On the Horizon
On the horizon
"I say this in order that no one may delude you with persuasive argument…See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Colossians 2:4,8); "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’---which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith" (1 Timothy 6:20-21); "But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1); "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires".
In this series I want to examine errors which are on the horizon. I don’t want to create a "bunker mentality" (i.e., run for the hills, we are the last generation of faithful Christians). But I want to inform and give you arguments to counter what we will probably we facing sooner or later. The purpose of this series is to equip (Ephesians 4:11-12).
"Until now baptism has been understood as being essential to salvation, to becoming a Christian, to being a brother or sister in Christ. For a growing number of cutting-edge preachers, religion professors, and progressive congregations (in the Church of Christ), baptism is now essential only to being fully obedient as one who is already a Christian. In other words, baptism is essential in the same way that most Baptists and many evangelicals have always understood it to be essential—as merely an outward sign of an inward grace and a command to be obeyed. Listen closely these days and you will hear a lot of talk about process. For many in the church today (liberal churches), baptism is coming to be understood as something a believer does along the path of discipleship, as and when the light of that ‘essential Christian act’ dawns on him in the process of maturing as a Christian. Some will be baptized earlier; others, later. Whatever the timing of one’s baptism, the committed believer is nevertheless said to be a brother or sister in Christ. No one seems to have figured out quite yet what negative implications lie for any brother or sister who never sees the light about baptism’s ‘essentiality’. If the process is never completed, does that which is supposed to be essential somehow become unessential?" (Who Is My Brother, F. Lagard Smith, p. 21). Points To Note: 1. Jesus and the apostles definitely placed baptism prior to salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). 2. If one argues that baptism is something merely on the path of someone already saved, then why did Paul point out that baptism is the beginning of a walk in newness of life? (Romans 6:3-4). 3. If one argues that baptism is merely a fuller obedience by someone already saved, then what about repentance (Acts 2:38); confession (Acts 8:37); and faith (Colossians 2:11-12; Mark 16:16)? Since all these are inherently connected with baptism, what happens to their essential nature, when we disconnect baptism from salvation? 4. If baptism isn’t the line between lost and saved, then what is? 5. Such arguments make one wonder, "What is being taught in the Bible Colleges which are run by liberal brethren?" Dr. Carroll D. Osburn (a professor as Abilene Christian University), argues, "There should be room in the Christian fellowship for those who differ on…eschatological theories such a premillennialism…congregational organization, or …whether baptism is ‘for’ or ‘because of’ the remission of sins (The Peaceable Kingdom, p. 90). In the same book he also argues that the Bible contains errors in geography, history, and science.
Smith argues that the engine pulling this train of religious unity at any price, is the fear of being viewed in society as judgmental, in an era which tolerates everything but intolerance (pp. 26-27). Marketing the church has replaced preaching the gospel to the whole creation. Many congregations are more interested in opinion polls than in the Word of God. Pollsters tell us that the generation which has followed the baby boom generation is the most pragmatic, pluralistic, multicultural and non-judgmental generation to come along in decades. They are non-confrontational, manage by consensus, have little political or church allegiance, and are more likely to form their personal judgments on the basis of opinion polls than upon any fixed ideology. Thus, to draw them, in order for churches to survive, we must get rid of biblical doctrines which tend to draw definite lines between lost and saved, good and evil, etc…In other words, the engine pulling this train of change is the desire to fit in, "become like all the other nations" (1 Samuel 8:5), and conform to this world(Romans 12:1-2). Question: When God’s people in the Old Testament conformed to the society surrounding them, did faith in God grow, or did it suffer? Did evangelism increase or decrease? Did Israel become stronger or weaker? Question: Whatever happened to the idea that the cross of Christ is going to be a stumbling-block to many people (1 Corinthians 1:23)? What is going to happen to the church if in the next generation it becomes filled with people who are more driven by current opinion than faith in God?
More and more we are hearing the following types of arguments: "But what are you going to do with all the wonderful Spirit-filled, Jesus-like, prayerful believers who…weren’t baptized like we were baptized?" "What about my spiritually-minded (unbaptized) friends who are far more spiritual than some of my brethren?" And what about prominent religious leaders like Billy Graham and James Dobson, who don’t teach the truth about baptism?
Points To Note: 1. It is true that familiarity can breed contempt. It is easy to think that the grass is greener on the other side. But the truth is that time reveals that unbaptized friends are not as spiritual as they may appear. 2. Weak or hypocritical brethren will not make up for someone else not being baptized. 3. Prominent religious leaders who have the chance to address millions of people and preach the gospel to them, but who never tell them what to do to be saved, are actually keeping people out of the kingdom of God (Matthew 23:13). 4. If doing "good deeds" makes up for not being baptized, then can one be saved by works of human merit? (Ephesians 2:8-9)5. This discussion also bring us back to an earlier question, "Where then is the line between lost and saved?" For you and I know many "spiritually-minded" people, who don’t believe in Jesus Christ. If we are going to save people outside of Christ (Galatians 3:36-27),because they are involved in "good works", then we better start viewing as saved people who don’t even profess any faith in Christ, but who are active in humanitarian causes, i.e., hard working Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, agnostics and sincere atheists. 6. The argument which says, "Well, people in the denominations have more zeal than many members of the church", fails to remember that such zeal doesn’t save (Romans 10:1-3). As Smith notes, "enthusiastic disobedience is no more acceptable to God than unenthusiastic obedience" (p. 42). We need to remember what God said to a very enthusiastic Saul, "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you…" (1 Samuel 15:22-23). 7. One of the mistakes that Israel made in the Old Testament, was thinking that religious acts made up for faithfulness to the word of God, "For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6). 8. Then there is the example of Cornelius: "a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually" (Acts 10:2). According to modern thinking, some people would argue that Cornelius is already a saved man. And yet, God views Cornelius as a lost man (Acts 11:14). "What! He so pious, so benevolent, so engaged in prayer, cleansed, and accepting of God, and yet not saved! So says the scripture" (Smith p. 47). In addition, before he was saved, couldn’t it have been argued that Cornelius was far more dedicated and sincere than some Christians in the First Century (2 Corinthians 12:20; James 4:3-4)? 9. The New Testament contains a number of examples of people who were devout, but lost (Acts 2:5; 8:27-28; 16:14).And the real test of their professed devotion to God was whether or not they would accept all that the gospel said, including the command to be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:41; 10:33). Remember, the New Testament also contains examples of "devout" people, who rejected the gospel (Acts 2:5,41; Mark 10:17-22). Smith notes, "How can we have loving unity with our godly friends without telling them frankly that they are not yet in the kingdom?…How can we embrace them as fellow Christians and never once mention that they are not in a state of forgiveness? Friends don’t let friends continue under the illusion that they’re saved when they’re not….Merely wishing someone were your brother doesn’t make him one" (p. 49).
A view inside
- LaGard Smith runs in a different circle than we do. That’s why I think we should send some time reflecting upon is comments. This is what he is seeing among his liberal brethren. If we think that we are facing hard issues, listen to the following: "How were we going to get the church growing again? In typical American fashion, many congregations first tried gimmicks. Everything from joy buses, to kitchens, to gymnasiums…But the competition became stiff…It was then that the Wal-Mart Syndrome set in. Out in the suburbs, yuppie families began to look for churches that met their felt needs. Translate that: a church with a good youth program for the kids; a dynamic, cutting-edge preacher; and an upbeat, exciting worship format…Dynamic congregations learned to do market surveys in yuppie neighborhoods to find out what people wanted in their church…For all that, we’ve begun to realize that we can’t compete on the same terms as the other mega-churches outside the churches of Christ. For many among the uninitiated,a cappella singing can’t match the musical extravaganzas of the big community church across town; nor, for the young people, the decibel level of their drums and guitars. Our concern with biblical guidelines regarding gender roles is out of step with a more gender-liberated ‘Christian community’ ("How are we going to keep our young women if we refuse to let them participate in leadership roles?"). And, most crucial of all, our historical insistence on baptism isn’t sufficiently tolerant to include just anyone who walks in the door claiming faith in Christ. So once again many are asking. What to do? How are we going to make the church grow in the current climate? In an era of non-ideological pragmatism, the answer is increasingly clear: become all things to all people that we might grow big churches. Talk less about specific ‘church doctrine’ and more about generic ‘Christian faith’. Change the name on the sign outside. Mimic the high-tech worship productions of the glitsiest churches" (pp. 55,56,57). He then adds, "With only rare exception (think long and hard about this…) every church that has expanded the role of women based upon the cultural argument is now struggling with pro-gay theology…If Scripture can’t be trusted in one part, there is doubt throughout. If we undermine the authority in the Epistles, we undermine its authority even in the Gospels" (pp. 60,61)