Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are ceremonial, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses' law that prefigured Christ. Here are the reasons we hold this view.
- In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is in view. The phrase "a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day" refers to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11). If Paul were referring to special ceremonial dates of rest in that passage, why would he have used the word "Sabbath?" He had already mentioned the ceremonial dates when he spoke of festivals and new moons.
- The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.
- The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath.
- In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).
- Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so. That is certainly strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle.
- There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses, nor are there any commands in the Bible to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.
- When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.
- The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.
- In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).
- In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).
- The early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship (contrary to the claim of many seventh-day sabbatarians who claim that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century).
- Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord's Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).
So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord's people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as "the Sabbath."
John Calvin took a similar position. He wrote,
There were three reasons for giving this [fourth] commandment: First, with the seventh day of rest the Lord wished to give to the people of Israel an image of spiritual rest, whereby believers must cease from their own works in order to let the Lord work in them. Secondly, he wished that there be an established day in which believers might assemble in order to hear his Law and worship him. Thirdly, he willed that one day of rest be granted to servants and to those who live under the power of others so that they might have a relaxation from their labor. The latter, however, is rather an inferred than a principal reason.
As to the first reason, there is no doubt that it ceased in Christ; because he is the truth by the presence of which all images vanish. He is the reality at whose advent all shadows are abandoned. Hence St. Paul (Col. 2:17) that the sabbath has been a shadow of a reality yet to be. And he declares elsewhere its truth when in the letter to the Romans, ch. 6:8, he teaches us that we are buried with Christ in order that by his death we may die to the corruption of our flesh. And this is not done in one day, but during all the course of our life, until altogether dead in our own selves, we may be filled with the life of God. Hence, superstitious observance of days must remain far from Christians.
The two last reasons, however, must not be numbered among the shadows of old. Rather, they are equally valid for all ages. Hence, though the sabbath is abrogated, it so happens among us that we still convene on certain days in order to hear the word of God, to break the [mystic] bread of the Supper, and to offer public prayers; and, moreover, in order that some relaxation from their toil be given to servants and workingmen. As our human weakness does not allow such assemblies to meet every day, the day observed by the Jews has been taken away (as a good device for eliminating superstition) and another day has been destined to this use. This was necessary for securing and maintaining order and peace in the Church.
As the truth therefore was given to the Jews under a figure, so to us on the contrary truth is shown without shadows in order, first of all, that we meditate all our life on a perpetual sabbath from our works so that the Lord may operate in us by his spirit; secondly, in order that we observe the legitimate order of the Church for listening to the word of God, for admin-istering the sacraments, and for public prayers; thirdly, in order that we do not oppress inhumanly with work those who are subject to us. [From Instruction in Faith, Calvin's own 1537 digest of the Institutes, sec. 8, "The Law of the Lord"].
Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?
No. Let's examine what the Scriptures teach on this issue:
First, it is quite clear from such passages as Acts 15 and Romans 4 that no external act is necessary for salvation. Salvation is by divine grace through faith alone (Romans 3:22, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30; 4:5; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9, etc.).
If water baptism were necessary for salvation, we would expect to find it stressed whenever the gospel is presented in Scripture. That is not the case, however. Peter mentioned baptism in his sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). However, in his sermon from Solomon's portico in the Temple (Acts 3:12-26), Peter makes no reference to baptism, but links forgiveness of sin to repentance (3:19). If baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sin, why didn't Peter say so in Acts 3?
Paul never made water baptism any part of his gospel presentations. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Paul gives a concise summary of the gospel message he preached. There is no mention of baptism. In 1 Corinthians 1:17, Paul states that "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel," thus clearly differentiating the gospel from baptism.
Those passages are difficult to understand if water baptism is necessary for salvation. If baptism were part of the gospel itself, necessary for salvation, what good would it have done Paul to preach the gospel, but not baptize? No one would have been saved. Paul clearly understood water baptism to be separate from the gospel, and hence in no way efficacious for salvation.
Perhaps the most convincing refutation of the view that baptism is necessary for salvation are those who were saved apart from baptism. The penitent woman (Luke 7:37-50), the paralytic man (Matthew 9:2), the publican (Luke 18:13-14), and the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) all experienced forgiveness of sins apart from baptism. For that matter, we have no record of the apostles' being baptized, yet Jesus pronounced them clean of their sins (John 15:3--note that the Word of God, not baptism, is what cleansed them).
The Bible also gives us an example of people who were saved before being baptized. In Acts 10:44-48, Cornelius and those with him were converted through Peter's message. That they were saved before being baptized is evident from their reception of the Holy Spirit (v. 44) and the gifts of the Spirit (v. 46) before their baptism. Indeed, it is the fact that they had received the Holy Spirit (and hence were saved) that led Peter to baptize them (cf. v. 47).
One of the basic principles of biblical interpretation is the analogia scriptura, the analogy of Scripture--we must compare Scripture with Scripture in order to understand its full and proper sense. Since the Bible doesn't contradict itself, any interpretation of a specific passage that contradicts the general teaching of the Bible is to be rejected.
Since the general teaching of the Bible is, as we have seen, that baptism and other forms of ritual are not necessary for salvation, no individual passage could teach otherwise. Thus we must look for interpretations of those passages that will be in harmony with the general teaching of Scripture.
With that in mind, let's look briefly at some passages that appear to teach that baptism is required for salvation.
In Acts 2:38, Peter appears to link forgiveness of sins to baptism. But there are several plausible interpretations of this verse that do not connect forgiveness of sin with baptism. It is possible to translate the Greek preposition eis--"because of," or "on the basis of," instead of "for." It is used in that sense in Matthew 3:11; 12:41; and Luke 11:32.
It is also possible to take the clause "and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ" as parenthetical. Support for that interpretation comes from that fact that "repent" and "your" are plural, while "be baptized" is singular, thus setting it off from the rest of the sentence. If that interpretation is correct, the verse would read "Repent (and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ) for the forgiveness of your sins." Forgiveness is thus connected with repentance, not baptism, in keeping with the consistent teaching of the New Testament (cf. Luke 24:47; John 3:18; Acts 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18; Ephesians 5:26).
A third possibility exists, as Wallace explains in Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics:
It is possible that to a first-century Jewish audience (as well as to Peter), the idea of baptism might incorporate both the spiritual reality and the physical symbol. In other words, when one spoke of baptism, he usually meant both ideas--the reality and the ritual. Peter is shown to make the strong connection between these two in chapters 10 and 11. In 11:15-16 he recounts the conversion of Cornelius and friends, pointing out that at the point of their conversion they were baptized by the Holy Spirit. After he had seen this, he declared, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit..." (10:47).Mark 16:16, a verse often quoted to prove baptism is necessary for salvation, is actually a proof of the opposite. Notice that the basis for condemnation in that verse is not the failure to be baptized, but only the failure to believe. Baptism is mentioned in the first part of the verse because it was the outward symbol that always accompanied the inward belief.
The point seems to be that if they have had the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit via spiritual baptism, there ought to be a public testimony/acknowledgment via water baptism as well. This may not only explain Acts 2:38 (viz., that Peter spoke of both reality and picture, though only the reality removes sins), but also why the NT speaks of only baptized believers (as far as we can tell): Water baptism is not a cause of salvation, but a picture; and as such it serves both as a public acknowledgment (by those present) and a public confession (by the convert) that one has been Spirit-baptized.
I might also mention that many textual scholars think it unlikely that vv. 9-20 are an authentic part of Mark's gospel. We can't discuss here all the textual evidence that has caused many New Testament scholars to reject the passage. But you can find a thorough discussion in Bruce Metzger, et al., A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, pp. 122-128, and William Hendriksen, The Gospel of Mark, pp. 682-687.
Water baptism does not seem to be what Peter has in view in 1 Peter 3:21. The English word "baptism" is simply a transliteration of the Greek word baptizo, which means "to immerse." Baptizo does not always refer to water baptism in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; 7:4; 10:38-39; Luke 3:16; 11:38; 12:50; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16; 1 Corinthians 10:2; 12:13).
So Peter is not talking about immersion in water, as the phrase "not the removal of dirt from the flesh" indicates. He is referring to immersion in Christ's death and resurrection through "an appeal to God for a good conscience," or repentance. Again, it is not the outward act that saves, but the internal reality of the Spirit's regenerating work (cf. Titus 3:4-8).
I also do not believe water baptism is in view in Romans 6 or Galatians 3. I see in those passages a reference to the baptism in the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13). For a detailed exposition of those passages, I refer you to my commentaries on Galatians and Romans, or the transcripts my sermons on Galatians 3 and Romans 6.
In Acts 22:16, Paul recounts the words of Ananias to him following his experience on the Damascus road: "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name." It is best to connect the phrase "wash away your sins" with "calling on His name." If we connect it with "be baptized," the Greek participle epikalesamenos ("calling") would have no antecedent. Paul's sins were washed away not by baptism, but by calling on His name.
Water baptism is certainly important, and required of every believer. However, the New Testament does not teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Christ died for all, but few will appropriate His sacrifice.
Often, verses such as John 10:15 will be used to argue that Christ died for the elect only. However, the passage doesn’t say 'only.' It’s true that Christ laid down His life for His sheep, but it doesn’t say Christ laid down His life just, only, singularly, exclusively or solely for his sheep. Consider this, in Romans 10:1 Paul recorded “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.” Does that mean Paul doesn’t desire non-Jews to be saved? No, Paul didn’t address non-Jews in this statement, he only mentioned Israel. In the same way in John 10:15 when Jesus said “…I lay down My life for the sheep...” He didn’t address those for whom He did not lay His life down for, but only for those whom He did lay His life down for. Some might argue it’s implied. However, there are many passages that explicitly state that Christ died for all men.
- Hebrews 2:9-10 states “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Note the passage goes from referring to Christ tasting death for “everyone” to referring to only bringing “many” sons to glory. The person who says “everyone” means only “some” has the burden of proof.
- 1 John 2:2 states “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” The only other time the phrase “holos cosmos” (English ‘whole world‘) appears in 1 John is in 1 John 5:19: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.” One common excuse some will use to explain this passage is that John was saying that Christ is the proposition not just for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. However, 1 John continually mentions the “world,” referring to it as an evil system which opposes God and believers (1 John 2:15-17; 3:1, 13; 5:4-5). The one other time in the epistle that John uses the phrase ‘whole world’ he refers to it as being “…under the sway of the wicked one.” If John wanted to say Christ is the propitiation not just for the elect Jews, but also for the elect Gentiles, he could have just said that. Besides, I think it was likely pretty evident by the last decade of the first century (in which 1 John was likely written) that Gentiles were believers too.
- 2 Peter 2:1 states “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.” The Lord bought even those who will reject Him. They will die in their sins because they rejected the Lord and thus the salvation which comes through Him. The word for ‘bought’(which is also translated ‘redeemed‘) is used in 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; Revelation 5:9.
- 1 Timothy 2:3-7 states “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
- Romans 5:17-19 states “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Scripture clearly teaches that all men won’t be saved from damnation, but the offer is available to all men (Romans 10:13).
- 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 states “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
- Isaiah 53:6 states "All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
Objections and Answers
Did God fail when it comes to those who Christ died for that are going to hell?
First off, this would be a philosophical argument, if the Bible states that Christ died for everyone, then He did. Second, Christ did not fail, His death is sufficient, those going to hell didn’t appropriate the forgiveness through faith which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). One could ask, did God fail with Adam and Eve, with Lucifer and his angels or with rebellious Israel? Concerning Jerusalem the Lord said “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37) Stephen said to the Jews “’You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.’” (Acts 7:51) Did God fail? The answer is of course no, man did, but God will be glorified even in that.
If Christ died for everyone, why will most people be going to hell?
Few find the way which leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14) Christ died for all, but few will appropriate His sacrifice by repenting and believing. Ultimately, God is in control.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
October 10-11, 2009: Phil and I met up to do some evangelizing while on Mill Avenue. To begin our night, we went to the front of the post office. Al Gordon, David Ardito and Richard were out there. Dave (who is with Jews for Jesus) and Shawn Williams also eventually appeared. Shortly after we showed up, Al and Richard went down the road a little further. Phil and David did some open airing, we handed out some tracts and had some conversations. I believe it was around 11 pm when we started heading toward the bars to do some witnessing. Shawn, David and Dave came with us. Along the way, a man pointed out to me a guy who while facing oncoming traffic was peeing in the street. I told the others. There was a police officer nearby and Shawn and David told him. He asked them if they wanted to be the victims of indecent exposure, they said no. The officer said he couldn’t do anything, but talk to the man then. Phil just figured the guy was drunk. We continued on our way. In front of Urban Outfitters, there were some people with some snakes. I gave one of them a tract and got some pictures. When we arrived near the front of the Mill Cue Club, we set up. I believe I started the open airing. Then Phil, David and Shawn took turns open airing as well. As I was talking with an atheistic man, another gentleman named Hector came over to join the conversation. A little later into the evening, he came and asked me for prayer about something specific. I asked Dave to join me and pray with him about his situation. If you are a believer, I request that you also pray for Hector. Eventually, Dave, Shawn and David took off. Not too much later while Phil was open airing, a man came up to him acting like he was ready to pummel him into the ground. Someone who was apparently with him was trying to pull him away (Luke 6:22; 1 Peter 4:14). Eventually, he did leave.
As the night continued, I noticed that a fight was going on in front of the Zuma Grill, a bar right next to the Mill Cue Club. I got out the camera and took some pictures. Then, I thought to myself, blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and went to see if I could do anything. I believe Phil was engaged in a conversation at this point. It seemed as if things were starting to clam down. However, it didn’t take long before the fighting started back up again. The security guy from the bar was getting involved. I decided to call 911 after realizing there wasn’t much I could really do. After I got off the phone, it looked a little like things had calmed down again. However, in actuality the guys who were fighting were just relocating to the right side of the Mill Cue Club. The police showed up and I took some pictures. The officers worked fast at neutralizing the situation and I praise God they did. Phil and I left a bit after 1:30 am.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The Gay Pride Parade
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
We went to Mill Ave. next. We pretty much went directly to the front of the Mill Cue Club to preach. We had many of the normal reactions. Many times during the night, Phil quoted Proverbs 23:29-35 while preaching, which is a great passage for the bars. We had few conversations, some positive and some negative. Somebody actually thanked me for calling 911 last week. There had been a man passed out in front of the bar and the people in line were shouting things like heal him. Somebody threw a lit cigarette at him, others were acting just as unruly toward this man who was just lying there. I called 911 and they quickly came and took him away in an ambulance. Near the end of our night, I spoke to a young man named Shawn who says he was raised a Christian, used to fear God and sin, but just lives for the sake of living now. He did admitted that he been drinking. I went over the Gospel as well as the justice of God with him among other things. I think it was a positive encounter. He even hugged me at the end. Saints, please pray for Shawn. We headed out a bit after 1:00 a.m.. The fight goes on. To God be all the Glory!