Saturday, June 25, 2022

Must We Be Baptized?


Photo by JGHowes 2007

An interesting question that came up in the Bible study of the Book of John that I am currently teaching: Why was Christ baptized if baptism is not a necessary step in the path to eternal life?  Jesus said He was fulfilling all righteousness (Matthew 3:15), and that He was perfect, and yet seemingly in need of baptism. Does this contradict our salvation by grace through faith alone? (Ephesians 2:8-9), as we are sinful and imperfect? Is it prideful to think that we do not also need baptism and works to be saved?.

Baptism doesn't make you saved any more than wearing a wedding band makes you married. Both are symbols of a deeper union. In the case of baptism, it is usually one of the first acts of obedience a Christian does once they are born again (John 3:3-8), as a symbol of their spiritual rebirth and belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

Baptism by immersion symbolizes the death and burial of Jesus as the believer is plunged under the water, and it also symbolizes the believer dying to his sin nature (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:2-7). When the believer is raised up out of the water, it symbolizes Christ's resurrection and also the believer becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Baptism shows those present that we are not ashamed to be followers of Christ, and that we are obedient to His Great Commission, which includes baptism (Matthew 28:19-20).

But baptism, or any works in general, are not necessary for salvation. To be saved, all we need is the freely given gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

Ephesians 2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

We cannot accomplish our own salvation, for we can add nothing to Christ’s completed work on the cross. However, once we are saved, obedience and good works, such as baptism, flow naturally out of our love for and gratitude to Him. Baptism and other good works are the fruit and evidence of our living faith (James 2:17-26).
When Philip preached about Jesus to the Ethiopian eunuch, he asked what would prevent him from being baptized, and Philip replied “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” After this confession of faith by the eunuch, Philip baptized him right away (Acts 8:26-38). This shows the proper order of being saved by believing and verbally confessing faith in Christ, Whom God raised from the dead (Romans 10:9) and then being baptized as an act of obedience.

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, who immersed Him in the river Jordan ((Matthew 3:13-17). Yet John protested before baptizing Jesus, for he clearly recognized long before that Jesus was far more powerful and holier than himself (Luke 3:16-17). Only Jesus would be able to baptize with the Holy Ghost, and only Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29,36). None of these powers were contingent on Jesus being baptized. In fact, John, Mary, and Elizabeth all recognized Jesus as their Savior before He was even born! (Luke 1).

We cannot use Jesus’ example in being baptized to prove that we must be baptized in order to be saved, any more than we can use His example in being circumcised (Romans 2:25-28), or keeping the Jewish feasts, or other works of the law that He kept and fulfilled (Matthew 5:17), as works necessary for our own salvation. The law saves no one, for no one can keep it completely.

The law is only a mirror showing us the extent of our shortcomings and our need for a Savior. As sinners before a righteous and holy God, we deserve eternal punishment in hell, which would be our fate if Christ had not paid our sin debt in full to reconcile us to the Father (Romans 3:20-26).

If baptism or any other works were necessary for our salvation, then the thief who repented and recognized Jesus as Lord just before he died on the cross would not have been saved. He had no opportunity to be baptized or to do any good works, yet Jesus said to him, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:40-43).

In a way, it is pride and unbelief that makes some think that God's grace is not enough to save their souls, and that they need to add their own good works to the amazing love and self-sacrifice Christ showed by dying for our sins. The Mormons like to say "We do our best, and Jesus does the rest." But Jesus freely gave Himself for us, and that is enough.

It is as if someone offered you a brand new Mercedes Benz as a gift, no strings attached, and you said -- "No, I want to help pay for it, so here is a penny." Thinking that our penny would make a difference would not only be prideful; it would also be insulting to the giver and would belittle the immense value of his gift. It is prideful to think that we could save ourselves by our good works, because the Bible says that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

Yes, we are all sinful and imperfect (Romans 3:10-23), before and after we are saved. We have no righteousness on our own, before or after baptism. But once we place our faith in Jesus, all His righteousness is imputed to our account, and all our sins are imputed to His account (Romans 4:6-8; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). So, praise God, when the Father looks at a believer, He no longer sees our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of His Son!

© 2012 Laurie Collett
Edited and reposted from the archives

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Our Father


As we in the United States celebrate Father’s Day, we honor our earthly fathers who love us, provide for us, train us, and were our first authority figures and role models (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:4). Sadly, not all fathers meet this ideal, and some children have never known their biological father or have even had a loving father figure involved in their upbringing.

Praise the Lord, the perfect Father is available to all who call on the Name of His Son (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). Once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), He gives us eternal life (John 3:16). At the moment of salvation, we are transformed from children of the devil to children of God, and we become part of God’s family and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17).

There is a popular misconception that all human beings are God’s children. Although all are God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-27), only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can call God their Father. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, the religious leaders of that time, because their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:1-9). Therefore He said that they were children of their father the devil and would do his bidding (John 8:41-44).

But for His followers and disciples who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and God Himself, Jesus taught us a beautiful prayer when asked how we should pray (Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:1-4). That model prayer is often referred to as the Lord’s Prayer, but that term is more appropriately applied to the prayer He prayed for all His followers in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before His crucifixion (John 17).

The model prayer has become so familiar that there is a danger it will be repeated by rote, without meditation on the beauty and meaning of each word. Jesus warned against such “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7).  However, those who have memorized it or will memorize it can surely benefit from slowly savoring each word that Jesus taught us to pray to the Father, in His Name, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 6:9 Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Our” reminds us of the awesome privilege born-again believers (John 3:3-8) have of being able to call God “Our Father.” This is a relationship we share not only with fellow Christians but with Jesus Christ Himself, for He is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), while we have been adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5).

Father” is a term that connotes the love and affection that we have for our Abba Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6), like the name “Daddy” used by a small child for the one who showers blessings upon her. She can come running into his arms when afraid or climb into his lap when lonely without fear of rebuke or rejection. Abba Father loves us infinitely (1 John 4:7-19), yet God is also the perfect, holy Father (Psalm 68:5) Whom we should fear and respect (Psalm 111:10), for He has perfect righteousness (John 17:25) and infinite power and wisdom (2 Chronicles 20:6; Psalm 62:11; 103:13; Job 36:5).

Which art in heaven,” tells us that God is on His heavenly throne (Psalm 45:6; 47:8), a vantage point from which He sees all, knows all, and sustains all (Psalm 139:80; Isaiah 40:28).

Hallowed be thy name” refers to praising God (Psalm 146:1-2) for His holiness, which is an essential component of any prayer (Psalm 72:15-19). We recognize the Name of God and of Lord Jesus Christ as the Name above all Names, and the only Name by which we may be saved (Acts 2:21, 4:12; Romans 10:13). All will one day honor His Name by confessing that He is Lord (Romans 14:11) – how much better to do it now, in loving prayer, than to defy Him until we are forced to face Him in terror of His judgment!

Thy will be done in earth” should also be included in every prayer, for the purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to bring our desires in alignment with His perfect will (Proverbs 3:5-6; Luke 22:42). Because He possesses all knowledge of all things past, present and future (Psalm 139:1-12), and because of His complete, self-sacrificing love for us (John 15:13; Jeremiah 31:3), His will for our lives is always perfect, even when we don’t like it or can’t understand it (Isaiah 55:9).

As it is in heaven” sets the absolute standard by which to gauge circumstances. In Heaven there is no pain, suffering, sorrow, aging, sickness, death, or sin (Revelation 7:17; 21:4). Our prayer should acknowledge that God’s will for us on earth is perfect, just as Scripture tells us that His will being done in Heaven results in the perfection found there.

Give us this day our daily bread” reflects the perfect gifts our Father freely gives us (Matthew 7:11). We do not pay for these gifts, work for them, or barter for them, any more than we can earn God’s freely given gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). He will provide for us if we ask Him daily for what we need each day. Like the manna with which God fed the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16), God’s blessings cannot be hoarded or stored, for His compassions are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” If we repent of our sins by asking God’s forgiveness, He is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9) and to separate us from our sins as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12). But in light of His great mercy and forgiveness, which He extends to all of us even though it was our sins that crucified Him, He desires that we forgive others in return (Matthew 18:15-35). This is possible only through the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), which is why we must pray for the power to forgive by yielding to Him (Ephesians 4:20-32).

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:” Scripture promises that God cannot tempt us with evil (James 1:13), and that whenever we are tempted, He will always provide a way for us to escape the temptation so that we do not sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). Resisting evil (James 4:7) and fleeing from temptation are not innate characteristics because of our sin nature (Romans 5:12), but are desired and can be accomplished only by yielding to the Holy Spirit. Praying to Our Father, in Jesus’ Name, through the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us the victory in the spiritual battle we fight daily (Ephesians 6:10-18).

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” To God be the glory, for He reigns supreme, and will allow us to rule with Him in the Millennial Kingdom! (Revelation 20:4,6). He alone is the source of all power, so He alone deserves our praise and can answer our prayers.

Praise God that no matter what our earthly father is or was like, we are His child and He is our perfect Heavenly Father. May we honor Him daily with our praise and prayers!

© 2018 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Dine at the Lord’s Table!


In my dream I am meeting my son at a party, but I arrive late.  Some guests are already leaving and servers are cleaning up, but there are still large buffet tables laden with food. I ask my son, who is a gourmet and knowledgeable about fine dining, if there is anything that I must try because it is so good, or anything I should avoid.

“No, you may not like it all, but it’s all good,” he says.

I go to get food but there are no clean plates, only dirty ones. I ask the server who is behind the table for a clean plate and he looks at me as if I have two heads. “Plate? Why would anyone want a plate?”

Rather than just take finger foods from the buffet table, I return empty handed to where my son is sitting. There is a lovely china teapot on the table, decorated with pink roses and fragrant with floral tea within. As I lift it to pour for my son, some noisy strangers approach the table and I hope they don’t join us, as I don’t know them and am hoping to have a quiet conversation with my son. 

As they prepare to sit down in the seat I had chosen and the neighboring seats, I feel anxious and my hand shakes, causing me to spill tea, pouring it not only into the delicate porcelain cup but onto the paper plate on which it rests. To my dismay, the hot tea begins to dissolve the paper plate.

Once I am awake, I begin to contemplate the meaning of the dream and realize that the banquet, or gathering of many people for fellowship and dining, could represent our Christian life once we are saved by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). 

I was born again (John 3:3-8) late in life, 18 years ago when my son was 10 years old, and he was saved shortly thereafter, responding in part to my testimony and witness. So I entered Christian fellowship relatively late, while he did so relatively early in life, just as he had come early to the party in my dream while I was the latecomer.

Our spiritual nourishment determines the growth we experience in our Christian life, just as a balanced diet nurtures our physical growth. As babes in Christ we begin with the milk of His Word (1 Peter 2:2-3), but as we grow, we should begin to digest the meat, or more substantive issues that may be more difficult to understand and follow (Hebrews 5:13).

But all that God sets before us in His Word is worthwhile (2 Timothy 3:16), allowing us to taste and see that He is good! (Psalm 34:8). If we cherry pick the verses that suit the lifestyle we desire but ignore those that convict us, we do so at our own peril.

The food at the table may also represent the experiences God allows into our life once we are saved, some enjoyable and others unpleasant, yet all necessary according to God’s perfect plan for our lives. As my son, whom I respect greatly for his intelligence and wisdom, pointed out, we may not like it all, but it is all good, for God works all things together for good in the lives of His children (Romans 8:28).

God gives us what we need when we need it, just as He supplied the Israelites with daily manna that they gathered from the ground and ate immediately, before it spoiled (Exodus 16). In my dream, plates were unnecessary, for there was an ample supply of finger foods to be freely eaten at the table. We are not to worry about storing up supplies for the future, for Jesus said to store up our treasures in Heaven instead (Matthew 6:19-20).

We can rest assured that He will provide for our daily needs (Psalm 37:25), for He knows what we need before we even ask Him (Matthew 6:8). Jesus told us to pray each day for our daily bread (Luke 11:3, Matthew 6:11) which He will bountifully supply (Philippians 4:19).

But in the dream I did not partake of the food offered, as I would have preferred to eat it at my own table in the company of my son. I believe God was warning me not to rely on my own preparations for the future, but to trust Him moment by moment (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Similarly, in the dream I shied away from fellowship with those I did not know, perhaps missing out on opportunities to bless and be blessed by fellow believers. Despite our differences, we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26-28).

Once we are saved, the fragrance of Jesus Christ, the Rose of Sharon (Song of Solomon 2:1), should emanate from our lives to bless others (2 Corinthians 2:15). Thankfully, God gave me the opportunity to encourage my son to follow Him, and I pray He would use me in this way in the lives of others, despite my shyness at times.

As I filled my son’s cup to overflowing in the dream, perhaps representing God’s abundant grace available through salvation (Psalm 23:5; 1 Timothy 1:14), the plate beneath dissolved, again reminding me that we cannot store God’s blessings. But thankfully, we don’t need to, for His mercies and blessings are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24).

The dream reminded me that whatever God has in store for us, it is part of His perfect plan (Jeremiah 29:11). We don’t need to worry about tomorrow or to isolate ourselves from fellow believers who may differ from us, for God brings new experiences and people into our lives in His perfect timing. May we step out of our comfort zone, be open to these divine appointments and follow His guidance to fulfill His intended purpose in our lives and in the lives of others!

© 2017 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Absent from the Bride


In a dream I had recently, my husband, son and I are attending the wedding reception of my childhood friend, who in reality was unmarried and has recently gone home to be with the Lord. The reception is held in the meeting room of a hotel, which looks more suitable for a business convention than a celebration. 

There are no decorations, music, or special lighting, and no signs of the bride, groom or wedding party. At each seat, instead of wedding favors, are clear plastic bags containing a mismatched assortment of advertising trinkets – a key chain, shoe shine cloth, pen and matches each bearing the slogan of a different company. There is a printed program, also containing ads, with an announcement stating “If anyone wishes to toast the wedding couple, they may do so for $15, payable in advance.”

A woman I don’t recognize comes over to our table and acts like we are long-lost friends, claiming that we worked together when I was Director of Nursing at a VA hospital, which I never was, nor did I ever even work as a nurse or an administrator. She says she is looking forward to my husband and I performing a solo dance in honor of the wedding couple, which is news to us, and we look at each other in surprise.

Before I can answer her, another woman comes over, carrying a sheet of pictures with my photo on it and photos of four other people, saying “Oh, you’re obviously the best person to do a toast.” Apparently she thought flattery would work on me when it hadn’t on the other four on her list, and it didn’t seem that she knew anything about any of us, even our names. She had been given the sheet of photos to identify the most likely suspects who might pay to give a toast to the wedding couple.

On the one hand, I think it is wrong for the host to ask for money from those who want the opportunity to publicly honor the bride, and I am even having second thoughts about the whole affair, which seems far more commercial than festive. But on the other hand, I want to publicly praise and honor the bride and groom, who, oddly, are still nowhere in sight, and I am concerned that they will be hurt if I forego the toast.

So I agree to do the toast, advance payment and all, and excuse myself to freshen up before I am called to the podium. As I stand up, I realize in horror that my gown is a mess. It is bright pink taffeta, the color of bubble gum, and way too long, so that I’m afraid I’ll trip over it. Even worse, there is a large, dark stain across the bodice.

As I awaken in a panic I begin to consider the meaning of the dream, which I believe was warning me about the need for a right spirit within the church, or bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23-32). One day, I hope and believe very soon, all those who are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) will attend the most important wedding celebration of all time. 

At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9), we will celebrate the eternal union of Christ the Bridegroom with His bride, namely the called-out assembly of born-again believers (John 3:3-8), or the church. This will occur in Heaven after the Rapture of the church, when Jesus calls us home and meets with us in the air, along with the Old Testament saints who were saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) before Jesus’ resurrection, and those New Testament saints who went home to be with Him before the Rapture. 

These two groups will be resurrected into glorified bodies and ascend to meet Jesus in the air. Immediately thereafter, those believers who are still living will be instantly transformed into glorified bodies and also rise to meet Jesus and the resurrected saints (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).

When Jesus had His last Passover meal with His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion, He said that He would not drink the fruit of the vine again until He drank it with them in the kingdom of God (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25). I believe He was referring to that Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where Jesus Christ will be united with His bride the church, and all the Old Testament and Tribulation period saints will be in attendance.

In the meantime, He commanded His apostles to remember the promise of salvation through His shed blood and broken body each time they shared a meal or Communion together (Luke 22:19-20). Communion therefore remembers the past, completed sacrifice Jesus made to pay for all our sins; honors the present fellowship of the bride of Christ with Him and with one another; and anticipates the future Marriage Supper of the Lamb (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

Communion with fellow members of the bride of Christ should be filled with service to and love for one another, and remembrance, love and honor for Jesus Who paid our sin debt in full (Hebrews 10:10) so that we can eagerly look forward to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb and blissful eternity to follow.

The apostle Paul warned the church at Corinth not to take part in communion lightly, and to reflect on our relationship with Christ and with one another to restore any wrong attitudes before we partake in this fellowship (1 Corinthians 11:16-22,27-34). I believe that the dream was warning me that if we’re not careful, individual churches can lose sight of the Church, the dearly beloved Bride of Christ for whom He died (Ephesians 5:25), and even of Christ Himself (Revelation 2:4).

My husband and I are blessed to be part of a loving, Bible-based, Christ-honoring church that prays for and ministers to our members, visitors, community, and global missions. The precious Name of Jesus is exalted at every service and His Word is preached, taught and sung. But there is a disturbing trend among many churches to forget their identity as part of the bride of Christ, and to incorporate worldly traditions and ideals in their services, meetings, and community interactions (1 Corinthians 11:16-22).

The strangest part of my dream was the absence of the bride and groom at their own wedding celebration. Christ, the Bridegroom, has promised that if two or more are gathered in His Name, He will be in their midst (Matthew 18:20). But if churches honor others instead of Him, His Spirit may no longer grace their meetings with His presence.

I was shocked and saddened recently to see a large, expensive advertisement for a church Easter celebration that not once mentioned the Name of Jesus, His Resurrection, or plan of salvation. Instead, it spoke of “celebrating the new you” and featured a large head shot and name of the musical guest artist. It boasted “no ticket needed,” for in fact this service seemed to be more about a concert honoring a singer, than a worship service praising our risen Savior.

In my dream, even the bride was absent. If churches are not careful, their meetings will become little more than social networks to catch up on the latest news, fashion and gossip, rather than to strengthen fellow believers in their faith and understanding of Scripture (Hebrews 10:25) and to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2) and share their joys. In such meetings, the true Bride of Christ is missing, for the “church” members are relating to one another as they would to unsaved acquaintances, focusing on worldly things and not on Jesus.

Some churches today are so large that most of the members do not know one another, which may deprive the members of accountability and opportunity for Christian friendship. In my dream, even the hostess appeared to lack any genuine relationship with or even knowledge of the guests.  

Not surprisingly,  the atmosphere in my dream was impersonal, drab, lifeless, and lacking the joy (Psalm 21:1; 35:9) and hope (1 Peter 1:3) that should perfume the air (Hebrews 1:9) at any wedding celebration, and especially one honoring the union of Christ and His bride. As is common in the world, commercialism prevailed, with advertising gimmicks and even fees charged to honor the bride and groom.

Many “Christian” organizations charge dues or require “suggested” donations, and many churches not only regularly sell merchandise, beverages and food but have become meccas of multi-level marketing. I wonder, if Jesus were walking the earth today, if He would throw down the sales racks, cash registers and catalogs and chastise the churches for becoming a den of thieves instead of a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).

Sadly, some church budgets seem to prioritize branding, giveaways and worldly entertainment to draw in large numbers, preferably the wealthy. Meanwhile, they neglect the poor and hurting in the community whom Jesus has called us to serve (James 1:27; 2:1-9); they overlook sound doctrinal teaching (2 Peter 2); and they omit the Name of Jesus (Acts 4:12) and His shed blood from their music, which is designed to soothe itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3) rather than to glorify Him (Psalm 95:1).

Those who attempt to serve at such world-oriented churches may find that they have to pay for the privilege, or that the churches are hiring paid musicians and denying their own members service or even giving opportunities. I heard of someone who joined a megachurch and reported excitedly, “They’re so rich that we don’t even have to tithe!”

How sad that “church” members would be led to miss out on the blessing God has promised (Malachi 3:8-12) to those who faithfully obey His Word, including the tithe! But much of today’s “church” has become like the church at Laodicea, rich in goods but poor in spirit, causing Jesus to be nauseated by their lukewarm attitude and wrongly placed self-sufficiency (Revelation 3:14-22).

In such a setting, the lost are unlikely to be saved, and even saved believers will not thrive spiritually. Every believer should be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, shining and spotless as a wedding garment (Isaiah 61:10). But many at such churches will be left behind when Christ returns for His bride, and they will be ashamed at their ill-fitting, inappropriate, sin-stained garment (Matthew 22:1-14).

May we not forget our first love! May our hearts burn with passion for Him and for one another, honoring Christ and His bride until He comes again! 
© 2017 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives