Friday, December 31, 2010

Forgetting—and Pressing On


By Harold J. Berry

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before (3:13).

Paul now addressed the Philippians with an endearing term—“brothers.” Although they were not physical brothers, they were spiritual brothers because both they and he had believed in Jesus Christ as personal Saviour.

Paul told the Philippians, “I count not myself to have apprehended.”  The word
translated “count” (logizomai) is the same word translated “reckon” in Romans 6:11 where Paul told the Roman Christians to “reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin.”  Both in Romans and in Philippians Paul is presenting facts that are to be counted true because they were true.

Paul told the Philippian believers that he did not consider himself to have “apprehended.”   The Greek word involved here is the same one used in verse 12, where it is translated “apprehend.”

Although Paul did not consider that he had yet achieved all that God had in mind for him, he was not careless in his attitude.  Rather, he said, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus:  (vv. 13, 14).  Just as a runner in the Greek games of this time, Paul was putting forth every effort as he sought to reach the goal.

Notice, he said, “Forgetting those things which are behind (v.13).  Surely this involves the forgetting of victories as well as defeats—Paul did not want to be controlled by the past; he wanted to press on from the present regardless of the past.  It is the tendency of Christians to rely on the victories of the past as they seek to live for the Lord in the present.  Paul did not want to be guilty of that.  On the other hand, some Christians are defeated by the problems of the past and cannot forget them so that they can live a life of victory at the present.  Paul realized that one could do nothing about the wrongs of the past expect confess them to the Lord and then press on from where he is.

Imagine some of the problems Paul had as he thought about the past.  In his unsaved state he had been guilty of persecuting Christians and even having some put to death (Acts 22:4) whereas he now recognized that they were brothers in Christ.  If anyone would have had a problem with his thought life because of past experiences it would have been Paul, yet he chose to deliberately forget what was in the past and to go forward from the present to glorify the Lord.

The word translated “forgetting” is the present tense which emphasizes a continual action—he was making it a practice to forget the things in the past.  It seems apparent from the context that the idea of “forgetting” especially means that he was not relying on the things of the past.  Those in Judaism who would covet Paul’s natural standing in the world would not be able to imagine how he could disregard all that he had according to the flesh (Phil. 3:5, 6).  But Paul did not rely on what he had in the natural realm; his trust was in the Lord and be was relying on what he had in the spiritual realm.

Not only was Paul forgetting the things which were behind, but he was also “reaching forth unto those things which are before” (v. 13).  Paul seems particularly to have had the runner in view at this time for the word he used for “reaching” (epekteinomai) literally meant “to stretch out” or “to strain.”  As a runner stretches out to reach the goal first, so Paul was giving his every effort to fulfill the purpose that Jesus Christ chose for him to accomplish.  Every runner realizes that the crucial thing is not how far he has come in the race, but how much farther he has yet to go.  This is why Paul’s emphasis was not on the past but on the present and looking ahead to the future.
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (3:14).
The intensity with which Paul was moving toward his goal is seen in the word he used for “press.”  The word is dioko, which also appears in verse 12, where it is translated “follow after.”  But it is much more than a lackadaisical following; it is   intense pursuit.  All of Paul’s attention was on the goal before him—“the mark.”  This word is from a form of the word meaning “to see”; thus, the goal is what one sees whether he sees it with his literal eyes or simply has his attention fixed on it.
But what was Paul’s goal?  He was intensely pursuing “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”  The prize, or reward, which Paul sought, was the “high calling of God.”  It was literally an “upward calling” or a “calling from above.”  Interpreters have differed over precisely what this calling involved.  Some think it has to do with the calling at the time of salvation concerning the purpose God has for an individual.  Others see it as the time of rewards at the end of the Christian life.

Paul may have had both in view because he not only wanted to be faithful in the race but he also wanted to seek to win the prize.  Perhaps Paul had in mind what occurred at the Greek games after a person had successfully run the race.   William Hendriksen states:  “At the end of the race the successful runner was summoned from the floor of the stadium to the judge’s seat to receive the prize” (Philippians, P 174).  This was an upward calling because of having been faithful in the race.

Having told about himself and his desire to excel for Jesus Christ, Paul said,
Let us therefore, as many as be perfect be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you (3:15).
The word “perfect” was not meant to convey sinless perfection but a desired end, or maturity the noun is used in verse 15 whereas the verb is used in verse 12, where it is also translated “perfect.”  Paul was calling upon all those who were mature in attitude to think the same way that he was thinking.  He wanted them to have their minds fixed on the goal of honoring Christ in all that they did so that He might be glorified in their lives.

If they had thoughts other than this, Paul realized that he also could not help them to see the real issues; only God could.  But Paul also seemed to have confidence that, as long as their desire was to please the Lord, then the Lord would reveal to them the areas where their thinking needed correction.

Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing (3:16).

Paul was concerned that the Christians in Philippi consistently live according to what they had already attained in the Christian life.  Although one is not to rely on past victories for present successes, one should live in a manner consistent with the level of life he has attained for the Lord.  Paul was thankful for the Philippian believers and for all they had meant to him.  He did not want them to recede in any degree from their spiritual fervor; rather, he wanted them to go on from there to even higher levels.  Just as the runner loses precious time if he wavers from the direct path, so Paul wanted the Philippian believers to keep their eyes on the goal and to keep moving forward for Jesus Christ. END

Gems From the Original

Try Frenzy Free New Year

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' Family Secunderabad, AP, India



More God Bless You Comments


Pic. Credit.
By A Karen Davis

The job, the house, the family—how can you keep up with it all? Wouldn’t it be great if someone could give you a solution for getting ‘frenzies’ out of your life?

Sorting through my papers and my thoughts after a day of teaching helps me to unwind. The other day, a student's mother stepped into my quietness to talk for a few minutes.

"My life is all mixed up. I feel like a remote-controlled TV flipping from station to station. I've just about lost control." Anxiety filled her voice as she talked about the pressures of coping with her husband, who's overly committed to his job, her daughter, who always finds one teacher to hate because "the work is just too dumb to bother studying," and her own multilevel work responsi­bilities both inside and outside the home.

My papers sat untouched. But I listened, knowing that soon I would want to share how the God who works in my busy life could make a significant dent in this woman's spun-out-of-control confusion.

Later that evening, my mind reflected on a memory from my senior year of high school. I remembered being propped on my elbows read­ing the Bible when one verse seemed to speak aloud to me. "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being" (Rev. 4:11, NLV). That verse explained to me the purpose of my Christian redemption.

When I read this verse, I pictured an old-fashioned balance. On one scale rested my responsibilities. I wanted to live a life that glori­fied God. I wanted to honor Him with the strength of my youth. On the other scale was God. As my Creator, He had all power and knew the design of my life perfectly. He had intention­ally created me. I asked God never to let me look back on my life and wish that I had made differ­ent decisions. My teenage prayer was "Lord, let me live in a way that suits You."

I have since'learned that my prayer was actu­ally based on a principle called "sanctification." That's a long, unwieldy word that has a direct and clear application to our lives as Christian women. The frenzy of an 80-hour workweek, where we have duties at home mixed with a 40-1 hour-a-week job outside the home, makes us I acutely aware of the need for divine help to | defuse our anxiety. Understanding what sanctification is can help mold our lives so we become I holy and pleasant to God. Depending on the Holy 1 Spirit takes the frenzy out of our 20th century problems and gives us the control we need to live godly lives.
Understanding God's Gift of a Holy Nature
Sanctification is the process of becoming holy. Holiness and sanctification are concepts from another realm. They include being pure from moral evil and conformed to the image of Christ. Christian holi­ness is not limited to what we do during church, nor is it a certain way of dressing or walking, nor is it using a set of holy-sounding words. Holiness is a supernatural charac­teristic given by God. He gives us the ability to become godly and righteous, even when we live with a workaholic or an unemployed husband. This holy nature frees us from working to be good in our own strength, and it enables us to be godly individuals who do good works in His strength.

In a culture that has bought a relativistic set of values, it may surprise us to realize that God has given each Christian woman a holy nature. This means that the moment we received Christ as our Savior from sin, we were given a new life. God the Holy Spirit entered our life and began to reshape us. He may have entered so quietly that we are not really aware of His presence, but He is there. Just as a baby receives a genetic code at birth, the Christian woman is given the gift of holiness at her spiritual birth. Although the baby doesn't know she has a genetic code, the code sets parame­ters that mold her character.

Let me illustrate by using our two daughters. Helen loves draw­ing and, as I write this, is studying audiovisual communication at Moody Bible Institute. Susan is considering taking Geometry and Algebra II in her sophomore year because she thrives on math. Although the girls have different talents and different interests, they have our genetic code within them. They will never have high cheekbones; they will probably not become lawyers. In the same way, Christian women live their lives differently from one another, but God implanted within each one the Spirit-given code of Christ's holiness.
Trusting That God's Desires for Us Are Good
When I decided to bake my first cake (chocolate, of course), my mother gave me an illustrated
'I feel like a remote-controlled TV flipping from station to station. I've just about lost control.'
Children’s cookbook. Since the picture next to my recipe showed a child using a wooden spoon, I insisted on doing so too. No amount of persuasion could con­vince me to use the Hamilton Beach mixer. My 11-year-old hands did their best, but the cake had a hump on one side and large air bubbles throughout. Family members dutifully ate some cake at dinner, but the rest of the cake mysteriously vanished. I learned my lesson: Follow good advice.

The Holy Spirit is the Teacher-Guide in the Christian's life. We can take His advice. Like the Hamilton Beach mixer, He pro­vides the power to mix the ele­ments of our life to produce an excellent product—a holy, Christlike life.

How can a Christian woman learn to depend on the Spirit of, God day by busy day? Just as I had to learn what the mixer was for and how to use it, Christians must be aware that the Spirit is there and wants to help us when our daughter refuses to study for an exam or our son comes in late Saturday night. We must choose daily to be led by God's Spirit. "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14, KJV).

First, we must acknowledge that we cannot please a holy God unless we're willing to live a holy life with the Spirit of holiness directing us to put aside sin (v. 2). Each of us can define what sins keep us from living a holy life. It's worth the time it takes to examine our life and confess whatever sins God draws to our attention. Identifying and confessing sin cleanses our spiritual life.

Second, we must yield our "I can do it myself" willfulness. Jesus said it this way: "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full" (John 16:24, NASB). Ask for help and receive it.

Good baking starts with a cook­book. Following our own direc­tions will result in failure. The Christian needs to read and follow the Bible for directions. We must schedule daily reading time and have a teachable heart.

When we let the Spirit change us from the inside out, these changes will make us increasingly

Christlike. The Spirit's work is not
merely behavior modification; it is internal modification. He works

within us to make us want God's will in our lives. That is freedom from frenzy—2011 style.

More Goodies @ NackVision

Jacob in the School of Sorrow

Theodore H Epp

by Theodore H. Epp

SORROW IS ONE of God's means to make permanent in believers' lives the lessons of grace He has taught them. God had been dealing with Jacob for 30 years, and now, back at Bethel Jacob was where God wanted him to be. Now God began to make permanent-to press deep into his heart-the lessons He had taught him during those 30 years.

From the day that Jacob fulfilled hi~ vow at Bethel to the day he learned that Joseph was alive and the ruler in Egypt, Jacob was scarcely out of the furnace of affliction.

God makes no mistakes. He knows what He is doing. Sorrow is not necessarily punishment, but it strengthens believers in Him by perfecting their faith arid confidence in Him. Sorrow is often used for spiritual training. Through the process of chastening, God makes believers into the kind of sons He wants them to be. Sorrow is intended to yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness: "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11). The peaceable fruit of righteousness comes only "afterward" after the chastening.

Jacob felt the chastening hand of God even while he was at Bethel. After returning to Bethel, "Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Beth-el under an oak: and the name of it was called Allon-bachuth" (Gen. 35:8). Deborah was probably the nurse who went with Rebekah when she left home to marry Isaac (24:59). Deborah must have been dear to Jacob since she had likely been his nurse as a child. She may have come to Jacob earlier to inform him of his mother's death. Doubtlessly she had filled a vacant spot in his heart after the death of his mother.

Deborah's death was the final separation of Jacob from his unregenerate life at home. The last link had been broken. There was no one left now to remind him of his past unregenerate life. Back at Bethel, Jacob was now ready for God to deal the death blow on anything that could link his life to the old ways and keep him from God.

This truth is also important for believers today. Colossians 3:1-4 says, "If [since] ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead [have died], and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." Galatians 2:20 says, "I am [have been] crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."

Jacob's Wife Dies

Then Rachel, Jacob's beloved wife, died while they were enroute to Ephrath (Bethlehem). "Bethlehem" means "the house of bread." Jacob was traveling from the house of God (Bethel) to the house of bread (Bethlehem). Genesis 35:16 says, "And they journeyed from Beth-el; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour." Note that there was only "a little way" between Bethel and Bethlehem. Although these were literal cities, they point out a principle. The house of God and the house of bread are closely connected. When believers put God first in everything, Be provides the needs of their lives. Christ Himself told His disciples; "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).

When Rachel "was in hard labour, ... the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Beth-lehem" (Gen. 35:17-19).

Rachel named the child "Ben-ani," which means "son of sorrow." However, Jacob named the child "Benjamin," which means "son of my right hand." Rachel's death was one of Jacob's deepest sorrows. She died Sorrowing, but he triumphed in faith and called the child "son of my right hand," which was the same as calling him "the victorious one."
Jacob took a victorious stand for God in spite of the, fact that this had touched upon the most precious thing in his life. Rachel's death and burial broke Jacob's main link with his past carnal life at Haran. He had gone there to get a wife and had been guilty of many carnal things. "Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day" (v. 20). Jacob established a pillar near the house of bread in remembrance of this one who had been so very precious to him.

Because Jacob had returned to Bethel and had been fully restored to fellowship with God, he was now able to fulfill the second part of God's command: "Return ... to thy kindred" (31:3). Thus, Jacob was on his way to his father, Isaac, who lived-in Mamre. That is where Jacob was going when Rachel died in childbirth along the way.

Reuben's Sin

As Jacob and his family continued on their way to Mamre, his firstborn, Reuben, committed a great sin. The Bible says, "And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar. And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it" (vv. 21,22). Three times in these two verses Jacob is referred to by his new name, Israel. Jacob's life was now characterized by his new name.

When Reuben committed fornication with the concubine, it says that. "Israel heard it." Before, when "Jacob" had learned of his sons' wickedness, he did nothing about it. But in Reuben's case, "Israel" was concerned about t the things of God and did not let the sin go unpunished. Although it is not recorded in Genesis 35 how Jacob judged Reuben's sin, what he did was recorded later. Jacob said, "Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch" (49:3,4). Reuben, as the firstborn, had rightful possession to the birthright, but Jacob said, "Thou shalt not excel." Jacob thol:Oughly judged Reuben's sin and took away his birthright.

Reuben's birthright was given to Joseph. This is evident from I Chronicles 5:1, 2: "Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and· of him came the chief ruler, but the birthright was Joseph's)."

1. How does God sometimes use sorrow in a believer's life?

2. What was the significance of Deborah's death?

3. Why is it significant that Bethlehem ("the house of l;>recid") was only "a ,little way" from Bethel ("the house of God")?

4. What do the names "Ben-oni" and "Benjamin" mean?

5. What link in Jacob's life was broken by Rachel's


6. Where had Jacob been going when Rachel died?

7. What was Reuben's punishment for his sin?

8. Why is it significant that Jacob punished Reuben's sin?

Right Answer, Wrong Time

By Bob Henderson

I recently heard the comment, “Christians are answer people, not compassionate people.  When confronted with a tragedy in someone else’s life, Christians try to explain why the tragedy occurred or how it will eventually be seen as good.”  While believers in Christ may not always understand why things happen they have god’s promise:  “And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”  (Rom. 8:28).  This is true, of course, and it is often quoted to Christians in a crisis, indeed, it is a right answer for a Christian.  But the right answer, at the wrong time, could be the wrong answer.

If we were to conduct a survey among Christians to see who in the Bible is most often associated with intense personal suffering, Job would probably top the list.  Job suffered the loss of worldly possessions and the death of then children—all on the same day.  The Bible makes it clear that he had done nothing deserve this tragedy.  Satan had sought and received God’s permission to make these things happen.

Job was a man of faith, and while I tremble at the thought of losing my only child, Job “fell to the ground and worshiped… Through all this Job did not sin not did he blame God” (Job 1:20,22, NASB).  Frustrated that his efforts had not made job turn against God, satan again sought and received God’s permission to bring further suffering into Job’s life.  Job’s entire body became covered with painful boils, yet job’s faith in God still held for a while (2:10)

Word soon got out about what was happening to Job.  Three of his friends, all well-known elders, came sympathize with him and comfort him”  (v.11).  when they arrived,  “they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great (v.13).  Seven days and seven nights without a word!  What a testimony—both to Job’s degree of suffering, and to his friends’ great sensitivity.

Even though Job was a man of great faith and integrity, he was still a man.  After the seven days of silence, Job “opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth” (3:1).  Job’s suffering from this tragedy was so intense that instead of just wishing it had never occurred, Job wished he had never been born! He felt that his suffering had now overshadowed all the good that had been in his life before.

Although Job’s three friends were elders noted for their wisdom, they too, were men.  They reacted to Job’s bitterness the same way many of us treat when we see Christians going through intense suffering they had the answer to “Why?” and they were eager to share their answer with Job.

Even though Job wasn’t ready for the answer that didn’t stop them.  Furthermore, there answer that Job’s suffering was a result of sin in his life.??????. Much later, when Job was ready, a loving God corrected that.  Yet Job’s friends, despite their initial understanding were answer people, not compassionate people.

Jesus Christ saw much suffering during His life on earth, and He responded compassionately, even though He knew the answer to the “Why?”  associated with the suffering.  When Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, died,  Jesus knew why and told His disciples,  “Lazarus is dear, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe;  but let us go to him”  (John 11:14,15).  The purpose of Lazarus’s death was to nurture the most important thing in anyone’s life: belief in Christ.

When Jesus went to Bethany where Lazarus had been buried.  Martha felt well enough to come out and greet Him.  (Perhaps Mary was still too overcome with grief).  Seeing Jesus, Martha immediately expressed faith in Him in two ways.  First, she knew Jesus could have prevented her brother’s dying if He had been there and, second, even now she knew Jesus could receive from God whatever He asked.  Martha’s faith enabled Jesus to give her an answer in this tragedy.  He told her that her brother would rise again.

Jesus’ reaction to Mary was different.  When Mary overcame her grief sufficiently to go to Jesus, she also expressed faith that Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’s death had He been present.  But she didn’t go beyond this, as Martha had done, to say that she believed Jesus could do something now.  Mary was too deeply in grief (vv 33-35). Bit Mary’s grief and tears brought a reaction from the Son of God, who knew the answer to “Why?”  Jesus tears were not for Lazarus, as those who saw Him weeping supposed (v.36), but for Mary and the others who were grieving, and for the havoc that sin had brought to the world.

Mary and Martha were sisters who experienced the same tragedy, but their loving and patient Saviour, who understood both of them and was willing to accept their differences, treated them differently.  For Martha, who was ready for an answer, Christ and the answer.  But for Mary, who was not ready, Christ had compassion and love that went beyond merely understanding what she was experiencing.  His love for Mary allowed Him to accept her in the grief she was going through.

God knows our weaknesses.  When we display those weakness in bitterness or anger in response to a humanly perceived tragedy.  He doesn’t abandon us, and He often doesn’t immediately try to reason with us.  Instead, He shows patience and love.  While God always loves so intensely that, instead of describing the depth of God’s love, the Apostle John simply wrote.  “God is love” (1 John 4:16).

God’s people should be answer people, for they have the Answer.  But they should first be people with the kind of love that results in patience, understanding and acceptance.  “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8). End.

(An article originally published in the 'Confident Living' magazine, A Back to the Bible publication)

Seven Tests for Right Behavior


by W. Jerry C

Believers today live in an age of compromise. That does not mean, however, that they should compromise God’s standards. God’s Word does contain principles for helping one to determine right from wrong.

Society today seems to be realizing that modern civilization has produced a monster which threatens to devour everyone. Economically, politically and environmentally this monster produced by man’s “intelligence and learning” has gotten out of control. Nowhere, however, has the influence and effect of this “wild beast” been more devastating than in the moral realm.

The problem is twofold: Not only is there a widespread moral decline among the populace as a whole but, even worse, Christians (who actually set the moral standards for any society, according to Matt. 5:13-16) are no longer as certain as they once were about what is right and wrong. Moral confusion is the order of the day. The ethics and morals of two generations ago no longer seem relevant. It is true that people today face daily circumstances and situations which were never encountered by previous generations. But black was black, and white was white back then, with nothing in between. In contrast, many today maintain that black and white habe both merged into an ever-present “gray” so that even Christians begin to wonder if there are any absolute moral standards. Rathet than standing up for what is right, they go right ahead and conform to the world as an easy way out.

Is there no way out of this moral confusion? Are there no guidelines by which believers may determine right from wrong? The answer is an unqualified yes! God’s Word is quite plain concerning the major elements of morality, and—for those who really want to know right from wrong—God gives them basic principles by which they may test every situation or decision. Seven of these principles are found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians—a letter especially applicable to today, as it pictures the church in the midst of an immoral world.

Will It Profit the Believer?

In I Corinthians 6:12, Paul made a startling statement: “All things are lawful for me.” Did Paul imply that a Christian can do anything he pleases under certain circumstances? Of course not. As always, one must interpret the Bible by its context. In previous verses Paul carefully pointed out that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God… Neither fornicators, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (vv.9, 10).

Contrary to modern opinion, certain thing is always wrong—they always have been, and they always will be. By “all things” here, Paul obviously refers to things which are not covered by these categories—things which are not specifically covered in God’s Word.

The first principle for testing doubtful activities is found in the rest of Paul’s statement: But not all things are profitable” (v.12). The word “profitable refers to those things which can encourage and cultivate growth in the Lord, whether physical, spiritual, mental, emotional or moral. The abuse and neglect of the body which was practiced by some during the early church era, for example, may appeared to profit the spiritual nature, but it actually harmed both body and sprit and was therefore, wrong (see also Col.2:20-23).

Will it Gain Power Over the Believer?

Paul continued, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (I Cor.6:12). This refers to anything which can have power, authority or influence over the believer—anything which is habit-forming. However, even things which are good in themselves may become habit-forming. Moses, for example, became so accustomed and adjusted to the role of shepherd that he was reluctant to exchange his peaceful and pastoral life for a life of public service and exposure (see Ex. 3:11; 4:1-18). Believers too may become so settled in a particular place, position or attitude that they are unwilling to change as the Lord directs. Anything which has more influence or authority over a Christian than the Lord Himself should definitely be avoided.
Will It Harm Others?

Christians must realize that their lives are not lived in a vacuum. Their actions affect the lives of other people as well as themselves. Paul warned in Me Corinthians 8:9: “Take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” Paul’s argument in this section dealt originally with the rightness or wrongness of eating meats which had been offered in sacrifice to heathen idols, but the principle involved is timeless. The point is this: If I do something which another views as sin—even though I do not regard it as such myself—then I may be causing irreparable harm to this individual. One should have Paul’s attitude—he was willing to refrain from any activity—even though it might be perfectly proper in itself—that would cause his brother to be harmed in any way (see v.13).

Will It Hinder the Gospel?

“We endure all thing,” stated Paul, “that we may cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ” (9:12). Paul dealt in this chapter with his willingness to give up a perfectly legitimate right—gaining his income solely from preaching (v. 14)—rather than hinder the gospel. Each believer must similarly test every aspect of his life: How will this affect his testimony as a Christian? Will it encourage and advance, or hinder, the progress of the gospel? Will this activity—seen in his life by those who know that he professes Christ as his Saviour—cause people to desire to know the Saviour, or will it drive them from Him?

Will It Profit Others?

At first glance, Paul’s fifth principle seems identical to his first: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable” (10:23). There is an important detail here, however—the words “for me” found in 6:12 are omitted in this verse. There Paul was referring to that which was profitable for himself; here (as the context reveals in verse 24) the emphasis is on that which is profitable for others. Will this activity which I am contemplating—or already practicing—be in the best interests of other, both Christians and non-Christians (v. 27)? If not, it should be halted or left undone.

Will It Edify Others?

The second part of the verse contains the other side of the same coin: “All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (10:23). To “edify” means literally to “build up” and is applied both to literal buildings (Matt. 7:24) and to the “spiritual building” of the Body of Christ (I Pet. 2:5). Here the test is whether or not one’s activities definitely and positively work toward the up building of other individuals in the Lord, increasing their faith and bringing them into a closer personal relationship with Him. There are two things in particular which the New Testament points out as having a definite edifying effect: the Word of God (see Acts 20: 32) and Christ like love (see I Cor. 8:1).

Will It Glorify God?

The final principle is perhaps the most searching of all: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (10:31). A believer should ask himself, Will my life, like Paul’s cause others to glorify God because of me (see Gal. 1:24)? Or will it be said of him, like certain ones of old, that “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of” (Rom. 2:24) him? Tragically, the lives of many Christians today cause the world to regard Christ and Christianity with disdain and ridicule (se also I Tim. 6:1; Titus 2:5).

This test emphasizes the fact that one’s motives and attitudes are just as important as his actions. This principle also warns against relating the test only to direct Christian ministry or service. Activities—from washing dishes to digging ditches to reading a book—can be carried out in such a manner that God is either honored or blasphemed. A lady in our church, for example, has lived the last 20 years in a cancer-ridden, pain-wracked body. Yet her sufferings—which could have caused her to become bitter and complaining—have actually glorified the Lord because of the spiritual strength and faith which she radiates even in the midst of her pain.

Another example is the worthy lady of Proverbs 31:1-31, who approached her daily tasks with such an attitude that everyone—herself, her husband, her children, her neighbors—was helped, and it was to the glory of God!

These seven principles divide into three groups. One’s every action is to be weighed by its effect on himself (the first two), on other (the third, fifth and sixth), and on God and the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ (the fourth and seventh). Every activity which is not decent and honest (see Phil. 4:8) and cannot be carried out in these ways should definitely be avoided by the Christian seeking to do God’s will.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Disciples Need to Be Baptized. Necessity of Water Baptism

Baptism is far more than an initiatory rite into church membership
by Roy E K

To the one who is seeking to know what baptism is all about and how it is related to discipleship, this article will answer some vital questions.

Baptism is, perhaps, one of the most confusing doctrines in Christendom today.  Over the years
A New believer witnessing her Lord in the waters of baptism.

its meaning and importance have been blurred through the traditions of men.  Church councils have been called to discuss it—in fact; whole denominations have been formed over the question as to its meaning and mode.  It seems that each church teaches something different about this important New Testament ordinance.  It is easily recognized by everyone that baptism finds it roots in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  He said:  “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them” (Matt. 28:29).  The full meaning of the act itself however, is seldom recognized.

In order to fully understand this church ordinance, it is essential to consider first the meaning of the term.  It is noteworthy that the Greek Orthodox Church which existed simultaneously with what later became the Roman Catholic Church, has always practiced baptism by immersion.  Martin Luther stated, “Baptism is baptismos in Greek, and mersio in Latin, and it means to plunge something completely into the water so that the water covers it” (Works, Vol. 25, p.29).  Every statement of scripture and detailed description related to this practice in the statement of scripture and detailed description related to this practice in the New Testament reveals that the act was always by immersion.  Significantly, proselyte baptism practiced by the Jews in the inter-testimental period was by self-imposed immersion.  John, the Baptizer (as he was called by his contemporaries) was the first man to immerse another; hence his name.  It was by this method that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan at the age of 30.  In the seven different usages of the term in the Bible, each occurrence of the word either demands or allows the translation “immerse.”

Baptism Has Meaning.

Baptism is a witness to the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Rom.6:4-6).  By this voluntary act, the born again Christian is publicly demonstrating his faith in Christ.  He is declaring his intention to renounce sin and serve the Saviour.  He is proving that he has “chosen sides” with God.  Because of the close relationship between “Holy Spirit baptism” whereby the Christian is placed into the spiritual Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12), and water baptism, it can be said there is indeed only “one baptism (Eph. 4:5).  The one links believers eternally with Christ and His death and resurrection, while the other graphically and beautifully portrays this spiritual relationship.  One is invisible and nonexperiential, while the other, its natural counterpart, is visible and can be experienced.  For this reason alone, every Christian should be baptized.  If he has been truly saved, he bears witness to his immersion into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit by this outward and symbolic ordinance.

Baptism does not save anyone.  It does not “wash away our sins.”   It has no power whatever to remove guilt.  It is not a “means of grace.”   In fact, one cannot even be baptized for the same reason Jesus was.  Believers “follow the Lord in baptism” only as they obey His command.

The believer realizes that he has died with Christ and, as far as God is concerned, he not only has been “planted together in the likeness of [Christ’s] death” (Rom. 6:5) but also has received new life—the resurrection awareness of an actual death to one’s old unregenerate self, and to the resurrection of a new life in Christ.  When this great fact is realized the believer will “let not sin therefore reign in [his] mortal body, that [he] should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12).    This is present tense salvation or “sanctification.”  Baptism is, therefore, far more than an initiatory rite into church membership.  It is rather a vital experience that should have a life time effect in godly living.  This partially explains the great emphasis placed upon this act in the New Testament.

Interestingly, baptism, like the new birth, is a “once in-a-life time” experience.  There are only two instances in the Bible where anyone was ever reimmersed.  The eight chapter of the Book of the Acts records the Ethiopian treasurer’s confession of faith and subsequent baptism in water.  This man, a proselyte to the Jewish faith, had already experienced baptism by self imposed immersion as a convert to Judaism.  Now as a convert to Christ, he was baptized by Philip at an oasis in the desert, upon his confession of faith in the Saviour (Acts 8:37, 38), Baptism in this case, as always in the Bible, followed conversion.  The next interesting even took place in Ephesus when 12 men got their doctrine straightened out concerning the differences between  John’s baptism and believer’s baptism in this age (Acts 19:1-5).  These isolated believers had not heard of the dispensational change that took place on the Day of Pentecost.  Therefore, they knew only the baptism which was anticipatory of the coming Messiah and His Kingdom.   By this means John had gathered together a believing remnant of Jews who had thus identified themselves with his proclamation:  “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt.3:2).  However, in the passing of time, Christ had come, but He was rejected and crucified, and by His sacrificial death and resurrection He became the Saviour of the world.  With the change in Christ’s ministry there came about a change in the meaning of baptism.  Acts 19 proves that John’s baptism is not the same as believer’s baptism today.  It also suggests that correct understanding of doctrine is essential for correct practice.   For when these men heard of Christ’s completed work at Calvary for them and of the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell, seal, fill and baptize them in to the Body of Christ, they “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus”  (v.5).  Now, once truly saved, they were never baptized again.

Baptism reminds the believer, therefore, of the eternal nature of his salvation.  While he participates in the Lord’s Supper again and again to commemorate His death, he is normally baptized but once and that because one can only be born once into God’s family.  In like manner, a person can only be placed once into the Body of Christ.  Believers are also sealed just once by His Spirit (Eph. 1:13).  Therefore, we are to be immersed once in water as a reminder of our eternal relationship to Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish” (John 10:28).  Baptism pictures that.

Necessity of Water Baptism

There are several important reasons why every Christian should be baptized.

First, it is the commandment of Jesus in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19, 20).  He Himself asked, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”  (Luke 6:46).  To claim the lordship of Christ and not submit to baptism is not pleasing to the Lord.  James reminds us that “to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).

Second, there were no recorded exceptions in the New Testament area.  All were baptized upon their conversion.  When Peter led Cornelius to a saving faith in Christ, he immediately commanded him and his believing family “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48).  Where did Peter receive this authority?  It was in the same Great Commission which believers are to follow today.  Baptism is necessary for the local church to demonstrate a vital testimony.  Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are church ordinances and their observances witness to the spiritual and corporate nature of its fellowship. Just as water baptism pictures the believer’s baptism by the Sprit, so the local church pictures the Body of Christ.  In each case the one is visible display of an invisible reality.  The unity of the Body of Christ is, therefore, witnessed to by this ordinance as believers identify themselves with the local church through baptism.  The process of discipleship as given in the Great Commission is teaching, baptizing and observing continually all that Jesus commanded.  (Matt. 28:19, 20).

Urgency of Baptism

Since baptism is not an optional practice, the natural question arises, How soon after conversion should a person be baptized?  Every convert referred to in the Bible was baptized on the same day he was saved, or as soon as possible.  Several were baptized at midnight (Acts 16:33)!  Soon after Lydia was converted, she was baptized (v. 15).  Even the Ethiopian eunuch did not wait until he arrived home to be immersed.  Instead, he asked for baptism, and received it, way out of the middle of the desert!  (Acts 8: 36-38).  The one perquisite for baptism is, “Are you saved?”

Baptism is necessary to a confession of obedience by the Christian.  It is not dependent upon Christian growth, nor does it produce growth.  It has to do with an act, and that act is the receiving of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.  At the exact moment a person believes in Christ as his personal Saviour, he is “born again” (John 3:3) and is placed into the Body of Christ (I Cor. 12:13).  He immediately bears the name “Christian” and is eternally a member of the family of God.  God has provided this ordinance whereby every Christian can bear witness to this wonderful transaction—and that testimony is baptism.

Since baptism also reveals one’s commitment to Christ and his declared separation from the sin and the world, it is a testimony that should not be delayed.  What about you? Are you saved?  If you are, then the next step for you is believer’s baptism.  The Blood of the Acts describes the Christians at Samaria:  “When they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).  In such an act both the church and the Christian are strengthened, and the commandment of the Lord is obeyed. CL

Picture Credit:
Br. P Immanuel, Manager Mission, Back to the Bible, Secunderabad, India.