SCRIPTURAL ANSWERS TO "COMMON SENSE" QUESTIONS (PART 2)

GARY W. SUMMERS

   

"Pastor" David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church fancies that he has composed some "common sense" questions about Bible topics that preachers in the Lord's church cannot answer. He has only really succeeded in proving that "there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecc. 1:9). We cheerfully therefore provide Scriptural answers to his "common sense" questions.

7. "After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the 'point of no return' so that I cannot regain salvation?" Yes--any sin that a person knows is a sin but refuses to repent of. (See the comments on 1 John 5:16-17 of the preceding point.)

8. "If I committed some sin--whether in thought, word, or deed, one minute before a fatal car crash--would I go to hell if I did not have time to repent of it? And, please, don't just say that it's up to God without giving me a specific Bible reference." Following is a clear Bible reference that Jesus--not man-- is the Judge of all mankind (John 5:27). Returning to 1 John 5:16-17, which apparently Mr. Martin has never studied (since it answers so many of his questions), we see that God distinguishes between a sin of momentary weakness and something that a person persists in, despite his knowledge that such behavior is wrong. The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sins, as long as we acknowledge the wrongdoing (1 John 1:9). Jesus knows our character and whether or not we would have repented and confessed sin if we had been granted the opportunity. For that reason, One wiser than mere men judges us. Perhaps Mr. Martin would like to affirm or deny that a Christian who continually rebels against God and persists in that which he knows is sinful will be saved.

9. "Why does the 'Church of Christ' insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible?" We have never said that there is only one Scriptural name for the church, but Christ is the head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18); therefore, it belongs to Him, and the church of Christ is a valid designation. In fact, many commentators use that precise phrase when referring to the church as it is presented in the Bible. Could Mr. Martin tell us how he derives Baptist Church from the Scriptures?

10. "If the 'Church of Christ' claims to worship God only as 'authorized' by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the 'authority' to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries [sic] in their worship services?" Is Martin so devoid of Baptist arguments that he now has to look to the Christian Church for help? They have been making this argument for over 100 years (to no avail). It would be unrealistic to expect Mr. Martin to understand Bible authority since he has already proven to be a washout at hermeneutics (his blunder on misusing John 16:13).

If no authority exists for hymnals, etc., it would not prove that instrumental music was acceptable; it would only show that we are not consistent in our application of what the Scriptures teach regarding this important subject. But the Bible teaches different types of authority: generic, which involves the use of expedients to facilitate the command (such as hymnals, words, a melody, and a note upon which singers can begin) and specific, such as the command to sing (which excludes any other kind of music). If God simply said, "Make music" or "Sing and play praises to Me," we would have the freedom to use vocal or instrumental music--or both--but the New Testament specifies singing. Similarly, since we are commanded to baptize repentant sinners (Matt. 28:18-20), then a body of water is needed. It could be a lake, a river, a pond, a stream, swimming pool, or (as an expedient) we can maintain a baptistery in our building. All of these are authorized by virtue of the need for a sufficient amount of water.

A hymnal is not required, but how many songs do members of the church have memorized? We can put the words in a book or on an overhead projector, or we could hand them out on sheets of paper (provided we do not violate copyright laws). All of these options are authorized under the commandment to sing. A pitch-pipe is helpful but not required. Some song leaders use one (or a tuning fork) so that everyone can begin together; others just start singing, and eventually everybody joins in, which is not very efficient. All these things are permissible since they only expedite the command to sing. But none of them CHANGES the command to sing. Whether or not we have books or someone uses a pitchpipe, members of the body of Christ are still just singing, nothing more and nothing less.

The same cannot be said of instrumental music; no longer are people just singing; another sound has been added to their voices, and the singing God commanded has been changed into a different kind of music. Mr. Martin cannot find one time when Jesus , the apostles, or the church ever used instrumental music to accompany their singing. Man has not been given the authority to change worship as God designed it. We have authority to use expedients which will fulfill the commandment; we have no authority to alter what God requires of us.

11. "Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one's sins forgiven?" Has Mr. Martin never read Acts 2:36-38; 8:35-39;10:47-48; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-7; Col. 2:12; or 1 Peter 3:21?

"Every time the phrase 'for the remission of sins' occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously!" It is embarrassing to notice the blunder that Mr. Martin has made in this statement. This phrase is used in Matthew 26:28 (and it is identical to the one in Acts 2:38): "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." He obviously is aware of the parallel; so he provides an explanation to dispense with Matthew 26:28. Amazingly, he argues thus:

Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to "take away" sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood.

Martin goes on to make an elaborate argument that people under the Old Testament law were not redeemed until Christ shed His blood on Calvary, which is true. The problem with the entire theory is that it ignores context. In Matthew 26 Jesus is not discussing how people who lived under the patriarchal system or under the law of Moses were saved. No one asked Him a question about them, nor is Jesus referring to them in any way. Martin's explanation of the verse ignores the context because he is trying to discredit Acts 2:38. His prejudice motivates him to twist Matthew 26:28 into something it does not even come close to saying. Below is the pertinent text:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:26-28).

This text describes the moment in which Jesus shows His disciples how to remember His death. Nothing indicates that He is referring only to the sins of individuals from past generations; such would be an artificial restriction. He is speaking only to His apostles here about their need to remember His death for their sins. Later, we are taught that all Christians are to remember this sacrifice in the same way (1 Cor. 11:22-29). Why would the apostles and subsequent Christians be required to keep in memory that Christ had died because God had already forgiven people in the Old Testament?

The fact is that Jesus did die for all mankind (past and present), but He shed His blood so that forgiveness could be made available to all. That this is the correct meaning of Matthew 26 can be seen in the book of Hebrews. The sacrifices made under the law could "never take away sins" (9:11); "But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God" (9:12). Is it not clear that Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice SO THAT our sins might be forgiven? "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption" (9:12). Jesus did not go to the cross because the sins of the people in the Old Testament had been forgiven; He went there to obtain redemption for us all.

Peter is not telling people to repent and be baptized because their sins are forgiven. Common sense will tell that to anyone who treats the text honestly. The people have been convinced, through Peter's preaching of the Gospel, that they have crucified the Son of God; they ask what they should do (Acts 2:36-37). Peter does not say, "If you believe, that's all that's necessary." He does not say, "Repeat the 'sinner's prayer' with me." He answers: "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins...."

How could anyone misunderstand the context of these words? They want to know what to do about the sin they have committed, and Peter singles out repentance and baptism. How could anyone misunderstand that Peter is telling them that in order to obtain forgiveness they must do those two things? No one could make such an intellectual mistake; it is an emotional error. Martin (and a few others) are so committed to Baptist doctrine that they are letting it cloud their judgment--even to the point of arguing that Jesus died because some people’s sins were already forgiven (never mind the rest of us).

Martin also asks in this lengthy question #11: "Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism?" Apparently, he must mean besides Acts 2:38. Perhaps he has read at some time what the Lord said in Mark 16:16: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." Notice here that baptism in water precedes salvation. Another example involves the penitent Saul of Tarsus, who is told by Ananias, "'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord'" (Acts 22:16). Is that a difficult link to see? Burial with Christ in baptism causes us to arise with a new life (since sins are washed away) (Rom. 6:3-5). Baptism is the antitype of the flood, in which eight souls were saved by water (1 Peter 3:20-21).

12. "If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of 'righteousness,' then how can water baptism be a part of salvation?" (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16). Mr. Martin might try reading the verses he uses sometimes to try to find out their meaning instead of trying to win an argument. First, he means Matthew 3:15, not 16. Jesus told John to allow him to baptize Him in order to "fulfill all righteousness." Jesus did not say that baptism was a work of righteousness. Such is an assumption on Martin's part.

Second, baptism is not a work of man; it is the working (operation, KJV) of God (Col. 2:12), but speaking of Titus 3:5, Martin obviously missed the fact that baptism cannot be included as a work of righteousness. After Paul affirms that we are NOT saved by works of righteousness, he then tells by what we were saved--"through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." Most commentaries will agree that "the washing of regeneration" refers to baptism. Stating this point logically, we could say:

a. Mankind is not saved by works of righteousness.
b. Mankind is saved by baptism.
c. Therefore, baptism cannot be classified as a work of righteousness.

Baptism is, rather, the operation of God, in which He removes our sins by the blood of Jesus Christ.

13. "The 'Church of Christ' teaches that 'obeying the Gospel' includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is truth, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism?" First of all, before we answer this question, we want to respond to the repeated mentions of what the "Church of Christ" teaches. We do not have a denominational structure, as the Baptists do. We do not have anything equivalent to the Baptist Manual. We have only the New Testament, and our teachings come from there. In a sense, the church over which Jesus is Head does teach these doctrines because we are subject unto Christ (Eph. 5:24). But Martin is using the phrase in such a way as to imply that we have a formulated set of beliefs to which we adhere similar to what denominations use, and the simple truth is that we do not.

In this final question Martin makes the mistake of assuming what is not stated--that Cornelius and his household were saved because they received a gift of the Holy Spirit. Ordinarily, he would be right, for that is the normal pattern; salvation usually precedes the receiving of a spiritual gift. However, it should be fairly obvious that this instance is an exception to the rule. The coming of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and the others had a specific purpose--to demonstrate to the Jews that God had accepted the Gentiles and that they were worthy of receiving the Gospel.

One must read all of Acts 10-11 to get the full context; the theme of these two chapters is that God has accepted the Gentiles. The point is made first to Peter by means of a thrice-repeated illustration that all meats are clean (10:9-16). God then made the application to Peter by telling him to go to a Gentile's house. Peter understood the point; he told Cornelius: "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (10:28). Further evidence of that fact is seen in the falling of the Holy Spirit upon them (10:44-48).

True to form, when Peter returned to the Jews, the first thing that happened is that he was criticized for having gone to the home of a Gentile (11:2-3). When, however, Peter explains about the Spirit's gift to Cornelius (11:15-17), they accepted the Gentiles as brethren (11:18). God, then, by means of cleansing the unclean meats, giving Peter a direct command to go to Cornelius' house, and sending the Holy Spirit upon them made it clear that the Gentiles were acceptable to God and could receive the Gospel.

But nowhere does the text indicate that they were saved. In fact, the text claims that the opposite is true. As Peter recounts the events, he explains that Cornelius was told to send for him (Peter), "who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved."

Martin should ask himself, "Was Cornelius saved by the Holy Spirit--or by words as the angel promised him?" He implied that the Holy Spirit saved them; God said they would be saved through WORDS (the message preached). Martin might abandon his argument and counter-argue that Peter had told them that Jesus was Lord of all. But they were not saved at that point, either, and the text so affirms: Peter says that the Holy Spirit fell on them as he began to speak (11:15). He had not yet had time to deliver all that they needed to hear. What else did Peter say? He preached to Cornelius what Martin never would. He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord (10:47-48). Then they would be saved.

Martin boasted that no one could answer ANY of his questions; we have answered them ALL. We pray that he will give these matters a great deal of thought, since he is denying the validity of an element of the Gospel which God requires. He is preaching another Gospel, which will cause him to be accursed (Gal. 1:8-9). He should give up Calvinism (the doctrines of men) and pay heed to the Scriptures, which are able to save the soul (James 1:21).

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "SCRIPTURAL ANSWERS TO 'COMMON SENSE' QUESTIONS (PART 2)" (05/26/02)."


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