|Volume 22 Number 11 November 2020||
In order to arrive at truth on any subject, we must bring an open mind to the examination of the Word of God. We must determine that the Bible will be allowed to settle all questions. It and it alone will be the final source of authority in all matters of faith and practice (Romans 4:3; Galatians 4:30; 2 Timothy 3:l6-17; 2 Peter 1:3). This approach to the sacred oracles rules out any appeal to creed books or any appeal to loyalty to ancestors over and above the Bible (1 Peter 4:11; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:18-19; Galatians 1:6-9). Come to the Word and study for yourself (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11).
We learn from Hebrews 11:6 that it is impossible for a man to come to God without faith. Paul taught in Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Paul told the Ephesians, “The sword of the Spirit is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). We learn some of the power of that word in Hebrews 4:12 and Romans 1:16. The Word of God, then, is the instrument by which the Holy Spirit operates on the spiritual heart of man (whether alien or Christian).
God appointed faith to change the spiritual heart of man through teaching (Romans 10:17), then repentance to change the life (Matthew 21:28-31; 3:8), confession of faith in Christ as a declaration of change in allegiance (Matthew 10:32-33) and baptism into Christ to change one’s state or relationship (Romans 6:3-6; Galatians 3:26-27). Baptism does not change one’s heart. It does not change one’s life. It does not make an impenitent man a penitent man. Both faith and repentance must precede baptism (Acts 2:38). Some of our own brethren need to realize this.
I call your attention to 1 Peter 3:21, which reads, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Notice that by the obedience of faith in immersion one is able to obtain a clear conscience before God. In scriptural baptism, one is able to change the conscience. What does this mean in reality? It means that one who has not been scripturally baptized cannot in reality have a clear conscience before God.
Now there are men who are like Saul was before he obeyed the Gospel in Acts 22:16. They believe they are safe. Their consciences are clear, but they are deceived (Acts 23:1). Sin causes a guilty conscience. Remission of sins is the only means of obtaining a good one in the right way. Gospel obedience with l Peter 3:21 completing the picture shows how this is done today. Romans 6:3-4 with Revelation l:5 show us that it is actually the blood of Christ that saves, that cleanses us from our sins, but it is when a penitent believer who has confessed his faith in his Lord is baptized into Christ that he reaches the benefits of that cleansing blood of the Redeemer.
Peter, the same writer, said in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins.” Again, I want us to see that sin is the cause of a guilty conscience and that scriptural baptism is the final act that puts the obedient believer into possession of the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). This promise of remission of sins through the power of the blood of Christ gives to the obedient believer a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3:21). Please do not miss the point that obedience in immersion is the medium through which this blessing is obtained and enjoyed. My friends, Hebrews 10:22 teaches exactly the same thing (John 3:5; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 5:26-27).
I’m Not the Man I Used to Be
There is a religious song that is often sung by different quartets, groups and individuals, emphasizing how that one’s life has been changed by Calvary, noting the death of Jesus Christ Who died on the cross for the sins of the world. Regardless of how a person lived previously, when he or she believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, is penitent of sins and obeys the Gospel of Christ, his or her sins are forgiven and forgotten (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Hebrews 8:12).
Mankind is not so merciful and forgiving. Recently, I read about “Boeing’s communications chief who was forced to resign because of an article he wrote criticizing women in combat in 1987 – more than 30 years ago – when he was a Navy fighter pilot.” The gentleman explained he no longer held the same views about women serving in the armed services as he did when he was a young man. Nevertheless, he was forced to resign his position with the company. This is a prime example of the extremes we now witness in our nation.
What if God treated mankind in like fashion as those responsible for pressuring this person to resign from his work with Boeing? Consider the following men who said or did something that was not in harmony with the will of God, and yet, the Lord forgave them and used them in His kingdom.
Abraham, the ‘father of the faithful,’ was not perfect. In two incidents, he intended to deceive rulers in order to protect his life. When Abram “went to Egypt,” because of the beauty of Sarai his wife, he said to her, “Please say you are my sister that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” Thus, Pharaoh and others believed that Sarai was only a sister to Abram and not his wife (Genesis 12:10-20). While this statement was partially true, it was not the whole truth. Then, there was the time when Abraham and Sarah went to Gerar. While there, he told others, “She is my sister.” King Abimelech took Sarah. God intervened, and the king did not touch her (Genesis 20). David, after much time and many obstacles, became King of Israel. God richly blessed him abundantly with power and material things. Yet, he lusted after a woman, committed adultery with her and had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11). Peter denied his Lord three times (Matthew 26:69-75). The apostle Paul, prior to his conversion, persecuted the church of the Lord (Acts 9). He referred to himself as being the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-15).
Abraham matured his faith in God and his belief “was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3, 5). King David was truly penitent of his sins (Psalm 32; 51). The apostle Peter was genuinely sorry for his denial of Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:75). Saul (Paul) believed in Jesus, repented and was baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 9:9-11; Acts 22:16).
These individuals were not the men they used to be. God did not hold their past mistakes, faults and sins against them. Have we not all thought, said or written something that displeased God and sought His forgiveness? We should be thankful for the infinite mercy of our Heavenly Father. God has given His children this blessed assurance: “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). “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).