Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 18 Number 5 May 2016
Page 2

Editorial

Unholy Spirit

The phrase “wine and spirits” refers to alcoholic drinks. In that regard, a dictionary definition of “spirits” is “a strong distilled alcoholic liquor,” and the British use of the word “spirits” means “alcohol” (Dictionary.com). In consideration, then, of Ephesians 5:18, there appears in Scripture a contrast between an unholy spirit and the Holy Spirit.

Notice various translations of Ephesians 5:18 so that we can grasp the effect of consuming alcohol in contrast to being filled with the Spirit. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (KJV). “And be not drunken with wine, wherein is riot, but be filled with the Spirit” (ASV). “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (NIV). “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (ESV).

The words “drunk” and “drunkenness” in both Greek and English have the same definition of “intoxication.” Therefore, Ephesians 5:18 says, “be not intoxicated…” Especially Christians, then, ought to refrain from being filled with spirits and rather opt to be filled with the Spirit.

The contrast represents polar opposites with no middle ground. On one hand, consumption of alcohol or spirits is debauchery and leads to more debauchery. On the other hand, being filled with the Spirit is an admirable pursuit, distinctly different from the unholy spirits associated with alcoholic consumption.

Medically or physiologically, too, there is no middle ground. The least amount of alcohol introduced into one’s body produces some level of intoxication (drunkenness), which the Bible uniformly condemns. Social drinking, hence, is not a harmless activity in which Christians either dare to participate or to condone in others.

In addition to negative and prohibitive biblical instructions in both the Old Testament (Proverbs 20:1; 31:4-5; 23:21, 29-35; Deuteronomy 21:20-21; Habakkuk 2:15) and the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:10; 1 Timothy 3:3) regarding the consumption of alcohol, positive statements also have the effect of barring Christians from so-called social drinking. Christians are directed to “be sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8; 1 Timothy 3:2; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8), which means to be from intoxicants.

Priests under Judaism were forbidden to consume alcohol so that they could distinguish between the unholy and the holy. “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Leviticus 10:9-10 NKJV). We New Testament priests (1 Peter 2:9; Revelation 1:6) likewise must distinguish between the unholy and the holy, which we can more nearly accomplish if we do not consume alcoholic beverages.


Editorial

What Hinders Me from Being Baptized?

Louis Rushmore, Editor

Without doubt, the baptism of the Great Commission (Mark 16:16) transforms one from being a child of the Devil (Colossians 1:13; 2:12) into being a disciple of Christ (Matthew 28:19) and to being one who has been added to the church by Jesus Christ Himself (Acts 2:38, 41, 47). Biblical baptism is the point at which one gets into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27) and the point at which one receives the remission of sins or is saved (1 Peter 3:20-21) from past sins (Romans 3:25). Naturally, then, evangelism has as its rudimentary goal leading souls into the watery grave of baptism (Romans 6:3-5).

How, though, ought Christians to approach unsaved souls with the intention of leading them to obey the Gospel, since not obeying the Gospel consigns people to an eternity isolated from God in hell (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; 1 Peter 4:17)? The temptation is to use all means to coax as many persons as possible into submitting to baptism. The temptation is to focus on numbers at the expense of actually converting people to Christ, whereupon if they were truly converted He could really add them to His church.

“Everyone who is baptized today will receive a new Bible!” “In order to receive medical treatment today, you must have a Bible study with us.” “We are distributing clothes and eyeglasses at the Sunday assembly.” Time and time again, these and similar enticements in foreign fields have resulted in hundreds to thousands of people agreeing to be “baptized.” Yet, time and time again, after the proverbial dust settles once the evangelism team has departed, there are no more Christians assembling than there were before all of the hoopla from American missionaries.

Back in the States, boasting of innumerable baptisms, more money and materials are secured for repeating the whole procedure the following year. Next year, the same people will be baptized to get their new Bibles, to receive their medical treatments or to acquire more handouts. Once more, when the Americans return home, the local congregations are no better off than they were before the fanfare.

Brethren, it is unethical and counterproductive to attempt to coerce people into the waters of baptism. Not only so, it is strictly illegal to pressure souls with “bait” to become Christians, particularly in nations with state religions like India and Myanmar that have non-conversion laws.

Certainly it is noble to circulate copies of God’s Word, and God’s people ought to be charitable, attending when possible to the benevolent needs of our fellow man. However, it is not biblically correct to resort to physical inducements to draw souls into the water. Using such methods, we may get a lot of people wet, but not many will be added by the Lord to His church. After all, there is a difference between a bath and a baptism (1 Peter 3:21).

Yes, we are to “persuade men” (2 Corinthians 5:11), but not with material things. Rather, in that verse, the persuasion under consideration was the “terror of the Lord” in consequence of anyone entering into eternity unprepared to meet God in Judgment (Amos 4:12). Not material things, but spiritual matters are to be the basis of the persuasion of people to become Christians.

Whatever it is with which we draw people is the same thing but more of it that will be required to keep those people. Subsequently, crowds appear in foreign fields each year when and only when the Americans come with their gifts. When the Americans are gone, so are the crowds. Foreign brethren know, and surely American brethren are not so naïve as to not know this too, that this type of effort is a farce or a mockery of God’s redemptive plan. Precious few are those who are actually reached with the Gospel through these means, and even fewer are added to any local congregation.

Just what is it with which we Christians ought to approach the unsaved – abroad or stateside? The pure, unadorned Gospel of Jesus Christ alone is the only biblically prescribed methodology for making Christians. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16 NKJV). Put another way, the evangelist Philip led the Ethiopian treasurer to become a child of God by preaching to him Jesus (Acts 8:35). Philip used spiritual persuasion rather than material lures or bribes to convert the treasurer.

As a result of preaching Jesus, it was not Philip begging the Ethiopian to be baptized, but rather the Ethiopian whom Philip taught who begged to be baptized. He said, “…What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36 NKJV). Similarly on the birthday of the Lord’s church, auditors of Peter’s sermon interrupted him to inquire how to be saved from their sins, including the heinous sin of killing their Savior (Acts 2:37). Rather than Peter begging his audience to be baptized, about 3,000 in his audience begged him to relate to them how they could be saved. That’s when Peter said, “…Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38).

We need to stop resorting “to the weak and beggarly elements” (Galatians 4:9) of the world with which to persuade people to be baptized. Instead, we need to set our hearts and our hands on putting forth spiritual arguments from God’s Word that will result in true conversion as people go through the motions of being baptized. Only then will we truly practice biblical evangelism, and only then will something remain behind us when the proverbial dust settles as American missionaries return home.


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