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The Blessings and Curse of the Cross (Galatians 3) March 5, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Blood of Christ, Body of Christ, Crucifixion, Galatians, Lord's Table.
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THE CURSE AND THE BLESSINGS
Galatians 3:7-14

We saw last week that Paul was opposing those who were perverting the gospel. They were changing salvation by grace through faith in the gospel, that is, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ into a salvation by law: circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, zealousness, the Ten Commandments, or some other way in which one can make himself acceptable or at least presentable before God. Paul says, “You can’t change what God has set forth.”

Warren Wiersbe tells how “a new employee was instructed how to measure valve parts to make sure they were ready for the final assembly. But after a few hours, his foreman was receiving complaints that the parts he was approving were faulty. ‘What are you doing?’ the foreman asked. ‘I showed you how to use that micrometer. You’re sending through parts that are oversize!’ The employee replied, ‘Oh, most of the parts I was measuring were too large, so I opened up the micrometer a bit.’” The cross is God micrometer. It is by the cross that we determine our spiritual welfare.

A. The curse of the cross was on our behalf (3:7-14; 5:11; 6:12-13).

1. The curse was pronounced by God (3:7-14). Paul quotes six different Old Testament passages to make the point that there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. He also says that through the law comes the curse. Actually, there are two curses here. The first, a general curse, is on anyone who breaks one law (verse 10). This is in contrast to the justification that comes through faith (verses 8-9, 11-12). Justification can simply mean that you are getting what’s coming to you. That is not the way Paul is using this word. He takes an Old Testament concept and speaks about God taking a sinner’s account and stamping it “righteous.”

There are four stamps God could use. He could stamp our account as “guilty.” That is what we deserve. Or he could stamp us “not guilty.” That means you’re not condemned, that is, the evidence does not condemn you. But, of course, that is not true. God could stamp our account “innocent.” That is better than not guilty but the evidence still is against us. God uses the stamp “righteous through faith” (see Abraham’s case in verse 6). What Paul is saying is that righteousness is put on my account by grace through faith in Christ and his death on my behalf.

One might say faith in the second curse pronounced by God, that is, the curse of the cross (verses 13-14). It is faith in the righteousness, the redemption, the payment, provided by Jesus Christ on the cross for our account that justifies us with God.

2. The offense of the cross provoked persecution and derision (5:11). Certainly the cross was despised by the Jews because of the curse pronounced by God on anyone hung from a tree. It was also a most shameful death in the eyes of the Romans who were actually carrying out the act of crucifixion. It was reserved for criminals and slaves. Jesus was neither. Robert Gundry feels that Mark’s gospel may have been written to counteract the shame of the cross by recording the power of Jesus, for no Roman would trust a crucified Savior. The Roman senator and orator Cicero said “the very word ‘cross’ should be far removed not only from the perons of a Roman citizen but also from his thoughts, his eyes, and his ears…the mere mention of them, that is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a free man” (In Defense of Rabirius taken from Gundry’s A Survey of the New Testament). The shame of the cross was not theoretical but real.

3. The cross is incompatible with profiteering from believers (6:12-13). It is more respectable to belong to the right group than to be associated with the cross of Christ. Heroes did not die on the cross but in battle. Those who profit from religious faith have no use for the cross unless they can turn it into some type of work. If I preach a certain type of message so that it might attract a crowd, am I any better than these? Not that we should not try to reach as many as we can and any legitimate method should be used. At times the message of the cross has been more popular than others but whether it is the “in thing” or not, it is still our only message.

B. The blessings of the cross come through Christ living in me (2:17-21; 5:24; 6:14-17).

1. Our lives are transformed by grace through faith in Christ (2:17-21). When we baptize tonight, we will being testifying that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ through His death and resurrection. Verse 21 is a sobering verse. If we have life through any other way, then the cross of Christ was a waste, a wasted life.

2. We actively war against sin (5:24). We will speak about this more at a later time but the fight against sin in our own individual lives must take place under the banner of the cross. Apart from the power of the cross to give us new life, we are helpless against the sins listed in this chapter. Our flesh will give in but we are alive now in Christ, the Crucified One.

3. Our boasting is dependent on the cross (6:14-17). Unlike the profiteers, our boasting is dependent on Jesus. My rejection of the sins of the flesh, of this world is based on my new life in Christ. Paul even notes that he has brands or marks on his body that identify him with Jesus. In those days an idol worshipper might have the brand of his idol burned into his body. Slaves were also marked with brands. Circumcision itself, though not a brand, served the same purpose. Paul said, “My brands come through my daily life with Christ.”

Let’s take our micrometer and measure ourselves.
1. Have you been saved by the grace of God? If you feel in anyway that you deserve salvation, you are too big for the micrometer of the cross.
2. Are you trying to mix law and grace? Are you trying to adjust the cross for yourself or someone else? God will not accept that mixture.
3. When we celebrate today the Lord’s Table, will you be boasting in the cross of Christ or will you be trying to impress God by your sanctified worship?
4. Are you walking in spiritual liberty? We are celebrating spiritual liberty today through the Lord’s Table. Do you live your liberty out in the world during the week?
5. Are you willing to defend the truth of the gospel of Christ? Or do you let it slide when people say, “Well, I think I’m good enough for God. I’m better than the average Joe?”
(Questions adapted from Warren Wiersbe’s Be Free).

As we partake of the Lord’s Table, let us dwell on these questions and respond to God’s call to salvation and to walking in spiritual liberty.

Next week: Righteous Indignation (Galatians 1-2)

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Last in the Series on Baptism January 24, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Death of Christ, Discipleship, Resurrection, Romans, Sanctification, Sin, Spiritual Growth, Spiritual Power, Spiritual Warfare, Temptation.
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A COMMITMENT TO SPIRITUAL LIFE (Romans 6)

In “Beyond Cigars: Modern ways to announce your baby‘s birth” on babycenter.com, Angela Navarrete writes, “When you were born, your dad might have announced your arrival by handing out cigars…Today’s dads have come up with more creative ways to announce their new progeny…If you want to hand out something more substantial than a card, go for edible birth announcements. Online, you can order personalized candy bar wrappers with your baby’s name and statistics. (The newly wrapped bars look) just like normal candy bars, but the label (reads something like this):
RYAN PATRICK GALLANT
Net wt. 7 lbs. 10 oz.
and on the back:
VITAL STATISTICS
Baked: May 21, 1998
Serving Size: 19.5 inches

Baptism is God’s choice of heavenly birth announcements. When I was baptized, God was announcing to the world, “He’s mine! He’s mine! He’s mine!” Baptism is a very meaningful symbol because I am announcing to the world, I am a new creature. I am different. I have died to sin.

A. Baptism illustrates that we have died to sin (verses 1-4a). To be baptized into the body of Christ is to be baptized into the death of Christ (compare with Galatians 3:26-29 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-14). [The scriptural development of the doctrine of baptism is (1) John’s baptism as a symbol of discipleship, (2) Pentecostal baptism accompanied by the reception of the Spirit, (3) Paul’s baptism into the body of Christ, and (4) baptism in this passage and in Colossians 2:11-15 as identification with the death of Christ.]

a. This is not present tense—”I am dying to sin!”—That is reformation. A slave does not need reformation but liberation. A man in sin does not need an overhaul, he needs a new engine!
b. Neither is this future tense—”We will die to sin”—Otherwise, something might happen that would prevent me from dying to sin. I am not looking forward to the day when I mature to the point where I no longer sin. Neither am I looking for an experience that will make me so holy that I cannot sin anymore. I am looking back to an experience that has already happened.
c. Notice also that we are not commanded—”Die to sin!” That is our problem. We cannot die to sin. We are incapable of keeping that command until we are connected by faith with Christ’s death. Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, therefore I no longer live. Jesus Christ now lives in me. And the life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
d. Finally, it is not an exhortation—”You should die to sin.” Why? Because you are already dead to sin, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior and the only hope for salvation and eternal life.
e. This is a simple past tense—”You died to sin.” The simple truth is that if you are a believer, you have already died to sin. It’s a past event, an accomplished fact. What is a Christian? Someone who has died to sin.

In his book 40 Days, Alton Gansky relates this story: “Harry Houdini made a name for himself by escaping from every imaginable confinement — from straightjackets to multiple pairs of handcuffs clamped to his arms. He boasted that no jail cell could hold him. Time and again, he would be locked in a cell only to reappear minutes later.
It worked every time — but one. He accepted another invitation to demonstrate his skill. He entered the cell, wearing his street clothes, and the jail cell door shut. Once alone, he pulled a thin but strong piece of metal from his belt and began working the lock. But something was wrong. No matter how hard Houdini worked, he couldn’t unlock the lock. For two hours he applied skill and experience to the lock but failed time and time again. Two hours later he gave up in frustration.
The problem? The cell had never been locked. Houdini worked himself to near exhaustion trying to achieve what could be accomplished by simply pushing the door open. The only place the door was locked was in his mind.”

B. Baptism illustrates that we are raised to new life in Christ Jesus (verses 4b-11).
1. We walk in newness of life (verse 4b). What Jesus did on that cross makes possible this newness of life reality. He died for your sin so that you might die to sin. The picture here is of your sins being paid for on the cross by Christ Jesus.

2. To unite with Him in death is to unite with Him in resurrection (verses 5-11). Physical newness of life begins with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins with death (6:2-4a). Not everyone agrees that humanity begins with conception. That is the whole issue between the pro-life and pro-choice advocates. One thing, however, that everyone can agree on is that something marvelous, something amazing, something beyond our understanding begins at the moment of conception. There is a combining of DNA that is unlike anyone who ever existed before. We are talking about a physical newness of life beginning with conception. Spiritual newness of life begins much, much differently. Spiritual newness of life begins with death.

This concept of death producing life may seem somewhat strange to you. Consider what Jesus, Himself, in John 12:24 says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” In other words, there is no spiritual life possible apart from the physical death of Christ. He died to produce life.

C. Our spiritual relationship with Jesus takes away all excuses for sin (verses 13-23).
1. We as believers decide who to fear and serve (verses 13-21). We can successfully resist the empty and deceitful promises of the world because we are no longer captive to our sinful body. We were captive to our sinful body. We are still in our body which is susceptible to sin but we are no longer slaves to sin unless we decide to enslave ourselves.

“…(Being dead to sin is) like watching a lion roar at the zoo. You may get a thrill from listening to the lion roar in his cage. But as long as the lion is behind bars, you’re safe. The lion can roar all it wants but it can’t do anything to you unless you do something (foolish) like crawl into the cage. Then you have problems. Sin is like a roaring lion. As long as you understand that the power of sin is broken, sin cannot dominate your life unless you choose to let it dominate your life” (Ray Pritchard).

Freedom from righteousness leads to… (verses 19-23).
– Uncleanness (verse 19).
– Lawlessness leading to more lawlessness (verse 19).
– Shameful behavior (verse 21).
– The wages of sin – death (verses 21 and 23).

2. The result of freedom in Christ and from sin and from the law is two-fold: holiness and eternal life (verses 22-23). These two are not two separate results but different aspects of the working of God in our life.

You see, when we receive eternal life through Christ, it is not talking just about never ending life. We now have eternal life. My old spiritual deadness exists no more. It no longer has a hold on me. I do not have to live according to my former sinful flesh but now through Christ have spiritual life that enables me to fight against all the evil influences around me. That is one of the reasons that the symbol of baptism is so important. It is a powerful statement of a new reality.

Let me explain that one of the things that you are doing when you are baptized is making a statement about yourself. You are saying, “I am a new creature in Christ Jesus.” Now don’t misunderstand. You are not saying you are sinless in your everyday life. None of us can in reality make that statement but every believer in Christ can say, I do not have to sin because I have put my faith in Christ and I am now a new creature.

INVITATION: Have you died to sin? Not are you trying to. Not do you want to. Have you put your faith in Christ and died to sin and become in Christ a new creature, walking now in newness of life? Have you been born again? Just as a baby cannot conceive and birth itself, you cannot spiritually birth yourself. Jesus has provided salvation for you through His death, burial, and resurrection. You must simply accept it by faith in Him, in the working of God. God did this for you. Will you accept His work in your life? Will you trust what He has done to save you from sin?

If you have died to sin, if you have put your faith in Christ, are you in or out of the lion’s cage? Only a fool would get in a lion’s cage. Only a fool would trust Christ and then let sin rule over him or her. Get out of the cage!

Baptism Series: Part 2 January 17, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Discipleship, Great Commission, Matthew, Trinity.
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THE COMMAND JESUS DIDN’T OBEY
Matthew 28:16-20

John 4:1-2 tells us that the Pharisees heard that Jesus was baptizing more disciples than John the Baptist was. The writer of the gospel clarifies that Jesus actually was not baptizing anyone personally but rather that his disciples were the ones baptizing new disciples. In fact, we have no knowledge of Jesus ever baptizing anyone with water.

It is interesting then that the last command of Christ recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, the Great Commission, includes baptizing new disciples. The actual command is to make disciples of all nations as we go throughout the world and there are two parts to fulfilling that command: baptizing and teaching Christ’s commandments. Since this last command of Christ includes baptism, we need to look more closely at this command.

A. Jesus commands us as His disciples to baptize other disciples (verses 19-20).

1. To become a disciple is a public profession. That is what Romans 10:9-10 teaches us. To believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord God as proven by His resurrection from the dead is to be accompanied by a confession with the mouth. The picture here is of someone at the time of baptism confessing that Jesus is their Savior, their Lord, and their God.

2. To be a disciple is an eternal commitment (verse 20). Stanley Grenz calls baptism and the Lord’s Supper commitment acts. Jesus makes it clear that this commitment into which we enter with Christ is an eternal commitment. It is not limited by our location, the time in which we live, or even the state of our being, that is, whether we are dead or alive. Of course, this commitment although we enter into it is not dependent on our strength or ability to keep it.

Often those who come to Christ are not ostracized by their unsaved family and friends until they take the step of baptism. Why? Because the unsaved recognize the commitment that is being made to Christ. We knew a family once who were saved for two or three years before they were baptized. They shared a house with the man’s mother. Although there were discussions and questions about their new faith in Christ, they were unprepared for the ostracism they experienced when they were baptized. For months the mother, who lived on the first floor, refused to communicate with her son and his family, who lived on the second and third floors. The reason was simple, they had taken a true step of commitment, baptism.

B. Jesus commands us as His worshipers to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (verses 18-20). Certainly it would be impossible to explain the Trinity. To explain God fully would be impossible. Yet this verse helps us to understand the significance of God for our lives. We are to be baptized in His name, that is, we recognize that each person of the Trinity is God, to be worshipped and to be obeyed.

1. We recognize the God of Israel as the God of the nations (verse 19). Deuteronomy commands “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.” This verse confirms that there is one God at the same time emphasizing that He is not just for Israel to follow, to worship, and to obey but for each man and woman in the world. While not all will believe in His name and be baptized in His name, He alone is God, there is no other.

2. We recognize the universal authority of His Son (verse 18). God became man when He was born of a virgin, but at His resurrection and ascension He revealed that He had been exalted to the position of authority as the Divine Messiah of God.

“Jesus is Lord!” may be the earliest doctrinal statement of the church. When we are baptized, we are proclaiming our allegiance to Jesus as Lord. When an immigrant is naturalized in this country, they are not asked if they have kept all the laws of this country perfectly. That might be impossible. We do ask them, however, to proclaim their allegiance to the United States of America, that is, to submit to our lordship. The difference is this; there are some areas of our lives in which our government is not Lord. With Christ it is different. He is Lord of all!

3. We recognize the eternal union with Jesus through the Holy Spirit (verse 20). Shortly after this commandment was given, Jesus ascended into heaven to the right hand of the Father. “The ascension [however] did not inaugurate the absence of Jesus. On the contrary, in accordance with [this commandment/promise], this event made possible the continuing presence of the risen Lord with his people everywhere, a presence mediated by the Holy Spirit” (Theology for the Community of God by Stanley Grenz, page 355, edition from 2000).

Has anyone ever said that you are filled with the Holy Spirit? When you are baptized with water you are testifying to the fact that the Holy Spirit lives within you and that you are going to serve God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I read a piece recently written about one of our ladies by her daughter. She wrote that her mom was filled with the Holy Spirit and then she listed the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. When you are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are recognizing a union with Christ through the Holy Spirit that is life transforming.

C. Baptism identifies us with God, with Christ, His people, and His commandments. Baptism is a rich ritual full of meaning. That is why we do it publicly. Through we submit ourselves to God, we proclaim Christ to the world, we enter into the fellowship of God’s people (Acts 2:38ff), and begin a life of obedient discipleship of Christ.

Are you a disciple? Have you forsaken all to follow Christ? That is both the prerequisite to baptism as well as the lesson taught through baptism. Will you become a disciple today? He died on the cross for you so that you might take up your cross and follow Him. Will you commit yourself to Him today? Yes, it is an eternal commitment but He will make sure that the commitment is never broken by uniting you to Himself and to His body through the gift of the Holy Spirit of God.

Next week: A Commitment to Spiritual Life – Romans 6

Part One: Sermon Series on Baptism January 9, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Judgment, Luke, Repentance.
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DID YOU MEET THE CONDITIONS?
Luke 3:1-22

The next few weeks we want to look at the subject of baptism. This is often a controversial subject so I think I should begin by explaining the purpose behind this sermon series.

1. Several have expressed the desire to be baptized and it is important for their sake and for yours that we look at the Bible and remind ourselves of the Bible’s teaching concerning the subject.
2. Baptism is the way in which people are initiated publicly into the faith. This is perhaps the common denominator between all of the various views concerning baptism. It is a public initiation rite. It says something important about the person being baptized.
3. Baptism is supposed to be meaningful. Even those who do not believe that baptism is necessary today admit that there is a significant meaning behind baptism. The various groups may not agree exactly on what that meaning is but that it is meaningful is certain.

Today we want to look at the baptism of John and understand how baptism functioned in his day. We will also be able to make comparisons to our day because in both John’s day and in our day, baptism functions as a public initiation into the faith and carries great meaning.

I. God’s message to us is a last days’ message (verses 3-9, 15-18). As John was baptizing, the multitudes came to him to be baptized and John spoke very bluntly to them. He told them, God has a message for you. Have you met the conditions demanded for initiation into the kingdom of God (verse 7-8)?

Because we fear salvation by works we tend to deemphasize baptism but works of repentance are biblical. In some pagan cultures, people gather their idols and other articles of superstition and burn them when they turn to Christ. “In America, the house itself may become one’s god. It is hardly appropriate to burn one’s house” (David Hesselgrave in Planting Churches Cross-Culturally). Yet, repentance, though it is an inward attitude, it reveals itself in our actions.

A. This message seems harsh but we need to remember that this is only a part of the message. This message from God is a message of forgiveness (vs. 3-6, 16-17). John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins confirming Isaiah’s prophecy that all flesh shall see the kingdom of God. John was preaching that time was at hand. Those Jews who understood and believed the Old Testament knew that in the last days, when the Messiah comes, God will save His people from their sin and the nations will see that salvation and many of them will turn to God.

B. This message, however, is not only a message of forgiveness and salvation but also a message of judgment (vs. 7-9, 17-18). These people were preparing themselves for the end of the world. They obviously hadn’t heard of the Mayans prediction concerning 2012. John’s response was not, “You’re too early!” No, it is, “Are you ready? Have you met the conditions? Are you prepared for the day of judgment?”

II. What are those conditions? God’s message for the last days demands a change of allegiance, that is, repentance (verses 8-14).

A. Allegiance to nationality, ethnicity, and even religious faith hinders repentance (vs. 8-9). That doesn’t mean those things are wrong. These people were born into their nation and born into their faith but they needed to give their allegiance to God not to their nation, their race, their religious identification, and especially, as we will see, to themselves.

B. Our works prove our allegiance (verse 8). How do you determine where someone’s allegiances lie? By how they act, by what they do. It is told that Spurgeon was walking down a street in London when a man who was drunk and leaning on a lamppost yelled out to him, “Hey, Mr. Spurgeon, do you remember me?” Spurgeon replied, “No, why should I?” The man said, “Because I’m one of your converts.” Spurgeon replied, “Well, you must be one of mine; you’re certainly not one of the Lord’s.”

a. Work #1: Compassion for the needy (vs. 10-11). John is applying the Old Testament to these people. Jesus put it later this way, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself.” We understand that God has that same expectation of us.

b. Work #2: Contentment with our lot (vs. 12-14). John did not tell the tax collectors or the soldiers to quit working for the government but rather to be content with the blessings they have from God. Again, this is what God expects of us. We are to be content with whatever avenue of blessing the Lord gives us and not to take advantage of others so that we might have more.

(Contentment comes from trust) LeRoy Eims was talking to a young lady in San Francisco. He asked her about her relationship to God. She said, “Well, I’ve always had this terrible fear that He might send me off to Africa as a missionary.” As they continued to talk he asked her about her workplace. He asked her if she went out with the men who hung around there. She said, “No…they are a bunch of creeps and I just don’t feel secure when I’m with them.” He then asked, “If you were to meet a guy who really loved you … [would you feel secure around him]? Do you think he could be trusted?” Of course, she said, yes. In the same way, we can be content and secure in Christ. Like a farmer who irrigates his crops, “God is always upstream, discerning our needs,…and arranging things for our good” (from What Every Christian Should Know About Growing).

c. Work #3: Care not to abuse our power (vs. 14). This is one of those things that I was blessed not to know anything about as I was growing up but the older I get the more I see that when we get power that is not held accountable by others, we tend to abuse those under us.

C. Our baptism is a declaration of our allegiance, that is, our repentance (verses 3, 7). It is a declaration that we love others as ourselves because God loves us as Himself. It is a declaration that we trust Him to give us what we need in the way of blessings and in the way of opportunity to receive blessings in this life. It is a declaration that we are accountable to God for any and all authority which we might have.

That is what baptism is. It is a declaration that my life is different. No more will I live for myself. I have given myself to God.

III. How is this accomplished in our lives? If we are to declare a changed life we must have a changed life. How is that to be? John tells us plainly that God’s message and the fulfillment of that message depends on Christ (verses 15-22).

A. Forgiveness through the Spirit (vs. 3-6, 16-17). We tend to forget that the prediction of the Old Testament is that the Messiah would come and His people would be transformed through Him spiritually. They would be given a fleshy heart instead of a heart of stone. They would be endowed, anointed, have poured out on them, the Holy Spirit. That blessing, however, came through Jesus Christ. These people lived in expectation of that promise.

B. Judgment by His authority (vs. 7-9, 17-18). Just as Jesus brought forgiveness through the Holy Spirit working in those who follow Him, He also brings judgment to those who have a different allegiance.

Where is your allegiance? Have you met the conditions for baptism? Have you repented of your sinful ways and turned to Christ alone for forgiveness and filling with the Holy Spirit? You can meet those conditions today. Turn to Him for salvation and escape from the wrath to come. The kingdom of God is at hand. The predictions of the Mayans will most certainly not happen but Christ may come today. Repent today of your sin.

If you have been baptized, are you living up to your declaration? Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Are you content with what God has blessed you with? Do you use the responsibilities God gives you wisely with consideration for those under your authority? If not, today is the day to make that right.

Links concerning Baptismal Regeneration January 18, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Baptismal Regeneration, Religion, Spurgeon.
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There is an interesting comment to last Sunday’s sermon to which I gave a short answer. Here are the promised links concerning baptismal regeneration.

A sermon by Piper.

A sermon by Spurgeon.

MacArthur on this question.

An interview concerning a book on baptism.

This will get you started if you really want to look into the subject in more depth.

What really matters… October 14, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Baptism, Gospel, Jesus, Religion, Sermons.
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SERVANTS IN ACTS: PHILIP – PROCLAIMING GOOD NEWS

    Acts 9:26-40 (with verses 4-6, 12, 25)

     

We do not know a lot about Philip. We have the opportunity in Scriptures to look at some people’s lives over a period of time and we get a feel for what type of person they are. In the case of Barnabas, who we talked about last week, we get a feel from the Bible for the type of person he was. We see him at high points and low points in his life. He is identified in the Scriptures by his character. He was the type of person who you called on when you needed help.

BUT PHILIP… 

The Bible, however, identifies Philip differently. Not that he was not a man of good character. Acts 6:3 tells us that he along with six other men were “…of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom…” Like Barnabas, Philip was typical of the believers presented in the book of Acts. What Philip is known by, however, is the message he proclaimed, the good news of the gospel of Christ.

HIS MESSAGE WAS ANCHORED IN THE WORD OF GOD (verses 28-31)

Circumstances vary and these were unusual circumstances in which Philip found himself (verses 29-30a).  The context indicates that Philip was a man on the run (verses 1-5). He was having unusual success in the city of Samaria. His success was so great that the apostles came to see what was going on (verses 5-8 and 14-17). In fact, God uses the events in the city of Samaria to confirm the promise that Jesus made in Acts 1:8. “And you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you and you shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem and in Judea and in Samaria and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” 

But then God took Philip out of place of record breaking, ground breaking success and put him on a lonely road in the desert. Why? Because the message was not to stop with Jerusalem or Judea or Samaria. The message was to go to the ends of the world, even to Ethiopia which in the New Testament times was the area we now know as the Sudan.

The constant, though, even in unusual circumstances for proclaiming the message of God is basing your message on the Word of God and on the proper understanding of the Word of God (verse 30b).

In the book of Acts, there are a lot of unusual things that happen. You have speaking in tongues, casting out of demons, healings of various sorts. There is persecution and there are times of protection during persecution. The gospel is preached to the Jews, the people of God, and it is preached to the Gentile “dogs”. It is preached to the priests in Jerusalem and to the philosophers in Athens and even in the capital city of the world, Rome. The common denominator though, no matter where it is preached, to whom it is preached, or in what circumstances it is preached is that the message is from God’s Word.

MEET THE ETHIOPIAN… 

In this passage we find a man of importance in the kingdom of what is then called Ethiopia, who has been to Jerusalem to worship and is now returning home. The Jerusalem he has just come from is deserted of Christians. They are all except for the twelve apostles scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria but the gospel for the moment is not to be found openly in Jerusalem.

This man also had something very expensive in his possession. Likely, he had just purchased it while worshiping in Jerusalem. He had a scroll of the book of Isaiah. Philip hears him reading the scroll. He recognizes the passage and he hollers out, “Hey, I know that passage! You understand what you’re reading!” Now this man had been to the temple and was reading the Word of God but one thing he lacked, understanding.

THE IMPORTANCE OF UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WORD 

You must understand the message of the Word of God if you are ever going to be transformed by that message. There are no exceptions. In Acts 8, 9, and 10 we find men from three different stations in life who hearts knew the Word of God. We find in this chapter this Ethiopian. We find in the next chapter, Saul, a Pharisee of the Pharisees who needed to understand the truth of the Word of God. Finally, in chapter 10 we find a Roman centurion, a man who worshiped God but needed the message of the Word of God explained to him before he would be able to turn to Jesus Christ for salvation. All three of them knew something of the Scriptures but had yet to understand that they spoke of Jesus Christ.

This brings me to another fact about the Word of God. God uses people to guide other people to his Word (verse 31). It is true that the Holy Spirit was given to guide us into truth and yet he acts through men and women of God. God intends for his people to guide others out of spiritual darkness and ignorance into the light. That is one reason for emphasizing the gospel over and over and over each week in our worship service. We need to be reminded what it is that men must know in order to come out of darkness. We need to focus on what is absolutely essential in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what did Philip do to bring the Ethiopian to an understanding of the Word of God? He preached Jesus Christ to Him! Philip’s Message was Anchored in the Person of Christ.

DOES HUMANKIND REALLY NEED JESUS TO COME TO GOD? YES!!! 

Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Jesus Christ (verse 34-35). It is not about the Ten Commandments. It is not about keeping the rules. It is about Jesus Christ. These things have their place. In fact, they help us to understand our need for Jesus Christ because we cannot keep the law of God. They help us to see the true character and person of Christ because He in His life here on earth kept the law perfectly.

Obviously, the Ethiopian knew something about the Jewish religion. He no doubt knew about some of the rules of Judaism, he had after all come from south of Egypt, the frontiers of Africa to worship at the designated place of worship, Jerusalem, but he did not know Jesus Christ.

Because this man did not know of Jesus Christ, it was hard for him to understand this passage in Isaiah. Is the prophet writing about himself? Is he writing about some other man? Philip was able to explain to him that the man of whom Isaiah had written was known and had been revealed, Jesus Christ.

WHAT DO WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND AND BELIEVE ABOUT CHRIST? 

Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Christ as the crucified God/man (verses 32-33). This passage in Isaiah 53 is about death:  an unfair death, a humiliating death, a death endured in silence. No objection is raised against the injustice by the victim. He has no lawyer, no one to plead His case. There is no protest against the humiliation. No cry against his persecutors. Why? This is no doubt the question in the Ethiopian’s mind. Philip had an answer. I think it might have sounded like this, “You’ve quit reading too early. Look at this! 

    8b For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked––But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 ¶ Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities.’ (Isaiah 53:8b-11)

Philip preached Jesus to the man. He told them of His death. Of His burial in a rich man’s grave. Of His resurrection. Of His ascension into heaven. Of faith in Christ for salvation from sins.

IT DOES NOT STOP WITH THE CRUCIFIXION 

Lost men need to understand that God’s Word is about Christ as King (compare verse 12 with verses 36-38). That is the significance of baptism. When one allowed himself to baptized, people understood that they were committing themselves to total allegiance to the message of the baptizer. I have not said a lot about baptism in several months and I need to return to this subject. If you claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ and you refuse to allow yourself to be baptized, your faith is suspect. I am not saying that you are not saved, that I cannot know. I do know, however, that Christ demands total allegiance from those who claim to follow Him and in that day and in this day, the first step of showing total allegiance to Christ is baptism.

The Ethiopian knew something about baptism. Baptism was a common practice among the various sects of the Jewish religion. He no doubt knew if Christ was the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and that he demanded total allegiance, it would be necessary for him to allow himself to be baptized to show his allegiance to Christ.

Remember he served the Candace, the queen of Ethiopia. These women were “…portrayed as ‘powerful figures, enormously fat, covered with jewels and ornament and elaborate fringed and tasseled robes. Their huge frames tower over their diminutive foes, whom they are shown grasping brutally by the hair with one hand and to whom they deal the coup de grace with the other.’” At least one of these women had been reported by their Roman enemies as at the head of her army as they won a victory against the Roman army of Caesar Augustus. This man knew what it was to serve royalty directly, totally, and he was ready. [This paragraph from:  Yamauchi, Edwin M. “Acts 8:26-40: Why the Ethiopian Eunuch Was Not from Ethiopia” from Interpreting the New Testament Text: Introduction to the Art and Science of Exegesis ed. Bock, Darrell L. and Fanning, Buist M. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books 2006. (364).]

Jesus is saying through His Word that He is all that really matters. He is the only one to whom allegiance is due. It is not only that Jesus died for sin but He lives today so that you may have the privilege to serve Him. Put your faith in Christ for salvation and surrender yourself to His will.

Psalm 1 and 2 (the baptism links are thrown in for fun) August 11, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Body of Christ, Church Membership, Messiah, OT Preaching, Personalities, Psalms, Religion, Systematic Theology.
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For those who have missed the last two Wednesday nights, here is a little something that you might enjoy. Randy McKinion discusses the connection between Psalm 1 and Psalm 2. Come on Wednesday night, we’re studying Psalm 3

Here is an interesting series of exchanges on believer’s baptism and church membership. (HT:  Justin Taylor and Adrian Warnock)

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2007/08/grudems-change-of-mind-regarding.html

http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/757_response_to_grudem_on_baptism_and_church_membership/

http://theologica.blogspot.com/2007/08/grudem-response-to-piper.html

How important is it that members be baptized believers? How important is it that teachers in the church be members? Should baptism be a requirement for church membership? How do we define the fellowship of local church? The practical application of these and other questions are discussed in the exchange. (By the way, I tend to agree with Grudem.)