|Vol. 14 No. 7 July 2012||
When I go shopping for groceries, I am always on the lookout for the best deal. It is true that while one store may have better prices on their meat, another store may have better priced bread. Yes, I have driven twenty-five miles in order to save five cents a gallon on gas. In fact, I admit that I have gone to Sam’s and bought the value packs because of the better unit price. (Then all I have to do is figure out where to keep my twenty cans of shaving cream or one hundred rolls of toilet paper!)
This is a good practice when shopping for groceries, but it can be very dangerous when this approach is used in religious matters. Too many Christians ‘shop’ their religion around by taking the ‘good stuff’ and then try to leave behind what they see as ‘bad deals.’ Every one of us loves the positives of Christianity, such as having Christ as our Savior, the comfort of heaven and the doctrine of grace. However, many cringe at the other end of the deal, which includes the warning of hell, self-sacrifice and enduring persecution. The majority of Christians I know take a stand against the use of instrumental music in the worship service, but then not quite as many take a stand against the worldly influences of dirty television programs or fellowship with denominational influences.
Too often Christians defend their actions by saying, “My church says it’s wrong,” instead of saying, “I can’t do it because I’m a Christian.” (There is a difference!) Sadly many have heard, “I know the preacher says it’s wrong to drink, smoke, cuss or __________, but I’m going to do what I want.” This attitude is foreign to the doctrine of Jesus Christ. God’s Son said, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow after me” (Luke 9:23). Don’t fall for Satan’s trap of having a ‘Market Place Religion,’ instead of following the pure will of the Father.
The most important question ever asked was posed several times by different people in the New Testament Book of Acts. Each situation was somewhat different from the others. Each time the question was asked, the situation or the status of the querist was different from the others. Because of this, the answer is a little different each time.
What is this all-important question? We ask some important questions in our lives. For example, when a man has found his chosen mate for life, he asks, “Will you marry me?” That’s an important question! What could be a more important question? You must surely be holding your breath for the answer. Well, here it is! The most important question: “What must I do?”
A heathen jailer in Philippi asked the apostle Paul what to do to be saved (Acts 16:30). The jailer was told to believe on the Lord. “And they spake the word of the Lord unto him…” that he might know what to believe and how to believe on the Lord (Acts 16:31-32; Romans 10:17). He showed penitence by his actions (he washed their stripes) and was baptized (Acts 16:33). Obviously, part of the teaching he received included the necessity of baptism.
Another time when the church or kingdom had just begun, devout Jews were convinced by the preaching of the Gospel that Jesus of Nazareth was both Lord and Christ – the Anointed One (Acts 2:36). They had called for the crucifixion of the Son of God, a most grievous sin. When convicted of their sins, they asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The apostle Peter did not tell them to believe as Paul had told the jailer in chapter 16. Evidently they were already believers. Therefore, they were told to repent and be baptized for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
There is one other case I wish to mention where the most important question was asked. Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus to go persecute Christians when the Lord appeared unto him in a light out of heaven. He asked, “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10). This man had, no doubt, been made a believer when the Lord appeared to him. Hence, he was not told to believe either. Neither was this humbled, penitent, prayerful man told to repent. Certainly, he had turned from sin and would never persecute the disciples of the Lord again. What was he told to do? Ananias told him to arise and be baptized to wash away his sin (Acts 22:16).
The significance of these three accounts, where essentially the same question was asked and yet three different answers were given, is that in each case the person or persons were told to be immersed (baptized). The jailer was instructed in what to do, and he was baptized. The Jews on Pentecost were told to be baptized for the remission of sins, and those who obeyed were saved and added to the church by the Lord (Acts 2:47). Saul was baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16). Obviously, baptism was the point at which the sinner was made free from sin.
[Editor’s Note: The Gospel will take a soul from where he or she is in sin to where that one needs to go for salvation. In every case, baptism is the threshold across one must go from the state of being lost to the state of having been forgiven from one’s past sins (1 Peter 3:21; Romans 6:3-5). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]