WEEKLY CHRISTIAN BIBLE STUDY AND DEVOTIONAL FROM GOD’S WORD, FOR THE NEWLY SAVED AND MORE SEASONED BELIEVER, AND FOR OTHERS SEEKING TRUTH. OUR PRAYER IS TO ENCOURAGE YOU AND STRENGTHEN YOUR FAITH IN GOD’S INFINITE MERCY, LOVE AND GRACE, AND IN THE GOSPEL OF THE DEATH, BURIAL AND RESURRECTION OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, THAT ALL WHO SEEK HIM HAVE ETERNAL, ABUNDANT LIFE.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
6:9 Our Father which art
in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
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
“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!
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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