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.