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Is A Person Saved By Water Or By The Grace Of God?

While people often pose this question, the Bible does not teach that it is an either/or proposition. A person is saved by the grace of God when that person meets the conditions of His grace. One of those conditions happens to be baptism in water for the remission of sins. But a lot of people today do not want to meet God*s conditions. Some want to deny that God has even given any such conditions. If He hasn*t, then everyone would be saved. God has given us the freedom to choose to be saved or lost. Those saved will be saved by grace for no one can earn their salvation. But God*s grace will not overlook the command I will not obey.

Titus is a good book to turn to in response to this question. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Tit. 2:11). God’s grace is His doing for us that which we did not deserve and which we could not do ourselves. God so desired our salvation that He gave us what we needed, but could never deserve…a savior. But not all will be saved for grace has to be appropriated by man through the conditions revealed by God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). What God does for us is a matter of grace: the death of Christ, His blood, and His gospel. What we do in response to His grace is by faith. That is our part. Too many want to claim the grace of God without the response of faith, but it cannot be done. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

Now look at Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” We are not saved by works of righteousness but according to the mercy of God. Does this mean we are saved by the mercy of God and not without any conditions at all? Not at all! Paul says God saved us by the washing of regeneration. The washing of regeneration is baptism in water. Notice that by this we are saved. We are saved by the washing of regeneration. God saves us when we meet His conditions of salvation. The phrase “wash away thy sins” was used by Ananias in Acts 22:16 in his conversation with Paul. In both phrases, the word “wash” is used showing the connection of water with the removal of sins. It is the blood that washes away our sins spiritually when we are baptized in water for their remission (Acts 2:38). It is only after this “washing of regeneration” that Paul can speak of us as “having been justified” and heirs of the hope of eternal life (v7)

Some people have been taught error on baptism so long that they have come to classify baptism as a work of righteousness and contend that we are not saved by such works (Eph. 2:8,9). But note here that the washing of regeneration is NOT a work of human merit. It is contrasted with such. Thus, baptism stands in contrast to works of human merit and is excluded from them. The two are not in the same category. Baptism is not a meritorious act of human effort. It is the final condition in God’s plan for saving man which includes faith (Jn. 8:24), repentance (Lk. 13:3), and confession (Rom. 10:10). It is the means by which God cleanses the alien sinner from sin (Acts 22:16). While the blood of Christ is the cleansing agent, baptism in water is the place in which this operation of God occurs. “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).

— Mike McDaniel

What About The Rapture?

The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible. It comes from the Latin word “rapere” which means to seize and carry away. Thus, the rapture is supposed to refer to a time when the Lord will come for the righteous dead and living, and take them to be with Him for a period of seven years.

What does the Bible say? “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). The Bible teaches that Jesus will come again and that the saints will be caught up to be with Him. But it does not say that the saints shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air only to return after seven years. Rather it says, “and so shall we EVER BE with the Lord.”

Those believing the Rapture theory cannot understand why the expression “as a thief in the night” would be used with reference to our Lord’s coming if a secret coming is not suggested by it. However, the Lord’s coming is compared to that of a thief’s only because both will arrive at an unknown and unexpected time (Mt. 24:44). In 2 Peter 3:10, the Bible teaches that the Lord will come like a thief on the same day that the earth will burn! How then can this coming of the Lord be secret and how can the wicked be left here for seven years? On the day that Christ comes every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7). On that great and final day the trump of God will sound the wake-up call for everyone in the grave (2 Thess. 4:16,17; Jn. 5:28,29). Rather than a secretive coming, this sounds like quite a noisy event, doesn’t it?

According to this theory, during the seven years after Christ secretly comes, the saints will be at peace with Christ while sinners will be in great tribulation. But Jesus taught in the parables of the tares and of the fishnet that there will be no separation of the good and evil until the end of the world (Mt. 13:49, 50).

Friends, the Bible teaches that on that great day of the Lord, there will be no secretive “rapture” of the saints. It will indeed be sudden (1 Thess. 5:26), but there will be nothing secretive about it.

How sad it is that many are basing what they believe about the end of the world on the latest popular premillennial book to come from the press and not from the Book of books.

— Mike McDaniel

Church Membership

Acts 9:26 says, “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” Today we often hear the phrase “join the church.” Did Saul “join a church” as we hear it spoken of today?

In Acts 2 we read of the beginning of the Lord’s church. There we find two things: (1) people being saved in obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:38), and (2) these same people being “added” by the Lord to His church. Acts 2:47 says, “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” According to the New Testament, what a person does to be saved, he does to obtain membership in the Lord’s church. Becoming a member of the church of Christ is not a matter of comparing several religious groups, deciding which suits one best, and then applying for membership or “joining up.” Rather, it is a matter of obeying the Gospel, at which time the Lord Himself immediately adds you to His body, the church. This is the only means of entering the church of Christ.

Since that is the case, and since Saul had already been added by the Lord to the church, what was he attempting to do here? The word church is also used in a local sense to refer to Christians who assemble and work together in a given community. A Christian is a member of Christ’s body,…he is baptized in one body, but he is not a member of every local congregation around the world. When Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples at Jerusalem, he was simply seeking to become identified for the time being with them. He had already been added by the Lord to His church, but he was seeking to work and worship with that local church.

Likewise, when we obey the Gospel and are added by the Lord to His church, we then need to assemble and work with a local, faithful, congregation of God’s people. We need to submit ourselves to a local eldership (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2). There is no doubt that for our good, for the good of others, and for the good of the kingdom, God desires that we make known our intentions to be a part of a faithful local congregation of His people. This can be made known by letter or by announcement.

The Meaning of “Personal Work”

“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

As Christians, we should be concerned about working for the Lord because of His infinite grace in our lives. All work for the Lord should be “personal work.” Sometimes we may use that phrase just for the work of evangelizing the lost or seeking to restore the fallen. But when you think about it, all work for the Lord should be “personal work.” Yet often, it is not. Many do not take it personally.

Jesus knew that the Lord*s work is “personal work.” Jesus and His Father had a personal work to do. “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (Jn. 5:17). Christ came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28). Christ’s work was summed up by Peter in Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Jesus realized that He must work. Question: If Jesus, the Son of God, had to work while here on earth, what about us??? Surely we must conclude that we must work also! Our text stresses to us the importance of our personal work.

The idea that salvation is of grace and not of works has led many to think that there is no necessity for work. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” That passage is not suggesting that the Christian does not have work to do. That has reference to meritorious works, works of merit wherein people falsely think they can earn their own salvation. No one can work their way to Heaven. God’s grace, His favor toward us is unmerited. There is nothing we have done or ever will do that can earn our salvation. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Lk. 17:10). The Lord does not encourage us to try to work our way to Heaven. However, He does demand that we do the works commanded of us. We must obey the commands of the Lord and do his will to be saved.

James 2:17-18 says, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” A question that we should ask concerning our faith is this: Is it active or inactive? Do we have faith-in-action or faith inaction? Do we have a faith that demonstrates itself by action or do we possess a faith that is characterized by inaction? Paul exhorted the Galatians to have a faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6). He reminded the Ephesians of the need for an active faith when he said, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Those listed in Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 are remembered because their faith was active. By faith Abel offered; Noah prepared an Ark; Abraham obeyed and sojourned; Abraham offered up Isaac; and the list goes on and on. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys. It is the faith that works. If we would be pleasing to God, we must have a faith that is active. We must perform.

Once while Fritz Kreisler, a great violinist, had several hours to spend between trains, he went into a music store. He laid his violin case, which had his name on it, on the counter. The storekeeper, seeing the name, thought that the musician’s violin had been stolen, and called the police. Upon their arrival, they went about to arrest Kreisler, thinking that he was a thief. All the time, Kreisler insisted that he was not the thief, but that he was the real Fritz Kreisler. Finally, he asked the storekeeper if he had one of Kreisler’s recordings. He did, and the record was played. Upon completion of the record, Kreisler opened the case, removed the instrument and played the same piece. The storekeeper and the policemen immediately knew that he was the real Kreisler. His performance proved his profession. We profess to be Christians. The only way we can prove it is by performance. Does our faith cause us to work for Jesus?

The book of Titus emphasizes “personal work.” “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Tit. 3:1). “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Tit. 3:8). “And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (Tit. 3:14). We have our own personal work to do.

Paul likens the church to a physical body. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:27). Like the physical body, each member has a part to play. Paul said that every joint supplieth something to the body (Eph. 4:16). There will be differences as far as abilities, opportunities, and even desires; but all are expected to do their share of the work. The work of the church is for every member of the body of Christ. Every Christian must take it “personally.”

“Once upon a time there were four men named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to do it. But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. But Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about it, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, and Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody, and Nobody did the job that Anybody could have done in the first place.” Each Christian has his own personal work to do. Jesus said, “I must work.” Friends, this is what “personal work” really means!

— Mike McDaniel

Out Attitude At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of all. It highlights the home and family. It is a time of quiet reflection upon the past and an annual reminder that God has ever been so faithful to us.

It is also a good time to examine ourselves and see if our attitude is as it should be. A good attitude begins with gratitude to God. Most of us are fond of doing our share of complaining, griping, and grumbling. With that kind of attitude, we probably see few blessings. Why? Because our attention is focused on the negative rather than the positive.

Some people fail to see how serious such a negative disposition can be upon their home, upon their work environment, and certainly upon the local church. That we might see the seriousness of such, take a look at the following verses:

“And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burnt among them” (Num. 11:1-3).

Here is a striking example of God*s disapproval of the grumblers and fault-finders. God had blessed them by sending them a great leader in Moses, by bringing them out of the bondage of Egypt, by providentially caring for them, and leading them this far on the way to Canaan. But they had a bad and sinful attitude. How often do the problems of the present, blind us to the blessings of the present?

Notice what they had said in Exodus 16:3, “And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Sitting by the flesh pots, eating bread to the full hardly seems to be a fitting description of them suffering as slaves under hard taskmasters. But this is typical of murmurers and grumblers. They will often portray present things in the worst possible light and portray past things in the best possible light. In the Israelite complainers, we see how distorted their perspective was. How often do the problems of the present, blind us to the problems of the past? How is your perspective? Are you often guilty of doing something similar?

Psalm 106:24-25 lists three sins that kept the Israelites in the wilderness and out the Promised land for many years. “Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord.” They despised the blessings of the promised land. They did not believe God*s word that all would be well there. They did not heed God*s voice of direction. Instead, they chose to sat in their tents and complain. As a result, God led them around in circles in the wilderness. God wanted to bless His people, but their bad attitude would not let Him. As a result, God did not allow most of that generation to enter the land.

What do we learn? We see that grumblers have a negative effect on themselves, on God*s people, and even on God. Are we impoverishing ourselves when God is longing to bless us with His best, but cannot due to our terrible attitude? Think about this: if our words of complaint and grumbling over the past eleven months of 2004 were placed alongside our expressions of gratitude to God and others, how truly thankful would we appear?

Remember the words of Paul in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

Someone has written:

“When things go wrong, I would not be a grumbler,

Complaining, seeing everything as grim:

For when I think of how the Lord has blessed me,

I cannot help but give my praise to Him.”

Make no mistake about it, a good attitude begins with gratitude to God.

— Mike McDaniel