Know Your Bible

VOL. 11                                                                                                                                                                                October 7, 2012                                                                                                                                                                               NO. 37







  1. Will I pray for Ruben and his choice of lessons each night? Will I pray that visitors (faithful Christians, unfaithful Christians, and non-Christians) will attend this meeting.

  2. Have I made plans to be present each night despite the long day I have put in at work or the fact that it is a school night? Do I really know what it means to “seek ye first the kingdom of God”? It is important for me to be here. My children will know how important God is by seeing my priorities. If I can make the point of being at each service during this week, I am teaching my children (and others) the importance of serving God above all else. 

  3. Have I invited others to come? Have I personally invited family members, neighbors, fellow workers, school friends, or anybody else to come? 

If this meeting were to depend solely on me, what kind of a meeting will it be?

---E.R. Hall, Jr.

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One of the strongest arguments that can be made on the theory that one is saved before and without water baptism is based upon the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10 in the light of what Jesus taught in Jn. 14:17. This is the way the argument is stated: "Jesus said in Jn. 14:16,17, "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may be with you forever, event the Spirit of Truth: Whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: ye know Him; for He abideth with you, and shall be in you." Cornelius received the Holy Spirit before he was commanded to be baptized in water. Therefore, Cornelius was not of the world but a child of God before he was baptized in water." 

The above is specious reasoning, it looks good on the surface, but will break down under the light of the Scriptures. It contradicts Acts 11:14 which states that Peter would speak unto Cornelius "words whereby he would be saved." He could not have been saved until he heard the words. He had to hear the words before he could believe (Acts 15:7),  and his heart was not purified until he believed (Acts 15:9).  Now WHEN did the Holy Spirit fall on Cornelius and his household? From Acts 10:44 we read, "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all them which heard the Word." He fell during the sermon, "while Peter yet spake," but from this passage we cannot determine whether He came in the first, middle, or conclusion of Peter's sermon. The next chapter of Acts leaves us in no doubt because in it Peter "rehearsed the matter from the beginning and expounded it 'in order'" (Acts 11:4). To his Jewish audience in Jerusalem, Peter tells exactly when the Holy Spirit fell. Note in Acts 11:15, "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us at the beginning." 

The Holy Spirit, therefore, fell when Peter opened his mouth, at the beginning of his speech, before the words which saved Cornelius could have been spoken. Since "faith comes by hearing," the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius before Cornelius believed or before he repented. It is not enough to say he received the Holy Spirit before water baptism. He also received the Holy Spirit before he believed or repented. Now, if the ability to speak by means of the Holy Spirit, qualifies the possessor as a child of God then Cornelius was a child of God or saved: 1. Before the words whereby he was to be saved were spoken to him. 2. Before he could have believed (Acts 11:7). 3. Before he repented. 

From the argument by those who deny the efficacy of water baptism strikes out water baptism as being essential to salvation, it strikes out faith also in the case of Cornelius. All Bible believers know that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. 11:6).  Thus their speaking by the Holy Spirit did not prove they were children of God, unless one would also claim that they saved without believing. After they received the Holy Spirit, (which was to enable them to speak in tongues and convince the Jewish disciples present, that the Gentiles were eligible to receive the gospel) they were then shown the necessity of believing and being baptized in order to be saved, just like Jesus commanded previously in Mk. 16:16. 

If Jn. 14:17 cannot be so applied to Cornelius to make him a child of God before water baptism, just what does it mean? In this discourse, Jesus was addressing the twelve. He was soon to leave them, and knew that they would feel that they were "as sheep without a shepherd." He wishes them to know they should not be left orphaned. He tells them, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter." The word "Comforter" is a translation from the Greek word Paracletos which is used only four times in the New Testament and that only in His private address to the twelve, found in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters John. It is never applied to the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to mankind in general or even to the church in general. The Paraclete was an infallible guide. Speaking by Him, the apostles did not contradict each other. Among other things He was to teach them all things, bring to their remembrance all things Christ had spoken unto them, convict the world of sin, of righteous-ness, and of judgment to come; guide them into all truth, and show them the things that were to come. The Comforter continued with the apostles till the end of their ministry and through them gave to mankind the New Testament, "the perfect law of liberty." It is quite obvious that Cornelius did not receive the Holy Spirit in the sense the Lord promised it to the apostles in Jn. 14:17.  

It is also true that Cornelius later received the ordinary gift of the Holy Spirit, not miraculous, which comes to every Christian. This is promised after obeying the conditions of salvation including water baptism for the remission of sins. "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). In this sense the Holy Spirit comes to all those that obey HIm (Acts 5:32). 

If the ability to speak by means of the Holy Spirit makes the possessor a child of God then what about these? 

1. Balaam prophesied against  Balaak by  the immediate direction of God (Num. chs. 23,24). Did that make him a child of God? 2. The Spirit of God came upon King Saul and he prophesied.  Yet God rejected Saul as a wicked king (1 Sam. 10:10). 3. The lying prophet of Bethel was enabled by the Spirit to foretell the sad fate of the man of God, whom by falsehood he had seduced from the Word of the Lord (1 Kgs. 13:11-32). 4. A dumb animal, Balaam's ass, spoke by the Holy Spirit (Num. 22:27). Did that make the dumb animal, which had no soul, a child of God? 5. Caiaphas, the wicked high priest, spoke "not of himself" that one man should die and not the whole nation. He held the office of high priest by Roman appoint-ment. Was he a child of God, just because we have a record of the Holy Spirit's speaking through him on one occasion (Jn. 11:41-52)? 

In the above cases the Holy Spirit merely used these parties as mediums for God's speaking to man or impressing upon him some important lesson. So it was in the case of Cornelius. If he had to hear words by which he would be saved (Acts 11:14), he could not have been saved by the words until he heard them. As the Holy Spirit fell on them, as Peter began to speak (Acts 11:15), it follows that they had not heard the words when the Holy Spirit fell on them, and hence were not saved at that time. In Acts 10:48, Peter commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. On Pentecost baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ" was "for the remission of sins." Thus Peter understood water baptism in the name of the Lord to be for (in order to) the remission of sins and this is what he commanded Cornelius and his house to do since he said, "God put no difference between us and them." (Acts 15:9).           

---Fred B. Walker

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Know Your Bible" is e-mailed weekly by the church of Christ which meets at 112 Roberts Avenue in Wise, Virginia. If you know of others who might benefit from the articles contained in this bulletin, we would be glad to have you submit their e-mail addresses and we will include them in next week's mailing. If you are receiving this bulletin and do not wish to continue to do so, please e-mail us with your desire to be removed from the mailing list and we will remove your address promptly. Continue to the bottom of this page and further instructions will be given as to how you may contact us.

--- E.R. Hall, Jr.




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