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.
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!
These words were written to the church at Philippi by the apostle Paul:
“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).
Our salvation from sin is both man’s work and God’s work. Man’s work is to appropriate the salvation offered by God to man through faith and obedience to the gospel. Notice that Paul exhorts them to “continue to work out your salvation…” This implies that they were working out their salvation when they believed and were baptized to be saved from their past sins (Mark 16:15-16). Now they are to continue to work out their salvation!
To believe that Jesus is the Son of God is a work of man. But it is also the work of God. Some Jews asked Christ,
“What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29).
Just as faith in Jesus is the work of God, so also is repentance and baptism. However, these acts of obedience are a work that man does in receiving the gift of salvation. The Roman Christians were baptized into Jesus Christ (Romans 6:1-3). They were promised the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). And three times their justification from sin is said to be the “free gift” (Romans 5:15-18).
The Philippians had also believed and been baptized (Acts 16: 14-15, 30-34). Now in his letter to them, Paul commands them to continue to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). He then assigns the reason they are to do this:
“For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).
When we do what God has told us to do (work), God is working in us through his word to bring about our salvation now and at the last day. That is the reason Paul said, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Make sure your work is “the work of God” and not just your “own work!”*
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).
The greatest challenge ever committed to mortal men was couched in the words of the great commission. This commission was given by Jesus Christ to the eleven apostles on a mountain in Galilee. It is great because of the great authority which empowers it and sustains it. Jesus said,
“…All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matthew 28:18.)
One of the many pursuits of man has been power and authority, but no one man has ever been able to achieve all the power and authority that there is in the earth. But Jesus has all power and authority not only in the earth, but also in heaven. Therefore, he is preeminently qualified to give a commission that relates both to heaven and to earth, to this life and to the life to come.
Isaiah Prophesied of Christ’s Authority
The power, all of which Jesus claimed to have, both in heaven and earth, is the power of rule or government and is generally translated authority. It is the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed. The power, or rule of government, which Jesus claims on this particular occasion is that which Isaiah predicted seven centuries before Christ claimed it. Speaking of Christ, Isaiah said that the government would be upon his shoulder, and,
“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever” (Isaiah 9:7).
Those Taught Are To Be Baptized
Jesus not only charged his apostles to teach all nations, but also to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). The element in which they were baptized is not stated in this passage but can be inferred from reading the scriptures concerning this subject elsewhere. They were to be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).
When Jesus saw the palsied man let down into the room where he was teaching, he said, “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Some sitting nearby were startled and in their hearts thought Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. They asked, “Who can forgive sins but God only” (Mark 2:7)?
WHICH IS EASIER TO SAY?
Christ who knows the hearts of men asked them, “Is it easier to say your sins are forgiven or take up your bed and walk” (Mark 2:9)? The key word is “say.” It is definitely easier to say “your sins are forgiven.” This would be hard to verify because it would be an act that would be inward and invisible. To tell a paralytic to take up his bed and walk would be more difficult, for it could only be certified if in fact he did take up his bed and walk.
ONLY CHRIST HAS THE ABSOLUTE POWER TO FORGIVE SINS
To prove that he had the power on earth to forgive sins, Jesus told the paralytic to take up his bed and go home. This he did before them all. Therefore Christ demonstrated the ultimate purpose of all his miracles, signs and wonders. They were to confirm his identity as “the Son of Man” who also was the “Son of God.” Christ was the Son of Man according to the flesh and the Son of God according to the Spirit (Roman 1:3-4).
The miracles of Christ and the apostles confirm that Jesus was who he claimed to be and that the word of God is immutable:
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
Only God has the power to forgive sins. Christ is God in the flesh (John 1:1-3, 14), and forgives sins through his blood (Mt. 26:28; 1:21).
“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””→
In Colossians 1:18, the apostle Paul expressed the preeminence that Christ should have over His church when he said, “And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead: that in all things He might have the preeminence.” We must give Christ preeminence in all things and especially we must give Him first place of importance in the church.
When Paul said He is the head of the church, the word “head” means originator, source, leader and ruler. Christ is the head of the church in the sense that He brought the church into being. He is the originator of the church. Christ is the head of the church in the sense that He is the source of the life of the church.
Christ is the head of the church in the sense that He is the ruler of the church. He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He has executive authority: He proposes. He has legislative authority: He disposes. He has judicial authority: He judges. So we must give preeminence to Christ as the head of the church, the originator of the church, and the source of all life in the church, the legislator, the executor and the judge of the church.
Concerning Christ Paul says, “Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead.” The word “beginning” there does not mean that Christ had a beginning. Christ existed before the creation (John 1:1-4). Christ is the firstborn from the dead. He was not the first to rise from the dead, but the first and the highest rank to rise from the dead. This means he holds the preeminence or highest rank over the church.
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142
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”→