Monthly Archives: January 2020

“Just To Take Him At His Word.”

We hear from some the claim that the physical act of Baptism need not be practiced­­. Some scholars working with their self-adopted interpretative strategies write long essays, even books, to make the case that believer/faith Baptism may be helpful, perhaps important in some ways, but whatever else it is, it need not be practiced or called for if a person has faith in the Lord Jesus. These writers aren’t at all interested in undermining completely the millennial-long practice and much less bringing it to a halt.
Just the same, the story they now tell is that it is not required and so it should not be spoken of as if it were definitively linked with forgiveness or entrance into the Lord Jesus and His death. (See closing notes.) The result is, that on this view, if faith in the Lord Jesus is present, New Testament Baptism is definitively linked with nothing.

This is so because, on this view, if it were not practiced at all (as is the case with some Christian-faith groups) it would be no departure from the New Testament Holy Scriptures. That would also be true because ‘rightly understood,’ those Holy Scriptures don’t link the physical Baptism of believers to salvation, forgiveness, union with and initiation into the Lord Jesus Christ. They only appear to do that!
So we’re told.

With the right hermeneutical strategy gained by personal reflection and borrowing from others and their personal reflection, we would know, so we’re told, that the New Testament Holy Scriptures don’t link a physical faith-Baptism with such fundamental gifts of God in the Lord Jesus, His person and work.

(It’s true, of course, that with the ‘right’ hermeneutical strategy we can show that the New Testament Holy Scriptures approve of homosexuality in any of its forms. That’s not an uncommon view now.)
“Interpretative strategies are handy that way. A bit like Lego pieces, don’t you see. Choose one or a combination of numerous strategies (a sort of Lego store) that allows you to construct Lego structures that suit your current view of life or Scriptures.
But after all the ‘combining,’ ‘explaining, ‘adjusting,’ ‘modifying,’ ‘defending,’ ‘interpreting’ and the required new terminology, we open the New Testament Holy Scriptures and look: the physical act of Baptism of believers is commanded, called for, pleaded for, even repeated where it is thought doubtful in the first place and it is linked explicitly and definitively to the Lord Jesus and all God’s blessings that are found in Him.

Peter said, “…baptism now saves youby the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
(
See 1 Peter 1;3 and 3:21.)

On this matter, the Spirit of God kills every self-chosen hermeneutical strategy. We can argue until the cows come home about what believer-Baptism doesn’t do—the voice of God in this text through His appointed envoy tells us what it does do and definitively, explicitly links it with salvation through the resurrection of the Blessed Lord Jesus, the Redeemer.

Why would God through Peter say such a thing if it were not so?

And who loses if we all accepted this truth about Baptism?
The resurrected Savior and Redeemer Peter here speaks about in 1:3?   The repentant and trusting believer in such a Lord? The trusting and forgiven person who is now a part of the Holy Nation that Peter speaks about in 1 Peter 2:9-10?

Would unity be *destroyed* if we all embraced and practiced such Baptism?
Would grace be denied or undermined if we followed the teaching and personal practice of the ‘apostle of the grace of God’? (Cf. Acts 22:16 and Acts 19:1-5.)
Sigh.
“Woe unto you scholars. You take away the key of knowledge…and those who were entering into [the kingdom] you hindered.” Luke 11:52

 

 

UNCOMPROMISING!

“When in Babylon, do what Babylon does.” That doesn’t work for everyone. It never did.
It never worked for Daniel (God is my Judge) or his three lesser known companions, Azariah (The Lord is my Strength), Mishael (God is Incomparable) and Hananiah (the Lord is Gracious) who were as uncompromising as their names.
Dragged away from home, young, groomed for political office by threats and the finest treatment and promises, they just wouldn’t dance to the Babylonian music. They wouldn’t eat, they wouldn’t drink, they wouldn’t bow, they wouldn’t quit praying and they wouldn’t live up to the new names they were given. They were dragged out of their home but their home wasn’t dragged out of them. They were given Babylonian names but they couldn’t be given Babylonian hearts or minds. They’d burn before they’d bow, they’d starve before they’d eat food in honor of pagan gods and they’d out-stare pacing hungry lions before they’d stop praying to Yahweh.
And why so stiff-backed that they wouldn’t bow when everyone else was bowing and scraping; why so politically incorrect—why couldn’t they just eat like everyone else, why make a big deal of it; why couldn’t they have made prayer a completely private matter and walked in step with the rest of the political and religious world? Why were these young strangers so uncompromising in the corridors and offices of central government? What got into them? Who did they think they were that they wouldn’t conform to the new power?

What got into them was an uncompromising God they knew by the name Yahweh! And who was that? It was the God who went to Egypt to bring his People home and who wouldn’t leave without them even if it meant bringing the Egyptian kingdom to wreck and ruin.

The Egyptian king finally wanted to negotiate—“All right then, they can go to worship but they are to stay within my territory” he said.
“No!”

“Okay, then, they can go to worship, but only the men—the women and children will remain here. You must negotiate, compromise is the way forward.”
No! They’re all going—every one of them!

‘The flocks and herds, they stay! All the people can go, but the herds and flocks are to stay,” he said, still trying to be shrewd, still trying to be a god, the son of Amon Re.

No!” said the God who wouldn’t compromise. “Not a hoof or a garment, not a cooking pot or a kitchen towel will be left behind; not a man, woman, girl or boy will remain here in Egypt!”

And in Babylon when they said to the four young Jews,
“All right, just eat a token amount of the food dedicated to the gods—you can leave the rest,” back came the answer.
“No! Not a scrap of it.”
“Look, you three, I know you don’t believe in the gods here—I get that! But just pretend, in this sea of people bent down you don’t want to be the only three standing. There’s a lot at stake here—if you don’t bow down I will be humiliated and that will send ripples throughout the kingdom. Just out of respect for me, for the sake of peace and your own health don’t make waves—bow, for pity’s sake.”
No!
“No one will notice—bow!”
Yahweh would notice. We’re not bowing.”
“Aside from your God no one would know it. Go ahead and bow.”

Aside from our God we would know it. We’re not bowing.”

“You’re taking what you call non-existing gods very seriously.”

“So does our Living God—He hates false gods that alienate nations from Him, the one true God.

“Come on, give a little.”
Not an inch!
“You act and speak as if you have done no wrong—ever.”
Oh, we’re sinful like everyone else in the world but there are some things we will not do, there are some commitments we will not walk away from and there some vows that even sinful people like us take so seriously that we can’t be turned from. Our final answer is—no.”
The three looked at each other, nodded and together prepared to meet whatever came their way in life.
Such people are still saying “No” to shrewd negotiators because they’ve said “Yes!” to GOD who doesn’t negotiate with gods of ANY kind, no matter the name!
No one is writing novels or making movies about them but God sees, listens, smiles and keeps a record of the most ‘ordinary’ men and women, girls and boys (Malachi 3:16).
Emperors, kings, presidents, prime-ministers, scholars and fashions grow old, the latest books will soon lie unread in dust and and the authors come and go but the Lord, and His Holy Bible reign and abide forever.

 

 

Knowing Everything Except…

Mark Twain had become famous and was invited to dine with the emperor of Germany. His little daughter innocently said to him, “You’ll soon know everybody except God, won’t you, papa!”
Kavin Rowe in his work on Acts has complained that the massive lake of interpretative strategies has broken its banks and the text of the book of Acts has been drowned under scholarly glossolalia.
Scholars read and borrow from or argue with scholars.
Thank God for the historical and textual Jesus.

(Holy Father, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, we’re overwhelmed and confused by the ‘wisdom’ of the scholars. We’re sometimes frightened by it because we don’t understand what they’re saying and the Holy Scriptures have become completely foreign to many of us—yes, even frightening. A growing number of us can no longer read the Holy Bible though we are urged: “Read the Bible for yourselves.” We hear of growing numbers of younger people who become atheists while studying at ‘Christian’ universities. When we voice our fears we’re out-talked, the scholars are too educated for us.  Many of us, perhaps the greater number of us, are older, and what we get from the pulpits and behind the lecterns are hermeneutical strategies. The gap between us and the scholars or the wanna-be scholars or the obvious dabblers, who parrot scraps they pick up from scholars—that gap can only grow as congregations starve.
We’re too ignorant to know what to do. These people take our money and feed us confusion, doubt and consequent weariness.  Some of them understand what they are saying but so many of us go through the motions of worship, wondering which Jesus it is that we’re to embrace, the textual/canonical Jesus of the Holy Scriptures or the one offered by the often conflicting interpretitive strategies. We are now unsure what ‘Holy Scriptures’ we are to feed on. The Bible that has been around for millennia or the one we’re now told is the ‘real’ Bible that ‘saves us from the Bible,’ as one smug writer has put it?  Thank you for the ‘ignorant’ millions who have down the years kept your Word alive and needed. Thank you for scholars like Stanton who remind us that “scholars die but the Bible text lives on.”
Though saddened by so many questions we can’t answer because there are too many and we are so ignorant, yet we’re happy to be blessed with a faith created by You through your Holy Scriptures; a faith that doesn’t need to put You “in the dock” or engage in Pyrrhic victories against the Holy Bible and simple believers when they vainly protest.
We’re happy that that experience of being called in question by ‘reasonable’ questions is not new to you and that you are the GOD and LORD of the gods and lords that we the sinful human family continue to worship though we’ve dropped the names such as Hermes or Thoth. Keep us from idols and keep us near your heart and our hearts near you because idolatry is ever attractive to us. This we ask in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Lord over every name named in this ‘world’ or any other.)

It’s so sweet to trust in Jesus
Just to take Him at His word
Just to rest upon His promise
Just to say, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’

Is There a Gospel for the Happy?

She said, “ I know you have a gospel for the poor, the hurting, the unhappy; do you have a gospel for the happy?”

I know we have a gospel for those weighed down with sins; do we have a gospel for those who aren’t burdened down with sins?

Is our gospel only one of assurance for the fearful, a promise of future deliverance to the captives and the oppressed; is it pretty much summarized in the consoling old and sad hymn, “We’ll understand it better by and by?
Are there no marvelous friendships in the world? No loving parents and happy children? Are there no jobs that bring in a good wage and re a pleasure to turn up for? Are there no comfortable homes, beds that insist on giving you a great night’s sleep, no delicious food, no clean water, no parks, happy rivers, pleasant surroundings–all those and more that make life pleasant?
Of course we hear Jesus say, “If you’re weary and heavy laden come unto me and I will give you rest.” And there was the time (Luke 4) when he said he had come to free prisoners, to heal broken hearts, to deliver people from demonic bondage and to give sight to the blind, unhappy, sad and overburdened souls. We don’t need to apologize for such a gospel; He didn’t! He saw multitudes like sheep without shepherds and He had compassion on them. But is that the entire story? Can you ever imagine Jesus saying, “Come to me if you’re energetic, happy and not a prisoner of besetting sins and I will give you a commission to match your blessedness?” Is He always offering consolation and never challenge? We never hear Him saying, I want you to enjoy your friends and your families and all the blessings that come your way in life—these are gifts from my Father!”

We experience sadness at the death of our beloved ones—and we won’t apologize for it. But we will not live as victims of death.

We refuse to be the prisoners of disease, old age, terminal wards, hospice care or old cemeteries! Nor despite our tears will we think of our beloved ones as slaves of any of these.

 (Oh you mysterious, wondrous God and Father of mankind, thank you for making us conquerors in Jesus Christ come what may. This prayer in His name.)