One of the favorite figures of speech applied to the church is that of a way, a path, and a road that leads from one place to another.
Do All Religious Roads Lead to Heaven?
Christianity is the definite way over which the redeemed pass from earth to heaven. In a day when highways and roads are so familiar, it is easy for some people to get the idea that there are many ways for one to reach heaven. It is a popular doctrine that we are all going to heaven in different ways. While this is popular, is it the truth?
The Highway of Holiness
About 700 years before Christ made his advent into the world, the prophet Isaiah, looking through the telescope of prophecy, pointed out the way over which every child of God must pass in entering the city that has foundations whose builder and maker is God:
A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray (Isaiah 35: 8 NKJV).
The prophecy of Isaiah found its consummation in Jesus Christ.
Jesus Is the Only Way
Jesus, in his sermons during his earthly ministry pointed the people to the only true and living way. He said that he was the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man could come unto the Father except by him (John 14:4, 6).
The New Testament has much to say about different ministries.
TAKE MINISTRY SERIOUSLY
Ministry should be taken seriously. One needs to prepare for any ministry. Christ was thirty years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23).
THE APOSTOLIC MINISTRY
The apostles took their ministry seriously with the exception of Judas. Peter addressed a group of about 120, and said,
“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus—he was one of our number and shared in this ministry” (Acts 1:17 NIV).
Then they appointed two men to be considered for the appointment to the ministry of the apostles. They prayed to God the “heart knower” to indicate which of these two men he had chosen to fulfill the vacated ministry of Judas:
Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs. Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:24-26 NIV).
NEW TESTAMENT MINISTRIES
A member of the church told me one time that he did not like the term “ministry!” The term “ministry” is a biblical word that identifies different work and responsibilities.
The Ministry of the WordInstead of serving tables, the apostles thought it more important for them to continue steadfastly in prayer and “the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2, 4)
The Ministry to the Saints
Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth reminded the members of the good work ministry of the house of Stephanas: “I urge you, brethren—you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints—” (1 Corinthians 16:15).
The Ministry of Reconciliation
The apostles of Jesus revealed God’s scheme of redemption from sin. Because sin separated sinful humanity from God the gospel ministry of reconciliation was given to the apostles and preachers “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18).
The Word of Reconciliation
The instrument used in “the ministry of reconciliation” was the word of God and it is called “the word of reconciliation.” “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Fulfill Your Ministry
The evangelist is charged to carry out the great commission is to prove his ministry: “But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
Discharge the Duties of Ministry
Each Christian is to discharge the duties of his ministry: “or ministry, let us use it in our ministering” (Romans 12:7). Therefore, “ministry” is biblical and a good word and a good work.
MINISTERING TO THE FAMILY
One of the ministries of all congregations should be to the family ministry. The family is the backbone of the congregation and the nation. Satan is assaulting the family relentlessly. Therefore, the church and the members of the family must do everything possible to bring families back to God. This involves marriages that are built upon love to God and one another. Ministering to our family is something every member of the church can be involved. We are all members of a family. This includes God’s family—the church:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15 NKJV).
Let every member of God’s spiritual family find a ministry and serve God and one another. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NKJV). The ministry of Christ is our example.
All accountable people are subjects to be baptized. There is not one who is good. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
The Action of Baptism
The proper action of baptism (Greek, baptidzo) is by immersion, dipping, submerging, or plunging the accountable person in water. The Greek verb “bapto” (See Luke 16:24) is translated “dip.” The rich man who was lost wanted Lazarus to “dip” his finger in water and cool his tongue!
The Purpose of Baptism
“For the forgiveness of sin” is the purpose for which an accountable person is to be baptized. This article will develop this third aspect of baptism. In brief, sinners need to be baptized to be saved from past sins and to be inducted into Christ where all spiritual blessing are to be found.
When Paul gave an account of his own baptism, he related that the preacher Ananias said, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16 ESV). If Paul was saved before his baptism, then he was saved while still in his sins. And if Paul were saved by his faith only, then he had no sins to wash away. Also it would have been foolish for the preacher Ananias to tell him to rise and wash away his sins! But Jesus said baptism was to be saved from sin:
“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 (Mk. 16:15-16 ESV).
Paul was not saved before his baptism. The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saul of Tarsus (Paul) on the road to Damascus. Saul’s purpose for going there was to persecute and imprison the Christians in that city (Acts 9:1-6). Ananias, the preacher went to the house where Saul (Paul) was staying. He stated that he would receive the Holy Spirit, and immediately he received his sight. Then Ananias taught him about baptism, “and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18 NKJV). And we also learn from Paul’s own account of his conversion, that he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19).
Later in Paul’s career as an apostle to the Gentiles, he plainly taught baptism to those at Rome:
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through 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.
For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin (Romans 6:1-6 NKJV).
Paul could relate to his own teaching on baptism. Because in water baptism he died to sin, he buried the dead sinner, and resurrected the new person in Christ. Paul and every baptized believer should be dedicated to living the new life in Christ (Romans 6:5-14).
Paul was a strict, zealous persecutor of the church and he thought he was doing the right thing. But he was lost without Christ. But when he did what Christ commanded him to do by the preaching of the gospel, he was saved like everyone else then and like all are today.
In his intercessory prayer Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-24). Jesus is praying that all his followers will practice unity. It is obvious that today there is the problem of religious division and confusion. Now I want to point out that we have got to make a plea for religious unity.
PLEA FOR RELIGIOUS UNITY
Paul poured out his heart and pleaded for the New Testament church at Corinth to be united. His words were very strong:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? NKJV
The word plead is a strong word. It means, almost in our language, “I beg of you.” Paul was down on his knees—so to speak, begging those brethren to be united in the name of Jesus Christ. His rhetorical questions were, “is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?” Of course, the answer is within the question. No, they were not baptized into Paul’s name; therefore, they cannot wear Paul’s name. No, Paul did not die for them upon a cross in order that their sins should be forgiven; and, therefore, they should not wear Paul’s name. No, Christ is not to be divided up into little “bity” pieces. So the answer is “no, Christ is not divided.”
Someone said one time, “I had rather be the soldier that took the spear and pierced the side of Jesus on the cross, than the person who would divide the spiritual body of Christ—the church!” When the soldiers who crucified Christ drove the nails through his hands and pierced his side, there came forth water and blood. But what about those who open up the side of the spiritual body of Christ? The precious blood of Christ is running through the veins of the spiritual body of Christ! Of course, I am using that figuratively. The blood of Christ is still flowing from Calvary. And those who would openly tear apart the spiritual body of Christ, I believe, are as guilty as the man who cast the spear into his side. Therefore, Paul was pleading for these brethren to overcome their dissensions, contentions, and be united even in their judgments and in their mind.
So that shows us how much God wants us to be united together and working together, so that our plea will always be the same plea that Paul made. Therefore, let us stand united, fulfilling the purpose of the work that Christ gave us here on the earth.
PLATFORM FOR UNITY
But in the next place, I want to give you God’s platform for unity. You know, every four years, the political conventions, regardless of how much division they have had, all close ranks, join hands, and present a solid front, a united front when the election rolls around. Again, the children of this world manifest more wisdom than the children of light in their generations. If this is true in the worldly and political realm, how much more should it be true in the spiritual and religious world? God’s people ought to overcome their differences and join ranks, close in, and stand united against the enemy. That is the only way we can win the great battle for the minds of man.
So in Ephesians 4 we have Paul’s platform for unity! It is not a political platform; it is a spiritual platform:
Ephesians 4:3-6 Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. NKJV
One Body: Unity of Organization
First, there is unity of organization. Paul said there is one body. What is this one body? Our answer is found in the same book of Ephesians:
Ephesians 1:22-23 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. NKJV
Here the apostle is talking about the power that God worked when he raised the Christ from the dead and seated him at his own right hand, far above all principality and power. And then he said that the one body is the church. Christ is the head of the church—the body. Any true religious unity must be based upon the fact that there is just one body or one church recognized by Christ.
Now, in view of the fact that there is one body and the body is the church, therefore there is just one church. And how can people say today that “one church is as good as another” or “join the church of your choice” or “it doesn’t make any difference what church you are a member of—because we all are going to heaven”? I cannot reconcile that with the statement—the emphatic statement of the apostle Paul. The divine platform for unity is that every person that obeys the gospel is a member of the one church and the one body. In all of my reading of the New Testament I have never read of more than one church or one body. When Paul said that there is one body or one church he was talking about the unity of organization.
One Spirit: Unity of Life
Paul said there is one body and one Spirit. So in the second place, there is unity of Spirit. Your body has a spirit and when your spirit leaves your body, your body is dead. The Holy Spirit dwells in the spiritual body—the church. To the Corinthian church Paul wrote about those who were destroying the church under the figure of the temple. And he said that those who destroy the temple of God—God will destroy them:
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. NKJV
Now, if God’s Spirit dwells in his temple which is the church, or if you look at it from the figure of a body or a human organism to which the church is compared, the Holy Spirit in the church is like our spirit in our body. Now, some people have quenched the Spirit by quenching the word until they have got a church without the Spirit in it. A church without the Holy Spirit, he is a dead church. The Holy Spirit operates in the spiritual body of Christ through the word of God, which is his instrument. And this is how there can be unity of Spirit.
One Hope: Unity of Purpose
The apostle says that there is one body and one Spirit even as we are called in one hope of our calling. Next, we look at the unity of aspiration or hope. Hope stands for the Christian faith and the Christian system. In other words, there is one hope that stands above all of our hopes and that stands for the Christian system. What is that hope? To Titus, Paul explains what is that one hope of our calling:
Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; KJV
What is the hope that is above all hopes? It is the hope of eternal life. And so the fact that all of us have within our breasts that aspiration, that desire, that expectation, that longing for eternal life, it should draw us together in the spirit of our lives together in the service of God. Unity of aspiration! One body, one spirit, one hope! Unity of organization! Unity of spirit! Unity of aspiration!
One Lord: Unity of Authority
But there are four more planks in this divine platform of unity. There is one body and one Spirit even as we are called in the one hope of our calling. There is also one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. Therefore, we look at the unity of authority.
The word “Lord” comes from a word which means Ruler, King, Lawmaker. So Christ is our Lord. He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And that means that he is our Monarch. In order to have true unity, every member of the body of Christ must submit to the authority of the King. Sometimes the spirit of collective bargaining creeps into the church of our Lord. That spirit is this: if I don’t get my way, I will give an ultimatum and then strike against the leaders of the church. That spirit is wrong and sinful. That is not the spirit that should characterize the body of Christ.
We live in a democratic society. But strictly speaking, America is not a democracy—we are a republic. A democracy is where the majority rules, but a republic is where the people are governed not by the majority, but by elected representatives chosen by the majority. So in America we do not have a democracy strictly speaking. Only do we have a democracy in the sense that the majority elects the representatives of the republic. That is the basic difference between a republic and a democracy. The church is not governed by majority rule. Some have the idea that whatever the majority wants, the majority ought to have. But the majority is not always right. The majority wanted to crucify Jesus Christ. Throughout Old Testament history many times the majority wanted to do the wrong thing, and that is the reason Moses said, “You shall not follow a multitude to do the evil.” Christ is the head of the church and he also reigns as Monarch over his kingdom. He is the supreme ruler and head over this organism called the church. And there will only be unity when one submits to his ultimate authority.
One Faith: Unity of Teaching
There is one faith. One faith means that there must be unity of teaching. I have no authority to expound my opinions or to give you my judgments. But I am authorized to preach the gospel. I am also authorized to contend for the faith that has been once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). And that means that we must contend for the unity of teaching or doctrine. The one faith comprehends and incorporates everything that has been legislated in this divine creed book—the New Testament.
One Baptism: Unity of Salvation
There is one baptism. I read in the New Testament of several baptisms. I read about the baptism of suffering. This is a metaphor. Jesus said to some apostles, “Are you able to be baptized with the baptism with which I shall be baptized? Are you able to drink the cup that I shall drink?” Of course, he was figuratively saying, “are you able to be overwhelmed in the suffering that I am going to endure?” Baptism as used here is in the tropical or figurative sense. I read in the Bible where John’s baptism is mentioned. John did preach the baptism for repentance for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). I also read in my Bible of Holy Spirit baptism (Mark 1:6-8). We also read that some were baptized for the dead (1 Corinthians 15: 29). But most of time when we read about baptism it is a reference to water baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 8:36-38; Acts 10:47-48). Now, out of the five or six baptisms, about which we read in the New Testament, which one was Paul talking about when he said, “There is one baptism?” When Paul wrote the book of the Ephesians he said, “there is one baptism.” What was the one baptism?
Obviously, Paul was talking about the unity of salvation in the church. He was talking about water baptism, because it is by one Spirit that we were all baptized into one body (1 Corinthians 12: 13). Therefore the one baptism is the baptism of the great commission where Jesus gave instructions to the apostles to preach the message of salvation to the whole world:
Mark 16:15-16 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” NKJV
Therefore, water baptism is the one baptism by which we enter into this one body, where we find the one hope, and where we recognize and submit to the one Lord, and where we follow and obey and learn the one faith. And so, they all go together, just like a glove on the fingers of the hand. You can’t take one away without destroying the others.
One God: Unity of Worship
Finally, Paul says that there is “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” This is unity of worship. Paul did not say that God is one person, but that there is one God and Father. The word God is here used specifically rather than comprehensively. The word God is used here to designate the first person of the godhead which is the Father. And he even explains it to us in that way: “One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:6). There must be unity in worship. Who are we to worship? We worship God. And those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4: 24). *
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon Sunday morning, October 24, 2021 in Greenwood, Indiana, and also Sunday evening, August 1, 1976, in Indianapolis, Indiana. At that time I was 39 years old. I still believe what I proclaimed then, and now I am 84 years old. God is good!
A man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17)? Contrary to what we hear today from the popular religious teachers, there is something that man must do to have eternal life. If that question is asked today, most preachers would say, “You do not need to do anything but accept Jesus as your personal Savior.” Therefore, a subjective faith—a mental assent that Jesus is the Christ, is the only condition of salvation. But even a subjective faith is something that man does mentally. And Christ said that belief in Christ is “the work of God.” His words are explicit:
“What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:28-29).
Everyone is born into the kingdom of nature by a natural birth—of and from the womb. Those who become Christians are born into the kingdom of God by a spiritual birth—of and from water and the Spirit (John 3:5). At the last day, those who are faithful, having been born a spiritual birth will be born of and from the grave into the eternal glory of heaven.
BORN OF GOD
The expression “born of God” is used throughout the letter of 1 John:
• Those born of God will not continue to live a life of sin (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 5:18).
• Those who love as God loves will know God and are born of him—for God is love (1 John 4:7).
• Those who by faith and baptism are born of God will be saved (1 John 5:1; Gal. 3:26-27).
Preaching repentance was a prominent topic of Jesus and the apostles: Peter declared:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3: 19-21 ESV).
This statement was made by the apostle Peter, in a sermon delivered before the Jews, in Solomon’s porch, a part of the temple of God at Jerusalem. This passage emphasizes the prominent place that repentance held in the preaching of the apostles. The preaching of repentance was also a prominent topic in the preaching of John the Baptist (Matthew 3: 1-2); of Jesus Christ (Matthew 4: 17; 11: 20-22); of the twelve who were sent out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mark. 6: 12.); and likewise to the seventy who were sent out to preach to the people (Luke 10: 1-16). Continue reading “REPENT AND TURN”→
“The benefits of the gospel come to the person who has faith alone in Christ. The blood of Christ is applied to the sinner upon faith alone in Christ and not at baptism.” –Faith Alone Adherent and Critic
In previous essays we have amply demonstrated that the subject “faith alone” is not a biblical subject and therefore a subject not to be discussed. It has only been discussed so far because certain religious advocates vehemently insist that salvation is predicated on “faith alone!” It has been pointed out that the scriptures teach just the exact opposite. James explicitly states that salvation or justification from sin is “by works” and “not by faith alone.” James teaches the truth: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24 NKJV). Continue reading ““NOT BY FAITH ALONE””→
Matthew 3:16-17 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” NKJV
As I come before you today I recognize that there is a spirit among us of support, loyalty and joy for the hometown team. And I also believe that it is the case that we have that same loyalty and support and joy for the hometown congregation—the Heartland church of Christ. And that is why you are present today.
A few years ago, I presented the lesson that I am presenting today. And I was surprised that afterward a young man came to me and said, “I need to be baptized—I want to be immersed for the forgiveness of sins.” And I thought that this person was a member of the church already. And I learned a great lesson from this, that in almost every service that we will have like this, there are probably one or more people who need to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And so we preach on a lot of different subjects, but sometimes we assume that everybody sitting in one of the chairs has been baptized and become Christians. But that is not always the case, and therefore today I want to talk to you about the baptism of Jesus Christ. And I hope that I can make this lesson so simple that even a little child can understand it. That is my goal and that is my purpose in delivering this message. Our comments will cover the entire third chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. Therefore you are encouraged to open up your Bibles and follow along to make sure that we faithfully present the record of the baptism of Jesus Christ. Continue reading “THE BAPTISM OF JESUS”→
Our Scripture reading is from Romans 12:1-2, where Paul says,
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”