Notes On Communion And Washing The Saints’ Feet

Communion

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

:17-22 The setting and context: Corinth’s divisions manifest in their common meal

Jude :12

In the pl., agápai, love feasts, public banquets of a frugal kind instituted by the early Christian church and connected with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The provisions were contributed by the more wealthy individuals and were made common to all Christians, whether rich or poor, who chose to partake. Portions were also sent to the sick and absent members. These love feasts were intended as an exhibition of that mutual love which is required by the Christian faith, but as they became subject to abuses, they were discontinued.

        These here seem to be the Agapæ, or love-feasts, of the primitive Christians; the design of which was to maintain and promote brotherly love, from whence they took their name; and to refresh the poor saints, that they might have a full and comfortable meal now and then: their manner of keeping them was this; they began and ended them with prayer and singing; and they observed them with great temperance and frugality; and they were attended with much joy and gladness, and simplicity of heart: but were quickly abused, by judaizing Christians, as observing them in imitation of the passover; and by intemperance in eating and drinking; and by excluding the poor, for whose benefit they were chiefly designed; and by setting up separate meetings for them, and by admitting unfit persons unto them; such as here are said to be spots in them, blemishes, which brought great reproach and scandal upon them, being persons of infamous characters and conversations.

 John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/gillexpnt?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=123&ctx=a+feast+of+faith%EF%BB%BFb.+~These+here+seem+to+b>, vol. 3, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809), 676.

The Last Supper was a full Passover meal, and the early church had continued the tradition of celebrating a meal (“the Lord’s Supper”) of which bread and wine were only a part. Communion as a full meal was also called a “love feast.”

 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/bbackcom?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=4&ctx=wish+tradition.%0a12.+~The+Last+Supper+was+> (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Jud 12.

:23-26 The meaning of communion

cf 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 communion-sharing

Note that we have elements of cup and bread, which represent the blood and body of our Lord. They show His death.

The problem of the mass and transubstantiation. 1. John 6:51-63 Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms. He was not being literal. These words are a figure. It is not the flesh, but the spirit, that gives life. 2. The mass is re-enactment of the crucifixion in which it is believed that Jesus is crucified before the eyes of the beholder and His flesh eaten by those who partake. Thus it is that the priest holds up the chalice/cup and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!” He truly believes that Jesus is present in the form of the wine and wafer. The reality is that Jesus will not be crucified a second time, nor any more than the one time which He died. Hebrews 10:7-18 That one offering is sufficient forever.

:26 The Lord’s Supper shows His death. It is a sign and a symbol that testifies to the reality that we all share through faith in Christ.

“till He come.” Luke 22:14-18 This presents to us the remembrance of Christ’s resurrection, the promise of His coming, and the glorious hope of communing with Him forever in His eternal kingdom.

Feetwashing

John 13:1-17

First of all, let us understand that footwashing is an ordinance, yet it is not a separate ordinance from the communion service. It is a part of the communion service.

Washing feet

Washing the feet of guests was the job of the lowest of servants. It seems that there was no servant at hand to wash their feet, and they did not even wash their own feet. Now Jesus washes their feet to teach them a lesson.

 Jesus taught the disciples to be servants, as He was a servant Matthew 20:28. It is quite possible that Jesus taught this because of the disciple’s arrogant squabbling Luke 22:24-30, which seems to have taken part during the Last Supper. 

Washing with water

John 13:8 If Jesus does not wash us, we have no share in Him, no communion, and no fellowship.  Cf Hebrews 12:7-8

John 13:10 He who is washed is totally clean, except for his feet. Feet walk and, in daily life, feet get dirty and need washing. This symbolizes our need for daily cleansing.

Ephesians 5:25-28

John 15:1-3 clean through the Word

Washing one another

Galatians 6:1-3 help the fallen brother

James 5:19-20 convert the erring brother

1 John 5:16-17 pray for the sinning brother

    accept washing

    Some people won’t do the literal washing of feet, not because they don’t want to wash, but because they don’t want people seeing their feet. Likewise we often fail to willingly accept the help from those who wish to help us. Hebrews 13:17,22 We must remember Galatians 6:3 and recognize that we will need to accept washing from others. To refuse is to arrogantly assume that we are something though we are nothing.

Why call this a part of the communion service?

  1. Because it is part of the symbolism of salvation. There is the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, and then there is the cleansing Jesus gives by His Word. If we have no part with Him without the cleansing, it seems it is only right that it be signified in the communion service.
  2. Because Jesus said that we ought to do it. John 13:17

What Is The Church?

What Is The Church?

            Over the years many people all around the world have asked the question, “What is the church?” It is the aim of this post to answer that question from the most relevant and authoritative of places, the Bible.

            What is the church?  That is what we must determine before we delve into the composition and manifestation of the church.  The most basic meaning of the Greek word ekklesia which is translated “church” in the New Testament is “called out.”  This was a common term for a congregation or an assembly.  It speaks of those who are called out for a specific purpose and was specifically used in this manner when Luke spoke of the Ephesian assembly (which was a tumultuous mob) in Acts 19:32&39 where it is translated “assembly.”  With this in mind we can conclude that the church is a group of people called out by God for His own purpose.  In fact, Peter presents this fact to us very plainly saying, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”  (1 Peter 2:9)  

The Old Testament Church

            Though very little is said about the nation of Israel being part of God’s church, the Bible does plainly present this fact to us.  Stephen, speaking of Moses, said, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”  (Acts 7:38)  Now, there are those who would wish to deny that this is indeed a reference to Israel as being a part of God’s church.  They would like to tell us that this is simply an assembly of people, and that is all that ekklesia is meant to convey to us in this context.  The fact remains, however, that the word ekklesia occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament, and only in Acts 19:32&39 is it translated “assembly.”  In every other instance it is translated “church” or “churches.”  The only time it is used to speak of an assembly other than the Lord’s church is in Acts 19:32&39.  The typical usage of ekklesia in the New Testament is in reference to a called out group of people.  That is precisely what the nation of Israel was.  “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”  (Hosea 11:1) Thus, we can be assured that, though it did not function in the same manner as a New Testament church, there was indeed a church in the Old Testament.

The New Testament Church

            What about New Testament days?  How do we see the church in the New Testament?  First of all, the local church is certainly seen in the New Testament.  The church is there with her leaders, discipline, and ordinances.  At the same time the church is also seen as a larger body that is composed of all who know Jesus.  It is this manifestation of the church that we want to consider.

            When Jesus first mentions the church, He made a special promise to the church that actually demonstrates to us that the church is more than a local body alone.  Jesus said: “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Mt 16:18) KJV  Why say that this applies to more than the local church?  Because many local churches have died.  This promise must pertain to some form of church other than the local church.  Local church only proponents may say that this applies to the church in general.  To do so, however, is to concede that there is some form of church beyond the local church.  There is a church that shall never die, according to the promise of Jesus.  What church is it?

            The apostle Paul was one who understood the church to be general in nature and manifesting itself in local assemblies.  It was he who told us “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)  Entrance into the body of Christ comes by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 3:26-29).  The question then arises, into what body is one baptized?  Historically, Baptists have required water baptism for local church membership.  I think that is the right thing to do.  If this is so, into what one body is the believer baptized into when baptized with the Holy Spirit?

            Paul’s language again shows us the general nature of the church when he said “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)  Having just told the Corinthian church that their local assembly was the body of Christ, he proceeds to tell them about the gifts that are given to the church.  The first gift mentioned was apostles.  Were the apostles given to the Corinthian church, or the church general which is composed of Holy Spirit baptized believers?

            There’s hardly another passage in which the church general can be seen more clearly than the following: “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.   For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.   Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”   (Ephesians 2:14-22)  Paul states that the Jew and the Gentile have been made one.  By the cross the Jews and Gentiles are reconciled into one body.  There is no Gentile church or Jewish church.  There is only the Christian church.  There is no longer Israel as the only chosen of God.  Gentiles are fellow heirs with believing Israel.  We are of the same household as the believing Jew. Together the believing Jew and the believing Gentile are built into God’s holy temple.  By being reconciled to God, we are made into one body, this text tells us. God dwells in this church by the Holy Spirit.  One thing that local church only advocates miss is the fact that the body of Christ is present in this passage, but water baptism is not.  Neither will it serve any purpose to insist that it is implied.  What is expressly stated is that the cross is what brings people into this one body.  The body here is a body composed of the redeemed.

            The church as the body of the redeemed is seen again in Paul’s writings to the church at Ephesus.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.   For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.   For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.   Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  (Ephesians 5:25-33)  How does the church become the church?  By the cross of Christ.  This same Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  (Acts 20:28) For whom did Jesus die?  He died for the church.  Who is the church?  Those who have been redeemed: the ones purchased by the blood of Christ.  Local church only advocates must notice that water baptism, as important as it is, is never mentioned in these two texts.  What is mentioned is redemption through the cross of Christ.  The church general is composed of blood bought Christians.

            Finally, the having seen the church as the bride of Christ, we must ask the question of the composition of the bride of Christ.  Who is in the bride?            

The Bride of Christ Composed of All Saints, Both Old Testament And New Testament Saints

            First of all, we must go to the Revelation to see the bride of Christ.  “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.   Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.   And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  (Revelation 19:6-8) Many of those who advocate the local church only position state that  the white robes come from the righteous deeds of the saints.  In other words, the ones who are in the bride of Christ are the saints who live up to a certain standard of righteousness and holiness.  This standard has never been fully defined, to my knowledge.  It is supposed to begin with water baptism into the local church, however. 

            Does the Scripture uphold this view of the robes of righteousness being righteous works?  It is this writer’s contention that the Scriptures do not support that position.  Isaiah rejoiced in God’s grace saying, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”  (Isaiah 61:10) Isaiah ascribed the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness as being a gratuitous gift from God, not as something done by the saint[1].  Jesus alludes to this in one of His parables:  “When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.   Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   For many are called, but few are chosen.”  (Matthew 22:11-14) In Jesus’ day it was common for great men to invite many people to celebrate when family members were married.  We are told by some scholars that often the host would freely provide garments for his guests.  It was a great show of disrespect to one’s host to not wear the provided garments.  Jesus is telling us that we cannot partake of the joy of His kingdom if we do not accept the garments that He gives us.  What is the wedding garment, or the fine linen in which the bride shall be clothed in the day of her marriage to the Lamb?  It is the robe of righteousness.  It is the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-28;5:1-3).  Thus it is that the bride who has prepared herself and to whom it has been given to be arrayed in fine linen clean and white is none other than all those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.  The bride of Christ is composed of those who are justified by faith in Jesus.

            We also see the bride of Christ portrayed in the book of the Revelation as the city New Jerusalem.  “There came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.   And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”   (Revelation 21:9-10) One statement especially about this city leads this writer to believe that all of the redeemed of all ages will be a part of the bride of Christ.  That statement is as follows: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.   For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:14-15) The reader will quickly notice that the only ones who are without the city are those who are not redeemed.  By this we readily see that the city is populated with the redeemed.  That being so, and the city being the bride, the bride of Christ is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages.  In fact, we find that Abraham and other Old Testament saints anticipated entrance into the New Jerusalem.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.    For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.   And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.   But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”  (Hebrews 11:13-16) This writer knows of no city for which they could have been looking other than the New Jerusalem, and God has prepared this city for them.  This being so, we can safely conclude that the church is the redeemed of all the ages.

The Local Church

            While considering these things, it is imperative that we recognize that the church generally is seen and experienced as the local church. What we mean by the local church is the church as it is established and ministers in a certain area. In many places within the New Testament, the church is referred to as being within a particular location. It is for this reason that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, rather than to the state church of Galatia, composed of all of the Galatian churches. The New Testament knows nothing of a national or state church, but teaches us much about the local church composed of those baptized believers in a particular area. This is readily seen in the book of Acts. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:41–47) The Jerusalem church was comprised of those believers who were baptized and were joined together in teaching, worship and communion. 

            Many people contend that the belief in the general church constitutes a denial of belief in the local church. This simply is not true, and is an uncharitable statement to make. In fact, the denial of the local church does not logically follow the belief in the larger body of Christ composed of all of the redeemed. Paul told the Corinthians that we are all baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) We know that this is true, because the Spirit that we all receive is the Spirit which was promised (See Ephesians 1:13-14 cf Isaiah 32:12-20;Joel 2:28-32;Acts 2:14-21). Every believer is baptized in/by the Spirit into the body of Christ. In the same chapter, however, Paul explicity tells the Corinthians that they, the local church, were the body of Christ: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) It is impossible to both believe the Bible and reject the truth of the local church. In fact it is no more biblical to deny the local church than it is to deny the church general, composed of all of the redeemed. Scripture teaches us both. 

            We also read Jesus saying, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18–19) Here Jesus tells us that there is a church that is unfailing in her existence. At the same time, this church has certain functions it exercises. This church has authority to bind and loose. That is, she can either declare            something lawful or unlawful, right or wrong, as she has been entrusted with the truth of God and is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This points further to the exercise of discipline within the body of Christ in which the church has the authority to receive people into the membership and to loose them from their membership by means of excommunication, and to receive them again by means of forgiveness (See Romans 16:17;1 Corinthians 5;2 Thessalonians 3:5-16;Titus 3:10;2 Corinthians 2:1-11). This is worked out within the local body of the church. While it is true that we see in this text the larger body of Christ composed of the redeemed, it also points us to this body being experienced and showing herself in the activities of each local church. This also leads us to understand that each local church is a distinct body, which is autonomous under Christ: no other body has authority over the local church, because Christ and His Word is the authority.

            As Paul taught Timothy concerning the ministry, he wrote to him as one who was laboring in a local church. He told him the qualifications of those who would serve the local body, and told him that he was writing for a purpose: “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15) Paul’s counsel for Timothy was for the purpose of instructing him in how he should conduct himself in the church where he was laboring and leading. The same could be said concerning Paul’s letter to Titus.

            When Jesus gave us instructions concerning relationships, he did so with the understanding that the local church had authority in these matters. “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:16–20) Not only does the local church have authority in matters of relationships and discipline, but Christ Jesus dwells in the local church. This is why He said that He would be in the middle of the gathering of two or there who get together in His name. When God’s people determine to do God’s work in God’s way, Christ is present with them. Considering the fact that these things always occur in a locality, we can certainly understand that this refers to the actions of a local body.

            Finally, as we consider the gifts and ministries that are given by the Spirit of God, we find that they are found being used within the local body. Paul taught the Roman church about this (Romans 12:1-8). He also went into great detail with the Corinthians concerning this: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:13–27) Though there is reference to the general body of Christ, we also find that the gifts of the Spirit have their residence and benefit within the local church. Paul informed Corinth that their local body was the very body of Christ. Each local church is a complete body of Christ, established to carry out the commandments of God in her area.


[1] It is interesting to note that clothes cover, and that the meaning of atonement is covering. There is good reason to think that the robes of righteousness represent both atonement and justification through Christ Jesus our Savior.

The Thematic Unity Of The Bible

The Unity Of The Bible: Biblical Themes

“Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:25–27)

 

Among the things that show that the Bible is intended to be taken as a whole are the themes of the Bible. Far from being a book of many differing books, as the modernists and neo-evangelicals would have us believe, the Bible is united from the beginning to the end by the very themes, or motifs, that run from Genesis through the Revelation. There are five motifs that are in the first three chapters of Genesis that run throughout the whole of Scripture: this is what we shall consider in this article.

Genesis chapters one through three present to us the following themes:

Creation- Genesis 1-2, where we see that God created all things.

Sin- Genesis 3, where we see that man fell into sin.

Judgment- Genesis 3:14-24, where we see God’s pronouncement of judgment upon mankind, and the curse that also came upon the earth.

The seed- Genesis 3:15, in which we see that God promises that the seed of the woman will conquer the serpent and his seed.

Redemption-Genesis 3:15-24, wherein we see the shedding of the blood of an innocent to cover man’s shame, and to symbolically hide his sin from God’s sight.

These themes are not separated throughout the Scriptures, but are often found conjoined, as our text shows us that Jesus taught from the Old Testament Scriptures about Himself.

 

After the fall of man, the hope of the promised seed, who would redeem mankind was alive in Adam and Eve; and Eve seems to have thought that Cain was that seed, as she said, “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” (Genesis 4:1) Later, when Noah was born, the same hope alive in his parents. “And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” (Genesis 5:28–29) Then we find that God renews His promise to Abram: “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3) Not only do we see the seed theme, but also we see the theme of creation is here, as God said He would create a great nation of Abram. We shall see that this continues throughout the rest of the Scripture, with Abram’s descendants being given more and more specific promises concerning the seed, who would be redeemer and king.

The theme of the seed continues in Genesis chapter twenty-two, when the LORD told Abraham, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.” (Genesis 22:18) It is this verse that Paul quotes to tell us that He spoke of Jesus: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16) Not only so, but we see the theme of redemption through sacrifice and bloodshed, as there was a lamb/ram offered in the place of Isaac on Mount Moriah. Later we see Jesus proclaimed to be God’s lamb: “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) In the days of the patriarchs, the theme of the promised seed continues as we see that God chooses Isaac, then Jacob, and then tells us through Jacob, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Genesis 49:10)

It seems that, for a while, the hope dimmed and almost died in Israel; but God sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt and into the land of Canaan, thus continuing to fulfill His promises to us all. It is then that Moses told Israel that the promised seed will come, and he said, “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:15–19) Then there was a man whose name foreshadowed the One who was to come- Joshua. Joshua, the LORD saves, means the same as Jesus: “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) And so we see that the theme of the redeeming seed continues.

In the days of the Judges, it looked very bleak in many ways; but the period of the Judges presents us with a continuation of the themes of sin, judgment, and redemption, as we read of the various failure of Israel, and how that God would raise up a judge to rescue them. Furthermore, it is in the days of the Judges that we read the book of Ruth and see God continuing His work of bringing the promised seed into the world. The book of Ruth is not the sweet love story that many think that it is: it is the story of God’s providential working in Israel, and in the tribe of Judah to bring the seed of the woman into the world. In the end of the book, we see that Ruth bears a son, and that son was the grandfather of David, who we shall see foreshadows the coming king and promised seed.

When God began to narrow things down from the tribe of Judah to a particular family through whom His promised seed would come, He used the times of the Judges and the sad failure of king Saul to show us that a king was needed. He told Saul, “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (1 Samuel 13:13–14) Notice how Paul uses this theme in preaching, and shows that God was keeping His promises.  “And afterward they desired a king: and God gave unto them Saul the son of Cis, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, by the space of forty years. And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will. Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus:” (Acts 13:21–23) The theme of the seed who would be the sin-conquering king continues to be seen in the Scriptures, thus tying all of the Scriptures together in a coherent whole.

When David wanted to build a temple for the LORD, God promised to build David a house. This house was not a literal house, but a household, or a family. The promise was that there would be an eternal kingdom and king who would be of the seed of David. “And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David.” (2 Samuel 7:12–17) (See also Acts 15:13-18.) This promise of the seed and theme of the seed continues. The histories of Israel and Judah during the days of the divided kingdom all present to us God’s working to bring His promised seed into the world. This is why we read Isaiah saying, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6–7) It is this theme that appears in the words of the angel to Mary, when he told her that she was going to be the mother of the Christ. “And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:30–33) The theme of the king and the seed find their fulfillment in Jesus.

The New Testament writers build upon these things and show us both the fulfillment of the promises and the continuation of the Old Testament themes as they find their perfection in Christ. Paul shows us both the seed and redemption: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4–5) We again see the seed and redemption themes fulfilled in Christ’s sufferings and resurrection: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14–15) The eternal Son of God was made flesh as the seed of the woman, and He crushed the serpent under his heel, being bruised in the process, in order to redeem His people. (See also Colossians 2:13-15.) This motif has a future fulfillment, in that “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” (Romans 16:20) We also read that He will make His enemies His footstool, and will reign over all things (1 Corinthians 15:26-28;Hebrews 10:11-14).

We see the creation theme here as well, because in Christ we are born again (John 3:1-16), and become new creatures. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) We also know that He promises to bring in a new heaven and a new earth filled with righteousness (2 Peter 3:10-14), which shows the issue of sin being dealt with and conquered, as well as redemption purchases, accomplished, and applied.

These motifs find their fulfillment in the end, as the Revelation shows us. Christ, the atoning and redeeming lamb is also the conquering lion of Judah (Revelation 5:1-14). He is the seed of the woman, as seen in Revelation chapter twelve. Then we see Him as the conquering seed: “And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.” (Revelation 20:1–3) “And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever. And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:7–15) Sin is conquered! The seed of the woman has crushed the serpent under His feet! And finally, we read of the great creation in which He says, “And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” (Revelation 21:5–6) Is it any wonder that the apostle would tell us that God says, “yes and amen” to His promises in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20)? He fulfills them all! The great themes of the Bible find in Him their perfection and fulfillment, as the Scriptures are given to point us to Him (John 5:39).

These are a few of the great themes of the Scripture, which show us the unity of the Bible from the beginning to the end. While skeptics scorn, modernists delete verses, and some neo-evangelicals split the Bible into varying and contradicting parts, God’s Word stands boldly declaring its unity, because it is God’s Word about His Son, and it is perfect. Let us then rest assured that our Bibles are indeed true, infallible, and inerrant: how could they not be? God created the Bible to be the message of His glory and grace in Christ; and His Word shall not return unto Him void, and the Scriptures cannot be broken (Isaiah 55:10-11;John 10:35).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unity Of The Bible 2

The Unity of The Bible pt 1

The Unity of Bible

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”

(Revelation 21:5–6 )

 

The above text speaks to us about the veracity of Scripture, by telling us of the One who inspired it. The words of Scripture are true and faithful. They are trustworthy. The One who commanded that the words be written is Himself the Alpha and Omega. He is both the beginning and the ending. He is eternal and unchanging: that is why the words are words that are infallible, inerrant, and unchanging. This text presents to us the most fundamental point concerning the unity of the Bible, which is the immutability[1] of God.

Scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The men who wrote it were moved upon by the Holy Spirit, who directed their thoughts and words (2 Peter 1:20-21). This means that the words written, the very Scriptures we have, are the words of God. Thus the nature of Scripture is rooted within the nature of God.

God is eternal, and that nature is also the nature of Scripture. That which is eternal is also unchanging, as that which is eternal must remain the same, or it would cease to be eternal. Scripture tells us that God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15), existed before time, being the Creator of time (Genesis 1:1), and that Creation itself testifies to His eternal nature (Romans 1:18-20). Since Scripture is God’s Word, we expect to find similar statements made concerning Scripture. Thus we read, “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89 ) Peter tells us that God’s Word is imperishable and eternal. Its essence is unchanging, does not deteriorate, and exists forever (1 Peter 1:21-25).

God is immutable. It is the nature of that which is eternal to ever remain the same, and God will never change. Scripture tells us that God will never change. Israel could be comforted in their afflictions and trials; because God said, “I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6 ) The assurance that we have in Christ is based upon the fact that God is immutable and true, and His Word is also (Hebrews 6:17-20). And then we read, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8 ) These things being so, we know that God’s Word will never change, nor will it contradict itself. Furthermore, when we view the Scripture from beginning to end, we will find that God’s unchanging character is on every page, binding and uniting each word, sentence, verse, chapter, book, and testament, no matter what the time and age may be.

God, being eternal and immutable, will also be true and faithful. This is also what we find concerning His Word. Moses stated that God is true and without sin (Deuteronomy 32:4). We find it said similarly of God’s Word: “Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.” (Psalm 119:142 ) “Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” (Psalm 119:160 ) God’s Word is forever, and it is forever true. Once again, this means that the Word will never contradict itself, nor will it change. God’s Word will not give us conflicting messages, nor will it present to us that which is wrong as being right.

These things being so, we must view Scripture as a coherent book that is a unity from beginning to end. We must not approach Scripture to say, “This passage is not for us today;” but we must rather approach Scripture to submit to its teaching, asking, “How is this relevant to us today?” Scripture is not to be divided up into small segments, with each segment belonging only to a specific group of people in a certain time, because this violates the nature of the book, and presents a God who cannot make up His mind about what He wishes to say. This is not only incorrect, but it dishonors our Lord! Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we must recognize all of Scripture as the Word of God, and of relevance to us in the present time. Too many people claim to “rightly divide” the Word of God when, in reality, they are rejecting large portions of Scripture and misrepresenting both the Bible, and God, Who gave us the Bible. The eternal, immutable, faithful, and true nature of God makes the Bible a unity to be read, believed, and embraced from beginning to end.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Immutability- unchangeableness

 

 

Baptism

On Pentecost, once the gospel message was received, the next step for the believers was baptism (Acts 2:41-47). It should be the same today.

The Significance of Baptism

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:1–12)

John’s Baptism

As John came and preached, his preaching was that of repentance. He was making ready a people for God. His message was that men should believe on Jesus, who was coming after him (Acts 19:4). He told them that they should repent, because their King was coming. As John baptized unto repentance, we must note that baptizing unto repentance did not bring about repentance. The above text shows us that John expected repentance to have occurred before baptism. Only when one repented was he baptized. This is why it is called the baptism of repentance (Mark 1:1-5;Acts 19:1-4).

What was the focus of John’s baptism, if not the relationship of the people to their King, Jesus? John, when asked why he baptized, stated that it was because the King was coming (John 1:19-28). He further stated, when many disciples left him to follow Jesus, that was how it should be (John 3:23-26). John’s full focus was on Jesus. People were to repent of their sins and be baptized unto that repentance because the Christ was coming. The emphasis was not so much on the act of baptism as it was on the need to be right with Christ.

Furthermore, God had promised that He would pour out His Spirit upon His people (Isa 32:13-18;44:1-8;Eze 36:25-26;Joel 2:28-32), and John reminded the people that this would be fulfilled in the kingdom of God by the King who was coming (Matt 3:11-12;John 1:25-28). This promised baptism of the Spirit was one of the reasons why John was baptizing: water baptism is a symbol of Baptism in the Spirit, and those being baptized in water were showing their faith in the King who would pour out His Spirit on them.

In all of these things we can see that John was pointing people to Christ, the King, who would come and change them. John was not preaching that baptism would wash away the sins of the people.

Apostolic Baptism

When the apostles baptized, they simply continued the practice of John, who had baptized them (Acts 1:15-22), and they did so under the direction of Jesus (John 3:26;4:1-3). Paul spoke to that effect when he baptized the believers at Ephesus in Acts chapter nineteen. He did not declare that John’s baptism was invalid: he declared that the Ephesians to whom he spoke had not received John’s baptism, although they thought that they had received it. These folks had heard something about John and his baptism and were baptized unto John’s baptism. Paul told them that John preached that Jesus was coming to pour out His Spirit, but they had heard nothing of that promise. They had not heard the message of John, who had preached that people should believe on Jesus. Having heard this, they believed on Jesus Christ and were baptized. It is interesting to note that neither John nor the apostles preached that baptism brought about salvation: they always emphasized that Jesus was the one who would give the Holy Spirit to those who believe Him.

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

Acts 2:38 has often been used to declare that the apostles preached baptismal regeneration, however this is not so. Remember that the preaching of John and the apostles was built upon the promises of God in the Old Testament. God had promised that He would pour out His Spirit and make things and people new. In addition to that promise, God stated that those who received the Spirit would call themselves by the name of the God who had saved them. One thing is certain, Acts 2:38 does not contradict the plain statement “whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  When Peter said that they were to be baptized in the name of Jesus,he was simply stating that men must receive Jesus as the Christ and embrace Him as the true King of Israel. Not only so, but one of the things that is characteristic of those upon whom the Spirit is come is the fact that they identify themselves with the Lord who poured out His Spirit  (See Isa 44:5).  If this is characteristic of those who have received the promise, is it any wonder that Peter would tell the Jews who rejected Christ that they must repent, accept Jesus as their Messiah, and identify their selves with Christ to be saved?  Salvation is not through the identifying, but those who deny the Lord are denied of Him (See Matt 10:32,33).  No one need think himself to be forgiven of sin if he will not confess Jesus as the Christ and as his savior. This is simply another part of Scripture being fulfilled which says “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:   And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.”  (Isa 44:3-5)              

Baptized In The Name…

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19)

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38)

What does it mean to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? What does it mean to be baptized in the name of Jesus? Is this a series of words that must be said over the one being baptized, or is there another significance?

The preposition ες is often translated in, into, unto, or for and is seen in both of these texts as well as 1 Corinthians 10:1-4, where Israel is spoken of as being baptized unto Moses. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4)

(It is interesting to note that there is a parallel to be seen here: Israel was redeemed by blood and then baptized in the Red Sea, and the saints are redeemed by the blood of Jesus and then baptized in water.) Notice that Israel was baptized unto Moses. Just as we are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, unto repentance, and for the remission of sins, Israel was baptized unto Moses. Were they baptized in order to receive Moses into their hearts? Were they baptized to be joined unto Moses? No, they were baptized in identification with Moses. They were identified with Him as their leader as they followed the visible presence of the LORD in the fiery and cloudy pillar.

What, then, does it mean when we read of being baptized unto repentance, for the remission of sins, in the name of Jesus Christ, or in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? It simply means that we are identifying with repentance, the remission of sins, Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we saw earlier, baptism occurs after repentance, which brings the remission of sins (Luke 24:47;2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Baptism neither saves, nor brings the remission of sins. Neither does water baptism join us to Jesus Christ, or the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism is an outward sign that identifies us with all of these.

Thus it is that, when we are baptized, we are saying that we have repented of our sins, received the forgiveness of our sins, are joined to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and are thus identifying ourselves as such.

Baptism A Symbol

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18–22)

In closing this article, we need to consider the text before us. In this text we see that baptism is spoken of as a symbol, thus the language regarding baptism saving must be symbolic also.

Let us notice the following regarding this text:

  1. We are reconciled to God in Christ by the cross.:18 cf 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;Colossians 1:19-23;2:13-15
  2. Salvation by water in Noah’s day was actually symbolic. :19  Noah was justified by faith (Hebrews 11:7), thus it was neither the ark nor the water that saved him. He was saved by the grace of God (Genesis 6:8). The ark carrying him through the waters symbolized the salvation Noah possessed by grace through faith.
  3. Baptism is a figure. It does not cleanse the flesh. Sins are forgiven because of the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:1-7;Colossians 1:13-14;Hebrews 9:22-28;Revelation 1:5).
  4. Baptism saves in a figure by the resurrection of Christ. Baptism figures or symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as well as the inner death and resurrection to new life (Romans 6:1-7;Ephesians 2:1-6) of the child of God.

These things being said, let us remember the following: baptism demonstrates the inward reality of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which is given to all who believe (Matthew 3:1-10;Romans 5:5;6:1-7;Ephesians 1:12-14). Baptism demonstrates our faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Peter 3:18-22). Baptism is an outward symbol of the inward grace of the forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 3:1-6;Acts 22:16). Baptism has no spiritual power to give us any blessing, but is our profession of faith in the saving blessings given to us by Christ.

A Few Thoughts On Baptist Succession

Baptismal Succession And Baptismal Authority

Note: We believe that Baptist churches are true churches of Christ, and that churches of Baptist faith and practice have existed since Christ established the first local, New Testament church during His ministry. This belief was well presented and well defended by Dr John Christian in his “History Of The Baptists.” This belief can be held to without subscribing to linked chain successionism, or the baptismal authority succession as presented by many Landmark Baptists.

The nineteenth century antebellum South saw a controversy arise in Baptist churches. This controversy was led by J.R. Graves and J.M. Pendleton and was a battle against what was called “pulpit affiliation”. Baptist churches were allowing men to preach in their pulpits who had not been baptized by immersion. Graves and Pendleton rightly considered this to be something that should not have occurred. Their premises, however, were not right premises. The “Landmark” which they sought to “reset” is that of Baptist succession and the sole authority of Baptist churches to baptize. It is the aim of this article to show that there were Baptists before the time of Graves and Pendleton who embraced neither their idea of baptismal succession, nor that of a Baptist church being the sole authority when it comes to baptism.

John Gill
John Gill (1697-1771) was an English Baptist, Biblical scholar, and pastor. “His first pastoral work was as an intern assisting John Davis at Higham Ferrers in 1718 at age twenty one. He was subsequently called to pastor the Strict Baptist church at Goat Yard Chapel, Horsleydown, Southwark in 1719. In 1757, his congregation needed larger premises and moved to a Carter Lane, St. Olave’s Street, Southwark. His pastorate lasted 51 years. This Baptist Church would later become the Metropolitan Tabernacle pastored by Charles Spurgeon.” (See Gill’s biography at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org/g/gill/ ) Gill wrote millions of words on theological themes. He wrote a commentary on the Old and New Testaments as well as a two volume systematic theology, and much more. Over two centuries have passed since Gill’s death, but his influence lives on due to his great scholarship.Gill did not embrace the idea that is held by many Landmarkers that baptism joins one to the local church:. “..men must be believers before they are baptized; and they must be baptized before they become members; and they cannot be members till they make application to a church, and are admitted into it.” (The preceding quote and the following from http://pbministries.org/books/gill/Practical_Divinity/Book_2/book2_01.htm

Last accessed 02/22/2010) Neither did he believe that baptism was performed only by the authority of a Baptist church, saying,

“When I say it is not a church ordinance, I mean it is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church… Admission to baptism lies solely in the breast of the administrator, who is the only judge of qualifications for it, and has the sole power of receiving to it, and of rejecting from it; if nor satisfied, he may reject a person thought fit by a church, and admit a person to baptism not thought fit by a church; but a disagreement is not desirable nor advisable: the orderly, regular, scriptural rule of proceeding seems to be this: a person inclined to submit to baptism, and to join in communion with a church, should first apply to an administrator; and upon giving him satisfaction, be baptized by him; and then should propose to the church for communion .. and so the way is clear for his admission into church fellowship. So Saul, when converted, was immediately baptized by Ananias, without any previous knowledge and consent of the church; and, it was many days after this that he proposed to join himself to the disciples, and was received (Acts 9:18, 19, 23, 26-28)…”Note that Gill supports his contention for baptism at the hands of an administrator instead of by church authority by appealing to the case of Saul in Acts chapter nine. Gill demonstrated from this passage that Saul was baptized at the hands of Ananias and then presented himself to the church. Gill also presents the authority for baptism as being the authority of God. The Landmark teaching on the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is that Jesus gave the church the authority to baptize. Gill states that baptism “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” is truly being baptized by their authority because the one being baptized has submitted to God's authority by faith in Jesus.

“I shall next consider the author of it; and show, that it is not a device of men, but an ordinance of God; it is a solemn part of divine worship, being performed in the name of the Three divine Persons in Deity, Father, Son, and Spirit, and by their authority; in which the name of God is invoked, faith in him expressed, and a man gives up himself to God, obliges himself to yield obedience to him, expecting all good things from him.”
“..it is ordered to be administered in the name of all three, Father, Son, and Spirit. Which, among other things, is expressive of divine authority, under which it is performed.”

Andrew Fuller
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) was a baptist theologian, missionary advocate, and pastor in England. He was of great encouragement and help to William Carey as he sought to strike out and do mission work. His word is to be taken as the word of one who loved God’s Word, God’s people, and God’s church.
(For more information on Fuller see http://www.wmcarey.edu/carey/fuller/fuller.htm )
The time of Fuller’s life was before the Landmark controversy arose, and he seems to have not been a believer in a linked chain succession of baptisms, or church authority in the administration of baptism.

“Baptism is a Divine institution, pertaining to the kingdom of the Messiah, or the gospel dispensation. John received it from heaven, and administered it to the Jews, who, on his proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, confessed their sins. Jesus gave sanction to it by his example; and after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to him, he confirmed and extended it to believers of all nations.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 728; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)
In this particular passage from the works of Fuller we see no references to either successionism or authority, unless one stops to consider that he does present Christ as being the authority over baptism.We also notice that Fuller did not think it wise to seek a formula for how a church should be established. Most Landmarkers require a “mother church” who formally authorizes and establishes a new church plant. Fuller said,

“We have no particular account, for instance, of the original formation of a single church, nor of an ordination service, nor in what order the primitive worship was generally conducted.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 831; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)
and
“..to attempt to draw up a formula of church government, worship, and discipline, which shall include any thing more than general outlines, and to establish it expressly on New Testament authority, is to attempt what is utterly impracticable.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 831; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)Fuller's further statements inform us that he had no problem with an informal manner of establishing a church.

“The missionaries, arriving at the scene of action, would first unite in social prayer and Christian fellowship; and this would constitute the first church.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 832; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)This is far different from the typical approach of most Landmarkers with whom I am familiar. When we consider his statements, Fuller would probably contend that the Landmark position on establishing churches and the authority of baptism is not the Biblical position, but an imposition upon the churches. Fuller also spoke about succession, and obviously did not count it to be of great importance.

“Such, I conceive, is the state of things with respect to the apostles and succeeding pastors. There were never any men, or set of men whatsoever, that were, properly speaking, their successors. Nor was it necessary that there should, seeing every thing which they did (excepting what was extraordinary, in which none can succeed them) was lawful for every pastor to do in his immediate charge.”
(Andrew Fuller, Works of Andrew Fuller, pg 833; Banner of Truth, Carlisle, PA)

James Robinson (J.R.) Graves
J.R. Graves “(b. Chester, Vt., Apr. 10, 1820; d. Memphis, Tenn., June 26, 1893). Preacher, publisher, author, and editor. He influenced Southern Baptist life of the 19th century in more ways, and probably to a greater degree, than any other person. As an agitator and controversialist of the first magnitude, he kept his denomination in almost continual and often bitter controversy for about 30 years.” (http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/graves/gindex.htm Accessed 03/02/2010)
Graves was a very outspoken advocate of Landmarkism, both in the pulpit and in print. In the late 1850’s Graves was brought before the First Baptist Church of Nashville, TN on charges of slander. He was found guilty and censured as a member at that time. Instead of humbly submitting to the censure of the church, Graves declared the minority which supported him the true church, withdrew, and started a new church! S.H. Ford wrote of this saying,

“After careful consideration and counsel amongst the prominent members of the First Church, Nashville, it was decided to arraign Graves before the church on charges of slander. The names already mentioned were the expected witnesses, and their statements were sought and forwarded. Instead of accusing Graves of slander, Fuller acknowledged that he was right in his criticisms, and that he fully deserved them. The others were used as witnesses against him, and it was supposed that a case was made out.
Graves had many strong friends in the church. Among these was A. C. Dayton, the author, and Shackelford. Twenty of these on the advice of Dayton, seeing that the disposition of the case was already decided, and that Graves would be excluded, entered a demurrer; declared that the majority were acting contrary to scriptural precept as laid down in Matthew; announced themselves, that is, the minority, to be the church,, and virtually excluded the majority. This action was at once published, with the reasons for it. The majority was denominated “Howell’s Society.” But the church proper went on with the trial and Graves first and then all the minority were expelled. Thunder and lightning! How the news flashed along the wires, was published in all papers, was denounced by Graves’ friends, was dwelt upon with glow of joy by the Methodist journals. “Graves had come to his deserved end―expelled, disgraced, his power broken, his influence gone.
But wait! While the course of the minority, and especially of Graves, in not squarely standing the trial to the end, was blamed by nearly all well-informed Baptists, and Graves and Dayton were soon made to see their mistake in this and a different, scriptural and rational course was taken. The minority formed themselves into a new church. They called a very large independent council which after several days of investigation acknowledged them as an independent scriptural church of the Baptist faith and order. The association and the general associates [association?] to which both churches belonged, ratified this action. The First Church withdrew from these bodies, and the new church remains to this day.
And then came a general discussion in the papers, in pamphlets, in books, of the finality of the act of a church in expelling a member. Must not every church, in fellowship with the one which expels, respect and abide by its action; or is every church so distinct and independent that it can receive into fellowship any one deemed fit, without regard to the action of any other church? In other words, shall one church decide for, or control the action of every other church? Public opinion among Baptists, generally settled down on the principle, expressed in a circular of the Long Run Association at Louisville, Ky., that though proper regard should be paid to the action of a church excluding a member, yet if on a fair investigation, it had concluded that the expelled member can be fellowshipped by the church to which he applies, the church has the right to receive him. The right of one independent church to expel without appeal, proves the right of another church to receive without appeal. The circular was quoted in nearly all the denominational journals with approval, and adopted by several associations. It may be said that this is now the doctrine of Baptist churches generally.” (http://www.reformedreader.org/rbb/graves/biography-ford/chapter06.htm Accessed 03/02/2010)After all of the writing and preaching about the authority of the local, New Testament, Baptist churches, Graves disregarded that authority. As far as we know, Graves never showed any respect for the judgment of R.B.C. Howell, a man his elder as well as his pastor, nor the judgment of the church whose authority he said that he believed was of God. Instead we find political maneuvering and resistance to said authority. Whatever else may be said about Graves and his teaching, he was not consistent with it in this respect.

James Madison (J.M.) Pendleton
James Madison Pendleton, D.D., was born Nov. 20, 1811, in Spottsylvania Co., Va. On the fourth day of March, 1891, he closed his eyes in death, in his eighty-first year. He died as he had lived, a Landmark Baptist. He stated in his Reminiscences, page 104, that he did not think his position on that question had ever been answered, and that he was of the same opinion in 1891, the year of his death, as he was in 1855, the time he wrote it. He was laid to rest in the cemetery at Bowling Green, Ky., March 6 (1891). (See http://baptisthistoryhomepage.com/pendleton.j.m.by.bogard.html for a biography of Pendleton.)
Near the beginning of the Landmark controversy Pendleton wrote “An Old Landmark Reset”. (See http://www.reformedreader.org/history/anoldlandmarkreset.htm for an online version of this pamphlet.) The original issue that “An Old Landmark Reset” sought to deal with was the practice of pulpit affiliation, or Baptists allowing Pedo-baptists to share their pulpits. Through all of the argument, Pendleton never sought to establish a Biblical argument for church authority in baptism. Neither did he present an argument from Scripture or history for a linked chain succession of baptisms from the days of John the Baptist and Jesus. These arguments would have been mighty weapons in his arsenal of arguments, but he did not use them? Was it because he was not aware of these arguments? That is doubtful. Was it because he lacked the intelligence to use these arguments? Again, doubtful. Why, then, did he not use such strong arguments (They would be strong if they had Biblical support.)? Let the reader consider this question.
In an appendix to “An Old Landmark Reset”, Pendleton says, “While it is true that authority to preach must, according to the New Testament, come from a Gospel church, it is equally true that authority to baptize must come from the same source.” (J.M. Pendleton, pg 37, An Old Landmark Reset)
It is very interesting that the issue of authority never came up in the body of “An Old Landmark Reset”, and is only seen in this appendix. Why did Pendleton not found the whole of his argument on this issue of church authority? If it were held to be true by all, or if it were a point easily established by Scripture, it would have been the very thing which would have vanquished his opponents. Why did Pendleton not use this argument? Perhaps we’ll never know.

Baptist Confessions
Until after the nineteenth century this writer found no Baptist confession listed by Lumpkin (W.L. Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions of Faith; Judson Press) that demonstrates a belief in baptismal succession or baptismal authority as held by those who hold to the Landmark position.

A.H. Strong (1836-1921) an American Baptist minister and theologian who wrote a very large, scholarly, and influential systematic theology. (See http://www.ccel.org/s/strong/ for a brief biography.)
“Upon the person newly regenerate the command of Christ first terminates; only upon his giving evidence of the change within him does it become the duty of the church to see that he has opportunity to follow Christ in baptism. Since baptism is primarily the act of the convert, no lack of qualification on the part of the administrator invalidates the baptism, so long as the proper outward act is performed, with intent on the part of the person baptized to express the fact of a preceding spiritual renewal (Acts 2:37, 38).
(Strong, A. H. (2004). Systematic theology (948–949). Bellingham, Wa.: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)

In other words, Strong believed that what was necessary for the validity of baptism was that a person be immersed as a believer.

Concluding Thoughts
Having briefly touched on a few things in a very simple manner, I shall confess that my studies have found the Landmark/Baptist Bride position to be a weak one when the historical data is taken into account.

Assurance pt 2: Brief Notes

Psalm 116:1-8

Heartfelt Assurance

 

Assurance is more than something cerebral. Matthew 22:35-40;1 Thessalonians 5:23 Man is not merely cerebral, but body and spirit: he is a soul. Assurance is holistic in that the mind apprehends the truth, the heart believes, and both obey in the flesh. Likewise our minds and hearts respond to the truth, laying hold upon the very valuable and joy-giving truth of Christ, and therefore rejoice. Sometimes this produces certain fleshly feelings. The feelings are not the thing that we seek, but are to be measured by the Word; and that being done, they can assist in our assurance.

 

 

The Glorious Change

Psalm 116:1-8 Conversion brings with it the glorious soul rest of being free from the fear of death and hell.

 

 

 

Matthew 11:28-30 Rest unto the soul is given to those who struggled under the load of sin and self-righteousness.

 

 

 

John 5:24 No longer under condemnation, the sinner can ask “Who is he that condemneth?” (Romans 8:33-34)

 

 

 

John 7:17 As we walk with the Lord in faithful obedience, we find ourselves learning more and becoming more assured of the truthfulness of His claims. Cf John 14:15-24 By means of the indwelling Spirit of God, He makes Himself known to the believer; and the believer learns and experiences God’s love in His life. Luke 24:32 “Did not our hearts burn..?”

 

 

 

Romans 8:5-14 The Spirit bears witness by reminding us of truth, showing us how grace has subdued our rebellious hearts unto faithful obedience, and is leading us into holiness. 1 John 3:14,24 cf Romans 5:5

 

 

1 Peter 1:6-8 Rejoicing with unspeakable joy.

Assurance

Assurance

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust: and beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see far off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1–11)

 

            This is the beginning of a series on “Christian Necessities.” There are some things necessary in the Christian life, if we are to grow and prosper to the glory of God and the joy of our hearts.

First on the list of Christian necessities is that of assurance. Our text above tells us that we are to make our calling and election sure: that is, we are to seek in every way to be certain that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

First of all, we should notice that assurance of salvation is something that is available to us. I’m so glad that we can know that we are saved! It would be a horrible thing to have to live with uncertainty about the most important of all things. Thank God, we can know. Paul stated with great certainty that knowledge is ours (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), that the Holy Spirit within us is there to testify to us that we are God’s (Romans 8:16;Ephesians 1:13-14); and then he expresses great, jubilant faith by saying, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) And it is there that we must start, with faith.

Notice that Peter writes that we are to add to our faith. Faith is our starting point. We know that those who believe Jesus are saved. He assures us of that (See John 3:16;1 John 5:6-13). Having heard the Word of God, and believing it, we are saved and can know that we are saved (Romans 10:17). Faith is simply trusting God instead of ourselves (Romans 4:1-6), and this faith in Christ’s work is where our confidence and assurance are found.

Then we are to add virtue to our faith. This is not a matter of self effort or good works that are done on our own. God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within the believer, and has written the law of God on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10-12;10:15-18). This means that good now dwells within us. God’s love is poured out in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5), which means we can now love God and love as God loves. Adding virtue then means that moral excellence should become a part of our lives. We are no longer in darkness, but in the light, and we are to walk as the children of light (Ephesians 5:8-11). We are also told, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:4–6)

The next thing to do is to add knowledge. The initial knowledge of God in salvation is sufficient to save; but we need to grow in knowledge if we are to be holy. We need to know God better if we are to enjoy the blessing of true assurance. Jesus’ call to us is as follows: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30) Those who are disciples are those who are learners: they are growing in knowledge. We are taught to crave the Word as a baby cries out for good, pure milk (1 Peter 2:1-3). Those who do not learn of the Lord will have little to no assurance of salvation.

Following knowledge is temperance. While temperance is self-control, in this context, it is the self-control which applies God’s Word to our lives. We are responsible to learn God’s Word for the purpose of believing and obeying it. Temperance is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), therefore we will have the power of the Spirit at work in us to help us grow in this area. By God’s grace we can become doers of the work which is commanded us in the Word (James 1:21-17). Knowing and trusting God’s Word brings great assurance, because we learn God’s promises, and we are changed to be more like Jesus in so doing.

Patience is also necessary, as we will certainly be tried by the world, our flesh, and the devil. It is those who are patient in faith who will inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12). Jesus spoke of true believers as those who bring forth fruit with patience: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) We will find that our faith will be tried, but adding patience, which is endurance, will help our assurance by demonstrating that our faith in Christ is a real faith (See also Romans 5:1-5).

Godliness is the next virtue, or attribute, that we are to add. Godliness is not focused primarily on the external appearance, but upon the heart: godliness is about worshiping God well. We are told that there is one God, and that we are to worship Him alone (Matthew 4:10). Worship is described as refusing to trust self, being from within, in the spirit, and rejoicing in Christ. In short, we are to worship God by growing in our faith in Christ, and thereby finding our joy in Him alone. As our faith is tried and our patience increases, God will give us abundant reason to worship Him, because we will have found that He is ever faithful and gracious in every circumstance of life. Let us notice that worship is essential to Christianity, Christian living, and Christian assurance: where there is no worship of God in Christ, there is no Christianity.

How will godliness make itself manifest: in brotherly kindness. This is because those who are born of God will have the nature to love the family of God (1 John 5:1-2). We are taught to be kindly affectioned toward one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10). Seeing that this shows the nature of Christ within us, it increases our assurance that we are His. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1 John 3:14)

Finally, we come to charity, which is love. Charity is not simply brotherly love, but it is the love that is most Christ-like, because we show love to those who may even be our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48): it is a sacrificial love (John 3:16;Romans 5:5-8;Titus 3:1-7) that gives itself for the sake of the one loved (Romans 15:1-3). Love is essential in our Christian lives, because, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8) Where love is present, assurance of eternal life is also present, because God is love.

God’s Word tells us that the presence and abundance of these things in our lives will cause us to be fruitful in the knowledge of God (:8), which gives us all that pertains to life and godliness, and gives to us God’s great promises, which purify us and bring about godly character (:3-4). This, then, gives us assurance. These are the things that we must add if we are to have assurance. What a wonderful blessing it is to know that we are saved, and to have a way by which we can steadily grow in that assurance, because we can observe God’s transforming work in our lives!

Addressing Symptoms Rather Than The Disease

“For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed ye be not consumed one of another.  This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” https://ref.ly/Ga5.13-26;av1873

    One of our greatest problems in the ministry is that of trying to fix problems by addressing the symptoms. Do you see that Paul does not tell them to stop biting and devouring one another; but rather told them to love one another and walk in the Spirit? Just as a sinus infection cannot be cured simply by addressing the symptoms of a runny nose, but by treating the actual infection, neither can we heal divisions among professing Christians by treating symptoms rather than the disease.

    Too many times we try to address the problem of division by telling folks to stop fussing and be nice. That is insufficient, and it is not a Christian approach. Jesus didn’t come to make us nice: He came to save us from our sins. We overcome the sin of division through repentance and learning to love as Jesus loves us.

    Another thing we tend to do is tell people that they need to do better than they are; but that is also insufficient. None of us have the strength to overcome the evil selfishness and divisiveness  that is within our hearts. This is why we are commanded to walk in the Spirit. If we try to fix the problem by telling folks to stop, or to act better than they are, we are addressing the flesh. Verses nineteen through twenty-one tell us how that will end up: things will ultimately get worse, even if there is the superficial appearance of improvement. The things we seek after are the fruit of the Spirit, and not that of fleshly effort. 

    It is amazing how deep the roots of pride and self are. We wholeheartedly confess that we are saved by grace, yet try to lead Christ’s flock into holiness by works. We tell them that things will improve if they will only act more nicely and be sweeter; but this is destined to fail, because we need God’s free and empowering grace to overcome the sin in our hearts. In doing this we become legalists, who are relying solely on human works rather than yielding to the transforming grace of God and the sanctifying power of His Holy Spirit.

    Brothers, if we are to truly lead people beyond their sins, we must address more than their symptoms. Their problem is that of sinful hearts needing to be changed by the Holy Spirit. This change can only come about by conviction, repentance, and faith, as these are God’s prescription for changing our hearts and lives (See 2 Corinthians 7:7-12;James 3:14-4:10). To address these problems in any other way is less than Christan preaching. From that point it is the duty of each person to yield to the Spirit. Sadly some will refuse and rebel, demonstrating a lack of grace in their hearts (See Galatians 5:19-21); but others, who are truly born again, will hear, believe, obey, and be changed and blessed by the power of God (Galatians 5:22-24).

    Brothers, let us address the disease of division with the Gospel rather than simply treating the symptoms with a call to fleshly works of do-goodism. The Gospel is not only good news for those who are lost, because it is also the power of God to continue His transforming work in us as we are made holy here; and it gives us the hope of future glory when our bodies are redeemed in the resurrection (See Ephesians 1:1-14;2:8-10).