|Vol. 13 No. 10 October 2011||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
I know that Jesus is coming back for me, because He said so in John 14:1-3. Yet, I know that I have sinned; my wife knows that sometimes I commit sin, and my children know that I am an imperfect father. You know that I have sinned, whether you know me very well or not, and I know that you are sinners, too. Romans 3 verse 10 says, “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’” (NKJV), and verse 23 reads, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Fortunately, I have been forgiven of my past sins when I was baptized for the remission of my sin as taught in Acts 2:38 and as Saul of Tarsus – you know, later called the apostle Paul – did according to Acts 22:16.
However, though forgiven of my past sins, I’m still a sinner – probably every day committing sins. To hear some of my brethren pray public prayers as they ask forgiveness for “our many sins,” you and I must have the same challenge in our lives to live godly and to resist “youthful” and “worldly lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22; Titus 2:12). Now good brother or good sister, don’t pretend that you don’t commit sins from time to time in your life, too. I know better! The apostle John penned, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Yet, what shall we do with the sin problem that pops up even in the lives of Christians? How can we take care of the human sin problem in God’s own appointed way?
When becoming a child of God, that answer to that question is to obey “the author of eternal salvation,” Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:9). The pinnacle of that initial obedience is immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins, which in so doing, we imitate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Mark 16:16). Preceding immersion, one must appeal exclusively to the Word of God for guidance, which leads to a faith (Romans 10:17) that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ or the Son of God – the long promised Messiah (John 8:24). Bible faith (unlike fake faith) prompts one to repent or change from sinful pursuits (Luke 13:3) and to publicly acknowledge one’s confidence in Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9-10).
If a person wants to take care of the sin problem the way God has authorized for one to become a child of God, that’s what he or she will do. Each occasion of conversion in the Book of Acts has in it the stated or implied faith, repentance, willingness to profess that Jesus is Christ and culminates in baptism (immersion). That’s the fact of the matter, period!
However, though faithful Christians no longer pursue sin (1 John 2:1), they also sin by commission and by omission. What must Christians do to address the sin problem in their lives in a God-approved manner? The apostle Peter who gave us what we might call the first law of pardon – how to become a Christian and to have one’s past sins forgiven – was privileged to extend God’s second law of pardon to erring children of God. Peter told the new but erring Christian Simon to “repent… and pray” for forgiveness (Acts 8:22). Likewise, the apostle John affirmed this same procedure to obtain forgiveness of sins by those who are already Christians. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If a Christian wants to take care of the sin problem the way God has authorized, he or she will repent and pray – as publicly or as privately as the sins are known (1 Timothy 5:20).
Yes, Jesus Christ is coming back for me after the manner that the 11 surviving apostles saw Him Ascend and disappear in the cloudy sky (Acts 1:9-11; Revelation 1:7). Our Lord is coming back, and He is going to appear in the clouds (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). He’s going to change this short, wide, aging body of mine into something glorious and fitted for eternal, heavenly habitation (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). My Lord is coming back for me, and He is coming back for you, too, if you have prepared to meet God (Amos 4:12).
Now, let me explain the primary difference between non-Christians and Christians. Both non-Christians and Christians are sinners in that they both commit sin, but non-Christians are unforgiven sinners, whereas Christians are forgiven sinners. That is not to say that once we are saved that we no longer bear the guilt of sins or that the sins that we commit are unable to harm our souls and keep us from heaven. Even the best of people who are not Christians nevertheless pursue lives characterized by sinfulness as they remain outside of Christ, though they may do some good things or may be morally upright. Christians pursue lives of righteousness, though sometimes they may falter. Each person, non-Christian or Christian, must take care of the sin problem in his or her life in the God-appointed way, depending upon whether one is a non-Christian who needs to become a Christian or a Christian who needs to repent and pray about sin in his or her life.
We are all sinners of one kind or another, and sin allowed to persist in our lives leads to spiritual death (Romans 6:23), which includes eternal separation from God in a place prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41; 2 Thessalonians 1:9). I’m going to do my best as a child of God to be ready when Jesus returns to gather His church by walking in the light of righteous (1 John 1:7). Let’s get ready together, as well as uphold and encourage each other, as we struggle through this life toward the spiritual vision of the heavenly city (Hebrews 11:13-16) – until we die or until our blessed Lord returns for us. “‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Sadly, the religious world finds itself in constant turmoil and disagreement regarding clear Bible teachings. It is as though there are “101 flavors” concerning God’s truth. As sadly, the subject of baptism is no different. Some religious groups immerse, others sprinkle. Some religious groups baptize because they have been saved, others baptize in order to be saved. Some baptize for the dead, others baptize babies, while still others baptize only believers. Given all the different “flavors” surrounding baptism, one is easily confused. Thankfully, God is not the author of religious confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33)! Placing aside all of man’s ideas regarding baptism, let us consider God’s truth alone.
Firstly, God’s truth on baptism teaches that baptism involves submission. The Bible states that those who are baptized must first (1) hear the preaching of the Gospel (Mark 16:15), (2) believe the Gospel (Mark 16:16) and (3) repent (Acts 2:38). All of these involve submission. How can one hear God’s truth unless that one submits by truly listening (James 1:21)? Certainly, believing the Gospel involves submission of the mind, often humbly putting aside past thoughts, beliefs and feelings (Acts 13:46; 23:1; 26:9). Repentance is certainly a submissive act – willingly changing the mind, which leads to a changed lifestyle (Luke 15:17ff). Then obviously, the very act of baptism is a submissive act (Acts 2:41; 10:48; 22:16). God’s truth clearly shows that baptism involves submission.
Secondly, God’s truth on baptism teaches that baptism is only by submersion. The religious world is literally inundated with false teaching regarding the mode of baptism. Some sprinkle, others pour, and even further some immerse. Thankfully, again, God is not the author of such confusion! God’s truth is clear; Bible baptism is only by immersion. Paul declared that we are “Buried with him in baptism…” (Colossians 2:12a; cf. Romans 6:4). Recently, our little puppy got hit on the road and was killed. My precious family and I had the unpleasant task of burying our little, fury friend. What do you suppose we did? Did we sprinkle a little dirt on him and call it done? Did we pour some dirt on his lifeless body and walk away? No, we buried him, which means we completely submerged, covered and buried his dead body wholly in the dirt. To do anything else would have not been a burial! Likewise, to sprinkle, pour or anything else other than immerse, is to not baptize! God’s truth clearly shows that baptism is submersion!
Thirdly, God’s truth on baptism teaches that baptism is for salvation. Although many in the religious world teach that salvation comes before baptism, the Bible teaches the exact opposite! Salvation is not found in the so-called “sinner’s prayer” and salvation is not found in “receiving” Jesus into your heart, but rather salvation is found when one completely submits to God’s will and is baptized! In fact, without Bible baptism, a person cannot be saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Without Bible baptism sins cannot be washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Without Bible baptism one cannot obey God’s commands (Acts 10:48). Without Bible baptism one cannot enter the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13), nor can that one be reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:16). Without Bible baptism one cannot put on Christ (Galatians 3:27). Although many teach contrariwise, God’s truth teaches that baptism is for salvation!
Although the world offers “101 flavors” regarding baptism, God’s truth still only offers one! We plead with each reader to examine honestly, rationally and scripturally the above regarding God’s truth on baptism. If what we have penned is true, obey it; if not, tell us why. “And now why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Please obey God’s truth!