “wise” scenario, however, leads us to conclude that under some circumstances, it is wise to have a faithful Christian man baptize a person into Christ, especially in cultures in which the person performing a baptism would be viewed as having some type of authority position. 

REFERENCES

Butt, Kyle (2011), “The Biblical View of Women,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=944.
Lyons, Eric and Kyle Butt (no date), Receiving the Gift of Salvation, Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/Receiving%20the%20Gift%20of%20Salvation.pdf.
Lyons, Eric (2003), “The Bible’s Teaching on Baptism: Contradictory or Complimentary?” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=806.
Miller, Dave (2005), “Female Leadership in the Church,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1407.
Moore, Kevin (1998), We Have No Such Custom: A Critical Analysis of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (New Delhi, India: Print India).
Warren, Thomas (1975), When Is an Example Binding? (Moore, OK: National Christian Press).

Who Believes in Hell Anymore? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1204


Who Believes in Hell Anymore?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


A Harris poll found that while 89% of Americans believe in heaven, only 73% believe in hell (Taylor, 1998). However, even this figure is misleading, since people differ in how they define “hell.” When defined as an actual location—a place of actual torment where people will be sent—only three in ten adults (31%) believe in hell (“Beliefs,” 1996). Most Americans believe that Satan is merely a symbol for evil. Only 27% strongly believe that Satan is real (“Religious Beliefs,” 2001).
American culture has sustained a steady assault from humanistic philosophy for several decades now. This constant bombardment of irreligious values has clearly taken its toll. In school, children have been fed a steady diet of atheistic evolution which holds that human beings owe their ultimate origin to rocks, dirt, and the chance forces of nature. Television sets have surely served as a principal medium through which the moral framework has been undermined and seriously eroded. Consequently, many previously unacceptable behaviors are on the increase in society—behaviors that are far more acceptable to the American people than they ever have been in the past.

These behaviors include such things as divorce, homosexuality, premarital sex, and gambling. The use of foul language is prevalent. The average person uses God’s name in vain. Such profanity is very commonplace—especially on television and in the movies. Fundamental values like honesty have given way to dishonesty in the form of lying, cheating, and deception. Americans now pretty much expect their politicians to lie. Pornography has spread across the land through so-called “adult” bookstores, cable channels, magazines, and the Internet. Satanism, astrology, spiritualism, the occult, and New Age religion are on the increase. More and more people are embracing Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and belief in reincarnation. The courts are literally clogged because of skyrocketing crime rates, and due to the fact that more and more people are retaliating and suing one another. America is no longer a country dominated by church-going peoples—as she was for the first 150 years of her national existence. Where once, Americans were characterized as people who strongly sought freedom for Bible religion, America is more nearly seen today as a culture that strives for freedom from religion. Indeed, forces have been working to eradicate God and the Christian religion from the American way of life.

Despite the fact that Americans in general, and Christians in particular, have many things for which to be thankful, and despite the fact that things usually are not as bad as they seem, nevertheless, much evidence exists to draw the conclusion that American society has become increasingly hedonistic, anti-Christian, and out of harmony with Bible principles. In fact, in many circles in this country the Bible is not even considered to be the verbally inspired Word of God—less than half of all adults (41%) believe the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches (“Religious Beliefs,” 2001). Indeed, American civilization is deteriorating. The moral, spiritual, and religious foundation of American society—this great nation—is disintegrating.

But there is an antidote, and there is only one antidote. The nation is in desperate need of returning to the Bible—the written instructions of the one God—and to the transcendent Creator of the Universe. The nation must go back to the Bible, back to those life-giving guidelines that will make a nation strong. Only the words of God are capable of sustaining a nation, and getting its citizens through this life in such a way that they will be prepared for life beyond the grave. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
God’s words can change a person’s (or a nation’s) life by generating faith, obedience, and contentment in this life. Those words of God teach that sin is violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4). Sin is the only intrinsic evil in the world today. People cannot sin against God, and yet expect to be acceptable to Him. Sin, once committed, must be forgiven. But sin can be forgiven only under certain conditions that God, Himself, has specified in the Bible. If a person sins against God by violating His written revelation, and then leaves this life in an unforgiven condition, that person will be punished. Those are the facts of the matter. The Bible clearly teaches that those who leave this life with their sins unforgiven will spend eternity in hell. You cannot believe in heaven—and not believe in hell. The same Bible that teaches there is a heaven, also teaches there is a hell.

Many verses in the Bible verify this fact. Jesus said, “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5). Jesus Christ believed in hell! He warned about violating God’s will, and leaving this life unforgiven (i.e., spiritually unprepared), so that one is required to spend eternity separated from God in hell. Jesus further said: “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and will come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28).

In referring to the end of life on Earth, He declared: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31). Referring to the disobedient, Jesus explained: “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ ” (vs. 41). Earlier in the same chapter He had said concerning the lost, “and cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vs. 30). He concluded the chapter by saying, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (vs. 46). To be consistent, a person cannot believe in eternal life, and notbelieve in eternal punishment. The same Greek word is used in the same verse to describe both of those realms. Just as existence with God after this life is over will be forever or eternal, so separation from God due to disobedience in this life will result in eternal punishment.

Consider another profound, even startling, statement made by Jesus: “[I]f your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire” (Matthew 18:9). Jesus was not teaching that people should mutilate their bodies. He was simply stressing the fact that whatever it takes for a person to be obedient to God in this life—to be conformed to His will, to resist the forces of temptation that try to lure one into their grasp—whatever it takes to be faithful to God, is worth the sacrifice so that the person might enter into eternity qualified to live with God forever, rather than to spend eternity in the fires of hell.
On one occasion, Jesus addressed Himself to the religious leaders of His day. These were religious men, and yet Jesus said to them, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” (Matthew 23:33). That was a rhetorical question. Jesus was saying they were so wicked, they were so evil, they were so out of step with God’s will in this life, that He saw no way for them to leave this life without facing condemnation in hell. He also noted: “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42). How can a person possibly listen to those words, spoken by Jesus Christ Himself, and yet say hell does not exist?
The apostle Paul described the fate of those who live out of harmony with God’s will when he spoke of those “who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). He then stated, “but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil” (Romans 2:8).

In Revelation 20:15, we find this declaration: “[A]nyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” John further recorded: “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone” (Revelation 21:8). There will be a hell. There will be eternal punishment for those who leave this life, having sinned against God, having violated His will, and having failed to receive forgiveness for those sins in the appointed way. Hence, it is imperative to know how to be forgiven.

How is forgiveness attained? The Bible answer to that question is—only through Christ. He is the Savior of all those who truly want to be saved. He is the only one who could atone for human sin and provide the antidote. The New Testament gives definitive teaching on how to be saved initially (in order to become a Christian), and how to maintain that saved status.

Jesus said, “[I]f you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). So the number one prerequisite to being saved and acceptable to God is to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus further said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 17:6). Those are Jesus’ own words. His apostles declared: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). These passages teach that Jesus Christ is the only avenue through Whom a person might be saved. A person must believe in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His Word. The writer of Hebrews wrote: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6). Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). So the New Testament teaches that the first thing a person must do to be acceptable to God, and to avoid hell, is to believe in Jesus Christ by trusting in His Word. Faith comes by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17).

But, second, a person must repent of his or her sin. Jesus said, “but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5). The biblical doctrine of repentance means that, having come to a belief in Christ and His Word, the individual must change his mind about his past conduct, and his previous erroneous viewpoints. He must put those things behind him, changing his mind in order to bring his thinking into harmony with the Word of God.

Third, the New Testament teaches that a person must confess the deity of Jesus. Paul wrote that “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
So a person must believe in Jesus Christ and His Word, turn from sin by changing the mind about that sin, and then confess the Lordship and deity of Christ with the mouth. But then the New Testament teaches that a person must be immersed in water in order to contact the blood of Christ and be forgiven of sin. Jesus, Himself, said, “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). What does it mean to be “born of water and the Spirit”? It means to be immersed in water according to the instructions given by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 5:26).
Many other passages make this point clear. For instance, Paul told the Galatian Christians: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (3:27). That is, a person is clothed with Christ in the action of water baptism. Peter said, “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). So water immersion is the point at which a person is saved by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No wonder Ananias said to Saul, “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).

To summarize, these Scriptures teach that in order to become a Christian, a person must hear the word, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. When that person rises from the waters of baptism, he stands cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ. That person is now a Christian. After becoming a Christian, however, the individual is not given a guarantee that he automatically will be accepted in eternity. It depends upon whether he continues to live faithfully (Revelation 2:10). To remain saved, a person must live the Christian life faithfully, and take advantage of the means by which he may continue to be forgiven of sin. Living the Christian life faithfully includes frequent study of the Word of God in order to know how to live the Christian life, and to receive motivation to comply. When the Christian sins, he must repent of that sin, confess it, and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9; James 5:20). In this fashion, the Christian may continue to be forgiven by the blood of Jesus while living the Christian life.

Make no mistake. A person dares not leave this life unforgiven and unprepared. The only hope is to commit to Jesus, and be obedient to God in this life. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11). “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). After all, “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). And, “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Is there a hell? Absolutely! The Bible teaches the existence of hell as certainly as it teaches the existence of heaven, God, and Christ. Hell may be summarized as everlasting fire, everlasting punishment, everlasting destruction, outer darkness, damnation, hell fire, and a lake of fire. If a person believes the Bible, or believes in Jesus Christ, or believes in God—he or she must believe in hell.

While perhaps hell may not be the best or the most mature motivation for loving God and for living faithfully to Him, fear of hell certainly is a legitimate reason, and a valid scriptural motive for causing a person to contemplate his conduct in this life, in order to be prepared to leave this life in good graces with God. The reader is urged to bring his or her life into compliance with the God of heaven by believing in His Son, repenting of past sins, confessing the name of Christ, and being immersed in water for the remission of those sins.

REFERENCES

“Beliefs: Heaven and Hell” (1996), Barna Research Online, [On-line], URL: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PageCategory.asp?CategoryID=3.
“Religious Beliefs Vary Widely by Denomination” (2001), Barna Research Online, [On-line], URL: http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=92&Reference=A.
Taylor, Humphrey (1998), “Large Majority of People Believe They Will Go to Heaven,” [On-line], URL>: http://www.harrisinteractive.com/harris_poll/index.asp?PID=167.

Why? by EE Healy

http://www.eehealy.com/commentary/page2.shtml

Why?

In the news we see the images of hurt, anger, and death. Questions asking why is it so are all around. We see before us the death of people at the hands of another all around the world. It hits home in a more forceful way when we see children killing children.
Some are quick to blame others. Some are quick to give a solution. Some say it is because people are sick. Some want to restrict this or that. The survivors are always ready to tell what should have been or needs to be done now. But, one sad factor in all the hurt is that mankind has learned to have a nature that values life as cheap and instant, in this "progressive society."
We have been conditioned to accept anything as "alright" as long as we are happy and our needs, goals, desires are made full. Sadly we see that evil is good and desired in order to satisfy our self. Good becomes that which gets in the way of what we want and therefore it now becomes evil. The idea of a universal truth, standard or code of conduct becomes a restriction to reject.
This role reversal or change in values is portrayed in many different parts of the human life and society.
Why? Simply and yet not so simple, it is because we as humans have become lovers of self and not of our creator. We have rejected the very idea of God in one form or another. In so doing rejecting godly qualities of any kind. Without these qualities we are left with the imperfection and rejection of what is right or wrong based upon any standard including the Word of God.
Even in the midst of this anger and hatred towards each other man can see the truth and receive hope. The first step is to recognize that living a life without truth, love and the Creator is nothing more than living unto death.
All humanity must reject the path of anger and the lies of self-satisfaction. All of humanity must repent and turn to the light of truth and love. We have this truth and love revealed in what is called the BIBLE. Our choice is clear, turn from what we are doing to our neighbors and ourselves and turn to a common, eternal standard.

Yet still, many will reject the very idea of a creator, love or even truth. In so doing many will seal their fate as death, destruction and despair. In all this we continue to ask, Why? We hear no answer because we had rejected the truth about ourselves and thus die in the lie.