Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 19 Number 9 September 2017
Page 4

Three Difficulties

Andy Robison

Truth is a precious commodity. It is unfathomable how much of the world runs on lies. In ancient times, many Greco-Roman cities each had their own gods and temples. The economies focused around the activities at those temples. People’s lives were practically subservient to the idolatry-based economies, and they were all based on lies. The ancient prophet bemoaned the ignorance of the man who made an idol of wood and was too misled to say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:20). When such a lie was challenged with the truth, there might be an uproar, such as the one Paul witnessed in Ephesus. The apostle Paul tried to preach about the unseen God, but the silversmiths of the region protested that they would not be able to make money off of an unseen God (Acts 19:21-41). Lies were responsible for running the world and for making policy. Modern (or postmodern) man has not advanced much further. From preschools to universities, evolution is the crux of academia, rakes in millions in media coverage and is the basis for many business and political decisions. Truth is absent in the sphere of those who have professed themselves to be wise (Romans 1:22). Regarding truth, it seems that contemporary man is faced with three difficulties: Finding it, standing for it and standing for it in love.

Finding truth might not be as easy as it sounds. America used to be a nation flooded both with Bibles and with people who had at least some sense of respect for it. They may not have been New Testament Christians, but there was a social more, if you will, of the Bible being the Word of God. Today, we live in quite the contrasting world. The dogma of the day is that nobody is right in anything they say. There are no moral absolutes. The only thing wrong is saying that some practice might be wrong. Each person can choose his own way, and each way is just as right as someone else’s way. The doctrine is referred to as postmodernism on a philosophical level, but it finds its way into every arena of life. Its tenets flood the talk shows as every sort of lifestyle is heralded as good. The only evil, in this way of thinking, is saying that there is actually an evil. Many adherents of this system seem to be rather unwitting adherents. They’ve just been taught for so long that everybody is right in whatever they want to believe that they’ve never really thought through such consequences. The Bible is maligned, of course, because it does set up a standard of right and wrong that is absolute! It hardly ever occurs to people that there might be such a thing as truth. It is the farthest thing from their minds. Yet, when some might have an inkling that there might be such a thing as truth, they find themselves against overwhelming odds to be able to find it! Finding truth in a sea of doubt, uncertainty and outright lies can be difficult, indeed. It can be done, though, as Jesus promised (John 8:31-32; Proverbs 23:23).

Next, standing for the truth can be very difficult. Once one becomes a New Testament Christian, he is under obligation to be able to stand for those things that are true and then to expose falsehoods (1 Peter 3:15; Ephesians 5:11). Preachers are to preach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and be ready when people like it and when they don’t (2 Timothy 4:2-5). This kind of stand is increasingly difficult. George Orwell is credited with the quote, “The further a society drifts from the truth the more it will hate those who speak it” (http:// www.goodreads.com/quotes/673583-the-further-a-society-drifts-from-truth-the-more-it). Indeed, the apostle Paul questioned belligerent Galatians, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Truth makes enemies. The Truth (John 14:6) was crucified. Why should anyone expect that standing for the truth would be easy?

A further difficulty is standing for the truth in love. Once one finds truth and becomes convinced of it, it is quite disturbing to see so many people practicing error. There will even be those claiming Christ who stubbornly hold to false beliefs or act in ungodly manners. With such folks, it is hard for the defender of truth to be patient, but he must. Quarreling is not becoming of the Christian (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Meekness and gentleness in correcting error is becoming of the child of God (Galatians 6:1-2). The truth simply must be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15). Of course, there may be a time for a stern warning (Jude 22-23); Jesus quite pointedly rebuked some hypocritical leaders (Matthew 23). Anger can be righteous (Mark 3:5), but love must be ever present. Love may not be the ooey-gooey, feel-good idea the world thinks it is, but love must be the attitude in all defense of the truth.

What Happens in Baptism?

Jerry Bates

There are few religious acts about which there is more controversy than baptism. Most of the Christian world does not believe that it has anything to do with our salvation. Many say that it is only a symbolic ritual to show what has already taken place in our hearts and our lives, namely, the forgiveness of our sins. No passage speaks against this attitude more clearly than Romans 6:3-4. “Or do you know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

We need to understand that Romans 6 is not about baptism. It is about sin. The word “sin” appears 16 times in this chapter. Paul was encouraging Christians to remember what took place when they were baptized. I do not know of anyone who questions the fact that faith in the sacrifice of Christ is the basis for our forgiveness. Thus, the question is, “When are our sins washed away?”

Paul said that it occurs in baptism. Baptism is much more than a mere symbol or ritual. It is more than a physical act of obedience. In Romans 6:2, Paul taught that we died to sin when we were baptized. In 6:3, Paul declared that we are baptized into Jesus Christ as well as baptized into His death.

Most people would agree that it is the blood of Jesus that actually washes away our sins (Revelation 1:5), but how can we contact the blood of Jesus? The blood of Jesus was shed at the cross. When Jesus died, a soldier put a spear into the side of Jesus, and blood and water flowed out (John 19:34). When we are baptized, we are baptized into the death of Jesus, which is where the blood was shed. Thus, we come in contact with the blood of Jesus, which washes away our sin. No one can be saved without dying to sin. No one can be saved without being united with Christ. No one can be saved without contacting the blood of Jesus. All of these occur in baptism, according to the apostle Paul.

Paul also said that after baptism, we are raised to walk in newness of life. In Romans, Paul wrote how our baptism is, in effect, a re-creation of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus ended His physical life, but only to begin a new resurrected life. In like manner, we die to sin; thus, we end our previous lives of sin and begin new lives of purity. We do not just change a few things or erase a few mistakes. We start new lives. This makes baptism the physical point at which our old lives end and our new lives begin. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians. 5:17). Consequently, we begin a life of single-minded devotion to Jesus.

Considering what Paul penned that happens at baptism, how can anyone say that baptism is only a ritual or a symbol? While it is a symbol, what it symbolizes actually comes to pass, not by the power of any man or the water, but by the power of God.

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