A Sure Way to Stay Out of Trouble!

depositphotos_19931271-stock-illustration-open-mouth-with-tongue“When we advance a little into life, we find that the tongue of man creates nearly all the mischief of the world” (English clergyman, 1820 – 1885).  Truer words were never spoken!  Countless troubles arise when a person fails to restrain his tongue.  Friendships are damaged, relationships are wrecked, feelings are hurt, and reputations are marred – all because of lips left unguarded.  A man who has trouble keeping his words in check will have trouble keeping himself out of trouble!

“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles” – Proverbs 21:23.

Today, I will guard my tongue!

Yes Alexandria, It’s Still OK To Have Children!

earth smallFreshmen New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made the news recently with her absurd comments concerning the condition of “planet earth.”  In an Instagram live video she claimed that, in the wake of climate change, it is time for young people to ask a legitimate question – “Is it still ok to have children?”

Later in the video she went on to say, “Our planet is going to face disaster if we don’t turn this ship around, And so it’s basically like, there is a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult and it does lead, I think young people, to have a legitimate question. Ya know, should—is it okay to still have children?”  And still further, “And even if you don’t have kids, there are still children here in the world and we have a moral obligation to them to leave a better world to them.”  Representative Ocasio-Cortez claims that, when it comes to climate in particular, there is a global threat to the planet.

Who would argue with the fact that we are to be good stewards of all God has given us, including this wonderful planet on which we live?  But it is awfully arrogant for man to think he can destroy this planet.  As long as this earth remains, it will be a place to plant and harvest crops, a place where people can marry and raise their families.  God, with infinite wisdom that far exceeds that of any man, has assured us that “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).

Make no mistake my friend, this world will come to an end. Peter, writing by inspiration of God, has assured us of that.  “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (II Peter 3:12).  But the end of this world will come at a time when God, not man, decides.

Better Than Any Safe Room

Safe-Room-by-Titan-Home-SecurityThe internet site, www.fema.gov/safe-rooms, defines a safe room as “hardened structure specifically designed to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) criteria and provide near-absolute protection in extreme weather events, including tornadoes and hurricanes. Near-absolute protection means that, based on our current knowledge of tornadoes and hurricanes, the occupants of a safe room built in accordance with FEMA guidance will have a very high probability of being protected from injury or death.”  Safe rooms are becoming more common in new home construction.  They are indisputably a good idea as they provide enhanced safety to the home’s occupants.

Thankfully, Christians have a refuge that provides, not near-absolute, but absolute protection. This refuge provides protection, not from extreme weather events such as tornadoes and hurricanes, but from the more extreme events of life – events that challenge our faith and  test our hope.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.” (Psalms 46:1-3)

What Defines Your Life?

Packed-UnitA few months back, while traveling out of town, I passed by a self-storage rental company.  I’m sure you’ve seen them – storage units you can rent to store your belongings” People might rent these units for any number of reasons.  The extra storage space may be necessary while a house is being sold or remodeled.  Sometimes a person may rent one just to have a little extra room for his “stuff.”

On this particular trip, the storage rental company had a slogan on their sign – “It’s your life.  Store it with care.”  I had never heard of this company before and have no reason to believe anything negative about the company.  As far as I know, it is a reputable company providing a valuable service to its customers.  But nonetheless, the slogan got my attention.  Especially the first part – “It’s your life.”

King Solomon had everything his heart desired.  Nothing he saw and wanted was kept back from him. Yet, when Solomon looked upon everything he had he described it as vanity (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

My life is not defined by things.  “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).  Physical possessions to which many people give great attention are temporary.  There’s nothing permanent about the things of this world.  “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (II Peter 3:10).

No friends, my life is not defined by the material things I possess, whether they be left in storage somewhere or used daily.  My life is defined by my relationships, beginning first and foremost with my relationship with God.  No wonder the apostle Paul wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

A Call to Morality

bible mediumPaul wrote to the church at Corinth in order to issue a call to morality. Whenever we read the book of I Corinthians, it becomes readily apparent that the church at Corinth was experiencing a number of problems. One of which was the immoral behavior of many of the members there. Let’s examine the following, from I Corinthians 6:9-11.

First, consider the pollution of sin. Fornicators – a person who indulges in illicit sexual intercourse, idolaters – those who turn from God to the sin of idolatry, particularly as it relates to the sins of the flesh, adulterers – person who has sexual intercourse with another person’s spouse (notice the distinction between fornicator and adulterer; although either sin will keep a person out of heaven, there is a sense in which adultery is the worse sin because it is through adultery that families are broken up and a third party is irretrievably injured; when a man commits adultery he is telling his children their father is a liar and a cheat, his own pleasure means more to him than his children’s welfare, and his own satisfaction means more to him than their mother), effeminate – meaning soft or soft to the touch, used metaphorically in a bad sense to refer to those who make self indulgence the object of their life, abusers of themselves with mankind –homosexuals, thieves, covetous – those persons who are eager to have more, to have what belongs to others, greedy of gain, drunkards – habitually intoxicated, revilers – railer, extortioners – rapacious, given to robbery and extortion. When a place is heavily polluted, it cannot support life. Likewise, those who dwell in the pollution of sin cannot expect to have eternal life.

Second, consider the punishment that awaits those who persist in their sin. The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God (regardless of family background, family ties to the church, membership in local congregation, etc.). Rather these persons will spend eternity in hell, a place of everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:31-46); a lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15); where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12); where there is no hope (Luke 16:26); where the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:47-48); prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

Third, consider the purifying that is made possible by Jesus’ blood. Notice Paul’s use of the past tense – such were some of you. Ye are washed (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5; I Peter 1:22). Ye are sanctified (I Corinthians 1:2). Ye are justified (Romans 5:1; Titus 3:7). Friends, the gospel has the power to change people! But we must also notice the danger of returning (II Peter 2:20-22).

Today, we need to take heed to that same call to morality!

There’s a War Raging, And You’re In It!

War_Thunder_Xbox_release_Thumbnail-heroThere’s a war raging; and you and I are caught in the middle. Oh you won’t hear any gunfire. This war is absent of the sound of missiles soaring overhead. No grenades are being tossed in your direction; at least, not literally. But nonetheless, there is a war going on. And this war has more devastating effects than any physical battle could ever produce.

Today, like any other day, there is a war raging over your soul.   Because, just as much as God wants you to be with him in heaven, Satan wants you to spend eternity with him in hell.   “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). And he will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Satan is very cunning in his methods.   Satan will attempt to do whatever is necessary to trap us; to deceive us; to discourage us and weaken us. If left unprotected we will surely fall. No wonder then Paul admonishes us to “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

The raging war over your soul is a fierce battle that requires much strength and endurance on our part. But it is a battle that can be won! “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

Overcoming Worry

worry.pngHave you ever heard someone say, “I can’t help it if I worry. That’s just the way I am!” Perhaps you have even made this statement yourself. It’s safe to say that many of us know how Martha felt when Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). Consider just a few of the many things men worry about. If a man is physically ill, he worries about whether or not he is going to get well. If a man is enjoying good health, he worries about whether or not he is going to get sick. If he does not have a job, he worries about whether or not he will get one. If he has a job, he worries about whether or not he will lose it. If he does not have a car, he worries about how he is going to get transportation. If he has a car, he worries about whether or not his car is going to break down. If he does not have an education, he worries. If he is getting an education, he worries about whether or not he will pass the course. And the list could go on and on!

But the Bible teaches we are not to worry! Listen to the words of the apostle Paul, recorded for us in Philippians 4:6-7. “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The word “careful” has a somewhat different meaning to us today than it did at the time the King James Version of the Bible was written. Paul was not teaching that we are never to be concerned about our lives. For example, a person who is concerned about his health will be more likely to live a lifestyle that is conducive to good health. A person who is concerned about not having an auto accident will be motivated to drive safely.

Paul was not teaching we are never to plan for the future. Consider the words of James: “Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For what ye ought to say, If the Lord wills, we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:13-15). Don’t misunderstand. It is necessary to plan for the future, provided we never leave God out of our plans.

What then, did Paul mean when he wrote, “Be careful for nothing?” Paul was teaching against an unhealthy anxiety, what most of us would call worry. Paul’s words serve to warn us against being overly anxious about our lives. Consider some of the negative aspects of worry.

First, worry is in conflict with God’s commandments. It is inconsistent to pay heed to God’s commandments to pray, to study, and to assemble to worship while at the same time ignore the simple command not to worry. A person who loves God will strive to obey all that God has commanded.

Second, worry is a wasteful way to spend both our time and our energy. The time a person spends in worry would be much more profitable if it were spent in other ways.

Third, worry can be detrimental to a person’s health (both physical and mental). You’ve probably heard someone say, “He’s going to worry himself sick.” There may be more truth to this than we realize. In his book, “None of These Diseases,” Dr. S. I. McMillen includes a list of diseases that can be caused, at least in part, or worsened by emotional stress. Included among this list are ulcers of the stomach and intestines, high blood pressure, panic attacks, diabetes, asthma attacks, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancers of many types. Someone has said, “Worry is the sexton that digs an untimely grave.”

Fourth, worry can be a robber. The word “worry” comes from a Middle English word that means to strangle. When a person experiences the emotional strain produced by worry he begins to feel as if someone were grabbing him by the throat, refusing to let go. Worry is slowly but surely choking him of the joy, the happiness, and the peace we all desire.

Fifth, because worry is often a sign of a lack of faith, worry can hinder our prayers from being answered. When we pray to God, we are to pray in faith, without doubting. James wrote, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:5-8).

But friends, it is possible for us not to worry! How do I know it is possible? Remember Paul’s words, “Be anxious for nothing!” What can we do to eliminate worry from our lives?

First, we must learn to live our lives one day at a time. Dale Carnegie wrote a book entitled, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” The book begins by emphasizing the need to live in “day-tight compartments,” that is, living life one day at a time. Mr. Carnegie described a ship where the captain, while standing on the bridge of the ship, could operate a number of controls that would close watertight doors, thus isolating various parts of the ship from one another. Theoretically, if the ship were damaged, these watertight compartments would serve to keep the ship afloat.

By living in “day-tight” compartments, we are able to shut out the past and put the cares of yesterday behind us. We are able to refuse to allow the thoughts of tomorrow to rob us of the joy today presents to us.

Many people have benefited from Mr. Carnegies’ book. But the idea of living in “day-tight compartments” is not original with Mr. Carnegie! In fact, any self-improvement book that is worth the paper it is printed on is based upon sound, Biblical principles. It was Jesus who said, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34.) Many times people go to a bookstore, earnestly searching for that ideal self-help book, one that will reveal the secret to a truly happy life. But these people already have the only truly worthwhile self-help book in their possession. The greatest self-improvement book man can ever read is the Bible!

Second, in order to eliminate worry from our lives we must remember that much faith drives away worry while little faith invites worry. Matthew the eighth chapter records a time when Jesus and his disciples were in a ship. A great storm arose and waves covered the boat. Soon the waves partially filled the boat with water. Imagine the scene as, in the midst of the storm, Jesus lay sleeping in the boat. Jesus’ disciples were afraid, just as many of us would be. The disciples woke Jesus, saying, “Lord, save us: we perish.” When they did so Jesus asked them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?”

This was not the only time Jesus taught worry results from a lack of faith. In Matthew the fourteenth chapter we read about a time when Peter walked on the water with Jesus. But when Peter saw the waves and sensed the wind was strong, he became afraid. Peter began to sink. He cried, “Lord, save me.” Immediately Jesus reached forth his hand and caught Peter, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Our sea of life often has many waves that cause us to become afraid and doubt. But Jesus taught that as our faith increases, our worries decrease.

Our faith in God involves much more than merely believing God exists. Faith in God involves trusting in God. The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8). Friends, what a beautiful picture this is! When we place our trust and hope in God we are able to endure any difficulties that may come our way.

Often times we are faced with situations we simply do not understand. But we can trust in our God who will carry us through those difficult times.

Consider the following example: We trust our lives everyday to bridges built by man. The piers supporting these bridges are placed deeply underwater, unable to be seen by man. Yet we drive our cars over these bridges without any hesitation. We do so with confidence because we trust the men who built the bridges. More importantly, God can provide a bridge over every problem we face if we only learn to rely on him.

It was the wise man Solomon who wrote, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Third, in order to eliminate worry from our lives we must hand our burdens over to God. Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you” (I Peter 5:6-7).

Many times a person is burdened with a load he simply cannot carry on his own. But we will never bear any burden that is so great we cannot bear it with God’s help. The apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13.)

We humans ought to learn a lesson from the camels. A camel is able to carry a heavy load throughout the day. But at the end of the day, the camel kneels down in order to allow his master to remove his burden. To bear the load day and night would cause the camel to eventually become weary and collapse.

Likewise, we ought to kneel before God at the end of the day in order to allow him to remove our burden. In Psalm 55:22, David wrote, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Fourth, whatever your worry may be, take it to the Lord in prayer. Remember the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:6-7: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Paul is literally saying, “Stop spending all of your time constantly worrying about every little thing!” But notice Paul’s words in the latter portion of verse seven: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” When we take our worries to God in prayer, his peace will act as a barrier or wall of defense, thus preventing the intrusion of worry into our lives.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I can’t help it if I worry. That’s just the way I am!” The next time you hear someone make that statement, remember; it doesn’t have to be that way. Thankfully, it is possible to eliminate worry from our lives! We can do so by: living our lives one day at a time, remembering that much faith drives away worry while little faith invites worry, handing our burdens over to God, and taking our worries to God in prayer.

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.

Come and Taste that the Lord is Good!

Blue_Wildebeest,_NgorongoroI recently came across a website called “TasteAtlas.”  Refdesk.com describes TasteAtlas as “a world atlas of food and drinks, an encyclopedia of flavors dedicated to capturing the tastes and scents of every city and village.”  I enjoy eating food from other countries.  I remember how much I enjoyed the samosas in Africa and dining on a wildebeest steak!

When I came across “TasteAtlas” I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 34:8 – “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”  Peter wrote, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” 1 Peter 2:3 (KJV).  In both cases the word “taste” is used figuratively as a synonym for “experience.”

Because I am a Christian I enjoy the blessing of salvation, forgiveness of my sins, the providential care of God and the hope of heaven.  I could go on and on but the “taste” of being a Christian is something that must be experienced to be appreciated.  Nothing tastes better than being a Christian!

Are You a Saint?

cropped-bible-medium.jpg“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:1-2).

Are you a saint?  “Not me,” you might say.  “I’m not really a bad guy, but I’m no saint!”

Unfortunately many, if not most, in the world do not have a correct understanding concerning saints.  If you go to Webster’s dictionary you would get the following answer – “one officially recognized, especially through canonization as preeminent for holiness, an angel or one of the spirits of the departed in heaven.”  WRONG ANSWER!

I know that’s the common thinking among men.  But is that what Paul had in mind when he wrote concerning saints?  Notice that Paul address his letter to the saints at Ephesus, people who were very much alive at the time he wrote!  The word saint means “set apart for God, to be exclusively his.”  We might define it very simply as “separated.”

Saints are separated from their past sins.  “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).  Your past does not define who you are today!

Saints are separated from the passion of sin.  If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;” (Ephesians 4:21-23).  Those things of the world which were once were attractive to us no longer capture our attention.

Saints are separated from the practice of sin.  “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 5:20-6:2).  For a saint, sin is no longer a habitual practice.  Sin is no longer a part of our character.

Saints are separated from the penalty of sin.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Because of God’s grace saints have the gift of eternal life.

Where can you find saints today?  You won’t find them buried under the floors of great cathedrals.  You won’t find them in history books.  Where do you go to find saints today?  Paul wrote that the saints are in Christ!  To be in Christ is to be in his body, the church.

How does a person become a saint today?  By being set apart!  When a person is baptized he is set apart from his past sins.  He is set apart from the penalty of sin.  As he continues to mature as a Christian he is set apart from the passion and practice of sin.

In God I Put My Trust

david_and_goliathAfter David killed Goliath, all Israel, including Saul, loved him.  When David became known for his military successes, the women sang, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.”  Saul, out of jealousy, eventually became David’s enemy.  At one point, David fled to Gath.  When he was recognized by one of Saul’s shepherds, David acted like a madman in order to keep from being harmed.  It is said that this is the only record of David ever being afraid of man.  Many feel it was during this time that David wrote the 56th psalm.

David asked for God’s mercy because his enemies wanted to “swallow him up.”  David’s enemies wanted his life just as a wild animal seeks after the blood of its prey.  Yet David said, “When I am afraid I will trust in God.”  David did not fear what man would do to him because he knew God was on his side.

David ended the 56th psalm by expressing his thanks to God.  Although David had not yet been delivered from his enemy, he used the past tense form of the verb (thou hast delivered.)  David spoke as if it had already been done.  David’s faith caused him to know his prayer would be answered.

Today I, like David, will put my trust in God

Not Conformed, But Transformed

The world is constantly trying to influence our thinking; constantly trying to mold us into what they would like for us to be.  But as Christians, God expects us to be different.  Rather than “go with the flow of the world” we are to be transformed, or changed, according to God’s will.  To the church at Rome the apostle Paul wrote, “And be not conformed tE2UeT29o this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2)

As Christians, we are to consider ourselves pilgrims on this earth, sojourners passing through on our way to heaven (I Peter 2:11).  We are to realize our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  As strangers on this earth (I Peter 2:11) we are to set our affection on things above, rather than on the things of this world (Colossians 3:1-2).  Rather than allow the world to shape us into what they would have us be, we are to be changed into what God wants us to be.

Today, I am determined to resist the temptation to be conformed to the world.

Don’t Get Too Comfortable Here!

earth small“When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman (American author, editor, radio and television personality).

When I read this quote, I can’t help but think of a Christian’s situation here on earth.  The inspired writer Peter wrote, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” (I Peter 2:11, KJV).  As Christians, we are strangers here on earth.  We are temporary residents of this revolving planet.  We are only here for a little while.  To Christians, this world is a foreign country.

While many are quite comfortable in this world, Christians should experience feelings of discomfort and unease.  We are to seek those things which are above.  We are to set our affections on things above rather than the things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2).  We are not to lay up treasures upon earth, but treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19).  Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come (Hebrews 3:14).

Christian’s can easily relate to the words of well-known hymn written by Albert Brumley – “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing thru.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue; The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.  O Lord, you know I have no friend like you, If heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do; The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

Make the best use of your time while on earth but don’t get too comfortable here!

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Read any good books lately?  I have sixty-six that I can recommend.  Thirty-nine of them are in the Old Testament and twenty-seven of them are in the New Testament.

The Bible remaibible mediumns the most widely distributed and bestselling book in the world.  More than one hundred million copies of the Bible are sold or given away every year.  Sadly, according to www.statista.com, for the year 2018 it is estimated that 30% of people in the United States never read the Bible, 12% read the Bible once a year, 6% read the Bible once a month, 9% read the Bible once a week, and only 15% read the Bible every day.  It is also noteworthy that, the younger a person is, the less likely he is to read the Bible.  Of those people age seventy and older, 20% never read the Bible.  The percentage of people who never read the Bible increases as their age decreases.  Of those people in the eighteen to thirty-one years old age group, a whopping 35% never read the Bible and only 9% of this group reads the Bible every day!

When you read these statistics, do you get the impression that the number of persons who read the Bible regularly seems quite low in comparison to the number of persons who own a Bible?  Why is this number so disappointing?  A better question might be “Why should I read the Bible?”

First, we should read the Bible because it is the word of God.  “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (I Thessalonians 2:13). Those at Thessalonica who heard the word of God understood that the scriptures have God, not man, as their source.

Because the Bible is the word of God it answers questions no other book can answer.  Where did man come from?  How did life on earth begin?  What is our purpose in life while here on earth?  Where will we go when we die?  No other book can answer these questions!

Second, we should read the Bible because it is how God reveal his wills to man.  God does not speak to anyone today privately or individually, but through His written word!  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16-17). When we have the Bible we are perfectly, or completely furnished with everything we need to live a godly life.

Third, we should read the Bible because it is impossible to grow spiritually without reading the Bible.  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:” (I Peter 2:2). If a child does not grow physically, the parent soon realizes that something is wrong.  The parent becomes troubled and distraught.  We do not grow spiritually by delving into pop psychology, the opinions of the majority or traditions of men, but by reading the Bible and applying its teachings to our lives.  When we fail to read the Bible as we ought, God realizes that something is wrong.

Fourth, we ought to read the Bible because it provides guidance to our lives.  Without the Bible we are “stumbling in the dark” spiritually.  O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). The Bible provides us with the direction we need. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).  Jesus said, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures” (Matthew 22:29).  As long as we fail to read the scriptures we will continually live in error.  Countless numbers of self-help books are written every year, yet none more helpful than the Bible.

Fifth, we ought to read the Bible because it helps us in overcoming temptation.  The apostle Paul wrote, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” (Ephesians 6:17).  Like it or not, you are in a spiritual battle!  Realize it or not, every day Satan is battling to win your soul.  The word of God is a weapon we have been given to help us win that battle.  Every time Jesus was tempted he used the scriptures to overcome temptation, and we can too (Matthew 4:1-10)!  Remember the statistics we mentioned earlier?  Only 15% of people read their Bible daily.  Where do you suppose other 85% keeps their Bible?  On a dusty bookshelf?  On a coffee table as a decoration for their home?  To overcome the temptations of life, we ought to keep the Bible in our hearts.  Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

Sixth, we ought to read the Bible because it is the standard by which we will all be judged.  You and I will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10).  Many today are quick to say, “Only God can judge me!”  But friends, that thought should be no comfort to someone who does not know the scriptures.  “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Doesn’t it make sense that we would want to know the standard by which we will be judged?  I’ll give you a hint – it’s not at all what you have heard from many men!

Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All

bible mediumThe apostle Paul, because of his unwavering faith in our savior Jesus Christ, was severely persecuted by those who were so adamantly opposed to the gospel.  He was beaten with rods and was stoned.  He suffered shipwreck three times and was frequently imprisoned.  He suffered pain, hunger and nakedness (II Corinthians 11:23-27).

Yet notice how Paul described his persecution when writing to the church at Corinth.  “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;  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” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

It’s not possible to read these verses without two words jumping out at you, grabbing you by the collar and demanding your attention – light affliction!  How could Paul possibly describe his beatings, stonings, imprisonment, pain, and hunger as light affliction?  Paul is painting an obvious contrast between his temporary life on this earth and his eternal life in heaven.  While he describes his affliction as light, he describes the glory of heaven as weighty.  Paul knew his affliction was but for a moment – temporary, while the glory of heaven is eternal.  Paul knew any suffering he experienced on earth because of his faith in the gospel would pale in comparison to the blessing of eternity in heaven.

Friends, this is true for us also!  No sensible person would deny that life on this earth has its difficulties and trying times.  But whatever they may be, any difficulties we experience while on earth will pale in comparison to the blessing of an eternity in heaven.

Today, I will ask God to carry me through any difficulties I may face, knowing that heaven will surely be worth it all!

Salvation Without Baptism?

baptismCan we be saved from our sins without being baptized (immersed in water)? This question is of great importance as it relates to the eternal destiny of our souls. Admittedly, we can go to any number of different sources for our answer. Some will go to their preachers, their family members, or trusted friends.

But friends, the question of “Can we be saved from our sins without being baptized,” is too important a question for us to rely on other men for the answer. This question demands that we go to God, through the Bible, for our answer. When we set aside all preconceived ideas and prejudices, all human creeds and all doctrines of men, we learn that the Bible teaches that no person living under the New Testament can be saved from his sins without being baptized.

Friends, the devil wants us to believe that we can be saved from our sins without being baptized.  But if we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, Jesus was mistaken when he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). The word “and” is a conjunction that joins belief with baptism. Neither belief or baptism, without the other, will result in salvation. Some men want to rewrite the Bible, making Mark 16:16 read, “He that believeth and is saved shall be baptized.”

If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then Peter was mistaken when he preached his sermon on the day of Pentecost. When those present heard Peter’s preaching concerning Christ, they were pricked in their hearts and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Notice Peter’s answer.  “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). There’s that conjunction again – the word “and.” Those present on the day of Pentecost were commanded both to repent and to be baptized for the remission of sins. Neither repentance or baptism, without the other, will save a person from his sins.

Notice Peter’s use of the phrase “for the remission of sins.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, page ninety-four, indicates the purpose of the baptism referred to in Acts 2:38 is, and I quote, “to obtain the forgiveness of sins.”

The phrase, “for the remission of sins,” is the same phrase Jesus used in Matthew 26:28 when he said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”  Would anyone dare contend that Jesus shed his blood because our sins had already been forgiven? Would anyone dare contend that Jesus shed his blood to show the world that our sins had already been forgiven? Of course not! Jesus did not shed his blood because our sins had already been forgiven, but in order that our sins could be forgiven!

Likewise, Peter did not command those present on the day of Pentecost to be baptized to show the world their sins had been forgiven. Peter commanded those present on the day of Pentecost to be baptized to have their sins forgiven!

If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then we can be saved outside of Christ. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). But no man can be saved outside of Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  It is only through baptism that we enter a relationship with Christ.  “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3).  Every time the phrase “into Christ” appears in your Bible, it is always preceded by the word “baptized”, without exception.

If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then we can be saved without being a member of Christ’s church. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13).  Because we are baptized into Christ’s body and because Christ’s body and Christ’s church are one and the same (Ephesians 1:22-23), we know we become members of Christ’s church by being baptized into his church. Because Christ is the savior of the body (Ephesians 5:23), we know that only those persons who have been baptized into Christ’s body, his church, are saved.

The conditions of salvation and the conditions of membership in Christ’s church are the same. Men often try to make a distinction between the conditions of salvation and the conditions of membership in Christ’s church. Some people teach we can be saved from our sins (and thus be in heaven) without being baptized. But oddly enough, many of these same people will not allow us to be a member of their church unless we have been baptized. Seems odd, doesn’t it? What do you think about someone who makes it harder to be a member of their church than it is to go to heaven?

If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, then Saul (later known as Paul) was saved before his sins were washed away.  When the Lord appeared unto Saul on the road to Damascus, the Lord told Saul to go to Damascus where Ananias would tell him what he must do. Do you remember what Ananias told Saul? “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). No friends, Paul was not saved before his sins were washed away in baptism, and neither are we.

If we can be saved from our sins without being baptized, the apostle Peter was wrong when he taught that baptism saves us. “The like figure whereunto 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” (I Peter 3:21). Friends, did you notice Peter’s words? Baptism doth also now save us. That’s right, baptism doth also now save us!

Some people want to eliminate baptism as a condition of salvation by noting that baptism is a merely a figure.  They often cite I Peter 3:21 to support their belief that baptism is no more than a symbol of what has already taken place.  Those who do so should study types and antitypes.  The Greek word that is translated “figure” in the King James Version is antitupos, from which we get our English word antitype.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon (page 51) defines an antitype as “a thing resembling another, its counterpart, something in the Messianic times which answers to the type prefiguring it in the Old Testament, as baptism corresponds to the deluge.”

What is the meaning of I Peter 3:21?  Water baptism corresponds (it is the antitype) to the flood during Noah’s day (the type).  Just as the waters of the flood served as a dividing line between death and salvation in Noah’s day, the water of baptism serves as a dividing line between spiritual death and salvation today.  When Peter wrote what we refer to as I Peter 3:21 he did not contradict what he said in Acts 2:38 – a person is forgiven of his sins when he submits to water baptism, not before.

What must we do to be saved from our sins? We must hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). We must believe the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:16). We must repent of our sins (Acts 2:38). Repentance is a change of mind brought about by godly sorrow, resulting in a reformation of life and is accompanied by restitution whenever possible. We must confess our faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:32-33). We must be baptized to receive the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).

No matter what well intentioned preachers or trusted friends may say, the Bible teaches that we cannot be saved from our sins without being baptized.  A person who has not been baptized to receive the forgiveness of his sins is a person who is still lost in his sin.

Never Underestimate the Power of God

power of GodGod created the world from nothing (Genesis 1:1); parted the Red Sea and allowed His people to pass through unharmed (Exodus 14:19-22); caused the walls of Jericho to fall down (Joshua 6:20-21); enabled David to kill Goliath (I Samuel 17:45-49); took care of Daniel while he was in the lions den (Daniel 6:22); cared for Jeremiah while he was in a dungeon (Jeremiah 38:7-13); watched over Paul and Silas while they were imprisoned (Acts 16:25-28) and raised Lazarus from the dead (John 17:44).

What do you have going on in your life right now that God cannot handle?  Then let him!

Rod Halliburton