The Laver as Baptistry?

July 17, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Q&A | 5 Comments
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Question: Does the washing and purification of the priests in the laver of the Old Testament Tabernacle have any significance for the New Testament ordinance of baptism?

Answer: The Tabernacle laver (made of bronze) is first mentioned in Exodus 30:18. The priests were required to use it to wash both their hands and feet every time they went from the courtyard into the Most Holy Place – upon penalty of death. Its primary function was practical: sanitary hygiene. Many of the priests handled raw meat and bloody flesh. Although “germs” weren’t common knowledge in those days, God certainly knew about their relation to disease, and many of His laws protected the people from things like Hepatitis A (which is easily spread by the failure to wash hands when dealing with shared food preparation) without their knowledge. However, the laver also had a symbolic function. Most people know the expression “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” While this expression is not precisely from the Bible, it does express the idea that holiness is associated with purity. The idea that people would approach the presence of the holy God with dirty hands and feet would be offensive as a reminder of how wrong it would be for sinful people to approach a pure and righteous God. When gentiles would convert to Judaism in the Old Testament, they would be baptized as a symbol of washing away their sin and “uncleanliness.” New Testament baptism is different, though. For Christians, our sin was borne and expiated by Jesus on the Cross, and our baptism, which should be subsequent to conversion, symbolizes our identification with Christ in His death (going down into the water), burial (being under the water), and Resurrection (coming up out of the water).

A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots

October 4, 2010 at 11:39 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Jeremiah | 9 Comments
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Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.

Jeremiah 13:23

The Bible uses the Ethiopian in this verse because Ethiopians were known to have dark skin. The point seems to be that those who are long accustomed to sin are going to find it impossible to break the practice. That is because, like the color of our skin, or like a leopard’s spots, it is part of our nature. We can’t, by force of will, change our skin color any more than a leopard can change his spots. We can’t do it, but Someone else can change our nature.

Ethiopians are mentioned a few times in the Old Testament, but there is one particularly well known Ethiopian in the New Testament. At the end of Acts Chapter 8 the Bible gives us the historical account of the ministry of Philip. He encountered an Ethiopian servant, riding in a fancy chariot, reading aloud. Philip asked him, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” He was reading what we refer to as Isaiah Chapter 53. The Ethiopian had already “opened” the Word of God. Philip could get right to the alleging and reasoning and sharing.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

Acts 8:35

Philip opened his mouth. The Lord Jesus, as referenced in Isaiah 53:7, kept His mouth closed. Part of the reason that He kept His mouth closed was to empower us to open ours. Philip, his tongue surrendered to the Holy Ghost, opened his mouth, but he did not start to entertain the Ethiopian with songs. He opened his mouth, but he did not simply begin to pray aloud for the Ethiopian. He opened his mouth, but He did not perform a drama or a skit. He opened his mouth, but he did not invite the Ethiopian out for a cup of coffee. He opened his mouth, but he did not politely inquire as to how the Ethiopian’s job was going these days. No, Philip opened his mouth and preached. And what did he preach? Ten easy steps for eunuchs to regain their self-esteem? How to speak forth the promises of God every day for three months in order to get out of debt? No, he preached Jesus!

When the Ethiopian saw some water, he said, “Hey there’s some water, what’s stopping me from just getting down right here and being baptized?” Just like the leopard who can’t change his spots or the person who can’t change his nature by washing in water, baptism can’t change our sin nature. But something else can. What can wash away our sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s power in the blood, power in the blood;
Sin stains are lost in its life giving flow.
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

“There Is Power in the Blood,” Lewis E. Jones

“Well,” says the weary wife of a wayward husband or the discouraged parent of a prodigal child, “I sure would like to see my loved one quit running the roads and settle down, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, or a leopard can’t change its spots.” Don’t give up! The Bible says a leopard can’t change its own spots, but the blood of Jesus can wash them away.

If you feel discouraged over the long practice of a favorite pet sin, remember: The Word of God is a cleansing agent. Sin will keep you from the Bible, or the Bible will keep you from sin.

Holiness is not the way to salvation. Salvation is the way to holiness.

Acts and the Apostles: Activated, Authorized, Audible, and Accountable

May 21, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Acts | 24 Comments
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Acts 2:38 reads: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

Does this mean you have to be baptized to in order to be saved? The answer is “no.” “For,” in this verse, means “on account of” or “on the basis of.” Christians are to be baptized on account of their sins having been remitted, or, on the basis of the remission of their sins.

We have a similar thing in modern English. I might say, “I wore this jacket for the cold weather.” Did my wearing the jacket make it cold? Did wearing the jacket stop it from being cold? If I forget the jacket, does that mean I am really warm? No, my wearing of the jacket for the cold just acknowledges that I realized it was already cold.

For the first Christian believers, baptism was a testimonial proof of what already happened in their hearts. It was more of a “get to” than a “have to.”

In Acts Chapter 2 the early Church was faced with the remarkable predicament of 3000 new believers who needed to be discipled. As we looked for patterns in the text of Acts, we previously saw the role of women in the early days of the Church. Here is another pattern that can be identified: the tendency to do things on a daily basis.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,

Acts 2:46 (emphasis added)

They met more than once a week.

Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 2:47 (emphasis added)

They went soul-winning daily.

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Acts 6:1 (emphasis added)

They cared for needs of people daily.

And so were the churches stablished in the faith, and increased in number daily.

Acts 16:5 (emphasis added)

They grew daily.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11 (emphasis added)

They studied their Bibles daily.

Another central theme in the early chapters of Acts (especially Chapters 3 and 4) is the emphasis on Jesus Christ’s NAME.

Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.

Acts 3:6 (emphasis added)

And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Acts 3:16 (emphasis added)

And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

Acts 4:7 (emphasis added)

Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

Acts 4:10 (emphasis added)

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Acts 4:12 (emphasis added)

But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

Acts 4:17 (emphasis added)

And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

Acts 4:18 (emphasis added)

By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

Acts 4:30 (emphasis added)

There can be no denying that the early Church was zealous that the Name of Jesus Christ be magnified and glorified!

It seems that the more they used His Name, the more the Gospel spread, and the more opposition they faced.

Chapter 2 describes the inauguration of the Church – and this caused somewhat of a public stir. Some people at least must have been impressed. Contrast Chapter 3, which shows the day to day ministering that only God and His workers see.

In Chapter 2, Peter preaches to thousands. In Chapter 3, Peter preaches to one lame man.

In Chapter 2, the ministry brings celebration and blessings. In Chapter 3, the ministry brings persecution and arrest.

No one can accuse these early Church leaders of greed or pandering for popularity. When Peter talked to the lame man, he said “silver and gold have I none.” Today, most so-called faith healers can not say the same: silver and gold have they plenty.

Instead of silver and gold, the Apostles had the name of Jesus Christ, and the authority and the power of that name.

Pastor John Wilkerson Is the Best “S.W.I.M.”mer I Know

February 27, 2009 at 10:19 am | Posted in Quotes | 8 Comments
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Baptism should be the first step in obedience for every believer, but water baptism does not save you. You can be baptized in every lake, pond, river, and creek, ’til the tadpoles know your social security number, and it won’t save you. You are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

-Pastor John Wilkerson

(To be fair, I have heard other preachers say this, too, or something similar, so I’m not sure who originated it, but Pastor Wilkerson says it with more sincerity and conviction than anyone else.)

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