Archive for the ‘2. Biblical Message’ Category
You surely have heard the old proverbial saying, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” How many people go through life day after day, constantly intending to do something they’ve been neglecting to do or to stop doing something they know they should not be doing? Such intentions cover a wide range of behavior.
How many tobacco smokers, out of personal concern for their health and for others, intend to quit smoking but never quite achieve it? How many alcoholic drinkers intend to quit drinking, because they know their behavior is destructive to themselves and to others who come near them but cannot conquer their compulsion? How many illegal drug addicts find themselves in the same situation? They know their lifestyle is self-destructive, and they intend to get off drugs, but they never seem to do so.
How many people are concerned about their health because they realize they’re seriously overweight? Every month finds another diet routine that seemingly doesn’t work for them. They’re going to lose weight, firm up, look trim and feel good. They’re going to start tomorrow, as soon as they finish that wonderful chocolate cake they just bought. We know the conclusion to that story.
How many unfaithful Christians intend to start back to church services, to renew their spiritual dedication, and get their spiritual lives right with God? However, it seems that there are things they think need to take care of first. However, while they continually intend to take care of those things, they never quite accomplish their good intentions.
How many good Christians intend to talk to a family member, a friend or a co-worker about salvation? They see them often, but they never quite find the opportunity or the courage to speak up. Or, maybe they just can’t think of the right thing to say at the right time. How many keep intending to get more involved in the work and activities of the church? But the time never seems to be quite right. How many members intend to have some of the newer families over to encourage them and get to know them better. But the house always seems to need cleaning, and there’s always something else to do, and we’re tired, and…
How many people who know they’re not walking with the Lord fully intend to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins? But they never seem to make up their mind that now is the right time. Good intentions, every one of them, but so many of them never get past the intention stage. You must have heard the old scenario, “What if a man was on his way intending to be baptized but dies on the way”? Does God save this man? They say yes, and this they do to justify their own procrastination. However, God doesn’t judge us by what we intended to do, but what we actually did. It is true, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions”, but the road to heaven is paved by our obedience and faithfulness to his holy Word (Matt 7:21 ff; Mk 16:16; Rev 2:10).
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Is there only one baptism approved of by God’s Word? Yes, only one, according to Ephesians 4:5. “One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Which baptism is the one approved of by God since many are mentioned in scripture? The answer is discovered in Acts 19:1-7. Here, we are told that while in Ephesus Paul baptized (immersed in water) 12 men in the name of Jesus.
Paul did exactly what Peter taught thousands to do in Acts 2:38. He was doing the same thing Philip did in Samaria (Acts 8:12) and with the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35-38). Each of these men, Peter, Philip and Paul simply taught the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (the Gospel: 1 Cor 15:1-4) and then baptized those who believed in the name of Jesus, that is, by his authority. We know by the commandments of Jesus and his apostles that all who heard the gospel and believed in their heart that Jesus was the Christ and confessed such with their mouth (Rom 10:10), and who had repented of their sins (Lk 13:3) were granted baptism (Acts 2:38).
Notice that the apostle Paul baptized the men in Ephesus in the name of Jesus despite the fact that they had already been baptized under the baptism of John. Obviously, the one baptism was not the baptism of John.
The men at Ephesus had also not been baptized with the Holy Spirit, as they confessed to Paul that they had not heard whether there was a Holy Spirit. After they had been baptized in Jesus name, Paul laid his hands on them so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. The one baptism then is not Holy Spirit baptism. Baptism in Jesus’ name is the same one Ananias had encouraged Paul to receive, according to Acts 9:17-18 and Acts 22:12-16.
Baptism in the name of Jesus was what Peter and Philip preached. Ananias was sent by Jesus himself to baptize Paul in his name. Paul baptized the Ephesians in Jesus’ name. These men were simply fulfilling what Jesus himself had taught in Matthew 28:18-20.
The one baptism found in Ephesians 4:5 is the one Jesus gave us to the end of the age. Thus what Jesus said after his resurrection is true today as it was then: “And he said unto them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be condemned.” All who obey not the gospel shall be punished with everlasting destruction. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thess 1:7-9).
“You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” (Rom 2:21,22)
Surely all Bible students acknowledge that “practicing what we preach” more accurately conveys New Testament doctrine than the idea of “preaching what we practice.” Even so, there is something to be said for preaching what we are practicing. In terms of the standard of teaching (New Testament Scriptures), there should be a genuine effort to proclaim it and to conform our lives to it. While practice will probably never reach the high standard of God’s will in every detail, there must be a wholehearted effort to embrace God’s will in life.
To Timothy, a preacher, instruction was given: “Take heed to yourself, and to your teaching. Continue in these things; for in doing this, you shall save both yourself and them that hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16). No preacher who disregards truth’s application to himself has any business trying to direct others in spiritual matters. It was for this very reason that the apostle directed Timothy to live in such a manner as to remove all opportunity for any detractor to disparage his youthfulness, as he stressed the well rounded example that a proclaimer of God’s word ought to exhibit. “Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12). Paul’s initial charge to the young preacher in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 emphasized the holding of faith and a good conscience, both of which depend upon practicing what one preaches. Several times in his farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, the apostle referred to his manner of life among those in Ephesus, and in verse 35 he summarized, “In all things I gave you an example.” Who can deny, or would even want to deny, the divine imperative to every proclaimer of the truth, “Practice what you preach!”
Preacher, whoever you are, whatever your background, regardless of your level of learning and the amount of time you dedicate to preaching, if you would be effective in helping others, you must give particular attention to your own life. If you value the message that you convey, the souls that you can influence, and your own eternal welfare, you must learn to deny yourself and to crucify yourself as others must do. To fail to do this is to fail in life’s greatest objective, the saving of oneself and all others possible. Truth is truth regardless of whether the proclaimer practices it himself, and each hearer is accountable to Christ for his/her own conduct in relation to truth. It is undeniable, however, that poor portrayal of the gospel in life often hinders its reception by those who might otherwise believe the truth.
The world needs the gospel and consecrated men practicing and proclaiming it. More preachers who practice what they preach are needed, but those who do not practice what they preach are not needed. Only an undivided heart can establish an undiminished influence.
Our God and Father in heaven has ordained that by the preaching of the gospel of Christ, lost men and women shall hear, believe and obey His truth to the saving of the soul from sin’s guilt. Paul said, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). He told our brethren in Corinth that “though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). James, tells us that “of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures” and to “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness (“overflowing of wickedness” – ASV), and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jam. 1:18, 21). Peter says that our souls are purified through obeying the truth through the Spirit and this is accomplished by the word of God, the truth of the gospel (1 Pet. 1:22-25). We are told that only the confessed believer who repents and is baptized shall be saved from their past sins, (Rom 10:10 f; Acts 2:38).
God’s power to save the lost is made known, and is effected and exerted through His Word. “The Word, of God is quick and powerful …and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). This Word of the truth of the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes” (Rom. 1:16 ff; 1 Thess. 2:2, 8,9,13; 1 Pet. 1:22-25). There are believers only where the word of God is taught, where the gospel of Christ is preached. The blood of Christ, who came to seek and to save the lost, and to die for lost sinners, only cleanses those who through faith obey the gospel, being baptized into Christ (1 Pet. 1:18-19 ff; Rom. 5:6-10; 3:21-26; Luke 19:10; Rev. 1:5; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-7).
Preachers are commanded by the God of heaven to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and teaching,” and to “watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:1-5). Without fear, favor of or from men, the true preacher of God’s word is to “Go into all the world,” preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to saint and sinner, friend and foe, male and female, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, every race and nationality, to all those who will believe and to those who will not, doing nothing by partiality (Gal. 1:10 ff; Eph. 3:8-11; 2 Cor. 12:15; 13:8; 1 Tim. 5:21). The welfare of the church and of the world depends upon the faithful, diligent proclamation of God’s word by true and tried preachers. “The word of God is not bound,” and it is to have “free course, and be glorified” (2 Tim. 2:9 f; 2 Thess. 3:1). The only power in all the world that will really change men, turn their hearts from error and evil, and create in them a new and pure heart and good conscience, is the power of God Almighty working through His word of truth.
The world and the church need the gospel preached and taught without addition or subtraction, without compromise or apology, without human wisdom and opinions, without pretense and hypocrisy. Each and every gospel preacher should dedicate himself to this task. God’s work will not return unto Him void if it is proclaimed in all of its power, purity, purpose and perfectness, and if it is not obscured by the faults and failures, sins and shortcomings, doctrines and divisiveness, of those who profess to be its adherents, advocates and apologists.
The call is made to every preacher and teacher in Christ Jesus to spread the good news to the four corners of of the world (Matt 28:19,20 f; Mk 16:15,16). Remember this, the Word of God will not return unto Him void. For Isaiah the prophet truly said, “So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa 55:11). “The Word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Pet 1:25).
To be successful in most any endeavor, we must look at the bright side with a spirit of optimism. All successful people are successful because they made up their minds as to what they wanted to be, and then pursued that field with an optimistic attitude. Many are failures in life because they never make up their mind as to what they are going to do. The same applies to our spiritual life. Paul said, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). We need to optimistically set our minds on the spiritual course that God has outlined for us. Some never do this. They remain in a constant state of indecision and never commit themselves to a responsible position in service to Christ.
The apostle Paul suffered so much for the cause of Christ. He was imprisoned frequently, beaten, shipwrecked three times, often hungry, thirsty, cold and naked (2 Cor. 11:23-28). Yet, Paul was able to put the most favorable light on all these happenings, and “anticipated the best possible outcome.” He stated, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17). It is indeed a remarkable thing, after all he suffered, that Paul called these afflictions light. That is pure optimism at its best. His goal was not to win at this life but to lose it for the cause of Christ, and he was winning! I’m afraid that if we were suffering only a fraction of what he suffered, we would be inclined to call it a “dreadful load. However, the most severe tribulation and affliction are nothing compared with the glory awaiting us. Hence, Paul could be optimistic, and so can we if we are faithful to God.
The Christian has so much for which to be thankful – redemption, forgiveness, joy, hope, contentment, peace, just to mention a few). He also has something wonderful toward which to look forward – Heaven! Surely, this engenders optimism. We can have the attitude of Paul: “I can do all” things through Christ which strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). With the strength derived from the Lord, we can face everything in life with an optimistic spirit.
There is no adverse power greater or mightier than God. Therefore, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31) When we contemplate all that is meant in this passage, a warm, secure feeling is produced in our hearts. How wonderfully bright things become! We may lose our relatives, our earthly friends, our health, and our fortune, but the Lord remains, “for he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). That’s a promise that should make all Christians rejoice, even as Paul commanded all Christians to rejoice in the Lord” (Philip 4:4).
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every work” (2 Cor. 9:8). If our faith is in God, knowing he is indeed able, we can and should have an optimistic outlook toward the various aspects of life. He has provided salvation (Acts 4:12). In time of temptation, he provides a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). In teaching and attempting to convert the lost, he gives patience (1 Cor. 3:7). When we die in the Lord, there is rest provided from our labors, and our works will follow us (Rev. 14:13).
Conclusion: Brethren, don’t be discouraged, but rather let us be content with what we have, knowing the Lord has prepared us a heavenly home! “For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:8). In other words, we are a winner either way. Nothing and no one can snatch us out of the hands of our Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27,28). How much more secure can we be! Let us therefore make the best of every situation_good or bad, set our spiritual goals, and then, reach forward and achieve them! “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).
I had a great aunt who was famous for saying, “A thief will take your money, but a liar will get you killed”. Whenever we lie, we make an alliance with Satan, for that old Devil is the father of all liars (Jn 8:44). It is God who cannot lie and who keeps his promises (Heb 6:12-19). The truth and a lie have nothing in common with one another. There is no such thing as partial truth or a partial lie. Half truths and half lies are just what they appear to be, total lies. Unethical business people often shade the truth in order to sell you something. Politicians will stretch the truth to its fullest in order to gain your vote. False teachers will quote partial truth in order for you to give to their ministry. Let’s be frank about it, as the scripture says, “No lie is of the truth” (1 Jn 2:21). Let’s take a look at what the beloved John said about what defines a lie.
1 John 1:6 says, “If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth.” This is parallel to 2:4, “He that says, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” So, if we claim to have fellowship with God, but walk in darkness, John says we lie.
Since the Scripture is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16), this means that it is God calling such a person a liar. Now, if I called you a liar, it would not make you one, but if God calls you a liar, you are a liar! God makes no mistakes.
“Walk” is a way of life and without reference to time; while “darkness” (sin) is one way of life — moral or spiritual darkness. John says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (v. 5); so, there is no sin with God “at all.”
John goes on to show how this sinfulness can be changed: It is changed by the blood of Christ (v. 7), but only on the condition that we confess our sins (v. 9). Christ is the propitiation for our sins (2:2), and he is our advocate with the Father (2:1); but, it still remains that in order to have fellowship with God, we must rid ourselves of our sins, since there is no darkness at all with the Father. When this is done, the door of fellowship with God is left ajar.
Now, if you claim to have fellowship with God and have not done the necessary things to remove your sins, John says you lie. “. . . all liars shall have their part in the lake with burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death” (Rev.21:8).
1 John 2:22 says, “Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ . . .” John has already said, “no lie is of the truth” (v. 21). Since God’s word is the truth (John 17:17), this amounts to a denial of God’s word. Further, this amounts to a denial of his divine Sonship (5:20), and, a denial of the Father — God himself.
The Gnostics believed that Jesus existed, but they denied that certain divine attributes were his. Matthew 1:23 argues that Jesus was “God with us.” If Jesus was God, he had to possess the attributes of God; otherwise he could not be “God with us.” In Mark 1:22, it is said that Jesus taught them “as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes taught with delegated authority and that from their own priestly officials, and they taught their traditions, opinions, and the Rabbinical teachings. On the other hand, Jesus taught with inherent authority, and he taught the words of his Father (John 12:49). Being all-wise, he could cut through the traditions and teachings of men, and say, “This is it!” His word was law and there was no appeal from it (Ps. 119:89). Thus, the doctrines of men are a lie and has no part of the truth of God. Yea, rather they turn us from the truth (Tit:14). Therefore, when we mix the traditions of men with the doctrine of Christ we have erred from the faith (Matt 15:7-9).
So, in both matter and manner Jesus proved himself to be the divine Son of God, the promised Messiah. If I make him any less than this, I make myself a liar. Again, “. . . all liars have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”
1 John 4:20. “If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar . . .” So, if I claim to love God and hate a brother, I simply am not telling the truth — I am a liar. For the third time, keep in mind that this would be God calling such a liar.
In verse 19 we read, “We love him, because he first loved us.” This, of course, is in reference to God’s love for us; and, who could deny this factual statement. However, this is not true when it comes to loving our brother. We love our brother whether or not he loves us.
In John 13:34-35, Jesus gave the whole world the right to judge whether or not we are his disciples, by the love we have one for another. Since love always does what is best for its object, our love sometimes appears to be cruel (2 Thess. 3:6). Man’s love goes upward to God, outward to our brethren, and downward to our enemies.
“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also” (1 John 4:21). Thus, we are commanded to love one another; and, if I fail to do so, and at the same time claim to love God, John says that I am a liar. And, once again, “all liars have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”
Man needs God for salvation. Man is guilty of sin and doomed to the eternal punishment in hell. However, God acted in his grace and mercy toward mankind to save man from his sin. His grace is displayed in the gift of Jesus Christ who shed his precious blood on Calvary for the sins of the world (1 Jn 2:2). What must man do to be saved by the grace of God as manifested in Christ Jesus?
Salvation is either conditional or unconditional. In the event that salvation is unconditional, then salvation is universal. All men will be saved inasmuch as the grace of God has been manifested toward all men (Tit. 2:11). In that event, no one has any reason to fear eternal damnation for all will be saved; And if the grace of God is given unconditionally but is not universal, there is nothing one can do about his being saved or being lost because salvation occurs by the predetermined and unconditional act of the will of God.
The Scriptures teach that God’s grace is offered to every man (Tit. 2:11-14 ff; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; 1 John 2:1-2), but that it is received conditionally. There is something that man must do to be saved from the consequences of his sin.
This article will examine the conditions for salvation through the grace of God which is made available to us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The Great Commission
When Jesus sent his apostles to preach the gospel to all the world, he told them what men must do to be saved by grace. There are three accounts given of the Great Commission in the gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke. By looking at the sum total of what each says, one can learn the conditions for salvation.
1. Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:18-20). This passage affirms that one must hear the gospel preached and be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in order to be saved from sin. When one does these things, he enters into a fellowship with Christ.
2. Mark 16:15-16. In Mark’s account of the Great Commission, Jesus said, “Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). These passages affirm that one must hear the gospel preached, believe it, and be baptized in order to saved from his sins.
3. Luke 24:46-47. Luke’s account contains these words from Jesus: “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” In this context, Jesus stated that one must hear the preaching of Christ and repent of his sins in order to receive the remission of his sins.
From the Great Commission, one can see what Jesus taught the Apostles to preach in order for man to be saved by the grace of God. God’s grace is manifested in the gift of Jesus Christ whose shed blood makes forgiveness available to every man. Those who hear the saving gospel, believe it with all of their heart, repent of their sins, and are baptized will be saved from their past sins by the grace of God.
The Cases of Conversion
A study of the cases of conversion in the book of Acts helps us to see how they understood the Great Commission and what man has to do to be saved by Christ. The cases of conversion recorded in the book of Acts are briefly discussed below:
The first gospel sermon was preached on the Day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ. (Acts 2) On that occasion, Peter preached the gospel that Jesus commissioned him to preach. His purpose was to tell those assembled to observe the Feast of Pentecost how they can be saved by calling upon the name of the Lord (2:21). Beginning at that point, Peter preached Jesus to the assembly (2:22-36). The conclusion of his sermon is stated in Acts 2:36 — “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Those in the audience who believed responded by saying, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter understood that they were asking what to do to be saved from sin. He replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The conditions for salvation are these: hear the gospel, believe it with all of one’s heart, repent of one’s sin, and be baptized in water.
The second case of conversion recorded in detail in Acts is that of the Samaritans, a mixed race of people who were half-Jew and half-Gentile (Acts 8:4-25). As a result of persecution, the disciples scattered from Jerusalem. An evangelist named Philip traveled to Samaria where he preached the saving gospel to the Samaritan race. The text says, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done” (Acts 8:12-13). The conditions for salvation are these: hear the gospel, believe it with all of one’s heart, repent of one’s sins, and be baptized in water.
The Holy Spirit commanded Philip to leave Samaria to go elsewhere to preach the gospel (Acts 8:26-40). Philip left not knowing where he was going. As he traveled, he met an Ethiopian Jew who was returning from worshiping in Jerusalem. As he was traveling in his chariot, he was reading from Isaiah 53. The Holy Spirit instructed Philip to teach the man. After Philip was invited by the man to travel with him, Philip began from that Scripture (Isa. 53) to preach Jesus. The text reads: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what hinders me to be baptized? And Philip said, If you believe with all thine heart, you may. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him” (Acts 8:35-38). This man heard the gospel preached, believed it with all of his heart, confessed his faith in Christ, and was baptized in order to be saved by Jesus Christ. His “going down into” and “coming up out of” the water indicates that the baptism of the Great Commission is water baptism, an immersion in water. The Ethiopian went on his way rejoicing because he had received salvation through Christ (Acts 8:40).
The next case of conversion recorded in Acts is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the ringleader of Jewish persecution who became the well-known Apostle Paul following his conversion (Acts 9, 22, 26). The account is recorded three times in Acts, the first as told by Luke and the last two accounts as told by Paul himself. By combining these three accounts, here is what we learn that Saul did for salvation. Saul was persecuting Christians. He received authority to go from Jerusalem to Damascus to arrest Christians in that city and bring them back to Jerusalem. On the way to Damascus, Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision. When Saul saw the man in the vision, he asked, “Who are you?” The man responded, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.” Saul asked what the Lord wanted him to do. The Lord did not immediately tell Saul what to do to be saved; instead, he told him to go to Damascus and there it would be told him what he must do (Acts 9:6). The vision left Saul blind. His traveling companions led him into the city where he did not eat or drink for three days; rather, he was giving himself to prayer (Acts 9:11). God sent an evangelist named Ananias to Saul. When he arrived, he told Saul that Jesus had sent him to Saul and healed Saul’s blindness, thus confirming that he was the one sent to Saul by God. But still Saul’s sins had not been washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why do you wait? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Saul of Tarsus heard the gospel preached, believed it with all of his heart, and was baptized in order to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ.
Cornelius was the first Gentile convert to the gospel (Acts 10-11). He was a morally upright man, being described by the Holy Spirit as follows: “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:1-2). Despite these moral attributes, Cornelius was still a lost man because he was a sinner. An angel appeared to him, giving him instruction to send to Joppa for Peter who “shall tell you words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved ” (Acts 11:14). When Peter arrived, he had learned that the same gospel that saves Jews and Samaritans is sent to Gentiles as well. He said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness, is accepted with him” (Acts 10:34-35). Cornelius had assembled his family and friends together to hear what Peter had to say. Peter preached Jesus to them. As he was preaching, the Holy Spirit fell on the house of Cornelius to convince the Jewish brethren who came with Peter that Gentiles could be saved through faith in Christ. When this happened, Peter said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days” (Acts 10:47-48). Later when Jewish brethren challenged what Peter had done, he told them what had happened. They replied, “Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). The Gentiles heard the gospel preached, believed it (Acts 15:7), repented of their sins, and were baptized in water to be saved by the grace of God.
The first European convert recorded in Scripture is a woman named Lydia (Acts 16:14-15). The Scripture tells of her conversion at Philippi as follows: “And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.” This woman heard the gospel preached and was baptized.
Paul labored in Philippi for some time (Acts 16:25-34). After healing a demon-possessed woman, her masters had Paul and Silas thrown into jail. They were beaten and put in stocks. At midnight they were singing and praying to God when an earthquake came that loosed the bonds of the prisoners and opened the prison doors. The jailer ran out and, thinking that the prisoners for whom he was responsible with his life had escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself. Paul told him not to harm himself for all the prisoners were there. This man said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house” (Acts 16:31). Inasmuch as this jailer did not know Jesus, he took Paul and Silas into his house where they taught him the gospel. The Scripture continues, “And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:32-33). The jailer heard the gospel, believed it with all of his heart, and was baptized in water.
Later in Paul’s missionary journey, he preached in Corinth (Acts 18:8). The Scriptures simply say, “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). The Corinthians heard the gospel preached, believed it, and were baptized.
From these cases of conversion that are recorded in Acts, one can learn what he must do to be saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ Jesus. He must hear the gospel, believe it with all of his heart, confess his faith in Christ, repent of his sins, and be baptized (immersed) in water for the remission of his sins. These are the conditions for man to be saved from his sins by the blood of Christ.
Conclusion: If you have believed the gospel and resolved to turn away from your sins, one thing stands between you and salvation — water baptism for the remission of your sins. Have you obeyed the gospel? What good reason can you think of for postponing obedience to the gospel? The Philippian jailer was baptized the “same hour of the night” when he heard the gospel (Acts 16:33); the eunuch stopped the chariot as he and Philip traveled in order that he could be baptized immediately (Acts 8:38). Saul was so full of guilt for his sins that he neither ate a bite nor drank a drop between the time he learned what he needed to do to be saved and his obedience (Acts 9:9). These people saw their need to be baptized in water so that their souls could be saved from the punishment of sin.
One who has not obeyed the gospel to receive the forgiveness of his sins needs to do so immediately. Why stand in jeopardy every hour (1 Cor 15:30). Have you been baptized? If not, why not? Now is the acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). Why not obey the gospel now?
You’ve got to stand for something or you will fall for anything. It’s true that many devious politicians will flip flop like a fish out of water on everything that they say and do. One day they are for something, tomorrow they are against it, and the next day they are not sure. They are good at following poll numbers as to what is popular, but they have no inner core of convictions. Politicians fraudulently do this to persuade as many voters into voting for them. However, as bad as this appears in the political world, it is much worse when it comes to preachers, teachers, and elders. They do such things to appease gullible members to remain and give them their money.
There are many passages which teach us the importance of “taking a stand” for God, and against the Devil and error. Paul told the Ephesians to, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. . . Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. . . Stand therefore” (Eph. 6:11-14). He also reminded the Corinthians of the meaning of being a Christian. He said, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein you stand” (1 Cor. 15:1). As he was closing his first epistle to Corinth, Paul admonished, “Watch you, stand firm in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor 16:13). Paul said to the Philippians that he wanted to hear “that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). He also told these brethren to “stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1). Several other New Testament passages require that Christians take a stand for Truth, against error (Rom.5:2 ff; Col. 4:12; 1 Thess. 3:8; 2 Thess. 2:15; 1 Pet. 5:12). The responsibility is clearly and emphatically appointed to us – Take a stand with and for God, for truth, and against sin.
One would suppose that a faithful Christian would look at this evidence and take a stand. Many do! But, many others don’t! When Paul wrote to Timothy, he said, “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me” (2 Tim. 4:16). Most of us would like to think we would have stood firmly with him for the truth. But just “thinking” it is not “doing” it. Thus, he warned, “Wherefore let him that thinks he stands take heed unless he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). There is an ever present danger that we will not carry through with our convictions and stand for right, against evil. The road of time is littered with the remains of those who knew that they should have stood for Christ and the gospel, but failed to do so. “The cause of truth has suffered immeasurably because God’s people did not find the courage at the hour of trial to stand for that cause.” Too many fell for error!
The Apostle Paul addressed the question of “falling for anything” when he talked about the edification of God’s people. He wrote, “That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14). When Jesus warned of the danger which false teachers present, he said, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14). Note Peter’s warning: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17).
It is evident that a failure to stand for Truth, subjects us to the possibility that we will fall for error. God’s people have not been diligent in guarding against this danger. Practically every generation has had “issues” of right and wrong with which to grapple, and each time these questions arise, scores “fall for” error. There is no way to measure what the strength of the church today would be if we had not lost these people through apostasy. Had they stood for the truth of God’s word, they would not have fallen for such errors as instrumental music, missionary societies, benevolent societies, church supported colleges and fellowship halls.
I trust that by now you are aware that a major problem is developing in the church regarding the truth about marriage, divorce and remarriage. I thought we knew the basic truth about this subject, but evidently we don’t. Those who are teaching error regarding the matter are men who should know better. Moses in the old testament allowed men for the hardness of their heart to give a writing of divorcement to their wives and that for any reason (Deut 24:1). Women were never allowed to divorce their husbands and be remarried to another man. We know God hates divorce (Mal 2:16) and didn’t allow anyone in the new testament to commit more adultery as many suggest today. No! God reduced the husband to only divorce his wife and remarry if the cause for the divorce was fornication (Mt 5:32 f; Mt 19:9). Women are commanded to remain married to their husband until he dies in order to be remarried to another man (Rom 7:2,3 f; 1 Cor 7:39). If she divorces her husband she must remain unmarried or be reconciled back to her husband (1 Cor 7:10,11). Many in the church today teaches God allows divorce for both the man and the woman if the cause be for fornication. Brethren, not one scripture says such. No not one! Such is taught to keep brethren in the church pews in order for them to open up their pocket books.
Notice the words of Paul concerning false teachers. “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom 16:17-19). These are the kind of preachers who will tell you anything that you want to hear in order to make gain from you. After all, the larger the crowds who attend their assembly, the more they have job security.
History and the Scriptures say that they will teach their error and many will fall for it (Acts 20:29-30). It is not yet possible to determine what the effect of their heresy will be. It is rather obvious that it will not be good for the cause of our Lord. So, the warning that “you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything, ” is an appropriate warning again. We had better make up our minds to stand for the Truth about God’s teaching on marriage or we will fall for anything that false teachers might say on the subject, depending upon the confidence we happen to have in the false teacher. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1-2). Does history always have to repeat itself, or will God’s people finally learn to stand for the truth of God? Only when we continue in God’s Word are we truly God’s chosen people and free from sin (Jn 8:31,32).