Life happens. Not only does it happen, but it happens really fast. One day we are making plans for the future for ourselves as well as our families. It seems that we are keeping up with the pace of life. That is, as long as everything goes according to plan.
We all have dreams, plans, and maybe aspirations. Some have extreme motivation to chase after them, others not so much. Either way, when we get momentum behind our life’s plan, we tend to believe that life is good and we are on our way to meet our goals and desires for our lives.
Who we are and who we become in life greatly depend on the things that happen to us and around us. Also, the consequences of decisions and choices along life’s path. Let’s not forget that the people we choose to be around also affect who we are and become. Finally, our beliefs and worldview impact the course of life.
Generally, we live our lives according to the plans that we make and sometimes make adjustments along the way. Some are better at this than others. When life is playing out as we have planned, we say “Life is good”, or even “God is good”. Yet when these plans derail or seem to change against our will, we struggle to adjust. We tend to panic, stress, or even give up on the plan.
The fact is, even though we all have free will to make choices in this life, there are some things to which we have no say. Many people like to say, “no one has to do anything but pay taxes and die.”. I would disagree with that, no one really has to pay taxes. We have the freedom to choose not to pay and suffer the consequences. However, being born and dying are in fact the two things that no one can choose.
Really, only being born is what we do not have choice in. Many have chosen to take their own life. In that regard, I guess that dying would be a choice, although not usually an option for people. The reality of it all is, people generally do not get to know how many days will be given them, only God knows some things.
“Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “if it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15
It is real easy to get caught up in living life and fail to recognize the value of it. People have been living in this world for thousands of years. Each of them living the life that was theirs. All of us have been given life by the creator. God is the one who created life and breathed breath into man. Living our lives without acknowledging Him as Lord is foolish!
People these days generally live no more than 100 years. Most live to be in their 70’s or 80’s. Even though that seems like a long time on the calendar, it is not much time at all in the grand scheme of things. The bigger point here is that on one is promised another day. Life happens.
It is important that we all look at what is the most important thing. That is, what goes on beyond this life. What the Christian believes is that there is eternal life. A choice is to be made. Will that time be spent in the presence of God? Or, will that time be spent separated from God forever? The time that goes on after life in this world is eternal and will not change.
For those who do not believe in life after death, well then it is important to make good use of the time you have in this life. It does not change the fact that life is short. It does not change the fact that death can come at any time. Either way, whatever the belief is, it seem foolish for a person to ignore the fact that death can come at any time.
I am not sharing this to scare anyone or to be a gloom and doom kind of person. I am sharing this because it is important that people acknowledge that life is short and that we are not promised tomorrow. Maybe it will help us to slow down and notice what we are missing.Maybe it will help us to get off our hind parts and start living life the way God intended it to be lived! Either way, the opportunity to have confidence in the eternity that happens after this life is over is there.
Yes, the gospel. It is the most important, most urgent piece of information in existence. The message that all people have fallen short of God’s glory and need a savior to pay the debt owed to this Holy God. That message that says that Jesus is that Savior and anyone who believes that it is true can be with God for eternity!
“”Therefore let all Israel be assured of this; God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.””
– Acts 2:36-39
The bottom line is this; Life is short! You or I, or even all of us may not be given another breath. Are you confident? Are you confident in what you believe about life after a person is dead? If you believe that there is not life after death, are you positive? And, if you believe like I do, the Christian belief, that there is life after we die and there is a choice to make. Then I would ask you, are you sure that if this be your last day to live in this world, would you spend the rest of eternity in the presence of God or will it be spent for ever separated from God?
Whatever pictures or movies can be displayed about what Hell will be like, I will say that I do not pretend to know any more than what scripture describes about it. However, I will say that the worst thing about Hell is that God is not there, and it is a permanent situation!
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:23-25 NASB
Over my time in full-time ministry, I have had many conversations with a number of people about going to church. These conversations centered around many aspects, ranging from availability due to work schedules, physical ability or lack there of, and my favorite being “Me and God do our own thing on Sundays”.
Now, I know that there are many other ways that this conversation goes between the Preacher/Christian and others. The one I am focusing on here is the idea presented about whether person must go to church to be a Christian.
First, let me make it clear that it is a fact that there are people who work on Sunday mornings. It is a fact that there are plenty who cannot physically get out or come to church. It is also a fact that there are countless individuals who would love to be at church on Sunday as well as be involved with what a congregation is doing as a whole!
Let’s put all of those aside for the moment. What I am dealing with here is the idea that a person who would say that they are a Christian and also stands in the position that he or she does not “need” to attend church. That they and God do their own thing and that is good enough.
It would seem that the question at hand then would be, “does a person have to go to church to be a Christian?” To that question, I would say that going to church does not make you a Christian. But that is not the question really, is it?
When a person presents the idea, “me and God do our own thing”, the real issue is being presented in a subtle manner. What this person is really doing is challenging or daring the Preacher or whoever else, to question their salvation based on the fact that they do not go to church. It really is a defense tactic because usually the person is asked if they would like to attend church or the Preacher mentions church.
The core of the problem is that people, church goers as well as non-church goers have a misunderstanding of the purpose of attending church or being a part of the ministry of the church. The church goer sees it as evidence that a person is saved, where the non-church goer sees it as a test of their salvation or belief. This is why this conversation is such a problem in the Kingdom of God today.
The real question that church goers should be asking themselves and others is, “do I/you know Jesus?”. At the same time the real question that non-church goers should be asking themselves is “do I really know Jesus?”. If everyone would focus more on this question, the church attendance conversation would be non-existent.
As was presented at the beginning of this blog post, Hebrews chapter 10 gives us some insight into what this Christian life is to be about. In verses 23-25 we can see that words like “hold fast”, “stimulate one another to love and good deeds”, and “not forsaking our own assembling together”, which draw a picture for the believer and the “Church”.
The picture that is drawn for the believer here is that of community. A picture of people who although are different in many ways, share life together. Just as we can see all throughout the book of Acts, every time the believers shared life together in work, prayer or fellowship, God blessed them and their numbers grew!
God, the creator, does not make mistakes. He has created human beings to need fellowship. He created a mate for Adam because He knew that is is not good for man to be alone. Jesus’ death and resurrection is all about restoring fellowship and unity! I know, many thought is was about God letting people go to heaven as apposed to going to hell. Yes, that is true, but it is a very surface level understanding of the work of the cross. Not to mention a little bit selfish.
The truth is, you and I are offered grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation by the blood of Christ not primarily because we need a Savior. NO! All of that happened so that God would be glorified! Only God could take what is broken and make it whole again! Only God can take the rebellious soul and administer consequences and yet spare the law-breaker!
No, Jesus was born in the flesh, gave His life brutally on a cross, and then God the Father raised Him from death so that all of creation and all the universe would know that He indeed is Lord of it all! Oh, and by the way, because He loves His creation, that’s you and I, we get to experience the blessings that come with His glory and Lordship!
So, maybe it really is a question of salvation. Scripture tells us that those who believe would “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38-39. This goes together with chapter 17 of the gospel of John. We can read there that Jesus Himself prayed to the Father that the believers would be one with Him as He is with the Father. He prayed for unity in the body of Christ.
All who are genuinely saved are a part of the body of Christ. It is the same Holy Spirit living within each of them. So, when James teaches that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful, I cannot believe that here is a more powerful prayer than that of Jesus our Lord!
Therefore, it would be logical and actually expected that those who are believers, those saved by the blood of Christ, would be united! As we grow spiritually along the way, our desires fade away and the desires of the Holy Spirit begin to be dominant in our hearts. All of this should take us back to our original question. Must a person go to church to be saved?
I will conclude with this answer. A person does not get saved by attending church. That would be a work and we are not saved by works. However, if a person is genuinely “saved” by faith in the blood of Christ through repentance and baptism, and the Spirit of God is living within them, then would we not desire the fellowship of the body of Christ? After all, that was our Lord’s Prayer in chapter 17 of John.
No it is not a sin to work on Sunday. No it is not a sin to miss church service. However, if a person is a true believer, there would be a desire to be a part of the body of Christ. Notice, I still have not said that there should be a desire to go to church on Sunday. That is because there is more to being a part of the church than going to church on Sunday morning.
If a person works on Sunday morning or is unable to physically attend worship service and there is that desire to be a part of the body of Christ, they will find a way. People generally do what they want to do.
Most church congregations hold worship services on Sunday morning. Many have other times of worship such as Sunday evening, Saturday evening, and even on Wednesday evening. So there really is no excuse. After all, that really is all that it is, an excuse. Aside from worship services, there are bible studies, outreach programs, evangelism, and much more that the body of Christ is doing.
So, it really is not about going to church on Sunday morning. It is more about knowing God in such a way that not only allows a person to be reconciled to Him in spite of that person’s rebelliousness against Him, but also to know Him in a way that the person’s desire is to be a part of the body of Christ, the Kingdom of God.
Ultimately, a Christian will have an overwhelming desire to surrender to a life of participation in the body of Christ and glorifying a Holy God!
I pray that we all have the desire to be a part of the body of Christ! Oh, the answer that you might be looking for from me is, NO! No, you cannot be a Christian and not be a part of the body of Christ.
I could write out everything I believe and teach about what the Bible teaches about Baptism but I chose instead to share with you a writing that was produced by a fellow Preacher. Kurt Honican of Lexington, KY who happened to be used by God to usher me into the ministry along with a few other brothers is now preaching in Eastern North Carolina at Christian Chapel Church of Christ. Since he produced this document about what we teach about baptism it seemed silly for me to re-write the same things so with his permission, here it is.
What Does the Bible Say About Baptism?
Personal Response Inventory:
Realizing that God loves me and created me to have a personal relationship with Him, and that my sin makes me guilty and separates me from God– I have responded in the following ways:
I BELIEVE that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for me upon the cross.
I have REPENTED of my sins, turning from my old way of living to God.
I have publicly CONFESSED Jesus to be the Lord (Leader) and Savior (Forgiver) of my life.
I have been BAPTIZED (immersed) in obedience to Christ’s example and command.
Commonly Asked Questions about Baptism
Many of the people who come to our church come from backgrounds where baptism was not taught or emphasized. Several questions seem to surface repeatedly. Some of the most common are dealt with below:
What is the meaning of Baptism?
*It illustrates Christ’s burial and resurrection
“Christ died for our sins… He was buried… and He rose again.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
“For when you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and in baptism you were also raised with Christ.” (Colossians 2:12)
* It illustrates my new life as a Christian
“By our baptism then, we were buried with Him and shared His death, in order that , just as Christ was raised from the dead… so also we may live a new life!” (Romans 6:4)
* Baptism does not MAKE you a believer– you are baptized because you are a believer in Jesus Christ. The act of baptism alone doesn’t “save” you. Christian baptism is preceded by personal faith/trust in Christ and is coupled with confession and repentance.
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved. But he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
“Repent and be baptized… for the forgiveness of you sins.”
“As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the man said, ‘Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ The man answered, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God.’ And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the man went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:36-38)
“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10: 9-10)
* Baptism is like a wedding ring: it’s the outward symbol of the commitment you make in your heart. It is the pledge of a covenant relationship with God.
“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also– not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
2. Who Should Be Baptized?
* Every person who has believed in Christ
“Those who believe and accepted his message were baptized…” (Acts 2:41)
“Simon himself believed and was baptized.” (Acts 8:13)
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the Good News… and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
3. Why Should I Be Baptized?
* Because you want to follow the EXAMPLE of CHRIST.
“At that time, Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the river.” (Mark 1:9)
*Because Christ COMMANDS it!
“Jesus said, ‘Go then, to all the people everywhere and make them disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28: 19-20)
* Because it demonstrates you are a BELIEVER.
“…many of the Corinthians who heard him believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
* Because OBEYING Christ’s command shows you know Him.
“We know that we have come to know him, if we obey His commands.” (1 John 2:3)
* Because it is the appeal to God for a CLEAN conscience.
“and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also– not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves yo by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)
*Because it UNITES me with Christ in a very special way.
“You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Galatians 6: 26-27)
4. Why do you baptize by immersion and not sprinkling or pouring?
The original language in which the New Testament was written was Greek. When Paul and others wrote with reference to baptism, they always used a word in the Greek that meant, “to dip, submerge, or immerse” which was “baptizo”.
When Jesus was baptized, the Bible uses the Greek word baptizo to describe that event. When Jesus commanded that His disciples be baptized, he used the Greek word baptizo to instruct then how to do it. Every baptism recorded in the New Testament was by immersion, consistently using the Greek word baptizo to decscribe the event.
Example: “then both Philip and the man went down into the water an Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water…” (Acts 8:38-39)
Other words in the Greek language mean, “to sprinkle or pour.” If the writers had viewed these as acceptable modes of baptism they would have chosen the appropriate words. Instead, they specified immersion.
Immersion was the commonly accepted form of baptism in the church for hundreds of years. It was only in later centuries that men began to substitute other modes.
Jesus was baptized –by being immersed in water.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He came up out of the water.” (Matt. 3:16)
· Every baptism in the New Testament was by immersion.
The Apostles, consistent with Jesus’ example and command, instructed new believers to be immersed into Christ, using the Greek word baptizo to describe the action.
Example: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
It is the best way to picture a burial and resurrection!
“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead… we, too, may have new life.” (Romans 6:3-4)
Consider the statements from the founders of three denominations:
Martin Luther (Lutheran Church): “I would have those who are to be baptized to be entirely immersed, as the work imparts and mystery signifies.”
John Calvin (Presbyterian): “The word ‘baptize’ signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the ancient church.”
John Wesley (Methodist): “Buried with Him, alludes to baptizing by immersion according to the custom of the first church.”
5. Do you baptize Infants?
In order to address the question of infant baptism, one must first ask about the nature of human beings in general. The question is this: is each of us bourn with the mark of sin already on our lives? … or are we a “clean slate”, and not viewed by God as “sinful” until we are old enough to personally choose to act in opposition with what we know God has commanded?
We believe that the Bible teaches that we all have a “sin nature”. That is to say that we all have a “tendency toward sin”. However, we believe that a just God does not hold us accountable for sin until we are old enough to understand that we are in rebellion against Him. When one reaches the age where he or she is old enough to realize that he/she is a sinner, then we call them to accept Christ who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross.
In the Bible, we find parents bringing their children to Jesus. He held them, prayed for them, blessed them, and told His disciples to welcome them. But he did not baptize them, and he did not tell any else to baptize them. Biblically speaking, baptism is appropriate only for those who have a made a personal decision to trust in Christ alone for their salvation.
At this church, we will not baptize a child unless they are mature enough to place their faith in Christ and understand the true meaning of baptism and receiving Christ as their Lord and Savior.
We realize that many parents have had their newborn children baptized for reasons of making a public declaration of their intent to raise the child to know God. Some churches practice a “baptism of confirmation” for children. This ceremony is intended to be a covenant between the parents and God on the behalf of the child. The parents promise to raise their child in the faith until the child is old enough to make his own personal confession of Christ. This custom began about 300 years after the Bible was completed. This is different from the baptism talked about in the Bible, which was only for those old enough to believe and make a personal and informed decision to accept Jesus Christ. We think this is admirable but unnecessary in that we do not believe that an infant is a sinner; therefore an infant is not in need of obeying the Biblical command to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). The purpose is to publicly confess you personal sinfulness and give authority of your life to Christ. At this church, it is expected that every member must have been baptized the way Jesus demonstrated, even though a person may have been “confirmed” as a child.
6. What about those who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior but have never been immersed?
The difficulty in answering this question is the silence of the Bible on this subject. In the first century, where the events and doctrine of the early church were explained, there was no one in the situation of accepting Christ without being baptized. In fact, there was no one like this until recent times. In the early church everyone who gave his life to Christ was baptized.
The closest example we might find in the Scriptures of a man to whom this question applied was Apollos (Acts 18: 24-26). Apollos was a very spiritual man who had a great fervor about his relationship to Jesus. He had been taught incorrectly concerning baptism. He knew only John’s baptism, which was a baptism of repentance and preparation for the coming Messiah. He was not familiar with Christian baptism as it was taught by the Apostles and early church leaders. When Priscilla and Aquilla taught him, the Bible says he was willing to change his ideas and submit to Christian baptism-baptism into Christ.
Perhaps the crucial question is, “Why NOT be baptized?” What does one have to lose by doing so? Some feel that baptism after years in the church indicates that they were not really Christians previously. This does not seem to be the attitude of Apollos when he realized more accurately the way of the Lord. We have no record that he concerned himself with the past at all. He was simply glad to move ahead.
7. Does Baptism actually save a person?
The Bible teaches that Christ alone saves. Acts 4:12 states that salvation is found “in no other” than Jesus Christ. However,, receiving Christ necessitates some response on our part. The Bible makes it clear that our response should include faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. Each is important. None is more important than the other. These are the ways we express the fact that we have trusted Christ for salvation. They do not save us, Christ does, but each is mentioned in reference to salvation in the Scriptures.
When people accepted Christ as Savior in the New Testament times they BELIEVED in HIM (Acts 16-31), they REPENTED of their sins (Acts 2:38), they CONFESSED Christ as Lord (Matt. 16:16-18, Romans 10: 9-10), and they were BAPTIZED (Matt. 28: 19-20, Acts 2:38-41, Acts 8:36-38).
We feel that our role as Christians is to teach people to do the same things that the Apostles taught people to do. Some argue about “at which point” are you saved? Instead we simply repeat the command of Scripture that people who would accept Christ should: BELIEVE, REPENT, CONFESS, AND BE BAPTIZED. Throughout Scripture, we see that these were immediate responses to the Gospel and so they all happened within moment of each other. We encourage all who seek the Lord to follow the pattern set by scripture and in doing so we can say that we followed the instructions set forth in Scripture. Any judgment about anyone who has followed a different pattern belongs only to God. We believe that we will all give an account to God about our response to His teachings.
8. Isn’t baptism just a “work”? And, doesn’t the Bible say that “we are not saved by works”?
Baptism is not a “work”; it’s a response of one’s faith to Jesus Christ. It is a demonstration of one’s commitment to the Lordship of Christ and obedience to His commands. Again, we are saved by TRUST IN CHRIST ALONE, HOWEVER, THE Bible has given us clear ways to “act out” and demonstrate our faith. Baptism is one of them. We don’t baptize into membership. We baptize into Christ. Baptism into Christ makes it an act of faith. The only “work” happening in the baptistery is the justifying “work” of God.
9. Are you saying that those who are not baptized are not Christians?
According to what we read in the Bible, there is a plan of Salvation that by both direct command and precedent is clearly stated. We are simply teaching the Scriptures. Again, God alone judges and to Him we are accountable. We preach through believing, repenting, confessing, and being baptized.
10. Why can’t I be a member of the church and not be baptized?
The elders and preacher of our Williamston Church of Christ are responsible to God for the doctrine we teach. Our interest is in leading our people to lives of godliness and growth in Christ. The position we have taken is that baptism was an ordinance in the New Testament church. Everyone seeking to return to Biblical standards, we feel that we should simply “do what they did” and “teach what they taught” in the Scriptures. Baptism is too important a doctrine for us to compromise. We realize that not everyone agrees as to its importance, but again, as leaders we are called to shepherd as the Bible instructs us. Thus we believe that members of our church should hold an elevated view of baptism and not take it lightly.
11. When should I be baptized?
As soon as you have believed.
“Those who accepted his message were baptized…that day.” (Acts 2:41)
“Then Philip began with the scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. As they traveled along the road, they came to some water, and the man said, ‘Look, here is water! Why shouldn’t I be baptized right now?’ Philip said, ‘If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ So they went down into the water and Philip baptized him.” (Acts 8:35-38)
There is no reason to delay. As soon as you have decided to receive Christ into your life, you can and should be baptized. If you wait until you are “perfect”, you’ll never feel “good enough”!
12. Can my family be baptized together?
YES! If each family member understands fully the meaning of baptism, and each one has personally placed his/her trust in Christ for salvation, we encourage families to be baptized at the same time. It is a wonderful expression of commitment. Young children who wish to be baptized are asked to meet with the preacher.
However, it is important to remember that baptism is a personal decision, not a family tradition. It is not Scriptural to delay your baptism while waiting on other family members to make their own decision to accept Christ, particularly children. This puts an undue pressure on them, and delays your obedience and response to Christ.
Written by: Kurt Honican of Christian Chapel Church of Christ
I hope this article has given you a better understanding of what baptism is all about. If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask. Also feel free to share this with friends and family as well. God bless!