Archive for May, 2010

Naaman And Baptism

Posted in Baptism, Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Religion, Salvation with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2010 by willnotbesilent

Throughout the Old Testament, God filled history with types and foreshadowings of things that were to come with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the institution of the New Testament. The book of Hebrews goes into great detail of how the Old Law pointed upward to the higher and more spiritual ordinances of the New Testament. In the same way, many of the Old Testament stories which seemingly have no import are laden with enlightenment regarding the New Covenant.

The story of Naaman is, in the same fashion as the Flood and the Israelite escape across the Red Sea, a type, or foreshadowing, of baptism and salvation.

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. — 2 Kings 5:1

Syria was, at the time, a powerful country, perpetually at odds with Israel. Naaman commanded its armies, answering only to the king himself. He had distinguished himself in battle, and risen high the ranks of Syria’s military. In the eyes of all Syrians, he was a hero. Unfortunately, he had one great blemish that threatened to ruin him — leprosy.

In the same way, we of today may have great regard among our worldly peers. The world stands in opposition to God and his Kingdom, and while we may gain recognition from the citizens of the world, we still are eaten alive by the canker of sin. It slowly consumes us, ultimately bringing us to death. As Naaman would have died and gained nothing from this life, so the sinner will die with nothing to show for his time on earth.

And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife.  And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy. — 2 Kings 5:2-3

Even someone as young as a child can bring light to the eyes of one who seeks salvation. Having been raised to believe in God and to trust in His prophets, this girl wished in all godly love that her heathen master might find deliverance. Naaman, seeking relief from his leprosy, was surely at this point willing to attempt anything. Doubtless, being the king’s right hand, he had seen the best doctors and most reputable mystics of Samaria and abroad, yet still he remained uncleansed. Now this innocent young maiden, while sighing to her mistress, brings forth a solution. If only we of today were so aware of our burden of sin, as Naaman was of his burden of leprosy, that we would be willing to listen to the lowest and smallest voices of righteousness.

And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.  And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy. — 2 Kings 5:4-6

Naaman, having heard what his wife’s handmaiden had said, quickly went to the king, who urged him to journey to Israel in search of this prophet. Assuming that Elisha would desire payment, as would any of the heathen religious leaders, Naaman brought gold, silver, and clothing.

Even as he seeks salvation from his misery, Naaman remains entrenched in the materialism of his heathen world. Little does he understand that God does not desire sacrifice or payment, that worldly goods mean nothing to him or those who serve him.

The Syrian king also makes the gross error of thinking Elisha is answerable to King Jehoram, as the Syrian mystics and religious leaders were answerable to him. Little did he know that Israelite kings had no power over God’s prophets. A king never gave orders to a prophet. The prophet brought the word of the Lord to the king, and the king listened.

And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. — 2 Kings 5:7

Jehoram, perhaps unaware that the Syrian king expected him to call up a retinue of healers and prophets, may have thought that Syria expected him to heal Naaman himself. Since prophets were not available to a king’s every beck and call, King Jehoram thought that Syria, ever seeking destruction against the smaller kingdom, was trying to cause a fresh dispute — that Syria had sent one of their favorite, most honored men to Israel, and Israel would not heal him. Also, since Jehoram was not a godly king, he may well have been unaware of Elisha, his location, and what God could offer through the prophet.

And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel. — 2 Kings 5:8

Again, a display of godliness. Elisha was sadly ignored and disrespected by King Jehoram, and could have left the king to despair. Rather, Elisha took pity on both the king and on Naaman, telling Jehoram not to fear, and reminding him that God still had spokespersons in the land to whom he could turn. God, through Elisha, offered his aid to both the infidel Syrian general and the wayward king.

So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. — 2 Kings 5:9-10

With all the pompous retinue of a great Syrian commander, Naaman journeys to Elisha’s house, gifts in hand, prepared to meet a revered mystic who might perform a complex rite, or cry out to God, or cast a spell over him. Instead, Elisha never even leaves the interior of his abode. Rather, Elisha sends his servant Gehazi with a message: Go and wash in the Jordan River seven times.

In the same way, when we recognize our mortal sinfulness and seek out God, he does not speak to us in person. We have his Word, which was written by the apostles and the prophets. In turn, ministers and preachers, and Christians of all ranks, deliver the message to those who are searching, telling us what we oughtest do (Acts 10:6). God offers his salvation, but tells us what must be accomplished on our part to obtain it. He does not merely hand it out willy-nilly. Only those who obey his instructions will receive it.

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. — 2 Kings 5:11-12

Naaman, having traveled all this way with so much pomp, with so many gifts, with the help of both the king of Syria and the king of Israel, expected Elisha to do all the work. He had thought Elisha would step out and perform a rite, while he himself stood still and let the prophet work his wonders. Instead, not only had Elisha told him he had to do something himself, but seemingly insulted him by not coming out in person and sending a lowly servant to convey the message.

The Jordan River was also a notoriously filthy river, muddy and brown. Why would he wash in such revolting water, when in Syria he had rivers renowned for their purity?

In the same way as Naaman, many of us feel we know better than God. The Gospel tells us what we must do to be saved, but so many insist on finding their own way, claiming to know better than God. We are told to be baptized (Acts 2:38) — but why do we insist that baptism has no bearing on our salvation? We grow stubborn and insist that all we must do is believe and repent. It is our fleshly stubbornness and pride, even as Naaman thought he was better than the solution God prescribed.

And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean? — 2 Kings 5:13

Again, wisdom comes to Naaman from the mouth of a servant who seeks his master’s welfare. Naaman, being a famous warrior, would not have hesitated had Elisha directed him to kill thirty lions, or destroy an army. He would have set out immediately and accomplished the act without question. But after the long journey, the correspondence between kings, the pompous retinue, and the expensive gifts, Elisha’s simple message fell on Naaman’s ear like a flat note.

In the same way, the Crusaders, being told that their sins would be forgiven if they journeyed to the Holy Land and fought the Muslims, leaped at the chance to prove their worth through great deeds. Imagine their confusion and irritation had they heard the words of Jesus Christ: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Simply following the directions of God, however plain and easy, is more efficacious than the most skillful, laborious, and costly schemes of men (Ephesians 2:8-9). These tend to feed and strengthen human pride; the other to exalt and glorify God.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who think they should have to do nothing to obtain salvation. They come to God seeking salvation, but when they hear the command, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), they rebel, insisting that they need only believe and repent. This is as prideful and rebellious as thinking one must perform a great act to achieve salvation.

Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary has this to say:

“When diseased sinners are content to do any thing, to submit to any thing, to part with any thing, for a cure, then, and not till then, is there any hope of them. The methods for the healing of the leprosy of sin, are so plain, that we are without excuse if we do not observe them. It is but, Believe, and be saved; Repent, and be pardoned; Wash, and be clean. The believer applies for salvation, not neglecting, altering, or adding to the Saviour’s directions; he is thus made clean from guilt, while others, who neglect them, live and die in the leprosy of sin.”

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. — 2 Kings 5:14

Humbled by the wisdom of his servant’s words, Naaman sees his folly and follows the words God spoke through Elisha. He descends to the River Jordan, and no other river. He dips himself, rather than pouring or sprinkling the water. And he dips, not once, not twice, but seven times. He obeys all of God’s commands. And when he comes up from his seventh dip, he discovers his leprosy has vanished forever.

The word dipped in this verse is the Hebrew tabal, which means literally, “to dip, to immerse:– dip, plunge”. This is a direct equivalent to the Greek baptizo, which is used throughout the New Testament in reference to the Christian rite of immersion in water. Notice also that the verse describes Naaman’s skin as “like unto the flesh of a little child”. When a Christian convert rises out of the baptismal waters, he is born again (John 3:3-5). He is as a little child (Mark 10:15, I Peter 2:1-3).

And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. — 2 Kings 5:15-16

Naaman, in his gratitude and elation, wishes to give back to God, and assumes, still being of a pagan mindset, that to give gifts to the man of God is equivalent to giving gifts to God himself. Elisha, though he has taken gifts before (2 Kings 4:42), is here emphasizing that the salvation of God is free, and not to be bought with a physical price. In the same manner neither Jesus nor the apostles ever took payment for anything they did in their ministry, condemning such remuneration (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Notice now that Naaman, having found his salvation, has direct access to Elisha (here representing the Word). No longer does he need the minister to convey and explain its message. In the same way, the convert, now free from sin, has direct access to the Word, to Jesus Himself.

Naaman soon thereafter departs to his home in Syria.

But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the LORD liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him. — 2 Kings 5:20

Gehazi, consumed by greed that so often trips us up, perhaps had seen all the glorious gifts which Naaman had offered Elisha, and experienced surprise and disappointment when the prophet refused payment, especially from one who was considered a foe of Israel. One might also assume that, if Elisha was paid, Gehazi would receive a portion. So as Naaman and his retinue drove away, Gehazi, stung at the thought of such possessions leaving forever, determined to get his share.

So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? — 2 Kings 5:21

See here that Naaman gets down from his chariot. This was his way to showing respect to Elisha through respect to Elisha’s servant. Naaman is overcome with awe for God, and wishes to do all he can to please. So should we be upon Christian rebirth, eager to show fear and love to the God who set us free. Unfortunately, Naaman’s eagerness also led him to naively falling into Gehazi’s lies. Even so should young Christians take care that they do not fall into the traps the Adversary lays for them.

And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. — 2 Kings 5:22-24

Gehazi’s theft is strikingly similar to the trespass of Achan in the days of Joshua (Joshua 7). Achan went against the mandates of God in taking loot, and so also is Gehazi going against God in taking payment for something the Lord intended to give for free. Even Gehazi knows that what he is doing is wrong, for he hides them in the house, intending to keep his transgression from Elisha’s knowledge.

But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.  And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow. — 2 Kings 5:25-27

Remember the comparison made earlier to Naaman and the seeking sinner, to Elisha and the written Word of God, and to Gehazi and the preacher or minister who delivers the message of deliverance. Gehazi sought to make profit from saving Naaman from his affliction, just as preachers of the Gospel all too often seek profit from spreading God’s news of salvation (2 Corinthians 2:17). Now, Naaman, the outlander Syrian, travels home with joy, health, and gratitude to God, while Gehazi finds himself burdened with the very same disease from which Naaman had been released.

Thus, the sinner who seeks salvation will rejoice when freed from his burden; but the minister who leads him to God and seeks material recompense for it is burdened with the same affliction of sin from which the convert has found relief.

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The Thief On The Cross

Posted in Baptism, Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Religion, Salvation with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2010 by willnotbesilent

Faith-only proponents hold up the example of the thief who was crucified alongside Jesus. Christ not only forgave him, but also made a promise:

And Jesus said unto him, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” — Luke 24:43

The thief was not baptized, and yet Jesus took him into His kingdom – gave him forgiveness and salvation. Why?

Quite simply, it’s because baptism had not yet been instituted as the means to enter the kingdom. One could not be baptized into Christ’s death because Christ had not yet died. Baptism into the body of Christ was part of Christ’s last will and testament, which did not take effect until Jesus died.

For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. — Hebrews 9:13-17

As God, Jesus has the power to forgive sins. While He walked the earth, He forgave sins even if those people had not been baptized, because, as stated above, His death had not yet come to pass to bring the testament into effect.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” And immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, He said unto them, “Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee’; or to say, ‘Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk’? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins” (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) “I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.” And immediately he arose, and took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were amazed, and glorified God, saying, “We never saw it in this fashion.” — Mark 2:5-12

Infant Baptism

Posted in Baptism, Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Religion, Salvation with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2010 by willnotbesilent

Many denominations practice infant baptism, also known as “christening” among such circles as the Catholic and Lutheran churches. By taking their baby to a baptism ceremony and having a member of the clergy sprinkle water on the child’s head, many parents believe that they are saving their baby’s soul — that it is automatically going to heaven no matter when it dies.

This practice has absolutely no basis in scripture. Philip told the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, “If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized].” To which the eunuch replied, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Only then did Philip baptize him.

Notice that Philip was very clear that he would only baptize the eunuch once he confessed his belief in Jesus. An infant has no knowledge of Jesus, and thus cannot believe in something it does not know exists, let alone confess that belief. Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He who has believed and been baptized shall be saved.” He does not say, “He who has been baptized shall be saved.” He says, “He who has believed AND been baptized shall be saved.”

In Acts 2:38, when the multitude asks what they must do, Peter tells them to repent and be baptized. He makes it clear that, along with belief (faith), one must repent. What sins has in infant committed of which to repent? None! The child hasn’t figured out how to talk or even mastered half of its motor skills. All it can do is lie there and cry for mama. At what point has that child sinned?

Some use the case of the Philippian jailer to justify infant baptism, quoting Acts 16:31-33:

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he [the jailer] took them that very night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

“See?” some say. “It says, ‘he and all his household’. You can’t tell me there weren’t infants in the jailer’s household.”

Can’t I? Well, first, there is no Scriptural indication that there WERE infants in the jailer’s household, so it is a huge assumption, not to mention adding to God’s Word, to say there were. Second, Paul told the jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Later, it says the jailer was baptized, “he and all his household.” So if he and all his household believed AND were baptized (and we consider that Philip would not have baptized the eunuch if he had not believed), that does seem to rule out infants, since, as stated before, infants are incapable of believing in something they do not know exist.

The clincher rests in verse 34, which states, And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household. After reading this, there is no way to prove that the phrase “his whole household” included infants — because INFANTS CANNOT BELIEVE IN SOMETHING THEY DO NOT KNOW EXISTS!

I Peter 3:21 adds to this:

The like figure whereunto [the flood] even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . . (KJV)

If baptism saves us as the answer of a good conscience toward God, then how can baptism save an infant? Can baptism be the infant’s answer of a good conscience toward God? Of course not! All the infant is probably thinking while getting its head wet is how hungry it is at the moment.

Yes, Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 18:16) He is not saying anywhere that children should be baptized. He also is not saying that they need salvation. As a matter of fact, He is making specific mention of their innocence: “The kingdom of heaven belongs to SUCH AS THESE.” The kingdom of heaven belongs to those with the purity and innocence of little children. He even continues to say (verse 17), “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” If children are in need of baptism and salvation, He would not have told adults to be like children to enter the kingdom of God. It would have been a poor analogy at best.

The concept of infant baptism rests on shaky ground. A casual, objective study of Scripture can prove this beyond refutation. It is nothing more than a tradition of men, a rite invented and carried on by human beings, with no sanction whatsoever from God.

Do Children Need Salvation?

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Religion, Salvation with tags , , , , , , , on May 23, 2010 by willnotbesilent

No doubt, if you have listened to various believers giving their “testimonies”, you have heard stories similar to these:

“My Sunday school teacher led me to Christ when I was four years old.”

“When I was eight, I accepted Jesus in the back of my parents’ car on the way to the lake.”

“I was saved at the age of fourteen.”

Were these people in need of salvation at such a young age? Many say they did — that the earlier one embraces salvation, the better. They often reference such passages as Psalm 51:5:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

Psalm 53:3 says,

. . . There is no one who does good, not even one.

Psalm 58:3 adds to this.

The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.

Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Scripture makes it clear that human being are sinful and wicked by nature. Our fleshly selves drive us from a young age, beginning with a desire for food and, if allowed, escalating to downright selfishness and destructiveness when we get older. We all have a tendency to follow our emotions and fleshly reactions rather than do what is right.

But are children in need of salvation from the consequences? John Calvin taught that all children are so depraved by nature that, if they die before being saved, they go straight to hell. If this is the case, the millions of aborted babies, who have done nothing, are damned. The children who die in infancy are lost. The five-year-old child who lost her life to cancer is suffering in eternal condemnation.

Some teach that children are innocent until the first time they do something wrong. When they tell their first lie, for example, their innocence is shattered forever, and instantly they are in need of salvation.

Is either belief in accordance with Scripture?

In Romans, Paul speaks about God’s law, the moral boundaries God set for us. He is explaining how the law binds us to the consequences of sin (Romans 6:23), sin being transgression of the law (I John 3:4). In Romans 7, Paul goes on to explain how salvation sets us free, or apart, from the law. In verse 9, Paul makes a curious statement:

I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment [regarding covetousness] came, sin became alive [through knowledge of sin] and I died.

Based upon this verse, we can conclude that there was a point in Paul’s life when he was not subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). He then became entangled in sin and its consequences, and had to be set free. We can read about his liberation in Acts, the story of his salvation. Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:56-57,

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

So at this point, Calvin’s teaching of original sin takes a heavy blow. Apparently, Paul was born innocent, and he remained innocent until he became subject to the law. This agrees with a passage we find in Ezekiel 28:15:

You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.

One can conclude then, that we are innocent at infancy, and thus sacred and blameless in God’s eyes. On the day that we sin, however, we become caught in the consequences of sin, and are in need of salvation.

But what about six-year-old Tara? She was running in the house, though her mom told her not to, and accidentally knocked over an expensive heirloom vase, which shattered on the floor. Her mom and dad find the aftermath and ask what happened. Tara knows she should tell the truth — her parents and her Sunday school teacher have both told her that many times — but she is afraid of the punishment she might receive for breaking the vase. So she points to her three-year-old brother playing with his MegaBlocks and blurts out, “Mark did it!”

Tara is only six years old. She knew she was not supposed to disobey her parents, but she did in running in the house. That’s against God’s command (Ephesians 6:1). She lied and accused her brother of breaking the vase, which God also forbids (Exodus 20:16). She violated God’s will knowingly. Is she doomed to go to hell unless she gets saved? Will she be held accountable for her actions as a small child?

In Numbers 14, God has led Israel through the wilderness and at last brought them to the very doorstep of the Promised Land. But when spies return with word of giants living in the land, the people panic, and for what seems to be another instance among countless others, they rebel against God. They accuse Him of trying to kill them all, and even talk of returning to the very Egypt from which God so miraculously delivered them. God, in His anger, then condemns them to wander in the wilderness. Read carefully as he pronounces His judgment on the people in verses 29-33:

. . . your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey — I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.

God was holding the people of Israel responsible for rebelling against him . . . but only those aged twenty years and older. Why? Is He saying that out of the thousands of Israelites who were age nineteen and younger, not one of them joined their parents in complaining against God? Not necessarily.

The prefrontal cortex of the human brain is located just behind one’s forehead. It is in this section of the brain that we make all our rational decisions, as opposed to our emotional, knee-jerk decisions. Here we make choices based on what we know as right or wrong. For example, if someone insults us, our first impulse might be to say something scathing or even hit them. That reaction would be based on emotion. But we know that Jesus told us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), and that Proverbs 15:1 says a soft answer turns away wrath. To not respond in kind would be a rational decision. All our rational decisions come from the prefrontal cortex.

Scientists have proven that the prefrontal cortex has not fully developed until around the age of twenty years old — the same age God used to draw the line between those whom He held responsible for the rebellion and those whom He did not. Scientists have just recently become aware of this fact. God knew it when He pronounced His judgment on Israel. It was not, as some might think, an arbitrary age. God never does anything arbitrarily. He knew that the young Israelites were not yet fully mature — but their parents should have known better, especially after all the miracles and awesome things they had witnessed.

Children and teenagers are all apt to make decisions based on emotion, hormones, and insufficient knowledge. They have yet to fully grasp the concept of responsibility. The time spent growing up with their parents is for them to learn these concepts so that, when they are grown and their ability to make rational decisions is fully developed, they can make wise, sound choices. Proverbs 22:6 says,

Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.

A parent’s responsibility is to give a child a solid beginning, teaching them about morals and truths, about God and righteousness and Christianity, so that, when a they grow to adulthood they can make wise decisions — including the lifelong commitment to following Jesus Christ.

Proponents for the salvation of children use the example of Jesus in Matthew 18:2-6:

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of God. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Remember that salvation is not based on faith alone. One must believe, repent, and be baptized. Therefore, when Jesus speaks of “these little ones who believe in Me”, he isn’t referring to children who have been saved. He’s speaking of the little voices you hear singing “Jesus Loves Me” and the ears listening to Daddy read Bible stories. The child believes in Jesus because Mom and Dad say Jesus is real, just as children raised in a secular home believe Santa Claus is real because Mom and Dad say he‘s real. The child has not made any profound observations on his or her own or realized how profound a sinner he or she is as a fallible human being. But it is important that a child believe in Jesus, because that is the very foundation of a Christian life. Mom and Dad are training up the child in the way he should go. Otherwise, they are sacrificing their child’s spiritual future, and it would be better for them to be thrown into the sea than to have the child’s blood on their hands.

Also remember that Christianity is a lifelong commitment. For a child to make the commitment to follow Christ at the age of six is ridiculous. Their ability to make decisions based on knowledge is extremely limited. Because of this inability, God does not hold them responsible. He considers them innocent. Mark 10:13-15 offers proof of this. Parents were bringing their children to Jesus for him to touch, and the disciples were trying to forbid them.

But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these [people who are like little children]. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child [with the humble, innocent manner of a child] will not enter it at all.”

Though this passage is used by many to argue that children should be led to salvation, Jesus is not saying anywhere here that this is the case. He is saying that, in order to enter the kingdom of God, we must be innocent, childlike — born again. He is using children as an example of purity: “The kingdom of God belongs to SUCH AS THESE.” If children were in need of salvation, to say that one must be like a child would be inaccurate.

So should a parent or teacher or anyone else pressure a child into being saved? Absolutely not! God has given children time to mature and make up their OWN minds, based on what THEY know. He wants them to be responsible adults, so that when they do make their choice to follow him, they will be able to follow through with their decision.

A danger lies in pushing a child toward salvation at a very young age. Because God does not hold a child responsible for their actions, would He consider them saved when pressured into salvation by an adult, especially since he holds them innocent in the first place? From what does this child need saving? A four-year-old child does not have nearly the understanding of sin and death, of God and righteousness, that an adult would have. He gave them this twenty-year period of development so they would have plenty of time to make their own decision based on knowledge of good and evil, the realization of their true wretchedness, and their ability to follow through with a lifelong commitment. Can a five-year-old make a commitment she must hold to for the rest of her life? Of course not! To expect such things is unreasonable and foolish. It’s equivalent to having a little boy swear to a little girl that he will marry her. It’s happened before, and we consider it foolish. Why? Because they are children. A lot can happen in their lives. That little boy is not held to his vow to the little girl because he made it when too young to completely understand what he was saying. It is no different with salvation.

The Biblical Mode Of Baptism

Posted in Baptism, Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Religion, Salvation with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2010 by willnotbesilent

Among the various denominations today, there are four different modes of baptism.

  • Sprinkling: The baptizer dips his fingers in water and flicks it onto the baptizee.
  • Pouring: The baptizer fills a cup with water and pours it over the head of the baptizee, who usually is standing in the baptismal.
  • Dipping: The baptizee is partially submerged in the water, often leaving the head or face emerged.
  • Immersion: The baptizee is completely submerged in the water.

Which of these modes is the Biblical one, the one employed by John the Baptizer and by Jesus and his apostles?

The first place to turn would be the word itself: Baptize. It is derived from the Greek word baptizo, the word used throughout the Bible in reference to baptism. According to Strong’s Concordance, baptizo is defined as “to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet)”. This seems clearly to indicate that baptism, in the true sense of the word, requires the baptizee to be lowered completely into the water.

Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about this.

In Matthew 3:16, after Jesus was baptized, He “came up immediately from the water”. When Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:38, Philip and the eunuch “both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.” It becomes apparent through these passages that the Biblical mode of baptism involves both the baptizer and the baptizee stepping into the water — the former to perform his task in baptizing the convert, the latter to submit to the process.

Having established this so far, we move on to the actual act of baptism. Paul, in Romans 6:3-7, has this to say:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

When we are baptized, we are buried into Christ’s death. We are buried with Him. The entire baptismal process is a picture, or representation, of us dying as Christ died, being buried, shedding the old sinful man, and rising up a new creature, freed from sin. We are following in the footsteps of Jesus, who first set the example for us in being baptized by John, then underwent His own, horrible baptism of true death and burial as He mentions in Luke 12:50.

But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished!

Paul also mentions this in Colossians 2:12 while telling the Colossians that their body of sinful flesh had been removed through Christ,

having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

Notice that the theme here is burial. When we are baptized, we are buried with Christ into His death, the death from which He rose.

It therefore follows that baptism in the true Biblical sense does not involve sprinkling, pouring, or partial submersion, but a complete immersion. The baptizee is buried in water to simulate Jesus’ own burial in the earth, then raised up again a new man, just as God raised Jesus to reign forever as King. Baptism in any other form is a fabrication of man — a mere tradition — not recognized by God.

Once Saved, Always Saved (Eternal Security)

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Religion, Salvation on May 19, 2010 by willnotbesilent

The concept of “once saved, always saved” , or, “eternal security”, is the idea that, once you have obtained salvation, you can’t lose that salvation. No matter what you do, you will always be a child of God. Largely, this concept centers on the emphasis upon God’s promise of eternal life (John 3:15, I John 2:25). “God’s promise of life is eternal,” proponents argue, “not temporary.”

Very true. God’s gift to us is indeed eternal life (Romans 6:23).

But that is the nature of a gift. We can keep it, or we can give it back. God made us with free will, as He demonstrated in the Garden of Eden. He does not want us trapped either in sin, or in His grace of eternal life. That is the beauty of God’s grace. He only wants people who want Him in turn.

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the sower, and describes the seeds and the various places where they fell. Some seeds in the story have an unhappy ending in verses 5-6:

Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

As He explains, we see that He is the sower, and the seeds his Word. He goes on in verses 20-21:

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky place, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

In Scriptural terms, “falling away” is leaving the security and freedom of God’s salvation to follow the path of fleshliness and sin. Hebrews 6:6-8 has this to say:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.

If it’s impossible to lose salvation, then why does the writer of Hebrews say in these verses that the person who falls away is like cultivated land that brings up thorns and ends up being BURNED? Does the word “burned” sound like eternal security? Or like damnation?

In John 15:5-6, Jesus says:

I am the vine, and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

What does He mean by “abide”? According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word is meno, which means, “to stay, continue, dwell, endure, be present, remain, stand, or tarry”. So John 15:6 is telling us that if we do not REMAIN or ENDURE or TARRY or STAY in Christ, we are like dead branches and burned. Again — does that sound like “eternal security”?

In Romans 11:22, Paul, speaking to the Christians in Rome, says:

Behold the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, IF YOU CONTINUE IN HIS KINDNESS; OTHERWISE YOU WILL BE CUT OFF. [Emphasis mine]

God grants Christians His kindness — on the condition that THEY CONTINUE IN HIS KINDNESS; i.e., obey His commandments and maintain their faith. Otherwise, their fate sounds much similar to the barren ground or the dead vine branches.

Eternal security?

Paul says in Galatians 5:1:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

The “yoke of slavery” mentioned in that verse is the slavery of sin. Christ sets us free from sin, but we can still leave that freedom and return to that slavery. Paul would not have given this admonition if we were incapable of falling away and losing our salvation.

The apostle Peter writes of false prophets (or, false preachers) and the disastrous effect they can have on God’s people in II Peter 2:18-22:

For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit”, and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”

Peter is here saying that if you were condemned prior to knowing and embracing Christ, you will be even more condemned if, AFTER knowing Christ, you willfully return to your old sinful ways. That most certainly doesn’t sound like eternal security!

In Romans 14:15, Paul admonishes Christians to be careful in their activities around those new to the faith. He says, Do not destroy . . . him for whom Christ died. What does he mean by “destroy”? He refers to the same destruction that awaits the dry branch and the barren ground. A young Christian is a tender shoot, and the older Christians around him must take care to nurture him and keep him from stumbling. His spiritual fate is at stake. Would Paul have issued this warning if it were impossible for a person to lose their salvation?

In Mark 13, Jesus speaks of the final days before the Great Judgment. He warns of famines, wars, earthquakes, fires, persecution, and betrayal. In verse 13, He says, You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.

So . . . if the ones who endure to the end are saved . . . then there must be those who DO NOT endure to the end. And those who DO NOT endure WILL NOT be saved. This most definitely doesn’t sound like eternal security!

This urging to remain faithful repeats to the congregation in Smyrna in Revelation 2:10. Jesus, through John’s pen, warns them of their coming ten-year persecution by the Roman emperor Trajan. Then he says, Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The Smyrnans who remained faithful until death received their reward of eternity with Christ . . . but what about those who did not? It just brings us to another if/then logic scenario:

IF those who remained faithful until death received the crown of life,

THEN those who did not remain faithful until death DID NOT receive the crown of life.

Ezekiel 18:24 is a declaration from God Himself regarding what he does to the righteous person who reverts:

But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die.

So yes, God’s gift of eternal life is indeed eternal. We who are faithful will spend eternity with him. He is a true and faithful God, and never takes that gift away from us. But we can turn away, fall away, and throw that gift away. God made that gift available. It’s up to us to accept it, and up to us to keep it. All we must do is love Him and keep His commandments.

In Matthew 14, we read about Jesus’ disciples in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. A storm stuck, battering them without mercy, lasting into the night. Then Jesus came to them, walking on the surface of the water, calling out to them to “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” At this point, Peter asked Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus told him to come, and Peter got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. But then he looked around at the storm. The moment he took his eyes off Jesus, he started to sink. “Lord, save me!” he cried. Upon which Jesus grabbed him and gave him a gentle reprimand: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Christians are in a storm upon the sea of the world, battered by trials and temptations, but Jesus is above all that, walking upon it in complete control. We can remain above the wild sea as long as we keep our eyes on him. But the moment we look away and become caught up in the worries and attacks of the world, we sink. We have to keep our eyes on Jesus, or we lose our footing and fall into destruction. Being human we all lose our way at many points in our lives. But only if we call out, “Lord, save me!” will he reach out and draw us back up. Our faith keeps us afloat. Our loss of faith drags us down.

Peter would have died had he not called out to Jesus. Sometimes people who lose their faith flail about and struggle, but never call out to Jesus, who is always there ready to pull us out. Those are the ones who perish. Those are the ones who do not remain faithful until the end.

Will you remain faithful, and continue your walk toward Christ? Or will you take your eyes off, and sink, and not call out for help? It is your choice. God will not force you to remain afloat.

Faith Alone (Sola Fide)

Posted in Baptism, Bible, Christianity, Christianity, Bible, Truth, Religion, Salvation on May 19, 2010 by willnotbesilent

Sola Fide — “faith alone” — is the premise that one is saved once they’ve believed in Jesus, prayed “the prayer”, and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior. Much of this is based on the following verses.

John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 20:31 —
But these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in his name.

Acts 16:31 — [speaking to the Philippian jailer] They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Romans 10:9-10 —
. . . if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

There are many others used in the argument for “faith only” salvation, but these are few of the most prevalent verses. One can indeed conclude — and rightly so — that faith is essential for salvation. Hebrews 11:6 confirms this conclusion when the writer states: And without faith it is impossible to please Him [God], for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Unfortunately, the “faith alone” stance has several large holes. For starters, nowhere in Scripture is a convert told to “pray a prayer” to be saved. Perhaps the biggest hole is James 2:24, which says, You see a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. This is the one and only place in Scripture that mentions “faith alone”, and this single place states very clearly that “faith alone” DOES NOT save (justify)! Earlier in Chapter 2, James says (verse 19), You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. James is saying here, “So you believe in God. Well, good for you! So do the demons, and it scares them to death.” Are demons saved? Of course not! In Acts 24:25, Paul preached to the governor Felix. But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened [KJV says, “trembled”] and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.” Felix never summoned Paul again. Felix obviously believed, else he would not have been frightened — but was he saved? No. As a matter of fact, he kept Paul imprisoned to win the favor of Paul’s enemies.

Hebrews 11
, the famous “Faith Chapter” goes into more regarding faith.

Verse 7: By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. Was Noah saved by faith alone? No, he obeyed as well.

Verse 8: By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to recieve for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. Did Abraham just have faith? No, he obeyed as well.

Verse 17-19: By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants whall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead . . . Did Abraham just have faith? No, he obeyed as well.

Verse 27: By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. By faith they [Israel] passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land; and the Egyptians, when they attempted it, were drowned. Did Moses just have faith? No, he obeyed as well. Did Israel just have faith that God would save them from the Egyptians? No, they obeyed as well.

So we establish that faith, while essential to salvation, does not save us by itself. We need something else . . . acts of obedience. James 2:17 says, . . . faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. If something is dead, it is useless. How can we logically be saved through a dead faith? The very idea is absurd. So the purpose of James 2 is to point out that yes, we ARE saved by faith. All the verses quoted by “faith only” advocates are correct. But that faith has to be a LIVING faith, a faith of obedience. So what obedience makes our faith living?

The very first time the Gospel was preached, Peter and the apostles stood before a multitude of three thousand people, and convicted them of their guilt in the torture, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God — who had just been made King of All, seated at the right had of God. Imagine their terror! They had done all this to someone who was now in a position of judgment, and had every right to bring His wrath upon each and every one of them! Acts 2:37 tells us they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

Read carefully when Peter gives his response. He had to be specific in his answer because, as said before, this was the first time anyone had ever heard the Gospel preached. Does he say, “Pray the prayer and accept Jesus in your heart as your personal Lord and Savior”?

NO! He says (Acts 2:38), “Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

So nothing is said about “praying the prayer”? Does he tell them that, because they believe, they’re saved? On the contrary! Obviously they believe, because they are afraid, convicted, and asking what to do. If they did not have to do anything, Peter would not have given them the answer we read in the 38th verse. He told them they needed to do two things:

  • Repent
  • Be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.

Now let’s take a look at this. Faith is the first step. So the second step is to repent. This is huge. Did Felix repent? No. He believed, but he did not express regret for his sinfulness. II Corinthians 7:10 says, For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (KJV) We are all sinful (Romans 3:23 — . . . for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.). We all need to repent of our past deeds and turn to Jesus for salvation. True repentance and true sorrow for our wretchedness will bring us to the salvation we will never regret.

The third step is baptism in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. Not baptism into a specific denomination or church or congregation, but baptism into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3), in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness (remission) of sins. When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, he waited for three days for Ananias to tell him what he should do. He spent those three days blind and praying. Do you think he believed? Of course he did, else he would not be praying. If faith was all it took to be saved, why would he spend those three days praying so fervently? And when Ananias finally arrived and told him what he must do, Ananias said (Acts 22:16): “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” This was the only thing Ananias ever told Paul to do, so this must be what Paul MUST do. The context of the sentence (“Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name) implies that, though Paul believed, his sins would not be washed away until he was baptized.

Jesus said in Mark 16:16, “He who has believed and is baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”

Pair that verse up with John 3:18: He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (KJV)

Jesus also told the Jewish leader Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Our salvation is our rebirth. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The water of which Jesus speaks is, beyond question, the water of baptism, which John had already introduced and of which Nicodemus was doubtless aware.

So if you want to be condemned, all you have to do is disbelieve. If we want to be saved, we must –based on the verses we have read so far — (1) Believe, (2) Repent, and (3) Be Baptized.

To simply believe and expect God to save you, or to suggest that salvation comes prior to baptism, is unscriptural. The apostles emphasized the importance of baptism repeatedly.

  • Faith saves: (Acts 16:31)
  • Repentance saves: (II Corinthians 7:10)
  • Baptism saves: (I Peter 3:21)

But none of these things by themselves can bring about salvation. One needs ALL THREE to enter the Kingdom of God . . . to be saved.

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