Know Your Bible

VOL. 10                           June 19, 2011                           NO. 24

 Do You Understand What You Read?
     When Philip came to the Ethiopian eunuch, he was reading from the writings of Isaiah. Upon hearing him read, Philip asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" (Acts 8:30). The eunuch honestly replied, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (v. 31), and asked Philip to come and sit with him. From there, Philip joined the eunuch in his chariot and beginning at that point in the Scripture, "he told him the good news about Jesus" (vv. 31-35). We can read of the positive result of this encounter (vv. 36-39), but we need to stop and consider the fact that understanding was necessary for even that to happen. How often is some sort of misunderstanding a hindrance to obedience and one's salvation today? Far too often, I fear.
     It is not enough, you see, to be genuinely and sincerely interested in God's Word for us to be able to be saved. The eunuch was obviously a man who was devoted to God and one who was willing to go to great lengths [literally] to find the truth; he had traveled more than 1300 miles [one way] from Ethiopia to come to Jerusalem to worship (v. 27), and even as he returned home, he was reading Scripture. No one would doubt the spiritual interest of this man, but his desire did not overcome his lack of understanding. It was not until someone came along and explained the Scriptures to him that the eunuch could under-stand, believe, and obey [which he did]. Only when the Scriptures were explained to him could he know their meaning and come to know he needed to be believe in Jesus as the Christ and be baptized (v. 36). Once he had done what God commanded, he went on his way rejoicing (v. 39) for having received salvation and forgiveness of sins through the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
     Centuries that have separated us from that time have not eliminated the possibility that men may not understand some of the things revealed within God's Word. In the last 2000 years, many men have read God's Word and, not understanding what they read, have failed to understand what God would have them do and, often, traveled the path of error because someone has led them astray. Far too often, those who were seeking truth have been met by those who offered explanations that did not accord with what was revealed and have led souls to destruction instead of salvation. Sometimes, it is the failure of the one doing the explaining and sometimes it is the one who is being taught, but the end result is the same: lost souls.
     In the interest of learning the truth, let us consider a few things from God's Word which many do not understood and which will prevent their salvation.
     The Need For Baptism. Often, the lack of understanding is due to preconceived ideas about God's plan of salvation, and not because of ambiguous passages. When men enter into Bible study believing that man can do nothing towards their own salvation, they will dismiss even plain Bible passages that seem to teach anything different than what they already believe. If you begin a Bible study with the idea that baptism cannot possibly be a part of God's plan for salvation, then even what the passages plainly say will not convince you. But what is the place of baptism? Is it necessary for salvation? Without any preconceptions, let us consider what the Scriptures do say.
     Consider that Jesus said, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). Men may argue until time ends that baptism is not necessary for salvation, but please consider those words; Jesus said when we believe and are baptized, we are saved. What do you think will be the case if we are not? Logic demands that the converse would be true. In other words, we will not be saved!
     "But," you may argue, "How does it save us? I thought we were saved by grace? I thought we are saved by the blood of Christ?" And you would be right! You see, Peter reminds us that "Baptism  now saves you...through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 3:21). It is not in the waters of baptism itself that we are saved; there is no 'magic' or power in the water and it is not some great work we do, but it is the blood of Jesus Christ wherein the power lies. It is by His resurrection - the proof that He was the Son of God as He claimed that we are saved, but it is in baptism that the saving power of His blood is made effective to us. Paul reminds us it is "in were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God" (Col. 2:12), and it is then that we are "made alive together with Him" (v. 13). Friends and brethren, if we are not baptized, then we are not raised with Him and God does not make us spiritually alive!
     Paul again speaks of this need for baptism when he wrote the Roman brethren, asking, "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his" (Rom. 6:3-5). Again, let the Scriptures teach us; it is then that we are buried with Him [Christ] that, like Christ, we may be raised up by God, who raised Jesus from the dead. Friends and brethren, if we are not buried with Him [in baptism] God will not raise us up with Him!
     But some will still plead, "What about grace? If we say baptism is necessary, then that means we are saved by works and not by grace, and that would contradict Scripture (cf. Eph. 2:8-9)!" Let's consider the context of that passage, shall we? Earlier, Paul said to those who had already been saved [they were already Christians], "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ  by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him" (Eph. 2:4-6). Note that Paul spoke of the time when God had raised them and made them alive together with Christ; do we remember when this occurred (cf. Col. 2:12-13)? It was when they were baptized! So how is it that we are saved by grace? Grace saves us by the fact it is God's plan for salvation, given to us. Without that plan, without God's unmerited favor of giving a means for forgiveness of sins, all we would be doing is getting wet! But because God said we are to be baptized, where the blood of Jesus Christ is made effective, where our sins are forgiven, and the point at which God makes us alive, we may be saved! I depend on God's grace to save me even as I am baptized, for without His plan and without His working, baptism would do me no good spiritually nor any other man. But, yes, in baptism we are saved by grace!
     So, when you come to passages that teach about baptism, take another look. Do you understand what you read? Do not let the words of others dissuade you from accepting the plain teachings of God's Word. There have been some mighty twisting of Scriptures to make it say what it does not say, but when we study with an open mind and willing heart, we may understand. We may understand the need for baptism, if we are willing, and we may obey that our sins can be forgiven by the precious blood of Jesus and by the wonderful working and grace of God.
     Now, we each must make a serious and honest self-examination. Have we done what the Lord said we must do? "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16).

---Steven Harper
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'For The Young People'
     More and more we hear folks deciding to attend a certain ‘church’ because “there are lots of good activities for the young people”. Often it is the sole basis for making this important determination. ‘Programs’, ‘activities’, and ‘groups’ for the young people – that’s the drawing card.
     And, what activities are these folks searching for? Are we talking here about carefully arranged Bible classes that seek to instill an understanding of God’s word in the hearts of our young people? Is it sound teaching from the pulpit and scriptural practice in the way the church does its business so that the young folks can learn respect for Bible authority? Is it love between brethren that manifests itself by each individual demonstrating “hospitality one to another” (1 Pet. 4:9).
     Sadly, the answer is no. Instead, the activities that are desired “for the young people” are fun and games – ‘youth groups’ that sponsor parties, retreats, outings, camps, softball and basketball leagues, etc. The bigger the better and the more the merrier seem to be the rule.
     Lest anyone misunderstand, let it be known that we love basketball, baseball, camping, parties . . . and fun and food in general!  We strongly favor such things being provided as an avenue of ‘good, clean fun’ for our young folks. But we insist that there is no authority in the Bible for the church to provide such. Let parents who really care see to it that the kids have these needed diversions, and let the church keep to its important authorized work. There’s nothing better for our young people than this.
---Greg Gwin
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