Shattered Relationships

Posted: March 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

As we study in class on Sunday mornings “works of the flesh” such as “jealousy,” “enmity,” “wraths,” “strife,” “factions,” it might be a helpful reminder to think of the “shattered relationships” that often plague families and friends in the world, but also touch the lives of God’s people.

We speak of husbands and wives who are on the verge of separation and maybe even divorce; parents and children who have given up and a child has left home or been tossed out; business partners who have severed ties and gone out to make it alone; friendships that have ended and bitter feuds that remain as a testimony to the failure of love that once bound souls together.

None of these unions fail without the presence of sin on the part of one—and in many cases both parties. With husbands and wives it may be neglect or indifference, failure to express appreciation or respect, or acts of immorality and unfaithfulness. With parents and children it may be extreme demands by parents or unwillingness of children to follow sensible rules. With business partners it may be dishonesty or disloyalty, struggle for power, or laziness. With friends it may be the interference of a third-party talebearer, lack of concern in time of need, or lying to cover up some failure.

All of us can understand how relationships are shattered if these kinds of failures persist. No bond can remain when one or both of the parties continue to mistreat one another or abuse the relationship by sin. But equally disturbing is the ongoing refusal to correct these deficiencies and the unwillingness on the part of either or both to mend the relationship. There are such qualities as apology, correction, and forgiveness. Ignoring these things or rejecting them when offered is understandable among worldly partners who have no commitment to God and Christ. But their absence among people of God, who themselves have been forgiven by grace, is inexcusable. Did not the Lord tell us in the words of the apostle Paul to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you” (Eph 4:32).

Yes, we all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). And as a result of that sin our relationship with God was shattered. At some point, we as Christians acknowledged our sins, corrected our lives, and by obedience called on God to forgive us (see Acts 2:37-41; Acts 22:16). God in His infinite love and mercy and grace granted us that forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and our fellowship and relationship with Him was restored.

How then in our relationship to one another can we refuse to apologize and correct our wayward behavior? Who are we, even if innocent, to deny forgiveness to those who kindly and willingly mend their ways? If God’s two greatest commands are to love Him with the totality of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, is it possible to please God and deny our fellow man mercy, love, and forgiveness—even if he is our enemy (see Mark 12:28-34; Matt 5:43-48; Rom 12:20-21)?

Many problems attend shattered relationships and some circumstances may hinder a complete restoration of the partnership. But if the hindrance results from stubbornness, lack of forgiveness, or a refusal to love a brother or sister in Christ—it stems from a lack of compassion and grace and that is no condition in which to meet the Father of grace and mercy in judgment. Remember: “blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” and “judgment is without mercy to him that has showed no mercy” (see Matt 5:7; James 2:13).   

-L. A.

 


As For The Lord

Posted: February 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.  It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col 3:22-24).

The master-slave relationship was one of the most common forms of employment in the first century.  Therefore, the employee-boss relationship of today should be governed by many of the same principles taught to slaves and masters in the New Testament.

In any work our hand finds to do we must remember who our true master or boss is, just like Paul instructed these slaves.  But what does working “as for the Lord rather than for men” really involve?

1. “Not with external service, as those who merely please men”

First of all, we must seek to meet God’s standards, not just man’s.  Man’s evaluation of our work is limited to the surface level.  They cannot see how we use every minute of the day.  They cannot always tell the amount of effort we are putting into our work.  But God sees our every action, word, and thought.  He sees every minute of every day.  He knows whether our heart is in our work or not.

And the Lord’s standards may differ at times from the standards of men.  God is not just results oriented.  The means do not always justify the end in His book.  God wants us to maintain a blameless character in the work we do, whether it is beneficial to productivity or not.  We must focus on passing His evaluation and strive to please Him in our work first and foremost.

2. “With sincerity of heart… do your work heartily”

If we are striving to meet God’s standards we must start with our hearts.  The condition of our hearts will determine what type of work springs forth from within (Prov 4:23).  We must be cultivating a genuine desire to do our work well and a positive attitude toward the tasks we have been assigned.  Our work should not just be a “have-to”, but a “want-to”.

Whether we’re flipping burgers or crunching numbers our work is an opportunity for us to glorify God.  Therefore, we must be motivated in our work, not just by the paycheck coming at the end of the week, but by the daily spiritual revenue being rendered to the Lord’s account.  This should help keep us motivated to come to work each day.

3. “Knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance”

We may not always get the recognition for our work that we feel we deserve.  But the praise of men is a short-lived reward.  If we are doing our work simply to be noticed and commended by men, we have our reward in full (Matt 6:1-4).  The praises of men are fickle and quickly pass away.  Commendation from one day can turn into criticism the next.  Trying to please everyone often turns into pleasing no one at all.

The praises of the Lord are not so fleeting and inconsistent.  His standard always remains the same.  He never fails to see the effort we are exerting or the sacrifices we are making.  He is understanding towards our short-comings and forgiving towards our faults.  And being pleasing in His sight comes with eternal rewards.

-Grady

 


A Problem Area For Preachers

Posted: February 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Paul told Timothy to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season” (2 Tim 4:2). It has been suggested that this phrase literally means to preach when folks like it and when they don’t. In another place the apostles prayed for “boldness” in their preaching (Acts 4:29). So, preachers are to boldly proclaim a message that will sometimes be unpopular.

In the process of doing this work, a preacher is in a precarious situation. This boldness may cause his hearers to think that he is over-confident. Some may imagine that he is close-minded. There may be the impression that he is not open to other points-of-view, or that he wants to stifle what others have to say. Sadly, in some cases and with some preachers, these accusations may be true.

However, no preacher ‘worth his salt’ wants to discourage open discussion of issues. And, while he may speak forcefully on a given topic, he acknowledges his own limitations and the possibility that he can err in understanding the Scriptures. If he is obedient to the Word, he knows that he (like all others) must continue to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18).

In this age of ‘political correctness’ it has become increasing unpopular to tell people that they are wrong about anything. But, of course, that is a significant part of what preachers do. Those who are doing their best to “reprove, rebuke and exhort” (2 Tim 4:2) will inevitably touch on some areas that are ‘close to home.’ When this happens, we urge you to seriously consider what has been said. Honestly examine yourself to see if you need to apply the lesson. Be willing to rethink your previous position. And, finally, do not hesitate to share your thoughts and concerns with the preacher. If he is the kind of man he ought to be, he will gladly discuss any issue with you. Give him the chance to do so!

-Greg Gwinn

 


Honor Your Father

Posted: February 28th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

We had met for coffee early one Sunday morning, and somewhere in our conversation my friend told me about his growing up. His last childhood memory of his father was at age five, as he watched him beat his mother in the front yard. Shortly thereafter, his mother took him and his sister and left, never to return. She never remarried but dedicated herself to being her children’s provider and protector—in the process, she became their hero.

As you’d expect, my friend grew up full of anger, promising himself that one day, he would have his revenge on the man who destroyed their family circle.

In his mid-twenties, my friend married, had four daughters, and became a Christian. Now, as a follower of Christ, he knew he must confront the hatred he had for his father, but his good intentions were easily put on the back burner. And the years passed.

Then came a day when, having been asked to preach, he prepared a lesson on honoring God and one another. Late on a Saturday night, he read again the command to honor mother and father, and like a ton of bricks it hit him: he was to honor his mother and his father. But how could he honor the man who beat his mother and was never there for them? And why should he be required to honor an abusive, womanizing alcoholic? “My father doesn’t deserve honor,” he cried to God, but as soon as he said it, an echo came back, “And you didn’t deserve to have my Son die for you, but He did.” Shaken to his soul, my friend knew that somehow, in some way, he must reach out to his dad.

The only thing he knew to do was to write a letter. “Father, as I was growing up I could not wait for the day when you and I would meet so that in some way I could either physically or verbally hurt you. But I am now a Christian, and I need to honor you. You are my father, and I want to tell you four things: (1) I forgive you; (2) I honor you; (3) If you need me, I will be there for you; and (4) I love you.” Later that morning, on the way to church to preach on honor, he mailed the letter.

A week later the phone rang, and my friend answered. The person on the other end was sobbing, but these words came through, “Son, this is your dad. I read your letter and I’m sorry. I’d like to see your family and meet my granddaughters.” Arrangements were made. When my friend and his family went to the airport to pick up his dad, he was especially touched when one of his daughters grabbed her grandfather’s hand and walked with him through the terminal and to the car. Over the next few years, the ties that bind deepened. My friend and his sister were there for their father during an illness; they were there to help him move into a new home; and they were with him at the end. They honored their father. Even more, they honored their God.

“The Christian ideal,” said Chesterton, “has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” Don’t tell me that some sins are so beyond the pale that we are exempted from acting redemptively toward the sinner. Don’t tell me that any hurt we’ve experienced from another is so deep that we can dismiss them as worthless and deny their uniqueness as one created in the image of God. And please don’t tell me that while you can forgive, you can’t forget and be reconciled to the miscreant who ruined your life. To hold such attitudes is to burn the very bridges Christ crossed in order to be reconciled to us (2 Cor 5.19). My friend puts the lie to all the pious tripe that postures as virtue; count him among the 7000 who have not bowed the knee to hatred or self-pity.

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4.32). Ask my friend about his experience with his dad and all he’ll say is, “To God be the glory!”

And so say we all.

-Kenny Chumbley

 


Flee, Follow, Fight

Posted: February 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

When the apostle Paul wrote two letters to Timothy, whom he had left at Ephesus to work as an evangelist, he was writing to the noblest of all the young men he had trained to preach the gospel. In the letter to the Philippians, at a later date, the apostle wrote of his desire to send Timothy to that church which he so dearly loved. They needed a man like Timothy to help them overcome some internal struggles. Paul remarked in that epistle that Timothy had been devoted to Paul in their labors together and that this young preacher was a dedicated servant of the Lord—one who stood above his fellow workers and unselfishly gave himself and his life to the things of Jesus (see Php 2:19-22).

Earlier when Paul addressed his first letter to Timothy, then a “youth,” he reminded him that as a preacher of the gospel he must by his manner of life set before the brethren a good example of faith, love, and purity. Only after giving heed to himself and his personal life could he then expect to give heed to his teaching and make an impact on the church (see 1 Tim 4:13-16). Paul then concluded this first epistle to Timothy with the three principles that offer both young and old a summary of a disciple’s life in Christ.

Flee. After discussing love of money as a temptation and snare that is the root of all kinds of evil, Paul warns this young preacher to “flee youthful lusts” (1 Tim 6:11; 2 Tim 2:2). Many preachers and brethren have learned the hard way that they must run away from the attraction and appeal of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (note 1 John 2:15-17). Some brethren hang around ungodly friends and their sinful practices as though the Lord was ignorant when he revealed that “evil companions corrupt good morals.” Like Joseph, disciples must “flee fornication” and all other evil that sets up camp in the backyard of their lives (see 1 Cor 6:18).

Follow. As important as it is to remove lust from our hearts and sin from our lives, it is equally necessary that we fill our empty souls with faith and love and humility and righteousness and goodness (1 Tim 6:11). As an empty house is an attractive haven for rats, mice, insects, and all kinds of creepy crawlers, so an empty life attracts the indwelling of spiritual darkness and wickedness (see Luke 11:24-26). The strength to resist the evils of Satan is the presence and occupancy in our souls of the fruit of the Spirit that comes through the gospel—the seed of the kingdom (see Gal 5:22-23; Php 1:11; Luke 8:15).

Fight. Finally, Paul tells the young preacher to “fight the good fight of faith.” It is not enough to run away from sin and walk in righteousness. That’s a good start. But along the way we must put on the whole armor of God and prepare ourselves for the attacks of Satan who as a roaring lion is determined to devour us (1 Pet 5:8-9). Yes, occasions demand that we be strong, stop, take up the weapons of righteousness and fight the evil that encounters and challenges us. These fights may sometimes be against outside forces and enemies or against adversaries within who are determined to corrupt our minds and destroy our will to “flee” sin and “follow” righteousness.

Brethren, this is wisdom from above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. It is there we must set our minds and affections. We have died with Christ and our lives must be hidden in him (see Col. 3:1-4; Rom 6:4-7).

-L. A.

 


Redeeming The Time

Posted: February 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Time is the great equalizer. We may all have different abilities, resources, and opportunities, but we all have the same amount of time each day: 24 hours, 1,440 minutes, 86,400 seconds. We may think of less busy people as having more time on their hands, but it is ultimately just an illusion. We all have been given the same amount of time each day, the difference is in how we choose use it.

To describe our use of time we often speak in monetary terms. When using time productively, we say we are “spending” or “investing” time. When using time unproductively, we  say we are “wasting” time. When we eliminate less productive uses of our time in favor of activities that are more fruitful, we say we are “saving” time.

This last concept is closely related with what the Bible calls “redeeming” time (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5). The word “redeem” very simply means “to buy back” and it always involves an exchange from a state of lesser to greater value. You might redeem a coupon for its cash value. You might pay to redeem your jewelry back from a pawn shop. In a spiritual sense, Christ redeemed us from the bondage of sin to the hope of eternal life. So, what does it mean to “redeem” the time? What are we buying it back from? What are we investing it towards instead?

The scriptures here are not urging us to simply “save” or “redeem” time for activities that are of more earthly profit, but areas of greater spiritual value. We are to redeem the time “because the days are evil” (Eph 5:16). We are called to exchange the time we have been spending on fleshly and worldly pursuits, to invest it in activities of greater spiritual profit. And this process needs to be pursued with great care and wisdom (Eph 5:15).

Certainly, this will involve eliminating sinful activities from my schedule, but that is just scratching the surface. I must continue day by day to refine how I use my time to bring more glory to God. I must seek to organize my schedule in a way that will help me accomplish the greatest good that I can in His service. I must surrender 24 hours,  1,440 minutes, and 86,400 seconds a day to living the way God would want me to. Are you redeeming the time?

-Grady

 


On Personalities

Posted: February 19th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

One of the many concepts that come through Scripture is how God can use different personalities to accomplish His work. Paul was not Peter, and John was not Matthew, and these differences in personalities, vocabularies, and ways of phrasing ideas are obvious just in surface reading. That God did not make them into robots is clear; that He used them for their personalities to accomplish great good is also clear. God used a man who had been a tax collector, and He also used a man who had been a zealot — two men on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but coming together in Christ for the same spiritual goals.

We should learn from this. How often do we hear about congregational divisions based not on doctrine, but on personality differences? Or how often do we hear criticisms of others based on differing personalities? Christians need to be very careful here.

I’m no psychologist, but I have been a student of people for a long time; and I also know myself. There are those who tend toward introversion and those who tend toward extroversion. There are the inhibited and the uninhibited. There are conversationalists, and there are those who quietly observe. Christians, as with any group of people, are comprised of the whole range of personalities. Take care that we do not judge one another just for that, for while Scripture speaks of sins and attitudes, it does not marginalize personalities — that one is more of a sinner or more righteous because he is more or less outgoing and more or less quiet or talkative.

This is not to say that we all shouldn’t strive to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in every way possible. This is not to argue that we are excused from trying to be an example and from reaching out with the Gospel. Nor is it to argue that we should, to the best of our abilities, make adjustments to become all things to all people within the boundaries of truth. All of us must strive to improve. But even within these efforts there is room for varying personality traits. Andrew was not expected to be Paul, and John was not told to change his personality to become Peter. They all had their place in the work of God. So do we all.

Just because someone doesn’t say something the way I would does not mean there is a problem. I may even deem something a little harsher or a little too soft for my personal tastes, but this is nothing the apostles didn’t face (see, e.g., the criticisms of Paul in 2 Cor 10-11). When we criticize someone just because that person didn’t approach an issue exactly like we do, or because we prefer to say it another way, we may be manifesting a bit of pettiness and discouraging others in the process. If they really are abusing truth or teaching error, then that’s what needs to be addressed. If the attitude is obviously out of place, then address that with the person.

The other factor here has to do with the way personality differences also receive or hear teaching. What works for one may not work for another. I might need to be dealt with bluntly while you might need a very gentle reminder (note the differences in the way Paul wrote to the Corinthians vs. the way he approached Philemon). One preacher might reach one group, while another reaches a completely different target group because they respond differently to personality types. This doesn’t mean that the one they didn’t respond as well to was mean-spirited or making terrible arguments or trying to turn people off. Sometimes it’s just a personal difference in perception, and when we have multiple preachers and teachers who are reaching out, one may succeed where another won’t. It has always been this way, and thank God for it!

I was impressed with all of this when, as a teenager, I heard two very different preachers who were working together in a gospel effort. They were both effective in their own ways, though they were far from clones of each other. And in the end, they were more effective together to reach more people. I wonder sometimes if we ought to be more conscious of using different personalities for that reason.

Thank the Lord that He can still make us one even though we are each individuals with very different ways of communicating and interacting with others. I am thankful for preachers, teachers, and all servants of God who serve Him through their own unique personalities.

-Doy Moyer

 

 


Yesterday and Today

Posted: February 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13-14).

A famous motivational speaker used to say that we should live in “day-tight compartments.” He wasn’t speaking in a religious context, but I believe what he said is true for religious people. Having learned from the past, we need to forget it… and seize the fresh opportunity that each new day brings to us.

One of my personal daily disciplines is to review each day at the end of the day. I don’t always have a lot of time to do it, but I try to review each day at least briefly before going to bed. I try to learn as much as I can from the day, even from the mistakes that were made. But once that review is done, I commit that day to the Lord and go to bed looking forward to the next morning. When I arise, my morning routine has nothing to do with the day before—it has everything to do with the new day that has arrived.

I’ve never “put my hand” to any kind of literal plow, but even a boy raised “in town” can see that it would be hard to plow a straight furrow if one kept looking backward (at least in the days before GPS-guided tractors). And Jesus did say something about that, didn’t He? “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

The past can be a valuable resource, certainly. We should be encouraged by it, and also humbled by it. Above all, we should be instructed by the past. But the past is gone. So whatever we were, what we are now matters more. We need to think about our past as Paul thought about his. What he had been was regrettable. “But by the grace of God,” he said, “I am what I am” (1 Cor 15:10).

Many people nowadays keep a daily journal. Imagine a person writing in so much detail each day that he or she needed to begin a new journal book each morning. In a sense, that’s what we are called upon to do at the start of each new day. But as we expectantly open that fresh, never-before-used book and start “writing,” we need to have decisively closed the previous day’s book.

“Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).

Gary Henry

 


Deviant Celebrities

Posted: February 12th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Reprint from the 1990s

Most folks agree that what we put into our bodies will affect our health. Nicotine, high concentrations of fat, and excessive amounts of food will harm our bodies, according to many studies. Similar studies show that fruits, vegetables, grains, etc. will enhance our physical well-being. Few would disagree with these conclusions.

The same people, however, question whether this principle applies to the mind. Many will contend that man can bombard his mind with indecency, perversion, deviant behavior, and other forms of mental trash and not be affected. We have personally argued for years that those who filter garbage through their minds will ultimately taint their thinking and transform their beliefs about sin. We may now be getting help from a sociologist and an English professor, who recently conducted a study that will soon be published in the Journal of Popular Culture.

Vicki Abt, sociologist, and Mel Seesholtz, English professor, both of Penn State University, studied 20 episodes each of the Phil Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, and Oprah Winfrey shows. These shows deal with such deviant behavior as a grandmother having sex with her paper boy, a husband committing adultery with his mother-in-law, girls who love to go out with trashy guys, skin-heads who want to kill Jews, and—you get the idea.

The two researchers, as reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, concluded: “If you see shows about men who sleep with their mothers-in-law enough, you get used to these things.” And “if you see this all the time, the man who doesn’t sleep with his mother-in-law will eventually become strange.”

Normally, Americans would be incensed by this kind of behavior. But, according to Abt and Seesholtz, in time with enough of these shows TV viewers can be desensitized—hardened and passionless toward such perversions. The same, of course, is true with “soaps,” where it is normal to hop in and out of bed with every man/woman except your husband/wife. Watch it enough and one becomes, in Paul’s words, “past feelings” about the sin of adultery (see Eph 4:17-19).

Deviants have become instant celebrities and full-time agents comb the country dredging up the scummiest of slime to feature on these talk shows. The shows themselves advertise for the weirdest, wackiest, wildest, “wantonest,” “weaselest,” and “warpest” dregs of the human race. And, lest we forget, they do this because this is what people want to watch.

“Our culture used to give us boundaries,” says Abt. “Today, there are no boundaries. Nothing is forbidden, anymore. Television emphasizes the deviant so that it becomes normal.” And, according to the Post-Dispatch, “Abt said the daily dosages of distress and dilemma have become more acceptable for viewers over time. The results, she said: Television prompts people’s actions rather than vice versa.” In other words, the constant ooze of sleaze from TV into the mind blurs the line between right and wrong. And once the line is blurred or obliterated conduct is affected.

Even as a child I could see that when you pour blackberry juice through cheese cloth to make jelly, the cloth is stained and turns black. So it is with the mind. Filter enough evil thoughts through man’s mind and it will be drenched and blackened with the corrupt and twisted ideas of Satan and the world. Continue the process day after day and that man will either become indifferent to sin, embrace sin, or both. It was our Lord who said that evil thoughts enter a man and defile him (Matt 15:18-20).

Do Christians really want the kind of society which deviants produce and in which they are celebrated? Surely not! We, then, must wake up to the corrupting influence of “talk shows,” “soaps,” “tabloid journalism,” “pornography and trash literature,” and the “movies.” Reject these shows and this kind of garbage and think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, praiseworthy, and virtuous (Php 4:8).

-L. A.

 


Baptism Is Necessary For Salvation

Posted: February 5th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” is a simple, straightforward message from Jesus that every human being can understand (Mark 16:16). Only hardened hearts rendered insensitive by theological concepts can be blind or deaf to this command. A lesson from the hardness of the Jews against Jesus because of “Jewish theology” should be a warning to modern man not to allow theological systems or denominational beliefs to harden their hearts against this simple truth. Many today “see” but do not perceive and “hear” but do not understand what this verse says.

When Jesus directed the apostles  to preach to every creature that those who “believe” and are “baptized” will be saved, He clearly says that both “faith” and “baptism” are essential to salvation. Only the parsing of words and twisting of meanings can escape this simple fact. Few have problems with the idea that “believers” shall be saved, but many of the same folks deny that baptism is required.

Those who believe this is merely “Church of Christ” theology or doctrine need to read carefully what R. C. H. Lenski, a Lutheran commentator, has written about this matter:

“Faith and baptism are combined here as the means of obtaining salvation. For one thing, faith and baptism always go together; the moment a man believes he will want and will have baptism. But believing is subjective, the act of baptism is objective. They go together in this way. Baptism cannot, therefore, be a mere sign or symbol that bestows nothing. If it were no more, it could not be so vitally connected with salvation. Baptism bestows, and the believing baptized person accepts and receives this great soteria [salvation] from the Savior. For anyone who comes to faith, baptism is the great means of grace, that is, the channel by which forgiveness, life, and salvation are bestowed upon him. As he believes the word, so he will demand all that the Word promises in baptism and thus the baptism act itself. He who claims to believe but refuses and rejects baptism most surely deceives himself about believing; his could be only a highly pathological faith” (The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel, pp. 766-767).

In an effort to avoid this truth about baptism, some scholars refer to Mark 16:16 as a “spurious” passage—a verse that was not originally included in the Gospel of Mark and was added later by those who made copies of the book. There is good evidence that this verse was originally included by Mark in his gospel, but regardless of how this controversy is settled—it is clear elsewhere in the New Testament that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38); that baptism is necessary to “wash away thy sins” Acts 22:16); that baptism “doth now save us” (1 Pet 3:21); that out of baptism one arises to “walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4) in the experience that Jesus called the birth “of water and the Spirit” (John 3:3-5); that baptism makes believers “sons of God” when by it they “put on Christ” (Gal 3:26-27); that by being baptized “into Christ” one becomes a new creature (Rom 6:3-4; 2 Cor 5:17); that baptism is “into Christ” and “into His death” where His blood was shed “for the remission of sins” (Rom 6:3; Matt 26:28).

That baptism is into the death of Christ shows that this act as an expression of a man’s faith proves that it, as Lenski writes, “is the great means of grace, that is, the channel by which forgiveness, life, and salvation are bestowed upon him.” As the apostle Peter asked concerning the household of Cornelius, so we ask about all men everywhere: “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized…?” (Acts 10:47). 

-L. A.