Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sending a boy to do a man's job - September 27, 2011

At the very outset of this essay I need to remind my readers of what I said in the inaugural issue of "Hugh's News & Views" back on November 11, 2010.  These musings address a variety of matters, depending on the things about which I have been thinking and the mood I am in when I sit down to write.  They often are religious, biblical, or spiritual in nature, but not exclusively.  I also speak to subjects of contemporary culture, politics, sports, entertainment, etc.  I even like to share a little "Hugh-mor" with my readers every once in a while. 

Too, it is important to remember that these are my (Hugh's) "News & Views."  They may or may not coincide with your views. That is alright; you do not have to agree with me.  I only ask that you consider my viewpoint on whatever matter I choose to address.  If it is a religious matter and I give Bible book, chapter, and verse in support of what I say and you disagree with it, I humbly ask, "With whom are you disagreeing?"  If it is a non-religious matter, then there may very well be room for differing views of the matter.  Upfront I am alerting you to the fact that this essay is political in nature.  You are free to disagree—in whole or in part—with what I say.

Based on his record to date, it is my judgment that in November of 2008, the American electorate chose to send toWashington a boy to do a man's job.  Most now seem to recognize that fact.  Barack Obama's job approval ratings are at their lowest level!  His ability to lead and to do the job that he was elected to do and that needs to be done is now highly questioned. 

I am not a fan of Obama's.  He is the president of the United States and I pray for him.  The church where I preach remembers our governmental officials and leaders—local, state, and national—in most of the public prayers that are lifted up to the Lord in our public worship assemblies.  This is as it should be (I Timothy 2:1-2).  When Paul wrote the words of the text just cited, Nero, as foul a monster as has ever been imposed on a civilized people, was on the throne ofRome.  Yet Paul urged prayer for him and for "all who are in authority."  At the same time, it is in order in a democracy for people to work to change their leaders when it is obvious that those currently leading are inept and ineffective. 

It is becoming increasingly obvious to thinking people that Obama is in "over his head" and does not know how to lead our country through and out of the problems we face.  He had little experience as a leader when elected to the highest office in the land.  Political correctness seemed to have gotten the best of far too many people as they could see only the prospect of electing the first black person to the office of the presidency of the United States.  The shallowness and superficiality of such thinking is difficult for thoughtful people to comprehend.  Yet Obama's color and racial ethnicity has nothing to do with the matter. I am not opposed to a black person serving as president of the United States.  I have been impressed with the leadership of a number of political figures of color.  But we need in the White House a person of proven leadership ability, a person with experience, a person who will surround himself/herself with capable people to advise and who will guide their departments effectively, and who will do what is best for our country as a whole.

I do not know how President Obama will perform through the remainder of his term. If past performance is any indication of future performance, I am not very optimistic. I do not know who the Republican Party will choose to oppose him in November of 2012.  I do not know if  the Republican nominee will defeat Obama in 2012 and take office in January of 2013.  I only hope and pray that in the next presidential election we will give serious consideration to the person we vote for and not return to the White House "a boy to do a man's job"!

Hugh Fulford
September 27, 201

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Should We View the Scriptures? - September 20, 2011

The Scriptures themselves provide us with a marvelous understanding of how they are to be viewed.  Consider the following.

* All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is sufficient for all religious and spiritual instruction. (2 Timothy  3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:1-5).

* Scripture was given "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped  for every good work," and it is not to be added to, subtracted from, substituted for, modified, amended, or supplemented by bishops, councils, popes, human creeds, church manuals, and/or catechisms.  (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:24-25; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 John 9).

* Scripture must be handled properly (rightly divided), recognizing the difference between the covenant God made with Israel through Moses (the Old Testament) and the covenant He has made with all humanity through Christ (the New Testament). (2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 1:1-2; 9:15-17).

* Scripture speaks to us in plain, explicit statements of various kinds (declarative, imperative, interrogative, hortative, etc.), by examples, and with implications from which we draw necessary inferences.  With reference to inference, Paul asserts that the existence of the universe teaches us by necessary inference that there is an all-powerful, all-wise Creator (Romans 1:19-20).  Jesus used inference in refuting the Sadducees’ lack of faith in the resurrection (Mark 12:24-27).  If God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but also a God—not of the dead, but of the living—then it must necessarily be inferred that those Old Testament patriarchs are still alive in the spirit world, and, therefore, there will be a resurrection!

 We must honor the silence of Scripture, and not presume to speak where God has not spoken (I Corinthians 4:6 [NKJV,ASV]; 1 Peter 4:11).

* We should adhere strictly to Scripture in all matters of faith, doctrine, and practice, including what the New Testament says with reference to being saved from sin, the church, worship, and daily Christian living in all of its multiple dimensions (Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 John 9).

* A person of average intelligence can read and understand the Scriptures for himself/herself as surely as he/she can read other documents and understand them (Ephesians 3:14; 2 Timothy 2:15). 

The problems/differences we face today in the church and in the religious world at large are not so much a matter of notunderstanding what the Bible says as they are a matter of not knowing and/or notbelieving what the Bible says.  This is not to recognize that there are not some knotty passages concerning which good and able men have differed.  But I fear that in too many instances some have allowed their social and professional peers and their religious and non-religious friends to intimidate them into compromised beliefs and positions where biblical teaching is concerned. 

Paul expressed a fear that "as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity (sincere and pure devotion, NIV) that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3).  The "strait" (observe the spelling) way is too restricted for some (Matthew 7:13-14).  To insist on salvation only through Christ is too "limiting" for some (John 14:6; Acts4:11-12).  To insist on immersion for the remission of sins too "narrow" for some (Romans 6:4; Acts 2:38).  To worship without the instrument is too "odd" for some (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).  To insist on male only leadership in the church is too "politically incorrect" for some (1 Corinthians 14:34; 2 Timothy 2:11-12).  

Some seemingly have come to the point where they are ashamed of the simple truths of the Bible.  I am reminded of the words of an old preacher who said, "I would be ashamed to be afraid and afraid to be ashamed of my Lord and His words." Jesus had some sobering words for all who fall into that category (Mark 8:38).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Baptism - September 13, 2011

Recently I had the privilege of baptizing into Christ a young man who is a police officer in a nearby town.  He had been baptized in a denominational church at the age of thirteen—a church that does not believe that baptism has anything to do with being saved from past (alien) sins, but nevertheless necessary to being a member of that denomination.  A friend on the job had encouraged him to study a number of biblical passages relating to how a right relationship with the Lord is established. At the invitation and encouragement of this friend, about a year ago this young man had begun attending the church where I preach.  Over a period of several months he came to seriously question the validity of his denominational baptism, and wanted to make his life right with the Lord.  So, on a recent week-day afternoon, upon a confession of his faith in Christ as the Son of God, I immersed him "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38), and, like the eunuch of old, "he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts8:39).

I find it difficult to see how people fail to understand New Testament teaching concerning baptism as to whom, how, and why.  Not long ago, in a Bible class I had occasion to mention Mark 16:16.  Following the reading of it, I asked somewhat rhetorically, "How can anyone misunderstand what Jesus said as to the conditions of salvation as set forth in this verse?"  A man whom I had baptized a few years earlier (formerly a member of a denomination that practices sprinkling as a substitute for baptism), spoke up and said, "One has to have expert help."  I think he was right.  One has to have expert help to misunderstand what the Bible teaches about baptism!

It is passing strange that people think that salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) somehow rules out baptism for the remission of sins.  All who believe the Bible know that we are saved by the grace of God (Acts 15:11; Hebrews 2:9).  All who believe the Bible understand that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1).  The question is, "What does it mean to have faith in Christ?"  The Philippian jailer was told to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your house" (Acts16:31).  Yet, he is not said to have believed until after he and his household had been baptized (Verses 32-34).  Belief requires action; it demands obedience.  Christ is "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9).  This obedience requires that one comply with what Peter told sinners on the day of Pentecost: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).  If salvation "by grace through faith" does not rule out the necessity of repentance (and it does not), then why does it rule out the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins?  The fact is it does not!  And "for (eis, Greek) the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38has the same significance that it has in Matthew 26:28, namely, "in order to."

Saul of Tarsus, who became the great apostle Paul, is a sterling example of one saved "by grace through faith."  Yet, he was told to "Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).  And it is in that very same way that every sinner today calls on the name of the Lord and is saved "by grace through faith."

According to the New Testament, baptism stands between the sinner and:

* The remission of sins (Acts 2:38)
* Having sins washed away (Acts 22:16)
* Having access to the benefits of the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-4)
* Being in Christ (Galatians 3:27)
* Being saved (Mark 16:16)

If one can be saved and in a right relationship with God without the above blessings, then one can be saved without baptism.  But if the above blessings are essential to salvation, then so is baptism!

Hugh Fulford
September 13, 2011