Posts Tagged ‘baptism’

The Church Christ Envisioned

“This church (the local church that each Christian should join) must look like the one that Jesus envisioned when he built the church.” (Howard Norton, longtime missionary in Brazil, in The Christian Chronicle, August 2011, available here) This quote led me to think of the following:

That is our plan. To build, be, develop, grow and belong to the church Jesus envisioned. That is one of the reasons we choose the name Church of Christ. That is why we base every decision on what Jesus and his apostles said and wrote.

And, since we base our practices completely on what is written in scripture, we have some practices that differ with the majority of churches. The conviction to follow the Bible only, completely, and absolutely has led us to teach adult baptism as opposed to baptizing infants, a capella music for worship as opposed to any mechanical instruments, and congregational autonomy as opposed to organization in synods, dioceses, etc.

We look strange to some, but the church looked strange to those who saw her first built, too. The breakaway from Old Covenant ritual and the avoidance of societal habits estranged the early Christians from other religious folks. Note that Peter called them strangers, foreigners, aliens (1 Peter 1:1, 2:11).

Not that we are different just for the sake of being different. But because we do not allow the world around us to change our allegiance to what the Bible dictates, we will continue to look strange. Let’s just make every effort to have that look mirror the vision Christ had when he built his church.


Do You Not Believe?

Jesus’ response to Philip that day is still valid for us today.

“Do you not believe?” Jesus asked his disciples (John 14:10).

Philip had just said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (verse 8). His request displayed a common misconception regarding our relationship with God. Jesus’ response to Philip that day is still valid for us today.

The disciples thought they should know God the same way they knew each other. They thought they should see him at their own level. After all, Moses had seen God (Exodus 33:22). Even the elders of the wandering Israelites had seen God (Exodus 24:9-11). Wouldn’t it be right for Jesus’ hand-picked disciples to see God?

To this Jesus responded: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (verse 9). The disciples had seen the Father and didn’t realize it. They had seen the Father much better than any Israelite ever had! Consider that Moses’ eyes were covered until God had passed by, so that he only saw the back side of God’s glory (Exodus 33:20-23). Then realize that the elders of Israel were kept at a far distance (Exodus 24:1) and only saw the place where God stood (Exo. 24:10), not his actual form (compare Deuteronomy 4:15). In contrast, the disciples sat at the table with Jesus, walked beside him in the way, questioned and reasoned with him, were saved from the storm by him, etc. If looking at Jesus was looking at the Father, then they had seen more of God than anyone ever had.

Many people still express a desire for God to do something on their terms rather than his. “If God would only…” they begin, and promise their life-long allegiance if he will do it. But so much has been done already, especially in revealing the Father. We learn in the testimony of the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) that God was definitely seen on earth. The signs Jesus performed revealed his glory (John 2:11). Again notice the difference between Jesus and Moses: when Moses performed a miracle, it was at God’s direction. When Jesus performed a miracle, it was at his own discretion. The disciples were definitely in the presence of the glory of God. “Do you not believe?”

That glory was revealed not only to them, but also to us. Since we can know Christ through faith, we can also know the Father. If some do not see God, it is because Satan has blinded their minds, “to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2nd Corinthians 4:4). Colossians 2:9-10 adds: “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him.” Paul wrote these words to people that had never seen Jesus physically. Yet he encouraged them that they could know him and see his glory, indeed be filled with it. “Do you not believe?”

We need to notice how they could be filled with Christ so that we can also enjoy this great blessing. Let’s return to the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossians:

    (9) For in him (Christ) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, (10) and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (11) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, (12) having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (13) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (14) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [Colossians 2:9-14]

How were they filled with Christ? The fleshly stain on their souls had been cut away (circumcised, v. 11) when they were buried with Christ in baptism (v. 12). Following that burial, there was a resurrection through faith (v. 12) so that the death of sin gave way to life with Christ (v. 13). Jesus went to the cross so that our debt of sin could be canceled (v. 14). So, forgiveness comes at the baptism of faith.

If you have not been buried with Christ in baptism, you can’t know him. Therefore, you can’t know God. If you believe that God wants this relationship with you, please find a church that will baptize you today. Don’t settle for any faith that doesn’t follow all of what the gospel teaches.

[Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version.]