So let’s go back to 1 John 1:7, a crucially important passage — but in context —
(1Jo 1:5-6 ESV) This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
John writes in a very black-and-white fashion. Either you practice the truth (the gospel) or not. Either you are in fellowship with God or not. And you walk either in darkness or in light. There is no gray. After all, in God there “is no darkness at all.” That is, if I’m in God, then I’m entirely in the light, because there is only one light source, and if I’m in it, there’s no darkness at all. Continue reading
For some reason, 2 John 9 has become a favorite proof text among Church of Christ traditionalists. So let’s start with understanding what John is saying here.
(2Jo 1:9 ESV) Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
A couple of points to begin:
First, John is not contradicting what he taught in his Gospel or in 1 John. Everyone with faith in/faithfulness to/trust in Jesus is saved. Clearly, “the teaching of Christ” must be the gospel, that is, what one must believe to have faith. Any other interpretation would cause John to contradict himself in countless ways. Continue reading
I’ve been reading Andrew McGowan’s Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective, a fascinating account of early Christian worship. I just got to the chapter on baptism.
Early on, McGowan says,
Ritual baths, or miqva’ot, [mikvehs or mikvehim] have been excavated at the entrance to the Jerusalem temple as it was rebuilt by Herod the Great. Devotees could readily wash in a miqveh as part of a journey to the temple, often undertaken from some considerable distance as pilgrimage. The placement of these pools at a liminal (cf. Latin limen, a threshold) point suggests that they enabled a symbolic transition for those coming to present offerings or to pray; the path to God’s presence and promise, as often before, lay through the water.
The internal architecture of such a miqveh also indicates a sense of movement from impurity to worship. Some had internal dividers or walls that marked a path for the bather to follow, inviting movement into the water in one direction and out the other. Those coming to pray or offer sacrifice were not merely removing symbolic impurity by washing but were walking from everyday life into the different world of the temple. The waters functioned, as in the exodus, both as a boundary between two states of being and as a path from one to the other.
(Kindle Locations 2878-2891). Continue reading
If it’s possible to become saved, is it possible to become unsaved? Can we fall away?
The Calvinist/Baptist position
The Calvinist position is that the saints will necessarily persevere, so that falling away is impossible in the NT. The Holy Spirit will so powerfully transform the Christian’s heart that he’ll ultimately choose to live as a Christian should and so be saved in the end.
There are certainly subsets among the Calvinists who teach that a Christian will continue to be saved regardless of his sinfulness and commitment, but most Calvinists argue that Christians will never so sin as to deserve to fall away. Continue reading
I think the original design of baptism is not only God’s design, but the best possible design. God’s wisdom in providing for a confession followed by baptism of a believer is how churches ought to handle conversions.
Words are necessary, but words can be cheap. Asking for an action as evidence of faith helps confirm in the heart of the convert that faith requires certain behaviors. It’s not just words.
And baptism powerfully illustrates what God is doing. It’s a death, burial, and resurrection, and it’s a cleansing from sin. The symbolism is powerful. Continue reading
An arranged marriage
One more story. A couple is married at the age of 8 days. They are from a province in India where the parents arrange and make marriages for their children.
Many years later, when the children are of age, there’s a ceremony designed to confirm the marriage. According to the law, either one could refuse to confirm the marriage, but rarely does anyone do that. Rather, they remain true to their upbringing and voluntarily go through the confirmation ceremony.
The boy and girl, now 21, have never met and have never confessed their love for each other. But they are genuinely committed to the marriage. Indeed, these marriages have a better success rate than Western marriage built on romantic love and the passions of the young couple. Continue reading
Why does God want believers to be baptized? Well, actions matters, just as words matter.
* The requirement to be baptized forces another requirement — confession. I can have something like faith and keep it a secret. But when I confess my faith to others, wonderful things happen.
First, I admit my faith to myself. I make a decision: my faith matters enough that I’m willing to admit it to the church. That’s a big deal because faith too weak to be admitted is faith too weak to matter. Continue reading
We sang this one in church where I grew up all the time. Very pretty tune. But it’s never really touched me as much as this performance — because I think Emily Ann Roberts believes the lyrics. I’m not sure that we did. I think we wished we did. But if someone had actually taught this from the pulpit — well, our hymnology is often truer than our theology. Continue reading
Sixth point: For some reason, God wants his converts baptized in water. There’s not the least hint of water baptism in the OT. It was introduced by John the Baptist as a sign associated with the coming Kingdom and adopted by the followers of Jesus at Pentecost.
Rarely does anyone pause to ask why? Well, people need rituals. God doesn’t so much, but people do.
Consider a young couple. The young man embraces his girl friend and for the first time says, “I love you.” She hugs him, smiles, kisses him passionately, and the evening ends. Continue reading