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Return to the Old Paths

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Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States

Thursday, March 31, 2005

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

The book of Acts in the New Testament is a history of the early church. This is a good place to begin to find an answer to the question "What must I do to be saved?". In Acts chapter 2, Peter and the other 11 apostles are in Jerusalem preaching the first gospel sermon. In Peter's sermon, he preaches regarding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In verses 36-38, we read "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made the same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." They heard the Word preached and had the compelling desire to ask one question, "What shall we do?". Realizing their obvious faith, Peter did not hesitate to instruct them to repent of (turn away from) their sins and be baptized (baptizo-immersed) for the forgiveness of their sins. The greek word translated for points forward never backward. Peter had preached the gospel to them, resulting in a saving faith.(So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17) He told them to turn from their sins and be immersed according to the command of God and their salvation would occur after their obedience.
In Acts chapter 8 verses 25-38, Luke records the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. The eunuch was a man who believed in God, read his Scriptures, and was on his way home from worship. He did not understand what he was reading (v30-31) . To help him, an angel sent Philip to have a Bible study with him (v26). The eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53(v32-33) . We are told that Philip began at the same scripture and preached unto him Jesus (v35). After hearing Philip's sermon, the eunuch asked if he too could be baptized
(v 36). Philip told him if he believed he could (v37). We are told they both went down into the water both Philip and the eunuch and Philip baptized him (v38). The preaching of Jesus obviously included the preaching of immersion. In each example of conversion in the book of Acts, the subjects arrived at a saving faith after hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They turned from their sinful ways to serve Christ. They acknowledged Jesus as the son of God. Then they obeyed the command to be immersed for the forgiveness of sins. Can we require any more or teach any less than was practiced in the first century church? We dare not find ourselves adding to or taking away from the Biblical teachings. We must be obedient children of God, not children in rebellion.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Friendship, Love, and Obedience

We live in a time in history when many people want everything their way. They would prefer to ignore or bend the rules. The phrase "rules were made to be broken is frequently heard". Even in the church, some have arrived to a level of understanding where they do not believe God meant what He said. They have agreed to compromise with error for the sake of fellowship with a larger number of people. They challenge those who teach "obedience to God and His word" by calling them legalists or Pharisees. Yet if we ignore the Bible in one area, isn't it possible to ignore in any area to the point of apostasy.
In the gospel of John, Jesus makes the following three statements:
  1. John 14:15
    If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  2. John 15:14
    Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
  3. John 15:13
    Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Jesus never said " I love you so much that you can do what you think is best and I will save you anyway." He said "If ye love me, keep my commandments." I guess if we don't love Him we won't "keep His commandments." He also said, "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." Then if we don't obey his commandments, we must not be His friends. In the third passage, He says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Jesus did indeed "lay down His life for His friends" at the cross of Calvary. His definition of friends would be those who obey His will.
The Bible is the authority in spiritual matters. What I think, feel, or believe is not the authority. What you think, feel, or believe is not the authority. God's word is the authority. If I want to know what God expects of me, I need to go to the Bible for instruction. The book of Acts is a record of the early church. It gives us a record of the plan of salvation, the pattern of worship, and the pattern for church government. In my next posting, we will seek to learn how the Bible answers the question, "What must I do to be saved?"

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Seek The Old Paths

The Old Testament contains a history of God's people and a record of their relationship with him. In Romans 15:4, Paul tells us "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." We only have to read the Book of Jeremiah to realize the reputation that the children of Israel had in their religion.(Jeremiah 6:16-21; 8:7,9; 13:10; 16:11-12; 18:15; 22:21; 23:22-23; 25:8-9) They did not listen. They did not obey. The result was the destruction of their nation and the captivity that followed.
God gave the following message through Jeremiah. Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk ye therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein." (Jeremiah 6:16) The directive given here would be good for us to heed today. But too many "religious" people are giving the same response that the people of Israel gave. "We will not walk therein." Man's attitude of rebellion against God still exists. Religious people practice things of their own invention with no regard for what God desires. God never gave us the liberty to do as we please without consequences. In matters of faith, He established His way. My way is not acceptable. We learn this 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." God expects obedience.
God sent His son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. With Jesus death on the cross, He established the church, and provided the atonement for our sins. The New Testament (written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) is the authority in matters of faith. It tells us the plan of salvation, what God expects in worship, the pattern for church government and organization of the church, and provides many other practical and doctrinal teachings. The church in the 21st century should be identical to the church of the 1st century if it is to be the church we read about in the New Testament.
Modern man needs to return to the teaching of the Bible. We need to listen to the will of God and we need to be obedient to God. Anything less is not enough and anything more is too much. "Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up." We need to make a choice and take a stand. We need to return to the ancient paths or the old paths. Compromise in matters of faith is not pleasing to God. God expects obedience in matters of faith. In matters of faith, we need to have unity, in matters of opinion let there be liberty, in all things, love. Let's go back to the Bible and begin to seek the old paths.