Tag Archives: baptism

October Bible Questions & Answers

Topics:  baptism of John, Christ “shedding” his blood, suicide, fallen angels, same-sex marriage, 1 Peter 3:21’s baptism

The latest Bible Questions & Answers session where I preach was held on Sunday night, October 26, 2014, at 6 pm.  Here is a link to the recording of that session.  Below are my written answers to each question.  I hope they are of benefit to you in your personal studies.

1.  Was John the Baptist ever baptized?

The Scriptures do not explicitly say that he was, but there are scriptural reasons to believe that he was.

The Bible does not mention immersion in water as a divine requirement for forgiveness of sins before John started baptizing people.

Mark 1:4 calls his baptism a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John obviously had sins in his life, and so would need to repent and be baptized in order to have them forgiven.

Jesus, being sinless, did not need to undertake a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John recognized that, and apparently stated his own need to be baptized when he said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Notice that Jesus replied, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:14-15). Jesus basically was saying to John, “We both need to be baptized in order to stand completely righteous in the sight of God and men. We need to practice what we preach in order to avoid being a stumbling block to others.”

Therefore, I have no doubt that John himself had been baptized. By whom and when is a matter of conjecture.

2.  Is it wrong to say Christ “shed his blood” on the cross at the Lord’s table?  He did not shed any blood.

Actually, Jesus himself said that he did while instituting the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:28 – “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

“Shed” (ekcheo) is defined and translated as “shed,” “poured out,” “shed forth,” “spill,” “run out,” “run greedily,” “shed abroad,” and “gush out.” Therefore, any of these terms would be acceptable terminology to use during communion.

I recognize the legitimate and sincere need to not go beyond what the Bible says. However, let me ask us to consider that sometimes in our efforts to not go beyond Scripture we do exactly that and add laws which God never legislated. I’ve heard it said that one should never say that Christ “spilled” his blood, but here we see that the literal meaning of the Greek word translated “shed” includes the concept of spilling.

We need to heed the warning God gave us in 1 Timothy 6:4-5 about not being like those who, according to the verse, are “puffed up with conceit and understand nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth…”

3.  Saul committed suicide (1 Chr. 10:4).  Was he condemned?

The first thing that should be noted is that Saul would have been eternally condemned even if he had not committed suicide. The night before he died, 1 Samuel 28 records how Saul had gone to a medium, a witch, to get advice from her on how to defeat the Philistines. Under the Old Law, witchcraft was a sin punishable by death (Ex. 22:18), and it was explicitly forbidden for an Israelite to seek them out and turn to them (Lev. 19:31). Yet, that’s exactly what Saul had done. The reason he decided to commit this sin is also very telling about the state of his soul in the final days of his life. He would go to the Lord for guidance and the Lord would not answer him because Saul had unrepentant sin in his heart and had turned away from hearing God’s laws (Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9). The spirit of Samuel whom the medium had called up even said very plainly that the Lord was Saul’s enemy (1 Sam. 28:16). Therefore, Saul would have stood condemned even if he had not committed suicide, because the Scriptures give no indication that he, even in the final moments of his life, was penitent.

Is suicide a sin resulting in eternal condemnation? Sadly, more and more of the world doesn’t think so. In some societies going all the way back to biblical times and up to today, suicide is seen as an honorable way to die.

The Greeks considered it a part of man’s freedom. The Japanese consider it evidence of sincerity. In fact, when a Japanese mother decides to commit suicide she usually first kills her children. Believe it or not, Japanese society praises such an act because they consider children to be parts of their parents, and to leave them motherless would be cruel. In America, suicide is becoming increasingly popular, the 11th leading cause of death in recent years and the third leading cause of death in the 15-24 age bracket. There are reports of a number of suicides even among pre-teens. More and more of us tend to rationalize it, calling it “death with dignity” or even “patient-directed termination.” It’s becoming more popular due to humanistic, worldly influences that cheapen the value of human life. When abortion, euthanasia, human experimentation and the like become increasingly accepted, alongside atheistic, hedonistic philosophies and the belief that there is no ultimate judgment for us, then we should not be surprised that the suicide rate is growing. After all, it’s based upon the premise that self-murder will end all of your problems because, supposedly, there is nothing beyond death. Some false religions contribute to this also. For example, the notion of reincarnation, that one after death may return to this life in a new existence wherein he can “try again” to achieve happiness leads some to take their own lives. And of course, there is also the case of people with genuine mental illnesses who commit suicide, people who are therefore not accountable for their actions. (However, statistically only about 10% of suicides are done by those diagnosed with clinical mental illnesses.)

What does the Bible say about suicide? Well, it condemns it as a morally reprehensible act if done by a rational person.

First of all, the rational person who commits suicide is basically saying that he is autonomous, his own source of law. The Greek Stoic philosopher Seneca defended suicide as an aspect of man’s lordship over his own being. However, the Bible says that God made us and we are his (Ps. 100:3; Ezek. 18:4). He breathed the breath of life into us (Gen. 2:7). He is the potter and has the right over us, the clay (Rom. 9:21).

Secondly, the Bible teaches that life is a gift from God. Paul said to Athens and also to Timothy that God himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything (Acts 17:25; 1 Tim. 6:13). No one has the right to destroy that gift of life which God gives unless God himself authorizes them to do so, as he did from time to time in the Old Testament (Lev. 20:2) and also to governing authorities in the New Testament (Rom. 13:4).

Murder is basically any shedding of human blood which is unauthorized by God. Suicide thereby falls into the definition of murder. God calls murder an assault upon how man is created in God’s image (Gen. 9:6), and is condemned in both Testaments (Ex. 20:13; Rom. 13:9).

Suicide is also an act of selfishness. We were created for one reason: to fear God and keep his commandments (Eccl. 12:13). God is our Maker (Ps. 95:6), and because he is our Maker he is worthy to be served by us (Ps. 18:3). We were created to glorify him (Is. 43:7). One of the commandments God created us to obey is to help others. Jesus went about helping others and doing good (Acts 10:38), and we also are to do good to all at every opportunity (Gal. 6:10). None of us lives (or dies) to himself (Rom. 14:7). The rational person who chooses to take his own life purposefully avoids taking on these biblical responsibilities.

Finally, suicide is wrong because it violates the biblical principle of self-worth. When Paul told us to not think more highly of ourselves THAN WE OUGHT TO THINK (Rom. 12:3), he is implicitly telling us that we ought to think of ourselves highly to a certain extent. When Jesus told us to love our neighbor AS OURSELVES (Matt. 22:39) and that husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies (Eph. 5:28), he implicitly tells us that we ought to love ourselves. How is rationally, purposefully deciding to take your own life thinking highly of yourself and loving yourself?

(My thanks to the Christian Courier website for giving me some great insights into the answering of this question.)

4.  Why are the angels who sinned cast down to hell and delivered into chains of darkness (2 Pet. 2:4)…but Satan roams the earth (or at least is not chained) while tempting David, Job, Jesus, etc.?  (1 Chr. 21:1; Job 1:6-12; Matt. 4:1-11; etc.)  I also know that he accuses us daily before the Lord, but cannot recall the scripture.

First off, go to 2 Peter 2:4 and notice that most English translations say that the sinning angels were cast down to “hell.” The Greek word there is tartarus, which literally means “prison.” This is the only place this word is found in Scripture, so we have to go to how the Greeks used it in their contemporary literature back then to determine its true meaning. Homer, the Greek writer of the Iliad and Odyssey, used the word tartarus to refer to a murky abyss beneath Hades (the place where the dead go to wait for judgment) where the sins of the wicked immortals are punished. Peter was writing to Greeks here, so it makes sense that he would use this word which they were familiar with in reference to the condemnation of the angels. What is also interesting is that the Bible brings out how demons and even Jesus himself alluded to the concept of tartarus, that murky pit beneath Hades where the wicked are punished. When Jesus cast out demons, they pleaded with him not to command them to depart into the abyss (Luke 8:31). When Jesus gave the account of the wicked rich man being in Hades after he died, Luke 16:23-26 brings out how the rich man was not only in Hades, but specifically “in torment” (v. 23) and that there is “a great chasm/gulf” between him and those in Hades who were at rest, implying that he would be in that murky abyss of tartarus where the fallen angels were.

Next, notice that the passage asked about that says that Satan accuses Christians day and night before God is Rev. 12:9-10 – “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

A deep study into the original language’s literal wording of what is rendered in English “delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment” gives some insight into the actual meaning of the passage, a meaning which is probably quite different from the way we normally interpret the passage. As seen in the question and in how it’s worded in English translations, we read 2 Peter 2:4 and gather than God chained these angels in the darkness of tartarus, the abyss, where they are even to this day waiting for judgment. If God did that with these angels, why did he not do so with Satan, their leader? Why is Satan free to roam the earth and tempt us?

Look at the word “delivered.” It comes from the Greek paradidomi, which has several definitions. Here are a few of them: “to give into the hands (of another); “to give over into (one’s) power or use; “to deliver to one something to keep, use, take care of, manage;” “to permit, allow.” Granted, another one of its definitions is “to deliver up one to custody, to be judged, condemned, punished, scourged, tormented, put to death.” However, in light of these other definitions and also in light of the question, “Why is Satan roaming free while the rest of the angels are delivered into chains of darkness?”, perhaps we are using the wrong definition of paradidomi. Another interesting point is that the word “into” (“delivered into chains of darkness”) is not in the original Greek.

So maybe we ought to use these other definitions of paradidomi, namely, that instead of saying God “delivered them into chains of darkness”/put them in the custody of chains of darkness, maybe we should instead use the other definitions of the word so that the verse says that while reserving them for judgment, God “permitted them chains of darkness/allowed them chains of darkness/gave into their hands chains of darkness/gave these chains of darkness over to them to keep, use, and manage.”

The idea that God PERMITS AND ALLOWS AND GIVES INTO THESE FALLEN ANGEL’S HANDS THE POWER TO USE these chains of darkness tells us exactly HOW Satan had the power to tempt David (1 Chr. 21:1) and Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11) and us today. In fact, we see this played out very plainly in Job 1:6-12, where it plainly says that God gave Satan permission to torment Job and tempt him to sin. We also see it played out very plainly in Luke 8:26ff, where Jesus clearly had power over those demons and they recognized it and begged him not to cast them into the abyss.

God gave Satan permission to have control over the chains of darkness. He tempts us and torments us so that we will give into his temptations to sin and thus place ourselves in those chains of darkness. John 3:19 tells us that people who give into sin, whose works are evil, love those chains of darkness. That’s why Jesus warns us about the darkness overtaking us (John 12:35), and is the light so that whoever believes in him may not remain in darkness (John 12:46). Jesus wants us to cast off those works of darkness, those chains of darkness (Rom. 13:12) and recognize that light has no fellowship with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). God wants us to remember that we were in darkness at one time, but now we are light in the Lord and need to walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8) by taking no part in those unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11) so that we will not be ensnared in those chains again. God wants us to remember that we are wrestling against – notice – ‘the cosmic powers OVER this present darkness” (Eph. 6:12). (Paul is basically stating outright that rather than being bound by the chains of darkness, Satan and his angels actually have power OVER those chains of darkness.) And if we give into his temptations, if we sin, if we hate our brother, we are still in darkness (1 John 2:9, 11). We are walking in the darkness. We do not know where we are going, because the darkness has blinded our eyes.

An even bigger question is WHY. WHY did God PERMIT, ALLOW, AND GIVE INTO THESE FALLEN ANGEL’S HANDS THE POWER TO USE THESE CHAINS OF DARKNESS??

Simply put, God wants us to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37). In order to truly love him with all of our heart, we can’t be robots. He can’t program us or force us to love him with all of our being. No, we have to choose him (Josh. 24:15). In order to make that choice, there has to be another option. That’s where Satan comes in.

By giving Satan the power to use those chains of the darkness of sin, by giving him the power to tempt us to willingly bind ourselves in those chains of darkness, God is giving us the power to choose, to choose either Satan or him, and thus the power to love him with all of our being if we choose him from the heart.

Before we go on to the next question, I want you to remember this. GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!!

Even though he gave Satan the power over chains of darkness, GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL!! He has ALWAYS been in control!!

In the Old Testament, he would not allow Satan to do just anything he wanted to Job (Job 1:6ff). That encourages me.

What encourages me even more is that Jesus, by dying on the cross and being the propitiation for our sins, limited Satan’s power even more! Hebrews 2:14 says that Christ through his death destroyed the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil. That’s the real meaning of Revelation 20:1-3 where Satan is bound for a thousand years and thrown into the pit. Why was he thrown into the pit? “So that he might not deceive the nations any longer.” Remember what we read earlier in Rev. 12:9-10 about Satan the dragon being cast down? Verse 9 says that he was cast down. Look at verse 10. After he was cast down, a loud voice said in heaven, “NOW the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come!” When did salvation come? At the cross. When did Jesus receive all power and authority? After the cross? When did the kingdom come? After the cross. When did God limit the power of Satan even more? After he finally provided forgiveness to all through the blood of Christ shed on the cross!

Jesus promised that no one can snatch us out of the Father’s hand (John 10:28-29), and that includes Satan. Satan cannot force us to leave God. God will not allow it. He promised us that he will not let any of Satan’s temptation be strong for us to overcome, that he will always provide the way of escape that we will be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13). Praise him for that!

5.  What should our congregation do in light of the Supreme Court decision about allowing gay marriages in many states, probably including this one before long?

To review, on October 6, 2014, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear appeals on three lower federal court’s rulings to overturn bans on homosexual marriage.  Because one of these lower federal courts has jurisdiction in this state, by allowing their pro-homosexual marriage ruling to stand the U.S. Supreme Court has made it very likely, according to judicial experts on both sides, that our state’s current ban on same-sex marriage will soon be ruled unconstitutional and that ruling will be upheld.

Additionally, within the past few months various domestic businesses owned by people with Christian views (photographers, bakeries, churches that rent property to the public, and recently two ministers who own a wedding chapel) have been successfully fined and in some cases are facing jail time for politely declining to participate in homosexual weddings.  Denmark recently forced churches to allow same-sex weddings on private church property, and Canada’s Supreme Court recently ruled that any condemnation of same-sex marriage is deemed “hate speech.”  All of this has laid the groundwork for United States churches and ministers to be successfully punished for refusing to participate in homosexual wedding ceremonies.

n response to this growing persecution that is on the horizon, or perhaps has passed the horizon and is now approaching our front door, what are we to do?

Some of us might want to respond by softening the church’s stance on homosexuality and marriage. Some elderships and congregations are telling their preachers and Bible class teachers to do this. I know because some preacher colleague friends of mine in the Lord’s church from all over the country, including a few close by, tell me that’s what some of their elders and brethren are wanting them to do. Others are doing it, you know. The Roman Catholic Church made headlines about a week or so ago when a Vatican document was published saying that homosexuals had “gifts and qualities to offer” and asked if Catholicism could accept homosexuals and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples. That’s on top of their current Pope recently taking a very “open posture” on gay issues, one of their top-ranking Italian bishops recently saying that the Church should be more open to arguments in support of same sex marriage, and one of the Pope’s closest friends who is a Cardinal in Brazil saying in a recent interview that he “didn’t know” whether Jesus would oppose homosexual marriage.

Well, here’s what God’s Word tells us. Here’s the thoughts of Christ the Word. God wants Christians to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15), the truth being God’s Word (John 17:17). God says that we are to “preach the Word…reprove, rebuke, and exhort…for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” The Bible says that there will be those in the church who are like this, who turn away from listening to the truth. Romans 16:17-18 says that they cause divisions, create obstacles contrary to the doctrine we have been taught, that they serve their own appetites rather than the Lord Jesus, that they deceive the hearts of the naïve by smooth talk and flattery, and we are to watch out for them and avoid them. Instead, we are to preach the truth, which is that homosexuality is listed among the unrighteous sins keeping one out of the kingdom, and that it can in fact be repented of when one obeys the gospel (1 Cor. 6:9-11). That message will bring persecution, slander, and lies upon us for the sake of Jesus; Jesus tells us we’re blessed when that happens, the kingdom is ours, and we’re not the first prophets who have had that happen to them (Mt. 5:10-12; 2 Tim. 3:12). God wants us to follow the example of the apostles, who when the government told them to stop preaching Jesus, replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Concerning homosexuality, we must stand firm on what God has actually commanded us to do: preach the Word of God in love, no matter what.

What about things which God has NOT commanded us to do?  I ask because the New Testament does not in any way give ministers and churches the divinely-appointed responsibility to officiate or host wedding ceremonies.  “The church wedding” with a preacher officiating is a tradition of men having its origin in Catholicism.  Certainly no scripture is violated by observing this tradition, but no scripture is obeyed either.

Most likely within the upcoming year, a judge will declare homosexual marriage legal in this state. When that happens, the likelihood will increase with each passing Sunday that this congregation will eventually be successfully sued and fined. Wives of preachers from different parts of the country have told my wife, who in turn has told me, that in recent weeks people have called the church building and talked to their minister husbands, asking for the church’s stance on homosexuality. From the types of questions asked, it seems that they were fishing for a successful discrimination lawsuit. They will likely find one here at this congregation if we do two things:

  1. Continue to preach God’s Word about homosexuality as he commanded us to do (2 Tim. 4:2-4; Acts 20:27-32 – the whole counsel of God; elders were warned about those among their own ranks rising to speak perverse things and draw brethren away after them, but Paul commended them and us to God and the word of his grace). We cannot stop doing that, no matter what lawsuits or jail time may come.
  2. Successful discrimination lawsuits will come if we continue to allow weddings to be hosted here on church property in which we, due to scriptural teaching, allow only scripturally qualified marriages to be started and celebrated in these weddings, namely, no homosexual marriages and only marriages between two heterosexuals who have either never been married before, been widowed, or have been divorced for the reason of their spouse’s fornication and are now remarrying. Again, the practice of a wedding taking place in a church is not a responsibility God gave to the church in the NT. It is a man-made tradition rooted in Catholicism. It’s an innocent tradition in itself, but the reality of the times we live in is that we are likely to be successfully sued for participating in a man-made tradition which God never commanded the church to do.

Therefore, to answer the question asked here tonight, my advice to our elders and this congregation is the following:

First, continue to stand firm in preaching the truth in love, preaching the whole counsel of God about homosexuality and every other sin. Do so no matter what. God has commanded that we do this. Our own eternal destiny, and the destinies of the lost out there who are dying in their sins, depend on it. That is worth any fine given to us, any lawsuit we lose. If we are kicked out of this building and have to meet in a dark alley somewhere under cover of darkness because we preach the truth, then so be it.

However, I would also strongly advise our elders and this congregation to not open the door to the risk of the Lord’s money being used to pay a fine, pay a lawsuit, pay legal fees, or forfeit our facilities here over defending something God never asked us to defend in the first place, namely, the man-made tradition of using a church building to host and participate in a wedding ceremony.

In my judgment, good stewards would not use the Lord’s money to defend something that he has not actually commanded us to do in general or specific command, principle, or example. One does not find the church of Christ in the New Testament being commanded to host a wedding in its meeting place, we do not find an example of it, nor is there even a general principle commanding it. It’s completely optional, completely a man-made tradition. Do we want to risk our weekly contributions going to pay off legal fees to defend our participation in a man-made tradition? In my opinion – and that’s all it is, an opinion – I don’t want the Lord’s money used to that purpose.

My advice was asked for in this question. I suggest that our elders and the men of this congregation and the board of trustees of this congregation get together very soon and make it official policy, even going so far as to put it in the by-laws of this church property, that these facilities will not be used for weddings or civil unions of any kind, for anyone regardless of their sexual orientation or preference. Doing so, in my judgment, won’t eliminate a discrimination lawsuit from occurring, but it might just lower the likelihood of a lawsuit coming on this front.

I also highly advise that our elders seek legal counsel immediately on how to further protect the facilities and funds of this church, without of course sacrificing this congregation’s mission to firmly, vocally, and lovingly proclaim and support biblical truth concerning homosexuality.

“Jon, is this a little extreme?” Yes, it is, but we live in extreme times. How many of you thought that you would see in the United States headlines that would make a conversation like this relevant? I say that we, as in everything else, follow the example of the early church. In Acts 8:1, when the first major persecution arose in the church’s history, what did they do? They took extreme steps. They scattered and left Jerusalem. They recognized that God had not given a command to stay in Jerusalem, and they weren’t willing to lose their freedom over defending something God had not actually commanded them to defend. So they were wise, and took the extreme option. However, notice also that verse 4 says that they never stopped doing what God actually had commanded them to do, which is preach the Word that brought that persecution to them in the first place. We can and must learn a lesson from them.

As for me, as a preacher I have recently decided to pursue two courses of action and ask for your support, understanding, and prayers.

First, I will continue to preach the whole counsel of God about homosexuality and will do so in love regardless of personal cost.

However, from this point forward I will not officiate any wedding ceremonies of any kind.  This is a very painful decision for me to make as it means that I likely will not officiate my daughters’ weddings, something I’ve always wanted to do.  However, as leader of my family I cannot in good conscience put my family’s finances at risk over something which God has not actually required of me.

6.  Please explain 1 Peter 3:21’s statement about baptism not being a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a good conscience.

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)

Some say this verse teaches a person has a good conscience BEFORE baptism, thus indicating that salvation precedes baptism.  This is not what the passage is saying, for several reasons.

A good conscience, while in most cases a good thing, is not necessarily in itself proof that one is saved and in a right relationship with God.  Saul of Tarsus said he lived in good conscience all his life (Acts 23:1), which would include the time when he persecuted the church.

Therefore, even if it could be proved from this verse that a good conscience comes before baptism (which it can’t), even so that would not necessarily prove that baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Another point to bring out about a good conscience is that the term could be describing a heart that is sincere, a person who is earnestly seeking to obey God.  A person earnestly and sincerely seeking to obey God, after reading in the Bible the commands to be baptized, would obey the command to be baptized rather than question it as so many do.

Above all else, remember this. The verse starts out by saying something that a 10 year old could understand. Baptism now saves you. That’s very clear. So when we try to figure out the rest of the verse, any conclusion we come to is wrong if it contradicts that very plain statement: Baptism now saves you.

Baptism now saves you. How? It’s not the water. Not as a removal of dirt from the body. The water might cleanse the dirt from your body, but the water won’t cleanse your soul from sin.

Only the blood of Christ does that. Jesus said that his blood was poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins (Matt. 26:28). Paul said that we have redemption and forgiveness of sins through his blood (Eph. 1:7). Is it any wonder that Ananias said to Saul that he would be washing away his sins if he was baptized? (Acts 22:16) In baptism one spiritually comes into contact with the blood of Christ that cleanses us from our sins. We are commanded to be baptized in water (Acts 10:48; John 3:5), but the water itself doesn’t spiritually cleanse us.

So how does baptism save us? We’ve already examined its connection to the blood of Christ. This verse gives us another way baptism saves us. Peter says that baptism is an appeal. Appeal in the Greek literally means a request, a craving. Baptism is an appeal, a request, a craving…for what?

A good conscience, a clear conscience, the kind of conscience you get when your sins are forgiven.

Baptism is an appeal, a request, a craving for forgiveness and the clear conscience forgiveness brings. The Bible teaches that God will always and immediately grant that forgiveness we crave to any penitent believer the moment he is baptized (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16)

Therefore, that good conscience that tells you that you are now saved and you are now forgiven comes only after baptism, because baptism is how we appeal to God for that forgiveness which brings about that good conscience?

Are you ready to appeal to God for a good conscience?

Am I As Stubborn As A Mule?

stubborn mule 1All of us have heard the phrase, “stubborn as a mule.” This term was probably coined by frustrated farmers after they observed how difficult it was to get their donkeys to pull their assigned loads in the field…although a case could be made that the phrase was thought up as an observation made by frustrated spouses about their significant others.  (I say that because I know what my wife’s answer to the above question would be!)  Regardless, I think there’s a lesson we can learn about our relationship with Christ when we examine exactly why a mule is stubborn.

The reason a mule balks at pulling a load is not because he doesn’t hear the command “giddy up.” Rather, he would simply not hear it. He has more than enough strength and ability to pull that load, but he would rather graze in the green grass of the pasture or bask in the noonday sun than work for his owner. Our human minds are several levels above that of a mule, but we sometimes manifest the same characteristics. How many times have we heard a clear command from God as revealed in his Word, but we, like the mule, try to evade obedience because the biblical command does not coincide with our mind’s individual prejudices and desires?

stubborn mule 2When I was a child, I was reluctant to hear my mother’s call because I knew that if I listened and obeyed her it would result in some unpleasant chore that would encroach upon my playtime. That’s why I chose not to see my dirty hands and ignore her command to wash them, because I would have rather been eating. This kind of evasive thinking is found in the minds of mules and children, but it should never be found in the thinking of mature, responsible adults (1 Cor. 13:11).

Yet, while the eternal destiny of souls are at stake, there are professed Christians who exhibit indifference and intolerance toward the true teachings of God as revealed in the totality of the Bible. They do so because such teachings are contrary to their personal desires or disrupt their convenient, worldly way of life. Jesus talked about such people when he quoted Isaiah by saying, “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says, ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them’” (Matt. 13:14-15).

baptismWhat a pity it is for people who could (and should) know God’s truth which is his Word (John 17:17), but reject it because it does not suit their evil lifestyles or tastes. For example, God commanded that men have faith (John 3:16; Rom. 10:9-10), repent of their sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19), and be baptized – literally in the Greek, immersed – in water in order to obtain salvation and forgiveness of sins (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 2:38), and to be put into Christ and his body, the church of Christ, by the Holy Spirit through baptism (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; cf. Eph. 1:22-23). How sad it is for such commands to be rejected simply because it violates the wishes of family (Matt. 10:34-37) or the traditions and doctrine of religious groups (Matt. 15:1-9) who are seeking after the god of convenience rather than the God which demands obedience (1 Sam. 15:22; Acts 5:29; Heb. 5:8-9).

drinking and drivingOther examples could be given.  The news media continually both reports and in many cases sadly supports those in our country and elsewhere who selfishly and stubbornly promote the sinful cause of homosexual “marriage” and the murder of innocent children through abortion, despite what God wishes (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Prov. 6:16-19).  Spring Break is here and summer is not far away, and many people are choosing to stubbornly flaunt their bodies through immodest apparel and actions, fornication, and the partaking of alcohol and other hallucinogens regardless of the will of their Creator in such matters (1 Tim. 2:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Thess. 5:6-8).

married couple fightingCloser to home, let’s examine ourselves and our own attitudes (2 Cor. 13:5).  Does our stubbornness keep us from treating others as we would be treated (Matt. 7:12)?  Husbands and wives, are we so determined to have our own way that we end up treating our spouses in ways contrary to the will of the One who united us in marriage (Eph. 5:22- 33; 1 Cor. 7:1-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-7; cf. Matt. 19:1-9)?  Children, you know as well as I that the primary reason you disobey your parents and thus disobey God is due to stubbornness (Eph. 6:1-3).  Parents, is your adamant refusal to put the spiritual raising of your children before unneeded work, TV time,  your golf game and favorite book due to stubbornness (Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:6-9)?  Brother and sister in Christ, does your constant criticism and backbiting against the bishops of your local congregation come from being stubbornly adamant to have your own way above all (Heb. 13:17)?

Let’s ask ourselves whether we have the mind of a mule or the mind of Christ. Read God’s will below, and think about it…

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

— Philippians 2:1-8