Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 15 No. 2 February 2013
Page 16

Questions and Answers

Send your religious questions to rushmore@gospelgazette.com

Does It Make Any Difference in What
Order the Lord’s Supper Is Observed?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis RushmoreDoes it make any difference when the Lord’s Supper is observed during the worship service? Acts 20:7 States that the disciples came together for the purpose of breaking bread and Paul preached to them. 1st Corinthians 14:40 states “let all things be done decently and in order.” Since the early disciples took communion before preaching, should communion be observed prior to preaching or does make any difference? ~ Garland Hankins

The statement, “Since the early disciples took communion before preaching…” does not necessarily represent a brotherhood-wide practice in the first century, and it does not necessarily even represent what occurred in Acts 20:7. We can presume that since Paul’s preaching concluded when Eutychus fell out the window, and that since the stated reason for the assembly was for observance of the Lord’s Supper, the Communion was observed on this occasion at that place prior to the preaching with which the service concluded. Yet, we cannot know for sure whether any instruction (preaching) preceded the taking of the Lord’s Supper, too.

In addition, there are five acts of worship identified in various New Testament passages, three besides the Lord’s Supper and preaching. If the sequence in which they must occur is important, where is the instruction in the New Testament regarding the relationship of the Lord’s Supper, preaching, prayer, singing and the contribution to each other? In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, the occasion for the assembly upon the first day of the week (in language nearly identical to Acts 20:7), the Lord’s Supper is not mentioned, but instead giving is addressed.

The Greek word taxis from which we get the word “order” in 1 Corinthians 14:40 appears nine times in eight verses in the New Testament. In each instance, it is translated “order” (KJV). However, the meaning varies somewhat depending upon the context in which it appears. For instance, six of the nine occasions refer to the priestly order or group of priests (Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11, 17). In Colossians 2:5, the apostle Paul commended the deportment of Christians in Colossae, and with the word “order,” he referred essentially to their orderliness. Luke 1:8 uses the word “order” to refer to the succession or sequence of or when it was the turn of Zacharias to perform his priestly duties. Then, there is the occasion in 1 Corinthians 14:40 under consideration; does it refer to orderliness here or does it refer to a fixed sequence in which the Lord’s Supper is to be observed relative to other acts of worship?

Of Paul’s reference in Colossians 2:5, Wuest wrote: “Order” is taxis …a military term speaking of an orderly array of soldiers.” The context of 1 Corinthians 14 pertains to bringing orderliness to the chaotic assemblies of the first century church of Christ assembling in Corinth. The assembly was disrupted with people talking over each other as multiple persons spoke simultaneously. The disorder of what they were doing included women speaking in the assembly, too. Therefore, the apostle Paul instructed the church to bring their assemblies to order. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). The apostle summarized the training that he had pronounced in the chapter with 1 Corinthians 14:40. “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

From these foregoing considerations, 1 Corinthians 14:40 does not specify a sequence of worshipful acts, but rather, it teaches order in place of chaos. Acts 20:7, especially when considered with other acts of worship about which one can read in numerous New Testament passages, does little more than identify two acts of worship that occurred on the Lord’s Day in the Christian assembly, and other passages identify three additional acts of worship. The most one could say about the Lord’s Supper compared with preaching from Acts 20:7 is that there is a warranted emphasis on observing the Lord’s Supper each first day of the week.

It is good to inspect our practices in view of what the Scriptures teach. We need to establish biblical precedents for what we believe, practice and teach in religion. Yet, mankind is given to extremes on all subjects, and often we find ourselves in the church trying too hard or not trying hard enough to follow biblical instruction. We need a biblical balance that curbs us from making either too much or too little of what we read in the New Testament. Our goal ought to be that we understand what the original auditors of the New Testament as it was spoken and written were expected to understand and apply that contemporarily.

Works Cited

Wuest, K. S. “Col 2:5.” Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

What Does “For the Remission
of Sins” Mean in Acts 2:38?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

The phrase “for the remission of sins” is eternally important because one’s understanding of it materially affects not only his beliefs but his actions respecting preparation to meet God at the Judgment. Baptists readily admit their contention that in Acts 2:38 the phrase “for the remission of sins” means “because of the remission of sins.” Hence, Baptists understand Acts 2:38 to teach that one ought to be baptized because he already has the forgiveness of sins – rather than to be baptized in order to receive the forgiveness of sins. One can easily discern that there is a world of difference – an eternity of difference, really – in those two contrary propositions. Therefore, it does matter what one understands and practices regarding Acts 2:38.

Notice Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (eis afesin hamartioon)” (KJV emphasis added). The same phrase in English and Greek appears in Acts 2:38. Now, at the institution of the Lord’s Supper in Matthew 26:28, our Lord was not teaching that He was about to shed His blood because mankind already had the forgiveness of sins. That would be absurd and invalidate the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. Rather, our Savior was about to shed His blood in order that people could have the forgiveness of sins. In Matthew 26:28, “because of the remission of sins” instead of “in order to receive the forgiveness of sins” will not work. Likewise, “because of the remission of sins” rather than “in order to receive the remission of sins” is incorrect in Acts 2:38.

The place of Bible baptism in God’s plan of salvation is clearly seen from numerous passages throughout the New Testament. The simplicity of our Lord’s statement in Mark 16:16 is difficult to misconstrue. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (NKJV emphasis added). This declaration is comparable to the mathematical equation of 1 + 2 = 3; belief (faith) + baptism = salvation. Further, notice when the man we best know as the apostle Paul received the removal of his sins. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). It should be no surprise, then, that the apostle Peter pointed to baptism as the point of salvation. Comparing the salvation of the eight souls on Noah’s ark, Peter said they “were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20), but then he wrote, “There is also an antitype which now saves us — baptism…” (1 Peter 3:21).

These biblical citations harmonize with other references to baptism in the New Testament. Rather than “faith only,” “faith alone” or at the point of “faith,” true faith that Jesus is the Christ (John 8:24) leads to repentance (Luke 13:3) and acknowledging before others one’s confidence that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 10:32), prior to being baptized “for [in order to receive – not because of] the remission of sins.” Faith alone is a dead faith (James 2:14, 17, 26), and the single occasion of the words “faith only” appearing in the Bible is in James 2:24 where Scripture reads, “not by faith only” (emphasis added).

The clear meaning of “for the remission of sins” in both Matthew 26:28 and Acts 2:38 is “in order to receive the remission of sins.” The relationship of repentance to baptism in Acts 2:38 is that both repentance and baptism precede the forgiveness of sins or salvation.

Relationship of Repentance to
Baptism and Salvation (Acts 2:38)

Hermeneutical gymnastics arise to near Olympic competition quality in an attempt to invalidate the teaching of Acts 2:38 (and other passages, too). For instance, it is nothing more than a senseless quibble that punctuation, namely a comma, in an English translation dissolves the effect of the coordinate conjunction between the words “repent” and “be baptized” preceding “for the remission of sins” in Acts 2:38. The Greek New Testament had no punctuation!

The earliest Greek texts did not have any equivalent to our modern device of punctuation. Sentence punctuation became common several centuries after the time of Christ. Most of the oldest copies of both the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament are written with no punctuation, though a few manuscripts from the second and third centuries CE do contain early attempts to develop punctuation. In addition, the ancient Greeks used no spaces between words. Most texts were a continuous string of letters, with an occasional blank line inserted to mark the end of a major section, though even this was not always done. They also had no equivalent to our lower case letters. Texts were written in all capitals. (Palmer)

It is easy to make baseless assertions, such as this one: “Baptism ALWAYS comes after repentance, faith, forgiveness, never before, in the Bible” (Martin). Yes, Bible baptism follows faith and repentance, but it is a false claim that “[b]aptism ALWAYS comes after… forgiveness, never before, in the Bible.” Look with me to the conversion of Saul of Tarsus – most widely known later and today as the apostle Paul. It is evident that from Acts 9:6 onward that Saul believed that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God, and yet, neither Saul nor Jesus Christ considered Saul saved from his sins yet. “So he, trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’” (Acts 9:6 NKJV). Had Saul known that he was saved from his sins, he would not have inquired of Jesus what he yet needed, and noticeably, Jesus would not have told him what he “must do” if Saul were already saved from his sins.

Saul prayed and fasted for three days before a Christian named Ananias was sent by Jesus to him (Acts 9:9-10). It was then and not before that according to Scripture Saul was told what he “must do” regarding his salvation. Here is what Ananias told Saul. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16 emphasis added). Clearly, the assertion that “[b]aptism ALWAYS comes after… forgiveness, never before, in the Bible” is false. Saul had retained his sins even after meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus and after three days of fasting with prayer, but those sins were remitted in Christian baptism. That is what a student of the New Testament would expect after reading the declaration of Jesus about salvation in Mark 16:16 or what the apostle Peter preached (Acts 2:38) and wrote (1 Peter 3:21) about at what point one is saved.

It is easier and simpler to believe and practice what Jesus taught and what Peter preached and wrote about salvation. More importantly, the plan of salvation that is divine in origin alone can assure the living that they have the forgiveness of sins, whereby they may confidently with boldness (Hebrews 10:19) know that they are prepared to meet God in Judgment (Amos 4:12).

Works Cited

Martin, Dave. Baptist preacher Bartlett, TN from an email.

Palmer, Michael W. “Punctuation in Ancient Greek Texts, Part I.” Greek Language and Linguistics. 10 Jan 2013. <http://greek-language.com/grklinguist/?p=657>.

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