Full preterism error!

This fellow seems to have all the answers, claiming that there is no future return of Christ or resurrection, or new world and new heavens: http://www.allthingsfulfilled.com

Unfortunately, his site will not allow me to post any questions or rebuttals. So, here goes on my own site:

I am a partial preterist, at present. And that is because the second resurrection that Jesus referred to in John 5:28-29 that an hour was coming when ALL the dead that were in the graves would be raised. So, when do you suppose that happened? I believe the destruction of Jerusalem fulfilled much of Matthew 24, but not all. The scriptures are clear that Christ’s return would be visible and completely unexpected. Peter was not speaking hyperbolic when he said, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10-13)

I do not, by any means, believe this is symbolic of the age of regeneration Jesus spoke of, where he explained, “but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (Luke 20:35-36)

I don’t know of anyone who is like an angel living in this present world. And if one were to take this literally, then only those who do not marry would be “sons of the resurrection”.

Sorry, I think you are trying to put everything behind us, even though Paul makes it clear that the SECOND resurrection is the Christian hope (Romans 6:5, Philippians 3:7) and at that time alone we will be changed instantly into a form that is like Christ is in Heaven and will never die again (Daniel 12, 1 Corinthians 15). I’m afraid this is exactly the error Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 2:17-18.

Is being wrong, good?

I ran across a very good lecture from a lady named Kathryn Schulz. Her short lecture was on the idea of being wrong, and that coming to that conclusion, is not a bad thing. Rather it is the source of every age of enlightenment. Until a person realizes they are wrong about something, they believe they are right….right?

When you really think about it, the statement, “The more I know, the less I understand”, is true.

I am sometimes quite convinced that I know a lot about a particular subject or that I have a reasonable answer to a question or problem. The problem is when someone challenges that premise with a logical rebuttal. A while back, I was very distressed about the validity of certain things I taught others. I mean, I know what the Bible says about many things and most of it makes a lot of sense to me. But, the truth be told, there are also many things about God and truth that I cannot comprehend. That, in part, is why I started this blog. I can never be absolutely sure that everything I believe is true, really is. That is where faith comes in. Jesus said we must become like little children if we want to see the Kingdom of God. This doesn’t mean we assume everything is plain and simple, either.

I thank God that He gave us the scriptures, because without their plain presentation of the fallen condition of mankind, it would be impossible to figure out how we could ever communicate or be on a r4elationship level with our Creator. It is very comforting to see that, without exception (Melchizedek and Enoch we know too little about to say), each hero of the Bible failed to be right about everything. In fact, they were all wrong about something. And, by being wrong they were able to learn something about themselves and about God.

I recently read the biography of John Wesley, by Henry Rack called Reasonable Enthusiast. Now, many people assume either that Wesley was absolutely right about what he taught, or absolutely wrong. I tend to believe he was, like all of us, right about some things and wrong about others. It was revealing to me, to see that Wesley was constantly validating his own assumptions by the experiential nature of other people’s feelings and experience. In fact, to his dying day, John Wesley had doubts (according to his own journal) about whether he was right about some of his teachings. Lorenzo Dow, an extemporaneous and itinerant evangelist of the late 18th century, once felt that the new form of melodic singing that was made popular by Wesley and his brother Charles and Isaac Watts, were not conducive to evangelism. He was especially unconvinced that songs written by laypersons and based on popular tunes could have any spiritual effect on his audiences (see Nathan A. Hatch’s excellent short analysis of early American Evangelicalism ), but was soon convinced otherwise.

I have real problems with people that believe things that are not plain in scripture. That includes everything from “entire sanctification”, to “speaking in tongues” being evidence of salvation, beliefs based on experiential feelings or impressions, women as pastors, prosperity being a promise to believers, “divine healing” being promised to all, and much more. I am of the partial-preterism persuasion regarding eschatology, since the rapture and the idea of Christ actually reigning in person on the earth for an insignificant period of 1,000 years and offering sacrifices for His own sinless self (Ezekiel 46:2) seem quite absurd theology in light of the book of Hebrews.

At the same time, I am more and more convinced that none of us see more than, as Paul said, “through a glass darkly”. It is presumptuous for me, or anyone else, to think they are “it” and have all the truth or know all the ins and outs of being a Christian. I have many goodhearted and sincere brethren, whose ideas about what is acceptable worship, fellowship, and service differ from mine. But, I also know the scriptures say “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” and “No one speaking by God’s Spirit says, “Jesus is cursed.” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

I worry about becoming ecumenical, which seems to imply compromise. But this is pretty much where I am at these days. Paul says, “Don’t judge anything before the time (the day Jesus judges everything)” (1 Cor 4:5). I used to have a lot of trouble with appearances and I believe that there are things we can discern as wrong or out of bounds, but I have found people’s hearts are what count, not their appearance. Tattoos and piercings are wrong for me, but I cannot judge that for others. I am uncomfortable with them and these automatically make me question a person’s sincerity as a Christian, but I have been surprised by the level of maturity and godly concern for others in people who don’t think these things are sin. As one wise man of God once asked me, “What are they doing that is unscriptural?”. True, Moses’ Law said the Israelites were not to cut their skin “for the dead” or write on their bodies (Leviticus 19:28) and I see this as God saying, “You will not be like the nations that surround you.” Does it apply to us today? To some extent, I believe it does.

Jesus says, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16) and He prayed for us, in John 17:20-23, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23) Isn’t it Satan who has divided the church? It certainly isn’t God who wants believers to be separated over foolish suppositions and creeds.

Simply put, the only rule for separation is when people don’t live righteously (1 John 1:7) or teach something that isn’t scriptural (2 Thess 3:14, 2 Timothy 2:23) in any sense. One example is that Mary was a virgin and sinless. Nowhere in scripture is there even an allusion to that idea. Or, the idea that everyone will get to heaven by whatever path they choose.

I was raised and molded in my thinking, by the tyrannical Christianity I grew up in. I never did completely buy into the idea that “We are right and everyone else is deceived” mentality. But it had a lasting effect on me. I fear being wrong, but scripture also says, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) So what if I am wrong about a lot of things, as long as I, 1. Love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength and 2. love my neighbor as myself (i.e. never do or consider harm to or ignore the needs of anyone), God tells me I will be accepted by Him, for Christ’s sake (Romans 13:8).

I believe God’s Word is the truth, but when you consider the almost innumerable disagreements we all have about the meaning of certain scriptures, isn’t it fairly plain that we are all wrong about something? Perhaps we need to surrender this human weakness of thinking we have to have everything exactly correct in our theology and practice and just concentrate on the gospel:

1. Man is fallen and cannot help himself or ever come to enough knowledge to save himself from death (Romans 3:23, Galatians 3:22)
2. God has sent His perfect and everlasting Son to take our place, erase our shortcomings, and reconcile us to God through the shedding of His own blood (Romans 5:6-10)
3. God raised Jesus from the dead, by His power and to fulfill His promise that He would free us from captivity to this present world and the evil one who bent everything to wrongness (Romans 6:9, 8:11)
4. Everyone who believes this is really true will be saved from death and all future judgment of condemnation when they repent, confess Jesus is Lord, and are baptized into His body for the forgiveness of their sins (Romans 6:3-8, 10:9-11; Acts 2:38)
5. Continuing in this belief is absolutely required in order for your faith to be proved valid (Romans 6:16, James 1:3, 2 Peter 1:1-9)

Beyond these things, there are many disagreements. But, if you confess Jesus as your Lord, have been immersed in His name (the Greek word baptismo means immersion), and are pursuing the holiness “without which no one will see the Lord”, then I extend to you the right hand of Christian fellowship.

Your comments, even if you disagree, are welcome if presented with a “I could be wrong…” attitude.

Happy New Year! But, don’t count on it.

I have been very negligent of my blog, and if it has caused anyone to question my faith, I am sorry. I am still holding fast, but being human, I’ve also been through a very dry and trying last six months.

Now that I am officially in the beginning a a New year, I am going to try and get back to blogging. I find it cathartic and a way of journaling my thoughts, so it is better to continue than to ignore it, I guess. In any case, I certainly hope that everyone who has had a rough year will have rest and peace this year from the same troubles. However, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) is a scriptural reminder that in this life, we are not promised our dreams will come true. But, we are promised whatever we ask, believing, we shall receive. There’s a caveat to that, of course. We Americans are not accustomed to having a lot of faith, because we have become (to quote Pink Floyd) “comfortably numb”.

I do not personally know more than one or two people who claim to be Christians who truly do seem to rely on God for almost every need in their lives. Not through laziness, bad luck, or other personal disposition, but they have learned to hate this present life enough to count the things we hold dear as less than cow manure.
Some people would consider me an unpatriotic American Christian (there is no such thing, by the way – you’re either of the world or of the Kingdom of Christ) for saying this, but it has been proven throughout history, that the church is always more alive when it is hurting and needy. I think the time of hardships for America is overdue, and has been delayed only because of the few truly faithful Christians who remain in this country. Notice the similarity between the number of deaths suffered over the last decade by countries who have no claim to being any kind of “Christian” nation. The Indonesian tidal wave deaths of 2004 were about 250,000 and we see that Haiti has now suffered a comparable number of deaths since the huge earthquake of last year.

What I fear is that America, despite all her good works and generosity, is storing up a huge cup of wrath for her decades of wickedness and perversion. If Romans 1 is an indication of a people gone past saving, present day America would certainly seem to fit the bill. Satan’s line of attack now is to get the remnant of American Christians to become nominal in their daily lives, as well as worship, and I believe we are quite there.

I confess, I have given up facebook, because it was just becoming too much of a distraction for me. Even when the discussions were spiritually based, I felt drained rather than encouraged by them and was convicted that I was neglecting, like Martha, the more important things of personal evangelism and involvement in others’ lives – in reality. The final straw was when I began noticing my Christian friends were beginning to sound, and act, a lot like my non-Christian friends. It was very discouraging to me, because it seemed more a thermometer of the real-time dissolution of saltiness in many lives. I am feeling a lot less salty, myself, and am quite alarmed by it.

So, while I intend to begin blogging again, I cannot promise anything other than my desire to be completely honest and upfront with my observations: of myself and the so-called Christian culture that is so typical these days.

God have mercy on us all, even if it means we lose all the things we’ve made our temporal gods.

HWY to Perdition is a popular road – even in church

I am increasingly amazed at the lack of respect paid to people based on gender or age. While we live in a so-called “tolerant” society, or at least one that is advocated, what I see is the complete dissolution of gender anything.

Although much of what passes for fads these days have more than temporary consequences (tattoos and piercings for instance), what really bothers me is this: young men (and older ones, too) referring to their female companions as “dude, guys, man” and so on. There was a time, not that long ago, when men only used certain words when ladies were not present and even immoral men saved their coarsest conversations for the bar or the garage. Now, it appears that it is acceptable for young men to use one or two bottom rung profanities in every sentence. And the young girls not only aren’t offended by it, they partake in the same language that used to be heard coming from only aged and jaded prostitutes. I hear conversations on the train all the time that are crass and crude and completely disrespectful, and not just from the drunks and the bums, or only the “gang bangers”, but from kids going to college.

I see where some younger so-called ministers of the gospel, claim that words are just that: words. They only carry the connotations that culture forces on them. One person’s bad word is normal and harmless to another. It’s all just cultural you know. Haven’t they ever read the book of James and his discussion of the tongue and how it is the most harmful thing we use? And many of these up and coming “pastors” and “preachers” buy into the books that Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, and off the wall types like Peter Rollins, write. McLaren, at least, is pretty up front with his agenda, writing a book titled “Everything Must Change”. Everything, Brian? Everything? What about “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and tomorrow”?

What liberal toleration and those Co-Exist stickers really promote is lawlessness; make up the rules as you go and change what doesn’t work for you. A return to no rules, no standards, just utter chaos and eventual anarchy. Men and women compete, it seems, to see who can be the most vulgar, shocking and rebellious. I try to always save my seat or open doors for women, especially older ones who appreciate it. But, more and more, I either get a reluctant nod or no acknowledgment at all of my trying to be a gentleman from even older women. Now, when I see a dozen healthy men sitting and women my age or older standing, I wonder what happened to the idea of men treating women with respect and women actually appreciating it, instead of being offended by such courtesy.

Thanks to Gloria Steinham and others of her ilk, women wanted equality and, for the most part, they have achieved it. When gays are granted the right to marry and adopt society are destroying the last vestiges of what it takes to make a family. Oh, some gays may very well make better parents than some heterosexuals do, but they cannot reproduce, they cannot pass on good or bad genes, and like the old communal religious groups like Shakers who advocated for celibacy, they may very well end their own club by dying out.

Because most Americans have bought into the idea that they should pursue their own happiness even if it is at the expense of society, marriage and children, these young girls tolerate a man speaking to them like they were dogs. Perhaps they don’t have a parent who will even try to help them draw boundaries and say, “That boy/girl isn’t good enough for you!” Every teenager thinks they know more than their parents, but parents still have to set the standards or their children must settle for whatever is acceptable within their peer group.

It works the same way in the church. The leaders/elders must set the standards high enough so that people will realize they are just fakes if they cannot attain to normal Christian standards of living. When they fail, as many will, they need to know where they fell from. Otherwise, the church standard becomes a free-for-all.

This is where our society is heading. And unfortunately, while reading movie reviews by those who also claim to be followers of Christ, we find movies being rated “Acceptable” and “Mildly Offensive” when they include regular blasphemy (misusing the name of Christ Jesus and God), overt sexual innuendo and what used to be considered off-color humor, nudity, and constant reference to the sexual vernaculars of the day. When “Christians” can say things about these movies like, “it may bother some people, but it didn’t shake my faith” or “what is offensive to some people isn’t necessarily offensive to me”, the church no longer mans the tiller of the common conscience in America, or the Western world, much less the minds and hearts of their congregations. We are, once again, living in the days of the book of Judges when “every man did what seemed right in his own eyes”.

On that same thought, it really, REALLY, bothers me that many in the so-called church accept pornography as a “typical” addiction among Christian males. Excuse me? Doesn’t scripture tell us that “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” (Romans 8:6-7 ESV) How about this? “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:21 ESV) Yet, this is practically preached as a common sin and thus made reasonably acceptable in the Christian life.

What the problem truly is, it appears to me, is that modern day Christianity (or what passes for it in many cases) has lost the fear of God. I was a porn addict for decades, but I am convinced that if I were to succumb again I would be giving up my profession of faith and thereby a castaway. I am tempted very, very often, but I have a fear of entering through those gates which will lead only to ruin. I am not free of this addiction by willpower. I tried that route many times, but always fell back into pornography. I could not live without it. But, that was also before I came to a knowledge of the truth and made myself a slave to Christ.

If you are addicted to porn, drugs, lying, stealing or any of these things, the Bible says you are still a slave of Satan.

“Dear friends, now we are God’s children. What we will be isn’t completely clear yet. We do know that when Christ appears we will be like him because we will see him as he is. So all people who have this confidence in Christ keep themselves pure, as Christ is pure. Those who live sinful lives are disobeying God. Sin is disobedience. You know that Christ appeared in order to take away our sins. He isn’t sinful. Those who live in Christ don’t go on sinning. Those who go on sinning haven’t seen or known Christ. Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you. Whoever does what God approves of has God’s approval as Christ has God’s approval. The person who lives a sinful life belongs to the devil, because the devil has been committing sin since the beginning. The reason that the Son of God appeared was to destroy what the devil does.” (1 John 3:2-8 GW)

Why should Christians be afraid?

Are you afraid of Judgment Day?

Growing up, I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t have, in the back of my mind at least, a fear that TODAY was going to be Judgment Day. There were other days when I’d get very frightened that “This is IT!” when I’d hear thunder, see a red moon, hear a cart rumbling down a hallway, or even a horn blowing unexpectedly.

This is because I was brought up in an environment of fear and judgment. I was many times convinced to go to the “altar” and pray to be saved (not a biblical concept at all). The problem was, I was never taught what real faith, trust and hope were. I don’t believe I ever “got” salvation as a child, because I was doing my praying and begging out of fear, not out of an appreciation for Jesus’ sacrifice or a thankfulness for God’s grace and mercy. Rather, I was taught that I either repented or when I died (which could be any minute!) I would find myself falling into “the bottomless pit” where black fire and demons would torture me forever and ever and ever. Nowhere in scripture do we find any indication that demons or imps will torture the lost or that souls will be cast into a bottomless pit!!

What I did not realize at the time was that these folk fit the description Paul made concerning his fellow Jews who would not believe the gospel:
“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” (Romans 10:1-3 ESV)

So, as a kid, I was mentally and spiritually abused. I thank God, however, that after 30 years of being away from this religious teaching, I finally was able to read the bible with a fairly unbiased and unrestricted view. I just wanted to see what it really said. I am so glad that God makes it plain that ALL men and women are corrupted by our fallen nature. Only a true and loving God would allow us to see what hardheaded and ignorant men the disciples were until they witnessed Jesus resurrection and ascension. Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, who cleared up all their misconceptions about Christ and His mission, they changed the entire world! And they were still not perfect!

The scriptures tell us a healthy fear of God is good and wise. Many do not even think about God until they experience a life-threatening situation, and by then, for many, it’s too late. But, the fear we should have is more a sense of awe and wonder; how small and unworthy we are as specks on this huge earth, which itself really is not even a speck in the enormity of the universe.

1 John 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Why should Christians not fear? Because we are “free from the law of sin and death”. Jesus was “made sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That’s what the legalistic and perfectionist types neglect to tell us from God’s Word. The other extreme are those who say we can sin all we want and not worry about it. Both are viewing God’s grace and salvation through the lens of the flesh; one focuses on every little sin and the other no sin at all.

My favorite verses these days are:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 ESV) and

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:1-4 ESV) and

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Galatians 3:27 ESV)

The Manhattan Declaration…too little, too late?

This Declaration, recently signed by Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical church representatives seeks to convey a steadfast resolve on the part of these churches to defend against abortion, same sex marriage, and preserve freedom of religion. Unfortunately, many of these same signers have serious  differences in regard to soteriology as well as doctrine, and besides that, much of this is simply politically motivated (note the large number of anti- Global Warming scientists included as endorsers). You might say it is a re-made version of the Moral Majority movemnet. Too bad statistics do not prove there really is a true moral majority in America.

One of the key statements in the Life section of this document states “Although public sentiment has moved in a pro-life direction, we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our government. The present administration is led and staffed by those who want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and who want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense. Majorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.”

Why, pray tell, do these ecumenical folk think this is the case? The very people who answer in the affirmative to pollsters concerning right to life, seem to vote pro-choice, or not at all. That, my friends, is why we have a Pro-Choice government in place. People wearing the badge of Christianity, but not the evidence of it in their lives and affections, have either voted in or surrendered the offices of state to the Pro-Choice politicians because they are themselves, immoral, selfish, covetous lovers of money more than God.

No declaration will fix the eternally significant harvest that the liberal and seeker-minded Laodicean churches have produced with their watered down ‘gospel’. There are far too many people in America who claim Jesus as their “friend”, their “homey”, their benefactor, their “fixer”, but so very few who consider Him Lord and God of their lives. Most who claim the name of Christian are so far removed from even the most basic tenets of godly living and selfless service to Him who died for them, that the very name of Jesus is blasphemed because of it.

Only a return to preaching the foolishness of the cross, the ignominious death of God in human form for the sake of unworthy sinners will awaken men and women to their true state before God. Too many preachers and teachers fail to make their hearers aware of their hopelessness and their guilt before an Almighty God. Too many have consider their accountants the true measurers of the power of God and the efficacy of their sermons. If it doesn’t draw crowds or bring in sheaves of cash, then it isn’t “effective” evangelism. May I remind them that feces also draw crowds….of flies. Too many mistake crowds for churches.

Gone are the days when men relied on the Word of God to do the convicting and convincing.  Simply read John 16:8-10 again. The Holy Spirit is who convicts and convinces people of their need of a Saviour.  Scripture says “As many as received Him (accepted the truth of what He claimed), to them gave He the right to become sons of God.”

Where is it heard that men ask, as they did Peter, “What must we do to be saved?”  How many come to a true conviction in their hearts that were it not for the death and suffering of God’s Christ they would have no standing at all before a wrathful God? Too many American versions of Christianity make piety and striving to live a godly life a vain thing.  Most church goers claim they love Jesus and are born again, but the facts of the society we live in prove this a lie. Emotionally charged and feel-good worship services are self-serving and give too many a false sense of peace and security. “We’re all sinners!” is the war cry of most assemblies, rather than glorying in the freedom from bondage to sin that true faith and obedience bring. What incentive do most churches give anyone to question their sincerity or indeed the very basis of their professed faith? If Christians are no better morally or ethically than the non-believer, with what will you convince non-believers of the power of God to change lives?

No, the church has to return to preaching the power of Christ to save from sin; not simply that God forgives, but that God empowers men to forgive also. Not that God will make everything better, but that life becomes worth living when lived for a righteous and holy King. Not that Jesus wants you to be successful, but that Jesus was successful in liberating those who put their entire life and future into His hands from death and condemnation. Not that we are free to sin because we are forgiven, but that we are free to choose the right and not the wrong because we cannot bear to shame our King.

No declaration or Ecumenical statement will solve this dilemma. Only God’s Holy Spirit and unfettered preaching of His Holy Word as the Word of God in truth will change double-minded professors into real believers.

 

Faith Alone? What does God say?

Water is a very powerful element. It can save a life or destroy it. It can convey good health or transport deadly bacteria. It washes away dirt and historical records. Water, in many ways, is very much a representation of good and evil.

Anyone who has read my previous articles knows that I have struggled mightily with this issue. And I have come to a simple conclusion: If the Bible says it and repeats it, then it is what it is.  I was almost persuaded that we are “saved by faith alone”, but scripture does not support this. Remember, David says “The sum of your word is truth”.

In the Old Testament, we find water turned to blood as a plague against Egypt (Exodus 7). Later God instruct the priests thus: “and he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet: ” Lev 14:52.  Leviticus 14:1-5 involves the procedure of blood being spilled over running water for the cleansing of leprosy. In Ezekiel God speaks to Israel and says “Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.”  (Ezekiel 16:9 ASV)

The Word says that God destroyed the evil world that was in Noah’s day….with water. That is, God cleansed the world of sin with the Flood.

The Word says that God destroyed an anti-type of sin, the Egyptian army….with water. The Bible makes clear that, just like God’s promise concerning our sins, “not one of them remained”. I heard an old church of Christ preacher, Marshall Keeble, in a rare recording of a sermon, explain that thinking one can be saved just by believing Jesus Christ died for you is like washing a load of dirty clothes with just detergent. It doesn’t do any good if you don’t include….water! Perhaps that seems presumptuous to say, but read what John says:

This is he who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” (1 John 5:6-8 ESV)

Who are you going to believe? Your preacher? A theologian? Or John the beloved; who saw, worked with, ate with, was taught by and physically touched the Savior? In the New Testament, we see John emphasize the connection between the two again: ” howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water. ” (John 19:34 ASV). Then the Hebrews writer says “For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses unto all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people” (Hebrews 9:19 ASV)

Why does anyone honestly think Paul says “not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit“? (Titus 3:5 ASV)  Baptism is referred to here, make no mistake!

Baptism is not a work! The baptized person submits to the process that is plainly ordained by Christ Jesus “to fulfill ALL righteousness”. And again, in Hebrews we read ” let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 ASV). Where is sprinkling effected? In the heart by the Holy Spirit. What is washed? Our body is! And, as Peter tries so hard to make clear, it’s not about washing off dirt from off the outside of our bodies, but it’s an appeal for a cleansed conscience! (1 Peter 3:21) How do we get a clear conscience?  When we believe our sins are forgiven and forgotten!!

Now, I admit, it probably makes no sense to most that God would care whether our bodies are washed in baptism or not, but Christ insisted on it, as did ALL the Apostles. If water was just symbolic, why is it so prevalent? The Israelites passed through water two times. Once for each generation; the first generation, which were rejected by God, were first baptized through the Red Sea, into Moses. The next generation, under 18 at the time God rejected the original bunch, had to pass through the Jordan river in order to inherit the Promised Land. These things are symbols of spiritual truths. Jesus did not spiritualize the water. He actually submitted to it, by John’s baptism, to show His approval of it and declared it a necessity (Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16).

Marshall Keeble also told a couple of great stories about baptisms, where the person being baptized “got it”. Keep in mind that these stories hark back to the pre-civil rights movement days as I paraphrase what Marshall said:

One old black lady, who apparently worked for some rich folk, was considered a very good woman and was referred to by all as “mother”. However, when she heard the gospel preached concerning the need for belief, repentance, followed by baptism, she showed a remarkable understanding of the purpose of baptism. She had some ladies go to her place and bring back her wedding dress, a white silk dress she had married her now dead husband in. With their help she got that dress on and, as she prepared to enter the river they were baptizing her in, some friends were saying “You’re going to ruin that beautiful dress gettin’ into that muddy water!” She replied “I married my first husband in this dress and now I’m marrying one much greater than he was!” She understood that baptism meant she was going to be wed to Christ, and be raised a new woman in Him.

Water is regularly combined with blood in both the Old and New testaments. When Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born again of water and Spirit, I have heard intelligent men say “That refers to the afterbirth, or amniotic fluid from childbirth.” I say, they are twisting scripture. If Jesus meant water from your mother’s womb, don’t you think He’d have said “born of woman” instead of being supposedly ambiguous with just “water”? Besides, it is a fact thta most women do not experience their water “breaking” before giving birth. Most often the amniotic sac is expelled intact after the birth. And often it is hardly looking like water, being colored anything from milky, greenish, yellowish, or reddish. I don’t believe Jesus was stating the obvious here (that a person has to become a living human being before they can be “born again”) when He said “of water”.

I have heard references made to the idea that making baptism a requirement is just like the Judaizers claiming a person couldn’t be saved if they weren’t circumcised. Let’s just stop for a second and think this through. First, it was established in the first great counsel described in Acts  15, that circumcision was not required for salvation.  Secondly, if baptism, as taught by many Reformed teachers, was the replacement for circumcision, don’t you think that would have been brought up? As well, if baptism wasn’t necessary sacrament, why is it never openly challenged by anyone in the Bible?

Yet Paul plainly says “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:9-12 ESV)

One baptism = the simultaneous spiritual circumcision and physical dunking working together to perform a work of God. The Holy Spirit peforms the circumcision “made without hands”, that is, inwardly. We cannot be buried by any means other than immersion. We cannot be raised from a sprinkling or pouring, either.

I read another person’s explanation that it was only because Jews were used to baptism being a proper means of cleansing (as after a woman giving birth) that it was natural “for them” to assume baptism did something truly cleansing.

That’s saying that Peter gave more importance to baptism than was necessary simply because of his Jewish background. Was he, or was he not, a disciple of the One and Only Christ? Who would know better than a former disciple, and present tense Apostle, whether baptism was necessary? Why on earth would Peter even allude to baptism’s saving effect if it was not so? Or if there was any possibility that those baptized believers he was writing to might have misunderstood it?

Take away the parenthetical and he’s saying “Baptism now saves you through the resurrection of Christ.” That means, plainly, that baptism saves us because Jesus was raised from the dead. And because Jesus commands it “in faith”.

There are those who will say this represents the baptism of the Spirit. Their logic, then, escapes me! How can baptism of the Spirit be a representation of being buried and resurrected? As the verse I quoted says “having been buried with Him in baptism, you were raised with Him through faith. “with Him” is significant, because it implies that we were doing something with/like Jesus through baptism. The symbolism is very powerful, but also very pointed.

The first part, burial in baptism, is what man does. The second part, which is the first resurrection (John 5:25 , Rev 20:4-6), is done as a result of faith, inwardly, when we are also physically raised from the water of baptism. These coincide, which is also why Jesus said “Unless a man is born of water AND spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

If Jesus, in His Great Commission had said “He that believes and is circumcised shall be saved” do you honestly think  people would try to say things like “He doesn’t mean physical circumcision, it’s a spiritual thing”. Well, I do believe people would say that!

What about this? If Jesus said “he that believes and is tattooed”? do you think preachers and scholars would dance around that? I do! My point is this: I believe that if Jesus said it, He meant it, and if He meant baptized with the Holy Spirit, He would have said that. Paul re-baptized the disciples of John in Acts 19 and they then received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, note the disciples under Philip; they were baptized and then received the Holy Spirit when the Apostles arrived to lay hands on them. True, Cornelius and his friends and family were baptized in the Holy Spirit before they were baptized, but Peter commanded that they be baptized. Unlike in Acts 15:24 where the elders and Apostles said, concerning the Judaizers of the circumcision, “to whom we gave no commandment” .

Some say that using the story of Naaman, from 2 Kings 5, is a bad analogy, but I disagree. Naaman also thought that washing himself in the muddy Jordan made absolutely no sense, but it wasn’t until he did what God told him through Elisha to do, that he was cleansed. Jesus made a point of it, saying “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27) I think Jesus was emphasizing that only those who truly are willing to do what God tells them to do will be saved. Many regard baptism as a secondary thing, but will not even cross the line to say that baptism isn’t necessary. Why is that? If baptism isn’t part of becoming a new creature, part of the new birth, why do they shrink from saying it’s not important? Because, in their heart of hearts, they are like Naaman. They can’t see how it fits in with faith alone, but God wants obedience, too. They will say, a Christian who won’t be baptized is not a true Christian, but then negate that by saying baptism isn’t part of salvation.

Now, I confess, I had a hard time with this when I first perceived it, before I aligned myself with the churches of Christ. I just had this overwhelming sense, from what little I had read of the Bible, that after I repented of my sins and asked God to forgive by believing on Christ Jesus, I was under a real burden to be baptized ASAP. I did not get baptized as soon as I felt led to because I didn’t even know that baptism was something that could be done unscheduled. I admit also, that I did not feel safe in my salvation until I was baptized. Many things and thoughts tried to dissuade me from being baptized, but thankfully, my wife invited all her family and friend to witness this and I could not have backed out anyway. I remember asking people at the church I was attending what would happen if I died before I was baptized. Of course, they used the “thief” example (below), but it didn’t convince me for long.  I didn’t feel like baptism would save me, so much as it would “seal” me, or make me complete. And I say that to emphasize that I do not believe baptism of itself can save anyone. Only a repentant, believing person who has confessed to God they are a sinner can be saved. Baptism is the part of the new covenant where we are “united with Him” (Romans 6:5) and our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).

Of course we have the example of the thief on the cross. But, no one can prove that that man wasn’t baptized for the remission of sins by John the baptist earlier. I can’t prove that he was. But, one thing is sure: only God in Christ can make an exception, just like Enoch and Elijah were exempted from the law of sin and death and did not die, but were apparently translated into another sphere. God IS sovereign. That is why we must obey His commandments through Christ. And baptism into the NAME of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit IS a commandment. Jesus said “Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” and I believe that means we must keep our reading of the Word uncomplicated. I hate it when people bend over backwards to say that the word for, in the phrase “for the forgiveness (or remission) of sins” in Acts 2:38 is like saying “wanted for bank robbery” as in for sins already forgiven. Why would Peter also tell them to repent if their sins were already forgiven them?

The argument that Paul distanced himself from baptism in 1 Corinthians 1 is false. He was simply saying he was glad he didn’t have people creating a sect around him because he had baptized them. If anything this shows how important the early church believed baptism was! They were not saying “I am of Apollos because he preaches the way I like” or “I like the way they do communion”. No, they knew that they were baptized into Christ by these men but, made the mistake of thinking who baptized them was more important that Who they were baptized into!

Baptism by itself regenerates no one except when it is in concert with the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6). To make baptism simply an outward symbol means one has to spiritualize the entire New Testament  and it’s many, many references to baptism as essential and cooperative. What convinced me beyond any doubt was this simple fact: Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to meet the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. The Holy Spirit  “caught Philip away” only AFTER the eunuch had the gospel preached to him and he was willingly baptized. If that isn’t plain enough for you, I don’t know how you will ever understand that this simple thing is associated with every single conversion story in the book of Acts and that means God was making it inexcusably plain to anyone with an honest heart.

Comments are welcome and disputations encouraged, but only if you use the Word and not just human logic.