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Baptism-a part of the Gospel message

why not baptizeThe Bible clearly unites baptism to the preaching of the Gospel. Yet many disagree on what baptism means, what part it plays in the salvation of a sinner, who can be baptized, when they should be baptized, etc., etc.

Rather than talk to the recipients of the Gospel message, I would like to address this post to those who teach the Gospel message. When you teach someone who is not a Christian but expresses interest in studying about God’s word or even in becoming a Christian, what is it that YOU tell them to do in order to become a Christian?

Granted, the question may be a hard one because some don’t think you need to “DO” anything. However, setting aside whatever action might be taken by a sinner, what is the message that a person trying to produce Christians should preach?

Consider this: Two of the Gospels (Matthew and Mark) actually commission the apostles with the word “baptism” just before Jesus leaves the earth to ascend into Heaven.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Mat 28:18-20)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
(Mar 16:15-16)

Both of these statements take place after the resurrection and may even be the same instructions given at two different times. However, even if Jesus only commanded them one time, it took place during the 40 days Luke says he was speaking to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) Since Pentecost took place 50 days after Passover (when Jesus was crucified) it leaves as few as 10 days from Jesus’ ascension to Peter’s first sermon; not much time to forget what Jesus had said.

Since Peter spoke to them, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I think one would be safe in thinking that Peter not only accurately preached what God wanted but that it is also what we should preach too.   What did he tell his audience to do?

You see, if we set aside the question about WHAT baptism does; if we set aside the question about is role in the salvation of the one who hears the message, are we able to conclude anything at all about what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost? I suggest that we can.

What we can conclude is that when Peter told those inquiring Jews (who had been convicted that Jesus was the Messiah) what they should do, he told them to repent and be baptized.  How many preach that today?

Today, too many preach  Jesus and instruct the recipient to pray what is commonly called the Sinner’s prayer. It is in many books, it is included as a “bonus CD”, and placed at the end of many TV religion shows. Something like “Jesus I believe in you, please forgive me of my sins and live in my heart. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

My question to those who teach the sinner’s prayer is simple: Where is that in the Bible? What example do we have of the Apostles ever instructing any person to pray such a prayer when they respond to the Gospel message?

Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize, Peter commanded his audience to be baptized, and Phillip, who “preached Jesus” (acts 8) to the Eunuch must have mentioned it  because the Eunuch’s question was “here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?”  When you preach Jesus, do you get that response? Hey, there is a swimming pool, river, baptistry real close, why can’t I be baptized?

Today, few who “preach Jesus” would ever have someone ask them that question. My question is “why not?”

So if you do not preach baptism, if you do not include it in your message as you try to save someone, “why not?”

Put down the sin and back away!

** I am going to repost some of my earlier blogs from the blog study I did through James. I will probably do this for the next five to six posts. I hope you enjoy them as many of my current readers were not with me when I put these out. There may be some slight edits but essentially they will be the same.***

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  (Jas 1:21 ESV)

When ever you see the word “therefore” you should look and see what it is there for! And sure enough, this therefore is there for a reason. It concludes a thought that James is expressing and brings to close an argument (or at least a portion of it) that he has been making.  Because we are responsible for our own temptations and sins and God is the one who is giving us all of the good gifts, especially being born again into his family, we need to stop! Listen! and realize that our anger at our perceptions of reality (which are not the way things really are) is messed up. So….

We should put away something and receive something that will benefit us.

That which we are to put away is all of the filthiness and rampant wickedness in our lives. Wait! What is that? Filth and wickedness?  Isn’t James talking to Christians who had been washed in the blood of Jesus? Cleansed from their old sins? How can they have filth and wickedness? Sure, a little sin once in a while (everyone does) but “filth” is such a …well, it is such a filthy word! Don’t even get me started on wickedness. Contrary to the popular usage (or the little note of encouragement that WordPress gave me at post 14 “Wicked!”) it is not a compliment.

James is not the first person to address this issue and every Christian realizes that from about 5 minutes after coming up out of the grave, sin is still a possibility. We are not mechanically prevented from sinning. Paul dealt with it in Romans 6 and told those Christians that they could not live in sin any longer.  In this context though, the filthiness and wickedness would be attributable to a life that was not lived in faith and, worse yet, one that blamed God for the situation.  You can see now perhaps why James goes on from here to give so much good practical advice to his audience on how to live a life of faith and the many actions that will show that you live a life of faith.

I like the phrase ‘put away’. It is used in several meanings. 

  1. To put in its proper spot. “Would you put the trash away please.”
  2. To incarcerate. “The judge put him away for 1000 years.”
  3. To be victorious over. “He put him away with that final shot”

In either case, the understanding should be to remove that stuff out of your life because it does not belong there.

To contrast the putting away and removal of filth and wickedness, James says you are to receive something. In this case, the implanted word.

How you are to receive it is very important: with meekness. As I have heard all my life, “meek doesn’t mean weak” but we still tend to think of it that way. Actually, meek has more to do with the control of strength not  the absence of strength. A meek horse is still a powerful animal but, rather than flexing his muscles and running away with or bucking off the rider, he permits the rider to be there. We also need to permit the word that God has implanted to be there. To fight against it and to tear it out is not good for us.

Jesus spreading seedThe illustration reminds me of the parable of the sower. In that parable, the seed was also the word of God and it fell on four soils. These have already proven themselves not to be the hard soil and probably not the rocky soil. Judging by James’ book, I think he was concerned that they may be the thorny soil. When the word is implanted into the soil (our hearts) if we receive it with meekness, it is able to save our souls. If we do not, well… it cannot do its job.

James is going to expand on this thought in the next few verses. What we need to consider, as we read the word, is are we receiving the word with meekness or trying to remake it into our own image and plans? One last cliché to close. We have seen those bumper stickers that say “God is my co-pilot”. While the thought is nice, I would suggest that God should be the pilot!  Let’s meekly let God direct us in His paths.

Question: How hard is it for you to back away from sin and meekly accept only God’s word?

Jesus view of Authority. Doing as he was told!

So the last few blog posts have dealt with Jesus’ view of authority and hopefully established in some small way that when it comes to authority, Jesus both follows it and exercises it in a service oriented way. Perhaps we will talk about the authority that punishes at some point (a very valid point to be made) but today we want to look at a simple thought: the message of Jesus.

Jesus’ message was not his own. We sometimes think of it like that, I suppose and we certainly would say that Jesus agreed with the message He presented but still, it was not His own message.

Unlike Jonah who was told to go and preach a message of repentance and did not want to, Jesus gladly did.

For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment–what to say and what to speak. (Joh 12:49)

So what about the message of the Gospel? Whose message is that? I would suggest that this one is the message of Jesus. When Jesus came to the Apostles in Mt 28, He first told them that all authority had been given to Him and then gave them the message to preach!

Here are three passages from the Gospels:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  (Mat 28:18-20)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mar 16:15-16)

and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luk 24:46-48)

It is a simple message: Tell a person about Jesus, those willing to follow (e.g. believe the message), they are to repent of the old life, be baptized and then learn more about Jesus and His commandments.

The question then is this: Can we change the message? Do we have the authority to do so? I would suggest that we do not, any more than Jesus had the authority to change the message the Father gave Him.

Peter seems to have followed the authority of Christ, submitting to the Authority Christ when he preached the first Gospel sermon.

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. (Act 2:36-42)

You can see (and really you should read the whole chapter 2) that Peter is preaching about Jesus, wanting to make disciples. some of those who listened were willing to respond and he told them to repent and be baptized, then they stuck around and learned more.

So, let me bring this down to a question/slash application. So many times you hear preachers end their sermons with an invitation, final chapters of books have a message about becoming saved. the message is, in short: If you want Jesus to be your savior, pray the sinners prayer, and ask Jesus into your heart.

The question is this: Is that scriptural? was the sinners prayer what Jesus commanded His apostles? If  you agree, like I do, that the sinner’s prayer has no part of converting sinners, then just don’t do it? It may be common today, it may seem simple, but without authorization from Jesus, dare we preach it?

 

God gives the increase

What makes a seed grow? From my school days I know that there are a few things needed. Good soil, sunshine, water, and protection from predators (No, not the ones with clocking devices and ugly faces running through the forest chasing or being chased by Arnold Schwarzenegger…these predators are squirrels and cute things like them). But WHAT makes the seed grow? Does it matter?

Mar 4:26-29  And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,  (27)  and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.  (28)  For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.  (29)  But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

In this parable, some truth is seen regarding the farmer. He doesn’t know how the seed grows, but when it is ready to be harvested, he doesn’t sit around wondering about it, he goes out and harvests. It is not a question that needs to be answered because it is a moot point. If you plant the seed in the appropriated soil, water it, let sun get to it, and protect it, it will grow. How? who cares?

It may be tempting to focus on the harvesting as if that is the big deal and….it is. In fact, the work done up to that point is important. Leave a step out and the crop can fail. However, without the seed, without that one small speck to plant into the ground, there will not be a harvest.

In many of the parables of Jesus, the seed is the word of God. Other things can impact how that word is received and if it will grow but until the seed is spread across the soil, you don’t know what will happen or if any thing will happen.One thing is for sure, we are not the cause of the growth. We might plant, we may water but God gives the increase.

1Co 3:5-7  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?  (6)  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.  (7)  So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

Keeping count on conversions is not the thing to do. We ought to keep count on how much seed is spread. Of course, it needs to be the right kind of seed. There are those who go out and spread the seed of their denomination but not of the Bible. They talk about Jesus but they don’t follow Jesus’ teachings. They say they preach the Gospel but they preach a message the scriptures didn’t authorize.  Some do it with deliberateness, others do it because that is how they were taught (They, themselves, forgetting (or never knowing) that the first rule of Bible study is to study the Bible not the church literature or commentaries)

Our job is to spread the message that Jesus proclaimed. In the Gospels, Jesus send out his disciples with a commission. (See Mt 28) and in Acts, we see those disciples fulfilling that mission. In the epistles, we see the Apostles informing the saved of more things they need to know to be Holy but the saving message had already been preached to them.

Go. Plant. Water. But never for a moment think that you gave the increase or caused the seed to grow. That is God’s job and He does it well.

 

 

 

God wants all to be saved

1Ti 2:1-4  First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,  (2)  for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  (3)  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,  (4)  who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

This passage of encouragement to Timothy has a lot to say to us too.  Let’s look at a few simple things you can learn from this set of verses.

1. Prayer works. Paul makes several statements in other letters about prayer, in all of them, there is not an expression of doubt to the effectiveness of prayer. He even teaches us in 2 cor 12 that sometimes, the answer is ‘No”.

Of course, it helps to know what you are to pray for. I know in our country we have a large and well respected history of protest and demonstrations but how many in their demonstrating spend time in prayer for the leaders that they are protesting against? In addition, for what would you pray? Paul tells Timothy to pray that we have peaceful and quiet lives, lives that are godly and dignified.

I think that we often forget that our purpose in life is to promote the Kingdom of God. If we have quiet and peaceful lives, it makes it easy for us shine as servants of God and to spread the Gospel, which is the power of God for salvation.

2. Even though you may feel that it is distasteful, it is a pleasing thing to God. Not because God likes or wants leaders that are bad ones or wicked, or dicitorial but because we show our dependance on the One who is able to take care of us.

3. God wants everyone to be saved.  This very clear statement which echoes throughout Scripture shows that God is not a capricious, vindictive God. He wants everyone to be saved. The fact that everyone will not be saved is not because of any desire on God’s part. One passage that we may overlook in regards to this idea comes from Matthew 25 in verse 34, the Lord welcomes the saints into Kingdom that was “prepared” for them. Yet in verse 41, the cursed ones are sent into a place “prepared for the devil and his angels”.

Two places, one prepared for the saints, the other for Satan. There is NO PLACE prepared for the lost. God didn’t make one for them. He wants all to be saved.

Lesson: Pray for our lives so that we can spread the Gospel and Live our lives so that we don’t become lost.

Faith working in our lives

Well, the last few posts have been a lot of fun but as my wife said, “it isn’t a light topic.” So inspired by the last few posts and in particular yesterday’s I decided to preach on this topic today. If anyone listens to the sermons and wishes to comment, you are welcome to do so.

Today’s lessons started with last weeks sermon on the unrighteous servant who showed no mercy to the fellow servant who begged for more time to pay. This, after having been forgiven such a huge amount himself. Transitioning we moved to James 2:1-13 where the audience James is writing to were urged to not show partiality based on something so superficial as money.  Paying special attention to the admonition to be merciful if you want to receive mercy we moved into the last 1/2 of the chapter.

It is important I think to understand that the audience that James writes to have some serious issues. Issues that need to be corrected and I think that they were susceptible to the idea that believing that Jesus was the Christ was sufficient but that those other things like, doing the word (not just hearing), visiting widows and orphans, loving your brother, etc was too much and got in the way of  their ambitions.

With this in mind, James informs them in very certain terms that Faith without works is not going to work. (no pun intended)  Of course, we should be able to see that James is using the word faith in a way that is not a full faith but only a partial faith. One in which the fact is agreed to but there is not any response to that fact. Like a car that doesn’t have an engine, it is still a  car in one sense but of what value is it for getting you to work?

Of course, does the principle of faith and works apply to the our initial salvation?  I think it must. So we take a look at it that question in the PM and try to show how faith, works, and salvation fit together.  The conclusion is that if a person preaches the Gospel that Jesus sent the disciples out to preach that the only response of the person with a saving faith will be to do the things that the preacher (who should only be preaching what Christ told HIM to) tells them to do.

Faith only can either be right or wrong depending on how you define faith. If you define it like James was, it will not work. If you define it the way the Hebrews writer was using it, it works fine.

The links are here for part 1 and here for part 2.

From this point forward, we will move on to Chapter 3 of James.

Put down the sin and back away!

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  (Jas 1:21 ESV)

When ever you see the word “therefore” you should look and see what it is there for! And sure enough, this therefore is there for a reason. It concludes a thought that James is expressing and brings to close an argument (or at least a portion of it) that he has been making.  Because we are responsible for our own temptations and sins and God is the one who is giving us all of the good gifts, especially being born again into his family, we need to stop! Listen! and realize that our anger at our perceptions of reality (which are not the way things really are) is messed up. So….

We should put away something and receive something that will benefit us.

That which we are to put away is all of the filthiness and rampant wickedness in our lives. Wait! What is that? Filth and wickedness?  Isn’t James talking to Christians who had been washed in the blood of Jesus? Cleansed from their old sins? How can they have filth and wickedness? Sure, a little sin once in a while (everyone does) but “filth” is such a …well, it is such a filthy word! Don’t even get me started on wickedness. Contrary to the popular usage (or the little note of encouragement that WordPress gave me at post 14 “Wicked!”) it is not a compliment.

James is not the first person to address this issue and every Christian realizes that from about 5 minutes after coming up out of the grave, sin is still a possibility. We are not mechanically prevented from sinning. Paul dealt with it in Romans 6 and told those Christians that they could not live in sin any longer.  In this context though, the filthiness and wickedness would be attributable to a life that was not lived in faith and, worse yet, one that blamed God for the situation.  You can see now perhaps why James goes on from here to give so much good practical advice to his audience on how to live a life of faith and the many actions that will show that you live a life of faith.

I like the phrase ‘put away’. It is used in several meanings. 

  1. To put in its proper spot. “Would you put the trash away please.”
  2. To incarcerate. “The judge put him away for 1000 years.”
  3. To be victorious over. “He put him away with that final shot”

In either case, the understanding should be to remove that stuff out of your life because it does not belong there.

To contrast the putting away and removal of filth and wickedness, James says you are to receive something. In this case, the implanted word.

How you are to receive it is very important: with meekness. As I have heard all my life, “meek doesn’t mean weak” but we still tend to think of it that way. Actually, meek has more to do with the control of strength not  the absence of strength. A meek horse is still a powerful animal but, rather than flexing his muscles and running away with or bucking off the rider, he permits the rider to be there. We also need to permit the word that God has implanted to be there. To fight against it and to tear it out is not good for us.

Jesus spreading seedThe illustration reminds me of the parable of the sower. In that parable, the seed was also the word of God and it fell on four soils. These have already proven themselves not to be the hard soil and probably not the rocky soil. Judging by James’ book, I think he was concerned that they may be the thorny soil. When the word is implanted into the soil (our hearts) if we receive it with meekness, it is able to save our souls. If we do not, well… it cannot do its job.

James is going to expand on this thought in the next few verses. What we need to consider, as we read the word, is are we receiving the word with meekness or trying to remake it into our own image and plans? One last cliché to close. We have seen those bumper stickers that say “God is my co-pilot”. While the thought is nice, I would suggest that God should be the pilot!  Let’s meekly let God direct us in His paths.

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