[forthright] Two Corrections for Truth and Reason

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Apr 2010 11:10:59 -0300
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: FINAL PHASE

Two Corrections for Truth and Reason
  by J. Randal Matheny, editor

In the breathless account of the gospel's progress
throughout the world, the author of Acts sometimes
slows down the pace to focus on needed fine-tuning. In
chapter 15 he tells about the big meeting in Jerusalem
to settle the question of circumcision. In chapters
18-19 he clears the way by dealing wit John's baptism,
in what appear to be two related stories.

Though separated by a chapter number, the two events
show similarities in vocabulary and content that tie
them together. Both begin mentioning that Apollos and
Paul "came to Ephesus" (Acts 18:24; 19:1). Both Apollos
and Paul speak boldly in the Ephesian synagogue (Acts
18:26; 19:8).  In the former narrative, Priscilla and
Aquila correct Apollos; in the latter, Paul leads the
12 disciples to a proper obedience. In both several
themes appear as well.

1. Truth matters

Since truth cannot be left aside, enlightenment must
take place. These two events tell us it's important to
get the facts right, to be sure we have the story
straight.

Sincerity is not a trump card that cancels truth.
Ignorance does not excuse one from responsibility.
Neither is grace a blanket that covers falsehood. Grace
and truth belong together, work hand in hand (John
1:17).

When our Lord taught a Samaritan woman, he risked
alienating her over a truth that would soon no longer
matter. "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you
will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in
Jerusalem. You people worship what you do not know. We
worship what we know, because salvation is from the
Jews" (John 4:21-22 NET). Why would he say this to her,
unless truth made a difference in one's life?

Jesus framed his incarnation and his entire ministry in
truth terms: "For this reason I was born, and for this
reason I came into the world - to testify to the truth"
(John 18:37). His followers can do no less.

2. Reason matters

Baptism, like other Christian practices, is not a
sacrament or ritual that has validity independent of
the understanding of the person baptized. There are
reasons and truths that make baptism what it is. One's
motives count for God, purposes mean everything. The
why cannot be separated from the what.

If baptism had no relationship to salvation, there
would have been no need to repeat an outward act. But
this was no repeat. The 12 disciples were not
"rebaptized." Such a word never occurs in Scripture.
They were baptized "in [or "into;" Greek, "eis"] the
name of the Lord Jesus." This phrase is not a formula
to be spoken over a person, but designates the purpose
of uniting the person with Christ. One becomes a
follower of Christ, a subject upon whom the benefits of
the cross are heaped. It is understood that even though
the disciples received a baptism earlier, they
sustained no relationship with Christ.

Just so, many people have received a baptism whose
purpose and reason are contrary to that specified in
Scripture. They need to be baptized in order to be
identified with and connected to Jesus.

3. Correction matters

Priscilla and Aquila took Apollos aside and taught him
more accurately the way of God. Paul, rather than just
teach what the 12 disciples lacked and going on from
there, had them baptized "in the name of the Lord
Jesus" (Acts 19:5). They took pains to correct
deficiencies in understanding. So must we, since the
Scriptures are "useful ... for correction" (2 Timothy
3:16-17).

Among truths that should be corrected in the
understanding of many are these:

A. Jesus' divinity. Christ said, "Before Abraham came
into existence, I am" (John 8:58), appropriating the
name of God for himself. When he said, "the Father and
I are one," the Jews tried to stone him, because they
understood, rightly, that he was "claiming to be God"
(John 10:30-33). Jesus is "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).

B. Jesus' Lordship. Many call him Lord, but so few obey
him (Matthew 7:21-23; Luke 6:46). Almost no one in the
religious world teaches that the Lord in his grace
saves those who obey him (Hebrews 5:9). On the
preaching of Jesus as "Lord and Christ," the hearers
cried out, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:36-37). And
rightly so.

C. Jesus' church. There is but one body, which is the
church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:4). One church is not as
good as another, because Jesus built his (Matthew
16:18), and the rest are created by man. People who
believe otherwise must be corrected and brought into
the church which belongs to the Lord.

These are all kingdom issues and truth questions. They
cannot therefore be dispensed with. Just as Priscilla
and Aquila taught the way of God to Apollos more
accurately, and just as Paul corrected the 12
disciples' understanding, we must help others to know
the truth of God's gospel, that grace may abound.

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