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QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)     What, exactly, is involved in salvation? I know faith, but what about repentance and baptism? How do those fit in? I have been studying the Bible about this, but I can't make sense of all the verses.

Faith is what apprehends the truth. It is also what constrains a valid response within the believer. Repentance involves turning from the way that condemned us, and turning to the Lord. Scripture calls it turning form darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). The Word also tells us that "godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted" (2 Cor 7:10). From another viewpoint, repentance is necessary to believe the Gospel. Thus it is written, "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Again, repentance is "toward God," and faith "toward the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). As you can see, repentance is tied to both faith and salvation. That is why Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish" (Lk 13:3,5).

Baptism, though controversial in church circles, is never controversial in Scripture. It is the appointed means of identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom 6:3-8). In fact, it is called "the form of the doctrine" in Romans 6:17. That is, it is an outward portrayal of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Peter says "baptism does now also save us" (1 Pet 3:21). It does not do so by mere ceremony, but by procuring for us a good conscience, as Peter says in that text. The associations of baptism all have to do with salvation. Here are some of those associations.

1. Repentance (Acts 2:38).

2. The remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

3. The gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

4. Believing (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12; 18:8).

5. Salvation (mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

6. Being buried with Christ (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12).

7. Being raised with Christ (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12).

8. Being identified with Christ's death (Rom 6:3).

9. Becoming dead to sin (Rom 6:2-3).

10. Becoming alive to God (Rom 6:3-11).

11. The circumcision of Christ, in which the whole body of sin is cut away (Col 2:11-12).

12. Faith in the operation, or working, of God (Col 2:12).

13. Coming into Christ (Gal 3:27).

14. Putting on Christ (Gal 3:27).

15. A commandment (Acts 10:48).

16. The confession of Christ (Acts 8:36-37).

17. Gladly receiving the Word of God (Acts 2:41).

18. Washing away our sins (Acts 22:16).

19. Coming into one body through the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13).

Faith is the means of approaching God, obtaining His promises, and securing His approval. Repentance is the means of disassociating ourselves from the past and securing us to the future. Baptism is the appointed means of publicly and effectively becoming identified with Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. To balk at either repentance or baptism evidences unbelief.

There is no question in Scripture concerning the necessity of faith, repentance, or baptism. They were all ordained and given by God, and that without exception.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)     I want to tell my Baptist brothers and sisters that the election was held 2000 yrs ago and JESUS won, no need for further voting. Do you have any more history as to it orgin?

I do not know of the history of this practice: i.e., voting members into the church. I know it has been around for a while--but not as long as the truth. I assume the practice originated in an attempt to keep
undesirable people out of the congregation. That cannot be accomplished by "voting," however, which assumes the ones doing the "voting" are all close to God and spiritually perceptive. The church did not manage to keep Ananias and Sapphirra out -- in fact, I suppose modern congregation would have voted them in.

The best way to keep "bad" people out of the church is to have an atmosphere where they are not comfortable. However, at no point can we demand more of the people than God does.

You are so right in your assessment of the practice of "voting" people into the church. Those doing this would argue they are not judging whether or not the person is saved, but determining whether or not they are worthy of being part of their congregation. If this is so, it is harder to be a Baptist, in some cases, than to go to heaven!

Our role as members of the body of Christ is to RECEIVE those whom God has received. To be more precise, those whom Jesus has received. As it is written, "Christ also received us to the glory of God" (Rom 15:7). Putting it another way, John wrote, "And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves his child as well" (1 John 4:21-5:1, NIV).

We really do not have a choice in this matter. Even people who are "weak in the faith," or do not clearly see what is involved in their salvation, are to be "received, without passing judgment on disputable matters" (Rom 14:1). Again, we are told, "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" (Rom 15:7, NIV).

I do not believe any of the congregations practicing "voting" members in, would say they were "voting" on whether or not God had received the person. If that were the case, it would be presumptuous, for they were sitting in the seat of God. If that is not what they are doing, they are imposing more upon the believer than God Himself has. That seems to me to be the height of absurdity.

When the Scriptures say early believers are "added to the church" (Acts 2:41), it is assumed the rest of the church recognized what had been accomplished by God. By receiving the brethren and loving them, they were agreeing with God. Think of the seriousness of rejecting someone God and Jesus have received -- OR accepting someone they have rejected. Something to think about.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)     I want to hear your comparison between God's omnipotence and His sovereignty.

        Omnipotence has to do with the inherent authority of God. The phrases "Almighty God" and "the Almighty" emphasizes this aspect of His Person (Gen 17:1; 29:25; Ezek 10:5, etc.). The idea is that what He wills He is also able to perform (Gen 26;3; Rom 4:21). Nothing is "too hard for God" (Gen 18:14; Jer 21:17). The knowledge of this lifts the hearts of the saints to lean the weight of their soul on the Lord. That is why Paul prayed believers would be able to see God "is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think" (Eph 3:20). God cannot conceive of a purpose He cannot fulfill. In a very practical sense, "He is able to keep us from falling, and present us faultless before His presence with exceeding joy" (Jude 24). Omnipotence, then, has to do with His ability.

Sovereignty relates His Omnipotence to the environment in which there are presently adversaries and opposing influences. God has, for example, chosen to fulfill His "eternal purpose" in an arena dominated by Satan. Satan's dominion, however, is under His own dominion. While Satan is the "God of this world," he is not its Sovereign. The Sovereignty of God involves not only establishing His will, but frustrating all opposing wills. Thus, He announces His intentions to His enemies (i.e., the devil in the Garden), as though challenging them to subvert it. Isaiah referred to God's Sovereignty when he wrote, "I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that will I bring about; what I have planned, that will I do" (Isa 46:9-11). Using both good and evil personalities, the Lord brings His will to pass, ruling "in the midst of His enemies" (Psa 110:1-2).

From another viewpoint, Sovereignty presents God as ruling over under-rulers, or others possessing in authority. In the world to come, that will include us, who will 'reign" with Jesus, and Jesus Himself, Who will be "subject to the Father" (1 Cor 15:27-28).

The glory of this is that both His power and Sovereignty, or government, is in the behalf of those trusting in Jesus.

Good to hear from you, brother Dave. I am always refreshed by your commitment to the good things of God. I pray the Lord will continue to bless your ministry.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)     The other night on the radio I was listening to Hank Hannegraph and he said that the thief on the cross wasn't baptized so therefore it is not necessary. I do believe that we should be baptized, learning about it and then getting dipped but as far as washing our sins away I am confused about.

The thief on the cross could not be baptized into Christ's death (Rom 6:1-4; Col 1:11-12), because Christ was in the process of dying. The New Covenant also was not yet into effect, because it was ratified by the blood of Christ (Heb 10:29; 13:20). The remission of sin had not yet been preached as Jesus commissioned it to be (Luke 24:47). In view of this, it would be improper to cite the thief on the cross as an example of the procurement of salvation.

Additionally, the thief was an exception to the rule, and not the rule itself. Prior to Jesus, the baptism of John was in effect. The scriptures tell us that those refusing his baptism "rejected the counsel of God against themselves," cutting themselves off from God (Luke 7:29-30). Under ordinary circumstances, therefore, the thief would have to be baptized with John's baptism. But his circumstance was not ordinary, and the Lord saved him in an extraordinary manner. To make his salvation the standard for everyone would necessitate the Apostles referring to that thief in their preaching. We have no record of them ever doing so. They knew, and we must also know, that his situation was an exception to the rule. That is something God can do, but it is by no means something that is intended for everyone. We do have a record an Apostle commanding baptism (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Jesus also commanded that people be baptized (Matt 28:18-20). Baptism is NEVER associated with anything that sin not associated with salvation--never.

There is no need to speculate or philosophize about the matter. The Scriptures read, "'And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) In speaking of baptism, we must stick to what the Lord said about it. We will never be wrong in doing that.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)     Can you tell me anything about the Book of Jasher that is mentioned in Samuel in the Bible?

The "Book of Jasher" is also mentioned in Joshua 10:13. It is considered to be a collection of divine odes (songs), written to commemorate remarkable events. The Syriac version of this Scripture calls it "the Book of Canticles." It is understood to be a book of national ballads commemorating the brave deeds of Israelite heroes. The word "Jasher" literally means "upright." It would be like a hero book that accented the character of great men of God, and what they were able to do through their faith.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)     What can I do to retain more of the Bible in my mind?

This is an area where the Lord Himself can help you. It is understood that you must first put the Word of God into your mind -- reading and thinking upon it. I am assuming you are doing this. Keeping, or retaining, the Word is done both directly and indirectly. Directly is comes from reading it and meditating upon it. Indirectly it takes place by refusing to be sidetracked by lower and distracting thoughts--resisting the devil, in other words.

A prayer that will assist you in this matter was spoken repeatedly by David, who also wanted to retain the Word. He prayed, "Give me understanding" (Psa 119:34,73,125,144,169). That is the real key to retaining the Word--understanding it. That is also something only the Lord can give you -- and He DOES want to do so.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)     ..."eat my flesh and drink my blood"   What does Jesus mean by eat--masticate? digest? What does Jesus mean by His flesh?--His words? His life? What does Jesus mean by drink--ingest? be filled with? What does Jesus mean by His blood?--His life? His forgiveness?

As you already know, there is no way to understand this text by referring to a dictionary or lexicon.

Jesus is referring to ingesting His Person--becoming a "partaker of Christ," as mentioned in Hebrews 3:14. He is God's "bread from heaven ," as He states in the sixth chapter of John (6:32-35). He is to the soul what the manna was to the bodies of the Israelites.

The point Jesus is making is that unless the life of Christ is in us, we really have no life as God sees things. Just as what we eat and digest becomes a part of us, so eating Christ's flesh and drinking His blood refers to Jesus becoming a part of us. This is the same thing as Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith (Eph 3:16-17), and being a participator in the Divine nature (2 Pet 1:4).

Faith is the means by which we ingest Christ, or get Him into our persons. He dwells in our hearts "by faith" (Eph 3:17). Earlier in the same chapter, Jesus told these people, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). Eating His flesh and drinking His blood is another view of that very thing.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)    . . . when do you think the Apostles came to realize fully His divine nature, as John, for instance, expresses in his gospel: "...the Word was God...all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.."? After Jesus' resurrection? Thomas does call him "My Lord and my God." Still, even at the ascension they were asking about "restoring the kingdom." Would it be after the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost?

The answer is not simplistic. There was a sense in which the knowledge of this burst suddenly upon the Apostles. An early example is when Peter saw who Jesus really was, and confessed it (Matt 16:16-18). As you recall, Jesus told him he had been blessed. He did not acquire this knowledge through natural means, but it was revealed to him. At that time, the revelation was like a sudden flash of light that quickly dissipated. Shortly after this was revealed to Peter by the Father, he was soundly rebuked by Jesus in a most telling way: "get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence to me." I understand that Peter really did perceive Jesus as He was. Yet, it got away from him, so to speak. It was almost like putting money in a bag with holes. The weakness was not in the revelation, but in the container housing it. I recall how Paul spoke of the Holy Spirit strengthening us with might in the inner man, so Christ can dwell in our hearts by faith (Eph 3:16-17).

Another example is on the day of Pentecost, when Peter boldly announced God's gracious salvation was for those who were "afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." For the first time, he affirmed "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." I believe he saw it, as he was elevated in, and dominated by, the Holy Spirit. Still, from 10-15 years later, the Lord had to reason extensively with Peter to convince him the Gentiles could hear and receive the Gospel (Acts 10). That does not mean Peter failed to see what he proclaimed at Pentecost. It does mean he did not keep that perception.

You may also recall the Apostles and elders met to consider the matter of the Gentiles' acceptance. That gathering took place a considerable number of years after Pentecost. It also had to do with the Savior and His salvation. After due consideration, they were able to associate the acceptance of the Gentiles with the testimony of the Prophets. This, as you know, was a major step forward for the early church.

Revelation, or illumination, is thus seen from two perspectives. One is speaking through the Apostles without a lasting awareness of what was declared. Second, a fuller apprehension of the revelation, with its significance registering upon the human spirit. This allows for an infallibility in expression (a requisite for the Word to be trusted), yet forbids us to put our trust in men--even Apostles, who are "ministers by whom we believed" (1 Cor 3:5).

In his second Epistle, Peter referred to a process that takes place in spiritual understanding. As you know, this transcends academic knowledge. Still, it involves the personal apprehension of the truth by the believer. "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts" (2 Pet 1:19). I understand this to be an affirmation of Kingdom principles. The Seed of the Kingdom is the Word of God -- whether we are speaking of an Apostle or one who has believed on Christ through their word. As we focus upon that Word--particularly the Gospel of Christ--we come into a sort of spiritual realm. I like to call it the circumference of hearing. Eventually, as we wrap our minds around the Word of the Lord, the "day will dawn," and the "Day Star" will arise in our hearts. That is another way of saying it will all come together for us. The objective and harmony of the Word will be seen, making the understanding fruitful. That is when we are able comprehend the height, depth . . .

There is a sense in which this happened to the Apostles. As I understand it, they did not receive a bushel of understanding on the day of Pentecost that stayed continually with them. What they said was infallible, and they saw it at the time. Yet, as time progressed, they saw the scope of it, and comprehended its implications. This is an area where the Apostle Paul especially shines. He did not see everything at the first as clearly as He did at the conclusion of his journey.

It is the nature of faith to grow. That is why Paul rejoiced that the faith of the Thessalonians grew "exceedingly" (2 Thess 1:3). Peter hints at this in a remarkable statement he made about the faith received by the Apostles, as well as that which we receive. "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours in the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1). The NASB reads, "to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours." The difference, therefore, is not in the faith itself, but in the "measure," or ministry for which it adapts the individual (Rom 12:3-8). While the Apostles had a lofty and unparalleled ministry, being placed "first" in the church (1 Cor 12:28), their faith functioned just as ours. They grew in it, their understanding was enlarged, and they had to fight to keep it.

All of this has no bearing whatsoever upon the validity of Scripture, its inspiration, or its infallibility. God anchored the truth through them in a manner that will stand forever--totally without flaw or weakness.

The faith of the Apostles advanced. It was greater at the ascension than it was at the tomb. It was greater after His ascension than it was during the ascension. It was greater on Pentecost than it was during the 40 days Jesus spoke to them of things pertaining to the Kingdom. It is my understanding that it continued to grow after that, as evidenced in the matter of the Gentiles' acceptance.

There is an interesting observation about the disciples inquiry concerning the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel. Jesus did not rebuke them for asking the question, nor did He give
the slightest indication that it was a foolish inquiry. What He did say is that it was not for them to know "times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority" (Acts 1:7). Our approach to eschatology must allow us to retain those words without modification.

Well, there are some thoughts on the subject. I do not want to burden you with a bulky reply. This is a matter to which I have given considerable thought. I am not at all satisfied with the stereotyped approach taken by the academians and grammarians.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)    What about eating meat offered to idols? and, Why is the eating of blood prohibited?

Meat "offered to idols" was meat KNOWINGLY offered to idols. We know this is case from the Spirit's instruction on this matter to the Corinthians. "Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it. If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, This has been offered in sacrifice, then do not eat it, both or the sake of the man who told you and for conscience' sake--the other man's conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Cor 10:25-31, NIV). He also speaks of this matter in 1 Corinthians 8:7: "Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled." That is the kind of eating that is forbidden--eating meat that has been knowingly offered to an idol, and eating it with the idol in mind. We do not yet have this problem in the Western world, although it might not be far away. When I have traveled in third world countries, these instructions come to life.

The eating of blood is referring to extracted blood, not blood within the meat of animals butchered normally. In the process of butchering, the blood is drained from the body. In the case of things "strangled," this was not the case. The Levitical Law provided some rationale for the proscription against eating blood. "Therefore I say to the Israelites, None of you may eat blood, nor may an alien living among you eat blood. Any Israelite or any alien living among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off" (Lev 17:13-14). We know from the instructions given to the Gentile converts that this remained a standard for God's people, even though many of the other ceremonies did not. Even before the Law, God also prohibited the eating of blood (Gen 9:4), so it is not restricted to the ceremonial law.

Another reason for this is that it highlights the value of eating Christ's blood, which is an absolute requirement (John 6:53-55). That is a spiritual activity, but it is accentuated by the command not to eat blood. Here is the only life we can partake of.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)    I was discussing the topic of tithing with someone at work and he argued that it was Jewish tradition and didn't necessarily apply to Christians. He said that the new testament only requires 'sacrificial giving' I didn't really have an answer for that. Any responses?

It is fashionable in some church circles for people to view tithing as an Old Testament standard that has no relevancy for those in Christ. That is not what the Word of God says, nor is there the slightest hint in all of Scripture that this is the case.

Rather than the tithe being taught by Jesus and the Apostles, it is assumed that everyone realizes it belongs to the Lord. Holy people of God have always tithed--before the Law, during the Law, and after the Law.

Before the Ten Commandments, or any word was given from God concerning tithing, Abraham "paid tithes to Melchizedek," a mysterious high priest of God that appeared to him (Gen 14:20). After God had appeared to Jacob--a considerable time before the Law was give, or any directives came from God concerning the tithing, he vowed to "surely give the tenth" to the lord (Gen 28:22). Tithing, then, was not based upon a commandment, but on a sense of God's ownership of all things. It was a way of acknowledging that truth, and faith caused the godly to sense it.

Under the law, the tithe was given to support the Levitical priesthood. Because the Levites did not receive an inheritance in the land, and did not own anything, the tithe was the Divinely appointed means of supporting them (Numbers 18:20-21). Paul alluded to this practice as being the same principle through which the Gospel ministry was to be supported (1 Cor 9:13-14).

The Lord Jesus, when rebuking the scribes and Pharisees, did commend them for tithing, saying that should have done that (Matt 23:23).

In the book of Hebrews, it is categorically stated that the Lord Jesus is now receiving tithes. "Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives" (Heb 7:8). Some object that the one whom it is witnessed that he lives is Melchizedek -- but this is not the case at all. The death of Melchizedek is not recorded, but no place is it suggested that he lives on, or is immortal. That is something that is true of Jesus alone. And, if He is receiving tithes, obviously someone is paying them. Your friend was wrong. The term "sacrificial giving" is not in the Bible. It has been concocted by men, most of whom are not noted for the giving practices.

Tithing is, of course, the foundation of giving, not the whole of it. That is why the Scriptures speak of "tithes and offerings." Incidentally, God said to Israel that they were guilty of robbing Him because they withheld their tithes and offerings from Him. I do not know what would lead a person to conclude this was not possible today.

QUESTION.gif (2121 bytes)What do you do with  an addiction?

Addiction is a medical and psychological term. The Scriptural expression is "slaves of sin" (Rom 6:6,16,17,20). One of the functions of salvation is that it sets us free from sin (Rom 6:22). Those whom men call "addicted" are delivered the same way they are from other sin. It is through their faith in and association with the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember, "He whom the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36).

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