Foundational Considerations of “The Church”

Foundational Truths About The Church

When we consider items that pertain to the foundation of the church we must first consider the Greek translation for the church which is “ekklesia” meaning called out.  The church is called out from the world in the sense of its direction and purpose.  Consider 2 Corinthians 6:17:

17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”[a]

We ust also consider Matthew 16:18 which says:

13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

17 Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

Notice, in the scripture referenced above Jesus said: “Upon this “rock”, I will build my church”. The rock that Jesus referenced was Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God referenced in verse 16.  It was not Peter himself.  Why would Christ build his church on a man?  This would be sinking sand.  Peter clearly demonstrated in scripture that he was human.  The foundation pertains to Christ.

In addition, John 1:1 says that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God; then when we get to John 1:14 we see that the Word became flesh. The Word that we find referenced here once again is Jesus. So we can also conclude that the Word and Christ are synonymous.  So the foundation of God’s church is the Word of God (a.k.a. Christ).

To take it a step further the scriptures declare that the Word is truth as seen in John 17:17:

17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

So not only is Christ “the Word” and “the Word” is truth, Christ is truth as well.  This means that everything that he said was true.  as he said to Pilate in John 18:37-38:

37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.

The Church is a Spiritual Body not Physical

Christ’s church is spiritual and has absolutely nothing to do with the respective buildings where we gather to worship on Sundays.  This can be seen in Christ’s conversation with the woman at the well where she focused on the appropriate place for worship in John 4:

23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus also told Pilate in John 18:

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

This confirms that Christ’s kingdom is spiritual not physical.  This also includes the church. The old testament temple was God’s first method of working with Israel.  However, God’s plan was for man’s body to be the temple of the Holy Spirit as we read in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

In our next blog we will discuss what should be considered in a church name based on scripture.

What is Truth: A Review of Christ’s Dialogue with Pontius Pilate

Jesus & PilateIn a world where facts are often considered to be subjective (a clear sign of the world’s insanity) it is quite interesting that Christ’s discussion about truth is with a Roman political figure.  Let’s examine the brief exchange between Christ and Pontius Pilate taken from John 18:33-38:

33 Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”

34 Jesus answered him, “Are you speaking for yourself about this, or did others tell you this concerning Me?”

35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”

36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”

37 Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?”

Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.

Starting at verse 33 of the passage above we see that Jesus actually controls the direction of the conversation between he and Pilate by asking Pilate an open-ended question concerning what caused Pilate to inquire on whether he is a king.  More explicitly a king of the Jews.  This was clearly intentional as Christ was aware that Pilate was provoked by the Jewish leaders of the day to make the inquiry in the first place.

Now, I don’t profess to know Pilate’s heart, but if he was anything like politicians today, the concept of truth based on facts may have been one that was foreign and relative.  Being a man of power, Pilate may have seen truth as something that could be bent and changed when desired.

Jesus’ statement about his mission being to proclaim and present truth would have been certainly relevant to Pilate directly, but also, to those that would find themselves reading the passage of scripture in the future.

The truth that Christ was referring to was the truth of God’s true intentions for mankind to be pleasing to him and the great love that he has for everyone (John 3:16).  In addition, this truth can only be found in God’s word as John 17:17 says: 17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.

Finally, the scriptures also teach that Christ himself is the living word of God; John 1:1 and John 1:14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

What Paul the Apostle meant when he said “I Thank God that I baptized None of You”

Baptism2In 1 Corinthians 1:13-15 (NKJV), Paul writes:

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name.

As we examine the text and earlier verses we see that Paul wanted to avoid what is quite common today: “denominational” or “divided thinking”.

In fact, let’s look at some of the earlier verses which lead to Paul’s comment in verse 14:

10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.”

Notice in verse 12, that some people weren’t satisfied with being baptized into Christ.  Instead, some thought that there baptism was something special depending on who baptized them?  Ridiculous right?  Not anything that we haven’t seen before.  This is exactly how denominations get started.

It’s not God that messes things up, but mankind.  Christian churches are split into multiple denominations, because people have opinions rather than sticking to the word and the intended teaching of scripture.  Yes, there is a right way of understanding scripture and not misinterpreting the text.  Consider 2 Timothy 2:15 which states:

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Unfortunately, many people who debate over scriptures might say: “you see it your way” and “I see it my way”.  However, few ask “what is God’s way”?

One other prevailing thought about this scripture is that it is some sort of proof that baptism is not essential for one’s soul salvation.  However, this could not be further from the truth.

Again, the scripture in summary is saying don’t get caught up on who baptizes you because whomever is not important since they didn’t die for your sins.

Why Romans 10:9 is not a Basis for the “Sinner’s Prayer”

beach prayerMany in the denominational world like to “hang their hats”, so to speak, on Romans 10:9 as the formula for gaining eternal security with God.  However, we explore some of the challenges of this assertion.

Romans 10:9-10 states:

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

If we examine chapter 10 of Romans and put the scripture into its proper context we can see that Paul the Apostle expressed his desire for Israel to be saved.  Now, many were saved at that time.  However, the nation of Israel as a whole rejected the gospel of salvation through Christ.

In verse 5, Paul explains that Moses’ teaching was that all a person needed to do was follow the law to be saved:

For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, “The man who does those things shall live by them.”

In subsequent verses Paul explains that the mindset of following the law to be righteous has been replaced with faith in Christ:

But the righteousness of faith speaks in this way, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’”[c] (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’”[d] (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”[e] (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

The passage referenced above is focused on a change in mindset or dispensation and was not designed to be a step-by-step process for salvation.

In fact, in Mark 16:16, which I might note comes before Romans 10:9, we see that Christ told Nicodemus the pharisee the following:

16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

We also see the requirements in the book of Matthew and in Acts; both of which occur before Romans 10:9:

Matthew 28:18-20:

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore[a] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.[b]

Acts 2:37-38 :

37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

One would have to skip over several commandments to conclude that simply confessing one’s sins and believing would make one compliant with Christ’s commands for salvation.

All “Faith Healers” Today Are False

wheelchairWe often see self-proclaimed faith healers on television who claim to be able to heal the sick.  However, this is not something that can be performed today.  This is not to say that God cannot perform a miracle today if he chooses to do so.  However, we can see from scripture that Christ performed miracles during his mission, his 12 apostles were able to do so because the Holy Spirit was upon them and only they were able to give these miraculous gifts to others.

Let’s explore two main reasons why so-called faith-healers are false:

  • The evidence of scripture indicates that miracles performed through people was just for a certain period of time and not forever.
  • Your own senses combined with scripture

We will start with scripture.

The Purpose of Physical Healing in the New Testament

The answer concerning the purpose of New Testament healing can be found in Jesus’ statement to his followers in Mark 16:17-20 (NKJV):

17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues;

18 they[b] will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

19 So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

The reason why this power to heal, cast out demons, speak in tongues, etc. was demonstrated by Christ and his early followers was as verse 20 states: “confirming the word.

The student of the Bible must be aware that Jesus came to earth to bring the good news of eternal life through his shed blood for mankind’s sins, and to demonstrate how to be pleasing and acceptable to the God.

In other words, up to the point of the Apostolic Age, only the old testament existed.  If Jesus and his followers would bring clarity about God and salvation, the miracles and signs helped to confirm that Christ and his followers represented God.

However, this was for a time as we see in I Corinthians 13:9-10

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.

10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.  Another way of looking at the term “perfect” is completeness or being adequate enough.  The scriptures (old & new) are perfect or complete.  

Since the Word has been confirmed by the early work of the church, so these signs are no longer.  Now God expects us to live by faith; Hebrews 10:38:

38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Use Your Own Senses

I attended a denominational church many years ago and there was a session for anyone who wanted to healed to come up and have a certain man heal them by laying his hands upon them and praying.  Now all of the people who came up had conditions that none of the audience members could confirm which included: pains in certain areas of the body, someone reported having one leg slightly shorter than the other, etc.

Interestingly enough, there was an elderly lady in the back of the auditorium who could not get down to the main floor for her healing.  When the alleged healer called for anyone else, she waved her hand and yelled out, but he completely ignored her.

Folks, the apostles who had the gift of healing in the scripture did not hesitate to use the gift for all who would have been present. Take a look at: Acts 5:12:

12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people.

Nowhere in scripture will you find the utterance of these phrases used by false healers today:

  • God just partially healed you today
  • You didn’t have enough faith for me to heal you
  • There is something that you need to get rid of in your life for God to heal you

In fact, in order for someone else at the time of the Apostles to be able to perform miracles, only an Apostle could share the gift as we see in Acts 19:5-7:

5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

6And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.

7There were in all about twelve men.

The False Doctrine of Prosperity Preachers

rolls-royce-526056_1280There are many preachers and television evangelists in the denominational world today who assert that God doesn’t want anyone to be poor; from a monetary standpoint.

In many cases they tell their parishioners that if they would provide a large sum of money to their ministry, God would in turn bless the giver with a substantial amount of money in return.

This concept that God’s goal or will for all Christians is that they are monetarily rich is a heretical teaching and we will explore some reasons why.

Old Testament Examples of Prosperity

When we examine the old testament we can clearly see that God did promise the nation of Israel many physical and financial blessings with the condition being obedience.  We must remember that the old testament experiences were mostly physical so that spiritual truths could be gleaned for the benefit of the spiritually minded.  Let’s take a look at Deuteronomy 28:1-6 (KJV) as an example:

28 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandment(if this condition was met) which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations (result) of the earth:

And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God.

Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.

Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep.

Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store.

Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.

The passage above indicates that if God’s terms were met, Israel would benefit with physical health and wealth.  However, we must realize that Israel’s relationship with God in the Old Testament was much like having “training wheels”.  Christ would come later to convey what God was like and deeper spiritual truths.

Christ’s Teaching on Prosperity and Wealth

When we look at Christ’s example and teaching we first must realize that he had few possessions and taught that others not be in bondage to “things”.  Let’s take the example of the rich young ruler found in Matthew 19:22:

22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

In the previous verses leading up to verse 22, a young man was seeking to get an answer from Christ on what he needed to do to obtain eternal life.  Jesus knowing that the rich young ruler was possessed by what he owned suggested that he sell his goods to the poor.  This was one task that the rich young ruler was not willing to do.

So with examples like this, why would God want more people to be possessed by things which would obscure their focus on him?

Jesus also taught that we should store up treasures in heaven not on earth Matthew 6:19-21:

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

In Mark 10:25, Jesus states: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  This statement was also in reference to the rich young ruler and his inability to let go of his wealth to embrace the greater wealth of heavenly riches.

Finally, Jesus mentioned in Matthew 8:20 that he had nowhere to lay his head.  This wasn’t a commandment necessarily for everyone else, but here was clearly someone who could have been rich if he wanted to, but chose a greater purpose.

Other New Testament examples

Despite teachings that the apostles were wealthy, there is absolutely no evidence of this.  In fact, when we see a miracle that God performed through Peter in Acts chapter 3, he stated that he had neither silver nor gold to provide to the lame man that he healed:

6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. 

In Paul’s letter to Timothy in I Timothy 6:10-12 he states:

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

Focus on “Bearing Fruit” For God

When we examine to parable of the talents found in Matthew 15:14-30 we are able to understand that God provides various blessings and abilities to everyone both Christian and non-Christian.  This may include wealth.  However, he expects those talents to be used to his glory.  To whom much is given, much is required: Luke 12:48.

Galatians 5:22-23 states: “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law”.

 

 

Is Baptism Really a New Testament Command for Salvation, or is it an Outward Sign of an Inward Testimony?

BaptismThis dilemma is one that many serious students of the Bible may face in various denominations.  The short answer is to always trust the scriptures instead of what man says.  One reason to consider is Romans 3:3-4: 

For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written:

“That You may be justified in Your words,
And may overcome when You are judged.”[

Our foundation is based on the scriptures claims about itself in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:  16 All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b]training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Now notice: while all scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, not all men are inspired by God.  Even those who claim that they are.  In fact, the apostles who wrote much of the new testament said in Galatians 1:8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  This is a pretty powerful statement.  In other words, don’t trust us if we say something different than what has been presented to you and inspired by God!

Taking these couple of scriptures into consideration as a foundation to respond to the dilemma in the title.  Let’s consider scriptures that teach that Baptism is a divine command:

Christ’s Direct Commands on Baptism

  • Christ himself was baptized as an example (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9 and Luke 3:21) – He clearly had no sin but said “it fulfills all righteousness”.  He would never ask his followers to do something that he himself would not be willing to do as an example.
  • Christ said being born again required water and spirit.  Otherwise, we cannot enter the kingdom of God: John 3:5.
  • Christ said that if you aren’t baptized you won’t be saved: Mark 16:16
  • Christ had his followers baptize believers.  This was in preparation of God’s coming kingdom: John 4:1-2.
  • Christ commanded his apostles to add believers to his church through baptism: Matthew 28:16-20.

Other Examples of Baptism In the New Testament

  • Peter’s 1st Gospel message included the commandment of baptism to wash away sins: Acts 2:38-39; Acts 22:16.
  • Baptism added people to Christ’s spiritual church Acts 2:40-42.
  • You can only put on Christ through the act of baptism: Galatians 3:27.
  • Baptism saves you: I Peter 3:21.
  • Ethiopian Eunuch’s baptism; requirement was much water (aka immersion in water) : Acts 8:26-40.
  • Baptism puts us into contact with the cleansing power of Christ’s blood as we are immersed in water into his death; spiritually killing our old self: Romans 6:3.

Friend, please heed the clear direction of scripture and do not trust in what man says. God has provided ample scriptures as evidence of what is required to enter into his kingdom.  Baptism isn’t the end, but only the beginning.  I pray that you won’t face God in judgment having thought that you did what was commanded only to realize that he doesn’t recognize you as one of is:  Matthew 7:22: