Unity

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

Vol. 117 No. 2
February 2002

I pray … they should be one” (Jesus). The fact that the Lord prayed for unity among his disciples has been used to generate a hateful judgmental rejection of those who “having heard the word, hold it fast.”

Not a few among us incorrectly claim that Jesus’ prayer for oneness means doctrinal purity must yield to fellowship with all who profess to accept Jesus as the Son of God … and some go so far as to say that the unity must extend to religions that reject Jesus as the unique Savior of the world – which, of course, makes the cross meaningless.

Well, let us look at the prayer once again. The exact words of Jesus are, “Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us: that the world may believe that thou didst send me” (John 17:20-21).

Jesus prayed for those who believe on him through the word of the apostles – which was not their word, but the word given to them by the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:13).

Paul made the point that he had not received the gospel from men, but it came to him “through revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11-12).

It is by the power and truth of the word of Christ that belief comes (Rom. 10:17).

Belief and faith in the New Testament translate the Greek word pistis. This word is sometimes translated “faith” and other times it is rendered “belief.” There is therefore no essential difference in faith and belief in New Testament usage.

Those who hear, receive, and obey the word of Christ as reported by the apostles through the agency of the Holy Spirit are believers. All others have a dead faith, or no faith at all. Demons are said to believe and shudder (James 2:19), but demons are not saved. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt. 8:28-29), but do not obey him, and, therefore, their worthless faith is dead (James 2:26).

When Jesus prayed for those that “believe on me through their word,” he was obviously and undeniably praying for those whose belief was sincere and strong enough to obey him. Only such believers were the subjects of the Savior’s prayer for unity. To make the plea of oneness apply to unbelievers or professing believers who do not- or will not- obey him is egregious.

For example, the Bible teaches that baptism is to be administered to penitent believers (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16), and involves burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:4-5; Col. 2:12). Its purpose is a new birth (John 3:5), a washing away of sins (Acts 22:16), and is unto (to obtain) the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Baptism saves because it is the point at which salvation from alien sins occurs (1 Pet. 3:21).

There are several possible reactions to this biblical teaching on baptism. The correct response is to accept what the Bible says and practice what it teaches about baptism. However, a person may (a) disregard what the Bible says about baptism involving immersion and insist on sprinkling as a substitute, or he may (b) deny that the candidate for baptism must believe and repent, or (c) that baptism is the new birth, or (d) some combination of these possible responses.

Others may insist on baptism being a burial and resurrection but stoutly deny that it brings forgiveness and salvation, asserting that salvation comes at the point of faith before and without further works of obedience – all of this without any credible scriptural proof and in defiance and denial of unmistakable Bible teaching.

How is it possible for a person who accepts the Bible teaching that baptism is a burial and a resurrection (Rom. 6:4-6; Col. 2:12) to have unity with one who rejects what the Bible says and teaches that baptism is sprinkling?

How is it possible for one who knows that “except one be born of water and the spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5) to unite with someone who advocates the false idea that the new birth into the kingdom of God does not involve water?

Here is another illustration: the Bible teaches that in making music in praise of God we are to sing (Eph. 5:18-19; Col. 3:16-17; James 5:13). The believer is also told “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 1:9). To emphasize: anyone who goes beyond the New Testament command to sing and uses machinery in an attempt to worship deity has not God. … He is without God. … He is devoid of a right relationship with his Creator.

Now, how can a believer who has God be “one” with another person who does not have God?

Contrary to what some seem to think, those who first raised the appeal on the American continent for a restoration of the New Testament church were primarily and above all else concerned with going strictly by the Bible. The idea that “calling Bible things by Bible names and doing all things in the Bible” way was also a basis for unity came later.

Here was the sequence: those who first raised the clarion call for a return to the new covenant pattern of teaching, work, and worship were members of various denominational churches. Many were Presbyterians, some were Methodists, others were Baptists, or were identified with some other Protestant or Anglican denomination. Their study of the Bible convinced them that the creed books of their assorted religious orders were wrong.

If the Bible is right, inherited depravity, direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the human mind, salvation by faith alone and through grace only, impossibility of apostasy, mechanical instruments in worship of God, and ecclesiastical hierarchies are wrong. Their plea was, “Let us cast aside the creed books that are of purely human origin, and go by the Bible only, which is given by revelation of Jesus Christ.”

There is a magnetic power in the magnificent plea to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.”

It is right. It is scriptural. It is charming and, when properly presented, almost irresistible, though it is always possible to deny the obvious.

Search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me [Jesus]; and ye will not come to me, that ye may have life (John 5:39-40).

In other words, there can be a rejection of the teaching of Jesus while the person is claiming to search the scriptures in pursuit of righteousness.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven (Jesus of Nazareth).

Some honor God with their lips but their heart is far from him (Matt. 15:8).

Note, too, that Jesps is in a familial·relationship with those who do the will of God (Mark 3:35). The implication is that if the will of God is not honored with obedience then there is no fellowship with Jesus.

Shall we fellowship those whom Jesus rejects?

When the 19th-century pioneers of the restoration of New Testament Christianity began to “speak as the oracles of God,” and reject human creeds that vainly “teach as their doctrine the precepts of men” (Matt. 15:9), they were driven out of their denominational affiliation.

When Campbell spoke the truth on the two covenants and baptism, he was forced out of the Redstone Baptist Association. They would not accept the teaching of the Bible, and Campbell would not turn away from that teaching. There was an impasse. All of the early advocates of restoration had the same experience.

Now, what makes anyone today think that the denominations will tolerate the whole truth on baptism, or worshiping God only in song, or the Holy Spirit working through the revealed and confirmed word?

The creed books are still preferred above the Bible.

When people do “the will of God from the heart” and steadfastly refuse bowing to manuals and disciplines of mortal origin, there will be a dichotomy – an irreconcilable difference. To bridge the chasm the Bible must be compromised because most men will not give up their cherished human creeds. They “love vanity, and seek after falsehood.”

It is embarrassingly tragic when some among us present the champions of denominationalism as heroes, and brand those who stand staunchly for the Bible, the Bible only, and nothing but the Bible as culprits.

Some use Jesus’ prayer for unity as an excuse to wrongly accuse the faithful of being the cause of division. The saints are browbeaten in public discourse because they will not forsake eternal verities, and those who place man-made creeds above Christ are adored.

Guilty about what? – Guilty at being ourselves, guilty at not being ourselves. I don’t know: guilty at feeling guilty, guilty because we don’t feel guilty. Above all we want to confess – to anybody about anything (Cecil jenkins, Message From Serius, 1961).

Self-contempt and self-loathing cause some national leaders to travel the world apologizing for the imagined sins of previous generations (but never mentioning their own iniquity).

We may feel noble for confessing when we haven’t done anything wrong. Many religious leaders have fallen into this error.

God grant that we never express regret and ask forgiveness for being right. And may he give us the inner strength to stand foursquare for the saving gospel though the entire world may frown its displeasure.

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John 2: 17).

Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on me through their word (John 17:20).

I have given them thy word; and the world hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:14).

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A Book of Errors Revised (Marriage, Divorce)

By Hugo McCord
January 2000

My long time friend, John Edwards, in whose home in St. Louis I have been a guest, has a sympathetic heart toward people with marriage problems. But it is sinful to allow a sympathetic heart to alter Jesus’ teaching, which he has done in his book An In Depth Study Of Marriage And Divorce. He sent me a copy, and I wrote to him to reconsider and to return to “the old paths” where he formerly walked.

Instead, in a second edition he has only revised the wording of his errors, saying that his book is intended to help those … involved in divorce to realize that God still loves them, and they do not need to live lonely, guilt-ridden lives (p. 13).

It is true that God still loves them, and will forever, but “fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). It is also true that fornicators and adulterers do not need to “live lonely, guilt-ridden lives,” for “the Son of man has come to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). When in penitence they hate adultery and turn from it, they will be perfectly forgiven (Acts 22:16; 1 Cor. 6:9-11) and will “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 4:4).

Everyone can go to heaven if he wants to do so, but Jesus said that some would have to “make themselves eunuchs” (Matt. 19:12). Apparently Jesus and John Edwards differ about that matter, for in a lengthy book of 203 pages John not once cited what Jesus said about eunuchs.

On page 15 John makes an admirable statement: “We need to search God’s word for His answers.” But immediately John turns, away from His answers to an emotional appeal to the readers’ heart to make them sympathize with the much married who have two or more sets of children, and wants the readers to despise any preacher who would refuse to baptize them. John the immerser refused to baptize those who did not quit their sinning (Matt. 3:8), but John Edwards will baptize those married and divorced for any reason. He makes preachers who respect Jesus’ words about marriage and divorce worse than murderers, saying they are sending souls to hell!” He quotes a preacher as saying a woman who had had three husbands as having too many “to even think of going to heaven.” The preacher was wrong. Any one can go to heaven who wants to do so, as I have already proved. I am sorry that John leaves the impression that the woman at Jacob’s well who had had five husbands was on the way to heaven.

John calls undoing “past marital mistakes” an “Evil Tree, whose fruit is corrupt.” But if, according to Jesus, a marital mistake causes one to “commit adultery” (Matt. 19:9), yes, to be living in adultery (Col. 3:5-7), what will make the tree and its fruit good? Paul tells how adulterers and homosexuals at Corinth made the tree and its fruit good: they “were washed were sanctified … were justified” (1 Cor. 6:11).

Though God allowed David to keep Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:27), and though God tolerated (cf. Acts 17:30) divorce for any cause and remarriage in the Old Testament (Deut. 24:1-4), and though he tolerated polygamy (2 Sam. 5:13; 1 Kings 11:3) in the Old Testament, that Old Testament has now been nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). Then, the one of whom God said, “Hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5), made it clear that he repudiated polygamy (Matt. 19:4-5) and divorce (except for fornication) and remarriage (Matt. 19:9). What he said was directed to non-disciples (Matt. 19:3), but his disciples understood his “whosoever” as including everybody, and they were shocked, thinking that if marriage and divorce have such a rule, “it is not expedient to marry” (Matt. 19:10). John would have said that the number of times one divorces and remarries does not matter (on p. 16 he cites an example of a woman who had six husbands).

However, Jesus thought that even one divorce and remarriage makes a difference, and that under some circumstances one must refrain from marriage, or quit a legal marriage, and make himself a eunuch by will power (Matt. 19:12).

On p. 18 John writes that the Bible says nothing about “adulterous marriages” or “living in adultery,” but Matthew 19:9 is still in the Bible, saying that a certain divorcee on remarrying commits adultery, and Colossians 3:5-7 is still in the Bible, saying that some Colossians had formerly lived in adultery (cf. also Rom. 6:2; Eph. 2:3; Titus 3:3; 1 Pet. 4:2 on living in adultery).

On p. 18 John writes that “adultery in the gospel passages” is not “the physical sex act in marriage,” but only “a violation of a covenant” (p. 50, and often). However, a covenant is broken in the first part of Matthew 19:9, “whosoever shall put away his wife.” At the divorce he has broken his vow and his covenant, but according to Jesus (not John Edwards) he has not yet committed adultery, and does not until he remarries. Adultery in Jesus’ eyes is not covenant breaking but is something that occurs after marriage.

On p. 21 John begins a discussion of Greek words, which is an admission that he needs something besides English translations to find his manufactured meaning of adultery. If we need to know Greek to understand marriage, billions of people are helpless.

In chapter 6 (p. 49-57) John, after citing figurative (Jer. 3:6-10) and mental adultery (Matt. 5:27-28), calls attention to the passive voice of moicheuthenai in Matthew 5:31-32. It is true the wife now discarded has not committed adultery, but in Jesus’ eyes she has been “adulterated.” The husband’s breaking his covenant with her, Jesus does not call adultery, but the husband has used her sexually and abandoned her, leaving her “adulterated.”

On p. 51 it is strange that John holds that moichatai in Matthew 19:9 is in the passive voice, for the verse would say, “Whosover divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, is adulterized.” Also he asserts that the same word in Mark 10:11 is in the passive voice, which would make the verse read, “Whosover divorces his wife and marries another is adulterized against her.” Those senseless renditions do not appear if one says that moichatai is in the middle voice, calling for an active meaning, “he commits adultery,” and “he commits adultery against her.” The parallel in Luke 16:18 uses the active voice, moicheuei, “he commits adultery.” If one wants the whole truth, and is not simply trying to prove what he believes, he will by all means check the parallel readings in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There is a way, by looking to ambiguous Greek grammar, and by checking only Matthew and Mark, to assert Matthew and Mark meant for moichatai to be taken as passive (though the resultant English translation is senseless) but the Greek grammar is not ambiguous in the word Luke wrote, moicheuei, and even John would say it could not be passive.

Further, to say that moichatai in Matthew 19:9 is point action (do you know of a commentator who says so?) would make adultery two legal steps (divorce and remarriage), and would declare that sex acts with the new spouse are not adultery. It is strange that Jesus used a word that commonly refers to a violation of the marriage bed and makes it refer only to two legal ceremonies. If the disciples listening to Jesus had understood that adultery is legal ceremonies, would they have said, “It is not expedient to marry”? According to John, it would be expedient to marry, with no risks involved: marriage would be easy to get into and out of. Some have seen a difficulty in giving moichatai a linear or durative meaning, because the physical act in adultery is not continuous. However, the present tense in Greek not only can refer to point action (punctiliar) as in Matthew 13:14; 27:38, and to linear action (durative) as in Matthew 25:8; John 5:7, but also to iterative action (repetitive) as in Matthew 9:11, 14; 15:23; 1 Corinthians 15:31. Obviously if one is living in adultery the word iterative or repetitive is the correct description.

In John’s search to find some proof of his thesis that adultery is covenant breaking, not sexual activity, he refers to Luke 16:18, “Every one who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery.” However, if only the divorcing and remarrying ceremonies are the adultery, then if an innocent spouse divorces a spouse for fornication and remarries, that innocent person has committed adultery, for he or she has gone through the legal ceremonies that constitute adultery.

On p. 67f John quotes Greek scholars as saying that sometimes the present tense is point or punctiliar action, but it is noticeable that he quotes no Greek scholar who says that such is true of moichatai and moicheuei in Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18. Incidentally, John uses denominational terminology in saying that “Church of Christ teachers and leaders” take his position. One whom he quotes, Raymond Kelcy, says, “There’s not a great deal to be had on the tense of that verb, Matthew 19:9,” but John bases his whole thesis on the possibility that that verb might be punctiliar. Further, surprisingly, John quotes Kelcy, “A person who enters an illegal marriage, an unscriptural marriage, does continue to commit adultery,” but according to John only the divorcing and remarrying constitute adultery, and that no one ever continues to commit adultery after marriage. Kelcy and John do not agree.

John quotes Carroll Osburn, but Osburn fails to say that Matthew 19:9 must be considered as punctiliar, yet John’s thesis depends wholly on what Osburn does not say. Osburn holds that Matthew 19:9 is a “gnomic present,” in which Osburn says “continuity may or may not be involved.” A “gnomic present,” according to Ernest De Witt Burton, Moods And Tenses, p. 8, expresses “customary actions and general truths.” So, Matthew 19:9 expresses the customary action and general truth that a remarrying divorcee (except for fornication) commits adultery. Osburn fails to help John.

John also quotes from Jack McKinney, and got some help, for McKinney said that Matthew 19:9 expresses “point action” (p. 70). However, McKinney contradicted himself, for he also said (as had Osburn) that Matthew 19:9 is a “gnomic present.” He cannot be right both ways. If Matthew 19:9 speaks of “point action” it does not use the “gnomic present.” McKinney also misused the word aoristic, apparently thinking it means point action. But the word aorist says that an act is unspecified as to the kind of action (whether punctiliar, repetitive, or durative). A gnomic present can be aoristic (no specification of the kind of action), but it cannot be punctiliar.

John pleads his case that Matthew 19:9 must be punctiliar, for he says that “the best Greek scholars” are with him, but none that he quoted says that Matthew 19:9 must be punctiliar. Then John (p. 73) quotes a Greek grammar that “simultaneous action relative to the main verb is ordinarily expressed by the present,” but in the case of Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11; Luke 16:18 the action of the main verb is not ordinary: the action of the main verb is not simultaneous with the divorcing and the remarrying, for those actions are only legal ceremonies, and no lexicon or dictionary defines adultery as a legal ceremony. Adultery, a violation of the marriage bed, is not committed by divorcing and remarrying, but later. To interpret the gospel verses as point action is to eliminate adultery, for it is not committed in two legal ceremonies.

How refreshing in John’s book to come to chapter nine, “Homosexual Marriages” (p. 75-79). He is clear how sinful they are. But he is inconsistent. Homosexuals and lesbian marriage partners can appeal to John in exactly the same way he pleads with his readers to approve those divorced and remarried unscripturally. I can hear homosexuals and lesbians turning John’s words against himself: “Are we condemning people whom God wants to forgive? … let love and compassion rule over legalistic rules and judgments”. (p. 18). They would say the same thing that John says, “Far worse than taking someone’s life is sending their souls to hell! Christians, are you prepared to answer for the fruits of your teaching (against homosexuality) that drives people to hell?” (p. 16-17).

John is certain (p. 83) that God wants monogamy, and that Jesus pointed back to monogamy, but John on the mission field today would not teach polygamists to go back to monogamy.

John (p. 89) asks does divorce break the marriage? Legally of course it does, but it does not nullify the vow one made at his marriage to his spouse “until death doth us part.” John’s words on p. 93 have relevance here: “Our oral words mean just as much to God as our written documents.” Jesus, not John, taught that a divorced person is not as free as a single person, for if a divorced (not for fornication) person marries, he commits fornication. Single people and divorced people are equal legally, but not in Jesus’ eyes. John and Jesus disagree.

John (p. 95) says that “God recognizes the marriage dissolved when the spouse deserts the marriage,” but Paul did not say that. In Paul’s inspired words a deserted spouse does not any longer have a sexual obligation (a voluntary bondage, cf. 1 Corinthians 7:3-4, 15) to the former mate, but to interpret a deserted spouse (no fornication involved) as free to marry again is to contradict the Lord Jesus. Jesus did not give two reasons for divorce and remarriage, namely, fornication and/or desertion. Paul gave a release from marital obligation but he did not give a remarrying privilege.

It is refreshing to come to John’s chapter fifteen, as he exposes the sins of pornography. But in the rest of his book (p. 123-203) he is even more determined to prove a non-dictionary, arbitrary, self-made meaning of adultery, a meaning that will give comfort and peace to people that Jesus said are living in adultery. I would not want to be in John’s shoes in the Day of Judgment. To destroy a weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is no light matter (1 Cor. 8:11). The first part of Romans 16:18 is not true of John and Olan Hicks, but the second part is true: “By their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent.”

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The Blood Of Christ

Neal Pollard

The topic above should cause one’s mind to focus on some precise areas. Naturally, the blood of Christ implies thoughts of the “incarnation” of Christ (that Christ took on the form of man, while all God, and, thus, had blood coursing through His veins; Philippians 2:8). The blood of Christ further educes from one’s thoughts the atonement Christ made for all mankind through the shedding of His blood at the cross (cf. Hebrews 9:12-14). The blood of Christ also elicits reflection upon the suffering and death of the sinless man from Nazareth (1 Peter 2:24). And on one might reflect.

The phrase, the blood of Christ, appears verbatim in the New Testament in four verses. With each reference one finds important lessons about the function and significance of His blood. Christ’s blood is central in the Father’s plan of salvation and life within His favor. What does the blood of Christ bring to needy man?

The Blood Of Christ Brings Redemption (1 Peter 1:19)

In 1 Peter 1, one sees the inspired apostle speaking to persecuted (1), predestined (2), purified (2), and pliant (2) people of God. What would cause a Christian to suffer wrong for doing right? What would cause a Christian to search out from the scriptures the terms of election, accept the terms of pardon, and follow the terms of Christian living? Simply, an understanding of redemption.

Perhaps the verse most loved and quoted is John 3:16. Yet, so beknown and familiar, this verse is sorely misunderstood and underapplied. Jesus, the speaker of the words recorded in this verse, foretells the act of redemption. With His divine foreknowledge, Christ understood that the gift of the Father’s only begotten Son (Himself) meant the shedding of His blood at Calvary. The purpose of that shed blood, He knew, was to redeem the lost race of man from the power and hopelessness of sin. Paul says, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4,5). By inspiration, Paul reinforces this with Titus (Titus 2:14).

The Blood OF Christ Brings Removal (Hebrews 9:14)

The King James Version uses, in this verse, the word “purge” in translating the effect of the blood of Christ upon the conscience of one to whom that blood is applied. Purge means “to purify, especially of sin, guilt, or defilement” (The American Heritage Concise Dictionary, 1994). Thayer shows the original word translated “purge” in this verse means “free from the guilt of sin” (The New Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, 312). Clearly, the Spirit-guided writer of Hebrews speaks of the effect of the applied blood of the Savior. The audience of Hebrews, of which modern man is a part, needs some agent to remove the guilt of sin (dead works) from their lives. The blood of Christ is that agent. For the agent to be effective (to do the job it was intended to do), one must come in contact with it. Where does one come in contact with the blood?

Jesus shed His blood when He died (John 19:34). Paul writes “that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death” (Romans 6:3). One cannot literally go over to Jerusalem to a hill called Mt. Calvary and find the man Jesus bleeding to death on a cross. Furthermore, because one cannot do this, one cannot in some literal way reach up to Him and take some of His shed blood and apply it to himself. Thus, there is no literal, physical way for today’s man or woman to contact the actual, shed blood of our Lord.

Yet, Revelation 1:5 reveals that Christ, on His cross, washed us from our sins in His shed blood. God would not allow His Son to shed His life-blood and then provide no means for mankind to contact that blood in some way. And, there is a way and only one way. In identifical terminology, Acts 22:16 says that baptism washes away sins. In summation, Christ shed His blood in His death. We are buried with Christ in baptism. Christ washed our sins with His blood. We wash away our sins in the act of baptism. The blood of Christ and baptism, inseparably joined, remove the sins of those who recognize and submit to the authority of Christ in being baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21).

The Blood Of Christ Brings Return (Ephesians 2:13)

At the creation of man, there was no need for means whereby man could return to a right relationship with Jehovah. The idea in Ephesians 2 that, specifically here, the Gentiles were “far off” implies the need to return. How could they come back to God? Paul stresses the fact that Christ’s blood was the only means whereby reconciliation could be made. Thus, Paul penned the glorious fact that Christ ” made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself” (Colossians 1:20). As if an inseparable gulf was crossed by Adam and Eve through their sinning at Eden, that gap of sin separated man from God (cf. Isaiah 59:1,2; Note: This is not to suggest that all inherit Adam’s sin– the false idea of Hereditary Depravity — but rather that through Adam sin entered the world, Romans 5:17, and, consequently, all have sinned, Romans 3:23). Not with acts of goodness or meritorious works could man ever earn his salvation (Titus 3:5). Yet, there are conditions that God expects man to meet in order to have past sins forgiven and the restoration of a right relationship with the Father (Titus 2:12; Hebrews 5:9; Ephesians 2:8). By shedding His blood, Christ paved a road of return (i.e., the “narrow road” of Matthew 7:13,14) to take us back to God. There was no access before and without Him and after sin was in the world (cf. 1 Timothy 2:5; John 14:6). How did Christ effect this return with His blood?

He took the first, old covenant God made with Moses and Israel out of the way by dying on the cross (Ephesians 2:12,14-15). He placed all believers in the faith into one body [the church](Ephesians 2:14,15,16; 4:4). He provided the message of reconciliation in commissioning the preached word to all men (Ephesians 2:17; Acts 1:8). He opened the avenue of prayer by His death on the cross, encouraging petitioning the Father to enhance our relationship with Him (Ephesians 2:18). He sets aside a place in the Kingdom [the church] for all the faithful obedient into which all spiritual blessings flow (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1:3; Matthew 16:18-19). To all who obey the commandments of God relative to entrance into His church, reconciliation and return to God are provided.

The Blood Of Christ Brings Remembrance (1 Corinthians 10:16)

As Eden shows the importance God stressed in mankind before the cross to anticipate that great event, this verse shows the importance God stresses in mankind after the cross remembering it. Those washed in the blood of Christ, contacted in baptism, are added to the church (Acts 2:41-47). Therein, those added [Christians] are governed by the Word of God in worship and conduct. A vital part of New Testament worship is the weekly participation in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Why has God authorized that Christians do so, and with such frequency?

The answer is “communion.” In connection with the Lord’s Supper, this word is translated “communion” only once in the New Testament. Yet, the original word from which it is translated is koininia, among the most recognized of all Greek words even among those who have little knowledge of that language. Most often, koininia is translated “fellowship.” “Fellowship” is also employed by the inspired New Testament writers to make reference to the “Memorial Feast.” The apostles and early Christians continued steadfastly in the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42). The fellowship of the Lord’s Supper was not to be defiled by the presence of idolatry at Corinth (1 Corinthians 10:20), but rather the communion was to be exclusively with the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 10:16, Paul stresses that there is communion. That fellowship is with the blood of Christ, which suggests a multitude of things. First, the blood of Christ places one into the one body (the church– Colossians 1:18)(Acts 20:28). Therefore, the fellowship of the Lord’s Supper involves corporate (collective) activity. Together, children of God are drawn closer to one another remembering the Savior whose blood purchased them from sin. This communion, then, is a means of expressing encouragement and thanksgiving together as the redeemed. The Lord’s Supper cannot, then, have significance to those not members of the body as there is no celebration and fellowship with Christians. Also, the Lord’s Supper provides a communion between the individual Christian and his Lord. Thus, Paul instructs each to “examine himself” (1 Corinthians 11:28). None other can obey the command of self-examination and remembrance for another in the Lord’s Supper or in any spiritual matter. Yet, the Lord’s Supper is special because of both the sharing with others and the individual responsibility. As an institution, the Lord’s Supper is, in both regards, a crucial means whereby Christians remember the sacrifice, suffering, and death of Christ in shedding His blood on the tree.

The blood of Christ purchased man’s pardon (1 Peter 1:19). The blood of Christ purges man’s conscience (Hebrews 9:14). The blood of Christ propels man closer to God (Ephesians 2:13). The blood of Christ provides recollection of atonement (1 Corinthians 10:16). His blood was important in prophesy (Isaiah 53:3-5). His blood was important in physicality (John 19:34). His blood is important in perusal (Matthew 26:28; 1 Corinthians 11:28).

 

BABIES ARE NOT BORN IN SIN!

By Lynn Blair

Vol. 106, No. 06

The idea of babies being born in sin is foreign to the Bible. Babies do not inherit sin from their parents.

“The soul that sinneth, It shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20).

Children are born in a perfect state. “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezek. 28:15). Jesus said that unless we humble ourselves and become as little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 18:1-4).

Among the denominations that teach this false doctrine the misuse of Psalm 51:5 is predominant. That verse says, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity: and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Some modern versions mistranslate the phrase “I was born a sinner.”

There is a vast difference in the meaning of the translations. In the King James and American Standard the mother did the sinning, but, in the New International for instance, it was the baby that was the sinner! The older versions are correct.

We know this in two ways. First, the original language states it emphatically, as do the King James and American Standard. Second, since the Bible does not contradict itself, and verses such as Ezekiel 18:20; 28:15; and Matthew 18:1-4 teach that babies are not born sinners, the statement that a baby was born in sin cannot be true.

One might ask, if that is not the meaning of Psalm 51:5, then what can it mean? First, it is a Repentance Psalm. David committed adultery and murder (2 Sam. 11:1-27). He said, “my sin is ever before me” (Ps. 51:3). Because of his terrible guilt, he felt he had been sinning so long he couldn’t remember when he started.

There is another scriptural explanation for this. Deuteronomy 23:3 says, “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” In Ruth 1:4 we find two Israelite men marrying Moabite women, one of which was Ruth. Ruth was the great-grandmother of the author of Psalm 51—David!. He was within “ten generations” of a Moabite! That may be why he said, “in sin did my mother conceive me.”

There has never been a baby that believed (Mark 16:16). There has never been a baby that repented (Acts 2:38). There has never been a baby who had his sins washed away (Acts 22:16), because there has never been a baby that sinned!

How Are Men Saved?

By Louis Rushmore

Out of boundless love, God the Father sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to die for our sins. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The sacrifice of Jesus Christ for us was part of God’s grace and mercy by which we are saved. The sacrifice of Christ and grace permits a just God to grant forgiveness of sins; Christ’s sacrifice and mercy permits a just God to withhold punishment for sins. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

Through grace God gives men what they do not deserve (salvation), and through mercy God does not give men what they do deserve (punishment). However, the grace and mercy of God which results in salvation is conditional upon man’s obedience to the Gospel.

With no less love for our souls, Jesus Christ willingly died for us. “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). Through his shed blood Christ saves us. “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

Also, as mediator between God the Father and ourselves Jesus saves us. “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:4-5). However, Christ as mediator and his blood save men conditionally.

The Holy Spirit’s role in conversion relates primarily to the provision of inspired revelation (the Word of God). Second Peter 1:20-21 summarizes the way in which Scripture was communicated from God to man. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

The Holy Spirit, along with God and Jesus Christ, participates with men in their conversion. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). That joint participation of the Godhead with us in the forgiveness of sins is non-miraculous and through the Word of God.

All that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have done to arrange for the forgiveness of sins is conditional upon man’s obedience to God’s plan of salvation recorded in the Gospel (the New Testament portion of the Bible). First, one must examine what the Bible teaches about salvation in order for faith to develop. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Without faith salvation is impossible. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6); “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

However, faith only is useless. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Though men cannot earn salvation, God refuses to grant forgiveness of sins to men who refuse to obey him.

Faith is followed by repentance. All men are required to repent or perish. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3).

Profession before others of one’s faith in Jesus Christ naturally occurs next. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10). One New Testament character worded his profession: “. . . I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:38).

Baptism (immersion) is the point at which sins are forgiven. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Baptism, though, does not save without the Godhead’s role in salvation as well as man’s part in his own salvation (i.e., hearing, believing, repenting, professing).

God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit have done their parts toward saving men. However, man also has a role in his own salvation according to Philippians 2:12. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).

Man’s role is summarized in the Bible as obedience. Speaking of Jesus, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9). Obedience is the conditional basis of the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit’s roles in our salvation.

Men who do not obey the Gospel will be lost. “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Dear Reader, are you saved? Have you obeyed the Gospel yet? The Father Son, and Holy Spirit have done their parts toward your salvation. It only remains for you to fulfill your role in your own salvation.

Holy Spirit

By Frazier Conley

Vol. 122, No. 4

…we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given (Acts 19:2 ASV)

What is the object or goal of the following discussion, what is the subject? The subject is, “Holy Spirit baptism.” Why does it come up for discussion? It is a New Testament phrase about which conflicting ideas are expressed –  and because it is a good starting point for understanding the whole doctrine of the Spirit.

The following is a complete list of the passages where the phrase is used:

• Matthew 3:11: “I indeed ‘baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire:”
• Mark 1:8: “I baptized you in water; but he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”
• Luke 3:16: “John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water, but there cometh he that is mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and (in) fire.”
•John 1:33: “And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize in water, he said unto me. Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Spirit descending and abiding upon him, the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit.”
• Acts 1:5: “For John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence.”
• Acts 11:16: “And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water: but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”

Some would add 1 Corinthians 12:13, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.” Later, however, I will show that this passage does not belong in the list, at least not as it is usually interpreted.

What are some of the diverse ideas Bible students have when they speak of being “baptized in the Holy Spirit?” The following list summarizes several of these:

• Some will say that it is the Holy Spirit entering into a person and bringing him “regeneration.” It is salvation, as they suppose, that is accomplished.
• Similarly, others hold it is the saving presence or action of the Holy Spirit at baptism — water being the external part of the baptism and the Spirit the internal part. Some of these will teach that the Holy Spirit in baptism is “non-miraculous.” Others will say that it sometimes, or always, involves miracle power.
• People who hold the “Pentecostal” viewpoint will affirm that at conversion one receives an indwelling of the Spirit. Then, subsequent to conversion, Christians should seek to receive power from the Holy Spirit. The empowerment must involve speaking in “unknown tongues.” This, they say, is Holy Spirit baptism.
• Still others explain that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is a special measure of power (the “baptismal” measure), bestowed exclusively on the apostles and the house of Cornelius.

Are any of these correct? The thesis here is that none of them is exactly right. The following statement is Holy Spirit baptism in a nutshell. The remainder of the discussion in this book will set forth a defense of the following definition in the context of the larger New Testament theology of the Spirit:

Holy Spirit baptism is that event of the first century in which God gave divine notice to the world of the commencement of the age of salvation in Christ. He did so by imparting to a large number of people a variety of extraordinary Holy Spirit empowerments, including especially prophetic proclamation. This event was initiated on the day of Pentecost, as depicted in Acts 2. It ceased with the fading of the apostolic period. The manifestations were not only attention getting, but also served to advance and confirm the gospel. Receiving the Holy Spirit in this office though associated with an attitude receptive to the gospel was not the means or the instrument of one’s personal salvation; nor was it the Pauline doctrine of the indwelling Spirit; rather, it was simple empowerment.

Here it is suggested that one should not say, “Holy Spirit baptism” but, the Holy Spirit baptism.” It was a specific event, which had a beginning and an ending.

The Spirit received for empowering proclamation

To confirm the distinction made in Acts between reception of the Holy Spirit and salvation itself, one first needs to look carefully at Luke 4:18-19. There Jesus quotes Isaiah 61:1-2:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovering of sight to the blind. To set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.

The Messiah receives the Spirit in order to preach or proclaim the good news of salvation, the arrival of the acceptable year of the Lord. He did not receive the Spirit for his own personal sanctification or for imparting the Spirit to others for indwelling sanctification. Throughout the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts the Spirit was received by persons, and then it is specified that the recipients as a result proclaimed and preached the gospel.’ The gospel of salvation is proclaimed through the empowerment of the Spirit. Salvation comes when the hearer of the proclamation responds obediently to what is proclaimed.

In this connection one should especially note Luke 24:46-49; Acts 2:38-39; and 5:31-32. In Luke 24 forgiveness of sins upon repentance is first mentioned (Luke 24:46-47). Then separately the conferral upon the apostles empowering them for preaching is noted (Luke 24:48-49). The preaching of salvation by the Spirit is not the salvation. The same order and distinction is in Acts 2:38-39. Peter first proclaims repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins. Then he mentions the reception of the Spirit – a reception that in Luke’s gospel and the book of Acts, time and again, is an empowerment for proclamation. In Acts 5:30-32 first there is the proclamation of the gospel, the promise of repentance, and the forgiveness based thereon. Second, there is the mention of the Spirit who empowers testimony. The role of the Spirit is to empower the proclamation, not to indwell directly and sanctify by his presence, as described in Paul’s letters. The forgiveness or salvation comes when the gospel is preached and the correct response follows – repentance and baptism. In summary, one (a) learns about the salvation from preaching inspired by the Spirit: (b) and one responds to the preaching and obtains forgiveness by a penitent baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. The two matters are not identical.

As noted, among the powers bestowed during the period of the Holy Spirit baptism was the gift of inspiration, prophetic utterance. Inspiration was a special empowerment, although it was not technically “miraculous.” Nevertheless miracles, manifestations, predictions, and tongues usually accompanied inspiration, which authenticated the inspiration.

How conferred?

If the baptism in the Holy Spirit consisted of a widespread bestowal of special Holy Spirit powers conferred upon the inaugural generation of the church, how was the power imparted? Certain principles, set forth especially in Acts, arise from the New Testament description.

It will be shown that:

(1) the extraordinary empowerment was conferred directly (without apostolic hands) only upon the twelve at Pentecost, and the house of Cornelius;

(2) through apostolic hands alone was such power conferred to others (Cornelius received the “same” gift as the apostles so far as the manner of reception — direct from heaven — but not the measure of power given to the apostolic office, which included the ability to confer gifts of the Holy Spirit to others by laying on of hands);

(3) the power necessarily ceased with the apostolic age; and (very important);

(4) the reception of such power was only indirectly related to individual personal salvation.

Basic facts.

Here are some basic facts about Holy Spirit baptism. As noted, the expression “baptize in the Holy Spirit” or its verbal equivalent occurs only six times in scripture (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8: Luke 3:16; John 1:33; Acts 1:5; 11:16). Acts has the most to say about it — the expression itself however occurs in Acts only in quotations from Jesus. The author of Acts, in his own usage, wanted to reserve the word baptize for (water) immersion. Instead, Luke speaks of the Holy Spirit baptism typically by such phrases as “filled with the Spirit.”

The first reference in Acts states:

…he charged them not to depart from Jerusa1cm, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which said he, ye heard from me: For John in. deed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence… you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:4-5, 8).

Note the following facts from these verses:

(1)The baptism in the Holy Spirit was “the promise of the Father.”

(2) It would occur, for the apostles, within a few days.

(3)This event would bring to its recipients an empowerment for witness.

The preamble to Acts 1 is Luke 24:36-53, “And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city until ye be clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). Note again that “the promise of the Father” (the Holy Spirit baptism) would include “power from on high.”

With reference to the apostles (others would receive empowerment in due time), the “promise of the Father” was plainly kept on the day of Pentecost, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit from heaven (Acts 2:1-13). They were empowered to speak in tongues. The whole event was accompanied by a sound from heaven like wind (which filled the entire chamber); and flames in appearance like fire, resting on each of them. Peter explains in Acts 2:33 that the Father had imparted the promised Holy Spirit to Jesus, and that Jesus then “poured out” upon the apostles that which had been seen and heard. This was the event which empowered the apostolic witness (see Acts 1:8).

When Peter began his sermon in Acts 2, he said:

… but this is that which hath been spoken through the prophet Joel: And it shall he in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: yea and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days will I pour forth of my spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above, and signs on the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke: the sun shall he turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the day of the lord comes, that great and notable day. And it shall be, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:16-21).

There is no ambiguity in Peter’s introduction: “This is that.” The event which had just been witnessed: the sound, the fire-like phenomenon, and the languages were the fulfillment (or the inauguration of the fulfillment) of the prophecy found in Joel.

We pointed out that the prophecy of Joel is the “promise of God” — the promised “pouring out” of his Spirit. Therefore, when John the baptist spoke of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and when Jesus is quoted in Acts 1:5; 11:16. The reference is to the prophecy of Joel in chapter 2:28-32. Clearly, if anyone is to understand the baptism in the Holy Spirit, he must understand Joel’s prophecy.

Summary

In Acts the following are related or correlated: (1) the baptism in the Holy Spirit. (2) the promise of the Father, (3) the coming of the Holy Spirit, (4) the reception of power from on high, and (5) the events of Acts 2:1-4. This included (6) being filled with the Spirit, (7) the sound that filled the house. (8) the fire- like flames. (9) the empowerment to speak in tongues, (10) the fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32, and thus, (11) the pouring out of God’s Spirit.

John the baptist declared that he baptized with water, but the Lord would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Did John affirm that water baptism replaces Spirit baptism? Many Bible students take it this way. However, it is quite indisputable that Jesus ordained water baptism for his church (Acts 8:36-39; 10:47- 48; 22:16; Eph. 5:26; et al.).

Please note carefully (it is frequently overlooked) that the word baptizo, when used literally and without any specification of a medium, has inherent in it the element of water (Oepke, TDNT 1:539; and see most Greek lexicons). Baptizo should therefore, in many passages, be rendered “immerse in water” and resurrected to a new life. By definition in such passages it cannot be understood to refer to a baptism “in Spirit.” It is clear that John was not teaching that Jesus was going replace water baptism with Spirit baptism.

Since the elements of the two baptisms are not the point of contrast, what is? The comparison is rather John’s ministry, his preparation for the kingdom, versus its later inauguration with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. John’s ministry could not claim the fulfillment of Joel 2. His ministry was a baptism of water only, looking forward to the coming of Christ. Christ, in the new age, not only authorizes a water baptism, but at the inaugural he confers an overwhelming of the Holy Spirit on the infant church.

John’s ministry (thus his baptism) was preparatory; Jesus’ ministry (including the baptizing in the Holy Spirit), in contrast, was the consummation. From another perspective (looking toward the future), Jesus’ ministry, with its culmination on the day of Pentecost, was initiatory.

1One should notice John the Baptist (Luke 1:14-17); Elizabeth (Luke 1:41-45); Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79); Simeon (Luke 2:25-35); Jesus (Luke 4:14-15, cf. 16-21; 10:21-22); disciples (Luke 12:12); the Twelve (Acts 1:8; 24ff, cf 2:l7ff: 4:8ff, 31: 10:l9ff, 34ff; 11:12, 14); Stephen (Acts 6:5, 8-10ff; 7:lff, cf. 7:51); Philip (8:29ff; Paul (Acts 9:17, 20); the house of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-46); Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2, 4ff); and the Ephesian 12 (Acts 19:6). Other Luke-Acts material could be cited which suggest something similar.

Working the Works of God

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

Vol. 121, No. 08

The Bible teaches that works have nothing to do with salvation, and it teaches that works are necessary to salvation.

Still, the Bible does not contradict itself.

How can this be? How can the Bible say two things that seem to be diametrically opposed and yet not contradict itself? It would appear to be self-evident that works cannot be both necessary and unnecessary to salvation.

Since the Bible is inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), it must be true and therefore cannot contradict itself. Truth, in order to be truth, must be coherent. If two statements contradict, either one or both of them must be false, but there is no way they can both be true. How, then, do we deal with the fact that the Bible says works are not necessary to justification, and also says that we are justified by works?

Some assume a “take your pick” attitude and go blithely down the path not knowing how to reconcile the two statements — and, possibly, not caring. The honest person however cannot do this and must either reject the Bible or find a logical way to harmonize the two statements.

Various Works

To understand the Bible we must define its terms correctly. It is necessary to understand accurately how Bible writers use the word “works” (sometimes “deeds”), or we will be confused. A survey of how the Bible uses this word will help us to avoid the confusion of misunderstanding. A failure to understand something correctly leads to incomprehension and perhaps unbelief.

Following is a partial list of “work(s)” mentioned in the Old and New Testaments:

  • The work God does — Gen. 2:2; Judges 2:7; Ps. 71:17; 1 Cor. 12:6; John 6:28-29; John 10:37; John 14:10
  • The work man does in providing food and shelter — Gen. 3:17-19; Exod. 23:12; Exod. 26:1; Eccl. 2:4; Matt. 21:28
  • The work man does in obeying specific commands of God — Gen. 6:13-22; John 9:4; 1 Cor. 15:58
  • Work of iniquity (evil) — Ps. 6:8; Ps. 14:1; Jer. 1:16; Ezek. 33:26; Matt. 7:23; Luke 13:27; John 3:19; Rom. 1:27; Eph. 4:19; Rom. 13:12 (“works of darkness”); Gal. 5:19-21 (“works of the flesh”)
  • Work of righteousness (good) — Ps. 15:2; Acts 10:35; Matt. 5:16; Rom. 3:27; 1 Cor. 3:13-14; 2 Cor. 9:8; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 2:10; Titus 2:14; James 1:4; James 3:13
  • Works that are worthy of repentance — Acts 26:20
  • The mighty works (signs, miracles) of Jesus — Matt. 11:23-24; John 10:32; Acts 2:22
  • Works of the Law of Moses — Rom. 3:20; Rom. 3:28; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:2
  • Greater works done by Jesus’ disciples — John 5:20; John 14:12
  • Good and bad works by which all men shall be judged — Rom. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:12-13; Rev. 22:12
  • Human works apart from works of God — Rom. 9:11; Rom. 11:6
  • Converts to Jesus — 1 Cor. 3:14
  • Apostolic signs, and wonders, and mighty works — 2 Cor. 12:12
  • Work of sinless perfection — Eph. 2:9; Col. 2:21-23
  • The power that works in the saved — Eph. 3:20; Eph. 4:12
  • The word of God that works in the believer — 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 1:11; 1 Tim. 2:10; 1 Tim. 5:12; 2 Tim. 2:21
  • Works that justify — James 2:24; James 3:13
  • Works of the devil — 1 John 3:8
  • The ungodly works of ungodliness — Jude 1:15

This gives a sample of various “works” mentioned in the Bible. It is a mistake to suppose that the word work(s) always refers to condition of acceptance with God. It does not!

Even a casual glance at this list will convince the thoughtful Bible student this is a complicated subject, having many interrelated parts. It is difficult to deal with because of the need to take different relationships or points of view into consideration.

The mighty acts of Jehovah are works. Creation (Ps. 8:3-6; Ps. 19:1; Ps. 33:4; Ps. 92:5; Ps. 102:25; Ps. 104:24), redemptive acts in history like the Exodus (Judges 2:7-10).

Jesus is our perfect example in all things (1 Pet. 2:21). The Savior went about doing good (Acts 10:38-39; John 4:34; John 5:36; John 10:25-38; John 15:24; John 17:4). His words and his works confirmed his authority and mission.

Humans are sinless at birth, seeing that Jehovah is the Father and Giver of the human spirit (Heb. 12:9; Eccl. 12:7). As the child matures it comes to understand that some things are right and other things are wrong, but chooses to do wrong things and ignore right things. This is called sin — sin of omission and sin of commission. This is the something a person knowingly does to himself. Iniquity separates a soul from its God (Isa. 59:2). Those who die in sin cannot go where Jesus is; they “shall not inherit the kingdom of God (John 8:21; Gal. 5:19-21).

In his infinite compassion Jehovah sent Jesus to offer himself sacrifice for sins (John 3:16; John 10:18; Matt. 26:28).

We access the grace of God and the blood of the Lamb of God through belief (John 8:24).

“They said therefore unto him, What must we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:28-29).

Saving belief is a work that includes other works. Faith is shown by works (James 2:18). “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:20). Abraham was justified by works produced by faith (James 2:21-22). Works make faith perfect (James 2:22). Sinners are justified by works and not by faith only (James 2:24). Faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

Jesus said, “He that believeth (a work) and is baptized (a work) shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” (James 2:22). In baptism the sinner, “is buried with Christ” and is “raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). In baptism we are buried “with” Christ and we are raised “with” him believing that God will keep his promise to save “he that believeth and is baptized.” Peter tells us that baptism saves (1 Pet. 3:21). In baptism our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).

The spirit that is born again in the water of baptism (John 3:5) enters the kingdom of God, where faith continues to work, bringing glory to God (Matt. 5:16). The saved “work the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 16:10), abound “in every good work” (1 Cor. 9:8). Servants of righteousness “end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:5). The child of God is “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10); the saint is “fruitful unto every good work” (Col. 1:10). The Christian “works out his own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Paul prayed that God the Father may “comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word” (2 Thess. 2:17). Women professing godliness are to adorn themselves “with good works” (1 Tim. 2:10). If a man desires the office of bishop, he desires “a good work” (1 Tim. 3:1). Widows to be enrolled are to be “well reported of for good works” (1 Tim. 5:10). The new covenant lauds the good works of some that are “evident, and cannot be hid” (1 Tim. 5:25). Those described as “a vessel unto honor” are “prepared unto every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). “The man of God” is “furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17). Preachers are to be “an ensample of good works” (Titus 2:7), “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Followers of Jesus are to “be ready unto every good work” (Titus 3:1). Paul desired “that they who have believed God may be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8). “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward his name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister” (Heb. 6:10). “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). Our Lord Jesus “make you perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:21).

The “wise and understanding among you? let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). Behave seemly among the pagans, “that, wherein they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12). “My Little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18). Jesus knows and commends the works of his disciples on earth (Rev. 2:2, Rev. 2:9, Rev. 2:19; Rev. 3:8). Those who die in the Lord are blessed because “their works follow with them” (Rev. 14:13).

On the last great judgment day, God will render unto every man “according to their works, whether they be good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14; Rev. 20:12-13; Rev. 22:12).

It is because of a present and future judgment that we must avoid the works of the flesh … the works of darkness … the works of the devil. Abstaining from all evil works is critical to the believer.

In the light of what the new covenant has to say about the importance of good works — works of faith — works that justify (James 2:24) — it seems strange that anyone would say that works have nothing to do with salvation … unless, of course, he is blinded by denominational dogma.

The Bible does warn us that we cannot live to maturity and be sinless (Rom. 3:27; Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 4:2-6). “All sin and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It also tells us the works of the Law of Moses cannot save us (Rom. 9:32; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:10). If eternal salvation could come by the Mosaic Law, then the death of Jesus was needless, because the people had that law for 1,500 years before Jesus was born of a woman (Gal. 2:21). We are also told that we cannot save ourselves by austerities (Col. 2:18).

Some honest person may be misled into wrongly supposing that when the Bible tells us we cannot be saved by our own works because it is not possible for us to live without sin — sooner or later all will sin and fall short of God’s glory, that it is saying that even works of faith and righteousness — works of God — do not save. Also some will read Bible passages which say that the works of the Law of Moses cannot save, and mistakenly conclude that works have nothing to do with salvation. This study should clear that up because it gives indisputable proof that there is no justification without works.

It is indisputably true that works are necessary to justification (James 2:24), but it is also true that some works cannot save — the work of living a perfectly sinless life — the work of devising our own scheme of redemption — the works of the Law of Moses — the works of darkness, which are the works of Satan.

So, it is true that works both save us and have nothing to do with our salvation, depending on what kind of works you are talking about.

It is not possible for a reasonable adult to be sinless and therefore, in this sense, one cannot save himself by his own works. We cannot be saved by the works of Satan, nor by the works of the Law of Moses, nor by any human invention. Such works have no power to save and many of them are an offense to God.

Still, it is true that the work of faith (the works produced by faith, see Rom. 1:5; Rom. 16:26), bring the sinner into a right relationship with his Creator, help to maintain that relationship, and will one day be the reason for his promotion to glory (Matt. 25:31-46). To say that works have nothing to do with salvation is to fly in the face of Bible teaching.

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