"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)
In this issue:
Invites you to our
Steven j. wallace
(Sunnyside & Yakima, WA)
April 26–May 01, 2009
Monday-Friday: 7:00 PM
I-5 take Exit # 255 and go East 4.2 miles)
The subject of baptism has stirred the hearts of religious zealots from ancient times. Few subjects have generated as much controversy. Yet, few subjects have been more clearly explained in the Bible. As with every other Bible subject, the will of man matters very little when it comes to the question, “what is truth?” (Jno. 18:38) God’s truth on the subject of baptism will be discovered in the New Testament of His Son Jesus Christ. To it we must go to understand baptism, and to it we must be obedient if we are to benefit from baptism in our lives.
Baptism did not begin with man; it was commanded by God. Although the Law of Moses made the Jewish people aware of numerous washing regulations, and the traditions of the elders added the burden of man’s will to such matters, it was God who commanded baptism in water and connected it to the remission of sins (Lev. 15; Mk. 7:1-4; Lk. 3:2-3; Acts 2:37-38). John’s baptism called Israel to repent as a prerequisite to receiving the remission of their sins, as he called upon them to prepare for the coming Messiah (Matt. 3:1-12). The Great Commission baptism is commanded to all that they might be saved (Mk. 16:15-16).
The Greek counterpart of the word “baptize” (baptizo) means “to dip, to immerse, to sink, to submerge, to dip in or underneath water.” There is no doubt that the word baptize describes an action of going down into water and then coming up out of it. The Scriptures affirm this definition (Acts 8:38-39). Its action is likened to a burial (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12). The practice of sprinkling or pouring water and calling it baptism was started by men centuries after the New Testament to accommodate men, not to conform to the revealed will of God.
Why be baptized? The Scriptures say it is to be “saved” (Mk. 16:16); for the “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38); to wash away sins and call upon the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16); to get “into Christ Jesus” and into “His death” (Rom. 6:3); to “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27); to be buried with Christ (Col. 2:12); to be saved (1 Pet. 3:21). A more pointed question is; why do men and women object to these God-given reasons for baptism? So many believe baptism is not really important. They say that baptism is not necessary to be saved, and that baptism does not in any way affect salvation. Such denials of the Scriptures are not worthy of those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
Who should be baptized? Many say babies should be baptized. Others say no one must be baptized. The Scriptures teach that those who have the capability of being taught the gospel and in turn believe in Jesus should be baptized (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16; Acts 8:35-37). The apostle Peter is firm in teaching that only those who first repent of their sins may be baptized in order for their sins to be removed (Acts 2:37-38, 41). If you have heard the gospel and believe that Jesus is the Christ, will confess that faith and repent of your sins, you are ready to be baptized for the reasons described above. The question then is, will you? And if you will not, why aren’t you (Acts 22:16)?
Do you believe the Bible’s teaching on baptism? You may have been baptized at some point in your life. The important question is, “Why were you baptized?” Was it to conform to man’s doctrine (to enter a denomination, to have “original sin” removed by being sprinkled as a baby; to feel accepted by your friends)? Or was it to receive from God the salvation of your soul?
I doubt we think of ourselves as priests as much as we should. Perhaps this is due to our familiarity with the priesthoods we observe in the churches around us (Catholic, Mormon, etc.) and their corruptions of the Scripture-defined priesthood of Christians. We tend to forget that the gospel describes Christians as “priests” who compose a “kingdom” (Rev. 5:10; 1:6). We are said to be a “holy” and a “royal” priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). What an honor to be priests before Almighty God!
The primary work of a priest is to offer sacrifices and gifts unto God. For example, the service of the Levitical priests, which was for the benefit of Israel, was given to God (Exo. 28:1). Their daily service in the house of God brought them into God’s presence as they assisted the worshipers whom they served.
The sacrifices offered by the Levitical priests were acceptable when offered according to the Law (the book of Leviticus reveals the exacting nature of acceptable sacrifices to God under the Law). Similarly, Christians are assured that the sacrifices we offer God “through Jesus Christ” are acceptable to God (1 Pet. 2:5).
You might ask, “What does all this have to do with me today”? Much in every way! Unless you are a priest serving God in His holy priesthood, any service you offer Him is vain worship. On the other hand, as a priest before God you are in the extraordinary position of approaching the God of heaven and earth with sacrifices that please Him. Meditate on the magnificence of that wonderful spiritual blessing.
Being a priest should be very important to us. We must understand the sacrifices we are to be offering Him. Here is a brief review of the sacrifices Christians offer before God:
1. Our bodies (Rom. 12:1-2). We bring before God a body with which to serve, worship and obey Him. Our body is to be given to God and not to the indulgences of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).
2. Faith is a sacrifice we offer before God (Phil. 2:17). Living by faith is often a trying sacrifice, but one with which He is pleased (1 Ths. 1:2-3).
3. When we support gospel preaching we are rendering priestly service to God (Phil. 4:18). The Philippians’ support of Paul was a sweet smelling sacrifice to God. So is ours when we support gospel preachers.
4. Every priest should offer to God the sacrifice of praise, confessing the good things God has done for him or her (Heb. 13:15). In light of this priestly service, why would any priest be content with not assembling with fellow saints to worship God (Heb. 10:25)?
Being a priest has practical application to daily living. As we live by faith, every expression of service and obedience is a “spiritual sacrifice” (1 Pet. 2:5). We are priests! Our lives are an offering to God. Let us serve Him in all reverence and holiness.
The Fragility of Life
As I write, a mass murder has just occurred in Binghamton, NY. So far fourteen, including the murderer (who took his life), are reported dead.
One of the news reporters commented that on a day when the economic outlook of New York and this country is bleak (over 600,000 U.S. job losses were reported in March), the news was not about the “things” of this life, but about life itself; and about how quickly life can be taken away.
Not only do such senseless acts of violence remind us of how fragile life is, they also remind us what is of true value in life. Life ought not to be measured by the material goods one gathers for himself, for they can all be taken away in a moment (Matt. 6:19). Life ought not to be defined by one’s outward appearance, as if our fleshly features and physical stature give some nobility to life. It is the inward heart and not the outward body that gives life dignity and decency (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7).
We are mortal; the flesh is faltering and frail. When the criminal taking of human life occurs it reminds us not to put our hope in the uncertain things of this world. Rather, let us live for God and the eternal realms. Moses wrote, “LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Psa. 90:1). As life comes and goes, the LORD God is constant; He is eternal (“from everlasting to everlasting, You are God,” Psa. 90:2).
Are you living for this world or the next? Life is fragile; are you ready to pass into eternity?
Created by Chuck Sibbing -
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA