Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

That Works

That Works

The Bible is a book or a collection of books that over the centuries people have complained about or critiqued its teachings. Often the argument has been that what it commands simply will not work in the real world, or that there are all sorts of exceptions and extenuating circumstances, so that a black and white kind of command is impractical. As a result people have tended to put a lot of “what if’s” around Bible verses to the point that people feel free to ignore the command. For example, people have read Mark 16:16, in which Jesus places baptism prior to salvation, and instead of promptly being baptized, argue: “What if I die on the way to being baptized, will I be lost?” They cannot see how they could end up lost and so they conclude that baptism is not necessary to salvation, which is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught.


  • “Therefore laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).
  • “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murders and immoral peoples and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).  

In response, people have argued that there are many situations in which telling the truth would not work. What the Bible says works worlds better than trying to get around it.

  • When you tell the truth you do not have to exhaust yourself trying to remember what you have said to others. “Who did I tell what?” “What version of the story did I tell to whom?”
  • The wisdom of the world is that lying is the way to handle dangerous situations and people. Actually the opposite is true. Remember Abraham? He thought that deception was the way to handle a situation that he considered dangerous (Genesis 12:14-20), yet he almost lost Sarah and the Messianic hope in the process. So truth is the real mechanism for handling dangerous situations. 
  • As in the case of Abraham, lying can seem to solve a problem. But it like a Hydra’s head creates two others at the same time, and the problems it creates can be even more daunting and worse than what he was trying to avoid. You cut off one head and two more appear in its place. Far better to handle your one problem with the truth.
  • Being a liar is the same as being an actor. So when you are not telling the truth you are assuming a role that is not the real you. If I do that, then I will miss the adventure of my life. When you are lying in order to appease people, be popular, or fit in, then you are not being authentic. You are assuming the role that the world wants you to fill, instead of the role that God wants you to fill.
  • Lying also makes you a slave to human opinions. Better to tell the truth and then see who your real allies and friends are. Remember Lot. When Lot finally spoke up and admonished his neighbors he found that they were not his allies and that his peace in the city of Sodom had been a false peace (Genesis 19:7,9). These people were not his friends.
  • I need to be careful about creating situations or categories in which lying would be okay. Remember Ananias and Sapphira. They were struck dead for telling what most people would consider to be a rather harmless lie (Acts 5).

Remember Who Gave That Command

God is the author of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and God is all-knowing. God can see the end from the beginning and He can foresee all circumstances. Before He gave any command, He has already considered all the “what ifs”. So if He gives a command, He is telling you that the supposed what ifs are not the problem. For example, consider the following arguments:

“What about people who die on the way to being baptized?”

  • First, we don’t have any cases like this recorded in the Bible. Jesus knows every possible “what-if” and yet still commanded us to be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16). 
  • The problem that surrounds baptism is not dying in a car wreck or of a heart attack on the way to being baptized, rather, the problem that surrounds baptism is the human tendency to delay (Acts 2:40; 22:16). Falling tree limbs and car accidents are not the thing to fear. Rather, what is deadly is putting off being baptized and simply allowing one opportunity after another to pass by (Acts 22:15; 24:25).
  • If we say that God is going to save the person on the way to being baptized if something like a tree limb falls on them – then jump to the conclusion that this means that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Then the same argument could be used against any condition for salvation, including repentance, confession or faith. So what about the person who is going to hear the gospel, will believe, but a tree limb falls on them before they hear the gospel and believe, does that mean that the gospel and faith are not necessary for salvation?

“Suppose a man is in a desert and wants to be saved, yet there isn’t enough water to baptize him?”

  • Yet John the Baptist was baptizing in the Judean wilderness (which is a desert) and was baptizing all sorts of people (Matthew 3:1, 5-6).
  • Anywhere in the world where there isn’t enough water to be baptized is equally a place where man cannot survive physically. People who live in desert regions have wells, they have livestock, and there is enough water to bathe, clean, water their livestock, cook and to be immersed.
  • The man who is away from enough water to be baptized does not have to stay there. Saul waited for three days to hear a preacher command him to be baptized (Acts 9:9). Someone intent on being saved will find enough water in which to be baptized as soon as possible (Acts 8:36).

Pick Up Your Cross: Luke 9:23

There are times that people read passages in the Bible, such as Luke 9:23-24 and seek to argue that those passages either applied to the apostles or only to the early Christians, but for us we can opt for a more convenient version of following Christ. Such as being a good moral person, going to worship now and then and you will make it. Jesus instead says, “For whosoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24). 

  • Meaning, purpose and life is found in responsibility. It is not found in arguing for your rights, pursuing impulsive pleasure, or aiming for the bare minimum.
  • Take yourself out of your current state of predictability. New parts of you turn on when you push yourself against a maximum level of responsibility. What could you be if all that was good in you was turned on? Picking up your cross is the decision to turn on everything good in you.
  • Only when you are all in, can the darkness in you be eradicated (1 Peter 4:1ff). The only way to be successful against the darkness is to immerse yourself in the light (1 John 1:5ff).
  • If you play it safe, only accept a bare minimum of responsibility, just live for yourself, stay comfortable at all costs, you will never overcome sin. Sin is only broken in an all-out, gut busting, all in battle.
  • Come forward and take your place. The world will suffer if you do not step forward. That hole that you leave by the absence of your presence is going to be filled by something terrible – not something neutral, and that will be on you (Ezekiel 3:18).
  • Be willing to sacrifice all for the one thing that matters… the pearl of great price. So endeavor to become as courageous, mature, patient, joyful, holy, wise, dedicated, loving, and deep as you can be, one of whom the world is not worthy (Hebrews 11:38).

Mark Dunagan |
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017