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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Forgiveness and Redemption

There has been an argument  that is thought of by many that negates the necessity of the redemption of mankind through the sacrifice of Christ by God.  That is the idea that if a person is truly sorry for his sin and  believes that God forgives him then he need not to be redeemed or have  his sins paid for.  Giving the implication that forgiveness is only needed to atone for sins. Today we are going to look at this idea and see if it is true.   

What is forgiveness?

Forgiveness is defined as: (a noun) The act or state of being forgiven.  Which comes from the root word forgive.  

The word forgive is defined as: (a verb)1. to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.);absolve. 2. to give up all claim on account of; remit (a debt, obligation,etc.). 3.to grant pardon to (a person). 4. to cease to feel resentment against: to forgive one's enemies. 5. to cancel an indebtedness or liability of: to forgive the interestowed on a loan. (Source: Dictionary.com) 

Now forgiveness is not needed if there has been no offense identified, whether it be presumed or actual.  Every person alive today at one point in his life has done something in offense to God, to this everyone agrees.  

So the question is: Does forgiveness make it necessary to be redeemed?

For some people being redeemed is not necessary because they believe that they have been forgiven by God.   The idea is that if God has forgiven a person, then the sin debt has been erased by God for that person. This in their minds eliminates the need of redemption, by someone shedding the blood of animals or someone making a personal sacrifice in their place.  It is more complicated than that.  For forgiveness does not does not eliminate sin, forgiveness allows one to be pardon of the sin, but the sin itself is not removed from that persons account.  A person who relies only upon the forgiveness of God to remove their  sins is like someone who offended another person, who goes only to ask the offended person for forgiveness of the offence (or sin) he committed but does not expect to pay the offended person for his offence.   A more graphic example of this is this: You enter a restaurant and order a plate of food,  after you have eaten the food you get ill,  you then complain to the chef  and the chef is really sorry to you and asks for your forgiveness, being the kind of person that you are you forgive the chef for preparing a bad meal. Now before you leave the restaurant chef  still charges you for the food you consumed.  You are now upset because not only did the chef served you a bad meal that made you ill, he also expected you to pay for it.  Did the forgiveness that you gave to the chef for serving a bad meal stop him from charging you for eating it? No it did not. Now in a normal restaurant of any quality the Chef usually not only asks for forgiveness but he also does not charge the customer for the meal. The point of the bad chef story is to illustrate that forgiveness does necessitates redemption or the payment for sin. So just as forgiveness did not pay for a bad meal, forgiveness alone does not pay for sin, for we all have been given a bad meal and God, unlike the chef in the example, does not want you to pay for it, He wants to pay for it.  More than that, God wants to remove it from you like it never happened. That bad meal in the example is sin and the chef was Adam. Because we are the descendants of Adam, we all have his sinful nature. This sinful nature is made evident by how we each  offended  God. How does a man offend God?  By not obeying his commands which are outlined in his word.  The point is that with God removing a person sinful nature requires payment, forgiveness does not pay for sin.  Neither does forgiveness remove a person's sin. What does?  Redemption does.   

So the next question is: What is redemption? Redemption is defined as: (a noun) 

1.
an act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed.
2.
deliverance; rescue.
3.
Theology deliverance from sin; salvation.
4.
atonement for guilt.
5.
repurchase, as of something sold.
(Source Dictionary.com)

Adam sold the whole mankind into sin, for represented all of mankind when he disobeyed God's command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Adam following the example of  what God did to  him in order for God to not only forgive him but to illustrate to him the cost of his disobedience, he taught all his sons the blood atonement sacrifice.  For in his day no man could approach God without his sins being covered.  Adam was like the chef who gave all of mankind a bad meal and told everyone how to pay for it, in order to be in fellowship with God.  Now some believe that Adams sin was not transferable, then why did Abel the son of Adam offer up a blood atonement offering?  Why did Noah when he departed from the ark offer up a blood atonement offering? Why did Job offer up the same type of offering not only for himself but for his family? Why was it regulated under the Law of Moses?  It even showed up in Jesus' day. The point is if Adam's sin was not transferable what was the point of allowing the blood atonement offerings until the time of Jesus?  The blood atonement offerings were needed because the sinfulness of man persisted and needed to be atoned for, even though temporarily. 

So some people are walking around believing that through forgiveness alone their sins are not only pardoned but also paid for.   Redemption is the payment for all of our sins, it is not automatically imputed.  Every person must believe that Jesus died  to pay for his sins or they have not received fully the redemption that God had provided from them through Jesus.  So does forgiveness make redemption necessary?  It not only makes redemption necessary, it prepares a person for redemption. For forgiveness is for the pardoning from sin, it does nothing to remove sin. Redemption is the payment for sin, it is the act of God through Christ that removes sin. 

Are you one of those persons who believe that your sins were paid for through the forgiveness of God alone? If you believe you are forgiven, that only means you acknowledge that at given points in your life you believed that you offended God and sinned against Him.  That you sought to be forgiven by God so that you can be pardoned from your sins, but you never asked God to redeem you, that is to save you.  Do you want to know how to be saved and have your sins washed away? Say the following prayer  with all your heart.

Dear God,
I come to you now, in Jesus's name, as an repentant sinner.  I confess all my sinfulness to you and ask you to forgive me for Jesus's sake.  I believe now, that Jesus, the Christ, Your only begotten Son died for all of my sins and that You raised him from the dead according to the words of Your Holy Prophets in the Holy Scriptures.  I invite you God to come live inside of me by the power of Your Holy Spirit and make me Your child.  I promise to live as holy as I can and read Your words in the scriptures with your help everyday. I thank you, Lord for saving me.  


That is all it takes. A simple confession of faith.  What you need to do now is to connect with believers of like faith in a local church.  If there is no local church you can follow my blogs until God guides you to one that you can get to.  




Monday, November 26, 2012

Water Baptism: Is it required for the salvation of the soul?


I.                   Introduction
In recent years there has been a vicious debate between some believers in Christ about the necessity of water Baptism for the salvation of the soul.   Some are teaching that it is not necessary and some are teaching that it is immutably necessary.   So sharp is the disagreement between believers about this subject that each group has made a ministry of calling the other a false believer or teachers.   

This infighting in the social arenas of the Church community does nothing for the cause of Christ.  So it is with this in mind this article is written so that those who agree that God wants his Church united in matters of doctrine may find common ground.   I understand, and we all must understand that there some people who want the infighting to continue, because without the confrontation and contesting, their ministry will no longer have a purpose or reason to exist.  

So I warn you, there may be things stated here in this article that you may not agree with, that is fine.  It is my position  that It is ok to disagree, but never after or before the reading this article, any one who names the name of Christ as his Lord and Savior should take the role of judge and condemn the remaining persons that do not share their beliefs.   Infighting only produces a divisive community culture and is a violation of the Royal Law of Christ: “Love ye one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).  How is the world to know that we are the disciples of Christ, if we do not have love for one another.

So how do we address this question of Water Baptism being necessary for the salvation of a man’s soul?  We do this by asking some additional  direct and forward questions.  Like; What does the Bible teach about water Baptism?  What did the Apostles teach about Water Baptism?  What did the Church teach about Water baptism?  Through these questions what we will find out whether or not water baptism is the required for the salvation of a soul. Along with this we will look at some challenging passages that if read properly will also shed light on this issue.

II.                What does the Bible say about water Baptism?

Bible passages on water baptism by John, the Baptist:

Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. – Matthew 3:5+6

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.-Mark 1:4+5

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;-Luke 3:3

When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.-Acts 13:24

Now we have here a few passages concerning water Baptism.  A few words come up frequently in these passages.  One one of those words is remission.  What does the word remission mean?

 

Remission defined: noun

1. The act of remitting.

2. Pardon; forgiveness, as of sins or offenses.

(Source: Dictionary.com)

 

Another word we see frequently in the passages is the word repentance. What does repentance mean?

 

            Repentance defined: noun

1. A deep sorrow, compunction, or contrition for a past sin, wrong doing, or the like.
2. Suffering regret for any past action.
(Source: Dictionary.com)

Now repentance carries a deeper significance in Christianity.  In that for Christians repentance is the turning away from sin, wrong doing or the like. It is not just a bad feeling of sorrow, it is an act because of that sorrow to turn away from a prior sinful activity.

These definitions and bible passages about water baptism illustrate to us that when John, the Baptist, administered water baptism it was for the consecration of the people in preparation of the arrival of the Messiah.  Two thing marks the water baptism that John, the Baptist, administered; one: the people choosing to turn away from their sins and two: people looking for the forgiveness of their sins.  No where in these passages is it indicated that John, the Baptist, administered salvation to anyone by the act of water baptism or anyone received salvation by the act of water baptism.  What John, the Baptist, was doing was a preparatory work, getting people ready for the one that was soon to appear after him.  John compared his work to the one who was to come after him, he said

 “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost”        - Mark 1:8

The one who was to come after John, the Baptist, had a more powerful ministry.  John’s act of water baptism was a precursor of the Messiah’s ministry of baptizing believers with the Holy Spirit. John, the Baptist, said such things because people came to him as though he was the Messiah to come.  John wanted it to be clear, that his ministry and the messiah’s ministry had essentially two different goals.  His was to prepare the way of the Lord, and prepare the people for the Messiah to come. The Messiah’s ministry was to save mankind from their sins and give them the power to live a righteous life for the glory of God, through the baptism or power of the Holy Spirit.  When John, the Baptist realized that his ministry was coming to an end he told his disciples,

 “He must increase, but I must decrease”- John 3:30

Jesus and his disciples continued the ministry that John, the Baptist administered, which was the baptism of repentance (John 3:22, 26, 4:1) and made more disciples than John, the Baptist.  This teaches us that water baptism is the act which believers participate in when they desire to become a disciple. You can not be a disciple with out first believing in Jesus and following his teachings, you can not be a disciple with out first repenting and turning away from your sins.  So Water Baptism is an open declaration of repentance, the sign that one has committed himself to following the teachings of Christ, the messiah.

So what we also learned here is that the act of water baptism consecrates a life unto righteous living.  It does not atone, wash away sins or provide salvation, Jesus’ blood does that.  It is a symbol that represents the repentance of a soul from his sinful ways and a commitment to live a righteous life.  This is why people came to John, the Baptist confessing their sins.  They wanted to be free from the life and stigma of being a sinner, they also wanted God to forgive them. People believed that through repentance and confession their sins would be forgiven so that they could be free to live a righteous life before God. 

What did the Apostles teach about Water Baptism?

 The Apostles called John, the Baptist's, act of water baptism the Baptism of repentance (Acts 13:24),  they did not call it the Baptism of salvation, which means that the act of water baptism is not a saving work, it is a declaration of what has already happened, it is a declaration of repentance.  No soul can receive salvation with out first repenting from his sins and believing on Christ. So it was possible then for a soul to openly declare his repentance by the act of water baptism and yet be not saved. This act of water baptism was in fact a preparation for the salvation of the Messiah to come. This is what the people were doing, when they were coming to John, the Baptist, confessing their sins.  They were repenting in preparation of the coming Messiah that John, the Baptist was preaching to them about that would save them from their sins.

Does the act of water baptism save a soul?

The real question we need to ask to resolve this question is this: Are the any bible passages that suggest that water baptism is necessary for the salvation of a soul? Yes there are a couple of verses that at first glance appear to suggest that water baptism is a crucial elemental step in obtaining salvation. Here are they:

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

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. –Acts 2:38

At first glance, it appears in these two verses, that the act of water baptism has a very important part in the salvation of a believer’s soul.  However, what is also clear is that repentance and faith precedes the act of water baptism and is also a perquisite for salvation.  This is because these two passages state that having a deep sorrow for sinful activity, a turning away from that sinful activity and faith in Jesus is first required in order to be saved.  Then the act of water baptism, the sign of that act of repentance and acceptance of Christ, is then administrated.  No where does it imply in the text that the act of water baptism alone, as important as it is, is equal to the act of repentance.  If it was, then the passages would have to read thusly:

He that is baptized shall be saved, but he that is not baptized shall be damned. 
(Mark 16:16,  authors revision of the text, being used for an illustrative example only)

Then Peter said unto them 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.
(Acts 2:38, authors revision of the text, being used for an illustrative example only)

However that is not what either verse says.  For it is the turning away from sin and believing in the saving power of Jesus, makes a candidate soul ready for water baptism.

Now what also appears to be in the two verses under discussion is that salvation is obtained once the act of water baptism is administered.  These are the questions that have to be asked:  Does the act of water baptism really save a soul? Is it the finishing touch?

If water baptism is a necessary element for a believer in Christ to obtain salvation then we all must conclude that salvation by faith alone is a false teaching.  The only problem with that conclusion is that all the Apostles taught that salvation is not received by any works, including water baptism, but through faith by grace. Here are some of their statements from the Bible.

A)    “..Who,  having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.  And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.  But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” –Acts 16:24-31

I must note here that right after the jailer believed in Christ, he and his whole household was baptized, not before they had repented and believed.  This only points to the significance of the act of water baptism in relation to the repentance of a soul.  The point is that the jailer repented first, believed second and got baptized third.  The jailer and his whole household just did not get baptized in order to receive their salvation, remember water baptism is not the act of repentance, he repented first and confessed his sins and believed in Christ verbally. Like the next scripture explains.

B)    “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” –Romans 10:9-13

What moves the condition from a shalt be saved condition to a saved one?  Faith moves a shalt be saved condition to a saved one.  It is faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross that changes that condition. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God that died for our sins moves our confession from a shalt be saved condition to a saved condition.  As the Bible states that faith is the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). As long as a person keeps believing in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for  his sins and confesses that in faith that person becomes saved once he calls upon Jesus.  Even though he does not feel it, or does not physically experience it, as long as he believes he is saved, then he is saved.  As the Bible again states:

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”- Proverbs 23:7

also

“…faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”


So we find the act of water baptism alone does not save, it is the person’s faith in the saving power of Jesus on the cross that saves a soul. Therefore, as long as that person believes he is saved, his soul is saved.

C)    “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” – Acts 15:7-11 (Read Acts chapter 10 in reference to this statement)

In Acts chapter 10 we find the story of God instructing Peter to share the Gospel with those outside of the Israeli community for the first time.  In that story we see that the people of Caesarea received the Holy Spirit through believing the preached word of the Apostle Peter.  After that the people of Caesarea believed, they were baptized with water.  So water baptism does not induce the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or otherwise Peter would have had to baptize the people first in order that the Holy Spirit may come down upon them.  We see in the text that is not what happened.  They believed in the finished work of Jesus on the cross for their sins and they were saved, for the Holy Spirit filled them that repented and believed. The act of water baptism was administrated to make them all disciples of Christ, that persons who are committed to following the teachings of Jesus, the Christ. The act of water baptism was not administered to save them from their sins.  Jesus came to do that and no thing or no one can replace him as the saving agent of God

So we have discovered that water baptism is not the finishing touch for a soul’s salvation. It is the confirmation work of making disciples of Christ.  It does not atone for sin, nor wash away sins, rather it prepares the person who receives such a ministry to receive the salvation of God which is provided by the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.  

What the about the thief on the Cross, did Jesus save him?

Now it is also very clear from the scriptures that were presented in this article that any soul can believe that Jesus died for their sins and turn away from their sins before getting water baptized. Water Baptism is therefore not required for the saving of the soul.  If it was required, then what did the thief on the cross received from Jesus?  Did he receive salvation or was he lost because he did not get baptized after believing in Jesus upon the cross?   If this be true, how many people have died believing in the saving power of Christ and not have been baptized for the saving of their souls? Millions maybe even billions have.  That thief on the cross did not have a chance to be water baptized.  What did Jesus say to him none the less?

 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” –Luke 23:43

What did Jesus mean when He said that to the thief on the cross?  Where is paradise? Paradise is where Jesus went after he died upon the cross.  That is a whole different subject that we do not have time to discuss here.  The point of the matter is this, this thief on the cross made it to where Jesus is. Think about it, has Jesus in the bible ever broke a promise he made to anyone in the bible? No He hasn’t so we must conclude that Jesus fulfilled his promise and the thief made it there without the need of water baptism.  The thief was saved by faith alone in Jesus on the Cross.  Let us look at his confession a bit closer.

11)      He acknowledged his punishment as just

            “And we indeed justly;…“-Luke 23:41a

22)      He admitted his sins and accepted the consequence of his actions

“…for we receive the due reward of our deeds….”-Luke 23:41b

33)      He believed in Jesus as Lord and asked Him to receive salvation.

“…he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
-Luke 23:41c

What did Jesus say to him none the less?

 “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” –Luke 23:43

No chance at water baptism did the thief on the cross have.  He simply believed and asked Jesus to save him.  In turn, Jesus promised that in that day that believing soul will be with him in paradise.  Jesus promised the thief on the cross salvation. Again I ask, was there in the bible, a promise that Jesus did not keep?  No, there is not one.  Since Jesus saved the thief on the cross without the administration of water baptism.  We must conclude that water baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is necessary for discipleship. If Jesus did not save the thief on the cross after he asked for salvation.  Then water baptism loses its power to save also, because it is Jesus blood that atones for our sins.  The blood of Christ is the power of Salvation. Water baptism only prepares one for the salvation he needs to receive through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, but if the blood of Jesus does not save, why then be water baptized?

Consider this problem: In that Jesus did not save the thief on the cross, nothing then Jesus has done saves people from their sins.  Nothing that Jesus could have done saves people from their sins. If this be true , Jesus then died in vain, because if he did not save the thief on the cross, Jesus’ blood did not atone for the thief’s sin right on the cross itself.  If water baptism, as we have discovered in this article, only prepares someone to be saved and if Jesus can not save anyone, then the promise of salvation is void.  If Jesus can not save anyone, then God lied about Jesus.  He could not be His only begotten Son.  Etc, etc.  If Jesus did not save that thief on the Cross then the whole idea of Christianity is a scam.  So the bottom line is this, if you believe that Jesus saved the thief on the cross, you believe in the saving power of Jesus without the need of water baptism. You can be saved without being water baptized.  If you believe that Jesus did not save the thief on the cross, water baptism is of no use to you in the receiving of salvation, and you can not be saved. Because everything that Christianity is hinges upon the fact that Jesus shed blood on the cross atones for our sins.  Anything that changes that changes Christianity from a Christ alone faith to a whatsoever you believe saves you faith.  No one and no thing can replace Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for the atonement, the washing away of our sins.

 I hope that this study clarifies the issue about water baptism and its place in our salvation in Christ.  If you do not agree, with this article please make you comment in the space provided.