Archive for September, 2006

Is Baptism Essential for Salvation?

To establish where we are going the answer in a word is: NO.

Some who believe in works salvation assert it is an essential act of obedience in order to receive salvation.

Scripture declares salvation is by the grace of God not of works (Ephesians 2:8,9). We are not saved by works but to work (Ephesians 2:10). We are not baptized in order to be saved but because we have been saved.

There are more than 150 verses in the New Testament that assert salvation is based on God’s grace and it efficacious when man responds with a faith commitment. Some texts are:
Matthew 26:28; John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 47; Acts 16:31, Ephesians 2:8,9; II Timothy 1:12; Hebrew 9:14; Revelation 1:5.

These and other texts eliminate all human efforts to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor.

If in studying Scripture there is a verse the meaning of which is cloudy turn to a text on the same subject which is clear and interpret the unclear one in light of the clear one. That is, when a passage standing alone seems to have one or two meanings always accept the one in harmony with other texts.

Persons insisting on baptism being essential to salvation group unclear texts and select their personal preference without regard for the clear ones on the subject. They often take an additional step and disregard the clear passages or at best misinterpret them.

There are some passages that standing alone appear to support the position that baptism is essential to salvation. These when properly understood in relation to salvation by grace through faith and not of works become clear. Some such are:

MARK 16: 16
“He that believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

The last phrase of verse 16 makes it clear not being baptized is not what causes a person not to be saved, but not trusting in Christ is.

ACTS 2: 38
“Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins….”

The Greek word translated “for,” eis, can be translated “because” and often has the meaning of “because of.”

One may say, “I am going to the mall for a pair of shoes,” meaning to get a pair of shoes. Used in this way “for” means to obtain a pair of shoes.

One may say, “I am going to jail for shoplifting a pair of shoes.” Used in this manner “for” means “because of” stealing a pair of shoes.

This verse does not teach a person is baptized in order to obtain salvation but because of being saved.

ACTS 22: 16
“Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

A bit of understanding of the meaning of the Greek from which this is translated helps.

“Arise” and “wash” are two Greek imperatives.

“Baptized” and “calling” are two Greek aorist participles.

The participles “baptized” and “calling” are thus to be understood at the same time as the action of the main verb. The washing away of sins is thus seen as a result of having called on the Lord. This harmonized this passage with the many teaching salvation is by grace alone.

JOHN 3: 1,5
Water as mentioned here refers to water involved in physical birth not baptism.

Physical birth is referred to as being born of “water” and spiritual birth, the second birth, is the reference of being “born of the Spirit.”

I CORINTHIANS 12:13
“For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body—….”

As an act the word “baptized,” baptizo, meant to immerse. It was used to speak of being identified with a person or thing. Persons were spoken of as being “baptized unto Moses” (I Cor. 10:2). Such did not mean they were immersed in Moses but rather identified with him. Hence, by the Spirit we are identified with the body of Christ.

The “body” referenced here is not the local church but the spiritual body of Christ” (Ephesians 1:22,23).

This passage does not refer to water baptism but to the baptism of the Spirit into Christ.  

I PETER 3:21
“There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  

Bottom line: salvation is possible because Christ is risen from the dead not our putting away the filth of the flesh.

Verse 20 helps understand this verse. The eight saved in the days of Noah were saved “though water” not by the water. “…were brought safely through the water” is the translation give by “The New Testament in Modern Speech.”

Baptism is the answer “of a good conscience toward God.” The Greek word translated “answer,” eperotema, is a technical business term. In a business contract there is a time of question and answer: “Do you understand and accept the terms of this contract and agree to abide by them?” With the answer of “yes” the contract becomes binding.

This verse means God wants to know if you accept His terms of salvation and service in my Kingdom and will you abide by them? If so, signify it by being baptized. Baptism is intended to be a “Yes” answer to the question. Baptism is an act which is intended to say, “I accept the terms of God, that is, that I have been saved by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is my good conscience pledge that I have accepted Christ and His terms.”

The idea of the effectiveness of baptism is contingent upon the resurrection of our Lord and the grace it provides. It is His grace not baptism that saves a person. Baptism is our pledge of commitment to the resurrected Lord.

ROMANS 6:1-8
This reference is not to water baptism but Spirit baptism. Persons thinking it to refer to water baptism find no encouragement in the text to support such a concept.

Church Discipline

MATTHEW 18: 15-17
The church community needs to know how to deal with failure and sin. This necessitates a pattern for reconciliation. If action is taken the person “sinned against” is to initiate the action of restoration. The goal is to win and restore relationships.

A surface reading of the passage is much more legalistic than anything Jesus ever said. A background of the day and the spirit of Christ helps understanding what it actually teaches.

First, the church did not exist during Christ’s life time. The passage seems to represent a fully organized and functioning church such as today. This could not have been the reference.

The Greek word translated “church” in this passage is EKKLESIA. It was a common term for those called out, a congregation of any sort. In Acts 7:38 it is used to refer to the congregation of the children of Israel.

As EKKLESIA relates to the New Testament church it has a two fold application:

Matthew 18: 17 refers to “heathen and tax collectors.” It should be remembered Jesus was accused of being a friend of such people (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34). He never spoke of them as hopeless outsiders. On occasion He even praised them: Matthew 9:10ff,11:19; 21:23; and Luke 18:10ff.

Notice the individual “sins against you” indicates it is a personal matter not a group affair. The issue is one to be settled between two people. The subject at hand is stated, “if your brother sins against you” (Vs. 15). This does not grant the right to legislate what is and what isn’t sin. The sin of reference in verse 15 is in context identified in verse 10 as despising a person and is not a reference to all wrong. In light of Peter’s question posed in verse 21, it has to do with a personal difference. This is one of the “little ones” (Vs. 10) who has gone “astray” (Vs. 12). The purpose is to get back the “straying” one (Vs. 12).

STEP ONE:

Go to the individual privately to avoid embarrassment and show honor for the offender. The norm often is to talk to everyone but the one considered to be an offended. It is between two people. 

The spirit of what Christ said was, “If anyone sins against you it is your responsibility to take the initiative and spare no effort to make things right between you.” This is to be a personal meeting between the two not an email or letter. It is not to be done with a censorious spirit but a sympathetic one. The purpose is to gain your brother (Vs. 15).

The passage does not limit the number of times the offended person is to go to the offended in order to be reconciled.

Peter’s question and Christ’s answer in Matthew 18:21 indicates how tolerant a person should be of an offender: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Christ’s answer, “seventy times seven” reveals the spirit of genuine forgiveness knows no limits. Forgiveness is a condition of the heart not a matter to be calculated. What Christ meant was forgive without ever stopping.

STEP TWO:

If that fails take a small group of responsible wise persons who are Spirit filled and mature in the Bible and go again. Deuteronomy 19: 15 is a background for this saying.

This step can be a check-off for the person who considers him or herself to be offended. It is at this point the seriousness of the matter becomes apparent. It may lead the one considered to be offended to realize the “offense” may not justify this serious step.

The purposes of the witnesses is not just to condemn the person. The witnesses might well help the one who considers self to be sinned against to see his fault in the matter and prevent demands for reconciliation that are excessive or improper. The witnesses must be objective and fair to both parties. The witnesses can help talk things over in a loving positive atmosphere. The witnesses are not simply to witness against the offender but to be sure the one offended is not unreasonable. They thus protect all parties including the alleged offender.

STEP THREE:

If that doesn’t resolve the issue then a larger responsible group of mature loving believers can become involved. Their judgements must not be legalistic but rather based on love. The EKKLESIA does not mandate the entire church body as constituted today. Again, such did not exist at the time of this statement. It can be a responsible group of mature, Spirit filled, loving individuals with a good understanding of scriptural standards. The text would allow this. No “Judicial Board” should be elected to serve this function. Different people can be utilized in different cases. However, if a local church insists on the entire congregation being involved that also is permissible.

At some point the act of the unrepentant must be told to the church (Vs. 17). If this dramatic action does not lead the person to realize the gravity of his or her action and “he refuses even to hear the church” (Vs. 17). There is then reason for discipline.

If this fails Jesus says the person is to be treated “like a heathen and tax collector” (Matthew 18: 17).

Many interpret this to mean the person is to be treated as hopeless. That is not how Jesus treated heathen and tax collectors. A study of Scripture reveals He treated them with kindness and compassion. Matthew and Zacchaeus, two tax collectors, were drawn to Christ as best friends. Christ even dined with Zacchaeus.

Whatever this passage teaches it does not teach a person should be abandoned. It is a challenge to love and win him for Christ.

The idea of a local church electing to “withdraw fellowship”is contrary to the intent of this passage. If it wants to cancel formal membership that is another thing. The teaching of the passage is that if the church undertakes to discipline a person it commits itself to continued efforts to restore such a one.

Matthew 18: 18 used the expression “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven….”

This does not mean we have the authority to or not to forgive sins and bar a person from heaven. It teaches earthly relationships are lasting. Therefore, we should get them right.
MODERN ENACTMENT:

If a church congregation decides to bring a person before them and charge the person with specific sin caution must be exercised. In our culture a person can sue the church even if guilty as accused. If the body is going to conduct a hearing regarding a sinner a statement should be read before the proceeding begins that a matter of business is to be conducted by the church as an incorporated body and only members of the incorporation, the church, can be in attendance, all others are asked to excuse themselves. Once it is determined only members of the local church are present the proceeding can begin. Every conceivable effort should be made to avoid a matter coming to this end.

Calvinism and Non-Calvinism

The Acrostic “Tulip” Has Long Been Used to Identify the Five Points of Calvinism. Following Is a Response of a Position on These Same Five Points Based on an Acrostic of “Roses.” Belatedly I Have Come to Understand Dr. Timothy George Previously Used “Roses” As an Acrostic Giving Meaning Other Than Is Applied Here. With an Acknowledgment of His Use of the Terms the Following Alternate Application Is Offered. These Points Represent the Position Held by Non-Calvinists.
the Points As Utilized in the “Tulip” Are Not in Order of the Spelling but Are Listed As They Relate to a Similar Point Made by “Roses.”

Roses Tulip
Radical Depravity Total Depravity
These Two Points Agree We Can Do Nothing to Save Ourselves. These Points Are Enough Alike They Are Acceptable by Most Baptists.Overcoming Grace Irresistible Grace

Overcoming Grace Agrees That God Accomplishes Salvation
but Rather Than by a Deterministic Means He Allows Human Responsiveness to His Constant Wooing. Irresistible Grace Is Broadly Denied by Most Baptists in That It Teaches Those Predestined to Be Saved Can’t Resist Salvation.

Sovereign Election Unconditional Election
Sovereign Grace Allows for a Genuine Human Accountability to Respond to God. These Two Points Are Enough Alike They Are Acceptable by Most Baptists.Eternal Life Perseverance of the Saint

Perseverance of the Saints Suggest That Though We Are Saved by Grace We Are Kept by Works. We Are Saved and Kept by Grace.
Eternal Life Better Conveys This Idea. These Two Points Are Enough Alike They Are Accepted by Most Baptists.

Singular Redemption Limited Atonement
Singular Redemption Asserts Jesus Death Alone Is Sufficient to Save Everyone but Is Efficient Only for Those Who of Their Own Free Will Respond to the Grace of God and Repent and Believe. Limited Atonement Is the Least Acceptable by Most Baptists in That It Teaches Only Those Chosen by God Will Be Saved, That Is, Christ Died Only for Those Predestined to Be Saved.

Foreknowledge and Predestination

ROMANS 8: 29, 30
“For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

In the beginning God said, “Let us make man in our own image…” (Genesis 1:26).

In the sin of Adam and Eve this image was distorted. Therefore, “Christ came who is the “expressed image” of God (Hebrews 1: 3). The purpose is that we might “be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

The truths revealed in verses 29 and 30 grow out of “purpose”, in verse 28. They pertain to “those who love God, to those who are the called…” All the finite verbs in these verses are aorist tenses, meaning the action happened at a point in time in the past with a result that will last until, and be perfected in, eternity.

All of these attributes must be understood in light of God’s love, for “God is love” (I John 4:8).

In considering this topic it should be noted nothing in the foreknowledge of God denies the necessity of human responsibility and nothing man can do will ever circumvent or in the slightest detract from the omnipotence of God.

The character of Christ is revealed by five blessings referred to in these verses as introduced by “For.”

A. “whom He foreknew,” PROGINOSKO, means to know in advance. To know in advance does not mean to make it happen. At some point God is going to know what happens. In His loving wisdom He happens to know in advance what the individuals’ free choice will be. If, from a vantage point on a mountain, a person can see a road on a distant mountain with a car speeding toward a curve, around which a bridge is out, that does not mean he/she makes that car go over the precipice when it rounds the curve.

God’s foreknowledge of an event does not mean He willed it or caused it to happen. God’s foreknowledge of an event does not mean He arbitrarily causes it to happen. While joyously acknowledging God’s sovereignty man’s equally important free will granted him by God must not be ignored.
God is more concerned with “whom” He foreknew than with what He foreknew.
An understanding of the omniscience (full knowledge of God) would be aided if we had a better understanding of time. John 1:1 opens with the words “In the beginning…” The text literally means “before time began to begin…” Time itself was a part of creation. Christ spoke of a time when the world would and “time” should be no more (Matthew 13:39,40,49; 24:3,31). Before creation there was no time and at the end of the world time will cease to be. From God’s vantage point in eternity His perspective of everything is it is always in the present.

The Psalmists framed this for us in these words: “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Psalm 90:2). Meaning “from vanishing point in times past to vanishing point in the future God always has been and always will be.” Our capacity to think of the beginning and end of time reaches a limit and our capacity to conceive of eternity ends.
Astronomers and physicists are giving us a hint of this by showing there is no time on the cusps of black holes in deep outer space. [For a fuller explanation of this visit www.nelsonprice.com and under “Price Tags” click on “Time Helps us Understand Eternity.”]

What God foreknew was that Christ “…was foreordained before the foundation of the world…” (I Peter 1:20)to be the means of restoring man in God’s image in eternity. Christ was “elected,” that is, chosen as the means of reconciliation.

God in His grace takes the initiative in saving persons. Otherwise there would be no salvation.

B. “He also predestined,” (foreordained), HORIZO, means to set a boundary. It was a surveyor’s term meaning to set the boundary. The prefix PRO means that God did it in advance. In illustration of this, consider the borders of the state of Georgia. They have been surveyed and identified. It has been predetermined that all who live within those borders will be a Georgian. As applied, this means that in a pre-creation council of the Trinity, they marked off the boundary and predetermined that all who would choose to be “in Christ” would share His destiny. (Eph. 1: 3 – 14).
In some theological circles predestination has taken on a theological meaning God has predetermined every person’s fate in His sovereign will without regard for man’s free will. This concept makes null and void every Scriptural exhortation to evangelize and strikes a death blow to missions. It also makes God responsible for all of man’s acts, including sin.
At no point does Scripture present election or predestination to the exclusion of or in conflict with the concept of man’s free will.

God having predetermined that people through faith in Christ could come to Him, intervenes in their affairs and reveals this truth to them in various ways and by different methods.
The compound Greek word meaning “conformed” means to bring into the same form or likeness. “Image,” EIKON, means exact likeness. The gradual process is that of God changing us inwardly to be in the same exact likeness of His Son. That is part of the good that all things are working together to achieve. Christ is the very “image of God.” Human kind was created “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27), but this image became distorted by sin. It is the purpose of the Father to gradually restore this image in every believer. That is part of the “good” toward which all things are working.

C. “so that they might be the firstborn among many brothers,” PROTOTOKOS, the resurrected Christ was the “firstborn among many brethren.” In the Greek word, our word prototype can be heard. The term does not just refer to chronology but principally to preeminence — Phil. 2: 9 – 10, “a name above every name.”

A rebellion began in the Garden of Eden. Immediately, God set about to call the rebels back to Himself and create an eternally-saved community of people “in Christ” among whom Christ would be preeminent. That is part of “the good” toward which things are working.
D. “these He also called,” KALEO, carries the weight of a summons. Having set the boundary, God has summonsed all persons to use their free will and cease and desist what they are doing and choose to come within the boundary, that is, to receive Christ.

God’s calling is according to His purpose not His foreknowledge.

E. “and whom He justified, these He also glorified,”
DIKAIOO means “to deem to be right or shown to be right.” Those justified are declared worthy to stand before the Lord as just in Jesus.

DOXAZO means to “do honor to, to make glorious.” Those who have already been justified can look forward with certainty to the day in eternity when they will experience the sum-total of glory in Heaven. It is as sure as though they had already been there 10,000 years. It is inevitable. This is the ultimate “good” that all things are working together to accomplish. Every believer has already been glorified in Christ (John 17: 22). It has been declared so in the past and all things are working toward that incontrovertible certain eventually.

This passage confirms the doctrine of eternal security. Every person who has been saved by Jesus Christ WILL be glorified, without exception. Once persons become believers everything works together for their good, therefore, nothing could result in their ultimate evil, their damnation. This is “according to His purpose.”

Man is free to choose to do whatever is desired, but God has freely chosen to make all those things work together for good to those “who love God, to those who are called.”

Scripture time after time depicts God as acting “in love.” Consider this scenario.

A mass of human beings are standing at the bus stop called “Planet Earth.” God comes along driving the “Heaven Bound” bus. He stops to let persons on. All who get on are going to heaven. As they start boarding He says to you, I choose for you not to get on. My choice regarding you is that you wait for the next bus.” You look around and there are pleading children and adults who have been refused the right to get on the bus.

You protest that there is only one other bus, the “Hell Bound” bus and you don’t want to get on it.”

God insists He has chosen for you to get on that other bus and closes the door of the “Heaven Bound” bus. Doomed, you have not been chosen by God to go to heaven.

That summary illustration of predestination and election makes it hard to understand such a God as acting “in love.”

God so loved the world He said in effect, “Whosoever will let him get on my bus. Your passage was paid for by Christ.”

God’s grace is the only means whereby one can be saved. Grace is God giving to us everything He demands from us without us deserving it in the first place. Man can do nothing to earn, merit, or deserve God’s favor. Salvation is a “gift” from God. However, as with all gifts it is incumbent upon the one to whom it is offered to be responsible for receiving it. Its reception is a confirmation of God grace.

If God arbitrarily chooses some and rejects others there is a strange and terrible selectivity to His love.

The hand that receives a glass of water for a thirsty person does not satisfy the thirst. It is the water which does. The hand is merely the glad response of the thirsty person for the gift of water. Likewise, our faith in believing does not save us it is the “water of life,” Christ who does. All merit is in Him. Our faith is merely our glad receptive response.

This grace is no cheap thing. Proper response to it involves more than a mere “I believe.” It’s reception results in a responsible life-style which confirms it as a gift received as evidenced in Titus 2:11, 12: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age….”

You were saved unto glory, and all things are working to that end. His purpose is:

THAT IN ALL THINGS
HE MIGHT HAVE
THE PRE-EMINENCE.

COLOSSIANS 1:18

ACTS 13: 48
“As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” NKJ

It should be noticed the setting of this verse indicates it relates not to individuals but to two classes — Jews and Gentiles. It further divides the second group into those who believed and those who did not. It was God’s will for both groups to be saved but this did not take away individual free will. With all the guiding circumstances and prevenient grace afforded they freely rejected God’s will. The Jews had also received the same call to eternal life as the Gentiles and rejected it.

The view that this passage teaches predestination was begun by Jerome who revised the old Latin in order to assert the coming to faith and salvation is the product of predestinatory eternal decree. Calvin became the exponent of the concept that those included in this decree are irresistibly brought to faith and all others are doomed by this decree.

The Greek word tasso translated “ordained” was a term used of military ranks. It was used to describe ranks, that is groups, of soldiers. Thus, “As many as marshalled themselves, were placed in the ranks of those who welcomed the offer of eternal life.”

All who have believed in Jesus and received the gift of eternal life ascribe all the credit to God’s grace, not any merit on their behalf.

The opposite is not true. In this same passage (vs. 46) those who rejected the gospel are said to have done so deliberately of their own will. Therein they are said to have “rejected it.”

There is nothing predestinarian about this verse. It simply means God foreknew who would make the wilful decision to trust Christ and affirmed for them eternal life. Again it should be noted foreknowledge does not mean God makes a thing happen.

In His foreknowledge God saw some would exercise their free will and repent and believe, while others would refuse to do so. Those who repent and believe are by God put in the ranks of the ones ordained to eternal life.

God is not depicted as ordaining the act of believing or the act of unbelief. These are acts of man’s free will.

Order of words is important. In this text “believed” comes first. Thus, “And as many as believed had been appointed to eternal life.” Upon believing their appointment to eternal life became a reality.

All who accept the gospel by faith are ordained to eternal life. To assert this text teaches preordination to life is to force both the word and the context to a meaning neither has.

Calvinism

John Calvin (1509-1564) was a prominent theological figure of the 16th Century in Europe.

He is best known for his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” in which he advocated a church state, imprisonment of heretics, infant baptism, and that the lost were created to go to hell. Not all Calvinists believe all these tenets. Many don’t even know he advocated them. He postulated what has become known as “Calvinism,” the doctrine of predestination. The central thesis of his teaching is that God has preselected certain individuals who will be saved and go to heaven and predetermined certain ones not selected by Him shall go to hell.

“The Westminister Confession of Faith” is the most widely held Presbyterian creed and is based on Calvinism states: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined to everlasting life and others are foreordained to everlasting death.” This clearly teaches God in His sovereignty chose to damn some people forever.

This is a discussion that predates Calvin. It is an issue that will always exist. The fact it does indicates God is so much greater than we that we can’t fully understand Him. Though we cannot understand Him we can know Him. Though persons disagree on the subject it need not divide them. As brothers and sisters in Christ we owe it to each other not to let it divide us. Every time it has divided a body both have suffered. No church should let the discussion become an impediment to the internal fellowship and the sharing of the gospel with the world.

In general Calvinists have some admirable traits. They believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and the substitutionary atonement of Christ, they usually live very pious lives, they hold that the purpose of everything is the glory of God, and they are clear on the fact salvation is by grace alone.

Most persons who are not Calvinists also agree on such standards. There is much to bond the two schools of thought and no reason for anything to divide the persons who differ on the subject.

Followers of strict Calvinism adhere to the theology described by the five point mnemonic acronym T-U-L-I-P.

Three of these concepts are in general accepted by Southern Baptist:

Two are in general unacceptable to Southern Baptists:

Historically the latter two have lead to abandonment of evangelism. They are daggers in the heart of evangelism.

Some advocates of Calvinism point to deceased scholars such as Mullins, Connor, and Boyce as supporters of Calvinism.

I want to point to Christ and Paul.

The debate over the Sovereignty of God and the free will of man has gone on for years. I have friends who are Calvinists and some who aren’t. We are compatible not because we think alike but because we are Christians.

The issue has split many churches but need not split this one. That would disappoint our Lord.

Near Gainesville, Georgia are two churches one mile apart: Dewberry I and Dewberry II. Years ago they were one until the doctrine of Calvinism became a dispute. At an outdoor covered dish dinner one man held up a piece of fried chicken and said, “I believe I am predestined by God to eat this chicken.” Another man snatched it out of his hand and said, “I am going to eat it of my own free will.”

The church split over the issue and became Dewberry I and Dewberry II. Shades of different understanding on the issue need not split a church. However, if members insist on making it an ongoing issue it will inevitably split any church. It must not be allowed to do so.

A history of the results of what a group believes supports man’s free will. In 1814 Baptists of the U.S. divided over this issue as relates to evangelism.

The anti-evangelicals, that is hyper-Calvinists, have dwindled since that time almost to the vanishing point. The group known as Southern Baptists, who favored evangelism, have flourished.

Calvinism offers no incentive to go on mission trips, witness to the lost, visit for the church, or appeal for souls to be saved. Without such churches dwindle.

SUMMARY:

Consider these Scriptures as applied to each petal of the tulip. First, the three points generally accepted by Baptists.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY:
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
“The Scripture has confined all under sin.” Galatians 3:22
“There is none righteous, no not one.”

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION:
“For by grace are you saved and that not of yourself….” Ephesians 2:8,9

PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS:
“They shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
“If they shall fall away.” Hebrews 6:4-6 The key is the case of the “if”used. It means if they could be saved and lost, if they could, but they can’t, they could not be saved again.

Now those not generally accepted by Baptists.
LIMITED ATONEMENT:
“One died for all” II Corinthians 5: 14,15
“That He might taste death for everyone” Hebrews 2:9
“Who is the Savior of all men” I Timothy 4:14
“It is not His will than any should perish…” II Peter 3:9
“Who desires that all be saved” I Timothy 2:4
“And whosoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.”  Revelation 22: 17

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE
“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
“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
“Turn at my reproof; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel…” Proverbs 1:23,24
“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him — the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” John 12:48

These verses teach a person is free to receive or reject God’s will. To do this a person must have a free will.

Calvinism makes automatons of people. An automaton is defined as a machine or control mechanism designed to follow automatically a predetermined sequence of operations or respond to encoded instructions. If man has no free will he is a puppet not a human being.

Ephesians chapters 1 and 2 teach God elected a plan of salvation and chapters 3:1 – 6:20 teaches he elected a people to propagate the plan.

Eph. 1:4 says “He chose” (NKJ) or “He hath chosen” (KJ). This translates ex elexato from the Greek. The Greek word has been anglicized as “elected.”

Observe this is God’s action. What He does He does “in love” (Vs. 5).
God elected us in love “in Him” (Vs. 4).
God has a sovereign will. That means He has the ultimate determining will. Using that sovereign will He has “predestined us” (Vs 5). The Greek word for predestined is proorisas. The basic verb of this word is horizo. Our word horizon can be heard in it and that is what it literally means. It means to set a boundary. The prefix “pro” means before hand.

Before the dawning of creation a boundary was fixed. The boundary involves being “in Christ.” So, before creation God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit concluded the boundary. It is Christ. All who are in that boundary, Christ, are saved.

This was all “according to the good pleasure” of God (Vs. 5). In His sovereign will God found pleasure in letting being in Christ be the standard for salvation.

The passage also teaches the free will of man. Calvin made the false assumption that the sovereignty of God precludes the free will of man. The counterpoint is that God in His sovereign will elected, that is, decided to give man a free will. To void man’s free will would make him a puppet not a person.

Man is free to choose but is responsible to God for his choices. If man is not responsible God is. That makes God responsible for man’s sins.

The free will of man is noted in Ephesians 1:13. Exercising faith is an act of the free will. To say only those chosen by God to believe can believe is contrary to Scripture. If that is true Christ’s great commission to evangelize the world is a farce. It is foolish to appeal to a lost person to be saved.

Conclusion: God in His sovereign will elected to give man a free will. In love God draws all Him and offers His grace to the “whosoever” of John 3:16. Persons are then free to elect to receive God’s gracious gift of salvation or reject it.

Islam’s Claim To The Land Of Israel

Have you ever wondered how the Jews and Muslims both justify their claim to the same land?

Christians and Jews understand the Bible clearly identifies the land to have been given to Abraham and his descendants.

A lecture was delivered in early August in Jerusalem by an instructor in Islam explaining the “Claims of Islam on the Land of Israel.” The person lecturing defined the Muslim perspective. These are his insights.

From the Muslim view point the Koran came directly from Allah. According to non-Muslim scholars the Koran is written from a desert mentality with little reference to geography.

Muslims believe conflicting Bible texts are simply misunderstood by Christians and Jews. The lecturer stated, “I am bringing to you facts without expressing my own convictions.”

They believe the land being contested was “given by Allah to the Sons of Israel.” They content the Jews of today cannot be identified with the Israelites of the Old Testament. Muslims believe they are the true Israelites. Muslim, not Christian, names for the land are “the Holy Land” or “the Blessed Land.”

To lay further claim to the land they say any land where Muslim blood has been shed is Muslim land. Thus, the Holy Land is Muslim land. They are committed to possessing all such lands. This they say is the will of Allah.

Abraham is claimed by them to be the first Muslim. It was Ishmael not Isaac Abraham was willing to offer not in Jerusalem but somewhere near Mecca according to the Hadith. Abraham did not argue with or question God. Therefore, the Word and Will or Allah is not to be discussed or questioned just stated and obeyed.

They believe Issa, their name for Jesus, was a great Muslim prophet. According to their beliefs He is the only prophet who will come back at the end of days.

There are two primary Muslim bodies. El Qaeda is a Sunni movement. The Shiite movement is represented by Hezbollah and is centered in and controlled by Iran. The two groups hate each other and that is the reason for the insurgency in Iraq. The only thing they have in common is a desire to establish Islam in all the world. To the Sunni the Shiite countries have been corrupted by the West.

To Ben Ladin, who is a Sunni, the only good Shiite is a dead Shiite. The only thing binding them is a shared hatred for Israel and the West.

The Shiite believe they are the underdogs who have been mistreated, made to suffer, and be martyred. This enables them to relate to those who suffer. They believe they will continue to suffer until their Imam reappears to lead an apocalyptic war to establish justice and peace. Interpreted that means world conquest by Islam.

Our western mentality has a difficult time comprehending a youth happily strapping a bomb on his body and joyously blowing himself up to kill a few people. They rejoice to die for Allah and a better after-life. Such is the dedication of millions of Muslims. That is the resolve we face. Is anybody listening.

All of these principles stated to be believed by Muslims come from a lecture recently delivered in Jerusalem by an instructor in Islam.

Our Right To Know

In 1450 BC a colony was established on the lovely Island of Rhodes in the Aegean Sea. It flourished and developed into a major trade and cultural center. Over the years its industrious inhabitants and natural terrain made it a viable military fortification. Its massive walls made it at times virtually invulnerable. One siege led to the frustration of its attackers. Disheartened they were on the verge of withdrawing and would have were it not for an arrow shot over the walls from within with a note attached.

The note revealed the besieged city was on the verge of collapsing from within because of a lack of munitions and food. Encouraged by the note and subsequent ones coming from the betrayer they extended their siege which resulted in the conquest of the city. A betrayer from within caused the defeat of the great walled city of Rhodes.

Antioch in ancient Turkey turned away would be invaders. The siege of the city took a dramatic turn when an armor maker who had command of three towers betrayed his fellow citizens. For a price he arranged for the invaders to gain access to the city through his three towers. Having breached the walls they opened the city gates for a flood tide of invaders who quickly conquered the city that felt secure within its fortified walls.

“The New York Times” cradled in the comfort of a free society and protected by an army of valiant young Americans under the guise of the public’s right to know divulged a technique used by our government to track and capture terrorists. Like the people of Rhodes and Antioch we American citizens have been betrayed by a government informer and an insensitive press.

Did the public have a right to know the date of the Normandy invasion? Was there an inherent right for the public to be informed as to what was being developed in Oak Ridge in the early 1940s? That was an era of patriotism when members of the press had a sense of responsibility. A prominent slogan encouraging not divulging sensitive information read: “A slip of a lip might sink a ship.”

Somewhere along the line we have lost the distinction between a right and a responsibility. Though there might be a right to yell fire in a crowded building there is a responsibility not to do it if there is no fire.

“The New York Times” might show in a court of law they had the right to disclose the information regarding tracking terrorists by their financial transactions. It is elementally obvious they had the responsibility not to. In doing so they achieved two ends. They placed Americans at risk and aided the terrorists.

On a personal level there is an admonition to “speak the truth in love.” There are times love prompts us not to speak even the truth. That is not an encouragement to deceive. It is an appeal not to divulge hurtful truth if it is known to be injurious and of no benefit. That same principle needs to be employed by the press. I don’t know what motivated “The New York Times” but it wasn’t love for the American people.

Hezbollah In Our Midst

Let’s start with a disclaimer. Not all Baptists are alike. There is the understatement of the year. Against the reality of that background it is time we acknowledge not all Muslims are alike. Some want to live peacefully with non-Muslims.

There are over one billion Muslims. A significantly large number of them are blood thirsty and believe they are doing the will of Allah in trying to institute Islam globally. These jihadists are willing to go to apocalyptic extremes to bring all people into the Muslim fold and exclude all other religions.

There are several terrorist groups dedicated to this end with the backing of their religious leaders. Hizbollah in Lebanon, al-Qaeda in Iraq and Hamas in Gaza, are three. Only the naive believe the first two are restricted to the countries listed. One million Muslims were seen demonstrating in the streets of Beirut in support of Hizbollah.

For some reason the large demonstrations by Muslims supporting Hizbollah in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit were rarely seen on American TV. We failed to realize an elemental fact when we went into Iraq. Two factions of Islam, Shias and Sunnis, have battled each other there for nearly 1200 years.

When we leave they will start again. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Maliki, elected by a democratic process, is a Shia. He is having to battle the Sunni insurgency. The groups have battled for centuries. One thing they have in common is a desire for Iraq and the world to be a theocracy with Allah as “Theo.”

Shias and Sunnis fight because of a riff that occurred upon the death of Muhammad. Shias thought leadership of the movement should go to Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali, who was married to Fatima the daughter of Muhammad.

Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s confidant was chosen as the first Caliph to headed the Sunni branch. Sunnis constitute 85% to 90% of the world’s Muslim population. They are divided into four major schools of law, “Shari’ah,” the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi, and Hanbali. Each is named for the founder of their school of law.

The division between the two groups has widened to include such things as the role of oral tradition (Sunna) in interpreting the Qur’an.

All Muslim extremists have the same objective in mind. It is to make Islam the world’s religion to the exclusion of all others. All others, such as Christians and Jews, are considered infidels.

Fundamentalist Muslims divide the world into two categories. Dar El Islam, the House of Islam, consists of those countries under Islamic control. Dar El Harb, the House of War, is comprised of countries not under Islamic control.

Radical Muslims believe they are under a mandate from Allah to bring all nations into Dar El Islam. To do this they have three alternatives as to how to deal with non-Muslims: conquer and tax them, convert them, or kill them.

There are 129 war verses in the Qur’an that many Muslims interpret as legitimizing any means, even 9-11, to achieve this end.

Our best, and perhaps only way to win the war against terrorism, is to encourage the peace loving element of Islam to the extent they bring rational influences within their society that calm the world conquest passion. There are verses in the Qur’an that would support their effort.

America’s War Dead

We are each diminished by the death of any of our military personnel. Abhorrence for war, which we all share, has led some to become critical of what many feel is an essential military struggle against terrorism. We don’t want it but it won’t go away by itself.

Our grievous casualties were put into perspective for me by research done by a friend, Pat Adams.

Since the beginning of the Afghanistan War (10/01) there have been 295 US Military casualties.

Since the beginning of the Iraq War (3/19/03) there have been over 2,500 US Military deaths.

That totals more that 2,795 reasons to sorrow.

However, contrast that with what we have grown to tolerate in the United States.

From 2003 to 2005, drunk driving deaths in the US totaled 50,771.

During that same period the murders in New York City and Los Angeles totaled 3,184.

The total number of murders in America in those years was 49,577.

A breakdown shows an American Military member would be 1.3 times more likely to be killed walking the streets of New York or Los Angeles than patrolling a street in Iraq or Afghanistan.

A member of our military would be 18.2 times more likely to be killed driving on the streets in the United States than driving on the streets of Iraq or Afghanistan.

A member of our military is 17.7 times more likely to be murdered inside the United States than killed inside the boundaries of Iraq or Afghanistan.

This is no attempt to rationalize or minimize the war deaths. It does put into perspective the dramatic deaths tolerated in America.

A Palestinian youth in Israel being aware of the murder climate in New York asked me why our military doesn’t invade New York and establish peace there before going to Iraq. That is the mentality among many in the Arab world.

The Nazi invasion of the neighbors of Germany inevitably started World War II. What is now happening globally is the precursor to World War III.

Not all of the one billion Muslims are committed to this war. Many prefer peace. However, it is estimated there are over 5,000,000 radicals jihadists aligned against us. Scores of these want to be martyred in our destruction. They are anxious to die for Islam in a fight against those of us they consider infidels. Islam can win this war. That is not to say they will prevail militarily.

There is another hopeful outcome in which Islam prevails. In a different era when Islam was engaged in world conquest a rational element within realized their blood lust was not good for their countries. This rational element cooled their ambitions of conquest and aggression ceased. Such an element in the Muslim world needs to be encouraged. It is there. Let’s hope they win.

How Little Can A Person Be

Who is the smallest person you have ever known? I don’t mean small like the littlest man in the Bible. It wasn’t Nehemiah (Knee-high-miah) or the Bildad the Shuhite (Shoe-height). It was the Roman soldier who slept on his watch. Now that is small.

Not that kind of small. The reference is to a person who is insecure, one who has an inferior complex which results in trying to build up self by tearing others down. That never has worked. Lincoln said, “You can’t gain ground by slinging mud.”

A little person works insidiously to destroy the reputation and even institutions, programs, fountains, and facilities in general associated with a predecessor. Such a person is preoccupied not with filling the shoes of one who went before but burying them. This often results in the person being so consumed by this passion all other decisions are influenced by it. The past is to be forgotten and those associated with it diminished.

Such a person fails to realize they are building their own negative legacy as a little envious person. They begrudge the success of the past and resent persons associated with it. They hope to make themselves look better by making others look bad.

I learned of such a person on a recent trip to Egypt. The queenly Hatshepsut ruled Egypt as Pharaoh. Her son and successor Tutmose III worked with a passion to have all indication of her life and work eradicated. He even had her name removed form the list of rulers. All monuments to her were defaced; tributes were destroyed. On occasion Tutmose III would have sculptors chisel off her face from statues and have his replace it. He had a problem and it wasn’t Hatshepsut.

During her reign she had the support of the leaders in Thebes and the populace throughout the land, took full royal titulary, and ruled for twenty years as pharaoh. Yet, only faint reminders of her success and image remain. Were it not for her stunningly beautiful mortuary terrace temple at Deir el-Bahri there would be little remaining evidence of her rule. She was one of three leaders who develop the new Egypt but the efforts of her successor virtually removed all evidence of her life and work.

It is the centuries old effort to eradicate her accomplishments that has resulted in a contemporary effort to redeem her record and give her the place deserved on history’s horizon. More and more efforts are being made to confirm her deeds. Such efforts reveal Tutmose III as a little man. Any persons disposed to his conduct align themselves with the little people of this world.

Over an entrance to Westminster Abby is this inscription: “The workman dies, but the work lives on.” That is especially true in the spiritual realm. Solomon described the permanent record of their work in these words: “Whatever God does, it shall be forever, nothing can be added to it, and nothing taken from it” (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

Little people decry what God won’t deny. In the mean time fluff up that pillow on the watch.

Thomas Jefferson & Religion

In Philadelphia on a hot summer day in 1776 five men met in a stuffy room over a stable plagued by horseflies. What they wrote was published July 2, but dated July 4. Fifty-six signatures were affixed later. That document is revered as our Declaration of Independence. With those signatures the channel of history now had a new tributary.

Reflect on one of those five men, Thomas Jefferson. I have an old volume entitled “Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United Sates,” first published in 1864. This was before revisionist historians began to rewrite and misrepresent events about Jefferson and his day. Many have been led to believe he was hostile to Christianity.

He believed that God was very involved in the proclamation written above that stable and that He had much to do with the nation resulting. In his first message as President he said, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are a gift of God? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

This summary of Jefferson appeared in the “National Magazine” as noted in the 1864 volume herein referenced. “Never were a man’s religious sentiments more grossly misrepresented than Jefferson’s. He was not an atheist. He believed in God the Creator of all things, in his overruling providence, infinite wisdom, goodness, justice, and mercy. He believed that God hears and answers prayer, and that human trust in Him is never misplaced nor disregarded. He believed in a future sate of rewards and punishments. He believed in the Bible precepts and moralities. No man in Washington ever gave so much to build so many churches as Jefferson. He never wrote, for public eye, one word against Christianity.”

Records show he attended church regularly always carrying with him his prayer book. He joined in the responses and prayers of the congregation. He ordered Bibles to be used as textbooks in the public schools of Washington.

His design for the University of Virginia contained a seminary. He invited all denominations to build seminaries around the University so all could have the literary advantages of the school.

As we celebrate our Declaration of Independence reflect on these Jefferson’s words of dependence from his first message as President.

“I shall need the favor of that Being in whose hands we are, who led our fathers, as Israel of old, from their native land, and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has covered our infancy with providence, and our riper years with his wisdom and power; and to whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications that He will so enlighten the minds of your servants, guide their counsels, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do shall result in your good….”

Quotes Worth Remembering

The wisdom of others condensed in succinct thought is worth incorporating in our memory bank. There are many compact concepts worth putting on the marque of our mind. Some I like I don’t know the source but respect their laconic insights. Here are a few.

“Your lack of proper prior planning does not constitute my emergency.”

That is a good one to share with friends who fail to prepare and then pressure you to produce at the last moment.

“Never say of a thing I have lost it only that I have given it back.” The Greek Epicitus is credited with that.

There is a Christian version of that regarding the death of a friend, “A thing isn’t lost if you know where it is.”

“Activity generates inspiration but inspiration doesn’t always generate activity.”

A lot of people are inspired but never act. That bring to mind this one.

“Commitment is the capacity to carry out the intent of a decision long after the emotion that inspired it has faded.”

“Fulfillment often comes not from doing a thing but from having done it.”

That is a way of saying the challenge in accomplishing a thing may it itself be demanding and depleting but having done it there if fulfilment for a lifetime. That is incentive for keeping on keeping on.

“Even across the divide of death friendship remains an echo forever in the heart.” That is by Mississippi author Willie Moris.

Not a quote but a word I like is eudemonia meaning happiness. Eudemonics is the science of happiness. It is related to Aristotelian philosophy regarding happiness based on an active life governed by reason.

As a result of that thought consider this. “Happiness is a beautiful byproduct resulting from a job well done.”

Folks strive for happiness in extreme ways and in all the wrong places. In those elementary words is the formula for experiencing it.

Not one of my favorite thinkers, Friedrich Nietzsche, made this which is one of my favorite quotes. “The essential thing “in heaven and earth’ is…that there should be long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”

In summary keep on keeping on, stay the course.

Here is a pressure relief valve.

“God doesn’t expect us to be THE best at anything but He does expect us to be OUR best at everything we do.”

Zig Ziglar, a dear friend, is one of America’s most outstanding motivational speakers. He once told me he never quotes Scripture but he never shares a motivational concept that isn’t scriptural. None of these quotes are Scripture but they are all scriptural.

Now here is one that is Scripture verse that doesn’t sound like scripture. Solomon wisely wrote: “Confidence in an unfaithful man is time of trouble is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint” (Proverbs 25:19).

What Is Jihad?

There is no war on terror. There can’t be. Terror is an abstract. During World War II, or as my Cajun friends call it World War Two Eye, no one made reference to a war on blitzkrieg.

Blitzkrieg was a form of combat used by the Nazis. The allies were up front in acknowledging it was a war against the Nazis. We did not engage in a war against Kamikazes. Blitzkrieg and kamikazes were forms of engagement used by the Germans and Japanese. Everyone knew we were at war with the Germans and Japanese.

Why then are we so reluctant to admit we are not engaged in a war against terrorism. Terrorism is the technique used in this conflict. It is a war gains terrorist known as Islamic jihadist. Let me rush to acknowledge not all Muslims are of this school of thought and behavior. However, within Islam jihadist go all the way back to Muhammad.

While acknowledging and defending the non-jihadist Muslims against unfair grouping with this element within Islam let’s not fail to realize the element always has been there. Having established that let’s admit we are not engaged in a war against terrorism but a war against radical Islamic jihadists.

Jihad means a holy war. The “war verses” of the Koran advocate it along with dhimmitude which is the relegation of non-Muslims to an inferior status under Islam.

I can’t say it often enough not all Muslims are committed to this school of thought. However, until we admit a significant number are we will continue to speak of fighting an abstract enemy; a war on terrorism. Terrorism is their current form of warfare. Those who advocate this form of conflict are the true opponents in the war. It is a war against extreme Islamic jihadists.

We haven’t caught on yet. At the insistence of Wahabi clerics we have opened Islamic centers at Quantico and other military bases where the “war verses” of the Koran are taught. These are the verses used by jihadists as their “manual of war” which legitimize terror.

Jihad means a holy war. Al Qaeda members believe with all their hearts they are doing as bidden by Alla as stated in the Koran. To them it is a religious war designed to annulate infidels and establish Islam in Dar El Harb, “the house of war,” non-Islamic nations.

This segment of Islam has historically manifested itself several times. The bloody drive across Africa and Eastern Europe was a manifestation of this. The way this bloodbath was stopped then is the only way it can be stopped now.

A significant segment in the Muslim world realized such aggression was wrong and hurtful. A representative group of responsible Muslim leaders emerged who believed the sword was not the answer. They quelled the slaughter.

We are not engaged in a war on terror or a war on Islam. We are at war to defend ourselves against extreme Islamic jihadist.