Fighting Sin Through the Power of the Flesh or the Spirit

Sin is bad; we’re not supposed to do it. How, pray tell, do we fight off sin though?

There are many Christians who think if you just faith enough God will make you not sin, or that you won’t be tempted. There’s a magic moment when you truly call out to God in surrender and the battle is forever over. Sinlessness takes over.

Others think that sin should be fought, that there are actual things we do to defeat sin.

The first option means we do nothing except surrender. God does it all; we’re just passive victors of what Christ does for us.

The second view says we have a part in our own sin battles. That the level of sin in our lives has a direct correlation to our effort to stop it.

The surrender option would be cool, I know why it has a lot of people who believe it. I do nothing and still win! Sweet gig.

The battling view seems more legit, however, both from a practical and a biblical approach.

Paul says we are to bring our bodies under subjection; there are literal physical things we can do to fight off sin. We lay aside the weight of sin, we flee youthful lust. Hebrews says we sin because we haven’t yet striven against sin to the point of shedding blood. Most of us have made peace with sin in our lives. We’re not fighting it as much as we’re covering it so we don’t get caught or look bad.

I think bringing our bodies under subjection is largely something you have to put your mind to and exercise the option. For instance, if your flesh is getting carried away with any number of sins, fasting can be a good route to practice controlling your flesh. Maybe even use it as a punishment for indulging the flesh, make a severer consequence to your actions.

Now, this is where heads explode. “That’s legalism! You’re putting yourself under a yoke of bondage! We have freedom in Christ. You’re undoing grace and trying to overcome sin with works!”

Am I though? How pray tell does sin suddenly stop by me doing nothing?

So if I’m truly tired of a sin I do, how do I get it to stop? Do I just believe more? Surrender more? What does that even mean? How do I go about believing more and surrendering more? What if I already am believing and surrendering, how do I do more of it? Wouldn’t doing more of that be me doing a work?

There is no answer really. All that camp has on their side are increasing levels of doing nothing, which seems entirely weird and hopeless as a strategy.

I’ve run into a number of people who tell me they don’t do anything and now they enjoy levels of no-sin that boggles the mind. I have hung out with these people. I have never been struck by the reality of their alleged sinlessness. Of all the people I know who take the “do nothing to beat sin” approach, they do not strike me as paragons of spiritual attainment.

Yes, there is a pitfall in legalism, just as there is a pitfall in being a lazy bum who does nothing but sit around and wait for Jesus to eliminate their sin struggles. You can attain levels of behavior through sheer will power and discipline. Paul uses the example of athletes striving for a temporal crown as an example.

But Paul’s next point isn’t “So do way less than athletes striving for mastery, in fact, just sit on the couch and do nothing until Jesus magically eliminates your sin battle.” Nope. What Paul says is be like those athletes and do everything to win.

Paul is not a passive person. He attacks. He uses discipline and strategy. I recommend the same thing. I know that’s hard and it would be nice if we could theologically eliminate personal accountability from our levels of sin, but Judgment Day looms and guess what? You will give an account for every deed done in the body whether it is good or bad.

This is a fight worth fighting. It’s why Paul calls it the “fight of faith.” He doesn’t call it the “sit on your butt and do nothing of faith.” I suggest you start fighting your sin by any means necessary, even if it involves you doing something. The entire time you are praying and listening to Scripture. This isn’t some flesh overpowering the flesh thing.

This is the flesh being mortified by the Holy Spirit, it’s having our bodies walk in the Spirit and not fulfilling the desires of the flesh nature. Your body responds either to the flesh or Spirit. Your flesh wants you to sit and do nothing and let sin reign, wait for someone else to take care of my problems. The Spirit wants you to get up and fight with what Christ has given you in the Gospel. Go. Fight. Win.

The Good Samaritan and Your Journey

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is familiar. Two religious guys avoid the beat up guy in the ditch, while the lowly, despised Samaritan stops and helps him out.

Obviously the point of the parable is love your neighbor. It was given in answer to the question, “And who is my neighbor?” Everyone, especially those in need. Brings to mind the “when I was hungry, you fed me; when I was thirsty, you gave me drink.”

There’s a little phrase in there about the Samaritan that was brought to my attention, I don’t know if it’s significant or not. Notice the way it describes how the three men were traveling:

–there came down a certain priest that way

–a Levite, when he was at the place

–a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed

The two religious guys are just described as having gone that way; the Samaritan is described as being on a journey. Probably this just has to do with the fact that a Samaritan didn’t live there, he was on a journey, not near home, just passing through. Whereas the two religious guys lived there, it’s the way they went to work perhaps.

Maybe there’s no significance there at all. Maybe it’s a condemnation that this actually is the physical neighbor of the two religious guys, whereas the Samaritan being a foreigner had less obligation to help but did anyway.

I imagine that’s the point. But the book I was reading said we are all on a journey. We’re all growing and changing as we go through life. It’s very easy for us to get caught up in our growth and journey, too busy being awesomer, to notice and take time to help someone else.

The religious guys didn’t want to get their hands dirty. The body was left half dead, perhaps it looked dead. This would risk being unclean according to the law. The letter of the law forbade them in their minds.

The Samaritan, who is already unclean, isn’t troubled by being unclean more.

So, several points. If your sense of righteousness prevents you from getting your hands dirty in loving people; you’re not very righteous.

The point of being righteous is to do right things. If you can’t fellowship with sinners for fear of risking your reputation, your outward appearance of religiosity, then you’re doing it wrong.

(There are biblical reasons to not fellowship with certain people, but make sure you get them right. If you’re going to be tempted into sinning then avoid them. If they are so-called brothers who are ruining the reputation of the church then back away. Get those reasons right. Paul clarified that if he said never to hang out with sinners you’d have to leave the world! This isn’t as black and white as people make it—never sit with sinners or always sit with sinners. I’ve heard people stress both points. Neither is right. There is a time and season for such things.)

If your journey, physical or spiritual, makes you superior to everyone around you, you’re journeying in the wrong direction! Being like Christ should not make you more isolated. If other people and their opinions make you want to stay home in your righteous bubble, you’re not growing spiritually.

Love is the whole point. Christ came into the world to save sinners. He didn’t float above us for all time; He came among us. Love. Love is a big deal in the Bible.

Spiritual growth always leads to being more loving. Always, no exceptions.

The Fruit of the Spirit begins with “love.” Love has to be there. It is THE PROOF that you are growing in Christ.

Unfortunately, human pride makes us think spiritual growth puts us above others. That’s self-righteousness, not Christlikeness.

Love people even if they aren’t your responsibility. Love people even if it means getting your hands dirty. Love people. If that is getting harder for you to actually do, then you’re not growing spiritually; you’re growing self-righteously.

Angels are not Fat Flying Babies

Satan is a deceiver. His main goal is to diminish the glory of what God has made glorious.

You can see that with Satan himself. He was an angel of immense gory, yet he chose to rebel and diminish his glory. His existence ceases to give God glory.

Beyond that, Satan wants to diminish your understanding of his glory even more so you won’t take him seriously. That’s why there are so many cartoon images of Satan as a red beast with horns and a pitchfork ruling hell. He’s a cartoon character. You might dismiss him like Santa Claus.

Satan wants you to think of God as a senile old man floating in the clouds, or to view God as an impersonal, uncaring force.

Look what he does to humanity, creations made in the image of God! All his lies and sin destroy people. Our sin kills us. It distorts the image of God. Satan’s point in attacking you is so God’s glory would be covered up with your grossness.

Then there are angels. Angels always make me think of old ladies with Precious Moments fat baby angels, or fat, flying baby Cupid shooting arrows through people’s hearts.

Yet when you see angels described in the Bible, or when people in the Bible see angels, they are blown away. Isaiah 6 has impressive angels that look nothing like fat flying babies. Joshua sees an angel with a sword and immediately falls to the ground. John is corrected by an angel when John falls in worship before him.

People don’t worship fat, flying babies.

Angels have been stereotyped in imagery but also in function. Angels do not guard you from tripping. Angels are on missions from God to accomplish things on this earth. Much of what they do is unseen and will remain so.

The Bible gives us fleeting glimpses of angelic activity. I don’t know what all they are doing currently, but if we saw their activity we would be blown away.

Even demons have been trivialized, again because Satan either wants you to not take them seriously so they can get away with stuff, or completely freak you out so you don’t do stuff.

Stick with Scripture and what it says about Satan, God, humanity, and angels and demons. Most of what you know about them is based more on popular media and goofy traditions. Don’t defend your take on angels with your feelings or what your grandma said. Use Scripture. Get to know these impressive creatures correctly.

One day we will behold them and it is going to be awesome. They will not look like fat flying babies! I’m totally looking forward to this!

Why Did Jesus Say There Will Always Be Poor People?

Jesus could say offensive things. When Judas criticized the woman who poured ointment on Him because the ointment could have been sold and given to the poor, Jesus said:

“For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:11).

Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t help the poor; He’s specifically telling this group that this expensive act of worship was well done. She’s taking advantage of her opportunity while Jesus is still alive to show Him worship. She, Judas, and the rest of them can spend the rest of their lives helping the poor! They won’t run out of opportunities.

This is like people who can’t make it to church on Sunday for an hour because they have to clean the house. You can spare an hour for church; you can only go to it when it’s time for it. You have many other hours in the week to clean the house; the dirt aint going anywhere.

People aren’t as offended by the serve me while I’m here part as much as His assumption that there will always be poor people.

Everyone and their mother knows how to solve poverty. Republicans and Democrats both have their ideas. Commies and Socialists and all other political groups think if they were in charge the world would be bliss.

It’s not true.

This isn’t some cynical statement by Jesus, nor an off the cuff remark. Jesus is actually quoting the Old Testament.

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11).

Now think about what is said here. He’s talking about the Promised Land; the land flowing with milk and honey. The land where God’s law would reign as people followed the Lord’s guidance.

This is the best land in the world with the best governor over it—God Himself! And even here, in this blessed land under God’s authority, there will always be poor people.

If God Himself can’t eliminate poverty in the best land in this world, you think your political party can do it?

(Notice that the verse still says to help the poor. Saying that there will always be poor people doesn’t mean helping them is pointless.)

The Bible is very consistent on this issue. The Bible was written over thousands of years and throughout all those years there are commands to help the poor.

For thousands of years of writing the Bible, the poor are still there. There will always be poor people.

This isn’t a spiritual statement or prophecy; it’s a simple statement of truth. It’s an observation of how life works.

In statistics there’s a thing called a bell curve. A bell curve is the way things get distributed. The Middle Class will always be huge. There will always be a smaller group of poor and rich. It’s just the way stuff gets distributed in this world.

People are poor for many reasons. Some choose to be so—vows of poverty, disinterest in work or wanting more stuff, being a pastor with three kids, etc. Some are forced into it—physical or mental issues, poor family environment, lack of escape, corrupt governments, and so on.

There will always be poor people as long as there are people on this earth.

There is a new earth coming, which will be free from the Curse and from sin, where God’s righteousness will reign supreme. At that point, and not until then, will poverty be eliminated.

Living in a fallen world has consequences. I appreciate the desire people have to end poverty, but frequently the well-meaning intentions make the problem worse. It also gives people the idea that they don’t have to actually help the poor because, “I pay taxes and I vote for the people who will help them.”

Our job as believers is to give to those who ask of us, to be a Good Samaritan, looking for opportunities to share the love of God, not in kind thoughts and promises of prayer, but in actual prayer and giving.

Stop worrying about political wrangles over the issue and waiting for Your Guys to get in there and solve it all. You personally go help someone. That is what you’ll be held accountable for.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him” (1 John 3:17).

Other People Determine Your Doctrine More Than Scripture Does

Protestants are people who protested against the Catholic Church. But specifically they are people who used to be Catholic, who then became not quite as much Catholic.

There were other churches around during the height of Catholicism. Baptists have been around forever and various other churches were around as well. Catholics get the most publicity; many think the entire church was Catholic at one point.

That’s mostly because Catholics have always been expert at getting people’s money and also killing opponents and destroying their work. When you have the power and money, you dominate the narrative.

Luther was Catholic and wanted to stay in the Catholic Church, and he would have if they hadn’t booted him. Calvin copied Augustine on 90% of doctrine and Augustine is considered the Father of Catholicism.

Most of the doctrinal differences between denominations today is how much not-Catholic they are. Most denominations and churches will tell you that their sole authority is the Bible, but reading the doctrinal statements of all these churches lets you know someone aint giving authority to the Bible.

If all churches who said the Scripture was their authority actually had Scripture as their authority, there would be lots more unity. There isn’t. Why not? Because a lot of doctrine is formed not on Scripture but on Let’s Not Be Like Those People.

People are great at throwing babies out with bath water. In fact, sometimes we just throw out babies and keep bath water.

Churches throw out the baby (the Scripture) and keep the bath water (whatever drivel they decide to believe instead). Each assumes they are spiritual because spiritual maturity is mostly measured by comparison with other people. Since we’re Not Like Those People, we assume our not-likeness is where we are better, more mature, more right. Simply being better than others is good enough.

This is not growing into Christ though; this is just growing into being Not Like Those People.

We’ve reached a point where true uniqueness is a church that actually has Scripture as their authority. Does this church exist? I think it’s about impossible.

2,000 years of church arguing and factions has created an environment where it is very difficult to agree with any Christian anymore. Human philosophy, church and family tradition, and many other things have clouded our vision.

Is it possible for a church to have biblical doctrine? Maybe, but it’s highly doubtful. Is it possible for a person to? It’s more likely, but also very difficult.

How do you know if your doctrine is based on Scripture? Well, read the Bible a lot. Anytime a verse annoys you, pay attention, that’s probably where your doctrine is based on something else. If you read the Bible over and over, every time you should learn more, and it should slightly inform and change your doctrine.

If that’s not happening, then you aren’t paying attention. You’re simply reading the Bible and your brain is doing confirmation bias—it only notices verses that agree with your doctrine.

If you claim you’ve attentively read the Bible and didn’t change/modify any views, then you have to conclude you have 100% perfect doctrine. That’s quite the claim. I know people who get pretty close to claiming this and well, they don’t agree with each other on doctrine!

Read the Bible. Change your beliefs where necessary. Be part of a body of believers. Don’t isolate yourself. Hopefully you can at least find a church that has a couple humble people in it who truly want to grow and don’t think they’ve already arrived. You can help each other detect bias.

Please read your Bible. Over and over. Pay attention to context. Do the work.

But also know that knowledge puffs up. If you have all knowledge and have not love it profits you nothing. Doctrine is not simply for picking fights. It’s for informing your life and changing you into the person of Jesus Christ. And please try your hardest not to fall into the trap of “Not Being Like Those People.” Just follow Christ. Let Him change you.

What Does “Eye for an Eye” Really Mean?

“An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.”

So goes the saying. It appears as though this saying came from Gandhi, or at least one of his biographers as a summation of Gandhi’s thoughts. It’s popular for many Christians to celebrate Gandhi. I am not one of those Christians who does so.

Gandhi was a fine political leader and accomplished a perfectly noble political end. I’d celebrate his political accomplishments. As far as his religious views, and more precisely his biblical views, I’ll take a pass.

Exactly how would the whole world be blind if we enacted an eye for an eye? I’ve lived for 47 years and never poked out anyone’s eye. I don’t know anyone who has poked out anyone’s eye.

The context of the edict is from Exodus 21:23-25, “But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Physical harm is what is in mind. If you hurt someone, the punishment for so doing should be equal. This is the reverse of, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”

The context is also the political setup of the nation of Israel. The Old Covenant law was not a means of salvation. It was, in part, the legal code to direct the nation of Israel. This is what a Messiah-creating nation’s laws would look like if God were its King. People get punished for their sin.

The Book of Proverbs tells people to use just weights and measures, not to favor the rich and disfavor the poor, nor should you nail the rich and let the poor off the hook. They should judge with equity and fairness.

Today there are stories where people get millions of dollars for burning themselves on hot McDonald’s coffee. They do that because McDonalds has a lot of money. Let’s stick it to The Man! Make em pay! Israel’s law was written to prevent such extreme court results.

Jesus brings up an eye for an eye in The Sermon of the Mount. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”

Ah, so Gandhi was right! Down with eye for an eye!

Nope: context. Remember, in Exodus God is giving a nation their legal code, how to enforce the law of a nation consisting of believers, non-believers, Jews and non-Jews. Jesus is correcting the notion of individuals seeking revenge on those who wrong them.

When it comes to individuals, let wrongs against you go. It’s not your job to smite those who smite you. If you are a nation, then yes, your legal code should have a fair and consistent form of punishment for evildoers.

Jesus was correcting the personal desire for revenge that many took that verse to mean. That’s not what it’s talking about. It was specifically a command for the nation of Israel and their legal code.

So, in summation: Context is king. Gandhi is not a good interpreter of the Bible. Don’t poke people’s eyes out first or second.

Does Taking Communion Forgive Your Sins?

Short Answer: No.

Longer Answer: Not even close.

The idea that taking Communion is a means of grace, an action we do to get sins wiped off our record, is yet another Catholic Church perversion of the Gospel.

Power is the main thing the Catholic Church wanted/wants. It invented doctrines to make sure people were dependent upon them.

Communion became a mysterious rite that required institutional guys to work a supernatural wonder to convert the elements into the literal body and blood of Christ. You can’t do that on your own, bub. You need US!

“Forget that noise” was the response of many people who really didn’t want to go to church. As people began skipping church, the Catholic Higher-Ups had to invent ways to manipulate people to come back. I mean, how else would they make money?

So they began teaching people that all the special churchy things they alone could perform were absolutely necessary for your sins to be forgiven. You don’t want to go to hell do you? Well, come to church where we alone can do special things to make sure that doesn’t happen!

Indulgences were the pinnacle of this. They came right out and just said, “Hey, give us money or you’ll suffer for your sins.” I mean, they just chopped out the middle man of ritual and went straight for the wallet. Unreal.

Continue reading “Does Taking Communion Forgive Your Sins?”

What was in the Cup that Jesus Drank?

I’ve heard the question asked from time to time, mostly by Calvinists, about what was in the cup that Jesus drank?

The answer you’re supposed to give is that He drank the wrath of God.

Here’s how Desiring God, John Piper’s organization, puts it:

The disciples will drink a cup, too — a cup of suffering. But Jesus’s cup of suffering is different from theirs because Jesus’s suffering is under God’s anger. Jesus drinks the cup of God’s wrath, a cup that has accumulated the fury of God against sins of all types. Heinous crimes, adultery, careless words, dishonoring thoughts, lies — all of it will be punished by God. This is the cup Jesus drinks on the cross.

Those Calvinist types who enjoy detailing God’s wrath will go on to say He drank every last drop, the dregs, sucked it dry, and God unleashed anger and wrath on His Son because you are terrible!

This is all nonsense.

Jesus is indeed drinking a cup given to Him by His Father. John 18:11 Jesus says, “Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” In Matthew 20:22 He asks a couple disciples if they can drink the cup He is going to drink. In the Garden He asks if the cup can be taken from Him.

Continue reading “What was in the Cup that Jesus Drank?”

What is Communion for?

1 Corinthians 11:23-26 are Paul’s words to sum up what Communion is all about. They should be read when you take Communion at church. If your church never refers to these verses while doing Communion, odds are you aren’t really doing Communion.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Paul states that he received these instructions from the Lord Himself. Paul isn’t making this up. This isn’t his idea. Communion has divine sanction. Also, as the Old Testament repeatedly shows, when God gives instructions about how to worship Him, He really means it!

Be careful of weird variations on worship-looking things. Do it the way God says or don’t do it at all. Israel tried many times with God’s commands about worship to do it a bit different. Typically people died right after, sometimes even during. This is Paul’s warning that follows this passage. God means what He says.

The bread is the body of Christ broken for you. The cup is not His blood; people say that all the time. The cup is “the new covenant in my blood.” People who say the cup is the literal blood of Jesus are missing Jesus’ point. The cup is the new testament in His blood.

What does that mean?

I’m sure it’s deeper than we take it, but at its simplest it means the shedding of His blood is what brought in a New Covenant. The Old Covenant had blood of animals all over it. As Hebrews says, the New Covenant is a better covenant with a better sacrifice.

Continue reading “What is Communion for?”

Do People Really Die Because of how they take Communion?

The instructions about Communion as given by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 contain a warning. We discussed yesterday what causes judgment to come on Communion takers—their flippancy in regards to what is going on in Communion.

Now we will look at the judgment included in the warning. Here’s the whole passage:

So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

The manner in which someone partakes of the elements is the problem, it’s not because you sinned yesterday. Examine yourself: are you understanding what’s going on? Do you partake with the proper respect for what it represents? Are you treating others well? Are you showing off? Are you doing this to look good? Are you truly remembering the Lord’s death?

Those who are not “discerning” the body and blood of Christ, are not understanding the significance of what He did and act disrespectfully, are going to be judged.

Paul says some in Corinth are weak, sick, and others have died because of how they took Communion.

Wow. Is this for real?

Continue reading “Do People Really Die Because of how they take Communion?”

Paul’s Warning About Taking Communion

There are people who are afraid to take Communion. I respect that. It’s much better to be hesitant about it than to be flippant.

At the same time, when I hear some who are afraid to take Communion, I get the idea that their fear is misplaced. I don’t know their heart obviously, maybe they should be afraid.

But often their expressed fear is not based on Paul’s warning about taking Communion. So what exactly was Paul’s warning?

The context of the Corinthian church is part of the problem. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:17, “I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.” Oof, that aint good.

The Corinthian church service was so bad, Paul says it would be better if they didn’t even have one! I wonder how many churches he would say this to today?

We all know about the divisions in Corinth, that was a big clue that things weren’t right. These divisions led to many other abuses and the Lord’s Supper was one of those abused things.

So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter! (1 Corinthians 11:20-22)

The Lord’s Supper was extended into an actual supper. This wasn’t all bad. Based on some verses in Acts, the Last Supper, and here, it does seem as though the early church took Communion attached to an actual meal. Breaking bread together was more than a 7 minute ritual.

Continue reading “Paul’s Warning About Taking Communion”

Participation in the Body and Blood of Christ

Paul warns the Corinthian believers to leave their idolatry as it doesn’t fit with being a follower of Christ. To bring the point home he talks about taking Communion.

“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17).

A little bit of a side note here:
Your church doesn’t do Communion biblically. Notice what he said about the bread coming from one loaf? Most churches have individual little square, Styrofoam bits for the bread. If you were to do Communion strictly literally it would be one loaf with pieces broken off of it. It is supposed to be wine if you’re going literal and the wine is from one cup, which being poured from one container might suffice. You’d be hard pressed to find a church that does all these things, especially in our Covid freaked out day.


Taking Communion is a participation or sharing in the body and blood of Christ. What does Paul mean by that? Does it mean you are literally eating Christ’s flesh and drinking His blood?

Paul uses “participation” a couple times in this chapter, which is helpful.

Continue reading “Participation in the Body and Blood of Christ”

Eating Jesus’ Body and Drinking His Blood

One of the main points the Bible stresses in both baptism and Communion is unity. There is unity of the believer with Christ and also unity between all those who are partaking.

It’s important to keep unity in mind here. Let’s say that the bread you eat at Communion literally becomes the body of Christ. What do you do with the leftovers?

You may laugh but this was actually a big deal in the early Catholic Church. The reason you see old depictions of priests as drunk is because they drank the leftover wine because it was wrong to throw it away. What if one piece of bread got dropped on the floor and someone stepped on it and crumbled it?

The Bible says there are many members but one body. Christ’s body has to be one. Ephesians 4 says there is “one body.” If there are little parts of the body floating around everywhere doesn’t that destroy its unity?

In the Last Supper that Jesus ate with His disciples He said “Take and eat; this is my body.” He didn’t do any Latin mumbling to convert the pieces into His actual flesh. He just broke it, gave it to them, and they ate.

When it comes to the cup He says:

“Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:27-29).

He says right there this is the last time He will drink the “fruit of the vine.” He’s drinking wine; He’s not drinking blood.

Continue reading “Eating Jesus’ Body and Drinking His Blood”

Communion, The Lord’s Supper, and John 6 “Eat My Flesh”

The Lord’s Supper or Communion is another physical thing the Church does as ordained by the apostles and the Lord Himself.

Communion is supposed to center us on the Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate the unity all believers have in Him.

So, naturally, just like with baptism, church history is filled with arguing, fighting, and even killing each other over this issue.

Fun times. Who saw that coming?

You want to know why God doesn’t have more physical stuff for the church to do? Because we’d all have killed each other off by now if He had.

There aren’t too many verses about Communion. 1 Corinthians 10-11 are the primary instructional verses about it.

The Last Supper was the initiation of it, which ties back to the Passover supper of the OT. Jesus hints at the Lord’s Supper a few times in His poke-in-the-eye style from time to time (eat my flesh!).

And that’s pretty much it. It’s a simple idea representing massive things.

Continue reading “Communion, The Lord’s Supper, and John 6 “Eat My Flesh””

1 Peter 3:21–Baptism that Now Saves You!

There are many people who say that being baptized is what gets you in heaven. You can live however you want, doesn’t matter, as long as you got wet at an official church function with an official churchy official person your entrance to heaven is guaranteed.

This is complete nonsense.

1 John, which is all about the assurance of salvation and giving you many tests to see whether you are saved, says not one word about baptism. Curious.

What John does bring up is whether or not a new life has occurred. Are you more like Christ? Are you loving people? Are you departing from the control of sin?

Instead of dealing with the entirety of the New Testament when it comes to figuring out how to get saved or how to determine whether you are saved, people instead take one phrase out of the New Testament and call it good.

Here’s a phrase from 1 Peter that gets trotted out in this context: “baptism that now saves you.” Boom! There it is! What more do you need? Some church dude did some water stuff to me, so Bible says I’m saved!

Well, what more you need is context. “Baptism that now saves you” is not the only phrase Peter wrote.

Continue reading “1 Peter 3:21–Baptism that Now Saves You!”

Baptism, New Life and How Your Mom is Probably Messing it Up for You!

Baptism is the outward physical demonstration of Gospel truth. When you believe the Gospel you are identified with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Baptism physically does to you what has already spiritually happened to you by faith.

“Having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

Buried and raised up, that’s what Christ did. By faith we identify with Him in this. Baptism literally shows this happening to us with the dunking in water deal.

The significance of this new life blows by us though. Colossians 2 has some other stuff to say about this new life. We’ve already talked quite a bit about losing your grasp on your physical identity. Here’s another bit:

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (2:6-7).

Baptism isn’t just this thing you do this one time and now you’re saved and all spiritual obligation is gone.

Continue reading “Baptism, New Life and How Your Mom is Probably Messing it Up for You!”

Baptism and Unity

The essential point of baptism in the New Testament is identification with Christ. You and Christ are no longer separated. You are in Him and He is in you. You are one. A member of His body.

This is what the passages about baptism stress.

You wouldn’t know this by listening to Christians talk about baptism. Mostly it’s just arguing about how to baptize, who baptizes, what church to baptize in, how old you have to be to be baptized, etc.

Argue, argue. Fight, fight.

Let me draw this together for you the way Paul does. Read this passage. Like, really. Read it. It’s Ephesians 4:3-6:

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Then he lists a bunch of things that there are only ONE of. If we’re all focused on the ONE then we can’t argue about anything!

If there were two, yeah, we could argue about which is better. But there’s only one.

Continue reading “Baptism and Unity”

Baptism Means Losing Your Identity

I’m going to hit this one more time, mainly because Paul does.

“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

Baptism is you identifying with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. You are raised up with Him to newness of life. Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.

This isn’t a metaphor or word picture.

This is what baptism is.

The result is that you lose all grip on your identity which has so long defined who you are.

Your old you, the old man, was filled with sin and sinful desire. It lived in sin. Was bound to sin. All it did was selfish. It lived for the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.

Continue reading “Baptism Means Losing Your Identity”

What Does Paul Mean by Being Baptized for the Dead?

1 Corinthians 15 is all about resurrection. It’s specifically talking about bodily, physical resurrection: dead bodies living again. He’s not talking about the spiritual concept of being raised up to newness of life, as in being born again.

He’s talking physical resurrection.

In the midst of this chapter Paul throws in this doozy of a verse:

Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? (1 Corinthians 15:29)

What in the world Paul?!

I love how the Bible throws in stuff just to see if you’re paying attention.

There are various interpretations of this verse.

Continue reading “What Does Paul Mean by Being Baptized for the Dead?”

Baptism and Spiritual Gifts

Baptism is an identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It’s no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

Salvation is a loss of self. You are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God. You lose your life to keep it. You take up the cross and deny your self.

These aren’t just high sounding metaphors. This is what the Gospel literally does to the believer. You lose yourself in Jesus Christ.

When Paul speaks of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, he has baptism as a part of the foundation.

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).

You should note that he’s not talking about getting wet baptism. This is the baptism into Christ idea again. This is all done by the Spirit. Note also he says we “were all given the same Spirit to drink.” The Spirit is linked with water, or at least drinkable liquid!

Baptism is immersion into Christ. The life of the believer is now about edifying the Body of Christ. Before conversion the individual was entirely filled with pride and self-serving. Salvation delivers you from this.

Love is the outflow of losing yourself.

Continue reading “Baptism and Spiritual Gifts”

Baptized into Moses

1 Corinthians 10 has a unique usage of baptism. Paul is describing some of the stuff that happened to Israel as “examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.”

The Old Testament isn’t just cute stories and moral tales. It’s a description of how God does a covenant and how people treat God’s covenants.

Israel was set apart by God. He freed them from slavery and brought them into salvation in their Promised Land. The beginning of their deliverance was going through the Red Sea.

The intro to salvation is baptism. Moses is a type of Christ (remember Jesus is the prophet who is greater than Moses).

It’s important to remember that the New Covenant is better than the Old Covenant. This is stated a couple times in Hebrews.

Not everyone in the Old Covenant was saved spiritually. There were unbelieving Israelites who made it into the Promised Land. As you may recall, there were 40 years of rebellious wandering after their baptism into Moses before they made it safely into their Land. And also remember the people who went with Moses were all dead by the time they got there!

Continue reading “Baptized into Moses”

Why Didn’t the Apostle Paul Baptize People?

1 Corinthians 1 reveals Paul’s concern over the divisions in the church of Corinth. Members of the church were fighting over who they should listen to. This was upsetting to Paul and a blatant denial of the Gospel.

Here’s what Paul says about this:

Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptised in my name. 1(Yes, I also baptised the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptised anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel  (1 Corinthians 1:13-17)

Paul says he only baptized a handful of people. You would think, as a major apostle of the New Testament and with all the hubbub we’ve tacked onto baptism, that Paul would have been a leading baptizer. Nope, just a couple people.

Why? It seems like Paul is saying that if he baptized people it would have caused strife. You can see this clearly with a little imagination. Imagine being baptized by the Apostle Paul! Would you not brag about that?

“Ha, loser. I was baptized by THE Apostle Paul; you just had some local pastor. How pathetic!”

Continue reading “Why Didn’t the Apostle Paul Baptize People?”

What does Being Baptized into Christ Mean?

The phrase, “baptized into Christ” is used twice by the Apostle Paul. Here are the instances:

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? (Romans 6:3)
for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

For Paul, baptism has gone way beyond water. He didn’t say “as many of you as were baptized into water” but baptized into Christ. This is bigger, deeper, and more meaningful.

In Acts 19:1-7 Paul asks some people if they have received the Holy Spirit. They say they didn’t know the Holy Spirit was given. So Paul asks what baptism they received. “John’s.” Paul told them about being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. They did. Paul laid his hands on them afterwards and they received the Spirit.

If there’s no Spirit then there was no baptism in Jesus Christ. John baptized with water; Jesus will come and baptize with the Spirit. Water is often a picture for the Spirit. Baptism has something to do with the Spirit.

Being baptized into Christ sounds like something more than getting wet. Romans 6 is talking about being baptized into Christ, fully immersed and identified with Him.

Romans 6:3-4 talk about being baptized in Christ’s death. Whoa, what’s that? Total identification with Christ. Christ didn’t just die FOR you; by faith you died WITH Christ.

Christ didn’t just rise from the dead FOR you; you were raised up WITH Him.

Continue reading “What does Being Baptized into Christ Mean?”

Does the Bible Teach Infant Baptism?

It seems we’ve hit the time to talk about infant baptism. The reason why it’s the time is because Acts 16 has two verses in it that are used to prove that infant baptism is a biblical thing.

The two verses are:

When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. (Acts 16:15)
At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. (Acts 16:33)

These are used as infant baptism proof texts because it says Lydia’s and the jailer’s household was baptized. Surely there were infants in the household.

Yup, that’s the proof text in the Bible for infant baptism. Always be careful when a proof text for a subject never mentions the subject!

To extrapolate from that the idea that infants are baptized to release them from sin, or all the various Lutheran, Catholic, Reformed, and whoever else ideas of infant baptism, is quite the stretch.

Continue reading “Does the Bible Teach Infant Baptism?”

Jews, Gentiles, the Book of Acts, and Baptism

A side note from Acts 13:24 which says, “Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.” John’s baptism was specifically for Jews. It was a baptism of repentance to clean up the Holy Land and God’s chosen people for their promised Messiah. That was its purpose.

Once the Messiah came, John the Baptist decreased and left the scene along with his baptism.

Jesus came to save the world. As the New Testament continues we see Gentiles being brought in. This was the big point in Acts 10-11. Gentiles don’t do John’s baptism.

Gentiles are baptized with the Holy Spirit and water baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and in most places in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We can then expect to see Gentiles being baptized to show the broadening of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, no longer an Israel-centric message.

Continue reading “Jews, Gentiles, the Book of Acts, and Baptism”

Peter, Gentiles and Baptism

Peter jumps on the scene again in Acts 10 where he meets with Cornelius and Gentiles, showing Peter that God has called Gentiles to the fellowship.

Peter talks to them about John’s Baptism and how Jesus Christ came after that and was anointed with the Holy Spirit to do signs and wonders (10:36-38).

The Gentiles readily accepted Peter’s teaching. They received the Holy Spirit, and as was the custom in that day to show they received the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues.

Peter recognized the significance and immediately understood they were saved and indwelt with the Spirit. So he says

“Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So, note two things: 1) they had the Holy Spirit before they were baptized and 2) they heard a message and believed it before they were baptized.

Continue reading “Peter, Gentiles and Baptism”

Make Baptism Simple Again

Acts 8 is all about Philip. What’s cool about Philip is that he’s merely a deacon in the church. I don’t mean “merely” as an insult, I just mean it in contrast to being an apostle or some other prominent position.

Whether you have a low position or no position in a church, you can still preach the Gospel. Philip is cool. I look forward to meeting him.

After Philip stirs up things in Samaria, he gets in a conversation with an Ethiopian in a chariot. The Ethiopian Charioteer has questions about Isaiah 53, “Is this about the prophet or someone else?”

What a great lead in to evangelism! If only they were all that easy!

Philip informs him about Jesus Christ. Mr. Ethiopian responds,

“Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Philip and the Ethiopian are apparently the only ones there on a road in a desert.

Why do I bring this up?

Frequently people say that baptism is an outward testimony, it’s “a public profession of faith,” as if that’s all it’s about.

My problem with this is that the Bible never says this once. And, like Acts 8, there is apparently only the baptizer and the baptizee. There is no public display.

I think the church likes to make baptism a display so they can advertise to people how many souls they’ve allegedly converted. And yes, I’m overly cynical. Sue me.

Now, I’m not saying that public baptism is wrong. I am saying be careful not to put the sole emphasis of baptism on something the Bible never once mentions as a part of baptism.

Baptism is between you and the Lord. It also involves the one baptizing you. It’s perfectly fine if they are the only ones aware of it.

I would also go so far as to say that anyone can baptize someone else. We’ve got this notion that only Church Official People can baptize. This thought exists because we’re institutional people and the church likes power. It’s not necessary though.

I think parents can baptize their kids. I think a kid can baptize their parent! I think a friend can baptize you. I do think there should be a relationship there that the person doing the baptism was prominent in helping the one to salvation. I don’t think it should just be some yahoo off the street. “Hey, can you dunk me in water?”

So, anyway, those are some thoughts about Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Amazing how many of our practices and understandings have nothing to do with the Bible and quite a bit to do with tradition and institutional power. Be aware of that tendency and fight it!

Baptism and Simon the Sorcerer

Acts 8 about Simon the Sorcerer is another fascinating passage about baptism.

Many people in Samaria followed Simon because they thought he had the power of God. But when Philip comes to town and preaches the Gospel, they have a change of heart.

“But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”

Again, for the record, they believed and then were baptized. That’s how it goes!

Simon himself believed and was baptized. He followed Philip, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw, it was all very cool and exciting.

Peter and John are sent to Samaria to check out the new believers and to make sure everything was as they had heard.

Because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Their baptism is spoken of as being partial, only in the name of Jesus. Remember they were to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They had a partial message apparently and so got partial benefits.

Continue reading “Baptism and Simon the Sorcerer”

Peter at Pentecost and Baptism

After Jesus ascends to heaven His disciples begin their ministry. Peter is the chief spokesman, as he is the Rock the church is built on (not in any weird Catholic way, just in a common sense “boy that sure seems like that’s what happened” way).

Peter preaches a scathing message against Israel for killing their Messiah. “What shall we do?” is the response of the audience, a great response which would melt any pastor’s heart.

Peter answers, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Note our two main themes here: forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit. Baptism circles around these themes all the time.

Continue reading “Peter at Pentecost and Baptism”

Baptism, the Holy Spirit, and Death

Baptism is understood by people in John the Baptizer’s day as referring to the cleansing of sin, making one ceremonially pure.

But looking forward, the Gospels show us something more is coming.

The Bible progressively reveals things. What came before isn’t bad, it was just a beginning. It’s the cute stories you hear in Sunday School as opposed to the in-depth Bible study you hopefully get at Big People Church.

You start small and build. It’s how you educate any kid. One way to look at the Bible and its progression is as a book a parent, say a Heavenly Father, writes to His kids, humanity. View Humanity as God’s kid that God is teaching. The Bible starts with pictures and illustrations and builds into doctrine.

The two fuller pictures that baptism represents are hinted at several times.

In Mark 1:8, John the Baptizer says, “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

The “he” refers to Jesus. The same context has John saying Jesus is better than him, he’s not even worthy to take off Jesus’ sandals. Jesus is better, so too is Jesus’ baptism.

John clearly is pointing people forward to something better, not dunking in water, but being immersed in and filled with the Spirit.

Continue reading “Baptism, the Holy Spirit, and Death”

%d bloggers like this: