And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 21, Number
In this issue:
To discern means “to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing be genuine or not)…to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy” (Thayer, 154). Jesus used this word of examining weather signs to explain discerning the time of the Messiah’s presence (Lk. 12:56). He drove the point home by saying, “Yes, and why even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?” (Lk. 12:57)
Solomon urged his son to “cry out for discernment,” advising that if he would “seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures” that he would “understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:3-5). The benefit of discernment is succinctly stated in Proverbs 15:21: “Folly is joy to him who is destitute of discernment, but a man of understanding walks uprightly.” Without discernment we lack a necessary tool to make wise, godly choices for living righteously.
So, Christians are taught to be “finding out (discerning) what is acceptable to the Lord” while we “walk as children of light” and bear the “fruit of the Spirit” (Eph. 5:10, 8-9; Rom. 12:2). Here are some things requiring spiritual discernment to help us walk uprightly.
1) Discernment is needed to test all things. “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess. 5:21-22). Divine revelation, God’s word, is the measuring stick by which to test the worthiness of “all we do in word or deed” (Col. 3:17).
2) Discernment is needed to approve excellent things. “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9-11). We need the ability to distinguish between behavior that advances righteousness and that which destroys it. Then, we must make the choice that pleases God, maintains our spiritual integrity and produces righteous fruit.
3) Discernment is needed to test the spirits that claim to be true and from God. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jno. 4:1). One of the miraculous spiritual gifts was the “discerning of spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10). Now, we have the recorded teachings of the apostles to know truth from error (1 Jno. 4:6).
Let us mature in spiritual discernment by fearing of the Lord, knowing the will of God, and fervently seeking it and using it in all our decisions.
Earlier this month the Church of England issued pastoral guidance that “advises clergy to refer to transgender people by their new name” in a newly-announced baptism-style ceremony for transgender people to be welcomed into the Anglican faith (“Church of England to offer baptism-style services to transgender people to celebrate their new identity for first time,” Helena Horton, The Telegraph, Dec, 11, 2018). This new, celebratory service is called the “Affirmation of Baptismal Faith,” at which the person may be “presented with gifts such as a Bible inscribed in their chosen name, or a certificate” (Ibid). “The guidance notes: “For a trans person to be addressed liturgically by the minister for the first time by their chosen name may be a powerful moment in the service.”
The arrogance it takes to change the Bible-given purpose of baptism is on full display, much less the hubris to assume one has the power to speak their change of gender into existence based on what they feel they are. To declare oneself “trans” in gender dishonors God who created gender as a biological reality (Gen. 1:26-27). It is truly an example of exchanging the truth for a lie to worship and serve the creature (humans) rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25).
The Church of England notwithstanding, baptism most certainly does not affirm what biology and Scripture denies. The Bible is clear on the purpose of baptism. Since Jesus commanded baptism, it is vital that we refresh ourselves about what Great Commission baptism affirms (Matt. 28:18-19).
1) Bible baptism affirms the sinner now believes the gospel of Christ. One must believe the gospel that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God before being baptized (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 8:36-38). Faith in Christ is a prerequisite of baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:4-5).
2) Bible baptism affirms the sinner has confessed faith in Jesus Christ. The Ethiopian was baptized after he confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (Acts 8:36-38; Rom. 10:9-10). The Anglican Church allows and performs infant baptism as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace” conferred by God upon the infant, making the child a member of “Christ’s holy Church” (Eleanor McKenzie, Anglican Views on Baptism).
3) Bible baptism affirms the sinner has repented of sins. When one repents of his sins he is prepared to be baptized for sin’s remission (Acts 2:37-38). Baptism certainly does not celebrate sin and call it good (which is what the Anglican Church’s “Affirmation of Baptismal Faith” ceremony is designed to do). Baptism that is not predicated on repentance does not please God.
4) Bible baptism affirms one is baptized into Christ, into His death, and is consequently dead to sin. This triple action of baptism is taught by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). One is not “in Christ” until he or she is baptized “into Christ, and baptism is when one puts on Christ (v. 3; Gal. 3:27). As one is baptized into Christ Jesus that person is also being “baptized into His death” (v. 3). The benefit and power of Christ’s death (His redemptive blood) is reached in baptism when one’s sins are washed away (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Thirdly, one is baptized into death (to sin, v. 4). Released from sin’s bondage and death, the sinner is raised to live a new life (Rom. 6:4-6). This new life through baptism is not about gender conversion, but master conversion. Sin and death no longer rule over us. Now, we live with Christ (Rom. 6:6-12).
5) Bible baptism affirms one is saved. Note carefully that we did not say baptism affirms one has already been saved. The Bible says the water baptism of Christ’s gospel saves the sinner: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21, KJV; see also Mk. 16:16).
Like other denominations, the Church of England believes it has the authority to change the Scriptures and their meaning to suit and accommodate the changing fancies and foibles of humanity. We vehemently deny such is our right. We dare not go beyond what is written in inspired Scripture, for to do so forfeits fellowship with God (1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Jno. 9). We are not at liberty to go to the left hand or to the right to alter holy Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
Affirming what the Bible denies is not faith, it is faithlessness (whether the issue is transgenderism, baptism, or any other matter of life and godliness, 2 Pet. 1:3-4). Changing God’s word to approve sin is a sin that will not go unpunished (Heb. 2:1-4).
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 3:18-23
1. All things are created and
sustained for the benefit of Christians, 1 Cor. 1:18-23.
I. THE WORD OF GOD IS YOURS, 1 Cor. 3:18-20.
A. Divine Revelation Belongs to
the Humble (1:18-31), Matt. 11:25-30; Col. 2:3.
II. ALL THINGS ARE YOURS, 1 Cor. 3:21-22; Rom. 8:28. Matt. 16:26; Jno. 15:19; 17:14-16
A. Apostles, Preachers and Teachers, 3:22;
cf. 1 Tim. 4:6, 11, 16; 2 Tim. 4:2.
III. EVERYTHING SERVES THE CHRISTIAN BECAUSE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST, 1 Cor. 3:23.
A. If You Belong to Christ (Gal.
1. The world has been created for man, not man for the world.
2. Of all the people on the earth, Christians have the proper perspective of the world and all things.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
The partial U.S. government shutdown continues as Congress and the President are at an impasse on funding a southern border wall. Interestingly, a headline in today’s world news tells of a recent border fence built by Russia to seal off Crimea (“Russia's new border wall barrier seals off Crimea,” aljazeera.com). There are no countries without borders. National security requires border security.
Scripture describes Ezekiel’s vision of a city and a temple with a wall around it (Ezek. 40:5). The purpose of the wall was “to separate the holy areas from the common” (Ezek. 42:20). The vision emphasized the pattern of holiness God demands of His people (Ezek. 43:10-12). In John’s vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” he saw “the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” which also had “a great and high wall,” and no defilement of sin entered the holy city (Rev. 21:1-2, 10, 12, 25-27).
Walls give protection from enemies. Just as a city or a nation builds walls to secure its existence, Christians must build walls of separation from sin and evil. We are called to separate ourselves from uncleanness and live holy lives (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Pet. 1:13-16). Build a wall of holiness!
Walls set parameters of legitimate rule and activity. The established government of a citizenry extends to its borders. Even so, Christians submit themselves to the rule or authority of Christ in all things, being careful not to go beyond it (Col. 3:17). We cannot go “across the border” of His revealed word and expect to be protected and blessed by Him, because going “beyond the doctrine of Christ” forfeits His fellowship (2 Jno. 9).
Borders provide identity. God’s word sets the boundary of who belongs to Him. He is holy, and when we follow His truth, we are holy (Jno. 17:17). His church is His temple – we belong to Him (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). Since we belong to Him, we must live for Him and not like the people of the world. The law of the temple is holiness (Ezek. 43:12). God’s wall of holiness protects us, blesses us, and identifies us as His.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 12/30/2018
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA