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Sunday, October 25, 2015

On Holy Baptism and Discipleship

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Christ commands us to be baptized into identification or union with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Trinity was made manifest at Jesus' baptism in the River Jordan.

A. T. Robertson in his Grammar says that “baptizing” and “teaching” are modal circumstantial participles. These are methods to make disciples. This is the uniform practice of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus (John 4:1, 2) in the Gospels, and of the early Church. Baptism is not a rite of initiation into a temporal holy club. It pertains to the mystical household of faith.

This is a matter of identity. Believers who were openly committed to Christ came into the fellowship of the local Church  by baptism and were then identified as disciples (Acts 9:18, 26).

One becomes a saved person by grace through faith without meritorious or necessarily prerequisite works (Eph 2:8, 9). When one becomes a committed disciple, he accepts a disciplined life to make every effort to live that identity. Discipleship, most simply put, is a lifestyle of following Christ according to His Word by faith so that He lives through us as the vine does through its branches (John 15:1–16). The seal of abiding in Christ as a disciple is one’s bearing “much fruit” (v 8).

Baptism embodies the attitude of the committed disciple’s life (Matt 10:38, 39; Rom 6:3–5). As discipleship has definiteness about it, so has the act of baptism. Baptism, as a simple and definite act, is a fitting point of departure to begin life as a disciple. For the attitude of loss of the old identity and the dedication towards a new one is acted out visibly (Luke 9:23–25).

The baptismal formula involves water and the naming of the baptized as one belonging to Christ. The meaning in Greek is more accurately, that this soul is brought “into union with "God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This captures the idea of motion towards God, the source of life.

This is the beginning of identification as a witness to Christ (Matt 5:11–16; Acts 1: 8). It is the unspeakable privilege of the people of God that as others see what they do and how they live, that the unsaved world thinks of God. God has placed His Name upon us (Acts 15:17). We have become identified with Him intimately and all we do or fail to do brings glory or dishonor to Him. What a challenge this is! What a serious responsibility!

Therefore, the New Testament takes baptism much more seriously that we do today. Too few Churches teach the doctrine and function of baptism so that those preparing value it as more than a proof of sincerity. The candidate for baptism is to “count the cost” of becoming Jesus’ disciple (Luke 14:27–35). For we will all give an account to Him as to what we have done with what He has given us (Luke 19:11–27; 1 Cor 3:9–15).

In such passages as Matthew 18:6 and John 1:12, “identified with” shows this kind of faith as the mark of one who trusts in the Person of Christ and His righteousness. Christ is the focus of the faith to which one is committed in baptism a He is also our redemption and promise of eternal life.

Related reading: How to Build a Disciple-making Church; Who Am I in Christ?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Divine Authority is a Gift

Jesus' ascension to heaven
 Painting by 
John Singleton Copley, 1775

"Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Matthew 28:18

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Jesus Christ's human nature was such that He participated as God in His glory. This was necessary as He would become our Great High Priest, offering intercessions before the Father on our behalf. His incarnation was necessary so that He might understand human frailty, emotions and temptations (Heb. 2:17, 18; 4:14 –16).  What confidence and assurance the saint receives when he views by faith the glorified Savior winning the combat with Satan, the archenemy of souls. In confronting Satan, Jesus reveals the fullness of the Godhead, and His authority exercised by virtue of the cross, His victory over the grave, and His glorious ascension. These should be viewed as a precious gift to be received with joy.

“Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 2:9–11)

“Given to me ..." The word order emphasizes that Jesus received all authority. It subordinates the gift to the Person, just as a kingdom is not meaningful without a King, or a dynasty without an heir.

According to Philippians 2:5-11, Jesus, the fully human and fully divine Son of God, was given the position that belonged to Him, the Word, from eternity past. As such He was coequal with the Father in deity and the essential form of being God (v 6). The giving of this position is not to His deity, for all this belonged to Him in the reality of his eternal divine nature. However, the human part of Him was “given” participation also in the position and privileges that belong to His deity. What divine condescension that His deity was “veiled” in flesh (Heb. 10:20)!

He could not die as God, except that He took within His own identity a human nature subject to death (Heb. 2:9, 14, 18), and by His death Jesus Himself became the reconciliation of lost men (II Cor. 5:10–21).

His name is not merely another name among many human names. It is the one name given that is above all names.  This is confirmed by the fact that God’s name in the baptismal formula is shared by the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is a full declaration of Jesus’ deity, even though He is still man and therefore Emmanuel, God with us!

Note the emphatic word order in Greek: “given to Me (is) all authority in heaven and concerning earth. . .” which places Christ’s exalted Person before His exalted role. Many rulers and priests may be exalted by worldly standards, but none can fulfill the unique role of Jesus, the Son of God. The Person of Christ is the One to whom the Father gives the authority to rule, and Jesus rules perfectly.

Authority is in itself morally neutral. It may be used for good or evil; to bless or to curse, to aid or to frustrate. What a joy it is to know that Jesus Christ is none other than the One Who created the universe, conquered sin and death, and has the power to make all things work together for good for those that love God and are called according to this purpose (Rom. 8:28, 29; Eph. 1:10, 11).

Related reading: The Special Meeting in Galilee

Friday, October 9, 2015

Strengthening the Case for Firstborn Stars

October 1, 2015
By Dr. Hugh Ross

In a previous article, I described how a key feature of the biblically predicted big bang creation model is its deduction that the firstborn stars will initially be comprised of just three elements: 76 percent hydrogen, 24 percent helium, and a trace amount of lithium. The failure of astronomers to detect such metal-free stars is often cited, especially by young-earth creationists, as proof that the big bang creation model has been invalidated.

As I explained in my previous article, in the context of the big bang creation model, pristine firstborn stars must be at least 13.4 billion light-years away. Currently, no operating telescope possesses the power to image individual stars at this vast distance. I then described the discovery of three very old stars that are so extremely lacking in metals that astronomers established that they must be firstborn stars. Over the course of their 13-billion-year-plus history, these formerly metal-free stars have had their atmospheres very lightly polluted by the interstellar medium, which aligns with big bang creation model predictions.

Now, a different team of astronomers has revealed further observational evidence for firstborn stars that shows them exhibiting characteristics consistent with the big bang creation model. In a recent issue of the Astrophysical Journal, a team of nine European astronomers reported on their spectroscopic measurements on a faint, very distant Lyman-alpha emitter.1 Lyman-alpha emitters are very young, typically low-mass galaxies that are aggressively forming massive stars. The high formation rate of massive stars results in the emission of a strong Lyman-alpha spectral line (1215.67 angstroms) that, because of the great distances of Lyman-alpha emitters, is redshifted into the visible part of the spectrum.

The team targeted the Lyman-alpha emitter known as Cosmos Redshift 7 (CR7). Its redshift of 6.604 places it 12.96 billion light-years away. Using spectral instruments on the Keck telescopes and the Very Large Telescope, the team determined that CR7 possessed two distinct stellar populations. The spectra on the two populations were consistent with one being made of Pop III stars (firstborn stars) and the other of Pop II stars (second-generation stars). Using the Hubble Space Telescope, the team demonstrated that the two populations in CR7 were spatially separated from one another. The team concluded that the spatial separation in the two populations was “consistent with theoretical predictions of a Pop III wave, with Pop III star formation migrating away from the original sites of star formation.”2

This second, independent confirmation of the existence of firstborn stars—manifesting the characteristics predicted in the big bang creation model—should satisfy big bang critics who have insisted that astronomers’ failure to detect such stars falsifies all big bang models. The truth is that big bang creation models have passed every achievable test that has been thrown at them. These recent discoveries of Pop III stars count as one more trial that big bang models have overcome. That the Bible predicted the essential features of big bang cosmology thousands of years before any astronomer even hinted that the universe might possess such features firmly establishes the predictive power of the Bible and consequently its divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority.

For more information on the Bible’s description of the big bang creation model, please read chapter 13 of my book A Matter of Days.