Monday, March 28, 2016

Circumcision and Baptism

Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, the great Presbyterian theologian, in his polemics with the Reformed Baptist theologian Augustus Hopkins Strong on the subject of infant baptism, was uncharacteristically brief, even blunt:
The argument in a nutshell is simply this: God established His church in the days of Abraham and put children into it. They must remain there until He puts them out. He has nowhere put them out. They are still then members of His Church and as such entitled to its ordinances.
This debate can be reduced to one principle question: Does the covenant of grace in its New Testament administration embrace the children of believing parents just as it did in its Old Testament administration? Is the new covenant administration more restricted and less encompassing in its reach than had been the case previously? If children of believing parents were no longer embraced by the covenant as they had been, then the Jews would have been even more hostile toward the gospel than they already were because the condition of their children would have been far worse under the new administration than it had been under the old administration. But Scripture repudiates this pungent doctrine everywhere, differentiating children of believers from unbelieving parents and their children. How does one explain 1 Corinthians 7:14 if children are excluded from the new covenant whereby they were included in the old covenant? "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified [made holy] through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified [made holy] through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy" Why the commands to children in Ephesians 6:1-3 and Colossians 3:20 if they are not considered a part of the new covenant? Why does Paul say that we were circumcised by baptism ("in Him you were also circumcised . . . in baptism", Col. 2:11-12)?

In Acts 2, after Peter had preached his sermon, those gathered "were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?'" (v. 37). Peter answered them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (v. 38). But Peter did not stop there. In the context of baptism, Peter continued, "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself" (v. 39). The Belgic Confession argues that children in the new covenant, as in the old, should be baptized since "Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than he did for adults. . . . Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the 'circumcision of Christ' [Col. 2:11]."

Once a law is put in place, how binding is it? How long does its authority last? A law is binding from the time it is passed until its obligation is satisfied, until it is repealed, or until it is replaced by one that is of the same kind or for the same purpose. Nowhere in Scripture is there a command that makes the law requiring circumcision to be no longer binding. This command has never been fulfilled and it has never been repealed. There has, however, been a replacement, a substitution as to the sign and seal of the covenant of grace. Circumcision was replaced by baptism. The external practices are different, but the internal representation of them are exactly the same. Both are initiatory rites (Gen. 17:10-11; Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38-39; 8:12-13); both signify an inward reality (Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:2-12; Phil. 3:3); both picture the death of the old man of sin (Rom. 6:3-7; Col. 2:11-12); both represent repentance (Jer. 4:4; 9:25; Lev. 26:40-41; Acts 2:38); both represent regeneration (Rom. 2:28-29; Titus 3:5); both represent justification by faith (Rom. 4:11-12; Col. 2:11-14); both represent a cleansed heart (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Isa. 52:1; Acts 22:16; Titus 3:5-7); both represent union and communion with God (Gen. 17:7; Ex. 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6; Heb. 8:10); both indicate citizenship in Israel (Gen. 17:4; Gal. 3:26-29; Eph. 2:12-13; 4:5); both indicate separation from the world (Ex. 12:48; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Eph. 2:12); and both can lead to either blessings or curses (Rom. 2:25; 1 Cor. 10:1-12; 11:28-30).

God requires the seal of the covenant to be made to the children in Abraham's line, which is now anyone who is in Christ, the heirs of the promise (Gal. 3:17-18). The fact that baptism replaced circumcision as the sign and seal of the covenant of grace can be seen in Colossians 2:11-12 where Paul refers to our  "circumcision" as "baptism": "In [Jesus] you were also circumcised . . . having been buried with Him in baptism..." In my blog entry Baptism's Meaning, I had stated, "Baptism, whether by sprinkling, pouring, or dunking, is merely an outward demonstration of one's being dedicated to God for His purposes and uses." In the same paragraph, I also stated, "Baptism is not a public declaration of one's faith." My understanding of the truth regarding baptism was still growing at the time. While the latter statement is completely true, the former statement is not. Circumcision and baptism point awaynot in. Baptism does not save, does not regenerate, and does not mean the individual truly belongs to, or will belong to, the Lord. Baptism is not a public declaration of one's faith. It has nothing to do with us, our faith, or our personal testimonies. Baptism has nothing to do with an outward demonstration of our dedication to God for His purposes and uses. It may be some part of it, but that is not what baptism symbolizes, commemorates, or is about. Baptism refers exclusively to the work of the Holy Spirit. It symbolizes the gift of the Holy Spirit. We celebrate the sacrament in order to commemorate this.

Matthew Henry, commenting on Romans 2:28-29, wrote: "He is not a Christian that is one outwardly, nor is that baptism which is outward in the flesh; but is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men but of God." (Matthew Henry's Commentary, p. 307.) James M. Chaney, regarding Romans 6:2-4, wrote: "Or do you not know that all of us who have been circumcised into Christ Jesus have been circumcised into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through circumcision into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." (William the Baptist, p. 67) In both these passages, circumcision and baptism can be interchanged to teach the same truths. Both circumcision and baptism represent a cleansed heart. The sign and seal of the covenant of grace has been changed, but the law requiring it to be applied to the children of believers has never been fulfilled or repealed.

Here is an example that might help to put it in perspective: When you were born, were you born as a full citizen of your country with all the rights and responsibilities thereof? Yes, you were. However, because you were young, you did not know of these rights and responsibilities and could not appropriate them. You had to be taught them. When you were older, you then either embraced them as your own or rejected them, which is treason and demands you leave your country. The same is true concerning circumcision and baptism. The son circumcised on the 8th day had no faith of his own. He knew nothing of the covenant promises and had to be taught them. As he grew, he could then embrace what he was taught by faith and appropriate the blessings unto himself, or reject what he was taught and appropriate the curses unto himself. Either way, the sign and seal of the covenant of grace was a witness either for or against him. If he rejected the faith, he wore the sign and seal of the covenant hypocritically, which only served to increase his condemnation. "For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them" (2 Pet. 2:21).

David C. Jones poses the following questions: "Are [these little ones, by virtue of their parents' relationship to Christ,] also brought into a new relationship with Christ even though they are too young intellectually to apprehend the gospel and to appropriate it for themselves in the conscious exercise of repentance and faith? Does their psychological inability to fulfill the conditions required of adult converts render the idea of discipleship meaningless so far as infants and small children are concerned? Or, [is their covenant status to be granted and baptism to be administered to them, and] are they to be discipled along with their believing parents, given the solidarity of the family unit?" His question about psychological inability is something we need to consider deeply. What about mentally handicapped persons, who, even in adulthood, have the psychological inability to fulfill the conditions required of adult converts? Does this mean there is no hope for the mentally handicapped? "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you" (Matt. 28:19-20).

Under the old covenant, the sign and seal of the covenant of grace was only administered to Jewish male children. Under the new covenant, the sign and seal of the covenant of grace expanded its reach to include women and Gentiles. Are we to assume that while it expanded to include women and Gentiles, it no longer encompassed children? The new covenant is said to be a "better" covenant. How is it better if children, who were once included in the covenant, are now excluded from it?

Paul's Baptism

Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He [said,] "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do." And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one. And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and the Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Behold, here am I, Lord." And the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him, so that he might regain his sight." But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he did to Thy saints at Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon Thy name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake." And Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit." And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." And all those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.
(Acts 9:1-22)
Study this passage closely and take note of the circumstantial evidence surrounding Paul's baptism. Verse 9 of this chapter says "he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank." Obviously Paul's physical condition would have been weak. According to verse 19, what happened? "And he took food and was strengthened." If Paul was in great physical weakness, and you were planning to immerse him, when would the best time for doing so be? Clearly, as soon as he regained his strength. Would you have set off on foot immediately to look for a place to immerse him, or would you have given him some food to strengthen him first? According to Scripture, when did Paul's baptism take place relative to when he ate?
And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he arose and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. (v. 18-19)
If one reads this passage in the original Greek, one will see even more clearly the circumstantial evidence mounted against the assumed speculation of immersion. This passage is especially in favour of sprinkling or pouring.

Furthermore, in every account (that of Luke, and those of Paul), we find Ananias saying, "Stand up and be baptized" or the statement, "he stood up and was baptized." The literal translation is: "standing up, he was baptized" (see Acts 22:12-16 and Acts 9:17-18). How could Paul have possibly been baptized by immersion if he was baptized on the spot as he stood up?

The Ethiopian Eunuch's Baptism

But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Arise and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is a desert place. And he arose and went; and behold, there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship. And he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.
And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."
And when Philip had run up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"
And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this: "HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER; AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT, SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH. IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO SHALL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH." And the eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please [tell me,] of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself, or of someone else?"
And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
And as they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
And Philip said, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." And he answered and said, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch saw him no more, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus; and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.
(Acts 8:26-40)
Let us examine the circumstantial evidence and see if we can determine the truth regarding the Ethiopian eunuch's baptism. We know from geography that Gaza was some forty or fifty miles southwest of Jerusalem. The Bible informs us that this was "a desert place" (v. 26). Stories in the Old Testament inform us that this was a poorly watered area where wells had to be dug just to provide water for animals. There are accounts in the story of Abraham of such wells (Gen. 21:25-31), and Abraham's servant who went to find Isaac a wife stopped at such a well where Rebekah came to get water (Gen. 24:10-21). From Genesis 26:12-22, Exodus 2:16-22, and other passages, we learn the value of these wells in that region. These wells were valuable property. These logical facts concerning the quality of the land do not point to a good chance of finding enough water for immersion.

By the Ethiopian eunuch asking, "Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?," he must have known something about baptism already. He was reading from the middle of Isaiah 53, which we learn from the quote in Acts 8:32-33. He must have been studying it for some time. Remember, chapters and verses did not exist in the Scriptures at that time. Is there anything nearby that could have suggested the subject of baptism to him?
Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand. (Is. 52:15)
When they came to water, no doubt the passage he had read earlier was still on his mind, thus prompting him to ask, "What prevents me from being baptized?" No doubt Philip would have been able to explain the importance of the Spirit's work and how the water in baptism is a symbol of the Spirit's cleansing, descending or being sprinkled on those who trust in Jesus.

When it says they "went down into the water" and they "came up out of the water," all this means is that they walked into the water and walked out of the water. If I walk from the shore to the middle of a stream that only comes to my ankles, I have "went down into the water." When I walk from the middle of the stream back onto the shore, I have "came up out of the water." The Greek word katabaino (καταβαινω) translated as "went down" means "to descend." The Greek word anabaino (αναβαινω) translated as "came up" means "to ascend." The Greek word eis (εις) translated "into" is where we get our term eisegesis from, referring to the reading into of a text ideas and concepts that simply are not there. The Greek word ek (εκ) tranlated "out of" simply means "from." Immersion is not in view here, otherwise Philip got baptized as well.

What is the likelihood that after an immersion baptism, Philip traveled 20 miles to Azotus dripping wet? There is no mention of preparation in this passage, such as dry clothing, or any other passage related to baptism. If one's hypothesis concerning this account is that the Ethiopian eunuch was immersed, all the probabilities of circumstantial evidence point against it.

How does it seem to you?

"[Study] to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." 2 Timothy 2:15

"Now [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things [taught to them by the Apostle Paul] were so." Acts 17:11

The Law and Baptism

Once a law is put in place, how binding is it? How long does its authority last? A law is binding from the time it is passed until its obligation is satisfied, or until it is repealed. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished." (Matt. 5:17-18). What he means by this is that the law will not be repealed or voided, or become no longer binding, in the smallest degree. The law will only be finished when all its commands are carried out and completed. Once the reason that a law was laid down has been fulfilled, it is no longer necessary to follow that law.
God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. . . . and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you." (Gen. 17:9-11)
Here is a law decreed and set forth by God Himself. It is both a positive command and a the LORD God said! How long did this law apply? Did it only apply to Israel?
Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. (Gal. 3:7)

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:29)
The covenant God made with Abraham was the covenant of grace: Abraham and his descendants would be saved by faith. The above passages clearly show who the descendants of Abraham are. A law is binding until it is either fulfilled or repealed. Show, from Scripture, that the command—the law requiring circumcision—is no longer binding. God requires the seal of the covenant to be made to the children in Abraham's line, which is now anyone who is in Christ, the heirs of the promise.
What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Gal. 3:17-18)
Where, in Scripture, is there a the LORD God said that fulfills or repeals this command? Any laws from the Old Testament that have not been fulfilled or repealed are still binding. Most of the ceremonial laws foreshadowed Christ and His work and were indeed fulfilled by Him. Therefore, it is true that they have ended. The law that requires us to observe the Sabbath did not relate to Christ or His work, and was not fulfilled by Him. Therefore it is still binding. However, we see in Scripture that the specific day was substituted in order for us to commemorate the resurrection of Christ. The law requiring Abraham and his seed after him to apply the seal of the covenant to their infant children was also not related to Christ or His work, and was not fulfilled by Christ. Circumcision was ended through the very same process that caused Passover to end—what we call substitution.

The law that we are looking at has two important aspects to consider: First, and most importantly, it required parents to consecrate their children to God by applying the seal of the covenant to them; Second, at the time it was given, the law specified that this seal should be circumcision. The essential part of the law was the consecration itself—the applying of the seal. The rite, which was originally circumcision, could end if it were replaced with another rite, either of the same kind or for the same purpose. But the law itself, requiring children to be consecrated to God, stands to this day unfulfilled and unrepealed.

Baptism has replaced circumcision as the seal of the covenant. The two rites have the same purpose and the same significance. Both are initiatory rites into the church and both symbolize the purity of the heart. The law requiring children to be consecrated to God has not been repealed. The rite has merely been changed—from circumcision to baptism. The New Testament rite is simpler, but its purpose and significance are the same. The one takes the place of the other. Once, circumcision was the seal of the covenant; now, by the authority of God, it is baptism.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you. (Rom. 11:17-21)
The tree is and has always been Christ. He is the true Israel. Jewish children grew up in this tree. Do the children of Gentiles who were grafted into this tree somehow grow up separately from this tree only to be grafted in later? Of course not! They now grow up in this tree, too. The same warnings that applied to the Jewish children also apply to them. All the apostasy passages in the New Testament are warnings to those who grow up in this tree to not neglect so great a salvation by becoming covenant breakers and wearing the sign and seal of the covenant hypocritically, which would only serve to increase their condemnation. Which means they would have been better off having never heard of Christ than to be a covenant breaker.

The sacrament of baptism is a beautiful thing commemorating the gift and work of the Holy Spirit. As Bryan Chapell has said, "We must confess that some bring their children for this sacrament because of the sweetness of the ceremony, or because of the traditions of family and church, or even with the misguided expectation that somehow 'holy water' will magically protect their child from hell. Yet neither sentiment nor tradition nor superstition is sufficient reason for believers to bring their children to be baptized. And, thankfully, such reasons are not the basis of our church's practice. We baptize infants because we believe that the Bible teaches us to do so." Those who oppose infant baptism, performed correctly and biblically, are taking from the Word of God based on mere assumption. Let us be biblical Christians and administer this holy sacrament biblically.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jesus' Baptism

Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Matthew 3:13-17)
What did Jesus mean when He said, "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (v. 15)? Righteousness is a legal term. It differs from holiness. Holiness has to do with our inward purity, while righteousness involves our relationship to the law, whether we have done what the law requires. Jesus is our Great High Priest. In fact, He is the only real Priest who was ever in the world. Aaron's priesthood was only a representation of Christ's, so Aaron and his descendants may be called representative priests, and Christ called the real Priest. The Aaronic priesthood involved only the tribe of Levi, who were all descendants of Aaron. But look at what the writer of Hebrews says:
For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. (7:12-14)
In verse 12, the author states, "For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also." When the priesthood of Aaron was first instituted, the tribe was formally consecrated to be set apart for their high calling. Whether every priest from then on was set apart this way we do not know. But when a change took place as great as the one Hebrews speaks of, such as a change to another tribe (in connection with which, we are reminded, Moses said nothing about priests), then it would certainly be necessary for this new priest to comply with the law of consecration. It was this law that Jesus referred to when He said, "It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." We find this law of consecration in Numbers 8:5-7.
Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel and cleanse them. And thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them..."
How is it that Jesus was likely baptized? By immersion? That is assumed by sheer speculation. Let us examine the larger events of baptism in order to develop a right understanding. John the Baptist's ministry lasted about six months. We can estimate that he baptized about two or three hundred thousand people. That is an average of 1,500 per day! But, for argument's sake, let us say he baptized 10,000 during his ministry. Let us suppose that during his ministry John spent four days each week baptizing. In those hundred days, if he averaged 100 immersions per day, allowing three minutes per immersion, he would have had to stand in the water for five hours straight each day. What do you think the likelihood of that was? It is almost certain that no one could endure that kind of exertion for such a long time. John's method of baptism would have no doubt been based on some corresponding ceremony in the Old Testament. Hebrews 9:19 helps to provide the likely answer:
For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to 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.
John probably baptized using a hyssop branch. This branch was particularly well-suited, and often used, for that purpose. Using this method, John could have easily baptized thousands of people in a day without strenuous effort. But let us look at another example. On the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people were baptized and added to the church. Peter's sermon started in the morning. We do not know how long it lasted. If they were given six hours with which to baptize all these people, each of the 12 Apostles would have to perform 42 baptisms every hour. That is one immersion every 90 seconds! If we allow three minutes per each immersion, it would have taken 12 hours. What do you think the likelihood of that was? Remember that the majority of the Jewish people and leaders were enemies of the Christians. There would have been at least two obstacles for them to overcome: first, finding a place that could accommodate so many immersions; and second, being allowed to perform them once this place had been found. Not to mention preparing the amount of water they would require beforehand. Circumstantial evidence simply does not bode well for immersion. These logical difficulties destroy the credibility of immersion.

When Scripture says "Jesus went up immediately from the water" (Matt. 3:16) or "And immediately coming up out of the water" (Mark 1:10), it simply means that He walked out of the water. People assume by their reading of Matthew and Mark that as soon as Jesus rose from His immersion that the Spirit descended upon Him. Nowhere does Scripture say Jesus went under the water. Luke's account helps us prove this by giving us further information: "Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, 'Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well-pleased'" (v. 21-22). Furthermore, let us examine two Greek words that appear in the accounts of Matthew and Mark. The Greek word anabaino (αναβαινω) translated as "went up" and "coming up" means "to go up, ascend up, climb." The Greek word apo (απο) translated as "from" and "out of" can also be translated as "away from." In other words, both passages make complete sense when we understand they are speaking of Jesus walking up onto the shore away from the water, where He would then pray and the Holy Spirit descend upon Him: "Jesus ascended immediately away from the water" and "immediately ascending away from the water."

If we consider this information from an a priori standpoint, what we might expect or anticipate about things beforehand, based on the nature of how they are, it will help us greatly in our understanding. The requirements in the Old Testament were often taxing, requiring great effort and self-denial on the part of the worshipers. The New Testament demands much simpler service, and the sacraments are easier to administer. Compare the Passover to the Lord's Supper. Also, compare circumcision to baptism.

Tell me what is wrong with these real-life examples (we have all read or heard of such cases). There are people who, in the dead of winter, will travel miles from the location of their church and chop holes in the ice just to be able to immerse people. There are other people who will travel dozens of miles from the location of their church just to be able to immerse people. Stories of immersions can get more and more complicated and require people to undergo more and more hardship to contend with the inconvenience. Where is the simplicity of worship in such actions? Anyone willing to perform this sacrament under such trying conditions deserves great credit, and this spirit of self-righteousness is one of the things that makes immersion appeal to people the way it does. Immersion is much closer by practice to the law of Moses, or even the Pharisees, than the simplicity of worship in the New Testament. The purpose of baptism is to symbolize the gift of the Holy Spirit. This process is best symbolized by the application of water.

Based on the circumstantial evidence and logical difficulties, Jesus would have been baptized by John using a hyssop branch, dipped in the water and sprinkled over Him. The water descending upon Him symbolized the descending of the Spirit, which would soon transpire. Simplicity of worship. Not strenuous exertion.

Baptism: How Should It Be Administered?

Jesus' burial had nothing to do with His work in saving sinners! No doubt this statement offends many, but let us examine the truth of it. What would have been different if, after dying at about the ninth hour, Jesus' body had been left on the cross until Sunday morning, and then He had come back to life and come down from the cross? Nothing. Is burial essential to prove His death? No. Is the essential part of His resurrection the point of His coming out of the tomb, or simply coming back to life? Clearly, coming back to life, which he could have done even if He had not been buried. Ergo, Jesus' burial had nothing to do with His work in saving sinners. There is nothing worth commemorating there.

The Lord's Supper commemorates the death of Jesus. We see the brokenness of His body in the breaking of the bread, and we see the shedding of His blood in the drinking of the wine. The Lord's resurrection is commemorated every Sunday when we gather together for worship. So what does baptism commemorate?

What would you think of a denomination that bases its fundamental position on a passage of Scripture written thirty or forty years after Christ's ascension, when the writer had no intention to teach anything on the subject? This is what Baptists do with Romans 6:2-4. They interpret this passage eisegetically. Paul referred to it only incidentally, to illustrate a point that had no bearing on his main subject. We could search through the four Gospels and Acts (or, for that matter, the entire Bible) and not find any other references that imply anything like what the Baptists suggest.
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
What were the circumstances of Jesus' burial? He was taken down from the cross and put in a new tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. What was the tomb like? It was carved out of rock. What do the Scriptures say about the burial? His body was carefully laid in the tomb, and a stone was rolled against the door (Mark 15:46). Was Jesus' body, when he was buried, put down into the earth, and when it was resurrected, did it come up out of the earth? Clearly not. Did the burial of Jesus bear any resemblance to a burial from today? No. If Jesus' burial had been exactly like a burial today, would immersion be the proper way to symbolize it? Of course. But that is not how Jesus was buried.

In Romans 6:2-4, baptism is being used as an illustration. But what is Paul actually illustrating? Paul has been saying that where sin increases, grace abounds all the more. Some might conclude that since grace is greatest where sin is strongest, we should let sin continue so that grace may abound. But Paul says, "May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?" Then he introduces his illustration in verse 3. If "baptized into Christ Jesus" means to be united with Christ, that is, to be "in Christ," as it clearly does, then what is meant by "baptized into His death"? Jesus is our substitute, so obviously Jesus' death becomes ours. Jesus is our representative. Jesus' death becomes our death through our union with Him. Colossians 2:12 bears the same truth. How do we secure that union? Through baptism. Being "baptized into Christ Jesus."

The passage uses the word "therefore," which means we should ask the question, "What is it there for?" The word "buried" is tied to the overall topic by the word "therefore," indicating that it results from something previously stated. The phrase "buried with" means "buried together with." Both burials (Jesus and His people) were one—they were buried together. How are we buried with Him? By "baptism into death." This cannot mean anything different than the previously-discovered fact. Where is there a reference to the mode of baptism in this passage? Based on what we have just discussed, no one can draw the ridiculous conclusion that water baptism itself is what unites us to Christ.

If circumcision were still the rite of initiation into the church and signified our union with Christ, Romans 6:3-4 would read, "Or do you not know that all of us who have been circumcised into Christ Jesus have been circumcised into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through circumcision into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." Both circumcision and baptism are symbols of the Spirit's work. As Matthew Henry made application in Romans 2:28-29: "For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly; neither is baptism that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Christian who is one inwardly; and baptism is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God." Circumcision and baptism both represent the cleansing of the heart.

Baptism was not meant to symbolize or commemorate burial. It was intended to symbolize the work of the Spirit. This symbolism does help to shed some light on the mode of baptism, though. If the Bible had said, "Christ will be buried in the earth, but you shall be buried by baptism in the water," that would settle the issue of immersion. Nobody could explain away a statement like that. So what do we do with this statement, "I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit"? The great work of the Spirit is to cleanse, purify, and sanctify. Using water in baptism commemorates or symbolizes the work of the Spirit. The Bible frequently states that we are cleansed by Christ's blood, too. "For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement" (1 John 5:8). The Bible teaches us that all three—the Holy Spirit, the water, and the blood—cleanse and purify us. While this verse is contested as to whether or not is belongs in the text, nevertheless it agrees with the whole of Scripture on this point.

The Holy Spirit plays an integral part in our salvation. He convicts us of sin, draws us to turn to Jesus, regenerates and sanctifies us. If the Lord's Supper refers exclusively to the work of Christ, then baptism refers exclusively to the work of the Holy Spirit. Let us look at some passages dealing with the work of the Spirit:
"Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high." Isaiah 32:15a
"For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, And My blessing on your descendants." Isaiah 44:3
"And I will not hide My face from them any longer, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel," declares the Lord GOD." Ezekiel 39:29
"And it will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. And even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days." Joel 2:28-29
"And I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the one who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'" John 1:33
"And immediately coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens opening, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon Him." Mark 1:10
"By the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior." Titus 3:5c-6
"Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear." Acts 2:33 (Keep in mind the passage from Joel quoted in Acts 2:17-21.)
The words used to describe the work of the Holy Spirit are baptized with, poured upon, poured out, and descending on. Are there any passages that represent the work of the Holy Spirit as being anything like immersion? Some might attempt to refer to Acts 2:2, trying violently to force the word "filled" to somehow refer to being "enveloped" or "buried": "And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent, rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting." Note that this passage says nothing about the Spirit Himself, but that the sound filled the entire room. Not until the third verse do we see a manifestation of the Spirit's baptism. When it comes to baptism, is the individual put into the element, or is the element applied to him/her?

Baptism is meant to commemorate or symbolize the work of the Holy Spirit. What light does the work of the Holy Spirit throw on the question of the mode of baptism? Romans 6 is the only place where immersion seems to be taking place, and yet we have proven that that is not the case. Based on the use of the Greek words, we see pouring in Acts 1:5, Acts 11:15-16, and Acts 2:17; we see dipping (or partial immersion) in Matthew 26:23 and John 13:26; we see complete identification in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4; and we see sprinkling when we compare Hebrews 9:9-10 with Numbers 19:4, 13, 17-30, and then look at Hebrews 9:13-14. But where do we see complete immersion? The commitment to just one mode is not necessary based on the historical use of the words, but the work of the Spirit clearly indicates a pouring. Shower (pouring), bath (immersion).

Consider finally John 2:6: "Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each." Jews could not possibly have immersed themselves in one of these jars, let alone their tables or couches (see Mark 7:4). Immersion in Scripture is purely speculation. Second Timothy 2:15 applied like a Berean will exegetically eliminate all concepts of immersion imposed on the texts (including those of Jesus going to the Jordan to be baptized by John). There is no biblical grounds for baptism by immersion.

When you study this subject out for yourself, use only the Bible as your authoritative source and do so in three stages:
  1. Find the meanings of the words used based on their contexts.
  2. Study the significance of the ceremony, looking at what baptism was meant to symbolize or commemorate.
  3. Carefully look at examples of baptism in the New Testament in order to discern the mode used.
Be completely honest with yourself and the results. Then be obedient to Christ and conform your beliefs to the findings.

Historical Context and Baptism

One of the reasons why many people today have a hard time understanding the New Testament, and indeed the entire Bible, is because they misinterpret large portions of it. They fail to study the context surrounding it. The individual who grew up in a post-renaissance affected culture attempts to interpret the Bible individualistically rather than corporately or federally by household. Most cultures around the world today still function corporately or federally, and this is precisely how the biblical cultures worked. If we fail to grasp this when interpreting Scripture, we will arrive at false conclusions every time. The reason why most people fail to understand the New Testament is because they are attempting to impose modern debates and questions upon it. They are exporting modern ideas to the past that are not native to the past. This is called eisegesis.

Homosexuals and their supporters are guilty of this when they try to claim that the Bible says nothing against homosexuality and that the biblical cultures knew nothing of modern homosexuality. They are attempting to export modern practice and acceptance thereof to the past and impose our modern perverse understanding upon them. I will not address this issue any further here as I have addressed it thoroughly elsewhere, many times over.

One of the reasons why many modern churches fail to understand infant baptism is due to the ignorance of context as well. Grabbing a concordance and looking up every occurrence of the word in the New Testament will not build a doctrine for you on the issue. You need to look up all the passages that address parents, children, generations, descendants, promises, covenants, circumcision, Gentiles, Jews, olive trees, and countless other important areas. The subject is larger than it appears. You cannot begin with the question, "What does the New Testament say about infant baptism?" You need to begin with the question, "What were the debates the early church faced?" You have to move forward with your reasoning. You cannot move backward. In other words, think of it as looking at a chess board. You cannot start at the end of the game with the remaining pieces on the board and try to figure out how the end result occurred. You need to start at the beginning of the game and follow each move through, and then you will understand the end result. When you understand circumcision and the transition from circumcision to baptism, then you will understand baptism correctly.

Circumcision and baptism point awaynot in. Baptism has nothing to do with our own personal faith and testimony. It points to Christ and His righteousness. There is a reason why belief (faith) and baptism are so closely united. The sign and seal of both circumcision and baptism and what they represent are exactly the same. They point to the righteousness of Another. The debate in the early church was not over whether or not infants should be baptized; it was over whether or not Gentiles and their children should be circumcised. Apart from Tertullian, this debate over baptizing children did not exist historically until 1522 A.D. Jewish Christians still circumcised their children, but they also baptized them. Gentiles were not required to circumcise their children. If Gentiles did not baptize their children, this would have created a division in the church between Jews and Gentiles, of which Christ made one new man. Jewish children would have been included as members of their local church through both circumcision and baptism, whereas Gentile children would have been excluded as members. The Gentile fathers would be tempted to listen to the Judaizers and have their children circumcised so that they, too, could be included as members of the church. Baptism was a requirement for both Jew and Gentile.

The baptistic argument that we should not baptize infants because they are too young to express faith is ignorant and without warrant or foundation. Infant males were circumcised on the eighth day, their circumcision automatically placing them in covenant membership with God, and yet what kind of faith can an 8-day-old infant express? Circumcision and baptism have nothing to do with our expression of faith or our personal testimony. They represent the testimony of the One they point to: Jesus. Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, were all circumcised, being members of the same covenant. Ishmael and Esau wore the sign and seal of Christ hypocritically. Therefore, their circumcision was a witness against them, which served to increase their condemnation. They neglected so great a salvation. Baptism is exactly the same. A child growing up rejecting the faith is wearing the sign and seal of Christ hypocritically. His/her baptism is a witness against him/her, which will serve to increase his/her condemnation.

Abraham received believer's circumcision; his children and his children's children did not. Someone coming to Christ for the first time ever will receive believer's baptism, but their children and their children's children will not. Early Gentile believers were grafted in to the tree that is Christ, but their children grow up in that tree. Children of believing parents are included under the umbrella of their parents' faith. This is why Paul can say, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his [believing] wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy" (1 Cor. 7:14). It is also how he can apply the promises to Gentile children: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH" (Eph. 6:1-3).

In Acts 2, after Peter had preached his sermon, those gathered "were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?'" (v. 37). Peter answered them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (v. 38). But Peter did not stop there. In the context of baptism, Peter continued, "For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself" (v. 39). The Belgic Confession argues that children in the new covenant, as in the old, should be baptized since "Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than he did for adults. . . . Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the 'circumcision of Christ' [Col. 2:11]."

The reason why so many professing Christians do not understand a great many things about Scripture, including infant baptism, is because they have no concept of covenants and covenant relationships. If they would study the issue of covenants, a great deal of issues would be lain to rest for them. They would have a greater understanding of Scripture as a whole, and of God's workings in particular. Those who believe you can lose your salvation do so because they have no concept of being in covenant with God and what that entails. Apostasy is the result of those in Christ who never truly belonged to Him in the first place. Covenant relationships explain this perfectly, and bring the apostasy passages into clear light. Understanding the purpose of covenants and how covenants work would, or at least should, eliminate several doctrinal differences, showing them to be opinions opposed to the factual evidence.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Can You Lose Your Salvation?

That I even have to address this issue is simply ridiculous considering everything Scripture has to say on the matter. The arguments of those who believe that you can lose your salvation are not only illogical, but they are also riddled with error, misinformation, inferences, presumptions, assumptions, conclusions drawn on assumptions, and the greatest eisegetical interpretations I have ever seen. These people are unteachable, continuously attempting to beat the same dead horse in hopes that maybe this time it will get up and whinny (neigh). It is quite evident that these people do not believe the words of Scripture. Nevertheless, the Word of God says, "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit" (Proverbs 26:5). So, I will briefly answer the foolishness of these people and then be done with them, because the flip side of this tells me to "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him" (Proverbs 26:4). Meaning, the longer I debate with these kinds of people on something the Bible makes clear, when they clearly have no desire to know the truth, but would rather continue being blind and contentious, the more likely I am to become as they area fool.

"Now you write to the Jews as you see fit, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's signet ring; for a decree which is written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's signet ring may not be revoked." Esther 8:8

Jesus is the King of kings. Upon genuine conversion, a believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit. Not only that, but he/she is triple-sealed: The Father, as explained in John 10:29; the Son, as explained in John 10:28; and the Holy Spirit, as explained in Ephesians 4:30. What God has sealed cannot be unsealed. Here is what Scripture says on the issue:

"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God,  who also sealed (σφραγιζω) us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge (αρραβων)." 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

"Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge (αρραβων)." 2 Corinthians 5:5

"In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation--having also believed, you were sealed (σφραγιζω) in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge (αρραβων) of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory." Ephesians 1:13-14

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed (σφραγιζω) for the day of redemption." Ephesians 4:30

"who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:5

σφραγιζω = to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation; by implication, to keep secret, to attest to.
αρραβων = a pledge, i.e. part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest.

Examine AMG's Word Study Dictionary New Testament, Thayer's Greek Lexicon, or Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and the above definitions will be enforced iron clad.

A key verse those who believe you can lose your salvation need to wrap their minds around is 1 John 2:19: "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." It is not a loss of salvation (which cannot happen); it is apostasy. Remember the four soils? Only one of the soils represented genuine converts. They fall away because they were never saved to begin with!!!

A person who thinks they can lose their salvation clearly believes their salvation is based on the merit of their works (whether they want to admit it or not). The Bible repeatedly and clearly informs us of what we must do to be saved (Acts 16:30; John 3:16; John 1:12; Ephesians 2:8, etc.). However, the Bible never tells us what we can do in order to lose that salvation. Any standard for the loss of salvation has to be based on works.

Take a moment to actually think about this. Aρραβων is a pledge. It is part of the purchase-money or property given in advance as security for the rest. In other words, Jesus already placed a down payment upon the genuine believer as security for the rest. If it were possible to lose one's salvation, that means Jesus loses His deposit. If that person "came to faith" again, that means Jesus would have to place another down payment on them because the other was made null and void. If you could lose your salvation, you would have to re-crucify Jesus in order to be saved once again. To say you can lose your salvation is to say that the person and work of Jesus on the cross was not enough to purchase our salvation. Do you understand that? If you can lose your salvation, then the person and work of Jesus was not enough to purchase our salvation!

"Once Saved, Always Saved" is a ridiculous statement. No doubt about it. What it should be instead is "If/When Saved, Always Saved." Praying a prayer, signing a card, walking an aisle, being baptized, going to church, reading the Bible, praying, having parents who are Christian, etc., do not save a person or make them a Christian. Jesus' parables inform us that on this Earth His kingdom, the church, will grow up consisting of both genuine converts and false converts. At the end of the age when He returns, He will sort the goats from the sheep, the tares from the wheat, the bad fish from the good fish.

If God has set His seal upon us, then you can bank on the fact you cannot lose your salvation. Period! He has guaranteed it. If you want to continue arguing about this, then I suggest you go toe-to-toe with God on the issue. God has already spoken on the issue and those who believe you can lose your salvation are wrong!

For a further look at the evidence against losing one's salvation, please see Apostasy in Galatians.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What Is A Cult?

from C.A.R.M.

Cults are everywhere. Some are mainstream and widely accepted. Others are isolationist and hide from examination at great expense. They are growing and flourishing. Some cause great suffering while others appear very helpful and beneficial. Whichever group it is, the ultimate end is their destruction when the Lord returns to claim His own.
  1. What is a cult?
    1. Generally, it is a group that is unorthodox, esoteric, and has a devotion to a person, object, or a set of new ideas.
      1. New Teaching--has a new theology and doctrine.
      2. Only True Teaching--often considers traditional religious systems to be apostate and it alone possesses the complete truth.
      3. Strong Leadership--often an individual or small but powerful leadership group holds control of the group’s teachings and practices.
      4. Asset Acquirement--often requires tithing and/or property transfer to the religious system.
      5. Isolationist--to facilitate control over the members physically, intellectually, financially, and emotionally.
      6. Controlling--exercises control over the members. Sometimes this is through fear, threatening loss of salvation if you leave the group. Sometimes through indoctrination.
      7. Indoctrination--possesses methods to reinforce the cult’s beliefs and standards where opposing views are ridiculed and often misrepresented.
      8. Apocalyptic--to give the members a future focus and philosophical purpose in avoiding the apocalypse or being delivered through it.
      9. Experience--various practices including meditation, repetition of words and/or phrases, and "spiritual" enlightenment with God are used as confirmation of their truth.
        1. Depravation--sleep and food deprivation which weakens the will of the subject.
        2. This is uncommon though practiced by more severe cults.
      10. Persecution--predictions of being persecuted, often combined with claiming any opposing views demonstrated against them as a form of persecution.
    2. Many have non-verifiable belief systems.
      1. For example, they would teach something that cannot be verified.
        1. A space ship behind Hale-Bop comet.
        2. Or, that God, an alien, or angel appeared to the leader and gave him a revelation.
        3. The members are seeded angels from another world, etc.
      2. Often, the philosophy makes sense only if you adopt the full set of values and definitions that it teaches.
        1. With this kind of belief, truth becomes unverifiable, internalized, and easily manipulated through the philosophical systems of its inventor.
    3. The Leader of a Cult
      1. Often charismatic and is considered very special for varying reasons:
        1. The cult leader has received special revelation from God.
        2. The cult leader claims to be the incarnation of a deity, angel, or special messenger.
        3. The cult leader claims to be appointed by God for a mission.
        4. The cult leader claims to have special abilities.
      2. The leader is often above reproach and is not to be denied or contradicted.
    4. Cult ethos
      1. Usually seeks to do good works, otherwise, no one would join them.
      2. They are usually moral and possess a good standard of ethical teaching.
      3. Many times the Bible is used or additional "scriptures" are penned.
        1. The Bible, when used, is always distorted with private interpretations.
      4. Many cults recruit Jesus as one of their own and redefine Him accordingly.
    5. Cult groups vary greatly.
      1. From the ascetic to the promiscuous.
      2. From esoteric knowledge to very simple teachings.
      3. From the rich and powerful to the poor and weak.
  2. Who is vulnerable to joining a cult?
    1. Everyone is vulnerable.
      1. Rich, poor, educated, non-educated, old, young, previously religious, atheistic, etc.
    2. General profile of cult member (some or all of the following):
      1. Disenchanted with conventional religious establishments.
      2. Intellectually confused over religious and/or philosophical issues.
      3. Sometimes disenchanted with society as a whole.
      4. Has a need for encouragement and support.
      5. Emotionally needful.
      6. Needs a sense of purpose.
      7. Financially needy.
  3. Recruitment techniques
    1. They find a need and fill it. One of the ways they do this is called . . .
      1. "Love Bombing"--Constant positive affection in word and deed.
        1. Sometimes there is a lot of physical contact like hugging, pats on the back, and touching.
        2. Cult group members will lend emotional support to someone in need.
        3. Help them in various ways . . . whatever is needed.
          1. The person then becomes indebted to the cult.
        4. Compliment them, reassure them, and make them the center of attention.
    2. Many cults use the influence of the Bible and/or mention Jesus as being one of their own, thereby adding validity to their system.
      1. Scripture twisting
        1. Those that use the Bible take verses out of context.
        2. Then mix their misinterpreted verses with their aberrant philosophy.
    3. Gradualism
      1. Slow altering of thinking processes and belief system through repeated teaching.
        1. People usually accept cult doctrines one point at a time.
        2. New beliefs are reinforced by other cult members.
  4. Why would someone join?
    1. The cult satisfies various needs:
      1. Psychological--Someone could have a weak personality, easily lead.
      2. Emotional--Someone could have recently suffered an emotional trauma.
      3. Intellectual--Someone has questions that this group answers.
    2. The cult gives them approval, acceptance, purpose, and a sense of belonging.
    3. The cult is appealing for some reason. It could be . . .
      1. Moral rigidity and purity.
      2. Financial security.
      3. Promises of exaltation, redemption, higher consciousness, or a host of other rewards.
  5. How are they kept in the cult?
    1. Dependence
      1. People often want to stay because the cult meets their psychological, intellectual, and spiritual needs.
    2. Isolation
      1. Outside contacts are reduced and more and more of the life of the member is built around the cult.
      2. It then becomes very easy to control and shape the member.
    3. Cognitive Reconstruction (brainwashing):
      1. Once the person is indoctrinated, their thinking processes are reconstructed to be consistent with the cult and to be submissive to its leaders.
      2. This facilitates control by the cult leader(s).
    4. Substitution
      1. The cult and cult leaders often take the place of mother, father, priest, teacher, and healer.
      2. Often the member takes on the characteristics of a dependent child seeking to win the approval of the leader and or group.
    5. Indebtedness
      1. The member becomes indebted to the group emotionally, financially, etc.
    6. Guilt
      1. The person is told that to leave is to betray the leader, God, the group, etc.
      2. The person is told that to leave would mean to reject the love and help the group has given.
    7. Threat
      1. Threat of destruction by God for turning from the truth.
      2. Sometimes physical threat is used--though not often.
      3. Threat of missing the apocalypse or being judged on Judgment Day, etc.
  6. How do you get them out?
    1. The best thing is to try not to let them get trapped in the first place.
    2. If you are a Christian, then pray.
    3. But, to get a person out of a cult takes:
      1. Time, energy, and support.
    4. Teach them the truth.
      1. Give them a true replacement for their aberrant belief system.
      2. Show the cult group's philosophic inconsistencies.
      3. Study the group and learn its history seeking clues and information.
    5. Try and get them physically away from the cult group.
    6. Give them the support they need emotionally.
    7. Alleviate the threat that if they leave the group that they are doomed or in danger.
    8. Generally, don't attack the leader of the group . . . that comes later.
    9. Converts often feel a loyalty and respect for the founder of the group.
    10. Confront them when needed.
Hopefully, this basic outline will give you information to see how cults work and how to avoid them. If you have someone who is lost in a cult, you need to pray and ask the Lord to remove them and give you the insight and tools needed. It can be a long and arduous task and can be discouraging, but God is faithful and will help you.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Either God or They Must Change

by George Lawson

"Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips." Proverbs 14:7

We must not willingly enter into the company of fools. But if, through ignorance of their character, we happen to do so, we must not stay in it, lest we be corrupted by their foolish conduct. We are either like those whose company we frequent—or shall soon be like them. Evil companionships will efface our impressions of the evil of sin, and corrupt our own morals and character.

Lukewarm professors, who are perhaps the least dangerous of bad companions, will, if we take pleasure in their company, transfuse their lukewarmness into us.

When are we to leave the company of a foolish man? As soon as we perceive that he has not the lips of knowledge. As trees are known by their fruit, so men are known by their words and works. But they are soonest known by their words, which are the most plentiful and the easiest products of the heart.

We are not to suppose men to be fools without evidence, but profane or foolish words come from folly in the heart. A godly man out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things--but an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart, brings forth evil things.

This commandment should strike terror into the wicked! Since God will not allow His redeemed children to keep company with them on earth, it cannot be supposed that He will admit them to His own eternal home in Heaven. Either God or they must change before they can be received into Heaven!

My Religion Is . . . Love?

I do not know much about Krystal Harris or what her beliefs are, but if the lyrics to her song My Religion from her 2001 debut album Me & My Piano are any indication, she is in for a rude awakening. The chorus to this song goes like this:
My religion doesn't hate
It will never turn you away
It always understands

My religion won't condemn
Always lends a healing hand
Yeah, yeah, it's love
My religion's love
The first things that come to my mind when I hear this chorus are these: Biblical Christianity does hate—it hates sin and will not tolerate sin or those willfully living in deliberate sin. Biblical Christianity will turn people away—people in the church who refuse to repent while willfully living in deliberate sin. The Bible often commands us to turn away from certain kinds of people and cast certain kinds of people out. If you do not believe in turning people away, then you have no concept of church discipline. and/or excommunication. Biblical Christianity does not sympathetically or empathetically understand with regard to sin and choosing to live a life of sin. Biblical Christianity does and will condemn—it condemns sin, and when Jesus returns He will condemn those dead in their sin to an eternity in Hell. Since biblical Christianity is all about Jesus, and teaches that Jesus will condemn the wicked, ultimately our religion does condemn. If you do not believe it condemns, then you must not believe people will end up in Hell, which means you likely believe in Universalism.

With everything going on in the world right now, it would not surprise me in the least if Krystal was lending support to immorally sinful concepts such as homosexuality through these phrases: "My religion doesn't hate," "It will never turn you away," "It always understand," and "My religion won't condemn." The main reason why I tend to think this is because of the words of the opening verse:
There's nothing wrong with tradition
But tell me where it says
Not to follow our hearts
That's why so many of us are so confused
And will never live up to your rules
When it comes to religion, what is her idea of "to follow our hearts"? Biblical Christianity is supposed to be following Christ Jesus, imitating Him and growing in holiness, grace, and truth. What exactly does she mean when she talks about "never live up to your rules"?  Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will obey My commandments." So much about the words to this song tend to lean in the direction of caution. But, because I do not know anything about her, and because I do not know her heart, I will give her the benefit of the doubt and presume that she actually means something biblical by those phrases.

The statement that really sticks out is, "My religion's love." Sadly, this is the case for many professing "Christians" in the church today. Their religion is love. They have turned love into their god. The Bible says, "God is love," and they have said, "Love is god." They are guilty of idolatry. If your religion is love—and not Christ Jesus, then you are on your way to Hell on a greased pole. Love is not a religion, and it had best not be yours if you claim to be a Christian. Love is the law of the Christian life, but it is not the religion of the Christian. Too many professing "Christians" worship love as their god, having elevated love to a position of deity. If your religion is solely focused on love at the expense of everything else the true religion stands for, you are headed down a dangerous path.

Because love is the law of the Christian life, the Christian religion will hate. If Christians love babies, they must hate abortion. If Christians love marriage, they must hate divorce. If they love righteousness, they must hate unrighteousness. Because love is the law of the Christian life, the Christian religion will turn people away. Jesus frequently and deliberately turned people away by His hard sayings. Paul told the Corinthian church that they were to turn away the man who had relations with his step-mother. Because love is the law of the Christian life, the Christian religion will condemn. It condemns sin in the flesh. It condemns those willfully living in deliberate sin. To say, "My religion's love," is not only to not understand love, but it is also not to understand the religion you profess.

Christ Jesus is the center of all of Scripture. He is the center of Christianity. He is the center of all things, and well He should be. He is the Creator of the universe. Redemptive history is concerned with Him and all about Him. For the genuine born-again Christian, our religion is Jesus. Our faith is in Him, our hope is in Him, our trust is in Him. He is our all in all. He must be the center of all things in our lives. For many professing "Christians," the name of Jesus is never found on their lips, but the word love, with all the false notions they have associated with it, drips from their lips like poison. "Love this, love that. Love, love, love..." Their unspoken motto is, "As for me and my house, we will serve love." If your religion is love, I suggest you repent and come to Jesus before it is too late for you.

My religion is Jesus, the Creator of the universe, the Saviour of those who earnestly believe in Him, the Author, Preserver, and Finisher of our faith, the King of kings and Lord of lords. What about you?

Friday, March 18, 2016

There's No Cost of Being A Christian In America

by Leonard Ravenhill

I went to a church not along ago—they got thirty acres. So what are their plans with it? They want their own football field and tennis courts. Dear God, do we go to church to learn to play tennis? God help the preachers!

We have such an accommodating Christianity today.

The best title of the professing church of God today, in my judgment, is "Unbelieving Believers." There's cancer in the church tonight!

At this grim hour, the world sleeps in the darkness—and the Church sleeps in the light.

You'll never get me to believe that the church today believes in Hell.

We're a million, billion miles away from New Testament Christianity!

I doubt if 5% of professing Christians in America are born again!

Entertainment is the devil's substitute for joy. The more joy you have in the Lord, the less entertainment you need.

Is the world crucified to you—or does it fascinate you?

The apostles had no gold, but lots of glory. We have lots of gold, but no glory.
The book of Acts shows us the church before it became fat and short of breath by prosperity!

Who or what takes priority over God in our lives?

Where, oh, where are the eternity-conscious believers?

Where are the souls white-hot for God because they fear His holy name and presence and so live with eternity's values in view?

There's no cost of being a Christian in America!

I'd rather have ten people who want God—than 10,000 people who want to play church!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Without Holiness, No One Will See Jesus

"Without holiness, no one will see the Lord!" Hebrews 12:14

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Prince of preachers, said, "If your religion does not make you holy, it will damn you! It is simply painted pageantry to go to Hell in!"

"For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life." 1 Thessalonians 4:7 NIV

"[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life." 2 Timothy 1:9 NIV

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: BE HOLY, BECAUSE I AM HOLY." 1 Peter 1:15-16 NIV

"Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." 2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV

"May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones." 1 Thessalonians 3:13 NIV

"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." Hebrews 12:10 NIV

"Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. ... But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." 2 Peter 3:11-12, 18 NIV

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life." Romans 6:22 NIV

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:12-14 NIV

"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." 3 John 11 NIV

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven [will enter]." Matthew 7:21 NIV

"If you are living according to the flesh, you will die; but if, by the Spirit, you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." Romans 8:13-14

"Therefore COME OUT FROM THEM AND BE SEPARATE, says the Lord. TOUCH NO UNCLEAN THING, and I will receive you." 2 Corinthians 6:17 NIV

These 14 passages are only a handful of the many that speak on this issue. Professing Christians like to make excuses for themselves and why they are not living holier lives the way they are called to, even going so far as quoting from the highly misinterpreted passage of Romans 7. Jesus commands/demands holiness and obedience from us. Without holiness of life and character, we shall not see Jesus. Scripture cannot make that point any clearer. We can make all the excuses for ourselves that we want, trying to justify ourselves in self-righteousness, but it all amounts to what we see in Matthew 7:21-23. This passage should put the fear of God into our hearts.

Jesus warns people to count the cost of what it means to follow Him for a reason, because it is not easy and not everyone can do so. It is a serious matter, the most important matter in life, and it requires our greatest commitment and earnest. He wants us to consider the toll it will have on us. Because the world hates Jesus, they will hate us, too. We will be persecuted for His name's sake. There is nothing simple or easy about being a genuine born again Christian. It is costly and it is difficult. If we are not willing to pay the cost, then we cannot be His disciples; we cannot be Christians. Jesus said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it." Both gates say "Heaven" at the top of them, but one is lying. Ever read Pilgrim's Progress? That is the epitome of what Scripture teaches. We need to strive to obtain it. Take heaven by force.

Paul was not the exception. He was the rule. He daily beat his body into submission so that he could obtain the prize. He strove daily toward the goal. The goal is Christ-likeness. The prize is Christ Himself. Jesus set the bar for holiness and we need to strive to obtain it, no matter how many times we might stumble, fail, and fall in this life. We need to pick ourselves back up, repent of our short comings, lean on the Lord and ask for His help, and try again. We do not get to reset the goal posts. We are either all in or we are all out. We are either in the game to win it or we are standing outside of the stadium. There are no spectators, there are no fence sitters. Anyone not in the game is standing outside the stadium.

If you are not growing in holiness, if you are not growing in grace and truth, you might want to consider the fact that you are more than likely an illegitimate child and not a son or daughter. You might want to consider the fact that you are more than likely not of the faith and as such do not belong to Jesus as an inheritance. If you desire Jesus, if you desire to be more like Him, if He is precious to you, if you long to spend personal time with Him, if you want to know Him more intimately and personally, there will be a pursuit of holiness and obedience, submitting and conforming yourself to His Word and His likeness. Otherwise, you are merely a Matthew 7:21-23 "Christian" on the broad path to destruction. If it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is not an angel.

Without holiness of life and character, you will not see Jesus in eternity.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Keep the Sabbath Day Holy?

Seventh-day Adventists argue that there is no Scriptural evidence for worship on the first day of the week—Sunday, and that pagans introduced Sunday worship. In fact, they argue that all Scriptural evidence supports worship on the Sabbath. Let's remember the first rule of Bible study, which the SDA consistently ignore: Context, context, context!

Look up the word "sabbath" outside of the Gospels and you will find that it occurs 11 times. Nine of the occurrences are in The Book of Acts, which is a transitional book. The last two are in the evidences against Sabbath keeping: Colossians 2:16 and Hebrews 4:9. The first one in Acts is a descriptor—"Sabbath day's journey." Acts 13:14 says that they went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and sat down. In verse 27, they are reasoning with them, telling them that the inhabitants of Jerusalem fulfilled the prophets, whom they read every Sabbath, by condemning Jesus. Verse 42, they asked that they might be reasoned with the next Sabbath. Verse 44, they were gathered to hear the words of God—by the Apostles reasoning with them. Acts 15:21 is again a condemnation against them, saying that their reading of Moses on the Sabbath preached Christ. Acts 16:13, they went to a place where there was a meeting of women and reasoned with them. Acts 17:2 and 18:4, they again were reasoning with the Jews. There is not one reference to worshiping on the Sabbath or observing it. They were commanded to begin in Jerusalem and go into the entire world preaching the Gospel. The Jews gathered in the synagogues to read from Moses and the prophets every Sabbath. What better time to reason with them than when they open the Scriptures that preached Christ?

A plain reading of the text does not support the Sabbath. In order to argue for worship on the Sabbath, one needs to return to the Old Testament and ignore the context regarding Sabbath keeping, while ignoring everything revealed in the New Testament. None of these 11 references to the Sabbath speak of worshiping on or observing the Sabbath. These references all take place after Jesus' resurrection. After His resurrection, there is not one mention of the observance of the Sabbath or worshiping on it. Think about it! The Sabbath was a sign between national Israel and God (Exodus 31). Why would Gentiles who come to faith be expected or required to keep the Sabbath? That is equivalent to expecting or requiring them to be circumcised.

However, once a law is put in place, it is binding until its obligation is satisfied, until it is repealed, or until a substitution is made being of the same kind or for the same purpose. The law concerning keeping a particular day holy was not fulfilled in the person and work of Christ Jesus, nor was it ever repealed. But a substitution did take place. The Christian church commemorates the resurrection of their risen Saviour on the day in which He rose from the dead. That day is the first day of the week—Sunday. The New Testament bears this out as do the writings of the early church fathers.

Game, set, match. Thanks for playing, SDA.

Remember, "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark. 2:27).