“The Lord gave me this song,” and other nonsense uttered by well-meaning, yet ill-informed Believers

Without going into a long introduction, I’d like to examine some of the top phrases uttered by Christians which seem to have a veneer of piety, but which, upon closer examination, reveal an appalling lack of sound doctrine to back them up.

#1:  The Lord gave me this song.

This was a popular phrase back in my high school days when someone was playing at a coffee house and wanted to introduce a song they had written. I think the basic intent of the statement was to express deference and humility, but it had the opposite effect.

In the first place, the underlying inference in the statement is that the song is a direct revelation from God and not merely the product of a human seeking to express something of God and His ways to other humans through music.

This leads to some serious questions:  Are we to then accept those songs as additional Scripture?  Based on what authority?  Is the songwriter claiming to be an apostle or prophet? Again, based on what authority? Have their claims been objectively confirmed or are we merely to take their word for it?

Another interesting conundrum this statement leads to is the fact that many times, the songs which were claimed to be given by direct revelation from God were awful.  The musical structure was tedious–at least when it wasn’t trite.  Moreover, oftentimes the lyrics, when not lacking completely in any Scriptural foundation, were vapid and shallow, more about the writer than about God.

I am familiar with one songwriter who recorded three albums’ worth of songs claiming that the songs were all theopneustos–inspired by God.  He even titled the albums Songs from the Savior, Songs from the Savior Volume II, and Songs from the Savior Volume III: Come into His Presence.

Which leads to another question, if the songs are divinely inspired, why isn’t God entitled to a songwriting credit?  In the three albums mentioned in the previous paragraph, God’s name does not appear in any of the publishing credits–only the singer’s name is shown. And given the fact all three albums sold enough to merit gold record status–or would have if they had been sold through conventional record store networks instead of through small independent Christian bookstores and directly through his coffee house appearances, I’m certain the singer raked in quite a bit of coin since the label was a small indie label created by the singer himself. So why didn’t God receive those royalties instead?

#2: “We have no creed but the Bible.”

This is an example of what, in the area of logic and debate, is known as a self-refuting argument. For several years I attended a congregation which took this stance.  What became laughable was when they started printing on the backs of their weekly bulletins a statement of “what we believe.”  Here is where the argument is self-refuting.  The word “creed” comes from the Latin word credere, which means… wait for it… to believe. So, this congregation, which claimed to not have any “creeds,” was publishing a creed every week in its bulletins.  So even if one calls it by another name, such as  a “statement [or confession] of faith [which is a synonym for belief],” one cannot escape the fact that one has a creed.

Even the Southern Baptists who claim:  (1) that they are not a denomination, and (2) that they have no creed, have a creed.  It’s called the Baptist Faith and Message  Statement. Last revised in 2000, it is modeled after the Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742) and the New Hampshire Confession of Faith (1833). Keep in mind, the word “faith” in this usage is synonymous with “belief” [credere in Latin]. So one can legitimately title the document the Baptist Belief and Message Statement. Moreover, at the annual convention every summer, every voting messenger is required to sign a statement affirming acceptance of the Statement before being issued credentials recognizing their status.  In the local congregation to which I belong, all members are required to sign an acknowledgement of the Baptist Faith and Message Statement before being accepted into membership.
Creeds actually serve a useful purpose. They provide a summary of doctrine by which we can know if we are actually understanding Scripture correctly. So any creed is only useful or accurate if it correctly interprets Scripture.

#3: We don’t need doctrine or theology, only Jesus.

Again, this is a nonsensical statement on the face of it. How do you know if what you believe about Jesus is correct?  You have to have been taught what to believe!  No one just picks up the Bible and comes to a proper understanding of sound doctrine by reading it cover to cover like one reads a novel.

For sake of example, what does the word “doctrine” mean?  The primary meaning is, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, “teaching, instruction.” According to Matthew 28:19-20, the primary purpose of the Church, as commanded by Christ Himself, is to TEACH.  So if any church diminishes the importance of doctrine, they can only do so by diminishing their obedience and loyalty to Christ.  If Christ thought doctrine was important enough to include it as part of the Great Commission, who are we to say otherwise?

What makes this statement even more appalling is that I have heard it come from the mouths of pastors.  Yet when one looks at the qualifications for a pastor, we see that he must be able to teach [1 Timothy 3:2], and he must be able, by sound doctrine, to exhort and convict those who contradict. [ Titus 1:9]
Paul instructed Titus to speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine. [Titus 2:1]

When one looks at the New Testament, one sees that great stress is placed on teaching sound doctrine.

The whole statement that we don’t need doctrine, just Jesus, is also nonsensical because it is a self-refuting argument.  Why do I say that?  Because in making such a declaration, one is making a doctrinal statement.

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Untwisting Scriptures #7 – Romans 10:17

So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. [Romans 10:17

I have often heard this passage misquoted, usually in Arminian circles, but increasingly in Southern Baptist circles, as indicating that all that is necessary for faith is hearing the word of God. According to these Scripture twisters, if we simply present the gospel, people will just naturally desire to become Christians.

Typically, the passage is misquoted by omitting the phrase “and hearing by,” so they quote it as “Faith comes by hearing the word of God.”

Such distortion of Scripture is false for many reasons, not the least being that what they claim, is not what Scripture actually says.

First, why do they make this claim and distort the Scripture so? The reason for that lies in their acceptance of a heresy called Cassianism [or semi-Pelagianism], after a contemporary of Augustine, named John Cassian, who sought a mediating position between Augustine’s belief and that of a bishop named Pelagius.
Augustine taught that, because of our total depravity, which has made us totally dead in sin and at war with God, we are simply incapable of faith and repentance apart from a sovereign act of God, by which saving faith and the ability to repent from sin are imparted to believers based on the sovereign decree of God as a RESULT of the new birth. Augustine taught that our depravity was TOTAL—that it not only extended to our bodies being subject to death, but our will, our intellect, our emotions—EVERY aspect of our being was dead because of sin and that this condition was passed to every human being through the bloodline. Further, Augustine taught that the only grounds for our acceptance before God was because of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Christ’s death on the cross was not merely sufficient to make us savable, but to actually accomplish salvation for those who were the elect of the Father according to His decree in eternity past.

Pelagius, countering Augustine, claimed that the Fall did not result in man’s total depravity, but that it only resulted in man’s physical corruption. Pelagius further taught that one could live a perfectly moral life apart from being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. He taught that man did not sin because it was his nature, but because of influences. Finally, Pelagius subscribed to the view that the death of Christ on the cross simply provided us a moral example of the sacrifice to which we are called, not that it had any efficacy in accomplishing the salvation of believers.

John Cassian, as I noted, sought a mediating position between Augustine and Pelagius. However, it should be noted that the actual outworking of his thought places his followers closer to Pelagius than to Augustine, so really he did not mediate so much as try to make Pelagius’ teachings seem less heretical.

Cassian taught that the result of man’s fall was not that he was DEAD in sin, but merely incurably ill. He taught that man did not inherit a sin nature, but merely a propensity toward sin. He also taught the doctrine of “prevenient” grace as modeled by later false teachers in the Arminian tradition—that God embues all persons with a certain amount of grace to keep their wills free to accept or reject Christ. Cassian taught further that it is an act of the human will by which sinners repent and display saving faith, and it is because of their faith that they are regenerated by the Holy Spirit as a reward for their choice.

So what does all this have to do with Romans 10:17? Romans 10:17 is the focal passage where all these differences are most readily displayed. The problem is that the passage, as it actually appears, does not support the Pelagian or semi-Pelagian understanding of how grace effects us.

Most commentators, not looking at the actual construction of the language, the grammar and the syntax, simply gloss over the passage as simply expressing the need to proclaim the gospel and if we are faithful in proclaiming the gospel correctly, people will just naturally be attracted to it and want to respond.
As I indicated earlier in this article, they do so by omitting the phrase, “and hearing by” from any reading of the passage.

This is where the scripture has been twisted to mean something the writer did not intend. So let’s parse out this passage.

There are two independent clauses in this sentence:

Clause 1: So then, faith comes by hearing,

Clause 2: and hearing [comes] by the word of Christ.

In the first clause, the verb “comes” does not appear in the Greek text. It has been supplied by the translators in order to make the passage read more smoothly. It is based on the Greek preposition ex [pronounced “ex”] with the noun rendered as “hearing” being in the genitive or ablative case. Because of this construction, the preposition + genitive phrase actually acts as the subject of the clause, as that which produces faith, so it is quite proper to supply a verb which suggests that hearing is the cause of faith.

Now we turn to the second clause. It is joined to the first by the conjunction de [pronounced “deh”]. This conjunction may act as either an adversarial or contrastive conjunction [such as the English conjunctions “but” or “however”] or as a continuative [like the conjunction “and” when the second clause further clarifies the content of the first clause]. The context of the passage suggests that it is the latter usage. In this second clause, it is now stated that hearing comes from or is the result of an agent outside of oneself. Again, the verb is understood from the preposition, which in this second clause is dia with the genitive rhmatov [pronounced “HRAY-mah-tohs”], which indicates, not merely a passive speech, but a specific command directed to the hearer, by which he or she is thereby enabled to hear and obey.

This is crucial because, as passages such as Romans 3:10-14; Romans 8:7-8; and 1 Corinthians 12:3 indicate, men and women in their natural estate not only have no desire to seek God, they have no ability to seek God, let alone submit to
Christ and confess Him as Lord. Yet, Romans 10:9-10 states that our salvation is dependent upon us not only desiring Him as Lord, but confessing Him as such.

Since our salvation is dependent and conditional upon our confession and submission to Christ as Lord, and we cannot do this without an enablement of the Holy Spirit to do so, when does this enablement occur? It cannot occur before regeneration because prior to regeneration we have no such enablement, therefore it must occur subsequent to regeneration, both logically and temporally, although this operation of the Holy Spirit occurs basically in the blink of an eye as humans measure time, so as to appear almost to be simultaneous.

So, as we see, it is not merely the preaching of the gospel which produces conversions based on manipulating people into making “decisions for Christ.” Rather it is the sovereign act of God in which He regenerates people as He wills by the Holy Spirit [John 1:12-13; John 3:8; 6:37, 44, 65; 17:2, 6, 9-12; Romans 9:14-15; 1 Corinthians 12:3], and in so doing, gives His people faith and repentance.


§ Unless noted otherwise, all Bible references are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. I am aware that some versions of the Bible use the phrase “word of Christ.” This is not a critical variant because preferring one variant over the other does not effect the overall thrust of the passage since Christ is God incarnate.

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Untwisting Scripture # 6 — Genesis 3:16

To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be to your husband, And he shall rule over you. [Genesis 3:16]*

The key to understanding this passage lies in correctly understanding the Hebrew phrase “Your desire shall be to your husband.” More to the point, the key words are the words “desire shall be to.” What does the phrase mean?

The New King James Version is pretty straightforward in translating the passage with no interpretation whatsoever. Other translations which simply translate the phrase without adding an interpretation or coloring the meaning are the Christian Standard Bible, the Complete Jewish Bible, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the Modern English Version, the New American Standard Bible, the New International Version, and the New Revised Standard Bible.

Some translations interpret the phrase rather than simply translate the phrase. The interpretations fall into two basic categories. The first, and more prevalent category follows the interpretation that the phrase means the woman will have affectionate desire for her husband. Translations/paraphrases which follow this interpretation are: the Amplified Bible [both the original edition and the 2015 update], the Contemporary English Version, the Good News Translation, the Living Bible, the Message, the New Century Version, and the Voice.

The second interpretation only appears in two translations, but those translations actually are the ones to capture the meaning of the idiom. Those two translations are the English Standard Version and the New Living Translation. What these translations indicate in rendering the passage is that the phrase means the woman would desire to dominate, control and oppose her husband.

But wait a minute! How do you derive that meaning from the text? It seems pretty straightforward.” I hear some say.

In the first place, let’s look at the clause which immediately follows: “But§ he shall rule over you.” This is a contrast to the clause immediately preceding, not a coordinative. Had the woman now possessed a natural desire to be obedient to her husband, this would have been unnecessary.

The fact of the matter is that in the Fall, the relationship of the woman to the man was turned on its head. The woman was created to be a helper for man, not the other way around. But after Eve ate the forbidden fruit, she usurped a position of dominance in the relationship. She ordered Adam to eat the fruit also and he complied.†

The part of the curse then is that women would strive for dominance over men in their relationships, but that God has ordained headship of families to be invested in the husbands.

Still questioning that interpretation? Look at Genesis 4:7. In this passage, God told Cain that sin was crouching at his door, and its [sin’s] desire was for him. The construction of the Hebrew phrase is identical to that found in Genesis 3:16 in which God said the woman’s desire would be for her husband. Moreover, this Hebrew phrase is found nowhere else in the Old Testament. Every commentary is agreed that in the context of Genesis 4:7, the phrase means that sin desires to control, dominate, and enslave Cain. Therefore, it stretches credulity to suggest that the phrase has the opposite meaning in Genesis 3:16—that woman will desire to please men rather than control them.

Further evidence that this is indeed the case is seen in the New Testament. If women are inclined by nature to seek to please a husband rather than control him, it would not have been necessary for Paul to write on two separate occasions, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. [Ephesians 5:22. See also Colossians 3:18.]

And again, if the natural inclination of women is to submit to male authority and leadership, it would not have been necessary for Paul to instruct Timothy, And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over man, but to be in silence. [1 Timothy 2:12]

Some commentators claim, based on a flawed interpretation of Galatians 3:28, that because there is no male or female in Christ, there is no distinction between male and female in either authority or function in either the family or the church. The flaw in such an interpretation is that it ignores both the immediate context of the passage within the letter to the Galatians, as well as the broader context of the entire Bible. The immediate context speaks of justification by faith and that God does not make distinctions based on gender, national origin, socio-economic status, or ethnicity as to whom may be a recipient of God’s salvific grace. The passage speaks not a word concerning one’s authority within the family or the church.
Using Scripture to interpret Scripture, relying on the fuller revelation based on passages such as 1 Corinthians 11:3-13 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15, which were written after Galatians‡, clearly sets forth distinctions between the functions and roles of men and women in society, families, and the church which have not been set aside or annulled by the cross.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

§ Some translations render the conjunction as “and.” However, rendering the conjunction as “but” is not merely linguistically acceptable, it makes perfect sense in the context. See William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1988), pp. 84-85.

Note the wording in Genesis 3:17, when God is then speaking to Adam, He states that the ground is to be cursed because Adam had “heeded” the voice of Eve. Other translations render the Hebrew word um^v* [pronounced “shaw-MAH”] as a milder verb “listened” — but the word denotes obedience to a command from a superior to an inferior. In other words, Eve usurped the role of God and demanded that Adam join her. Adam willfully elevated Eve to the status of God in obeying her, so his sin was not merely disobeying the command of God, but was an act of idolatry by placing his wife in the position of God.

Most commentators date the epistle to the Galatians between AD 49 – 52. First Corinthians is dated between AD 55 – 57. First Timothy is dated between AD 62 – 64. See C. I. Scofield, et al, Scofield Study Bible, NKJV edition (New York: Oxford University, 2002), pp. 1574, 1609, 1648; John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, NKJV edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), pp. 1726, 1786, 1857; John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (general editors), The Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament Edition (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983), pp. 506, 588, 729.

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Does Baptism Save [Part 2 of 2]

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. [1 Peter 3:21]*

In the first part of this series, we examined the necessity of baptism, the proper mode of baptism [immersion, not sprinkling or pouring], and who is the proper subject to receive baptism. In this part of the series, we shall look at who is the proper administrator of baptism, when baptism should occur, where baptism should occur, and, finally, the purposes/design of baptism. In other world, what baptism accomplishes.

When we seek to answer the question of who is qualified to administer baptism. When one encounters a high church tradition [such as Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Methodism, or Episcopalianism], the view promoted is that only those who hold ecclesiastical authority are qualified to administer baptism. They do not view any baptism as valid which is not administered by one holding to ecclesiastical authority. This is even true in some Baptist denominations and cults like the United Pentecostal Church—which teach not only that the one administering the baptism must hold ecclesiastical authority—but must also hold the authority within their particular sect or cult for such baptism to be valid. Other sects, such as the churches of Christ would say that it is not necessary for the one to hold ecclesiastical authority to administer baptism, but, unless one was baptized with the specific understanding [according to them] that baptism is for the remission of sins, his/her baptism is not valid.

Such views are nonsense. In the first place, those who were baptized in the first century, before the completion of the canon of Scripture, did not possess a systematic and comprehensive theology of baptism. Such was certainly the case on the day of Pentecost, when over 3,000 people were baptized. The only knowledge they had concerning the purpose/design of baptism was what Peter spoke in his sermon on that day. [Acts 2:38-39] Nor was it the case of the Ethiopian court official [Acts 8:36-38], Paul the apostle [Acts 9:17-18; 22:12-16], Cornelius and his household [Acts 10:44-48], and the church in Ephesus [Acts 19:1-5].

We do not find anywhere in Scripture where it is commanded that, in order for baptism to be valid, it must have been administered by one holding some form of ecclesiastical authority. For example, when Philip baptized the Samaritan believers [Acts 8:13], and later, the Ethiopian court official [Acts 8:38], we do not have any record of him holding any recognition as either an apostle or an elder.

Yet another example of one administering baptism with no record of holding ecclesiastical authority is that of Ananias baptizing Paul [Acts 9:18]. To say that one must be baptized by one holding ecclesiastical authority before such a baptism can be recognized as valid is to impose a tradition of men over an area about which the Bible is silent. The silence of Scripture in this case speaks volumes since the instances of Philip and Ananias administering baptisms without any indication of holding any specific ecclesiastical office provides an approved precedent in Scripture that anyone who is in right relationship with God may administer baptism.

The next issue is that of when baptism is to take place. In the twenty-first century, we do not really follow the Scriptures when it comes to this. Man-made tradition has made a big production out of baptisms, where it must be scheduled weeks in advance so we can invite families in to view it. This is not the Scriptural pattern. The pattern in the Bible is that baptism is to occur as quickly as possible upon one making a confession of faith. It was that way on the day of Pentecost [Acts 2:41]. It was that way with the Samaritan believers [Acts 8:13]. It was that way with the Ethiopian eunuch [Acts 8:38]. It was that way for Paul [Acts 9:18]. It was that way for Cornelius and his household [Acts 10:44-48]. It was that way for the Philippian jailer and his household [Acts 16:33]. It was that way for the Ephesian believers [Acts 19:5]. Acts 2:41 indicates that those who responded to the gospel on the day of Pentecost were baptized that same day—not at some indefinite point in the future when things could be “arranged.” The same is indicated in Acts 16:33—the Philippian jailer and his household were baptized IMMEDIATELY, the Greek word so translated is παραχρήμα [pronounced – “par-akh-RAY-ma”] which means it was done at once—without delay—not something to be put off until a more convenient time. This raises the point—since baptism is commanded by Christ, and since the approved precedent in the Bible is that it is a command to be obeyed without delay, where do we in the twenty-first century think we have the authority or permission to do it differently for the sake of convenience?

Part of the problem with thinking that baptism is a command where obedience can be deferred indefinitely to a more convenient time and place is linked to the nonsensical and unbiblical idea that it must occur within a “church building.” Why do I consider it nonsensical? Because in the first century, there were no “church buildings” with baptistries. The closest parallel would have been the baths [called “mikhvahs”] available in the Temple and the synagogue for ritual cleansings. Those were available 24/7/365 for cleansings because the need for ritual cleansings under the law was constant, not occasional. One common objection to immersion as the only valid mode of baptism is the claim that there would not be sufficient water to immerse three thousand people as was done on the day of Pentecost. Those who raise the objection fail to account for the mikhvahs present in the Temple for just such a purpose and that the events recorded in Acts 2 took place on the Temple grounds.

Look at another example—the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. We do not know where his baptism took place. The text indicates that Philip met him on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza. There is no indication of how long they spent together in conversation. All we do know is that there was apparently enough water to be immersed in and the Ethiopian eunuch desired to make his obedience to the gospel immediate. The exact location is not necessary for our knowledge because of our human proclivity to venerate locations and make them part of our man-made traditions—just as many Christians insist on delaying their baptism until they can make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to be baptized in the Jordan River—as if the location makes the baptism more valid.

So we see that there is no requirement that the one administering baptism has to be one holding some form of ecclesiastical office. Nor is there any requirement that baptisms have to be limited to a church building or to a Sunday morning service.

Finally, we we need to examine the purposes/effects of baptism—because it is only when we truly understand those, that we can we appreciate its necessity in the life of the believer. And only then can we understand why the so-called “sinner’s prayer” is a cheap counterfeit confession of faith instituted by a non-immersionist false teacher named Charles Finney.

In the first place, only in baptism does the Bible say that we are united/joined with Christ. See Romans 6:1-11 and Colossians 2:11-15—where Paul develops this teaching. When we go down into the waters of baptism, we incarnationally join in His death and burial. When we emerge from the waters we incarnationally are joined in His resurrection.

This is why modes such as sprinkling and pouring fail. There is nothing in the actions which can incarnationally represent death, burial, or resurrection. That is why many immersionists mock such counterfeits as “dry cleaning”–and deservedly so. Sprinkling and pouring are man-made counterfeits, not Scriptural obedience.

Another purpose/effect of baptism is found in Galatians 3:27. In baptism, we are clothed wαith Christ—that is to say that we clothed in His righteousness. We are no longer identified by the sinful nature, but are identified by His righteousness.

We also see the purpose/effect of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20—it is the “answer” [NKJV] to God for a clean conscience. The Greek word rendered as “answer” in the NKJV is επερωτημα [pronounced “ep-eh-ROW-tay-mah”]. The word is better translated as “appeal” in some translations. It is a legal term denoting one who stands before a court pleading for mercy.

Finally, we see the effect/purpose of baptism is that it is for the remission [removal] of sin. “But,” I hear some say, “are you not teaching baptismal regeneration?” No, I am not. Acts 2:38 states this is a purpose/effect of baptism. Some try to say the Greek grammar says we are baptized because our sins are remitted—but that is not merely sophistry—but reading into the text something that is not there–it is deliberately altering the grammar for the sake of one’s theology instead of conforming one’s theology to what the text actually says and means. The identical Greek construction appears in Matthew 26:28 where Christ said His blood is shed for the remission of sin. Our sins are removed by His blood that was shed on the cross, but we are not formally and publically identified as having our sins removed until we are united in His death, burial and resurrection through immersion.

So in answer to the question, can one be saved without being baptized, the answer is no. Those who usually ask the question are trying to justify their disobedience to the command of Christ to be baptized. To them I would ask the following: Can you show me anywhere in the New Testament where it is normative for one to identify as a follower of Christ without being immersed? They will usually throw up the example of the penitent thief on the cross—but that example fails for two reasons. First, the example of the thief on the cross precedes the command to be baptized since that command was given AFTER Christ’s resurrection. Secondly, that is not normative, but aberrational. Sound doctrine must be based on the plain teachings of Scripture and what it teaches as normative, not what is clearly presented as a one-time aberration prior to the resurrection and Pentecost.

The second question is this: can such people demonstrate from Scripture that it is normative to identify with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ apart from baptism?

Thirdly, can anyone demonstrate from Scripture that it is normative to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ apart from baptism?

Finally, can anyone demonstrate from Scripture where it is normative for one to appeal to God for a clean conscience apart from baptism by immersion? Some will suggest the example of the penitent tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. As with the pentitent thief on the cross, this is pre-resurrection, pre-Pentecost, and represents an aberration, not a norm. The application itself is wrong because that it not the point of the parable. The point of the parable is that God honors humility over pride. Those who truly wish to come to God in humility and obedience have no reason not to be obedient to the command to be immersed.

The bottome line is this: Can such people demonstrate from the New Testament that one can appeal to God for a clean conscience, be united with Christ in His death burial, and resurrection, and be clothed in His righteousness without submitting to baptism? If so, where is your proof from the Bible?

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Does Baptism Save? [Part 1 of 2]

There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Christ Jesus. [1 Peter 3:21]*

It seems there are two extremes when answering the question posed in the title.

On the one hand, there are those who place baptism as an optional expression of faith. Most who place their tents in this camp would be more nuanced, claiming that it is not necessary for salvation—but it is necessary for church membership. This is the camp where most churches in the Baptist tradition plant their flags, along with churches in the Wesleyan-Holiness-Pentecostal traditions.

On the other hand, we find those who assert that unless one has been baptized, one has not been truly regenerated, is not saved, and will not escape eternal condemnation. The strange bedfellows who set up their tents in this camp and plant their flags are just as diverse as the first camp: many from the churches of Christ/Christian churches which sprang from the Stone-Campbell movement of the early nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic church, churches within the so-called “Apostolic Faith” movement [AKA “One-ness” or “Jesus only” pentecostals], Lutherans, Episcopalians, and sects within the Eastern Orthodox traditions.

Within both camps, one will find arguments that unless one has been baptized according to a specific ritual, reciting certain words, and administered by one holding ecclesiastical authority, one has not been truly baptized. In the latter camp, they would also hold that such persons, not having been correctly baptized, have not been truly regenerated.

It is my belief that neither of these extremes presents a fully developed theology of baptism based on all Scripture teaches.

The place to start in developing a theology of baptism is to look at all the Scriptures pertaining to baptism and attempt to adduce how they connect.

This is important because each flag that has been planted has been planted on a Scripture which is dear to that tradition—usually to the exclusion of other passages which disprove the exclusivity of that particular flag. Or the tradition will plant its particular flag as the starting and ending points of all discussion and not even develop a fuller understanding of all that Scripture may say on the matter.

Some traditions plant their flag on the mode of baptism. Within this battleground, some argue for the mode of sprinkling, in which a few drops of water are placed on the head of the person being “baptized,” while others argue for affusion [the highbrow term for pouring a small amount of water on the recipient], others may argue for no physical mode at all, claiming that “true” baptism is merely the spiritual “encounter” one has, and still others will argue for immersion. Finally, there are a few who would assert that any method is valid as long as the recipient has true faith.

I need to say before I proceed that I raise this point, not to plant a flag, but rather a surveyor’s marker, not to say beyond this point I will not proceed, but to try to map out as much as possible everything Scripture has to say on the subject.

It must be noted that baptism is a command—not an option. Don’t believe me? Look at Matthew 28:19-20—the Great Commission. Jesus commanded His apostles to make disciples. How are those disciples marked? They are not marked by going forward during an “invitation” at the end of religious meeting, nor are they marked by reciting a so-called “sinner’s prayer.” Disciples are marked by being baptized according to the Great Commission. If those who present the Gospel are commanded to baptize those who desire to follow Christ, then it logically follows that those who truly desire to follow Christ are commanded to be baptized.

This logical connection is clearly demonstrated on the day of Pentecost. Those being convicted by the Holy Spirit asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” [Acts 2:37] What was the apostolic response? Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus for the remission of sins….” [Acts 2:38]

It is noteworthy that the mood of the verb “be baptized” is not optative, meaning that being baptized is merely a suggestion, the fulfillment of which is solely at the discretion of the hearer. Nor is the mood of the verb subjunctive, meaning that the speaker is hopeful the hearer will heed his suggestion. No, the mood is imperative. It is a command to be followed without qualification or hesitation. It should also be noted that the verb is in the singular, not the plural. So, although Peter was speaking to a large assembly of people, the command is for each individual to repent and be baptized.

Having established that baptism is a command, not merely a suggestion or an option on the part of believers, what is it’s mode?

To understand the mode, we must look at the word itself. The word “baptism” is not an English word, it did not come from into the English language from Anglo-Saxon or from the French. Both the noun “baptism” and the verb “baptize” came into the English language as transliterations [words carried over from a source language into a receptor language without being translated] of the Greek words BĂP-tēs-mă [the noun] and băp-TĒD-zō [the verb]. Why was this done? When the Bible began to be translated into English during the mid-sixteenth century, the words were transliterated rather than translated in order to avoid giving credence to the claims of the Anabaptists. This practice was continued by the men who translated the Geneva Bible, the men who translated the KJV, and every translation to the current time.

The fact of the matter is that whenever one reads a dictionary of Bible words, the basic and original meaning of baptism/baptize is to fully immerse or submerge the subject.† It has never been used in any Greek document dating back to Bible times to refer to merely sprinkling a few drops of water on a subject, or pouring a cup of water over the head of the subject. Those who argue for sprinkling or pouring as “valid forms” of baptism in fulfillment of Christ’s commands cannot use any Scripture to support their argument—only man-made traditions.

The second issue is the question of who is the proper subject for baptism. Interestingly, those who argue for unscriptural modes such as sprinkling or affusion, also argue for that infants are to legitimate subjects for their version of “baptism.”
Their reasoning is based on three fallacies. The first fallacy is that they equate baptism with circumcision; claiming that baptism is to the New Covenant what circumcision was to the Abrahamic covenant. I state this is a fallacy because nowhere in the New Testament can there be found any passage linking baptism with circumcision. Corollary to this heresy, it should also be noted that this who have adopted this fallacy with regard to baptism have also adopted the heresy of replacement theology.

Another indication as to why it is a fallacy to equate baptism with circumcision is that under the Abrahamic covenant, the only subjects for circumcision were males who were at least eight days old and were either in the direct lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or who were proselytes. Baptism, on the other hand, is for all who identify as followers of Christ—both male and female.

This also points to the second fallacy with regards to those who advocate for sprinkling or affusion as proper modes of baptism—that because baptism establishes a covenant relationship between the subject and God, infants are therefore to be considered as proper subjects for baptism. Again, they base their reasoning on a flawed application of Scripture. They can only find two passages of Scripture as justification for their position. The first passage is Matthew 19:13-15. The problem with their interpretation and application of this passage is that nowhere does it mention or even hint at baptism.

The second passage they use is Acts 16:33, which states that the Philippian jailer and his family were baptized immediately following Paul’s presentation of the Gospel. They claim that this has to also refer to infants. The problem with their interpretation and application is that it is based on an assumption from silence and not the text itself. In other words, they read their theological tradition into the text and claim that theological tradition justifies their interpretation rather than letting the text speak for itself. In technical terms, the practice is called eisegesis—reading into the text a meaning which is not found within the text itself.

When one reads the Scriptures dealing with baptism carefully and according to the plain meanings of the words, one finds that in order for baptism to be valid, the subject being baptized must be a believer.

The first evidence that baptism is for believers and not for infants is an inference drawn from Matthew 28:19-20, the “Great Commission.” In this passage, believers is commanded to make disciples from all nations. It also states that disciples are to be marked by baptizing them. The verb “make disciples” is in the imperative mood. The verb forms for “baptize” and “teach” are participles, making them an appositional construct to the main verb “make disciples.” In other words, the participles describe the process by which disciples are made—first by baptizing them and then instructing them in sound doctrine and practice.

The problem with any view which suggests that baptism is anything other than the immersion of professed believers is that those who promote such teachings aren’t really fulfilling the Great Commission in a manner which is obedient to the word of God.

The second evidence that the proper candidates and subjects for baptism are people who have come to conscious belief in Christ as Lord, is found in Acts 2:38. In this passage, baptism is yoked with repentance. Both verbs for “repent” and “be baptized” are in the imperative mood in the Greek—meaning that both are requirements for one’s testimony to being a recipient of God’s saving grace to be considered as valid.
The command to repent clearly indicates the hearer must be consciously able to understand what repentance means in order to obey. An infant clearly has no conscious ability to comprehend the meaning of the word repentance—let alone obey the command—so one can clearly draw a legitimate inference that baptism is not intended for infants.

This is a good place to end for now. We have looked at the design of baptism as to its necessity, the design as to its mode by immersion, and the design of who may be baptized. In the next part, we shall examine the design of baptism for when and where it should be administered, the design of who may administer baptism, and the purpose and effects of baptism.

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

† See The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, New King James Version (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2015), pp. 2338-2339. See also Stephen D. Renn, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005), pp. 88-90.

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Christian Snowflakes and the Cult of “Non-Negativity”

Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men.

For I have not shunned to declare to you the full counsel of God. [Acts 20:26-27*]

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;

and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. [2 Timothy 4:3-4]

I hear/read of too many Christians who decry and castigate other believers for being “negative.” The problem is that they do not objectively define what they mean by the criticism. Are those being accused of being “negative” speaking things which are untrue? No. Are they speaking or writing things which contradict Scripture? No. In fact, the truth of the matter is that the writings/speech being criticized as “negative” actually defend Biblical truth and seek to apply it consistently. And those being accused of “being negative” apparently hold a higher view of Scripture than their accusers.

So I guess what these people mean by their oh-so-well-informed [NOT!] criticism, is that those they accuse of being “negative” are saying things which make them, the accusers, uncomfortable and convicted of their own theological shallowness, banality, and frivolity.

I am sure these same people would be put off by the following incidents from Scripture, then, since the actors are displaying “negativity” in their dealings with others.

For example, let’s look at Jesus Christ. On at least two occasions, He referred to those who opposed Him as a “brood of vipers.” [Matthew 12:34; 23:33] Now, how is that a “positive” message?

On another occasion, He told the residents of Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin that, because of their hardness of heart, God would be more lenient to the sexual perverts of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the pagans who glorified sexual perversion as a form of idol worship in Tyre and Sidon, than He would to those cities who had seen Christ and experienced His miracles. [Matthew 11:20-24] Again, that was hardly a positive message He was conveying to those who listened.

And let’s not forget when Christ addressed Peter as “Satan.” [Matthew 16:23] He also told Peter, in the same breath, “you are offensive.” Again, that’s a pretty negative message there.

And what about when He forced the merchants from the Temple using an improvised whip and called them thieves? [Matthew 21:12-13] Wasn’t that pretty negative?

And while we are listing the “negative” sayings of Jesus, let’s not forget what He said about some of the seven churches in Revelation. To the church at Ephesus, He told them that if they didn’t get their act together, He was going to destroy it because of their coldness toward Him. [Revelation 2:5] To the church at Pergamos, He told them if they didn’t clean up their mess, He would destroy them with a sword because of their tolerance of false teaching. [Revelation 2:16] To the church at Thyatira, He promised judgment for their toleration of sexual immorality. [Revelation 2:20-23] To the church at Sardis, He promised judgment because they were a church which was primarily composed of professing believers, but had few confessing believers. [Revelation 3:3] And finally, to the church at Laodicea, Christ proclaimed that they were so disgusting they made Him nauseous. [Revelation 3:15-17]

So, just how do the dear little snowflakes who wring their hands and cry out against “negativity” handle these passages of Scripture?

[Insert sound of chirping crickets here.]

Let’s look at what some other Scriptures say about others who spoke “negative” messages:

1: Peter

Peter is an interesting study in giving “negative messages. On the day of Pentecost, he accused his hearers of being responsible for crucifying Christ. [Acts 2:23]. This defies all seminary classes in homiletics—which tell wannabe preachers to never, ever accuse their audiences of sin and that no one ever converts under such preaching. Those listening to Peter must not have read that textbook, though, since we are told that 3,000 people were added to the church that day after hearing his sermon.

In another incident of Peter speaking “negatively” to another, he accused Ananias and Sapphira of lying to God and told Sapphira she would die because of her sin. [Acts 5:1-11]

Finally, we see Peter basically telling Simon Magus to go to perdition for seeking to purchase the gift of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 8:20-23]

2: Stephen

Stephen called his accusers “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart.” [Acts 7:51] In other words, he accused them of being no better than Gentiles. His character assessment was spot-on, but I’m sure the modern-day cult of Christian snowflakes would have their delicate sensibilities offended by such blatant “negativity.”

3: Paul

Paul is another person who would invoke the scorn of the cult of Christian snowflakes for being negative.

Paul attacked and rebuked poor Peter publicly in Antioch. [Galatians 2:11-21] What had Peter done to merit such public shaming? He was simply exercising his freedom in Christ by living as a Gentile when no one from Jerusalem was around but then decided to clean up his act when a delegation from James came, and behave like a well-brought up Jewish boy. If the snowflake cult is to be believed, Paul was in error for not going to Peter privately and stating his opposition to Peter’s ways. [In addition, this incident totally destroys the Roman Catholic belief that Peter was appointed to be the earthly “head” of the church and that he acted infallibly after Pentecost, since he clearly deferred to the emissaries from James at first and then was publicly rebuked by Paul.] Was Peter offended by this very public “shaming”? If he was, he appears to have gotten over it since, at the end of his life, facing execution, he wrote that Paul’s writings were to be considered as Scripture. [2 Peter 3:15-16]

Paul’s letters are full of such negativity. For example, to the church in Corinth, he instructed them to remove someone who was openly engaging in sexual immorality from their fellowship. [1 Corinthians 5:9-13]. Didn’t he know he was supposed to just love and accept this man as he was without demanding any form of repentance or judging his chosen lifestyle? That’s what the snowflake cult would have us believe.

Another example is found in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica—in which he instructed them that someone who would not work was not to be allowed to eat from the community’s resources. He also told them that anyone who did not obey his teachings was to be removed from the fellowship. [2 Thessalonians 3:6-15]

To his young associate Timothy, Paul warned him that anyone who truly desires to follow Christ would be persecuted. [2 Timothy 3:12]

To Titus, Paul wrote that the natives of Crete were all “liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons,” thereby not only being “negative,” but also perpetuating a negative stereotype of an entire ethnic group, according to post-modern snowflake thought. This is compounded by the fact that Paul instructed Titus to “rebuke them sharply” [the NASB uses the term “severely”]. The Greek term is apotomos, and indicates that one acts without hesitation to cut off a diseased tree branch [Titus 1:12-13], or, to express it in the terms of that great philosopher, Barney Fife, “Nip it in the bud!”

And during his time in Cyprus on his first missionary trip, Paul addressed the sorcerer Elymas as, “son of the devil.” [Acts 13:10]

The requirement of Scripture is that God’s people are to always speak the truth, regardless of whether or not those who hear us perceive that message as “nice” or “pleasant.” I’d rather have someone ticked off with me for expressing an unpleasant truth, than present them a falsehood simply because they find untruth more palatable. It is an obligation for which we will be held accountable in the day of judgment, according to Ezekiel 3:16-21.

The bottom line question is this: In the final judgment, who is more likely to have the blood of the unsaved on their hands—those who proclaimed the truth in uncompromising terms, or those who hedged because they did not wish to appear to be “negative”?

* Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Untwisting Scripture #5: Welcoming Illegal Immigrants

Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [Deuteronomy 10:19*]

First, I need to clarify. I do not believe in providing amnesty to those who come into our country in a manner which circumvents and defies our laws concerning immigration. Those who enter this country in defiance of our laws should be prosecuted and deported. Those who are citizens of this country who give them aid and comfort should also be prosecuted.

I raise this issue because there are many so-called “Christians” who claim the immigration laws are wrong to prevent anyone from entering this country, and that believers have an obligation to violate those laws because obeying the law is not giving “fair” treatment [whatever that is supposed to mean objectively] to the strangers in our midst. They call for “open borders.”

And they cite the above passage from Deuteronomy as a Biblical basis for their beliefs.

But the question then becomes, is their use of this passage a valid application, or are they twisting Scripture? I believe it is another case of twisting Scripture and needs to be exposed as such.

These same people also insist that we should bend over backwards to accommodate those who come here contrary to our laws—by mandating that we learn their languages and customs instead of requiring them to assimilate into our culture and learn our language.

It is hypocritical, because the same liberals who cite passages like the one from Deuteronomy in support of open borders, are dismissive of passages such as Leviticus 18:22; 20:13 – claiming that such passages no longer reflect God’s will.

But does Deuteronomy 10:19 actually support the views of those who advocate open borders?  In a word – no!

The Old Testament demanded that the nation of Israel welcome immigrants:

You shall neither mistreat a stranger [foreigner] nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [Exodus 22:21]

Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt. [Exodus 23:9]

And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him.

The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.  [Leviticus 19:33-34]

God had promised certain covenant blessings to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, blessings which were conditioned on faithful obedience to the Law. He also recognized that others, seeing the blessings He bestowed, would seek to come to Israel to get a piece of that pie, so to speak.

Therefore, God set certain conditions on those who would seek to enjoy those covenant blessings with Israel:

One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you. [Exodus 12:49]

You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God. [Leviticus 24:22]

And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the Lord’s Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land. [Numbers 9:14]

One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly [a native-born Israelite] and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generation; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord.

One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you. [Numbers 15:15-16]

You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native -born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them. [Numbers 15:29]

It is clear from the text that there is one legal standard which applies to both the native-born Israelite and those who would seek to join themselves to Israel from the Gentiles. But that standard is not one of cultural accommodation to those who came into Israel from outside. It is just the opposite.

Those who came from outside of Israel to join themselves to Israel were required to assimilate into Israel. They were not allowed to retain their ethnic identity—especially since that identity would have included the worship of idols.

That assimilation would have required them to submit to the entire law of Moses—not just in part, but the entirety. They were expected to sever every tie with their previous culture.

So what is the application for today? The application is this—those who come to this country should be required to seek entrance according to our laws—not the whims of their desires. And as a sovereign nation according to the grace and authority given us by God [Romans 13:1-7], we have the right to determine what those laws shall say without interference from outside influences.

Immigrants should be required to obey our laws. That includes the process of applying to enter this country. If someone determines they will flout our laws by coming here uninvited and without submitting to the legal process, s/he has already proven themselves incapable of obedience to our laws. When someone determines that s/he will remain in this country after his/her visa has expired, the person has demonstrated disrespect for our laws and should no longer be welcome.

Immigrants should be required to learn our language. We should not be required to provide translation services or other amenities in their native languages. If someone wants to take up permanent residence in this country, learn English and expect to submit to the laws of this country. Significantly, only two ethnic groups in recent times seem to have trouble with this concept. And those two groups bring with them nothing by which this country will be benefited.

So should we welcome immigrants? By all means, if they come into this country according to the laws established by this nation and agree to follow those laws.

In the final analysis, those who claim some sort of mandate from on high for open borders are building on an exegetical foundation of sand, not a solid understanding of God’s word. In typical liberal fashion, they cherry pick and proof text only those verses which support their views, and preach disobedience to any text which disagrees with them.

*Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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