A monthly publication by the Klang Church of Christ, containing articles written by bro. Roger D. Campbell, to help educate, edify, encourage and equip the saints of God.


I S S U E   N U M B E R :


            January 2012



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WOULD IT EVER BE RIGHT TO REFUSE TO BAPTIZE SOMEONE?


The New Testament’s message about the water baptism of Jesus’ Great Commission is plain (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). The Bible teaches that the purpose of baptism, which simply means an immersion, is to wash away sins (Acts 22:16), that is, to have past sins remitted (Acts 2:38). Yes, water baptism is a condition of salvation.

We wonder, though, could there ever be an occasion when the right course of action on our part would be to refuse to baptize someone? “Well, I do not recall reading any example in the Bible when a gospel preacher or other member of the church refused to baptize a person that requested to be baptized.” Nor do I. But, there are other biblical principles that we ought to take into account as we think about this question.

There are, in fact, several scenarios which we might encounter that would cause us to “pass” on immersing a person. Let me mention a few. If I was convinced that a person was drunk or high on some drug, I personally would deny his request to be immersed. Why? First, scriptural baptism takes place only when one obeys the truth “from the heart” (Romans 6:3,17). One whose mind is affected by some drug could hardly do that. Second, God’s word portrays immersion into the Lord’s death as a serious, special activity: surely a stumbling, doped-up man is not ready to be baptized.

Second, if a person does not have the mental capability to understand what the death of Jesus means, what sin is, or the purpose of baptism, they are not a proper candidate for baptism. Baptism is for those that gladly receive God’s message about the Christ and how to be saved (Acts 2:36-41). If someone brings a small child and asks us to baptize him, we cannot do such. Why? Because that child is not a proper candidate for immersion. We would refuse to “baptize” such a small child.

Again, if a person indicates that he has no intention of repenting, we would refuse to baptize him. Why? Because repentance is a condition of baptism and having sins blotted out (Acts 2:38; 3:19). Anyone that tells us in advance that after he is baptized he plans to continue lying, being a homosexual, attending a man-made church, or living in a state of adultery, does not have a heart of repentance. It is true that he might change his attitude in the future, but for now, such a one is not ready to be immersed into the Christ.

Furthermore, if a person indicates that he has no intention of fulfilling his Christian obligations after he is baptized, we would not agree to baptize him. A new creation in the Christ not only puts off the old, but also puts on the new (2 Corinthians 5:17). When one says, “Look, I just want to be baptized. I do not want to go to worship, I do not want to be around other Christians, I just want to be baptized,” such a fellow does not see or accept the call to deny self and forsake all for Jesus (Luke 9:23; 14:33).

What if a person does not understand the purpose of baptism? He knows a couple of Christians that he considers to be real nice people, so he thinks getting baptized might somehow help him, too, but he has no clue what the real purpose of baptism is. The stated purpose of baptism is to remit or forgive sins (Acts 2:38), and it is essential that one understand that prior to being immersed. We would gladly make arrangements to teach one that wants to learn the truth about baptism, but we would refuse to baptize anyone that does not know its purpose.

Here is another scenario. What if a person indicates that she only wants to be baptized in order to please some other human, such as a boyfriend or parent? Again, her admission shows that she would not be doing it “from the heart” (Romans 6:17) or for the right purpose (Acts 22:16). Until she has a change of heart, she is not ready to obey the gospel, and we refuse to be a part of her mock immersion.

“I think we should just go ahead and baptize anybody that asks for it. It would be better to be safe and grant their request instead of trying to play God and read their minds.” We have no desire to try and place ourselves in God’s place or on His level, but the philosophy of baptizing “everybody” is a blatant disregard for the teaching of the New Testament. It shows no recognition or appreciation for the fact that one who will be immersed biblically must be one that is ready to confess a sincere belief in the Christ, have a heart of repentance, and understands the purpose of baptism as well as the new life that comes on the other side of the water.

We are thrilled each time one decides to leave darkness and enter the Lord by being baptized into Him. Let us refrain, though, from immersing those who are not proper candidates for baptism.





“WHAT DOES THE LORD YOUR GOD REQUIRE OF YOU?”


As Moses’ death rapidly approached, east of the Jordan River he spoke to the children of Israel to remind them about several matters before they crossed the Jordan into the promised land of Canaan. That is the essence of the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses reminded them of what God had done for them, of their obligation to the Lord, and about the need for them never to forget Him.

A plain portion of Moses’ instruction is recorded for us in Deuteronomy 10:12,13, where it is written, “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?” What a soul-stirring question!

We recognize that these instructions were given to Israelites and not Christians. We realize, too, that we now are under the authority and covenant of the Christ and not the Law of Moses (Matthew 28:18- 20). There are, however, some principles for us to see in what God required of His people in days gone by. The Old Testament was written for our learning, so let us learn from it (Romans 15:4). Christians are “the Israel of God” today, so let us look at the words of Deuteronomy 10:12,13 and see what is in it for us. What is the built-in answer to the question that Moses asked? Let us break it down.

•  Someone required something of the nation of Israel. Who was the Requirer? Moses’ question was, “What does the LORD your God require of you . . .? It is not a question of what humans desire, but of what Jehovah says must be done. The context shows that He is “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome . . .” (10:17). Needless to say, what He says should get our attention! God was not making suggestions to Israel; rather, He was setting forth requirements. There is no such thing as an optional requirement.

•  “Fear the Lord.” That should have been a natural thing for the Israelites, as Moses told them, “. . . He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen” (10:21). Fearing God has been man’s duty in every era of human history (Ecclesiastes 12:13). As servants of Jesus, we are to “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). While it is true that we are privileged to walk with our Creator, it is flippant and blatantly disrespectful to speak about or to God as if He were our “buddy” or “pal.” Such thinking and talking fail to manifest proper reverence for the Almighty.

•  “Walk in all His ways.” What did that mean? The very next verse (10:13) makes it clear that it means to keep God’s commands. Thank God that He has set forth clearly in the Bible His instructions for our lives. Should Christians be concerned about obeying God’s commands? We are His servants, right? (1 Peter 2:16). We are His children, right? (1 Peter 1:14). Servants and children are expected to obey. When we obey God’s commands, we are not earning our salvation or putting God in a position to owe us anything. But, if He has told us that receiving salvation and all other spiritual blessings is conditional upon our submitting to His will, then submit to His will we must! (Matthew 7:21).

•  “Walk in all His ways.” It was not enough for Israel to submit to a portion of God’s commands. In fact, willfully obeying the majority of what God said would not do, either. The same is true for members of the Lord’s church. Partial obedience is actually disobedience, as we see when King Saul failed to do all that the Lord instructed him to do (1 Samuel 15). We must put away any thought of trying to disregard portions of God’s law. Such an approach leads to spiritual disaster! Children of light, let us act like such children by walking in the light, which is the same as doing the truth (1 John 1:6,7).

•  “Love Him.” Read those two words again. Let them sink down into your soul and let your mind meditate on them. Love God. Is there any concept that is more important for a human being to grasp and follow?! “But I thought in the Old Testament God did not care about people’s hearts; I thought that all He looked at was outward actions and Judaism was just a cold, formal, outward religion.” Not true, my friend. Jesus said that the greatest command is to love God with all of one’s being (Mark 12:28-30). If we love God, we will obey His commands (1 John 5:3), but He does not want us to love Him as if we were some type of heartless robot. He wants us to submit to Him because we are in love with Him and grateful for all that He has done.

•  “Serve” God “with all your heart and with all your soul.” That is, we are to serve our God with all of our being, diligently giving Him the best that we have. Surely no child of His that is appreciative of all that He has done for our benefit would ever contemplate trying to sneak by and do just as little as possible in His service. May we all put forth our best effort for our God, always counting His Cause as the most important portion of our earthly sojourn.

•  “For your good” (10:13). To fear the Lord, walk with Him, love Him, and serve Him – these are for man’s good! God’s commands are not a burden (1 John 5:3). They are a blessing. That is right; all of God’s commands are a blessing to those who humbly submit to them. “What does the Lord require?”




“SERVE ONE ANOTHER”


The words “serve” and “service” are used extensively in modern-day English. We talk about the service that we receive at a restaurant, bank, or hotel. In tennis, badminton, and volleyball, serving plays a big role in each game. And, we grudgingly pay service charges that are connected with certain activities or purchases.

Christians are much more concerned about another type of service. As we follow and serve Jesus (John 12:26), we are also instructed to serve other followers of the Christ. While we are not in competition with other saints, the child of God that ranks high is one that “shall be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). In Galatians 5:13 it is written, “For you brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” So, to “serve one another” is part of the responsibility that members of the church have to each other. While so many of our generation seem to sit around and try to think of ways that others can serve them, God’s people are supposed to be self-starters, taking the initiative to look for the needs of others and be prepared to serve them.

The Model Servant – That would be Jesus, of course. “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). On the night before His death, as His apostles argued about which of them was the greatest, Jesus told them, “. . . I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27). The Master Teacher was also the Model Servant!

Our Motive in Serving – Our Lord truly had the heart of a servant, serving others unconditionally, sacrificially, with a pure heart, and without regard to a person’s gender, financial standing, or ability to serve Him in return. Since we are told, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), we serve because we want to emulate our Savior. As we noted earlier in Galatians 5:13, when we serve each other, we are to do it “through love.” So, our genuine love for others is also what motivates us to serve.

Accepting the Service of Others – Each one of us should “bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5), doing for ourselves what we can. At the same time, we are to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2). Sometimes we must humble ourselves and allow others to serve us. If our Lord wants His disciples to serve one another, then who am I to refuse to give others a chance to serve me?! We all have a sense of self-pride, but we must not be arrogant and stubborn, thinking that we are too good to have others serve us. It is not degrading or shameful to allow people to do what Jesus desires them to do, which is to serve. Jesus accepted the service of others (Luke 8:1-3); so did the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 1:18-20). Yes, we must learn not only to serve, but to accept service, too.

Ways to Serve – While we certainly have a special responsibility to our own relatives, let us think right now about some ways that we might serve those who are not in our biological family. What are some ways in which we can provide practical, helpful service to our brothers and sisters?

•   Provide transportation to worship services.
•   Provide transportation to receive medical services or to collect medication.
•   Provide transportation for shopping needs.
•   Use skills to help others (repair cars, computer usage, language studies, or give financial advice).
•   Take care of small children so their parents can be free to go make visits or conduct Bible studies.
•   Provide meals for those who have been sick or for some other reason have been unable to cook.
•   Clean the home of or provide cleaning services for those who have been sick and unable to clean.
•   Provide meals for those who have had a death in the family.
•   Visit and spend time with hospital patients.
•   Visit and encourage widows and widowers.
•   Help (with arms, legs, and back muscles) those that are moving to a new location.
•   Help locate a congregation for those studying or traveling in other locations.
•   Provide transportation for evangelists or other Christians visiting from other places.
•   Be hospitable – invite saints from others places to stay in our home during special church functions.
•   Assist others in finding and using web sites that can help them in their spiritual lives.
•   Mature sisters teach younger sisters about being wives and mothers God’s way (Titus 2:3-5).
•   Provide the daily necessities for those who are simply unable to obtain such on their own.
•   Provide assistance for those who are facing temporary financial hardships.
•   Experienced teachers help “first-timers” prepare lessons or prepare to teach one-on-one.

Yes, this list could go on and on. My life has been blessed immensely by Christians who have served me and others. They have no desire to be famous or receive financial rewards. They just love to serve. Thank God for such folks. Their example is powerful! May God help us to have the heart of a servant, serving because we really care about others.




Romans 16:3-5 – PRISCILLA AND AQUILA, PAUL’S FELLOW WORKERS


Do you remember Aquila and Priscilla? They are mentioned in four different chapters of the New Testament, always in connection with the apostle Paul. They were a Christian couple, first introduced in the Bible as tentmakers that worked with Paul (Acts 18:1,2). But, the text of Romans 16 is not about their occupation. Rather, Paul sends them greetings and expresses thanks for them, saying:

       Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in
       Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my
       life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all
       the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the
       church that is in their house . . . [Romans 16:3-5]

While we might be curious to know a number of things about the personal lives of this pair, let us concentrate on the information that the Bible supplies. In the biblical text, sometimes Aquila (the husband) is mentioned before Priscilla, but in other cases her name precedes his. Opinions may vary as to why one name appears before the other, but here is a fact worth noticing: each time the two of them are mentioned in the Bible, they are always mentioned together. Some might think, “Ah, how sweet.” There is more to their togetherness, though, than a touching sentiment. Aquila and Priscilla lived together in Rome (Acts 18:2). They lived together in Corinth (Acts 18:2). They lived together in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:8,19), and they later lived together again in Rome (Romans 16:3,5). They not only lived in the same city, they lived in the same house. God instructs husbands to dwell with their wives with understanding (1 Peter 3:7). Do not overlook the first part of that statement: a husband is to “dwell” with his wife, and vice versa. There may be times when circumstances make it necessary for a wife and husband to be separated from one another, but such an arrangement (1) should only be temporary and (2) should not be the couple’s preferred policy (they should long for the time when they will live together under the same roof instead of apart). Many modern-day marriages are suffering because the spouses spend so much time apart from one another. It does not take an Einstein or Solomon to recognize the potential dangers of such. Husbands and wives, including married “church workers,” need to learn to dwell together like Aquila and Priscilla did.

Aquila and Priscilla were Paul’s “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3). They did not simply know Paul, and they did not simply spend time around him (though such would have been a great blessing to their lives). Paul did the Lord’s work, and they joined him in doing it. That is the only way for two parties to be “fellow workers” – when both actually labor and do such laboring in the same cause. What a great blessing it is to have brothers and sisters who have “a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6) for the Lord and are so dependable to do whatever they can to help in His Cause.

On a personal level, Priscilla and Aquila “risked their own necks” for Paul’s life (Romans 16:4). Their relationship with Paul went far beyond a casual greeting at worship services. The Master said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:12). Priscilla and Aquila had that kind of love for their beloved friend in the Lord. Do you and I possess that type of love? It may be that Aquila and Priscilla had been moved by Paul’s own example, as he and Barnabas were described as “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26). Sacrificial love is contagious.

Paul said that “all the churches of the Gentiles” gave thanks for Aquila and Priscilla, as he himself also did (Romans 16:4). This lets us know that this couple was appreciated by other Christians. The fact that the Gentile churches were grateful for them is especially significant, because Priscilla and Aquila were Jews (Acts 18:2). The early church sometimes struggled maintaining healthy relations between its Jewish and Gentile members, but Priscilla and Aquila evidently were able to get along just fine with their Gentile brethren. How well we are able to work or cooperate with other saints should have nothing to do with their race or background. Amen?

Priscilla and Aquila had a church “in their house” when they lived in Rome (Romans 16:5). That was true when they lived in Ephesus, too (1 Corinthians 16:8,19). Their living quarters were not a church, but rather the facility in which the church assembled. They were blessed to have a material house big enough for such gatherings, and they were willing to use what they had for the good of the church. Let us all learn from them to use unselfishly for the Kingdom those blessings that God has given us.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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