|Vol. 13 No. 6 June 2011||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Knowledgeable Christians correctly dispute all misapplication of Scripture, including declarations that non-Christians can be saved and become Christians by saying a sinner’s prayer. The New Testament contains two differing scenarios for taking care of man’s sin problem in divinely appointed ways. Non-Christians are taught by an analysis of several passages in the Gospel to hear God’s Word exclusively (Romans 10:17), consequently to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ and the Son of God (John 8:24), to repent of sins (Acts 17:30), to be willing to publicly acknowledge belief in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10) and to be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Colossians 2:12; Acts 2:38; 22:16); we might colloquially refer to these actions collectively as the first law of pardon. However, the New Testament contains different instructions for erring Christians, namely, that they repent and pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9); these two activities comprise what one might dub as the second law of pardon. The mistake that the world and denominations typically make is to suppose that the second law of pardon is God’s solution for the non-Christian’s sin problem. Hence, the so-called sinner’s prayer bandied about in religious circles for non-Christians is a serious misapplication of God’s Word.
Generally, Christians agree that God does not hear a non-Christian’s prayer. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me” (Psalm 66:18; see also Proverbs 1:24-28). However, there is a prayer by a non-Christian to which God does respond. He does so on the basis of those who are morally right (“righteous”) and whose prayer pertains to knowing how to please God. “The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). This person exhibits reverence for (“is a worshipper”) of God. “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him” (John 9:31). We have an example of such a person in Cornelius (Acts 10-11).
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, “Cornelius!” And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. Now send men to Joppa, and send for Simon whose surname is Peter. He is lodging with Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea. He will tell you what you must do.” (Acts 10:1-6)
…who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved. (Acts 11:14)
Forty years ago, I was such a man in some respects as was Cornelius. I was a sinner – a non-Christian, and I prayed to God – longing to find the one, true church. This was my frequent, earnest prayer. I was at the time a disenchanted Catholic youth who had learned to deeply revere God from devout, Catholic grandparents. However, due to hypocrisy and the changing of several Catholic doctrines in my short life, I was convinced that the Catholic Church was not the true church.
For personal reasons, I obligated myself to the Air Force while still in high school, and six days following graduation from high school, I was in boot camp. My military aptitude tests permitted me to select before my fellows from among openings in career choices at the time, but my application to become a chaplain’s assistant was rejected. Thereafter, I was forced to take what was left because everyone else had applied for and had been granted career fields for which they applied. I was assigned a career field I did not want; I was placed on a bus bound for a military school – neither of which were my choices – and schooled in a military career not of my choosing. These circumstances out of my control put me into a military class that was being taught by a deacon in the Lord’s church; I had never heard of the churches of Christ before.
I was to be an Administrative Specialist, a clerk. To demonstrate that I already knew how to type and to move to the next higher course, I had to take a simple test. I was instructed to type a specified paragraph on a sheet of paper, under which was a sheet of carbon paper and another sheet of paper. I got my carbon paper upside down, so I had two copies of the text on either side of one sheet of paper, and I had one still blank sheet of paper. Upon approaching my instructor for instructions on what he wanted me to do now, I observed him retrieving something from his brief case. Inside the case was a bumper sticker decrying the use of instrumental music. Inquiring of him about the meaning of that signage led to an ongoing Bible study over the next six weeks, concluding with my obedience to the Gospel of Christ in baptism.
Now, one might say that the series of coincidences which provided me the opportunity to come in contact with the Gospel of Christ were no more than unrelated, happenchance events. Or, were all of these occasions that were contrary to my wishes and beyond my control rather God’s providential answering of a real sinner’s prayer? Though without modern-day revelation, no one could conclusively and definitively aver the latter, I believe that in my case, God answered this sinner’s prayerful and constant plea to find the one, true church. About 2,000 years ago, the evangelist Philip was the providential answer to the Ethiopian treasurer’s desire to know God’s Word more perfectly – which resulted in his conversion (Acts 8:26-39).
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The entire Old Testament has been superseded or replaced with the New Testament (2 Corinthians 3:6-11; Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:14). It is obvious that the Ten Commandments, which are part of the Old Testament, have been suspended, too. We know this because one of the passages that instructs us that the Old Testament has been taken away uses one of the Ten Commandments as an example of that from which we have been delivered. “But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. Sin’s Advantage in the Law What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:6-7 NKJV). However, nine of the Ten Commandments essentially have been reinstated in the New Testament, but the Sabbath Day has not been restored in the New Testament. The nine, though, are authoritative not because they were in the Old Testament, but because they appear in the New Testament.
(1) “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Compare these verses: “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:10). “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37).
(2) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. … (Exodus 20:4-5). “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising” (Acts 17:29). “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:20-23).
(3) “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8-9). “Blasphemy” in this verse corresponds to the Old Testament reference to taking God’s name in vain. “
(4) “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with promise” (Ephesians 6:1-3).
(5) “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). (6) “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). (7) “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). (8) “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). (9) “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, all are summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Romans 13:8-9). See also 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:21; 1 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 5:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8.
The above New Testament counterparts to the Ten Commandments are samplings and not exhaustive of the reintroduction of the teachings of nine of the Ten Commandments in the New Testament. Again, these instructions carry force today, not because they were in the Old Testament, but because they now appear in the New Testament. Let me give this illustration. If while driving my car in Tennessee, I turn right at a red light after stopping, though I reside in Mississippi and have a driver’s license from Mississippi, by the laws of which state am I authorized to turn right on red in Tennessee? The correct answer, of course, is we have to obey the traffic laws of the state in which we are driving (Tennessee in the illustration). Likewise, people living today must obey the laws of God under which they live – the New Testament, rather than the Old Testament from which we have been delivered.