Why do You Teach Baptism?

immerse

One of the differences many discover when they first hear me preach or teach is my appeal for those the profess a belief in Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, the Son of God, to immediately submit to baptism. I get it. I know what I teach is a little different from what many others teach.

Most groups within Christendom teach some form of baptism. Some sprinkle infants, some pour water over those who convert. Others immerse those who asked Jesus into their lives and hearts at some point earlier. So why do I place emphasis on the immediate immersion of those that profess faith?

Let’s start with a simple glance at the conversions to Christ of Jews and Gentiles in the book of Acts. There are ten accounts of different people or groups responding to the good news of salvation in Christ.

  1. The Jews on Pentecost in Acts 2:38 submitted to baptism.
  2. The Samaritans in Acts 8:12 submitted to baptism.
  3. Simon in Acts 8:13 submitted to baptism
  4. The Ethiopian in Acts 8:37-38 submitted to immersion.
  5. Saul of Tarsus in Acts 9 (Acts 22:16) submitted to baptism to wash away sin and to call on the name of the Lord.
  6. The Roman Centurion, Cornelius and his family in Acts 10 submitted to baptism.
  7. Lydia in Acts 16:14-15 submitted to baptism.
  8. The Philippian Jailer and his household submitted in Acts 16:25 submitted to baptism after hearing the gospel.
  9. Crispus in Acts 18:8 submitted to baptism.
  10. The Ephesians submitted to baptism in Acts 19:5.

This evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that the early disciples and Christians taught the importance of baptism. Why?

Why did the apostles and early Christians in Acts immerse converts?

To answer simply, I believe they were following what Jesus’ taught them.

  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15-16)

If you are still reading and following along, allow me to share what I believe and teach.

  • We are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus – Acts 15:11.
  • Grace is tied to the good news, that is the gospel that saves – Rom 1:16.
  • The saving gospel that the apostles taught is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – 1 Cor 15:1-5.
  • We must obey that gospel in someway – 2 Thes 1:7-10.
  • We obey the death, burial, and resurrection when by faith we re-enact the event, dying to self and sin, being buried, and resurrecting as a new creation – Rom 6:3-6.
  • This is how a sinner “calls on Jesus’s name” – Act 22:16.
  • This is how one by faith puts on (gets into) Christ – Gal 3:26-27.

Faith obeys the commands of God and Christ. This is what and teach about the importance of baptism and why I teach it this way. I simply want to do my best to present the message of salvation and to provide assurance to those who come to Christ.

-Scott

Why Worship God?

Worship 2Worship is to offer a message of respect and submission. The main idea of the Greek word(s) is to “kiss the ground before” the object of worship. Worship is a part of and a demonstration of our total submission to the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior.

In the early days of mankind as recorded in Genesis we have an event that demonstrates the respect and submission that worship is to be.  “In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.” (Genesis 4:3-5).

Why did God reject Cain’s worship and accept Abels?  The writer of Hebrews tells us, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4) Abel offered his sacrifice (worship) according to faith. Both Cain and Abel appear to believe in the existence of God, so there must be something about their sacrifice that is different.

The difference lies in what Moses records in Genesis. “Cain brought  . . . an offering of the fruit of the ground.” The wording leads me to believe Cain just grabbed up some vegetables and herbs and thought, “God wants a sacrifice, I’ll give him this.”  Maybe they were overripe or they were vegetables he did not like. Maybe he did just did not look them over and grabbed something. Could Cain’s mindset be, I’ll do this, but only because I have too.

Contrast that with Abel who “. . . brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” Abel thought this through.  Maybe he thought, “God is worthy of all that I am. I will give Him what He expects – my best and the first of what He blesses me with.”

With that story as serving as background knowledge let’s consider four goals of worship:

  1. Proclaim the Lord. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) When we participate in Communion (The Lord’s Supper) we are proclaiming the Lord’s death. We also proclaim the Lord to our neighbors when they know we are assembling to worship. We proclaim the Lord to each other as we worship.
  2. Praise the Lord. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” (Hebrews 13:15). When we sing, when we pray or say “amen” to a public prayer we are offering a sweet smelling aroma of praise to the Lord.
  3. Teach and admonish each other. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16). By our singing, by our presence in worship assemblies, and by our attention to the presentation of God’s word, we are teaching those around us and helping them to remain faithful.
  4. Build each other up. “Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Corinthians 14:26c). “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25). My participation in worship edifies the church.

Are we more like Abel or Cain?

  • If I am not participating but letting others worship for me . . .
  • If you are half-hearted in singing or prayer . . .
  • If I am exiting the assembly regularly and distracting others . . .
  • If you are not singing out . . .

Then, how are we meeting these four goals?

I challenge you to sing out. I challenge you to not be afraid to say “amen.” I encourage you to give 110% as you worship. I challenge you to be an Abel.

Be like Abel!

-Scott

Should I Give up on Church?

Fellow

An article is circulating that lists five sins that the author claims are not really sins. Some of what they list, I never thought of as sin, like saying, “No” to a ministry or opportunity or disagreeing with a church leader.  One of the “sins” they listed as not a sin is “Not Assembling with the Church” or “Skipping Church.”  I take exception to this one. Giving up on church is not an option for Christians.

Giving up on church is not an option for Christians.

I recently read an article on ChristianHeadlines “5 Reasons You Should Stay at Church (Even When You Want to Leave)” The author quotes from another source, and I really think they make some valid points. Here are their 5 reasons not to give up on church along with my own commentary on these reasons:

  1. The Church is Jesus’ Bride. Paul draws this picture in Eph 5:21-33. The picture is that we belong to Him are in one with Him. He is working with us and through us to help us to become a glorious bride without spot or wrinkle. We may not be there yet, but at the marriage of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-10) we will be. Why would I as a Christian not desire to be a part of the assembly that will join with the Lord for eternity?
  2. The Church s a Family. As a family or the household of God (1 Tim 3:15) as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Gal 3:26-4:7) we are part of one another. The church exists partly to encourage each other, build each other up, to bear each other’s burdens. We do that as a together family, not as separate individuals.
  3. The Church is a Diverse Community. We are no longer strangers, aliens, Jew, Gentile, slave, or free.  We are part of a community joined by our reliance on God’s grace. In the congregation I serve, we have four generations of people gathered together. There are college professors with PhD’s and folks with a G.E.D. There are conservatives, progressives, Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians. There are extroverts and introverts, business owners, college athletes, students with full academic scholarships, homeschool students, private school students, and public school students. There are teachers, nurses, engineers, unemployed, special needs, single, married, divorced, and widowed. There are people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. But we all have this in common: we gather to worship the Creator, seek truth, and seek grace for our sinful nature. (Eph 3:11-22).
  4. The Church Teaches us to Love. The greatest of commandments is to love the Lord God with all that we are. The second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:36-40). According to Jesus. the badge of discipleship is our love for each other (Joh 13:35). Love grows best as we sped time together.  The whole concept of fellowship (koinonia) is sharing and togetherness.
  5. The Church Needs You. As a Christian you are part of the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:14-18). The community (body) suffers when a part  is (or parts are) missing.  The body can compensate, but has a disability.  You part may be something grand or it maybe less grand, but your role is important to the body at large. Your presence may just be the encouragement someone else needed that day.  I recently received a text from a young mother who struggles in a number of ways.  She mentioned the encouragement she received just by seeing to older disabled members making extra effort to be a part of the church. These two members may not know how much their participation in worship impacts young lives. Your participation of lack of participation affects other members of the body.

Just somethings to consider this weekend.  I’ll look for you Sunday at Central.

-Scott

 

 

Boats and Grace

sailing

Maybe you have seen, read, or heard the illustration of a row boat used to explain the relationship between grace, works, and faith.  In this classic illustration the oars are labeled faith and works and the boat is named grace. You pull evenly with faith and works. You efforts keep you going in the right direction while grace keeps you afloat. There is a lot to like in that illustration.

A similar illustration is one of a submarine in the Rich Mullins’ song “Faith without works is like a song you can’t sing, its about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.”

Somewhere, sometime I heard a sermon on faith, works, and grace that used a different seaworthy vessel to illustrate their interdependence. The late Terry Hannah, was the preacher where I served as youth minister in Niceville, Florida. We had some avid boaters in the congregation and many of them preferred sailboats. Knowing this, Bro. Hannah used a sailboat instead of the tradition of a row boat. His illustration has stayed with me for over a quarter of a century.

Grace is the wind that powers the craft. Grace always moves toward heaven.

The sails are Faith which catch the wind.

It takes Work to set the sails to catch the wind.

What do you think about this illustration?

-Scott

The Failed Fake News Story

I thought I would share this from my co-worker and friend William Sharp. I liked the way he took a current trend and made application.

William Sharp

Everything depended on the story to be false. The government did not want it to be true, the religious leaders, and many leaders in the community. They believed he was dead, they saw it with their own eyes and knew he couldn’t be revived. There was no way the plan was going to backfire. Now all they needed to do was make sure the body didn’t go anywhere. Gathering before the high official, they recall what the man had said…

Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’

Urging him to be precautionary regarding the body, they implored that the site be guarded, just in case someone stole the remains. He ordered that the soldiers be sent to the tomb and put on watch, making it as secure as they could. They sealed it and put soldiers on watch, knowing…

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God’s Grace

God’s Grace

©B Scott McCown June 29, 2017

 grace

To deserve Your grace

There is nothing I can do

To live in Your love

Is a gift only from You.

 

Me, myself, my sin

Opposes Your righteousness

I stand as guilty

Before Your glorious throne.

 

I get in the way

Of the promises You make

My plans, my pride, me

Keep me from seeing Your light.

 

You reach toward me

In magnificent mercy

To send forgiveness

Found in the gift of Your Son.

 

To live in your love

Is a gift only found in You

To deserve that grace

There is nothing I can do!

Thinking About Worship

13235445_10207760587905824_3504105606349192008_oOur Bible study discussed Psalm 46 yesterday evening.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah. Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalms 46:1-11)

Reading that psalm reminds me that faith removes fear, I can trust in God to help me be grounded – immoveable, and that because of God I will be victorious even when life deals heavy blows. I cannot help but worshipfully praise God.

As I consider worship, I see the Bible discussing four types or styles of worship.

Four Styles of Worship:

  1. Ignorant Worship.  Ignorant worship is worship that lacks informative direction.  Worship that we think is right or acceptable, but we are not basing those thoughts or that worship on any sound (reliable) source.  I am thinking about Act 17:23.
  2. Vain Worship:  This style of worship is similar to ignorant worship, yet goes a step farther.  Vain worship is completely without God’s approval, yet claims to be from God.  Often this worship has a basis in tradition and not God’s word.  I am thinking of Jesus’ words  in Mat 15:9.
  3. Volitional Worship:  This is worship not from the will of God, but from our own will.  This worship is not only ignorant of God’s will, nor is it vain because it is simply traditional and not of God, but such worship carries the ideas of *this is what I want to do; *this is what I like; *this entertains me, etc.  I am thinking Col 2:23.
  4. Pure Worship (a.k.a True Worship):  This style of worship focuses attention on the only member of the audience (God).  This style of worship consults God’s will.  This style of worship flows from the heart of the worshiper.  I am thinking of John 4:24.

What do you think?

– Scott

I Heard You Didn’t Believe In . . .

me guitar

Me on guitar in a jam session – Rockin’ (or destroying) the hits of the ’70’s

I heard you didn’t believe in instruments.

It was while I was an intern in Baldwin County, Alabama that I first heard it put that way. I had walked into a pawn shop and was looking at the guitars. I was playing a warm-up piece when the proprietor introduced himself and I told him I was the intern youth minister at the church of Christ around the corner.

Skip forward about twenty years and I am at a TV station about to record a religious TV program. I was talking with the producer and asked if that was his guitar in the production room. He asked if I played, then stopped himself, and said, “I thought you were from a church of Christ and I hear y’all don’t believe in instruments.”

“I believe in them,” I replied I’ve seen them, “I’ve even played on a harpsichord.” He got the joke. Then I simply said, “I just don’t use them in worship.”

Why? 

Why do we not use instruments in the churches I work with?

For me, and I am speaking for me, not using an instrument in worship comes down to two simple observations (make that three observations).

1When the New Testament mentions praise and specifically singing in the church (not in heaven and not in the temple) there is a conspicuous absence of musical instruments.  Consider the following verses:

  • Hebrews 2:12, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”
  • Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
  • Ephesians 5:19, “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,”

Notice the absence of instruments.  In my attempt to keep the church true to what Christ and the inspired writers teach, I believe it is best to not use instruments in our worship. I am not alone. John Price of Grace Baptist Church in Rochester, New York concludes a study on worship saying,

“We bring all of this together — the theological arguments from the Scripture concerning the regulative principle, the abundant historical evidence of the rejection of musical instruments by the church, and the testimony of their harmful effects upon gospel worship — and we ask the reader: what other conclusion can we come to that that musical instruments should have not place in Christian worship?”*

2. Mr. Price mentions historical evidence in his conclusion and historical evidence is my second reason for not using instruments in worship. Dan Chambers takes us through history starting the early leaders that theologians refer to as the Church Fathers. He refers us to James McKinnon’s statement about these leaders views on instruments in worship, “The antagonism which the Fathers of the early Church displayed toward instruments has tow outstanding characteristics: vehemence and uniformity.”**

Chambers then takes us through the Middle Ages and quotes, “the use of organs came into the church since the time of Thomas Aquinas, Anno (the year) 1250.” *** Before 1250 instruments were not accepted by church leaders and in most churches although some individual churches used them as early as the year 800).

Chambers then gives quotes from the Reformers Calvin and Zwingli and the Puritans demonstrating their opposition to musical instruments in worship. He continues to show that men like David Benedict (a Baptist preacher and historian in the nineteenth century), Charles Spurgeon of the Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle in London opposed musical instruments in worship. ****

I think I should also note that Methodist commentator Adam Clarke made this observation about John Wesley, ” . .  John Wesley, who was a lover of music, and an eloquent poet, when asked his opinion of instruments of music being introduced into the chapels of the Methodists said, . . . ” I have not objections to instruments of music in our chapels, provided they are neither heard nor seen.”*****

History demonstrates that musical instruments were not common in Protestant churches until the mid 1800’s and then were opposed by their leaders when they were introduced. History is on the side of excluding musical instruments in the worship of the church.

There is a third reason I choose not to use instruments in worship.

3. They are completely unnecessary. Answer this question: If you were stranded with fellow Christians in an area where you did not have access to musical instruments or musical accompaniment tracks could you still worship God without them? YES!  Then why do we need them in our regular worship?

Please know that I am simply sharing what I understand scripture, history, and necessity to teach. I beg you to carefully consider these thoughts. You have the right to disagree with me. I will leave the final judgment to God. Our only hope is in the grace that saves through faith in the sacrifice of Christ.

-Scott

* Price, John, Old Light on New Worship, (Avinger, TX:Simpson Publishing), 2007, p. 229.

** Chambers, Dan, Churches in the Shape of Scripture, (Franklin, TN:Faithworks Press) 2012, p. 69.

*** Ibid, p 71.

**** Ibid, pp 72-78.

***** Clarke, Adam, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 4 (New York:Abngdon Press, n.d.) p. 684.

The Church Today

ChurchThe Church is in trouble.

At least that is what I am supposed to believe.  I hear / read reports every few weeks that talk about decline in attendance and membership. In nearly three decades of ministry I have heard from three generations as they complain about the Church and “organized religion.” Every generation, from the one before me (Baby Boomers), my generation (Gen X), and the Millennials all have similar and valid concerns. I have not conducted a formal survey, but these are the complaints (concerns) I hear:

  • Church is too inward focused.
  • Church is too political.
  • I want sermons (classes) that are practical, that meet me where I am in my life.
  • There are too many cliques at Church, I don’t fit in.
  • I want a place where I can be involved (feel needed and appreciated).
  • I am looking for a Bible-based Church.
  • Churches need to do more to reach those in need (in need of physical, emotional, and especially spiritual help).
  • Church needs to be more worshipful, a higher emphasis on praise.
  • There are too many hypocrites at Church.
  • Church leadership does not listen to my concerns.
  • Church is too focused on traditions.

I hear you.

I hear your concerns. I share many of the same concerns as a minister. These concerns are part of what motivates me to be who I am doing what I do. I want to make the Church what she should and can be. To be completely transparent, as a young person my reasoning for going to school to become a minister had two motivations. 1. I knew I wanted to serve God and the body of Christ – the Church to the best of my ability and I was not sure I could do that in any other profession. 2. I loved the Church (I still do) but I saw some things in the congregations of my youth that concerned me. I thought if I could be in leadership I could influence changes.

Now three decades later, I want to point you to the answer to everyone of the concerns I listed above. The answer is simple, but not simplistic. The answer is in the list – the middle of the list – “a Bible-based Church.”

The answer is to be a Bible-based Church.

  • We need to forego traditions and return to the Bible as our guide.
  • We must as Christians live our lives based on the morals taught in the Bible.
  • We must as the Church guide our worship on the Bible as we praise the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior.
  • We need to point people to the ways God’s Word applies to our daily lives – and it does.
  • We need to practice the fellowship and brotherhood the Bible teaches (When I read the letters Paul wrote concerning no longer being Jews or Gentiles but one people in Christ I cannot help but think of the application to modern ethnicities and nationalities and how we are one in Christ).
  • We need to learn to love our neighbor as Jesus both modeled and taught.

A Bible-based Church!

That is what I want to be a part of. That is what I work for at Central. This is who I want to be.

-Scott