Baptism has nothing to do with salvation

SPIRITUAL MYTH #6 “Baptism has nothing to do with salvation”

baptismYou often hear it said in evangelical circles, “Once you give your life to Christ, you need to be baptized as the first act of obedience.  However, baptism has nothing to do with your salvation.  You are saved simply by placing your faith in Jesus Christ and repeating the sinner’s prayer.”

I think that’s a partial myth that needs to be debunked.

There are actually two sides of the mythical coin associated with the ordinance of baptism.  One is that baptism in and of itself saves you.  Parents tell their children, “Of course you are a Christian, we had you baptized shortly after you were born”.  The implication is that infant baptism, performed against your will, was sufficient to forgive your sins and guarantee you eternal life in heaven.

Some treat immersion as an adult in much the same way.  They will say, “Of course I’m saved.  At age twelve, I was baptized by immersion at the end of a new member class.”  Again the idea is conveyed that baptism alone makes a person a Christian.  This misconception is termed, “Baptismal regeneration” in theological circles.

Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly teaches that salvation is granted to those who choose to place their trust in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and not their own goodness.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.” John 3:16, Romans 3:28, Romans 10:9, Hebrews 11:1 all make it very clear – the first step of obedience is to place our faith in Christ.

The other side of the coin is the very popular misconception that since we are saved by grace through faith, baptism has nothing to do with salvation.  Baptism is just an act of obedience.  We trust Christ then, sometime later, we are immersed in water as a symbol of what happened to us when we were saved.

But the ordinance of baptism is more than an act of obedience.  It’s more than a symbol or, “an outward sign of an inward grace.”  Baptism was originally intended to be a means of receiving Christ’s grace.  It’s a God-given benchmark that testifies to the fact that we are beginning a new life in Christ.

When Jesus healed people, He often requested an act of obedience as a test of faith.  “Go show yourselves to the priests”.   “Go wash in the pool of Siloam”.   “Stretch forth your hand”.   When the needy persons obeyed, they were healed.   Their efforts didn’t heal them, Jesus did.  But their step of faith was when they were made whole.

In New Testament times when needy sinners put their faith in Christ they were not commanded to repeat the sinner’s prayer, raise their hand or sign a card, although those responses can be helpful.  Those who believed in Jesus were instructed to repent of sin and be baptized.  And they responded by doing so as soon as possible.

It’s not a myth that we’re saved by faith in Christ.  It’s a myth that we receive salvation by just repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Read through the conversion stories in the book of Acts and ask two questions: (1) What was required of those who wanted to accept Christ as Savior? (2) When did they respond to Him by being baptized?  Here are a few examples:

Acts 2- Those who believed the first gospel message were told to, “… repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins”.  Three thousand people were baptized that very day. (Acts 2:38-40)

Acts 8 – When the Treasurer of Ethiopia believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah he requested that the evangelist Philip baptize him immediately, in a pond along the road he was traveling.

Acts 16 – The Philippian Jailer was told to, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved”. Then he and his family were baptized in the wee hours of that D7K_3325-1981462688-Omorning.

Acts 22 – Three days after Saul of Tarsus had been humbled by Jesus’ appearance to him outside Damascus, Ananias asked him, “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)

Someone may protest, “Are you saying that a person can’t be saved without being baptized?”  What about the thief on the cross? He was saved and Jesus said nothing to him about being baptized.”  Yes, but he was still living in the Old Testament dispensation – the blood atonement and bodily resurrection hadn’t yet been completed.  Jesus, God in the flesh, promised the dying thief he would be in paradise when he requested it.

“Well, what about a dying soldier who makes a death-bed confession?  What about a person who is physically unable to be baptized?  Won’t they be saved if they just put their faith in Christ?”

We certainly hope so.  We can only trust God’s grace is sufficient in those instances.  But the assurance of salvation is promised to those who demonstrate their faith by repenting of sin and being baptized into Christ.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, Cincinnati Christian University professor, points out, “Baptism is not the first step a convert takes as a Christian; it is the last step the sinner takes to become a Christian.”

If you were trained to instruct converts to receive Christ by repeating the sinner’s prayer but they refused to repeat the prayer, would you conclude they are saved?  You would probably have doubts about the legitimacy of their faith.  Jesus promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

God offers the free gift of salvation through the atoning death of His Son on the cross.  A believer’s response is repentance and baptism.  To refuse to obey is evidence of insufficient faith.  James said, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17)

Simon Peter taught that just as the flood waters buoyed up Noah’s ark and saved his family, “…this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.  It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:21)

Dr. Beauford Bryant, Milligan college professor, often said, “Baptism is a tomb and a womb.  A tomb where, by faith, we die with Christ and a womb where we’re born again into His Kingdom.”

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:3-5)

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Let’s Cohabitate!

The “Wise” Solomon

cohabitation 2Solomon is revered as the wisest man who ever lived. But was he really? When we look closer at Solomon’s choices we see a man who rejects God’s direction, especially when it came to love, sex and marriage. I mean, Solomon took polygamy to a whole new level. Right? I mean, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. And God defined marriage differently than that.

Here’s what God says in Genesis 2, the very beginning of time, the first marriage and God defines marriage and he says, For this reason a man (singular )will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife (not wives, wife), and they will become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24) This word “united” is a strong word. It means to be bonded or glued together. And it really doesn’t allow for there to be more than one. It is this idea of one and one being united as one. And that’s how God designed it. That’s how God created it. That’s how he defines marriage.

“I Want to be Happy”

And Solomon decides, I want to do things differently. I want to be happy. My heart tells me this is what I should do and so that is what I’m going to do. And so in his pursuit of happiness he ignores what God has said.

And Solomon pays a significant price because he doesn’t do things God’s way. God says, “Here are my directions,” and Solomon says, “Yeah, well, I think this will work.” And you can just hear Solomon. He knows what God has said but he just loves her, he just loves her. “God I know what you have said but I just love wife number 274. I love her. I love her.” And he puts his hope in his own understanding, in his own feelings even though that violates what God has said.

I want you to think for a moment, what is kind of a cultural equivalent to this? In other words can you think of an area in our culture, in our society that goes against what God has said when it comes to marriage that we have kind of decided that we know better? We have kind of decided that how we feel about it makes the most sense. We have ignored what God has said. Can you think of an area like this?

Cultural Equivalent

I think of Cohabitation as an example of this. Couples living together before they are married. That has been on the increase since 1970. There is a 700% increase in couples that live together outside of marriage. Now when I sit down, and I have a number of times, and talk to couples who are living together and are not married and I just talk to them a little bit about here’s what God’s word says and here’s why he says this and here’s why these directions are best for you. And when I talk to these couples, one of the things I love about them is that so often they have a heart for commitment. They are taking marriage seriously and in their minds they don’t want to risk it. They don’t want to be part of a divorced generation like their parents. And they just want to be sure. And I appreciate that spirit.

And then you just start looking at the evidence. And the evidence just reinforces again that God knows what is best in this area of our lives. There is a Scripture verse in Proverbs that goes like this, it says, There is a way that seems right to a man (there is a way that feels right to us. It seems to make most sense. It seems to make the most rational approach. There’s a way that seems right), but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

And I think we can really paraphrase that verse and contextualize it for our application here and I think it would be fair to put it this way, “There’s a way that seems right to couples but in the end it leads to divorce.” Because that’s what we’re seeing.

The Research

This isn’t Christian or biblical research. This is secular research. University of Wisconsin reports that those who live together before gettingcohabitation 5 married and then get married have a 75% divorce rate. They also found out that 15 out of every 100 cohabiting couples who are living together right now, only 15 out of every 100 will eventually get married and 10 years from now 85% of them won’t be married. And they just conclude that really this isn’t a good way to prepare for marriage. This is secular research and God is like, “Yeah, because I gave you these directions way back when.”

And the Bible tells us in numerous places about guarding the sacredness of marriage. Hebrews 13:4, Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. (Message) God’s oneness, this one man, one woman becoming one is really a beautiful gift that God gives us as a husband and as a wife but it has to be protected. It’s got to be guarded, that if we treat it lightly we lose out on what God wants for us. And so in his directions God said, “Look you’ve got to protect this. You’ve got to guard this. It valuable and sacred.”

And I’m sure Solomon thought, well maybe the next one, maybe the next one, maybe the next one. But the irony is that the more he added the less likely he was to discover the joy of that intimate relationship that he so desperately longed for. So you get to the end of his story and do you know what Solomon says at the end of his story, “I should have followed the directions. I should have done things God’s way.”

Thoughts?

(Adapted from “The King who had it all” by Kyle Idleman)

Your view of God

distorted picture 3Ever since Peter Stuyvesant visited the Palace of Versailles the world has had a distorted view of itself.

Peter was the governor of New Amsterdam—later to be renamed New York City—beginning in 1647. He was visiting France to discuss colonial land agreements. While at Versailles he was awed by the Hall of Mirrors.

Peter was determined to bring a similarly amazing showcase to his city. In 1651 he founded the Peter Stuyvesant’s House of Mirrors. He charged one Dutch gulden for admission.

This house of mirrors eventually morphed into what we know as a Fun House of Mirrors seen at many carnivals. For a few tickets the fun begins by walking into a maze of mirrors, both convex and concave. We amuse ourselves by looking at distorted images of our figure.

Today you don’t even have to go to the carnival for this experience. A laptop with a webcam and a silly photo feature will allow you to take a picture of yourself that you can manipulate to look odd.

It’s all fun. But sometimes distorted pictures can cause trouble. It did in Israel during the time of the prophet Samuel. One of the major distortions was found at the Tabernacle, that portable place of praise for God’s people.

It was parked at Shiloh and was meant to be a clear picture of God’s holiness and grace. A system of sacrifices had been established that foreshadowed the coming sacrifice of the Messiah. Yet anything but holiness was found there.

Eli the priest had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who dishonored God in their treatment of the sacrifices and also engaged in immoral sexual activity with women at the Tabernacle (1 Samuel 2:16, 22). Because the picture of God they were giving was distorted, these two were killed in battle against the Philistines. When news of their death reached Eli, he fell over in his chair, broke his neck, and also died.distorted picture 4

Just like Eli and his sons we are representatives of God. We represent Jesus to others. You may have heard it said that you may be the only Bible those around you will ever ‘read.’ The question is, “Are you giving a clear or distorted picture of the One True God?”

When Your Mistakes Land You Before A Judge

judgeeHave you ever had to own up for something you did wrong? Maybe you remember sneaking out to see an R-rated movie and then confessing the truth to your seething parents after you crept in the house past curfew. Or maybe, more recently, you lied to your boss and had to face the consequences once you were found out.

We have all had to come face-to-face with an authority and own up to what we’ve done wrong. Palms sweat, stomach twists and turns. It can feel like you’re going before the judge in a court martial. Believe me, I have had my frightening times before judges back in the day. It was no fun.

Judges elicit a sense of fear, don’t they? They never call you in for something you have done right. We think of them as someone who harshly tells us what we did wrong. And they seem to be everywhere these days on television. There’s Judge Judy and Hatchett. Mathis and Christina. Judge Brown.

Then there are some judges you may not know. They even have a book in the Bible with their name on it. Judges. These judges appeared on the scene to help sort out right and wrong. They also helped people get out of trouble.

God’s people kept putting themselves into a never ending cycle of disobedience, discipline, declaration of wrong, and deliverance. Judges like gavelDeborah and Gideon and Samson helped them find their way back to God.

What did the people do that was so bad they needed judges? Two things. First, they failed to put God first in their lives (Judges 1:28). And secondly, they did not teach their children to know God (Judges 2:10). These two “sins” led to their downfall and ruin.

Are you making the same mistakes they made? If so, you have a judge that can help you––Jesus. The good news is that when he “calls” you into his office after you’ve messed up, you will look up to see your judge’s face and see your savior there.

Far more than we would ever dare to ask

amazing thingsCheck this out. “God, who by his mighty power at work within us, is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of-infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Eph 3:20 (TLB) Doesn’t that just blow you away? Doesn’t that stir something within you that wants to see that kind of thing happen? Doesn’t that make you want to know how to see that happen?

Well, here’s the key that unlocks the door to God doing far more than we would ever dare to ask. Are you ready? Hold on! It’s PRAYER. That’s right, prayer. I know, you thought it was going to be some new and profound discovery. No, it’s the same as it has always been, PRAYER.

If that is true, then why don’t we see God doing far more things than we would dare to ask, all the time? Are you ready for that answer? It is because we don’t ask. What do you suppose the most talked about subject in the church setting today is? Prayer! And what is the most talked about issue with Christians? Usually prayer.  Do you have any idea what is the least practiced? You guessed it, prayer. The kingdom of God will not be advanced in our own power. Your spiritual life will not experience any real, long term growth without lots and lots of prayer. God will never do more than we would dare to ask without a vital connection with him in prayer.

So I would say to you, PRAY FIRST.

Make that your approach to life. The first thing I will do is pray. Before I try to come up with a solution, before I seek advice, before I worry or fret or lay awake at night or throw up my hands and quit, I will pray.

What this does is bring the supernatural presence and power of God into every circumstance you face. I don’t know if you have figured this out yet, but God knows a lot more than you do and God can accomplish a lot more than you can. In fact, God can do more and do it better in an instant than I can in my entire life. So why would I not include him first in whatever I am dealing with? It just doesn’t make sense.

When Peter was arrested, in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 12,  and thrown into prison facing death by execution, what do you think the first thing the other Christians did? They prayed, and prayed and kept on praying. So pray first and then…

Then PRAY OFTEN.

How often? As often as you think about the challenge, need, problem or opportunity. Now, I am not talking about stopping everything you are doing, assume a certain position on your prayer mat and devote lengthy time to praying, kind of prayer. I am talking about wherever you are, whatever you are doing speak it to God.

God thank you for this challenge I am facing. Help me to grow from it.

God, I have a lot going today. Please lead me in everything I do.

God, please give me the divine wisdom to know what to do in this situation.

God, help me to be sensitive to your leading in solving this problem.

God, forgive me for that thought I just had that was totally wrong.

God, help me not to do something irrational with my kids.

Now, there are times when we need to just be still before the Lord and pour our soul out to Him and seek him at length. But there are many times throughout the day when we just need to include him. Talk to him, tell him, seek him, invite him, depend on him.

Well, doesn’t God already know what I need? Doesn’t the Bible say that he even knows my thought? Then why do I need to spend so much time talking to him and telling him? Because, do you know what prayer is? It is declaring your absolute dependence on God. He wants us to declare our dependence on him. We need to declare our dependence on him. So do it and do it often. And then…

And PRAY BELIEVING.

Practically speaking, what good is it to ask if we don’t believe we will get an answer? What good is it to asking if we don’t believe God wants what is best for us? What good is it to ask if we don’t believe God moves and works through the prayers of his people?

Here are the very words of Jesus. This is going to the top. Mark 11:24 “I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”  Believe that it is already on its way.

Let’s wrap it up with some words from  John. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask , because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3:21

That means I am not just coming to God like a big Santa in the sky. I don’t look at him as just someone who gives me what I want. I am not bringing my shopping list. I do not believe in this health, wealth and prosperity gospel. “God, I am coming to you with a surrendered heart. I am coming to you with a willingness to back up my life with obedience, with living in a way that is sold out to pleasing you. That is what I want more than anything else in my life.” And, guess what, God honors and gives attention to those kinds of prayers.  God goes far beyond our asking when we come to him as that kind of surrendered, obedient follower.

How to love God in a single word

One day a Pharisee approached Jesus with a question that we all desire the answer to. He asked, “What is the most important commandment.”  In this question he was asking, “Of all the commandments which one do we need to make sure we don’t miss?” You see there were 1,613 commands.  That’s a lot of commands.  Jesus took these 1,613 and He narrowed it down to an absolute focus and He replied. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’   This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Matt 22:37-39)

He said, the most important thing in life for us to do is love God with all our heart and soul and mind, in other words, with all our being. Everything else in life pales in comparison to loving God.

How do you do that? What does that mean? How is that fleshed out in real life?

The answer in a single word, OBEDIENCE.

Scripture speaks;

“But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:5

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15

“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” 1 John 5:3

“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” 2 John 6

So, this is what it all comes down to. This is the bottom line. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is ground zero. If you say you love God your life should be consumed with the asking and answering of two questions: 1. Where in my life am I failing to obey God? 2. Where in my life am I disobeying God. And then get busy at once obeying.

Of course the excuse we often offer is, “But there is so much about what God says and wants that I just don’t know. I might be disobeying or failing to obey and I just don’t know it. There is so much of the Bible that I am not familiar with.”

The answer to that is very simple, “Begin by obeying the parts you already know. Then, as you come to discover more of God’s will, obey it as well. Begin where you are.”

So, Jesus has a question for you, “Do you truly love me?” (John 21:16)  

Can’t Get No Respect

Since it is almost mom’s day lets talk about moms. That’s what I will be addressing this Sunday. We could talk forever on this one. But I want to zero in on one aspect of motherhood in particular, that I will discuss Sunday, and that is the issue of respect for authority. More exactly why is there such a lack of respect for authority today and what part do moms play in teaching their children respect for authority.

Let’s be right up front with this one. There is not an abundance of respect for authority in our world. And rightfully so in some cases. When we see a dozen police officers kicking the living day lights out of three men that were stopped on attempted murder suspicion, like happened in Philadelphia this week, it is hard to respect them or their actions regardless of the possible guilt of the three suspects.

When we read of teachers engaging in or taking sexual advantage of students, it’s really hard to respect them. When we learn of “respected” politicians engaging in the same crimes they have devoted their lives to cleaning up, I don’t have much respect.

But with all the extreme exceptions aside, why is there such a void when it comes to respect in our society? Where does the development of respect for authority, in whatever the setting, begin?

More specifically, what part do moms have in teaching their children respect for authority. And how do moms best instill this in their kids who will eventually determine the direction of society?

I would be interested in your insight, observations, discoveries and even opinions.

By the way I found this link to be a very good discussion of the lack of respect for authority in kids. Check it out.

http://mattsingley.typepad.com/matt_singleyquips_and_mus/2006/11/respect_authori.html

Endless problems result from lack of respect for authority, but in the final analysis I believe failure to require respect for authority from our children undermines how you want to teach a child to respond when their Heavenly Father asks them to do something, and that is our ultimate goal, isn’t it?