Archive for September, 2007

Answering Common Sense Questions – #12

September 20, 2007

I am winding down my series of blogs answering the questions posed by Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church in his article “Common Sense Questions A Church Of Christ Preacher Cannot Answer”.  So far few of Mr. Martin’s questions have been simple common sense nor have they been particularly difficult to answer clearly and rationally. This week the question that I will be looking at is:

If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of “righteousness,” then how can water baptism be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16) In the Bible, we are SAVED BY GRACE, and grace does not involve human effort or merit – grace is grace and work is work! (Just read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 11:6.)

The first thing that I notice about this question is that Mr. Martin simply assumes that baptism is a “work of righteousness”.   No where in the Bible is baptism ever referred to as a work or work of righteousness.  When Jesus was asked by the people what they needed to do in order to be doing the work of God he replied that believing in him was doing the work of God(John 6:29) yet Mr. Martin does not believe that the work of faith negates grace.  It is absolutely true that we are saved by grace and not by any work of righteousness or merit on our part.   However, baptism is not a work of righteousness that we have done it is a work of obedience and submission to Christ’s righteousness. Baptism joins us to Christ’s work (Romans 6:3-7) and saves us through his resurrection (1 Peter 3:21). 

If you look up the word grace in a dictionary you will find that it simply means favor.  Biblical grace is simply undeserved favor from God.  In other words salvation is an undeserved and unearned favour that God bestows upon us.  There is no work that we can do that will earn salvation but this does not mitigate the fact that there is work that we must do.  For example suppose I told my son that I would buy him a used car on his 16th birthday on the condition that whatever car he picked he had to first have it checked out by a qualified mechanic. If he has it checked out by the mechanic is that a work that would earn him the car? Of course not, it is still by my grace that he receives the car.  Without my grace he could have a million cars checked by a mechanic but would never own any of them.

The first thing to note about Ephesians 2:8-9 and Romans 11:6 is that the word work is translated from the Greek word “ergon” which means toil or labor.  Paul is explaining that if salvation earned by our labor then it would not be undeserved but instead we would merely have received what we are owed.  However, if it is received by grace, which by definition means undeserved favor, then our labors do not earn salvation.  That said notice that Paul states that we are saved by grace through faith, which we have already seen is a work.  We are also told that faith without action is dead (James 2:17-20) and Mr. Martin freely admits that repentance is essential for salvation.  So we are saved by grace through a faith accompanied by obedience in the form of repentance and identification with the work of Christ in baptism (Romans 6:3-7 & 17-18).

In this question we see that Mr. Martin’s problem is that he is unable to distinguish between works of righteousness that we have done (Titus 3:5) and works of submission to Christ’s righteousness.  When we understand that difference and realize the point that Paul was trying to make there is no difficulty in harmonizing salvation by grace with the requirement that we believe, repent, confess our faith, and submit to him in baptism.

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Answering Common Sense Questions – #11

September 13, 2007

In the past several blogs I have been answering questions from an article entitled “Common Sense Questions A Church Of Christ Preacher Cannot Answer” written by Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church.   This week I will be examining question number eleven on Mr. Martin’s list.

The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven? Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

Because of the length of this question I will break it down and respond to one or two sentences at a time.

The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder.

Mr. Martin’s allegation here is absolutely false and I hope that he simply is ignorant of what the churches of Christ believe rather than deliberatly making false accusations.  We believe it is the knowledge and intent of the person that is submitting to baptism that matters, not the one performing the baptism.  In fact, because I had never heard of anyone in the churches of Christ making that claim, I did a web search for even one congregation, preacher, or member who believes what Mr. Martin alledges and was unable to locate even a single one. 

Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven?

There are many passages that teach that baptism is required for salvation.  Jesus taught that one must be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16).  The apostle Peter believed that baptism was for the remission of sins and now saves us (Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21).  In his epistle to the Romans Paul taught that baptism frees one from sin (Romans 6:3-7 & 17-18).   On the road to Damascus Jesus appears to Paul and informs him of who he is and it is obvious that Paul believes because he asks the question “Lord, what should I do?” (Acts 22:8) thus acknowledging that Jesus is Lord and his williness to obey.  However, we see that when Paul went on to Damascus and Ananias came to Paul that Paul was still in his sins and Ananias told him to arise and be baptized to wash those sins away (Acts 22:16).  The Bible is amply clear that baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven.

Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously!

Here Mr. Martin makes an assertion with absolutely no proof to back up his claim.  On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter commanded those present to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  According to Mr. Martin the phrase “for the remission of sins” here means because sins were forgiven previously.  Reading it Mr. Martin’s way Peter is saying repent and be baptize in the name of Jesus Christ because your sins were forgiven. This presents a serious problem in that the phrase “for remission of sins” applies equally to repentance and baptism, both are “for the remission of sins”.  Thus if “for the remission of sins” is speaking of sins previously forgiven then obviously repentance occurs after salvation.  However, Jesus said that the righteous, those who have been saved, do not need repentance but rather sinners (Mark 2:17).  Thus in  Acts 2:38 the phrase “for the remission of sins” cannot possibly refer to sins already forgiven.  Since there is at least one instance of the phrase “for the remission of sins” cannot possibly be speaking of the fact of sins previously forgiven then Mr. Martin’s claim is false.

The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism?

Note that here Mr. Martin acknowledges that forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance and repentance does not occur because of already remitted sins again proving that in Acts 2:38 the phrase “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” cannot possibly be referring to previously forgiven sin.  In Matthew 3:11 neither says that water baptism is or is not for the remission of sins.  While Luke 24:47 omits baptism that does not mean that baptism is not required for remission of sins. This passage doesn’t mention faith either but I’m sure Mr. Martin would not use that to make an argument that faith is unnecessary. Mr. Martin is correct that the Bible plainly teaches that forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance and faith and he provides plenty of passages which teach that both are necessary for salvation.  However, Mr. Martin simply asserts that there are no passages that say the same thing about baptism even though that is patently false. There are many passages that condition forgiveness of sins upon baptism (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-7, 1 Peter 3:21).

When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood.

Notice that Mr. Martin simply asserts that which he is trying to prove.  He has just claimed that the phrase “for the remisson of sins” NEVER means “in order to obtain remission of sins”.  Thus he says this verse has to mean Jesus blood was shed because sins had already been forgiven.  It only has to mean that if Mr. Martins claim is true but Mr. Martin has not offered one shred of proof that it is and we have in fact seen that it is absolutely false.  However, lets examine his claim about this particular passage.  Paul in his epistle to the Romans taught that we are justified, i.e. forgiven of our sins, by the blood of Jesus.  John taught that it is the blood of Christ that cleanses our sin (1 John 1:7).  Both of these inspired writers claim, contrary to what Mr. Martin says here, cleansing of sins is the result of Christ shedding his blood not the other way around. 

How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense?

Again Mr. Martin repeats his claim without having done anything whatsoever to prove it.  We have already seen that in both Matthew 26:28 and in Acts 2:38 that the phrase “for the remission of sins” does mean “in order to obtain remission of sins”.  So the claim that the phrase is never used in that sense is completely false.

In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary.

Mr. Martin seems not to realize that the forgiveness recieved in the Old Testament is not the same as the forgiveness obtained in the New Testament by the blood of Christ but was a merely a shadow of that perfect forgiveness by Christs shed blood (Hebrews 10:1-4). When Christ came he shed his blood in order to obtain the true forgiveness that replaced temporary yearly forgiveness obtained through the sacrifices of the old law and permenantly removed those sins only temporarily covered by those sacrifices.

Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4).

Under the old law sins were covered by animal sacrifice which provided only a temporary forgiveness of sins which were remembered each year (Hebrews 10:1-4).  As this passage tells us the sacrifice of animals was a shadow of the perfect sacrifice to come and the forgivness obtained was a shadow of the true and permenan forgiveness in Christ.  Christ shed his blood in order to obtain the permenant forgiveness of sins not because it was already obtained.   Mr. Martin also misrepresents Exodus 34:7 here which does not say that forgiven sinners are not cleared of their guilt.  Lets take a look at the passage:

Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Notice that God visits, the Greek word here means avenges, the iniquity of the guilty that he does not clear upon their children.  So if Mr. Martin’s interpretation of this passage is correct then though these people were forgiven God still punished them and their children for those sins unto the third and fourth generation.  What God is telling us in this passage is that he is merciful and forgiving to those that turn to him and obey him but those who do not turn away from sin will not get away with their crimes but will suffer the concequences.

Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15).

Mr. Martin’s statement that those in the old testament were forgiven but not redeemed directly contradictions scripture.  More than once the psalmist David claimed that his soul had been redeemed (Psalms 31:5, Psalms 71:23). 

When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43).

I agree with Mr. Martin that when Jesus said “It is finished” he was referring to the completion of God’s magnificent plan to bring salvation to mankind. I also agree that all sin past, present and future was permenantly paid for at that time by the shed blood of Christ.

In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

In Acts 2:38 Peter commanded repentance and baptism for the same purpose.  If baptism is because their since were already forgiven then so repentance was commanded for the same reason.  Thus we see that Mr. Martin’s statement here is self contradicting as he puts baptism as being because of the remission of sins and repentance as being in order to obtain the remisson of sins.  He cannot have it both ways.  The clear teaching of this passage is that one must repent and be baptized in order to obtain remission of sin.

In the beginning of his article Mr. Martin accuses the church of Christ of having to turn to screwball theology in order to answer his questions. We see here, however, that it is Mr. Martin who has gone off the deep end of screwball theology when he is forced by his reasoning to claim that Jesus shed his blood because our sins were already forgiven.  We see that from the first statment to the last Mr. Martin is absolutely wrong regarding the phrase “for the remission of sins” and the purpose of baptism.

Answering Common Sense Questions – #10

September 7, 2007

Once again I will be looking at one of the supposed “common sense questions a Church of Christ preacher cannot clearly answer” that were posted by David Martin on the Solid Rock Baptist Church website.  The question that I will be addressing is number ten on the list

If the “Church of Christ” claims to worship God only as “authorized” by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the “authority” to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries in their worship services? If the answer is that they are “aids to worship,” where does the Bible allow for that? Where is your required authorization? If a pitchpipe can be an “aid to worship” for the song service in the “Church of Christ,” then why can’t a piano be an “aid to worship” for Baptists who may need more help in singing?

With this question Mr. Martin displays a lack of understanding about Biblical authority.  In order to answer this question it is necessary to first explain how the Bible authorizes our beliefs and practices and the difference between specific and general authority.  If we do not understand how God informs us of what he expects and what he forbids then we cannot determine whether any particular belief or practice is acceptable. For an in depth examination of Biblical authority look here https://gospeldefender.wordpress.com/2007/02/02/biblical-authority/.

 An example of general authority can be found in Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands his disciples to go teach all nations.  He did not specify how they were to go teach so they were free to go by ship, horseback, walking, or any other means of travel and today we are free to go by plane or cars for the same purpose. Another example is Hebrews 10:25 in which we are commanded not to forsake assembling together.  We are not told whether we have to gather in a home, dedicated building, hotel conference room, or under a tree in the park. Thus we are left at liberty to determine for ourselves a suitable meeting place.   So when we find a Biblical command to do something but no instructions regarding the manner in which we are to carry out that command we are at liberty to fulfill it in any manner we find expedient. 

An example of specific authority can be found Genesis 6:14 when Noah was told to make an ark of gopher wood.  Since God had specified gopher wood all other forms of wood were excluded.  God was not required to give a “thou shalt not” for each other type of wood because they were ruled out by default when he specifically authorized gopher wood. Another example of specific authority is to be found in 1 Corinthians 14:29-31.  Here Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, authorizes teaching in the assembly and specifies that speakers are to teach one by one.  We do not need a “thou shalt not” for every other number of simultaneous speakers since God specified one at a time.  Thus when God gives a command and specifies how it is to be carried out we have no right to deviate from it.

Now lets apply these principles to the question posed by Mr. Martin. 

Hymnals, Pitchpipes and Pianos

There are two verses that command Christians to worship God by singing and we need to begin by looking at these two verses

Ephesians 5:19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

First we must determine exactly what these passages are authorizing and whether it is general or specific authority.  First notice that both of these passages are giving a command to the entire church.  Thus whatever they are authorizing must be performed by every single member of the church.  It is clear that both passages are authorizing singing and it specifies that we are to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs which excludes by default our favorite country, blues or pop songs.  Also each passage commands that in our we should be teaching one another and engaging our hearts, thus our singing should be both verbal and internal.  So every member of the church is required to participate in singing these psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Neither passage specifies which songs so we are authorized to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs from memory, from an overhead projector display of the sheet music, or from a hymnal.   Thus we see the authorization for the hymnal during the act of singing that Mr. Martin requested.  Neither of these passages specifies what we must do immediately before or after any given song.  A pitchpipe is used in this period between songs and is never used during the act of singing.  The pitchpipe is also not used in any way to give praise to or worship God.  So why can a piano not be used with the same justification as for the pitchpipe?  Is a piano used during the singing as an addition to it?  Yes it is and this alone would prohibit its use.  Is the piano used as an act of worship in and of itself? Yes it is and this also would be enough to prohibit its use.  Finally we must note that the phrase “make melody” in Ephesians 5:19 is the translation of the Greek word “psallo” which means to pluck or twang as an in playing an instrument and it specifies that this is to take place in the heart, if this were external since this is a command the entire church every memeber would be required to play an instrument.  Thus we see that while singing is specified to be both verbal and internal  the instrumental accompaniment is specified only to be that of the heart and external instrumental accompaniment is, therefore, excluded.  So there are three reasons that a piano, or other mechanical instrument, is prohibited from use in our worship. 

Pews

Mr. Martin also questioned the authorization for the use of pews.  Christians are definitely commanded to assemble themselves to worship God.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

As noted previously this passage commands us to assemble but does not specify where so we are at liberty to meet in a building, in the park, or in a house.  Likewise there is no passage that specifies whether or not we must sit or stand in such assemblies so we are at liberty to do either.  Since there is no passage specifying whether to sit or stand there is also no passage indicating upon what to sit if we decide to do so which means we are at liberty to sit on the ground, folding chairs, or pews. 

Indoor Baptistries

Finally Mr. Martin asked about the use of indoor baptistries.  There are many passages that command baptism (Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38, Acts 10:48, Romans 6:3-7, 1 Peter 3:21).  If you search all of the passages commanding baptism you will find not one that specifies where baptism must take place.  Thus baptism can be performed in a river, lake, indoor baptistry, or anywhere else where the is enough water for immersion.

So we see that with a proper understanding of Biblical authority the issue addressed here is easily understood.  In some areas such as the act of singing in worship to God in our assemblies God has requlated how it may be performed and in such cases we are not permitted to deviate from his instruction.  In other areas God has left us liberty to carry out his commands in an expedient manner.  Hymnals, pews and baptistries are all authorized by general authority.  Pianos, and other mechanical instruments, are excluded due to God’s specifications on how he wants our song service to be performed.