Should a Christian be baptized a second time?

Every so often a Christian asks this Baptist pastor about being rebaptized. At times the desire for a second baptism is in response to a time of backsliding. A believer may have repented after a period of living in sin and desires to be baptized as a show of their renewed commitment to the Lord. The desire to show their return to the Lord is praiseworthy, but this kind of baptism misunderstands the purpose of baptism.

Jesus gave two ordinances to the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The command to observe the Lord’s Supper included the need to do so “often.” “For as often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till He come.” (1 Corinthians 11:26) The record of Acts and 1 Corinthians indicates the church observed the Lord’s Supper as part of their Sunday gatherings. (1 Corinthians 11:21-26) The Lord’s Supper was repeatedly observed by all Christians.

Jesus commanded the twelve disciples to baptize every one who believes. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Matthew 28:19) The book of Acts shows how the apostles obeyed this command. Those who believed the gospel of Jesus were baptized and added to the church. The New Testament church treated baptism as the initial sign of faith in Christ. Baptism was the way new believers told the church and their neighbors that they were followers of Jesus. Because salvation is received once and baptism is a testimony of salvation received, baptism was not repeated over and over again. There is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:5)

However, some situations require the rebaptism of a believer. Because baptism is the public testimony which proclaims a new believers salvation, any baptism that took place before conversion is not Christian baptism. A person baptized as an infant is unable to believe Jesus, receive His salvation or confess Him as Lord. Those baptized as infants should be baptized after salvation. A person who professes salvation, is baptized, but later becomes convinced his earlier profession of faith was not genuine should be baptized again. Anyone baptized before salvation should be baptized again following his conversion.

One danger of multiple baptisms is they may encourage the beliefs that baptism provides some special grace, washes away sin or gives the person a spiritual power boost. Baptism does none of those things. Baptism is the loving response of the Christian to his Savior. No act of obedience, however important, gains for the Christian a special measure of grace or additional spiritual power. The only grace in obedience is the grace of God which enables the believer to obey. A Christian who has made a public profession of faith through baptism gains no benefit from a second baptism. A sinning believer who desires to show the genuineness of his change can do so by a public confession of sin and acknowledgment of repentance. No other baptism is needed.

Isn’t meditation emptying your mind?

Meditation for many Americans is a relaxation technique. The common understanding of meditation is that it is emptying mind and thinking about nothing. The Bible speaks often of meditation, encouraging and commanding believers to meditate. Does the Bible teach that Christian’s should empty their minds?

Scripture uses the word meditation in contexts that provide additional and essential information about how the Biblical writers understood meditation. The Word of God describes meditation as the opposite of emptying the mind. Biblical meditation is not repeating a word, phrase or sound over and over again. Biblical meditation is filling the mind with deep consideration of truth.

The Hebrew word translated into the English word “meditate” can also be translated “mutter” or “speak under the breath.” Sometimes when concentrating on a difficult problem people will talk to themselves. They will murmur, whisper, or even talk the problem through with a friend. Meditation is not necessarily a silent activity. In the Psalms David said, “And my tongue shall speak (the word speak is translated elsewhere in the Bible as meditate) of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.” (Psalm 35:28)

The Bible always describes meditation as being attentive to specific information. The Psalms repeatedly speak of meditating on the Word of God. Biblical meditation is not mindless, but is focused upon Divine truth. “My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:48)

Scripture also describes meditation as considering the work of God and the character of God. David meditated on God’s working in days gone by. He may have thought on God’s creation of the world, His deliverance of the Israelites or the blessing of God in his own life. David meditated on what God had done. “I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings.” (Psalm 77:12) David meditated upon the character of God. In Psalm 66 he spake of God’s power, glory and lovingkindness. David then said, “I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”

Meditation is not only an internal process, nor is it only a private process. Meditation involves speaking the truths of God. Praise to God is a form of meditation. “My tongue also shall talk (meditate) of thy righteousness all the day long.” (Psalm 71:24) Speaking the truths of God to others is also form of meditation. “The mouth of the righteous speaketh (meditates) wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment.” (Psalm 37:30)

Though the popular understanding of meditation is of a passive activity in which the person seeks to quiet his mind, the Bible describes it as an active process. Biblical meditation does not attempt to still the mind, but to fill it. Biblical meditation actively works to understand God’s Word. Biblical meditation involves teaching God’s truths to others, praising God for who He is and what He has done. Biblical meditation can be done quietly in the mind, it can be done vigorously with a pen and paper, it can be done conversationally with others and it can be done prayerfully in praise to God. But Biblical meditation cannot be done without active thought.

Can only an ordained minister baptize?

Every Christian church celebrates baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Some also observe other sacraments, but baptism and communion are familiar to any who have been a part of a Christian church. Most churches also have ordained clergy administrate the two ordinances. Some churches teach that only ordained members of the clergy allowed to officiate baptism and communion.

The New Testament is silent about who is permitted to baptize or administer the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul even said he was glad he only baptized a handful of people in Corinth. The rest of those baptized in Corinth were baptized by unnamed individuals. The Bible teaches how the ordinances are to observed and the motives necessary for those participating, but it does not address who should give the ordinances. The one receiving the ordinance must receive it rightly, recognizing it as a testimony of God’s grace. While the New Testament says much about the importance of baptism and the Lord’s Supper it does not give any requirements for who can officiate those ordinances. The one administering an ordinance ought to be a believer and should have the right attitude and motives. Those officiating the ordinances should recognize and reflect their proper importance.

This does not mean anyone can baptize anyone they want in the family pool. A dad may desire to baptize his newly saved child, but baptism is a public event. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the local church. They are not private events to be observed in isolation. They are public testimonies of the grace of God proclaimed to the church and the unsaved world. None can simply administer the ordinance in their home or to themselves. The dad may be permitted to baptize his child at the church, or the church may come to the family’s house to for a baptismal service, but the performance of the ordinances should be under the leadership of the church and with the gathered assembly of believers.

Some may wonder about the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. Only Philip and the eunuch are mentioned, so does that mean it was a private ceremony involving only those two? The account of Acts 8 makes clear the eunuch was not traveling alone. He was sitting in his chariot reading while they traveled and he ordered the chariot to be stopped. Obviously someone else was driving the chariot. We don’t know how many people were there, but others were present. The baptism of the eunuch was a public confession of his faith.

The use of the ordinances should be solemn and serious. None should allow personal convenience or personal preference to determine their use. These things are commands of God and the Word of God must guide the Christian’s obedience in them. As public testimonies given to the church, the ordinances should be performed in public under the authority of a local church.

Is everyone a Christian who says they are?

A recent survey in Great Britain determined over half of Christian’s surveyed do not believe or are not sure that Jesus died on the cross to forgive sin. Seventeen percent said they disagreed with the statement, “Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected at Easter so that you can be forgiven for your sins.”

Many evangelical Christians consider belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus to forgive sin is essential to Christianity. Outside of Catholicism, no Christian group recognizes any human authority to determine who is or is not Christian. There is no membership fee or initiation process. Someone can claim to be a McDonald’s employee, but unless he is actively working for and receiving pay from McDonald’s corporation, the claim is obviously false. The same cannot be said of Christianity. One can go to church and have all the appearance of being a Christian without actually being one. Likewise, a genuine Christian can observe none of the outward trappings of Christianity and still be one.

The Bible defines who is a Christian. This is not determined by a committee decision, a council’s resolution, a church edict or a papal decree. The Bible defines what makes a person a Christian and describes the visible evidences of genuine Christianity. While no one has the authority to declare who is and is not a Christian, all believers have the ability- based upon the authority of Scripture- to declare that some who profess Christianity are not actually Christian.

Christianity is not determined by a strong feeling of being a Christian, nor even by doing Christian things. Jesus warned there would be some who preached and did miracles in His name that would be cast into hell. In the day of judgment Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you.” Personal feelings, religiousness or devotion are not what makes a person a Christian. What makes a person a Christian is proper belief personally applied.

Proper belief is belief in the gospel. The substance of the gospel is defined in Corinthians 15. The truths of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for our sin must be believed to be saved. Likewise, the Bible declares if a person denies certain key doctrines, then that person is not a Christian, no matter what they may call themselves. These undeniable doctrines include salvation by grace through faith alone (Galatians 1:7-8) and the deity of Jesus (1 John 4:2-3).

The New Testament gives a clear definition of who is and is not truly a Christian. A Christian is a person which believes Jesus is God who died on the cross for sin and rose again. A Christian is one who then abandons all attempts at securing salvation for himself and places his full trust in Jesus to forgive his sin. This definition has not changed in the two thousand years since Jesus’ life. No one is a Christian merely because they identify as a Christian. Self-identification as a Christian does not make a person a child of God any more than self-identification as a walrus makes a person a grumpy pinniped. Only faith in Christ makes one a Christian.

What is the Difference Between Catholicism and Protestantism?

Like a single tree trunk separates into various large branches, Christianity can be divided into several large family groups. The largest are Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism. Most Americans have at least a passing familiarity with Catholic and Protestant churches. Very few churches identify themselves outwardly as Protestant, but many stem from the Protestant branch of Christianity. The Protestant faiths include Presbyterianism, Episcopalianism, Lutheranism, Methodism and a number of other denominations. All churches which trace their beginnings to the Protestant Reformation are Protestant churches.

Some of these churches, like many Baptist churches, look and act nothing like the Catholic church. Some, like many Lutheran churches, bear an outward resemblance to the Catholic church. Is there any real difference between the Catholic church and Protestant churches?

This question is complicated by the many variations of beliefs in individual churches, even within the same denomination. These differences are almost beyond counting and vary from congregation to congregation. Some of the differences are very significant and some are unimportant. To keep things short, this answer will focus on the official doctrines that have traditionally separated Catholics from Protestants.

One further complication is the many Protestant groups who downplay, deny or ignore the official church doctrines. This branch of Protestantism, called theological liberalism, gives little concern to the doctrinal creeds of the churches. Liberalism emphasizes social issues and holds very different opinions from the Catholic church on matters of sexuality, abortion and the role of women in the church.

Traditional Protestants and Catholics have many important beliefs in common. They all believe there is only one God who is a Trinity. They believe Jesus is God the Son who became man to die for the sins of humanity. They believe the Bible is the Word of God given by the Holy Spirit through the apostles and prophets. They believe people are sinners in need of a Savior. Despite these very important beliefs in common, the differences that separate the two groups are equally as important.

The Protestant reformation began with the statement, “Now the just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11) The doctrine of salvation by faith alone is the biggest and most important difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. The Catholic church teaches that through faith the person is enabled by Christ to accomplish salvation. Protestant churches teach that salvation is fully accomplished by Christ and given to the one who receives Him by faith. These two beliefs are not compatible with one another. The one says works are essential to salvation, the other says any one attempt to work for salvation are not saved.

There are many, many other differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. However, what truly sets these two groups apart is their different teachings on salvation. How a person receives forgiveness of sin and salvation is a matter of the greatest importance. As long as the churches teach a different way of salvation there will always be a divide between Catholicism and Protestantism.

Did the early church meet in people’s homes?

Recent years have shown a renewed interest in the habits of the apostolic church. Many are asking what the church did in the first decades after Jesus’ resurrection. Much of this interest comes from a desire to answer the always important question of what it means to be a church. One specific question that is being asked is where the early church gathered. Did the early church meet in individual’s homes?

The Bible is not silent about where the church met. Scripture makes specific statements that some churches met in homes. Colossians 4:15 says, “Salute . . . Nymphas, and the church which is in his house.” In Romans 16 Paul greets the church meeting in Aquilla and Priscilla’s house. Paul wrote the epistle of Philemon to Philemon and the church in his house. Without a doubt early churches met in homes. 

However, the early church did not meet exclusively in people’s homes. The Bible also makes specific statements that some churches met in public areas and large facilities. Acts 5 tells of the church in Jerusalem gathering in the temple courtyard. In Acts 19 the Ephesian believers are said to have met in the “school of Tyrannus” and continued meeting in this facility for two years. These two examples are sufficient to show that the church meeting place was not restricted to homes or that home meetings were seen as superior to meeting in other locations. The New Testament gives many commands about how the church should gather. The New Testament describes when the church should gather. The New Testament does not give any instructions about where the church should gather.

Proponents of house churches sometimes imply and sometimes state that the house church is better because it has less formal structure than a more traditional church. The New Testament shows a development and increase in the organization of the church, but there is nothing to indicate that the basic formal structures of the modern church were not in existence during the apostolic era. The New Testament discusses a number of formal structures in the church. These include a known membership, a select group of deacons, lists of widows, the giving and distribution of gifts, a known and understood body of doctrine, the appointment of special ministers to act on behalf of the church, the ability of the congregation to welcome and remove people from the church, a clearly defined pastorate, men specially appointed as pastors, an accepted body of doctrine and vigorous defense against false doctrines.

The early churches met in homes. These early house churches were not a gathering of the family on Sunday morning. Nor were they an informal gathering of neighbors to discuss the Bible. From the very beginning every church was an official gathering of believers who held to orthodox doctrine, who had a defined membership, who appointed officers to oversee their affairs, who were submitted to pastoral authority and who made binding decisions for themselves. The location of meeting does not define a church. The gathering of believers with the active intention of fulfilling all the responsibilities given by Jesus to His church is what makes a group of people a church.

Does God hate religion?

Alex Himaya wrote a book entitled, “Jesus hates religion.” He said that, “Jesus is about love and relationship, not rules and religion.” A quick search online turns up dozens of reasons why God hates religion. “Religion has started wars.” “Religion builds huge churches but fails to feed the poor.” “Religion sees people as the enemy, but Jesus sees sin as the enemy.” “Religion keeps people from God.” “Religion is a replacement for a relationship with Him.” This popular notion sets up a conflict between religious institutions and Jesus. With the problems in many churches, the failure of organized religion to address injustice and the sheer hypocrisy of many religious adherents it is tempting to believe that God really does hate religion.

God created religion. After man sinned, God began to teach sinful man how he could come to God in worship and fellowship. This way of coming to God is religion. Man immediately began to devise his own way to approach God. Cain’s failure in worship is the earliest example of human religion. Man’s attempt to come to God in his own way is also religion. If “God hates religion” means that God hates man’s own efforts to approach him, then yes, that statement is true. The Old Testament shows time and time again that God rejects all attempts to come to Him except according to the way He prescribed. “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6) If religion is defined, as one author said, as “a man made path to God”, then God hates religion. But if you mean God hates the religion He gave to humanity, then that’s just nonsense. Not only does God not hate His religion, He requires men to follow it.

The argument cannot be made that God liked religion in the Old Testament but not in the New. Jesus established New Testament religion that includes rules, rituals and doctrine. Jesus established the church (Matthew 16:18), appointed its leaders (Ephesians 4:11-12), defined its practices (Matthew 18:15-17, 28:19-20; Luke 22:19-20; Colossians 3:16; 1 Timothy 4:13) and established its doctrines. (Galatians 1:11-12) No one can argue that Jesus is all about relationship but not rules. He said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14) Jesus does not hate the religion He gave to humanity.

Many religious institutions have abused the teachings of Jesus. Religion has divided people and has been a major factor in a number of wars. Religion has been used to cloak the worst kind of abuse and depravity. God hates man-centered, self-righteous and man-devised religions. God gave religion to man as a good thing enabling the sinner to come to Him. Man has misused and perverted God’s good gift, but God still loves the religion He instituted when it is followed according to His instructions. There is such a thing as pure religion which all who seek to follow Christ must participate in. None can truly say they love Christ but not His religion. “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27)

What is theological liberalism?

On the Everlasting Trusth website and radio broadcasts we have made periodic references to theological liberalism. The category theological liberal is important, but often neglected, distinction. Theological liberalism has nothing to do with American politics. Liberal politics are usually associated with the democratic party, but liberal theology is a category that refers to what someone believes about God and the Bible.

Liberal theology began to gain ground in America during the late 1800’s. Soon there was conflict in the major denominations between liberal and conservative groups. Those early battles were fought over the inspiration of the Bible, the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth of Jesus and the genuineness of miracles in the Bible. The liberals denied all these. The theological conservatives strongly defended them.

A theological liberal elevates the authority of science and reason to be equal or greater than the authority of the Bible. In the 1800’s when reason declared miracles were not possible, the liberal agreed. When science concluded the world evolved over a long period of time, the liberal began to explain Genesis in ways that accommodated millions of years of evolution. The meaning of Scripture is shaped for the liberal by science, experience, modern philosophy, psychiatry and contemporary morals.

Sometimes the liberal theologian denies outright the truth of the Bible, but often he is more subtle. Many liberal theologians reinterpret a passage by manipulating the historical context. For example, since Paul was writing into a culture that did not value women’s rights, therefore his statements about a wife’s role in marriage have to be understood through the cultural grid of Paul’s day. The liberal theologian believes that if Paul were writing today he would agree with the progressive view of gender roles.

Liberal theology is frequently shaped by a single ethical ideal that is elevated over the rest of Scripture. This ethic becomes the interpretative grid through which everything else in the Bible is understood. For example, in liberal theology the truth that God is love reinterprets the Biblical commands regarding marriage and sexual purity. A loving God would never condemn loving relationships, no matter who were involved. Modern ethical concerns seem to dominate the focus of liberal churches. Usually the ethical standards of theological liberalism are closely aligned with the ideals of political liberalism. The liberal theologian is often concerned with promoting racial justice, economic equality, environmentalism, access to abortion and acceptance of homosexuality. These ethical concerns outweigh doctrinal concerns. Dealing with social injustice is far more important than preaching the Biblical truths of Jesus and salvation.

The great danger of liberalism is its denial of the authority of the Bible. By denying the truth of Scripture, the liberal effectively denies the gospel. Those who deny that Jesus is God, that Jesus was a perfect man and that Jesus rose from the dead deny key truths that must be believed to be saved. A message that ignores these core truths of the gospel is not a Christian message. Theological liberalism is not just a different viewpoint about certain difficult or minor doctrines. Theological liberalism rejects historic Christian doctrine and it rejects Biblical doctrine. Though it claims the name of Christian, theological liberalism is not Christian.

Why are there two different versions of the Ten Commandments?

Most Americans are familiar with the Ten Commandments. Even those who have little religious background know the Ten Commandments are a list of rules given by God. The ten commandments can be found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. They are divided into two groups, the first group contains the commands relating towards God and the second group the commands regarding others. Yet, the lists of ten commandments found in the Catholic catechism are different from that taught in most Protestant churches.

Protestants typically divide the ten commandments into four commands about God and six about others. The first four are “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” and “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” The second table of the law begins with “Honor thy father and mother” and ends with the, “Thou shalt not covet.” Unlike Lutherans and Catholics, the Protestants view the commands against covetousness as one.

Lutherans and Catholics divide the ten commandments into three about God and seven about others. They believe the first three commands are “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This first command includes the prohibition against graven images. The second command is, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” and the third is “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” The commands regarding others are the same as the Protestant version, except the last two commands are “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” and “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods.”

Does this difference matter? Not a whole lot. Protestants, Catholics and Lutherans agree with one another on the content of the ten commandments, just not the division of them. Catholics consider the prohibition against graven images to be part of the first commandment and Protestants view all the commands against covetousness as one. These differences are trivial.

All Christians agree the Ten Commandments were given to Israel and are still important for all people today. They provide a basic standard which shows that all stand guilty before the Holy God. No matter how the commandments are divided, they show the sinfulness of sin and the impossibility of anyone being saved by his own obedience. (Romans 7:13; James 2:10; Romans 3:20)

What are “idols of the heart?”

Idolatry is common around the world and has been for almost all of recorded history. Most civilizations have a long history of extensive idol worship. In America and most western cultures very few people bow to idols, make offerings to statues or worship carved images. However, the absence of outward trappings of idolatry does not mean Americans do not worship idols. Theologians have long warned of a hidden idolatry, the worship of “idols of the heart”. John Calvin said, “man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”

An idol is something that a person devote himself to or trusts in for ultimate satisfaction, security or salvation. An idol is anything that is loved more than God. Tim Keller says, “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. … An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”

The phrase “idols of the heart” comes from Ezekiel 14. In the third verse God says that certain elders of Israel had “set up idols in their heart.” Though they were maintaining the outward practices of true worship, in their heart they were worshiping false gods. In the next verse God warns, “Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart . . . I the Lord will will answer him . . . according to the multitude of his idols.” God evaluates idolatry based upon the attitudes of the heart, not just the actions of the individual. God views heart idolatry to be as severe a sin as external idolatry.

A person can maintain all the external features of faithful worship of God while harboring in his heart a pantheon of false gods. Jesus said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8) The greatest command is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. (Mark 12:30) Loving something more than God not only breaks the great commandment, it is idolatry. In Deuteronomy 11 God promised Israel He would bless them if they remembered His command to “to love your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and soul.” He then warned them of judgment if they “turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them.” Breaking the great commandment breaks the first commandment. To love something more than God is to worship idols.

First John ends with the command, “Little children keep yourself from idols.” The first commandment forbids idolatry. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Idolatry is so significant that Scripture repeatedly warns that those who practice idolatry without repentance show themselves not to be the children of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Idolatry goes much deeper than bowing before carved statues of false gods. Idolatry is found in a heart that loves and desires something more than God.