Posts Tagged 'water baptism'

Ecclesiology, Part 2

people are the church

Jesus Christ built His church on Himself.  He founded and He established it.  He gifted it with the Holy Spirit and gave His life for it.  The greatest gift ever given the church was Jesus Christ.

1.  Membership in the Church

In spite of what various denominations teach about this topic, the New Testament tells us how to become a member of the church:  faith in the Gospel and a deep-seated trust in Jesus Christ as Savior.

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  (Acts 16:31  TNIV)

A characteristic – not a condition – of church membership is participation in water baptism, a dramatic and symbolic testimony to faith in Christ.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. [10] For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.  (Romans 10:9, 10  TNIV)

In the earliest days of the church, all members were truly born again:

…And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.  (Acts 2:47  TNIV)

In those early days, becoming a member of the church was not like joining a club or an organization, but it was understood that becoming a member of the church was quite literally becoming part of the Body of Christ.

Over the years, though, catechizing took the place of conversion; water baptism took the place a born again experience.  As the Christian church became more and more popular, adherence to man-made confessions and doctrines took the place of faith in the Word of God.  The result of such a change is marked.  Instead of the church overflowing with true Christians, it’s now a “mixed multitude,” with true believers co-existing alongside nominal and in-name-only Christians.  This has been the state of the church for most of its existence:  possessing Christians in the midst of professing Christians.  According to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 13, the state of the church is no surprise to Him.

It’s clear that the distinguishing characteristic between the invisible, universal Church and the visible, denominational church is the quality of its members.  Only true born again, regenerated people are members of the invisible, universal church.  Those who have their names written in the Book of Life in Heaven are members of the true church.  Those whose names are found only on a church roll, may be members of their local church, but that’s no guarantee that they are also members of the true Church.  This strange condition of the Church was taught by Jesus (Matthew 13) and understood by Paul:

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”  In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for disposal of refuse.  Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.  (2 Timothy 2:19-21  TNIV)

2.  The work of the church

The work of the church is best stated by Paul in Ephesians:

(A)  Teaching and training its members.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…  (Ephesians 4:11, 12  KJV)

Some people are under the mistaken impression the job of the church is to make converts.  In fact, the primary job of the church is to train up its members to go out and make converts.  There is nothing wrong with the occasional evangelistic service, but generally speaking, there should be a lot teaching and training going on in Christian churches.  This is what Jesus did:  He taught, discipled, and trained His followers to go out and make converts.  It was not His intention that His followers should to go out and drag back sinners to Him for conversion!

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…  (Matthew 28:19  TNIV)

(B)  Provide a means/place of worship.

The church ought to be a place a prayer, worship, and testimony.

(C)  A place of Christian fellowship.

People are social beings and they need social interaction and friendship with like-minded individuals.  A good church provides opportunities for its members to get together for camaraderie and good fellowship.  It is during those times believers encourage each other and build each other up in the faith.

(D)  To hold up a moral standard in the community.

As the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth,” the church should be setting the moral and ethical example for others to follow.   The church should teach people how to live, not just how to die.  The best witness a church member can have is to hold forth a Biblical worldview, and it’s up to the local church to instill in its members that sound worldview and to encourage them to live it.

3.  Ordinances of the church

Christianity is not a religion of ritual.  At its core, Christianity is all about the inside of a man, not the outside; it’s about man being able to approach God on the merits of Christ alone.  In spite of the fact that New Testament Christianity is not built around rituals, there are two ceremonies that are essential because they were divinely ordained:  water baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Because of their “sacred” character, some people like to refer to these ordinances are “sacraments,” meaning “sacred things.”  Ordinances, sacraments, or rituals, whatever you call them, there are very special ceremonies “ordained” by The Lord Jesus Himself.

A very simple way of looking at these two ordinances is to see water baptism as the “rite of entrance” into the Church, and it symbolizes the beginning of spiritual life.  The Lord’s Supper is the “rite of communion,” symbolizing continued spiritual life.  Water baptism portrays faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord’s Supper fellowship with Him.  Water baptism happens one time, the Lord’s supper often.

(A)  Baptism

With apologies to the practices of some denominations, since the word “baptize” means “to dip” or “to immerse,” the preferred mode of water baptism is immersion.

This leads us to the question of “sprinkling” or “pouring.”  Where did these practices come from?  All must admit that baptism in both Testaments (Jewish baptism in the Old, Christian in the New) involved totally immersing the candidate in water.  When the early church became more institutionalized and began to forsake the plain teachings of Christ and allowed man’s ideas to influence it, it also began to place an undue emphasis on rituals – like the pagan religions around it did –  and baptism began to be seen as essential in salvation.  In other words, if a person died without being baptized, the church (though not the Bible) taught his soul was in peril.  Given this, the church began the practice of baptizing the sick and dying before it was too late.  Naturally these candidates couldn’t be immersed in water, therefore sprinkling or pouring had to be done.  Eventually, it just became convenient to sprinkle and pour.

Is any of this really important?  Is the mode really important?  It is only to the extent of the candidate’s witness to the community, both the community of faith and the broader community.  Only total immersion conveys  in a dramatic fashion the believer’s identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  (Romans 6:1-4 NIV84)

How do we reconcile these two verses:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…  (Matthew 28:19 NIV84)

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2:38 NIV84)

What words should be used when one is baptized?   Most denominations use the “Trinitarian formula,” of Matthew 28:19.  But some churches, often called “Jesus Only” churches, baptize their candidates in the name of Jesus only.  Which is correct?  It should be noticed that the words Jesus spoke were the formula; He told His disciples precisely how to baptized converts.  Peter’s words in Acts do not constitute a formula.  They were spoken merely as a statement affirming that the candidate has placed their faith in Jesus alone.

As to who may be baptized, the Bible makes it clear that only those who have repented of their sins and put their full faith and trust in The Lord Jesus Christ may be baptized.  The early church had three simple practices surrounding water baptism:

(1)    a simple profession of faith, Acts 8:37
(2)    a simple prayer, Acts 22:16;
(3)    a simple vow of consecration, 1 Peter 3:21.

Water baptism in and of itself is not a means of grace; individuals are baptized in water not be be saved but because they are saved.

(B)  The Lord’s Supper

Also known as Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper is a wholly Christian rite, instituted by The Lord Jesus Christ on the eve of His crucifixion for the following purposes:

(1)    Commemoration.

Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.”  We commemorate many things:  birthdays, anniversaries, Independence Day, and so on.  Whenever a group of Christians gets together the celebrate The Lord’s Supper, they are remembering in a very special way the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus, which freed them from their sins and secured them salvation.

While the life of Jesus was important, it saved no one.  It was His death that saved sinners and that’s why we remember it so.

(2)  Instruction.

When we celebrate Communion, we have an opportunity to learn anew two important parts the Gospel.  First, the Incarnation.  We remember the words of John:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:14 NIV84)

And the words of Jesus Himself:

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  (John 6:33 NIV84)

We also have an opportunity to think about the Atonement.  We think about the sacrifice of Jesus; His broken Body and His shed Blood; how He bore the punishment for our sin.

(3)  Inspiration.

The elements help us understand that by faith we may become partakers of Christ’s nature; that we are in communion with Him; and that we as we get closer and closer to Him, we become more and more like Him, reflecting His glory and character.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  (2 Peter 1:4 NIV84)

(4)  Assurance.

The “new covenant” spoken of by Jesus during the Last Supper is a “blood covenant.”  The covenant has been accepted by God on the basis of His Son’s shed blood.  His blood is the guarantee that God will be gracious and merciful to all who come to Him in faith believing what Christ has done.  That is our part in the covenant:  simply believe.

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished–  he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.  (Romans 3:25-26 NIV84)

(5)  Responsibility.

Celebrating The Lord’s Supper is a solemn thing, not to be done lightly, and only after sober reflection.  Consider the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:

A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.   (1 Corinthians 11:28-29 NIV84)

This of course does not mean that only those who are good enough or worthy enough should take Communion.  Really, none of us is worthy.  If we read all of 1 Corinthians 11, we see that Paul is not so much concerned with people but with the actions of people.  How we treat people and the attitudes we hold toward others determines whether or not we may take part in the Communion service.


John and His Preaching

Luke 3:7—18

What was it that motivated John the Baptist? He was an ordinary man on an extraordinary mission: to get his world ready for the arrival of the Messiah by preparing the hearts of those who would hear his message. John preached the “baptism of repentance.” He was the last of the Old Testament prophets; he walked from the pages of the Old Testament into the opening pages of the New. He is like a bridge connecting the two eras with a single message: the Messiah is coming…get ready!

His message resonated with the people; he had his followers. His message also attracted the ire of the religious elite. How did John respond to these religious people? Let’s take a look…

1. A tough question, verse 7

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

What a way to address your congregation! Just who was John the Baptist directing this question to? The answer is found the parallel passage, Matthew 3:7—9.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.

John was addressing the two main sects in Judaism of his day. Who were the Pharisees? The name or title comes from the Hebrew word parash, meaning “the separated one.” Some scholars believe “pharisee” comes from another Hebrew word, perushim, which has a similar meaning to parash, but the separation is specified: from “unclean people.” In either case, we can see that aim of the Pharisees was to live away from the “normal folk.”

It was during the Babylonian captivity that Pharisaism began. During this period, the Jews had no Temple to worship in, so they became “people of the Book” in their everyday lives. The Law of Moses became central to their lives and the study and teaching of the Law became the obligation of the religious leaders. Later, during the Maccabean years, the Hasidim (the pious ones) struggled to keep Judaism free from the influences of the surrounding pagan religions. And during the time of Herod the Great, it is estimated that there were some 6,000 Pharisees practicing in Israel. The main task was enforcing the Law of Moses, as well as the myriad of other rules and regulations that had been added to the Law since the days of the Captivity.

The Sadducees made up the second largest sect in Judaism. They were made up of aristocratic priests, and while the Pharisees could be found teaching in and around synagogues all over the land, the Sadducees stayed in and maintained control of the Temple in Jerusalem.

It should be noted that the Pharisees, in spite of their obsession with the minute details of the Law, were much more popular with the people than the Saducess. They are mentioned 100 times in the New Testament while the Sadducees only 14 times. After the the final destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Sadducees vanished from the face of the earth. It is not an exaggeration to say that Judaism exists today because of the efforts of the Pharisees.

These people John the Baptist addressed as “a generation of vipers.” Why he calls them this derogatory term is suggested by the question: “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Or, in other words, as far as John was concerned, the reason they were coming out to be baptized was simply to avoid God’s judgment. They were doing the proper thing but with the wrong motive.

2. An important demand, verse 8

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.

And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Matthew 3:9)

The Pharisees and religious people loved the symbols but had no interest in the substance of faith. This really rankled John the Baptist because he understood what real repentance was all about: turning TO God FROM sin. You can’t turn to God and take your sin with you! But that doesn’t stop many believers from doing just that. Certainly they were baptized, but they came up out of the waters of baptism the same person they were when they went in! To John, this was not true repentance. A new life must be manifested by a new way of living. The religious were proud of their connection to Abraham, but to John, father Abraham was incidental to manifest faith in God.

John may have been a simple prophet living out in the desert eating insects, but he could certainly turn a phrase! His retort to their reliance on religious pedigree was terse:  if God wanted to, He could make children of Abraham out of rocks. So, religious pedigree means nothing to God. What God demands is a change in moral character.

3. A testing crisis, verse 9

The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Here is a powerful metaphor suggesting that God’s judgment is ready to take place. At any time, the lumberjack will pick up his axe and swing it. Every tree that is not producing its proper fruit will be chopped down and burned up. This is an idea Jesus would much later take up:

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 7:19)

This is not exactly a message about God’s love! In fact, John the Baptist never preached about the love of God. His message was a dire one: turn or burn. This is the responsibility of every sinner who hears the Gospel message; once they hear it, they must respond to it. If they don’t accept it and repent, they will face sure and certain judgment.

There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. (John 12:48)

Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him. (Luke 8:18)

4. A practical doctrine, verses 10—14

What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

In this paragraph, John the Baptist sounds more like John the Counselor. Even though some specific groups of Jewish people are addressed, John the Counselor gives universal principles that apply to all believers in all generations.

First, Christians should always manifest brotherly love. If a Christian sees a need, he should do what he can to meet that need. Showing brotherly love is a way to allow others, sometimes unbelievers, to experience the love of God.

Second, believers should be honest in their business practices. Tax collectors were in view here, but the point is much broader than just honest taxation. The real point here is that of all the people in the world who engage in business of any kind, the Christian should always be the most honest and above reproach; we ought never to take advantage of another.

Last, John addressed some soldiers. To them, his advice involves being content with your lot and not taking advantage of others in order to improve that lot. It’s all well and good to be ambitious and to take honest advantage of situations and circumstances to have a better life, but a Christian should never be so dissatisfied with their position in life that they would harm others to get ahead.

The fact that all this practical advice is given within the context of a sermon on repentance suggests that cheating others, taking unfair advantage of others, and not caring for others is the natural way of the world. When Christians repent, they must turn from that way of living. However, merely changing ones way of life is not what results in salvation. Repentance that does not lead to a life of faith in Jesus Christ is a repentance that should be repented of!

5. A humbling confession, verse 16a

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.

Some of those listening to John’s preaching were so impressed, they thought he might be the promised Messiah, so John made it clear: he was NOT. While John may have been mighty in righteousness, Jesus is mighty in grace. John may have been an imposing preacher, and he may have preached with authority, but it wasn’t his authority, it was derived from Christ.

When John suggests that he isn’t worthy to untie the Messiah’s shoes simply means that as far as John was concerned, he wasn’t even worthy to be the Messiah’s servant.

6. The most significant statement, verse 16b

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Many religions and cults baptize people in water. In this, Christianity is no different. But, John stressed, when the Messiah finally appears, He will baptize His followers, not in water, but with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The first part of this statement indicates in no uncertain terms that there is a baptism in or with the Holy Spirit. But John the Baptist also says “with fire.” Bible scholars are split on what John meant when said this. Some suggest he was referring back to the “fires of judgment” the fruitless trees would be cast in to. In that case, the preacher is talking about the fire of final judgment.

Others teach that the Baptist is referring to the fires of purity, that is, when one is baptized in the Holy Spirit his life is purified; the dross is being burned off.

And others see the “tongues of fire” here. When the early church was baptized in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit was seen as tongues of fire coming to rest of the head of each believer.

Given what we know about the Holy Spirit’s ministry in the life of a believer, it seems likely that John is referring to life-changing work of the Spirit. He really does function like a blow torch sometimes, burning away the trash in our lives. Bishop Ryle’s statement on this issue is worth noting:

We need to be told that forgiveness of sin is not the only thing necessary in salvation. There is another thing yet; and that is the baptizing of our hearts by the Holy Ghost…Let us n ever rest till we know something by the experience of the baptism of the Spirit. The baptism of water is a great privilege. But let us see to it that we also have the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

There are three things the fire of the Holy Spirit does in the believer: (1) It warms; (2) It lights; and (3) It cleanses. This is what the Holy Spirit brings to the heart of every believer He baptizes. To walk in the Spirit is to live in the glowing fire of God’s presence. When we walk in the Spirit, the things of the Spirit become more real than the things of the world; they become more vital than the things of the world. This baptism, the Baptism of the Spirit, does not happen by working for it; you can’t buy it. It is a gift from the Ascended Christ. Have you laid hold of that gift? If not, why not?

7. A final warning, verse 17

His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

The same One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire also carries a winnowing fork in His hand. The same One who unites and enriches with spiritual blessings will also separate and judge. There will come a day when the Messiah will separate true believers from false.

This is really the summation of the sermon, and John’s point is sharp. Anybody can be baptized in water, Pharisee, Sadducee, common man, but that water baptism must be followed by corresponding evidence of the new life. Somebody that claims to be a Christian and has been dunked in the baptismal tank yet does not live in repentance of sin and obedience to God’s Word will face the winnowing fork. This didn’t happen when Jesus came the first time, but it will when He comes back. The Messiah will separate the true from the false believers, the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the weeds.



Romans 6

Paul continues his line of thought, relating the believer’s present position in Christ to how that believer should live his life.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Romans 6:8—10)

After giving his readers a lot of information about the believer’s identification with Christ as illustrated by water baptism, Paul begins this new section with the assumption that “we died with Christ.” His readers are true believers, not just Christians in name only, but Christians who have experienced Jesus Christ in a real, personal way. All of us who have named Christ as Savior are related to Him and we share in His death to sin and His resurrection. But what “died to sin” mean?

1. Christ’s experience with sin: Our experience with sin

When the Son of God entered the sphere of humanity, He left the glories of Heaven. He left a place of sinless perfection; a place of purity, uncorrupted by sin, and completely separated from sin in every sense of the word. He left that place and entered a world dominated by sin and evil. Jesus was immediately confronted by sin’s presence and power. Think about it; for some 33 years our Lord walked among the evil of sin; it’s tentacles always reaching out to Him, seeking to get Him in their grip. Jesus, like all men, lived a life surrounded by the darkness of sin.

When He went to the Cross, He assumed our sin, for He had none of His own. He bore the wrath of God against our sin; He was punished for all the sinful, rebellious acts every single human being had ever and will ever commit.

When we consider the awful, horrendous hours our Lord spent on the Cross, preceded by over 30 years of having to deal with sin after leaving an environment of complete sinlessness, no wonder He cried out “It is finished” when He died! What a relief it must have been for Him to bow His head and release His Spirit. At that moment, it was over for Jesus. His time on Earth was finally over. His nightmare with sin and the effects of sin were over forever.

In much the same way, Christians who are united—glued—to Christ, can throw up their hands and rejoice in the fact that just like their Lord, they may cry out, “It is finished” and breathe a sigh of relief because they are dead to sin and no longer under any obligation to look for or yield to sin. The tyranny of sin, as far as the redeemed is concerned, is over!

But, not only did Jesus die to sin, He rose to a new life, and we did too! What a marvelous thought! You see, when Jesus was alive, in the flesh, He had an obligation to deal with sin. Though He never sinned, He had to deal with sin and the effects of sin. But after His death, Christ arose, completely done with sin, able to give full attention to God the Father and the glories of Heaven. In same way, believers who are continually besieged by sin day and night; having to deal with it over and over and over again; strangled in its relentless grip, are finally released and are finally able to devote more of themselves to serving Christ and pleasing God the Father. Like Christ, believers have a new life.

2. How to live that new life

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (vs. 11)

Here is how Paul helps his readers to experience what Jesus experienced: “In the same way…” We have to acknowledge that this is not the easiest thing to do. We do, after all, live in a world of sin. Unlike Christ who got to return to sinless paradise, we’re stuck here on Mother Earth. So how in the world to we live a “new life” while we are still here, in the same old place? Paul gives us the answer in verses 12—14 with a series of exhortations. The interesting thing about Paul’s exhortations is that without them, we have a very unbalanced view of the Christian life. Without the exhortations, we get the impression that “God does it all.” All the Christian has to do is coast along until he dies then goes to Heaven. Talk about unbalanced! With these exhortations, though, we see that while our salvation is a work of God alone, our Christian life is ours to live; God won’t live it for us. For the whole of our existence on Earth, we must consciously fight against and rebel against sin’s rule. The decisions to sin or not sin are ours to make; God won’t make them for us.

This is the great paradox for the believer. We are dead to sin, yet sin is all around us. We are alive to Christ, yet still living in the flesh. We have been declared fully righteous by God, yet still sinners who need forgiveness. We are called to live NOW like we are already living in the Kingdom, yet the Kingdom is nowhere in sight. How can we do that? Paul gives us the key in three points:

a. Counting, verse 11.

This is a real challenge to believers: to become in reality what we are in Christ potentially. Hodge comments:

If in point of fact believes are partakers of the death and life of Christ; if they die with Him and live with Him, then they should so regard themselves. They should receive this truth, with all its consoling and sanctifying power, into their hearts, and manifest it in their lives.

b. No reign, verse 12.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

The implication here is that sin has been reigning, but it should not any longer. The believer must do his part and refuse to obey the calling to sin. The word “obey” means “to listen” or “to heed.” If a believer wants to live a holy life, then he himself must STOP listening to the wooing of sin. This we must do for ourselves; God won’t do it for us. He can help up; this is one of the ministries of the Holy Spirit in fact, but in the end, we must decide to obey God instead of listening to lies of Satan.

c. Offering, verse 13.

Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

To “offer” comes from the Greek parastesate, written in the aorist imperative meaning, “present yourselves by one decisive act”. Christians are to refuse to offer themselves to sin and encouraged to offer themselves to another: God. We are to stop offering parts of our bodies to sin (eyes, hands, free will, mind, etc.) as instruments against God. Instead, we are to offer those parts to God, for the sake of righteousness.

So, it’s not enough to simply will ourselves to stop sinning. If we do that, a vacuum is created and, lo and behold, what will get sucked into the vacuum? Different kinds of sins, that’s what. In order to avoid creating a vacuum, when we stop offering ourselves to sin, we must start offering ourselves to God.

3. A new kind of bondage, 6:15—23

Now, Paul has claimed that believers are not under the Law. However, this does not mean that they are free from the demands of righteousness. Just because one has been set free from the Mosaic Law as a covenant system does not mean they are now indifferent to God’s moral will. In other words, freedom from the the legalism of the Law is not freedom to sin. All believers, not just Jewish converts, need God’s moral law to help them see the seriousness of sin. Even though it sounds like Christians are free from God’s law, in a sense they aren’t:

To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. (1 Corinthians 9:21)

It’s vitally important for believers, in this day of moral relativism and pluralism, to remember that while we are no longer in bondage to sin, we are in bondage to the will of God. It sounds funny, so Paul adds this:

I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. (vs. 19)

The “example” he is speaking about is the “slave-master” illustration, which helps us understand the simple fact that, as Jesus Himself taught, nobody can serve two masters. Serving God is an all or nothing proposition. The fact that Paul had to use an “example from everyday life” shows us how difficult a concept this is. Once we were completely sold out to sin, now we need to be completely sold out to Christ. Once we were forced to sin, now we able to walk away from it.

This is a result of our acceptance of the Gospel; we are not only set free from captivity to sin, but enslaved us to a new master: righteousness. In this context, “righteousness” refers to ethical goodness.

This is also what holiness is. Instead of letting sin use our bodies, leading us to a sense of moral indifference, we are to offer our bodies in the service of God, leading us to perform acts of righteousness.

Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. (vs. 19b)

The word “holiness” comes from the Greek hagiasmos, which itself is part of a word group that includes such words as “holy,” “saint,” “purify,” “hallowed,” and “holiness.” Primarily, the sense of hagiasmos is to be set apart completely for the use of God. This is hagiasmos as far as God is concerned. But it has a secondary meaning as far as man is concerned. Because he has been set apart for God’s use, man now has an obligation to fulfill God’s will for him, which includes performing acts of righteousness. This is something a believer needs to do for himself; God will not force him to perform holy acts, but He often places the believer in the position of having to make the choice of performing them or not. In this way, man’s free will is protected and at the same time, the believer is developing a character like his heavenly Father’s.

F.F. Bruce paraphrases the last part of Paul’s thought like this:

A slave’s former owner has no more authority over him if he becomes someone else’s property. This is what happened to you. You have passed from the service of sin into the service of God: your business is now to do what God desires and not what sin dictates.

Finally, verse 23 is really a contrast to help drive home Paul’s point of the nature of our new life in Christ (it’s God’s gift to us) with it’s benefits and our old life with it consequences:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To help the believer make the right choice, we see on the one hand that sin produces death as a just reward for living in a way that displeases God. But on the other hand, God is full of grace, which results in the calling of many people to Himself.

Most commentators see the word “wages” being used here in the military sense of a soldier’s rations or pay. Sin, then, is viewed as a General who pays out these wages to those under his command. What a depressing way to view life without Jesus Christ! What a contrast to God’s free gift of grace! Instead of being ordered around by an overbearing General, not having any say in the matter, we instead have been placed into a relationship with a loving Heavenly Father who loves us, respects us, and gives us far more than mere wages.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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