LESSON TOPICS: Act 2:42, Ro. 1:16, 17, Heb.5, 6, Eph. 1-6
SIMPLE LESSONS TO ENCOURAGE SPIRITUAL GROWTH
REAL CHANGE, FEEDING & BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
Tools for Class:
Many in the religious world today claim for themselves additional infallible sources of information other than what is found in the Bible. Some of these religious groups claim that these additional sources are necessary because the Bible isn’t a sufficient source of information for man’s salvation. However, if it can be shown that inspired writers do, in fact, teach the sufficiency of the scriptures in supplying the necessary information for man’s salvation, this means that other sources are not needed.
Are the words in this book sufficient for salvation?
There are two ways that one could show that the scriptures supply all of the necessary information that man needs for salvation. One could either show where the scriptures directly say that they supply all of the information man needs, or one could show that in the entirety of the teaching of the scriptures, there is a complete picture given that would be sufficient for salvation. Because the later of these two would require a volume of information to prove, we’ll focus upon the first method in this article.
The word sufficient means adequate for the purpose; enough according to the Random House dictionary. The American Heritage dictionary defines sufficient as being as much as is needed. Princeton University’s WordNet defines sufficient in this way: of a quantity that can fulfill a need or requirement but without being abundant. So, in order for scripture to be sufficient for man’s salvation it must be adequate to provide for man’s salvation; it must be enough information, as much as is needed, or in a required quantity to fulfill the need. Does the Bible make such a claim for itself? There are several scriptures that answer this question.
Consider that the apostles themselves considered the written scriptures to be sufficient for providing for man’s salvation. Romans 15:4 says, For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Paul says that the written scriptures are given that we might have hope for salvation. If they were not sufficient to provide for salvation, how could they provide hope? If the scriptures were less than sufficient to provide for salvation, they could not give hope. What kind of hope does the Christian have? Hebrews 6:19 says, Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil. Such a hope is sufficient for salvation, hence, the scriptures that provide that hope, are sufficient for man’s salvation.
Consider 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 which says, Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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. Paul tells the church at Corinth that the gospel he preached to them was sufficient to save them. What was the basis of that gospel? It was the death of Jesus for our sins, His burial, and resurrection. Paul makes it clear in this passage that these truths were according to the scriptures. It is sufficient for Paul that the scriptures declare, in prophecy, the gospel message sufficient for salvation. Were the scriptures sufficient to provide this information? They were. See also Romans 16:25-26.
In Acts 17:10, Paul and Silas made their way to Beroea. There they preached the gospel. Acts 17:11-12 says, These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. The Beroeans, prior to Paul and Silas’ arrival were not believers. Paul and Silas then preached the gospel to them. What was said? Whatever it was, it caused the Beroeans to search the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. When they looked to the scriptures, they believed and as a result became Christians. Did the scriptures supply that which was needed for salvation? They did.
Finally, however, we must look at 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Paul wrote to Timothy: But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Paul says several things here. First, he says that the scriptures were able to make Timothy wise unto salvation. Thus, they would be sufficient for man’s salvation. Paul, however, doesn’t stop his discussion here. He then says that the scriptures are given by inspiration; that is, they were given by the very breath of God. He then says that these scriptures are profitable for the purpose of making the people of God complete and that they furnish completely all the information one needs for all good works. In other words, there is not one good work in which man must be involved for salvation that the scriptures don’t supply. They supply it all. Hence, the scriptures are sufficient for man’s salvation.
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 6:29-31), Abraham tells the Rich Man regarding the salvation of his brothers, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. The Rich Man, in essence, objects and says that if only they had an additional source of information, they would believe. Abraham replied, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. The implication is clear; the written word of God is sufficient to provide for man’s salvation. Any information that one requires beyond that simply indicates unbelief.
There is much confusion and division in Christendom about the subject of baptism.
Why were you baptized?
Professed followers of Christ disagree over its definition. (Is it pouring, sprinkling, or immersion? Is one baptized in water, or in the Holy Spirit?) They disagree over its purpose. (Must it happen in order to have sins forgiven, or because sins have already been forgiven? Must one be baptized in order to be saved, or is it simply a public confession of faith and obedience after having already been saved?) There is division over baptism’s recipients. (Should infants be baptized? Can anyone be baptized?) There is confusion over whether a need would ever exist to be re-baptized. (What if I was baptized as an infant? What if I was baptized for the wrong reason? What if I have sinned greatly after being baptized?)
These and many other questions are often asked when the subject of baptism is raised. All of them are legitimate, and deserve a biblical answer. This is why if God is willing the next few articles from this writer will be devoted to answering these and other questions related to baptism. After all, baptism was commanded by Christ himself (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16), and so it is certainly worthy of careful consideration. May we all receive what God’s Word has to say about this subject with a desire to at least understand, if at first we do not agree, and then read the Bible carefully to see if the conclusions reached in these articles are true (Acts 17:11).
As mentioned earlier, Christ himself after his death and resurrection commanded his apostles to preach the gospel and baptize believers in their efforts to make disciples everywhere (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). A short time later, the apostle Peter preached the gospel in Jerusalem on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, and commanded people to repent and be baptized “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). After exhorting his audience to be saved, many responded by being baptized (Acts 2:40-41).
Some believe that the “for” in Acts 2:38’s “for forgiveness of sins” means “because your sins have been forgiven” rather than “in order for your sins to be forgiven.” This is because the Greek word translated “for” (eis) sometimes means “because of;” however, in most cases eis means “in order to.” Which is the proper meaning in Acts 2:38?
Jesus’ thoughts about the cup when he instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:28) shed light onto this conundrum. When defining the fruit of the vine as “my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many…”, he used the identical grammatical construction in the Greek as is used in Acts 2:38: “…for forgiveness of sins.” When he said this…several hours before he died on the cross to provide forgiveness for the sins of mankind…did he intend his phrase “for forgiveness of sins” to mean that his blood had ALREADY provided forgiveness of sins? Obviously not. It is clear that he intended to convey that his blood would be shed for many IN ORDER TO provide forgiveness of sins. Since Acts 2:38 contains the same identical phrase, we can confidently conclude that Peter was telling them that they needed to be baptized IN ORDER TO have their sins forgiven (Acts 2:38), and they responded accordingly (Acts 2:41).
This makes even more sense when one sees that Peter also commanded repentance in addition to baptism in order to have sins forgiven. The idea that sins could be forgiven BEFORE one repented of them is foreign to Scripture (2 Cor. 7:9-11; Acts 3:19; Luke 13:3, 35; 24:47). Thus, it is clear that Peter was telling them to repent and be baptized IN ORDER TO have their sins forgiven, not because their sins had ALREADY been forgiven.
Do you want your sins forgiven by God? If so, then God’s promise and command through Peter to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins applies to you just as it did to Peter’s hearers on Pentecost. We know this because Peter then said, “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 2:39; cf. 2 Thess. 2:14; Rom. 1:16; Mark 16:15-16). Why delay? Repent of your sins, and be baptized to wash them away (Acts 22:16). Future articles will give more information about this needed topic.
Looking at the “ one true faith ” of Ephesians chapter fouris an important study. But in Ephesians chapter two we read, “For by grace you have been saved through [the] faith; …” (v 8). While no modern translation includes the definite article before faith [pistiV] it is in the original language. Paul here is speaking of the one true system (i.e. the Gospel) that the grace of God has delivered in order to bring salvation to all mankind. He spoke of this when he wrote to Titus and said, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (vv 11-12).
Peter speaks of the preciousness of this faith (2 Peter 1:1) and when we understand our faith in the system of salvation we will clearly conclude as James did that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:18-20). The great “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11 illustrates this truth for us all. Yet Peter also speaks of a “trial” of our faith that is “more precious than gold” (1 Peter 1:7). What does this trial of faith consist of?
Let us not just talk about our faith; let us demonstrate it to God and the world!
Adopted from Handfuls on Purpose – James Smith and Robert Lee, eds., Handfuls on Purpose (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) Vol. 1, I, 211-12.
Ephesians 4:1-6, written by the divinely-inspired Apostle Paul (Eph. 1:1; 2 Tim. 3:16-17) to the first-century congregation of the church of Christ (Rom. 16:16) that worked and worshipped together in Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38; Eph. 1:1, 3:8-12; Rev. 2:1-7), has been the subject of countless millions, probably even billions I daresay, of sermons, bible studies, gospel meetings, conferences, seminars, articles, and spiritual dissertations of all sorts since it was written in the mid first-century. It is one of the simplest, most beautiful, most unifying, and straightforward texts in the entire, sacred collection, echoing and underscoring our precious Savior’s sentiments on “one-ness” which He poured out in prayer to His heavenly Father (with whom He enjoyed such one-ness), as recorded in John 17. Listen to it again; let it wash over your soul; let it sink deeply into your heart and mind, yet one more time….
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”
Let us also try one more time, to not only see and appreciate the simple beauty of this sacred text, but to seek to do so in such a way that our denominational friends and neighbors might be able to better internalize and benefit from its beacon of eternal truth as well. And this we will try to do, by starting with the portions of the text which we all most certainly agree on.
No denominational seeker would disagree with the fact that there is but ONE GOD. But which God? Well, the ONE GOD of the Bible of course! The ONE GOD of the Bible who created the heavens and the earth; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save lost sinners’ souls, just as Scripture says (Gen. 1; Acts 3:13; Jn. 3:16).
Likewise, no denominational seeker would disagree with – but would adamantly defend in fact – the undeniable fact that there is but ONE LORD. But which Lord? Well, the ONE LORD Jesus Christ, and Him alone (Acts 4:12; Col. 1:15-18)! The ONE LORD we also read about in the bible, who became flesh and dwelt among us; who humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross; and who was raised up to the right hand of the Father in heaven to intercede for us just as Scripture says (Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:5-11; Hebs. 7:25).
And (and here’s where the difficulty seems to be for some of our denominational friends and neighbors to see and accept – but certainly not because it’s not simple enough to understand), in exactly the same way, the same sentence, and the same sentiment, we read that there is also only ONE FAITH and ONE BAPTISM, according to the ONE GOD. And which ONE FAITH and ONE BAPTISM is that exactly? Well, the ONE FAITH and the ONE BAPTISM which we also read about in the sacred Scriptures in exactly the same way – and none other whatsoever!
It is the ONE FAITH which all of God’s children are to have in common, and in which we are to all be unified, undivided, and undenominated (Phil. 1:27-2:3). It is the ONE FAITH which was once for all delivered prior to the end of the first-century (Jude 3) and which we can therefore explore in its entirety within the pages of the New Testament. It is the ONE FAITH to which one must be obedient, in which one must stand by faith, and from which none must deviate (Acts 6:7; Rom. 1:5, 16:26; Col. 1:19-2:14; 2 Cor. 13:3; 1 Tim. 1:19, 4:1, 6:10, 20-21) in order to be saved God’s ONE WAY.
And the ONE BAPTISM that is therefore the only one valid before the ONE GOD and ONE LORD is obviously also only the ONE BAPTISM which we read about repeatedly in the New Testament Scripture since the Lord’s church was established in Acts 2. It is the act of faith in the working of God who raised Jesus from the dead, which makes us children of God by our faithful obedience to it (Col. 2:12; Gal. 3:26-27). It is a full, ‘by faith’ burial in water specifically and exclusively FOR the forgiveness of one’s sins, to wash away one’s sins, and the exact point in time at which a lost soul is saved and added by God to His Son’s blood-bought church of Christ (Ro. 6:3-4; Acts 2:37-47, 22:16; 1 Ptr. 3:21).
And just as Ephesians 4:4-6 tells us about the ONE and only Holy SPIRIT (Matt. 28:18-20), and our ONE HOPE (Rom. 5:1-5), it also tells of the ONE BODY of Christ… The same ONE BODY which the apostle Paul earlier, in that same epistle to the Ephesian Christians, also called the “church” (Eph. 1:22-23; see also Col. 1:18, 24). If the “church” and the “body” are ONE and the same institution – as God’s word says they absolutely are – and if there is only ONE BODY as Eph. 4:4-6 clearly says, then there is only ONE – and there is no way there can be more than ONE – church (which is His body – Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18, 24; etc)! Again, the terms “church” and “body” are used synonymously in Ephesians and elsewhere in the sacred, New Testament Scriptures, to refer to the ONE saved, undivided, undenominated group of people purchased, pardoned, and belonging to Christ.
Now, here’s the bottom line. What does “ONE” actually mean? Because whatever it means when it says “ONE LORD,” “ONE GOD,” and “ONE SPIRIT,” it means exactly the same thing when it says “ONE HOPE,” “ONE FAITH,” “ONE BAPTISM,” and “ONE BODY” (church). People who believe that there are multiple different churches that God finds acceptable, and that God is okay with people attending any “church of their choice” never found in Scripture, then they must also believe that God is okay with people believing in many different “gods,” or worshipping “the god of their choice” not found in Scripture either.
Conversely, if there is only ONE GOD and ONE LORD, and a religious person truly believes and accepts that there is only the ONE GOD and ONE LORD which we find in the bible, then they must also understand that there is only the ONE FAITH, ONE CHURCH, and ONE BAPTISM we read about therein as well! We can’t have it both ways! There can’t be many different faiths, baptisms, and churches found outside of Scripture that God is still okay with our being a part of, while at the same time holding us to the standard that there is only the ONE GOD and ONE LORD found in Scripture!
So what exactly does ONE mean to you? Because whatever it means in any ONE of those phrases, it means in every single ONE of them: ONE BODY (CHURCH); ONE SPIRIT; ONE HOPE; ONE LORD; ONE FAITH; ONE BAPTISM; and ONE GOD. Does it mean “ONE?” Or, does it mean many? Does it mean instead of “ONE” that there are therefore:
So; does ONE mean ONE… or many? Faithful to the New Testament, “old paths” (Jer. 6:16) congregations of the Lord’s ONE New Testament church (or world-wide blood bought body of saved people – Acts 20:28; Ro. 16:16) simply, in humble, obedient, submissive and trusting faith in almighty God and His divinely-inspired word, understand and accept that when their ONE God said “ONE,” He meant… “ONE.” What do YOU believe?