Friday, 30 January 2015

What Must I Do To Be Saved? Well, It Depends …

     What is the biblical response to one who asks, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer depends on who is asking and where the person is in relation to the Lord.1
     A complete unbeliever must first believe in God (Acts 14:15; 17:23-27) and the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:30-31). Without this initial step of faith, one can go no further in the salvation process. And before believing is even possible, the truth of God’s word must be communicated, understood and accepted (Acts 2:37; 8:12a; 16:32; 17:23-34). Once the divine message has been received and trusting faith has been generated (Romans 10:17), what must the one now believing do to be saved?
     A believer must repent, i.e. turn away from sin (Acts 2:38a; 3:19; 17:30; 26:20). Without repentance, salvation is not available (Luke 13:3, 5; 24:47; 2 Peter 3:9). When a believing one turns from darkness to light, what must this penitent believer do to be saved?
     Upon the profession of faith (1 Timothy 6:12),2 a penitent believer must be baptized (immersed in water) for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:1-5, 17-18). Unless one is born of water and the spirit, entrance into God’s kingdom is prohibited (John 3:5, 22-23). Seeing that salvation is “in Christ” (2 Timothy 2:10) and baptism places one “into Christ” (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27), baptism is therefore necessary for salvation (Mark 16:15-16; 1 Peter 3:20-21). After baptism, what must the penitent baptized believer do to be saved?
     A penitent baptized believer must continue in the faith (Acts 2:42; 11:23; 14:22). This involves acknowledging and repenting of sins whenever necessary (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:7-10). It also involves learning, growing, obeying, and serving as an active member of the Lord’s church (Romans 12:1-18; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; 2 Peter 1:2-11; etc.).
     What must I do to be saved? Well, who’s asking? An unbeliever must believe. A believer must repent. A penitent believer must be baptized. And a baptized penitent believer must continue living a life of faithfulness according to biblical directives. God himself is faithful and does his part as each of us humbly complies.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 This question was asked on three separate occasions in the book of Acts (2:37; 16:30; 22:10), with a different response given each time.
     2 Unfortunately some believe in Jesus without confessing him (John 12:42), and some confess Jesus without obeying him (Matthew 7:21).

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Friday, 23 January 2015

Preach Jesus …

     As we seek to fulfill the Great Commission and share the gospel with our neighbors and the rest of the world, what is the message that we should be communicating? On multiple occasions I have heard statements like, “Just preach Jesus.” I have also heard the corresponding sentiment, “Stop preaching the church and just tell people about Jesus!”
     If one considers “the church” to be merely a man-made denominational sect, then I certainly would not want to endorse or promote such an institution either. But when I read what the Bible says about the church and think about the church and teach others about the church, I see something entirely different. The church of the New Testament is the body of Christ and the community of the saved. How can we just preach “Jesus” without including the church which he purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28); the body of which he is both head and savior (Ephesian 5:23)? 
     When Philip “preached Christ” to the Samaritans (Acts 8:5), this included matters pertaining to the kingdom of God, the authority of Christ, and baptism (vv. 12-13). Later, as he “preached Jesus” to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:35), the teaching helped the eunuch understand that he needed to obey the gospel by being baptized into Christ (vv. 36-39). Paul simply preached “Christ crucified” to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2), but this obviously included baptism into Christ’s body (Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 12:13), not to mention all the other instructions he passed on to them (Acts 18:11). To teach “Jesus,” in the biblical sense, not only involves transmitting the doctrine about Jesus but also the doctrine from Jesus (including that communicated through his inspired agents), i.e. “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). This is not merely “church doctrine,” it is the doctrine of Christ (John 7:16-17; 2 John 9).
     As we preach “Jesus,” we must never neglect to inform people about the community of the saved to which the Lord adds all who obey the gospel of Jesus (Acts 2:37-48; cf. Hebrews 5:8-9). What is a bridegroom without a bride (Revelation 21:9)? Can there be a king without a kingdom (Colossians 1:13)? What purpose does a foundation serve when there is no building (1 Corinthians 3:9-11)? Will we sever Christ's head from his body (Colossians 1:18)?
     Jesus and his church are not mutually exclusive, and to preach one without the other is both insufficient and detrimental to the Lord’s cause. We are not in the business of persuading people to join “our” church or submit to “our” doctrine, but we must diligently teach CHRIST’S doctrine inclusive of HIS church and the necessity of being a faithful member of it (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23). Congregations grow and souls are saved when this task is prayerfully and earnestly undertaken. God help us to be faithful to the task.
--Kevin L. Moore

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Friday, 16 January 2015

My Recent Visit to the Bible Lands

     This is a brief summary of the recent trip my wife and I made to Greece and Israel with the Freed-Hardeman University program, The Bible Lands Tour (29 December 2014  8 January 2015): a group of 20 pilgrims led by our capable guides Mark and Dana Blackwelder.
     In Athens we visited the Acropolis, a high rocky hill upon which the remains of several ancient structures stand, including the Parthenon – the old temple of the city’s patron goddess Athena. When the apostle Paul was in Athens over 19 centuries earlier, “his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols” (Acts 17:16). From atop the Acropolis, viewing the city’s myriad (tightly compacted) buildings and houses, it’s hard not to share the apostle’s deep concern for these precious souls. On the northwest side of the Acropolis, we climbed to the top of the Areopagus (“Rock of Ares”) or Mars Hill, where Paul had delivered his passionate speech about “the unknown God,” pleading for all to repent in view of the coming judgment (Acts 17:19-31).
     From Athens we traveled about 1 hour by bus across the narrow isthmus to the ruins of ancient Corinth, a journey that would have taken Paul a couple of days by foot (Acts 18:1). We entered the city with intrigue and fascination, while Paul had come “in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3). We spent about an hour and a half exploring the empty ruins, where the apostle had invested a year and a half “teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11). We wondered which of the dilapidated shops around the agora (marketplace) may have been used by Aquila, Priscilla and Paul to manufacture and/or sell tents (Acts 18:2-3). We viewed with interest the remains of the temples of Apollo and Octavia (cf. 1 Cor. 8:10) and the fountain of Peirene (cf. Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:14-16). But perhaps the most poignant site was the Bema where Paul had stood trial before the proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12-16), after which he left behind a thriving community of believers (Acts 18:18; 1 Cor. 1:2).
     We visited too many locations in Israel to mention in detail, but among the highpoints were Caesarea Maritima (Acts 10:1; 12:19; 21:8; 23:33), the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16; 4:1, 36; 5:1), Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13), the Mount of Beatitudes (Matt. 5:1; 8:1), Mounts Tabor and Hermon (Matt. 17:1), Capernaum (Matt. 4:13; 8:5, 14; 11:23), Tel Dan (Judg. 18:29), the Jordan River (Mark 1:5, 9), Chorazin and Bethsaida (Matt. 11:21), Nazareth (Matt. 2:23), Bethlehem (Luke 2:4), the Dead Sea (Gen. 14:3; Num. 34:12), Masada (Herod the Great’s fortress), Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered), Jericho (Josh. 6:1-27), Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:5; Mark 11:11), the temple mount and western wall (Matt. 4:5; 24:1-2; John 2:20), the temple’s southern steps and ritual baths (Acts 2:14, 41), the Garden of Gethsemane and Mount of Olives (Matt. 26:30, 36), traditional sites of Jesus’ death and resurrection (John 19:41), and Joppa (Jonah 1:3; Acts 9:36-43).
     While the proliferation of man-made shrines, cathedrals, pseudo religion, and commercialization has significantly detracted from the modest dignity of many of these sites, it helps to remember that there is nothing inherently sacred about any given place on earth. What really matters is what God has accomplished throughout history and all that he continues to accomplish in every place through his Son Jesus Christ.
     Most would agree that the highlight of the trip was worshiping with the Lord’s church in Nazareth. The last time Jesus was in Nazareth, even though he was among his hometown kinsmen, he was rejected and mistreated (Mark 6:1-6). But thanks to him, we were warmly welcomed in the midst of our spiritual family. Nowhere on this trip did we ever feel threatened or in danger, but it was in Nazareth, in the company of our brethren, where we felt right at home. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
--Kevin L. Moore

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Image credit: Photo taken by Lynne Moore from the Acropolis, with the Areopagus (Mars Hill) in the foreground and the city of Athens in the background.