And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
“While the Wicked are Before Me”
Joe R. Price
1 I said, “I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.” 2 I was mute with silence, I held my peace even from good; And my sorrow was stirred up. 3 My heart was hot within me; While I was musing, the fire burned. Then I spoke with my tongue: (Psalm 39:1–3, NKJV)
David took special care when wicked people were before him. He knew the ungodly, if given a chance, would unjustly turn their evil against him. They did so frequently throughout his life, without justification. When confronted by evil people, David chose to carefully guard his conduct and his words, lest he should fall into sin himself, and become “the reproach of the foolish” (Psa. 39:8).
We may feel the impulse to lash out against the wicked, instead of speaking with the restraint of wisdom and truth. David knew the former would produce no good. Plus, it would fail to express the hope he had in the Lord and His deliverance from evil (Psa. 39:7-8). Like David, we should be “slow to speak” and “slow to wrath” when the wicked are before us.
Even as he sighed with sorrow and grief of heart over the wickedness before him, David did not speak until he could do so as an expression of his faith and hope in the Lord (Psa. 39:3-8). His momentary silence allowed him to guard his ways, gather his thoughts to avoid sin, and then to speak fearlessly with faith in the Lord.
It is a mark of spiritual maturity to remain calm, composed, and faithful when evil is before us (Jas. 1:19-20).
Do Not Harden Your Heart
Joe R. Price
The church is God’s house, God’s family (Heb. 3:6; 1 Tim. 3:15). Oh, what love God has given us to be called His children (1 Jno. 3:1)! We bear the responsibility of service in as God’s house. Hebrews 3:6 says we are God’s house “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” Without equivocation, the Scriptures say Christians must continue in steadfast faithfulness to God in order to be finally and eternally blessed. The inspired writer used Israel in the wilderness to emphasize that we must keep living with diligent faith (Heb. 3:7-19). The example of Israel teaches us that diligent faith prevents the hardening of our hearts against God. We are in danger of falling away from God when we become negligent and apathetic in our faith. This passage directs us to four things that will harden our hearts.
Delay (Heb. 3:7-8). “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion....” Israel was slow to trust and obey God. Over and over, Israel made trial of God by failing to trust in His power to save and sustain them. They said, “is the Lord among us or not?” (Exo. 17:7). Shall we also harden ourselves against God by failing to see His power and presence in His house, the church (Eph. 3:14-21)? We must yield our stubborn will to His to avoid hardening our hearts. When there is no urgency to obey, the heart grows tired of the call to faithfulness. God is always present and ready to save, but a heart that delays obedience remains lost. While you wait to follow Jesus, your heart is growing harder and harder to reach with the gospel.
Doubt (Heb. 3:8-9). Israel doubted God’s power and rebelled against Him in the wilderness (Heb. 3:8-9). Israel had seen God’s power in Egypt and in their flight from the Egyptians. Yet, their doubt bred hesitation. According to the Lord, Israel’s failure to trust God meant “they always go astray in their heart” (Heb. 3:10). Their hearts were hardened and unresponsive to God’s call to obey and trust Him. We must not doubt God’s word, His love, power, or anything else that comes from Him. We can avoid hardened hearts by building our faith upon the word of God and His unwavering faithfulness (Rom. 10:17; Heb. 11:1-2).
Deceitfulness of sin (Heb. 3:13). Sin promises so much but delivers nothing but pain and death. Israel thought the golden calf would help them, and that going back to Egypt would be a blessing, yet it was a great sin against God (Exo. 32:1-7). We can also be deceived into thinking the world holds much better things than Christ has to offer. It is a lie. Do not believe it. Sin will not lead you to the promised land, but to a forever hell.
Disobedience (Heb. 3:15-19). Unless we obey God’s word, hearing it, and knowing it brings no spiritual blessings. When we hear and know the truth, yet consistently refuse to obey it, we are provoking God’s anger against us (Heb. 3:17). Disobedience can make it more difficult to obey God in the future. Disobeying God can harden our hearts to the point that we are no longer interested. We are no longer reachable by God and His word (Heb. 6:4-6).
Remember, God has promised us rest. Do not harden your heart!
(Revision of “Harden Not Your Heart,” The Spirit’s Sword, March 3, 2002)
Water Baptism and the Remission of Sins
Joe R. Price
Most Protestant denominations teach sinners are saved before and without water baptism. They do not believe water baptism “saves us,” as Peter said in 1 Peter 3:21. Instead, they practice water baptism as an expression of a person’s commitment to Jesus after accepting Christ’s gift of salvation. (For an example, see Starting Point, Christ’s Church of the Valley, 6-8.) Many believe that viewing water baptism as essential for salvation is “water salvation” or “works-oriented” salvation that nullifies grace. The Scriptures could not disagree more.
There is little dispute that water baptism is a moment that expresses commitment to Christ. But that begs the question. Has the sinner been saved before being baptized in water to express his or her commitment? Is baptism the expression of a Christian’s commitment or a sinner’s plea for a good conscience toward God (1 Pet. 3:21)? Is it the act of a person who becomes a Christian by being baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27)? Or is the person already a Christian before being baptized? These are two very different things, and we need a straight answer, a Bible answer. Otherwise, people will either 1) Falsely believe they are saved when they are lost, or people will 2) Falsely believe baptism is essential for salvation when it is not. Both cannot be true. What does the Scripture say?
Scripture says there is “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). Therefore, we cannot accept multiple baptisms for multiple reasons. The great commission baptism is for all nations, all peoples (Mk. 16:15-16). It is the “one baptism” that is available to all people today.
Scripture says water is the element of the great commission baptism (Acts 8:36-38). Holy Spirit baptism was a promise to the apostles, not a commandment (Acts 1:4-5). John’s baptism no longer applies (Acts 19:1-6). Baptism in water in the name of the Lord Jesus is the one baptism that remains (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
Scripture says baptism is going down into the water and coming up from the water (Acts 8:38; Matt. 3:16). We will not be distracted into accepting multiple ways of being baptized since the word means “to immerse, to submerge, to dip” (Thayer, 94). In the Scriptures, baptism is a burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). Just as sprinkling and pouring dirt do not constitute a burial, neither does sprinkling and pouring water the burial of baptism.
Scripture says baptism puts the sinner into Christ while separating that person from his sin. Sinners are saved when they are baptized “into Christ” and “into His death” (Rom. 6:3). At this same time, the sinner dies to sin and is raised with Christ to a new life (Rom. 6:4-5; Col. 2:12). IN water baptism, the sins are washed away by the saving blood of Jesus (Acts 22:16; 18:8; 1 Cor. 6:11; Tit. 3:5). Like repentance, baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
Obeying Christ’s command to be baptized to be saved does not earn the gift of salvation. The gift has been offered to all. But, sinners must “open the gift” – believe, confess faith, repent, and be baptized to accept the gift of salvation.
Yes, water baptism is essential for salvation.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
A Coin in the Mouth
Joe R. Price
Once Jesus miraculously supplied a coin in the mouth of a fish to pay the temple tax for himself and Peter (Matt. 17:27). A different kind of coin was recently discovered in the mouths of the skeletal remains of 115 children in Poland. Reportedly, the bones dated to the late 1500’s to early 1600’s (“Mass 16th century grave reveals grim remains of over 100 children with coins in their mouths,” thefirstnews.com). Katarzyna Oleszek, an archaeologist working at the site, said “It’s certainly a sign of their beliefs. The coins are called obols of the dead or Charon’s obol. It is an old, pre-Christian tradition. But it’s been cultivated for a long time, even as late as the 19th century, it was practiced by Pope Pius IX” (Ibid). The arrangement of the skeletons and their state of preservation shows the discovery is a Catholic church cemetery. “Charon’s obol is a term for a coin, typically placed in the mouth of a dead person before burial. According to the ancient tradition, the coins were seen as payment for Charon, who took souls across the river dividing the world of the living from the world of the dead” (foxnews.com). What lessons can we learn from this?
1) The Catholic Church historically adopted pagan practices for its own use. It still does. Instead of changing hearts, the Catholics changed the gospel to please the people. We reject such corruption at all costs (Gal. 1:6-12).
2) Wrong views of death and the afterlife abound. Like the pagan Egyptians who adorned the Pharaohs’ tombs with riches for the afterlife, these Europeans had a false view of death and eternity. Jesus described death for the righteous as Paradise, but for sinners, torments (Lk. 16:19-26; 23:43). There is no crossing from one place to the other (Lk. 16:26). Death separates the spirit from the body. Therefore, material things are meaningless in the spiritual realm to which we go.
3) Human tradition does not establish divine truth. Whatever your faith tradition, test it by the inspired Scriptures and then conform to God’s truth, not the fables of men (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 4:7; Titus 1:14).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 07/31/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA