Acts 2:38 – Is Water Baptism Necessary For Salvation?

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Acts 2:37-41 (NKJV)

Acts 2:38 is one of the major proof-texts that those who believe water baptism is necessary for salvation use to support their belief. I disagree with this assessment for three reasons:

  1. There are far too many other passages in the Bible that contradict the notion of water baptism as a requirement for salvation. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” According to this verse, eternal life is based on belief in Jesus Christ – and nothing else. Romans 10:9-10 says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Again, there is no mention of baptism in these verses, nor anywhere else in the chapter. In several other passages in the book of Acts, baptism is mentioned in conjunction with salvation; however, in every one of these passages, baptism always happens immediately after the person has been saved.
  2. There are also many other passages that contradict the notion that water baptism is the means for having sin removed. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” Hebrews 9:22 states, “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” It is the blood of Jesus Christ that removes sin, not water baptism.
  3. A careful examination of the text of Acts 2:38 has convinced me that Peter is not talking about physical water baptism, but rather the immersion of the believer in Christ. The Greek word βαπτισθήτω means “dip, submerge, baptize.” When examining the context of Biblical passages concerning baptism, it is important to understand A) who or what is being immersed, and, B) what they are being immersed in? In the case of Acts 2:38, the answer to “who or what is being immersed?” would be the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon, and believed. The answer to the second question, “what they are being immersed in?” would be, “in the name of Jesus Christ.” Peter is telling his audience that in order to be saved, they must be immersed in Jesus Christ; His blood then covers their sin; and then they will receive the Holy Spirit. Peter does not say, “be baptized in water for the remission of sins;” he says, “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” When a person receives Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are put into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Water baptism is done afterward, as an outward sign of the spiritual transformation that has already taken place (Acts 2:41). In Acts 2:38, the instruction is to be immersed into Jesus’ name, not into a pool of water.

Salvation is based on confessing sin before God, repentance, and placing one’s faith and trust in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ alone for the remission of sin. No ritual or work – including water baptism – can add to or take away from one’s salvation.

Random stuff from Facebook and emails, Part 8

Random pictures I either
found on Facebook
or had emailed to me.


Part 8:  Science Fiction – Again


Because these pictures all came off Facebook or emails, I’m not sure where any of this stuff originated, so if anyone knows, post a comment, and I’ll credit the source and link to it.

Click on a photo to see a larger version:


   
     
     
     
 

Being Thankful When I Don’t Feel Thankful

This Thanksgiving, I don’t feel particularly thankful.

My family’s going through a rough time. My wife and daughter have had long-term medical issues; my hip has been hurting for the last 2 ½ years, and I found out two weeks ago that I need a total hip replacement. We’ve been financially stressed since I left my teaching career 5 ½ years ago, and just as we were finally getting some financial stability, I lost my job last week. With the job loss goes the semi-affordable insurance I need to pay for my hip surgery. Sometimes, life just stinks.

The economy stinks, so it may be a while before I can get another job where I can make enough money to pay the bills. The prospect of going broke and losing everything I’ve worked for has left me depressed, and I’m tired of the constant physical pain in my hip. And, yes, while I realize I still have more than most people in the world, it’s not a whole lot of consolation. And yes, of course, I still have my family. But, from the perspective of a middle-aged American who sees his health and the American Dream slipping through his fingers, there’s not an abundance to be thankful for this year.

Fortunately, as a follower of Jesus Christ, there is much more to life than economic security and physical health. God has promised many things those of us who have chosen to follow Him.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” What things is He talking about? In verse 25, Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” He continues in verses 31-32: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” So, when He says in verse 33, “these things shall be added to you,” He is talking about our material needs. God promises to meet the material needs of those who “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Note that this does not say He will meet our desires, only our needs. There is no “prosperity gospel” in the Bible; there is only the promise that God will provide for the basic needs of those who are truly seeking Him.

But far beyond meeting my physical needs, God has promised to be with me through the trials of life. This is not just some pie-in-the-sky future reward after death, but a promise to walk with me, guide me, and comfort me through the trials of today. One of my favorite passages in all the Bible comes from Romans 8:31-39:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

First, notice that this is written for the present, not just the future: God is for us; Christ makes intercession for us; we are more than conquerors; the love of God is in Christ Jesus out Lord.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, the most important thing in all of life is my relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. My sin separated me from God; the blood of Jesus has provided reconciliation. Because I have confessed my guilt before holy God, believed and received forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and repented of my sin, I am reconciled with God and have become an adopted child in His family. And nothing can change this. God never promises that His children won’t ever face “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword.” But, He does promise that by and through His grace, mercy, and love, I am able to conquer all these things. God loves me so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sin (John 3:16). And, He promises that I can never be separated from His love.

This Thanksgiving, I’m not thankful for my health issues, or my unemployment, or the depression that accompanies these things. But, despite the fact that I don’t feel especially thankful, I am thankful for a wife and family that stands by me despite my shortcomings, and I’m especially thankful for the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ, and His promise to see me through the trials of this life.

Pushing People Out of the Church – Part 8

A while back, I read an article on Alternet.org, the anti-religion, left-wing, “news”-and-commentary website, entitled, “8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism,” by skeptic Valerie Tarico.

Valerie Tarico

While I personally find most of the articles on this site to be little more than irrational liberal blathering, this article caught my interest, because it contains some truths that Christians need to understand.

Ultimately, those who reject Jesus Christ do so because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Unfortunately, there are also many things that those in the church do to push people away. As Tarico states, “if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along.”

I’ve found that I can often learn a lot by listening to what skeptics say about their perceptions of Christianity. This series looks at the eight reasons Tarico highlights.

Reason #8: Intrusion

Australian comedian and atheist John Safran flew to Salt Lake City for a round of door-to-door devangelism after Mormons rang his doorbell one too many times on Saturday morning. More serious intrusions, in deeply personal beginning- and end-of-life decisions, for example, generate reactive anti-theism in people who mostly just want to live and let live.

Catholic and evangelical conservatives have made a high-stakes gamble that they can regain authoritarian control over their flocks and hold onto the next generation of believers (and tithers) by asserting orthodox dogmas, making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition. Their goal is a level of theological purity that will produce another Great Awakening based largely on the same dogmas as the last one. They hope to cleanse their membership of theological diversity, and assert top-down control of conscience questions, replenishing their membership with anti-feminist, pro-natalist policies and proselytizing in the Southern hemisphere. But the more they resort to strict authoritarianism, insularity and strict interpretation of Iron Age texts, the more people are wounded in the name of God and the more people are outraged. By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose “nothing.” Anti-theists are all too glad to help.

Tarico starts off by making a good point: Barging in on people turns them off. Nobody likes having the Gospel – or anything else, for that matter – shoved down their throat. Nobody likes being intruded upon. This is a point that almost everyone would agree with.

She then does a bait-and-switch by equating “intrusion” with conservative Christianity. She asserts that Christian leaders who teach a literal Bible do in order to “assert top-down control” and “regain authoritarian control over their flocks.”

While it is true that some conservative churches are highly authoritarian and almost cultish in their control over their membership, this is neither Biblical nor typical. To imply that because some conservative churches are controlling, all conservative churches are controlling, is to commit the logical fallacy of the hasty generalization.

Tarico also begs the question when she argues that evangelical conservative Christians are wrong because we make Christianity an “all-or-nothing proposition.” She assumes absolute truth does not exist; therefore, Biblical Christianity is wrong, because it teaches absolute truth. This is nothing more than a circular argument. Her argument merely assumes what it is trying to prove.

Here’s the point: The Bible itself teaches that Jesus Christ is an “all-or-nothing proposition.” “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me'” John 14:6. It’s not a matter of churches exerting “authoritarian control” or “top-down control.” It’s a matter of teaching the Truth. As the Apostle Peter, referring to Jesus, said, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Sounds like an “all-or-nothing proposition” to me.

What Tarico is advocating is compromise. And while she is probably correct that compromise will gain and retain more converts, the question becomes, converts to what? If we teach and preach a compromised Gospel, it’s not Gospel at all. As Paul wrote:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

When Tarico denounces “theological purity” and “strict interpretation,” she is denouncing the truth. She is absolutely correct when she states, “By making Christian belief an all-or-nothing proposition, they force at least some would-be believers to choose ‘nothing’.” What she doesn’t realize is, believing in “nothing” is no different than believing in a false gospel. Both lead to Hell; neither leads to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Too many churches preach a compromised, false gospel, and are filled with compromised, false Christians, who think they are headed for Heaven, but are bound for Hell. As Jesus said:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” Matthew 7:21-23.

Tarico makes 3 valid points:

  1. Nobody likes pushy people – especially pushy Christians.
  2. Authoritarian control has no place in the church, and
  3. Teaching the truth will turn people away.

The church should have nothing to do with the first two points, but must be uncompromising in its insistence on the truth. God’s truth leads to eternal life; falsehood leads to eternal death.

Tarico and other non-believers cannot understand the things of God, because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Yet, they often provide insight that Christians can use to further the Kingdom of God and lead people to Jesus Christ. As we listen to what non-Christians say, we need to filter their words through the Word of God, and glean those things that can help us to reach them with the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pushing People Out of the Church – Part 7

Some time ago, I read an article on the left-wing, anti-religion, news-and-commentary website Alternet.org entitled, “8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism,” by skeptic Valerie Tarico.

Valerie Tarico

While I personally find most of the articles on this site to be little more than irrational liberal ranting, this article caught my interest, because it contains some truths that Christians need to understand.

Ultimately, people who reject Jesus Christ do so because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). Unfortunately, there are also many things that those in the church do to push people away. As Tarico states, “if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along.”

I’ve found that I can often learn a lot by listening to what skeptics say about their perceptions of Christianity. This series looks at the eight reasons Tarico highlights.

Reason #7: Political Meddling

If you look at religion-bashing quote-quip-photo-clip-links that circulate Facebook and Twitter, most of them are prompted by church incursions into the political sphere. A spat between two atheists erupted on my home page yesterday. “Why can’t ex-Christians just shut up about religion and get on with building a better world?” asked one. “Why can’t we shut up?!” screeched the other. “Because of shit like this!” He posted a link about Kansas giving doctors permission to deny contraception and accurate medical information to patients.

I myself give George W. Bush credit for transforming me from a politically indifferent, digging-in-the-garden agnostic into a culture warrior. He casually implied that, when going to war, he didn’t need to consult with his own father because he had consulted the big guy in the sky, and my evangelical relatives backed him up on that, and I thought, oh my God, the beliefs I was raised on are killing people. The Religious Right, and now the Catholic bishops, have brought religion into politics in the ugliest possible way short of holy war, and people who care about the greater good have taken notice. Lists of ugly Bible verses, articles about the psychology of religion, investigative exposes about Christian machinations in D.C. or rampant proselytizing in the military and public schools –all of these are popular among political progressives because it is impossible to drive progressive change without confronting religious fundamentalism.

Before I move on to the valid points Tarico makes, let me point out some of the logical problems with her arguments.

First, she presumes that the religious beliefs of Christians should have no bearing whatsoever in American politics. She implies that George W. Bush’s beliefs should have been left outside the White House gates, and that the Religious Right and Catholics have no business bringing their beliefs into the realm of politics. Yet, at the same time, she argues that her religious view – that God does not exist – should be the foundation of the American political mindset. What Tarico and others like her are arguing for is not the removal of religion, but the establishment of Secular Humanism as the state religion.

Besides the liberal use of question-begging epithets (ugly Bible verses, fundamentalism) and fear mongering (holy war), the other glaringly illogical line of reasoning is in the statement, “…and I thought, oh my God, the beliefs I was raised on are killing people.” First, it’s ironic that she thought, “…oh my God…,” since she says she doesn’t believe in God. Perhaps she was just trying to be funny. Or perhaps it is an indication that, subconsciously, she knows that God does exist, although she fights to suppress that truth. More important that the slip in theology is the irrationality of claiming that the reason we went to war in Iraq was because Bush thought God told him to. First, the fact that Bush prayed about it before making a decision does not mean evangelical Christianity was the cause of the war. And second, if one compares the number of deaths caused in the name of “christianity” versus those committed by atheistic or secular humanistic regimes, there is no comparison – hands down, atheism and secularism have taken far more lives in war than “christianity.” The evangelical Christian beliefs Tarico was raised on are not what caused the wars in Iraq and Iran; sin is what causes wars. If people all became Christians, and actually followed Biblical teaching, there would be no wars.

What can I as a follower of Jesus Christ learn from what Tarico says here?

First, we need to be careful how we mix our relationship with Jesus Christ with our political views. During the recent election season, this became quite evident. I must confess, at times I let my political disgust with President Obama tarnish my Christian witness. As one meme put it, “God does not want us to bring DEMOCRACY to people. He wants us to bring CHRIST to people.” Unfortunately, I now realize that some of my political postings on Facebook offended many of the people God has called me to reach with the Gospel. Regardless of whether we have a syncretistic humanist like Obama as President, or a Mormon like Romney, or even an evangelical like Bush, government is inherently secular and temporary. The Gospel has eternal implications. Political regimes will come and go, but human souls are eternal. The choices we make about which person becomes the President are only relevant for a brief time, but the choice we make about Jesus Christ affects us for eternity.

Secondly, Tarico’s thoughts point out how our underlying presuppositions define our worldview and actions. Because she rejects God, she must logically reject anything associated with God. She must believe that human beings are the ultimate authority in politics, morality, and every other aspect of life. In order to bring people to Jesus Christ, Christians cannot simply attack the symptoms of unbelief – abortion, socialism, evolution, homosexuality, and so on – but need to attack the underlying presuppositions that the unbeliever’s worldview is founded upon. We must help unbeliever understand why their foundational beliefs don’t make sense, and why Biblical Christianity is the only rational worldview based on reality. Focusing on the external symptoms doesn’t change hearts and minds. Only by building on the foundational truths of God’s Word can hearts and minds be turned to Jesus Christ.

Christian, be careful how you mix the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the gospel of your political views.

Sometimes, Life Stinks.

Sometimes, life just plain stinks.

Last week, my orthopedic surgeon informed me that I need a total hip replacement.

Yesterday, I lost my job.

My immediate reaction to both issues was to get angry, then depressed. And honestly, I’m still more than a little upset.

How should I, as a follower of Jesus Christ, respond when bad stuff happens?

First, it’s important to understand why evil exists.

God created this world sinless and perfect. There was no death, no illness, no unemployment, and no sin. There was no anger, no depression, and no crap to deal with. It was a perfect world.

Until Adam sinned.

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. (Romans 5:12-15)

All of the sin, death, illness, anger, natural disasters, depression, other problems, and other evils are a direct consequence of Adam’s sin. Adam’s sin changed the perfect world that God designed, and polluted it.

However, we can’t blame it all on Adam. Our sin has added to the problem.

Sometimes, bad stuff happens as a direct result of our own sin. We make bad choices that lead to bad consequences.

But sometimes, bad stuff happens, and it has nothing to do with anything we personally did; it’s a result of the sin in the world. It can be the result of demonic activity, and it can also be the result of God’s judgement for the sin of society. Evil can have different causes, but those causes all trace back to the same root cause – sin.

In any case, how should followers of Jesus Christ handle the crap that life serves us?

For me, the key is to realize the sufferings of this life are temporary. The perfection God planned for the human race will be realized in eternity.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. (Revelation 22:3)

Life on this earth is but the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of eternity. The junk we live through in this life is only temporary. For followers of Jesus Christ, the current life is the worst it will ever be; for unbelievers, unfortunately, this life is the best it will ever be.

The other thing is that, even though we must face a lot of pain and suffering in this world, as a Christian, I have the Holy Spirit living inside me to comfort, guide, and direct me through the junk of life.

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 
As it is written:

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39)

While I’m still hurt, depressed, and scared about both my hip and my job situation, I am holding on to the promises God has given me in His word. God never promised to keep His followers from the difficulties of life, but rather promised to walk with us through the difficulties. And, while I know I’ll struggle during the next days (or weeks, or months, depending on when I find another job and/or have my surgery), I know that God is with me through the process, and that He is in control of the situation.