"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Baptism Of Jesus (3:13-17) by Mark Copeland

                        "THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW"

                     The Baptism Of Jesus (3:13-17)


1. The baptism of Jesus by John served a significant role in both of their ministries...
   a. It came at the height of John's ministry, after which his began to decline
   b. It served as the beginning of Jesus' ministry, which soon overtook the ministry of John

2. The baptism of Jesus naturally raises some questions...
   a. Why was He baptized?
   b. Does it suggest an explanation of the purpose for Christian baptism?

[In this study we shall endeavor to answer these questions, first by
reviewing the historical record concerning Jesus' baptism...]


      1. From Galilee to the Jordan River - Mt 3:13a
         a. Jesus had been living in Nazareth, a city of Galilee - Mt 2:23
         b. John had been baptizing in the Jordan River, where there was much water - Mt 3:5-6; Jn 3:23
      2. To be baptized by John - Mt 3:13b

      1. John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized - Mt 3:14a
      2. He explains why:  "I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to Me?" - Mt 3:14b
         a. There is a sense of shock in John's words
         b. While John did not fully comprehend who Jesus was until
            later (cf. Jn 1:29-33), he evidently knew enough that he was perplexed

      1. Jesus convinces John to permit His baptism - Mt 3:15a
      2. As Jesus explains why:  "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."
      3. And so Jesus is baptized by John - Mt 3:15b

      1. The heavens open, and the Spirit of God descends like a dove
         (in bodily form, Lk 3:22) and lights upon Jesus - Mt 3:16
      2. A voice from heaven proclaims:
         a. "This is My beloved Son"
         b. "In whom I am well pleased"

[Without question, the baptism of Jesus was a significant event!  It
naturally raises several questions which I will try to answer...]


      1. Clearly not for the same reason other people were being baptized by John
         a. Theirs was a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins - cf. Mk 1:4
         b. They were confessing their sins - cf. Mk 1:5; Mt 3:6 -- Jesus was without sin - He 4:15
      2. Jesus said it was "to fulfill all righteousness" - Mt 3:15
         a. It was God's counsel that people be baptized of John - cf. Lk 7:29-30
         b. Jesus was willing to set the right example by doing the
            Father's will, something He delighted to do - Ps 40:7-8;Jn 4:34; 8:29
      3. It also served to introduce Him to John and Israel
         a. John had been proclaiming that He was coming - Mt 3:11
         b. John had been told that the Spirit coming upon Jesus would be a sign - Jn 1:29-34

      1. Many refer to Jesus' baptism to explain the purpose of Christian baptism
         a. That our baptism has nothing to do with the remission of sins
         b. That our baptism is but a public profession of one's faith
         c. That our baptism is to publicly identify our relation to
            Christ, just as His baptism publicly introduced Him to Israel
      2. However, there is no Biblical connection made between Jesus' baptism and our own
         a. Christian baptism is for the remission of sins - Ac 2:38; 22:16
         b. Christian baptism is a union with Christ in His death- Ro 6:3-7
         c. Christian baptism was often administered in relative privacy - Ac 8:35-38; 16:25-34
      -- No Biblical writer suggests that we are baptized for the same reason Jesus was!

      1. They certainly bear testimony as to who Jesus is
         a. As the Spirit would do later, via the works Jesus did- Mt 12:28
         b. As the Father would do later, on another occasion - Mt 17:5
      2. They also bear testimony to the nature of the Godhead
         a. I.e., three distinct persons in One God
         b. Though One in substance, there is a distinction to be made
            between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - cf. Mt 28:19


1. With the baptism of Jesus...
   a. He was formally introduced to John, and by him to Israel - Jn 1:29-34
   b. The Father and the Spirit audibly and visually confirmed Him as the Son
   c. Jesus demonstrated His desire to "fulfill all righteousness"

2. The baptism of Jesus is certainly significant to Christians...
   a. Not we were baptized for the same reason as He
   b. But certainly in confirming that He was the Messiah
   c. And displaying the attitude that should be true of all His
      disciples ("I have come to do my Father's will...")

Jesus did not "need" baptism because He was without sin, but was
baptized anyway because it was the Father's will for man at that time.

Should we who are sinners dare hesitate to do the Father's will
regarding baptism today? - Mt 28:18-20; Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38 

Faithfully Teaching the Faith by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Faithfully Teaching the Faith

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

On certain occasions, when matters of a spiritual nature are under discussion, it is not uncommon to hear someone suggest that they adhere to, or someone they know adheres to, a religion that is “better felt than told.” The thrust of such a statement, of course, is that it is not the teaching within the person’s religion that is of ultimate importance, but instead the individual’s personal feelings and emotional commitment.
While this sentiment may represent a correct assessment of the religion of some, it never has been true in regard to the biblical view of faith. This is not to imply, of course, that those who trust and obey God exhibit a faith that is void of emotion, or that somehow they are less committed to their belief system than adherents of other religions. Certainly, faith in the God of the Bible always has involved both personal feelings and emotional commitment (Matthew 22:37). To suggest otherwise would be to rob man of his free moral agency, his innate right to accept or reject heaven’s gracious offer of salvation, and his ability to delight in having made the correct choice.
What sets biblical faith apart from the beliefs of some other religions, however, is that instead of being rooted solely in an appeal to the emotions, it is rooted in an appeal to both the emotions and the intellect. In other words, biblical faith addresses both the heart and the mind; it is not just felt, but learned as well. This always has been the case. From the moment of man’s creation, God sought to teach him how to make correct choices that would keep him in, or return him to, a covenant relationship with his Creator. Thus, as soon as man was placed in the lovely Garden of Eden, God gave the instructions necessary for man’s temporal and spiritual well-being (Genesis 1:28; 2:16-17). From that moment forward, God actively taught man how to build, and maintain, a proper relationship with his heavenly Father. This is evident within the pages of both the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament, for example, is filled with numerous instances of God’s providing people with the instructions that would prompt them to serve Him with their hearts as well as with their intellects. During the Patriarchal Age, God spoke directly to the renowned men of old, and conveyed to them the commandments intended to regulate their daily lives, as well as their worship of Him. The apostle Paul, alluding to the Gentiles, spoke of those who had the law “written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Romans 2:15).
Later, during the Mosaical Age, God’s instructions were given to the Hebrews in written form so that as they grew numerically, they also would possess the ability to grow spiritually. Jewish parents were instructed to teach God’s Word to their children on a continuing basis (see Deuteronomy 4:10; 6:7-9; 11:18-25). Eventually, when national and spiritual reform was needed, God provided numerous kings and prophets to perform this important task (see 2 Kings 23:1-3; 2 Chronicles 7:7-9). It is said of the Old Testament prophet Ezra that he “had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances” (Ezra 7:10, emp. added). Nehemiah 8:7-8 records that Ezra “caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place, and they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and they gave the sense, so that they understood the reading” (emp. added).
It is clear from such passages that during Old Testament times God placed a premium on knowing, understanding, obeying, and teaching His commandments. The golden thread that runs from Genesis through Malachi—the urgent message that the Savior was coming—could not be expressed through emotion alone; the intellect had to be involved as well. It was not enough for God’s people merely to “feel” the message; it had to be taught so they could understand it, realize its importance to their ultimate salvation, and preserve it for generations yet unborn, to whom it also would be taught.
Similarly, the New Testament stresses the critical nature of teaching. In the first century A.D., the message no longer was “the Savior is coming”; rather, the message was “the Savior has come.” Once Jesus began His public ministry, teaching His disciples (and others whom He encountered on almost a daily basis) became His primary task. While it is true that today we look upon Him as a miracle-worker, prophet, and preacher, He was foremost a teacher. Throughout Galilee, Samaria and Judea, Jesus taught in synagogues, boats, temples, streets, marketplaces, and gardens. He taught on plains, trails, and mountainsides—wherever people were. And He taught as One possessing authority. After hearing His discourses, the only thing the people who heard Him could say was, “Never man so spake” (John 7:46).
The teaching did not stop when Christ returned to heaven. He had trained others—apostles and disciples—to continue the task He had begun. They were sent to the uttermost parts of the Earth with the mandate to proclaim the “good news” through preaching and teaching (Matthew 28:18-20). This they did daily (Acts 5:42). The result was additional disciples, who then were rooted and grounded in the fundamentals of God’s Word (Acts 2:42) so they could teach others. In a single day, in a single city, over 3,000 people became Christians as a result of such teaching (Acts 2:41).
In fact, so effective was this kind of instruction that Christianity’s bitterest enemies desperately tried to prohibit any further public teaching (Acts 4:18; 5:28), yet to no avail. Christianity’s message, and the unwavering dedication of those into whose hands it had been placed, were too powerful for even its most formidable foes to abate or defeat. Twenty centuries later, the central theme of the Cross still is vibrant and forceful. But will that continue to be the case if those given the sobering task of teaching the Gospel act irresponsibly and alter its content, or use fraudulent means to present it? The simple fact is—Christianity’s success today, just as in the first century, is dependent on the dedication, and honesty, of those to whom the Truth has been entrusted.


God has placed the Gospel plan of salvation into the hands of men and women who have been instructed to teach it so that all who hear it might have the opportunity to obey it, and be saved. The apostle Paul commented on this when he wrote: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves” (2 Corinthians 4:7). The thrust of the apostle’s statement in this particular passage was that the responsibility of taking the Gospel to a lost and dying world ultimately has been given to mortal men.
But the power is not in the men; rather, it is in the message! This, no doubt, accounts for the instructions Paul sent to Timothy in his second epistle when he urged the young evangelist to “give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, emp. added). In addressing this point, Wayne Jackson has written:
The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that Christians are to proclaim the gospel of God in a loving and positive way. We are to expose every rational creature to the good news regarding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. We should assume that each person we encounter is an honest soul until he or she demonstrates that such is not the case. Like the Lord, our mission is to seek those who are lost.... In our defense of the faith, however, we must maintain the highest level of integrity. Our argumentation must be honest and it must be sound. Any person who knowingly employs a fallacious argument in defense of some biblical truth is unworthy of the name of Christ. Truth does not need the support of misapplied scripture and invalid reasoning. It can stand on its own. There are occasions, though, when sincere people, who are honestly attempting to defend a biblical truth, unknowingly employ unsound argumentation in the process. Perhaps many of us have discovered, in retrospect, that we have made these sorts of mistakes. When such is the case, we will resolve to never repeat them—no matter how flashy or impressive the argument appears to be. Virtue demands that we attempt to prove our position correctly (1990, 26[1]:1).
Considering the fact that we, as God’s “earthen vessels,” have been made the instruments through which God offers to a lost and dying world reconciliation through His Son (John 3:16), the apostle’s admonition is well taken. Surely it behooves us to “handle aright” so precious a commodity as the Word of God. The salvation of our own souls, and the souls of those we instruct, depends on the accuracy of the message.

The Unintentional Teaching of Error

Two kinds of erroneous teaching are under discussion in the above assessment. Error can result when a person inadvertently teaches something that is incorrect. The mistake is accidental and unintentional; the teacher means well, and is sincere, but is wrong. The New Testament itself records just such an incident.
In Acts 18, the story is related about Apollos, a Jew who was “fervent in spirit” and who “spake and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 18:25). However, when Apollos traveled to Ephesus, and began speaking “boldly in the synagogue,” Aquila and Priscilla heard him and realized that he still was advocating the baptism of John the Baptist as it looked forward to the coming of Christ (see Acts 18:25-26). That baptism, of course, no longer was valid, having been supplanted by the baptism commemorating Christ’s death and burial. Certainly, Apollos was sincere, but he was wrong. Aquila and Priscilla “took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).
When his error was pointed out, he corrected it and subsequently continued with his preaching and teaching about Christ—apparently with much success, since, upon his arrival in Achaia, “the brethren encouraged him; and wrote to the disciples to receive him, and when he was come, he helped them much..., for he powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 18:27-28). Apollos was a good teacher. Nevertheless, he taught error. When he was shown his mistake, however, he possessed an attitude of humility, and a love for the Truth, that caused him to make the necessary correction. In so doing, he set a wonderful example for all who would be teachers of God’s Word.
Many of us who teach have found ourselves in a situation akin to that of Apollos. In our earnest attempt to spread the Gospel, enlarge the borders of the kingdom, or defend the faith, we inadvertently made a mistake, and taught error. When our mistake was made known to us, we corrected it, learned from it, and determined not to repeat it—consistent with the example set by Apollos. Does the fact that we erred necessarily, then, make us a false teacher? In addressing the question, “Is everyone who makes mistakes a false teacher?,” Steve Gibson has suggested:
No, a person receives a label when a certain behavior becomes characteristic of him. A preacher, for example, is one who preaches; a teacher is one who teaches; a criminal is one who commits crime. But not everyone who has ever delivered a sermon deserves to be called a preacher; not everyone who has ever violated a traffic law deserves to be called a criminal. Regardless of its content, a label should be reserved for those distinguished by the corresponding behavior (1990, 10[11/12]:18).
The discussion here is not intended to center on dedicated teachers who, on occasion, make (and correct) an inadvertent error as they attempt to instruct someone regarding the Gospel. Rather, it has to do with those who teach error purposely.

The Intentional Teaching of Error

Error can also result when a person intentionally teaches something he knows to be wrong. The Old Testament provides an intriguing example of this very thing. In 1 Kings 13, the story is told of an unnamed young prophet whom God sent to deliver a message to king Jeroboam. God commanded the prophet: “Thou shalt eat no bread, nor drink water, neither return by the same way that thou camest” (13:9). Yet an older, lying prophet met the younger prophet and said: “I also am a prophet as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of Jehovah, saying, ‘Bring him back with thee into thy house that he may eat bread and drink water’ ” (13:18). The young prophet accepted at face value the older prophet’s instruction—false though it was—and on his return trip home was slain by a lion in punishment for his disobedience (13:24). The young prophet fell victim to teaching that had been presented to him intentionally by one who knew it was false. The result was the wrath of God and the loss of the young prophet’s life.
Wayne Jackson, in the quotation above, suggested that “we should assume that each person we encounter is an honest soul until he or she demonstrates that such is not the case.” That is good advice, and is in keeping with the apostle Paul’s discussion of the concept of Christian charity that “beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). As difficult as it is for most of us to believe, however, the sad truth of the matter is that some people simply are not completely honest in their dealings. On occasion, this manifests itself even among those who profess to be Christians, and who claim that their intention is to convert the lost. The justification usually offered for the deliberate misrepresentation of the Truth (even if it is not actually verbalized) is the idea that the end justifies the means. Some apparently feel that employing just the truth of the matter will not impress people sufficiently to make them want to obey God’s Word. Thus, the teaching is altered, and falsehood results.
While it may make the task of reaching the lost easier, and may swell the church roll temporarily, what good ultimately results from the teaching of such falsehood? Can we (legitimately) convert the lost through the intentional teaching of error? Can one be taught wrongly and obey correctly? The intentional teaching of error may comfort where truth offends. The person living in an adulterous marriage can be told that the marriage is acceptable to God. The person who believes that God created the Universe and populated the Earth via the process of organic evolution can be told that such a view is correct. And so on.
In the end, however, three things have occurred. First, as a result of having been taught error, the sinner may not be truly converted. Second, the church has been filled with adulterers, theistic evolutionists, and others who hold to false views. Since “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9), the church will be weakened, and others may be lured into the same error through association with those who believe it to be true. Third, the person who knowingly perpetrated the error has placed his soul, and the souls of those he taught, in jeopardy, because he knowingly taught error.

Error That Condemns, and Error That Does Not

Someone might suggest that it is possible to be taught, and believe, error without endangering one’s soul, since some error condemns while some does not. Such an observation is correct. As Bobby Duncan noted:
There are two kinds of error: (1) error which does not deter one from a course of action in harmony with the will of God, and (2) error which leads to a course of action out of harmony with the will of God....
Some in Paul’s day obviously held erroneous views regarding the eating of certain meats (Rom. 14; I Cor. 8). But these views did not cause them to follow a course of action out of harmony with the will of God, and those who knew the truth were exhorted to receive them (Rom. 14:1).... One’s belief of error will not damn his soul unless his erroneous views lead him into a course of action out of harmony with the will of God....
But there are other errors which, if believed, will directly affect one’s life and religious practice so as to turn him aside from the will of God.... If one’s belief of error caused him to worship according to the doctrines and commandments of men, his worship would be vain (Matt. 15:8-9).... If his belief of error led him to teach a perverted gospel, the curse of God would rest upon him (Gal. 1:6-9)... (1983, 19[20]:2).
Not all error, if believed, will condemn one’s soul. Suppose, in the example of the two prophets (1 Kings 13), that the older prophet convinced the younger that God wanted him to rush home, carrying his staff in his left hand all the way. Would this have been a lie? Yes, but the consequences would not have been the same, for, believing and acting upon this lie, the younger prophet would not have been following a course of action out of harmony with the instructions God had given him.
To suggest, however, that the intentional teaching of error does not always produce negative effects, and thus is acceptable, ignores three important points. First, error is error, regardless of the effects produced. Christians are not called to teach error, but truth (John 14:6). Surely, the question should be asked: What faithful Christian would want to teach, or believe, any error? God always has measured men by their attitude toward the truth. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). But the truth can free us only if we know it, accept it, and act upon it. Error never frees; it only enslaves.
Second, it is a simple fact that not all error is neutral in its effects upon a person’s soul. As Bobby Duncan went on to state: “For one to be in error on some point that does not affect the faithful performance of his duty to God is one thing. But it is another for one to hold to error that would keep him from faithful obedience to God” (19[20]:2). It is possible to believe error, thinking all the while that it is true, only to discover all too late that it was not. The young prophet who lost his life because he believed a lie is a fine case in point.
Third, while it may be correct to assert that not all error condemns, such an assertion does not tell the whole story. What about the danger to the soul of the person responsible for the intentional false teaching? It will not do simply to suggest that the truth was misrepresented purposely so as to save a sinner from the error of his ways. The end does not always justify the means. Situation ethics has no place in the teaching, or life, of a faithful Christian. In both the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 20:16) and New Testament (e.g., Revelation 21:8), God forbade the willful distortion of truth, and condemned those who engaged in such a practice. While positive benefits initially may seem to result from the intentional teaching of error, such benefits will be temporary at best. Ultimately the truth will win out, and those who have believed and taught error will suffer in one way or another. When those who have been taught error discover that they have believed a lie, they may become disillusioned and abandon their faith. When those who have taught the lie(s) appear before God in judgment, they will stand condemned.
In the end, who has benefited from the intentional teaching of error? The person who believed the error did not benefit, for his faith was not built upon truth, and thus his “conversion” may be called into question. The church did not benefit, but was weakened because although its numbers increased, its spirituality did not. Spiritual benefits cannot result from the intentional teaching of error. The person who taught the error did not benefit. He lied, and in so doing, incurred heaven’s condemnation. Should he fail to repent, he will be delivered to “the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).


In 2 Timothy 3:1-4, Paul presented his protégé with a litany of sins that characterized what he termed “grievous times.” In addition to those who were selfish, boastful, haughty, disobedient, and without self-control, Paul wrote of men “holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof ” (2 Timothy 3:5). Paul’s point was that Timothy would encounter some who, from all outward appearances, were moral, truthful, dedicated Christians. But the outward appearance was deceptive because they had become hypocrites whose lives and teachings did not conform to the Gospel.
In commenting on the sinful nature of the Pharisees, Christ said, “ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity” (Matthew 23:28). The people described by Paul who exhibited “a form of godliness,” but who had “denied the power thereof,” possessed the same hypocritical, sinful nature as the Pharisees, which is why Paul commanded Timothy, “from these also turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5). Concerning the ill effects of this artificial “form of godliness,” Raymond Hagood has stated:
Is it not easy to see how destructive this “form of godliness” can be? It works evil under the guise of good. It wounds the sensitive consciences of babes in Christ. It corrupts the values, honesty, and integrity of our young people and it presents to the world a dim view of the church (1976, 12[40]:1).
While the end results of erroneous teaching eventually may not be difficult to recognize, the false teacher is not always easy to identify. There are, however, certain criteria that signal a departure from the Truth (see Miller, 1987). First, the person who intentionally teaches error generally is bold to advance his ideas in certain settings, but is strangely silent or evasive in others. When among those sympathetic to his erroneous views, he will not hesitate to advocate them, but when in the presence of those he knows are well versed in the Scriptures, and who therefore could recognize and refute such views, often he will keep them to himself, or even go so far as to deny believing them.
Second, whereas the false teacher once was understood easily, and known for the clarity with which he taught, now he has begun to speak or write in vague terms that employ a “new vocabulary” of his own making. When questioned, he claims that he has been “misrepresented,” “misunderstood,” or “quoted out of context.” He has become a chameleon-like character, able to vacillate back and forth at will between truth and error.
Third, as the real nature of the false teacher becomes increasingly evident, and the documentation of his error irrefutable, he becomes more overt in his teachings. Soon he associates himself with those who, in the past, he would have had no association. Others who are known to teach error suddenly consider him an ally, and actively promote him and his teachings.
Fourth, in time, as more and more faithful Christians rise up to challenge the false teacher, he depicts them as troublemakers who are unreliable barometers of the real spiritual atmosphere. He charges them as being paranoid, narrow-minded, unloving, tradition-bound, stagnant, witch-hunting pseudo-Christians who possess no real love for the Lord or His Word. He urges them to dispense with their Pharisaic legalism, and to cloak themselves with an “irenic” spirit that allows Christians the right to “agree to disagree” about fundamental Bible doctrines, resulting in the misnamed concept of “unity in diversity.”
The damage inflicted by one who teaches error can be almost inestimable. That damage can be minimized, however, if faithful Christians follow the procedures set forth in Scripture for dealing with false teachers (e.g., Romans 16:17; Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 4:14-15; 5:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; Titus 3:10-11; James 5:19-20; 2 Peter 2:1-2; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 9-11). As Paul commanded Titus, “there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers...whose mouths must be stopped; men who overthrow whole houses, teaching things which they ought not,.... For this cause reprove them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:10-11,13).
When James penned his New Testament epistle, he warned: “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (James 3:1). It is a sobering thought indeed to know that those of us who teach God’s Word one day shall be held accountable for how, and what, we have taught. Our teaching, therefore, should be designed to do at least three things.
First, it should present the sinner with the pure, unadulterated Gospel, in the hope that he will hear it, believe it, and obey it, thereby being saved from his lost state (Luke 13:3; Romans 3:23; 6:23). The ultimate goal of our efforts is not merely to inform, but rather to motivate the hearer to proper action.
Second, the things we teach, publicly or privately, should equip Christians for greater maturity in the faith so that they, too, can become teachers (Hebrews 5:12). The success of Christianity in the world is dependent upon those who advocate it being able to teach it to others.
Third, our teaching should edify the entire church so that should the time come when certain saints “will not endure the sound doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:3-4), there will be those well-grounded in the truth who can combat error and “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3).
Certainly, those of us who teach bear a weighty responsibility (Ezekiel 33:7-9). But if we do our jobs properly, we will receive from the Lord a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Equally important is the fact that if those whom we teach accept and obey God’s Word, they, too, will enjoy a home in heaven, and we will have saved a soul from death (Ezekiel 33:14-16). The responsibility may be weighty, but the reward is commensurate to the task.


Duncan, Bobby (1983), “Error Which Does & Does Not Condemn,” Words of Truth, 19[20]:2, May 20.
Gibson, Steve (1990), “Some Common Questions About False Teachers,” The Restorer, 10[11/12]:17-20, November/December.
Hagood, Raymond A. (1976), “Perilous Times,” Words of Truth, 12[40]:1, September 17.
Jackson, Wayne (1990), “Defending the Faith with a Broken Sword,” Christian Courier, 26[1]:1-2, May.
Miller, David L. (1987), “Anatomy of a False Teacher,” The Restorer, 7[2]:2-3, February.

Faith Reaching for Calvary by Frank Chesser, M.S.


Faith Reaching for Calvary

by  Frank Chesser, M.S.

[NOTE: The following sermon was preached in Montgomery, AL in October 2019 by A.P. board member Frank Chesser.]
Sin is man’s worst enemy. It crouches at the door of the mind, eager to pollute the source of every human activity.  It maintains constant surveillance over the mind, knowing that its capture means the ruin of a man. Sin enters the mind by invitation and supplants its light with darkness.  An appalling enumeration of sins that characterized the Gentle world begins with the depiction, “their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). John asserts that a man who hates his brother “is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and knows not where he goes, because that darkness has blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:11).
Only Christ and the Gospel can replace darkness with light. Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 8:12). The light of Christ is manifested through the Gospel and its appeal is to the mind, “for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). The sounds of physical conflict are heard in communities, states, and nations around the world. Entire countries are enmeshed in combat. Implements of war interrupt the routine of life, and peace and serenity are supplanted by chaos, suffering, and death.
But the battlefield of the ages is the mind of man. Satan knows that the Gospel is man’s only hope, and the Gospel addresses the mind. Satan exerts strenuous, incessant effort to keep man’s mind under the dark canopy of sin and error “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The transition from darkness to light occurs when man obeys the Gospel.
The cross is the pivotal point of all human history. The past, present, and future have as their center, the cross of Christ. The Gospel is God’s power to save, but without the cross, there is no Gospel.  Remove the cross and all joy in birth, purpose in life, and hope in death have been destroyed. Erase the cross and every day of life is one unending tragedy. With the cross, everything matters; without the cross, nothing matters.
What is man’s greatest need?  Man’s greatest need is not sensational preaching; it is cross-centered preaching. It is not human philosophy; it is Jesus Christ crucified. It is not physical adornment; it is a spirit dipped in blood. It is not a social Gospel; it is the Gospel of the cross. It is not Moses and Sinai; it is Christ and Calvary. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).
From eternity, God knew the cross would be the price that would have to be paid for sin. Sin cannot correct itself. It cannot provide for its own cure. It cannot solve the problems it creates, heal the pain it causes, remove the barriers it constructs, restore the families it destroys, eliminate the suffering it produces, or stop the endless flow of unprepared souls into the world of eternal perdition. Man is powerless in the face of sin. The righteousness of all the righteous of all the ages cannot erase a single sin of a single sinner. The entire angelic host stood helplessly at the reality of Genesis 3:6. It took the perfect life of God’s Son in the flesh to qualify Him to conquer sin in the cross. The sinless life of Christ and His death on the cross enabled God to maintain His holiness, righteousness, and justice, and extend the blessing of reconciliation to all who would embrace the Gospel in the obedience of faith (Romans 3:23-26).
God foreknew the choice that man would make in Eden. How could this be? Because God is omniscient.  God confidently asserted to ancient Israel, “I know the things that come into your mind” (Ezekiel 11:5). God knows the number of hairs on every head, and not even a small sparrow can fall from the heavens apart from His knowledge (Matthew 10:29-30). God’s foreknowledge did not negate Adam’s and Eve’s free will. God simply knew the course that man’s free will would take.
Divine foreknowledge of man’s choice in Eden was accompanied by foreknowledge of its only possible cure. Peter announced this truth on Pentecost when he said that Jesus was “delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). When a man chooses God by submitting to His will, God chooses him in Christ according to the divine principles intrinsic to the scheme of redemption ordained “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). God’s intent to save man by grace through the Gospel “was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Timothy 1:9).  God’s remedy for sin in the cross “was foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20). Jesus was God’s “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). God’s plan to reconcile both Jews and Gentiles unto Himself “in one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:16) was according to the “eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).
Appropriating to one’s soul the sin cleansing power of the cross is accomplished “through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25). The faith of the Gospel system that enables one to enjoy the forgiveness of sins by grace through blood is the faith that obeys God.  It is the “work of faith” (1 Thessalonians 1:3). It is the “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). The greatest treatise ever written on the scheme of redemption opens with the phrase, “obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5), and it closes with the phrase “obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26). Between these two massive spiritual pillars is a divine commentary on the Gospel system and the faith that permits man to participate in its provisions.
Paul proceeds to portray the exceedingly sinful state of the Gentile world and its need of Gospel that centers in Christ and the cross (Romans 1:18-32). He then verified the like state of his own brethren in the flesh and depicts the whole of humanity to be “guilty before God” (Romans 3:19) because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He points to man’s only hope in God’s spiritual healing by grace “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24) appropriated to one’s soul “by His blood, through faith” (Romans 3:25). He describes this divine plan as a “law of faith” (Romans 3:27) system that looks to the cross for its liberation from sin. He utilizes Abraham as an example of one who exhibited the obedience of faith that appropriates grace and the need of all men to possess the “faith of Abraham” (Romans 4:16) and not the blood of Abraham.
Consequently, every act of obedience to the will of God is faith making its appeal to the cross of Christ. Such was characteristic of those under the Old Testament, even though they did not possess all of the pieces to the spiritual puzzle of redemption. It was God’s design from eternity to unite all men in the one church by means of the cross of Christ and man’s obedience to the Gospel of Christ. The spiritual remnant from Adam to Pentecost of Acts 2 was unable to grasp the totality of this truth because of insufficient revelation (Ephesians 3:1-6). Even the prophets who prophesied of things concerning Christ and the church did not fully comprehend their own prophecies. Peter speaks of intense, studious efforts by the prophets to unravel some of the mysteries regarding their own prophetic declarations of the “sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (1 Peter 1:11) and of angelic desire for deeper understanding of redemptive truths (1 Peter 1:12).
Though lacking a completed revelation, they were abundantly supplied with sufficient truths to enable them to live before God with a full faith. They understood the nature of God and sin. They perceived their sinful state and their inability to lift a finger to provide for their own redemption. They knew they were wholly dependent on God’s love, grace, and mercy. They understood that God was working toward the consummation of a plan that would secure their redemption. Jesus said, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Every act of obedience under the Old Testament and every drop of sacrificial blood offered by the righteous remnant was an act of faith appealing to God’s love and grace for salvation that would culminate in Christ and the cross.
If not for the cross, what value could be attached to Abel’s offering? What benefit could be assigned to Noah’s conformity to the will of God and physical salvation from the Flood, if the cross had never become a reality? Severed from the cross, what gain could one perceive in Abraham’s departure from Ur and the and the offering of his son on the designated mountain in Moriah? Without Calvary, what advantage was it for Moses to suffer four decades of abuse from a nation of ingrates?
Of what value was compliance with the priesthood and sacrifice of Levi without the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ? If Jesus had not assumed flesh, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross, would there be any point in accentuating the difference between striking and speaking to the rock?  What real gain could be cited for Israel’s battles and victory over her enemies in Canaan if Christ had not fought and conquered Satan and sin? Of what worth is the submissive disposition of Samuel, “Speak, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10), if Jesus had not prayed, “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done”? (Luke 22:42).
Eliminate the cross and what profit could be advanced for Judah’s return to Canaan following the Babylonian captivity and restoration of the Temple? Apart from the cross, what was the point of Nebuchadnezzar’s confession of the oneness and sovereignty of God? Is not Nineveh’s penitence irrevocably connected to Calvary? Where lies the significance in the preaching of the prophets if Jesus had not traveled the lonely road to Golgotha? What blessings followed those giants of faith who “were slain with the sword” (Hebrews 11:37) if Jesus had not been slain on the cross?
A completed Gospel was preached on Pentecost of Acts 2. When the remnant complied with the conditions of the Gospel in the obedience of faith, they were added to the church (Acts 2:47). Relative to salvation, faith now assumes a backward posture. It looks back to a consummated scheme of redemption in Christ and the cross. The power of faith is not in the action of faith; it is in the object of faith. There is no power to cure sin in expressions of faith. If demonstrations of faith could remedy sin, man could solve his own sin problem by his submission to the will of God.
Every command in the New Testament and every act of obedience to that command is faith appealing to the cross for redemption. Repentance is a command of God. He “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Repentance is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). A genuine change of heart regarding one’s sin followed by “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8) is not an attempt at self-absolution. A penitent heart understands that its power source is Calvary. Repentance is faith looking to the cross for forgiveness.
Jesus Christ is fully divine. He is deity in all fullness and essence. He is the “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6). Thomas confessed Him as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1); and that “Word” was Christ (John 1:14). Of His Son, God the Father affirmed, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8). Confessing the full deity of Christ is indispensable to one’s salvation (Romans 10:9-10). Confessing Christ is an exhibition of faith, looking to the object confessed for release from sin.
The Gospel of Christ that centers in the cross of Christ produces the church of Christ. The Gospel that Peter preached on Pentecost of Acts 2 took the minds of the hearers and anchored them to the cross. Submission to the Gospel in the obedience of faith effectuated the church. Jesus purchased the church “with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Jesus earnestly desires for “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
God sent His Son “as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14), but Jesus can save only those “all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Those who obey Christ are added to the church of Christ (Acts 2:47), which is the “body” of Christ” (Colossians 1:18), and Jesus is “the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). Acceptance of the exclusive church, purchased by the exclusive Savior and produced by the exclusive Gospel is not bigotry. It is the humility of faith appealing to the cross for redemption.
Man is the offspring of God, made in the image of God. When man severs himself from God and pursues a life of carnal indulgence, he is spurning the most crucial aspect of his nature. Man’s need of God and of worship is as intrinsic to his nature as is heat in fire. Worship is requisite to man’s inner peace and spiritual serenity. It equips man to resist temptation and cope with adversity. It deepens conviction.  It intensifies man’s loathing for sin and error and heightens his love for God and truth.
Worship fortifies the mind, the object of satanic onslaughts. It enriches spirituality. It provides solace for the grieving, hope to the despairing, and joy to the dispirited. It grows faith. Worship is manna from heaven to the hungry soul. It is living water that streams from the Rock of our salvation. It elevates the mind from the earthly and temporal to the spiritual and eternal. It allays the burdens of life. It quickens anticipation for heaven. Worship is indispensable to one’s spiritual life and his habitation in that “city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10).
What man calls worship is often a humanly contrived, self-pleasing, emotional experience that placates the flesh and dulls the spirit. It removes God as the object and enthrones man. It is physical, theatrical, and superficial. It stimulates the pulse and idles the mind. It is dramatic and noisy. Jokes and human-interest stories issuing from the pulpit are met with laughter and clapping. The preacher is idolized and applauded, while God is minimalized and marginalized. The participants leave with a distorted sense of spirituality, unchallenged minds, diminished convictions, appeased consciences, and a comfort zone for sin and enhanced toleration for those of varying religious persuasions. “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
Acceptable worship conforms to God’s pattern. It involves the right object, right act, and right motive. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). One cannot come into God’s presence with an unauthorized act of worship that he likes and expect God to accept it. Nadab and Abihu attempted such presumptuousness, and God slew them. Unauthorized acts of worship insult the grace of God, nullify faith, and demonstrate irreverence for the cross of Christ.
Spirit-and-truth worship looks to the cross for its validation. The power of acceptable worship is in the power of the cross, not the act of worship. For two millenniums, “this do in remembrance of Me,” has reverberated in the minds of men in Sunday’s commemoration of the Lord’s Supper. Material gifts on the first day of each week reflect the goodness of God and His gifts to man, the pinnacle of which was the gift of His Son as the remedy for sin.
Prayers of faith on wings of grace take flight from the worship assembly and soar through the blood of Christ into the presence of God. With permission from Calvary, songs of the heart are allowed entrance into the throne room of heaven to join with the melodies of angels in praise and adoration to the majesty of God. Preaching that saves and edifies pivots around the cross and demonstrates its application to the whole of biblical instruction.
When Adam’s and Eve’s lips were soiled by the forbidden fruit, God commenced His journey toward Calvary. This redemptive voyage enjoyed its fruition in the death, burial, and resurrection of the sinless Christ. Prior to His return to the Father, Jesus decreed that the Gospel was to cover the earth. Upon hearing the Gospel, man was to believe and be baptized (Mark 16:15-16). The preponderance of humanity has never consented to the words of Christ. They declare their love for Christ while rejecting the will of Christ. They view teaching on the necessity of baptism for salvation as an affront to the grace of God and the cross of Christ. They assert that such teaching annuls faith and transforms the free gift of salvation into a meritorious system of works.
One can no more separate baptism from grace, blood, and faith than he can cleave blue from the sky. Baptism is faith complying with the teaching of grace. Baptism is the obedience of faith appropriating the provisions of grace in the cross. Baptism is a spiritual reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-4). The power of baptism is in the cross, not in the act of baptism. Baptism is the eye of faith riveted on the cross. It is the heart of faith beating for the cross. It is the trust of faith centered in the cross. It is the hands of faith laying hold of the cross. Baptism and all other acts of obedience to God is faith reaching for Calvary.

Faith and Knowledge by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Faith and Knowledge

by  Bert Thompson, Ph.D.

“As indicated earlier, there is not enough evidence anywhere to absolutely prove God, but there is adequate evidence to justify the assumption or the faith that God exists” (Thomas, 1965, p. 263, emp. in orig.).
“Now we believe, not because of thy speaking: for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
It is evident that the two above statements stand in stark contradistinction to one another. The first statement suggests that people may hold to the assumption that God exists—a position the author identifies as “faith.” The second statement, from the pen of the inspired apostle John, describes some of the people of Samaria who had faith in the Lord’s deity because they knew He was the Savior—based on the evidence He had provided them.
Obviously, both of these sentiments cannot be correct, for they represent mutually exclusive ideas of biblical faith. On the one hand, we are asked to believe that faith is an “assumption” made by a person who simply desires to believe something. On the other hand, the biblical record instructs us on the fact that knowledge is an integral part of faith, and that faith is not merely an “educated guess” or unfounded assumption. Why does this confusion over the topic of biblical faith exist? What is the relationship between faith and knowledge?


Perhaps there is so much confusion surrounding the concept of faith because there are so many definitions from so many widely varied sources. First, faith has been defined by its opponents as “the power of believing what you know isn’t true,” or “an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.” Second, even neutral authorities have added to the conflict, with reputable dictionaries suggesting that faith is a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof,” or “belief without need of certain proof.”
Third, some in the religious community itself have been responsible for, or added to, much of the confusion. Examples abound. In his “Introduction” to The World and Literature of the Old Testament, John T. Willis has written: “The Bible claims to be inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16). There is no way to prove or disprove this claim absolutely, although arguments have been advanced on both sides of the issue. It must be accepted by faith or rejected by unbelief ” (1979, 1:11). J.D. Thomas, in his text, Heaven’s Window, wrote:
In all matters of religious epistemology we come to the question of distinguishing between absolutely provable knowledge and that which is faith-dependent to some degree or other.... In other words, men of strong faith “act like” they have absolute knowledge, even though in this life they can never have more than a strong faith (1974, pp. 131,132).
In his book, Dear Agnos, Arlie J. Hoover stated that “...faith, by standing between knowledge and ignorance, certainty and credulity, in a sense partakes of the essence of both. It has some evidence, which relates it to knowledge, yet it has some uncertainty, because the evidence is indirect” (1976, p. 28). Roy F. Osborne has suggested that “faith of any sort is based on probability.... In a world of fallible beings, imperfect senses, and partial experience, absolute certainty is only a theoretical concept” (1964, p. 132).
If these writers are correct, faith is something based on little substantive proof, or, for that matter, no proof at all. Faith also allows men to “act like” they know something when, in fact, they do not. Further, at best faith is a probability proposition that may, or may not, have anything to do with truth. And, faith is seen as an entity composed of a small amount of knowledge and a big dose of uncertainty. Is it any wonder then that there is so much confusion in today’s world regarding the concept of faith and its relationship to knowledge.
Ultimately, improper concepts of faith damage or destroy the effectiveness of Christianity. There are a number of reasons this is the case. First, unlike many other religions, Christianity always has been based in historical fact. From the historicity of Jesus Himself to the reality of His resurrection, Christianity has entered the marketplace of ideas with factuality as its foundation. To then turn and suggest that Christianity is based on an unproven and unprovable belief system nebulously termed “faith” is to rob Christianity of one of its most important constructs—verifiability rooted in historical fact. That which should be documentable is reduced to mere wishful thinking.
Second, we live in a society in which an examination of the various evidences behind a claim has become practically an everyday occurrence. Whether we are purchasing an automobile or considering an advertiser’s boasts about its products, we routinely investigate a plethora of evidences that can prove, or disprove, what is being said. The Bible teaches that mankind is lost and in desperate need of salvation, which comes only through Jesus Christ. More often than not, the person who accepts and obeys the biblical message undergoes a radical change in both his thinking and his lifestyle. Surely the grand nature of Christianity’s claim is such that it requires both investigation and verification. For someone to suggest that Christianity, or the life-altering changes it ushers in, is based on little more than an unproven assertion (that might or might not be true) hardly could be viewed as a rational approach that would commend itself to intelligent people.
Third, surely people in the world who are not yet Christians, yet whom we hope to see become Christians, are smart enough to see through a ruse that asks them to “act like” they know God exists, to “act like” they know Jesus is His Son, or to “act like” the Bible is His inspired Word when, in fact, they do not know those things at all. Further, if Christians simply “act like” they know, when in reality they do not, why are they not hypocrites? And why is the Christian—who eventually will have to admit that he does not really know these things—any different from the agnostic who readily admits that he cannot know these things?
Fourth, any idea which suggests that faith is based on mere “probability” is at the same time tacitly admitting that there is some probability, however minute, that Christianity might just be false. In addressing this point, Dick Sztanyo has observed:
To admit that Christianity is only probable is to admit the possibility that, in fact, it might be a hoax! Could you in your most irrational moment imagine even the slightest possibility of an apostle preaching the “God of probability” or the “God who may be”? ...I want to insist that there is not a single item in Christianity, upon which our souls’ salvation depends, which is only probably true. In each case, the evidence supplied is sufficient to establish conclusive proof regarding the truth of the Christian faith (1989, pp. 8-9,11, emp. in orig.).


What, then, is biblical faith? How does it relate to “belief ”? And what is its proper relationship to knowledge?

Biblical Faith and Belief

It is not uncommon to hear someone say, in regard to a belief that cannot be proven true, “It’s just a matter of faith.” Or, if someone is being advised about a particular course of action, the recommendation might be, “Just launch out on faith.” How many times has the comment been made that something is just “a leap of faith”? Certainly it is true to say that the word “faith” is used on occasion in each of these ways. And each of these statements may well express a certain belief. However, such a usage is not biblical faith. What is the relationship between biblical faith and belief?
Is faith belief? Yes, faith is a kind of belief. The issue, however, centers on the kind of belief that is biblical faith. Belief refers primarily to a judgment that something is true. But belief may be weak or strong. If I say, “I believe it may rain tomorrow,” that is an example of a weak belief. It is an opinion I hold which, while I hope is true, and thus believe to be true, is nevertheless one that I cannot prove. However, if I say, “I believe the guilty verdict in the criminal’s trial is correct and just,” that is an example of a strong belief because I am able to present factual reasons for my belief, based upon available evidence. In addressing the idea of “weak” versus “strong” beliefs, David Lipe has stated that “...the difference in these two types of belief turns on the causes of the beliefs” (n.d., p. 3, emp. added). In his text, Critique of Religion and Philosophy, Walter Kaufmann listed seven causes of belief, the first of which was that “arguments have been offered in its support” (1958, pp. 132ff.). Thus, strong belief is a rational act based upon adequate evidence. Weak belief is produced by such things as emotion, vested interest, etc. (see Lipe, n.d., p. 4).
Biblical faith is a strong belief based upon adequate evidence. In the New Testament, the noun “faith” (Greek, pistis) is defined as: “primarily firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing...used in the New Testament always of faith in God or Christ, or things spiritual” (Vine, 1940, 2:71). The verb “believe” (Greek, pisteuo) is defined as: “...to be persuaded of, and hence, to place confidence in, to trust...reliance upon, not mere credence” (Vine, 1940, 1:116). Thus, biblical faith is a conviction based upon evidence, and is “not mere credence.” The Bible does not recognize any such concept as a “leap of faith,” because biblical faith is always evidence- or knowledge-based. Peter urged Christians to be “ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). This corresponds directly to what Kaufmann would call a cause for belief because “arguments have been offered in its support.”

Biblical Faith and Knowledge

One of the foundational laws of human thought is the Law of Rationality, which demands that we draw only such conclusions as are warranted by adequate evidence. Agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell stated it this way: “Give to any hypothesis that is worth your while to consider just that degree of confidence which the evidence warrants” (1945, p. 816). Biblical faith adheres to the Law of Rationality, and seeks conclusions that have a confidence warranted by the available evidence. In producing biblical faith, both reason and revelation are employed. Geisler and Feinberg defined these terms as follows:
“Revelation” is a supernatural disclosure by God of truth which could not be discovered by the unaided powers of human reason. “Reason” is the natural ability of the human mind to discover truth (1980, p. 255).
These authors went on to observe that “the basic relation of reason and revelation is that the thinking Christian attempts to render the credible intelligible” (1980, p. 265). Using capacities for proper reasoning, the Christian builds faith based upon numerous avenues of evidence. Sometimes that evidence may be based upon testimony provided by revelation. Paul wrote that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17). Guy N. Woods has noted:
Genuine faith derives from facts presented to the mind and from which proper and correct deductions are then drawn (John 20:30,31).... There is no such thing as “blind” faith. Faith itself is possible only when reason recognizes the trustworthiness of the testimony which produces it (1994, 125[11]:2).
Skeptics, of course, have suggested that reliance upon the testimony of another does not necessarily result in personal knowledge. Thomas Paine wrote in The Age of Reason:
No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it (1794, pp. 8-9, emp. in orig.).
Paine’s assessment, however, is incorrect, as an examination of both historical and biblical cases will attest. Must testimony by necessity be diluted or destroyed simply because it has been passed from generation to generation? Not at all. We know George Washington lived, even though no one for the past several generations ever set eyes on him. We know of numerous other people and events in the same manner, as a direct result of credible testimony passed faithfully from age to age.
Further, biblical information provides a good test case for the accuracy of information passed from one person to another. In Mark 16, the account is told of Mary Magdalene having seen the Lord after His resurrection. She immediately went and told other disciples who, the text indicates, “disbelieved” (Mark 16:11). Later, Jesus appeared to two men walking in the country. They, too, returned to the disciples and reported that the Lord was alive, but of the disciples it was said that “neither believed they them” (Mark 16:13). Were these disciples justified in rejecting the report of the Lord’s resurrection merely because they had not been eyewitnesses themselves? Was their disbelief somehow evidence of “intellectual integrity” on their part? Were they to be commended for their rejection of two different reports that originated with trustworthy eyewitnesses?
No, the disciples were not justified in their disbelief. Later, when the Lord appeared to them, “he upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them that had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:14). Thus, the Lord verified the principle that Thomas Paine attempted to refute. If Mary Magdalene had expressed accurately to the disciples what she had seen, and they in turn expressed accurately what they had been told, would this not constitute valid evidence-based testimony of the sort that would warrant genuine faith in the resurrection? Facts must be reported before they can be believed. In Acts 18, the circumstances are given in which “many of the Corinthians hearing, believed.” What did they hear that caused them to believe? It was the testimony given by Paul. Faith is thus seen as the acceptance of knowledge based upon credible testimony.
Sometimes the evidence for faith may come by sight, as it did in the case of Thomas when Christ said to him after His resurrection, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed” (John 20:29a). The Samaritans, mentioned earlier, believed on the Lord. The fact of their seeing Him did not preclude their believing on Him (John 4:41). There are times, of course, when faith and sight go together. Men sometimes walk by faith because of sight. Many came in obedience to the Lord during His earthly ministry because of what they heard and saw. During the early years of the church, many believed because of the miracles they saw performed. Much faith was produced by the actual events that were observed by those present.
But what of those who have not seen those events firsthand? Do they have any less of a faith than those who witnessed such events? No, faith is not diminished by lack of sight. Jesus told Thomas, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29b). Paul observed that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Thomas had faith after sight. Today we have faith without sight, because of credible testimony from those who were eyewitnesses.
What is the relationship between faith and knowledge? Does faith somehow rule out “knowing”? Can one both “know” and “have faith” at the same time, or is it an either/or proposition? In speaking to this issue, Woods has written:
More recently, a much more sophisticated form of subjectivism has appeared wherein faith and knowledge are compartmentalized, put in sharp contrast, and each made to exclude the other. The allegation is that a proposition which one holds by faith one cannot know by deduction. This conclusion is reached by taking one definition of the word “know,” putting it in opposition to the word “faith,” and thus making them mutually exclusive. To do this is to err with reference to both faith and to knowledge! (1994, 136[2]:31).
In John 6:69, Peter said to the Lord: “And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God.” Writing in 2 Timothy 1:12, Paul said “I know him whom I have believed.” The Samaritans told the woman who brought Christ to them, “Now we believe, not because of thy speaking; for we have heard for ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42).
In his book on the relationship between faith and knowledge, The Concept of Rational Belief, Dick Sztanyo remarked:
Biblical faith is built upon a prior understanding (knowledge) of what is to be believed.... Any conception of faith that severs it from its objective, epistemological base (foundation of knowledge) is at variance with biblical teaching! Biblically speaking, one does not believe that God is (or any other items to be accepted “by faith”): (1) against the evidence; (2) without evidence; and/or (3) beyond the evidence. Rather, one believes on the basis of evidence sufficient to establish the conclusion (1989, p. 3, emp. in orig.).
Faith is directly linked to knowledge. Without knowledge (i.e., evidence), it is impossible to produce faith. Further, knowledge is critical in making faith active. Sztanyo has observed in regard to what he terms “rational” belief:
This evidence enlightens the intellect which then makes a volitional commitment not only possible (since I now know what to believe) but also rational (i.e., I know what to believe)! Thus, faith is a volitional commitment of an informed intellect! Knowledge without commitment is disbelief (John 8:30-46; 12:42,43; James 2:19); commitment without knowledge is irrationality! Neither is a genuine option for a Christian (1989, pp. 18-19, emp. in orig.).
In the Bible, faith and knowledge are never set in contradistinction. At times faith may be contrasted with a means of obtaining knowledge (e.g., sight), but faith never is contrasted with knowledge or, for that matter, reason. In addition, at times faith and knowledge may have the same object. The Scriptures make it clear that the following can be both known and believed: (a) God (Isaiah 43:10); (b) the truth (1 Timothy 4:3); and (c) Christ’s deity (John 6:69; cf. 4:42). Further, knowledge always precedes faith, and where there is no knowledge there can be no biblical faith.


In Hebrews 11 we find the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” because each person acted out of obedient faith to God’s commands. We are told “by faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain...” (11:7), “by faith Noah...prepared an ark to the saving of his house...” (11:7), and that “by faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go unto a place which he was to receive as an inheritance...” (11:8). What does “by faith” mean in these statements? Were these people acting in the absence of evidence? Did they have no knowledge of what they were doing, or why they were doing it? Were they taking a “leap of faith”?
In each of these instances, the people involved acted because they had knowledge upon which to base their faith. Cain and Abel obviously had been instructed on what would be a “more excellent” sacrifice. Noah had the dimensions of the ark set before him by God. Abraham did not set out on a journey with no destination; he travelled by directions provided by the Almighty. None of these individuals took a “leap of faith” or acted on what they felt was a “strong probability.” Rather, they acted because their knowledge produced biblical faith. Brad Bromling has addressed this very point:
Some have made the mistake of thinking that faith is to be set in opposition to knowledge or evidence, as though the more one knows the less faith he needs.... This is a false concept of faith. Faith is knowledge-based!... When one gains knowledge of the truth, he is then in a position to engage his will and commit himself to the requirements of that knowledge (1988, 8:24).
God’s wish is for “all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). It is His intent that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Through such knowledge, upon which faith is ultimately built, we know that we are saved (1 John 5:13). The Lord’s promise was: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Because God has made the truth so plain, and so easily available, those who reject it shall stand ultimately “without excuse” (Romans 1:20).


Bromling, Brad (1988), “In Defense of Biblical Confidence,” Reason & Revelation, 8:23-26, June.
Geisler, Norman L. and P.D. Feinberg (1980), Introduction to Philosophy—A Christian Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Hoover, Arlie J. (1976), Dear Agnos: A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Lipe, David L. (no date), Faith and Knowledge (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Osborne, Roy F. (1964), Great Preachers of Today—Sermons of Roy F. Osborne (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).
Paine, Thomas (1794), The Age of Reason (New York: Willey Book Co.).
Russell, Bertrand (1945), A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Sztanyo, Dick (1989), The Concept of Rational Belief (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Thomas, J.D. (1965), Facts and Faith (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).
Thomas, J.D. (1974), Heaven’s Window (Abilene, TX: Biblical Research Press).
Vine, W.E. (1940), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell).
Willis, John T. (1979), “Introduction,” The World and Literature of the Old Testament (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Woods, Guy N. (1994), “Faith Vs. Knowledge?,” Gospel Advocate, 136[2]:31, February.




[Leviticus 17:11]
4. THE OFFERERS WERE NOT *PUNISHED* HE/SHE/THEY WERE FORGIVEN (Leviticus 4, entire chapter and elsewhere that speaks of “atonement” and “forgiveness”.)
7. THE SINNERS COULD NOT OFFER THEMSELVES SPOTLESS TO GOD BUT IN OFFERING THE SPOTLESS SACRIFICE GOD PROVIDED THEY WERE OFFERING A LIFE THEY WOULD LIKE TO GIVE. (This presumes they offered their hearts as they offered the sacrifice. It was their heart’s commitment in obedience God wanted rather than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Psalm 51:16-17; 1 Samuel 15:22).. God didn’t look for sinless obedience since they were already sinners when He chose them—He sought for heartfelt commitment to Him as the one true God. Be sure to read ALL of Deuteronomy 30.





God sees and as a conjunction. Men see and as an impediment to their personal doctrines of salvation.

Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

It is believed and been baptized. It is not believed only.

Act 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

It is repent and be baptized. It is not repent only.

Men like to rewrite God's word. Some exceptions to God's gospel plan of salvation, as assumed by men, are.

1. If you believe but die before you are baptized in water you will be saved. (Scripture ref: NONE)
2. All men that are saved, are saved by grace alone; because God forces men to believe, and men have no responsibility concerning their own salvation. (Scripture ref. NONE)
3. Men are saved by faith only. (Scripture ref. NONE)
4. God does not require men to have faith, repent, confess, and be baptized in water in order to be saved. (Scripture ref. NONE)

Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.


1. FAITH: John 3:16, John 8:24
2. REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19
3. CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10, Matthew 10:32-33
4. WATER BAPTISM: Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21

All Scriptures are from God's word, as found in the Bible. (New American Standard Bible)

All of men's opinions are found in creeds books, Bible commentaries and books about the Bible, that are written by men.

God does not spare the branches by Roy Davison


God does not spare the branches
“Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either” (Romans 11:20, 21).

For a balanced understanding of this warning, we must remember the teachings in Romans 1 through 8.

Both Jews and Gentiles are condemned because of their sins, and can be saved only by grace. No one can earn salvation by keeping the law because all are sinners. Salvation is a gift of God, extended to those who believe in Christ.

Nothing external can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35, 39). Misapplying this passage, some claim it is impossible for a Christian to fall away. Although no external force can tear us away from God, many passages teach that we can choose the wrong path ourselves and go astray. Prominent among them are the warnings in Romans 11, that branches on God’s tree can be removed. As we consider these warnings we must keep in mind, that because of God’s grace, there is absolutely no reason for us to be cut off. We are cut off only if we turn our back on Christ.

In Romans 9 through 11 Paul discusses the new nature of God’s chosen people and explains why most of the Jews rejected Christ.

The Jews tended to think they would be saved because they were descendents of Abraham.

John the Baptist taught otherwise: “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire’” (Matthew 3:7-10).

Paul refers to Ishmael and Esau as proof that it is not a matter of physical birth. Although offspring of Abraham, they were not included among God’s people (Romans 9:6-15). Even of Israel, only a remnant would be saved (Romans 9:27, 29). God decides who is, and who is not, included among His people, and those who rejected the Messiah would be “utterly destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:23; see Deuteronomy 18:15,18,19; Numbers 15:30, 31; Acts 7:37).

Now, anyone who believes in Christ can be saved, whether he is a Jew or a Gentile (Romans 10:8-15). Now, it depends on faith and spiritual rebirth, not on physical birth (1 Peter 1:23).

But this gospel must be obeyed, and many of the Jews refused to obey: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘LORD, who has believed our report?’So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.’ But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: ‘I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.’ But Isaiah is very bold and says: ‘I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.’ But to Israel he says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people’” (Romans 10:16-21).

In Romans 11 Paul says that, although most Jews rejected the Messiah, God had not rejected His people, since all Jews still could be saved if they accepted Christ. The rejection of Christ by the Jews was part of God’s plan. This made it easier for believing Gentiles to be added to God’s people.

Paul then compares God’s people to an olive tree. The root is holy “and if the root is holy, so are the branches” (Romans 11:16). But dead branches are cut off. “Because of unbelief they were broken off” (Romans 11:20). Jews who do not accept Christ are removed from God’s people. Gentiles who believe in Christ are grafted onto God’s tree, although they originally came from a ‘wild’ tree.

But the Gentile believer may not be smug. “You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?” (Romans 11:19-24).

Now, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, we can be branches on God’s tree only by faith. And we are told to fear. If we are unbelieving or disobedient, we will be cut off. “For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience, even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy. For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all” (Romans 11:30-32).

Here Paul repeats the main theme of the letter to the Romans, that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are sinners and can only be saved by grace through faith in Christ. And he adds the warning that we must maintain our faith, otherwise we will be cut off. And severed branches can be grafted in again “if they do not continue in unbelief” (Romans 11:23, 24).

Jesus makes a similar comparison: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1-8).

God does not spare the branches. A branch in Christ that does not bear fruit is taken away. Branches that bear fruit are pruned so they will bear more fruit. A pruned branch was referred to as having being ‘cleansed’. This is why Jesus says: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (verse 3).

Jesus says: “I am the true vine.” Many religious people are branches on false vines sprouting like weeds from traditions and teachings of men.

After Jesus had made a harsh statement about religious people in His day, His disciples asked Him: “‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?’ But He answered and said, ‘Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch’” (Matthew 15:12-14). Jesus had just told the Pharisees: “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:7-9).

These people are religious. They are praising God. But they are walking down the broad road to destruction because they blindly follow blind guides. They think they are branches on God’s tree, but they will be uprooted because in reality they are attached to a plant God has not planted. Turn your back on human denominations and serve God in the church of Christ.

“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).

What a wonderful privilege that by grace we can be branches on God’s tree, that we can partake “of the rich root of the olive tree” (NASV), that we can be branches on the root that is holy (Romans 11:16, 17), that we can bear fruit because we abide in Christ and His word abides in us (John 15:1-8).

God does not spare the branches. Therefore “let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28, 29), “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15).
Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive