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. 

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Answering Common Sense Questions – #3

July 30, 2007

In the past few articles I have been addressing common sense questions that David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church claims members of the church of Christ cannot answer clearly.  In this aritcle we will examining the third question that Mr. Martin poses.  The question is:

If the water pipes broke and the baptistry was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell? If obedience to water baptism is the means of forgiveness of sins, then I would.

Once again we see that Mr. Martin has completely abandoned common sense with his question in spite of the claim that these are “common sense questions”.  We need only, as before, apply Mr. Martin’s logic to other biblical concepts to see how illogical this question is.  Remember that faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17) and faith is certainly essential to salvation (Mark 16:16).  So what would happen if someone who had never heard about Jesus went to the local Bible book store but it was closed so he couldn’t buy a Bible. Would he have to wait until the store opened to be saved?  This individual could, of course, go to another store, a church, or even Wal-Mart to find a Bible and hear about Jesus Christ.  Likewise the individual wanting to be baptized but the pipe is broke could go to another church, a swimming pool or even a river or lake.  If he person who went to the closed Bible store were to die before he was able to hear God’s word would he then go to hell?  If hearing God’s word is necessary for forgiveness of sins then yes. 

I am sure Mr. Martin if asked whether one who had never had the opportunity to hear God’s word is saved would respond that in such an extreme case God is ultimately the judge.  Only God knows if the person truly had the opportunity to hear and just didn’t take the opportunity, whether or not there were other extenuating circumstances, and whether or not the man should justly be condemned to hell in light of these considerations.  However, I am also sure that Mr. Martin would never teach that because of some extreme hypothetical circumstance that it is not necessary to hear God’s word to be saved as he does with baptism.  Just as with hearing only God can determine if someone has had the opportunity to obey him in baptism, whether or not there were other extenuating circumstances and whether or not such a person should be justly condemned to hell in light of such circumstances.  However, such an extreme hypothetical circumstance does not negate the essentiality of baptism to salvation.  The rule is that baptism is required for forgivness of sins and the exceptions are up to God.

Answering Common Sense Questions – #2

July 23, 2007

In my last article here I answered one of the “common sense” questions which Mr. David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church has put forth as a question that members of the churches of Christ cannot answer.  In this article I will address the second question that Mr. Martin poses for us.

If a “Church of Christ” elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will? Do I need Jesus AND a Campebllite “preacher” in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Corinthians 12:13) of salvation – the “Church of Christ” preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?

To begin with I have to note that Mr. Martin is being disengenuous with this question.  I know of absolutely no one in the churches of Christ that teaches that one must be baptized by a church of Christ elder.  Mr. Martin’s clear implication that we so teach is dishonest and not what I would expect from someone who claims to follow Christ. 

Despite Mr. Martin’s dishonesty, or lack thereof, there is a valid question hidden in there.  If another human being performs the act of baptism on me is this person not acting as a mediator between me and God?  The simple answer is absolutely not.  Lets examine the results if the same logic were applied to the gospel message. 

There is no doubt that the gospel the very power of salvation (Romans 1:16).   Hearing the gospel message is absolutely essential. In order for someone to hear the gospel message someone must teach them (Romans 10:14). Does this then make the preacher of the gospel a mediator between man and God?  Cornelius was told that Peter would come and tell him “words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”  Did the fact that Cornelius needed something from Peter for his salvation mean that Peter became a mediator between him and God?  No one would argue that the person who preaches the gospel message becomes a mediator or administrator of salvation though the hearing of that gospel message is necessary for salvation.  Likewise, the one who baptizes another does not become a mediator or administrator of salvation.

For another example of how rediculous and devoid of common sense this question is let us consider a person who is ordered to show up in court as a defendant.  If someone drives them to the trial so that they can comply with the court order does the driver become a mediator between that person and the judge?

Thus we see that not only is the question that Mr. Martin asks dishonest but it not a common sense question but rather flies in the face of common sense.  The person that performs a baptism is not a mediator between the person being baptized and God but merely aiding them in compliance to God’s wishes.

Answering Common Sense Questions – #1

July 17, 2007

On the Solid Rock Baptist Church website there is an article written by David Martin, pastor of the Solid Rock Baptist Church, that poses thirteen questions he believes that the churches of Christ are unable to clearly answer.  In the introduction to his article he makes the following claim:

If you ask one of these “preachers” any of the questions in this tract, you won’t get a straight answer due to their “screwball” theology. You’ll have them in “hot water,” “swimming in circles,” trying to explain their heretical positions. They’ll be “hopping all over the pond” because they can’t stay too long in one spot without sinking in the mire of their false doctrines.

From this one would certainly that the questions that followed would be reasonable and logical questions that are very difficult to reconcile with the doctrine of the churches of Christ.  However, the questions that he asks are usually not reasonable or logical and are mostly able to be answered easily. 

The first question that he poses is :

According to the history of the “Church of Christ,” God used certain men to “restore” the New Testament Church in the early 1800’s. Where was the true New Testament church before then? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?

This question is actually an honest and important question.  As Mr. Martin points out Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church.  So if the church of Christ is indeed the church that Jesus built then what happened to it from the first century until the restoration movement?

What Mr. Martin has failed to realize here is that the restoration movement was not about restoring a New Testament Christianity that had been utterly lost.  Rather it was about restoring errant churches that had ceased following it back  to New Testament Christianity.  As an illustration consider a club that restores ’57 Chevy cars to their original condition.  Would it be logical to say that there are no ’57 Chevy cars in original condition in the world because most of them are in need of restoration?  Likewise just because denominational churches during the 1800s were in need of restoration to New Testament Christianity it cannot be logically argued that there were no churches following New Testament Christianity at that time.

It must also be understood that the restoration movement was confined to America but that in other places the church of Christ has never ceased to exist down through the centuries.  Since history is written by the majority we see small glimpses here and there of people that were persecuted by the Roman Catholic church and often categorized with other groups that the Catholic church viewed as heretics, much like people such as Mr. Martin today label us as Campbellites. There are several great websites that show us glimpses of these small groups of people holding to the same beliefs and practices as the modern churches of Christ that have existed throughout time.  Two of the best sites on the subject are:

So Mr. Martin’s question, while an important one, is not a particularly difficult one for the churches of Christ to answer in a very clear manner.  The question stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose and scope of the restoration movement.

Churchianity

July 11, 2007

Recently Pope Benedict XVI announced that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church.  In reading some of the responses denouncing this statement I was reminded of a discussion I had not too long ago with a man who claimed that he was not a member of any church but simply a follower of Christ.  My religion, he asserted, is not Christianity but churchianity.  This seems to be a growing attitude among religious people today.  Many today say that they want to make Christians not church members out of people. This apathetic attitude concerning the church is quite perplexing to me in light of what the scriptures say about the church. 

Christ Died For the Church

It is the church that Christ purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).   It is the church that is his beloved bride and that he gave his life for (Ephesians 5:25) and he considers her to be glorious and holy (Ephesians 5:27).  The church is obviously of tremendous value to Christ and thus we should not attempt to downplay its importance.

The Church Is The House Of God

Paul wrote to Timothy and gave him many instructions on how to conduct himself “in the house of God, which is the church” (1 Timothy 3:15).  The church is God’s dwelling place and assuring the proper beliefs and practices within it was important enough that Paul wrote Timothy to give him instructions on these beliefs and practices.

The Saved Are In The Church

Whenever a person is saved God places them in his church (Acts 2:47).  We also find that Christ is the savior of his Church (Ephesians 5:23).   Thus if you are not a member of his church then you are not saved. Since it is in Christ’s church alone that salvation is found then it is tremendously important that we are members of his church and his church alone.

It is impossible to come to the conclusion that the church is unimportant from scriptural evidence.  The Bible time and time again attests to the great value and importance of the church.  Thus it is important that we not only be members of a church but of the right church and we cannot simply dismiss the church as a nonissue.

Our First Love

June 22, 2007

As a father, college student, and employee I have a lot of demands on my time and I have found that when I have so many physial tangible things demanding my time that it is very easy to let spiritual things slide.  I would imagine that I am not alone in this observation.  In todays world more people are working more hours and juggling family and work responsibilities.  These things are all important but it is just as important that we do not let the things of God fall by the wayside.

 Jesus rebuked the church at Ephesus for having left their first love (Revelation 2:1-5).  He decribes all the wonderful works they had been doing in the kingdom.  They had been laboring and working to save souls.  They had been contending for the faith and denouncing false prophets.  But they had stopped doing these works.  How did such a vibrant congregation get so off track?

I remember when I was first baptized into the Lord’s body and how I felt. I wanted to go out and teach the world.  I couldn’t wait to read and study the Bible every day.  When I read Psalms 1:2 where David says that the happy man delights in the law of the Lord and meditates in it day and night I understood what he meant.  When he said the zeal of God’s house had eaten him up I got it (Psalms 69:9).  When he said that he was glad when they said lets to the Lord’s house I agreed (Psalms 122:1).  I couldn’t wait for the church services to roll around.

I still have those same feelings today but they are not as easily maintained. Sometimes I get to thinking about all the things that I have to do between work, school and my family and it seem so overwhelming.  The truth is our lives require a constant examining of our priorities.  Jesus said that where our treasure is there will our heart be also (Matthew 6:21).  With our efforts are going into work, school, families, and other physical activities we are building up treasure in this world.  We need to devote as much time and effort to laying up those spiritual treasures.

Jesus promised that if we put his kingdom first that the other things God would provided (Matthew 6:31-33).  Each of us needs to wake up each morning and make a decision that in this day we are going to put the Lord first.  We need to regain our first love and do the first works.

Baptism: Is it necessary?

June 4, 2007

Visit any Christian message board on the net and chances are you will find a topic on baptism somewhere on the first page.  The subject of baptism, its purpose, and its method is one of the most hotly debated Christian topics.  Everyone has an opinion on whether or not baptism is necessary for salvation or not.  As always though it is not what men think but rather what God has said about it that really matters. In this article I will be looking at what the Bible has to say on the subject of baptism.

Matthew 28:19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Here Jesus commanded his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations.  How where the disciples to make other disciples?  By baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  What type of baptism did Jesus have in mind here?  Was he speaking of water baptism or Spirit baptism?  A very important thing to note about Spirit baptism is that it cannot be performed by men.  Jesus was the only one with the power to perform the baptism of the Spirit (Luke 3:16) and it is not subject to the will of man thus cannot be resisted nor submitted to.  So the baptism that Jesus is commanding his disciples perform in order to make other disciples must be water baptism.  So here we see that water baptism was a requirement to become a disciple of Jesus.

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

Here Jesus states that in order to be saved one must both believe and be baptized.  Now some have raised the objection that baptism is nowhere mentioned in the second half of this passage.  Need Jesus have said he that believeth not and is baptized not shall be damned?  Suppose one were to walk into a business to apply for a job and there was a sign next to a stack of applications that said, “Fill out and return an application to apply for the position, those that fail to fill out an application will not be considered.”  Would you believe that you need only fill out but not return the application to be considered for the position?  I believe that any reasonable person would understand that both filling out the application and returning it were necessary.  Likewise, when Jesus said that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved but that one who does not believe will be damned we can understand that both are necessary.  Just as it would be useless to return the job application if it hadn’t been filled out so it would be useless to be baptized if one did not believe thus there was no need to include baptism in the second clause of this statement.

Acts 2:38  Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In this passage Peter had just preached unto those present the first gospel sermon.  In response these people were pricked in their hearts, i.e. believed (Acts 2:37).  They then inquired urgently of Peter and the other apostles what they must do and Peter’s response is to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.  Some have claimed that the Greek word “eis” that is here translated as “for” really means because of and that they were to repent and be baptized because their sins were already forgiven.  They use the example of a man going to prison for a crime.  He doesn’t go to prison to commit a crime but because he already committed the crime.  However, they must at least acknowledge that for can be used in the sense an action taken in order to obtain something.  For instance Jesus when instituting the Lord’s supper said that the cup represented his blood which was shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28).  Jesus was certainly not saying that his blood was shed because sins were alreay forgive but in order to obtain.  So which way is it being used in this passage.  Interpreting the for in this passage to mean because of destroys the sense of the passage.  Peter is commanding the people here to both repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins thus if bapism is because of the remission of sins then so would repentance.  How were they to repent of sins they no longer had.    Also this would mean that Peter did not answer their question of what they were required to do if baptism is merely an optional response to a salvation previously obtained.  Thus the conclusion is that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

Romans 6:3-7  Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:  Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Paul in this passage tells us that baptism is a likeness of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and that through baptism we are identifying with and partaking of this completed work of Christ and that this makes us free from the bondage of sin.  Most accept that this is true but argue that Paul is here referring to Spirit baptism.  A close look at verses 17-18 of the same chapter shows us that this is not the case.  Here Paul says that they were the servants of sin but we obeyed from the heart a form of doctrine, i.e. baptism as a form of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, and this made them free from sin.  So the baptism under consideration here is one that is obeyed.  In order to obey two things are required. First there must be a command or law requiring something and second it must be possible to perform.  As noted earlier man cannot resist or submit to baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is totally at the discretion of Christ himself.  There is also no scripture commanding anyone to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, it is always spoken of as a promise never a command.  Thus we see it is impossible for anyone to obey the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  We do, however, find that water baptism was commanded as we see in the previous passages.  Therefore, we conclude that this passage is speaking of water baptism and that it is necessary for salvation.

1 Peter 3:21  The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

Finally we have this statement by Peter plainly declaring that we are saved through baptism.  Now there have been many commentaries on this passage that have attempted to find some way around this clearly worded statement.  Some argue that the Greek word “antitupon” translated as figure is refering to baptism as a symbol thus it is merely symbolic of a salvation already obtained. Others point out that it says that baptism is not for “putting away the filth of the flesh” and claim that this filth of the flesh that baptism doesn’t wash away is sin.  One thing that these commentaries never seem to comment on directly is the phrase “baptism doth also now save us”.  They concentrate on what baptism is or on how baptism accomplishes whatever they think it does but they never get around to actually discussing what Peter the inspired writer says that baptism does.  Peter directly stated that baptism now saves us.  If baptism is a symbol, which Romans 6:3-7 says it is, that does not  change what it does.  If baptism doesn’t work by putting away the filth of the flesh that does not change what it does.  Peter says it now saves us.  One cannot imagine a plainer statement than that of the necessity of baptism for salvation.

Music In Worship

May 11, 2007

Music has always been an integral part of the lives of God’s people.  When the children of Israel were freed from Egyptian captivity they sang praises to God on the banks of the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1).  When King David was confronted with his sin with Bathsheba he composed a psalm to express his repentance to God(Psalms 51).  Throughout Biblical history God’s people have always used song to express the depth of their feelings for God. 

Today God’s people still honor and praise him with song.  However, there are differing beliefs on how music should be used in service to God.  Some believe that both singing and musical instruments should be used in the worship.  Others believe that no musical instruments should be used in the assembly and some even go so far as to say they are not permissible in praise to God at any time in or out of the assembly.  None of this, however, is up to men.  What matters is what God has said about the issue.  Has God given us instruction on how we are to use music in his service?

A Review of Biblical Authority

It is important that we understand the way the bible authorizes things to be done before we can even begin to answer questions such as this one.  The Bible contains many passages emphasizing that we are to obey the direct commands of God (Leviticus 22:31, 1 John 2:3).  Likewise, there are many passages that command that the examples set by the Christ, the apostles and the early church are to be followed (Philippians 3:17, 1 Peter 2:21).  There are also passages where Christ and the apostles came to conclusions about God’s will based on necessary inferences (Mark 12:18-27, Hebrews 7:1-10). 

Thus we see through the means of commands, examples and necessary inferences God provides authority for the things we are to believe and practice.  This authority comes in two forms, generic authority and specific authority.  An example of generic authority is contained in Matthew 28:19 when Jesus commanded the disciples to go teach all nations.  He did not specify what type of transportation they were to take but only said go teach.  An commonly used example of specific authority is found in Genesis 6:14 where Noah was commanded to build an ark of gopherwood.  Here by direct command Noah is given authority to build an ark but that it must be built of gopherwood.  All other forms of wood were excluded when God specified the type of wood that Noah was to use.

We must keep these concepts in mind as we look at the authority for worshipping God musically.  Has God given any commands regarding our musical worship toward him.  Do we have any examples in scripture of the early church worshipping God musically?  Are there any necessary inferences that can be drawn from scripture regarding our musical worship to God?  Is any authority governing our musical worship generic or specific in nature?

Music in the Old Testament

As already noted men and women in the Old Testament often praised and worshipped God with music.  When the children of Israel sang and praised God on the banks of the Red Sea we find that Miriam and all the women went out with tambourines and danced as they sang.  From this we can certainly conclude that God was not displeased with the playing of the tambourines and dancing.  In fact we see no instruction from God on how musical worship was to be carried out until David, with God’s approval, appointed musicians in the temple (1 Chronicles 16:4-6, 2 Chronicles 19:25-27).  Here we see that four types of instruments were now specifically authorized to be used in the temple worship; psalteries (also called lyres), harps, trumpets and cymbals.  Would it have been acceptable then, at that point, to continue to use the tambourine since God had not specifically ordered them not to be used?  Could one of the Levite musicians have made the argument that since it Miriam had used a tambourine and was obviously pleasing to God that it must still be acceptable to use?  We easily see in both cases that since God had now specified the instruments he wanted to be used in the temple worship that the tambourine was then forbidden as was any other instrument other than the psaltery, harp, trumpet and cymbal.  Likewise we today cannot continue to use the musical instruments allowed under the Old Testament if they have since been forbidden or excluded by a specific command.

Music in the New Testament

There are also examples of musical worship in the New Testament as well.   We find that shortly before his betrayal Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn (Matthew 26:30).  We are not told whether or not there was instrumental accompaniment.  We also see that Paul and Silans sang praises to God while imprisoned for preaching the gospel (Acts 16:25).  Because they were in prison we can assume that they had no musical instruments available but this says nothing toward whether or not musical instruments would have been acceptable.  So the example that has been set by Christ and the apostles is that we are to worship God with music.  So has God given us instruction on how this is to be carried out?

When giving instruction on how the worship assembly is to be conducted Paul commanded that singing be done with spirit and understanding (1 Corinthians 14:15).  When we sing in the worship assembly we should certainly sing with heartfelt emotion but also we should understand what we are singing.  In this same chapter Paul instructs that whether it be singing, teaching or anything else in the assembly it is to be done for the purpose of edification or teaching the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26).  Thus our musical worship to God should be done for the purpose of edifying our brethren.  Notice that Paul here is specifically addressing practice of  multiple speakers or singers acting at the same time.  He admonishes that all things are to be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).  So our musical worship to God is to be orderly and decently.  This necessarily infers some means or system for keeping things this way.  An example of one way to achieve this is by using a songbook so that everyone knows what song to sing and is able to follow along with the song.  As with any thing we do we must first determine if the Bible expressly forbids their use or if it would be excluded by a specific command.  Nowhere in the Bible are songbooks forbidden and we find that there is no command given that would exclude their use and so we find that we are authorized to use them in fulfilling this command to keep our singing decent and orderly.

In writing to the Ephesians Paul commanded that they were to speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in their hearts to God (Ephesians 5:19).  This coincides perfectly with what Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 14 that our singing is to be done for the purpose of edifying.  Here he instructs he instructs that Christians are to be speaking, or teaching, one another in song.  It is clear that Paul is here giving instructions for when Christians are gathered together in worship.   A lot has been made of the Greek word psallontes which is translated as “make melody”.  It is often argued the word carries the meaning of playing an instrument.  It should be noticed that Paul here is addressing all Christians and is giving them two commands, to sing and psallontes.  These are not options that we can choose to do or not.  Thus, if the word psallontes means to play an instrument then all Christians are obligated to do so.   Also we must note that the the action of psallontes is taking place on the heart not.   So not only does the use of musical instruments violate the command that everything done should be for teaching one another but also the command that every Christian is to be making music in our hearts not on an external instrument.

Similarly Paul also instructs the Colossians that they are to teach one another through their singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).  Here  again we see that he is speaking to Christians who are assembled and thus are to edify one another.  This is not a command for the individual in his car or home.  Once again we note that this a command to all Christians.  Note that this time he commands that he singing is to be accompanied by grace, or favour, in your heart to the Lord.  We have no trouble recognizing that having grace in our hearts is not something that we do outwardly but is an inward action.   This helps us to understand that in Ephesians 5:19 where we are told psallontes in our hearts to the Lord that this is not an action performed outwardly but inwardly.

Instruments in Heaven

Some have used the fact that in the book of Revelation there are scenes where instruments of music are used in heaven as proof that musical instruments are acceptable in our worship services today (Revelation 5:8, Revelation 14:2, Revelation 15:2).  First we must realize that the book of Revelation is symbolic in nature and thus is not proof that there will be real and literal musical instruments in heaven.  We also must remember that just as tambourines were acceptable for Miriam and the Hebrew women but were not for those living after the time of David we cannot take something that is acceptable in another age and apply it to our worship today.  So even if there will be literal musical instruments in heaven that does not give us reason to violate the command of God concerning our musical worship today.

Our Musical Worship

When we look at the teaching of the Bible on this matter God has made his wishes perfectly clear.  When we gather for our worship assemblies our musical worship should consist of singing without physical instrumental accompaniment but rather be accompanied by music made within our hearts.  Outside of the worship assembly God has given no command on how we are to praise and honor him through our music and thus we are free to include instruments of music at that time.

Morality Without God

April 13, 2007

A recent course I took on ethics has had me thinking a great deal about the source of morality. How are we to determine what is and is not ethical or moral behavior without some absolute standard. Those familiar with the debate between atheists and Christians on the existence of God are no doubt familiar with the argument that without God there can be no basis for morality. Of course atheists in general deny this accusation. Many arguments are offered to explain how morality can be determined without the necessity for God.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

One such argument is what has become known as the Euthyphro dilemma. The question is asked whether something is immoral because God has forbidden it or if God has forbidden it because it is immoral. For example; is rape immoral because God forbade it and it would otherwise be acceptable or did God forbid it because it is inherently immoral.

The problem with this argument is that it assumes that certain actions, such as murder, are inherently immoral and thus prove that there is no need for God to declare them so. However, how can the atheist posing the question prove that? If he argues that rape is immoral because it causes suffering and violates a persons right to control their own body he must prove that those consequences are evil. Eventually in order to prove the immorality of rape one must provide some absolute and infallible standard. If the standard were not absolute then one could argue that rape is ok under certain circumstances. If it is not infallible then it could be argued that the standard was wrong in determining rape to be immoral. So then what would you call this standard that is capable of absolutely and infallibly determining morality? Is that not an excellent description of God? Thus the question itself emphasizes the point that without God there can be no morality.

Natural Morality

Another argument used by atheists is that we see moral behavior in animals. They delight in pointing out that in nature we see animals caring for their young, defending one another, and engaging in other such behavior. If animals learned and developed such moral behavior without the need of religion then obviously religion is not needed for morality. Anyone who takes even a moment to ponder this argument can see right away the fatal flaw. There are also many animals that eat their young, viciously attack even others of their own kind, and other similar behaviors. Why are the first set of behaviors set up as moral and not the second? Who decided that caring for ones young was moral or good? How would one be able to prove which type of behavior is good and should be emulated and which should not? Again we come down to the need for an absolute and infallible standard.

Moral Atheists and Immoral Christians

Finally there is the argument that since many people claiming to be Christians do very immoral things while many atheists behave very morally religion must not be needed and indeed is detrimental to morality. The problem with this argument is that when we look at Christians behaving immorally we find that they are doing so in contradiction of the beliefs they claim to hold. For instance a Christian that lies is by his actions contradicting his belief in the Bible because the Bible commands us not to lie (Colossians 3:9). In fact how can the atheist even argue that the actions of a Christian are immoral? Upon what basis do they make that judgement? What standard is he judging the Christian by? He must borrow from the Christian worldview in order to make such a judgement.

On the other hand an atheist in claiming to live morally is acting in contradiction to his stated beliefs. An atheist must borrow Christian terms and ideas in order to even claim to be acting morally. If an atheist were asked how he lives morally he may answer that he is honest, tolerant, etc… What makes those behaviors moral? How would one prove that the atheist who exhibits these behaviors is more moral than a Christian who does not?

I’m sure that there are many other arguments that are used by atheists in their attempts to prove that morality is possible without God. However, just like these arguments it is impossible for them to prove what is an isn’t moral. In order to make that judgement an absolute and infallible standard is eventually required and atheism can’t produce one.

Tolerance

February 21, 2007

Tolerance seems to be a word we hear alot these days.  We are constantly urged to be tolerant of other cultures, races, genders, religions, etc…  Attempts are made to educate children from the earliest ages to be tolerant and accepting of others that are different from themselves. At first glance this seems to be a noble goal.  However, what is often overlooked is the fact that tolerance and acceptance are being used synonymously. Rather than tolerance being taught as the practice of treating others with respect and dignity regardless of our differences it is being taught as accepting all differences as being equal in value.  There is no room in the religion of tolerance for those that regard certain cultures, lifestyles, or religions as being inherently inferior or wrong.

Even many who call themselves Christians are being drawn into this point of view.  This point of view is one of the reason that so many denominations exist.  We are told that we should be tolerant of all beliefs and accept that all beliefs are of equal value.  Likewise non-Christians argue that their beliefs should be tolerated and accepted as being the equal of Christianity.  Homosexuals demand that we be tolerant of their lifestyle and accept it as being equal with that of heterosexuals. 

However, it is not man’s right to decide these things for himself.  We must look to God’s word to find out what He wants us to tolerate and accept and what he does not.  Does God wish us to accept all of the worlds religions as equal to Christianity?  Does he want us to accept  all of the denominational flavors of Christianity as being equally valid?  Are we as Christians to view all lifestyles and conduct as acceptable?

Love

First it must be noted that the question is whether or not some beliefs and practices should not be tolerated. The question is not whether or not Christians should love those who hold to  or do these things.  In 1 Corinthians 13:1 Paul describes a very religious person who does not possess love and states that everything they do is in vain.  As a Christian we must love everyone regardless of differences in culture, belief, gender, race, lifestyle, etc…  Christ consistantly taught that the greatest commandments given were to love God and our fellow man (Matthew 23:37-40).  He even taught that Christians are to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44).  Unfortunately there are many who call themselves Christians who have allowed their zeal for God to manifest itself in hatred for those things that they see as contrary to God’s word but this has never been and never will be acceptable to God.

Respect and Dignity

Also the question is not whether or not others with beliefs and practices that are different from our own should be treated with respect and dignity.  Christ has commanded Christians to treat others as they themselves wish to be treated (Matthew 7:12).  We are also commanded to treat all men with honor or respect (1 Peter 2:17).  Also Peter commands that when we give an answer for what we believe and practices that we do so with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15) not being overbearing or browbeating others.  So as a Christian we must treat all men, regardless of our differences, with respect and dignity.

Things A Christian Must Not Tolerate.

  • That there is any way to God other than through Jesus Christ

Jesus taught that he was the way, the truth, and the life and that he was the ONLY way to God (John 14:6).  In Acts 4:12 we are told that there is no salvation in anyone but Jesus.  Other religions are not equally valid and acceptable.  As a Christian holding to the principles discussed above we are certainly to love and respect those in other religions but we cannot approve of and agree with their beliefs. 

  • False teaching or practices regarding Christ and his church

Christians are also taught that they are not to tolerate false teaching regarding Christ and his church.  In Galatians 1:7-9 Paul commands that anyone teaching a doctrine other than what the apostles had initially delivered is to be rejected.  In 2 John 1:10-11 Christians are commanded not to allow one teaching a false doctrine into their home or even wish them success in their endeavor.  In fact Christians are commanded to actively oppose false teachings. We are told to contend for our faith (Jude 3) and Paul instructed Titus that the mouths of false teachers had to be stopped, not by physical means but by confronting false teaching with the truth (Titus 1:9-11).

  • Lifestyles and practices that violate God’s word

As Christians we are told to separate ourselves from those that practice evil (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).  We are warned that evil company will corrupt us (1 Corinthians 15:33).   In Psalms 1:1 David proclaims that happy is the person that does not keep company with or accept advice from those that pratice sinful activities.  Further Christians not only are commanded to remain seperate from those engaging in sinful practices but must also speak out against such practices (Ephesians 5:11).  For a Christian acceptance is not an option. Once again, however, this must be done in a spirit of meekness and love.

The Bible clearly teaches that there are things that Christians cannot tolerate and the world percieves this as a grevious crime.  Peter warns that the world would not understand our reasons for our intolerance (1 Peter 4:1-4).  Many today think it strange that you can claim to love someone yet not accept their actions and beliefs.  A brief example though may help to shed light on the Christians view.

If a loved one were lying down the middle of a highway you would most likely warn them that they are in grave danger of being struck by a vehicle and killed.  If they insisted that they did not believe that they were in any danger and that you should respect their belief and simply accept thier decision to stay where they are it is unlikely that you would do so.  I believe that any of us would do everything in our power to convince them to get out of the dangerous situation they had placed themselves in and would not stop urging them to leave the dangerous situation until either they agreed or it was to late. 

Likewise a Christian percieves those who are not Christians to be in great peril.  A Christian honestly and sincerely believes that non-Christians are lost and will suffer an eternity of pain if they die in that condition and cannot stand that thought.  Therefore a Christian will not stop trying to urge those who hold other beliefs and practices to leave what they see as a gravely dangerous situation.  For most Christians this is not out of disrespect or hatred but out of true love and compassion for another individual.