Tag Archives: Fundamentals of the Faith

Sermon Thursday – Assembling With the Saints

This week, we continue our look at the Fundamentals of the Faith and look at the topic of assembling with the saints to worship.

Introduction:

I’ve been saved, why do I need to come worship with the church?  I mean, I can think of quite a few reasons not to come:  I’m tired; I’ve got other things to do; I don’t like the preacher; I don’t know the songs; if I go, they’ll expect something out of me; I just don’t like church.

Some people teach that gathering with the saints isn’t necessary, others teach that it is.  The truth of the matter is that coming together with other Christians is an outgrowth of what’s in your heart.  If you don’t come, then that shows where your heart is.  If you do come, but you complain about it or are unwilling to participate, that also shows where your heart is.  If you come, and you actively join in, then that shows where your heart is as well.

We all would (I hope) agree that the Bible is our standard of right and wrong.  So today, let’s look at what the Bible says about gathering with the saints.

When was it done?  Where was it done?  Why was it done?  Must it be done?

When did the saints meet for a specific time of worship?

There are several religious groups who claim that the church met on the Sabbath (Saturday), and that meeting on Sunday is from Satan.  But we’re not interested in what they have to say.  We’re only interested in what the Bible has to say about it.

Jesus rose on the first day of the week (John 20:1-ff). This obviously isn’t proof in and of itself, but it is evidence that points in a certain direction.  Christianity is completely based on the fact that Christ rose from the dead, it would make sense that the church would gather on the same day of the week.  This is circumstantial evidence, proving nothing by itself, but it does help point the way.

The disciples gathered together on the first day of the week after the resurrection (John 20:26). In this passage, it says “after eight days…”  The Jews counted time by including whatever day it happened to be at the time, so they would have counted the Resurrection day as day 1, so the eighth day would have been the next Sunday.  “After” would place it on Sunday evening.  This, as well, isn’t definitive proof, but it is noteworthy nonetheless.

The church was established on the first day of the week (Acts 2). Pentecost literally means “fifty days.”  It took place fifty days after the feast of Passover.  This places the first sermon in the church, the first meeting of the church, on the first day of the week.

But, let’s look further.

The disciples came together to “break bread” on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7).  This is talking about the Lord’s Supper.  But even if it wasn’t, it is noteworthy that the apostle Paul waited an entire week in the city of Troas so that he could meet with the saints there (20:6-7).  This shows us—without any doubt—that there was a specific gathering of the saints on the first day of the week, at least in Troas.

But was this just a local custom, or was it something that took place in all the churches?

The church in Corinth—by apostolic authority—met on the first day of the week.  In Acts 18, Paul went to Corinth, and he is the one who planted the church there.  He stayed for 18 months, teaching them the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and how God is to be served in the Christian era.  He later wrote to them, and said, “Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store” (in other words, take up a collection), I Corinthians 16:2.

But notice that this is something that was to take place on the first day of the week—the day that Paul obviously told them was their day to come together and worship God.

But there’s more—the verse before it says that Paul made the exact same command to the churches in Galatia; that is, to take up a collection on the first day of the week.

When did the church in the Bible gather together for worship? On the first day of the week!  By inspiration of God, Paul commanded it.

It is also significant that there is not one passage in the New Testament that shows Christians gathering for worship on the Sabbath.  There are passages where Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach the Jews—because that’s when the Jews would meet.  But not one passage that says the church ever gathered on the Sabbath.

It’s true that especially at the beginning of the church, the Christians met together daily for food, encouragement, and support (Acts 2:46).  But meeting specifically for worship (specifically the Lord’s Supper and giving) was expressly stated to be on the first day of the week.  Is it any surprise that it has been known as “The Lord’s Day” for almost 2,000 years?

Where are the saints to gather together?

The city doesn’t matter.  We have records in the Bible of Christians meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46).  But also in Corinth (II Corinthians 1:1), Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1), and many other cities.

The churches met in different types of places.  The church in some locations apparently met in synagogues (James 2:2 – the word “assembly” is the Greek word “synagogue”).  The church in Troas met in an “upper room,” but nothing is specified as to whether this was on top of a house or above a merchant’s shop, or perhaps even a community building (Acts 20:6-8).  The church in Laodicea met in the house of Philemon (Philemon 1-2).  It is possible that the Christians in Jerusalem met at the temple for a time (Acts 5:12).

What can we take from this?  That the physical location is unimportant.  The important thing is to actually meet with the saints, wherever they are meeting.

Why should the saints gather together?

God never gave a command that was arbitrary—every command has a benefit for us.  So, what is the benefit of gathering together with the saints?  To the Bible for the answer!

To take the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).  Judging by the biblical testimony, it appears that the Lord’s Supper was the centerpiece, or focal point, of the early Christian worship.  Acts 20:7 says that they came together in order to break bread (take the Lord’s Supper).  Paul severely chastised the Christians in Corinth because when they came together, it wasn’t for that purpose (I Corinthians 11:17-20).  In fact, he called it heresy! (v 19).

This isn’t to say there weren’t other things that took place (as we will see), but that was to be the main reason—remembering Christ’s death through the memorial feast.  The saints should gather on the first day of each week to take the Lord’s Supper and honor Jesus Christ through it.

To give as they have been prospered (I Corinthians 16:1-2).  In the context, Paul was specifically telling them that they needed to start taking up a collection each week so that the poor Christians in Jerusalem could be aided.

But we can easily take this principle and apply it to other financial needs that may arise, such as assisting others (Galatians 6:10), paying those who proclaim the gospel and do other work for the church (Luke 10:7), purchase food for feeding the members of the congregation (Acts 4:37; 6:1), and helping out Christians who had need (Acts 4:34-35).  Is there ever a time when there is not a need?

But what benefit do we get from this?  It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  It is a time to remind ourselves of the blessings that God has given to us.  It’s an opportunity to show our love for others and for God by sharing some of what we’ve been blessed with.

To sing praises to God (I Corinthians 14:15-19, 23).  Singing songs of praise to God was to be done “in the church” and when “the whole church is come together in one place” (these are phrases used in the context of verse 15).  Thus, they were to be done when they church comes together.  They were to be intelligible songs (sing with the understanding).  These songs are to teach (Colossians 3:16).  These songs are to be sung to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).  These songs uplift and edify us.

To encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24).  “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”  Coming together as a family shows support, encouragement, and love for one another.  This is one of the many blessings that come with assembling with the saints.

To study God’s word (Acts 20:7).  When the Christians of Troas came together, Paul preached to them.  When the Corinthians were gathered together, it was understood that someone would be bringing a message from God (I Corinthians 14).  What better time than this to study God’s word deeper?

Must the saints come together?

We’ve seen when, where, and why the saints came together in the Bible; now the question is “Must the saints come together?”  Is it required?  Is it mandatory to get to heaven?  Again, let’s go to the Bible for the answer.

“Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. Because if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:25-26).

The inspired writer here says that if you sin willfully, your sins will not be forgiven.  In fact, he goes on to say that the only thing you will have to look forward to is judgment and fiery indignation reserved for the enemies of God (10:27).

But look at what his example of willful sin is—verse 25 – forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.  This isn’t missing a service here or there because you’re sick or otherwise physically unable to come.  This is willfully deciding that you aren’t going to worship with the saints.  And this is the example of willful sin that makes you an enemy of God!

Must the saints come together? If they want to go to heaven, they do.

I don’t like hearing people say “I have to go to church.”  Our attitude should be “Ain’t it great? I get to go to church today!”  Skipping services isn’t the problem, it’s just a symptom of a spiritual problem.

Conclusion:

I’m glad you made the decision to gather with the saints to worship God today.  It is my prayer that you have been blessed by being here.

Jesus Christ gave His life for you, and is it really asking all that much that you devote a few hours of your week to coming together with His people?

If you truly appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice, then you’ll want to devote your entire life to Him.  If you’re not a Christian, then what are you waiting for?  You’re lost in sin, surrounded by the fiery pits of hell on all sides, but Jesus is reaching out to save you!  All you have to do is take hold of Him by believing that He is the Christ, the Son of God; repenting of your sins, confessing His name, and being baptized—the water saves you from the fire!

If you are a Christian, and your priorities haven’t been where they should be, why not make it right today?

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!