Attracting A Crowd

A couple of writings have caught my attention recently. Both concerned preachers and gathering a crowd. The Bible says, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). These words well describe what I read in these two writings.

Wow and Entertain Us

In the religion section of the Marshall News Messenger, Saturday, Sept. 10, 2005 – there appeared a story entitled, “Falling by the Wayside?” It was written by AP religion writer Rachel Zoll. This story was about how increasingly difficult it has become to draw a crowd to a religious event in this day and age. Traditional approaches do no longer seem to be working.

However, the story went on to spotlight some things which appeared to be working. It mentioned a Luis Palau of Portland, Oregon. He has seen an increase in attendance at his festivals.  What has he done? He’s “brought in Christian rock bands and extreme sports like skateboarding and BMX riding, and put up a food court in the middle of all the activity.”   T.D. Jakes, the head of the Potter’s House, a 30,000 member church in Dallas, Texas was also spotlighted. The story said, “Each year, Jakes holds Megafest, a four-day gathering that regularly draws more than 100,000 people, that has included a comedy jam, a fashion show, exercise and sports programs and other family entertainment.”

What these men are wittingly or unwittingly saying is that the Gospel is not enough. We should lure people to us with a carnival, X-games, or State Fair-type atmosphere and then preach to them a little.

Question: When did Jesus or the Apostles ever use such bait and switch tactics? Did Jesus ever draw the people by holding a boat-rowing contest on Galilee, or a fishing seminar by Peter, James, John and Andrew?

There is no authority for such tactics. Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).   Paul himself said, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We are to sow the seed. When the pure seed falls on a good and honest heart, it will produce a Christian. This is where the power is and there is no authority to attract anyone by any other means.

Make Us Feel Good

In the August, 2005 issue of Texas Monthly, William Martin had a feature on Joel Osteen, in fact it was the cover story. The story was entitled “And on the Eighth Day God Created Joel Osteen” or “Prime Minister.” Osteen preaches in Houston at the Lakewood Church, a church of 30,000 members and a 60 million dollar contribution per year.

What is his appeal? Why can he attract so many to church services? He makes people feel good about themselves.

(1) They tell folks that God wants to enrich them. Joel’s wife, Victoria, said in the interview, “If you look through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, every person who served Him faithfully, God blessed financially.” The writer goes on to say, “When I asked her about… Jeremiah who spent his time at the bottom of a well and died in captivity and Stephen who was martyred and Paul who made tents to support his missionary activities, she backed up a bit, noting that she had been thinking mainly about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Folks, if the Gospel of health and wealth is true – then, why does one read of the poor widow casting in all the had? – And, shouldn’t Jesus and the Apostles have been extremely wealthy men, the wealthiest the world has ever known?

(2) He preaches a message which does not produce guilty feelings. Joel says, “When I talk about sin, I may call it ‘making bad choices.’ People get so used to being beat over the head. I don’t come from that side. I come from the encouraging side.”

Consider how Peter preached: “God hath made this same Jesus whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). It is at this point they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). In his next recorded sermon he told the audience, “Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15).

Jesus and John preached the same: John said, “the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). He told them, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Jesus said, “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” (Matthew 23).

We are to proclaim both the goodness and severity of God (Romans 11:22). One wonders how many people attend church services but, never realize that they are in a lost condition or, what to do about this fact – due to preachers who don’t want to offend. They are sending them to hell blissfully ignorant of their true state before God!

(3) He is extremely non-judgmental. When he appeared on Larry King Live in late June, King asked him about the fate of Jews and Muslims, who “don’t accept Christ at all.” Joel replied, “I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know… I just think only God will judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all their religion. But I know they love God… I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know.” (Note: He’s since back-tracked to say, “Jesus is the only way to Heaven.” They posted this on their website after numerous complaints came into their office. Okay Joel, but does this mean that those who do not accept Jesus to be the Christ, confessing this fact and obeying Him, are lost?)

(4) He takes no position on controversial ethical subjects (such as abortion and homosexuality). He says, “I don’t know the answers, even on abortion. Somebody asked me what I think of stem-cell research. I had to say, “I don’t know.” I’ve heard people talk about it both ways. I don’t think a homosexual lifestyle is God’s best way, but I’m not going to tell [homosexuals] they can’t come to our church. I’m going to be wide open for them.”

Joel, I too welcome the homosexual to attend with us, but, I will teach him the truth about his lifestyle, will you? I’ll do it in love, but I’ll do it. I will not play the role of a politician avoiding taking a controversial position, I’ll keep back nothing profitable (Acts 20:20, 27). By the way, homosexuality isn’t God’s way at all.

Easy on the Scriptures please, Something New

The same writer, William Martin, had much to say about the content of Osteen’s sermons.

(1) His sermons are more positive thinking than an actual study of a Bible text or a Bible look at a given subject. Several times the writer pointed out how little scripture was used. For instance, “Joel readily acknowledges that he is not an exegetical preacher who begins with a passage of Scripture and expounds upon its meaning for his congregation.”  He mentions a 1999 Easter sermon where Joel “told a series of amusing stories about his family, even admitting that they had little to do with the drama of resurrection.” The writer says Joel’s sermon titles are, “Tony Robbins-style titles such as ‘Developing Your Potential,’ ‘Persistence and Determination,’ ‘Your Life Follows Your Thoughts,’ and ‘Enlarge Your Vision.” Then consider these words, “When Joel occasionally quotes a Bible verse during a sermon, a banner at the bottom of the television screen identifies it and displays the critical part of the text. Much more frequently, that space advertises future tour stops or reminds people that Your Best Life Now and its companion text, Your Best Life Now Journal, are now on sale.” Moreover, the writer seemed to see the context being abused when he wrote, “Joel illustrated his points with simple stories of people he had known or read about, and occasionally he cited a scripture whose words seem to fit whether or not the author had that application in mind.”

Folks, why is it that so many are bored with the plain message of the Gospel? They want to hear interesting stories. I had one man tell me my sermons were too filled with Bible, and not enough me! I heard a story of a man who watched folks nearly go to sleep as he preached from the scriptures. But, when he told a story about his dog – everyone took interest.

A Gospel preacher’s responsibility is not to be an entertainer, but to preach the Word.   His duty is to explain what the original intent of the passage meant for those to whom it was written, and then to show how to apply the teaching to our lives today. His job is to tell man what they need to hear to be saved and grow in the Christian walk.

(2) Joel de-emphasizes doctrine. He said, “I know doctrine is good. We need doctrine, but I think the average person is not looking for doctrine.”

Good people, to preach doctrine is the same as preaching the word (2 Timothy 4:2-3). Jesus taught doctrine (Matthew 7:28; Matthew 22:33). Jesus warned about false doctrine (Matt. 15:9; Matt. 16:12). Paul told Titus, “Speak thou the things which becometh sound doctrine (Titus 2:1).

(3) Joel justifies his scant use of scripture by appealing to how Jesus taught in parables. Jesus, in the parables, made moral points without referring to scripture thus, he can do the same.

We should understand, first, that the typical New Testament sermon was saturated with references to scripture. Read Acts 2, 7 or 13 and take note how many Old Testament quotations and references there are. Read the books of Romans, Hebrews, or Revelation and notice how filled full they are with Old Testament references and quotations.

But, what about Jesus? Jesus continually made reference to scripture saying “it is written” (Matthew 4:4,7,10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24,31), “have ye not read” (Matthew 13:3,5; 19:4; 22:31), “ye do err not knowing the scriptures” (Matthew 22:29). It has been calculated that nearly 10% of His words recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are references or quotations of scripture. What about the parables? It should be understood that Jesus was speaking scripture. He was inspired (the same would hold true of Paul on Mars Hill, etc). All that He said in His teachings was from God (John 7:16; 14:10,24. Such is not the case with preachers today. So, while we may expound and illustrate to clarify, our teachings must come from the written word. It is to be grounded there. Paul said, “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2).

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The Five Rs Of Repentance

God demands that sinful man repent. John preached repentance (Luke 3:7-ff). Jesus preached repentance (Matthew 4:17; Luke 13:3). The apostles preached repentance under The Limited Commission (Mark 6:12). Jesus told the apostles that repentance was to be preached to all nation under The Great Commission (Luke 24:46-53). Repentance was commanded to all men everywhere (Acts 17:30-31).  Clearly, repentance is needed for salvation (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 11:18). But what is it?

Perhaps it is the most difficult step in the Gospel plan of salvation. Brother J.W. McGarvey once wrote: “The greatest obstacle to the salvation of men is the salvation is the obstinacy of the human will. It is not very difficult… to induce men to believe the Gospel… Neither is it very difficult to persuade men to be baptized, when they become penitent believers. I have never yet met with a person, who was a genuine believer and sincerely penitent, that raised any question about being baptized. They are ready to go where they are led. The difficulty is to induce them to repent. I have often, in my preaching experienced, studied and prayed and reflected and read, to find some way by which I could have more power in inducing people to repent. I would rather have that power than all the other powers and gifts that could be bestowed upon men as a preacher. But we modern preachers need not be discouraged, I think, on account of our weakness here, because we find, on reading the Gospels, that our Savior experienced the same difficulty” (McGarvey`s Sermons). He felt that the difficulty was not in getting them to believe, or to accept baptism, rather “the difficulty is to induce them to repent.” Some have called repentance “God’s hardest command.” Repentance defined: Vine’s – “Signifies to change one’s mind or purpose.” Gospel preacher T.W. Brents has written, “When used in the New Testament as a command to the alien in order to the remission of sins, it always indicates such a change of mind as produces a change or reformation of life under circumstances warranting the conclusion that sorrow for the past would or had preceded it. When so used it is invariably a translation of the Greek word metanoio; and when used to indicate sorrow or regret it is always from metamelomai – a different word, though improperly rendered the same in English” (The Gospel Plan Of Salvation, 188-189).

Repentance Involves…

(1) Biblical repentance always involves a recognition of sin. Read Acts 2:36-38 and Acts 3:14-15, 19. Prior to Biblical repentance, the people had pointed out to them their guilt of sin. A person will not seek salvation, if he does not know that he is in need of salvation. A person cannot Biblically repent, if he does not understand what he has done wrong. Recognition of sin is not repentance itself. However, one cannot repent without recognizing his sin. Good preaching helps men see their sinfulness, their need for salvation, and the response needed for salvation.

(2) Biblical repentance always involves a deep sense of regret or remorse. “They were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37-38), when their sin was pointed out to them. They understood their guilt, and it pained them. Paul said, “godly sorrow produces repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sorrow itself is not Biblical repentance (One could have sorrow over sinful behavior but have no real will or determination to change. Such is not Biblical repentance.  Example – One could sorrowfully regret that he made a certain sinful choice in life –  but lack the will to change). Though, sorrow does accompany, and motivate Biblical repentance. Regret or remorse is not Biblical repentance itself (One could regret being caught in a sin, simply because he was caught. Example – One caught cheating on his wife may experience the sorrow of the world and say, “honey, I am so sorry!” when what the sorrow is over is being caught. Such is not Biblical repentance). However, regret or remorse does accompany Biblical repentance.

(3) Biblical repentance always involve a resolve to change. Examples of such resolve: Luke 15:18; Jonah 3:5-9; cf. Matthew 12:41. The literal definition of the original term translated repentance is “change mind.” However, Biblical repentance is not just any changing of the mind about a behavior (People can change their mind about a behavior for many reasons. Example – A bank robber might stop robbing banks, because the police are getting too close to catching him, or because he has taken more than enough money for his needs and wants, or for other reasons unrelated to his relationship with God. Such is not Biblical repentance). Biblical repentance always involves the sinner being convicted of sin, resulting in a broken and contrite spirit, and leading to a change in behavior. It is a change of mind and behavior due to submission to God.

(4) Ultimately, Biblical repentance involves a reformation of behavior. Read Matthew 21:28-29 – the best single passage on repentance. Jonah 3:10 says, “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way…”  Matthew 12:41 calls such repentance.  True repentance does not stop with just sorrowing. John demanded “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:7-9). True repentance changes one’s behavior. It amends where needed. However, it is not just a change of behavior (Example and true story – I and two elders once confronted two church members living together without marriage. They were unwilling to change their behavior. The elders informed them that they would be forced to withdraw fellowship. They said that they understood. They were waiting for some legal matters to be settled in the near future. Then, once such occurred they said that they would repent and marry. They may have confused confession of public sins and repentance. One cannot schedule repentance) It is  change of  behavior which starts with a change of mind (how do you pre-plan  such?). Johnny Ramsey used to say that in his opinion the single greatest passage on repentance was Matthew 21:28-29 – “A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it (repented KJV) and went.” While the original word here is best translated “regretted” and not “repented,” the ideal of Biblical repentance is expressed in these words.

(5) It involves restitution when possible. The Old Testament demanded such (Exodus 22:1,4,5,6,7-9,10-12; Leviticus 6:1-5; 2 Samuel 12:6; Proverbs 6:30-31).  Zacchaeus understood this (Luke 19:8-9). Does not “The Golden Rule” demands it (Matthew 7:12)?  (Example – If I took your watch, and you saw me and confronted me about it, and I said, “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again,” but decided to keep your watch, have I really repented? Do you think that I would be following “the Golden Rule?” Surely not!) A truly changed heart will want to try to make things right , so far as he possibly can.

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Lessons From Four Animals

I don’t know about you, but I have always been fascinated with animals.  As a child, I watched Marlin Perkins and Jacques Cousteau.  Later, I enjoy watching Jack Hannah, Steve Irwin (the crocodile hunter), and Jeff Corwin – though it is frustrating to hear their spouting of the evolutionary theory. Kevin Hodge has been on some very interesting  TV programs [Animal Planet (Animal Cops Houston), Nat. Geo. Wild (I, Predator), Houston`s Zooper Stars, etc].

God created the animals (Genesis 1, 2; Exodus 20:11).  He created the animals with certain characteristics.  At times, He uses these characteristics to teach man lessons (Job 38-41; Psalms 23; 42:1-2; Proverbs 6:6-11; Ezekiel 34; Matthew 6:26; etc.).

This is certainly true in Proverbs 30:24-28.  “There are four things which are little on the earth, but they are exceedingly wise” (Proverbs 30:24).  Let us notice…

Ants

“The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25).

Ants are seemingly always at work.  They’re not sluggards (Proverbs 6:6).  I’ve never seen a lazy ant, have you?  In the tropics army ants can destroy a cedar pole overnight, and leaf cutter ants can strip a plant of its leaves in no time.

Moreover, they are not only busy and active workers, they are opportunistic.  They work while they have opportunity.  Some ants, in mid-latitude and sub-arctic/sub-antarctic zones, hibernate in the winter.  They thus “fatten” themselves up in the good months to survive the winter. Some ants store food for the winter.  They prepare for the future. Remember Aesop`s fable ” The grasshopper and the ant.”

Lessons: (1) we should “work, the works of Him… while it is day; the night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4).  We should use every opportunity (Galatians 6:10).  (2) We should prepare for the future judgment is coming (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Rock Badgers

“The rock badgers (conies KJV) are a feeble folk, yet they make their homes in the crags (rocks KJV)” (Proverbs 30:26).

 This should not be confused with the North American badger.  The animal mentioned here is about the size of a rabbit, and known for its timidity.  Its basic defense is where it dwells.  “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats;  the cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers” (Psalm 104: 18).

Lesson: We need to know where to dwell for safety.  The Psalmist said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer” (Psalm 18:2).  Again, “The LORD has been my defense, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalm 94:22).

Locusts

“The locusts have no king, yet they all advance in ranks (go they forth all of them by bands KJV)” (Proverbs 30:27).

Wolves have an alpha male to lead them; armies have generals to lean them; kingdoms have kings to lead them; but, locust have no leader.  Yet, the go forth, conquer, and devour nonetheless.  [Exodus 10:1-19 (cf. Psalm 78:46; 105:34-35).  Deuteronomy 28:38; Joel 1:4; 2:1-ff; Revelation 9:3; 7].

Lesson: Some folks have no initiative or gumption of their own.  They wait around idly, waiting to be led, waiting to be told what to do.  Some, if they came the wounded man in Luke 10:30-ff, might think they needed a benevolent committee meeting before acting!  We shouldn’t be like this.  We should be people of action.  We can visit the sick, send letters and cards, make phone calls and do many other things without being told to do so by the eldership.

Spiders

“The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and is in king’s palaces” (Proverbs 30:28).

The NASB and the ESV reads “lizard” instead of “spider.”  There is some uncertainty as to the original word’s meaning.

However, whatever the reference, to the spider or a lizard, the meaning is the same.  Even in the most closely guarded houses little creatures enter.  Thomas Seals writes, “By determination and continued efforts, this agile and clever little animal finds his way into the palaces of eastern monarchs” (Proverbs: Wisdom For All Ages, p. 133).

Lesson: If we are going to make it into the King’s palace in the end we must be determined, and make persistent effort, “let us not be weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9).

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Little Details

An ancient poem reads:

                                    “For want of a nail, a shoe was lost -

                                    For want of a shoe, a horse was lost -

                                    For want of a horse, a battle was lost -

                                    For want of a battle, a kingdom was lost -

                                    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

This poem is about the demise of England’s King Richard III in the battle of Bosworth in 1485. The King wanted to go with his troops into battle. His horse was hurried to a blacksmith to be shod. The smith ran out of nails on the last shoe. He explained to the King’s representative that he’d have to hammer out another nail. The king’s man said that there was not time to wait. He wanted to know if the shoe would hold. The smith said, “it should, but I can’t be certain.” That was good enough for the King’s man and he took the horse, one nail short on the last shoe. In the battle the shoe did come off. The horse stumbled and fell. The King was thrown to the ground. The horse got up and galloped away before the King could remount. The rebel forces soon moved in upon the King.  The King cried out, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” However, there was no help to come. His end had come. The battle was lost.

This story shows us that sometimes seemingly little things matter immensely. Let’s consider some applications.

One – some church members neglect to regularly read their Bibles and pray. Such may seem like a little thing but the wise do not cease to meditate upon God’s word (Psalm 1:2; Philippians 4:8) nor do they cease to pray (Luke 18:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). We need such to overcome temptations. We need such to stay focused. Many a Christian fail because they start neglecting such details.

Two – Some parents get so busy working and providing for their children that they have little time or energy to have family devotionals, or to impart spiritual understanding to their children. Often spiritual matters get neglected.  Some deceive themselves that such neglect is okay since “they do go to Bible class each week.” Psalm 127:1 warns, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it.” Parents have a tremendous responsibility (Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Fathers are instructed to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Don’t let such be a small thing with you. Time is passing. They are growing up and soon will be out on their own. Your greatest opportunity to steer them in the proper direction is right now. Remember your influence might even influence the upbringing of your grandchildren and beyond (cf. Genesis 18:19).

Three – Don’t neglect the “little issues” between you and your friends, and family. I’ve seen some people allow a “little problem” to fester into a huge issue that destroys a friendship. They simply don’t deal with the perceived wrong. Friendships require maintenance. Relationships in general do (husband-wife, friend – friend, church member – church member). Read Matthew 5:22-24; Matthew 18:15-17; Matthew 18:21-22; and Luke 17:3-4. Failure to do proper maintenance will bring down a relationship just like a shoe off a horse.

Four – Watch your attitude. It is not just truth that matters. It is also our attitude toward truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Colossians 3:16; Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9). Johnny Ramsey once told me that the longer he lived the more he understood just how important one’s attitude is when it comes to the Christian life and the work of the church.

Watch the details. Many things may well seem to be small details but these small details, if overlooked, can bring the big horse down and cause ruin.

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No Time?

So you think you have no time?  In a newspaper article entitled, “The American Century” which I read in December 1999, these words appeared – “The average worker needs 7 minutes of work time to purchase a half-gallon milk, compared to 56 minutes at the beginning of the century.  A three-pound chicken requires 14 minutes of labor today, compared to 2 hours and 40 minutes 100 years ago.”

In the book, “The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power,” Robert Caro describes what it was like to live in the Texas hill country in the early part of the 20th century.  He writes, “The source of water could either be a stream or well. If the source was a stream, water had to be carried from it to the house, and since, in a country subject to constant flood, houses were built well away from the streams, it had to be carried a long way.  If the source was a well, it had to be lifted to the surface – a bucket at a time.  It had to be lifted quite a long way: while the average depth of a well was about fifty feet in the valleys of the hill country, and in the hills it was a hundred feet or more. And so much water was needed!  A federal study of nearly half a million farm families even then being conducted would show that, on average, a person living on a farm used 40 gallons of water every day.  Since the average farm family was five persons, the family used 200 gallons, or four-fifths of a ton, of water every day – 73,000 gallons, or almost 300 tons, in a year.  The study shows that, on the average, the well was located 253 feet from the house – and that to pump by hand and carry to the house 73,000 gallons of water a year would require someone to put in during that year 63 eight-hour days, and walk 1,750 miles!”

Do you still feel like belly aching about not having enough time?  We all have the same amount, 168 hours per week.  Most of us have far more discretionary time than those who lived before us.  The question is: How are we using it?  We have more opportunities than those who went before.  Let us “redeem the time” (Ephesians 5:15-16; Colossians 4:5).

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Does It Matter What Brother Woods’ Position Was?

In the editorial space of the May 1995 issue of “Contending For the Faith” there appeared an article entitled, “What Was Brother Woods’ Position on the Use of Women Translators?”  After reading this, a few days later, I spoke with another preacher who said that he had personally known brother Woods for many years.  He contended that the article misrepresented brother Woods’ true position on this subject for the quotations were taken out of context.

On other occasions, I have heard men argue over what brother Campbell, Stone, Lipscomb, McGarvey, or some other restoration leader believed on any given subject.  Brethren, this bothers me, and I think we ought to be very cautious in this regard.

I suppose if we are discussing history, then the historical facts might be worth arguing. This would be understandable.  This would be one thing.

However, it is quite another to try to establish truth or fortify an argument by appealing to what some well-respected brother(s) believed.  Let us never do this.  Yes, we can use  scholars for their research and the evidence that they can provide; but, let us never be guilty of making popes out of these men.  Do not misunderstand me.  I appreciate men like Guy N. Woods; their scholarship has value.  Not-with-standing, they must not be my standard for right and wrong.  It is from the Bible and the Bible alone that we find the standard for Christian living (Luke 8:11; Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; James 1:21, etc.).  Let us pursue the truth!

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Household Baptism

Many, in an effort to justify their doctrinal practice of infant baptism, have run to passages which mention entire households being baptized (Acts 10; Acts 16; 1 Corinthians 1) and have inferred from these passages that infant baptism is indeed Biblical.  The question however is, should such inferences be made?

Specific Passages

First, let us examine Acts 11:13-14 cf. 10:24-48.  (a) Nothing is said in this entire context concerning infants.  How could anyone rationally draw the conclusion that infants were present?  Where is the evidence?  We must draw only such conclusions that are warranted by the evidence.  (b) Those present were  present “to hear all things commanded” (10:33) Does this sound as if it includes infants? Do they listen to commands? (c)  The Holy Spirit fell upon all them which heard and they spake in tongues and magnify God (10:44-46; 11:15).  Do  infants speak in tongues and magnify God?  (d) It was those on whom the Holy Spirit had fallen, who were commanded to be baptized (10:47-48).  Can an infant receive and obey a command? Nothing here sounds like infants were included. Nothing here implies that they were.

Second, let us examine Acts 16:15. (a) Where is the implication that infants were baptized? Is there anything said concerning such in the text? (b) Brother Wayne Jackson correctly points out, “The word ‘OIKOS’ frequently denotes a persons servants’…” The Greek term for ‘household’ is ‘OIKOS’ which technically can denote one’s entire property… to read something into ‘household’ that is not mentioned is wholly unwarranted. One could as easily prove that Lydia’s cat was baptized as he could that her babies were immersed” (Fourth Annual Denton Lectureship, Studies in Acts, p. 383).

Third, let us examine Acts 16:30-33.  (a) One must assume without evidence that infant are included, for there is not one thing said of such in the context.  (b) They listen to words preached (16: 32).  (c) They not only heard, but they also believed (16:34).  This does not sound like infants. (d)  Those who were baptized  rejoiced (16:34).

Fourth, let us examine 1 Corinthians 1:16.  (a) Again, notice the absence to any reference to infants.  (b) At the close of the book (16:15), we are told that those of this house “devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints.”  Does that sound like a reference to infants?   How can an infant minister to the saints?

This is all the household passages.  Not one warrants the deduction that infants should be baptized.

Baptism is for…

1. Those who believe (Acts 8: 12; 8:36-37) and confess (Acts 8:36-37). Never do we read in the New Testament of one being baptized without belief.

2. Those who repent (Acts 2:38; 3:19 cf. Matthew 3:1-8).  Can an infant do this? Do they need to do this? Jesus said of little children, “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

3. Those who have been taught about  the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12) .  This does not sound like infants.

If you were “baptized”  in a wrong way which does not harmonize with the scriptures, then get yourself properly baptized, and for the right reasons. If you worry that things were not done Biblically, do not take a chance on your soul.

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