Baptism: A Basic Necessity

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

In life there are basic necessities in order to maintain life. Humans need food, water, clothing, and shelter-these are basic necessities. It is recognized that these are needs that are to be fulfilled, yet when it comes to spiritual necessities, people would rather be starving, thirsty, naked, and homeless rather than being obedient to God and be spiritually established. The text teaches that baptism is essential, thus being necessary, for the salvation of our souls. However, man will twist this simple truth to their own destruction and will lead many into error. What does the text teach concerning the necessity of baptism?

For the purpose of this study, we will not consider all the things man has said in the past. Rather, we will appeal directly to the text and make applications based upon the text, not upon any preconceptions or biases. In Acts 2:36 the apostles were speaking boldly teaching “this Jesus whom you have crucified, God has made him both Lord and Christ.” The pure reaction that is shown in the context is a reaction of a convicted group of people of their sin and they realize the truth. Therefore the question was raised, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) What was the answer given to this group of people? The text continues in verse 38, of Acts 2, with Peter plainly stating, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The answer given is repent and be baptized. Note this was not presented as an option, with other avenues, but presented as necessary.

This is not the only place where baptism is spoken of as being required. Mark 16:16 is a plain statement: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” Who is the one that will be condemned? The text teaches the one that does not believe. Therefore, who is the one that will be saved according to the text? He who believes and is baptized is the one that will be saved. Our question is: Is baptism necessary for salvation? Here the text says yes. If this passage does not teach that baptism is necessary, then how should one need to change it to make Mark 16:16 say that baptism is necessary?

These passages show that baptism is necessary for salvation, but other things happen as well as a result of the salvation one obtains through baptism. We find that people are added to the Lord’s Church (Acts 2:47), one is put into Christ (Gal. 3:27), one becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26), one is crucified, buried, and raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:1-4), spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:8-15), one is washed (1 Pet. 3:21, Acts 22:16), as well as one calls on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). These are all things that happen as a result of baptism being practiced. Since God is not a liar, and the Bible is the word of God, therefore this must be the truth of the matter. If baptism is not practiced then one can’t be a part of the Church, or be a child of God as a result of being in Christ, or remove the old man to start anew, or to be washed, or even call on the name of the Lord. Is there another way for these things to occur without baptism? The text does not show or teach there is another outlet.

If you want to be cleansed and be free again to serve God, how are you going to do so? The Bible teaches that baptism is the means for this transformation and rebirth (Jno. 3:5, Tit. 3:5). Why would one want to deny a simple and basic command and neglect a necessity for our spiritual lives?

Am I Responsible?

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

Growing up at home and going to school through the years, I have been taught that I am to be responsible for the things that I say and do. I have learned this lesson both in the environment of the home as well as in the school setting. What strikes me odd now is that several claim that we are not responsible for our sins! We can’t have it both ways. Either we are, or we are not responsible for our actions, whether actions of good works or of sin. The Bible teaches that I will give an account of all that I do (Rom 14:12), including both good and bad things.

In the Old Testament, we find that the person that sins is responsible for his own actions. Consider Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” It is quite plainly said that the soul that sins shall die. Am I responsible for my actions? YES! We also find that the father isn’t responsible for the sin of the son, not the son responsible for the sin of the father. Am I responsible for my actions? YES! God has always held each person responsible for his/her own actions. God’s word has not changed concerning this even into the New Testament.

All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. This statement was made by Paul, an inspired apostle, in Rom. 3:23. This verse says that all have sinned. Each individual has sinned on his/her own will. Each person is responsible for his/her actions. As a result of each person sinning, all fall short of the glory of God. We become unworthy to dwell in the presence of God when we sin. We sever the relationship between us and God each time we sin. Any doctrine that teaches otherwise is absolutely false!

We also read each person will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). What will we be doing before Christ? We will be giving an account of all that we have done (Rom. 14:12). Would there be a point of being before a judgment seat if we are not responsible for our sins? NO! Our deeds will determine whether we will obtain eternal life with the righteous, or eternal punishment with the wicked (Mt. 25:46). I must realize this and live according to what God has said!

Each man sins when he is drawn away and enticed by his own desires which conceives sin and brings forth death when it is fully grown (Jms. 1:14-15). Our sin puts us in darkness, separated from God (Eph. 5:7-8, 1 Jno. 1:5-10). Therefore, we are in need of reconciliation to restore and mend the relationship between us and God. We can receive this reconciliation through Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:9-11). We must realize that salvation is a gift that we do not deserve and there is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy. The offering of salvation to man is God’s demonstration of His grace (Eph. 2:4-5, Tit. 3:4-7). We are saved by His grace and mercy, though not because of an act that we have done to make us worthy, it is based upon God’s loving kindness.

I must realize that I am responsible for my actions and you are responsible for your actions! Remember that it is the soul that sins is the soul that will die (Ez. 18:20). I am not responsible for the actions of my parents, or for anyone else-only my own. Let us then live pleasing to God so that we may be able to receive the inheritance that is promised.

They Must Be Silenced

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

Unity is precious in the sight of the Lord. John 17, commonly referred to as the Lord’s prayer, reflects the things that Christ desired for His disciples. John 17:21 states, “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” The idea being presented is the desire for the Lord’s body to be united as one. This would be one of the defining attributes of the Lord’s special people. Paul penned in 1 Corinthians 1:10 for the Corinthian brethren to be of the same mind and judgment. The unity was to be preserved in the Lord’s body in the face of brethren wanting divisions. In order to maintain the unity of the body of Christ, there are times when it is absolutely necessary to silence those who teach error concerning the gospel of Christ. They must be silenced because false doctrine spreads as cancer in the human body!

There are brethren that will not defend the truth against error until there is a large problem in the local congregation. I do see the wisdom in not constantly hammering an error that is not a problem at the immediate present, but can we not give warnings? Paul warned brethren concerning problems before the problems arose. This could prevent the issue from becoming a large problem for the congregation. Paul warned brethren concerning bad company (1 Cor. 15:33), evildoers (Phil. 3:2), those who might teach another gospel (Gal. 1:9), the possibility of apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1). Paul gave other warnings as well for the purpose of edifying the brethren. Being prepared for what is out in the world will help aid the Christian to wage a good warfare and maintain the unity of the body.

I am impressed when reading passages such as Galatians 2:5 where Paul and other faithful preachers did not yield or submit to those who were teaching error. When error is present, don’t leave it unattended, but extinguish the flame of error! When a flame goes unattended, the whole structure can burst into flame and be destroyed. We need to be watchful and ever prayerful as instructed by Paul in Ephesians 6. Are we going to be asleep at our post at this time in the war against the evil hosts?

In Titus 1, the Holy Spirit was compelled to have this passage preserved for us to consider and make applications. In this text, Paul tells Titus that there are those who are deceivers and empty talkers who will teach what they ought not. Note that Paul says in verse 11 that those who were teaching error were to be silenced! Paul identified the group (the insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party) and also noted some of the things that were being circulated or taught (Jewish myths, commands of people who turn away from the truth) in verse 14. Paul identifies the party, the problem, and gives the cure for the problem in verse 11. They must be silenced!

Also note in Titus 1 that Titus is not the only party responsible for the rebuking of those who teach error. This is also a responsibility for the elders of each congregation (Titus 1:9). This goes to show the importance of teaching and defending the truth when multiple individuals are given the responsibility directly from the Scriptures! We find that Paul emphasizes the thought of being sound (Titus 1:9, 13, 2:1,8) whether in speech or doctrine. Anything less than sound is unacceptable in the Lord’s sight! For unity to be maintained, we need to all be of the same mind and strive to be sound, steadfast, immovable, a vigilant soldier.

Sadly, there are brethren that will plainly say that we cannot be that bold and protest against error like the apostles and the preachers of the first century because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and we are not. This line of logic is not valid. We have the direct command (Titus 2:15), approved apostolic examples (Acts 9:19-22, Acts 17, Gal. 2:11), and the necessary inference from Matthew 28:20 where Jesus instructed His apostles to teach the disciples to observe all that He had commanded the apostles. Would this not include rebuking false teachers as Jesus did from time to time (Mt. 15:1-9, Mt. 23)? As Christians, our goal is to be as much like Christ as we possibly can (1 Pet. 2:21). Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Beloved brethren, will we follow the pattern?

Though brethren say that men today cannot be bold like those in the first century, we find the first century brethren were able to have the mind of Christ. The first century displayed this mind in their teaching and comparing spiritual things in spiritual terms (1 Cor. 2:16, 13). By studying the Scriptures we can also have the mind of Christ. If we can have the mind of Christ, can we therefore be spiritually minded? Absolutely! In fact, we find in Romans 8 that we must be spiritually minded because carnality is death (Rom. 8:6)! The men who were rebuking error were spiritually minded men, and we can have the same mindset since we too can have the same mind as they. Brothers and sisters, we can have the mind of Christ.

The Scriptures are inspired of God to fully equip the man of God for every good work. The brethren in the first century did not have the recorded Scriptures of the New Testament as we do today. The first century Christians were only able to prophesy in part (1 Cor. 13), but we have the Scriptures in its complete and perfect form. If we are capable to establish authority and follow the pattern in areas such as the plan of salvation, the acts of worship, and the work of the Church, then why can’t we use the same intelligence to learn how to preach according to the example and the pattern we find in the Scriptures?

We are not to be as children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, but a people that is united in Christ. To do so means we must sanctify the Lord, being ready to answer any question concerning the hope that is found in Christ. We noticed at the beginning of this study, Jesus wanted His people to be united in all things as the Godhead is united (John 17:21). When we are the strong Christians that Christ desires, we will be united together by the gospel of Christ to do the work that is set before us.

How Close Are We to God?

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

When studying God’s inspired word, it is very encouraging to read of examples of people who were very close to God. The relationships that we maintain can either make us stronger, or could destroy us at the same token. Relationships are essential necessities in our lives. Christians understand that God must come first above all things (Mt. 6:33), and furthermore our relationship with God will determine our destination for eternity- heaven or hell (Rom. 6). Is the relationship we have with God as strong as it ought to be, or is God as a mere acquaintance? There is no other relationship more important than the one we have with God!

Looking at the Old Testament, there are several examples of men and women who maintained a close relationship with God. I would like to examine just a couple of examples of men who were noted as being very close to God. By looking at the examples found in the Scriptures, we can learn so much of how God expects his creation to live. Paul noted in Romans 15:4 that we can learn from the example given to us by the things written earlier in the Old Testament.

The first example to be considered in this study is the life of Enoch. We find in Genesis 5:21-24 that Enoch was not for God took him. Enoch was one of two men that were specifically noted to have walked with God (Gen. 5:22). The other man who walked with God was Noah, Enoch’s grandson (Gen. 6:9). Enoch did not taste death because he walked with God. This simply means that Enoch lived in harmony with God. For any man to be in harmony with God, man needs to be in subjection to the will of God. We find in Hebrews 11:5 Enoch had a witness, or a testimony, of how he was pleasing to God. Enoch had established this reputation by how he lived. This was not a one time event, but rather a lifetime commitment! We can walk with God like Enoch if we live to please God and maintain our faith (Heb. 11:5-6). We need to strive for that kind of relationship.

Abraham was close to God, in James 2:21-23 we read of Abraham being referred to as the friend of God. Abraham had the close relationship with God that we need to strive for today. Abraham was faithful to God throughout his life when he left Ur and was willing to sacrifice Isaac to God (Heb. 11:8-10; 17-19). God needs to be our closest friend, but in many cases people do not want to give God the time of day like we do for our other friends. Knowing how to develop this relationship like Enoch and Abraham will help us become closer to God.

Knowledge is necessary in order to have a good relationship. If I want to have a relationship with another person, I need to know what kind of person he/she is as well as some common interests that we may have. God has offered us His word in order for us to learn of Him. God already knows us perfectly and knows what is best for us. We need to make the decision if we want to be reconciled to God.

People need to realize that if we do not have the right relationship with God, we will be doomed for all of eternity. Hosea told the Israelites in Hosea 4:6 that God’s people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge. In order for people today to gain knowledge of God, it is going to take time in studying the Bible. It will requires intense study to be the workman that is not ashamed, who rightly divides the word of truth as described in 2 Timothy 2:15. For man to be complete, fully furnished for every good work, every man must know God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Without God, we are nothing and have nothing!

Another paramount aspect of any relationship is communication. In our relationships with friends, we know that those who talk daily with each other are closer friends than people who only talk to each other once a month. If we go without talking to a friend for an extended amount of time, would the relationship survive? The answer is no. To have a strong and healthy relationship, communication must take place on both sides of the table.

The same is true in our relationship with God. If we go for long periods of time without praying to God, our spiritual lives will be very weak, making it easy to fall away from the truth. God has already told us what He wants in the relationship through the Scriptures. Now it is our turn to return the communication. Paul said to pray without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Prayer is the avenue that allows us to communicate with God. We are able to talk to other people face to face and discuss anything that may be on our minds. Are we able to tell God anything as well? Are we able to pray at any time and in any situation, or do we pray just out of habit as a meaningless ritual? Answering these questions will show the status of the relationship that you have with God.

Jesus prayed to God on several occasions. Right before Jesus was about to be arrested, Jesus was in prayer to God in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke records for us the intensity that Jesus was praying and the agony He was feeling in Luke 22:44. Jesus was aware that His hour was rapidly approaching and did not desire to endure the suffering as a man. Yet He prayed knowing the will of God and said to let God’s will be done. Communication is vital in any relationship; remember to pray at any opportunity, whether it is in times of joy or of suffering.

The best relationships have individuals that are honest and faithful to the other. Fidelity is something that is not strived for in today’s society. This is evident when we look at figures like to crime rate across the country, divorce rates, and at businesses where cheating and dishonesty are the means in order to achieve a promotion. Fidelity is a jewel that has been thrown out the window by society. Society says to look out for #1 and do not concern yourself with others. However, the rules and philosophies of society will not save us on the Day of Judgment.

God has told us that He will always be faithful to us (1 Cor. 10:13). Will we be faithful to Him? We are told in order to be rewarded with heaven that we must keep busy and remain immovable in our convictions and desire to serve God (1 Cor. 15:58, Gal. 6:7-10, 2 Tim. 4:6-8, Heb. 11:6, Rev. 2:10). God considers faithfulness very seriously and we should too. This relationship that we have with God is not a game to play around with whenever it is convenient. Unfortunately this is exactly how some people view this relationship. We are either with God or against Him, we cannot straddle the fence!

The Bible is explicit when it discusses the lines that are drawn between good and evil, between righteousness and sin, between God and Satan. Paul said that those who would walk contrary to God have become enemies of the cross (Phil. 3:18-19). We are either a servant of God or of sin (Rom. 6:16, 20-23). Jesus said that we cannot serve both God and mammon (Mt. 6:24). God has drawn the lines, which side are you on? Remember that there is no middle ground with God and we are either with Him or against Him!

The Israelites in the Old Testament were guilty of trying to straddle the fence as well and were called adulteresses and harlots (Hos. 3:1, 4:15, Ams. 2:7-8, 5:25-27)! We are not able to be pleasing to God and serve our own desires at the same time. God will not allow it and will punish us for it on the Day of Judgment (Rom. 6:23). Like Amos said in chapter 3 and verse 7 and 8, “Surely the Lord does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to the prophets. A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord has spoken! Who can but prophesy?” Amos had told the Israelites of the destruction that would befall them if they did not repent. Judgment is coming, “Prepare to meet your God!” (Ams. 4:12).

God needs to be the closest friend we have. He has shown us His love by extending grace through Jesus Christ (Jno. 3:16, Eph. 2:4-6) and by providing for our every physical need (Mt. 6:33, Jms. 1:17). God has been and will always be there for us. There is no one that is able to be as faithful as God. He has done all of these wonderful things for us so that we may desire to have the right relationship with Him. God desires to have a special people that will strive to be close to Him. Will we be the people who are close to God like Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David, and others, or will we only be a mere acquaintance? It is our choice to make for ourselves. No one can make the decision for us neither can we make the decision for another. Consider these things and see how close you are to God.

The Words of My Mouth and the Meditation of My Heart Be Acceptable

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

It is understood that certain things are acceptable and other things are not. When unacceptable things are done, there is punishment. Conversely when acceptable things are exercised, there are awards. It is acceptable to drive a vehicle with a driver’s license, but it is not acceptable to drive without a license. When an individual is found driving without a license, there is a punishment that has been described by civil law for the law breaker. This is understood and such a law is enforced by the government. When we consider the things within our lives, we must realize that there are things that God has specified which are acceptable and unacceptable. The Christian has to determine from God’s word that which is acceptable and pursue it.
Continue Reading

God’s Simple Word

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

When considering the awesome power of God, each person needs to realize that God’s hand is not “too short” to do anything. Consider Genesis chapter 1. When God created all things at creation, God merely spoke and it was. That is awesome to think that just by verbal command from God, everything was created from nothing! If God spoke man into existence, certainly God has the power to save man from his sins.

It is amazing that God does not expect the impossible, but the simple. In Romans 12:1-2 we find that Paul tells the Roman brethren that being a living sacrifice is a reasonable service. Pleasing God is not the impossible but rather is completely possible! Note that God’s word is simple, not crafty or deceiving. This is the point that Paul was making to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. Here the text reveals that the gospel of Christ comes across as being foolish to those who choose not to believe, but to those that believe, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:18; Rom. 1:16). By using the simple things of this life, God puts the wisdom of the world to shame. The Almighty that created the worlds has made reconciliation possible for man.

God has set His plan for man’s salvation. It is man’s duty to take heed to what God has said and be obedient (Eccl. 12:13-14). Yet, man has rejected God’s plan and devised his own way for salvation. Any other plan devised other than God’s plan leads to destruction (Mt. 7:13-14; Prv. 16:25). God said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9). This ought to humble each man to realize that God is so much superior to man. Therefore let us come to listen to the glorious gospel of Christ!

I have noticed that many of this present world desire religion to be flashy, entertaining, an emotional rollercoaster, and more complicated than what God has planned. Such people need to review the “old paths” and test their traditions and contemporary activities and see how far they have strayed away from the truth. Consider the means by which we are saved. God says that we must hear the word (Rom. 10:17), then believe the word of God (Mark 16:16), repent of sins (Acts 2:38), confess that Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 10:9-10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (1 Pet. 3:21). Now man says that you feel when you are saved, the need to only believe that Jesus is the Christ (faith-only doctrine), and even go as far to say that God is too loving of a God to punish His creation. Such people that would teach, advocate, or condone such doctrines have become enemies of the cross of Christ!

Those who earnestly desire to follow God will look to the Scriptures and find His simple will. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt. 5:6). God’s word is what is able to satisfy the hunger for righteousness because it is His word that equips us to do good works (2 Tim. 3:17). The gospel of Christ teaches us to be baptized to remove our sins (Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:5-11). For the person who believes the gospel of Christ, that person understands that it is necessary to wash and be clean (Acts 22:16, Titus 3:5, 1 Pet. 3:21). Is it such a hard and complicated thing to understand? What if God asked us to do some great thing, would we do it? If so, then why is it that people rant and rave about baptism? The reason is simple- they are still too proud to submit, not desiring to serve God. Our attitude needs to be of that like Isaiah when he declared, “Here am I! Send me” (Is. 6:8). When God commands, we ought to jump at the chance to obey.

The Preacher concluded the matter as this: “Fear God and keep His commandments…” (Eccl. 12:13). This is the most we can do, and ought to be our greatest joy knowing that we serve the true and living God! We can understand God’s will and in turn obey it. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul urged the brethren in Corinth to consider their ways and make sure they were abiding by God’s truth. The sweet psalmist of Israel said that the word of God is able to make wise the simple (Ps. 19:7). God’s will is reasonable (Rom. 12:2), living, and powerful (Heb. 4:12).It is possible to please God. God has told us what He wants; will we hear and take heed to the things that He has spoken? Remember that it was God’s word that caused creation, and it is His word that saves man today!