Excluding the Scriptures Leads to Confusion

It’s an easy mistake to make when studying the Bible, focusing on only one verse that addresses a certain topic to the exclusion of other verses that also address that same topic.

No single verse in the Bible procropped-bible-medium.jpgvides all we need to know about any given subject. For example, consider the question, “What did Jesus say while on the cross?”  From Matthew’s account of the crucifixion we know that Jesus said, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” meaning “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46).  If we limit our study of Jesus’ words from the cross to Matthew’s account of the crucifixion, this is all we know about what was said.

From Mark’s account of the crucifixion we also know that Jesus said “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” meaning “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me” (Mark 15:34).  If we limit our study of Jesus’ words from the cross to Mark’s account of the crucifixion, this is all we know about what was said.

From Luke’s account of the crucifixion we know that Jesus said “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Luke also includes Jesus’ words “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) and “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).  If we limit our study of Jesus’ words from the cross to Luke’s account of the crucifixion, this is all we know about what was said.

From John’s account of the crucifixion we know that Jesus said “Woman, behold thy son” (John 19:26), “Behold thy mother” (John 19:27), “I thirst” (John 19:28) and “It is finished” (John 19:30).  If we limit our study of Jesus’ words from the cross to John’s account of the crucifixion, this is all we know about what was said.

Not one of these verses that deal with Jesus words from the cross, if studied to the exclusion of other verses, provides a complete answer to the question, “What did Jesus say while on the cross?”  But when we consider all of them together, we know that Jesus, while on the cross, said “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani meaning My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, Woman, behold thy son, Behold thy mother, I thirst,” and “It is finished.”  It is only when we study all the verses that address Jesus’ words from the cross that we have a complete understanding of what Jesus said while on the cross.

A second example can be seen when a person considers the question: “What must I do to be saved from my sins?”  It is easy to make the mistake of focusing on only one verse (or a few verses) that answers this most important question to the exclusion of other verses that also address this same question.  Unfortunately, it’s also a very costly mistake.

Many preachers are quick to quote John 3:16 as one verse that explains God’s plan of salvation.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  The truth is this one verse alone does not explain God’s plan of salvation.  If I limit my study to John 3:16, the answer to “What must I do to be saved from my sins” would be incomplete.  John 3:16 says nothing of the need to confess my faith before others.  Should I then conclude that this confession is not necessary?  Not at all!

I might go to Luke 13:3-5 for the answer: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”  I understand from these verses that I must repent of my sins to be saved.  But these verses say nothing of the need to believe.  Again, if I limit my study to Luke 13:3-5 my answer would be incomplete.

Still others are quick to mention Romans 10:9-11 to answer the question, “What must I do to be saved from my sins?” “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:9-11). Do these verses provide a complete answer to the question “What must I do to be saved from my sins?”  Not at all!  They say nothing of the need to repent!  If I focused on these verses to the exclusion of others, I would not know that I need to repent to be saved from my sins!

How then can I find the answer to my question?  I must consider all the verses that deal with man’s salvation.  When I do this, I learn that, to be saved from my sins, I must hear the gospel of Christ. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

I learn that I must believe the gospel of Christ.  I must believe that Jesus left heaven and lived a sinless life while on earth.  “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  I must believe that Jesus gave his life for me, that he offered himself on the cross as the only sacrifice that can ever take away my sins.  For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). I must believe that he was victorious over death (I Corinthians 15:55-57), that he rose from the grave (Matthew 28:5-6) and ascended back to heaven where he now sits at the right hand of God.  “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10:12).

When I study all the verses that deal with my salvation I learn that I must repent of my sins.  “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:” (Acts 17:30).  A person repents of his sins when he changes his will and decides to conform to God’s will.  He decides to live a life that is pleasing to God rather than self.

When I study all the verses that deal with my salvation I learn that I must confess my faith in Christ to others.  “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

  When I deal with all these verse that answer the question “What must I do to be saved from my sins” I learn that I must be baptized to receive the forgiveness of my sins.  Those present on the Day of Pentecost heard Peter’s preaching and were pricked in their hearts (Acts 2:37).  They asked Peter and the rest of the apostles “Men and brethren, what shall we do” (Acts 2:37)?  We can learn something when we consider what Peter did not tell them to do.  Peter did not tell them there was nothing for them to do, for this would have been an incorrect answer.  Peter did not tell them to pray the sinner’s prayer for this too would have been an incorrect answer.  Peter did not tell them to simply admit they were sinners and ask Jesus to come into their hearts and save them, for this too would have been an incorrect answer.  No friends.  Peter told them to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38).

When I study all the Bible says concerning the question, “What must I do to be saved from my sins” I learn that I must hear and believe the gospel of Christ, repent of my sins, confess my faith in Jesus Christ before others, and be baptized to receive God’s forgiveness.

Many preachers incorrectly exclude baptism as a condition of salvation.  They are quick to refer to one (or a few) verse that relates to the topic of salvation to the exclusion of other verses that relate to that same topic.

The statement is often made that baptism is a work and we are not saved by works.  Make no mistake about it.  We are saved by God’s grace.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” (Ephesians 2:8).  We can never earn our salvation. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  We can never be deserving of heaven.  We can never be saved by meritorious works!

It is also true that no man can be saved by the works of the law of Moses.  “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:10-11).

Can I then conclude that God’s forgiveness requires no works of any kind on my part?  Not at all!  In the context of being set free from the bondage of sin the apostle Paul wrote, “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:17).  It is true that none of us can be saved by meritorious works or works of the law of Moses.  But it is also true that God extends His grace to us in response to our works of obedience.

Baptism is no more a work than is hearing the gospel, believing the gospel, repenting of our sins or confessing our faith.  Each of these things (hearing, believing, repenting, confessing) is something that man is commanded to do.  They each require activity on man’s part.  It should not be ignored that Jesus called believing a work.  “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).   Baptism is a commandment to which we submit and allow God to do His work.  Baptism is a work of God!  “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

What must I do to be saved from my sins?  Eternity is too long to settle for an incomplete answer!

Error of “Once Saved, Always Saved”

cropped-bible-medium.jpgThe doctrine of “once saved, always saved” teaches that it is not possible for a child of God to sin in such a way that he will be lost. Many people, who undoubtedly are very sincere and possess a desire to do what is right, find tremendous comfort in this doctrine. This doctrine, however, is not taught in the Bible. It is an erroneous doctrine that provides a false comfort and a deceitful feeling of security.

First, let’s examine some of the passages often used to support this doctrine. Concerning the Christians in Asia Minor, Peter wrote “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5). How is it that Christians are kept, or guarded, unto salvation? Through their faith! It is possible for a Christian to lose his faith and quit believing in God. The author of the book of Hebrews warned his readers against the sin of unbelief (Hebrews 3:12). Don’t overlook the fact that the author was writing to people who were already Christians!  They had been saved from their sins.  Yet he still warns them of the sin of unbelief.  Is a Christian who loses his faith still saved? Of course, the obvious, and only logical, answer is a resounding no!

Others point to John 10:27-28 in an effort to defend the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27, 28). Does this passage really teach “once saved, always saved”? No! Notice Jesus’ words “they follow me.” This passage contains wonderful promises for Christians. However, these promises are conditional upon our continually following Christ. Those Christians who quit following Christ will not receive these promises.

Still others point to I John 3:9 in order to defend their doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” “Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because his seed abideth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God” (I John 3:9). John wrote that a person does not continue to sin because the seed (the Word of God) continues to abide in him. However, Satan can steal the Word of God out of a person’s heart if that person allows Satan to do so (Matthew 13:19). When a Christian allows the Word of God to be taken away from him, that Christian has fallen from grace and is lost.

Many other passages are used in an attempt to defend the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.” But, much to the disappointment of those who defend this false doctrine, numerous passages teach it is possible for a Christian to sin in such a way that he will be eternally lost. First, there are things a Christian must do in order to keep from falling. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (II Peter 1:10). This passage provides a clear implication that if a Christian does not do those things Peter detailed in II Peter 1:5-9 he will fall from grace and be lost.

Second, the writings of the apostle Paul teach it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace and be lost. To the church at Corinth, Paul wrote “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (I Corinthians 9:27). The word “castaway” refers to one who does not stand the test and is rejected!  Paul knew that without practicing self-control he would be rejected by God.

Third, Paul taught the Christians in Galatia that it was possible for them to fall from grace. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law: ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Many of the Christians in Galatia strayed from the truth and tried to be justified by the law of Moses. The Bible not only teaches it is possible for Christians to fall from grace, it gives us an example of Christians who fell from grace – some of those Christians to whom Paul was writing!

Fourth, the Bible teaches a Christian can sin in such a way that he will be in a worse condition than that which he was in before he became a Christian. Peter wrote “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (II Peter 2:20-22). The “dog turning to his own vomit” and the “sow that was washed turned back to her wallowing in the mire” are used to represents people who have become Christians, left their life of sin, and then gone back into that sinful world.  If, in the “latter end” they are still saved how could their “latter end” possibly be worse than their beginning?

The parable of the vine and the branches proves it is possible for a Christian to fall from grace. Jesus said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away:…..” (John 15:2). Jesus went on to say, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6). Notice that the branches in this passage represent individual Christians, not individual denominations. There were no denominations in existence at the time Jesus spoke these words. If everyone today would follow the pattern for the New Testament church given to us in the Bible, there would be no denominations in existence today.

God’s word plainly teaches it is possible for a Christian to sin in such a way that he can fall from grace and be eternally lost.  Submit to God’s plan for saving man: believe in Jesus Christ as your savior (But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him – Hebrews 11:6), repent of your sins (And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: – Acts 17:30), confess your faith in Jesus Christ before others (And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God – Acts 8:37) and then be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of your sins (Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost – Acts 2:38).  Then guard your salvation like your eternity depended on it – because it does!

I Rearranged My Motel Room

standard-double-2I took a trip recently and stayed in a motel.  Overall, my room was quite nice.  But there were a few things I needed to change.  I had to move the bed a little further away from the wall so I could sleep without being bothered by noise from the traffic.  Of course, this meant I also had to move the night stands.  The comforter on the bed was heavier than what I am accustomed to, so I bought another one to replace it.  When I did, I realized the new comforter clashed with the pictures on the wall, so I had to replace them as well.  The television was nice, but, since it is much easier for me to watch a television with a larger screen, I called the front desk and asked that a larger one be sent up to my room.  At last, everything was just like I wanted it to be!  I was all ready for a comfortable stay!

No, I didn’t do any of those things!  Even I know better than that.  I left the room just as it was when I got there.  Why?  Because I knew I was only going to be there for a short while.  I didn’t have to have everything exactly like I wanted it to be because I was only there temporarily.  There was nothing permanent about it!

Life is like that motel room, isn’t it?  We are only here for a short while (James 4:14).  There is nothing permanent about life on this earth (II Peter 3:10).

Why then, do we spend so much time focusing on the things of this world?  Why do we give so much attention to this present (fleeting, temporary) life and neglect the life (permanent, eternal) to come?  The apostle Paul wrote, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

And yet, we too often spend time trying to arrange and rearrange the things of this life.  We struggle to make everything in life just like we want it to be.  Our attention should be focused on the eternal.  “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (II Corinthians 4:18).  Peter reminds us that we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth, merely passing through – “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; (I Peter 2:11).

Friends, it’s ok if not everything in this life is the way you want it to be!  Life, after all, is a motel room!

Four Tips to a Great New Year!

Ready or not, 2019 has now arrived!  As plans for the new year are laid out and resolutihappy-new-year-2019-png_145039ons are made I am reminded of Proverbs 27:1 – “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”  It’s true, none of us knows what this year will bring.  But there are some things we can do to help us prepare for what comes our way.  Consider the four letters in the word Y-E-A-R.

First, the “Y” reminds us that we ought to yearn for God’s word.  A yearning can be defined as a strong craving or desire.  This year, determine to make Bible study a regular part of your daily routine.  Spending time in the scriptures helps to provide hope for the future (Romans 15:4); strengthen our faith (Romans 10:17); and give us comfort (I Thessalonians 4:18).

Second, the letter “E” reminds us of the need to endure this year’s trials.  Like any other year, 2019 will present us with difficulties that will test our faith.  But as Christians, we know the temporary afflictions of this life are light in comparison to the eternal weight of glory in heaven (II Corinthians 4:16-18).  No trial we face in this life can ever separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39).

Third, the letter “A” reminds us of the need to acknowledge our responsibility to others.  We are to let our lights shine before men that they may glorify our father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).  We are to love all men, even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).  We are to always be mindful of our influence (Philippians 2:4).

Fourth, the letter “R” reminds us to remember our greatest need.  God did not send an economist to this world, nor a scientist, nor a professor.  God sent a savior into the world (John 3:16).  Our greatest need is not money, technology or worldly information.  Our great need this coming year is salvation.