"As Simple As ABC?"
by Kenneth E. Thomas
“If the Bible is so easy to understand, would you answer these questions for me please?”
(1). "Why are people so divided?"
(2). "Why do so many educated preachers who claim to follow the Bible teach differently about its requirements, let alone us folks of lesser educational background? It doesn’t appear to me, considering this, that understanding the Bible is a simple as A B C!"
The above are good questions and they are deserving of Bible answers.
Folks are divided for any number of reasons, none of which can be put at the feet of Jesus. It isn’t the fault of the Bible. A part of this problem lies in part of the answer to question number two. A number of educated, and also a number of not so well educated, are teaching some things that obviously aren’t taught in the Bible. Regardless of their motives, their methods promote religious division. Such also promotes unbelief not only in the Bible as being the infallible word of God, but in the God who claims to be its author (2 Timothy 3:15-17; 2 Peter 1:16-21). This is evident from your questions. Jesus’ prayer to the heavenly Father for His Apostles (and then for all who would believe on Him through their word) was “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they may also be one in Us, that the world may believe that You have sent Me” (John 17:20-21).
First let me admit that there are many things in God’s word that are very difficult to understand. That isn’t to say that they cannot be understood, of course. Even those difficult things are to be understood, and to twist them is to “one’s own destruction” according to the inspired Apostle Peter in (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter said that some things which Paul wrote were indeed “hard to be understood.” He said also that those who are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist) as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” There is a great difference between something being difficult and being impossible to understand. Jesus taught in His prayer that we are to unite on the Apostle’s word, as already noted from (John 17:17-21). Are you willing to contradict the Son of God?
I have observed over the years that most of the inability to understand what God has revealed in the Scriptures stems from the fact that many fail to give diligent effort to study them objectively. One who only occasionally and casually scans the pages of this book is certainly not going to understand its contents! Like any other document it must be studied, and folks must learn to “rightly divide its message” (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul, writing by divine inspiration, admonished the Ephesian brethren in the following fashion: “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is (5:17). The majority of the division among us is about things that are as simple as ABC to understand.
Basically, I would affirm that men are divided religiously over what men (and women) teach as the will of Christ, which simply cannot be found therein. Take time to consider with me some things over which men are presently divided, and have been for centuries, that are in fact as “simple as A B C.”
When pressed about this matter just about everyone will admit that followers of “the Christ” should be called “Christians” (Acts 11:26; 1Peter 4:16; 1 Corinthians 1:10-12; Acts 26:28). Still, they promote continued division by wearing names not found in the Book of God! When pressed further, they are often heard to say; “Well, I’m a Christian first and a"________" by choice.” What are they admitting? Simply that they know that the name which God chose is the name Christian. So it really isn’t a matter of understanding, now is it? No, it is one of adding to the word of God names which tend to divide, and show the differences among us. I often say to such folks that being a "_________" (you supply the name) by choice, is a choice with which Christ is not pleased! To put this matter plain and simple:
Some members of the body of Christ at Corinth had become overly impressed with some prominent men who had taught and perhaps baptized them into Christ and into His body, the church and had begun to wear their names (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Paul severely rebuked them for this practice and said rather than a sign of spirituality, this showed that they were yet carnal or fleshly minded, and were walking as mere men (1 Corinthians 3:1-6). He further reminded them that it was Christ who was crucified for them. It was Christ by whose authority they had been baptized. I should add that “baptism by Christ's authority” is always immersion into Christ and is “for the forgiveness of sins.. (Acts 18:8; 2:38; Romans 6:3-4;Galatians 3:26-29; Acts 22:16; 1 Peter 3:20-21). Therefore the conclusion was that they should wear His name. The name "Christian" cannot be spoken without speaking the name of "Christ," Christ-ian. Men are simply disregarding the will of Christ in this matter, as well as a host of others, not because they don’t or can’t know and understand this. There are other reasons.
Peter told an audience of Jews that Jesus Christ was “the Stone that was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12). If this means anything at all, it means that one cannot please God wearing any other name or acting by any other’s authority (Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:16).
The question suggests that since those with greater educational background differ about religious matters, that one without a degree could not expect to understand the will of Christ. Higher education is neither a hinderance nor a help necessarily to learning the will of Christ. Education can well get in the way of the “simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Secular education does not add “brain power” to one. It only aids one with a wider range of knowledge about various subjects, and may well be an aid to the ability to research and study more effectively. However, when one begins to “think too highly of himself” because of his/her education, one often rejects things clearly taught in the word of God. Some of the most highly educated people in the world are in fact Atheist! There are many highly educated men and women also who have a deep and abiding faith in God, Christ, the holy Spirit, and in the Bible as the infallible word of God. The Bible has been written in language that one who is accountable before God may understand and follow its instruction. Luke was a "Dr." Paul was highly educated. Others of Christ disciples were fishermen, tax collectors etc.
Paul addressed this subject in writing to the Corinthians in the following language:
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this Age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty...That no flesh should glory in His presence....That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:20-29; 1 Corinthians 2:5).
As the educated elite of that day, these men who are identified as the Epicureans, and the Stoics, came face to face with Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ. As educated as they were, they were idolaters. They did not want to fail to honor any god and so had put up one altar to “the unknown God” (Acts 17:23). After saying that they were worshipping in ignorance, Paul began to instruct these men concerning the one true God and His Son Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of The resurrection and judgement day to come which had been made sure by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. He said that “all men everywhere must repent.” Paul said in addition to the accounting that each must give of himself before God one day, that “God could be found by all who feel after and seek Him, for He is not very far from every one of us” (Acts 17:23-31). Jesus said once that those who “hunger and thirst after righteousness, shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6; John 8:31-32). If one does not possess a “love of the truth,” we are informed that such will receive a “strong delusion causing them to believe a lie and be damned...” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Again let me say that the problem isn’t one of understanding nearly as much as it is of accepting what has been revealed in the Bible.
This subject has been, and to this day continues to be, one of the most controversial on the religious scene among professed followers of, and believers in, the Christ. Why do you suppose this is so? Is it difficult to understand what the New Testament teaches about baptism? I say no, it isn’t! The problem lies with men not God’s revelation. Tradition and Creedal affirmations have been bound on would be followers of Jesus for so many generations that one can rarely get one to look into and accept the plain and simple teaching of Jesus and His Apostles on this subject.
Bible language leaves no doubt as to the “action” of Scriptural baptism. Words have meanings. They are vehicles which carry thoughts from one party to another. Usually (unless the context demands a figurative interpretation) words in the Bible mean exactly what they do in every day language.
The original manuscripts of the Bible for example were written in the Koine (common) Greek language. Shortly after the Bible was completed and confirmed with signs and wonders following (Hebrews 2:3; Mark 16:20), this language died. This means that whatever the original words meant then, they mean today. Anyone may purchase lexicons and Greek dictionaries and look up these words. If one chooses this method it is clear that the word translated “baptism” is from a Greek word meaning only to “dip, plunge, submerge or overwhelm.” (See W.E. Vine pgs. 96-97). For one who doesn’t have such books and only has the Bible, let me assure you that the language of Scripture leaves no doubt whatsoever about this matter. Besides this, the Bible says that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).
The controversy over this subject can hardly be settled as long as folks take denominational Creedal teachings which say in contrast to, and in contradiction of the Bible: “Let every adult person, and the parents of every child to be baptized, have their choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion” (Methodist Discipline Pg. 539). The Bible says such things as the following. “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father,...For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection..”(Romans 6:4-5). “Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with Him through faith in the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).
Our next example is the conversion of the Eunuch. Philip began teaching this man from where he was reading about Christ in Isaiah 53. As he “preached unto him Jesus” the man requested baptism. He was told that “if he believed with all of his heart he may be baptized.” He confessed his faith in Jesus and the record says they stopped the chariot and “they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water...” (Acts 8:26-39). Is this language too difficult to understand? Surely it isn’t. If language means anything at all, this means that the eunuch was immersed.
Not only do we learn this here, but we learn that one must first be a believer in Jesus Christ and must confess his faith with the mouth to be a proper candidate for Scriptural baptism. Other passages indicate that one must repent for baptism to be valid.
As already mentioned above, only believers are to be baptized. This agrees with the “great commission” as given by Christ Himself in (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45- 4 9). The idea and the practice of “baptizing babies” is totally without any Scriptural precedent or authority. The division caused by this practice therefore cannot be laid to an inability to understand what the word of Christ teaches about this. No, one must look elsewhere. As stated above from the Methodist Discipline, which I quoted to show that they give two more options on “baptism” than does God’s word, they also have candidates who are infants who cannot believe, repent, confess faith etc. Nor do infants have sins which need remitted! More about the last point shortly, as well as the design or purpose for New Testament immersion. Read your New Testament and see if you find even one case of “infant baptism.” It doesn’t exist you see. It was created by those who believed yet another false doctrine not found in God’s word about the nature of hu m ans at birth.
As simple as A B C, the Bible, both Old and New Testaments say "no" in answer to the above question!
Babies are born pure and innocent. Some denominations who continue to practice what they call “infant baptism,” no longer teach that infants are born with “original sins” which need remitted. Some practice it for the supposed removal of “inherited sins” with which they suppose children come into the world. Even though they are wrong, they are more consistent.
If in fact children are born sinners and they should die in this state, what about the destiny of their souls? The Roman Catholic church first taught this doctrine of original sin, and the Protestants who teach it today picked it up from them. They had to for they cannot find it in the Bible. One error led to another as is usually the case. The Bible does teach baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16). If babies were born in sin, then that sin needs remitting. They introduced this act in a vain attempt to remit sins that did not and do not exist(Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 18:4; 19:14; James 1:13-15; 1 John 3:4). Besides, to “baptize” an infant who cannot believe, repent, or confess is an act of futility. This brings us to the next part of this subject, the design of baptism. What does the New Testament teach about the design or purpose of immersion? Is the Bible clear on this subject? Again I say, yes! The Bible not only says that faith saves, it says that grace, blood, repentance, confession, and baptism saves! If I can show a clear passage which teaches that the design or purpose for immersion is for salvation would you accept it?
We have given some passages above that address the “design” for New Testament immersion. This section will simply add evidence to the fact that baptism is essential to the forgiveness of one’s alien sins. If one had never been told by their “Pastor” or had never read such in their Creed Book, it is difficult to believe that one would come to the conclusion that baptism isn’t a part of the “new birth” which changes one’s state or relationship from “out of Christ” to “in Christ.” It changes one’s relationship from an alien to a citizen of the kingdom of Christ (John 3:3-5; Colossians 1:13-14; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-29). I promised a passage that teaches that “baptism saves.” Here it is even in those very words. “Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:20-21).
“Believe, baptized saved” (Mark 16:16).
“Baptized For Remission..”(Acts 2:38).
“Washes Away Sins” (Acts 22:16).
“Into Death of Christ” (Romans 6:3).
“Benefit of blood..” (Romans 6:4).
“Makes a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
“Put on Christ in baptism” (Galatians 3:27).
“A cleansing..” (Ephesians 5:26).
“Put off body of sins” (Colossians 2:11-13).
“Forgiveness” (Colossians 2:13).
“Enter into Kingdom” (John 3:3-5).
“A good conscience..”(1 Peter 3:21).
“Reception of H.S..(Acts 2:38; 5:32).
“Into body, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13).
“Being a child of God (Galatians 3:26-27).
“Wearing the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:12-15).
Kenneth E. Thomas
1519 West Shore Dr.
Pekin, Il 61554 1 (309) 347-5645