All posts by BradleyCobb

Bible Q&A – What was Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh”?

Question: What was Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”?—anonymous.

Thanks for the question, and for reading! This is one of the most common questions that people ask. It’s often used as an example of what people call “unimportant questions.” But everything in the Bible is important. There’s no such thing as an “unimportant question” from the Bible.

Before we go on, it’s important that you come to this with an open mind and an open Bible. A lot of people say “no one knows what the thorn in the flesh is.” Others say, “It’s probably bad eyesight, but no one knows for sure.” We’re not concerned with what people have to say about it. We’re only interested in what the Bible has to say about it. So, open your Bible and let’s discover the answer for ourselves.

The “thorn in the flesh” is described in Second Corinthians 12:7-9. Please notice how Paul describes it:

  1. It is something physical (a thorn in the flesh).
  2. It is the “messenger of Satan.”
  3. Its purpose is to beat Paul (buffet, in King James, which literally means to hit or strike repeatedly. This indicates violence).
  4. It humbled Paul.
  5. It didn’t go away, even after Paul prayed about it.
  6. Paul calls it “my infirmities.”

Now, look back a chapter and let’s see what the context tells us. In chapter eleven, Paul is dealing with the Jews who were trying to undermine his efforts for Christ. These are frequently called “Judaizers” or “Judaizing teachers.” They were Jews who tried to take people away from Christ and back to the Law of Moses. Look what Paul says about them and their work against him.

  1. These Jews brought physical persecution (11:24-26, 32-33).
  2. These Jews are called “messengers” of Satan (11:13-15).
  3. These Jews attacked Paul with violence (11:24-26, 32-33).
  4. These persecutions kept Paul from exalting himself (11:30).
  5. These persecutions didn’t go away, even after Paul prayed about them (see the book of Acts).
  6. These persecutions from the Jews were called “my infirmities” (11:30, 12:5).

If you notice, everything that was said about Paul’s thorn in the flesh was said about the persecution Paul endured from the Jews—just one chapter earlier.

Based on the evidence and the context, Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the continual persecution from the Jews who were trying to destroy Paul and the message of the gospel.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Sermon Thursday – The Establishment of the Church

Today, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  Today’s topic is the establishment of the church.  Enjoy!

Introduction:

Everyone knows what the church is! Well, not exactly. Just like baptism (which we discussed in the last lesson), there is a lot of confusion about the church. This is even true about people who are parts of the many different churches that exist!

What kind of confusion, you may ask?

There is confusion about who founded the church (was it Moses? John the Baptist? Jesus? Peter? Joseph Smith? Alexander Campbell? Or one of the many other people since Bible times?)

There is confusion about when the church was founded (was it in the Old Testament? Did Jesus found it while He was on earth? Was it founded when Jerusalem was destroyed? Pentecost perhaps?)

There is confusion about where the church was established (Jerusalem? Rome? Mt. Sinai? England?)

And those questions all deal just with the “founding” of the church. With all these questions and disagreements, can we know the answers?  We can if we stop listening to what people say and let the Bible speak for itself.  Today, we will look at these questions and be able to come to a Bible-based conclusion, free from all opinions.

But before we do that, we have one thing that we must look at.  The church is the kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament. This is a subject of debate among some people, but the Bible is actually quite plain on it.  Some argue that the kingdom won’t exist until Jesus comes again, but we will prove that theory false with a few plain statements from the Bible.

First, look at Matthew 16:16-19.  And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus answered and said unto Him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…”

Notice that Jesus told Peter, “I will build my CHURCH,” and “I will give you the keys to the KINGDOM of heaven.”  Jesus was using the two words (church and kingdom) interchangibly. But, lest someone objects, let’s go a bit further.

Keys are for opening things (like doors) so that someone can enter. Peter was given the keys to the kingdom, so that means Jesus expected Peter to be able to open the door to the kingdom.  If the church isn’t the same as the kingdom, then Peter never got to use those keys—because he’s been dead almost 2,000 years.

It’s also worth noting that Jesus said Peter would do this while Peter was still alive—on earth.  “Whatever THOU (Peter) shall bind ON EARTH…”  Without any doubt, Jesus’ kingdom existed on earth while Peter was still alive.

The kingdom is the church—and we’ll see that even clearer as we go through the lesson.

Who founded the church of the Bible?

There are many different religious groups, all with different founders—can we know which one is right?  If we look to the Bible, we can.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  We will look at “the days of these kings” a bit later, but right now I want you to concentrate on the words “the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom.”   Who set up, built, or founded this kingdom? God did.

Matthew 16:18 – “I [Jesus] will build my church…”  Who did Jesus say would build the church? Himself.  Whose church did He say it was? His church.

This seems so simple that it ought to be obvious, but the fact is there are a lot of religious groups who claim to be the church (or part of the church) who claim different founders than Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith is the founder of the Mormons.  Charles Taze Russell is the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Ellen G. White is the founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists.  John Wesley is the founder of the Methodists.  John Calvin is the founder of the Presbyterians.      Martin Luther is the founder of the Lutherans.

The Baptist Church claims that their founder is John the Baptist.  But if you read Matthew, you’ll see that John the Baptist was dead in chapter 14. And in chapter 16, Jesus said “I will build my church.”  This is in future tense, as in the church isn’t built yet, but it will be built. If John had founded the church, then one of two things must be true:  (1) John’s church isn’t Jesus’ church (because Jesus hadn’t built his yet). Or (2) Jesus was lying about the building of the church still being in the future.  Neither one of these options match with the Bible.  The fact is, John never established a church—Jesus did.

There is only ONE church in the Bible, and it didn’t come until after John the Baptist was already dead.

When was the church of the Bible founded?

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  When Daniel said this, he had been explaining the meaning of a dream that the king of Babylon had.   It was of a big statue with a head of gold, chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. He said that the head represented Babylon (2:37-38). He said that the chest of silver was another kingdom that would come after them (Which, historically was the Persian Empire) (2:39).  And a third kingdom was represented by the belly and thighs of brass (historically, this is Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire). Then a fourth kingdom that would rule the world and break them like iron (historically, the next world empire was Rome) (2:40).\

And then Daniel says “in the days of THESE kings, God will set up a kingdom.”  So, based on Daniel’s prophecy, the kingdom (church) would be set up during the days of the Roman Empire.

Just for historical reference, the Roman Empire began around 100 BC (or thereabouts), and fell in the year 476.  The church—God’s kingdom—had to have been set up before that date.

Matthew 3:1-2 – In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  If something is “at hand” that means that it is near—very close.  In the days of John the Baptist (which was during the time of the Roman Empire), the kingdom was very near—but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 4:17 – From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This was said during Jesus’ life on earth—the kingdom was very close, but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 16:18 – “I will build my church…”  This is close to the end of Jesus’ life, and the church still hadn’t come.  Well, we’re seeing that it hasn’t been built yet at these points, but when did it actually begin to exist?

Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  This is on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus died.  This is when Peter started preaching (Acts 2:14)—giving people access to the church (using the “keys of the kingdom”).  According to this verse, the church existed at this point.  After all, you can’t be added to something that doesn’t exist.

Some people still say, “well, the church existed, but the kingdom still hasn’t come yet.”  Let’s let the Bible speak to answer this objection.

Colossians 1:13 – “[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”      This is spoken in the past tense, describing something that has already happened.  God had already transported people INTO the kingdom of his dear Son.  You can’t be put into something if it doesn’t already exist.  The kingdom existed already when that was written.

Revelation 1:9 – “I, John, am your companion…in the kingdom.”  John said he was in the kingdom—and he died over 1900 years ago.   The kingdom had to already exist for him to be in it.

The church was established after Jesus died, and people began entering it on the Day of Pentecost (which was during the days of the Roman Empire).

Where was the church of the Bible established?

Isaiah 2:1-3 – “Concerning the last days of Judah and Jerusalem – and it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

According to this prophecy about the kingdom of God, where would it be established? Jerusalem.

Acts 1:4 – [Jesus] commanded them [the apostles] that they should not depart from Jerusalem.

Acts 2:5 – And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven.

Acts 2:14 – Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted his voice and said, “Ye men of Judea and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem…”

This is the chapter we looked at earlier where we saw the church was established.  Where were they? IN JERUSALEM.

Any church that was established somewhere other than Jerusalem cannot be the church of the Bible.

Conclusion:

Any church that was founded by someone other than Jesus Christ is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded after the day of Pentecost is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded somewhere other than Jerusalem is not the church of the Bible.

I could spend a lot of time going through the various churches and when/where they were established and by whom, but the important thing to ask is “Am I a part of the church talked about in the Bible?”

The church talked about in the Bible was founded by Jesus Christ, and follows the laws given by Him.  If you want to be part of the church talked about in the Bible, then you have to do the things that the people in the Bible were told to do in order to be a part of it.  Hear about Jesus (Acts 2:22-24).   Believe (Acts 8:37).  Repent (Acts 3:19). Confess (Acts 8:37).  Be baptized (Acts 22:16).

When you do what they did, you will be added to the same church that they were added to, for God’s church will never end, never be destroyed.

The way into the church has never changed!  Come join the church of the Bible today!

-Bradley Cobb

Christians, Be More Dedicated!

Many today seem to want to “get by” with doing as little as possible. It is this way in every facet of life. It can be seen at jobs, in families, and unfortunately in the church as well. Many¾perhaps most¾today do not have the dedication that is needed to make the church grow. There are numerous examples of dedication in the New Testament. The wise men traveled a significant distance to come and worship Jesus (Matthew 2:1-2, 7, 16). The Bereans were so dedicated to knowing the truth, they would not even take the apostle Paul’s word without checking in the Scriptures first (Acts 17:10-12). These were not even Christians!   Should not Christians, who know the truth, be even more dedicated than those in Berea?

The eunuch of Ethiopia was a man of true dedication (Acts 8:26-39). First, he traveled a significant distance (close to 900 miles round-trip) for the express purpose of worshipping God. Yet, there are those in the church who find it difficult to drive a short distance to gather with the saints to worship. For the eunuch, this journey would have taken weeks. This was a man who would not let an inconvenience stop him from worshipping God. Do Christians today look for excuses not to “go to church” (Hebrews 11:25)? This man did not see it as an obligation to worship God. This was his life. Can Christians say the same thing about their lives, or has their worship become a nothing more than a weekly obligation?

The eunuch was not only dedicated in traveling to worship, but he was also dedicated to studying the Word of God. On his way back home, he was still studying the scriptures (Acts 8:27-28). Can most Christians say after worshipping God on a Sunday morning that they are concentrating on God’s Word? This man of Ethiopia realized the importance of studying God’s Word. He could have been doing anything on the trip back to Ethiopia, but he showed by his example that his time was best used in studying God’s Word. Should not everyone follow that example?

The eunuch was also a man of great responsibility. He was in charge of all the treasure of an entire nation. This responsibility was secondary compared to his responsibility to God. Many today put their jobs ahead of God. Some will take a job, knowing that it will keep them from assembling with the church. Even in Jesus’ time, people rejected Him in favor of other “responsibilities” (Matthew 8:20-21). How many Christians have more “responsibilities” than the Eunuch? Yet he knew what was more important.

The eunuch was also dedicated to the truth. He pondered the scriptures that he did not understand, and he was ready to learn the truth about them (Acts 8:30-34). He was willing to admit that there were parts of the scripture that he did not understand. However, he did not say that it could not be understood. Some today throw up their hands at certain sections of Scripture, assuming that it there is no way of comprehending it. The eunuch was willing to ask someone who was more knowledgeable what the Scripture meant. He was so dedicated to the truth that he was not content until he understood it.

Finally, the eunuch was dedicated to obeying God. As evidenced by his traveling a long distance to worship and his studying on the way, the eunuch knew the importance of obeying God. He was dedicated to serving the Lord. The eunuch did not know about Jesus until Philip taught him. It is evident, however, that the eunuch believed. Because of his dedication to obeying God, he was baptized in order to become a Christian and be right with God. One might notice that the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. The reason for his overwhelming happiness was because he knew he was obeying God.

The eunuch never tried to just “get by” in his service to God. May every Christian take a long, hard look at themselves, comparing themselves to this example of dedication preserved for us by the Holy Spirit.

-Bradley Cobb

An Introduction to Lamentations

The twenty-fifth book of the Bible is one that is rarely studied, taught, or preached on. This is a shame, because of many reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that this is inspired Scripture. It was given by God through His prophet, Jeremiah. There are lessons which can be learned from reading this short book, and ones which can easily apply today. An understanding of the overall concept of the book will be very helpful in understanding the book itself.

Its Setting

It’s 586 BC, and Jerusalem, the pride of the Jews, has just been completely destroyed. God’s chosen people have been captured, some brutally killed in the streets of the city, and the rest taken as prisoners of war by Babylon. The temple, a place designed by God Himself for the purpose of having a place for the people to worship Him, was abandoned by God and left in burning ruins. The people are in disbelief, scared, frightened, but at the same time, they are blaming God for their calamity. While God did indeed bring it upon them, Jeremiah constantly pointed out to them that it was their own fault that they had been taken captive, and that Jerusalem had been destroyed.

Its Message

The Hebrew title for this book translates literally “How?” It is the first word of chapters 1, 2, and 4. It crystallizes the message of the book well. Jeremiah had been preaching for around 40 years to a people who would not listen. He had prophesied many times that Babylon would come destroy Jerusalem and take them captive, but no one would repent and do the things necessary to avert God’s punishment. How could this have taken place? How could those who were supposed to be God’s people act like God’s message was unimportant? How could God’s people think that by giving Him lip service, they would be saved? Perhaps a better question is how can Christians live and act in the exact same way today? Because many Christians indeed act exactly this way as if God will save them as long as they show up on Sunday morning.

Its Structure

Though for the most part the chapters and verses in our modern-day English Bible were added long after the books were written, the Lamentations of Jeremiah are an exception. This is a collection of five distinct Hebrew poems, each with specific verse divisions within themselves. In all but chapter three, the poems are 22 verses long, with each verse beginning with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet. These verses are in alphabetical order in the Hebrew. Chapter three is alphabetical like the others, but instead has three verses for each letter (i.e., Verses 1-3 is the first letter aleph, 4-6 is bait, and so on). This same structure also appears in some of the Psalms, most notably Psalm 119. Because of the mourning done by Jeremiah in these five laments, at least one person has said he was “weeping from A to Z.”[i]

Its Chapters

These chapters have appropriately been termed “funeral dirges” by some, because Jerusalem has died. Each chapter deals with a different aspect of the destruction of Jerusalem. Chapter one deals with the fact of the destruction and the grief which came as a result. Chapter two deals with the anger of God towards Judah and their agony over the destruction of Jerusalem. Chapter three is a prayer for God’s mercy by Jeremiah, beginning with despair and ending with confidence in God. The fourth chapter describes the conditions during the siege of Jerusalem as well as the causes and consequences of the siege. The final chapter is Jeremiah’s prayer to restore Judah to a right relationship with God.

The final three verses of this book are appropriate in seeing the state of the people at this time. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us, thou art very wroth against us (Lamentations 5:20-22). They feel forsaken, and say to God, “bring us back to you and we’ll stay faithful.” If only they had this willingness to be faithful when Jeremiah had been prophesying, they would not be in Babylonian captivity. Instead, since they rejected God, God rejected them. Now, Christian, are you being faithful to God? God has shown multiple times that He will indeed reject and destroy His people when they are not faithful to Him.

Examine yourselves as you examine the book of Lamentations.

-Bradley Cobb

————

[i] Open Bible, Expanded Edition: King James Version. Introduction to the “Lamentations of Jeremiah.” (page 760).

Coming Soon!

We  take a break from our regular rotation of stuff today to tell you about some things that we’re really excited about!  These are projects that we’ve got in the works and hope to bring to you soon.

The Paul Cobb Short-Film Collection

Yes, Paul has started his own movie-making company.  Well, that is, he’s learned how to use the scanner, Microsoft Paint, and Windows Movie Maker to create his own short cartoons.  We plan on making these available to watch soon.  But don’t blink.  After all, they’re short and you might miss them!

The Truth and the Liars

Our commentary on Second John is finished, and we are putting the finishing touches on the eBook.  We think you’ll really appreciate this one.  If you want to read it and just can’t wait, then pick up our official e-Sword collection which already has it in there!

Wait, Not THEM!

Currently, we are working on a commentary on the book of Habakkuk (at the request of one of the Christians where we live).  This book, titled Wait, Not THEM! will hopefully be finished and ready by early August.

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts

Writing this book has been one of Brad’s goals for six years.  In it, every verse in Acts that mentions or alludes to the Holy Spirit will be examined to see (1) what we can learn about the Holy Spirit from that verse, and (2) whether a miraculous or non-miraculous working of the Spirit is under consideration.  This book will also divide up the references by who is speaking/writing, so you can see how each of them talked about the Holy Spirit, and what they emphasized.

This book, Lord willing, will be finished around the end of September.

Alexander Campbell: a Collection (Vol. 2)

This book has been in the planning stages for about six months, and we are just about done with it.  Look for an official announcement At the beginning of July!

There’s a lot more that we could tell you about, but this is probably enough for today.  May your day be fantastic!

 

 

Bible Q&A – Do We Have All the Apostles’ Letters?

Question: Could you expand on your answer about whether there are missing books of the New Testament?  Are you saying that we have everything the apostles wrote? Is it possible there other letters that we simply don’t have?anonymous

That’s a great question, and it really deserves an answer. After all, if we don’t have everything, there could be something important that God expects of us that we don’t know about! We know that the Old Testament mentions books and writings that we don’t have. However, many of those are mentioned simply as historical records and not God-inspired books. Other writings mentioned in the Old Testament might be references to specific Old Testament books, just under a different name. For example, 2 Chronicles 9:29 mentions “the book of Nathan the prophet…the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite, and…the visions of Iddo the seer.” This could very well be a reference to the books of first and second Kings.

But now, let’s look at the questions that were asked.

Do we have everything the apostles wrote? No, we don’t. How can I say that? I find it difficult—no, impossible to believe that 75% of the apostles never wrote anything. I also find it impossible to believe that the apostle Paul spends two years in jail in Caesarea and writes nothing during that time. Or that during his (minimum) two years—730 days—in jail in Rome, he only writes four short letters. But the fact that we don’t have everything that ever was written by the apostles shouldn’t make us concerned.

Here’s some things to consider:

1. Not everything the apostles wrote would have been inspired. If the apostle Paul gave Luke a list of scrolls to pick up from the Roman library, that wouldn’t have been an inspired list. So, even if we’re missing Andrew’s list of chores for his son to do, that doesn’t mean we’re missing anything inspired. Letters by the apostles of a non-religious nature would not be inspired, nor would there be any reason for them to be copied and passed on for 2,000 years. That’s why we don’t have any of them.

2. A different letter doesn’t mean it contained different information. Look at the books of Colossians and Ephesians. They are very similar in a lot of the things they discuss. Many congregations were dealing with the same kinds of problems. So, even if Paul wrote a letter to the church in Macedonia, that doesn’t mean it contained anything different from what’s in the other letters that we do have. If letters to other congregations were written by Paul or the other apostles, they would have been inspired, but they would have contained basically the same information as we have in the New Testament books.

3. We might actually have some of the supposedly “missing” letters. Many people point to the “Letter from Laodicea” that Paul mentions in Colossians 4 as a letter that’s gone missing. But many Bible students have suggested that this letter is actually the letter we call Ephesians, or possible Philemon (this will be addressed in a later Bible Q&A). So, it is quite possible that we have some of the letters that people think are “missing.”

4. Any supposedly missing letters were not ever recorded as existing. The early church (the first couple centuries after Christ) wrote a lot, and quoted from a lot of Scripture. So much so that it’s said, “if every copy of the Bible were destroyed, we could put it back together through quotes from the early Christian writers.” Every apostolic letter they mentioned or quoted from is contained in the 27 books of the New Testament. They never quoted from any other letters of Paul, Peter, Matthew, John, or any of the other apostles. This is because they didn’t have any others. If there were other letters, they were unknown to the church at large from the very beginning.

5. If we don’t have it, we don’t need it. God is powerful. God could rip apart the entire earth and then put it back together as though it had never happened. If God wanted us to have a specific letter, we’d have it. His word says that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God…so that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works,” and that God has given us everything “that pertains to life and godliness” (II Timothy 3:16-17, II Peter 1:3). God made sure that we have what we need. If there are other letters, they do not contain anything different or additional to what we already have. Because God is infinitely powerful, we can know that everything that He expects from us and commands of us is contained in the 27 books that are in the New Testament.

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – What is Baptism?

Thanks for joining us.  For the next several weeks on Sermon Thursday, we will be looking at things that we’re calling The Fundamentals of the Faith.  These are things that each Christian needs to know and understand so they can then help to teach others.  This week, we deal with the question, What is baptism? Enjoy!

Introduction:

Everyone knows what baptism means!  Some folks might say that, but they’d be wrong.  Instead, baptism is one of the things—religiously speaking—that is the most misunderstood by people.

Its substance is misunderstood. Some say it is baptism in water, others say it is only baptism in the Holy Spirit, others say both, and still others say it is just being baptized in the word of God.

Its mode (how it is to be done) is misunderstood.  Some say sprinkling, some say pouring, some say immersion, some say it is completely mental.

Its subjects (who is supposed to be baptized) are misunderstood. Some say babies, others say believers only, others say adults only, some say Jews-only, others say I can get baptized in your place for you.

Its meaning is misunderstood. Some say it is an outward sign of an inward grace, others say it is to add you to a denomination after you’re saved, still others say that it is an act of obedience which in turn saves you.

With all this confusion about almost every aspect of baptism, can we really know what baptism means?  Yes we can, by looking at the Scriptures.  Let’s empty our minds of everything we think we know about baptism, and let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

The substance of baptism (what one is to be baptized in).

Baptism is first mentioned in the book of Matthew, chapter three, when John the baptizer comes on the scene.

The Scriptures state that John baptized them in Jordan (Matthew 3:6).  This is the Jordan River.  John himself clearly stated that he baptized with water (Matthew 3:11).   When Jesus was baptized by John, He came “up immediately out of the water” (Matthew 3:16).

It is true that a baptism of the Holy Spirit is also mentioned, but that is one that would be performed by Jesus Christ—and Him only (Matthew 3:11).  So, we’ve got two different kinds of baptism mentioned in this chapter.  Are they both still valid today? And how can we know?

Ephesians 4:4-6 (which was written at least 25 years after Jesus died) says there is “one Lord, one faith, ONE baptism.” So, by the time that book was written, there was only one valid baptism.  So, which one is it?

Acts 8:35-36 (which took place after Jesus died) says that Philip began to preach Jesus to this man.  And after hearing Jesus preached to him, the man (a eunuch) said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”  Based on what he had been taught by Philip (who had been sent by God), the only baptism that was important to him was baptism in water.

I Peter 3:20-21 (written around the same time as Ephesians) says, “eight souls were saved by water, this corresponds to baptism which now saves you, too” (SENT).   The only baptism which matters is baptism in water.

OK, it involves water, but is it sprinkling? Pouring? Being fully submerged under water?

The Mode of baptism (how baptism is to be done).

Just calling something baptism doesn’t make it baptism.  Calling a rose a skunk doesn’t make it a skunk.  The word baptism has a meaning.  But, just to be sure, let’s look at how baptism in water is described in the Bible.

Acts 8:38-39And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.

Did you see what I saw there? Baptism requires going into the water and coming out of the water. That’s interesting.

John 3:23John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there.

So, baptism requires much water. That’s noteworthy to remember.

Romans 6:3-4Don’t you know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore, we are buried with Him in baptism into death

Interesting. Baptism is described as a burial.

Put these things together:

  1. Baptism requires much water.
  2. Baptism requires going into the water and coming out of the water.
  3. Baptism requires a burial in water.

Just using what the Bible says, we can know that baptism is…

  1. NOT sprinkling water on someone (this doesn’t require much water, going into the water, nor is it a burial in water).
  2. NOT pouring water on someone (this doesn’t require much water, going into the water and coming out of the water, nor is it a burial in water).
  3. Baptism IS being completely submerged, immersed in water.  This requires much water, requires going into and coming out of the water, and it is a burial in water.

The Subjects of baptism (who can be baptized).

Ok, we’ve figured out completely from the Bible that baptism must be in water, and that it is being immersed, completely submerged in water and being brought back up; but who is eligible to be baptized?

Again, let’s not guess or use man’s opinion; let’s just look at what the Bible has to say about it.

Mark 16:16He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.

This verse makes it pretty clear that the person being baptized must be capable of believing (in Jesus Christ).

Acts 2:38repent and be baptized, every one of you.

This makes it pretty clear that whoever is baptized has to be capable of repenting (that is, realizing their sins and turning away from them).

Now I want you to consider something with me.

Babies are incapable of believing in Jesus Christ, and they don’t have the mental capacity to even understand what sin is.   Babies are not candidates for baptism at all, ever.

What about small children?  They are not old enough to comprehend their own sin, nor mature enough to understand what baptism is.

So, according to the Bible, who is eligible for baptism?

If you believe in Jesus Christ, and are willing to repent of your sins (and mature enough to understand what that means), then you are eligible for baptism.  Some people reach that point of maturity earlier than others. If you are an adult, you have reached that point. Teenagers—you want to be treated like an adult? Then you’ve reached that age as well.

The Bible teaches baptism is a burial in water, and the only ones it applies to are those who are old enough to believe in Christ and repent of their sins.

But what is the purpose of baptism?

The Meaning (purpose) of baptism.

I think we can all agree that if the Bible tells us baptism has a specific meaning or purpose, then that should end the discussion.

So, let’s let the Bible speak about the purpose of baptism.

Acts 2:38 – Baptism is “for the remission of sins.”  The word “remission” means “forgiveness.”  So, baptism is for forgiveness of sins.

Does that mean “because sins have already been forgiven” or does it mean “so that your sins can be forgiven”?

That’s a great question, and easily answered.  That verse says that two things (and both of them are commanded) are “for forgiveness of sins”—REPENTANCE and baptism.   Acts 8:22 says “Repent, therefore, of this, your wickedness, and pray to God, if perhaps the thought of your heart might be forgiven.

There’s no getting around it: God will not forgive sin without someone repenting first. So, when Acts 2:38 says repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, it has to mean so that your sins will be forgiven—because God will not forgive someone’s sins unless they repent first.

So, baptism is in order to have your sins forgiven.

Acts 22:16 – Baptism washes away your sins.

A very devout man was praying hard for three days, and God sent another man to him.  This man that God sent said, “why are you waiting, get up and be baptized, washing away your sins.”

Baptism is in order to have your sins washed away.

Mark 16:16 – baptism is for salvation.  He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.  That’s pretty plain.

I Peter 3:21baptism does also now save you.  There’s not really much comment needed there.  The Bible plainly states that baptism saves you.

The only conclusion that you can make from these verses is that you have to be baptized if you want to be saved.  There are many other passages we could go to which show this just as clearly.

What About You?

Now, perhaps is the time to ask the most important question—do YOU need to be baptized?

Perhaps you’ll say “I was baptized when I was a baby.” If a baby is baptized, then all that happened was that the baby got wet—because the baby had no sins to wash away in the first place. That baptism doesn’t match what’s in the Bible, and so it wasn’t really baptism.

Maybe you’ll say, “I was baptized when I was younger.” To that, I simply ask this: why were you baptized?  If you were baptized because you believed in Jesus and you knew you needed to be baptized in order to have your sins forgiven, then that is great!  However, many younger people are baptized because their friends were baptized and they didn’t want to feel left out.   Many younger people are baptized because they feel like it is expected of them.  Many younger people are baptized without really understanding why they were doing it.

If any of these describe you, then were you really baptized like the Bible says to be baptized?

Maybe you’ll say, “I was baptized in the Baptist Church” or some other religious group.  I have no doubt that you did it with the best of intentions.  In fact, I praise you for wanting to follow God’s will.  However, I have to ask you this: were you baptized for the reasons that the Bible gives?

  1. Were you baptized so that your sins could be washed away?
  2. Were you baptized for the purpose of being saved?
  3. Or did you believe you were saved before you were baptized?

You see, while these religious groups have many things that are praiseworthy, a lot of them say that baptism doesn’t save you.

But the Bible says it does.

They say that baptism is so you can be part of the Baptist Church or the Methodist Church or whatever church AFTER you’re saved.

The Bible says that baptism is what saves you—only one of them can be right.

So, the question that you have to honestly, sincerely ask yourself is this: If I was baptized for the wrong reasons, where does that leave me?

I don’t know about you, but that is not a predicament I’d want to be in.   The Bible speaks of a group of men who had been baptized, and thought their baptism was just fine.  However, they discovered that their baptism wasn’t the right baptism.  They were then baptized properly, having their sins forgiven.  You can read about them in Acts 19.

Conclusion:

My friends, don’t let there be any doubt about your salvation.  Don’t let there be any doubt about whether you were baptized for the right reasons. Right now, take care of it by coming to God, believing in Jesus Christ, leaving your sins behind, and being baptized according to the Scriptures. When you do that, you don’t have to ever doubt it.

Some of you might be thinking, “I’m not sure if I need to be baptized properly or not.”   To you, I say this: do it. Do it to be sure.

It could be that your baptism was proper in the first place, and you will just be getting wet—but you will have a pure, confident conscious.  But it could also be that you had good reason to doubt—and this would save your soul.   Please, come be baptized now!

Cobb Kids Audio Show – Episode 5 – Puck’s Farm

After months and months of planning, and hours upon hours of recording and editing work, the latest episode of the Cobb Kids Audio Show is ready for your listening pleasure!

For those of you who might be new to the scene, let me give you a brief recap.  A few years ago, Paul Cobb was listening to old time radio shows, and decided to make up his own.  With the help of his sisters (and mom and dad), they recorded and released a 6-minute long episode called “Funnier and Funnier.”  It had laugh tracks and sound effects and everything.

In this brand new episode (the fifth in the series), we finally figure out why Puck’s farm isn’t making any money.  Mr. Oldman discloses his baseball delusion.  Scarlet, Lizzie, and Josie spend time reading the latest Laura Lane book, and Bruce gets…well, if we told you, it’d ruin the story!

But, as a bonus, we will tell you that we have sponsors for the show this time!  Well, I guess for them to be real sponsors, there’d be money involved.  So, perhaps it’s better to say we’ve got commercials!  And we think you’ll enjoy what they have to say.

Episode Fun Facts:

  • The idea for this show originated shortly after episode 2 was recorded.  And it’s been really hard keeping it a secret for these two years.
  • Both of the commercials feature Scott Roderick–or, as he’s more affectionately known by the family, Uncle Booger.
  • Some of the arguing between characters near the end was ad-libbed by Paul and Deserae Cobb.
  • In this episode, we find out something very strange about Josie.

The Cobb Kids have put a lot of work into these episodes.  The first four are all available free of charge in the Audio Show section.  If you like them, try out this brand-new 15-minute episode for just 99 cents!  All proceeds go to the Cobb Kids.

Restoration Moments – An Example of Providence

This week’s Restoration Movement Moment comes from “Memoirs of Abner Jones” (written by his son), which will be in Abner Jones: A Collection (Volume 2), to be released later this year.

Abner Jones was convinced that the event which he describes here was an act of God’s providential care. Enjoy!

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It was in the spring of 1813, as I think— for the regular journal of Elder Jones is here interrupted — that he removed his family to Portsmouth. He found the church and society feeble, and religion in general in a very low state. His tarry in Portsmouth was but of two years’ duration, in which time, although not much occurred of interest to him, many memorable events took place. The war [of 1812], then but recently declared upon Great Britain by the United States, was raging fiercely on the New England coast, and Portsmouth suffered its full share of the excitement and evil. The place was completely blockaded by the British fleet for a number of months, and the inhabitants were greatly distressed, and lived in a constant state of terror. Alarms were frequent, and the town pre­sented the constant appearance of a besieged city.

Several regiments of troops were quartered upon the town, and provisions became exceedingly scarce and dear. Those who could leave their affairs, had already removed to a safer retreat, while many others were ready, with their household stuff already packed, to start at the first booming of the enemy’s cannon. Among these was Elder Jones.

When the enemy appeared off the town there were scarcely any bulwarks of defense to repel the attack of so formidable a foe, and I remember the consternation which prevailed. I think it was on Saturday. The next day the churches were closed, for the worshipers were all draft­ed to turn out and throw up redoubts on the most defensible points at the entrance of the town. There was a general turn out from all professions and avocations, and without respect to the day. In the evening, however, the churches were opened and thronged, and many a prayer was raised to the “God of battles,” that he would scatter their foes, and send them peace.

In the midst of all this distress, the horrors of the scene were dreadfully increased by an aw­ful conflagration, which burned down a large part of the town, and rendered many families, not only houseless, but penniless. Nearly three hundred dwelling houses were consumed, and nearly four hundred families were turned into the streets in one of the coldest nights of De­cember.

“It was,” says Elder Jones, who was an eye witness to the whole scene, and rendered very efficient help on the occasion, by his remarka­ble presence of mind and great activity in sav­ing property and life—and whose daring gener­osity nearly cost him his own life during that awful night—“it was indeed a deplorable sight. Whole streets presented a double line of flame, or a dark and confused mass of smouldering ruins. The goods and furniture either perished in the buildings, or were only thrown into the street to make a bonfire by themselves. Wo­men and children, with disheveled hair, and eyes that spoke too plainly their grief and terror, ran shrieking through the burning streets, either in search of some relative or friend, or too de­mented to have any definite object in view. Here was a distracted mother despairingly call­ing on her husband and children, there the heart-broken father and husband inquiring for his wife and children; and the little ones wandering to and fro, piteously crying for their parents. Some, again, were gazing on the ruin going on all around them in a perfect stupor of grief and sur­prise. No tear bedewed their cheek, no sound escaped the lips, no motion was made by any member of their bodies, and they started not at the fearful crash of falling houses, or the hoarse cry of the brazen-throated firemen.

“A police was organized as soon as the con­fusion would permit. Property was protected as far as was practicable, and all the children who were found destitute of protection were picked up and taken to a place of safety.

“Many were the maternal bosoms who mourned their little ones as dead, in the awful gloom of that memorable night. What a joy then to behold the scene which opened the morning of the next day! The children were all assem­bled in the town Hall, to the number of a hun­dred or more, and the crier sent forth with his bell to announce to all whose children were missing, that they were waiting for their appear­ance. Then flocked the weeping parents to the spot, hoping and fearing. Oh! what a meeting was that, and what pen shall essay the vain at­tempt to describe it! Not a child was missing and not one but found its parents. In all that dreadful burning not a human life was lost, and but one person suffered the fracture of a limb.”

Why I Don’t Believe “Fulfillment of Prophecy” is a Convincing Proof of Inspiration

Before you decide to mark me as some liberal anti-Christian heretic, read this sentence:

The Bible is inspired by God, and evidence of the wonderfully amazing fulfillment of prophecy is all throughout the Bible.

But I don’t believe that it’s a very good tool to use in convincing people that the Bible is inspired.  I know preachers who think that “fulfillment of prophecy” is the biggest and best proof that the Bible is from God.  That it is the “ace in the hole” for convincing skeptics.  I was told that by one of my teachers in preaching school, and I’ve heard it many times since then.

But I don’t think it’s very convincing.

Don’t get me wrong, as someone who already believes in the Bible, I find the fulfillment of prophecy to be phenomenal.  It blows my mind and leaves me awestruck that God could prophesy things hundreds–even thousands of years before they actually happened.  Every time I discover another type/antitype or foreshadowing prophecy in the Bible, I get excited and it makes my faith even deeper.

But that’s because I already believe the Bible is inspired.

I want you now to imagine that you don’t believe the Bible is from God.  In fact, you think that it was something put together by a bunch of folks who were writing after the fact, and that it is full of contradictions.  Imagine that you are opposed to the very idea that the Bible could be from God.

With that mindset, I want you to see how you would respond to these arguments:

(1) In Isaiah, it says that God would raise up a man named Cyrus, and in Ezra, we learn that Cyrus–150 years later–was the name of the king of Persia.  See, Isaiah even named him over a century before he was born!

If I didn’t believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I’d say something like, “Prove Isaiah was written 150 years before Cyrus was born.”  Or, “the oldest copies of Isaiah are 400 years AFTER Cyrus was king.”  Or “It’s easy to claim that it was written before then, but claiming doesn’t prove it.”

(2) In Nahum, God says that Nineveh (the capitol of Assyria) would be “dissolved,” and that’s literally what happened less than 100 years later when Babylon diverted the river and dissolved the mud bricks that Nineveh was built with!

If I didn’t believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I’d say, “the oldest copies of Nahum came 400-500 years after Nineveh was destroyed.  It was written after the fact.”

(3) The Old Testament foretells that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem, and would suffer and die, and establish His kingdom.  All of those things were fulfilled in the New Testament.

If I didn’t believe in the inspiration of the Bible, I might say something like this: “In the Harry Potter books, things that are foretold or foreshadowed in books one through six came to pass by the time book seven was completed.  According to your logic, then, Harry Potter is inspired by God.”

The point is this: if someone doesn’t already believe the Bible is inspired, then quoting prophecy and fulfillment in something they think is fiction anyway is not going to prove that it is from God.  They’ll write it off as men looking at what was already written and trying to tie up loose ends in later books and letters.

There are much better ways of proving the inspiration of the Bible.  And once someone is convinced that the Bible is inspired, fulfillment of prophecy is a great tool to further convince them.  It will help deepen their faith.  But if they don’t already believe the Bible is from God, fulfillment of prophecy won’t convince them.

Just some food for thought.

–Bradley Cobb