|Volume 1||November 15, 2002||Issue 19|
Power In The Blood Continued
The last publication of Diligence considered the history of blood as God's method of atonement for the sins of mankind.We're now going to continue to look at the significance of blood as it relates to those who would choose to follow God's instructions in the world today. It might seem obvious to anyone that is familiar with the Bible, that blood specifically Christ's blood is central to atonement for us today. Those who claim Christ as their Savior acknowledge that He died on the cross and shed His blood for all mankind.
Beyond the acknowledgement that God loved us so much that he offered His Son as a blood offering, the teaching varies greatly. Anyone who makes any effort to understand the Bible will learn that "all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God" (Romans 6:23). Recognition of that is in conjunction with the fact that sin or transgression against God separates us from God. This severed relationship may become an eternal state if nothing is done on our part to acknowledge our sins and seek to access the shed blood of His Son and our Savior.
In the early Church it appears to be obvious that when individuals acknowledged their sin, repented, and sought Christ as their Savior, they were baptized for remission of sins, and they received the Holy Spirit. The relationship with God was restored. So why are there so many different teachings today?
There is a belief becoming more and more prevalent in today's world that water baptism for the remission of sins is not essential for our salvation. This approach says that if a person loves the Lord, s/he will be submissive to Him and be baptized as an act of obedience rather than as an act of salvation. This is in direct opposition to the purpose for which Christ died. Matthew 3:15 states that Jesus was baptized to "fulfill all righteousness." He later shed His blood for our sins. If we can simply duplicate His exact act then He would not have needed to shed His blood. Keep in mind that when He was baptized, the atonement for our sins did not exist. He had not yet become our sacrifice for sins. We must also realize that Jesus had no sins to forgive. Hence, His baptism was for a completely different reason than ours. We should note however that the Scriptures clearly state that even Jesus received the Holy Spirit at the moment of His baptism.
Remember in the previous issue of Diligence we discussed how God demanded that the offerings for sin atonement involved the sacrifice of the very best animal from the flock. We recall that those offerings were repeated on a regular basis. Those Old Testament offerings were the "shadow" to prepare us for the perfect sacrifice the sacrifice of the Son (or Lamb) of God whose blood would atone for our sins once and for all times. Let's read Hebrews 10:1-14.
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings You were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am it is written about Me in the scroll I have come to do Your will, O God.'" First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire, nor were You pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then He said, "Here I am, I have come to do Your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool, because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." (NIV)
To deny in any way this sacrificial offering that God has given to us, is to ignore and mock the reason for Christ's death, burial and resurrection. In issue 14 of Diligence (available on line web address listed at bottom of page 4), we included a small diagram illustrating the way in which Romans 6:3-7 tells us how being buried in the watery grave of baptism re-enacts the death burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is this re-enactment that allows us to rise from that watery grave of baptism to a new life in Christ with complete assurance that our sins are forgiven and that we have received the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. So why is there any misunderstanding concerning the need for water baptism for remission of our sins?
In our experience we have become aware of several reasons why a growing number of "christian" groups choose to teach something other than the fact that burial in the watery grave of baptism for remission of sins is essential for our salvation.
The first of some of those reasons may be that many believe that telling others that they are lost without Christ's redeeming blood is not a very loving thing to say to those individuals. The prevailing thought is that if we just show enough love toward others, they will eventually seek to find Christ and accept Him.
The second reason some reject the necessity of water baptism for salvation is in their words "a loving God would not send people to hell if they loved Him, followed His teachings to love one another, but rejected the necessity of baptism for remission of their sins."
The third reason is the idea that those of us who advocate that the Word of God speaks directly of salvation through the watery grave of baptism are simply judging all of those who do not believe the same as we do. It is along with this reason that it is often stated that "we believe we are the only ones who will go to heaven." Since no one wishes to be seen as judging others, many in the religious world have amended their belief to be acceptable to the greatest number of people.
Fourth, many of us have friends and/or family members that are (or were) good people, but lack(ed) any desire to become Christians in the manner that the New Testament prescribes. It's easy to reason that those friends or family members believe(ed) in God but just in a "different way" than we understand. We refuse to accept that those whom we love(ed) may be lost without the benefit of the blood of Christ. This is perhaps one of the greatest reason for the abbreviated teachings concerning the necessity of baptism today.
So what do we do with Jesus? Can we be saved by simply following Him in a loving way and showing love to others? Can we refuse to accept that we (and those with whom we come in contact) must die to our sins and put on Christ by being buried in the watery grave of baptism to rise and walk as new creatures. The Bible clearly teaches that we can't deny that we were "bought" with Christ's blood. Nor can we refuse to accept the method that God has instructed us to follow to access that shed blood (Rom. 6:3-14; II Peter 2:1-10; Matt. 7:21-23; Rev. 5:9 Hebrews 5:8-9). We also see clearly in Acts 2:38 that when we do this, the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to us, at the time we become this new creature in Christ.
In view of the four reasons listed above is it any wonder why there is so much division in the religious world today? It seems difficult however, to understand that something so clearly illustrated throughout all of the Scriptures is so abused. God had clearly indicated from very early in the beginning of time that there would be a method that He would use for sin atonement. Our study has revealed that God's plan allowing us to be saved through or because of the blood of His Son was there from the very beginning of time. He even instructed that those who lived in Old Testament times engage in a ritual involving the blood of a sacrifice to atone for their sins. God was telling us for thousands of years that His plan would involve the blood of a perfect sacrifice. Then in the New Testament He clearly "spells out" the exact method that we are to use in order to re-enact that blood offering of His Son on the cross for forgiveness of our sins. That specific act of water baptism is the way in which we clothe ourselves in that blood (Galatians 3:27 and Romans 6:3-7). Denying that plan is an abuse of Scripture that leads to a failure in understanding various other teaching as well. So much "hangs" on the acceptance of truly believing that what the Scriptures tell us will happens at the time we are baptized does happen! For example, Acts 2:38 tells us very clearly that we receive the "gift of the Holy Spirit" when we rise from the watery grave of baptism. Therefore no need exists to continue to pray that the Spirit of God will come to us after we have been baptized. God tells us that He sends His Spirit to dwell within us at the time of our immersion in the watery grave of baptism. An individual who has a need to pray that God will send His Spirit to us is rejecting all that God promised to us as a result of our acceptance of the act of water baptism for the remission of sins. Could it be that rejecting the manner that God instituted for us to have salvation voids the ability of the Holy Spirit to dwell in us. Why do we believe that God will send His Spirit to us in some sort of supernatural or special way when we refuse to accept the very method that He clearly has "spelled out" for us in His Word?
The word of God speaks of a "powerful delusion" (II Thes. 2:1-12). Could it be that this great delusion is that the Spirit will come to those who refuse to accept the facts concerning water baptism for remission of sins? We must not underestimate the power of the Devil. We know that he has the ability to transform himself into an "angel of light." (II Cor. 11:10-15) How could we possibly think we are showing love toward others by allowing anyone to miss the promise that is a part of salvation through the blood of Christ as received in the baptismal "grave"?
The greatest love that anyone can show is to lay his or her life down for another. In today's world, standing for absolute Biblical truth is laying our lives on the line. Teaching exactly what was taught in the New Testament is sure to bring opposition to things such as water baptism. If we shrink from teaching in favor of becoming friends with those we are given to teach, we place our comfort zone above truth. We add to the confusion about Christianity. It is not complicated. We make it complicated when we dare to interpret the Bible rather than read it just as it states.
The "christian crowd" is going a number of ways as they "modernize" salvation itself. Unfortunately its power can be lost and be replaced by a counterfeit that has all of the feelings but lacks the saving power. Nothing but the blood of Christ accessed through water baptism can remove our sins. Not closeness, not feeling good, not praise, not a moving worship service, not tears of sorrow. NOTHING but the blood of His Son can remove our sins and allow the Spirit of God to come and dwell in us. Nothing!