Posted: October 9th, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
Obedience, in any realm, involves three elements. One, it recognizes authority, whether a child to his parents, a citizens to his government, or a servant to his master. Two, it includes listening to learn what is required. And, three, it demands submission to what is commanded.
All of these elements are true of Bible obedience. The Greek word for obedience in our New Testaments combines a prefix, hupo, which means “under,” with the word, akouo, which means “to hear.” Together the word means “to come under what one hears.”
This is so apparent in the command for children to “obey your parents in the Lord” (Eph 6:1). Parents are the authorities in the family. God has authorized them to teach and train their children in the nurture and admonition of his word. Children are to recognize that authority, listen to what the parents say, and then submit to or bring their lives under that instruction.
Sinners need to grasp this truth about their relationship to God the Creator. All men have been made in God’s image and must recognize his authority over his creation (Genesis 1:26-27). Accepting that authority, they must open their hearts and ears to hear and understand what God has taught. Beyond that, they must submit to his teaching.
This learning process begins with the view that Jesus has “all authority,” and that they must confess him as Lord (see Matthew 28:18; Romans 10:9-10). It follows with the wisdom to “hear these words of mine,” as Jesus taught in the story of the “wise” and “foolish” men (Matthew 7:24-27). The “wise man,” though, is not only he that “hears” these words but he that “doeth them” – meaning to submit to the teaching of Jesus.
The importance of this is that salvation is conditioned upon obedience. “Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Jesus, as the Hebrew writer says, is the “author of eternal salvation” to “all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9). And he will render vengeance to “them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
The sinner who thinks he can merely call on the name of the Lord by faith alone has missed the significant element of obedience in baptism that puts him into Christ where he becomes a child of God and a new creature (see Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-4). There, as a result of the obedience of faith (see Romans 1:5; 16:26), he has forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
Posted: October 2nd, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
A major theme of the Old Testament anticipates the coming of the Messiah, who is to be the prophet and priest and king of an eternal kingdom. As prophet he would reveal God’s plan for human redemption, as priest he would offer himself as a sacrifice to redeem the world from sin, and as king he would establish and reign over God’s kingdom. And all this came to pass when Jesus, the Word who was God, became flesh and dwelt on earth. “All of this,” we say, yet many deny that the kingdom has yet arrived. To them, the time of the kingdom is at Jesus’ second coming. This, however, is to deny the clear teaching of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament.
Jesus, when he came the first time, announced: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom is at hand” (Mark 1:15). “At hand” means near. It was so near that Jesus said to his disciples and others standing near by: “There are some here of them that stand by, who shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). The kingdom was not to be of this world like kingdoms of men; it was to be a rule of the king within the hearts of men; it was to come when men with honest and good hearts responded to the gospel and were born of the water and the Spirit (see John 18:36; John 17:20- 21; Luke 8:11-15; John 3:3-5).
This kingdom came after the death of Jesus when sinners were purchased by the blood of Christ in obedience to the gospel message proclaimed on the first day of Pentecost after Jesus was raised from the dead. The Lamb of God, Jesus, was slain and by his blood purchased men of every tribe and tongue and nation and made them to be a kingdom (Revelation 5:9-10). This is the same body of people who were purchased by the blood of Christ and became the church of the Lord (Acts 20:28). Obedient believers, saints and faithful brethren, are called the church at Corinth, but were said to be translated into the kingdom at Colossae (see 1 Corinthians 1:2; Colossians 1:13).
This transformation of sinners is also called a birth of the water and the Spirit – a reference to the response of baptism that sinners make to the message of the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the apostles. This baptism by faith puts one into Christ and into his death, where his blood was shed. There, one becomes a new creature (see Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17). When buried with Christ in baptism, sinners die to sin and arise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
This happened on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit filled all the apostles (Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit guided the apostles into the truth, and they preached the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus – who was made both Lord and Christ. The message of the Spirit pricked the sinners’ hearts and they asked what to do. The answer was to repent and be baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:22-38). They that gladly received the message of the Spirit were baptized – being born of the water and the Spirit. They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching, subjecting themselves to the rule of Christ, and living as faithful citizens under that rule. That was the beginning of the kingdom. It is a spiritual body of citizens, not a world empire yet to come.
Posted: October 2nd, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
The Book of Revelation, as all New Testament books, was written for churches in the first century to describe and deal with the problems they faced. Revelation differs in that it is written in visions and symbols, but the message was still a contemporary one.
The writer, John, tells us, for example, that the events described in the book were “shortly to come to pass” and that the “time is at hand.” He makes this point to his readers at the beginning (1:1, 3) and at the end of the book (22:6, 10).
The apostle then addresses the book and its message to “seven churches that are of Asia” (1:4). The Spirit told him: “What thou seest, write in a book and send it to the seven churches: unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea” (1:11).
After penning a letter to each of the seven churches, he begins in visions and pictorial language to write about how these churches were suffering persecution, being imprisoned, and even put to death “for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” In the fifth seal he describes the blood of these martyred brethren, which was under the altar of sacrifice crying out to God to avenge their cause with wrath against their adversary (1:9; 6:9-11).
He describes their enemy as a beast come out of the sea who had received his power and authority from Satan. This enemy is helped by a beast coming up out of the earth – a beast with horns of a lamb but the voice of the Satanic dragon. These represent an evil power in the first century that was persecuting and putting to death all who would not receive its mark and bow before it (Chapter 13).
Some would identify this as the persecuting power of the Jews and others say it is the evil opposition of Rome. Regardless of its identity, it was a wicked enemy that the churches of the first century faced. The book ends with the defeat of this adversary and the victory of the martyred saints who reign with Christ (Chapters 19-20).
The point of the book is clear: God’s faithful children will find victory in Jesus – even if they die for their faith at the hands of ungodly men who serve Satan in an effort to destroy the church of the Lord.
The message of the book is likewise simple: the glorified Jesus, pictured among the seven lampstands, declares to the saints in tribulation, “Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the Living one; and I was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and Hades” (1:17-18). Jesus suffered and died but was victorious over death, and has the keys of victory for those in him.
Revelation does not describe modern nations and events, but struggles brethren of the first century endured and overcame through Christ.
Posted: September 11th, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
The apostle Paul was commissioned by God to bear witness of Christ and preach the gospel to the Gentiles. When he traveled to the various cities in Asia and Europe, his practice was to go first to a synagogue of the Jews and then to the Gentiles (see Rom 1:16; Acts 13:46).
When he entered the Jewish houses of worship, the apostle opened their scriptures, the Old Testament, and argued from them that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah the Jewish nation was expecting. More often than not, the Jews disagreed, rejected his teaching, and drove him from the synagogue and, often, from their city. This happened in the ancient city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-10). But after leaving this Macedonian town, he came to Berea some 50 miles away where he received an unusually different welcome.
The Bereans, Luke tells us, were “more noble” than their fellow Jews in Thessalonica “in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily” to see whether the things Paul preached were so (Acts 17:11). “Noble” here doesn’t mean they were a higher class of people politically, economically, or socially, but that they were of a higher rank spiritually.
Open Minds. They were nobler spiritually because their minds were open to what Paul taught. Luke tells us that they “received the word,” an expression that means they welcomed what the apostles said and listened to the passages he quoted and considered the arguments he made. By opening their minds to Paul’s preaching, they were able to grasp the points he was making; at least they understood what he declared to them.
Eager Minds. Beyond hearing what the apostle was saying, they listened with eagerness. “Readiness of mind” suggests the enthusiasm one might find among students who have come to class to learn. They are there because they want to be; they are, as it were, sitting on the edge of their seats; they are hanging on every word the teacher utters. The Bereans were hearing things that were attractive – a message that made sense and was pleasant to the ears.
Cautious Minds. The good news about Jesus, though delightful to the ears, wasn’t something they would receive unless it is true. They listened cautiously and made it a point to examine or search the Old Testament writings to see if what Paul said “were so,” an expression that literally means: whether the scripture “have it this way.” Their question: Does the life of Jesus really fulfill what the Old Testament teaches about the coming Messiah?
The New Testament commends the Bereans because this is the very kind of mind that can hear what the Bible says, understand what it teaches, and respond in the obedience of faith to its demands. Only people with the heart of the Bereans will believe that Jesus is God’s Son, repent in rejection and repudiation of sin, confess that Jesus is Lord, and be buried with Christ in baptism for the forgiveness of sins (John 20:30-31; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; Mark 16:16). God demands this of all men.
Posted: September 4th, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
Most religious groups who associate themselves with Christianity practice some form of baptism. But there are many reasons why they accept this ancient, first-century practice of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the apostles. To some it is an act of christening infants and other babies to dedicate them to the Lord. To others it is merely an initiation rite for Christians who want to join a particular denomination. And others would say they do it simply because God commanded it in the Bible. All of this misses the essential point of baptism as taught by Jesus and the apostles.
First of all, baptism is not for infants or babies; it is required only of those who have been taught the gospel, who believe that Jesus is God’s Son, who repent in repudiation and rejection of the practice of sin, and who confess that Jesus is Lord (see Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; John 20:30-31; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10). Secondly, baptism was never designed for someone who is already a Christians that he might join a local body of disciples. Finally, as important as it is to obey God, baptism had a far more specific purpose than merely doing what God commanded.
Baptism is necessary to be saved from sin. From the very beginning of baptism, practiced by John the Baptist, men and women were told to be baptized “unto the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). Jesus commissioned the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature: “He that believeth, and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). When the apostles, particularly Peter, began preaching the gospel at Jerusalem they told their hearers: Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ “unto the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Bear in mind that this is the same reason Jesus poured out his blood on the cross (Matt 26:28). If Jesus’ death was necessary to take away sins, so is baptism.
Baptism is necessary to reach the blood of Christ. The scriptures tell us two other things about the purpose of baptism: One, it is necessary to get into and put on Christ and, two, it is the means by which one reaches the death of Christ, where his blood was shed. Paul said: “For ye are all the sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). The same apostle also said: “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3). If a sinner can be saved without baptism, he is saved outside of Christ and without the benefit of the blood of Christ – the blood poured out on the cross.
Baptism is not a work that seeks to earn salvation. Paul contrasts the “washing of regeneration” with “works of righteousness” designed to merit salvation (Titus 3:5). Works of righteousness that earn salvation refers to perfect obedience (see Rom 4:1-4; Gal 3:10-11), but baptism is the “obedience of faith” that appeals to God through the death and resurrection of Christ for a good conscience (see Romans 1:5; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Hebrews 9:14). Baptism is the washing away of sins by calling on the name of the Lord for salvation (Acts 22:16), not a work of law that seeks salvation by perfection. Sinners, as Saul of Tarsus, called on the name of the Lord by repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:21, 37-38; Acts 22:16). This all sinners must do, even today.
Posted: August 28th, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
Catholic priests and many Protestants pastors perform what is called a christening ritual on infants shortly after birth. The ritual involves the sprinkling or pouring of water on the child’s head as the ministrant utters a few words of explanation to dedicate the child to the Lord. This they describe as baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Most gospel preachers at some time in their evangelistic life have been asked to perform this service. They refuse to do so for biblical reasons – the first of which is that sprinkling and pouring water on a person is not baptism. Baptism is immersion (see Roman 6:4). But the chief reason is that the New Testament nowhere teaches infant baptism. This is a practice that was started many centuries after the church was established and the Bible was written.
There are good reasons why Bible students never read of infant baptism in the scriptures. First, the Bible at no place teaches that infants are born in sin and have need of baptism. The prophet Ezekiel teaches “that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). Since baptism is “for the remission of sins,” there is no need to baptize an infant. Jesus also spoke of the innocence and purity of little children when he told his disciples that “to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 19:14).
Second, the Bible teaches specifically that baptism is for those who believe in Jesus as the Christ, repent of their sins, and confess Jesus as Lord. Jesus in the great commission told the apostles to preach the gospel to every creature and tell them: “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). Peter on the day of Pentecost told the believing Jews: “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The apostle Paul told believers that “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
Belief means to understand “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30-31), repent refers to “changing one’s mind” in the rejection and repudiation of sin (Luke 3:7-8), and confess denotes the utterance from the lips that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10). Obviously, infants are unable to perform these basic but significant tasks in preparation for baptism.
Finally, some have argued that infants were circumcised under the old covenant and that baptism is likened unto circumcision in the New Testament. This, they assume, means they should be baptized under new covenant teaching. The problem with this reasoning is that one cannot enter the new covenant until he knows the Lord (Hebrews 8:10-11), and that those who are spiritually circumcised in baptism are “raised through faith” in this working of God (Colossians 2:12). Knowing and believing in the Lord eliminates infants as subjects of baptism into covenant relationship with God.
Posted: August 21st, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
One’s understanding of the meaning of baptism depends on where that person seeks a definition. He might read from an English dictionary and find that it means “to immerse in water or sprinkle or pour water on in the Christian rite of baptism.” That is correct description of the use of the word in the English language by people in general.
That definition, however, won’t satisfy serious Bible students. They know that the scriptures were originally written in the Greek language, and they will want to know what Jesus or Paul or Peter meant when they commanded sinners to be baptized. When they take the time to research a dictionary that defines Greek words, they will learn that the original words used by biblical writers were baptisma [noun] and baptizo [verb].
J. Henry Thayer’s Greek lexicon says of the verb, baptizo, that it means “to dip, immerge, submerge” (94). William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich say, “to dip, immerse.” A secondary idea, growing out of this definition, is “to wash” or “to cleanse.” Totally different and unrelated words in the Greek language mean “to sprinkle” [rantizo] or “to pour” [cheo].
Beyond the exact meaning of the word “baptism” are two verses that declare precisely that baptism, in the likeness of Jesus’ burial and resurrection, is a “burial.” Paul wrote to the church in Rome: “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). At a later time he wrote to the church at Colossae in Asia: “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
Examples of baptism in the first century confirm this simple, straightforward meaning of the word. John the Baptist, who introduced baptism among the Jews, baptized near the city of Aenon because, the Bible says, “there was much water there” (John 3:23). When Jesus was baptized of John in the Jordan river, Mark describes him as “coming up out of the water” (Mark 1:10).
An Ethiopian, who was traveling in Palestine, learned about Jesus by the preaching of Philip and was commanded to be baptized. Luke, in the book of Acts, said of the two men: “And they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” He then says: “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:38-39).
It was centuries later, out of convenience, that men shortened the Bible teaching of baptism by immersion to sprinkling and pouring water on sinners. May God bless all men today with the conviction to follow the teaching of scripture and be “buried” with their Lord in baptism.
–L. A. Stauffer
Posted: August 21st, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
Scientists are getting increasingly nervous over the developing view among many of their colleagues that nature may have originated by intelligent design. They are fighting hard that no such “faith” be allowed in the classrooms where science is taught.
Science they argue means “to know” and is based on hypotheses, experiments, and demonstrable proofs. Only when these experiments and proofs can be replicated by other scientists can we accept them as fact. And, supposedly, only “facts” are worthy to be taught in classrooms.
We teach that the earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours, that it revolves around the sun every 365 days, and that gravity draws objects toward the center of the earth. All of this can be clearly established by a number of experiments. Even Christians are at peace with atheistic science teachers on these and many other matters of science.
But how did all this come to be? What is the origin of the sun, the earth, and the relationship of these entities to one another? Even the scientists don’t know, yet they want to teach some variation of the “Big Bang” theory to describe the origin of the solar system and their pet theory of “natural selection” to explain the rise of man from matter and simple forms of life. What experiment can we perform in a lab to prove either of these and many other so-called “scientific facts”?
The truth is that scientists walk by “faith” also. They simply “believe” this is what happened. Evolution through natural selection is nothing more than a working hypothesis. They cannot demonstrate the origin of matter, the transformation of matter into life, and the evolution of primitive forms of life into complex animals or man.
Anthony Flew, the world renown English philosopher and atheists, now in his 80s, finally admitted that the intricacies and complexities of DNA can only be explained by intelligent design. Michael Denton [Evolution: A Theory in Crisis] and Michael Behe [Darwin's Black Box], two prominent microbiologists, came to the same conclusion. Even Charles Darwin, in his Origin of the Species, where he taught evolution through natural selection, admits that his theory offers no adequate explanation of the origin and intricate workings of the eyeball.*
Lest scientists have a nervous breakdown, be it known that none of these men believe the Genesis account of creation; nor are any of them interested in teaching the Bible in biology or physics classes. But they do admit that life cannot be fully explained by “scientific proofs.” And some scientists are simply arguing that it is only fair that children in the classroom be exposed to the theory of “intelligent design” along with the theory of “evolution by natural selection.” Neither can be proved; both are matters of faith. Why not teach both and leave the children to examine the facts and decide for themselves.
* Darwin Wrote: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection [evolution], seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree” (Origin of the Species, A Mentor Book, 168)
Posted: August 7th, 2005 | Author: L.A. Stauffer | Filed under: Articles
Just a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that men are saved by many things. Yet we so often read from supposed Bible-scholars that men are saved by “grace alone” or by “faith alone.” They no sooner say this than they contradict themselves. Some say man is saved by “grace alone” but that he must believe. Others say he is saved by “faith alone” but he must “repent” of his sins and say the “sinner’s prayer.” If they would just stick with what the scriptures say, they could eliminate all this confusion.
Note what the Bible says about being saved:
- We are saved by grace (Eph 2:5).
- We are saved by faith (Eph 2:8).
- We are saved by baptism (1 Pet 3:21).
- We are saved by obedience (Heb 5:9).
- We are saved by confession (Rom 10:9-10).
- We are saved by repentance (Luke 24:47).
- We are saved by belief and baptism (Mark 16:16).
- We are saved by repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38).
- We are saved by hope (Rom 8:24).
- We are saved by works (James 2:24).
- We are saved by mercy (Titus 3:5).
- We are saved by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5).
- We are saved by the renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).
Reformation theologians and their modern Protestant heirs are so fearful of the medieval Catholic doctrine of salvation by works that they distort beyond recognition the Bible doctrine of the “obedience of faith” (see Rom 1:5; 16:26). To do this they subtly add the word “alone” or “only” to the teaching of salvation by grace and salvation by faith.
Yes, the scripture do condemn the Judaistic doctrine of “salvation by works”- by works of law or works of the law (see Gal 2:16). Every discussion of this topic in the New Testament refers to salvation by perfect obedience in the absence of grace (see Gal 3:10-11). It has no reference to works of obedience in acceptance of God’s gracious blessings in Christ.
Paul, for example, says we are all sons of God by faith because we have been baptized into Christ and have put on Christ (Gal 3:26-27). Men are not saved by merely being baptized, but because in the obedience of faith they have come into Christ and unto God’s grace. Paul also says of Christ that men are baptized “into his death,” where his blood was shed, and are, thus, saved by grace. Out of baptism they arise to walk as new creatures who are free from sin (see Rom 6:3-4; 2 Cor 5:17).
Those who add “only” to grace, faith, baptism, obedience, confession, repentance, hope, works, mercy – or anything else – are perverting the teaching of scripture and rejecting God’s plan of salvation by grace through the obedience faith.