STAYING IN STEP

Never have I ever seen a caterpillar metamorphose into a butterfly except through some very specific steps. Before we can have a butterfly, there must be 4 distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa then adult. Each phase has different and necessary purposes. There is no way for the butterfly to skip a step, nor to take the steps out of order. People are the same regarding physical things. First gestation, childhood, teen then adulthood. Did you know that there are steps and order for spiritual things, namely, Salvation?

God instructs us to look at nature because it shows His handiwork and it can teach us some spiritual lessons. [cr. Rom 1:20; Pslm 19:1; Prov 6:6]. The example of stages in nature can teach us very powerful lessons about the stages of Salvation.

Although the modern religious world rejects any plan of salvation that has man doing anything, this doesn’t negate scripture that says there is a part man must do and, in God ordained order. “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” [Acts 9:6] (emp seb) That being said, and proved, what are the steps for salvation and must they be completed in order?

Romans 10 lays out that there is an order (steps) for one to follow. In verses 13-14, Paul shows that the beginning steps leading to salvation are HEARING, BELIEVING & CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:13-14] (emp seb)

He goes onto write that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. This shows that HEARING, BELIEVING & CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD shall be learned through the study of the Word of God, namely, the New Testament. But, is this all that the New Testament has to say on this subject? CERTAINLY NOT!

In the same chapter in verse 10 Paul wrote, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (emp seb) So CONFESSION is also essential to salvation, but is this all that there is? A problem many folks have is that they stop at one passage without considering all that God has revealed about a subject. This is how & why we have thousands of denominations today. Let’s continue our search.

Thus far we have learned that salvation begins with…HEARING the word of God through the scriptures, BELIEVING this word, CONFESSING and CALLING on the name of the Lord. (there must be a distinction between CONFESSION & CALLING). To answer this question we go back to where we began this article by noting what Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was told to do by Jesus. We refer to his own retelling of the story in Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” We learn that water BAPTISM is synonymous with “CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD” and that it precedes salvation.

Jesus said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:3] Clearly, He’s speaking about salvation. After His death, burial & resurrection, but before His ascension He also said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” [Mark 16:16] (emp seb) This verse also shows the necessity of not skipping the steps and doing them in order and for their intended purpose.

Putting this all together we find only these steps for salvation in this order…
1) Hear & Learn – Rom. 10:17; John 6:45; 17:3
2) Believe – John 6:29; 8:24
3) Repent – Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 17:30
4) Confess the Lord – Matt. 10:32-33
5) Be Baptized – Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27; 1Pet. 3:21

Failure to follow the steps in their proper order and for their intended purpose is to fight against the very will of God [Acts 5:39]. There is much more on this subject, but none of it contradicts what has been said thus far.

Another thing we find is this saying, also from Jesus, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” [Rev 2:10b]. From this, along with passages like Mat 28:20; Acts 2:42; 2Tim 3:14-17, we learn that continued faithfulness is what those who have obeyed the gospel will continue to do. A person that is practicing faithfulness without having “obeyed the gospel” is practicing a vain religion. There are far too many people living in this false hope.

THROWING OUT THE TRUTH WITH THE BATHWATER

Most of you understand the expression, “THROW OUT THE BABY WITH THE BATHWATER” because you lived it. Back in the days of old, before the days of indoor plumbing, the family would take their baths in a large metal wash tub. After everyone was done, the last usually being the youngest, the bathwater was tossed out into the yard.

The idiom reminds us not to discard the precious as we attempt to rid ourselves of the despised.

I bring this to your attention because there is a movement among many to “toss out the bathwater” of baptism.

They’re TOSSING out the TRUTH of salvation as they seek to rid themselves of the baptismal waters. In their zeal to remove the ‘bathwater’ they have missed the simple truth about the Gospel.

Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. [Mat 23:24]

Those who are now working to rid the church of the ‘bathwater’ are repeating the mistakes of those in the past and tossing out the precious truth about salvation & baptism.

One fellow said that the baptism spoken of in Acts 2:38 is ‘spiritual immersion.’ What he’s done is thrown out SALVATION with the baptism water. Look at 1Peter 3:21; what is being taught?

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:” [1Peter 3:21]

The Apostle Peter makes a specific reference to water when he says, “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh.” Why would he bring up ‘the filth of the flesh’ unless saving baptism involves water? If salvation was ‘faith only’ then this addition is completely pointless. He brought it up because he was talking about WATER BAPTISM. He was teaching us not to confuse the water baptism obeyed through faith with a physical cleansing. WATER BAPTISM, submitted through faith, provides a SPIRITUAL CLEANSING.

Paul was told, “arise, and be baptized, and WASH AWAY THY SINS, calling on the name of the Lord.” [Acts 22:16] Upon hearing the preaching of Jesus by Phillip, the Ethiopian Eunuch asked, “See, here is WATER; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” [Acts 8:36] (emphasis mine, seb) These verses harmonize BECAUSE they are teaching WATER BAPTISM. They make no sense if salvation occurs BEFORE water baptism.

No one is teaching a ‘works’ salvation, for no one, submitting to the simple command of God in Christ, is able to do anything of themselves while under the water. Christ is doing the spiritual cleansing [Rev 1:5]. Christ is doing the saving [Matt 1:21]. Christ is adding to the church those that are being saved [Acts 2:47].

If you believe

  • You were saved before you were water baptized,
  • That baptism is not immersion in water,
  • That baptism doesn’t save you,
  • Were baptized in or into a denomination,
  • You were saved by being baptized as a baby,

Then you are guilty of ‘THROWING OUT THE TRUTH WITH THE BATHWATER’ and remain in your sin.

Saving Baptism in the bible is

  • Commanded by Christ, Matt 28:19; Mark 16:16
  • For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; Mat 26:28
  • What washes away sin, Acts 22:16
  • Death to sin, Romans 6:1-4
  • A Burial, Colossians 2:12
  • Immersion in water, 1Peter 3:21; Acts 8:36
  • What saves you, by faith, 1Peter 3:21; Heb 11:7
  • Taught by Peter, Paul, & others Acts 2:38; 19:5; 22:16;
  • The Putting on of Christ, Galatians 3:27
  • AFTER Hearing, Believing, Repenting & Confessing, Mark 16:15, 16

3 Ways the Lost RID themselves of Christ.

If you haven’t noticed, many of these articles are written for 2 purposes. First, to strengthen the Christian in their hope of salvation. Second, to empower the Christian with information that could be used to reach the lost. The titles are designed to evoke some emotion that makes someone want to see what it’s about.

Today’s article does both because we know the lost world needs Christ, and it’s possible for the Christian to drift away [Heb 2:2-3].

HOW DOES THE LOST RID THEMSELVES OF CHRIST?

Whether a person does it intentionally or by neglect, the results are the same, they’re lost. So, here’s what scripture tells us how a person RIDs himself of Christ.

REJECTING CHRIST:

One of the ways to get Christ out of your life is to reject Him, reject His commands and totally reject His will for your life. This is what the Jews did during His personal ministry. “And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:” [Mark 12:10].

Jesus warned, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” [John 12:48]

The result of rejecting Christ is found in the example of Esau, “For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected:” [Heb 12:17] The same fate awaits those who reject Christ, that is, to be rejected by God.

IGNORING CHRIST:

Probably the most common way to RID yourself of Christ is to IGNORE Him. We see this in most folks as they take zero consideration for their eternity. These may say they believe in God & Christ, may even attend a church service somewhere, but they make no effort to know what His will is about godly living, worship or even His commands about baptism.

Paul faced this attitude when he spoke with Agrippa. “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” [Acts 26:28] To ignore Christ is just as fatal as to reject Him.

Our Lord spoke about those who ignored His commands when He said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” [Mat 7:21]

Some say that doctrine is not important. But the Holy Spirit says that there is a ‘sound doctrine’ which means that some would be following unsound doctrine ignoring the Doctrine of Christ. [2Tim 4:3; 2John 1:9]

DELAYING OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST:

The last one will RID Christ from your life just as effectively even though the person in this position may say they want to obey the Gospel. Saying you want to do something has zero effect on one’s salvation. Christ said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” [Luke 6:46]

There is something you must do. Saul (later called Paul) knew this, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Jesus then sent him to a Christian to tell him what to do. Nobody accesses salvation without actively doing what the Lord requires. The Jailor, upon hearing about Jesus, obeyed the gospel “the same hour of the night’ without delay. [Acts 16:33]

Don’t be like Felix; “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” [Acts 24:25] He delayed, and we have no idea if he ever responded to the gospel. How sad.

All 3 of these can be applied to those outside of Christ as well as those who are in Christ. You see, we can lose our salvation when we REJECT, IGNORE or DELAY in doing the commands of the Lord. Please, Salvation has appeared to all men [Titus 2:11], don’t RID yourselves of that Grace.

What Did Jesus Do For You?

Jesus Endured so much for us.

Our Lord and Savior put up with a lot. I mean, A LOT. Below is a list of things done to our Lord.

  • Mat 27:30 And they SPIT upon him, and took the reed, and SMOTE him on the head.
  • Mat 26:67 Then did they SPIT in his face, and BUFFETED him; and others SMOTE him with the palms of their hands,
  • Mat 27:2 And when they had BOUND him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.
  • Mat 27:26 and when he had SCOURGED Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.
  • Mat 27:28 And they STRIPPED him, and put on him a scarlet robe.
  • Mat 27:29-30 And when they had platted A CROWN OF THORNS, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and MOCKED him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! And they SPIT upon him, and took the reed, and SMOTE him on the head.
  • Isa 50:6 I gave my back to the SMITERS, and my cheeks to them that PLUCKED OFF THE HAIR: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
  • Mat 26:60 But found none: yea, though MANY FALSE WITNESSES came, yet found they none. At the last came TWO FALSE WITNESSES,
  • Luke 23:40-41 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same CONDEMNATION? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but THIS MAN HATH DONE NOTHING AMISS.
  • Mark 15:31 Likewise also the CHIEF PRIESTS MOCKING said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.
  • Psalm 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they PIERCED MY HANDS AND MY FEET.
  • Mat 27:35 And they CRUCIFIED him,
  • John 19:34 But one of the soldiers with a spear PIERCED HIS SIDE, and forthwith came there out blood and water.

This list is hard to read when you remember why He came to earth. To free us from the bondage of sin, to redeem us to God and all because He loved us. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” [Rom 5:8].

SELF CONTROL

Another thing that comes to mind when reading this list is how much self-control Christ demonstrated. Just before all these things took place Jesus said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” [Mat 26:53] He said this BEFORE all the abuse, yet during the abuse, He remained silent.

Reading this list, may we come to the same conclusion as the Centurion at the crucifixion, “they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.” [Mat 27:54]

A FINAL THOUGHT

When we, those who have put on Christ in faithful baptism, return to sin, it’s as if we’re doing it all over again.

“…seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. [Heb 6:6b]

My hope is that this serves as a reminder of how much Jesus loves you and what He was willing to do for you.

Since He went that far for you, how far will you go for Him?

TAKE A PICTURE

The Reverend Jefferson Davis Tant, duly ordained in the Methodist ministry, became a circuit-rider in North Texas in the year 1880. His work as a Methodist minister was destined to be a short one. In 1881, he moved to Buda, Texas, where in August of that year, he heard W. H. D. Carrington, a minister of the Church of Christ, preach the gospel. He liked what he learned. In those days, the church was often referred to as “Campbellites.” The meeting ran from two weeks to a month. Tant decided to go back and hear what the “Campbellite” preacher had to say further. Carrington took the Bible, read the passages and explained them clearly, especially the verses that told what one must do to be a Christian or to be saved.

On August 14, 1881, Tant came forward in Carrington’s meeting and gave the preacher his hand. He was openly weeping as he did so, weeping from fear and from gratitude.

J.D. Tant preached all over the nation [abandoning the term reverend]. Gospel preachers were few and far between. He was in great demand, ordinarily receiving more than 200 invitations per year for gospel meetings and debates. His record was 269 invitations in a single year. Obviously, he could not hold more than 20 or 25 of these, since most of them were of two weeks’ duration.

The following account is from the book about his life; “TEXAS PREACHER.”

J.D. Tant’s last debate with Ben M. Bogard (his eighth) was in the Lone Star community about eight miles east of Greenwood, Arkansas, in the fall of 1937.

The proposition being discussed was that baptism of a penitent believer is (or in order to) the remission of past sins. In one of Bogard’s speeches of denial he took up his entire thirty minutes trying to prove that there are two figures (pictures) contemplated in 1Peter 3:21. Insisting that Noah and his family were saved by faith, and then pictured their salvation in the water of the flood, he declared that we are first saved by faith, and then picture that salvation by baptism. He dwelt at length on the fact that one could not have a picture of a thing or a person without first having the substance of the thing or person. He told of having a picture of his mother, and how highly he prized the picture; but he could not have had the picture unless he had first had the mother! His Baptist brethren seemed elated with this argument and felt that it was unanswerable.

Tant got to his feet and replied, “My good friends, remember that baptism is just a ‘picture’. Ben Bogard says it is, and since Ben seems to be the big ‘It’ among Baptists, that makes it so. Now, Ben, says baptism is a ‘picture’. That does not help Baptist doctrine at all; for it was Jesus Christ himself who said in Mark 16:16, ‘He that believeth and gets his picture taken shall be saved’.

And when those wicked people on Pentecost asked Peter and the rest of the apostles what they had to do, Peter replied, ‘Repent ye, and get your picture taken, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.’

And when Ananias came to Saul of Tarsus there in Damascus, he said unto him as recorded in Acts 22:16, ‘And now why tarriest thou? Arise and get your picture taken, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord’.

So, you can see, Ben, you, too, will have to get your picture taken or you can never be saved!”

There was a roar of laughter from the audience, and Bogard was obviously discomfited as his bit of sophistry was thus handed back to him.

Confessing Jesus

Cherry picking is the act of pointing at individual cases or data that seem to confirm a particular position, while ignoring a significant portion of related cases or data that may contradict that position. The practice of cherry-picking overlooks or even suppresses evidence that would lead to a different conclusion.

The term comes from the process of harvesting fruit. A picker (such as for cherries) would select only the best-looking fruit while overlooking or wrongly concluding that the remaining fruit is not yet ripe or of a poor quality.

It is one of many logical fallacies. When people cite anecdotal evidence, they tend to overlook large amounts of additional data. Selective gathering of evidence to support a personal opinion is misleading and incredibly damaging.

We all know that religious orders cherry-pick the scriptures to prove faith only.

One such example is…

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” [Mat 10:32]

Before we go on, you need to know that this article is not going to undo this passage. I hope you believe it and obey it. What we will do is ask the question, is this all that is said about confessing Jesus?

Another thing, those who cite this passage don’t actually define it biblically. They use it in a faith only sort of way. Note that the passage said, “before men.” Confessing Jesus is not a private affair, no sir, it’s a very public and ongoing activity. The implication is this, if you stop confessing Jesus before men, your eternal destiny is in jeopardy. Notice what was said about certain believers in Jesus…

“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:” [John 12:42]

Another passage cited by believers only folks is Romans 10:9; “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved:” This proof text is then driven home with verse 13: “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” They may even include Acts 2:21 which says the same thing.

That’s where they stop. They’ll go on to make some grand point about Christs love (He does love you) and how salvation happens at your Lazboy when you begin believing.

This is cherry-picking, for they willfully or ignorantly overlook passages that changes the picture completely. You see, the audience of Acts 2 went on to ask, “what must we do?” They were told, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins.” [2:38]

Saul of Tarsus, when He believed in a risen Jesus, was told what he must do. Ananias came to him and said…“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.” [Acts 22:16].

Did you see what happened? When we gathered more information (picked all the fruit) we find out when calling on His name occurs. When we are baptized (buried in water) we are calling on the name of the Lord.

Some would argue, “if someone accepts Christ as their Savior but dies before the baptistry they are saved.” No. Look again at the evidence. No one has accepted Christ as their Savior until they have obeyed His gospel which includes baptism into Christ for the remission of sins. [Gal 3:27; Rom 6:1-4; 1Peter 3:21]

Hear, Believe, Repent, Confess, Be Baptized and continue to live a life of continual confession of Christ with godly behavior. [Acts 2:42; Rev 3:10]

The Tears of Jesus

It matters naught where one lives, in what culture or what era, tears and laughter are a universal language of the world.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shed tears for the very same reasons as we. The THREE accounts of our Lord’s weeping are representative of life.

HE WEPT FOR THE SORROW OF OTHERS…

The first account is found as Jesus approached the tomb of Lazarus and found his family weeping.

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They say unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.” [John 11:33-35]

Jesus’ weeping was much more than sympathy, He had empathy for their loss, He felt as we feel. [Heb 4:15]

HE WEPT OVER JERUSALEM AND THEIR MISSED OPPORTUNITY…

The next scene occurs as Jesus approaches Jerusalem the week of His crucifixion.

And when he drew nigh, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, when thine enemies shall cast up a bank about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,  and shall dash thee to the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” [Luke 19:41-44]

It’s from this scene that we notice His sorrow for those who have wasted the most important opportunity of their lives, believing and obeying God’s sacrifice for our sins [John 1:29].

IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE…

The final scene is on the night of His betrayal that would result in His unjust conviction, scourging and crucifixion on a cruel cross.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” [Lu 22:44; cr. Heb 5:7].

The context of His tears is for the battle He was about to face as He shed His own blood for our sins. It’s hard to imagine what He endured, for He was keenly aware of things before they happened. We face battles as they come, and only know the difficulties after the fact.

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HIS TEARS?

The scenes of His tears can teach us about CONCERN. How concerned are we for the THREE biggest tragedies in a person’s life?

  • The sorrow of a deceased family member (for those not in Christ cr. 1Thess 4:18)? The reality that many a loved one has died outside of Christ compels me all the more.
  • The sorrow for those who have spurned the Gospel, or for our wasted opportunities to preach Christ? If you believe the first pain, this second one hurts nearly just as much. May someone’s rejection never be because of my failures.
  • The deep concern in prayer each night knowing that we MUST fight the Good fight of faith but realizing that the message will be rejected by most and we’ll be persecuted by many. Never allow the possibility of persecution prevent the preaching of Christ.

In the scene at Lazarus’ tomb, the witnesses said, “Behold how he loved him!” They saw how much our Lord loved him, and we know that He loves us. [cr. Jno. 3:16; Rom 5:8; 1Jno. 4:9]

You see, the weeping of Jesus demonstrates to us His concern for our soul, and if we’re to be like Him, we should be just as concerned for the souls of others.

This concern, our tears, will be seen by those we’re trying to reach. Perhaps a few more tears shed will win a few more to Christ.

Ask Jesus into your heart

We’re told to ‘ASK JESUS INTO OUR HEART’ so that we can be saved. The only verse in scripture remotely close to that is John 14:15-21 partially quoted here: “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever– 21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

But they don’t like that, so I ask, “HOW DO YOU ASK JESUS?” Their reply, “ASK JESUS.”

So, I did… and Jesus said…

Matthew 11:15 He that hath ears to hear, let him HEAR.

John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye BELIEVE not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

Luke 13:3 except ye REPENT ye shall ask likewise perish

Luke 12:8 Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall CONFESS me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:

Mark 16:16 He that believeth and is BAPTIZED shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Mat 28:20 Teaching them to OBSERVE all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Now that we’ve asked Jesus, are we to obey His words?

Be careful how you answer,

Hebrews 5:9 And having been perfected, He (Jesus) became the author of eternal salvation to all who OBEY Him,

2Thessalonians 1:8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Must we OBEY the Master of the Universe, the Creator, the one who has been given ALL AUTHORITY in heaven and on Earth? Mat 28:18

Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Luke 6:46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?

BUT AREN’T WE SAVED BY FAITH ONLY?

Do you know there is only ONE verse in the entirety of scripture with those words (FAITH ONLY) placed side by side?

James 2:24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and NOT by faith only. 

I find it interesting, in the denominational world, they remove the word NOT from James 2:24, but they don’t remove it all together. They take it a place it back inside the scriptures at Mark 16:16;

Mark 16:16 as understood by the denominations:

“He who believes and is (NOT) baptized will be saved;

WHAT DOES IT REALLY SAY?

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

LEGALISM

One of the most manipulative criticisms of the members of the Lord’s church is that they’re ‘legalists.’

Legalism is defined as “strict, literal or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code” (Webster’s Dictionary). Another way of saying it is, “one who follows the rules.”

What is unique about the definition of legalism is that it’s subjective. What does “excessive conformity” mean, who decides what is excessive and by what standard are they determining what constitutes excessive.

If you were to poll the denominations in a local area about what is a legalist, and pit their views on sin against one another, you’ll find that they would each think the other were legalists.

It’s really a made-up sin for people who want to continue in it. Paul addressed this in Romans chapter 6…

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” Romans 6:1-2

Here’s the rub, the workers of the devil have convinced people that NOT COMMITTING SIN IS A SIN! If you were to suggest that a legalist is a person who places their trust in the rule keeping ONLY, then of course that’s wrong. God clearly teaches an obedience through faith. Jesus condemned the Pharisee’s, not for keeping the law, rather for keeping it without their heart. I’ve met no one in the churches of Christ who believes or teaches salvation by works alone.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these OUGHT YE TO HAVE DONE, AND NOT TO LEAVE THE OTHER UNDONE.” [Mat 23:23] emphasis mine.

A careful reading of the New Testament will find commands like…

  • Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: Mat 28:18
  • By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Romans 1:5
  • …according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: Romans 16:26
  • For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. 2Cor 2:9
  • If ye love me, keep my commandments. John 14:15
  • For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 1John 5:3

I believe the confusion comes from a misunderstanding of passages that teach the keeping of the Law could not bring life [ie Gal 3:11; 5:1-4]. The context of these passages is speaking about the Law of Moses, not the Law of Christ. Later in Galatians 3:27 Paul wrote, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” In many places, the Inspired Writers and Apostles of Christ warned those, that still clung to the fulfilled Law of Moses, that it would lead to death. And nowhere will you find any similar condemnation of strictly following the commands of our Lord. Instead, they commend it.

Now, based on a poor understanding of Scripture, millions are being led astray believing that strict obedience to God is a sin called legalism. They’re being told that a faithful Christian is one who is not overly concerned with knowing or keeping God’s commandments. They will often cite 2Corinthians 3:6 as a proof text. However, when you examine the context (v7) you’ll find that what is under consideration is once again, the Law of Moses as it refers to “tablets of stone.”

Listen up, those who love God will keep His commandments [John 14:15]. What does it mean then if you refuse to keep His commandments? In his letters, John also wrote…

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” [1John 2:3]

To love God, to truly know God, is to keep His commandments THROUGH FAITH for it also says in His divine word…

 

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” [Hebrews 11:6]

FOLLOWING JESUS

There is no argument, just about everyone I speak with about the gospel agrees that people are to FOLLOW JESUS. When I ask them what this means, they will often say something like, “you’ve got to ask Jesus into your heart.”

Setting aside that this statement is never found anywhere in scripture, it never answers the question, “how you FOLLOW Jesus?” This is a legitimate question. Jesus said to the rich ruler in Mark 10;

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

[Mark 10:21]

Jesus said it at other times as well….

If any man serve me, let him follow me. [John 12:26]

So, how are we to follow Jesus? For us to Follow Jesus, we must find out where He walked. A serious reading of the gospels shows us the life of Jesus and how He walked and where His walk ended.

Jesus came into a world full of sin and darkness. John says about Him, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” [John 1:5]. Jesus said about Himself, “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” [John 8:12].

Three times in Marks Gospel does Jesus predict where He would finish His walk in this dark world. “Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem…And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again” [Mark 10:33,32]. He, of course, was talking about His crucifixion where He would become the perfect sacrifice for sin.

After His death, they took down His body and placed it inside a tomb and rolled a stone over the opening. Then, on the 3rd day, He rose again.

FOLLOWING JESUS

That was a very difficult path…. the path to the cross. How are we to follow that? Paul explains it to us in Romans 6:3-4…We are in sin, our sinful self must die (which is why repentance is so hard), then we must be buried which is baptism (you never bury living people) and then God raises us up to a new life.

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

All of this means that for us to follow Jesus, we must take the path that He took. For us to Live for Jesus requires us to die for Him first.

OBEYING THE GOSPEL

This imagery fits perfectly with obeying the Gospel [2Thess 1:8-9]. The Gospel is the Death, Burial & Resurrection of Jesus [1Cor 15:1-4]. We obey the Gospel when we die to sin, are buried in Baptism and are raised up as a new creature. “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” [Colossians 2:12].

To follow Jesus, to obey the Gospel, to be saved…we must Believe, Repent, Confess & be Baptized for the remission of sins. [Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 22:16]. Then we can continue to follow Him in the way that He lived.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me

[Galatians 2:20].