Keeping It Simple

Many have a poor view of Christianity because they see it as complicated. Understandably so because in one small town, you have over 50 churches all having different beliefs, different practices, different paths to salvation; yet, all churches claim they are following the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Are their 50 different ways to enter Christ’s Kingdom? Jesus says no. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber… Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them’” (John 10:1,7-8). The Lord says that He is the only door that leads to salvation. There are other doors available, but they are like thieves and robbers. These doors deceive you into believing they lead to Jesus when they actually lead to something else.

Paul talks about this issue with the Corinthians. Paul had taught them the gospel years ago, but men began teaching different things from what they had heard from the Apostle themselves.
“Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2 For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4 For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2nd Cor. 11:1-4)

These that preached another Jesus had corrupted the simplicity that is in Christ. That isn’t to say that everything that Christ taught was easy and quick to understand. It means that the Lord set up the gospel where everyone and anyone could understand it. Men who get involved creating the gospel just complicate things.

Paul gives the example of how Satan complicated the one rule God had for Adam and Eve in the garden. God told Adam if you eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, you will die. It is very simple: eat of this tree, you die. Satan comes in and deceives Eve into believing that God’s simple rule had some other principles that Eve did not know about. Satan first says that God’s warning was an empty threat. He says if you eat of the tree, you with NOT die! How often do we read New Testament passages today and people clarify God’s warnings with saying “God would never do that,” “God will not actually do that,” or “He is just testing us here.” Well, to keep things simple, Satan did the same thing. He then told Eve that if she ate, she would become like God. So now he makes things even more complicated by saying that this sinful behavior, that God specifically said not to do, is going to make her Godly. Satan corrupted the simplicity that is in God’s law.

When we read a passage in the New Testament, we come to an understanding of what it simply says. If someone tells us that there are more principles not listed there that nullify that passage, let us be warned of great possible danger. Let us ask him to show us in God’s word where God nullifies that passage. If he cannot produce a bible passage to prove his point, then it is possible that he is corrupting the simplicity that is in Christ. Instead, let us always consult God’s word for what we believe. Paul says that scriptures were given to us by God to equip us with every good work. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) Let us keep things simple and allow God to be the final authority on His will.

—Andrew Smith

Did Jesus Start Denominations?

“Neither pray I for these [disciples] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (Jesus, John 17:21-22)

It goes without saying that many people assume that any church that believes in Jesus must have been started by Jesus. Our society thinks that Baptist, Methodist, Mormons, etc., are all part of Christ’s Church. But there are serious questions that must be asked and answered in light of the New Testament teachings if one holds this position. Let’s look at a few necessary questions in this short article.

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Thomas’ Doubt

Many give Thomas a hard time for wanting to see the resurrected Jesus before he believed. Some even call him “Doubting Thomas” to illustrate his skepticism. However, Thomas’ doubt is powerful evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Paul explains to the Corinthians that the whole gospel hangs on the resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection did not happen, then Jesus was not the Son of God and His sacrifice was void.

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A Cross Of Hate And Love

The title above might seem strange at first glance, but the Bible does explain that the cross has multiple meanings. God hates sin and the cross was the sacrifice the Son of God had to make to satisfy God’s hatred for sin. God loves mankind, and for this reason, He gave His only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place for our offenses.

The Bible says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” or cross (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13). God hates sin so much that he sent His Only Begotten Son to bear our sins on a rugged cross, thus becoming sin for us. “For He made Him who knew no sin (Jesus) to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). You see, sin separates man from God (Isaiah 59:21). When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, it changed their lives forever. Instead of walking and talking freely in fellowship with God, there was a barrier that now existed between them—a barrier known as sin which God hates. The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus, who lived a sinless life, had to die and become the perfect, once for all sacrifice to satisfy God’s hatred for sin. On the cross, Jesus was in so much agony that He cried out those horrifying words: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46). For six, long, grueling hours of the most cruel suffering, God laid the sins of mankind on the body of Jesus Christ. “He shall see the labor of His soul and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many…” (Isaiah 53:11).

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One Spirit Baptized

1 Corinthians 12:13 mentions “by one Spirit” we were all baptized into one body. What does this mean? It means that Christians came to be baptized into Christ BY the influence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, none of us would have been immersed in water in the name of Jesus Christ except that we listened to what the Spirit commanded. It was not BY my own wisdom or desire. I never would have been baptized in the name of the Lord except I came under the teaching and directing influence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit tells us the truth about how to come into the body of Christ. The Law of Moses did not tell me to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The faith of Jesus Christ as revealed and directed by the Holy Spirit is the ONLY reason anyone was ever baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The 3,000 Jews that repented and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38-41) would never have done so except that the Spirit through Peter urged them to. The Ethiopian Eunuch would never have been baptized in Acts 8:33f except that the Spirit through Philip had taught and urged him to. Cornelius and his household would never have been baptized in water in the name of the Lord in Acts 10:47-48 except the Spirit through Peter taught and commanded them to. You see it is BY one Spirit, the same Holy Spirit teaching, that we are ALL baptized into one body.

Here is what happens when we are baptized in the name of the Lord. 1) We are immersed in water by the authority of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:33f; Acts 10:47-48). 2) Going into this baptism in water we repent of sins (Acts 2:38) or “die to sin”(Rom.6:3-5). As we are doing this BY the Spirit’s influence, God is also doing the most important part. He is cutting our sins away (Col.2:12), remitting our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), and adding us to His church (Acts 2:47) or placing us in the spiritual body of Christ, the church (1 Cor.12:13; Gal.3:26-27). This all happens when we are immersed in water in the name of the Lord. When we are immersed in Jesus’ name, we have “faith in the operation of God”(Col.2:12f) that He will do the work of circumcision without hands. What does He cut away? He cuts away our sins. We do not cut our own sins away. God does this. But, God does this when we are immersed as the Ethiopian Eunuch, as the 3,000 Jews on Pentecost, and as Cornelius. We are ALL baptized into one body, the church of Christ, by the direction of ONE SPIRIT.

This is what Jesus said in the great commission. Go preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16:15-16). This is carried out by the disciples teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt.28:19). Remember, this is in the element of WATER (Acts 10:47-48). It is done “in the name of the Lord” and it is done “BY” the influence of One Spirit. This one baptism began to be preached and practiced by direction of the Spirit in Jerusalem, and was to keep going to “all nations”. It did not cease short of “every creature”. It is the one baptism of Eph.4:5. Do you hear what the Spirit says about the baptism Jesus commanded?

—Terry W. Benton

Time To Come Back Home

Jesus, our Lord, knew that many would follow Him. He also knew that of those that followed many would eventually turn back to the world. So, Jesus set up provisions for them so they could repent again and return. He spent time teaching directly to His fallen followers and helped them understand that He was merciful, longsuffering, and greatly wished for them to return home to Him. In Luke 15, Jesus speaks directly to the fallen and give three parables of those returning home.

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Marvelous Light

Peter was writing his first general letter, it is believed, between 58-62AD and from the book and knowledge of the time there was growing persecution against Christians. Persecution gets tiring and wears one down. Peter reminded these Christians that God “called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). It was light in the heart where we sometimes feel overwhelmed with darkness. When we are rejected by others, and we know we did nothing but good and do not deserve the rejection, we have two options: 1) Let their dark behavior and ignorance flood our hearts so that we see nothing else, or 2) we can let “the Light of the world,” Jesus, dominate our thoughts. The darkness is easier to forget when we have someone so wonderful who loves us and thinks we are worth dying for.  The “marvelous light” on the inside must not be allowed to go out by letting the darkness of people’s ignorant rejection of you overwhelm the “marvelous light.” It is “marvelous light” regardless of what is happening to you at the hands of ignorant people. Their darkness must not diminish your light. Your light must carry you through the darkness of this world.

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What Is Truth?

Pilate asked Jesus that question at the Lord’s trial. Jesus had already given the answer in the previous verse: “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Beforehand, Jesus made arguably His most famous statement that also was about truth: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). There are two inferences we can make from Jesus’ words.

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Hebrews: As You See The Day Approaching

The book of Hebrews was written to encourage Christians who were being persecuted and discouraged in their faith. The trials and discouragement was predicted by Jesus. He told His disciples of the hardships that His disciples would experience prior to the fall of Jerusalem (as recorded in Matthew 24). Before the fall of the Jerusalem temple, famines and persecutions would bear down upon the disciples of Jesus and the “love of many would grow cold” (Matt.24:8-12). This prediction was made in about AD 30 and the fall of Jerusalem was completed in AD 70, 40 years later. The years of 66-70 AD were especially difficult years. Because of the signs Jesus gave in Matthew 24 regarding the fall of Jerusalem and what would take place just before that fall, the disciples would know the signs to look for, and these would signal to them when to leave the city of Jerusalem. So Hebrews was written just prior to the fall of Jerusalem encouraging the brethren to stay strong and beware “least there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Heb.3:12). The Christians were to encourage one another and “so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb.10:24-25). What day could they see approaching? The day of the final fall of Jerusalem, the center of Judaism, and the place from which Christians needed to be prepared to escape when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by the Roman armies (Luke 21:16-22).

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Overview of Romans

Romans is a great book for the new Christian convert to read through. Paul explains the meaning of our salvation and what God expects from us now. The book of Romans can be organized into five simple parts:

  • First, Paul covers the problem of sin and our unrighteousness (1-3).
  • Next, he speaks about the provision made for those who desire to be righteous—God’s salvation (4-5).
  • Third, Paul talks about pursuing righteousness with all our might (6-8).
  • Fourth, he explains the selection of God, choosing the humble of the world to respond to His gospel call (9-11).
  • Finally, Paul concludes with the practices of righteousness—loving one another, giving, showing mercy, and doing good to our enemies (12-16).

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