Does it MATTER what one Believes?

Does it MATTER what we Believe? part one.

Toward the end of nearly every discussion about the divisive state of the religious world, one will usually say something like this…

“You can’t tell me my sweet grandma (could be neighbor, friend or relative), who never went to church (or did go to a denomination ‘religiously’), who was kind to people and animals, who never said a bad word or did a bad thing, who helped anyone that asked, is lost. She was so very sincere in what she believed.”

Instead of approaching the idea of whether sincerity saves, let’s ask the question:

Does it MATTER what one believes?

Usually in these discussions we can agree that certain very wicked people are lost (the Hitlers and the pedophiles of the world). Are the kind and the sincere who didn’t follow the bible totally saved because of their sincerity and goodness?

We’ll set aside the fact that those who say this are suggesting a ‘works based’ salvation, which they would normally condemn. We will just look at the Bible and ask, does it MATTER?

Does it MATTER what we believe?

Most would agree that we ought to obey GOD rather than MAN. (Acts 5:29). Jesus was critical of those that created doctrines contrary to the doctrine of God.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:7-8a)

Usually, they will agree with this point that you have to believe in God, in Christ and in the Bible. But when it comes to saying that the non-Christian religious people are lost, they stop short saying; “I’m not the judge.” This is the fallacy of equivocation. We’re not judging their hearts, we’re making righteous judgment with the Word of God. (cf. Mat 7:1-2)

Paul had ‘judged’ that the Jews of his day were not saved; “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.” (Rom 10:1-2). He had discerned from the Truth of God’s word that they had not obeyed the gospel and therefore were not saved.

Which brings us to our next point about “does it MATTER,” does your belief AGREE with the Doctrine of Christ?

In both Old and the New Testaments, one had to have a ‘thus saith the Lord’ for their beliefs and actions. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom 10:17) When King David desired to build a Permanent Temple for God, he was prohibited because he didn’t have a command from God, there was no scriptural command to do this good thing. Therefore, it was a wrong thing. (2Sam 7:1-7)

Here’s the point, God’s word is Objective Truth. It is transparent, researchable, universal to all, for the thinking person, and it is heavenly (cf. James 3:17). Compare the objective Word of God to the subjective, shifting sand of a person’s heart. (Mat 7:24-29) “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;” (Eph 4:14)

David appealed to the subjective standard of his feelings. He was pointed toward the OBJECTIVE, fixed standard of God’s Word. We’re told not to go beyond what is written (2Cor 4:13), speak as the oracles of God (1Pet 4:11), the commandments of the Lord (1Cor 14:37), the inspired Scriptures (2Tim 3:16-17), using the words chosen by the Holy Spirit (1Cor 2:9-13), and not to add to nor take away from the Word (Rev 22:18-19).

Then, in this 3rd point, when we have an objective standard, called the TRUTH (John 17:17), we have an ability to search the scripture to find out if what we feel is true (Acts 17:11).

Did you know it’s possible to feel secure and not know the Lord has departed from you? (Judges 16:20) Did you know it’s possible to believe a lie? (1Kings 13:18; cf. 2Thess 2:9-12)

By reading & studying God’s word, we can Know the truth and be set free from the bondage of lies, sin, and the corruption of this life. (John 8:32; 12:48; cf. James 1:25; 2:12)

Preaching JESUS in order

Preaching JESUS.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.[1Cor 1:17]

Many will cite the above verse as proof that baptism is unnecessary for salvation. Does it really mean that? Not if you understand the context of the passage and the problem of sectarianism that existed in the church at Corinth.

Another point can be drawn out of this passage; preaching the gospel of Christ out of order. Because denominations reject baptism so vehemently, we often place baptism at the front of preaching of the Gospel.

It reminds me of a preacher trying to reach a denominational group. He said, “I think I’m only making them better Lutherans.”

We often preach against certain sins and unscriptural practices of denominationalism. (ie. instrumental music, social gospel, false worship etc.) While we are preaching the truth, there are preeminent truths.

Here’s an illustration of what I am saying. Before a child can run, they must first build strength to crawl, then stand, and then walk.

Another illustration is the building a house. We never begin to build with the roof! We begin with pouring a foundation, then the walls, and then the roof.

Much of our preaching emphasizes baptism without laying first the foundation of the Authority of Christ. We rightfully understand that the ‘steps’ of salvation are; Hear, then Believe, then Repent, then Confess, and then be Baptized. Once we become Christians we Grow and Endure. Unfortunately, we get caught up cramming faithfulness and baptism verses down the throats of those who haven’t truly yet believed in the Preeminence of Christ. [Col 1:18]

Jesus gave us the order when He gave what is commonly called “the Great Commission.” “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” [Matt 28:18-20]

An evangelist named Philip met up with a Eunuch where we read that he “preached unto him Jesus.” [Acts 8:35]. While nothing else is revealed about his preaching, we can necessarily infer that ‘preaching Jesus’ included submission to His authority.

How can we preach Jesus?

Philip…preached unto him…

JESUS, Acts 8:35; Matt 28:18-20 ‘Go ye…’

We begin with showing that

JESUS is the Christ, and He has all authority.

Mat 28:18 “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.”

Hebrews 1; Mark 9:7 ‘Hear ye Him.’

Hearing is first, and hearing leads to Believing. [Rom 10:17; John 20:30-31]

Preaching Jesus must include the

EXAMPLE of His life leading to His Death, Burial, and Resurrection.  

This is the GOSPEL. 1Cor 15:1-4

Preaching Jesus must include teaching that we must

SUBMIT to His will,

Luke 6:46 And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? [Mat 7:21-23; John 14:15; 15:14; 1John 5:3]

“And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” [Col 3:17]

This teaches us about Repentance from sins and Confessing Him.

Preaching Jesus must include teaching that we must go

UNDER the water to come in contact with His blood,

The Eunuch, upon hearing the preaching of Jesus, concluded baptism was necessary for Salvation. [Acts 8:35-38]

Matt 26:28; Rom 6:3-4

Only after laying the foundation of Hearing, Believing, Repenting, Confessing, will we have laid the foundation for scriptural Baptism. Mat 28:19

With a foundation in the Authority of Jesus, they’ll also believe they’re

SAVED if they Grow and Endure until the end.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2Peter 3:18

“But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” Matt 24:13

Matt 28:20; Rev 2:10

Spencer

Why does the church of Christ push baptism so much?

One of the criticisms against the Lord’s church and against His gospel preachers is that we emphasize baptism so much.

There’s a very simple and reasonable answer. To answer it, let’s look at what we have in common with the denominational world.

  • We BELIEVE in Jesus. They acknowledge Jesus as God & already know about Him, that He died, was buried and was resurrected. There are unbelievers, & for those I begin with HEARING God’s word.
  • We both agree that WORSHIP is found in the scriptures. We disagree about how to worship [in spirit & truth John 4:24], but we generally agree that Sunday worship is a part of the Christian life.
  • We agree that a person ought to be PENITENT, meaning that a person has to REPENT of sins. This is only denied by some denominational people.
  • We definitely agree that CONFESSING Jesus as the Christ is essential to salvation. The scriptures make confession essential. [Romans 10:9].

WHAT ABOUT BAPTISM?

This is where we divide widely. Actually, they’re not dividing from us as much as they’re dividing from the Scriptures. (see chart next page) We emphasize BAPTISM, because they don’t emphasize it at all regarding it being ESSENTIAL to salvation. They will baptize, even by immersion, but that is the end of the similarities. Here’s how I know they’re not following God’s word on baptism…

  • They SCHEDULE According to the word, folks who come to the knowledge of Jesus, are baptized immediately.

And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.” [Acts 16:33]

  • They say, “BAPTISM DOESN’T SAVE.” This is a direct contradiction to the Apostle Peter, to Paul and certainly against Christ.

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;”

[Mark 16:16]

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.

Justified by Faith

THE FAITH ONLY crowd will “prove” their belief by quoting Romans 4:5. “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” They may even go further and include Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Then, if you press them, they will quote Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Let me say here and now that I believe each of these passages, just not how THEY believe them. Their problem is that these passages are quoted out of context and interpreted without that context. They come to the conclusion that a person is justified (saved) by FAITH ALONE.

What do these passages mean?

When one studies the bible, one rule that is often overlooked but must always be applied is the rule of context. A passage needs to be interpreted in the light of its context. Another consideration is that the bible harmonizes with other similar texts.

When we teach about salvation from scripture, we need to deliver, “all the counsel of God.” [Acts 20:27]

In Romans chapter 4, Paul is making a case regarding salvation that includes gentiles (those folks who were not Jews). Abrahams justification is given PRIOR to his becoming circumcised which became part of the Law of Moses [Leviticus 12:3] . Paul asks then answers, “How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.” [Romans 4:10]

The faith only folks want you to believe that Abraham did NOTHING prior to his JUSTIFICATION. This simply is not true. When Paul said in Romans 4 that Abraham was justified, he is referring to Genesis 15:6. However, by that time, Abraham had already OBEYED God by leaving his homeland in Gen 11:31-12:3.

It is this OBEDIENT FAITH on the part of Abraham that the Hebrew writer acknowledges in the HALL OF FAITH in Hebrews 11:8. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.”

It is true that Abraham was justified without the deeds of the law, which according to the context refers to the Law of Moses. Nowhere does the Scripture teach that a person is justified (saved) without works.

What about Ephesians 2:8-9?

For this passage we need to apply the same rules, context & harmony. Let us read verse 10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Once again, the context teaches us something about works.

There are 2 kinds of works, works of man & works of God. Ephesian 2:10 teaches that there are works that God has prepared. Works that God commands. Please understand what I am saying, a person is never justified by works when he places his trust in JUST the works. We are justified when we put our trust in God WHILE DOING THE WORKS HE HAS COMMANDED.

This harmonizes with the rest of the scriptures. Look at James 2, another passage that quotes this same Justification of Abraham from Genesis 15:6, “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”

But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” [James 2:20-24]

Let’s look again at that HALL OF FAITH in Hebrews 11…By faith…
  • Abel OFFERED vs4
  • Enoch WALKED vs5; Gen 5:24
  • Noah PREPARED vs7
  • Abraham OBEYED & SOJOURNED vs8-9
  • Moses parents HID Moses vs23
  • Moses REFUSED, CHOSE, FORSOOK vs24-27
  • Israel PASSED through vs 29
  • Rahab RECEIVED vs30
  • Others SUBDUED kingdoms, WROUGHT righteousness, OBTAINED promises, STOPPED the mouths of lions, vs33

To follow their example, people today must obey the word of the Lord. He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” [Mark 16:16] The faith alone people, “make an error, not knowing the scriptures.”  [Matthew 22:29] When you weigh ALL the evidence, harmonize the scriptures and read the context then you will know the truth, and this truth shall set you free. [John 8:32]