Hugh Fulford Growing Old Gracefully 010818

Hugh Fulford ppg Spiritual Growth Parts 22-27


Someone has said that we cannot hold back the hands of the clock or the pages of the calendar. Each year that we live we come closer to the end of life’s journey. How shall we grow old? With anger and resentment toward the inevitable changes that aging brings, or with grace and gratitude? Will we become cranky and crotchety old people, making ourselves and all of those around us miserable, or will we allow our faith in God to have its crowning glory by the poise and assurance with which we come to the closing days of our earthly life?

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of the most memorable books in all of the Bible. In it, Solomon, the third and wisest and wealthiest of all of Israel’s kings, describes his search for happiness and the meaning of life. The final chapter sets forth his conclusion, and in a beautiful allegory he describes the process of growing old.

Solomon begins by urging us to remember our Creator—God—in the days of our youth, before the evil (or difficult, NKJV) days of old age come and the years draw near that leads one to say, “I have no pleasure in them,” that is, when the joy and exuberance of one’s younger years have now turned gray and there is little if any physical pleasure is to be found in life.

In verse two the wise man describes what has been called “the rhythm of life [which] is like the rhythm of the year. Spring and summer give place to the clouds of autumn and winter. The showers that so quickly come and go in youth are succeeded by rain and clouds and then more clouds. It becomes progressively harder to throw off troubles and anxieties” (J. Stafford Wright, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, Zondervan [1991], p. 1192).

In verses three through eight, in picturesque and poetic language, Solomon describes the aging process as “the keepers of the house (the arms and hands) tremble, and the strong men (the legs) bow down.” “The grinders (teeth) cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows (the eyes) grow dim.”

“When the doors are shut in the streets” likely refers to the closing down of the other senses, including the organs of hearing, “marooning the owner within the cramped house of his own body” (Wright). As one advances into old age, he tends to rise early (“rises up at the sound of a bird”), while at the same time one’s voice becomes weak and indistinguishable as “all the daughters of music are brought low.”

With age comes the fear of heights and of “terrors in the way.” Old men don’t climb ladders, and more and more the elderly fear getting out into the busy traffic of life, especially at night. “The almond tree blossoms,” signifying the whitening of the hair (or, as is the case with some, before our hair turns gray it may simply turn loose!) Something as light as a grasshopper is a burden, or perhaps (as some scholars think) the sense is that the once lively, leaping grasshopper, now an old person, can only drag himself along in the cold days of the winter of life, the “strong men” (legs) now being bowed down (verse 3).

“Desire fails.” One’s appetite for food, sex, adventure and the other pleasures of life is greatly diminished in old age. “For man goes to his long home (here I love the KJV), and the mourners go about the streets.” Ah, yes, in contrast to life in this world which Job pessimistically described as being “of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1) and which James described as “a vapor that appears for a little while” (James 4:14), life for God’s children is finally reached in the long home—the eternal home, the real home! (See II Corinthians 5:1-3).

With advancing years comes the loosing of “the silver cord” (the bending of the spinal column), the breaking of “the golden bowl” (the head), the shattering of “the pitcher” at the fountain (the failure of the heart), and the breaking of “the wheel” at the well (perhaps a reference to the absence of the full functioning of the lungs or possibly an allusion to the breaking down of the organs of digestion)—all resulting eventually in death.

Regardless of the specifics of Solomon’s description of the aging process, the fact remains that unless we die young (and many do), old age with all its accompanying infirmities will come. As it does, how will it affect us? Will we accept it graciously or bitterly?

At the end of his search for the meaning of life, including his graphic depiction of growing old, Solomon says: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear (reverence, respect, hf) God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

May God give us the will to grow old gracefully and to come to the end of our earthly journey in the full assurance that “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:8).

Hugh Fulford

January 9, 2018


Swiftly we’re turning life’s daily pages,

Swiftly the hours are changing to years;

How are we using God’s golden moments?

Shall we reap glory? Shall we reap tears?

These poignant words were penned by Mrs. Roy Carruth and set to music by that grand old gospel preacher and song writer, Tillit S. Teddlie. The song appears in many hymnals used by members of the Lord’s church and is sung with much meaning.

On December 27, 2017 I turned a page on another year of life as I reached the heralded four-score years. I sometimes wonder where these eight decades have gone! I know that the Psalmist was right when he wrote, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

At midnight on December 31 we all turned the page on another year of life. What did we leave behind in the old year? What will we take with us into the New Year?

In the New Year, let us turn the page . . .

From hate to love, realizing that “he who loves is born of God and knows God,” while, conversely, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).

From unkindness to kindness, knowing that we are to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). Let the pages of our new year be filled with kind thoughts, kind words, and kind deeds.

From impatience to a demonstration of that patience that God has with us. Let us determine to live in “all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2).

From rudeness to graciousness, remembering that genuine love “does not behave rudely, does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5), but, like Christ Himself, is ever gracious, easy, kind, and good (1 Peter 2:3).

From coarse, crude language to language that is pure, chaste, and reverent, and the kind that we would not be ashamed to use in the presence of Jesus Himself. Christians are to “let no corrupt communication proceed out of [their] mouth(s) . . . nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting . . .” (Ephesians 4:29; 5:4).

From paralyzing fear to trusting faith. Let us not be as the one talent man who was afraid (Matthew 25:25), but in boldness let us remember that “this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:5). Let us ever keep in mind that God “has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).

From irresponsibility to faithful stewardship and accountability to God and man. Let us be accountable as husbands, wives, parents, children, employers, employees, students, and, above all, as disciples of Jesus. In all of these relationships may we see ourselves as stewards (managers of that which rightfully belongs to another) and realize that “it is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

From any hint of compromise with evil and error to strong, unyielding convictions that are firmly rooted in the word of God. Let us “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). Let us “earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and make our personal lives “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).

From lukewarmness to burning zeal for the cause of Christ. Lukewarmness is the sin that makes Christ nauseated and will result in one being rejected by the Lord (Revelation 3:14-16). In the new year let us firmly resolve to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, inasmuch as [we] know that [our] labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

He came to my desk with quivering lip.

The lesson was done.

“Dear teacher, I want a new page,” he said,
I have spoiled this one.”

I took the old page, torn and blotted,
And gave him a new one, all unspotted,
And into his sad eyes smiled:
“Do better now, my child.”

I came to God’s throne with a trembling heart.
The year’s work was done.
“Dear Father, I want a new life,” I said,
“I have spoiled this one.”

He took my old life, torn and blotted,
And gave me a new one, all unspotted,
And into my sad heart smiled:
“Do better now, my child.” (Kathleen Wheeler)

As we begin a new year, if we have never done so, let us turn the page on rebellion and disobedience to Christ, humbly repent of our sins (Acts 17:30), confess our faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10), and be buried with Him in baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), thus being “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5), turning the page from a life of gloom and darkness to one of inexpressible joy and light (John 8:12; Acts 8:26-40).

(Note: The preceding article is an adaptation of one I wrote at the request of the editor and published in the Gospel Advocate, December 2017. It is used here by permission of the G.A.)

Hugh Fulford

January 2, 2018

# 022


(Part 4)

In November I wrote three essays under the above heading, with vignettes of three great leaders constituting each essay. I have been encouraged by a number of readers to write some additional articles along this line, and intermittently over the next several weeks I plan to do so. I will resume with the previous numbering of the articles (i.e., this will be Part 4), as well as with the numbering of the men I shall mention (i.e., Barton W. Stone will be number 10, etc.).

10. Barton Warren Stone (1772-1844). Born in Port Tobacco, MD on Christmas Eve in 1772, Stone’s father died when he was three years old and his mother moved the family to Virginia. As an infant his mother had him sprinkled in the Church of England. In 1790 he entered Guilford Academy in North Carolina, a school operated by David Caldwell, a Presbyterian preacher. In 1791 Stone united with the Presbyterian Church, and in 1796 he received his license to preach in that denomination. In 1798 he received a call from the Cane Ridge and Concord Presbyterian Churches in Kentucky to preach for them, but he became increasingly dismayed by Calvinism. In 1804, after preaching six years for the two Presbyterian congregations, he informed them that he could no longer conscientiously preach Presbyterian doctrine. He and four of his fellow Presbyterian preachers withdrew from the Presbyterian Church. Independent study led them to abandon infant baptism and sprinkling. They baptized (immersed) each other and soon many others followed them in taking this step. In a famous document known as “The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery,” among a number of other items, they said, “We will, that the people henceforth take the Bible as the only sure guide to heaven; and as many as are offended with other books, which stand in competition with it, [they] may cast them into the fire, if they choose; for it is better to enter into life having one book, than having many to be cast into hell.” In 1826 Stone began editing and publishing The Christian Messenger and it continued until 1845. In 1801 he had married Eliza Campbell. Eliza died in 1810, leaving him with a son and four daughters. The next year he married Cecilia Bowen. By both wives he fathered nineteen children. Stone died on November 9, 1844 in Hannibal, MO in the home of his son-in-law, Captain Samuel Bowen. (I do not know what kinship may have existed between Stone’s second wife and Samuel Bowen who married his daughter Amanda). When asked if he had any fear of death, Stone’s response was, “Oh, no, I know in whom I have believed and in whom I have trusted. God bless you, my brother. I hope to meet you in heaven.” He was buried in Hannibal, but the body was later reburied at Cane Ridge in Kentucky. A stone marker bears this inscription: “The church of Christ at Cane Ridge and other generous friends in Kentucky have caused this monument to be erected in a tribute of affection and gratitude to Barton W. Stone, minister of the gospel of Christ and the distinguished reformer of the 19th century.”

11. Samuel Rogers (1789-1877). Rogers was born in Charlotte County, VA on November 6, 1789. His mother, a member of the Church of England who had taken her stand with the Methodists, had Samuel christened by the famous Bishop Francis Asbury. On January 14, 1812, Samuel married Elizabeth Irvin who became a great spiritual influence in his life. Her family had been converted to the principles of the restoration by Barton W. Stone (see above), and because of her, Rogers came under the influence of Stone. Shortly after his marriage, he was immersed into Christ. In spite of a lack of much formal education, Rogers began preaching the gospel and calling people back to the Bible. After preaching for a while in Kentucky, he moved to Clinton County, OH. He preached to his neighbors and gathered together a group of Christians. Rogers expanded his field of labor and spent much time preaching on the frontier of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. He was the second man to preach the gospel in Missouri and the first to preach it in St. Louis. Both success and hardship were parts of the life of Samuel Rogers. Of his preaching he said, “The story was plain and easy to tell. There was nothing to do but open my Bible and let it tell to a perishing world the way of salvation. It was not necessary to warp or twist a single word or sentence” (H. Leo Boles, “Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers,” Gospel Advocate Company [1932], pp. 52-53). Of all the hundreds of people Samuel Rogers baptized, probably the most famous was Benjamin (Ben) Franklin, the object of the next sketch. Though deaf and almost blind in his closing years, Rogers remained happy. He retained his mind and memory to the very last, and closed his eyes in death in Carlisle, KY on June 23, 1877. (Note: For much of the preceding, I am indebted to Don Deffenbaugh and his lecture on Samuel Rogers delivered at the Faulkner University Bible Lectures in Montgomery, AL in 1997).

12. Benjamin Franklin (1812-1878). The great-great nephew of his famous forebear and namesake, Ben Franklin was born in Belmont County, OH on February 1, 1812. The Franklin family moved to Henry County, IN in 1833. The same year, Samuel Rogers (above) moved with his family to Henry County, IN and established a church after the New Testament order. Rogers set out to convert the Franklins (who were Methodist in their religious background), and succeeded in doing so, with Rogers baptizing Ben in December of 1834. The following month, Ben went to work studying the Bible and preparing himself to preach. Though his education was limited and his grammar initially quite poor, he continued to study diligently, and went on to become one of the greatest and most influential preachers among those pleading for a restoration of the New Testament order of things in Christianity, especially in the North. Of him Earl West wrote, “He did not pretend to be a philosopher, a politician, a teller of stories, or anything of the kind. He was a gospel preacher in everything the term implies . . . It is not likely that a greater, nobler, truer, purer preacher of the gospel lived since apostolic times than Ben Franklin” (The Search for the Ancient Order, Volume 1, p. 103-104). Two volumes of his sermons were published under the title The Gospel Preacher. When Samuel Rogers had grown old and Ben Franklin had become famous as a preacher, Rogers took great satisfaction in knowing that he had introduced Franklin to the gospel. In 1850 Franklin and his family moved to Cincinnati, OH, and in January of 1856 he began editing and publishing the American Christian Review, a periodical devoted to upholding the principles of apostolic Christianity. Franklin engaged in a number of debates with Universalists as well as with various denominationalists. He was bitterly opposed to the use of instrumental music in worship and refused to preach where the instrument was used. In 1864 he moved to Anderson, IN where he spent the rest of his life preaching, debating, and writing for the advancement of the New Testament way. He died on October 23, 1878 of an apparent heart attack, after spending the morning writing editorials. West notes, “Until that Tuesday afternoon of October 23, 1878, Franklin was a busy man in the kingdom of Master.” His funeral was conducted two days later and he was buried in the Anderson Cemetery in Anderson, IN. Of him, Jacob Creath, Jr. said, “If our own brethren believed in canonizing men, he could soon be placed on the front ranks of the roll of canonization . . . He has left no one who can fill his place, and we shall not see his like soon again” (American Christian Review [March 4, 1879], p. 73, as cited by West).

Hugh Fulford

December 12, 2017

Faith In Christ

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

In our last two Studies we saw that salvation is possible only because of the amazing grace of God. But we also discovered that God’s grace must be appropriated by a submissive obedience to the gospel, the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection for our redemption from sin and our justification (right standing) before God. While Christ “by the grace of God [tasted] death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9), He nevertheless is “the author of eternal salvation [only] to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). We are now ready to begin a study of the specific conditions set forth in the New Testament for being saved from sin and added to the church (Acts 2:47), for being “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of [God’s] love” (Colossians 1:13), for becoming a citizen of God’s “holy nation” (I Peter 2:9).

Beyond any question or doubt, a person’s response to the grace of God and the gospel of Christ begins with faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Jesus Himself said: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). To believe in Christ is to put one’s faith in Him as the Son of God and to trust Him as the only Savior (John 14:6; Acts 4:11-12).

The Bible, and especially the New Testament, often uses “belief” and “faith” as synonyms. The New Testament also uses “belief” and “faith” in both a limited sense and a comprehensive sense. When used in the limited sense, “faith” refers to the mere act of believing, of only giving mental assent to certain facts. This kind of “faith” will not save anyone. In John 12:42-43 it is said: “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him (Christ), but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” It was in this limited sense of “faith” that James was speaking when he said: “You see then that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (James 2:24).

When used in the comprehensive sense, “faith” refers to a full compliance with all the conditions set forth in the New Testament for receiving forgiveness of sins and maintaining a faithful walk with the Lord. Thus, “the golden text” of the Bible declares: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). That “belief” is here used in the comprehensive sense is seen by reading the last verse of this same chapter: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; but he who does not believe the Son (he who does not obey the Son, New American Standard Version) will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

It is in this all-encompassing sense of fully submitting to Christ that the Philippian jailer, in response to his question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, is told: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:30-31). Sadly, many people stop at this point in this amazing story of salvation. In the words of Paul Harvey, they fail to listen to “the rest of the story.” The jailer is told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” But in Romans 10:14 Paul rhetorically asks: “…how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?”, and then affirms: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

And so, after telling the jailer to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house” (Acts 16:32). It was only by hearing the word of the Lord that the jailer could believe and learn what he must do to act upon that belief in order to be saved. Now for “the rest of the story”: “And he (the jailer) took them (Paul and Silas) the same hour of the night and washed their stripes (they had been beaten with many stripes prior to being put into prison, verse 23). And immediately he and all his family were baptized. And when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, believing in God (having believed in God, New American Standard Version) with all his household” (Acts 16:33-34).

In this beautiful story of how the Philippian jailer and his family were saved, the following vital question needs to be asked: Between the point where the jailer is told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and the point where it is said that he had “believed in God,” what took place? When one answers that question, he has discovered what it means to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
# 023


“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Our present series of Studies (beginning with # 020) is focusing on salvation from sin and how a person establishes a spiritual relationship with God. We have learned that salvation is by the grace of God, but that God’s grace must be appropriated by obedience to Christ. Obedience begins with absolute faith and trust in Christ as the Son of God and as our only means of access to God (John 8:24; John 14:6). But this faith is not mere mental assent to the truth of who Christ is; it is an active, obedient faith. James reminds us: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).

Genuine faith in Christ leads a sinner to repent of his or her sins. More than simply being sorry for one’s sins (though godly sorrow is a motivation for repentance, II Corinthians 7:10), repentance “signifies to change one’s mind or purpose, always …a change for the better, an amendment…” (W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Repentance involves a change of mind by which a person determines to stop living life by his own rules and sincerely seeks to live as Christ instructs. Repentance is a “turning from” a self-centered and self-ruled life and a “turning to” a God-centered and God-ruled life. For this reason, repentance is the hardest command of all to obey because it involves the surrender of one’s will to the will of God. Yet without such a surrender, forgiveness of sins and salvation of the soul are not possible.

Consider a few of the numerous New Testament passages requiring a person to repent.

Luke 13:3: “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Jesus repeats this command in verse 5).

Luke 24:47: “…and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His (Christ’s) name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 17:30: “Truly, these times of ignorance God [once] overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this (the final judgment, hf) to all, by raising Him (Christ, the Man whom God has ordained to judge the world, hf) from the dead.”

Romans 2:5: “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart (a non-repentant heart, hf) you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each one according to his deeds.”

II Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The apostle Paul sets forth a high motive for repentance when he writes: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:5). Many people have lived in sin and rebellion to God’s holy law for years and years and years. God has been good to them, extending their lives, blessing them with an abundance of good things (James 1:17), being patient and longsuffering with them, hoping that some day they would “wake up” and look up to the One “from whom all blessings flow.” How God does yearn for sinful man’s repentance, and how His love and kindness and goodness toward all should lead people to repent!

But just as God is a God of love and mercy, He also is a God of justice and wrath. In a passage cited above–Romans 2:5–Paul spoke of those characterized by a hardened and impenitent heart, and warned that they were “treasuring up for [themselves] wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” He went on to say: “…but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness” God will render “indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek…” (Romans 2:8-9). Indeed, “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31)!

Thus, to accept God’s grace and receive His forgiveness one must repent of all sin. One must “turn from” pursuing his own agenda and “turn to” the way of the Lord. In the language of the passage at the top of this lesson: “Repent therefore and be converted (changed, hf), that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

With these articles being controversial in the religious world, we simply ask any student to read, evaluate within the context of each Scripture and make the first century application which you see in the text, please. Let us know of additional studies on your part which speak to these themes as we will evaluate them also. s/website director

Article # 24
The Good Confession

“And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ ” (Acts 8:37).

In order to appropriate the grace of God to one’s life and receive salvation for one’s soul, we have learned that a person must obey from the heart that form of doctrine (the gospel of Christ) to which he/she was delivered (Romans 6:16-18; II Thessalonians 1:6-8; Hebrews 5:8-9). This obedience involves coming to a real faith in Christ as the Son of God (John 8:24). It also involves genuine repentance of (a turning from) all sin (Acts 17:30). As we continue our study of what Christ and His apostles taught with reference to the all-important question, “What must I do to be saved?”, we learn that there are other conditions or acts of obedience with which a person must comply in order to be saved. In this Study we examine what the New Testament says about the necessity of making an open confession of faith in Christ as the Son of God.

The apostle Paul, alluding to statements first made back in Deuteronomy 30:12-14, and showing their application in the Christian system, wrote: “But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, even in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith, which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:8-10).

There are several matters involved in this confession. First, the confession is made with the mouth: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 10:9). Faith in Christ is not kept to one’s self; it is articulated, verbalized. Peter openly confessed: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). When the Ethiopian eunuch requested baptism at the hands of Philip, he was told: “If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized].” The eunuch responded by confessing: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37).

That same confession is required of all today who would receive forgiveness of sins and be added to the church. The church is the collective body of people redeemed from their sins by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; I Peter 1:18-19). The foundation of the church is Christ (I Corinthians 3:11), which means that the people who have been saved stand confidently upon their faith in Christ as the Son of God. Peter affirms of them that they “will by no means be put to shame” (I Peter 2:6, New King James Version), or that they “shall not be disappointed” (New American Standard Version). What tremendous assurance the believer in Christ possesses! It is utterly inconceivable that anyone could be saved and made a part of the church (Acts 2:47) without first acknowledging his/her faith in Christ! Indeed, “…with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10).

Second, the confession involves believing that God has raised Christ from the dead (Romans 10:9). It was by His resurrection that Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power” (Romans 1:4). Therefore, to confess faith in Christ as the Son of God is to acknowledge His resurrection from the dead. Christians serve a living Lord, not a dead martyr!

Third, the confession arises from a truly believing heart. “For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:10). For one simply to “mouth” the words, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” without really believing what he is saying is of no avail. In this superficial sense “the devils also believe–and tremble! ” (James 2:19). There must be a deep and genuine conviction behind the spoken words.

When a person from another country desires to become a legal citizen of the United States, he renounces allegiance to all other governments and verbally pledges his/her loyalty to the United States of America. In the same way, when one desires to become a citizen of the kingdom of God, he renounces his allegiance to Satan and pledges his loyalty to Christ as his only Lord and King. Legal residents of the United States are not ashamed to let it be known that they are loyal citizens of this great country. Similarly, those who truly believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only way to eternal life (John 14:6) are not ashamed to confess Him before men–both at the time of their initial commitment to Christ, as well as throughout the course of their life as a Christian. Jesus said: “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).

Have you confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ? To receive forgiveness of your sins and enter the kingdom of God you must do so!

Editor: Usually, no rejections come up till the next subject is presented; we present this material in the interest of full studies. Let us know of your thoughts as you consider this line of study…………by using our Guestbook……..we will be back in touch with you as you study this topic, if you desire….thank you…….

# 025

“And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

As we continue our study of the specific conditions involved in appropriating God’s saving grace to our souls, we are ready to examine what the New Testament says about the place of baptism in the plan of salvation. Already we have learned that there are indeed conditions with which a person must comply in order to be saved (Matthew 7:21; Hebrews 5:8-9). The question, “What must I do to be saved?”, is a valid question (see Study # 021), and must be answered according to the Scriptures. Thusfar, we have learned that a person must come to have faith in Christ, repent of all sins, and confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. What role, if any, does baptism play in receiving God’s grace and entering a saved state?

Before He ascended back to heaven, Christ commissioned His apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). The gospel is the “good news” that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4). Christ wants this “good news” proclaimed to all the world because this gospel is God’s power to save those who will believe it and obey it (Romans 1:16; Romans 6:16-18; II Thessalonians 1:6-10). After giving the apostles this “great commission,” Jesus then said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

In Acts 2 we have the record of how the apostles began to execute the great commission of Christ. Following the stirring sermon delivered on that occasion, the audience was “cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38). It is important to observe the clear connection between the blood of Christ which was shed “for (eis = in order to) the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28) and baptism “for (eis = in order to) the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The apostle John affirms that it was in His death that Christ shed His blood (John 19:33-34), and the apostle Paul explains that one is baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-4). Thus, it is in baptism that a person reaches the blood of Christ and has his sins washed away (Revelation 1:5).

The above truths about baptism are verified in the case of Saul of Tarsus, the arch-enemy of Christ, who was converted and became the apostle Paul. While Saul was on a mission to persecute and kill Christians, the Lord appeared to him and told him to “arise and go into the city (Damascus), and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6). In Damascus, a disciple of Christ’s by the name of Ananias came to Saul and said to him: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The Lord had told Saul he would be told what he must (an imperative) do, and he was told to be baptized to have his sins washed away! Thus, we again see the connection between the blood of Christ, which was “shed for the remission of sins,” and baptism, the point at which one reaches the blood of Christ and has his sins washed away.

A careful study of the New Testament will reveal the following truths about the place of baptism in God’s plan for receiving His grace and entering a saved state:

1. Baptism stands between the sinner and salvation (Mark 16:16).

2. Baptism stands between the sinner and the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

3. Baptism stands between the sinner and having sins washed away (Acts 22:16).

4. Baptism stands between the sinner and the benefits of the death of Christ (Romans 6:3).

5. Baptism stands between the sinner and newness of life (Romans 6:4-6).

6. Baptism stands between the sinner and being able to legitimately wear the name of Christ (I Corinthians 1:12-13).

7. Baptism stands between the sinner and being in the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). Note: The body of Christ is the church (Colossians 1:18), but one is not added to the church until he/she is saved (Acts 2:47).

8. Baptism stands between the sinner and being in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 1:3).

9. Baptism stands between the sinner and the benefits of the spiritual circumcision which Christ performs on the sinner by “putting/cutting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Colossians 2:11-12).

10. Baptism stands between the sinner and being saved and having a good conscience toward God (I Peter 3:21).

“And now why are you waiting? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
# 027

Baptism: What And Who?

In our two previous Studies we learned that baptism is an essential part of man’s faith response to the gospel of Christ and to coming into a saved relationship with the Lord. Since remission of sins does not occur until one has repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38), it is vitally important to learn what baptism consists of and for whom it is applicable. Surely with reference to any condition or act having to do with the salvation of our soul we should want to make sure that we have properly understood and complied with that condition. We should not approach the matter in a nonchalant or lackadaisical manner, or with some false sense of security that the matter had already been taken care of for us by our parents when we were babies. Rather, we should want to make sure that we have correctly understood what God’s Word teaches about baptism and that we have personally done what the Bible says concerning baptism.

What is baptism? How is it to be performed? If we ignore the religious traditions and doctrines that have developed over the centuries, and if we lay aside the creed books, catechisms, and church manuals that men have written, and go back to the New Testament and make a fresh study of it, what will we discover with reference to the action of baptism (what it is)?

Of the ministry of John the Baptist (that is, John the Baptizer, the man who administered baptism, hf), it is said: “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan [river] went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6). Later, it is said: “And John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized” (John 3:23). In the Jordan river and in a place where there was “much water” John baptized people! What was the obvious action of baptism? Neither sprinkling, pouring, nor christening require “much water,” but Bible baptism does!

In Acts 8 we read of the conversion of the treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia. After having Christ preached to him by Philip, the treasurer–who was a eunuch–requested baptism, and following his confession of faith in Christ as the Son of God “both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38). What transpired in this New Testament account of baptism?

Later, the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore we were buried with Him (Christ) by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). In baptism there is the reenactment of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As Paul stated in Colossians 2:12: “…buried with Him (Christ) in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him, through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”

Is it important today for a person to do what the New Testament teaches with reference to how baptism is performed? If baptism is essential to salvation–and we have learned that it is (Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21)–then should not a person who is serious about the salvation of his soul want to comply with what God’s Word says regarding the way baptism is to be performed? If a person has only had a few drops of water sprinkled on him, or a small amount of water poured on him, or if as a baby a church official “christened” him, has that person truly been baptized? This is a question deserving of very serious consideration by every person who truly wishes to be saved.

Who is to be baptized? For whom is baptism valid? Following His death, burial, and resurrection, Christ commissioned the apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of (teach, KJV) all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them (those baptized, hf) to observe all things whatever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20). In Mark’s account of this matter Christ said to the apostles: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). From these words, spoken by the Lord Himself, we learn that baptism is for an accountable, responsible being who can be taught and who can come to belief for himself. Baptism has no power to save one who is not capable of receiving an appropriate amount of teaching before being baptized, as well as further teaching after being baptized, nor does baptism have any saving power for the person who is not himself a believer.

Still further, when the apostles began to carry out Christ’s great commission, they instructed people: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). Baptism is of no benefit to a person who has not personally repented of (turned from) his sins.

In Acts 8, when the Ethiopian treasurer requested baptism, he was told: “If you believe with all your heart, you may [be baptized]. And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’ ” (Acts 8:37). Baptism is valid only if a person is a believer in Christ and is willing to confess that faith (Romans 10:9-10).

Infants and young children who have not reached the age of accountability are not sinners, are not capable of being taught the gospel, are not capable of believing for themselves, have no sins of which to repent, and possess no personal faith in Christ that they can confess with their mouth as the Bible requires. With reference to little children Jesus said: “…of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Contrary to doctrines devised by men since the close of the New Testament, children are not born in sin (though they are born into a world of sin), they are not born totally depraved, and they have not “inherited” the sins of their parents, grandparents, et al, all the way back to Adam. Rather, they are pure and innocent until they become accountable for their actions and are able to choose between good and evil. Thus, babies and young, unaccountable children are not candidates for baptism, and all adults who were “baptized” as babies (in the light of the fact that baptism is immersion–not sprinkling or pouring–were they truly baptized?) should seriously re-think this matter from the standpoint of Biblical teaching, and ask themselves: “Have I truly complied with what the Word of God says regarding baptism, or have I lived under the delusion that all of that was taken care of for me when I was a baby?” Our eternal salvation in heaven, as opposed to the loss of our soul in hell, is too vital a matter with which to “gamble.” As the apostle Peter, writing to Christians, once said: “…be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (II Peter 1:10). Are you sure that you have complied with God’s will regarding baptism?

# 026

Objections To Baptism

In our previous Study we very carefully examined what Christ and His inspired apostles taught about the place of baptism in receiving the forgiveness of sins and entering a saved relationship with the Lord. We learned that baptism stands between the sinner and: (1) salvation (Mark 16:16), (2) remission of sins (Acts 2:38), (3) having sins washed away (Acts 22:16), (4) the benefits of the death of Christ (Romans 6:3), (5) newness of life (Romans 6:4-6), (6) being able to legitimately wear the name of Christ (I Corinthians 1:12-13), (7) being in the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13), (8) being in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 1:3), (9) the benefits of the spiritual circumcision which Christ performs on the sinner by “putting/cutting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Colossians 2:11-12), and (10) being saved and having a good conscience toward God (I Peter 3:21).

In spite of the clarity with which the New Testament speaks regarding the role of baptism in salvation, there are many good, honest, devoutly religious people who simply do not believe that baptism has anything to do with being saved. Numerous objections have been raised to baptism as a condition for receiving the remission of one’s sins. In view of our previous study, it is very much in order for these objections be considered in the light of Biblical teaching. Each objection will be listed below in bold and set off in quotation marks, with a corresponding Scriptural response made to each objection.

(1) “We are saved by grace, not by works.” Yes, indeed, the Bible is quite emphatic in affirming: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). But let it be remembered that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11) and that Christ “by the grace of God [tasted] death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). This does not mean, however, that everyone will be saved. Why? Because Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). Grace does not remove the necessity of one’s obedience to the gospel in order to be made free from sin (Romans 6:16-18; II Thessalonians 1:6-10). This obedience includes the essentiality of baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Paul clearly states: “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us…” How? “…by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). What is this “washing of regeneration” by which God “according to His mercy” saves us? Elsewhere, Paul explains: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church (the aggregate body of those who have been saved from their sins–Acts 2:47, hf) and gave Himself up for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). Baptism is “the washing of water” by which God in His mercy cleanses us of our sins and adds us to the church, the blood-cleansed body of all the saved (Acts 2:47; Acts 20:28). Baptism is not set in opposition to God’s grace; rather, it is when a penitent believer is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27) that he/she accesses the saving grace of God.

(2) “We are justified by faith only.” Again, it is a divine truth that a sinner is justified by faith (Romans 5:1), but the careful student of the Scriptures will be hard pressed to find a passage that affirms that the sinner is saved by faith only. In fact, James declares: “You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24). By “works” James is not referring to meritorious works by which one may earn salvation (the kind of works Paul had in mind in Ephesians 2:9), but to the submissive acts of obedience with which a person complies in order to enter into a saved state and to remain in such a saved state. (Note: It is sometimes pointed out that James is talking about the faith that keeps a Christian saved, not the faith by which a sinner is justified. But remember this: Just as the faith of a Christian must be an active, obedient faith, so the faith of a sinner must be an active, obedient faith. The matter of obedience is inseparably related to both the faith of a sinner and the faith of a Christian). Keep in mind that as we learned in Study # 022, the Philippian jailer was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your house” (Acts 16:31). Yet it was not until the jailer had been baptized that it is said of him that he had “believed in God” (Acts 16:34, American Standard Version). At the household of Cornelius Peter declared that “whoever believes in Him (Christ) will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43), but in Acts 2:38 the same apostle commanded: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). Faith and baptism are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is in repentance and baptism that a sinner demonstrates his faith and receives the remission of his sins. Interestingly enough, those who contend for salvation by faith only, without baptism, nevertheless find room in their “faith only” doctrine for repentance. I have never known of a person who advocates salvation by “faith only” to affirm that the sinner can be saved without repentance. But the same logic that includes repentance in salvation by faith also includes baptism.

(3) “Baptism is for (because of) the remission of sins.” As noted above, on the Day of Pentecost when the church was born, Peter instructed inquiring sinners: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The preposition “for” in this verse is the translation of the Greek eis and means “in order to.” It is precisely the same word and precisely the same phrase that Jesus used in Matthew 26:28 when in instituting the Lord’s Supper He said of the cup: “For this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” Question: Did Christ shed His blood because mankind’s sins were already remitted, or did He shed His blood in order for mankind to have remission of sins (I Peter 1:18-19)? When one answers that question he also will be able to answer the question: Is repentance and baptism because a person’s sins are already remitted, or is repentance and baptism in order for a person to receive the remission of sins? Bear in mind that Christ’s blood was shed in His death (John 19:33-34) and that a person is baptized into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3), thus reaching the benefits of Christ’s cleansing blood.

(4) “Paul was not sent to baptize but to preach the gospel.” Yes, Paul said: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…” (I Corinthians 1:17). Based on this statement, some have concluded that baptism is not a part of the gospel. Yet, two verses earlier Paul had explained why he had not personally baptized many of the Corinthians — “…lest anyone say that I had baptized in my own name” (I Corinthians 1:15). Far from affirming that baptism is not a part of the sinner’s response to the gospel, Paul is simply pointing out why he had not personally baptized many of the Corinthian converts. This does not mean, however, that the Corinthians had not been baptized in response to their hearing and believing of the gospel. In fact, the inspired historian Luke, in telling of the advance of the gospel into Corinth, declares: “And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8b). That, of course, is what Christ had commanded (Mark 16:16), and that is what Paul preached!

(5) “The thief on the cross was saved, and he was not baptized.” With all due respect to those who make this objection to baptism, I have to say that there is not a person on earth who can prove that the repentant thief on the cross was not baptized. With reference to the ministry of John the Baptist it is said: “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matthew 3:5-6). No one can prove that the thief was not among the many baptized by John the Baptist! In view of the wide response to the preaching of John, it is entirely possible that the thief was among those who were baptized by John. But that is beside the point. The real point is that when Christ said to the thief: “…today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43), Christ had not yet died and therefore His will or testament was not yet in force. The writer of the book of Hebrews affirms: “For where there is a testament (a will, hf), there must also of necessity be the death of the testator (in this case, Christ, hf). For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives” (Hebrews 9:16-17). The thief lived and died before the new testament (will) of Christ became in force. That is why the thief on the cross, as well as all the Old Testament worthies, cannot be held up as examples of righteous people “who were saved without being baptized.” They were never amenable to the New Testament of Christ requiring baptism for the remission of sins! But all people living this side of the death of Christ are amenable to His testament/will, and according to the stipulations of that will it is the person “who believes and is baptized” who will be saved (Mark 16:16). This is why all of the passages we noted in our Study last week (and reviewed in the first paragraph of this Study) are so vitally important in understanding the place of baptism in God’s plan for redeeming a sinner through Jesus Christ.

If this essay has blessed you, feel free to forward it to others who may benefit from it.

Hugh Fulford