|Volume 18 Number 12 December 2016||
A physical structure is no stronger than its foundation. We are reminded of this fact when earthquakes shake the ground and buildings fall. This principle also applies to our lives. Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-25,
Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these saying of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand; and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.
Jesus was finishing His great Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7. These chapters record a powerful summary of the core teachings of Christianity. Jesus gave essential guidance and commandments that can be followed to result in Godly lives that assure our spiritual well-being and obedience to God. Paul referred to the teaching of Christ as a foundation for life as he stated in 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Some key elements of this great sermon that create a foundation of rock include the following.
Matthew 5:1-12. The meek, humble, righteous, pure in heart, merciful, peacemaker and servant of God that is persecuted for righteousness’ sake is blessed and favored.
Matthew 5:21-30. Sin comes from our hearts, and behavior reflects our hearts.
Matthew 6:5-13. God will answer the prayers of His children.
Matthew 6:19-21. One’s treasure in life is not kept on earth, but rather, it is accumulating in heaven.
Matthew 6:33-34. We must seek first the kingdom of heaven and Christ’s righteousness. As we do this, God will provide for our every need.
Matthew 7:13-14. The way to heaven is narrow and difficult, and the way to eternal destruction is wide and easy.
Matthew 7:15-20. Beware of false teachers.
Matthew 7:21-23. Only those who know and do the Father’s will are saved.
There are many other teachings in this sermon. Read and study every verse of Matthew 5-7 to learn how to build your life on a solid foundation. The world is populated by billions of people with failing lives. The ultimate failure is death while outside of the body of Christ. Upon what kind of foundation is your life built?
What Happens in Baptism?
There are few religious acts in which there are more controversy than baptism. Most of the Christian world do not believe that it has anything to do with our salvation. As many say, it is only a symbolic ritual to show what has already taken place in our hearts and lives, namely, the forgiveness of our sins. I believe there are few passages that speak against this attitude more clearly than Romans 6:3-4. “Or do you know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
We need to understand that Romans 6 is not about baptism. It is about sin. The word “sin” is used 16 times in this chapter. Paul was discussing the Christian’s relationship to sin. Knowing that our sins have been washed away should motivate us to lead godly lives. The question is, “When are our sins washed away?”
Paul said that it occurs in baptism. Baptism is much more than just a symbol or a ritual. Baptism is more than just a physical act of obedience. In Romans 6:2, Paul said that we died to sin when we were baptized. In 6:3, Paul declared that we are baptized into Jesus Christ as well as baptized into His death. Most people would agree that it is the blood of Jesus that actually washes away our sins (Revelation 1:5), but how can we contact the blood of Jesus? The blood of Jesus was actually shed at the cross. When Jesus died, the soldiers put a spear into His side, and blood and water flowed out (John 19:34). When we are baptized, we are baptized into the death of Jesus, which is where the blood was shed. Thus, we come in contact with the blood of Jesus, which washes away our sins. No one can be saved without dying to sin. No one can be saved without being united with Christ. No one can be saved without contacting the blood of Jesus. All of these occur in baptism, according to the apostle Paul.
Paul also said that after baptism, we are raised to walk in newness of life. In baptism, Paul showed us how our baptism is, in effect, a reenactment of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus ended His physical life only to begin a new, resurrected life. In like manner, we die to sin; thus, we ended our previous lives of sin through baptism and began a new life of purity. We do not just change a few things or erase a few mistakes. We start a new life. This makes baptism the physical point in which our old lives end and our new lives begin. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Consequently, we begin a life of single-minded devotion to Jesus.
Considering what Paul said happens at baptism, how can anyone say that baptism is only a ritual or a symbol? While it is a symbol, what it symbolizes actually comes to pass, not by the power of any man or by the water, but by the power of God.