Archive for August, 2013

Five reasons why the Bible is the most important book on earth, and why you should read it.


Five reasons why the Bible is the most important book on earth, and why you should READ it.

Today's READ link above leads to The Pocket Testament League site has numerous evangelistic and discipleship resources for the Christian who is serious about planting Gospel seeds, sharing the Word of God, and discipling themselves and others. SBCToday recommends you spend a few minutes at, exploring the free resources.


Religious v. Spiritual


Religious vs. spiritual: Study says the truly 'spiritual but not religious' are hard to find
by Matthew Brown, Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 16 2013


Believer’s baptism and those who got in “hot water”


by Ron F. Hale

In his renowned work on 16th Century Anabaptists, Dr. William R. Estep[1] says, “If the most obvious demarcation between the Reformers and the Roman Catholics was biblical authority, that between the Reformers and the Anabaptists was believer’s baptism. Believer’s baptism was for the Anabaptists the logical implementation of the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura.”[2] Believers’ baptism, by its very nature, eliminates any possibility of infant baptism.[3] “If you can show me a single instance of infant baptism in the Bible, I am defeated,” was the repeated challenge by one Anabaptist leader whom I will mention in a moment.

Southern Baptists need to understand the theological tributaries that have pointed us to deep pools and simple truths through the years. As Baptists, we were dunked down under.  We were not sprinkled or poured upon. “A little dab’ll do ya”[4] was not the sentiment of the Baptist pastor that laid me back into a watery grave (Rom. 6:4) and raised me up to walk in newness of life at the age of 23. I went under, realizing that Jesus had already forgiven me of my sins through the shedding of His blood and the water baptism was my first step of obedience in following Him.

Why wasn’t I baptized as a baby at the back of the sanctuary, thereby symbolizing the Roman Catholic position that baptism is required for “entrance” into the Church?   Why wasn’t water sprinkled or  poured over my head as I leaned over a church font at the front of the church (next to the communion table) as it is done in many Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, and Reformed churches?

It is because some people paid a horrific price to help the Church recapture a simple but spot on understanding of New Testament (NT) baptism. They helped us acquire a “symbolic view” over a “sacramental view” of the things that Jesus asked us to do in His name. In 2013, it is easy for someone to shrug their shoulders and with pious groan say, “So what! What’s the big deal?”  Then why were thousands of Anabaptists burned at the stake, drowned, or tied to torture racks in the name of a state-run church?  Dr. Sam Storms indicates that more than 5,000 Anabaptists were executed in Switzerland by 1535.[5]

When a Christian or groups of believers close their eyes to the biblical meaning and historical practice of this simple doctrine, then we must call into question their explanations on the deeper doctrines of the faith which were once delivered unto the saints. Intentionally ignoring the biblical meaning, mode, and merits of the practice of immersing a new believer adds up to theological malpractice. With just the NT Greek text book of Erasmus (ink barely dry), early Anabaptists were able to discern the lost ordinance of NT baptism.  Just think of all the latest theological tools that are available today to study the meaning of “baptizo”[6] and the historicity of the Acts of the Apostles. Yet, tradition trumps the implicit instructions[7] and example of our Lord in many denominations.

Whether directly or indirectly, the work and witness of Dr. Balthasar Hubmaier[8] richly nourishes the theological tributaries of Southern Baptists and other congregations of like faith and order.  Without men like Hubmaier, the Southern Baptist Convention would have never existed.  In fact, had it not been for Hubmaier and other Anabaptists, the Church today would resemble the Catholic church of the 16th Century or the early years of the Lutheran or Reformed congregations in Europe.  Far more serious than a tiff between theologs at a local Starbucks Café, these Radical Reformers entered into conflict with life at stake. The heavy hand of the state-controlled church put one’s life on the line as someone acquired a biblical conviction that baptism should be withheld from their infant, especially when laws were passed making such an action worthy of capital punishment by decree of church and state

Balthazar Hubmaier never gained the popularity of a Luther, Calvin, or Zwingli. Anabaptist leaders did not live long enough to start schools of higher learning or write books on systematic theology for as the old saying goes – they stayed in “hot water” with the authorities. Most leaders stayed on the run as fugitives.  However, Hubmaier lived long enough to instill in many the belief that the Church must free itself of governmental exploitation and control. As a “free church,” it is comprised of believers who have confessed their faith through baptism.  Since infants are incapable of believing, they were to be raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. This was a radical departure from Catholicism and the “covenant theology” of the Magisterial Reformers. And, that is why the early Anabaptists were put to death by both sides.

Dr. Hubmaier became the most capable 16th Century defender of the Anabaptist position on baptism; and, of the 11 books and pamphlets that he wrote on the ordinances, six relate to baptism.[9] He never grew tired of showing others that the baptizing of infants was never presented in the Bible.  He once said, “What need have infants of another’s faith – that of their fathers, mothers, godparents, or of the church?  You claim such a thing, but with no basis in the Bible.”[10]

Balthasar Hubmaier was arrested in the new jurisdiction of King Ferdinand[11] and was taken to Vienna and burned at the stake on March 10, 1528.  Upon arriving at the scaffold, he cried out a prayer in the Swiss dialect, “O my gracious God, grant me grace in great suffering!” He pardoned his accusers and asked for forgiveness if he had offended anyone. Three days after his death, a large stone was tied around the neck of his wife and she was drowned in the Danube River.[12]

Given that early Anabaptists stayed in “hot water” with both the Roman Catholics and Protestant Reformers, today Southern Baptists can gather at baptisteries, lakes, rivers, and beaches to peacefully celebrate believer’s baptism by immersion.  I look forward to many conversations with these brave Anabaptist martyrs in eternity.

© Ron F. Hale, August 13, 2013

[1] William R. Estep (1920-2000) was the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church History at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.

[2] William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, Third Edition, (Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1975, 1996) 201.

[3] Ibid. 207.

[4] From a popular jingle for a men’s hair care product in the 1950s called Brylcreem.

[6]  The Greek word “baptizo” was brought into the English Bible without translation. The omega or “o” was deleted and the English “e” was added.  Therefore the word was transliterated without trying to discover the true meaning of the word of which it is to dip, plunge, and immerse, to sink.  The Greeks had a word for sprinkle (rhantizo), and one for pour (cheo), but (baptizo) was used for immerse.]

[7] In the Great Commission there is no mention of baptizing infants.  John the Baptist did not baptize infants.  Infants were not baptized by Jesus or his disciples. The NT shows that people were baptized “after” they believed in Jesus (infants can’t believe). The NT shows that baptism is equally for male and female believers since it shows each being immersed, therefore, it does not correlate to the Jewish initiation ritual of circumcision where only males participated.  The NT shows that immersion best pictures the death, burial, and resurrection Jesus Christ. The Apostles baptized by immersion.

[8] Hubmaier received both a bachelor's and a master's degree in 1511. In 1512, he received a doctor's degree from the University of Ingolstadt under John Eck.

[9] William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story, Third Edition, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975, 1996)207.

[10] Ibid. 221.

[11] Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor, and ruler of Hungary and Bohemia during Dr. Hubmaier’s execution.

What love is not.

Norm Miller

by Norm Miller

“Love is ... not jealous; love does not brag {and} is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong {suffered,} does not rejoice in unrighteousness” 1 Cor. 13.4-6 (NASB).

After two words about what love does (exercises patience and kindness), above is the litany of how it doesn’t behave. Have you ever known an envious, conceited braggart? Maybe some Little League kid’s dad, or the person in the next cubicle at work. Nice picture?

Does your agape say, “Look at me”? If our works say, “Look how well I can love,” then there’s real question whether it’s agape at all.

What’s the personal perspective of envy and conceit? Obviously, self-centeredness, a spirit poles apart from outwardly-focused agape. Sometimes, entire churches become arrogant and conceited about its enrollment, its choir, its building program, or even that its pastor is prominent nationally.

Few Scriptures are more descriptive of what happens to the one consumed with self than Ezekiel 28.13-19, a passage symbolic of Lucifer’s fall. Jealousy and conceit contributed to his fall, and look how far he fell. He’s still falling. That’s one catastrophic ego trip.

Don’t trip and fall on your ego. Pray you keep the Lord Jesus Christ on the throne of your life. And ask the Lord to help you remember that, when you ascend the throne of your life, then you behave as did Lucifer. If Christ is your King, then the throne of your life is his. No one ever served the King by sitting on his throne.

© Norm Miller

The Intent of Repentance, Matt 21:28-3


by Dan Nelson, pastor
FBC Camarilli, Calif.

Jesus’ ministry was constantly confronted by religious leaders of Judaism, pharisees, who were responsible for the true worship of God from the heart. They had not repented themselves, however. They may have admitted they were God’s chosen and looked down on the publicans and sinners because of their sinful past.

In reality, Jesus rocked their world by dismissing their false pretense of religion and saying the publicans and sinners would enter heaven before them because they had at least repented.

The pharisees’ position was even more dangerous position than the publicans and sinners. They were in great danger because of their unrepentant heart. The greatest danger of hypocrisy was met with the call to repentance by John the Baptist when he demanded they repent, crying, “Who has warned you of the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7b).[1] To be unrepentant before God is a dangerous position.

There are many dangerous ventures today: Cleaning windows on skyscrapers is dangerous. Skydiving is dangerous. Motorcycling (especially back and forth through traffic) is dangerous. Working around radioactive material is dangerous. Defusing a bomb is dangerous.

But an eternal danger, greater than all of these put together, is to stand before the Lord under false pretenses, thinking you are believer having repented of your sin, trusting in Christ to save you but really haven’t done so. What will you do when you hear the sentence of guilty pronounced by the judge of the universe?

Jesus told a parable to illustrate the folly of pretending to repent when you haven’t. He told of two sons whose father told both to go work in the vineyard. The first son refused to do so at first but then repented of going against his father’s will and went to work. The second son said he would work, but despite what he said, he never did; and he never repented of not doing what he told the father he would.

The first son represented the publicans and sinners who refused God’s will initially but later repented and came to God despite being looked down upon by the pharisees.

The pharisees were represented by the second son who said he would go work but never did. Despite their holier-than-thou attitudes, they were the ones in greater danger and would not be in God’s kingdom because they never had repented. The story can be understood as we examine it in detail. There are several insights from this parable:

(1) Repentance is to offer more than lip-service to the Father

The publicans and sinners gave evidence of a life-change. Although disobedient in their sin initially, they still repented. It doesn’t matter how lost you are, God will still accept a U-turn in your life.

Lip service is cheap. To know to do right and fail to do it however is a sin (James 4:17).

Sins of omission are just as great in their effect as sins of commission. An omission is like having a fire alarm that you were going to install and never installed, so your house burns down. Neglecting to install a functioning alarm to warn you and your family of the fire is the same as being responsible for its effect as if you had actually set the house on fire yourself. Neglect leads to destruction (Heb. 2:3).

It is easy to praise God here in church. It is much more difficult out there when the going is tough, when things aren’t going well.

The Pharisees prayed long prayers (Lk. 20: 46-47) and were careful to observe the letter of the law. They were looked upon as the elite in Judaism and would make others lift heavy burdens to join their list of laws, but were mouth-professors without giving God heart-possession. Jesus rebuked them all throughout His ministry (Mk. 7:6, Luke 16:15, Matt. 23:27).  They cheated their parents, ignored the poor, looked down on others, condemning them and not offering to help them. They omitted the fruit of the Spirit and they rejected Jesus as the Messiah. They were lacking in a very crucial condition: They had not repented of their sin.

You see, true repentance helps us to view sin as so repulsive that you wouldn’t dare go back to it. Instead, you breathe the sweet air of God’s forgiveness, are cleansed, and stay cleansed from unrighteousness. Yet, the pharisees had never known God in the first place.

(2) Repentance removes any false-impression of hypocrisy

Transparency removes hypocrisy. Pretending to be something when we are hiding behind a cloak of hypocrisy only covers up our sin even more.

Evangelical churches are full of people who do not exhibit the fruits of salvation, but who are not embarrassed to say they are Christians.

The pharisees who said, "I will go work in the vineyard," yet never did was an indication that their heart was not in the work to which God had called them.

Famous people have tried to minister in a lost condition, pretending or even thinking they had repented and were not saved.

Listen to John Wesley’s sad testimony before he was converted: “My preaching was defective and fruitless, for from 1725-1729 I neither laid the foundation of repentance nor of preaching the Gospel, taking it for granted that all to whom I preached were believers, and many of them needed no repentance. I saw little fruit, but it was only a little and no wonder for I did not preach faith and the blood of the covenant.”[2]

God saves people so that they will do good works (Acts 26:20) and live as His bond slaves (1 Thess. 1:9). Therefore, any salvation experience that does not turn a rebel sinner into an obedient servant is spurious. We are saying repentance must produce a change in nature, good works, the fruit of the Spirit and love for God, His word and the church, or it is not true repentance. If you have no repentance, you have no salvation.

Repentance involves: conviction, coming to the cross, and casting care on Christ.

People are first awakened with a sense of their miserable condition by nature, the danger they are in of perishing eternally, and it is of great importance to them that they speedily escape to get into a better state.

Jonathan Edwards said, “Those who before were secure and senseless are made sensible to how much they were in the way to ruin in their former courses. Some are more suddenly seized with conviction. Their consciences are smitten as if their hearts were pierced with a dart.[3]

Many don’t understand what repentance is though. Some mistaken notions or incomplete statements about repentance are recorded by B.H. Carroll in his Interpretation of the English Bible where he lists several of these definitions:

Sam Jones: “Quit your meanness”, D. L. Moody: “Right about face”; Alexander Campbell: “Reformation”; The Roman Catholic Bible of Matt. 3:2: “Do penance”[4]

John Miller in his book: “Repentance and the 20th Century Man,” said, “Self-justification is the goal of this effort. In practice, this means that man always has one more scheme for getting things right with God and conscience. The sinner doing penance always says in his heart. ‘Give me one more day, a new religious duty, another program, another set of human relationships or get a better education and then things will come right-side up.’”[5]

Carroll continues to review these misguided notions as: A. W. Chambliss: “Godly sorrow for sin;” Matthew 27: 3 in a common version: “Remorse of conscience.” Many speakers and writers: “Restitution.” M. T. Martin: “Knowing God and turning from dead works” (ceremonialism).[6]

People can be in the church and even have positions of leadership but have never repented and come to God’s salvation in Christ. No life change has taken place in these individuals.

Someone has said, “People use mighty thin thread when mending their ways.”[7] Repentance then is turning from sin to Christ and His sacrifice for our sins for salvation. In John’s case, it was what Jesus was going to do.

John Calvin asked, “Can true repentance exist without faith? By no means,” he says... “But although they cannot be separated, they ought to be distinguished.”[8]

This is no small change of mind for it is a transformation of life. We are not prone to do this. It is God who changes our desires and actions. We begin to love the things of God, His word, and His church (Cor. 2: 14; Rom. 12:2).

A perfect example of repentance is the prodigal son when he came to himself and arises to go to the father (Lk 15: 18). The hymn I will arise and go to Jesus expresses this return to God when it says, “I will arise and go to Jesus / He will embrace me in His arms / In the arms of my dear Savior / Oh there are ten thousand charms.”[9]

(3)  Repentance Leads To doing the will of the father

The big teaching in this parable is the son who actually did the will of the father. God’s will is clear in the scripture in I Pet. 3:9b, for it says, “God is not willing that any perish but that all should come to repentance.”

To pretend you did the father’s will and didn’t do it is lying. We cannot whisk people into the kingdom of God and repent for them. We can show them the way but we cannot repent for them. To pretend you did the father’s will when you did not is striving against God, and it will not be overlooked.

God is not cruel, but He is holy. He desires sinner’s salvation Lk. 15:7. You can’t carry your sin with you into heaven; you must repent of it. One day judgment will be swift and certain. In eternity, we will see God’s mercy designed to lead us to repentance Rom. 2:4. The question is: Will we repent?

The publicans did God’s will, although they may have been farther away from God in the bondage to sin. Yet, they repented and trusted God’s salvation as pictured in the animal sacrifices in the temple and fulfilled in Christ.

George Whitefield illustrated why repentance is essential for a nature change and suitability for heaven when he said: “Let your old ways and be separated; you must resolve against it, for there can be no true repentance without a resolution to forsake it. Resolve for Christ; resolve against the Devil. If you were to be admitted into Heaven with your present tempers, and your impenitent condition, Heaven itself would be Hell to you.  The songs of the angels would be as enthusiasm, and would be intolerable to you."[10]

(4) Repentance is necessary for coming into God’s kingdom through Christ

 Jesus said to the pharisees that in the coming kingdom, the publicans will be way ahead of you because they did the father’s will and repented. You did not repent so you won’t even be in the line. Think of the blow to the ego that was for the pharisees. They had been guardians of the law all this time and yet they were not even God’s children. They rejected the Messiah and had not repented of their sin. So He said regardless of your standing, the publicans will go in before you.

But don’t wait to be saved at the end. The end may be tomorrow and you are not saved. On his first trip to Georgia, George Whitefield encountered the cook on the ship who had a drinking problem and said he wanted to keep living as if he was and repent about two months before he died. He died in less than six days after he said that.[11] Don’t wait like the publicans and sinners. Repent today!

Jesus said John came preaching the way of righteousness. He said, "Repent and believe on me and you have not."

Jesus told them that publicans and harlots who repent would be in the kingdom before the pharisees ever made it. Why? "You should have known who I was but did not turn me in repentance after you should have seen it in scripture."

Jesus said, "Don’t try to figure out the justice in the cause of people’s deaths," in Luke 13. If you do not repent, you will perish in eternity. And you know what? We will all perish; we all will go to hell unless we repent! Did you catch that? "Unless you repent, you will perish." This means there is a way out. There is a way we can avoid spending eternity in the fires of hell. There is a way to escape God's judgment.

We need to be careful in evangelism that we help people to understand trusting Christ as Savior involves turning from our sin and placing our faith in His sacrifice for our salvation. It is not just intellectual belief that saves. You need to place faith and trust in what Jesus did for you. People need to understand that trusting in Christ as Savior is a life-changing commitment that involves repentance.

John Miller said: “Modern men have burned themselves out with transitory experience-oriental religious, drugs, the occult, and sexual perversion. We must not invite them to embrace Jesus as the latest fad. Instead give them the full riches of God including the Lordship of Christ.”[12]

Repentance is a part of another commission. The Lord Jesus commissioned believers to preach three things: first, Christ died; second, He rose again; and, third, repentance for the remission of sins (Luke 24:45, Acts 3:19).

Would we be happy with a cross-less gospel or a resurrection-less gospel? How, then, can we be content to preach repentance-less gospel?

The difficulty some have in entering the doorway to the kingdom of God is like the experience the little boy had when he got his hand caught inside an expensive vase. His parents were upset and they tried to apply soap suds and cooking oil without success. When they seemed ready to break the vase as the only way to release the hand, the frightened boy cried, ”Would it help if I let loose of the penny I’m holding on to. So, it is all-too-often with us. We cause others great anguish and risk the truly valuable because we will not let go of the insignificant things we possess today.[13]

Whatever we grasp that keeps us from repentance is nothing compared to the benefits repentance and faith in Christ can give. Don’t pretend you have repented when you have not. Let go of your pride or anything that will keep you away from God’s best for your life. We need to need let go, come to God in repentance, and trust Him to change us.

[1] All Scriptural quotations or citations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise indicated.


[2] Perishing for a Lack of Repentance Luke 13: 1-9, Mark 25, 2007 sermon by Dan Nelson.

[3] Pershing for a lack of Repentance: Taken from Narrative of Surprising Works by Jonathan Edwards.

[4]B.H. Carroll, Interpretation of the English Bible (Baker: Grand Rapids, MI, 3rd Printing, 1978)  168-169.

[5] Miller, 20.

[6] Carroll, 170.

[7]Quotation from The Daily Walk, source and date unknown.

[8] John Calvin, edited by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Baker: Grand Rapids, MI , 1987) 311.

[9] Tom Fettke, compiler The Hymnal, (Word: Waco, TX, 1986).

[10] Peter Gunther, compiler, Great Sermons by Great Preachers. Moody Press: Chicago, 1960, 71.

[11] Michae1 Green, editor, 500 Sermon Illustrations, Baker: Grand Rapids, MI, 2000, 301.

[12] Miller, 82.

[13] Green, 300.