Baptism

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

The Significance of Baptism

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

John’s Baptism

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

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

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

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

Apostolic Baptism

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

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

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

Baptized In The Name…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baptism A Symbol

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” (1 Peter 3:18–22)

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

Let us notice the following regarding this text:

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

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

Assurance pt 2: Brief Notes

Psalm 116:1-8

Heartfelt Assurance

 

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

 

 

The Glorious Change

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

Assurance

Assurance

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disqualified pts 3&4

Part one

Part two

The Warning To Timothy

“This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:18–20)

Paul has a desire for Timothy, and that is that Timothy retain and treasure faith in Christ and a good conscience, because a lack of these things leads to shipwreck. Shipwreck is a description of the destruction and ruin that can come upon one who walks away from God by not trusting Christ and not maintaining a good conscience.

When we know the truth, sin and error will work against our conscience. We will know and be aware of our wrong, and our conscience will bear witness to our error (See Romans 2:14-16;9:1-2). When we ignore the testimony of a conscience that is educated by the Word of God and moved by the Spirit, we know that we are persisting in sin. This can only lead to destruction.

Paul warns Timothy that shipwreck is possible. In no circumstance can we assume that shipwreck is a positive thing. Neither should we dare think that one cannot and will not make shipwreck if they ignore God’s Word, His Spirit, and the pangs of conscience. If one makes shipwreck, he cannot continue as he did before. Some shipwrecks may possibly be repaired. Some shipwrecks may be irreparable. Regardless, shipwreck means that life will not go on as if it were in good repair. Ministry cannot continue as if one’s life were in good shape. Shipwreck is destructive to peace of mind, one’s family, one’s conscience, one’s walk with God, and all else in the person’s life. Those shipwrecks from which one can recover are not things that will be fixed over night.

Some shipwrecks are large scale disasters. Paul spoke of two men who had been turned over to Satan that they would learn not to blaspheme. Paul was speaking of church discipline, or excommunication, when he said this (See 1 Corinthians 5:1-5). There is no way that we could ever put into words just how serious this is and how sobering it should be to us. When one is excommunicated from the church and left at the mercy of the devil, there is no knowing exactly what will happen when the flesh is destroyed as God allows Satan to plague such an one. The purpose of this is to bring the shipwrecked person to repentance. One thing is sure, and that is that while the person is turned over to Satan, God is still in control of the process, and “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)

Should the shipwrecked person refuse to repent and change their ways, we find that destruction can indeed be a final sort of destruction. We read of some whose sins led to death (1 Corinthians 11:17-34). Solomon was used of God to say, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1)

I am convinced that one can sin to the point that his life is taken. We are solemnly warned of this: “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” (1 John 5:16) Sin has no other end than destruction.

Shipwreck is a reality. Please do not minimize sin and shipwreck and act as if the consequences thereof are small. There are times that one must step down from the ministry. There are times that the time out of the ministry is permanent. Shipwreck, when minimized as if it has neither consequence nor impact upon the ministry, can only lead to more heartache and destruction. Please, let us not fall prey to the folly of minimizing shipwreck!

 

 

 

Romans 11:29

            With the above things in mind, we must also address one argument that has been presented in the past regarding disqualification from the ministry. It is said that, since God said, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance,” (Romans 11:29) that one cannot be disqualified. After all, God gives gifts that are eternal, and God does not repent of His calling.

First of all, let us realize how simply shallow and errant this interpretation of the passage is; because it ignores the context in which it was written. The question is asked whether God had cast off His people Israel (Romans 11:1-2), to which a negative reply is given. The apostle then proceeds to present his case based upon the fact that God had given many gifts and made many promises to Israel that He would forgive their sins and make them His people. Paul establishes this argument by appealing to a specific passage of Scripture to show them that God keeps His promises despite the sin of Israel: “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” (Numbers 23:19–20) Balack the king of Moab desired Balaam the prophet to curse Israel. Balaam stated that, though he tried to do so, God had spoken a blessing upon Israel, and would not repent of it. God had given Israel the gift of being His people, and He was not repenting of doing so. Paul stated that, though Israel was temporarily blinded, their ultimate end and salvation was of God, who promised that He would save Israel and make them His people.

This text can be of great comfort to us when we sin, because we know that God will indeed forgive the sin of His people and not cast us away. It is what comforted Jeremiah when he looked around and beheld the devastation of Jerusalem that came because of their idolatry. He said, “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) God’s faithfulness to His promises was the reason that He was merciful to Israel and refused to completely destroy them. This is also why He spoke to cold, callous, and careless Israel in Malachi’s day, saying, “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)  Despite our sins, God keeps His promises. That should indeed comfort us, because we know that those of us who are trusting Christ are securely safe in His steadfast, unchanging love.

What we cannot do, however, is rejoice that this verse tells us that a person cannot disqualify himself from the ministry. That is to disregard the context of the Scripture as God’s promise not to abandon Israel, but to also ignore the fact that people have disqualified themselves and lost God’s blessing upon their labors. Saul is a case in point: He was rejected from being king (1 Samuel 13:13-14;15:22-23), and God departed from Him (1 Samuel 28:15-19). Furthermore, if one could not disqualify himself, it nullifies the qualifications presented in First Timothy chapter three, and makes a mockery of God’s Word by presenting a Bible that conflicts with itself and has portions which are incorrect. This is absolutely unacceptable to any Bible believing person. In fact, this is sin, as we have seen in the previous two articles.

 

Concluding Thoughts

The above truths are hard truths, and they cannot be softened. Sinful men who insist that shipwreck and disqualification cannot happen, or that they are not so serious as many of us believe, must be warned. We must not act as if sin’s consequences are small. We must not act as if our sins will not affect us negatively and even destroy us. We are told that such must be rebuked. “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Timothy 5:20)

Finally, this series of articles should not be viewed as harsh, judgmental, and unforgiving. The fact is, we cannot present the forgiveness of sin, God’s mercies toward the sinner, and God’s restoring power unless we first present sin as destructive and damning. Those who desire to stand with God’s Word dare not treat sin lightly. They must present the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Only then can we see the glories of the grace of God. “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) If you are a minister who has fallen and disqualified himself, please take sin seriously. I plead with you to be as David, who confessed his sin and accepted the consequences. Only then can you truly be restored in your walk with God. I do not profess to know your future. I do not know whether or not your ministry can be restored. Maybe it can, and then maybe your reputation is so greatly damaged that you can never again fill the qualifications of First Timothy chapter three. I do know that God will forgive you and restore you to a holy walk with Him, and that is what is of utmost importance.

 

 

Disqualified pt 2

See part 1

What About David?

When a leader falls into immorality, it seems that many today are convinced that they can apologize and then continue in the position of godly leadership. One of the things that is often mentioned is the fact that King David sinned and was used of God. This is indeed true. David, a man after God’s own heart, sinned against God and continued as king of Israel. We can rejoice in the wonderful example of the forgiving grace of God; but does this present us with godly reason to believe that a person cannot disqualify himself from the ministry? Does this present us with Biblical proof that a confession of immorality and forgiveness thereof allows one to continue in the ministry simply because one has been forgiven? My response, based upon the Scriptures, is “No: emphatically, NO!”

First of all, let us remember that Scripture has a context. One or two passages can be taken out of context and used to teach and present a sort of proof for almost anything. This is why context is important.

THE GOLDEN RULES OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

John Wycliffe 1324-1384 – “It shall greatly help you to understand scripture, if you mark not only what is spoken or written, but of whom, and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goes before and what follows after.”

 

We find then, that we should read about David in the context both of the book in which it is written, and the Bible which is a library of books which are all in agreement one with another.

The first thing that we must notice is the biblical context of First Samuel and Second Samuel, remembering the history and the events that led up to David becoming king. Saul, if you recall was disqualified and rejected as king of Israel. While some say that only God can judge a person, that is not necessarily true. Jesus commanded us to judge righteously (John 7:24). We must be able to discern right from wrong. Furthermore, it was God who judged Saul as being disqualified as king. “And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.” (1 Samuel 13:13–14) “And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1 Samuel 15:22–23) “And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the LORD repented that he had made Saul king over Israel.” (1 Samuel 15:35) Here we see that, on two different occasions, Saul was informed by Samuel that God had rejected him as king. Not only so, but later Saul needed counsel to go into battle, so he sought a witch to call up Samuel to give him counsel. Here is what we read: “And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams: therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the LORD is departed from thee, and is become thine enemy? And the LORD hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the LORD hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the LORD, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath the LORD done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the LORD will also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and to morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the LORD also shall deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 28:15–19) Not only was Saul disqualified from the kingship, but God removed from him His guidance: Saul no longer heard from God because he had ignored the Word of God.

Next we must consider the context of David’s sin. David sinned by committing adultery, trying to cover it up, and having the husband of Bathsheba killed. David continued without repenting for about a year. Then Nathan the prophet came and rebuked him. David confessed his sins and received forgiveness. But let us hear the Word of the Lord: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:10–14) Notice that David was forgiven, yet still was going to reap some sad results from his sin. His own family would be divided. His newborn son would die. David would have cause to regret his sin for the rest of his life. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) David may have continued as king, but David reaped sorrowful consequences for his one night of pleasure with Bathsheba. Brothers, we cannot use David as an example that says one cannot disqualify himself from the ministry, or that one’s forgiveness immediately makes him qualified to be a pastor. David is rather an example that should serve to warn us that sin has consequences that will be with us even though God has forgiven us.

Another thing that we need to realize about the context of Scripture is that David was not a pastor. He is not the greatest of examples to use regarding the lives, morals, and qualifications of pastors. If we desire to speak of David and qualifications, we may need to even recognize that David did not consider himself worthy of being king: “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 LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain. Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.” (2 Samuel 23:1–5) God was gracious to David though David did not claim that his family was a righteous family. It is truly foolish to try to use such a man as David to speak to the morals and qualifications of a pastor. Furthermore, let us remember that the qualifications for a pastor are found in First Timothy chapter three, and that David was not a pastor; thus the qualifications for a pastor are not relevant to David’s kingship. It is imperative that we read Scripture in context.

Finally, we must recognize a very important issue that is before us, and that is the fact that using David to show that forgiveness can immediately make a fallen man qualified for the pastorate does violence to the Scriptures. The qualifications of pastors remain the same, whether the fallen and disqualified man is forgiven or whether he never repents and receives forgiveness. To try to use David to show that either cannot disqualify himself, or that he can be immediately qualified after receiving forgiveness is to deny the truthfulness of First Timothy chapter three. It is to present a view that there are texts of Scripture that disagree with other texts, which is very wrong. All Scripture is the Word of God and is correct. We do not pit one text against another as though they are enemies: all Scripture is true, and Scripture does not conflict with itself. It is a sad day when those who say that they are ministers and preachers of the Word of God will refuse to acknowledge the truthfulness of all of the Word of God. To such we can only say, “Repent. God has no pleasure in those who twist and distort His Word.” (See Proverbs 30:6;2 Peter 3:15-16;Revelation 22:18-19).

In conclusion, we must indeed rejoice in the forgiving grace of God to each of us. We must hold out the forgiving grace of God to those who have fallen. This is the gospel, and we must preach it. We are also duty bound to call upon those who profess Christ to live a life that is in harmony with the gospel (Philippians 1:27-29). We must also demand that those who say that they are called to the ministry be qualified according to First Timothy chapter three.