Categories: what one must know before baptism, forgiveness without repentance, reading the Bible at home, evolution and the Genesis account, 1 John 3:9, legalism and the Pharisees’ proselytizing, praying for the dead
If someone is baptized for the sole purpose of salvation, but doesn’t understand the responsibilities and duties of a New Testament Christian, are they truly saved?
It must first be pointed out that one is not baptized solely for salvation because there are other biblical purposes of baptism besides obtaining salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Here is a summary of the other biblical purposes of baptism:
- Being baptized into His body, the church of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; cf. Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4; 5:23)
- Being put into Christ and clothed with Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27)
- Being buried with Christ (Rom. 6:3-4)
- Being spiritually circumcised so that one enters into the New Covenant relationship with God (Col. 2:11-13)
- Being born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5; Tit. 3:5)
Secondly, what responsibilities and duties of a Christian must one know before becoming a Christian? The answer to this question revolves around understanding “the gospel of the kingdom” which people believed before their baptism in the New Testament (Acts 8:12).
The kingdom is presently manifested in the church (Col. 1:13; Rev. 1:4, 6, 9; Heb. 12:28). The New Testament teaches that there is only one body and thus only one church (Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4), that church being the pillar and ground of the truth of God’s Word (1 Tim. 3:15; John 17:17). One must be baptized into that one body/church (1 Cor. 12:13). Thus, one responsibility of a New Testament Christian which must be taught before baptism is that the kingdom is the church, there is only one church, and one must be baptized and be a part of that one church.
Another crucial detail of “the gospel of the kingdom” that must be believed before baptism (Acts 8:12) has to do with repentance of sins. Paul listed the works of the flesh to the Galatian Christians, even stating that he had mentioned them to them beforehand, and told them “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21).
He must have previously preached the need to repent of the works of the flesh to the Galatians at the time he converted them into Christ, because we see him mentioning a similar list of sins to the Corinth church . Again, he says that those who do such things “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10), before implying that the Corinthians had repented of such sins before their baptism when he wrote, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified…” (v. 11). Thus, repentance of sins is the other responsibility of a New Testament Christian which must be taught and committed to before baptism (Acts 2:38; 3:19).
Are we supposed to forgive even if our adversary has not asked us for it? I often hear people say to forgive even if someone hasn’t asked because it will make my heart at peace. God forgives only when we ask for it, but Jesus asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him. What are we supposed to do?
Jesus commanded that forgiveness of required only upon the repentance of the one who has sinned against you (Luke 17:3-4). God Himself has never forgiven anyone who had not repented first (cf. 2 Sam. 12:7-13; Acts 8:22).
Jesus and Stephen both prayed that God forgive those who were sinning against them (Lk. 23:34; Acts 7:60). God did in fact forgive only those among the number of their murderers who later repented and obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:36-41; 7:58; 8:1, 3; 9:1-18; cf. 22:16).
Thus, one is required by God to forgive only those who have repented. Yet, that does not mean that one is allowed by God to treat those who unrepentantly sin against you in an unloving, unkind, and thus ungodly manner (Matt. 5:43-48).
Why can’t we read the Bible at home?
We certainly can read the Bible at home and practically anywhere else. In fact this is true now more than any other point in the past two thousand years when one considers:
- Most people in Europe for hundreds of years during medieval times and earlier were forbidden to own a Bible and discouraged to learn to read to begin with. During the 20th Century Nazism and Communism outlawed Bibles in much of Europe and Asia. In many places in the Middle East Bibles are outlawed and have been for centuries.
- Today the Bible is the world’s best-selling and most widely distributed paper book, and it can be accessed digitally online almost anywhere in the world through any online device.
Not only CAN we read the Bible at home, but we MUST read the Bible at home! (Deut. 6:6-8; Ps. 1:1-3; 1 Pet. 2:2)
If almost everyone believes in evolution, then why does money still say, “In God We Trust”?
In 2016, a Gallup poll showed that about 89% of Americans say they believe in God. This is why a USA Today, CNN, and Gallup poll showed in 2003 that 90% of Americans wanted the phrase “In God We Trust” to be on our currency.
Yet, Gallup also reported in 2014 that only 42% of Americans believe in the biblical creation account of humanity. Why do 89% of us say we believe in God while only 42% of us believe in what God said about how mankind was created?
There are two factors which make one’s faith a true, legitimate faith in the sight of God:
- It must be accompanied by works of obedience to God’s will (James 2:14-26)
- It must be founded upon God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), which means that God’s Word must first be taught and defended (2 Tim. 4:2; Acts 20:27; 1 Pet. 3:15; Hos. 4:6)
Thus, the reason why such high percentage of Americans who profess a belief in God yet do not believe in the biblical account of creation is because their faith is weak. Their faith is weak because it is not founded upon God’s Word. It is not founded upon God’s Word because they do not know and believe God’s Word to be what it claims to be, which is God’s Word. This is because they do not study God’s Word themselves regularly, nor is it taught to them, nor is its legitimacy in all things taught and defended to them or by them.
According to the Barna Group, less than half of all adults can name the four gospel books. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the apostles by name. 60% of Americans can’t name even five of the Ten Commandments. 82% believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. A majority of adults think the Bibles teaches that the most important purpose in life is taking care of one’s family. At least 12% of adults believe Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. Over 50% of graduating high school seniors believe Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable amount of responders to one poll believed the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.
With the staggering high amount of biblical ignorance, it can be no surprise that many churchgoers possess an inability to be convicted of their faith to the point that they not only believe but also have examined the evidence pointing to the Bible’s inerrancy to the point where they can defend why they believe the biblical account of creation is true.
Thus, when they are told that so many “scientific experts” have “proven beyond a shadow of a doubt” that “this planet is billions of years old” and “we all evolved from monkeys and amoebas,” they either outright accept that and reject the biblical account of creation without examining it also…or if and when they see that the Bible promotes the fact that this world is only around 6,000 years old and mankind did not evolve from animals, they reject that in favor of blindly accepting the theory of macro-evolution which modern-day “science” promotes as fact.
They therefore show that the faith they profess to have in God is outright dead or so weak that it is about to die. They profess to believe in God, yet their faith is not even close to being a conviction. It’s shallow, easily swayed, “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14).
That’s why so many who profess to believe in God also believe in Darwinist evolution. The key to changing this is more study and instruction in God’s Word, including Christian evidences. Make the articles at Apologetics Press something you study every day.
Can you help me understand 1 John 3:9?
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
1 John 3:9
John said earlier that Christians will continue to stumble and sin (1 John 1:6, 8, 10). Yet, sin no longer RULES the Christian’s life (Rom. 6:17-18). This is because God’s seed – Jesus (John 3:16), God’s Word (1 Pet. 3:23 – “abides” (literally, “has settled down”) in us (1 Jn. 3:9), implying an intimate relationship with Jesus in which Jesus is Lord of our lives and we strive to make every decision abide by His will (Col. 3:17). This is because we have been born of God (1 Jn. 3:9; Jn. 3:3-5). Thus we strive to be righteous (1 John 2:29).
Legalism is very dangerous in religious teaching. What is the meaning of making a proselyte “twice as fit” for hell (Matthew 23:13-15)? Can a proselyte later learn the truth from another teacher and avoid hell?
Interestingly, one of the dictionary’s definitions of “legalism” is “strict adherence to the law,” i.e., obeying the law. Is that really a terrible thing?
In religious circles in recent years the idea that one is a “legalist” is increasingly a horrible idea. Yet outside of religious circles, “strict adherence to the laws” of the land, or the laws at your job or at school, would be a good thing…except to criminals and those constantly being written up or sent to detention.
Religious legalism, by the technical definition of the word, simply means “strict adherence to God’s law.” Read your Bible with that in mind and you’ll be amazed at how many legalists you find in Scripture. Abraham was a legalist (Gen. 26:5). So was Moses (Deut. 4:2; 5:32; 12:32), Paul (Rom. 6:16; 1 Cor. 4:6), John (1 John 5:3), and even Jesus (John 14:15; Luke 6:46).
With this in mind, notice that Jesus never condemned the Pharisees in Matthew 23 for them telling the people to obey God’s laws. Rather, He encouraged the Jews to obey their instruction for that very reason (vs. 2-3). He condemned them because they hypocritically BROKE God’s laws even while telling others to obey them (vs. 3-4), their pride (vs. 5-12), and their tendency to add to God’s laws (vs. 16-22), focus on only certain parts of God’s laws (vs. 23-24), hypocrisy (vs. 25-28) and continual murder of God’s prophets (vs. 29-35).
Keeping this context in mind, one can easily see why Jesus would tell them that they “shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces” (v. 13) and would make “twice as much a child of hell” the proselyte (convert) they had “traveled across land and sea” to get. Their sinful hypocrisy, pride and LACK OF legalism (in the sense that they were adding to God’s Word and failing to obey it rather than strictly observing it) would influence anyone they converted to become the same.
Fortunately, it is possible for a proselyte (convert) of someone who taught and/or was caught up in the same or similar error of the Pharisees to be taught the truth by another and converted to it. Saul of Tarsus, later the apostle Paul, is a great example. He himself was a Pharisee taught by other Pharisees to, among other things, despise and persecute the religion of Christ. Yet due to his open heart and mind, he accepted the instruction of another Teacher, Jesus (Acts 9), and obeyed the truth and was saved. The same can happen to anyone with an open heart and mind (Lk. 8:15).
Is it wrong to pray for the dead?
Yes. When it comes to praying for others, we are taught to pray for their spiritual and physical benefit (Col. 1:9; 1 Thess. 5:25). Yet, consider the following about the dead:
- There is no physical benefit they can attain after death because their spirit has left their body, which is decomposing into dust (James 2:26; Eccl. 3:20)
- There is no spiritual benefit they can attain after death because all that remains for them is judgment (Heb. 9:27)
- For those in torment after death there is no relief (Lk. 16:22-26); for those at rest, they’ve already received relief
Since there is no spiritual or physical benefit possible for the dead to attain, our prayers on their behalf would be meaningless, something which God does not want our prayers to be (Matt. 6:7).
The idea of praying for the dead is nonetheless popular today, primarily because of Catholic influence (from whom the doctrine of praying for the dead originated in church circles).
The only prayer concerning the dead which would be acceptable in the sight of God would be a prayer that did not pray for some benefit to be given to their departed souls, but rather a prayer giving God thanks for allowing the deceased whom you love to be in your life and in the lives of others (Col. 3:17c; James 1:17).