Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

How Many Stalls? Answering An Alleged Allegation

October 29, 2007

Recently on a message board that I frequent a list of supposed biblical contradictions was posted.  One of these was a difference between 1 Kings 4:26 and 2 Chronicles 9:25.  Some when answering this charge of contradiction some have been quick to make use of the “copyist error” defense.  I believe there are better explanations for the differences in these two passages than this. 

1 Kings 4:26

2 Chronicles 9:25 

And Solomon had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. And Solomon had four thousand stalls for horses and chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen; whom he bestowed in the chariot cities, and with the king at Jerusalem.

At first glance it would appear that the passages are in contradiction with one telling us that Solomon had forty thousand stalls and one telling us that he had four thousand.  However, there are a couple of possible explanations for this difference.  The passage in 1 Kings speaks of forty thousand stalls for the horses that pulled the chariots whereas 2 Chronicles mentions four thousand stalls that held both horses and chariots.  So it is possible that there were thirty-six thousand stalls that held horses only and four thousand containing both horses and chariots.  Another possible explanation could be that Hebrew word “urvah” which is translated as stalls is being used in a different sense in each passage.  This word simply means a place where animals are kept.  So a building containing multiple pens would be called an “urvah” and each individual pen could also be called an “urvah”.  Thus it could be the writer of 1 Chronicles was using the word “urvah” to refer to four thousand buildings, each with ten horse stalls, there would have been forty-thousand individual stalls and it is these forty thousand individual stalls that the writer of 1 Kings was referring to.  

This once again illustrates the importance of not presuming the Bible guilty until proved innocent.  When we give the Bible the benefit of the doubt and look for a possible reasonable explanation it is usually not long before we find that the passages are not so difficult to reconcile as they first appear or as those who seek only to discredit the Bible believe they are.

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Who Created God?

October 16, 2007

I recently watched the Nightline Face Off debate between the members of the Rational Response Squad, atheists Brian Sapient and Kelly, and Christian evangelists Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort.  I was quite disappointed in the debate as neither side did a particularly good job of presenting their arguments.  Christians watching the debate most likely walked away Christians and atheists most likely walked away atheists as neither side was particularly persuasive.

The purpose of the debate was to scientifically prove the existence of God without referring to faith or the Bible.  Unfortunately only one of two of Ray’s arguments attempted to do that, the rest relied upon the ten commandments, definitely in the Bible, and personal experiences, an argument from emotion.  The two best arguments that Ray brought up were that the universe requires a designer and that the existence of objective moral law requires the existence of a law giver. 

It is interesting to note that Kelly admitted that in order for society to function there must be objective moral law.  As I have previously written on the necessity of the existence of God for morality to exist here https://gospeldefender.wordpress.com/2007/04/13/morality-without-god/ I will deal with the atheists objections to Ray’s other argument regarding the designer of the universe.

Ray began by pointing out that when one looks at the building the event was taking place in that due to the characteristics of the building we can infer an intelligent builder.  The existence of the building requires a cause, it didn’t just happen. The atheists made two objections to this argument. The primary objection was that if the universe requires a cause or a creator then what caused or created God.  They claimed that the universe is eternal.  Neither Ray nor Kirk even attempted to address this argument.  The other objection raised by the atheists is that one can find the builder of the building, look up the permits for the building in the city records, etc…

In regards to the first objection and what caused or created God.  As Ray and Kirk pointed out God is eternal and thus does not require a cause or creator.  The question is can the same claim be made of the universe?  Is the universe eternal as these two atheists claim?  Fortunately there is a large body of scientific evidence regarding this subject.

Consider the following excerpt from an article in Scientific American, a respected peer reviewed scientific journal:

The universe began from a state of infinite density. . . . Space and time were created in that event and so was all the matter in the universe. It is not meaningful to ask what happened before the Big Bang; it is like asking what is north of the North Pole. Similarly, it is not sensible to ask where the Big Bang took place. The point-universe was not an object isolated in space; it was the entire universe, and so the answer can only be that the Big Bang happened everywhere.

Then there is this quote by Professor Stephen Hawking, himself an ardent atheist:

The conclusion of this lecture is that the universe has not existed forever. Rather, the universe, and time itself, had a beginning in the Big Bang, about 15 billion years ago.

Robert Jastrow, an evolutionary astronomer writes:

Now both theory and observation pointed to an expanding Universe and a beginning in time…. About thirty years ago science solved the mystery of the birth and death of stars, and acquired new evidence that the Universe had a beginning.

Louis J. Cavelli, Ph.D., Professor of Physics for the University of Alabama said:

A large body of astrophysical observations now clearly points to a beginning for our universe about 15 billion years ago in a cataclysmic outpouring of elementary particles. There is, in fact, no evidence that any of the particles of matter with which we are now familiar existed before this great event.

The fact is the expansion of the universe, cosmic microwave background radiation, and a host of other observed phenomena all point to a universe that is not eternal but had a beginning at some point in the past. Thus the question of what caused the universe is a valid one and not so easily dismissed as the Reasonable Response Squad would have you to believe and a question to which they have no answer.  The Christian faith provides that answer, in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

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.

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.

Answering Common Sense Questions – #9

August 29, 2007

In the past several blogs I have dealt with a series of questions posed by Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church that he claims members of the churches of Christ are unable to answer.  The article containing these questions is entitled “Common Sense Questions A Church Of Christ Preacher Cannot Clearly Answer”.  Unfortunately few of the questions have displayed much if any common sense in the asking and have been easily to clearly answer.  This weeks question is no different.  Question number nine on Mr. Martin’s list is:

Why does the “Church of Christ” insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible? The church is referred to as the “church of God” eight (8) times in the Bible, but never is it called the “church of Christ.” The verse they use is Romans 16:16, but it doesn’t say “church of Christ.” Where does the Bible call the church the “church of Christ”?

The first thing that leaps out at me from this question is that obviously Mr. Martin must have failed English in school since he doesn’t recognize a plural when he sees one.  The passage he refers to is:

Romans 16:16  Salute one another with a holy kiss. The churches of Christ salute you.

Now it seems obvious to me, and I am sure it seems obvious to anyone with a shred of common sense, that if there are “churches” of Christ plural, referring to multiple congregations,  that there must be a “church of Christ” singular, referring to an individual congregation.  So church of Christ is indeed a scriptural designation for the church.

In truth the church of Christ does not have a name per se just as the first century church did not have a particular name.  Rather it was known descriptively as the church of Christ, as shown above, or as the church of God. Other “names” used were church of the firstborn (Hebrews 12:23) or the church of the Ephesus, or other place the congregation was located (Revelation 2-3).  So the first century church was designated by its ownership.  Since the church belongs to Christ, who is God, it was called the church of, or belonging to, Christ or the church of, or belonging to, God. No where in scripture will you find the church given a name describing a particular doctrine or practice, such as Baptist or Methodist. No where in scripture do you find the church identified by a name describing a particular organizational structure, such as Presbyterian. No where in scripture do you find the church indentified by the name of the man, such as Lutheran, and in fact such was condemned by the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).

Also it must be noted that simply bearing the name “church of Christ”, “church of God”, or any other Biblical designation for the church does not in and of itself determine whether or not that church truly is what they claim to be.  However,  a church  that is called by a Biblical name, practices Biblical worship, and teaches Biblical doctrine would be Christ’s church.

Answering Common Sense Questions – #7 and #8

August 21, 2007

In this weeks blog I will be examining yet another question from the article “Common Sense Questions A Church Of Christ Preacher Cannot Clearly Answer” posted on the website of the Solid Rock Baptist Church by Mr. David Martin.  The questions this week are:

#7 – After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the “point of no return” so that I cannot regain salvation? What sin or sins will put me in such jeopardy, so that, after becoming a Christian, I would be doomed to hell without any recourse? Please be specific and give me clear Bible references.

#8 – If I committed some sin -whether in thought, word, or deed, one minute before a fatal car crash – would I go to hell if I did not have time to repent of it? And, please, don’t just say that it’s up to God without giving me a specific Bible reference.

You are probably thinking to yourself about now that many of these questions seem redundant as Mr. Martin has simply reworded portions of questions four, five and six and asked again.  Since questions seven and eight simply continue the same line of reasoning I will answer them both in a single blog. 

As  stated in my blogs on the previous questions there is no single sin that immediately results in the loss of ones salvation.  The loss of salvation is the result of continuous behavior that is contrary to God’s word.  The Bible is clear that as long as one is “walking in the light” or “walking after the spirit” that his sins are continuously cleansed and he recieves no condemnation (Romans 8:1, 1 John 1:7).  Thus it is a way of living that results in the loss of salvation not a single action.

Thus in answer to question #8 the answer would be that if you are a Christian and are truly living a Christian life and commit some sin just before a fatal car crash before having a chance to repent then you would not go to hell as that sin would be instantly cleansed by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7). 

Answering Common Sense Questions – #6

August 13, 2007

The next question asked by Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist church in his article “Common Sense Questions a Church of Christ Preacher Cannot Answer” is:

If as a Christian I can fall and “lose my salvation,” is it possible to regain it? If so, how? If God “takes away” my salvation, doesn’t that make Him an “Indian giver”? How could I ever know for sure that I was saved or lost?

Yes, if your salvation is lost it is possible to regain it and there is a biblical example.  First we need to realize what it means to lose ones salvation.  Peter describes it as becoming once again entangled in, overcome by, and enslaved by sin after we had been cleansed (2 Peter 2:19-20). Jesus said that you cannot server to masters (Matthew 6:24), thus one cannot be enslaved by sin and yet still be a servant of Christ.  Paul also expressed this same thought that who we serve is to who we belong, whether sin or Christ, and characterizes salvation as a state of freedom from sin (Romans 6:17-18).  Thus to lose ones salvation means to return to a state of bondage to sin thus becoming free from Christ.

Given that can we find an example of someone who was saved who later returned to bondage in sin?  If so what were they commanded to do to return to a state of freedom from sin?  Well the Bible does give us such an example in the account of Simon the sorcerer.  Simon was a magician who decieved the people into believing that he had the power of God (Acts 8:9-10).  When Philip came through performing true miracles even Simon believed him and was baptized (Acts 8:13).  We know that Simon was saved because the inspired narrative tells us that Simon believed and second because he was baptized. Whether or not you believe that baptism is necessary to salvation that Philip, filled with the Holy Spirit, allowed him to be baptized indicates that Philip also accepted his faith as genuine.  Thus at this piont Simon was free from the bondage of sin.  Then Peter and John came down to lay hands on the people and impart the gifts of the Spirit (Acts 8:14-15).  Simon then approached them and offered to pay them money so that he could perform this laying on of hands to which Peter told him that he was in bondage to iniquity (Acts 8:19-23).  So here we have an example of one who had been freed but had relapsed and was once again in bondage to sin.  So what did Peter tell him to do and what example do we have of him doing to return to a state of freedom.  Peter commanded him to repent, to turn away from sin, and pray to God that he would be forgiven (Acts 8:22) and Simon requested that they pray with him and for him as well (Acts 8:24). This is how we can return to a state of salvation if we have turned from the way of truth.  We must repent and pray to God or forgiveness. Remember that repentance involves more than just remorse but is a change of action. Thus we must return to walking in the light and pray to God that he will forgive us.  It is also appropriate for us to ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us.

The next part of Mr. Martin’s question is whether or not God is an “Indian giver” if he takes away salvation.  Here, once again, Mr. Martin strays from common sense.  Most of us who are parents realize that we do this from time to time.  For example, my teenage son was given a car for his 16th birthday with the condition that if he engaged in certain negative behavior while driving, such as racing, that the car would be taken away and sold.  Does that condition make the car less of a gift? Not at all.  If my son were to be caught drag racing and we took the car back and sold it would that make my wife and I “Indian givers”? Of course not, he knew the rules and broke them and thus we would be justified to take the car. God like any parent has rules that he expects to be obeyed and is justified in taking away the privilege of salvation if we refuse to follow his rules. 

Finally Mr. Martin asks how we can be sure of our salvation and I believe that I have sufficiently answered that in the previous two articles that dealt with his questions on the loss of salvation.

Answering Common Sense Questions – #5

August 10, 2007

This week I will be continuing to answer the questions posed by David Martin at the Solid Rock Baptist Church webite in his column “Common Sense Questions A Church of Christ Preacher Cannot Clearly Answer”.  The fifth question on Mr. Martins list is the following:

If as a Christian I can sin so as to “lose my salvation,” just what sin or sins will place me in such danger? Is it possible to know at what point one has committed such a sin, and become lost again? Please be specific and give clear Bible references.

Unlike the previous question which was of a similar nature (see Answers To Common Sense Questions – Part 4) this is indeed an important question that actually needs to be asked.  If salvation can be lost but we don’t know what can cause one to lose it then we could never be sure if we were saved. 

The Bible is clear that God wants us to know that we are saved (1 John 5:13, 2 Peter 1:10). Paul urged the Corinthian brethren to examine and test themselves to determine whether or not they were truly in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).  So there is no doubt that we can examine our lives and determine whether or not we are indeed saved.  So if salvation can be lost how can I know that I haven’t done something to lose it?

As noted in the previous blog there is no single sin that results in the immediate loss of salvation.  We are told that if we are walking in the light the blood of Christ continually removes our sins (1 John 1:7).  This tells us first that we will not live perfectly after salvation otherwise we would not need this promise. Second it tells us that while we are “walking in the light”, whatever that involves, that the sins we commit are continually removed by the blood of Christ.  Paul in a similar statement tells us that there is no condemnation of those that are “walking in the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

So how do we tell if we are indeed walking in the light?  Well the Bible does give us the tools we need to make that determination though if we are intellectually honest I think that we would admit that we know.  Imagine if you had just driven home on a rainy day and you are walking along the sidewalk up to your house, stumble and end up stepping into a mud puddle.  If someone saw your muddy feet asked if you had been walking in the mud would you tell them that you didn’t know for sure?  I feel that we also know whether or not we have been walking in the light or after the Spirit.  However, we do still want to go to the Bible and see what God has given us regarding this.

Christ taught his disciples that the type of fruit produced in our lives is an indication of whether we belong to God or not (Matthew 7:16-20).  Paul said that if we are walking in the light we are going to be producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Ephesians 5:8-9).  In his writings to the Galatian brethren he taught more about walking in the Spirit and gave us great detail about what is a work of the flesh and what are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26).  When we examine our lives which list does the fruit fall in, the works of the flesh or fruits of the Spirit?

To summarize, we do not need to worry that if we slip up and commit a sin that we have lost our salvation. However, we should continually be developing the fruits of the Spirit and in so doing we make our salvation sure. Each of us is responsible for examining and testing ourselves to see that we are indeed doing these things (Ephesians 5:10).

Answering Common Sense Questions – #4

August 3, 2007

Over the past several articles I have been answering questions posted by Mr. David Martin on the Solid Rock Baptist Church website.  Mr. Martin claims that these are “common sense” questions that cannot be answered clearly by a member of the churches of Christ.  In this blog I want to look at the fourth question given by Mr. Martin.

If my past sins are forgiven when I am baptized in water, and it is possible for me to “lose my salvation” and go to hell after being baptized, then wouldn’t my best chance of going to heaven be to drown in the baptistry?!! – before I had a chance to sin so as to be lost again? If I wanted to be absolutely sure of heaven, isn’t that my best opportunity?

Once again Mr. Martin’s question does not display much common sense in spite of the title of the article in which he poses it.  Let us think through this question logically and see how it holds up.  If Christ were to come down to earth today and tell you flat out that baptism is necessary for salvation and further tell you flat out that your salvation can be lost, would the fact that your best chance to avoid hell would be to drown after baptism, if that were true, invalidate Christ’s words?  Of course not, and neither would that fact, if it were true, invalidate the commands of Christ through his apostles in the Bible.

The Bible repeatedly establishes the necessity of baptism (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-7, 1 Peter 3:21).  The Bible also repeatedly warns that one may lose their salvation (Galatians 5:4, 2 Peter 1:10, 2 Peter 2:20-22, 2 Peter 3:17, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26, ).  So even if your best chance to reach heaven is to drown in the baptistry this does not invalidate the clear word of God.

However, let us also look at the claim that if baptism is necessary and salvation can be lost our best chance for heaven is to die immediately after baptism.  This claim demonstrates a lack of understanding about what the Bible teaches about the loss of salvation.  The claim assumes that after you have been saved when you commit a sin your salvation is lost, however, this is not what the Bible teaches.  The Bible teaches that as long as we are walking, i.e. living or following, in the light that the blood of Christ continually cleanses us of any sins that we commit (1 John 1:6-7).  It also teaches that so long as we are walking, i.e. living or following, according to the Spirit and not the flesh that we are not under condemnation (Romans 8:1). The first thing that we notice in both of these passages is that they involve the continual act of “walking”. We must be living and behaving a certain way in order to be free from condemnation and recieve the continual cleansing of the blood of Christ.

So what does walking in the light or according the Spirit involve and how do we know if we are walking in the light/Spirt or darkness/flesh? Well first we must note that this walking in the light does NOT mean living perfectly without ever committing a sin. If that were the case then the very sin that you need cleansed would disqualify you from recieving that cleansing.  So walking in the light or Spirit does not involve living an absolutely sinful life.  Luckily God has told us in his word what it means to walk in the light.  In order to walk in the light we must be developing the fruits of the Spirit such as goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:9).  We must also test ourselves that we are behaving in a way that is acceptable to the Lord (Ephesian 5:10).  We must avoid fellowship with those living unrighteously and reprove their actions (Ephesians 5:11-12).  We must behave wisely and soberly (Ephesians 5:13-15, 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8). Walking in the light also means loving our fellow man (1 John 2:10).   Peter sums this all up quite nicely by telling us to continually grow in faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (2 Peter 1:5-7). He says that if we do this we will not be unfruitful in Christ and we will not fall (2 Peter 1:8-10). 

So we see that the loss of our salvation does not involve a single sin that we commit but continual spiritual neglect, lack of growth in Christ, and unfruitfulness.  So if we are following the instruction of Peter and the other apostles and constantly examining ourselves and growing in Christ we will have no more chance of losing our salvation fifty years from our baptism into Christ than we did immediately following it.