Tag Archives: Salvation

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Three)

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Saul Sees the Light

Enthusiastically, Saul was tormenting the church.  He had been threatening and murdering Christians in Judea, and decided it was time to expand his area of destruction to the north.  So he went to the high priest and asked for official letters so that he could go to the synagogues of Damascus and arrest anyone he found there—man or woman—who followed Jesus.1

So Paul took a group of men with him, a posse if you will, to help with his operations.  These would have been men like Paul, men who were viciously opposed to Christianity, and men who took pride in destroying the doctrine and followers of Jesus of Nazareth.  These men are all traveling together on the road to Damascus, and it is almost noon,2 when the sun is at its brightest, when all of a sudden…

A light from heaven shined all around him, and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”3

His mission forgotten for the moment, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?”  Saul knew that this light was supernatural, for it was much brighter than even the noonday sun.  Therefore, he knew that this was a voice from heaven—a voice that spoke with the authority of God.  But Saul didn’t understand; he was confused—he had lived in all good conscience before God,4 and was dedicating his life to the extermination of a blasphemous religion.  Surely Saul wasn’t persecuting God Himself!  No, he was serving God…wasn’t he?

The voice from heaven replied in Hebrew, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”5

Saul was terrified at what he had just heard, and remained on the ground, trembling in fear.  If Jesus was speaking from heaven, then Saul had been fighting against God—had been murdering people who were righteous and obedient.  If Jesus was speaking from heaven, then Saul deserved the worst possible punishment that Deity could possibly conceive.  But Saul, trembling, said, “Lord, what do you wish for me to do?”  Certainly fearful of the worst, Saul had to have some measure of hope and relief when he heard the words, “Arise, and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”6

His companions—who were speechless and afraid after the incident, seeing the light and hearing a voice7—took Saul, who was unable to see, by the hand and led him into Damascus, where he stayed at the house of a man named Judas.8  We aren’t told what happened to Saul’s companions, but it is hard to believe that they were unaffected by this incident.  It is almost certain that Saul, shaking as they walked, would have told them what the voice said; and they would have had a hard time disbelieving it.

For the next three days, the worried persecutor abandoned all food and drink, fasting and dedicating himself to praying to God, whom he had unknowingly been fighting against.9  There is no doubt that he pleaded with God for forgiveness, for understanding of the Scriptures which he had misunderstood, and for mercy on him, whose entire world had just been turned upside-down, and who now viewed himself, not as the hero of Judaism and destroyer of heresy, but as the worst sinner in history.10  Yet through three days of praying, Saul was still not relieved of his sin nor his guilt.

While he is agonizing over his sins, the Lord appears in a vision to a Christian in Damascus—one of the very people who Paul was coming to brutally arrest and perhaps even kill.  This disciple of Jesus, a man named Ananias, heard Jesus say:

Get up, and travel on11 the avenue12 which is called “Straight,” and at the house of Judas, ask for the one called “Saul of Tarsus,” because behold, he is praying.  And he has seen, in a vision, a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hands on him so that he might see.13

Ananias puts up an argument, showing just how far Saul’s reputation had spread.  Ananias hadn’t just heard one person talk about Saul’s actions.  He said, “Lord, I’ve heard from many about this man, how much evil he’s done against your saints in Jerusalem, and he possesses authority from the ruling priests to tie up all that call on your name here.”14  Saul was greatly feared because of the wide swath of destruction that he had enacted against the church, and it was common knowledge in Damascus that he was on his way there to do the same thing.

But Jesus reiterates the message in such a way that it calms some of Ananias’ fears (though it isn’t a stretch to think that Ananias was still incredibly nervous):

Travel [Ananias], because he is a chosen tool for me, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how many things he must suffer for the sake of my name.15

So Ananias traveled on Straight Street, found the house, and went inside to where Saul was.  Saul, unable to see who entered into the room, felt hands being put on him, and heard the words “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me so that you might receive your sight, and [that you] might be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Receive your sight.”16 And immediately, it was as though something like scales had fallen from his eyes, and he looked up at Ananias, who was standing in the room by him.17  Then Ananias gave him a message—the most important message that Saul had ever heard, the answer to his prayers: what he needed to do to receive forgiveness.

The God of our fathers has chosen you so that you should know His will, and see the Righteous One, and should hear the voice of His mouth.  Because you shall be His witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.  And now, why are you waiting?  Get up and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.18

Then Saul arose, no doubt overjoyed by the message of forgiveness that was given to him by Ananias, and he obeyed the gospel.19

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Acts 9:1-2.

2 Acts 22:6.

3 Acts 9:4.

4 Acts 23:1

5 Acts 9:5, 26:14-15.  The goads are sharp, pointed sticks (sometimes metal) that are used to push goats or oxen in a certain direction.  There are different views as to what Jesus means by the “goads.”  Some say it is speaking of Saul’s conscience, which would make him a liar in Acts 23:1, where he says that he had lived in all good conscience before God.  Some have suggested that perhaps he was fighting against Gamaliel’s advice in Acts 5.  Others have suggested, based on Romans 16:7, that Paul was fighting against family.  While these may have some level of validity, it seems more likely that the “goads” that Saul was kicking against are the Law and the Prophets—the inspired Scriptures which pointed the way to Christ.  Some translations omit “it is hard for you to kick against the goads” in 9:5, but the words are present in 26:14 in those same versions.

6 Acts 9:6.

7 Acts 9:7-8, 22:9-11.  The men heard the sound of the voice, but they did not comprehend the words spoken.  There is little doubt that Saul relayed to them what was said.

8 Acts 9:11.

9 Acts 9:9-11.

10 1 Timothy 1:12-16

11 The KJV says “go into,” but both words are not as accurately translated as they could be.  The word “go” is actually a word that means “travel,” “transfer,” or “journey (somewhere).”  It is used again in verse 15.  The word “into” (KJV) is the word epi which means “on” or “upon.”

12 The word translated “avenue” (“street” in most translations) is only used here in the New Testament, and refers to a very busy avenue, crowded with people, and lined on either side with buildings.

13 Acts 9:11-12.  The KJV says “that he might receive his sight.”  However, the Greek is literally “look up,” and is in the active voice, not the passive as the KJV and most other modern translations render it.  By implication, the idea is regaining one’s sight, but since it is spoken in the active voice—as something done by Saul, it is best rendered as we have it (and so agrees Hugo McCord’s translation), “he might see.”  Verse 17 shows that it was Jesus speaking to Ananias.

14 Acts 9:13-14. “Tie up” (“bind” in many translations) can refer to being bound in chains, or tied with ropes.  One can imagine Saul’s posse traveling towards Damascus with ropes or chains in their hands.

15 Acts 9:15-16.  The word “tool” (“vessel,” KJV) is translated as “instrument” in the ESV.  The Greek word was often used to describe the sails and tackle equipment on a fishing boat.

16 Acts 9:17; 22:13.

17 Acts 9:18; 22:13.

18 Acts 22:14-16.  On the translation “Righteous One,” see MLV, ESV, ASV.

19 Acts 9:18.

Don’t Miss the “Must”

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We went to Lowe’s recently, and on the receipt, there was a website listed where you can be entered for a $300 Lowe’s gift card, just by filling out a survey.  The survey took about four minutes, but there was one part that really stuck out: you have to enter in your name, address, and phone number in order to be entered into the drawing.  It said you must fill out all the information requested in order to be entered.

That word “must” is pretty clear.  It means that if you don’t fill out all the information, you lose out on the potential reward.  If you fill out some, you aren’t entered.  If you fill it out incorrectly, you aren’t entered.  There is no wiggle room when they use the word “must.”  Pretty much everyone understands that when you use the word “must,” you are saying that it is a requirement, that it is mandatory, that you cannot be or receive what is offered without meeting the conditions stipulated by the word “must.”

The Bible uses this word as well, and it is very important that when God uses the word “must,” His followers pay attention!

Old Testament – Circumcision

The first time the Bible uses the word “must” is in Genesis 17:13.  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.  This is God speaking to Abraham, making a covenant with him that he would be the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5).  Notice what God says:

 Genesis 17:10-14 – This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.  And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.  And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.  He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.  And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.

In order to be part of the covenant with God, the descendants of Abraham must needs have been circumcised.  The ones who were not circumcised were cut off from the people.  In order to be part of this covenant, circumcision was an absolute requirement; it was mandatory; there was no wiggle room or loophole.  Being a physical descendant of Abraham wasn’t enough to be in this covenant—circumcision was required—and it was non-negotiable!

Don’t miss the “must” here!  People could claim to be in this covenant with God, but if they were not circumcised, they were claiming a falsehood—they were lying!  By claiming to be in the covenant with God without circumcision, they were calling God a liar—saying that His requirements weren’t really requirements at all.

Old Testament – The Passover

In Leviticus 23, God gives commands regarding the various feast days that the Israelites are to observe.  One of those is the Passover.  You’ll remember that God instituted the Passover back in the book of Exodus, to commemorate His passing over the Israelites when He brought the tenth plague on the land of Egypt.  But here in Leviticus, God uses the word “must.”

Leviticus 23:4-8 – These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons.  In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover. And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is a holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.

When God issues this command to Moses to pass on to the Israelites, He doesn’t give every detail—He doesn’t mention the Passover Lamb, the time in which it is to be killed, the casting out of all leavening from the house—but He does make one thing abundantly clear: they must eat unleavened bread for seven days in order to keep this holy feast.

Don’t miss the “must” here!  If they ate leavened bread, they weren’t keeping the holy feast.  If they had unleavened bread in the house, but they didn’t eat it, they weren’t keeping the holy feast.  People could claim to be keeping the Passover, but if they didn’t eat unleavened bread for seven days, then they were claiming a falsehood; they were profaning God’s divinely-instituted feast.

Somewhere along the way, after this command was passed on from God to Moses to the Israelites, the people had left the proper observance of the Passover—some believe they had forgotten the Passover completely!  But after the book of the Law was rediscovered in the days of Josiah, it was observed properly again.

2 Kings 23:21-23 – And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the Passover unto the LORD your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant.  Surely there was not holden such a Passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; but in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this Passover was holden to the LORD in Jerusalem.

Other Old Testament Examples

We could also mention how the ones who took the Nazarite vow were told that they “must” keep the vow in a certain way (Numbers 6:1-21, especially verse 21).  We could show that Moses had been shown by God that he “must” die without being able to cross into the Promised Land because of his sin (Deuteronomy 4:21-22, 31:14)—which means that if Moses made it across the Jordan River, God was a liar. We could show that the Angel of the LORD told Manoah, “If thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD” (Judges 13:16)—which means that God would not accept any burnt offering that was offered to anyone else.  We could look at the reaction of the Israelites when Ezra told them they had to make confession to God and put away their strange wives—they said, “As thou hast said, so must we do” (Ezra 10:11-12).  They understood that to be right with God, they were required to confess their sin and show their repentance through action—any other response would have been inadequate; they could claim to be following God, but without the confession and repentance, they would have been lying.

Don’t miss the “must”!  In each of these examples from the Old Testament, if the person didn’t follow the “must,” they weren’t truly followers of God.  They could claim it all they wanted, but they would have been doing nothing more than usurping the title of “children of God,” profaning the commands of God, and implying that God is a liar.

Certainly, the word “must” is important!

But let’s now look at some “musts” from the New Testament.

New Testament – The Sufferings of the Messiah

The Jews, for the most part, had a much different view of the Messiah, the Christ, than God did.  They expected a military marvel, a sequel to the victorious David, leading their armies to prominence and their nation to freedom from the Roman Empire.  But that’s not how God had it planned.

After hearing the confession of Peter, that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and foretelling that He would build His church, the Scriptures say this:

Matthew 16:21 – From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Mark’s account says that Jesus told them the “Son of man” must suffer those things (Mark 8:31).

After the transfiguration, Jesus answered their question about the Elijah that must come first, and said again that the Son of man must suffer many things and be set at naught (Mark 9:11-13).

The night of Jesus’ betrayal, Peter took out his sword and attempted to protect his Master.  But Jesus told him to put away the sword, and said:

 Matthew 26:53-54 – Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

There are other passages that make this same point, but these should suffice.  Jesus said unequivocally that He must suffer; He was required to suffer and die.

Don’t miss the “must”!  If Jesus did not suffer and die, then He was not the Messiah.  If Jesus did not suffer and die (and rise up again on the third day), then He was a usurper of the name “Christ,” He was a liar, He was a blasphemer, and He is someone who should not be followed.  However, the evidence shows conclusively that Jesus did suffer, that He did die, and that He was raised from the dead.  He said that it must happen, and it did!

New Testament – Born Again

When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, in John 3, Jesus said to him (starting in verse 3),

“Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus saith unto him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.   That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”

Notice what is said there—without being born again, you can’t see the kingdom of God; and Jesus equates being born again to being “born of water and spirit” (the word “the” isn’t in the Greek there). Then to make it abundantly clear, the Lord says “You must be born again.”

Don’t miss the “must”!  There are people today who claim to be Christians, but who have never been born of water and spirit—they have never been born again!  They have simply taken the divinely-given name, claimed it for themselves, all the while never doing that which makes the name valid: being born again.  My friends, these people are not Christians!  No amount of claiming the name will make it so!  They are not part of the kingdom of God, because they haven’t done the thing which Jesus said must be done to be part of it!

The Scriptures define what being “born again” is.  Romans 6:3-5 describes the process which culminates in “rising to walk in newness of life”—a new life, a new birth out of the water (John 3:5 literally says “born out of water”) to be free from sin.

Conclusion

When God says “must,” you’d better pay attention!  If someone wasn’t circumcised, they were not part of the covenant—no matter what they claimed.  If someone didn’t eat unleavened bread, they were not observing the Passover—no matter what they claimed.  If Jesus didn’t suffer, die, and rise again, then He wasn’t the Christ—no matter what He might claim.  If we are not baptized for the remission of sins, then we are not Christians—no matter what we claim.

The New Birth, or How and When is One Born Again?

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Perry Cotham was a great gospel preacher who passed away back in 2013.  He wrote several tracts during his lifetime, and this is one of his best.  He wrote clearly, biblically, and convincingly.

Today’s addition to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary is called “The New Birth, or How and When is One Born Again?”  It is a discussion of the most important question for any and every person on earth: “What must I do to be saved?”

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Chapters

  1. The New Birth
    1. The Man Nicodemus
    2. The Kingdom of God
    3. Born of Water and the Spirit
    4. A New Life Begins
  2. The Voice of Scholars
  3. Parallel Scriptures
    1. Statements of Jesus Regarding Entrance into the Kingdom
    2. The New Birth Explained by the Great Commission
    3. Comparison of the Language of Jesus and Paul Regarding Entrance into the Kingdom
  4. The New Birth Demonstrated
    1. The Three Thousand on Pentecost
    2. The Samaritans
    3. The Eunuch
    4. Saul of Tarsus
    5. Conclusion
  5. General summary and Conclusion

To read this completely reformatted and corrected work, just click the link below.  You’ll be benefited by it!

The New Birth (Perry Cotham)

-Bradley S. Cobb

Baptism, Our Lord’s Command

It’s been just a little bit, but we’re happy to announce that we are posting more new books on the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary.  And today’s is one we think you’ll really like.

This book was originally published in Australia, 1913, by the Austral Publishing Company of Melbourne.  We have not changed any content from the original, but we have made some changes that we believe you will find worthwhile: (1) We have Americanized the spelling of words [for example, baptise is now baptize], (2) We have corrected incorrect Scripture references [usually, this was simply a reference to the wrong chapter in a book], (3) We have also corrected punctuation mistakes when we came across them.

Also, just like with every other book that we have published, we have completely reformatted it to give it a more pleasing look.  We have changed the font size, increased the size of the headings, and just overall tried to give it a facelift.

We are happy to present “Baptism: Our Lord’s Command (Containing a Reply to ‘The Question of Baptism’ by Mr. A. Madsen, a Methodist Minister)” by A.R. Main.

Contents

  1. PREFACE. 2
  2. Introduction to the 2016 Edition. 3
  3. Baptism: Our Lord’s Command. 5
    1. HOW MAY WE SETTLE THE QUESTION?. 7
  4. New Testament Example and Precept. 11
    1. SOME STRIKING ADMISSIONS. 14
    2. SCHOLARLY AUTHORITIES. 16
  5. The Commission. 20
  6. The Argument from Circumcision. 30
    1. THE PÆDOBAPTIST ARGUMENT STATED. 32
    2. REPLY. 33
    3. CHURCH CONTINUITY. 35
    4. DID CIRCUMCISION ADMIT INFANTS INTO THE CHURCH?. 37
    5. HAS BAPTISM TAKEN THE PLACE OF CIRCUMCISION?. 39
    6. COLOSSIANS 2:11-12. 42
  7. Jewish Baptism. 46
  8. Family Baptisms. 52
    1. CORNELIUS. 53
    2. CRISPUS. 54
    3. THE JAILER. 54
    4. STEPHANAS. 56
    5. LYDIA. 57
    6. OIKOS AND OIKIA. 58
    7. PÆDOBAPTIST ADMISSIONS. 63
    8. PLUMMER ON HOUSEHOLD BAPTISMS. 66
  9. Jesus and the Little Ones. 70
    1. “OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM.”. 71
    2. “BABES AND SUCKLINGS.”. 74
    3. “FEED MY LAMBS.”. 75
    4. TO YOUR CHILDREN (ACTS 2:39). 76
    5. ACTS 21:4-5. 79
    6. PAUL’S LETTERS. 80
    7. 2 JOHN. 81
    8. CHILDREN OF CHRISTIAN PARENTS HOLY (1 COR. 7:14). 82
    9. BABES IN HEAVEN. 86
  10. A Pædobaptist Miscellany. 88
    1. JOHN’S BAPTISM. 88
    2. THE EUNUCH. 89
    3. SIMON MAGUS. 90
    4. THE BAPTISM OF SAUL. 91
    5. THE LORD’S DAY. 92
  11. Post-Apostolic Practice. 94
    1. THE DIDACHE. 95
    2. JUSTIN MARTYR. 96
    3. IRENÆUS. 97
    4. ORIGEN. 97
    5. TERTULLIAN. 98
    6. CYPRIAN. 101
    7. “A HISTORICAL FACT.”. 103
  12. The Action of Baptism. 109
    1. LEXICONS. 110
    2. DICTIONARIES AND ENCYCLOPÆDIAS. 112
    3. CHURCH HISTORIANS, ETC. 113
    4. SECONDARY MEANING OF “BAPTIZO.”. 115
    5. LUTHER AND CALVIN. 118
    6. NEW TESTAMENT TEACHING. 120
      1. The Baptism of John. 120
      2. The Eunuch. 122
      3. Baptism a Burial. 123
      4. John 2:23. 127
      5. Baptism of Suffering. 128
      6. Baptism in the Holy Spirit. 128
      7. 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. 130
      8. 1 Peter 3:20-21. 131
      9. Baptism of Three Thousand. 132
      10. Baptism of the Samaritans. 133
      11. Ezekiel 36:25. 135
  13. The Evil of Infant Sprinkling. 137

To download this well-researched book, or read it online, simply click the link below:

Baptism: Our Lord’s Command (A.R. Main)

Salvation in the Old Testament

Today’s post is a lecture that I gave recently at a congregation in Oklahoma City.  I hope you find it interesting and encouraging!

Introduction

The word “saved” (or “salvation” or any of their various forms) is used in different ways in the Bible.  For example, the same word translated “saved” in the New Testament is also translated “healed,” “made whole,” “do well,” and “preserve.”  The basic idea is taking someone from a bad state and placing them in a better state.  Taking someone from sickness to health, from slavery to freedom, from sinner to saint, from earthly life to heavenly life—the Bible uses the Greek word sozo to describe each of these transitions.

The topic for this lesson is salvation in the Old Testament, but I wanted you to understand before we get there that the word “saved” in the Bible doesn’t always mean salvation from sin (though it is also used in that way).  In fact, most of the time that we see that word in the Old Testament, it doesn’t specifically describe salvation from sin.

The Main Meaning of “Salvation” in the Old Testament

God sent Isaiah to King Hezekiah, to tell him to “Set your house in order: for you shall die and not live” (Isaiah 38:1).  But Hezekiah went to God in tears, pleading for more time.  And after God granted him another 15 years, Hezekiah wrote the words “The LORD was ready to save me” (Isaiah 38:20).  This is salvation from sickness.  But this isn’t how it is normally used.

Hannah was horribly depressed.  She was one of two wives to her husband Elkanah.  His other wife had given him children, but Hannah was barren, and the other wife missed no opportunity to rub that in her face.  We all know the story about how the family went to Shiloh, and Hannah went off by herself to pray, mouthing the words, but making no sound.  She was praying for a son, and said that in return, she would dedicate him to God.  After her prayer was answered, and she fulfilled her vow to God, she prayed again, this time with the words, “My heart rejoices in the LORD, my horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over my enemies, because I rejoice in Thy salvation” (1 Samuel 2:1).  This is salvation from the mocking of her husband’s other wide, salvation from her barrenness.  But this isn’t how it is normally used.

Read these passages, which are just a sampling, and see for yourself what the primary type of salvation was in the Old Testament.

When the Israelites were standing on the shores of the Red Sea, the Egyptians hot on their heels, scared that they were going to be killed, Moses said:

Moses said to the people, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you today: for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall see them again no more forever!” (Exodus 14:13).

After Moses raise his rod, the Red Sea split, and the Israelites walked across on dry ground.  When the Egyptians tried to follow them, God brought the walls of water crashing down on them, drowning Pharaoh’s entire army.  The inspired record then says:

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore (Exodus 14:30).

Forty years later, the Israelites are at the side of another body of water, the Jordan River, and Moses is giving a series of sermons, delivering to this new generation the laws and commands of God, as well as the promises.  Hear what he says to them:

It shall be, when you are come night unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say to them, “Hear, O Israel, you approach this day unto the battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” (Deuteronomy 20:2-4).

This is the same thread that runs throughout the books of history.  Judges 6 and 7 uses the word several times to describe the salvation that God would bring to Israel by the hands of Gideon and his 300 men.  Salvation from the Philistines is mentioned several times in the books of Samuel.  Here’s just one of those passages:

By the mouth of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies (2 Samuel 3:18).

In the books of Kings and Chronicles, there are instances of the people going to God in prayer, crying “Save us!”  But these are all asking for physical salvation from their enemies.

Now therefore, O LORD our God, I beseech Thee, save Thou us out of his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that Thou art the LORD God, even Thou only (2 Kings 19:19).

What we need to recognize in all of these is that they weren’t asking for salvation from sin; they were asking for physical deliverance from their enemies.  But make no mistake about it, there was a spiritual component to this as well, as we will see.

Old Testament Salvation Based on their Attitudes and Actions

In the book of Judges, we see over and over the rollercoaster of the Israelites—they go from faithful to fallen, then God sends a nation to conquer them.  Eventually, they cry out to the Lord in repentance, and God sends a deliverer, a judge, to save them from their enemies.  In short, God didn’t save them when they continually rejected Him.  This is a constant theme throughout the entire Bible (Old Testament and New Testament).  If you doubt it, just read Hebrews 10:26-31.  Moses, soon before his death, told the Israelites that they needed to learn the lesson of faithfulness:

It shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes which I comman thee this day, that all these curses shall come upon thee and overtake thee. … And thou shalt grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man [literally, “no one”] shall save thee (Deuteronomy 28:15, 29).

Obedience was required if they wanted physical salvation.  But so was humility.  After David had been saved from Saul (The king of God’s people, the Israelites), he was inspired to write:

“The afflicted people [“humble people,” NKJV] thou wilt save, but Your eyes are upon the haughty, that You may bring them down” (2 Samuel 22:28).

Here is a contrast being made between two people who are in a covenant with God.  On one hand, you’ve got the mighty King Saul, the haughty, high-minded King Saul.  On the other hand, you’ve got the humble servant of God, David.  Being saved physically in the Old Testament was based on one’s attitude towards God.  And brethren, our salvation today is based on our attitude of humility as well—Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (James 4:10).

He will save the humble person (Job 22:29).

The sixth Psalm shows the heart of a humble person before God, including these words:

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am weak: O LORD, heal me, for my bones are vexed.  My soul is also sore vexed: but Thou, O LORD, how long?  Return, O LORD, deliver my soul: of save me for Thy mercies’ sake (Psalm 6:2-4).

When David’s son Solomon went before the people after the completion of the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, he preached to them and offered a public prayer to God.  In it, he showed the connection between their physical deliverance and their spiritual condition.  Hear his words:

If they sin against Thee (for there is no man which sinneth not), and Thou be angry with them, and deliver them over before their enemies, and they carry them away captives unto a land far off or near.  Yet if they bethink themselves in the land whither they are carried captive, and turn and pray to thee in the land of their captivity, saying, “We have sinned, we have done amiss, and have dealt wickedly”; if they return to thee with all their heart and all their soul in the land of their captivity wither they have carried them captives, and pray toward their land which thou hast given to their fathers, and toward the city which thou hast chose, and toward the house which I have built for thy name; then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, their prayer and their supplications, and maintain their cause, and forgive thy people which have sinned against thee (2 Chronicles 6:36-39).

Without any doubt, the lost people of God, in order to expect salvation, had to repent of their sins against God.  It was a requirement for their salvation.  But I want you to notice something very specific from this passage, and that is:

Forgiveness (and therefore Salvation from Sin) Existed Under the Old Testament.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say that the people under the Old Testament weren’t forgiven, their sins were just “rolled forward” until the cross.  I wish someone would give me book, chapter, and verse for that, because I’ve never seen it.  Now, I will readily agree that the forgiveness, and thus salvation from sin, under the Old Testament was on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 9:15 makes that pretty clear), but that doesn’t mean forgiveness somehow didn’t exist under the Old Testament.

The Law of Moses is filled with all the various sacrifices which had to be offered in order for someone to receive forgiveness of their sins (see the book of Leviticus).  When you knew you had sinned in a certain area, it was off to the priest so you could offer a sacrifice.  You might wonder why God commanded these sacrifices to be offered, and there are some very good reasons for it: (1) to show that sin deserves death.  Have you ever considered that it was God’s amazing grace that allowed people to offer animal sacrifices to atone for their sins?  Since sin deserves death (Romans 1:28-32, 6:23), God could have required the death of the sinner—but in most cases He didn’t.  (2) To make people think about the cost of sin.  Animals weren’t cheap, and the animals that God required for sacrifices weren’t the cheap ones (unless the person was extremely poor and couldn’t afford one of the other animals).  Imagine you’re a farmer, and you’ve sinned.  Your sin just cost you one of your best cows.  Do you know how much a cow sells for today?  Do you think you could easily lose that much money each time you wanted forgiveness from God?  It would act as a deterrent of sorts, because someone might think twice before sinning when they realize what it is going to cost them.

But even more than sacrifice, what was really required for forgiveness of a child of God under the Old Testament was (1) confession of sin, (2) repentance, and (3) a humble spirit.  People could offer sacrifices all day long, but if their heart wasn’t right, it didn’t matter.  Psalm 51 is David begging God for forgiveness for what he did with Bathsheba and to her husband Uriah.  In verse 3 he confesses: “I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me.”  In verse 13 (among other places) he shows his repentance: “I will teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”  He shows his humble spirit in verses 16-17: “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else I would give it.  Thou delightest not in burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

To add to the reality of salvation from sin under the Old Testament, let’s look at Ezekiel 3:17-21:

Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning for me.  When I say to the wicked, “Thou shalt surely die;” and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.

Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling-block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand.  Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou has delivered thy soul.

Not a bit of this statement from God is about salvation from something physical.  This is completely about being saved from their sin.  If they die in their iniquity, they are lost eternally; but if they repent, their soul is saved.  This was written to Ezekiel, who was preaching to people in Babylonian captivity—people who, for the most part, would never return to their home of Judah.  There was no physical salvation for the majority of the people Ezekiel preached to.  My friends, this is speaking of spiritual salvation, salvation from sin!

It all pointed to Jesus Christ

Later on in Ezekiel, the prophet spoke on behalf of God and foretold that God would:

save them out of all of their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.  And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one Shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them (Ezekiel 37:23b-24)

David had been dead and gone for hundreds of years when this was written, but the Jews knew that God had foretold a descendant of David would rule over His people.  This descendant was known as the Messiah in Hebrew, or in Greek, Christ.

The apostle Paul helps us to see that the physical salvation that the Israelites experienced in coming out of Egypt and through the Red Sea was a type, a picture of what salvation would be in the New Testament:

I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4).

Just as they were baptized, leaving slavery behind, being made free in crossing the Red Sea (a baptism into Moses), we are baptized, leaving slavery to sin behind, being made free in being baptized into Christ.

The physical salvations of the Old Testament point forward to the spiritual salvation in Jesus Christ!

Conclusion

If you take nothing else from this lesson, remember this one thing: Though salvation in the Old Testament was usually a reference to a physical deliverance from enemies, it was still based on the obedience and repentance of the people; and ultimately gives us a picture of salvation in the New Testament.

There are numerous examples in the Old Testament of God’s children losing their salvation, and we’ve already looked at passages that showed what was required for them to get it back: confession, repentance, and a humble spirit.

If you’re a child of God who has gone astray, take this lesson to heart and come back to God.

 

Identifying the True Family

The Text: Mark 3:31-35 – His brothers and His mother then came there, and standing outside, they sent to Him, calling Him.  And the multitude sat around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers outside are looking for you.” 

And He answered them, saying, “Who is my mother or my brothers?”  And He looked around at those who were sitting around Him, and said, “Behold, my mother and my brethren!  For whoever will do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.”

Introduction

Jesus gave some difficult commands in His life, but they were always ones that He Himself was ready to follow as well.  He has been preaching and teaching, proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the face of opposition from His associates (who thought He was crazy) and the scribes (who claimed He was possessed by Satan), but He didn’t stop.  And now, Jesus’ family shows up, wanting Him to stop teaching so He can come talk to them.

The Text, part 1 – Earthly Family Calling (Mark 3:31-32).

Satan uses peer pressure and false accusations to try to disrupt God’s work.  That’s what he did against Jesus earlier in this chapter.  Now, he uses another—very potent—device to try to stop Jesus: His own family.

Then, there came His brothers and His mother

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start.  These aren’t Jesus’ cousins.  These are the children of Mary and Joseph, all younger than Jesus, who arrived with their mother, Mary.  Matthew 13:55-56 shows that Jesus was known by the people in His own area as “the carpenter’s son” whose mother was named “Mary,” and “His brethren, James and Joses and Simon and Judas” and who had “sisters.”  It is ridiculous to claim, as the Catholics do, that the people who knew Jesus had to identify Him by His earthly father and mother, and then rattle off the names of four of His cousins, and then add that He’s got female cousins (“sisters”) too.  These are the actual brothers (half-brothers, to be specific) of Jesus who have come with Mary.

Some Greek manuscripts also include “sisters” with this group that was trying to get to Jesus.

This is the family that Jesus has known His whole earthly life.  He certainly had a spot in His heart for them.  Even though John 7 portrays them as non-believers, He visited James after the resurrection, which led to all of the brothers being present in Jerusalem, gathered with the disciples (Acts 1:13-14), and later becoming well-known Christian examples (1 Corinthians 9:5).  So these brothers of Jesus were not beyond reaching with the gospel, and Jesus knew that.  This fact would have made it very tempting for Jesus to go talk to them and try to convince them to believe in Him.

Standing outside, sent to Him, calling Him

Luke tells us that they couldn’t get to Jesus because of the massive crowd of people (Luke 8:19) who were sitting around Jesus, so instead of going to Him, they began calling to Him.  The Greek word is “phoneo,” which means they were using their voices.  So, they were telling people at the edge of the crowd, “Tell Jesus that we’re out here, and that we are looking for Him.”  So, from the edge of the crowd, this message was sent (the Greek word is “apostello”) until it reached Jesus.

The multitude sat around Him

This is something that only Mark mentions. Remember that earlier in the chapter, those close to Jesus thought He was crazy because He was allowing these massive crowds of people to crowd around Him.  But Jesus is in no danger of being crushed.  The multitude is sitting around Him.

They said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.”

The message had made its way through who knows how many people to finally get to Jesus.  He’s told that they are “seeking” Him.  The same word is used in Matthew’s account, where it is translated “desiring” to speak to Jesus (Matthew 12:46-47).  In other words, they wanted Jesus to stop what He was doing and come outside to talk to His physical family.

The Text, part 2 – True Family Identified (Mark 3:33-35)

As Jesus’ family stood outside, the crowd looked at Him, probably wondering what He would do.  Would He stop preaching and teaching to go talk to them?  Would He send them a message back through the multitude?  Would He ignore them?

He answered them, saying “Who is my mother or my brothers?”

As literally-minded as some of Jesus’ disciples were, you have to think that some of them were quite confused by this statement.  What?  Jesus, you know…your mother?  Mary?  Don’t you remember her?  And your brothers, the ones you lived with for years?  What do you mean, “Who is my mother or brothers?”  Maybe this statement, for a moment, reinforced the idea that some of them had that Jesus had lost His mind.

But Jesus wasn’t pleading ignorance, nor was He crazy.  He was asking a question to get the people to start thinking.  He wanted them to start thinking about which relationships are most important.  He wanted them to change their focus from the physical to the spiritual.

He looked around at those who sat around Him

This is Jesus pausing for effect, looking at the people who were listening, making sure they are paying attention.  Then Jesus lifts up His hand, and points it towards His disciples (Matthew 12:46-47).

And [He] said, “Behold my mother and brethren!”

The crowd had said “Behold, your mother and brother are outside,” and Jesus’ response is “Behold, my mother and brother” are right here!  Jesus explains what He means by this in the next verse, but I want you to put yourself in the shoes of Mary, or of James, Jude, Simon, or Joses.  The message certainly got back to them, and it probably didn’t make the brothers too happy.  But what about Mary?  Do you think another incident popped into her head?  Perhaps an incident that the Bible says “she kept…in her heart”?

Now His [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.  When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.  And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother did not know it.  But they, supposing He was with the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought them among their relatives and acquaintances.  And when they did not find Him, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him [this is the same word as in Mark 3:32].  And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions.  And all that heard were astonished at His understanding and answers.  And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you dealt this way with us?  Behold, your father and I have sought you, sorrowing.”  And He said to them, “How is it that you sought me?  Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.  And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51).

Even from the time Jesus was 12 years old, He knew the difference between His earthly family and His true family.  The incident from Jesus’ boyhood, along with the incident in Mark 3, shows us without a doubt that Jesus knew which family was most important.

For whoever shall do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.

Now, just to make things crystal clear, Jesus isn’t saying that His disciples were somehow His spiritual mother (or sisters).  He is saying that His true family is the spiritual family.  His true family are the people who obey the Father’s will.  Here’s something that you might want to contemplate: your earthly family is only temporary.  Your spiritual family is forever.  But praise God when your earthly family is counted as part of your spiritual family too!

The Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed You.  And Jesus answered and said, “Truly I say to you, there is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30).

The ones who have put Jesus ahead of their earthly family will receive a much greater family—brothers and sisters of untold numbers—here, in this life.  A person who obeys the gospel immediately gains a family of brothers and sisters in Christ—and new family members are made every day!

Jesus warned about placing your physical family ahead of Him—being a disciple of Jesus must come first in your life!

[Jesus] said to them, “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and even his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).

Jesus isn’t saying that you have to despise your family, but He is saying that you have to put Him first.  Earthly ties are to be secondary to your ties to Jesus Christ.

Application

Put Your Family First—Your TRUE Family.

I don’t need to tell you that people have fallen away from God, left the family of God (the church, 1 Timothy 3:15), because of their physical family.  Maybe it’s a domineering husband who berates his wife for going to worship with the saints.  Maybe it’s a wife whose religious ties are to a denomination, and she’s nagged or guilted her husband into joining her.  Maybe it’s someone who has children who are living in wickedness, but they can’t bring themselves to admit that they are lost, so they stop worshiping with the saints, lest someone ask about them, or lest they hear a lesson that deals with the sins that their children happen to be guilty of.  I know a man who left the church and tried to split it on his way out because someone dared to tell him that it was wrong for his daughter to be cheating on her husband.

We must be like Jesus, and realize that regardless of our earthly ties, it is our Father’s family, our true family that matters the most.

How Do I Become Part of God’s Family?

We become part of a physical family by being born into it.  Similarly, in order to become part of God’s family, Jesus’ family, the spiritual family, the family that Jesus claimed as His own, we must be born into it as well.  But this birth isn’t something done when you come out of your mother’s womb.  Since this is a spiritual family, it requires a spiritual birth.

“Truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to [Jesus], “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).

James 1:18 says “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  The word “begat,” when describing a father’s actions, means that he has provided the seed so that a new creature can be born. In the genealogical lists, it is said “Adam begat Seth” or “Abraham begat Isaac” and so on. The fathers didn’t give birth to them, but they provided the seed so that a birth could follow. When God begat us, He provided the seed so that a birth could follow. But what was that seed?

James tells us that it is “the word of truth”

The seed that God provided so that our new birth could take place is the word of God. The word of God is described as the seed from which Christians come (Luke 8:11). In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Jesus described the seed (the word of God) as going to people’s hearts. When it took hold of good and honest hearts, Christians came forth.

There is NO CHANCE of being born again without the Scriptures—the word of truth. Some people claim they had some religious “experience” and they could tell by their “feelings” that they were saved. James says quite plainly that the new birth comes by the word of truth. Being born again doesn’t come from feelings, from experiences, or from a direct action of God upon the person. It comes from following the word of God.

Peter reiterates the same idea in saying “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and remains forever” (1 Peter 1:23).  You read the Scriptures (the seed) and plant it in your heart. The birth which follows comes when you obey the commands to believe (John 3:16), repent (Acts 2:38) and be baptized (Acts 22:16).

For you are all children of God by the faith, in Christ Jesus, Because as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27).

Come be a part of God’s family today!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Stay in the House!

There are sounds of gunfire and screaming coming from outside his window.  The man slowly moves the curtain aside to see what’s going on, his kids getting more and more worried.  “Dad, what’s that noise?  Is somebody hurt?”

The man barks at them, “get back!”

He makes his way to the front door, and with tears the kids start begging, “Dad, don’t go! Stay here with us.”

The dad opens the door slowly and lightly steps out onto the front porch. Hesitating, he turns around, looks his children in the eyes, and sternly says, “Stay in the house!”

The door shuts, and the children don’t see their father anymore.  They run to the window and look as bullets fly and their father falls to the ground dead.

And through the crying and tears, they are haunted by the question that they can never answer: Why didn’t daddy stay in the house?

Why would a man tell his children to “stay in the house!”?

Because there is safety in the house. There is security in the house. There is protection in the house.  Because there is danger outside. It could cost them their lives to go outside.

In the Bible there was a strict command given to “stay in the house!”

It’s found in Joshua 2.  The Israelites—almost 3 million of them—are camped next to the Jordan River.  Across the Jordan stands the city of Jericho, surrounded by its two protective walls.

From the top of Jericho’s walls, you can see the Israelite camp, their tents, their campfires, and more people than you’ve ever seen in your life—and they’re about to attack.  Then, two of them show up in the city; on the walls; in your house!

Scared for your life, you don’t dare turn them in—you don’t want to anger their God.  You quickly hide them on your roof, and when the soldiers come to your door, you send them on a wild-goose chase—because you don’t want to anger the powerful Jehovah of the Israelites.  You send the spies out safely, but beg them to spare you and your family when they finally attack.

The spies agree, but give you the stern warning: “stay in the house!

If you want to be safe, get in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to get in the house (Joshua 2:18).

The spies said “when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household home unto thee.”  Literally, they said, “into your house.”

The only way that anyone in the city of Jericho was going to be saved was if they got in the house.  So, Rahab found her family, and brought them into the house with her—because she wanted to be saved, and she wanted her family to be saved too.

To refuse to come into the house was to refuse salvation.  To refuse to come into the house was to bring death on themselves.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “get in the house” (Acts 2:47).

The house of God is the church (I Timothy 3:15 – “the house of God, which is the church”).  All saved people are in the church (Acts 2:47)—there are no saved people outside of the church.  Christ’s blood is required for salvation, and it only covers those who are in the church (Acts 20:28).

You’re surrounded by enemies who are ready to destroy you—and the only way to be safe is to “get in the house!”  Salvation is only found in the church, because it is the house of God, the body of Christ.

To reject the church is to reject salvation!  To reject the church is to bring destruction upon yourself!

If you’re not in the house yet, GET IN IT!

And if you are in the house, why aren’t you trying to get other people in it with you? Do you want them to be destroyed? Are you content to think, “Well, I’ll be saved, so it doesn’t really matter about anyone else?”

If you want to be safe, stay in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to stay in the house (Joshua 2:19).

“And it shall be that whosoever shall go out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head and we shall be guiltless.”  Basically, the spies said, “If they leave the house, they’re dead. And it’ll be their own fault.”

Rahab and her family get all their belongings, and they all huddle together in the house. They look out the window, scared for their people, but also confident that God would keep His promise. They see hundreds of thousands of soldiers march around their city once a day for six days—and the soldiers don’t say a word. It is eerie, disconcerting, and frightening.

But through it all, they stay in the house because they know that they are only safe if they stay in the house.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “stay in the house!”

Almost every letter in the New Testament contains warnings about losing your salvation.  But this is nowhere more clearly stated than in Revelation.

Jesus walks among the seven golden candlesticks, which are his church (Revelation 1:20).  A church who ceases to follow Christ will have its candlestick removed—that is, they will no longer be part of the church (Revelation 2:5).  In fact, Jesus describes the process as vomiting them out of His mouth, His body—vomiting them out of the church (Revelation 3:16).

When you leave the church, you leave the protection of the blood of Christ—and you bring it on yourself!  Those who returned to the Law of Moses willingly left the church of Jesus Christ—and had “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

You’re surrounded by an enemy that is ready to destroy you. You’re in the one safe place [the church] where they can’t harm you. And then you open the door and walk out—into the destructive hands of the enemy.  That’s like being in a storm cellar in the middle of a tornado, and then getting out as it goes right over you. You’re dead!

Instead, stay gathered with your family—your brothers and sisters in Christ—stay safe in the house (the church).

Conclusion:

On the seventh day of the siege, the hundreds of thousands of Israelite soldiers marched around the city seven times. The people in Jericho knew something was coming. As they looked out over the wall and through windows, they could see nothing but soldiers—silent soldiers—being led by God Himself.

Then, without warning, trumpets blast and six hundred thousand voices scream all at once. The ground shakes and the walls of the city crash to the ground. And through the dust they see the screaming soldiers running straight into the city with their swords swinging. Blood splatters and pools on the ground and person after person falls lifeless to the ground. Then comes the fire, destroying the city and everything in it.

But one section of the wall never fell. One small section of the wall still stood, with a house sitting on top of it. Inside that house was a woman who wanted to be saved. Inside that house was her family. Inside that house was a group of people who trusted in God’s promise.

What made that house different? Why did it stand when all the others fell?

After all, there were plenty of other houses. There were plenty of other people huddled in other houses. What made this one different? This house had a window. Out of that window hung a cord—a scarlet cord. That cord is what made that house stand out. That cord is what marked that house for salvation. That scarlet cord saved the spies, and now it saved Rahab and her family.

“And Joshua saved Rahab…and her father’s household” (Joshua 6:25).

On the final day, destruction will come upon this entire world. The trumpet will sound and Jesus will shout (I Thessalonians 4:16). No one will be able to stand in the face of His fierce destruction. And then comes the fire—the eternal fire (Mark 9:43-48).

But one house is spared. Inside that house are people who wanted to be saved when destruction came. But what made that house different? What makes this CHURCH different? After all, there’s plenty of other churches out there.

This church is different because of scarlet—the scarlet of Jesus’ blood. It is that blood which sets this church apart. It is that blood that makes this church stand out. The scarlet marks this church—this house—for salvation.

The people in this house are also saved by Joshua—of course, we know this Joshua by His Greek name, Jesus.

Jesus said He would build HIS church (Matthew 16:18). There is only one church that Christ recognizes. There is only one church that God adds to (Acts 2:47). Christ only built one church. Man has built many. Only Christ’s church—the one protected by the scarlet—will be saved.

The question now is this: Are you part of that church?

-Bradley S. Cobb

What Must I Do? – A Closer Look

Many times throughout the Bible that the question is asked “What must I do?” or “What shall I do?” In fact, throughout the New Testament this is a recurring theme. And obviously, it is very important to do what is necessary to be saved. What are the things one must do?

We’ve all heard the plan of salvation: Hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized. But what do they mean? Hear what? Believe what? Let’s look a bit closer at each one of those things.

WHAT MUST I HEAR?

We take for granted sometimes that people automatically know what we are talking about when we say they must hear. But suppose someone does not know, what then? Romans 10:14 says “how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” This verse says that no one can believe in Christ if they have not heard of Him! Just a few verses later, Paul says So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

So, what the person must hear is the Word of God. Throughout the Bible, people are told to obey the word of God. The Israelites in many, many instances were told to hear the Word of God and return to him. (See the entire book of Judges, and about every one of the Major and Minor Prophets). If they heard the Word of God, they had the chance to make things right.

Now, just hearing obviously is not enough, because you can see in reading those books that not every one that heard actually obeyed.

Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

On the Day of Pentecost, the Apostles preached the first gospel sermon, starting with the following words: Act 2:22 “Ye men of Israel, hear these words;“ Later on, Peter told them Act 3:23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”

So, there is a consequence for not hearing the Word of God! Have you ever had anyone say, “I don’t want to hear about Jesus” or “Don’t talk to me about religion.” They don’t realize that they shall be destroyed for not hearing!

We can see what we must hear to be saved: the Word of God.

WHAT MUST I BELIEVE?

In the example of those first converts on the Day of Pentecost, we can see they believed the Word of God. But what exactly must one believe before they can be saved (remember, belief alone does NOT save you, but you must at least believe a certain amount in order to be saved). Obviously they must believe that God exists, but that is not enough.

James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

The people on the day of Pentecost were already religious people. So, they already had some background in the existence of God and his mighty power to save. But something was missing. What was it that they still needed to believe? The answer can be found in Peter’s sermon to them in Acts 2, but let’s look a bit later in the book of Acts at a different example.

Acts chapter 8 tells of a man of Ethiopia, a Jew who had come to Jerusalem to worship God. On his way back home, he was reading the scriptures (OT), thinking he was in a saved condition. Then Phillip showed up to preach to him.

Acts 8:35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

What was it that these Jews did not know yet? JESUS! Jesus came and fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. He was the messiah that they had been waiting for!

When the eunuch asked to be baptized, Phillip told him that he must believe with all his heart first. The eunuch answered and said, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Phillip thought that was enough to baptize him and make him a Christian.

Romans 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

So, what must we believe? That Jesus is the Son of God and that he was raised from the dead. Some try to make too many rules and restrictions on who can be baptized. They may say something like “They don’t know enough yet.” or “I don’t think they’re ready.” If you’ll notice, EVERY specific example of conversion in the book of Acts was the result of a single sermon. ONE sermon. It was not the result of weeks or months of study on many different topics. These people were at a point where they could be baptized based upon the first time they heard the truth about Jesus being the Son of God.

Paul refers to the new converts as “babes in Christ” (I Cor 3:1) I Peter 2:2, Peter tells them that “as newborn babes” they were to “desire the sincere milk of the Word.” so that they may grow. The milk of the word is the basic teachings of the gospel. Paul calls it the first principles of the oracles of God. Babies do not know much of anything, but they do grow. Slowly, but surely they do grow. We don’t expect them to be able to walk and talk and eat solid food before we allow them to be born, so why do we expect the same of people who wish to born spiritually in baptism?

Jesus even illustrated this in his last words in the books of Matthew.

Matthew 28:19-20 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Notice that the teaching of all that they were to observe came after they had been baptized. You don’t have to know the whole Bible before you can become a Christian!

What must one believe? That Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

OF WHAT MUST I REPENT?

John the Baptist preached in the wilderness “Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matt 3:2)

Jesus Christ preached “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matt 4:17)

Jesus also said “Unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3,5)

Jesus sent the apostles on the limited commission, and they “preached that men should repent.” (Mark 6:12)

Peter told the Jews on the day of Pentecost “Repent” (Acts 2:38)

But the question arises: repent of what?

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

We must repent in order to have our sins blotted out.

Act 8:22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness,

Peter told Simon the sorcerer to repent of his wickedness.

Act 26:20 … that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

These were told to repent and turn TO God. This means they were not following God.

So, what we can see from these passages is that we must repent of our wickedness, and from being turned away from God. All of which can be boiled down to one word: SIN. But what does it mean to repent?

Repent means “to turn away” or “turn again” Vine’s dictionary says that repent always signifies a change for the better, and overwhelmingly is used in reference to changing from sin. Easton’s Bible Dictionary says “to change one’s mind and purpose, as a result of knowledge.”

So, repenting is a change for the better (leaving sin) after knowledge. And what is that knowledge?

Mark 1:15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Jesus here is speaking, and tells them to repent and believe THE GOSPEL! Change their minds and purpose as a result of hearing and believing that Jesus is the Son of God!

So, we know what we must hear (the Gospel), what we must believe (that Jesus is the Son of God – aka the Gospel),

Of what must we repent? Our own sin.

WHAT MUST I CONFESS?

To Confess is to tell someone something; to spread the word about something that deals directly with YOU. You cannot confess for someone else. To tell someone else’s sins is to gossip and be a talebearer in most cases. But you cannot confess for anyone else anymore than you can believe or repent for someone else. So, confessing is something personal. Whether it be something that you have done, or something that you believe, it is personal to you. Let us keep that in mind as we look at what we must confess.

Matthew 10:32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. (see also Luke 12:8)

So, Jesus is saying that if we confess HIM before others, He will confess us before God above. Remember, confession is something personal, so we would be professing our belief in Him as the savior and the Son of God. In turn, Christ will give his profession of His acceptance of us before God.

What must we confess? Our belief -before others-that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

BAPTISM?

I wondered about exactly how to tackle this topic. Should I do, “Why should I be baptized?” Or perhaps “How should I be baptized” or maybe even “Who must baptize me?” Or “In what must I be baptized?” So, let’s just look at all of them.

Why should I be baptized? Because over and over in the Bible it is shown as the way to get into Christ and be saved. Mark 16:16:, I Peter 3:21, Romans 6:3, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16.….

How, and in what, should I be baptized? Any example in the Bible of baptism where any description is used talks about either going into or coming up out of water. So, you must be baptized IN water. The word “IN” means “surrounded by.” So you need to be baptized, surrounded by water. That is why baptism is seen as a burial.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Colossians 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

Who should baptize me? While all specific examples given in the Bible are preachers, the apostle Paul points out that the specific person who does the baptizing is not as important as the fact that they were baptized. He, in fact, thanks God that he was not the one who baptized some of the people there, because they might try to follow Paul instead of Christ. Obviously Paul wanted them baptized, but he left it to some other Christian to do it.

Why? Because we want to be saved.

How? By being buried, surrounded by water and being raised up from it.

What is the central theme of all of these? The GOSPEL, my friends! The GOSPEL!

We must hear that wonderful good news that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, died, was buried and arose on the third day so that we an have forgiveness of our sins! We must believe the Gospel with all of our heart! We must repent from sin, and change our mind and purpose to following Christ upon hearing the Gospel. We must confess our belief in the Gospel. And we must be baptized, following the form and command of the death, burial and resurrection (aka GOSPEL) of Jesus.

After obeying the Gospel, we must then tell others about it! If we do not continually confess Christ before others, we will not be confessed by Him before God! Spread the Word! Jesus Christ is the Son of God! He came to earth, died, was buried, and arose!

Have you followed the Gospel?

-Bradley Cobb

For God’s Sake, for Christ’s Sake, and for Pete’s Sake…

James says that “faith without works is dead, being alone.”  That is, the only real faith, the only living faith, is one that is working, that is doing, that is active.  Are you an active Christian?

I once heard a man say about his home congregation, “I like our church just the size it is.”  That’s one of the saddest things I’ve ever heard, because what that says is “None of these lost souls in my town matter to me,” or “I don’t feel like saving any souls,” or “I’m perfectly content to let them all go to hell.”

No matter how you want to phrase it, that attitude is wrong.  No matter how many people you have in the building on a Lord’s Day morning, it isn’t enough!  There are literally hundreds or thousands of people in your hometown who are alone, living without Jesus, without salvation, without hope.  And as Christians–active Christians, we need to start doing a better job of bringing them to Christ.

This week you have a certain amount of people in attendance.  Next week, top that number.  Be realistic, but do your part to plant the seed and trust in God to do His part.  “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the increase”!  When you do your part, God will do His and you’ll be amazed at the results.

An active Christian is one who is out doing the will of the Lord.  But why be an active Christian?

For God’s sake, be an active Christian.

Read John 3:16.  He sent Jesus Christ for your sake.  Read that verse again, but this time, instead of the phrase “the world,” put your own name there.  Read it out loud.  “For God so loved [your name] that He gave His only begotten Son…”  God did that for your sake.  And all He asks in return is that you serve Him and tell other people about Him and what He’s done for them.

Remember, you can put your name in that verse, but you also need to put other people’s name in that verse.  For God so loved Bob, my next-door neighbor, that he gave His only begotten Son.  For God so loved my teacher, or my cousin, or the cashier at the grocery store, that He gave His only begotten Son.

For God’s sake, be an active Christian.

For Christ’s sake, be an active Christian.

Jesus had you in mind when He was dying, hanging on the cross, blood dripping down, being mocked by the people around Him.  He was thinking about you.  “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“Greater love has no man than this: that he should die for his friends.”  Jesus spoke those words the night before He died–the night before He died for you. John 15:13.

Since Jesus did that for your sake, is it really asking all that much for you to tell others about Him?

For Christ’s sake, be an active Christian.

For the church’s sake, be an active Christian.

Look, let’s be honest.  We need you.  Each and every person in the pews is needed.  Jesus said that the fields are ripe, ready to be harvested, but there’s a lack of workers.  Pray to the Father to send out workers! (Luke 10:2).  There are people out there, wanting to know the truth, ready to follow Jesus, but they need someone to tell them about Him.

I’ve been reading a book, written by a brother in Christ back in the 1960s.  In that book was a very thought-provoking line that … well, let’s just say it hit me pretty hard.

What would Jesus do if he were a member of the congregation where I worship?

Would Jesus leave any person of your acquaintance out of His efforts to save if He physically lived here on earth today?  If so, which person would He omit? (Ideas for Bible School Growth by Alan M. Bryan, page 10)

Of all the people you know, that you work with, that you live near, that you go to school with, that you’re related to, whatever the case may be–which ones do you think Jesus would ignore?  Which ones do you think Jesus would walk by without a word?  Which ones do you think Jesus would say, “He’s not worth my time”?

You know the answer to that question.  So, “Go ye and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

For the church’s sake, be an active Christian.

For Pete’s sake, be an active Christian.

Every time I hear people say “for Pete’s sake,” I want to say, “I only know one person who goes by the name of Pete, and he lives in England.  So what exactly does he have to do with this?”

Thousands of lost souls are in this town, and we need to reach them all.  Let’s call them all Pete.  Not to their face, mind you, but let’s just think of each of the lost souls in this town as people in need of the gospel.  They are people who are in desperate need of an active Christian to touch their lives and help them come to Christ.

This helps bring people to Christ, but it also has the glorious side benefit of encouraging yourself and the whole congregation.  You make yourself happier, you bring joy to other Christians, you bring Pete to the Lord.  Really, the only one who loses in this whole scenario is Satan.

There are a lot of Pete’s in the world who are going to die without Christ, without hope unless someone teaches them about Jesus.  Be an active Christian for their sake.

For Pete’s sake, be an active Christian.

For your own sake, be an active Christian.

Faith without works is dead.  And a dead faith won’t get you very far when Jesus returns.

Who needs to come to Jesus?  It’s your friends.  It’s your neighbors.  It’s your co-workers.

Maybe it’s you.

“No,” you say.  “I’m good with Jesus.”  Are you really?  Are you certain?  Would Jesus agree with your assessment?

“Not all who say to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

Jesus said it requires doing God’s will.  It means being active and obeying God’s commands.  Jesus describes a judgment scene in Matthew 25, and if you’ll notice the judgment was based on who was active and who was not.

It’s a wonderful thing to serve the kind, merciful, loving God of heaven.  Don’t you think it’s time you get right with Him?

For your own sake, be an active Christian.

A growing church starts with you.

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Great Importance of a Two-Letter Word

Have you ever noticed how much difference one word makes? Take, for example, the word “not.” Insert that word into a sentence, and the meaning is completely opposite! What about the importance of just a single letter or two? There is a writer who once wrote in one of his Bible commentaries, “Jesus is not sitting at the right hand of God.” Do you notice the problem? It was a typographical error, and was instead supposed to read “Jesus is now sitting at the right hand of God.” The difference was only one single letter, but it changed the meaning of the entire sentence! One sentence was Scriptural, the other blasphemous!

There is a common false doctrine called “Perseverance of the Saints” or “once saved, always saved” that permeates the religious world, as well as infiltrates the thinking of the Lord’s church. The inspired apostle, Paul, speaks clearly against it. He states “I declare unto you the gospel…By which you are saved” (I Corinthians 15:1-2a). However, he does not end the sentence there. He specifies that Christians are only saved by means of the gospel “if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you” (I Corinthians 15:2b). Do you notice the importance of that one little word: “if”? The gospel saves, but only if it is kept in memory (meaning that one continues to walk in it – see Romans 8:1, Revelation 2:10). When one becomes a Christian, yet does not continue in the gospel, he is not saved. Are you truly keeping the gospel in your memory?