The Wisdom of Autonomous Churches

One of the distinctive marks of the Churches of Christ is the autonomy of individual churches or congregations. This is no accident but rather by the design of God. While the apostles provided some much needed guidance and leadership for the early
church from Jerusalem (Acts 15:1-35), the plan was for each church to be overseen and led by its own elders (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; Eph.4:11-15). These men were selected from among the Christians with whom they lived and worshipped according to qualifications given by the Holy Spirit (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). When this pattern of choosing qualified men is adhered to, it helps insure that each church is guided according to the Bible.

Conversely, because each church is autonomous, the failure of one church does not drag down her sister churches. We have no earthly headquarters and are governed by no convention or group of delegates. Christ is our head and he is in heaven. This is a safeguard that God has designed and it cannot be improved upon.

“But”, as Everett Ferguson teaches in his book, ‘The Church of Christ’, “autonomy is not isolation. The early churches practiced a fullness of fellowship, cooperation, mutual assistance, and communication. There was a sense of being one body under one Lord (Eph. 4:4-5). There were to be no dividing barriers between believers, whether racial (Eph. 2) or cultural (Rom. 14–15). Examples of local churches cooperating together may be seen in Acts 11:28-30; Romans 15:25-26; and 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. Such mutual cooperation is evident throughout the pages of the New Testament, but this was done without creating an organization higher than local churches.”

Thank God for his infinite wisdom. He has designed his church as he desires it to be and for the benefit of the church and the world!
Brad Fry

Published in: on February 19, 2020 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Primitive Character of the Church of Christ

Whenever we get the opportunity, Shirley and I like to visit small, rural congregations. What we like most about these little churches are their basic, primitive way of doing church and preaching and teaching the Bible. In fact, this trait is what I love most about the Churches of Christ as a brotherhood, as I know them.
Plenty of folks want something more when it comes to church life. The “old time religion” is well, you know, just so old time. So the pressure is there to keep up with the times.
Many want a vibrant youth program so their kids will have something to do in a Christian setting. That’s fine and well, but what is often lacking is parental involvement in the youth program. Too many are content to let someone else do the work instead of pitching in and being involved. At the very least, parents should see to it that their kids are there for the activities of the youth in the church and make sure that they bring them with them to the church house for worship and Bible study.
Others want an “exciting and ‘spirit-filled’ worship service”. For many “seekers” this usually entails loud instrumental music that stirs the emotions and helps people to “know that God is really there.” One of the problems with such an approach is that you’re always having to up the ante for those who are more concerned with being entertained and made to feel good. If it takes one thing to attract them in the first place, it’s probably going to require more to keep them. The emphasis is on having a good time rather than worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
For some, the Lord’s Supper needs to be “reimagined”. Eating a small piece of bread and drinking a small sip of the fruit of the vine is ridiculed by those “in the know”. We’re told that the Lord’s Supper should be a fellowship meal of common fare wherein we “celebrate the death, burial, resurrection and eventual return of Jesus.” I ask you to simply study the subject in the Bible, especially 1 Corinthians 11 and ask whether such “reimagining” is biblical or just that—imagination.
Then there’s the subject of preaching. Paul warned Timothy that,

“the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Timothy 4:3).

That time came, keeps coming, and will keep on coming because that’s human nature—not to hear “what must I do” but to hear what I want which will make me comfortable, happy and self-satisfied.
May God bless the primitive, simple, Bible believing, Bible living and Bible preaching Church of Christ. And may he bless “seekers” to seek what she, by God’s design has to offer.
Brad Fry

Published in: on January 8, 2020 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Study of Baptism

Ephesians 4:5 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Of all the issues that distinguish us from our religious neighbors, this is the most critical because this issue centrally concerns salvation.
People who believe that baptism is not essential for salvation hold that belief for one of two reasons:

1) They have not been taught what the Bible says about baptism.


2) They have rejected what the Bible says about baptism.

The majority of people in the world today who would describe themselves as evangelical Christians subscribe to a “faith only” approach to salvation.

The “faith only” adherent has 4 basic arguments he uses to support his “faith only” approach to salvation.

Argument #1: “Salvation is by faith alone”

The truth:

• There is only one place in the Bible where the words “faith” and “alone” or “only” are coupled together. That place is James 2:24.
James 2:24 24You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.
Argument #2: “The thief on the cross was saved and he wasn’t baptized (Luke 23:39-43).”

The truth:

• While on earth Jesus could directly forgive anyone’s sins that He chose to.
Matthew 9:6 6“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
• The thief on the cross never lived under the terms of the New Covenant.
Hebrews 9:15-16 15For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.

Jesus promised “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”—the means of entrance—to the apostles.

Matthew 16:19 (NAS)
19“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
On the day of Pentecost the Apostle Peter told those gathered there in Jerusalem what they needed to do to have their sins forgiven, again—the means of entrance.
Acts 2:37-38 37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
• Prove that he was not baptized.
Mark 1:5 5And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
Argument #3: “The apostle Paul said that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:17).”

The truth:

• A simple, responsible and honest treatment of the text reveals that Paul is dealing with the sin of factiousness running rampant in the church in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 1:10-17 10Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 12Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 13Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. 16Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other. 17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.
• Even if Paul had baptized none of them, that doesn’t mean they weren’t baptized when they believed the gospel.
John 4:1-2 1Therefore when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2(although Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were),
Argument #4: “Cornelius and his household were saved before baptism (Acts 10:34-48).”

The truth:
• Again, dealing with the context helps one to see that this passage does not teach that Cornelius and his household were saved before baptism. It teaches that Cornelius and his household “received the Holy Spirit” just as the apostles did (Acts 2:1-11).
• Both receptions of the Holy Spirit prove that “God has granted repentance… that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).
• They were then commanded to be baptized.
Acts 10:47-48 47“Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

Please answer the question that follows each passage of Scripture:

Mark 1:4 4John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

What was John’s baptism for?

John 3:1-5 1Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; 2this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” 3Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

What new birth is required to enter the kingdom of God?

John 3:23 23John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized.

Which requires “much water”, immersion or sprinkling?

Luke 7:28-30 28“I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” 29When all the people and the tax collectors heard this, they acknowledged God’s justice, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

How did the Pharisees and lawyers reject God’s purpose for themselves?

Mark 16:15-16 15And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16“He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

In Jesus’ words, does salvation come before or after baptism?

Acts 2:36-38 36“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What is baptism for?

Some will say this means “be baptized because your sins are forgiven”. Compare this passage to Matthew 26:28. Was Jesus’ blood poured out “for the forgiveness of sins” or “because sins had been forgiven”?

Acts 2:41 41So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

What should you do when you receive the word?

Acts 8:36-38 36As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” 38And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.

Had Philip obviously said something to the eunuch about the necessity of being baptized? Why then and why there? Why not wait two weeks?

Acts 16:31-33 31They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

Why was he immediately baptized?

Can a person be baptized at any time, day or night? Or does he or she need to wait for some scheduled church service?

Acts 19:1-5 1It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. 2He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Is it sometimes necessary for people to be baptized again?

Acts 22:16 16‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

This is three days after Saul met Jesus on the road to Damascus. How is it that he still has a sin problem if one is saved by “faith only”?

Romans 6:3-4 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

What happens when we are baptized?

1 Corinthians 12:13 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

What happens when we are baptized?

Galatians 3:27 27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

What happens when we are baptized?

Ephesians 5:26 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.

How are we sanctified and cleansed?

Colossians 2:11-12 11and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

What happens when we are baptized? In baptism, is our faith to be in ourselves or in God?

1 Peter 3:18-21 18For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; 19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, 20who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. 21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Does the Bible say, “baptism now saves you” or not? How does it do that according to this passage?

Brad Fry

Published in: on April 24, 2019 at 9:28 am  Leave a Comment  

Follow the Steps

In Texas, to get your vehicle registered you have to go through some steps. 1) You must have your vehicle inspected at which time 2) you must provide proof of insurance, and then 3) you must get the vehicle registered.
Your vehicle is not registered if 1) you simply felt in your heart that it was registered, 2) you registered your vehicle in your own way, or 3) you sincerely created your own sticker and applied it to your windshield. The process is not complicated, but it is essential.
The Bible says, “And [Jesus] said to [the apostles], “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:15–16).
No person is saved because: 1) they feel in their heart they are. 2) they had some personal experience. 3) they are sincere. A person is saved because they responded to hearing the gospel in the way that Jesus said they must—they believe, they are baptized and they are saved. The process is not complicated, but it is essential.
Brad Fry

Additional reading: Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-28; Colossians 2:11-12; 1 Peter 3:21.

Published in: on January 9, 2019 at 2:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Old?

We’ve all heard children tell what they want to be when they grow up. We’ve told the same ourselves. When I was a kid, I most remember wanting to be a football coach. Sometimes people end up making a living doing exactly what they said they wanted to when they were children. For the rest of us, life takes turns and twists which alter the course we had planned.
For us all there is an aspiration still ahead which is attainable for all regardless of what our vocation is or has been.

The psalmist prays to the Lord,

The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (ESV, Psa.90:11-12)

The NAS translates verse 12 like this:

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

In order to present a heart of wisdom, we must first get a heart of wisdom. So apply both translations.
Even though others may, I don’t consider myself old yet. But, Lord willing, I will turn 60 at my birthday next year. So what do I want to be when I grow old? I want to be an old gentleman who has grown closer and closer to his Lord as the days and years have gone by. I want to have a reputation that my wife, my daughter and my grandchildren are proud of.
As I grow toward that goal, let this be the prayer of my heart, “With Your counsel You will guide me, And afterward receive me to glory.” (Psalm 73:24). So what do you want to be, when you grow old?
Brad Fry

Published in: on December 5, 2018 at 2:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Way To Do Bible Class

Stick to the schedule.

Different congregations take different approaches to Bible class. Some use study books. Some do topical studies. I once heard an elder from another congregation boast that they had been  studying Revelation for three years and were only in chapter six. For many years the elders at Tolar have seen the importance of staying with a schedule which moves us through the New Testament regularly. In order to give attention to the whole New Testament, we must stick with the schedule. Teachers should not take it upon themselves to move at a slower pace. And if there is too much discussion in class it is the teacher’s responsibility to pick up the pace. Bible class is not enjoyable to most people when the class moves along at a snail’s pace and every word or phrase is parsed and debated. Teachers are given a schedule to teach a particular text of Scripture on Sunday morning and Wednesday night Bible classes. If you agree to teach a Bible class, it is your responsibility to keep that schedule and completely cover that portion of text each week.


Stick to the Bible

Bible class is no place for political posturing and pontificating. Whether you are Republican, Democrat or something else, leave it at home. Do not hijack the discussion so you can air a grievance you have against some office holder or political party. I have a copy of the United States Constitution in my bookcase at home. If we want to have a civics class, I’ll bring it. If we are having a Bible class, I’ll bring my Bible.

 Brad Fry

Published in: on February 1, 2017 at 4:05 pm  Comments (2)  
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Remember the Days of Old

When I was growing up my grandfather, Bob Bradley would often come by the house for a visit, either on his way to, or on his way from a game of dominos that some of the older men in town worked up just about every day. As soon as he came in the door, my mother asked him the same thing every time, “Daddy, do you want a cup of coffee?” And he gave the same answer every time, “Don’t mind if I do.”  If you’re like me, some of the most precious memories we have of years gone by are not necessarily “big things”. They are the common things of everyday life. They are spontaneous, casual and real. They happen over a cup of coffee, a shared meal or a chance meeting at the store or post office.  Last year Shirley came up with an idea for an old dresser that belonged to my grandfather that has been in the garage for years. She decided to make a coffee bar out of it. So she did. For the crowning touch, she made a plaque for the top shelf which reads, “Don’t Mind If I Do”. That coffee bar is the material possession I value most. Because it not only serves my love for coffee, but because it reaches back and touches those days gone by. Next to the sign on the top shelf are coffee cups that belonged to our grandparents, a little coffee grinder, etc.

 “Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7) 

Brad Fry

Published in: on January 23, 2017 at 8:46 am  Leave a Comment  

Reading & Thinking

The seventeenth century philosopher, John Locke wrote, “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.”

Perhaps the reason some people get very little out of reading is that is all they are doing—just reading without thinking, processing and applying. Many have complained, “I can’t read the Bible for very long.” Some say, “I can’t understand the Bible”. Maybe they could if they took the time and thought through what they were reading.

Paul wrote, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, (Ephesians 3:4), But, to be sure, the man who reads glibly or who surrounds himself by distractions, will not perceive Paul’s insight. He is making no real effort to perceive.

The eunuch from Ethiopia was “reading the prophet Isaiah” (Acts 8:30), but needed help to understand what he was reading. That’s normal because some writings, like some of Paul’s, are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). So when you’ve hit a wall, even after you’ve struggled with the text on your own for a while, get some help if you’re still unclear as to what the text means and/or how it applies. But wrestle with it on your own before you tap out and tag a partner.

Prayerfully reading, thinking and ruminating are intellectual and spiritual pleasures. But the sluggard will think them too hard.

Do yourself a favor and accept God’s invitation to think. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Sounds like a pretty good payoff, don’t you think?
Brad Fry

Published in: on November 30, 2016 at 2:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Faith Only Salvation”–a Devil’s Lie

Jesus said to those who rejected him and his word and instead held to their own prejudice and what they had always believed, You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

One of the devil’s most persistent lies is that justification comes through faith only. This false doctrine has been believed and taught by Martin Luther and by most evangelicals since his day. Luther felt so strongly about it that he added the word “only” after the word “faith” in his “translation” of Romans 3:28. As you can imagine, the book of James caused Luther much consternation, so to deal with it he declared it to be “a right strawy epistle” and wrote, “I will not have it in my Bible in the number of the proper chief books, but do not intend thereby to forbid anyone to place and exalt it as he pleases, for there is many a good saying in it.” When I read that the voice of Dana Carvey as the church lady rang in my ears, “Well, isn’t that special?!” He won’t have it in his Bible but he won’t forbid you having it in yours! This would be comical were it not so deadly. Who knows how many people have been lulled into believing that the only thing they have to do is believe?! They go to eternity with a false sense of security that, as long as they believe, nothing else matters! That nonsense ought to frighten us and anger us.

There are people who really do believe that the Bible teaches that you’re saved by faith alone. Yet here is the one place in God’s Holy Word where those two words are side by side:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (James 2:24)

One might be tempted to think that if the devil were going to try to pull the wool over peoples’ eyes in the arena of false doctrine, he would at least word that false doctrine in a way where it is not clearly and diametrically opposed by a statement of Scripture. Yet people have bought it lock, stock and barrel.

Does the Bible teach elsewhere that there is something more than faith that is necessary to be saved? You tell me.

Mark 16:16 16Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

 Luke 6:46 46“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

 James 1:22 22But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

 Romans 8:12–13 12So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

 Acts 10:34–35 34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

 Revelation 20:12 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.


Published in: on December 16, 2015 at 3:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Simple Message for a Simple Salvation

First Things, First The apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). The Bible is a marvelous book which answers many of the questions that people have asked for centuries. But every other question and every other concern pales in comparison to “What must I do to be saved?” In the passage of scripture we just read Paul said of “first importance” was that Christ died for our sins. The Bible makes clear that God holds all people accountable for the lives they live and the choices they make (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:5-11). When we do the things which displease God we sin, literally “miss the mark”. Everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23). If we are going to be right with God we have to be first saved from our sins. That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to save you and me from our sins. God, since He is holy and just, demands that the ultimate price be paid for our sins. But it is also true that God, since He is loving and merciful, has provided the payment for our sins. Both of these truths are found in one verse. Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” When Jesus was crucified He paid the price for my sin and yours. Please take a few minutes now and read the Bible’s account of Jesus’ death in Matthew 27:33-54. On that cross and in His death He bore all the sins of all people for all time. He paid the price so that we could be right with God (2 Corinthians 5:21). After Jesus died His body was taken down from the cross and placed in a tomb belonging to a man named Joseph (Matthew 27:59,60). If the story stopped there it would be another sad ending like so many others. But what happened next was God’s crowning achievement. At the point when Jesus’ followers felt their deepest despair, when they thought they had seen all of their Lord’s work and words slammed shut behind a slab of stone, when Satan surely must have thought he’d won–God did something amazing. He raised Jesus from the dead. Not “spiritually” or “symbolically” or “in a sense”. He raised Him. His silent heart started beating. His blood that had stopped cold started running warm. His lungs filled with air, His eyes opened and He rose! He rose to show us that death is not the end. His resurrection is a promise to you and to me that what God did for His Son, He will do for you and me. He rose to show us the power of God. If God can raise the dead (He can, He has and He will again) what problem or crisis do you and I have that He cannot handle? More than anything else, God wants you to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He gave His Son, Jesus, so that would be possible. There is no other way (John 14:6). Your Part, And You Do Have A Part God has taken the initiative to save us from our sins. The message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, otherwise know in the New Testament as the gospel, is the “power of God for salvation,” (Romans 1:16). But is there anything that we have to do in order to receive the gift of salvation? First of all let’s look at two passages in the Bible. One gives us Jesus’ words just before he left this earth to be with His Father. There He answers the simple, yet all-important question, “What must I do to be saved.” And He gives it a simple, yet all-important answer. In Mark 16:15 Jesus commands His apostles to go and preach the good news to the entire world. Then in verse 16 He tells His apostles what our response must be to that gospel. He states simply “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but He who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” When we do what He tells us to (believe and be baptized) He does what He said He would (save us from our sins). It is no more complicated than that. To believe in Jesus and the facts of His gospel is to trust Him completely. It is to leave behind the days when you thought you could get to heaven by being “good enough”. You can’t. Salvation is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-10). It’s not something you earn or deserve by compiling a certain number of points. But believing in Jesus is also leaving behind living your life your way. When we come to God through faith in Christ we surrender our will to God’s will. That, too, is a matter of grace. Because we’ve all made a mess of our lives doing things our way or the world’s way. One thing God saves us from is ourselves. Then in Acts 2 we have the record of Jesus’ gospel first being preached. The apostle Peter is preaching the message given to him from God when those who heard him were convicted of their sin and anxiously ask, “What shall we do?” Peter’s answer is simply this “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). To repent is to turn away from our old life of sin and turn to serving God. This new life is what God wants for you. And He has made it free to you if you will trust Him and obey Him. What About Baptism? What is the truth about baptism? Is it, as some say, unnecessary for salvation? Is baptism a work of merit that earns us anything before God? Is it merely a symbol that points to what has already taken place? To find the answer, the correct answer, we need to go to the Bible. Let’s see what Jesus and His apostles taught and what the first century church believed. Jesus said that before one can enter the kingdom of God he must be “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Then, in a passage we’ve already looked at He said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Much of the religious teaching today changes up the order of Jesus’ words. Some believe “He who believes shall be saved and then he is baptized.” Who shall we take for our authority, man or God? The rest of the New Testament, where it addresses the purpose of baptism, makes clear its significance. Please take your Bible and read these passages for yourself: Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-7; Galatians 3:26,27; Colossians 2:11,12. In the book of Acts when someone believed the gospel they were baptized then (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36-38; 16:14,15; 16:33) not at a baptismal ceremony a few weeks later. Let’s look at some of the things that are said by sincere people about baptism and see if Scripture supports them. 1. Some say that baptism is “an outward sign of an inward grace”, that it merely symbolizes what has already taken place. Wouldn’t you think that if that were true, that such a description could be found somewhere in the New Testament? But it cannot. Baptism does not symbolize what has already happened, it portrays what is happening. When we are baptized we are dying to our old self, contacting Jesus’ death, and being united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:1-7). The Bible tells us that when we are baptized we are clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27). The Bible tells us that “Baptism now saves you– not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience– through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21). We earn nothing when we are baptized. It is God’s work that saves us at the point of baptism, not our own. Most people who teach that baptism is not necessary for salvation teach that to be saved you need to “pray the sinners prayer and ask Jesus to come into your heart.” Again, if such were the case, don’t you think we would be able to find a Bible passage that teaches that? Yet none exists. The verse that is usually used is Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me.” But when you read the context of verses 14-22 you see that Jesus isn’t talking to people who have never been saved but to a sinful church that has shut Him out. 2. Some say that having water sprinkled or poured on an infant is baptism. While the desire of parents to dedicate their child to the Lord is admirable, this act is of men and not of God. Biblical baptism is for people who are aware that they are sinners, who believe in the gospel of Jesus and who can make a decision of their own to serve God (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16). It is also important to note here that the English word “baptize” is derived from the Greek word “baptizo” which means “to dip, plunge or immerse”. Sprinkling or pouring simply isn’t biblical baptism. Only immersion of those who believe the gospel is biblical baptism. God Wants You To Be Saved God’s message about salvation is really simple. It is the teachings of men through the ages that have made it complicated. Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins and that He was buried and raised to give you an eternal hope? Are you ready now to make Him the Lord of your life and be clothed with Him in baptism? May God bless you as you think about the most important decision of your life. Brad Fry

Published in: on October 22, 2015 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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