Move Button Move Button
Move Button Move Button
Who Is The Historical Jesus? 
Who Is The Historical Jesus? 

Phil • November 26, 2018

Who Is The Historical Jesus?

David Stewart


That Jesus Christ was a factual person in history cannot be denied. Beyond the testimony of the Bible, we also have some statements preserved from ancient writers. For example, the Roman historian Tacitus wrote that Christus “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus” (Annals and Histories 15.44). The Jewish Talmud speaks, although in unfriendly words, of “Yeshua of Nazareth.” The Jewish historian Josephus also wrote of Jesus as “a wise man,” “a doer of marvelous deeds,” and “a teacher of men who receive the truth with pleasure.” The quotation goes on to tell of his crucifixion and resurrection, as well as the “race of Christians” who continued to honor him (Antiquities 18.3.3).


Since Jesus’ historical nature is indisputable, we should explore further the biblical claims. The story of Jesus’ life has been preserved in the four Gospel Accounts: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew and John were apostles who walked with Jesus; Luke and Mark were early believers associated with the apostles Peter and Paul. Other accounts of Jesus’ life from second and third-century Christianity may contain some of the words of Jesus, but are often tainted by the views of the particular sect from which they originated (for example, the Gnostics).


Matthew records that when Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married, that the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and a child was conceived within her—a miraculous conception (Matthew 1:18–25). This detail gives us insight into an important truth, the divine and human sides of Jesus. Jesus is one of the persons of the Godhead, along with the Father and Holy Spirit: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). The birth of Christ took place in Bethlehem, the city of Jesus’ human ancestor King David, in about 4–3 B.C. Jesus’ birth fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).


Jesus grew up in Nazareth of Galilee, the son of a carpenter. Joseph and Mary trained Jesus according to the teaching of the Old Testament. At about the age of thirty, Jesus began his public ministry (Luke 3:23). He went to the Jordan River to be immersed by John the Baptist. At his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus (Matthew 3:16). It was after this time that he had the power to perform miraculous signs, deeds which revealed God’s compassion and testified to his identity as the Son of God. Jesus spent about three years preaching, teaching, and healing. During that time, he gathered twelve men around him and designated them “apostles” (Mark 3:14). He spent more time with these men because, except for Judas the betrayer, they would go out and proclaim Jesus to the world (Acts 1; 2).


Jesus’ teaching and miracles demonstrated God’s power and love. He called people to not only obey God in actions, but also to have the right kind of heart (Matthew 5—7). Jesus often exposed the hypocrisy and shallow religion of the Jewish leaders in his day (Matthew 23). His miracles were beyond question: they were instantaneous, public, and complete. Some believed because of these signs, while others attributed them to the work of Satan (Matthew 12:24).


Jesus came into the world in fulfillment of God’s messianic promises to the Jews. God had promised Abraham that through his offspring all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; Galatians 3:8, 16). God promised through Moses that he would raise up another authoritative Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15–22; Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37). God promised David that one of his descendants would reign after him (2 Samuel 7:8–17; Acts 2:32–36). Jesus fulfilled all of these prophecies and several more. Many of the Jews were blinded by their expectation of a military Messiah and rejected Jesus as the Christ. They did not factor in the prophecies concerning the Suffering Servant (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).


During his ministry Jesus often predicted his death, burial, and resurrection (Mk. 8:31). His own disciples did not understand and one of them, Peter, even debated the issue with him (Matthew 16:21–23). Jesus willingly gave himself over to those who came for his arrest (Matthew 26:50). He did not argue with the Jewish rulers who tried him, nor did he defend himself in Pilate’s court (Matthew 26:63, 64; 27:14).


Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, at the time of Passover in about 30 A.D. (Matthew 26:2; 27:24–26). He was led through the streets of Jerusalem and crucified outside the city (John 19:16, 17; Hebrews 13:12). After his death, two of the Jewish leaders who believed, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, buried his body in a new tomb (John 19:38–42). On the third day, Jesus rose again—just as he had promised (Mark 16:1–7). He revealed himself to the apostles and as many as 500 disciples so that the fact of his resurrection would be fully established (1 Corinthians 15:3–8). After this, Jesus ascended into heaven where he reigns at the right hand of the Father until his second coming (Luke 24:50, 51; Acts 1:9–11).


After the Ascension, the followers of Jesus waited in Jerusalem until Pentecost. As he had promised, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles. They performed miraculous signs and boldly proclaimed that Jesus was risen from the dead (Acts 1; 2). Through his sacrifice and resurrection, he provides forgiveness of sins and eternal life.


(Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)


Read more
What is Sin?
What is Sin?

Phil • November 26, 2018

What Is Sin?

David Stewart


In our modern culture the concept of sin is quickly fading. People opt for less convicting language like “mistakes” or “indiscretions.” The whole premise behind the concept of sin is that there is an all-wise, authoritative God who determines what is right and wrong. If we remove ourselves from that premise, then who is to say what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior? Each person becomes his own god.


The Bible has much to say about sin, beginning with the very first couple, Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Their decision to disobey the command of God not to eat the forbidden fruit has been perpetuated by the misdeeds of mankind ever since. While we do not inherit the guilt of their sin (Romans 2:6; 5:12; 14:12), we are born into a fallen world and seem prone to disobey God (Romans 5:12–21). 


There are many different words in the New Testament that describe what it means to disobey God. Here are several of these terms:


           1) Sin—fault, missing the mark (Romans 6:23).

           2) Error—wandering, forsaking the right path (James 5:20).

           3) Lawlessness—going against or beyond the law (Matthew 7:23, NASB).

           4) Crime—unrighteousness, wickedness, injustice (Acts 24:20).

           5) Evil—wickedness (Matthew 22:18).

           6) Trespass—false step, blunder, transgress (Matthew 6:14, 15, KJV).

           7) Transgression—overstepping the boundaries (Romans 4:15).

8) Godlessness—irreverence for that which is holy (Romans 1:18).

           9) Evil desire—lust, craving for that which is forbidden (Romans 6:12).


We can disobey God in various ways. Sometimes we engage in “sins of commission,” that is, we do what God has forbidden (“do not”). Other times we are guilty of “sins of omission,” that is, we fail to do what God has positively commanded (“do”). There are some sins that we commit intentionally out of rebellion and selfishness. Other sins we perform out of ignorance of God’s will. Many lists of sins occur throughout the Bible (Proverbs 6:16–19; Romans 1:18–32; 1 Corinthians 5:9–13; 6:9–11; Galatians 5:19–21; Revelation 21:8). Sin is not limited to outward behavior. Rather, there is a progression: evil thoughts, evil motives, evil attitudes, evil actions.


 God is not responsible for our sin; he does not cause us to do evil, but does allow us the choice. God does not allow Satan to tempt us beyond what we are able to withstand, but provides a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13). We are drawn into sin by our own evil desires (James 1:13–15).


Our choice to commit sin has disastrous results. By our rebellion and disobedience, we separate ourselves from fellowship with a holy God (Isaiah 59:1, 2). The paycheck for sin is death, that is, eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). Herein lies the need for someone to rescue us from this horrible fate! In his great love, God offered his only unique Son Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement. God substituted the sinless Christ for us on the cross. In his crucifixion, Jesus took on the penalty for our sin and for a short time was separated from the Father.  


(Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)



Read more
What Happened When Christ Died? 
What Happened When Christ Died? 

Phil • November 26, 2018

What Happened When Christ Died?

David Stewart


In the first century, the act of crucifixion was a common occurrence in the Roman Empire. The Romans used this method of capital punishment to make a powerful statement to their subjects: This is what happens to those who defy Roman authority and break the law. The site of crucifixions was often near a road where passersby might see the spectacle and be warned. Jesus’ death occurred near a road entering the city (John 19:20) and the sign placed above his head, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37), was used to intimidate any who would challenge Roman government. The Jewish historian Josephus records many crucifixions, especially during the revolt leading to Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. If crucifixion was so commonplace, then what is so significant about Jesus dying on a cross?


The crucifixion of Christ was a moment in history that has and will have repercussions throughout time into eternity. Many things happened that day which can potentially revolutionize our relationship with God and other people.

         

1) An innocent man was put to death. From a legal and moral standpoint, the crucifixion of Jesus was a great injustice. The death penalty is a legitimate form of executing justice (Genesis 9:6). Fear of such a punishment can also serve as a deterrent against murder and other crimes. After all, ruling authorities do “not bear the sword for nothing” (Romans 13:4). However, Jesus had committed no crime. One of the criminals crucified next to Jesus recognized this tragic mistake: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41).


  The Jewish leaders who clamored for Jesus’ death were not usually allowed the right to carry out the death penalty (John 18:31). Therefore, they had taken Jesus to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, seeking his judgment against the one called Christ. After questioning Jesus, Pilate repeatedly told the Jews, “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:38; 19:4, 6). Nevertheless, due to political pressure, Pilate handed Jesus over to be crucified (John 19:16).

          

Many people throughout the course of history have been unjustly put to death for crimes they did not commit. However, the case of Jesus towers above any other injustice ever done. Not only was he innocent of any crime worthy of death, he also had never sinned! The perfection of Jesus is frequently stated in the New Testament. For example, the author of Hebrews wrote, “We have [a high priest] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). The apostle John succinctly wrote, “And in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). When Christ died, an innocent and sinless man was put to death.


  2) God’s eternal plan to save man was fulfilled. Even though Jesus was crucified by wicked men, there is a divine element in his death to be considered. This fact does not excuse or pardon those who killed Jesus. Rather, it demonstrates how God can utilize even the vilest of sinners to carry out his perfect will. Peter expressed this concept in his sermon at Pentecost: “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23).


The sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus was planned before the creation of the world (Ephesians 3:10, 11). Throughout Old Testament history God made people promises of the coming Messiah. When the time was right, God sent Jesus into the world (Galatians 4:4). Throughout his ministry, Jesus emphasized that he had come to do the Father’s will. When his hour had come, Jesus went to the cross to die (John 13:1). As Jesus gasped for his last few breaths, he uttered these words: “It is finished” (John 19:30). God’s marvelous plan was done.

          

3) Jesus bore the sins of the world. The death of Christ on the cross was a sacrifice. From earliest times men brought animal sacrifices to God (Genesis 4:4; 8:20). Such sacrifices were later required from the Israelites by the covenant God made with them (Leviticus 1—7). The one that is particularly relevant is the sin offering in which an animal (bull, goat, or ram) without defect was put to death because of individual or community sin (Leviticus 4:1—6:7). The animal became the victim, bearing the consequences of individual or community sin. The blood of the animal was often smeared on the horns of the altar and poured out at its base. 

 

When Jesus was crucified, he became the greatest sacrifice to ever be given and did away with the need for offering animal sacrifices (Hebrews 9:11—10:31). His back was flogged, his head was crowned with thorns, his hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and his side was pierced with a spear. These wounds brought forth blood—the “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Jesus willingly offered himself as the sacrificial Lamb without defect: “He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth. . . . He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:22, 24).   


          4) Jesus appeased the wrath of God. When Christ died, both God’s grace and holiness were met. God is holy and just; he must punish those who do evil. God is also gracious and merciful; he longs to forgive those who disobey him. Because of our sins, we all deserve to be eternally separated from God (Romans 6:23). In God’s wisdom and love, however, he sent Jesus to become a substitute for us: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).


The wrath of God which punishes sin was laid on Jesus, the sinless one, as he died. The separation of Jesus from his Father is evident from some details of the crucifixion. There was darkness for three of the six hours Christ hung on the cross. In the midst of that blackened sky Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Therefore, the apostle John could write, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. . .” (1 John 2:2). The phrase “atoning sacrifice” literally means “the one who turns aside God’s wrath.” Those who are obedient to Christ will not have to face God’s holy anger. The ones who do not obey the good news of Jesus must pay for their own sins: “Whoever rejects [disobeys, NASB] the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36; see 2 Thessalonians 1:8).


          5) Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses. Christ made it clear that he came to fulfill the demands of the Law (Matthew 5:17). He faithfully obeyed God throughout his lifetime. He was tempted, but never sinned (Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5). His perfect sacrifice came to supersede all other sacrifices. As Jesus gave up his spirit to God on the cross, an amazing thing happened: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51). This divine action symbolized “the beginning of the end” of the Old Covenant. Since Christ fulfilled the Law given to Moses, it is no longer a barrier between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14–16). All people can be one in Christ.


          6) Jesus gave us a new approach to God. In Jesus’ death, he gave us a new way to come to the Father. We come through Jesus for our salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter proclaimed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus serves as our great high priest who sits at the right hand of the Father. We come through him to God in prayer to boldly ask for the things we need (Hebrews 4:14–16; see John 14:13, 14). Through Jesus we can offer up a spiritual worship that is truly pleasing to the Father (John 4:23, 24).           


7) Jesus gave us the power of Resurrection. The story of Christ did not end with his death on the cross. He was buried in a tomb and on the third day he was raised from the dead (Matthew 28:1–7). This “resurrection power” was evident prior to Jesus’ own resurrection. During his ministry he raised people from the dead (Mark 5:21–43; Luke 7:11–17; John 11:1–44). Even at the time of his crucifixion, that power was released: “The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people” (Matthew 27:51–53). Because of Jesus’ power over death, we too may have hope of a resurrection body and eternal life (John 5:24–30; 1 Corinthians 15)!   


(Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)

       

Read more
What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?
What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

Phil • November 26, 2018

What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life?

David Stewart


One of the greatest questions an individual can ever ask is “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The answer to this question is so extremely important because it touches upon eternity. Death is certain. The author of Hebrews wrote, “ . . . man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). So how can a person prepare to stand before God? How can one know he is right with God? How can an individual know he will live with God throughout eternity in heaven, rather than with Satan in hell?


No person can be righteous before God on his own merit. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No one can do anything by himself to remove the guilt and consequences of his sin. We all deserve to die spiritually—that is, be eternally separated from God. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The good news, however, is that Jesus endured our punishment for us and can bring us back to God. The rest of the verses previously cited read: “And are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).


It is because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection from the grave that we may be saved. Jesus firmly stated, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Later, the apostle Peter boldly proclaimed, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).


God offers us the precious gift of eternal life—something we could never earn or deserve. This gift of love is available to the whole world (John 3:16–18; 1 John 2:2). So, how do we receive this salvation found in Christ? The answer to this most vital question is found throughout the teaching of the New Testament.


           1) We must believe in Jesus. Faith in Christ and his sacrifice on the cross are essential to our salvation. Jesus warns the unbelieving, “If you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24). The gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Saving faith includes not only intellectual assent, but also trust and obedience (John 14:15; James 2:14–26). We must yield our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ, seeking to obey and please him in every way. 


           2) We must repent of our sins. The essence of repentance is turning away from evil back to God. One needs to feel remorse for the sins he has committed: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10). He must resolve to “die to sin” and live for righteousness (Romans 6:11–14). This idea is summed up in the words of Jesus: “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11). True repentance must be reflected in one’s actions (Luke 19:8; Acts 19:18, 19).


           3) We must confess our faith. Closely tied with believing in Jesus is our profession of faith in him. It was the practice of the early converts to express their faith in a confession: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37; see 1 Timothy 6:12, 13). The apostle Paul wrote, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:9, 10). Such a profession of faith should always be on the lips of Christians (Matthew 10:32, 33).


           4) We must be baptized into Christ. Jesus himself proclaimed that one must be baptized to be saved: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16; see John 3:5; Matthew 28:18–20). On the day the church was established, Peter told his hearers who believed in Jesus, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Throughout Acts, people responded to the gospel in faith, repentance, and immersion in water (2:41; 8:12, 13, 38; 9:18; 10:47, 48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5). Whenever this happened, the blood of Christ cleansed them from sin, they were given the indwelling Holy Spirit, and were added to the church (2:38, 41, 47). The same blessings are available for us, even today! (For more information about baptism, see the article entitled “What Is the Meaning of Baptism?”)


           5) We must live faithful Christian lives. The Christian life begins at baptism and is a journey with Christ throughout life—until we die or the Lord comes again. Jesus calls us to live for him every moment of this journey: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). As we walk each day, we will stumble and fall down. The apostle John reassures us, however, that “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Christ calls us to be faithful to him, no matter what the cost: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).


(Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)


Read more
What is Christian Baptism?
What is Christian Baptism?

Phil • November 26, 2018

What Is Christian Baptism?

David Stewart

 

The Mode of Baptism. The term “baptism” has a vague connotation in our modern society. This is reflected by modern dictionaries which define the term in this manner: “a Christian ordinance marked by the symbolic use of water which is applied by immersion, pouring, or sprinkling.” But what is the original meaning of the term “baptism?” Did the original term have the flexibility with which it is used today?


“Baptism” is actually a transliteration (letter for letter representation) of the Greek word baptisma. The dictionaries of the ancient Greek language define baptisma as “a dipping, washing, or immersion.” The concept of pouring or sprinkling had no connection with the word! When compiling his New Testament, which he entitled Living Oracles (1820’s), Alexander Campbell removed the modern ambiguity associated with “baptism” by translating (giving the meaning of) baptisma as “immersion.” Dr. Hugo McCord, in his translation of the New Testament (1988), did the same, as well as David Stern in his Jewish New Testament (1989).


That an immersion or overwhelming is meant by baptisma is clear from the Septuagint (LXX), an ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament. Baptisma and its cognates are used in Jewish ceremonialism where dipping occurred in blood, water, or oil (Exodus 12:22; Leviticus 4:6, 17; 9:9; 11:32; 14:6, 16, 51; Deuteronomy 33:24). The priests dipped their feet in the Jordan (Joshua 3:15), Boaz entreated Ruth to dip her bread into some vinegar (Ruth 2:14), and Jonathan dipped his staff into a honeycomb (1 Samuel 14:27). The idea of dipping, plunging, or being overwhelmed is evident from several other passages (see 2 Kings 8:15; Job 9:31; Psalm 68:23; Isaiah 21:4; Daniel 5:21; Ezekiel 23:15). That baptisma and its cognates are not the same as sprinkling or pouring is evident from Numbers 19:18: “Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it [baptobaptizo] in the water and sprinkle [perirainorantizo] the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there.”


Ritual washing where the whole body was cleansed had its roots in the Old Testament (Exodus 29:4; 40:12; Leviticus 8:6; 14:8; Numbers 19:7, 19; Deuteronomy 23:11; 2 Samuel 12:20). Naaman the leper at last obeyed the command to immerse himself (2 Kings 5:14): “So he went down and dipped [baptizo] himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” These washings are also recorded in the non-inspired Jewish writings of the Apocrypha (Judith 12:7; Ecclesiasticus 34:25). Likely, ritual bathing was required of Gentiles who became proselytes to Judaism. Archaeological examples of Jewish ritual baths from the first century still exist today.


Jesus used the term baptisma symbolically to refer to his suffering (Mark 10:38). But even here it has the meaning of “being overwhelmed.” When the prophet John came on the Judean scene, we find him immersing. “Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water” (John 3:23). “Plenty of water” would not be needed for sprinkling or pouring. After Jesus was baptized by John, “he went up out of the water” (Matthew 3:16). It would be totally unnecessary to descend into the water if baptism was actually sprinkling or pouring. The disciples of Jesus took over John’s immersing. John became lesser as Jesus became greater (John 3:22–4:3).


After the Resurrection, Jesus commanded Christian immersion for those who would accept his gospel (Matthew 28:18–20; Mark 16:15, 16). At the church’s beginning, about 3,000 people were immersed that day (Acts 2:38, 41). Due to plenty of Jewish ritual baths in Jerusalem, notably those south of the temple mount, and their early start in the morning (Acts 2:15), this feat would have been easily accomplished. Christian immersion is called “a burial” by Paul, a term which would make no sense if referring to pouring or sprinkling (Romans 6:3, 4; Colossians 2:12). Immersion is aptly illustrated by the Ethiopian eunuch: 1) he saw a body of water, 2) he went into the water along with Philip, 3) he was immersed by Philip, 4) and they came up out of the water (Acts 8:36–39).


The testimony of the early church after the first century is for immersion. In the context of baptism and the cross, a second century Christian wrote, “While we descend into the water laden with sins and dirt, we rise up bearing fruit in our heart and with fear and hope in Jesus in our spirits” (Barnabas 11:11). Several baptistries for immersion have been discovered in ancient church buildings by archaeologists. It was likely due to a scarcity of water in places that led some church leaders to change the mode from immersion to sprinkling or pouring. This exception is found in the Didache (Teaching), another second century document: “But if you have neither [running water or some other water], then pour water on the head . . .” (Didache 7:3). Instead of seeking out the means of obeying God, this writer made his own exception. This exception of pouring or sprinkling became the general rule in Roman Catholicism. The Greek Orthodox Church, however, still immerses (although the wrong subjects). They do so because Greek is their first language and they know the true meaning of baptisma.


The Purpose of Baptism. Our modern religious world gives various reasons for Christian baptism, but many of them fall short of the biblical teaching. A prior commitment to the “faith only” position, which developed in the Protestant Reformation (1500’s), causes many people to misinterpret passages on baptism. So we hear things like “one is saved before baptism” tied to the idea that “baptism is an outward sign of an inward work of grace.” Others would contend that baptism is just another good work of the Christian life. Still others would say that baptism is for joining a particular denomination. But what does the New Testament say concerning the purpose of baptism?


In anticipation of the establishment of the church, Jesus told his disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19, 20). Immersion is obligatory to become a disciple of Jesus. By it we surrender ourselves to the ownership of the triune God. In Mark’s gospel account we read: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Immersion goes hand-in-hand with faith as prerequisites to salvation. A trusting faith in Jesus that is obedient in immersion results in salvation.


The establishment of the church by the preaching of the gospel—Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection—included the command to be immersed. Peter told those who believed in Jesus, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). These people were not saved at the point of belief (Acts 2:37). They had to change their hearts and submit to water immersion to receive God’s forgiveness. Throughout the Book of Acts people received salvation through immersion (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 13; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 18:8; 19:5). It was the urgent response of the Ethiopian eunuch who heard Philip preach Jesus (Acts 8:35–39). Paul was not saved on the Damascus Road by “faith alone” when he encountered Christ. Rather, it was three days later when he was told by Ananias: “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16; see 9:18). The power for the cleansing of Paul’s guilt was in the death of Christ—but he could only receive it by submitting to Christian immersion.


Looking back on the immersion of their readers, New Testament writers reminded Christians of their change of status. Paul wrote,

 

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:3, 4).

 

In baptism we contact Jesus’ saving grace. We reenact his death, burial, and resurrection. We also die to our old sinful selves and are raised a new man (Romans 6:2, 6; see Colossians 2:11, 12).


Only “in Christ” is salvation found (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 1:3–14; Romans 8:1). And we come “into Christ” by faith and immersion. Paul wrote: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were immersed into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26, 27). Outside of Christ we are in the rags of sin, but in Christ we take on his righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). God adopts us as sons by our connection with his natural Son, Jesus Christ. We then become the heirs and beneficiaries of God’s promises.


Peter presented Noah’s experience as a type that prefigures Christian immersion. Noah and his family were saved through water and so is the Christian.

 

In [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge [appeal, NASB] of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:20, 21).

 

Baptism is a spiritual washing where God is implored to forgive us by Christ’s saving work.


Jesus, as our High Priest, poured out his blood to give us access to God. The writer of Hebrews admonishes: “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22; see 9:14). The Hebrew Christians had contacted the cleansing blood of Jesus when they were immersed in water. Paul also speaks of immersion as a “washing” that has justifying and sanctifying effects (Ephesians 5:26; 1 Corinthians 6:11). Justification is brought about by Jesus, while sanctification (being set apart or made holy) comes by the indwelling Holy Spirit.


Jesus had spoken to Nicodemus beforehand saying, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). When a person is immersed by faith, he receives the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38). That we are saved through immersion and given God’s Spirit is clear from Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” The person who by faith has been immersed for the forgiveness of sins has God’s Spirit dwelling in him. Anyone without the Spirit does not have Christ, his blessings, nor eternal life (Romans 8:9–11).


When we are immersed into Christ, he adds us to his body—also known as the church or kingdom (Acts 2:41, 47; John 3:5). One cannot be forgiven, indwelled by the Spirit, or a part of Christ’s church without Christian immersion. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13).


Immersion is not a meritorious work by which we save ourselves apart from God. It is, however, an obligatory response to the saving work of Christ. We are not saved by “faith alone.” We must repent and be immersed to receive God’s salvation. In immersion God blesses us by uniting us with Christ, forgiving our sins (justification), giving us a clear conscience, renewing and sanctifying us by the Holy Spirit, and adding us to the body of Christ.


The Subject of Baptism. In modern religion there are varying ideas on who should be “baptized.” Many religious groups baptize infants and have a later “confirmation.” Others would only baptize believers. At least one religious group practices proxy baptism where an individual is baptized for a deceased family member. So the question arises: “According to God’s Word, who is a proper subject for baptism?”


Since immersion is “for the forgiveness of sins,” that is to receive salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21), one would necessarily have to be a lost sinner. An infant has no concept of what is right or wrong and therefore should not be immersed. He is neither lost nor saved, but safe. Jesus noted the purity and innocence of young children when he said, “Let the little children come to me . . . for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14, 15). Only until one understands the difference between good and evil can he become a sinner. Children develop differently so this happens at various ages depending on the child.


Faith in Jesus as God’s Son is also a prerequisite to immersion: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Every conversion experience we read about in the New Testament involves an individual’s personal faith in Jesus Christ. For this reason early Christians are described as “believers” or “the ones who believe” (Acts 2:44; 4:32; 10:45; 15:5; 16:1; 21:25; 1 Corinthians 14:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:2). Salvation only comes through faith (Galatians 3:26, 27; Ephesians 2:8). In infant baptism, the subject has no personal faith in or knowledge of Jesus Christ. The same could be said of the dead person for whom another is baptized in proxy baptism.


There were households recorded in Acts who obeyed the Lord in immersion: Cornelius’ relatives and friends (10:24, 48), Lydia’s household (16:15), and the Jailer’s family (16:33). But, we should not think that any infants or young children who were incapable of understanding the gospel were a part of these families. Those converted were able to hear the preaching of God’s Word (10:44; 16:32), believe it (16:34), and respond in immersion.


One’s faith is expressed in confession (Romans 10:9, 10; Acts 8:37 [KJV]; see Matthew 10:32). Again, this is something that is impossible for infants and the dead to do for themselves. Modern religious practice requires someone else to speak for them. God requires us, however, to speak for ourselves (2 Corinthians 5:10).


A final prerequisite to baptism is repentance toward God. For salvation to take place, repentance must accompany immersion (Acts 2:38; see Luke 13:3; 24:47; Acts 3:19; 11:18). If one does not have a change of heart, immersion is of no spiritual value. Of course, an infant has no sin to repent of and the dead are past the point of this being a possibility (Hebrews 9:27).


According to God’s Word the subject who qualifies for immersion is a sinner who believes in Jesus Christ, confesses this faith, and turns from sin in repentance. The practice of infant baptism is a later development (3rd century A.D.). Dr. Everett Ferguson, a church historian, argues from ancient funeral inscriptions that infant baptism arose from “emergencies.” Infant mortality rates were high and parents began to question the condition of their unimmersed children who were on their deathbeds—so they began to baptize them. This “exception” later became the norm. The theological explanation to support this practice was firmly established by Augustine (4th-5th century A.D.) and his doctrine of Original Sin, that is, inherited guilt from Adam’s sin. However, other early writers such as John Chrysostom rejected this false teaching.


Proxy baptism is based on a misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 15:29. If proxy baptism actually took place among Christians in the first century, it must be said that Paul never endorsed such a practice, but only used it for an illustration. Groups who practiced proxy baptism such as the Cerenthians and Marcionites (2nd century A.D.) were viewed as heretical by mainstream Christianity. The practice is directly opposed to every passage concerning Christian baptism in the New Testament, along with those texts which deal with personal responsibility before God.


Have you, by faith, been immersed into Christ to have your sins washed away? Are you a part of Christ’s body, the church? Are you clothed in the righteousness of Christ? Are you indwelled by the Holy Spirit?

 

(Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)

 

 

 

Read more
Is New Testament Christianity Blind Faith?
Is New Testament Christianity Blind Faith?

Phil • November 26, 2018

Is New Testament Christianity “Blind Faith”?

David Stewart


Is New Testament Christianity blind faith? By using the adjective “blind,” some people would likely assume that there is no foundation or basis to Christianity. They would think that for a person to be a Christian he would have to be naive or superstitious. However, rejecting the Christian life is actually the blind stance. One must ignore or brush away all the evidence that has been preserved and laid before us. What evidence is there for Jesus and the religion that he established?


1) Historicity. The evidence testifies that Jesus was indeed a historical person. Jesus is no cartoon character like Superman or fictitious hopeful like the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. He was born into this world at a specific time (during the reign of Caesar Augustus, Luke 2:1) and a specific place (Bethlehem of Judea, Luke 2:4). Eyewitnesses surrounded Jesus and some left records of his life. The twenty-seven documents of the New Testament bear witness to him. The apostle John wrote out of his close association with Jesus: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). Even historians outside the New Testament such as Tacitus, Seutonius, and Josephus wrote about Jesus and the Christian movement, confirming their historicity.


2) Prophecy. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies that spoke of him several centuries beforehand! In the New Testament we repeatedly read quotations from the Old Testament in which Jesus is the fulfillment of what God had promised long ago. A few prominent examples will illustrate the testimony of prophecy.


Jesus would have a Spirit-empowered ministry. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18; see Isaiah 61:1, 2).


Jesus would sacrificially die. “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Acts 8:32; see Isaiah 53:7, 8).


Jesus would be raised from the dead. “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay” (Acts 2:27; see Psalm 16:9, 10).

An everlasting kingdom would be established. These things were fulfilled in the days of the Roman Empire as it was spoken: “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed” (Daniel 2:44). God accomplished this through Jesus by establishing his church (Matthew 16:18, 19).


3) Character. Jesus lived the best life that has ever been lived on the face of the earth. Even those with hypocrisy in their hearts recognized that Jesus was different from the normal man: “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are” (Mark 12:14). Jesus refused all the temptations to take shortcuts in establishing his kingdom (Matthew 4:8, 9; John 6:15; 18:10, 11). He did not bow to the carnal messianic expectations of the Jewish nation. Rather he came to serve, even stooping to the task of a slave by washing his disciples’ feet (Matthew 20:28; John 13:1–17). Unlike other religious teachers that have come and gone, Jesus never fell for the lures of the Evil One. Jesus “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21; see 1 Peter 2:22). Through suffering and obedience he was “made perfect” (Hebrews 5:9). Jesus was “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus went the distance, having “been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).


4) Teaching. Jesus’ teaching transcends all that of the philosophers and sages of the past, present, and future. He taught God’s truth as one who had come from the Father (John 7:16, 17). He emphasized not only performing the right action, but having the right kind of heart (Matthew 5–7). Jesus presented himself and his way of living as the only possible means of salvation (John 14:6). He left his words to sound forth as the standard of judgment in the final day (John 12:48). His teaching left people shocked: “The crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28, 29).


5) Miracles. Jesus demonstrated that he was no ordinary individual. He performed many miracles which are recorded by the Gospel writers. The apostle John calls these miracles “signs” because they point to the greater reality of who Jesus is. John did not record very many of Jesus’ miracles, but enough to produce faith in the hearts of his readers (John 20:30, 31). Jesus himself appealed to the miracles as a basis for faith (John 14:11), and they were also used as proof in early gospel preaching that Jesus was the Messiah: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Jesus’ miracles were common knowledge among the masses.


6) Resurrection. Jesus ultimately overcame death, being raised never to die again! The stone was rolled back, no body was found in the tomb, and the grave clothes were left lying there (John 20:1–9). The apostle Paul wrote concerning Jesus’ resurrection appearances: “He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time. . . . Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also” (1 Corinthians 15:5–8; see Acts 2:32). Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).


What will you do with the evidence for Jesus?


(Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)


Read more
Is the Bible from God or Men?
Is the Bible from God or Men?

Phil • November 26, 2018

Is the Bible from God or from Men?

David Stewart

           

Written revelation is one of the ways in which God has revealed himself to mankind. In God’s love and wisdom he has given us direction for living in the form of the Bible. This collection was written over a period of about 1500 years, from the time of the Exodus (c. 1440 B.C.) to the end of the first century A.D. It contains 66 books with about 40 different human authors and evidences an amazing unity. The Holy Spirit guided this process as the message of God progressively unfolded.


The claim of inspiration is constantly found within Scripture itself. Concerning the Old Testament, the apostle Paul wrote, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).


The apostle Peter wrote, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20, 21). For this reason, Old Testament prophets often prefaced their message by the words “This is what the Lord says.” During Jesus’ ministry he continually emphasized that the Old Testament was the authoritative word of God (Matthew 22:29; Luke 16:16, 17; 24:44; John 10:35).


Concerning the inspiration of the New Testament, Jesus promised his apostles that after his ascension into heaven he would send the Holy Spirit to “guide [them] into all truth” (John 16:13). Therefore, the message of Christ was “revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:5). The apostle Paul wrote, “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (1 Corinthians 2:13).


Some have charged that the Bible is simply a fallible book written by men and has no authority for people’s lives today. There are many responses to this false notion:


1) The Unity of the Bible. As has already been stated, the Bible was written over a 1500 year-period by numerous authors. Yet it shows unity of theme and purpose, declaring that there is one supreme Author. 


2) The Message of the Bible. The Bible answers the most difficult questions of life: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? These are questions that the greatest of human thinkers cannot answer without the Word of God.


3) Prophecy in the Bible. The Bible records many prophetic statements, sometimes several centuries prior to their fulfillment. The greatest prophecies concern Jesus’ sacrifice for sinners (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53), the establishment of Christ’s church / kingdom (Daniel 2:44), and the promise of the second coming of Jesus (Acts 1:11).


4) The Preservation of the Bible. The Bible is the best-preserved book of antiquity. It has survived the many attempts of those who tried to destroy it. God, by his divine providence, has preserved his message for us even today.


5) Scientific Observations in the Bible. The Bible was not written as a scientific textbook, but there are scientific principles within it that were unknown by man at the time they were written. For example, many of God’s commands to Israel concerning cleanliness, bodily waste, diet, and quarantine served to prevent disease from spreading among the people. 


6) Historical Accuracy of the Bible. The Bible accurately records the customs and history of the Ancient Near Eastern people as well as those in the Greco-Roman world of the first century. Archaeological discovery has refuted many of the charges skeptics have made against the Word. These discoveries have served to beautifully illustrate the times in which the people of the Bible lived.


7) The Impact of the Bible. The gospel message contained in the Bible has brought salvation and life-changing power to countless thousands (Romans 1:16). It has brought hope to the downcast, peace to those in conflict, and love to those overcome with hate. In addition, the Bible’s moral ethics have made a great impact on the world for good. Such principles as respect for human life, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and justice served as a foundation for American democracy. The Bible has also inspired the world’s greatest paintings, sculptures, and music.


There is a human side to the Bible. It was written down by men in the common languages of their times (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek). These authors used their own vocabulary to express God’s divine truth. In some cases, these men investigated events that had already occurred in order to provide orderly accounts (Luke 1:1–4; Acts 1:1). Sometimes writers expressed personal greetings and requests (Romans 16:3–16; 2 Timothy 4:13). None of these facts, however, diminish from the Bible’s authority. The Holy Spirit supervised all of these processes. The Bible ultimately is the Word of God.


(Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)



Read more
Does God Exist? 
Does God Exist? 

Phil • October 16, 2018

Does God Exist?


  In our times of intellectual advancement and industrial achievement, growing numbers of people have lost faith in God. Many question whether a person can really know that God exists (“agnostics”), while others blatantly deny his reality (“atheists”). This growing phenomenon is amazing in light of the evidence which points to an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Creator. Consider the following support:


            1) Cause and Effect. Every day we wake up and look around us we see evidence of the “cause and effect” principle. The bed in which we sleep and the table at which we eat our breakfast were manufactured by a furniture company somewhere. The newspaper we read reflects the research and reporting of a team of journalists. The food we eat has been produced on a farm, processed and packaged at a plant, distributed, and sold through a grocery store. Every effect must have a superior cause. This principle points back to an eternal, all-wise, all-powerful God. The first verse of Scripture assumes this truth: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). It should be evident to those who have never even read the Bible: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).


            2) Design. The creation that we see around us exhibits masterful design. When we consider such complexities as the human body, the food chain, the water cycle, and the solar system, we stand in awe. These intricate systems work in harmony with each other and give evidence of a creative Designer. They are not the result of chance, accident, or evolution. A glimpse of God’s masterful design can be seen in the Lord’s response to Job (Job 38–39).


            3) Beauty in Nature. Have you ever stared at a sunset that contained beautiful shades of red, orange, and blue? Have you ever stared off a mountain, admiring various shades of green trees and fields? Have you ever stood on a beach and witnessed the powerful tides rolling in? These scenes, and many others like them, are evidence of the great Artist, whose canvas is ever changing from day to day and season to season. The psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1–4).


            4) Religious Instinct. From the beginning of time human beings have been creatures of worship (Genesis 4:3426). The worship of the one true God frequently became corrupted into the worship of idols and nature. People “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:23). Nevertheless, throughout history humanity has demonstrated a need to worship. If God does not exist, where does such an instinct come from?


            5) Morality. Every society in existence has been built upon a sense of morality, a belief that there is right and wrong. These values are enforced by government (Romans 13:1–7). While these values may degenerate, the concept of morality testifies to the existence of God. Where did morality originate? Where did human beings get a sense of conscience which, when broken, stirs up feelings of guilt and remorse? The conscience is a gift from God as evidenced by the first couple who hid after their sin (Genesis 3:1–9). If humanity evolved from lower forms and this life is a “survival of the fittest,” why is it universally wrong to steal and murder? Why are people imprisoned for such crimes?


            6) Justice. Many people act immorally in this life, but yet seem to prosper. What about those who committed crimes and were never caught or justly prosecuted? If there were no God, there would be no true justice. Scripture, however, affirms that God will deliver justice: “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).


            7) Hope Through Suffering. The fatalistic mentality of many today leads them to end their own lives when their quality of life fails. They have no hope for life beyond this one. There is nothing to bring them cheer or relief in their time of pain. All they foresee is a grave where their body will be left to decay into utter nothingness. Such a view of life causes people to think, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). Such ones are “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). In contrast, those who have a vibrant faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ also have great hope in times of suffering. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16–18). Without God, there is no true hope.


            8) Purpose in Life. It has been said that there are three big questions concerning life: 1) Where did we come from? 2) Why are we here? 3) Where are we going? Consider the second question concerning our purpose in life. If there is no God, there is no clearly defined purpose for our lives. Our existence is arbitrary, happenstance, and meaningless. On the other hand, if God is real, then life makes all kinds of sense. We are here to bring glory and honor to our Creator. After contemplating the meaning of life, considering wisdom, wealth, and work, Solomon advised: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:1314).


            9) History. God has given testimony to his existence by his ongoing work throughout history. He did not simply wind up the world like a clock, as deists believe. Rather, God has been at work since the foundation of the world, revealing his love, mercy, power, and holiness. His work can even be seen in the lives of those who do not know him. “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy” (Acts 14:17). God has communicated with select individuals throughout history, revealing his will and purpose. Many of these revelations are recorded in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. The fullest revelation of God was the incarnation of Jesus Christ. “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:12). “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18).

                                

(Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society.)

Read more
Three Worlds on One Road
Three Worlds on One Road

Phil • October 16, 2018

Three Worlds on One Road


I was struck by the uncanny way my day unfolded today as the world I live in brushed up against two other, very alien, worlds.


I have been preaching on the call to Holiness recently and use the term “Chrexit” in referring to Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 6:17 where he tells us to “come out from among them.” It is a challenge to live in the world and yet be separate from it.


So here was I, with Sandy, enjoying the special beauty of the Finger Lakes region from inside our 2008 Ford Focus. I was on a quest to visit an inmate, in one of our State Correctional Facilities, who is asking to be baptized. If you have visited in a prison then you know what a different world it is. And it is not just the inmates who live a life separated from the world; I know the staff don’t want to see repeat offenders but they seem to seek to eliminate repeat visitors, too.


I have no problem being separate from that world, and yet I know that I cannot turn my back on it. Before I turned off the highway on to the approach to the prison we encountered yet another very different world, virtually on the prison doorstep. Amish and Mennonite farms are all over that region and we were spellbound watching a young lad manage a team of seven horses as he planted seed and an older man baling hay with two horses. This is a world that I could easily be drawn to but they live a life separate from my world.


It gives me much to ponder. I am a prisoner of Christ but He does not lock me up or exile me; He sends me into the world. I plant seed for the LORD but He would not have me plant only in my own familiar soil; He would have me scatter the seed everywhere. This world needs Christians, but it needs Christians to be holy.

 

Arthur Barry

Read more
Are You Tilling The Soil? 
Are You Tilling The Soil? 

Phil • October 16, 2018

Are You Tilling the Soil?


Every gardener knows that tilling the soil is essential to flowers and vegetables throughout the growing process. When we till we break up the hard soils, destroy choking weeds, prepare the ground for seed and allow life sustaining nutrients to penetrate the soil. Tilling stubborn soil proves necessary if we want growth, as nothing grows in hard, dry, sun-baked soil. 


Praying like tilling, is essential to our spiritual growth. Prayer breaks up hard hearts, roots out choking sin, prepares hearts and hands for God’s work and invites God to penetrate our entire being. Nothing grows within the soul – not relationship, not service- without allowing God first in our life to break up our stubborn hearts.


Studying God’s word is also essential to our spiritual growth. God wants each of us to be in his word every day. We also have opportunities to bask in daily sunlight by studying Gods word collectively. These opportunities are presented to the Ladies class every Tuesday at 10:00, for the whole body on Wednesday nights at 7:00 PM and Sunday mornings at 9:30 AM. Taking advantage of these bible studies will help us have deeper spiritual roots. The Sunday Bible studies are to blend with your Sunday worship. 


I know you are busy, but all growing Christians, just like growing plants, need a weekly watering with the Word. The Word of God is necessary to the life of a Christian. Sometimes, just a light sprinkling will do. Other times we all need a good long soaking.


On the Lord's Day, when we come together to worship God and observe the Lord’s Supper, we receive a weekend feeding that provides rich nourishment for the week to come and helps us grow deeper roots in Christ. Please join us Sunday!


Dorothy Pensoneau

Foothills church of Christ

Read more