BAPTISM, CHURCH, KINGDOM
Is water baptism ordered and sanctioned of God "for entrance into the church", as many teach? Men make it a door of membership in their churches, but the Lord Jesus who said, "I am the Door" (John 10:9), himself adds "daily" to His true church "which is His body". This occurs the instant one is saved through faith in Him. "Having believed", such are also instantly "sealed with the Holy Spirit". Acts 2:47; Eph. 1:13, R.V. No physical rites required!
Christ's true church contains all the saved people in all the world in its membership. This cannot be said of any present day sect-church. Hence, none of them can be the true church!
"For in one Spirit (not in water) are we all baptized into one body ... and have all been made to drink of (or receive) one Spirit." I Cor. 12:13, R.V.
Yes, Christ continually "baptizeth in the Holy Spirit". John 1:33. R.V. This is the "ONE baptism" - "the operation of God" - that remaineth after the close of the Acts period. Eph. 4:5; Col. 2:12. In Col. 2:12 - "Buried with Him in baptism" is as truly without hands as is "the circumcision made without hands" of verse 11.
John's baptism was only associated with the preaching and the offer to Israel of "the kingdom of (or from) heaven". To Israel it was promised in the Old Testament. Water baptism had two purposes: (1) John "came baptizing with water that Christ should be made manifest to Israel" as her promised Messiah-King. John 1:31. (2) Water baptism was "the counsel of God against them" - they must repent and confess their sins submitting to this old Mosaic water-symbol of needed cleansing spiritually. Isa. 1:16; Luke 7:30. This "counsel" lasted throughout the Acts period of about thirty years, while the kingdom preaching and its offer still went out to Israel, along with the good news of the resurrection of their Messiah. Acts 3:19-26, see R.V. Remaining obdurate, Israel was set aside and the purpose of water baptism ceased. Acts 28:28; Rom. 11:15. Then it was revealed through the Apostle Paul that carnal ordinances were "abolished". Eph. 2:13-16; Col. 2:14; Phil. 3:3. Gentile believers had been exempt all along. Acts 15:5, 19-21; 21:25.
Romans 11:23-27 explains Israel's restoration after the rapture of the church, when she will at last experience the temporal and spiritual blessings of the new covenant yet to be made with "all Israel" (not with the church) "after those days" of her dispersion as promised in Jer. 31:27-37. Read also Hosea 3:4, 5; 5:15; 9:17; Amos 9:11-15; Acts 15:14-17.
THE KINGDOM POSTPONED
God's Word contains copious proof that:
1. "Christ was a minister to the circumcision to confirm the promises made to the fathers", being born as "King of the Jews" and their Savior as well. He said, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" - as to His earthly ministry. Rom. 15:8; Micah 5:2; Matt. 2:2; 15:24; Luke 2:11; John 18:37. Christ is not King of the church, but its HEAD. Col. 1:18.
2. A literal kingdom was promised to Israel. II Sam. 7:13; Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 3:17-18; 23:5-8; Micah 4, etc.
3. The literal kingdom was at hand for Israel, or "come upon" them and was in their "midst" (R.V. margin) in the Person of Christ. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; 10:7; 12:28; Luke 17:21; Mark 9:1.
4. In answer to Christ's prayer on the cross: "Father forgive them ... " the literal kingdom was still offered during the Acts period, as her Messiah had foretold: "I will send them prophets and apostles ... " Matt. 23:34-39; Luke 11:49-51; Acts 3:19-26.
5. The literal kingdom was "taken from" Israel and will yet be given to a future "nation bringing forth the fruits thereof", referring to the future Jewish remnant which will become "a nation in a day" at Christ's return. Matt. 8:12; 21:43; Micah 5:7-8; Isa. 66:8.
Some who teach eternal security - once saved, always - deny this when they make "the kingdom" refer only to salvation, for Matt. 8:12; 21:43 reads: "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you ... ". That Christ referred here to a literal kingdom is proved by His salvation promise: "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." John 6:37.
It is nowhere stated that the kingdom was liable to be set up before the cross. A bona fide offer of the kingdom was made to the nation of Israel, and that nation was simply exhorted to repent and receive her promised King. The readiness of His setting up a literal kingdom was also preached after the cross, as seen in Acts 3:19-26, which please read in the Revised Version. Israel's national refusal to "repent and be converted" caused the literal kingdom to be postponed.
The Lord was confirming the kingdom offer when He said to "the multitudes" concerning John the Baptist: "And if ye will receive it ('the kingdom of heaven') this is (or would be) Elias which was for to come". Matt. 11:7, 11-14. Verse 12 paraphrased: "From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven forces itself on men's attention and the forceful ones receive it" (verbs in the present perfect tense).
It is human to say, IF Israel had accepted the king and the kingdom, where would the cross come in which alone makes salvation and the new covenant possible? No difficulty at all here when we remember that man is held accountable to his free will and that God, who knows "the end from the beginning" brings to pass through His foreknowledge His "determinate counsel". Isa. 46:10; Acts 2:23: 15:18.
Certainly, the kingdom message and personal salvation in "the Lamb of God" was preached before and after the cross. Israel, "His own, received Him not; but as many as received Him to them gave He the right to become the children of God, even to them that believe on His name". John 1:11-12. Daniel's prophesy that "Messiah shall have nothing" (R.V.), i.e., no immediate literal kingdom after being "cut off" or crucified was because "His own received Him not". However, He was given "all power" and the church which had been a hidden "mystery". Matt. 28:19; Eph. 1:20-23; 3:1-9.
Today believers are spiritually "translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son". Col. 1:13. Spiritual entrance into the all-inclusive spiritual "kingdom of God", which term is used interchangeably with "kingdom of heaven", to the confusion of those who do not "rightly divide the Word", has ever been "at hand" from Adam's day till now, for salvation through simple faith in the promised "Seed of the woman" - that Christ would "die for our sins according to the Scriptures". Gen. 3:15; Psalm 2:12; 4:5; I Cor. 15:1-5; Rom. 14:17.
Those who ridicule the teaching of the literal kingdom offer and its postponement (is it for sectarian reasons?) are found speechless when asked why miracle signs do not follow today upon believing in Christ, according to Mark 16:17-18. Such are easy prey for the healing charlatans! The only explanation of healings, miracles, etc. in the four Gospels and Acts is that there was a bona- fide offer made to Israel of a literal kingdom, its message being certified with wondrous miracles - "powers of the age to come" (Heb. 6:5, R.V.), as foretold in Isaiah 35, for example. This explains the duration of: "these signs shall follow" of Mark 16:17-18 and their termination at the end of the Acts period. See II Tim. 4:20; I Tim. 5:23; Col. 4:15; I Cor. 13:8.
When the disciples asked Christ, "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel" (her former theocracy, Acts 15:16), He did not reply (as those imply who "handle the Word of God deceitfully"): "O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken". See Acts 1:6-8 for the answer!
When Pilate asked Christ, "Art thou the King of the Jews?" He replied, "To this end was I born", and that His literal kingdom was "not from hence" or "of this world" order, that is. It was not to be established by having His "servants fight" (then nor in its future setting up) as this world fights for its kingdoms.
May His present day servants in yieldedness to Him cease fighting the truth and one another, "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace", "earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints"! "There is one body (church) ... one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM!" Eph. 4:1-5; Jude 3.
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Ed Stevens, a member of only the "one body" - Christ's true church, doing "all in the name of the Lord Jesus", not of a sect. Col. 3:17.
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