And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 21, Number
In this issue:
“speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19)
This passage explains several things about the musical worship we must bring before God:
1. Singing (vocal music) is the music the Lord requests and expects.
2. Who sings (“to one another”), and what the singing accomplishes (communication).
3. What we sing (“psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”).
4. How we sing (“making melody in your heart”).
5. To whom we sing (“to the Lord”).
It is notable that singing (vocal music) achieves each of these purposes without adding instruments of music (another kind of music). Forcing instrumental music into this passage when it is not there is a futile attempt to add to the sufficiency of God’s word.
Worship music is vocal (it is not vocal + instrumental). We speak “to one another” when we sing. Everyone sings – this is congregational singing. By “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” we teach and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16). Sacred, religious odes that address spiritual subjects are sung by true worshipers (John 4:23-24). Singing is the mode of communication to use, not whistling, stomping, thumping, clapping, humming, or any other non-verbal expressions that attempt to heighten emotion or mimic the sound of musical instruments. Our God-made instrument, the heart, is plucked as songs are sweetly and earnestly sung to the Lord.
We can unite on the truth that singing is true worship to the Lord. Division came when people added musical instruments to worship. God put singing in His church. The wisdom and will of man put playing instruments in the church, and called it worship (Galatians 1:6-9).
-Sword Tips, #1588 (adapted)
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) contend the New Testament church practiced baptism for (on behalf of, in the place of) the dead. Their attempted justification of this hinges, in part, on their misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 15:29. However, their defense of baptism for dead people goes beyond that. The LDS Church teaches one still possesses the ability to choose right and wrong after death. To them, baptism for a dead person gives the dead person an opportunity to choose whether he or she will accept its benefits and “progress to the celestial kingdom” (Mormon terminology for eternal life). This is clearly against the meaning of Hebrews 9:27 and Luke 16:25-26.
We should allow plain passages of Scripture help explain the more difficult ones. While 1 Corinthians 15:29 admittedly presents some challenges of interpretation, the meaning of the passage is within our reach. While establishing the truth of resurrection from the dead, the apostle offers a motive for being baptized that the “no resurrection” doctrine would nullify. That motive (for being baptized) to which Paul refers is the death of saints who willingly give their lives for their faith. Stephen and others come to mind as ones who died at the hands of their persecutors (Acts 7:57-60; 26:10; Rev. 2:13). Their deaths helped motivate others to be baptized into Christ. Paul’s point is this: “if the dead are not raised, why then are they baptized for them?” If there is no resurrection, to be baptized only to experience martyrdom without future hope of life is indeed futile and foolish (1 Cor. 15:17-19).
The word translated “for” in 1 Corinthians 15:29 is the preposition huper, which can mean, “on account of” (examples are found in Acts 15:26; Rom. 1:5). Notice how Paul makes ascending application in his remarks: “they” (15: 29), “we” (15:30) and “I” (15:31-32). His summary is, “if the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (15:32). To conclude that “baptism for the dead” in verse 29 can only be proxy baptism fails to consider the circumstances that give context and explanation to Paul’s statement. That circumstance was not proxy baptism, it was the false doctrine of no resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12).
There is an additional reason to conclude Paul is not advocating the practice of baptism in the place of the dead that deserves to be part of a thorough study of this subject.
The New Testament teaches there is “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). The LDS Church (Mormonism) has added another baptism to the great commission baptism Jesus commanded (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:15-16). When we compare LDS baptism for the dead with the great commission baptism, it becomes apparent LDS baptism for the dead is the result of human additions to the word of God.
Please note these differences between the baptism preached by Christ’s first century apostles and the one preached by the 21st century LDS apostles:
Great commission baptism is for the living, it is personal, and it is for the remission of sins of the person being baptized. This baptism is Biblical and true (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
LDS baptism for the dead is for the dead, it is in place of someone who has died, and it alleges to provide the dead person a choice to accept or reject its benefit. It is another baptism that is extra-Biblical, and false. The LDS doctrine and practice of baptism in place of the dead changes the apostolic gospel of the first century (something Galatians 1:6-9 warns us we must never do).
Remember, the living have time and opportunity to obey, to praise and to serve God, but the dead await God’s judgment for the deeds done in the flesh (Isa. 38:18-19; Heb. 9:27; Lk. 16:19-31; Heb. 3:7-11). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). No one can be baptized for you now, or after you have died.
Utilize your time to believe and obey the gospel of Christ. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2; Eph. 5:16; Jas. 4:15-17).
-Reprinted, The Spirit’s Sword, VII:48, May 16, 2004 (edited)
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” (Galatians 5:16-17)
Each of us chooses either to live spiritual lives or to satisfy the flesh. Just as Jesus said we cannot serve two masters; the apostle teaches we cannot walk (live) by the Spirit and after the flesh at the same time. They are opposite tendencies that produce opposite fruit. The works of the flesh will keep those who bear it out of the kingdom of heaven, while the fruit of the Spirit indicates kingdom citizenship (Gal. 5:19-23).
To walk “by the Spirit” means to live by the gospel that the Holy Spirit revealed (Gal. 3:1-5; 5:25). We will bear the “fruit of the Spirit” when we are “led by the Spirit” and “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:18, 22-23).
To accomplish this walk we must willingly submit ourselves to “the things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5-8). Let us readily renew our minds by the will of God instead of conforming to the world (Rom. 12:2). May we more diligently “crucify the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof,” and live in subjection to the gospel of Christ (Gal. 5:24).
As you make daily decisions that affect your life, consider their impact on your soul’s salvation. Are you walking by the Spirit, or after the flesh?
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Declining U.S. Birth Rate Continues
The U.S. birth rate continues to decline, hitting its lowest level in over three decades (59 births per 1000) according to a government report released Wednesday (Linda Carroll, “Birth rate in U.S. falls to lowest level in 32 years, CDC says,” nbcnews.com). “The fertility rate of 1.7 births per U.S. woman also fell 2%, meaning the current generation isn’t making enough babies to replace itself” (Carla K. Johnson, “US births lowest in 3 decades despite improving economy,” apnews.com). It takes a birth rate of at least 2,100 births per 1,000 for the nation’s population to remain stable (Carroll op. cit.).
The birth rate was 75.6 during the Great Depression in 1936, suggesting the cause for the present decline is not merely economic. Deeper reasons exist. It does not seem to be coincidental that the declining birth rate coincides with the rise and implementation of the feminist agenda. It has redefined the roles of women and men in the family and in society. The family structure enshrined in the Scriptures fractured as the roles of women and men in the family were cast aside. Abandoning moral restraints for “reproduction rights” (i.e., abortion) has no doubt contributed to the decline. Monogamous, heterosexual marriage is now seen as a menace by some, even as they glorify same sex “marriage” (a lifestyle that will never increase the birth rate, only hasten the day of destruction, Jude 7).
A return to the stability of the home as God arranged it, where husbands and fathers lead in love, where wives and mothers submit to his leadership and manage the home, and where children who obey and honor their parents (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:22-6:4; 1 Tim. 5:14; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).
God’s arrangement for the home is about more than populating a nation here on earth. It is about helping to populate the holy hill of Zion, the church (1 Pet. 2:9; Heb. 12:22-23). A God-arranged home helps increase the spiritual birth rate by training the next generation to love God and follow Him (Psa. 78:4-7; 3 John 4).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 05/16/2019
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA