One Man’s Story

A  Christian who had done mission work in South America told me about a man there who picked up a leaflet from the church and liked what he read. He requested a Bible correspondence course, and after completing it asked for someone to visit him.

So the missionary made contact, and during the two hours they studied the Bible together, he would start to quote a verse and the man would finish it. This happened over and over. To say the least, the missionary was amazed.

The man told him he believed everything those passages taught. When asked if he had been immersed for the forgiveness of his sins, he said he had. He then told his story.

Dissatisfied with his religion, he began studying the Bible in earnest—all by himself. As a result he realized his christening as an infant was not scriptural baptism and that his church was not the church of the New Testament.

He approached a religious group that practiced immersion and asked to be baptized, which he was. He was then encouraged to consider himself a member of their group.

“No,” he said, “I am just a Christian.” He did not wish to be aligned with a denomination but yearned instead to be in fellowship with others like himself who were trying to go by the Bible only.

Because his family and friends thought he was crazy, he concluded he must be the only Christian in the world since no one else he knew shared his understanding.

When he finally found the church associated with the missionary, he was thrilled and began worshiping with them.

The missionary told me that as a result of this and other experiences, his own faith was strengthened in the validity of the plea to go back to the Bible and be Christians only.

He and his brethren had always taught that if all that people have is a Bible, and if they study it and do what it says, then they will be Christians only.

The truth-seeker he met was proof of this. He had studied the New Testament and had come to the same conclusions as those who believed in going by the Bible only.

The Restoration Plea is valid!

time to study-tagged

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How God Stretches Our Understanding

Moving beyond what we know

God designed our minds so that we can absorb new insights much more easily if we can connect it with something we already know. In other words, we move from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

So often Christ taught this way. He drew parallels between common things in everyday life and not-so-familiar spiritual concepts. He used figures of speech such as simile (“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . .”) and metaphor (“I am the good shepherd . . . .”) (Matthew 13:31; John 10:11).

It’s remarkable how many different ways Jesus describes Himself. Jesus is too big for any one single comparison to be adequate. Jonah, for example, is quite unlike Jesus in some important ways, but in at least one narrow sense there is a parallel, and in that one respect Jesus draws an analogy  (Matthew 12:38-40).

The New Testament compares baptism to a birth (John 3:3-5) and to death (Romans 6:3-7). These are not contradictory but each comparison sheds light on a significant aspect of baptism. In one way baptism is an end (death to the old life of sin). In another sense it is a glorious beginning (a new birth).

Moving beyond what we’ve experienced

The Bible shows us how to have fellowship with the God who is both like us and not like us. The Bible prepares us for life beyond anything we’ve ever experienced. And so God uses His word to help us make that challenging transition from the physical world we are so familiar with to a life that far exceeds anything we’ve ever known.

God uses Scripture to develop in us a whole new way of seeing so that “we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

What exciting vistas God lays out before us! Are we willing to move beyond the familiar here-and-now to the less familiar but far more wonderful then-and-there?

sunrise-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Wouldn’t It Make Sense?

Either baptism is essential to salvation, or it is not. Either we are forgiven the moment we are baptized or at some other point.

Why then?

If baptism is not essential, why then were the people at Pentecost told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38)?

If baptism is not essential, why was Saul of Tarsus told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16)—although he had already believed in Christ for three days and had been fasting and praying (Acts 9:4-11)?

If baptism is not essential, why would Paul say, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27)? Are we saved when we believe, and later we put on Christ?

If baptism is not essential, why did Paul say, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness [or as he said elsewhere, “not of works, lest any man should boast”—Ephesians 2:8], but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit . . .” (Titus 3:5—emphasis added)?

 Who would want us to think differently?

But if baptism really is the actual moment we receive forgiveness, wouldn’t it make sense for Satan to do all he could to persuade us otherwise?

lies truth-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Exactly When Are We Saved?

 

Rescue

Noah’s Flood separated two worlds: an incredibly evil one and a brand-new world washed clean. “…the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience . . .” (1 Peter 3:20-21).

For Israel, the Red Sea separated slavery from freedom. On one side were the pursuing Egyptians. On the other side of the sea lay freedom! “. . . our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1-2).

Isn’t it fascinating that both the Flood and Red Sea experiences are likened to baptism?

Healing

Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy only after he had dipped seven times in the Jordan as commanded (2 Kings 5). It wasn’t, of course, the water as such that brought him healing, but could he have been cleansed without obedience?

Jesus told the blind man to go wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9). He went to the water blind but came back seeing. As with Naaman, it wasn’t the water per se, but could he have seen without obeying?

Saved by grace through obedient faith

Saul of Tarsus went into baptism a sinner; he emerged a new man in Christ (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-7; Colossians 2:12-13).

In none of these cases did they benefit until they obeyed. But did their obedience earn their blessing? People who think they earn God’s blessings simply don’t understand grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5)!

Drawing the right conclusion

Noah, Israel, Naaman, the blind man, and Saul were blessed on the condition of their obedience to His commands. They received God’s good blessing by grace through obedient faith (Genesis 6:22; 7:5; Hebrews 11:7, 29). And so with us today.

Those who teach we are saved by inviting Christ into our hearts need to take a good hard look at the five cases above. How vital it is that we understand how and when we make the transition from being lost to being saved.

Water still plays a part (John 3:5; Acts 8:36-39), and our salvation is far too important for us to get this wrong!

cross and water-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Following Instructions

Wrong number

When Susan was seven, she wanted to call a friend. I gave her the number but got the last two digits wrong.

I told my son Monte, “Well, it was close enough. It shouldn’t make any difference, should it?”

In His word God tells us to be baptized (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Does it matter how?

The dictionary says baptize means “to immerse in water or sprinkle or pour water on…” http://www.dictionary.com/browse/baptize?s=t/.

Does the dictionary settle it?

The Greek word for baptize (baptizō) means immerse. Greek words for “sprinkle” and “pour” are not used for baptism.

New Testament baptism is clearly immersion (Mark 1:9-10; Acts 8:38-39; John 3:23).

In baptism we are buried and raised with Christ (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12-13).

If you’ve not been immersed, have you been buried and raised with Christ?

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Helps Along the Way

The help he needed

Could he have ever made it into the city on his own?

Temporarily blinded by his vision of the glorified Christ, Saul was led by the hand into the city by those traveling with him (Acts 22:11).

Three days later he was told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (22:16).

In obeying he depended on the one who immersed him, but primarily on the Lord who cleansed him.

Could he have ever found salvation on his own? Can we?

More than once, friends saved his life. Others assisted in countless ways. Above all, the Lord sustained and protected him along the way.

The help we need

Today believers often draw strength from one another, but especially the Lord.

Thank God for all the helps along the way!

Help!-tagged

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Grace and Baptism

 

To say that baptism is essential to salvation does not contradict the truth that we are saved by grace (Titus 3:4-7).

We can never earn our salvation. Baptism is a condition of salvation (John 3:5; Acts 2:38; 22:16).

A remarkable parallel

Dipping seven times in the Jordan was a condition for Naaman to be cleansed of leprosy (2 Kings 5). Could he expect a cure without going to the water?

Was there something about Jordan River water that cleansed leprosy? No, Naaman was healed on the condition of his obedience. Cleansed by the grace of God, he had nothing to boast about.

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Grace applied

Water cannot wash away sins; Christ’s blood does. When? At the moment we are buried with Him in baptism (Colossians 2:12-13).

Praise be to God for His marvelous grace!

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