The Erosion of Truth

It is not a little disturbing that casting doubt on the veracity of the Holy Scriptures and Bible characters has in the past few years become quite in vogue. I read tweets and posts on Facebook, and many blogs, and there are more and more young preachers and others who are fascinated with those well trained graduates of institutions of higher learning who have reached the conclusion that the Bible is not really true after all, at least not all of it.

I have heard it said that history repeats itself and that there nothing new under the sun. How very true! Decades before most of those who are most admired, and those who admire them, were born I was living in a time when theological liberals, called “modernists” back in the day, were busy with higher criticism, discovering extra-biblical writings and other evidences which according to them proved the Bible is not really reliable. I’ll perhaps never forget when a few years ago I learned first hand that in our churches of Christ we had some preachers who did not believe the resurrection of Jesus, believed Jesus was just a man, although admittedly a better man than others. And more recently there is a host of men whose sport is to cast doubt on the truth and authority of Holy Writ.

My observation is that most of these guys are more impressed with themselves than anyone or anything else. It is very difficult to shroud pride isn’t it? I have always been a skeptic. There…my admission! With that said, I am a bit reluctant to trust a man who spends hours every day promoting himself, what he knows, and what he does, and what he has done, and …. Well, you get the picture.

(Just to get it off my chest… A person with a British accent, or whatever that Geico salamander has, is not necessarily more brilliant than those who don’t have it.)

So, why in the wide wide world would anyone believe that God hates sin? Further, why in the age of enlightenment we live in would someone believe those who refuse to believe God’s truth are objects of His coming wrath? I’ll admit it, I don’t understand much of the last book of the Bible. And, I’m not the one to ask about final punishment. But I am sure that the same Holy Spirit who by revelation gave the great Apostle Paul the mysterious gospel of the grace of God to be preached to the Gentiles also revealed the truth to him about the sure wrath of a Holy God against sin. I don’t claim for a second to know what all that means, but rest assured it is not good.

The aged and experienced apostle Paul had some words of instruction and warning for a young preacher.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

Of course it was happening in the first century just as it is today and it is still a real danger. It seems to come in waves, waves of unbelief couched in church talk and verified with seminary degrees and best-selling books. Paul’s warning to young Timothy was “Be sober-minded…” Good advice in 2011 I’d say.

I fear that for many of our people there is more value in reading what someone said about God and the Bible than to really know God and actually read the Bible! One of the “markers” or indicators of a true Christian is that he loves the “teaching”. That is the body of truth the apostles taught.

We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
(1 John 4:6)

Clearly, the “us” in the above verse is the apostles. This is not a difficult concept. One way you can tell a believer from a make-believer is by observing how he receives the Word of God. If a fellow has lots of problems with Paul and Peter and John…you had better watch him! And, we have lots of people leading people away from the apostles teaching rather than to the apostles teachings. I didn’t write either of these Bible passages but both are true and good advice for today.

Be careful! Everyone who looks like a sheep is not. I would go so far as to say any preacher who does not major on Jesus and what He accomplished for ungodly sinners should be taken in small bites at best. Instead, many of our unknowing people are taking them down a leg at a time.

If the Bible is not dependable we have no hope. Those who are making the case for moral improvement as a way to be fit for heaven and to avoid final punishment are deceitful liars, they are from the evil one and not from God.

Unbelief by any other name is still a recipe for perishing without God.

For Truth,


Right answer, Wrong question?

If it were not so sad it might be amusing that so many people think they have the right answer when they have never really considered the right question. Unless the right question is posed and answered little is gained.

I read Christian blogs, lots of them. There is considerable chatter across blogdom on the subject of what I’ll call the “technicalities of salvation” for want of a better term. On Church of Christ blogs there is much give and take about the role of water baptism. There are some who believe immersion in water is absolutely essential for salvation and there are others who do not go that far but still have a very high view of the act. There has been tons of bandwidth dedicated to this question, “Is baptism a work?” There are those obligatory standard questions about the role of obedience and how it comes into play when a person becomes a Christian.

Then there are those discussions about what you must do to stay saved. Must your church be a cappella? Can you allow female Christians to serve the Lord’s Supper to others and still be in God’s grace? These are very important and weighty questions for many, many people of the Stone-Campbell heritage. Nobody wants to be out of the Kingdom on a technicality!

Restoration folks are not alone in their probing and seeking the right answers to important questions. Many Southern Baptists are all in a tizzy because of the growing trend of Calvinism among their ranks. There are all sorts of warnings about the dangers of these people and what they believe and teach and frankly much of what they fear has no basis in fact. They range from saying they are not evangelistic to believing a person can be a Christian and live like the devil himself and all in between.

Other Christian groups are not exempt from the irresistible urge to know exactly the split second a sinner is saved. And they want to be sure about some monumental things.

  • Is our church the true church?
  • Am I good enough?
  • Can I know for sure I’m in?
  • What if I forgot to confess some of my sins?
  • Does our church follow the right order of worship?
  • Will my parents or my child be lost because they are in the wrong church?
  • Can other people really be saved who aren’t like us?

All of these and others are questions serious people are grappling with and they really want to find the correct answer. After all, their eternity depends on it!

I think that rather than spending time debating works vs. faith, the efficacy of baptism, the mode of baptism, church differences, good works, Calvinism vs Free will, etc. etc. there is a more pressing question that is not being asked.

Is Jesus Christ sufficient? Is He enough?

In my view when you get this settled, most of the other stuff people debate about and divide over means little. Obviously you will answer Yes! That question might even seem silly to many people. But is it?

If the work and worth of Jesus fully satisfied both God’s holiness and His justice, and if He did it for me, then there is nothing more needed to appease a holy God who hates sin. God has done everything necessary to set men right with Himself. Now he offers life everlasting to those who will take him at His (faith) word and follow. It is a gift undeserved and unearned. This is called grace!

Every person who insists your must do this and do that, keep this ritual and say these words and attend this particular church are without knowing it answering the right question. And the answer is, Christ is not really enough. I need Him and what He has done but I also need this and …… Well maybe, just maybe, the good news (gospel) is much better news than you thought.

Christ is quite enough! You need no more than Him

“19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
(2 Corinthians 1:19-22 ESV)

I believe God only forgives our sins on the basis of Jesus and His death for our sins on the cross. And, I believe we are made righteous based on the flawless life of Jesus which was given for us.

God does not make ungodly sinners His own dear children based on what Christ has done and….anything. The exact reason Paul thrashed the Jewish believers for insisting on circumcision for Gentiles is that they were adding to Christ’s work and worth. Christ and…. is never the right answer.

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14 ESV)

Let us then not boast in what we have done, what we know, our denomination or lack of it. May we cling only to the Christ of God who alone is eternal life. He is the answer!







The Journey from Legalism to Liberty in Churches of Christ

In the Bible there are many passages of Scripture that are so wonderful, so majestic, that I can hardly take them in. I read them and am in awe! I think about them and meditate and ponder and measure myself against them and wonder if I have begun to appropriate their promises for myself. I am often convicted, sometimes shamed, and at other times filled with thanksgiving. Some of what I find in the Bible seems to big for me. It is like walking into the front door of the Dallas Autorama, where do I begin? How can I possibly be able to see and appreciate it all?

One of those passages that to me is much more than enough for my mind and my heart is this one.

1″Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:1-4)

Where do I start? I mean this passage is so jam-packed with wonderful truth that I can hardly decide where to begin unpacking its promises. Maybe the best way is to go line by line and see what God is saying to us.

Vs. 1. Peter establishes his apostleship and the deity of Jesus. And he lays out the fundamental truth that every Christian is equal in that each of us have our standing in Christ by faith and that the only righteousness we can claim is His righteousness. Here is the basis of unity among believers, a common faith that gives each of us “equal standing”, even with the apostles.

Vs. 2. More grace and more peace come to us in knowing Christ more, for He alone is the source of grace and peace. Paul prayed for believers that they would “grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord”.

Vs. 3. Jesus said “I have all power in heaven and in earth” and here Peter says is it by His “divine power” that we are given “ALL THINGS that pertain to life and godliness”, “through the knowledge of Him (Jesus)”. Let’s see now. I’m living here on earth and I want to be godly. How do I get equipped for the task? Peter says get to know Jesus more because He is the source of ALL THINGS I need for living and being godly. If in Him I find that I have ALL THINGS that means that NO THING will be lacking. My ability to live a godly life, and the power to perform it, and even the will to do it, is locked up in the person of Jesus Christ. But there is more! He has a purpose for me and every other Christian. That divine purpose is that we bring him glory and share in his glory and that we are becoming like him now and finally will like him be excellent!

Vs. 4. By the means of his great and precious promises to us, and for us, we literally take on the divine nature and thus escape the corruption of this world.  Our greatest needs are spiritual needs and only He can provide them. Our greatest enemies are spiritual enemies and only by His power and might can we fight them…and win. And our common desire for immortality can be realized only in Him who was and is and is to come, our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer said that in “these last days God has spoken to us through His Son”. The revelation of God we call the Bible is the story of the loving Creator loving those he created, again and again showing mercy, offering grace, and being rejected. The central theme and central person are one and the same, Jesus Christ our Lord. Only through His work and His worth are sinful men and women set right with God. Knowing Him, really knowing Him, and giving Him honor and glory, with our lips and in our living, is man’s highest good. He is our peace. He is our righteousness. He is our joy. He is our assurance. He is our life. He is all we need.

A Heritage Hijacked

Just over a decade ago I started worshiping, working, and loving, in a Church of Christ. I didn’t know much about the churches or the Restoration Movement but I determined to learn. And so I did. In a few months I started to learn that I knew more about the CoC heritage than most people my age who had been in the RM for generations. And I was shocked at how much churches today are unlike the founder’s dreams and ideals.

The Campbell’s, Stone, and others had some noble and good ideals. They dreamed of Christians from every stripe worshiping together in primitive ways and so infusing the message of the gospel and Christian morals into the culture that someday the whole earth would improve spiritually and morally so that in Alexander Campbell’s mind, the church’s impact on society would usher in the millineal reign of Christ on earth. Of course he was wrong about the end of his dream but none-the-less his dream was noble and pure.

Fast forward a few hundred years to the last 60 or 70 years and up to today and most of our more traditional congregations hardly resemble what the founders envisioned. Alexander Campbell coined the phrase “We are Christians only, but not the only Christians.” But now, in the year 2010, a rather large but steadily decreasing number of our churches hold to the premise “We are Christians only, and the ONLY Christians!” They will tell you in a hurry that even many other church of Christ folks are lost, in addition to two other significant groups who share with them a common heritage.

A movement that began as a “unity movement” to unite into one “the many sects” of Christians is now as fractured as any group on earth except for Baptists who have split and the splinters have split and there are dozens of Baptist groups of different flavors.

A movement that was pure in ideals and noble and right in vision was too soon hijacked by legalists. They turned what was a Bible loving and Christ honoring group of local churches into largely fragmented sects who each believed only they were saved and that everyone else who was not exactly like them in belief, and practice, were lost.

Get in line or you’re out!

By the early 192o’s, salvation and worship were clearly articulated by two sets of five points. Salvation became these 5 points.

1. Hear (Rom. 10:14-17)
2. Believe (Mark 16:16)
3. Repent (Acts 2:38)
4. Confess (Matt. 10:32-33)
5. Be Baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; I Peter 3:21

And, most of those who adhere to this “Plan of salvation” will add a 6th step, “Live a faithful life”.

While these 5 points are biblical and good and right, putting your faith in a “Plan of salvation” does not save. Faith in Christ saves. Interestingly, not one chapter in the New Testament includes all of these 5 steps but the NT references salvation scores of times. I wonder, how did those earliest Christians manage to “turn the world upside down” for Christ and win tens of thousands before even one of these passages was written?

Here is the problem with the “Plan” as I see it. It has become a check off list. A candidate for baptism will be asked the following questions. (That he “heard”, step 1, and believes, step 2, is assumed. In reality he may or may not have heard the gospel) “Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” The candidate responds “Yes.” “Have you repented of your sins?” He responds “Yes.” “Who is going to be the Lord of your life from this day forward?” He responds “Jesus”. And then he is baptized after the baptizer says “Based on your confession of faith I baptize you for the remission of your sins.”

Check, check, check, check, check. Now it may very well be that this fellow believes Jesus is the Son of God in the same way he believes Richard Petty was a race car driver. That is not faith, that is giving mental assent to a fact. In many cases this person has trusted a “plan” to save him and not the Lord Jesus. The proof is in the puddin’. I have seen door knocking campaigns where of more than a dozen who followed the plan not one life was changed an iota. Sometimes though God saves in spite of our ignorance and unbelief. Maybe the gospel gets in someway and a few will trust Christ and not in the plan of salvation and be saved.

Worship is just as glib. Again, 5 is the number. There are 5 acts of worship. They are”

1. Singing
2. Preaching
3. Praying
4. Giving
5. The Lord’s Supper.

Click, click, click, click, click. People are taught that if you do right you will be right. This is what the legalist refers to as the “Pattern of worship”. If you follow this pattern you are right and if you don’t…..Oh wait a second! Singing must be only A Cappella. You might ask, “Where does the Bible say that?” And the answer is unbelievable, really it is. What you will be told in essence is “We believe it because the Bible doesn’t say it. We have our reasons..”

If you don’t follow this so-called “Pattern of worship” you are not obedient to Jesus and you are lost. (Never mind that even the order of the 5 acts are points of disagreement and one group will condemn another to hell if the order isn’t as the first group says it should be….??? I’m not making any of this up.)

So, generic Christian Bill goes off to the “building” on a Sunday morning and one by one he clicks off the 5 acts. He sings the 3 songs and the invitation song. He eats a tiny cracker and drinks some Welches grape juice. He listens to the preacher. There was an opening prayer and a closing prayer. He puts $5 bucks in the collection plate and He is home in time for the kick off and he has done what is “authorized”, he has scripturally worshiped! Really?

Lets just examine one of the 5 acts of what is “authorized” and is one fifth of the “pattern” to be followed. Prayer. Someone prayed twice and Bill might have even prayed, but more than likely he only listened to someone else pray. Now I ask you, when we read in the Bible that the early church “prayed together” is this what they did? Surely, with a tiny bit of reflection, nobody believes that is what they did. So has bro’ Bill violated his own pattern?

Here is the flaw of the 5 step plan of salvation and the 5 acts of worship. A person who is not a Christian can breeze right through both of them and in fact they do it all the time. How can I be so sure? I personally know people, close friends, who did it for years. That is until they came to know the only source of eternal life, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Doing right does not make one right.

Everyone who has been around our churches of Christ very long knows several people who have been baptized more than once. Some of them have been immersed 3, 4, or more times. Why? They thought they didn’t do it right. They simply couldn’t understand why their lives were no different since they had followed the “plan”. Only when a sinner puts his faith in Christ, when he believes in a trusting and dependent way upon Jesus does he get what he needs and wants. For many it is synonymous with baptism. However, that is not true with everyone. I know an elder, a very godly man, greatly used by God to share the good news all across the country, whose testimony is that it was years before his life started to match his confession. Baptism, and the other acts are useless unless the candidate, like the man from Ethiopia long ago, believes “with all his heart” in Jesus Christ the God-man, and not in a plan.

Shaking off the shackles.

In the last 11 years I have seen a noticeable difference in my own congregation. The message of the grace of God demonstrated in the doing and dying of Jesus has started to grip the hearts of more and more of God’s people and the harvest of souls is increasing. All around the country people are leaving the bondage of legalism and embracing the love and grace of God. Their testimony is that finally they are free from doubt, free from worry, because they have been convinced that it is not about them but about Jesus. His dying for them, His burial, and His resurrection for them is an objective fact and their faith in Him is sure and firm.

Ephesians 2 answers the objections of the legalistic types whose indictment of anyone who preaches or teaches salvation by grace though faith alone is that we don’t value “works” or “faithfulness” and that we believe a person can live any old way and be fine in God’s eyes. Nothing could be more wrong.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

A careful reading of this passage precludes any nonsensical idea that just because one holds to salvation by faith that he does not value good works.

This is astonishingly clear. Salvation is not the result of works! (Vs. 9)  By the way, that is true before or after one is converted. But keep reading.

Christians are God’s product, His “workmanship”. We are His “creation” in Christ Jesus for what purpose? GOOD WORKS! And, this is something that God didn’t just hatch up at the last minute. No, He prepared this plan “beforehand”. What is the plan? “That we should walk in them”. (Vs. 10)

This is not my plan, it is God’s plan. Just as sure as God created dogs and bull frogs God created Christians to “walk in”, or “do” “Good Works”! A person who does not do “good works” as a lifestyle is not a Christian. Read 1 John. He says this exact same thing. So are “works” important? Yes, so important that God’s design for Christians included them. But, make no mistake about it, not one person will be saved because of their good deeds. “Not of your own doing” in Vs. 8 and “Not the result of works” in Vs. 9 means exactly what it says. No seminary degree with an emphasis in biblical languages is required to unpack this passage and understand it.

So, how about you? When you retire at night do you have the assurance that everything is OK between you and God? Are you trusting Him? Or, are you depending on your ability to worship right, be good enough, and hope it all works out in the end? There is a better way! Put your whole trust in Christ alone and enjoy the love and grace only he gives.

I suggest that everyone who reads this post take some time and read John 17, slowly and prayerfully, asking God to show you the truth of those words. You will find that you are safe in Him.

For truth,

Royce Ogle

Indwelt and Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Among our churches of Christ there is lively, and decades old debate, concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Some deny He is a person, others deny that He indwells Christians, and still others disagree about the extent of His work in the life of a modern day believer.

This post is not an attempt to fix any of this, but is an attempt to encourage us to carefully look at what the Bible actually says. There are some statements by Peter in the book of Acts that raise some questions that we should at least acknowledge and I believe they beg for an answer.

The Holy Spirit indwells Christians

For those of us who do believe that the Holy Spirit indwells believers today there is broad agreement that He comes to be “in” us at the point of our conversion. Jesus said of Him,

“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers ofliving water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit,whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16,17)

Jesus gives this comforting promise of the Spirit’s presence “in” His followers and then even indicates that the Holy Spirit is actually Him indwelling them. He continues by saying to them,

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

Paul confirms this idea in Colossians 1:27 using the phrase “Christ in you”. There are many other passages that make it very clear that the Holy Spirit resides “in” believers.

Does the Holy Spirit come to the believer when he is baptized?

Of those in churches of Christ who believe in the indwelling of the Spirit, the answer to this question is a resounding YES! Peter’s words in Acts 2 were,

“Repent and be baptized every one of youin the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38,39)

It is this passage that ties the reception of the Holy Spirit to the point of one’s baptism. How could it be more clear? It is after all Peter’s own words! But, there is a problem, this is not all Peter had to say on the subject.

Peter has more to say…

Peter has preached the good news to a Gentile audience in obedience to God’s command and they believed, received the Holy Spirit and were then baptized. (Acts 10) The order was not what we would expect if we take the Acts 2 verses at face value. Peter said of those new believers,

“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” (Acts 10:47,48b)

“As we have…”? That is what he asked. In the next chapter Peter visits the Jewish brothers in Jerusalem and defends baptizing Gentiles. I encourage you to read the whole chapter but this part of Peter’s defense is striking.

“If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)

Now according to Peter’s words the receiving of the Holy Spirit is tied to “believing”, not baptism. In fact, just before the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit when they believed, and before they were baptized Peter made this statement.

“And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he (Jesus) is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:42,43)

How do we reconcile Peter’s clear statements? He received the Holy Spirit when he believed just as the Gentiles did when they believed. How does this mesh with the traditional teaching of coc brothers about when one receives the Holy Spirit, and further at what point is one saved?

The question then is when did Peter believe?

  • Did Peter believe at the moment he was baptized? This would have to be the correct answer if we believe it is only at the moment of immersion that the Holy Spirit is given. But, this is not a logical conclusion. The only reason a person would want to be baptized is because they already believe, not to believe. We are right I believe to assume Peter was baptized but we have no record of it.
  • Did Peter believe when he saw the resurrected Christ? I believe it was only after Peter and the others saw for themselves that Jesus had been raised from the dead that they truly put their trust in him. After they witnessed the risen Lord there was never again any of the doubting and fear that characterized them up to that point.

In the passages in John chapters 7 and 14 Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come to be “in” believers when he was “glorified” (John 7:39) later in John’s gospel we can read when that event took place. Jesus had been crucified, he has been buried, and now he is clearly alive. On the evening of the day he rose from the dead he appeared to the disciples in a room with the doors closed. The disciples certainly were expressing unbelief and fear. Here is John’s account.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:19-22)

It was when they saw his hands and his side that their fears vanished and their faith was firm. Thomas was absent at the event and only after he too had seen the evidence did he believe.

I can’t think of any reason, any evidence from the scriptures, that should make me doubt that the disciples received the Holy Spirit on that exact moment. Was Jesus speaking in vain? Hardly! Peter’s defense to the elders about baptizing the Gentiles was that they had received the Spirit just as he did when he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

What about Pentecost?

Again I’ll use Jesus and Peter as expert witnesses. Jesus said of Pentecost, in fact his very last words before his ascension,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Pentecost was not about people being first indwelt by the Spirit but rather it was about Holy Spirit empowered witness. (Luke 24:49) Peter said this in his address right after this power had fallen upon them.

“But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,and your sons andyour daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (Acts 2:16-21)

It takes this sort of Holy Spirit power and authority to snatch men and women from the clutches of the evil one. Remember when Jesus gave the marching orders to the disciples? “I have all power (authority) in heaven and in earth, therefore go….” (Matthew 28:18)  The purpose was to receive Holy Spirit power. (Luke 24:49)

This Pentecost power was not a one time event never to be repeated. We can read later in the Acts that they were again and again filled with the Spirit for power to witness to the claims of Jesus.

You and I are too commanded to be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)  We too need his power to present the claims of Christ to hopeless and helpless sinners. If we humans know how to give good things to our children how much more does our heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit’s power for witness to those who ask and keep on asking him? In Acts 4:31 when the Apostles needed a fresh anointing of Holy Spirit power they prayed for it just like they did earlier in Acts.

God’s work must be done by God’s power. That is Jesus’ plan, not mine. Every person who puts his trust in Jesus is indwelt and those who want to win the lost to Christ need the filling of Spirit as well.

What about water baptism?

The Bible pattern for water baptism is perhaps best illustrated by the man from Ethiopia. After Phillip had preached Christ to him he requested to be baptized. Phillip replied “If you believe with all your heart you may…” Water baptism in the Bible is always believers baptism and is almost always immediately after one has professed faith in Christ. The act alone neither saves or imparts the Holy Spirit but is the God designed gospel symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It is one moment in the life of a person when they are completely surrendered to another, “self” is not in control. Baptism in the public identification of a person with Christ and Christ’s people.

I can’t find any account in the Bible of Christians who rejected baptism. Rather they at once hurried to be immersed. They knew it was their coming out for Christ, that it would separate them from the word at large and set them apart them as God’s own.

There is no Bible precedent that I can find for baptizing anyone who did not in public,  acknowledge his faith in Jesus Christ. Sinners are not candidates for baptism, believers are. And, the clear teaching is that those who trust Christ are saved. This view agrees with Peter’s statements although it goes against our traditional view.

I repeat often that I might be wrong, I am not infallible. But, I might be right too. What do you think?