June 16, 2014.
I received word this morning that one of the boys we were studying with in Nicaragua decided to get baptized into Christ! His good friend, who was studying with us too, is also considering making the decision to follow Christ. This was wonderful news. It’s great to actually see the fruit of the work done, though we know that it is God who causes the growth (I Cor. 3). I am happy to have a new brother in Christ and will pray for the influence he will have on his friends, especially the one who is considering it. I ask for your prayers as well.
This actually makes a great segway into what I was going to talk about today. There was a video that I recently saw of a short part of one of Francis Chan’s sermons. The video is interesting because it is something that I did not expect to hear from him, and I am excited all the more for it. I have embedded the video below if you would like to watch it to know what I am talking about.
It thrills my heart to hear that a popular preacher is saying let’s just get back to what the bible says. Let’s go back to the New Testament church, in it’s purest form and do what they did. Amen. I too get tired of all the arguments and fighting that comes with those with different belief systems. This is not what Jesus wanted. This is not what Paul taught. This is not the unified body. But how can we get back to unity? I believe Chan is on to something here in this video. Just go back to the early church. Do what they did, without arguing about it. If they said to repent, then repent. If they said to be baptized, then be baptized. Why must it be so difficult?
I do believe that some of the problem is that we don’t see why things are important. We don’t see it sometimes because it is hard to accept the truth. This is mainly because it has been taught incorrectly for so long. Why did Peter tell the crowd that just crucified the Messiah to repent? Because God is a righteous God, faithful and willing to forgive our sins, but not able to be in the presence of sin. It is true that the blood of Christ has cleansed us of our sins, but can we continue to live in them? This is what the Hebrew writer has to say about that:
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”
Paul writes this to the Romans:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
And indeed, what might be the most telling example is when Jesus hung on the cross and took on all of our sin, became sin for us, that God had to turn his back on his only Son because he could not be in the presence of sin. In what agony our Savior cried “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And the sky was dark for three hours. How can we expect to stand before God on the judgement day saying “God, I knew you loved me so much that I just didn’t think you would care if I continued in sin. I didn’t repent because I didn’t think it was necessary.” Our Lord says something else:
“And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
But repentance is not often the contingency point when it comes to salvation. Everyone believes you have to have faith. Everyone believes you need to confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Most everyone agrees that we are to repent. But what about baptism? Why do we not all agree on this? I think this too was a point that Chan was trying to make. Why do we ask? Why is it so hard to believe simply what the bible says. In fact, even though I think he has made a huge step in the right direction, Chan still didn’t completely quote Acts 2:38 in its entirety.
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Why get baptized? For the forgiveness of sins. Listen to what Ananias tells Paul when he was trying to figure out what to do:
“And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”
Why do we have such a hard time with baptism? I’ve asked myself this question so many times. Paul thoroughly explains it in Romans 6:
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Chan is right, baptism was an assumed thing of the early church. And it was assumed that you were baptized for the remission of sins all the way through the 1400’s at least (I think it went beyond that as well), though the mode has been debated. The notion that it is simply an “outward sign of an inward faith” is relatively new in the religious world. The notion that it has no real relevance to salvation is completely new. Faith and baptism have always been viewed together. Listen to what Paul writes to the church at Galatia:
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”
Paul equates the number of people who have been baptized to the number of people who have put on Christ. Does that make sense? And if that wasn’t enough, Peter writes this:
“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.”
(1 Peter 3:21-22)
Baptism now saves you. Not the physical washing of it, but the appeal to God (notice it is God we appeal to in baptism, not man, such as an ‘outward sign’) in submission to his will. I don’t say any of this to start a fight. If you know me, you know that I hate conflict and I avoid it anytime I can. I do say this because it is simply what the bible teaches.
I don’t want to argue, because honestly you are not arguing with me. If you want to know where I stand on the issue, I will simply open the bible and let you read what I believe. I teach this because I believe it to be the truth, and I believe many people have been led away from the truth unknowingly. The devil is smart. He doesn’t come at you with obvious mistruth. He just takes the truth and puts a little spin on it to make it mistruth, so small that its almost unnoticeable. Paul warns about this:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
The Galatians weren’t denying Christ as the Son of God (not directly at least). They were simply following a distorted gospel. Indeed, Peter even warns of people twisting Paul’s words:
“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.”
(2 Peter 3:15-16)
We have been warned. Let us all seek unity through the simplicity of Scripture. May everything we believe be rooted in the good word and not in the teaching of man. Ask yourself, where is that found in the bible?
Suggested Daily Reading: Acts 2, 8, 22, Romans 6, Colossians 2.
May we all be unified in Christ.