How the Thieves Shared in the Death of Christ

1What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way of life. 5 For if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, 7 since a person who has died is freed[e] from sin’s claims.[f] 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, 9 because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again. Death no longer rules over Him. 10 For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. @Romans6.1-10 (HCSB)

After Jesus’ death, in order to access salvation one must by faith be immersed (cf., passage above, Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21, etc). We must share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Immersion (aka baptism) is the moment we share in Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Bible is very clear about this.

But think about this, there were two criminals, specifically thieves that were crucified with Jesus, one on each side of him. One of those thief’s had a change of heart and with a heart of sorrow and repentance and believed in Jesus. He asked Jesus to remember him in his glory and Jesus promised him he would be there with him.  The other thief died scorning Jesus, ridiculing him like the Jewish leaders taunting and belittling him on the cross. He died without repentance and was not given a promise of hope by Jesus.

Both of the thieves died, when Jesus died. I don’t mean they died at the very same instant, but they died on those crosses together. The one in the middle, the Savior for those who have faith in him, one died without faith, and the other died believing. The thieves literally shared in the death of Christ, but only one was given the promise of eternal life, @Luke23.39-43.

In other words, the thief that expressed his belief will awaken to eternal life.

When a person believes and repents, they are baptized. It is in that moment that we experience what the thief that Jesus promised Paradise too, salvation. We experience death and resurrection in the activity of baptism. Dead in sin, we are buried under the water and we rise out of the water alive in Christ. It is there that God applies salvation to our lives.

It is in death that Jesus forgave the repentant thief and it is in death that God forgives the repentant sinner.

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Memory

This first appeared in the LaPlata Home Press September 11, 2002 in a weekly devotional called Flowing From the Mouth of the Jordan.

When I was 3 1/2 years old, my parents, my Grandma Dillman, and I took a trip out east.  We went to Gettysburg, Niagra Falls, and other special places of interest. The next year we went to the Rockie Mountains, the Grand Canyon, and Knotts Berry Farm as well as other places of interest of interest to us.  I remember blotches of these moments. For instance, the only thing I remember at Knotts Berry Farm was riding the train. I sat in a seat by myself (remember I am 4 1/2 years old) and two guys dressed as western bandits sit behind me and tell me to “stick-em-up.” My parents told me I told them “NO!”

Most of what I’ve told you I barely remember. In fact, the details of what I could tell you about each situation have been filled in by my parents, especially by the pictures they took of these two trips.

Every Sunday, when God’s church gathers in each church building, the church shares together in the Lord’s Supper (i.e., Communion). The Lord’s Supper is a sharing in remembering what God has done in Christ on the cross. We were not there when he nailed and died and taken down and laid in a tomb (John 19:17-20:10). We were not there when he bore our sins on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21). But, when we came in faith to Christ in baptism, we participated in Jesus’ death for our sins (Romans 6:3-8) and the Lord’s Supper reminds us of the depth of love God has for us, and the forgiveness we’ve received in Christ through our faith and obedience.

Just like the pictures of my family’s trips fill in the blanks of my memory, reminding me of what happened in Gettysburg, and Colorado, etc., the Lord’s Supper reminds us of the work of the cross in our lives. The cross brings forgiveness of sins to those who have faith. For the Christian, participating in the Lord’s supper is as if we are participating in the cross, because Jesus experienced our sin in his suffering.

All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version.

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Sinner’s Prayer Doesn’t Identify with Christ’s Death and Resurrection

“1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ wasraised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6:1-10, NASB

The controversy of the sinner’s prayer versus baptism is first and mostly about what does God say? What is the doctrine of salvation? That is, what does the Bible say?

Since Jesus came to save (Luke 19:10) and God wants to save (1 Timothy 2:3-6) what does God require to be saved? What did Jesus’ apostles whom he gave the authority to teach and preach and initiate the church tell us? Be baptized!

We discussed that in the previous post, but why is baptism the manner in which God brings salvation. Romans 6 pretty well explains that. We have this need to die to sin. We’re dead in our sin. Our life sucks with sin.

When a person dies, we bury them and they have nothing to do with this life anymore. When we dead to sin, like Jesus died on the cross, we are to buried in water like Jesus was buried in the tomb. Now this is where the analogy ends because Jesus rose from the dead three days after he died. When we are immersed, we are buried in the water a dead sinner but we come back out of the water alive in Christ.

Baptism is our death, burial and resurrection, our identification with Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection which is where God dealt with our sin. If we don’t identify physically and spiritually with Jesus death, burial and resurrection, not having contact with it, how are we saved?

Saying a prayer won’t do it. There is no identification with Jesus death, burial and resurrection. It’s simple. The Bible teaches us that when a person believes, repents and is baptized, that person is saved.

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Baptism is the Sinner’s Prayer

It’s controversial. It may be the most controversial debate among Christians. To be saved does a person have to say “the sinner’s prayer,” or do they have to be “immersed” (IE., baptized)?

Personally, I had never heard of the sinner’s prayer until I began studying in Bible college. I grew up in church, was a part of Sunday School and youth groups, heard sermons and learned lessons from my parents and grandmother from the Bible and never once did I encounter the sinner’s prayer.

There’s a reason for that. The church I grew up in taught the Bible, not the doctrines of men. The Bible says nothing about a sinner’s prayer. The New Testament teaching about salvation involves a person coming to believe in Jesus Christ, repenting of their sins and their life of sin, confessing Jesus, and being immersed to be saved. There is nothing about saying a prayer.

Some past posts have dealt with this:

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/28/evangelism-is-what-it-is-or-is-it-what-must-i-do-to-be-saved/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/10/03/whats-the-bible-say/

https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/the-sinners-prayer/

If you click on the link “Salvation Stuff” on the left you will see several discussions about baptism. The real issue is what does the Bible say. The Bible says “Be Baptized” (meaning be immersed). I can’t find and no one has been able to show me where the Bible says to say a prayer for salvation.

When Jesus was baptized, he didn’t offer a prayer. I know he was sinless, but he was still immersed. Read through Acts,

Artwork entitled, "Difference of Opinion"

every conversion account involves baptism, but there in nothing about saying a prayer.

Recently, I received a comment about this from a reader. When some people he encountered learned he hasn’t said the sinner’s prayer, they question his salvation. You know, I might question theirs because they said a sinner’s prayer. The Bible says because you have believed in Jesus and repented, then be baptized. Were they baptized and why were they baptized?

The apostle Peter, the one Jesus gave the keys to the kingdom to (Matthew 16:19), spiritually speaking (though he was implying that all the apostles had the keys), who preached the first sermon about Jesus Christ (Acts 2), he taught us that baptism is necessary.

In Acts 2, when the crowd asked what they needed to do to be saved, he said, “Repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  Then after a few more words of encouragement, about 3000 people were baptized.

When Peter wrote the letter called 1 Peter, he wrote these words. “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18-21).

Baptism now saves you. When you are immersed, you are appealing to God to save you because you have obeyed and followed the conditions God has set for your salvation. Your baptism in essence is the sinner’s prayer.

I believe the Bible, it is God’s Word, it is what I follow and teach, the Word of God. The Bible says be baptized.

Baptism is the sinner’s prayer!

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Gettin’ Wet in God’s Grace (Romans Pt. 8)

Ephesians 2:4-9 relates to our discussion

All the way through this discussion in Romans on grace, I’ve stated that grace sits easily where sin once occupied. Sin’s place in our life has become to familiar. We’re conformed with sin, brought down by sin, immersed in sin and it only takes a single sin to break our relationship with God and that can happen before we even know about God and the relationship he wishes to share with us.

Since we are lost in sin and nothing we do on our part can get us out of it, God has made a way. We can’t pay our way out of sin, God doesn’t accept cash. We can’t work our way out. We’re never good enough for that to take place. We can’t be good enough or do enough good deeds for God to think well of us. We’re sunk, except for God’s grace that he will give you if you have faith in his Son who died on the cross for you.

Faith in Christ takes a new meaning when we realize that faith is more than just “I believe this about Jesus.” Faith is belief in the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). But faith is trust. Trust in the fact of Jesus’ being God’s son and raising from the dead and trust in God and Christ for everything it means to be a follower of Christ. Faith is also obeying. It makes very little sense to say we have faith but not follow the things of God. It’s illogical. God has given us the ways of Christ through his life and the teaching of the New Testament in order that we might follow in obedient faith.

But, I still have to receive this grace. When someone hands me a present for my birthday or Christmas or for some special occasion, I have to open it for the gift benefit me. I can set the present on my coffee table and talk about how great a gift it is and nice the wrapping is. When someone asks me what it is, the only response I can give is, “It’s a gift. Isn’t it nice?” If I haven’t opened it, the only thing it does for me is make me aware that the person who gave it to me thought enough of me to give me a gift.

If I hear that God wants to give me grace, but do nothing to receive it, I have received nothing. “God loves me. Isn’t that great.” just like an unopened gift, knowing about grace and not doing what is necessary to receive it is like an unopened gift.

Jesus died for you and me. Our sin sent Jesus to the cross. His death paid for my sins, but to receive God’s grace I have to experience Christ’s death and resurrection.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:1-14, NIV

Baptism puts us in contact with Jesus’ death and resurrection. God applies grace and salvation to us in baptism. Sin is removed, washed away during baptism. God’s grace is applied to my life and sin is no longer a part of me since I have been baptized. As Paul wrote, we are dead to sin.

When someone dies, we bury them. When someone dies they don’t have anything to do with the material world any longer. When we die to sin, we no longer have anything to do with sin, so why would we go on sinning. Grace is our way of life. It has replaced sin. It takes it’s place. In fact, it shoved sin out of the seat it occupied in our lives and sits easily in the same spot because grace makes Jesus the King of our life and he sits in that seat, the throne of our life.

I got wet on January 1st, 1967 because I wanted to be saved from my sins. I submitted myself to baptism (the word means immersion) to accept Jesus and let God put grace in my life. And now sin does not rule me, Christ leads me.

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This is What it Means to be Saved

You and I can talk all day about the conditions that lead to salvation and eternal life. It does need to be discussed. It IS important to know what must happen in your life and mine for us to gain salvation from God through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). We’ve dealt with these conditions before here (click on Salvation Stuff in the menu to the left).

What has got to happen in my life, what are the conditions that make it possible for God to save me?

I believe in Jesus. John 3:16; Romans 10:10&11). I believe that God sent Jesus and that he is the Son of God and that God raised him from the dead. This is the beginning of discipleship. Every person that has ever been saved were saved because they believed that Jesus is the Christ. They have faith in God and in Christ and in the things of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. BELIEF, that’s one.

I have to repent of my sin, Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30. If God is going to change me, because I am letting him, belief is opening the door and repentance is letting God in to clean out the mess that sin is. Repentance is as Gareth Reese says [“New Testament History, Acts,” College Press Publishing, Joplin, MO, 1976, page 145-147], “individual, inclusive, and indispensable.” Repentance is done by and found in individuals, and it is for everyone (inclusive) and salvation cannot happen without repentance (indispensable). It involves my intellect, knowledge of sin, a change in my emotions, I must feel the sense of guilt that I possess and be sorrowful for it, and it involves a change of my will, letting God take over my messed up life to make things right in my life. REPENTANCE is another.

I must confess Christ, Romans 10:10-11. If I have let change come into my life, it’s got to show. I have to say it. I have to let it out that I believe in Jesus and that I have made him my Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), that I belong to him, I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. This is a continual thing. It doesn’t happen only once, it is constant. I belong to Christ, I declare that I am his by my lifestyle and my message of faith. CONFESSION, that’s a third one.

I must be baptized, Acts 2:38; Romans 6:16; 1 Peter 3:21. Baptism is immersion. That is what the word actually means and it is the only form that the church practiced with the apostles. I must submit myself in humility to baptism in order that God will forgive me of my sins and give me salvation. It all happens when we come in contact with Jesus’ death and resurrection by our own death and resurrection. We are buried in baptism and raised from the water with new life. Pretty cool concept. A new life, a fresh start that propels me on my way to heaven. BAPTIZED, that a fourth one.

But is that what it means to be saved? Those are the conditions that make it possible for God to save us, but what it means to be saved is to be different. Not different for the sake of being different, but different as in changed and being formed into the likeness of Christ.

You were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27). Sin distorted that image (it’s in your soul). Sin corrupted the goodness that is in you, it robbed you of innocence as God is good and innocence, you have no righteousness, but Jesus brings the change that will restore you to God’s good graces. He is God come to earth (Matthew 1:23; Colossians 1:15–16). And when we are saved through Christ, we are renewed. He refreshes that original image of God that we possess.

That means how we live, think, and act is totally different from the ways of the world. We possess the goodness and righteousness of God and do right and good and kindness in this world. We live holy as God is holy, without sin, with the power of God. We are saved and eternal life with God the Father is our home. We get to be with God because when we have met the conditions in our lives, where our heart, mind, and soul are prepared to accept Christ, then God saves us.

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The Weekend is About Jesus

This weekend is the anniversary date of when Jesus was arrested, tried, crucified and died, buried, and rose again.  I call it Resurrection Sunday.  A lot of people call it Easter.

There are folks who look at similar pagan practices and assume that the Christian way of celebrating Easter is because we  borrowed and changed or Christianized their Easter practices.  To learn the truth about this, go to http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/bytopic/holidays/easterborrowedholiday.html.  It explains the actual origins.

Now, I don’t have a problem with taking something pagan and converting it and reconciling it through Christ (cf. https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/09/30/wallys-restoration/ and https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/regeneration/ ). Isn’t that what has happened in our lives.  We were far from God, and Christ died for our sins and through Jesus we are reconciled to God.  We who were pagan* have been saved and changed through our faith in Jesus who died on the cross.

So even if we have taken a pagan holiday, or any number of pagan holidays and converted them to Christianity, how different is that from what God has done in our lives through Christ.

This weekend is about Jesus.  Unlike the celebration of Christmas, this is the actual anniversary date of the Passover night when Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Romans on behalf of the Jewish leaders.  When Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate.  When the crowds wanted him crucified and Pilate on behalf of the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death and he was nailed to a cross and died 6 hours later.

This is the weekend that Jesus was taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb, and three days later, on Sunday morning, Jesus rose from the dead, came out of the tomb and began to show people that he was alive and that death had no power over him, that in fact his death was necessary to bring victory over Satan, sin, and death.

Jesus lives!  And the evidence is beyond a shadow of a doubt that he came back to life.  This weekend is about Jesus, but isn’t every weekend about Jesus?

We celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, every week like the early church did because it is about what Jesus did on the cross.  We gather on the first day of the week because the early church did so in honor of Jesus rising from the dead on Sunday.

The Barna Research Group put out a study recently that shows that most Americans recognize that Easter is a religious holiday but few recognize its real meaning ( http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/13-culture/356-most-americans-consider-easter-a-religious-holiday-but-fewer-correctly-identify-its-meaning).

And baptism, according to Romans 6 particularly, we learn that immersion is about Jesus’ death and resurrection as well as our own.  It is in baptism that we come into contact with his death, burial, and resurrection.

I am baptized because of Jesus.  I worship on the first day of the week with God’s people because of Jesus.  I share in the Lord’s Supper, Communion every week because of Jesus.  I live life now because of Jesus.

It’s the regular Sunday School answer, “Jesus.”  It’s all about Jesus.  Let us celebrate the real thing for the real reason and honor the real Lord.

“I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God and he is my Lord and my God.”

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* Pagan in this sense is that we were not in Christ, but outside of Christ, alienated from God.