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.

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!

Forgiveness part 1

Exodus 34:1-8

The Grace of Forgiveness

 

The context of our text is one in which there is both great sin and great grace on display. Israel, though having experienced an amazing and awe inspiring revelation of God, has chosen to commit the sin of idolatry. While doing so, they fell into gross immorality along with it. God’s wrath was kindled, Moses’ wrath was kindled, the people experienced much death and plague that day, and yet God forgave them. As Moses pled for the LORD’s continued presence with Israel, and the performance of His promise to lead them into the land of promise, he also asks for God to show him His glory. God responded that He would do so, and that He would be gracious to whom He would, and show mercy on whom He would (Exodus 33:17-20). It is soon after this that Moses ascends again into the mount sees the visual glory of God, hears the proclamation of His most excellent name, and learns that God’s glory is seen in His mercy, grace, forgiveness, goodness, truth, holiness, and judgment (Exodus 34:1-8). It is my desire to direct our focus to God’s glory in His forgiving grace.

First of all, let us always remember the nature of grace; because the nature of grace is essential to our understanding of the grace and nature of forgiveness. Grace is free and unmerited favor to those who deserve the wrath of God (See Ephesians 2:1-9). Grace will always be free, and it will never be earned or deserved (Romans 11:6). Furthermore, grace is never given to those who are dependent upon self (Romans 4:1-6) or the arrogant (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6).

Forgiveness is a gift of grace: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) Forgiveness, being a gfit of grace, is by nature free. It is not given to those who forgiveness, or else it would not be forgiveness. Forgiveness is the free gift of God, and He is Lord of forgiveness, both in to whom He gives it and in the manner in which He gives it (Exodus 33:19). Note that forgiveness is through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7;Colossians 1:14; Revelation 1:5), which is the price paid once and for all for our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3;9:22-28;10:11-14). If we are ever to be forgiven of our sins, it will be through the merits of the eternal righteousness of Jesus who died for our sins and rose for our justification. This forgiveness is given freely to all who repent and trust Jesus (Mark 1:13-15;Luke 24:47;Acts 13:38-39;Romans 5:1-11).

Forgiveness is also the Divine prerogative, and God forgives that He might be glorified. Notice that Jesus recognized that it is only God who can truly forgive sins against Himself (Mark 2:1-12). We often hear people say, “Only God can judge me!” The reality is that God is the supreme judge and savior. Only God can save you! Only God can forgive and have mercy upon you. “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12) Apart from the God who gives mercy and forgiveness, mercy and forgiveness would never exist. Thankfully God does forgive. That is His glory, as we see in our text.

Notice that our text also closely relates forgiveness to mercy. Mercy is when judgment is averted. “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) David also praises God for His mercy in delivering Him from hell (Psalm 86:12-13). One of the most emotional proclamations of forgiveness and mercy is seen in the Lamentations of Jeremiah: “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23) Rather than utterly destroying Israel, God was merciful to them. How wonderful it is to know that we are the recipients of the free mercies and forgiving grace of God!

Let us recall once more that forgiveness comes because of the intervention of a mediator. Moses prayed for Israel and God forgave them. Jesus is the one who mediates for us that we might be forgiven. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:5–6) Jesus, when He shed His blood, paid the price for our sins forever. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:11–18) Notice that forgiveness comes because a payment is made for sins, Jesus died to secure forgiveness, and God accepted that sacrifice as being worthy of His forgiving us forever. There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood, which is the giving of the life of a substitute (Hebrews 9:22). Thankfully Jesus stood as that substitute for us that we might be forgiven.

As we consider all of the above truths, we have yet to truly define forgiveness. The word literally means, to take away. This is why John introduced Jesus as follows: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) We again read, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10:11–12) Forgiveness is the taking away of sin.

How is sin taken away? We still live with sin. We are told, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8–10) In this life we shall always be plagued with sin, it seems. Paul stated that sin was ever present with him (Romans 7:21), and that our bodies are dead because of sin despite our being saved by God’s grace (Romans 8:10). Sin is not literally taken away in this life as if we will never have to deal with it again. Sin is taken away in the sense of it never being held against us in the judgment. This is why we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) And remember, “mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13)

We also read of sins being forgotten. Micah rejoiced in this (Micah 7:18-20), Jeremiah prophesied of it (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and the writer to the Hebrews spoke of it also (Hebrews 8:12;10:17-18). What does this mean? Does God literally forget our sins as if they are no longer in His memory at all? That would be impossible, for God is omniscient, knowing all things. In fact, the idea of God acting as if sins never happened at all minimizes sin and shows disrespect to the grace and glory of God. What is meant, then, by sins being forgotten? Sins are forgotten in that they will never be held against us in judgment: we will never be punished for them, nor pay for them by suffering God’s wrath. Notice how David speaks of forgiveness: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1–2) The sin is not literally removed or forgotten, but it is covered: God does not see it on our record. God does not impute iniquity to us. That is, He does not keep the sin on our account as though we are still chargeable for it. The forgiveness of sin and the forgetting of it are judicial things. Our slate is clean before God. We have no sins on our account. They are forgotten. Paul spoke of this when he wrote, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Colossians 2:13–14) The account of my sins has been blotted out because Jesus paid the debt in full. This is what is meant by sins being forgotten.

Considering the truth that forgiveness is God’s prerogative, and freely given that we might glorify Him, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, the forgiveness of sins is not given to the proud, arrogant, self-righteous person who demands it.  God resists the proud (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6). He will not forgive those who will not confess and truly repent. It is the broken-hearted one who repents of his sins whom God will forgive (2 Corinthians 7:7-10). “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:16–17) Forgiveness can never be earned nor demanded. We must with a broken heart plead with God, trusting Him to give it to us. Finally, forgiveness is for God’s glory. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12) He forgives us for the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:1-14), so we should worship Him because of being forgiven by Him. Moses worshiped the LORD when he saw and heard His glory. So, too, must we. Let us never forget our own sinfulness, and let us humbly seek to exalt Him in our lives because of His great forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Grace

Sharing Grace

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:1–8)

 

The text here presents us with a picture of ourselves. We were by no means good people. We were foolish. We were rebels. We believed the devil’s lies. We were slaves to the passions of the heart and of the flesh. We lived in envy and treated people in evil ways. We were hateful and hated others. That is by no means a good picture of us. It is not into our goodness that God’s grace appeared, but into our wickedness. We did not deserve our salvation, but He saved us, washed us from our sins, poured out the Holy Spirit upon/within us, gave us new life, and has counted us righteous in His sight. God freely saves us despite ourselves.

With this in mind, we are told that grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-15), and to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). We are taught that we are saved so that we might give glory to God (Hebrews 2:10) and for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Among the most important of good works that can be done is that of showing grace to others. Our text tells us that we should be obedient and submissive to those who are in authority to us. Grace will teach us that we should pray for our rulers and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-5-6), and that we are to obey those in authority over us (Romans 13:1-7). Often this is an act of grace, because we are not submitting and obeying because we agree with those in authority, but despite the fact that we do not agree. Considering that Paul wrote of submission and obedience to rulers when Nero, the enemy of all that is holy, was Caesar, we know that such must come from the grace of God.

Grace is also to be manifest in our treatment of our fellow men. We are told that we are to do good to all men, especially those who are our fellow brothers in the faith (Galatians 6:10). Not only so, but we are to not be brawlers, or contentious and strife filled people. Strife only occurs where pride is (Proverbs 13:10), and we know that pride and grace do not co-exist well at all (James 4:5-6). We are to humble ourselves to have good relationships with others rather than habitually striving with them. Furthermore, we are told to be gentle, or reasonable. That reasonableness is mentioned by Paul as moderation (Philippians 4:5). Our text also speaks of meekness, or gentleness. God’s people are not to be harsh, but loving and kind. Too many people act as if they have the right to show anger and wrath to those with whom they disagree. Such people know so very little about the grace of God. Had they known the grace of God, they would realize that God has not treated them as their sins deserve (Psalm 103:8-17), but has graciously forgives sinners who deserve His wrath. Grace teaches us to love even those who are our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

When Jesus would teach us about how to treat others, He reminds us of how much He cares for even the smallest of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:1-14), and sternly warns us that we dare not be an occasion of stumbling for anyone. He warns us that we would be better off dead than to be a stumbling block. He continues from there and calls us to seek reconciliation with our brothers when division arises (Matthew 18:15-18). Following up on that, Jesus gives a parable regarding forgiveness that demonstrates that those who truly know the forgiving mercy and grace of God will show the same to others (Matthew 18:21-35). We are commanded to forgive, or show grace, as we have been forgiven and shown grace (Ephesians 4:32). If we do not do so, we are warned about how judgment will be for us: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) The one who refuses to show mercy and grace gives evidence of not having known or experienced mercy and grace, and will receive neither in the day of judgment. Where grace is present in the soul, it will manifest itself in the way we treat other people.

This cannot be emphasized enough, because we are called to an unworldly godliness. We are called to show Christ in our behavior. Far too often we show bitterness, anger, wrath, and impatience, even to those we call our brothers and sisters in Christ! I will be quick to admit that I have failed in many ways in this respect. Sadly these things have not been taught among us as they should have been. That will be no excuse for us, however, when we stand before God. God’s grace is transforming grace. He will not leave us as we were before we trusted Him. God, in His grace, has shown us love, mercy, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and much kindness, despite our sinfulness. If we are not careful, we will treat others as if they must earn our goodwill, and will tend toward a harshness with those who disagree with us or wrong us. This is not the way of grace. Grace will cause us to treat others with the same kindness as God treats us. God’s grace will not leave us hateful and hating one another, therefore let us yield to the authority and transforming power of His grace in order to show kindness and love to all with whom we come in contact.

God’s Grace To Abraham

God’s Grace To Abraham

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1–5)

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” (Romans 4:16)

 

We tend to think of our Biblical heroes as being bigger than life, and often above sin; but Scripture presents us men and women who needed and received God’s grace. Abraham is no exception. Note that our text tells us that Abraham was justified by faith so that his righteousness would be by grace. Abraham was not a righteous man who earned God’s favor: Abraham was a sinner who trusted God’s grace.

Let’s first consider Abraham’s sins, not for the sake of condemning him, but to demonstrate that he could have earned nothing from God.

 

Abraham’s Sins

Joshua 24:2 idol worshiper

 

 

Genesis 12:1-5 (11:31-32)only partially obedient, thus disobedient

 

 

Genesis 12:10-20 lied, saying Sarah was his sister

 

 

Genesis 16:1-4 bigamist

 

 

Genesis 20:1-18 lied saying Sarah was his sister

 

Abraham Received Grace

Our text tells us that those who work would have God in their debt (Romans 4:4), but God will never need anything from anyone, or be indebted to anyone (See Romans 11:34-36). Abraham believed that God would justify the ungodly, of whom he was one (Romans 4:4-5). Why is this so? Verse sixteen tells us that it would be of grace.

Grace gives God the glory. If we were to work, we could boast (Ephesians 2:8-9;Romans 4:1-3), but grace makes no room for works: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6) Grace and faith also leave no room for boasting (Romans 3:27). Why? Grace is to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:3-6) Far too many people spend their time boasting of who they are, what they have done, all of their accomplishments, etc. This is actually a sign of apostasy rather than an indicator of spirituality (2 Timothy 3:1-5). God has told us that He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8), and commands us to rejoice because we know Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24). God is jealous for His glory and forgives our sins for His name’s sake (Isaiah43:25 ;1 John 2:12). Grace is about taking honor out of our hands and God getting all of the glory and praise, which is His due.

Abraham had nothing in himself that was worthy of his boasting (Romans 4:1-3), and neither do we. We hear Paul saying, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) God’s Word explicitly tells us that we cannot brag about the gifts of grace as if we had accomplished them ourselves. Abraham received grace when he believed God and was justified. It is the same with us (Titus 3:1-7). Pride causes so many troubles (Proverbs 13:10;Galatians 5:22-26) that we could avoid if we simply realized that we are the undeserving recipients of grace who are commanded to show grace one to another (Galatians 6:1-10;Ephesians 4:31-5:2). Brothers, instead of boasting, we are called to humble ourselves (James 4:1-10). Only when we recognize our sinfulness and God’s grace will we humble ourselves before Him.

Because of God’s grace to believing Abraham, he was called the friend of God (James 2:14-26). We, too, are called to live our lives to the glory of God by trusting His grace (Romans 5:20-6:1;Ephesians 2:8-10). Let us remember that Paul lived his life rejoicing in and trusting in the grace of God (Galatians 2:20-21). He was humbled by grace, and attributed all of his blessings and achievements to God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). What a blessing it will be to us all if we will accept God’s grace, rejoice in that grace, and live our life boasting only in God’s grace. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:14–15)

 

 

 

 

Noah Found Grace

Noah Found Grace

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:1–8)

 

“Noah found grace,” we read; but what is grace? Grace is the favor or pleasure of God that is shown to those who are undeserving. This should be our basic definition of grace as we study the Scriptures. We shall find, as we study the grace of God that this definition will be affirmed many times over in the Scriptures.

 

We often think of Noah as a great person, and in many senses he was; but Noah was also a recipient of grace. Scripture describes man in Noah’s day as being corrupt, violent, and meditating always upon evil. The whole of humanity was sinful, and Noah was included in that wicked number.

 

It was in the midst of all of this sin, wickedness, apostasy, and violence that God spoke declaring that He was going to judge mankind for their sins.

 

Only after God spoke of sin and judgment do we find that Noah found grace. Henry Morris said, “Grace is found, not earned.” This is true. Noah, because of sin, had earned wrath and judgment just as the rest of mankind. Yet Noah found grace.

 

Scripture tells us that Noah was justified by faith. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7) Noah was not righteous because of his good life. Noah was declared righteous because he believed God. Faith and grace go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated (See Romans 4:1-16;Titus 3:1-7). Some time in his life, Noah heard that God was gracious and forgiving and trusted Him. Having found God’s grace, he was saved.

 

Wonderful parallels exist between our text and Ephesians 2:1-8. In both we find sin, judgment, and saving grace. It is most certain that there is no difference between Noah and us, as we are all sinners under condemnation, and need the grace of God to save us. Thankfully, just as Noah was promised and given a new earth to live on (Genesis 8 &9), we are promised the same (Ephesians 2:4-7;Revelation 21).

 

As we consider this, we should also think about that long period of time that Noah and his family were in the ark: what a difficulty that must have been in many ways! Can you imagine being cooped up with your in-laws and thousands of stinking animals (Did I just repeat myself?) for months on end? How did Noah and his family survive without either killing one another or losing their sanity? Again, it was all God’s grace. Grace conquers sin and gives life and righteousness (Romans 5:20-21). As it was then, so it is now: all is of grace.

 

This is only the beginning of a series of articles on the grace of God, but it is important that we learn from the very beginning that grace is free. Let us look at Noah, the sin in his day, ourselves, the sin in our day, and consider the fact that Noah was not delivered because he was good: he was delivered because God is good. In like manner, we must realize that we cannot and will not earn anything from God: all is of grace. Sure, we shall find that grace produces change within us that will produce obedience to God; but we shall never find that we merit anything from Him. Let us rejoice in this grace by trusting God more each day.

 

The Work Of The Holy Spirit

The Work Of The Holy Spirit

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” (John 16:12–16)

 

 

Note: The reader would do well to first read the following article on the Divine Essence.

 

The Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14), and thus has no beginning or ending. Thus it is when we see the very beginning, we are not surprised to find that the Holy Spirit was active in the Creation. “Inthe beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1–2) When man was created, the Spirit of God was busy. “The Spirit of God hath made me, And the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.” (Job 33:4)

We then see the Spirit of God calling men to repentance for a time. “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lordsaid, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:1–3) The Scripture later speaks of this as the longsuffering of God (1 Peter 3:20). Jesus also told us that the Spirit would convict men of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11), pointing men to Jesus.

When a person trusts Jesus, the Spirit applies to that person the benefits available to us in Christ. “Through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18) He sanctifies, redeems, justifies, and cleanses us. “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) Taking residence within us, He is the earnest of our inheritance, thus promising to bring to us all of the blessings of Christ in this world and in that which is to come (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Spirit has worked in people, giving them various gifts and skills that they might do the work God desired of them. “And the Lordspake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah: and I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,” (Exodus 31:1–3) The Spirit was laid upon men for leadership positions also (Numbers 11:16-17;28:17). “And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lordcommanded Moses.” (Deuteronomy 34:9) We see similarly in 1 Samuel 10:6;16:13. This continues to this day within the body of Christ, as “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” (1 Corinthians 12:7 and context) We are warned that we need not think that we can work without the aid of the Holy Spirit. “This is the word of the Lordunto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, Saith the Lordof hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)

The Spirit also guides us (John 16:13;Acts 8:29;10:19;11:12;16:7;21:4) Being omnipresent and omniscient, He is a perfect guide who is always with us. “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, And thy right hand shall hold me.” (Psalm 139:7–10) In His guidance, He instructs us. “Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.” (Nehemiah 9:18–20) It is important to note that the Holy Spirit guides us by instructing us. We must never think that our feelings and opinions are important or crucial in being guided by the Spirit, because He directs and guides us by teaching us. Holy Spirit guidance is Word based guidance.

It is very important that we understand that the Spirit is deeply involved in the work and ministry of the Word. We read, “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, And the man who was raised up on high, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lordspake by me, And his word was in my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:1–2) Thus, He spoke to the prophets (Cf Ezekiel 2:1-3;Micah 3:8;Zechariah 7:12;1 Peter 1:10-12;2 Peter 1:16-21). We also find that the Holy Spirit was active in giving to us the New Testament. “These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:25–26) He was promised to testify of Christ, using the apostles to bear witness (John 15:26-27), which they did (See 2 Peter 3:1-2, where Peter states that the writings of the apostles are of the same authority as those of the Old Testament Scriptures.). Jesus promised that the Spirit would guide us into all truth, telling us things to come (John 16:12-15). We see this throughout the New Testament Scriptures, as the writers often acknowledge their words as being of the Spirit, or God’s Word (1 Corinthians 2:10-14;7:40;1 John 5:6,9;Revelation 1:9-20). In fact, Peter was so bold as to call Paul’s writings by the name “Scripture” (2 Peter 3:14-16), and John placed his writings on the same level as the law (Revelation 22:18-19 Cf Deuteronomy 4:1-2). Yes, the Spirit has given to us the Scriptures we have today.

Not only does the Spirit give to us the Scriptures, but also He helps us understand them. “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:9–16) We are taught in the Scriptures that God gives to us understanding (Proverbs 2:1-9;James 1:5;John 16:12-16;Ephesians 1:15-17;2 Timothy 2:7). Because we have the Holy Spirit within us, we can understand the wonderful gifts and words of God to us in the Scriptures.

The Scriptures present to us many promises of the Spirit being poured out upon the earth and upon men. It is then that the earth will be renewed and filled with righteousness and peace (Isaiah 32:15-20;44:1-5;Ezekiel 39:25-29;Joel 2:28-32;Acts 2:17), and men will be transformed. This promise began to be fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts 2), and continues to be fulfilled in everyone who believes to the saving of the soul (Romans 5:5;8:9;1 Corinthians 12:13;Galatians 3:26-29;Ephesians 1:13-14). (See the article The Baptism Of The Spirit.)

When the Spirit comes upon a person, He also indwells him. “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:15–18) This wonderful indwelling of the Spirit is the very presence of both the Father and the Son within us (See Romans 8:9-11, where the Spirit is spoken of as the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. See also Colossians 1:27.) Not only so, but the promise of Jesus is that the Spirit will be with us forever. God has promised never to leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6), and His Spirit will ever be within us.

As the Spirit works within the child of God, we have already seen that He instructs us and enlightens us regarding the Word of God; but He also is at work in us to sanctify us. Paul stated, “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.” (Galatians 5:22–25) The Spirit works within us to give us the will and the power to please God (Philippians 2:13), and He enables us to put to death sinful lusts and live holy to the glory of God (Romans 8:1-14).

The Spirit also assures us of our salvation and son ship. “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:12–16) We know that we belong to Christ because of the presence of the Spirit within us transforming us into His likeness (Ephesians 1:13-14;1 John 3:24), and giving to us promise of greater and more perfect things to come (Romans 8:9-11;Galatians 5:5;Titus 2:11-15).

This is but a very small portion of the things that can be written concerning the work of the Holy Spirit within us. It is a beginning for us. Let us search the Scriptures, pleading with God to fulfill His promise of giving to us enlightenment and understanding, so that we might indeed know the things He has freely given to us. “Open thou mine eyes, That I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” (Psalm 119:18)

 

 

The Presence Of God

The Presence Of God

“Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, And thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; Even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; But the night shineth as the day: The darkness and the light are both alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:7–13)

Introduction

The text above presents us with three important things to meditate upon: 

1.     The omnipresence of God: the fact that God is present everywhere.

2.     The comfort of God’s presence.

3.     The awe-inspiring reality of God’s presence.

God’s presence should inspire awe within us, because we know that He is everywhere at all times, seeing all things. There is nothing secret from Him. This should inspire comfort within us as His saints, because God’s presence means that He is with His people to guide, bless, strengthen, and comfort them; and He will eventually bring us into His eternal dwelling place to forever be with Him.

In this study we shall consider that God is omnipresent, that He is always present with His people, that there are warnings regarding losing God’s presence, and the fact that one can be eternally banished from God’s presence.

The Omnipresence Of God

            The Bible begins with the presentation of God as transcending (existing above, exceeding the limits of) time, space, and matter. You ask, “how?” The Scripture tells us that He is before all things, because, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) Being the Creator of time, space, and matter, we know that God is greater than these things. 

            Scripture tells us that God lives beyond time and space: “For thus saith the high and lofty One That inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isaiah 57:15) God inhabits eternity. God does not live in time, though He does use time for His purposes (E.g. Psalm 31:15;Ecclesiastes 3:1): God lives in eternity, which is without limits. Not only so, but this also speaks of God living beyond the bounds of space. There are no limits to God’s size: He is eternal. This means that there is no place where He is not present.

            Scripture teaches us of God’s omnipresence when it speaks of God’s being larger than the universe. Solomon spoke of God’s omnipresence by saying that the newly built temple could not hold Him. “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (1 Kings 8:27) Though we often speak of God living in the highest of heavens, yet such speech is truly only figurative: the heavens and the highest of heavens cannot hold God, because He transcends space. God led Isaiah to write, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: Where is the house that ye build unto me? And where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, And all those things have been, saith the Lord: But to this man will I look, Even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, And trembleth at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1–2) Here God declares that He is larger than the universe, or created space. A building cannot truly house God, because it would mean that God is limited. God is not limited, but is infinite and eternal: this is why God is omnipresent, because He is beyond the limits of space and time and is present in every place at every moment.

            God’s omnipresence is also one of the reasons that God is spoken of as being omniscient, or all-knowing. The Psalmist spoke of God’s omnipresence and omniscience as being complementary attributes of God (See Psalm 139). Jeremiah was also led to write, “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” (Jeremiah 23:23–24) Because God fills the universe, He is able to see and to know all things. For the saint this is comforting (Psalm 139), but for the sinner this should be disturbing (Jeremiah 23:23-24). There is no greater comfort to the saint than knowing that God knew him even before his birth, and will be present with him beyond his death. On the other hand, the sinner should greatly fear, because there is not one thought in his heart, nor one deed that he does that can escape God’s knowledge and judgment. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Beholding the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3) 

God’s Presence With His People

            One precious promise upon which God’s people can always rely is that of His presence with His people. God’s presence with His people is more than the fact that He is everywhere: it means that God intends to bless His people. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) God’s presence with His people is different from His omnipresence in that His presence with His people is always beneficial to them. Some tend to focus on God’s judgment and fail to remember His mercies and His grace; yet we need to recognize that God’s people are not under judgment (See John 3:17-18;Romans 8:1-4), but do forever partake of His grace (Psalm 23:6;Ephesians 2:5-7). It is for this reason that Moses pled for God’s presence to go with the children of Israel and lead them into the land of promise (Exodus 33:12-20). It was also this to which Ezra clung when heading from Babylon back to Jerusalem: “For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.” (Ezra 8:22) So, too, did David trust in this promise, saying, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: What can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)

            Numerous times God has promised His special presence to His people. To Isaac He said, “sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;” (Genesis 26:3) Likewise to Jacob He made the same promise: “And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” (Genesis 28:15) This same presence was promised to Moses: “And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12) Joshua was a recipient of this same promise: “And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:23) Israel was reminded of this once again many years later: “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, And he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt; Neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, The Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.” (Isaiah 43:1–3) This same promise has been repeated to the saints in Christ when Jesus said He would be with us always (Matthew 28:20), that the Holy Spirit would be with us forever (John 14:15-18), that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6). With this in mind, we should embrace the glorious reality that God is gracious and merciful to His children and will never abandon them, nor leave them alone at any time.

The Warnings Of Losing God’s Presence

            One important thing that we must bear in mind is that God’s promise to His children is that they shall be His forever. We read that the Spirit is within the children of God until the time that He redeems us at the resurrection (Ephesians 1:13-14;Romans 8:9-11). Nothing will pluck us out of the hand of God, Jesus said. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27–30) God’s power is so strong that there is nothing and no one that can take us out of His hand or cause us to lose His presence with us. This promise is repeated quite strongly by Paul: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39) Child of God, never fear! Jesus went to the cross and died for you. He went to the grave and arose for you. His promise is that He will return to take you into His presence forever (John 14:1-3;1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). Such a great love as God has for His saints compels Him to graciously bless us with His presence forever!

            That being said, we must consider the warnings that Scripture gives about losing the presence of God. What do they mean, and to whom do they apply?

            First of all, let us consider Israel, the nation who received the promises of God, and how God promised His presence and yet warned of the loss thereof. 

            1. The promise of God’s presence was given to Abraham when He promised to give him and his seed the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:1-7). God kept this promise and repeated it to Isaac (Genesis 26:1-3). Samuel reminded rebellious and sinful Israel of this same promise, saying, “For the Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake: because it hath pleased the Lord to make you his people.” (1 Samuel 12:22) In the midst of great destruction and woe, Jeremiah was reminded of this daily, because He knew Israel was not spared for her faithfulness, but because God remained faithful. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23) During the captivity, God did not spare Israel as a nation because they were righteous, but because He was merciful and because He is faithful to His promises. God always keeps His promises and will never leave those who trust in those promises.

            2. God did, however, give warnings regarding the loss of His presence. What does that mean? Consider: “And the spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: and he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” (2 Chronicles 15:1–2) God warned Israel that they were not to defile themselves (Leviticus 18:24-30;Deuteronomy 28) because they would find themselves being chastened sorely should they do so. They were warned that idolatry would lead to God’s judgment upon them (Joshua 24:19-20). David’s seed received a similar warning (2 Samuel 7:14-16), and he passed it on to Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:1-10). Manasseh was warned likewise (2 Kings 21:10-15). Do these things mean that God contradicted Himself and did actually forsake His people utterly? Not at all, because we read, “I am the Lord, I change not; Therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6) What we can say about this is that God has kept His promise to Israel and never has forsaken them. When Israel sinned, however, God did at times withdraw much of His blessing and they did appear to have been forsaken. One of those times was when Jerusalem was destroyed and many were taken captive into Babylon. It was at this time, however, that we find God promising that He would forever be faithful to His people (Jeremiah 30:1-31:40) and make a new covenant in which their sins would forever be forgotten. Despite the great suffering and heartache that sin brought to them and the judgment that God placed upon them, He remained merciful to them and faithful to the promises He made. 

Banished From God’s Presence

            Scripture tells us that one could descend into hell and that God would even be there (Psalm 139:7-10), yet those who are lost will finally be banished from the presence of God. Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22–23) He stated that, at the great day of judgment, many would hear Him say, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25:41) How can God be present everywhere, even in hell, and yet the sinner be cast into hell and forever banished from His presence? Remember that we saw earlier that God’s presence with His people is a special presence in that it brings His promises and blessings. The lack of God’s presence must certainly bring quite the opposite of blessings. In fact, we find the following said regarding those who will experience God’s judgment: “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6–10) In other words, those who experience the second death (Revelation 20:11-15) experience the loss of the blessings of God, the loss of God’s mercy, the loss of the pleasure of His glorious saving power, and the loss of the opportunity to glorify and enjoy Him forever. Yes, sinners forfeit the rich blessings of the presence of God refusing to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior! 

The Joys Of The Presence Of God

            Time will not permit, neither can the human mind comprehend the joys of the presence of God. It is this joy, however, that the saint anticipates experiencing in eternity. David said, “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11) God is eternally joyful, and so are the joys that are in His presence. Jesus prayed that we would experience God’s presence and joy, saying, “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24) We will experience nothing but eternal grace (Ephesians 2:5-7) and the joy-filled love of God forever, when we are taken into His presence. Oh, how we should long for the day that we hear, “enter thou into the joy of thy lord!” (Matthew 25:21) 

Baptism, Church Membership, And Landmarkism

Baptism, Church Membership, And Landmarkism

            In previous articles we have considered the significance of baptism, the baptism that is in Romans 6:1-7and Galatians 3:27, the administrator of baptism, and the authority of the churchin receiving members; so in this article we shall try to build upon these things and briefly deal with the issue of baptism and church membership.

            The pressing question of Landmarkism that was posed by James Madison Pendleton in his, “An Old Landmark Reset,” was, “Ought Baptists to invite Pedobaptists (That is, those who baptize babies.) to preach in their pulpits?” A.C. Dayton also dealt with the issue of “Pedobaptist And Campbellite Immersions,” and whether they were valid or not. Both men concluded that the questions should be answered in the negative, and we certainly agree.

            The problem with inviting men to preach who have been sprinkled instead of baptized is the issue of their not truly being subject to the authority of a local church. Where there is no true baptism, there can be no true church nor true church membership. This is a matter of great importance, if we are to respect the biblical order of binding and loosing that Christ has instituted in His church. The body of Christ is visibly manifest in the local church, and the pattern found in Scripture is for believers to be baptized and then united with the local church. Where this is absent, those who lack baptism and church membership should not be received as valid members of a church. They can neither be recommended by a church, nor received by a church in any capacity until they have submitted to true baptism. This is a matter of obedience to Christ and His commands, so we must expect those who would be regular ministers of the gospel to set the example of obedience to Christ.

            Why should we not accept the baptisms performed by those who are Campbellites (Church of Christ or Christian Church Disciples of Christ), Pedobaptists, Methodists, Anglicans,  United Pentecostals, or those of similar beliefs? The answer is that they baptize for the wrong reasons. In some fashion or another, each of these groups speak of baptism as conferring some sort of spiritual blessing, and often demand that a person be baptized in order to have the remission of sins. That is not true baptism, as we have already seen. True baptism is symbolic in nature, and confers no grace to the one being baptized; but is simply their profession of faith. 

While Pendleton’s and Dayton’s conclusions were valid, their arguments were not. The important issue is not that of church authority in baptism, but rather of the validity of sprinkling as baptism and the validity of receiving the immersions performed by those who hold to erroneous views on baptism.

            Having said these things, it is my earnest desire that my Landmark Baptist brethren understand and accept that we arrive at the same conclusions regarding the above questions. Brothers, we are on the same team. We are brothers in Christ. We are members of the church that Jesus established and promised that He would build and be present with forever. The issues that are before us should be issues that we discuss with kindness and brotherly love rather than stridently and with anger. “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.” (Romans 15:7) 

Romans 6:1-7 and Baptism

Romans 6:1-7 And Baptism

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” (Romans 6:1–7)

Does This Text Speak Of Water Baptism?

Does the above passage speak of water baptism? This passage has been used to show that water baptism shows our identification and participation with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. Is this so? Does water baptism cause us to die with Christ and rise to walk in a new life? Does water baptism join us to the local body of Christ? To answer the question concisely, no, it does not. That is what we shall seek to establish in this article.

The first thing that we must do is notice the greater and the immediate context. The greater context shows us that Paul has been teaching the Romans about justification by faith rather than by works (Romans 1:16-17;2:27-30;3:21-28;4:1-5,24-25). The immediate context is that God’s grace in Christ reigns unto life where sin had once reigned unto death. “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20–21)

The opening verse asks if we should continue in sin that we might experience the abundance of God’s grace. After all, where sin is abundant, grace is superabundant (Romans 5:20-21). Yet grace reigns unto life. Grace conquers sin. For this cause we cannot sin in order to continue to receive great grace: we have died and are alive, as we see taught in Romans 5:20-21. God forbid that we think that the gospel encourages sin by giving grace to sinners (Cf Romans 3:1-8), when the gospel is the message of God’s conquering of sin.

The response to the question is that we are dead to sin. How shall those who are dead to sin continue to live in sin? We know that is logically impossible. Scripture tells us that we are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) who are crucified with Christ. “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:19–21) We are also risen with Him. “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved.)” (Ephesians 2:4–5) (See also Galatians 2:19-21) This came through the grace of God when we believed.

Paul asked the Romans if they were aware that they, by way of being baptized into Christ, died to sin and risen to walk in a new life (Romans 6:3-4). Ask yourself this question: Does water baptism bring about this great change, or is it the free, justifying grace of God in the believer that makes this change? We have already seen that it is the work of free grace that changes us.

Paul continues and tells the Romans that in baptism we share in Christ’s death and resurrection, that the body of sin is destroyed, all to the purpose that we would not serve sin. Does water baptism do all of this? We have already seen that this occurs by the free grace of God when one trusts Jesus and is justified by faith. Furthermore, Paul teaches us in Colossians that it is by the blood of Christ that we are forgiven our sins, rescued from the power of darkness, and made citizens of the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13-14). This deliverance from sin is the very essence of the doctrine of redemption through grace. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7) The context of this passage speaks of God’s grace in Christ being to God’s glory. We do not contribute anything to our salvation. Redemption and deliverance from sin come because Christ died for us and rose again. This is why God gets the glory and not man (Cf Ephesians 2:8-10).

Then we find that Paul states that the person who is dead is freed from sin (Romans 6:7). Interestingly enough, the word “freed” is the same word that is more often translated “justified.” Dare we say that water baptism justifies us and frees us from sin? Dare we, who contend for the free grace of God in the gospel and justification by faith, proclaim that this is water baptism in Romans 6:1-7, if the text tells us that this great change is wrought by baptism? The Word of God does not allow us to do so.

What Baptism Is This?

If this is not speaking of water baptism, then of what does the text speak? What baptism is this? This can only be the promised baptism of the Spirit. Let us consider what the promise was.

The promised outpouring of the Spirit was to give to God’s people cleansing, new life, and liberation from sin. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you.” (Ezekiel 36:25–29) God promised Israel that He would put His Spirit in them, change them, and liberate them from sin. In a similar manner, He said, “Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; Yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city: Because the palaces shall be forsaken; The multitude of the city shall be left; The forts and towers shall be for dens for ever, A joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; Until the spirit be poured upon us from on high, And the wilderness be a fruitful field, And the fruitful field be counted for a forest. Then judgment shall dwell in the wilderness, And righteousness remain in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; And the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever. And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, And in sure dwellings, And in quiet resting places;” (Isaiah 32:13–18) Again, notice that there is great liberation from the curse of sin when the promised outpouring of the Spirit comes.

Again he says, “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:19–20) Once more we see that the promise of the Spirit will bring a change of heart in the people so that they will be liberated from sin to serve God. This promise is also given in Joel and fulfilled in Acts 2. “But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: and on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: and I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: and it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:16–21) “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. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:38–40) It is quite evident that the promised gift of the Spirit is given in order that we might be saved, cleansed, delivered, forgiven, and made anew.

Paul spoke of this when he referred to the seal of the Spirit that is given to us: “in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14) This seal is not one such as we think of on a jar of beans, but a seal such as we see when papers are notarized. It is a mark that signifies that something is official or genuine. Thus we read, “And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” (1 John 3:24) The Spirit within us is what signifies that we are God’s children. When we trust Jesus we receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit and the love of God is poured out (See Romans 5:5, where the text tells us it is “shed abroad in our hearts,” or poured out.) in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Thus we see that the baptism which clothes us with Christ (Galatians 3:26-29), buries us and raises us through faith (Colossians 2:12), and causes us to die, buries and raises us, and justifies and liberates us from sin (Romans 6:1-7) is nothing less than the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is given to all who trust Jesus.