Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Sermon Thursday – The Lord’s Supper

This week, we continue our series on Fundamentals of the Faith.  Enjoy!

Introduction:

Why do we have a snack in the middle of worship on Sundays?
Why do we call it a supper?
Why is it always the same thing?
Does it mean anything?
Is there a reason why we take it so often?

There are a lot of questions surrounding what is called “The Lord’s Supper.”

There are so many people who teach conflicting doctrines about it, and in the church there are many different views and attitudes towards it.  You want to see how confused some people are on this topic?  Here’s things that are said about the Lord’s Supper:

  • Take it annually; take it quarterly; take it monthly; take it each week; take it whenever you feel like it.
  • Must be unleavened bread and alcoholic wine; must be unleavened bread and non-alcoholic grape juice; it doesn’t matter what you use there so long as you’re thinking about Jesus; you can take the bread, but only a priest can take the fruit of the vine.
  • It is to be done until the end of the world; it isn’t to be done at all; it had to be done religiously until Jerusalem was destroyed.
  • It is supposed to be part of a congregational meal; it is to be the centerpiece of our worship; it is irrelevant.
  • It represents the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; it is something to keep the parents from getting hungry in the middle of services; it is a time set aside by Jesus so you can make out a check or dig through your purse to find money to put in the collection plate.

How can we cure all this confusion? BACK TO THE BIBLE!

 Where did it come from?

There are a lot of things that are done religiously that are nothing more than traditions.  The specific order of worship (announcements, two songs, Lord’s Supper, two songs, sermon, two songs, prayer).  The time to assemble (9:00? 9:30? 10:00?).

But the Lord’s Supper isn’t a tradition—it’s from the Bible!

It was instituted during the Passover. You may say, why does that matter?  It matters because (1) the Bible specifically says it, and (2) It helps us understand what specifically is being referenced.

Matthew 26:17-29 records that the Lord’s Supper was instituted during the Passover celebration, on the first day of the feast of unleavened bread.

It was instituted by Jesus Christ.  Matthew 26:26-29 shows clearly that Jesus is the one who established the Lord’s Supper.  I Corinthians 11:23-26 reiterates that it was Christ who instituted the Lord’s Supper.

Thus, the Lord’s Supper is not a tradition of man, but is a Divinely-given ordinance for the followers of Jesus Christ.

What does it consist of?

Some years back, there was a great uproar in the religious world when a denominational leader came out in favor of changing the contents of the Lord’s Supper to hamburgers and coke.  When you don’t believe that the Bible is the standard, then things like this sound acceptable.  But when you follow God’s word as your standard, you know that making changes like that are unauthorized, disrespectful, and sinful.

Jesus authorized specific items which were to be used in the Lord’s Supper.  He used “bread.”  This bread was unleavened.  What this means is that it was a flat bread, with nothing in it that would make it rise.  The modern-day equivalent would be a tortilla, which may actually be more authentic than the cracker-type bread we normally use.

How do we know that it was unleavened bread?  Because the Lord’s Supper was instituted during the feast of unleavened bread (Matthew 26:17).  Because the Passover feast, when instituted by God, began with getting rid of all leavening from the house (Exodus 12:15).  Because of the evidence, the only acceptable bread for use in the Lord’s Supper is unleavened bread.

He used “the fruit of the vine.”  It seems noteworthy to me that the Bible never once describes the drink that Jesus used here as “wine.”  In all the accounts of the Lord’s Supper being instituted, it is called “the fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29, Mark 14:25, Luke 22:18) or “the cup” (I Corinthians 11:25).  The only “fruit of the vine” that the Jews drank was grape juice.

Well, was it grape juice or was it alcoholic grape juice—wine?

One thing that is important to remember is that grape juice becomes alcoholic when it ferments, when yeast forms in it and “leavens” it.  If all leavening was to be cast from the house before the feast began, could there have been any “leavened” or “fermented” grape juice in the house?

Why is that question important?  Because if it was grape juice, then it would be sinful to substitute alcoholic wine in its place (just like it would be sinful to used leavened bread).  Because if it was alcoholic wine, then it would be sinful to use regular grape juice.

By inspiration, the writers of the Bible did not use the word oinos which can refer to either grape juice or alcoholic wine.  Instead, by direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, the writers used the phrase “fruit of the vine,” which refers to juice as it is directly from the grape—grape juice.

These are the only two items authorized for use in the Lord’s Supper.

What does it represent?

The bread and the fruit of the vine are meaningless unless you know why you’re taking them.

The bread is the body of Christ. That is, it is a reminder of the body of Christ; it represents the body of Christ.  When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He said of the bread, “this is my body which is for you.”  Jesus hadn’t died yet, so it obviously wasn’t the literal body of Christ.

Instead, the bread is there to remind us of the body of Christ, the body that was beaten and nailed to the cross because of our sins, and the need for our sins to have a means of forgiveness.

When you take the bread, it is a reminder of your sins, and that they caused the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The fruit of the vine is the blood of Jesus Christ. Again, it is a reminder or a representation of the blood of Christ.  Christ had not yet shed His blood, but He knew it was going to happen.  Because of the surety of its taking place, Jesus could say “this is my blood which is shed for many for remission of sins” (Matthew 26:29).

The blood of Christ is that which washes away our sins (Revelation 1:5).  When you take of the fruit of the vine, remember that your sins put Christ on the cross, but the blood of Christ is what has brought forgiveness.

The bread reminds you of your sins, the fruit of the vine reminds you of the forgiveness.

It is the perfect representation of the gospel message.

Tracts from the Past – Salvation by Grace?

Today’s offering is a “Tract from the Past.”  This one is called “Salvation by Grace” and is written by Eugene Smith.  Mr. Smith was a proficient writer during his life, authoring several tracts.  We hope you enjoy it!

Smith_SavebByGrace

Of all the great doctrines of the Bible, none is more capable of arous­ing the appreciation of man than the idea suggested by the words of the apostle Paul in Eph. 2:8, 9, where he says, “for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of your­selves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.” In this statement the kindness and love of God is revealed to such extent that we should be eternally grateful to God and in our appreciation should humbly sub­mit to His will in all things.

Christ, of course, is the manifesta­tion of the grace of God. In him the love of God is shown as he was present­ed as the perfect sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice was “not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy” (Tit. 3:5). Nothing good that we had done was or could be sufficient to merit the sacri­fice of Christ upon the cross. This was the unmerited favor of God to lost and dying man. This was “the kindness of God our Saviour, and His love toward man” (Tit. 3:4), that appeared for our redemption from a curse which was too great for us to lift.

This grace of God was not bestowed on “the few” but rather on “the many.” Paul said in Tit. 2:11, “For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salva­tion to all men.” All were in need of a Saviour and when God gave His Son He made him a “propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (I John 2:2). When we look upon Jesus today we behold the one whom God “crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).

Therefore by the unmerited mani­festation of the goodness and kindness of God our love for him is born and kept alive. John said, “We love, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). The great love of God which was manifest to the world in the death of Christ is enough to ever keep us humble and grateful before the throne of God for the great gift was made while we were yet sinners and was therefore strictly by the grace and love of God. Paul said of this in Rom. 5:8, “God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Enough has been said, therefore, to cause us to realize that it is by grace we are saved.

An Oft-Made Mistake

However, in thinking of the doctrine of Salvation by Grace there is a mis­take often made that leads to the wrong conclusion. Some have supposed that the fact that salvation is by grace has precluded and excluded all re­sponse on our part. Some have argued that since it is by “grace” there is nothing we can do in any way in the matter of our salvation. These argu­ments are usually summed up under three headings which are erroneously based on the text of Eph. 2:8. They are: (1) Salvation being of grace there is nothing we can do toward that salva­tion; (2) It being the gift of God there is nothing we can do to receive it; and (3) It being “not of works” we are ex­cluded from doing anything whatso­ever to receive it. Believing the above thoughts to be entirely wrong and based upon a mistaken understanding of the text we want to examine them very carefully in the light of God’s word.

Does Grace Exclude Obedience?

Some have supposed that grace ex­cludes obedience to the commandments of God but this cannot be for it would make of God’s word a mass of contra­dictions and we know this is not so. Christ said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Christ in this verse and in the illustration of the two builders (Matt. 7:24-27), which fol­lows, makes clear to all that obedience to God’s will is an essential pre-requi­site of salvation.

The apostle Paul, in speaking along this line, has very clearly said, “He (Christ) became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salva­tion” (Heb. 5:9). Peter said, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth” (I Pet. 1:22) and the beloved John said “This is the love of God that we keep his command­ments” (I John 5:3). Therefore it is impossible to suppose that grace ex­cludes obedience. Nay, rather grace de­mands obedience for in view of the wonderful manifestation of the love of God we should gladly humble our hearts before Him and do His will, obeying His commandments which are given to us in His word. Any course other than this would be contrary to the scriptures and to common sense. We must obey God, obey the truth, or keep His commandments for thus we show our love for Him.

Does A Gift Exclude Obedience?

Some have likewise supposed that since salvation is a gift we can do nothing to receive it. Now to say we can do nothing to merit it is one thing and to say that we can do nothing to receive it is quite another thing. I realize that nothing we can do will ever give us merit enough to make God owe us salvation as a debt He must pay. It is not in this respect that we speak of our obedience. It is not that we are to do a thing or things to merit salva­tion but we must, according to the word of God, do certain things that we may receive salvation.

Christ says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). If we are to receive the “gift of God” we must then “believe and be baptized.” Some will accept the idea that we must believe but will reject the companion thought that we must be baptized. These two, belief and bap­tism, are joined together by the con­junction “and.” One of the elementary rules of the English language is that this conjunction joins words or phrases of equal rank or importance. Therefore when it is used to join belief and bap­tism it makes them of equal import­ance.

The gift of salvation from Christ is held forth to man and he says it will be bestowed upon the man who “be­lieveth and is baptized.” If anyone an­swers that to believe and be baptized is to make it no longer a gift he is surely mistaken about that for the Bi­ble cannot be a book of contradictions. But think one moment about this. If I were to say to you, “Write me a letter and I will give you a book,” you could understand the meaning of my words. If you then wrote me the letter would that in any way show that you had earned the book. No, for when you had complied with my request the book would still be received as a gift and not something you had earned.

A Bible Illustration

To illustrate the fact that one can obey the commands of God and still re­ceive his blessings as a gift we turn to the sixth chapter of Joshua to study the illustration set forth. These things “happened unto them by way of ex­ample; and they were written for our admonition” (I Cor. 10:11). They are given that in them we may see and learn God’s way of dealing with the sons of men in the earth. Paul tells us this again in Rom. 15:4, where he says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learn­ing.” Therefore we can, by studying the examples of Israel in the Old Testa­ment, learn of God’s dealing with man even today. Not that the Old Testa­ment is to be considered our law but the examples thereof are valuable to us as warnings.

“Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in” (Josh. 6: 1). This was the condition of the city as the children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership encamped before the city. Then in verse 2 God talks with Joshua in the following words, “See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.” The city of Jericho was a gift of God to Joshua and the children of Israel.

However God did not end His speak­ing with His statement that He would give them the city. He went on to say, “And Ye shall compass the city, all the men of war, going about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And it shall be, that, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him” (Josh. 6:3-6).

Now if Joshua had been like some people today he would have said “Not so Lord for if we do all that thou hast commanded we shall earn the city and it will not and cannot be a gift.” That is the way people sometimes talk to­day when obedience to the command­ments of God is emphasized by gospel preachers. People are wont to cry, “If we do anything it cannot be a gift.” In this they make a serious mistake that will finally result in the condemnation of millions for failing to do the will of the Lord.

Joshua, however, being a man of faith, did not so speak. He immediately marshalled his forces as God had com­manded and began to fulfill those com­mandments of Jehovah. All that the Lord had said was done in just the way that the Lord had said it should be done. When they came to the seventh day of their obedience we hear Joshua speaking again to the children of Israel as the priests blew the ram’s horn trumpet according to God’s command­ment. He said, “Shout; for Jehovah hath given you the city” (Josh. 6:16). Therefore it must be forever settled and known that men can obey God’s commandments and still receive the promised blessing as a “gift of God.”

More than this in our contemplation of God’s gift to man we must remem­ber that Paul said it was “By grace through Faith” (Eph. 2:8). This is God’s gift and it is received “through faith.” Now let us note another simi­larity between this gift of God and the one we have been studying in Joshua. We read in Hebrews 11:30, “By faith the wall of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days.” Here then is a further confirma­tion of the necessity of our obedience of God’s commandments if we are to be saved by grace.

The salvation by grace is through faith. The falls of Jericho fell down by faith. However they did not fall by faith till God’s commandments were obeyed and therefore we do not receive the blessing of God’s grace till our obedience to God’s will of today is com­plete. Then, and then only, can we re­ceive the blessing by faith. For until our obedience is rendered before God, our faith is dead and vain and can never bring the blessing of God.

Does Grace Exclude Works?

Now we come to the final objection of those who would reject obedience to God as having anything to do with our salvation. They cry “it is not of works” and thus would turn many away from doing the will of God. Let me say first of all that this limitation cannot be un­derstood in an absolute sense, that is to say, prohibiting all works of any kind, for that would cause the apostle to contradict himself in the two verses with which we began this study.

Paul says of this salvation by grace that it is “through faith” and then goes on to say it is “not of works.” Now I know that he does not mean by this that all works are excluded for to do that would even exclude faith. The Christ himself hath said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent” (John 6:29). God has commanded men to believe and Christ says this is a work that is com­manded of God; a work that men are to do. Therefore as salvation is “through faith” we cannot exclude all works or we would thereby even ex­clude faith. This we know cannot be.

Moreover, we know that “works of righteousness” are not excluded by Paul’s statement for we hear the apos­tle Peter speaking to Cornelius and his household in the city of Caesarea and these were to be the first converts from among the gentiles. As he preached to them we hear him say, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no re­specter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34, 35). Therefore the “works of righteousness, do have something to do with our being accepted of God. In Titus 3:5 as we have already noted they had nothing to do with God send­ing His son but now that the grace of God has been manifested to the world in the son we are acceptable in the sight of God as we “work righteous­ness.”

Working righteousness is obeying the commandments of God for the com­mandments of God are His righteous­ness. We read this in Psa. 119:172, where David says, “All thy command­ments are righteousness.” Therefore it is evident that to “work righteousness” is to “work God’s commandments.” Therefore it is on the basis of our obedience to the commandments of God that we are acceptable in the sight of God and our obedience to God’s com­mandments is not the thing under con­sideration by Paul when he said in Eph. 2:9, “Not of works.”

Moreover Christ has said that our “works of righteousness,” that is our obedience to God’s commandments, is nothing about which we can boast or glory. He says, “Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, we are un­profitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). In obeying God’s commands and receiving His blessing we have noth­ing to boast about. The children of Is­rael could not boast about their capture of Jericho. God’s way was not the way that would create boasting on their part but rather a way that would in­crease their faith in and respect for Him.

Had the children of Israel captured the city by force of arms they might have later boasted about it; but taking it as they did they could never glory in it but must always give glory to God. Likewise in our obedience to Christ’s commandments we can never glory for who could say that believing in the Christ, repenting of our sins, confessing our faith in Christ and be­ing baptized could ever be enough to “earn” for us the glory of heaven. Nay, rather, it only emphasizes our depend­ence upon the mercy and grace of God. Therefore as we obey and when we have done all things commanded we are unprofitable and it is still by God’s grace that we are saved. However it is evident that his grace does not ex­clude the “works of righteousness” which he has commanded us to do.

What then can be the meaning of Paul’s statement, “not of works.” It is very simple, and as usual in God’s word, we find it in the very sentence we are considering. Notice, please, that Paul says, “not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph. 2:9). The King James version says “boast” instead of “glory” as we find it in the American Standard Version. This is the key of the entire matter, it is not of works that we can glory in or boast about. It is not by works that we earn salvation or place God in debt to us. This is the en­tire meaning of the apostle’s words and when we thus consider the matter we can see that some works are ex­cluded but that the “works of right­eousness” are not excluded but are the obedience of faith by which we are to receive the “gift of God.” Therefore it is important that we obey the com­mandments of Jesus that he may be the author of eternal salvation to our souls as he is to all them that obey him (Heb. 5:8, 9).

The Ephesian Example

Now in conclusion we want to re­member that our text for this study was written to members of the church in Ephesus. These were said to be saved by “grace through faith” so if we can learn what they did and how they were saved it will be of great im­portance to us in our study. Let us therefore turn our attention to the nineteenth chapter of Acts where we read of the establishment of this church and in this record learn of the conversion of the Ephesians.

“And it came to pass, that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disci­ples: and he said unto them, Did ye re­ceive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptized ? and they said, Into John’s baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-5).

In this account we have the begin­ning of the church in Ephesus. These are the people to whom Paul wrote, “By grace have ye been saved through faith.” Therefore it is evident that Paul’s conception of salvation by grace did not exclude obedience to God’s commands. Nay, contrary to that, it so emphasized obedience to Christ that when he found these who had been one time baptized but with an improper faith he taught them the truth and they were baptized again. Therefore these were baptized twice, once wrong and once right, and still were saved by grace.

There are hundreds of thousands in this land of ours who are like those at Ephesus. They have been baptized but did not understand the true signifi­cance and meaning of it at the time. Their baptism is invalid and they like the Ephesians should be baptized with the baptism commanded by Christ. That is they should be baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to receive the remission of their sins for this is the baptism commanded by the Lord and therefore the baptism in His name (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16: 15, 16).

There are other hundreds of thou­sands who have never been baptized. These need to believe in Christ with all their hearts (Acts 8:36, 37), repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), confess their faith in the Christ (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3) unto the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). Thus they would in their obedi­ence to the commands of the Christ have him become the author of eternal salvation to their souls. Thus they would “work righteousness” and be­come acceptable in the sight of God. Thus they would “by faith” receive “the gift of God” the salvation of their souls and as children of God “by faith in Christ Jesus” rejoice in the sweet assurance of salvation by and through the grace of God for “as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27) and since “in Christ” the grace of God is made known and bestowed they would be saved “by grace through faith.”

Sermon Thursday – The Nature of the Church

This week, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  This week’s topic: What is the Nature of the Church?

Introduction:

Want to be confused? Read these quotes:

“The church is a purely human institution created by man to control the minds of people.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God to bring people back to Him.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God when His first plan goofed up.”
“The church is comprised of every denomination that claims to believe in Jesus.”
“The church is comprised of some denominations, but only those who believe Jesus is eternal.”
“The church IS a denomination.”
“The church is comprised of those who come to God in faithful obedience to His commands.”
“The church is something you can join (choose the church of your choice).”
“The church is something you have to be voted into.”
“The church is something that God puts you in.”

Confused yet?

All these things are said by people about the church. Most of them are things said by various denominations about the church. All you have to do is look across the religious landscape of our country to see that there is a lot of confusion about the nature of the church.

But we’re not interested in what people say about the church; we should only be interested in what the Bible says about the church.

What does the Bible says about the nature of the church?
Who created the church and why?
Who is in the church?
How do they get into the church?

These are the questions we will examine from the Bible today.

Who created the church, and why?

Matthew 18:16 – Jesus said, “I will build my church.”  It is absolutely true that there are some churches that were created by man—many of them for the purpose of getting rich (like the Mormons). But the church of the Bible was created by Jesus Christ, at the direction of God the Father.

Daniel 2:44 – In the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (the church) which shall never be destroyed.  The church of the Bible—the ONLY true church—was created by Jesus Christ, and was in existence beginning in Acts 2.

Acts 2:47 – And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  We covered this in the last lesson, but just to repeat it, the church of the Bible was created by God through Jesus Christ.  This is why Scriptures refer to it as the church of God as well as the church of Christ.

But WHY was it created?

To fulfill prophecy.

Isaiah 2:1-4, Joel 2:28-32, and Daniel 2:44 were all fulfilled when the church was established in Acts 2.

Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter, and he specifically said that the things which were taking place on Pentecost were fulfilling that prophecy (Acts 2:16).

Isaiah 2:1-4 said that in the last days of Jerusalem, God’s kingdom would be established and His law would go forth from Jerusalem.

On Pentecost, 40 years before Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, God’s kingdom (the church) was established in Jerusalem, and the new law of God went forth from there.

Daniel 2:44 prophesied that the kingdom would be set up in the days of the kings of the Roman Empire—which is exactly the time that the church was set up.

To replace the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people.

Read the parable of the householder in Matthew 21:33-43.  Jesus said that the kingdom would be taken away from the Jewish nation and given to a nation that was bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom (21:43).

To the Christians, Peter wrote “You are a chosen generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9).  Christians are the nation of God that brings forth the fruit of the kingdom—and they do that by spreading the word of God (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 8:11).

Acts 4:12 – Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.  This was spoken to Jews – and they were told that salvation only comes through Christ.  The Jews were basically told that being a Jew meant nothing anymore, because salvation is only through Jesus Christ.

God made the final rejection of the Jews permanent when He sent the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.  It has been physically impossible to follow the Law of Moses since that date.  There’s no temple to worship in.  There’s no altar to offer sacrifices.  There’s no priesthood—let alone a Jewish high priest.  There’s no genealogical records—no one could even prove that they are from the tribe of Levi.

The church is God’s only chosen people.

To proclaim God’s word, and to reveal the great wisdom of God.

Ephesians 3:10-11 – To the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jude 3 – contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The faith, the wisdom of God, the PLAN of God which He purposed in Jesus Christ has been fulfilled in the establishment of the church.  And it the responsibility of the church to make that message known to the world (II Timothy 2:2, Mark 16:15-16).

Why is it important that we understand why the church was created? Because the Scriptures say that it was in God’s plan…

  • In the 500’s BC (when Daniel prophesied).
  • In the 700’s BC (When Isaiah prophesied).
  • In the 800’s BC (When Joel prophesied).
  • Before the creation of the world (Ephesians 3:10-11 – the “eternal purpose of God which was purposed in Christ Jesus,” the “Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world” – Revelation 13:8).

Yet a very prominent teaching in some denominations is that Jesus came to set up an earthly kingdom, but somehow God goofed and had to quickly come up with an emergency back-up plan because Jesus got rejected.  They teach that the church was put in as a temporary measure until God is ready to send Jesus back to try again.

So, which one is right? Man or the Bible?

What is the church?

The word “church” is used different ways today.  Is it the building (there’s my church…)?  Is it the worship service (“going to church”)?  Is it one specific denomination (the Catholic Church…)?

What does the Bible say?

The word “church” is used in two ways to describe God’s people.

The universal church, comprised of every saved person everywhere in the world.  Ephesians 5:23 – “Christ is the head of the church.”  This refers to all Christians everywhere, not just a certain group of them.  And it doesn’t refer to anyone who isn’t a Christian.

The local group of Christians, comprised of those who meet together in one certain location.  To Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church that meets in thy house” (Philemon 1-2).  Paul wrote “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2).

Who is in the church?

Truthfully, this is quite plain from the Scriptures.

Acts 2:47 – and the Lord added to the church daily, those who were being saved.  The church is composed of the people who have been saved.

Acts 20:28 – …the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  The church is composed of the people who have been bought with the blood of Christ (another way of saying “the people who have been saved”).

The church is made up ONLY of saved people, but just as important to remember, EVERY saved person is in the church.

There are no saved people outside of the church.

People who claim to be saved, but say they’re not part of the church are actually saying they aren’t really saved.

How does one become a member of the church of the Bible?

There’s lots of different ways to become members of man-made churches.  But we’re not interested in man-made churches; we’re interested only in the church of the Bible.

As we’ve seen, one becomes a member of the church of the Bible by being saved.  When you are saved, God adds you to His one true church (Acts 2:47).

So, the question that we really need to ask is this: How can I be saved?   And when we answer the question, “How can I be saved?” then we have the answer to “how do I become a member of the church of the Bible?”

In order to be saved, there has to be a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus Christ, and He has already done His part in dying on the cross so that we can attain forgiveness of our sins.

In order to be saved, we have to hear about his offer of salvation.  If you’re drowning, and you don’t know about the life-preserver that has been thrown out, you’re going to die.  But when you hear about that life preserver, you can start trying to find it.  You can’t be saved by Jesus Christ without first hearing about Him (which is made clear in Acts 2:22-24).

In order to be saved, we have to believe in Jesus Christ, and that He died and was raised up (Romans 1:16, 10:9).

In order to be saved, we have to repent of our sins (Acts 3:19).

In order to be saved, we have to confess Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10).

In order to be saved, we have to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

After, and only after we do those things, we are saved, and God adds us to the church—His church.

There are some denominations who say that being saved isn’t good enough to be part of their church—they have to vote on you, whether or not they want you as part of their church.  Any church that does that is not the church of the Bible.

When you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ through baptism, you are a part of the church of the Bible, the church that belongs to Christ. Period. There are no extra steps.

The church is the spiritual body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23), the chosen people of God who have been saved by the blood of His dear Son (Acts 20:28).

Have you been saved?

Salvation is easy, and it is within your reach.

 

–Bradley Cobb

Make it Personal Through Prayer

Yesterday, it was suggested that the first step in making your relationship with Jesus more personal was to study the Scriptures.  Today comes step two: making your relationship personal through prayer.

Studying is great for accumulating knowledge and building understanding, but it isn’t enough.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5).

If we want to continue getting wisdom (the ability to apply knowledge personally), we must pray to God and ask for it!

Why, though?  Isn’t studying the Bible enough?

The answer to that question is NO.

Please understand, I am not saying that God will give us some knowledge that is not found in scripture, but he will give us better understanding and wisdom on how that knowledge applies to us.  The most intelligent person on the planet is still not even on the same playing field as God is.  God knows and understands infinitely more than us.  For like the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9).

Praying for wisdom goes hand-in-hand with studying God’s word.  The more you know about Jesus, the more personal your relationship will become with Him.  The more you understand about Jesus—His motives, His teachings, His life—the closer you will grow to Him.

While praying for wisdom is all well and good, there are more reasons to make it personal through prayer.  We are to be in constant contact with God.  Pray without Ceasing. (I Thessalonians 5:17).

Going through difficulties with someone makes the relationship closer.

When you have a problem with something, who do you turn to?  Who do you tell it to?  A friend, right?  Whether it is your spouse or a friend you’ve known for a while, telling someone your troubles, problems, and concerns always seems to make things better.  This is especially when you have someone who understands what you’re going through.

Why are so many people willing to tell their troubles to a friend, but not to God?

Shouldn’t God be the first one we turn to with our problems and cares?  After all, he’s the only one who can actually do anything for every problem we have!

Constant contact makes for a closer relationship.

Imagine you met someone one time fifteen years ago, and then never heard from them again.  Then out of the blue one day, that person came up to you and said, “Remember me?  I’m John, your really close friend!”  Odds are pretty good that you would not agree with his assessment of your friendship.  After all, a friend—a really good friend—is one who you get to know, and who you talk to on a regular basis.

The same thing is true with God.  The more you talk to him (and listen to what he says to you through his word), the better friend you will have.  As the old saying goes, “To have a friend, you must first be a friend.”

Are you willing to say to God, “I’m sorry for not keeping in touch better”?  Why not start today to build up that relationship with Him.  Be in constant conversation with God.

–Bradley Cobb

Make it Personal Through Study

We would all love for our relationship with Jesus to be more personal.  By this, I mean that we really want to feel a closeness to Christ.  We want to truly feel the friendship of Jesus and know that we too are friends to Him.  But how do we do that?

First, make your relationship with Jesus personal through study.

From childhood, you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. (II Tim 3:15)

The scriptures can make us wise.  I’ve often heard wisdom described as the ability to apply knowledge to ourselves and others.  Obviously, if you want a personal relationship with Jesus, the first thing you have to do is have knowledge of Him.

How are we to even know who Christ is if we do not study the scriptures?  If you take away the Bible and any reference to the Bible, you are left with very little knowledge about Jesus Christ. Study of the Scriptures is the first step in having a truly personal relationship with Jesus.

But where did scripture come from?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Tim 3:16-17)

Now we see that all scripture came from God!  And in studying it, we me be complete, and fully ready and able to accomplish all the good that can be done!

Study  to show yourself approved to God, a workman that doesn’t need to be ashamed, properly dividing the word of truth. (II Tim 2:15).

All these verses show the benefit of studying God’s Word.  But how does that make it personal?  After all, many people study the Bible like they study for a history test.  They memorize the main names, places, and events and can rattle them off without much problem, but they still don’t understand the reasons for them.  Yes, they know Jesus was born and died on the cross, but do they know why?

When you study the Bible and look beyond just the people, places, and events you can start to see what you need to learn from it.  For example: Jesus died on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for us.  Sin came into the world, and those who sinned deserved death.  God, in his grace, allowed animal sacrifices to be used in place of the sinners.  Then Jesus came to earth and allowed himself to be the ultimate sacrifice, and in doing so, ended all need for animal sacrifices, as well as paying the debt that we owed–that being our own lives because of our sin.  That’s pretty important.

What kind of person would go before the judge and say “Judge, I know this man has been sentenced to death for what he’s done, but I would like to take the death sentence in his place”?

Only a true, personal friend!

In reading and studying about Jesus and His death on the cross, we can see that He’s ready and willing to be a true personal friend to us.  In fact, Jesus declared His friendship to each one of us almost 2,000 years ago when He said, “No man has greater love than this: that he would lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13)

Are we ready to make the same commitment to him?

-Bradley Cobb

Make It Personal

Have you ever heard religious people talk about making Jesus their personal Lord and Savior?  We all know that when you become a Christian, Jesus becomes our Savior and our Lord.  But why do they stress the word “personal”?  Is there something we’re missing here?  Let’s take a look at that today.

How can you tell if it’s personal?

Have you ever had someone say something that aggravated you?  Perhaps they insulted your favorite football team.  Perhaps they contradict you on politics.  Perhaps they spoke ill of your family.  Perhaps they even insulted you.  How did that make you feel?  Mad? Upset?  Why would that be?  It’s because those things are all personal to us.  Our family means a lot to us.  To some, college football is their life and to insult their team is to insult them.  If someone insults you, does it not hurt?  Is there something that gets you bent out of shape?  You know those things are personal.

Do you feel the same way when someone uses the Lord’s name in vain?  Or when someone speaks of the earth being here for billions of years (contrary to the Biblical record)?  Does it really bother you when people twist the Word of God around and lie about what it teaches?

If someone trashing you football team bothers you more than someone trashing the Bible, then something is wrong.   Your relationship with Christ is not personal.

Do you have a friend that you would always stand up for?  Perhaps someone you’ve known for a long time and would do anything for?  If someone called them stupid, or went so far as to even hit them, would you stand up for this friend?  Christ should be your best friend.  If you are not willing to stand up for Christ as He’s insulted, you do not have a personal relationship with Him.

You know the words of the song:

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No not one, No not one!
There’s not an hour that he is not near us, No not one, No not one!
Jesus knows all about our struggles, he will guide till the day is done!

That’s personal!  We need to make sure our relationship with Christ is personal.

But how?

That is what we will cover over the next few days.

–Bradley 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

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!

Bible Q&A – Was Jesus Created?

Some people came to my door and said that since Jesus is the “Son of God,” that means He can’t be God. They said that Jesus was the first being created by God. Was Jesus created?—F.F., Arkansas.

Thank you for the question. What you described sounds like a group who call themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” But before we answer the question, something must be made extremely clear:

Right and wrong is determined by what the Bible says. Just because a certain religious group teaches something doesn’t automatically mean it’s right, but it also doesn’t automatically mean it’s wrong, either.

Let’s start with your question, Was Jesus created? Then we’ll move on to the issue about the “Son of God.”

In Micah 5:2, there is a prophecy about Jesus being born in Bethlehem (fulfilled in Matthew 2:5-6). But that’s not the only thing in that verse. Jesus is also described as the one “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” According to this Old Testament passage, the Messiah (the Christ) would be one who has existed “from everlasting,” that is, forever. If someone is from everlasting, that means He couldn’t have been created.

But let’s go further and look at how ridiculous this claim of a “created Jesus” is. The Bible makes it crystal-clear that everything that was created was created by Jesus Christ (John 1:1-3). The Scriptures say that there is nothing created except for that which was created by Jesus. Now, taking this crystal-clear Bible knowledge with us, let’s use some common sense. The only way—according to the Bible—that Jesus was created is if Jesus created Himself out of thin air before He existed.

The Bible makes it clear that Jesus was not created. He is eternal, and is the one who created everything—no exceptions!

But let’s also take a look at the “Son of God” argument.

One of the ways the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” try to bring up the topic of Jesus is by saying that He’s the Son of God, and then make the comment, “Isn’t that interesting that he’s called the Son of God.” When you ask, “What do you mean?” they start saying that since Jesus is the Son of God, that means Jesus can’t be God.

The same Bible says that Jesus is the “son of man.” According to the Jehovah’s Witness argument, that would mean that Jesus can’t be man, either, since he’s the son of man. If we take their argument to its logical conclusion, Jesus isn’t deity, and was never human either. Both of those stances violate several Scriptures.

The son of a human is a human—by his very nature. The Son of God, therefore, is God—by His very nature.

Jesus Christ is deity (by His very nature), and Jesus is also human (by being the Son of man). He is eternal. Jesus was not created. He is the one who created everything.

-Bradley Cobb

Bible Q&A – Are Babies Born in Sin?

I heard someone on the radio talk about people having a “sinful nature,” and as proof that we are all born sinners, he quoted Psalm 51:5 from the NIV. Are we really born sinners?—D. from Illinois.

Thanks for the question. This is one that has bothered people for many years. In fact, this one doctrine has led to all sorts of other doctrines and practices which are foreign to the Bible.

Before we go any further, let’s look at the passage, quoted in the NIV (since that was what the man referenced). This version of the Bible has David saying, “Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” When you read that passage by itself (which is questionably translated), it can sure make you think that we are all “born in sin.” But we need to look at the rest of the Bible first, then we’ll come back to this passage.

In order to understand where people are coming from when they say that we are all “born in sin,” we need to figure out how they came to that conclusion. They claim that all people are born sinful, condemned to hell from the time they were conceived (some say from the moment of birth) because of the sin of Adam. They claim that we all hell-bound sinners from birth because we bear the guilt of Adam’s sin in the Garden of Eden. This is why Catholics and Lutherans “baptize” (actually sprinkle) babies—to supposedly cleanse them of the sin of Adam.

But do we really bear the sins of Adam?

Let’s think this through for a moment. If every human is born sinful because of the sin of Adam, then that applies to everyone who has ever been born, starting with Adam and Eve’s first child. That would apply to every person under the Old Testament, as well as the New Testament.

But this doctrine is 100% denied in the Old Testament. The prophet Ezekiel, while speaking words directly from God, said, “the soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). And look at what else God says through this prophet: “The son will not bear the sin of the father, nor will the father bear the sin of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). God makes it incredibly clear that we do not “inherit” sin from any ancestors.

King David was incredibly upset, because his brand-new baby was incredibly sick. Then the baby ended up dying at just 7 days old. But, when the baby died, King David said these words: “Now he is dead…can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). David, a prophet of God (Acts 2:29-30), said that he would be reunited with his son. Since David was a man after God’s own heart, and fully expected to go to heaven, that means he also fully expected his infant sin to be in heaven as well. This is because babies aren’t born in sin.

But suppose someone won’t accept these Old Testament examples as evidence. What then?

How about the New Testament, which clearly states that we will be judged on what we do, and not on what someone else does? All people will be judged, according to their works (Revelation 20:12-13, 2 Corinthians 5:10).

But let’s consider one more thing: if all babies are born sinful, bearing the guilt of Adam’s sin, then no one can be saved!

Whoa! Wait a minute! What do you mean by that???

If all babies are born in sin, born sinful, then that means Jesus Christ was a sinner from birth. That means Jesus wasn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice. And if Jesus isn’t the sinless and perfect sacrifice then (1) His death on the cross couldn’t take away sin, and (2) the New Testament contains lie after lie when it says that Jesus “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21, I Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15).

So, which one are you going to believe: the Bible, which says Jesus never knew sin, or the people who claim all babies (which must include Jesus) are born in sin?

As for me and my house, we’ll believe the Bible.

But what about Psalm 51:5?

Yes, that’s where this question started, so let’s paint the picture. David has sinned, having committed adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan has confronted him and said, “You are that man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David’s realization that he has sinned completely overwhelms him. And in that state, he writes Psalm 51.

He says, “blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me [that is, it’s all around me, it’s everywhere I look]. Behold, I was shaped in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me…purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:1-7).

David is poetically saying that all he can see is his sin. It’s like he’s always sinning. He’s such a horrible sinner, it’s like he’s done nothing but sinning. It’s like he’s been sinning since he was born. His sin is overwhelming him, and he’s begging for God’s forgiveness. He’s not saying, “I was a hell-bound sinner the instant I was conceived.” He’s saying, “I’m such a horrible sinner, it feels like that’s all I’ve done my entire life.”

And he’s not that different from us. Haven’t you ever said, thought, or heard the words, “I can’t do anything right”? Or perhaps, “All I ever do is mess up”? That’s how David was feeling when he wrote Psalm 51.

So, to answer the original question: No, we are not born sinners. We do not get our sin from someone else. We are born precious and free from sin. We become sinners when we ourselves disobey God’s law.

For further reading on this topic, check Luke 18:16 and Romans 7:7-9.

-Bradley S. Cobb