The Dilemma of Baptism in Blood

 

The Dilemma of Baptism in Blood

​John the Immerser came preaching the kingdom of God in the wilderness of Judea around 30 A.D. Since that time men were prompted by John, Jesus, Peter, Philip, Ananias, Paul, Barnabas, and many other faithful men to be immersed in water for the washing away of sins. So many biblical proofs stand to affirm the fact- men and women in the New Testament were always ushered to be saved upon resurrecting from the waters of baptism (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 2:11-13; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). These verses and this truth deserve further comment, but proving baptism’s indispensability in becoming a Christian is an assumed fact for the few thoughts that follow.
Many honest hearts have listened to the biblical doctrine of baptism for remission of sins and affirmed the biblical pattern to be true, only to make one last ditch attempt in putting off the act. There is the desert argument- “What about someone who is in the desert without enough water to be immersed?” There is the Gramma argument- “What about Gramma who loved Jesus but was never immersed in water for remission of sins?” Then there is the baptism of blood argument- “Baptism of blood refers to martyrdom; it refers to situations in which a person has put his faith in Christ but is martyred for his faith before he has a chance to be baptized,” (Cottrell, Jack. Baptism: A Biblical Study. College Press Publishing Co., 1998.) All three of these arguments are used as excuses why a perfectly competent and understanding adult, alive and well in first world America, with plenty of water, and with no threat of martyrdom should be excused from baptism in water for remission of sins.
Consider a conversation Jesus had with Peter before deciding whether or not the first world American above should be ashamed. In John 21:15-19 Jesus asks Peter if the apostle loves Him. Peter, certainly still embarrassed by his denial in the garden, responds with a fervent “Yes Lord, you know that I love you (and will follow you),” (v. 17). Jesus then responds as if to say, “Very well, because you are going to die a martyr’s death for me,” (v. 18-19). Consider how your world would be spinning should the all-knowing God speak this in your ear. Peter is sweating. He shortly thereafter sees John the apostle talking to Jesus and interrupts, “But Lord, what about this man?” (v. 21). Peter’s response was not motivated by misunderstanding the words Jesus had spoken about his martyr’s death just prior. No, Peter’s motivation was self-centered and unaccepting of declared fact. And so, the wise master teacher responded, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” How John would die had no bearing on Peter’s obedience to Jesus’ command to feed the flock even unto death.
Is the context for people making the “baptism in blood” argument not the same as the Peter and John situation in John 21:20-23? It would seem so. If the first world American making the argumentative parallel can say with certainty they would die at the hand of radical extremists instead of deny Christ, then and only then should the argument be entertained. The question then becomes, is a radical extremist currently holding a knife to their throat? Are they currently living in the desert with not enough water to baptize? Are they currently dead and waiting for the judgment like Gramma? In other words, is this person just using an exceptional example to justify unexceptional circumstances? Instead of asking Jesus about John, every honest human being should submit to the humble expression of faith that is baptism in water for the remission of sins. The motivation for rejecting baptism is rarely a case of misunderstanding. Rejection of the gospel is too often motivated by a self-centered mind, a full belly, and the lack of desperation for God’s saving grace, regardless the cost. Which one are you?

Aaron Battey

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Prayers God Will Not Hear: Part 3

Unanswered Prayer: Hypocritical Prayer

​Everyone is a hypocrite. That is what hypocrites say to make themselves feel better. After all, God doesn’t hear the prayers of hypocrites. On the other hand, James says, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much,” (5:16). The goal is effective prayer. The means is a righteous man. Neither one is outside the law of possibility. Elijah is the example James gives of a righteous man whose fervent prayers for rain were answered by God. Maybe everyone is not a hypocrite, and we need to find the Elijah prayer manual.
​Everything that made Elijah’s prayer effective is not directly given in scripture. However, it is safe to conclude that Elijah was no hypocrite. Reading his life story in the book of 1 Kings reveals he was no respecter of persons (i.e. 1 Kings 18). Elijah was unabashed to tell the truth cut and dry, life or death. He didn’t live a double life, one of secret sin and the other of outward show. Elijah was the same man when he went to offer sacrifice as he was when he went to hike through the wilderness. And though Elijah certainly sinned, the Holy Spirit labeled him as a righteous man in James 5:17, necessarily implying that his sin was always followed by humble repentance, prayer, sacrifice, and utterly dependent faith in God. This can be believed confidently based on the Holy Spirit’s presentation of all men in biblical history who, though they sinned intermittently, were labeled righteous (see the examples of Hebrews 11). Yes, Elijah was a righteous man, and God heard his prayer.
​When anyone thinks of the prayer of a hypocrite, the tax collector and publican of Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee in the Lukan parable utters what Jesus calls a hypocritical prayer in Matthew 6:5-7. He participated in an act of worship (prayer) all the while exalting himself. How pretentious! God did not hear that poor fool’s prayer, and it’s very safe to say God will turn a deaf ear to the play act of prayer we offer while correspondingly living a life immorality and self-exaltation. How many people pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” and then unflinchingly desecrate His name with their lives?
Luke and Matthew need not be in the Bible to know this truth about hypocritical prayer. David offered a groveling prayer in Psalm 51, very possibly following his fornication with Bathsheba. In this prayer, David did not jut out his chest. He didn’t exalt himself in any way. And David certainly did not continue in the sin that brought him to his knees in the first place. Why? Because David realized God does not hear the prayer of hypocrites. “For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering,” (Psalm 51:16). David is not affirming God’s distaste in sacrifice altogether. Rather, God does not take pleasure in worship offered by those continuing in sin. “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, you, God, will not despise,” (v. 17, NIV). David realized that only when he humbled himself from sin would God, “Be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering,” (v. 19).
Pray with fervency like Elijah. Live the righteous life of Daniel. Throw your crown at Jesus’ feet like David. Get back up like Samson. Sacrifice your body like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And by the grace of God you will have glory like Solomon. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t let your prayers go unanswered.

Aaron Battey

Prayers God Will Not Hear: Part 2

 

Prayers God Will Not Hear: Repetitions part 2

 

​The goal of this series is to examine the many different categories of prayer which cause God to turn a deaf ear.  This installation in our prayer series focuses on identifying and avoiding what Jesus called vain repetitions. Read Matthew 6:5-15 to see if God is listening to your prayer.

​In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount teaching about prayer, the Savior gives several core ingredients for God approved prayer, and who better to lecture about prayer than God in the flesh?  In Matthew 6:5-15, the Lord emphasizes that prayer should magnify God rather than man.  Prayer should be intentional.  Prayer should be sincere.  Prayer should leave man feeling dependent on God, his provider and sustainer.  These four points crudely summarize the fundamentals of Jesus’ teaching here.

​One key feature of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6 begs our attention. “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathens do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matt. 6:7).  The idea of repeating the same words over and over in rhythmic fashion may incur thoughts of ancient monks.  But do not be mistaken, monks are not the only culprits.  Clearly there was widespread practice of recited prayer in Jesus’ day, but this practice lives still.  Think about what has been dubbed the Model Prayer from v. 9-13 of this same chapter.  What prayer has been recited with more frequency than the very prayer that followed Jesus’ statement, “Do not use vain repetitions?”  In my own experience, every pre-game huddle in middle school and high school baseball concluded with the team repeating the Model Prayer in unison.  Perhaps such vain repetition is the reason we always lost.  On an individual level, many people vainly repeat the same prayers over and over and over.  Stop and think about prayers spoken at church.  Some are predictable.  Some include archaic phrases that no 21st century human uses except in Wednesday night prayer.  Words, phrases, and entire prayers can quickly and innocently evolve into vain repetitions.

​Prayer should be intentional and sincere: this is central to avoiding vain repetitions.  Growing up, I was always getting in trouble for talking without first thinking.  In Matthew 6:7, Jesus is essentially saying, “Think before you speak!”  If we would practice this childhood rule when praying, we could quickly transform our prayers from recited repetitions into intentional, sincere praise and petition to God.  Think before you pray.

Aaron Battey

 

 

Prayers God Will Not Hear:

Prayers God Will Not Hear:
Husbands

One of the more interesting discussions in the Bible that affect the Christian’s day to day life is prayer. Supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks are Paul’s four inclusive descriptions for man’s one-way communication with God (1 Timothy 2:1). This act of reverence was the daily routine of Daniel (Daniel 6:10) and finds itself frequently talked about in the exhortations and directives to the New Testament church. For something so integral to the Christian life, it is alarming to read of so many reasons that cause God to shut His ears and cease listening to prayer. This brief article is the first in a six-part series examining different prayers that God has clarified He will not hear.
The first case of detestable prayer to be examined is found in 1 Peter 3:7. For people who have never read the Bible all the way through, this one may come as a surprise because of its obscurity. In the previous six verses the apostle Peter admonished women in what is proper conduct towards a husband. As is always the case, the Holy Spirit does not instruct the woman without tempering the man’s self-esteem. In 1 Peter 3:7 the apostle goes on to tell the man, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them (the wife) with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.” There are several truths that could be drawn from all that is said in this single verse, but for brevity sake, notice three items- the definition of honor, the implications for wives, and the consequences of not listening to Peter.
First, notice the definition of the word honor. Honor is the characteristic that takes center stage in this verse. Honor is the thing that, if neglected, will cause God to shut His ears to the husband’s prayer. Strong’s Greek Lexicon puts for the following definition- “a value, that is, money paid, or (concretely and collectively) valuables; by analogy esteem (especially of the highest degree), or the dignity itself.” Depending on the context, giving honor could mean to give money. However, in another context (the context of 1 Peter 3:7), the same phrase can mean to highly esteem someone. Here, Peter is demanding that men highly esteem their wives, making them feel valued and equally worthy of eternal life. Husbands who neglect, verbally abuse, or physically abuse, or dishonor their wives in any way are included in this address.
Second, do not overlook the implications of the things said by Peter. The wife is no less responsible for honoring her husband. The previous six verses are almost entirely about the wife’s disposition toward the husband. By connection and implication, the wife must understand that failing to honor her husband will likewise affect her prayer. This is similar logic as found in Matthew 5:28 where men are specifically told not to lust after a woman. Does Matt. 5:28 allow for a woman to lust after a man? Certainly not. For obvious reasons Jesus directly addressed the men in the Sermon on the Mount. It is equally understandable that Peter does not tell men to honor their wives to the exclusion of women. A woman who neglects, verbally abuses, physically abuses, or fails to submit to her husband (1 Peter 3:1) is included in this address by implication.
Third, stop to really consider the consequences that Peter sets forth. Imagine a son calling his father one day. The phone rings and rings, but the father never answers. After several days and several attempts, it becomes clear that the father is upset with the son. The son goes days, months, and even years wanting to simply hear his father’s voice, still not understanding why his father has refused to talk to him. One day the son comes across an old letter the father had written him but was never opened. The letter read 1 Peter 3:7 with the comment, “If I ever hear about you mistreating that girl of yours, you can forget about talking to me.” This is essentially what God has said to husbands and wives in His word.
Who knew that God cared so much about husbands and wives treatment of one another. If a person never read 1 Peter they might never know how this can affect prayer life. After all, when is the last time you heard a sermon on 1 Peter 3:7? God’s people must be a people that listen to God as much or more than they speak to Him. Read, repent, pray, and repeat. Don’t let another prayer go unanswered.

Aaron Battey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

The Last Name of Jesus

 

The Last Name of Jesus
​If you were to take a poll of the average person, first question: What is Jesus’ last name? The number of those who say “Christ” would be higher than maybe some would think. Unfortunately we would be wrong in this assumption, yet often throughout scripture we find the term “Christ” following the name of Jesus. It’s importance is undeniable, but, what does it mean? What does it teach us? It is a term used nearly 500 times in the New Testament yet never defined.

​The term “Christ” highlights our glaring need for the Old Testament and understanding this helps us realise that Christ had a name long before Matthew called Him the Christ. The title “Christ” is Greek, its Hebrew counterpart would be “The Messiah”, it can the be said that “both words mean the same thing, ‘Anointed’: the ‘One Anointed’” Understanding Jesus as The Anointed one is helpful, but again is incomplete without the Old Testament. The right question to ask is “Who were anointed”? For this answer we have to look outside of the New Testament. The Old Testament writers speak often of the roles of God’s people, three roles that are of interest in regards to anointing are the positions of: Priests (Exodus 28:41; 30:30), Kings (1 Samuel 9:16; 10:1; 15:1), and Prophets (1 Kings 19:16). These three roles are the roles God set aside in the Old Testament as anointed position. They were filled by God’s chosen men to carry out God’s will.

​We then come to the New Testament where Jesus is given the title “Anointed One” (Christ), not to confuse the reader as to which role He would fill, but to show that Christ came to fill all three roles in one person. The writer of Hebrews thoroughly demonstrates that Christ is our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14; 7:26). Jesus would take up the role of High Priest after the order of Melchizedek, a priesthood that would last forever (Hebrews 5:6; 6:20). During Christ’s final week as He entered Jerusalem it would also be announced “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt” (John 12:16; Zech. 9:9; Revelation 19:16). Christ as King is firmly established within the New Testament, a role we know He is to fill from His very birth when we understand the term Christ. For His third position, Christians are called back to the Old Testament to show Christ as a Prophet. To Moses God would say “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” (Deuteronomy 18:18) this is shown to be fulfilled in Christ in Acts 3:8-26.

​The title of Christ then magnificently fits Jesus and His life. To the fullest extent He accepted and fulfilled each office, yet within each position Christ was greater than any Old Testament shadow for which He would be the substance. Christ has exceeded the priests like Aaron, prophets like Elisha, and kings like David, and is the only one to hold all three positions in one person. This is why David would write of Christ as being anointed “more than [His] companions” (Psalms 45:7). Yet without our Old Testament acting as our dictionary we fall short of this marvellous definition.

Aaron Boone

God’s Weapon of Choice

God’s Weapon of Choice

​There was an avalanche of giants charging head on. Their strides were so quick and furious that the very earth shook under their feet. They were wielding swords with double edges and a license to kill. In front of these giants quaked a pitiful formation of soldiers, what compared to be grasshoppers in the face of wild beasts. In one fell swoop the first approaching giant lowered his blade to the dismemberment of four separate limbs from the counteroffensive. Even amidst the horrific cries, one could not avoid hearing the cracking of bone and the spilling of marrow that accompanied the blow. Only a handful would escape the onslaught and finger their way back to Joshua and Caleb. This was God’s judgment on Israel at Kadesh Barnea.
​Twelve spies had just returned from surveying Canaan and entered the Israelite camp two days prior to the event above (Numbers 13). Ten of the spies gave a dim report, “The (inhabitants of the) land devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. We were like grasshoppers in our own sight!” (Numbers 13:32-33). Joshua and Caleb trusted in God’s undefeated right hand to deliver the land of giants to Israel, but they were the minority report. After a tongue lashing from Joshua and Caleb, a terrifying display of God’s glory to Moses threatening to annihilate the entire nation (Numbers 14:11-12), and a plague that did in fact extinguish the 10 Debbie downing spies, the Israelite people got the point. They cried and confessed, cried and confessed (Numbers 14:39). Unfortunately, they presumed that their sins had no hangover consequences, and so they attempted to make restitution for their lack of faith by setting out to conquer those grasshopper devouring giants. The rest is history.
​The Kadesh Barnea tragedy is the very subject of consideration upon arriving at Hebrews 3 & 4. The writer spends the entirety of Hebrews 3:7-19 looking back at that sad example, emphasizing the Israelites’ lack of trust and obedience (v. 18-19), otherwise known as saving faith. The blood curdling screams of slaughtered Israelites can still be heard at the end of chapter 4. Failure by Israel to enter God’s promised rest and exactly what that rest typified defines chapter 4:1-10. With screams in earshot, the writer then tells his Christian audience, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience,” (Hebrews 4:11). What kind of fall is he talking about? The fall of hundreds of Israelite bodies, the blood of which oozed from under the blades and boots of the ferocious Amalekites at Kadesh Barnea. This meticulous image is very well in the writer’s mind upon penning the following soul saving exhortation to his Christian friends- “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow…” (Hebrews 4:12). You thought the scene at Kadesh Barnea was gory? Child’s play. We are reminded of John’s vision of Christ in judgment, “He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called the Word of God. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp two-edged sword, that with it He should strike the nations,” (Revelation 19:13,15). Kadesh Barnea was fearful enough, so how much more fearful should it be when the people of God hear the Word of God today?
​The Hebrew Christians, like the Galatian Christians in Galatians 1:6, were going through a moment of crisis. Many had quit assembling (Heb. 10:25). Others had flooding doubts about their initial confession of faith in Christ. The writer gives a quadruple exhortation in chapters 3 & 4 to hold on to that confession (3:1, 3:6, 3:14, 4:14), because it was slipping, slipping fast. As an antidote to this spiritual plague sweeping the church, the preacher of Hebrews effectually presents Christ as the supremacy of human hope. There is no realistic alternative for a Christian who has tasted the blessings of Christ. But ultimately, every Christian -Hebrew, American, Russian, etc.- must remember that God’s word is alive. His word is terribly powerful. His word separates bone from marrow, ending the lives of those who do not regard Him as faithful to His word and promises. His word is His weapon of choice. May Christians today be just as diligent to avoid falling according to the same example of those at Kadesh Barnea.

Jesus and Goliath

 

Jesus and Goliath

​Maybe the greatest Bible story of childhood bedtimes is David and Goliath. The story has all the fan favorite features of a juggernaut nemesis, an archetypical underdog hero, and a cataclysmic ending where the good guy wins and everyone goes home happy. While David and Goliath makes a good bedtime story for children, the book of Hebrews indicates that maybe adults should listen to a similar bedtime story- Jesus and Goliath.
​The book of Hebrews opens with several truths about Christ that qualify Him to be King of Kings and Lord of Lords, ruling at the right hand of God the Father. In Hebrews 1:2-3 the writer outlines two particulars that qualify Christ as the royal heir to God’s throne: His person and His work. Christ is God the creator and sustainer (v. 2-3). Christ has also accomplished the unrivaled mission of defeating sin through His sacrificial death (v. 3). Either one of these qualities in isolation would have substantiated Christ to be the universal king and Son of God, thus making Him better than the angels (v. 4).
​In the Old Testament men were endowed with kingship for primarily two reasons. Royal bloodline was the primary qualification. Manasseh, for example, was 12 years old when he became king. This obviously had everything to do with bloodline and nothing to do with merit. In other cases, men were exalted as king because of some great act of valor they had accomplished. Saul, for example, was a man of war, and his defeat of Nahash the Ammonite (1 Samuel 11) secured his kingship with the people. In another example, David killed Goliath and routed the Philistines securing his favor and future kingship with the people (1 Samuel 17-18). The Hebrew writer effectively shows that Christ met both qualifications. Interestingly enough, the same Hebrew writer seems to have more to say about David and Goliath.
​The Hebrew writer elaborates more on the person and work of Christ in Chapter 2, and it is at Hebrews 2:14-15 where the story of Jesus and Goliath is introduced. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,” (Hebrews 2:14-15). Read these verses over again and see if a certain Bible story comes to mind. 1 Samuel 17:10-11 reads as follows, “And the Philistine said, ‘I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.’ When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” As my father used to tell the story at bedtime, the Israelites were scared and went hiding in their tents because of that big ole giant. What made the Israelites afraid? They were afraid of death and the prospect of being subject to a lifetime of bondage to Goliath and the Philistines, the result if any Israelite defied Goliath and was defeated (1 Samuel 17:9/Hebrews 2:15). Not a single Israelite was brave or able enough to rival Goliath. Even the accoladed King Saul who had previously killed Nahash the Ammonite, even he could not withstand Goliath. There was no hope in Israel. They needed a savior. And so it was that David came flying in with five smooth stones, “So David prevailed over the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled,” (1 Samuel 17:50-51). The word association reminds the reader of how Christ was described in Hebrews 2:14 as destroying the devil who had the power of death. The story is the same, the only differences are the characters.
​Hebrews is very intent on demonstrating that Christ is the exalted King of Kings in the first two chapters as is evidenced by all the prophecy quoted about the exaltation of Christ as the Son of God (see Hebrews 1:5; 1:8-9; 1:13). Again, Christ qualified for this position not only because of His person but also His mighty act of valor. Christ slung the stone from the cross of Calvary that struck Goliath right between the eyes. With His last breath on the cross Christ drew Goliath’s own sword and cut off that giant’s head.
​There is no reason a person should fear death anymore if he trusts and follows the resurrected King. Christ representatively tasted the penalty of death for all men (Hebrews 2:9), if and only if they do not neglect the great salvation that He has to offer (Hebrews 2:3). Consider a better alternative to death without hope. Consider the Savior Christ Jesus.

Aaron Battey

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

All We Like Sheep

 

ALL WE LIKE SHEEP
​As my wife and I finished praying for our meal while out one evening, a man came over to us and sat down to talk about prayer. This man, as I have now come to find out after multiple other studies with him, is a long time sheep farmer. This may not seem like much, but studying with him has helped me in my own understanding of the times when Christ and both Old Testament and New Testament writers use the illustration of God’s people being like sheep. Maybe most famously, Jesus said in John 10:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”. We can learn a lot from looking into sheep and what Christ meant by calling us His sheep.
​First, sheep are directionless; they have no internal compass or moral code to guide them when someone isn’t leading them. They can easily find themselves lost without a guide or boundaries. In like manner we, without Christ, are directionless, we are lost. The Psalmist would say “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalms 37:23). Without God and His word, and Christ as our Shepherd we are left groping in the dark for a direction. That is why Jesus, the Great Shepherd, said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. . .” (John 14:6) because without His way, we like sheep would be directionless. Secondly, sheep while young have to be weaned off of milk in order to take on solid food. This idea of maturing to take on solid food is seen throughout the New Testament. That was the writer of Hebrews point when he speaks of solid food belonging “to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised” (Hebrews 5:13). Christians are expected to mature to take on solid food (Hebrews 5:12), this growth is an important part of the Christians life, and if sheep aren’t trained to take on solid food they won’t gain the weight to make it through the winter. If Christians refuse to grow and mature, they won’t have the sustenance needed to endure the storms. Thirdly, sheep will leave food and safety if something catches their eye. This can be one of the biggest mistakes found in a Christians life, Isaiah would speak of how “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6), and we are constantly warned of the cunningness of the Devil lest we “may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). As Christians we have everything we need in Christ and His Word, yet sometimes we channel our inner sheep and go astray leaving behind everything, for nothing. This even surprised Paul when some would turn to another gospel which was not the Gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6).
​We see then that the analogy of sheep that Christ uses in reference to His people is not something that is used lightly or for comedic relief, instead Christ as the Master Shepherd is showing us how drastically we need Him and His Word to survive. Without Christ we would be directionless, unnourished, and driven off course by every whim and empty promise this life offers. Yet with Christ leading us, we can have full assurance that the Shepherd will look after His flock, and as long as we obey Him we can rest assured in the hope of Salvation.

Aaron Boone

Letters from God

Letters From God

Letters make up a large portion of the New Testament, 21 of the 27 books of the New Testament are in fact letters. Upon the delivery of these letters there was an urge to read them and share them with the surrounding congregations (Colossians 4:16). Within these letters were words of doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17), the very words man should live by. Seven letters that often peak the interest of readers are the seven letters in the book of Revelation.

The seven Churches of Asia, in the book of Revelation, find themselves with letters postmarked Heaven. While each letter is unique in that each Church needed different instructions, within all seven God repeats two important phrases, I know you works(Revelation 2:2, 2:9, 2:13, 2:19, 3:1, 3:8, 3:15), as well as He who has an ear let him hear(Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22). If God desired for the Churches of Asia, no matter what unique circumstance they found themselves in, to read these two remarks we must realize the importance of them for us as well.

Firstly, Gods acknowledgement of knowing our works is a source of encouragement to those who with humility are going about their Christian works. It comes with the understanding that the Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly(Matthew 6:1-4). People often forget the importance of works in our Christian life. James wrote of our faith working with our works to make us complete and that man is justified by works and not by faith only(James 2:22-24). The death of Christ was so that He could purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works(Titus 2:14) and yet we may be disqualified if our works are abominable and disobedient(Titus 1:16).

God follows up His statement of knowledge by commanding us to hear his words. It is Gods word that judges us (John 12:48) thus to live by any other standard than the Bibles teaching is to miss the mark. We as Christians are called, that requires hearing, out of darkness and into His light (1 Peter 2:9). We are commanded to be Transformed(Romans 12:1-2), how? Not by letting Gods word enter one ear and go out the other, but by looking into the scriptures and obeying them (2 Corinthians 3:18). The God who has given us eyes to see and ears to hear (Proverbs 20:12) is the same God who expects us to use them to have faith which comes by hearing (Romans 10:17) and to search the scriptures as we work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling(Philippians 2:12).

Throughout all of this we learn important truths that must be applied to our lives. We learn that God cares about our works and our obedience to His word. Even the two Churches who needed no correction, Smyrna and Philadelphia, God still commanded them to pay close attention to His words, because He knew their works. In a similar manner Paul speaks of his continual need to grow in that he had not already attained perfection; but I press on. . .(Philippians 3:12).

Aaron Boone

http://www.oldpathsadvocate.org

7/7 Vision

Seven is a very unique number in scripture. No later than Genesis 2, the seventh day marked the completion of the creation week. Creation week was only the first note to a seven beat rhythm that spans the rest of scripture. We learn everything is better when there is seven. Vengeance is complete when it is sevenfold (Gen. 4:15). Noah was to gather seven of each clean animal and seven of each kind of bird (Gen. 7:2-3). Pharaoh’s dream revealed there would be seven plentiful years in Egypt followed by seven desolate years (Gen. 47). Leviticus 25:8 has something overwhelming to say about seven: “And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.” This is only the overture to this seven beat rhythm.
By the time a reader gets to Revelation, he should get the idea that everything is perfectly clear with what shall be dubbed 7/7 vision. In Revelation, this number seven continues to make its mark: there are seven letters to seven churches (2:1-3:22), seven seals (6:1-8:1), seven trumpets (8:2-11:18), seven angels blowing seven trumpet blasts (8:2), seven thunders (10:3-4), seven bowls (15:5-16:21), seven angels pouring out the seven bowls (15:1, 6-8), seven spirits bow before the throne of Jesus (1:4), seven stars (1:20), seven lampstands (1:20), seven kings (17:9-10), a harlot on seven mountains (17:9), seven eyes and seven horns on the Lamb (5:6), and seven diadems on the dragon’s head (12:3). And this is only half the song of Revelation, as there are 55 uses of the number seven in this book alone, (Resseguie, James. The Revelation of John. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009). The widely accepted conclusion about the number seven in biblical literature is summed up as follows, “Seven is a number associated with completeness, plentitude, or perfection,” (ibid.). And, while this number does relay completeness, it also conveys the true nature or reality of a person, thing, or situation (Wilcock, Michael. The Message of Revelation. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973). This number helps alert the reader to see the environment for what it is really is. John’s use of seven allows his reader to see the true nature of God, Satan, and the spiritual realities of life. Instead of a mere man, John sees the Christ as He really is- a king with, “Seven horns and seven eyes,” (Rev. 5:6) victoriously riding on his white steed to make war (Rev. 19:11-16). Instead of a harmless sheep (Mt. 7:15) or an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), John sees Satan for what he really is- an ugly and dangerous, “Red dragon having seven heads and ten horns,” (Rev. 12:3) ready to devour the children of God (Rev. 12:1-5). This is 7/7 vision.
​John’s 7/7 vision allows him to see many spiritual realities. He sees the church, not as an inglorious afterthought to be maligned, but as the very bride of Christ (Rev. 19:6-10). John sees Satan’s agents of sin, not as innocent trifles to peddle with, but as a vile prostitute sitting on a horrific beast, inviting the masses into her brothel of filth (Rev. 17:1-6). Why do we not see as John sees? Why do we not see the enemy and his agents in our lives for what they are? The answer is not because these realities have been kept secret, for John and others give us the glasses to look through. The answer is our own numbness. We quickly become numb to Satan’s devices. Just as a diabetic cannot feel the rotting away of his fifth toe; likewise, intelligent human beings cannot feel Satan’s leeches sucking their spiritual life away. Satan’s leeches thrive in the incubated environment of safety, entertainment, free enterprise, and the inalienable rights of U.S. Citizens. These are the words that parade the welcome sign to his brothel. Unfortunately for most people, it is not until these luxuries are removed that they can see Satan is indeed a brute beast full of lies. King Agur was the exception when he said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
​You can have 7/7 vision too. Follow this plan, “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine,” (1 Timothy 4:12-13). Meditate on these things and gut your life of all Satan’s devices.

Aaron Battey