Is Baptism Part of the Gospel?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 9 July 2013

Why would anyone affirm that baptism is not part of the Gospel? Some take that position because of a misunderstanding of I Corinthians 1:17. The scripture says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” Notice that Paul was not sent “to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.” Some understand this to mean that preaching the Gospel does not include preaching about baptism.
    I am persuaded that the view I have explained here is false, and that it is an abuse of scripture to use Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 1:17 to teach that baptism has nothing to do with preaching the Gospel or with the plan of salvation. Did Paul really mean to convey the idea that baptism is not a part of preaching the Gospel? Let us see by considering the context of I Corinthians 1.
    In order to draw proper conclusions from the teachings of the Bible, we must keep verses in context. Here is a brief explanation of the context: The Corinthians, to whom Paul wrote, were divided. Some were saying “I am of Paul”; others, “I am of Apollos”; there were also some saying “I am of Cephas,” and then there were those stating that they were “of Christ” (I Corinthians 1:13). The church was divided because they were exalting the men who baptized them or who taught them the Gospel. Their divisive spirit was wrong; therefore, Paul wrote to rebuke the Corinthians for causing division by exalting men (I Corinthians 1:10; 4:6). It mattered not “who” did the baptizing. Those who were baptized by Apollos or Cephas were just as saved as those baptized by Paul, and vice versa. This is a proper understanding of the context.
    When Paul wrote that he was not sent “to baptize, but to preach the Gospel,” he was not excluding baptism from the Gospel; rather, he meant to teach that the one who baptized others was not to be praised or exalted. It mattered not who did the baptizing. The focus was on preaching the Gospel, and when Paul preached the Gospel in Corinth—as a direct result of his preaching—people were baptized (Acts 18:8; I Corinthians 15:1-2). This proves that Paul included baptism in his preaching!
    Also, it would be good to consider this question: If Paul believed that baptism was no part of the plan of salvation, then why did “he” baptize people in Corinth? Yes, Paul himself baptized some of the Corinthians. He stated: “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I baptized in mine own name” (I Corinthians 1:14-15). Paul also baptized “the household of Stephanas” (I Corinthians 1:16). We must conclude therefore, that Paul considered baptism to be part of the Gospel and relevant to salvation. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

comments | Read the full post

Cussing Coaches

Posted by Mark Lindley on 25 June 2013

I have often thought about the challenges of coaching sports. Coaches are often scrutinized and criticized for the many tough decisions they make. I’m sure it is a difficult job.
    However, all jobs have pros and cons. Regardless of one’s occupation, there will be good days and days when we feel as if we should quit. I have observed that on “bad days,” many coaches begin using foul, profane language when players do not perform up to the coach’s standards. I have no particular coach or coaches in mind in writing this article, but if you go to a lot of ballgames, you know what I mean. I’m sure a lot of parents, grandparents, and even players feel that the use of profanity is offensive, rude, and disrespectful.
    No one is perfect. We all say and do things we shouldn’t do (cf. Romans 3:23). However, this does not give coaches a “free pass” to use obscene and filthy language. Here are reasons coaches should not use profanity:
    1) It doesn’t work. If using God’s name in vain, and yelling “four-letter” words would help players perform better, some coaches would never lose. Most teams want to win. Screaming obscenities to “encourage” players to perform better makes no sense because it doesn’t work. Often, the coach who is known for his/her foul mouth is a losing coach.
    2) It demonstrates a lack of self-control. The Bible teaches that we are to be self-controlled and to exercise temperance (Galatians 5:22-23; II Peter 1:5-6). If a coach cannot discipline himself to avoid using profanity, how can that coach expect the players to be disciplined?
    3) The Bible explicitly condemns it: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
    4) It sets a bad example for the players. Young people have enough peer pressure from the world. Shouldn’t coaches show more maturity, leadership, and moral character than to set such a poor example for their players?
    5) It is not honorable and shows disrespect for others who have been taught not to use such language. Parents, grandparents, and players have more respect for coaches who show honor and integrity, regardless of the score, than for those who throw cussing fits.
    I have given sound reasons why coaches should take cussing out of their game. Can you give one good reason for coaches to keep profanity in the game? Jesus said, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

comments | Read the full post

The Second Death

Posted by Mark Lindley on 11 June 2013

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). Notice from this scripture the term “second death.”
    What is the second death? In order to answer that question, we should consider the context in which the term is found. The book of Revelation was written to Christians of the first century who were suffering persecution for their faith. John wrote in the second chapter of Revelation: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil will cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (verse 10). Observe the terms “suffer,” “prison,” “tribulation,” and “death.” All of these terms indicate that these early Christians were suffering persecution.
    Not only were they being persecuted, but some would actually be put to death. Consider this reference: “I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held” (Revelation 6:9). That some would be “slain” means they would die physically. This must be the “first” death. [It stands to reason that if there is a “second” death, there must be a “first.”] The first death, physical death, is the death we all will experience: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Notice that all will die “once.”
    That brings us back to the original question: What is the “second” death? The answer to that question is found in Revelation 21:8—the first scripture reference in this article. John affirms that there is coming a time when the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars will have their part in a lake of fire. After listing some of those who will experience the lake of fire, John states: “which is the second death.” The second death, therefore, is a reference to hell. Hell is a real place. The same Bible which reveals there is a heaven is the Bible which reveals the reality of hell. To deny one is to deny the other. All will die the “first” death, but because of Jesus’ death we don’t have to die the “second” death. The horrors of hell can be avoided, and we can live forever in the glory and bliss of heaven! Prepare today by obeying the Gospel and serving the Lord faithfully.

comments | Read the full post

We Cannot Do What We What To Do

Posted by Mark Lindley on 14 May 2013

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). In this passage of Scripture, we see that we have the capacity to lust after things of the flesh. We all have certain passions and desires, which, if not kept in check, can lead us into sin. A few verses later in Galatians chapter 5, Paul lists the “works of the flesh” (verses 19-21). In that list of sins are sexual sins, sins of attitude, the sin of religious division, the sin of drunkenness and others.
    However, Paul states in the text cited above, that the “Spirit is against the flesh.” By this he means that the Holy Spirit wants to influence us to avoid the sins of the flesh. The Holy Spirit, by means of God’s Word, the Bible, can exert a strong influence in our lives if we allow Him to do so. This means we must spend time with God’s Word, studying and applying it to our lives that we might have the strength to resist fleshly temptations. Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). In the spiritual battle Christians fight, the Spirit’s sword, God’s Word, will enable one to prevail.
    Paul ends Galatians 5:17 with these words: “so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” In other words, because fleshly desires may lead to sin, we are warned that cannot do as we wish. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by the flesh, with its desires and passions, we will certainly engage in the works of the flesh. There are times when, perhaps, we may “want” to commit these sins and “would” commit these sins if we did not choose to follow the Spirit as He leads by God’s Word.
    Therefore, the conclusion is this: “we cannot do what we would.” We cannot live as we wish. While it is true that we all have fleshly desires and passions, these can be and must be controlled. The world says, “Live as you wish. You are your own god. Follow your own heart. Follow the flesh. Fulfill sinful desires.” On the other hand, the Bible teaches that we “cannot” do what we want.
    Further, the way to lasting happiness and fulfillment in life is not found by doing as we want, but by doing God’s will. God is the Creator; we are the created. Shouldn’t God know best?

comments | Read the full post

Interesting Facts About the Thief on the Cross

Posted by Mark Lindley on 30 April 2013

While Jesus was suffering the dreadful death of crucifixion, two thieves also were nailed to crosses beside the Lord. According to the Biblical record, one of the thieves repented. This penitent thief has been the subject for countless Bible classes and sermons. Perhaps, he is the world’s most famous thief. Consider some interesting facts about this crook who was converted to Christ.
    First, the thief who repented was saved from his past sins. The Lord said, “Today, shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Jesus, who was deity in flesh, had the power on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). When Jesus promised the thief a place in paradise, this implied that the robber had been forgiven. Therefore, there is no doubt—the thief died in a saved condition. This teaches us that regardless of the sin we have committed, the gracious Lord is willing to forgive (II Peter 3:9).
    Second, the thief was saved personally by Jesus, before the New Testament of Christ was implemented and effective. The full gospel of the New Testament was not preached until Jesus arose from the dead and ascended back to heaven. Just before his ascension, Jesus stated that “repentance and remission of sins” would be preached in his name among all nations, “beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Several days later, on the day of Pentecost, the apostles of Christ preached the full Gospel in Jerusalem just as the Lord had predicted (Acts 2:1-47). It was then that the New Testament was implemented and became effective. Keep in mind that Jesus said these things would “begin” at Jerusalem. This teaches that today we cannot be saved in the same manner as the thief on the cross was saved. He was saved personally and directly by Jesus, before the Gospel “began” to be preached in Jerusalem. Paul wrote, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). Of course, the thief could not have believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead because the thief was saved “before” Jesus died. Therefore, the thief could not have been saved by following the teachings of Romans 10:9.
    Third, the thief was saved before Jesus commanded that sinners be baptized in his name for the forgiveness of sins. It was after the thief had already been saved that Jesus stated, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16), and before Peter preached “Repent, and be baptized…for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). This shows that we must be saved under the conditions of the New Testament. Jesus forgave the thief by speaking to him personally. Now Jesus speaks to us through his written will, the New Testament.

comments | Read the full post

"The Bible Does Not Forbid It"

Posted by Mark Lindley on 2 April 2013

Most people professing to be Christians would agree that we should do what the Bible says. When a religious discussion takes place at work among those who declare they are Christians, inevitably, the Bible is mentioned. The fact that the Bible is mentioned in the context of such conversations indicates that most people who affirm they are Christians understand that the Bible is the religious standard to be followed in all our beliefs and practices. In fact, every person I know who says, “I am a Christian,” would agree that we should do what the Bible says.
    However, not all agree that we should refrain from doing what the Bible does “not” say. To the contrary, those who insist they are Christians often allege that if the Bible does not specifically condemn a belief or practice then that belief or practice is acceptable to God. In other words, if “the Bible does not forbid it,” then we can engage in that practice with assurance that God is pleased.
    But is this doctrine true? All evidence from Scripture indicates that this doctrine is false. Do you remember the account of Nadab and Abihu, recorded in Leviticus 10:1-2? “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.” Please observe from this passage that Nabad and Abihu offered a type of fire that God had “not” commanded. They could have argued, “God’s law does not forbid it,” but that reasoning would not have been acceptable to God. The Lord expected these men to offer the type of fire that “was” commanded.
    When God commands us to do something, He does not have to rule out all the things we are not to do. This is a common-sense principle we live by every day. If a teacher says, “Do the homework assignment on page 34,” does she then have to say, “Not the assignment on page 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, etc.? Would it be necessary for the teacher to rule out all other possible homework assignments? No, of course not. By this same logic, when God commands us to do something, He means what He says and does not have to specifically exclude all things we are not to do. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17). Let us respect what God says and does “not” say.

comments | Read the full post

Does Absolute Truth Exist?

Posted by Mark Lindley on 19 March 2013

I remember years ago watching an old game show on television called, “To Tell the Truth.” I suppose the name of that show would be distasteful to our culture because many have little appreciation for the term “truth.” In fact, many deny that there is such a thing as absolute truth.
The idea that absolute truth does not exist is associated with the philosophy of relativism. Relativism is defined as “the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute.” According to this philosophy, what was true fifty years ago concerning morals, ethics, marriage, rearing children and other things may not be true today. This is because truth is “relative.” It changes with time, culture, and historical context.
This doctrine is dangerous because it leaves the younger generation with no solid foundation for morality and ethics, and when there is no absolute standard to guide our lives, moral chaos is the result. The Bible teaches that in the days of the judges, there was no king in Israel and “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This is precisely what is happening in our culture: many people have embraced the doctrine of relativism and they are doing what is right “in their own eyes.”
The problem with this situation is that relativism is a false doctrine. Truth does not originate with man, but with God. I do not have the right to develop my own standard of morality and do what is right in my own eyes; no one does. Rather, we are to submit to God’s standards.
Is there really a universal standard to which all are to submit? Does absolute truth really exist? Consider the words of Jesus: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Did you notice that twice in that one verse Jesus affirmed that there is a body of knowledge identified as “truth”? Not only did Jesus teach that truth exist, but He also taught that we can “know” the truth, and that the truth “makes us free.”
The truth of God’s Word is unchanging. By following it, we can have rich, fulfilling lives here and in the hereafter. “For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 117:2).

comments | Read the full post

Casting Pearls Before Swine

Posted by Mark Lindley on 12 February 2013

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (Matthew 7:6). Jesus made this statement in His great Sermon on the Mount. But what does this verse mean?
    Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus taught His disciples to be kind, courteous, loving and compassionate to others. However, He also taught that His disciples are to be good stewards of their time and of the Gospel. When Jesus made this statement about casting pearls before swine, He was using language that illustrates the importance of stewardship.
    Think for a moment about one of the most precious possessions you have. It may be a piece of jewelry, an heirloom of the family, or some other treasured item. Now imagine taking that item and tossing it into a pen full of hogs. Would the hogs place the same value on your cherished possession as you do? No, rather than esteeming your treasured item, the hogs would trample it in the mud. Hogs simply do not recognize the high value of precious or sacred things.
    When Jesus spoke of pearls, He was speaking of that which people highly esteem. There is something, however, that is more precious than pearls—that is, the Gospel of Christ. Jesus knew that there would be some people who would be so carnally-minded they would not appreciate the riches of the Gospel. Some have made up their minds that they will not believe and obey Christ. To expend time and resources in offering God’s Word to such people would be like offering “pearls to swine.” There comes a time when proper stewardship demands that we “shake the dust off our feet” and move on to hearts which are more receptive to the Gospel (cf. Acts 13:49-51).
    Christ’s followers must never use the “pearls-and-swine-teaching” as an excuse not to help or to teach others. Jesus instructed His disciples to “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Nevertheless, this is the same Jesus who also warned about allowing hogs to trample precious pearls. It is not always easy to distinguish between those who truly are interested in doing God’s will and those who are not. Therefore, God’s people should pray for wisdom in making such distinctions.

comments | Read the full post

The Need for an Objective Standard of Authority

Posted by Mark Lindley on 29 January 2013

A standard is “a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment.” We recognize the need for a standard of authority in many areas of life. In playing sports, there are rules which players must honor in order for a game to be organized. Without such rules there would be chaos. In the school system, there are rules which teachers and students must honor in order for students to learn. A school with no standard of authority could not function properly and would cease to be of benefit to society. We can see the need for authority regarding the laws which prohibit criminal activity. Imagine living in a city where there were no laws against robbery, murder, rape, or any other crime. Criminal and immoral activity would abound, and life would be very difficult for those who want a good quality of life. We can all see the need for standards of authority in these areas.
    However, when it comes to spiritual matters, some are not willing to abide by an objective standard of authority. A standard that is “objective” is one that is not influenced by feelings or opinions; rather, an objective standard is based upon facts. The only true objective standard in spiritual things is the Word of God, the Bible (II Timothy 3:16-17; John 12:48; Acts 17:11; Psalm 119:105).
    Nevertheless, when someone asks a religious question, it is common for people to start chiming in with their own personal opinions—“Well I think,” “I heard,” “Someone said,” “My preacher said,” “My parents believe,” “My church teaches,” “I’ve always believed”—these are all common ways that people respond to religious questions.
    The problem with such responses is that they are based upon what people say rather than upon what God has said in His Word. When we are discussing spiritual matters, would it not be best for us to say, “The Bible teaches…,” and then give the book, chapter, and verse showing where the Bible teaches the thing under consideration?
    The only way we can be sure that our religious beliefs are true is by honoring God’s Word as the objective standard of authority.  On the Day of Judgment, our feelings, opinions, traditions, or ideas will not serve as the basis for Judgment. Rather, we will be judged by God’s Word (John 12:48). Let us therefore study and follow His Word, so that we can be saved eternally!

comments | Read the full post

Three Keys to Happiness for 2013

Posted by Mark Lindley on 15 January 2013

The New Year is now well under way. Hopefully, it has been and will continue to be a happy New Year for you. Our attitudes, however, have a great impact on our happiness. We cannot always change our circumstances, but we can change our attitudes. The following are three keys you can use throughout the year to help you keep a positive attitude.
    The first key is “Accept.” While beginning a new year, we are reminded that another year has passed. The past year may have presented some challenges or changes which have been hard for you to accept. You may have lost a job, experienced financial problems, or lost a loved-one. You may have wasted time worrying about things which never happened, and now you regret that you wasted precious time. You may have failed morally and engaged in sinful behavior that has damaged your reputation, your self-esteem, and has embarrassed you.
    I suppose we could all think of some things we would like to change about the past year, but that simply is not possible. The past is gone forever. Whatever losses, failures, or changes we experienced, we must now learn to accept. Paul wrote, “This one thing I do, 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” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul did not live in the past; neither should we. Some things we must accept. “The Serenity Prayer” reminds us: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
    The next key is “Adjust.” If within the past year, you did fail, experience losses, or go through a major change, what are some areas in which you need to adjust your life? Do you need to give up a sinful habit? Do you want to be a better spouse? Do you want to learn more about God and His will for your life? Then, why not write down some specific, realistic goals and begin working to achieve them? God desires His people to grow: “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). The New Year has so much potential for growth and positive change.
    The third key is “Appreciate.” Yesterday is gone; tomorrow is not yet here; but we do have today. It will only be “today” for a short time, so let’s make the most of it and appreciate it. Each day is a new beginning with great potential. The psalmist wrote, “Teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12). In other words, make the most of each day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life! That makes today special!
    Remember the three keys: Accept, Adjust, and Appreciate!

comments | Read the full post