Article 8

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What we Believe








"Sent by Christ to Preach the Gospel"

"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be of none effect" (I Cor. 1:17).

There are some things which Christ has not "sent" His messengers to do. The apostle here mentions baptism, mainly because it had become a divisive issue among the Corinthian believers (vv. 11-13). Paul was certainly not criticizing baptism as some evil thing, but he was rebuking the party spirit which existed among them and baptism seems to have been a tool in which some boasted of men. While some evidently boasted of whom they had been baptized (Paul, Apollos, Cephas) others evidently sought the higher road and boasted in whose name they had been baptized (Christ). While all the exact details of this contention are not known to us it was something along these lines.

The very fact that the apostle does not detail the contention fully ought to heighten the truth he is setting forth here. Since Christ did not send him to baptize then he would not spend time trying to correct them as to the proper mode, doctrine concerning, or attitude in which men were to be baptized. Since Christ sent him to preach the gospel then the gospel is his message and the answer to the problem. Even though Paul sheds more light on the contention in 3:1-4, and there he shows they boasted of whom they had heard the gospel preached, even there he sets forth the gospel of God's sovereign grace in Christ as the answer to the problem of the contention.

It is not that these things in themselves are wrong. Let me explain this statement. Baptism is not wrong for it was appointed by our Lord (Matt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:14-20). Even Paul was baptized (Acts 9:10-18) and others were baptized (Acts 10:48; 16:14-15; 19:1-5). Those whom God has called to preach the gospel and guide the church are to be remembered and their faith followed (Heb. 13:7). They are to be obeyed and we are to submit to them (Heb. 13:17). Those who rule well, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine, are to be counted worthy of double honor (I Tim. 5:17-18, cf. the context of monetary support). But any over-stepping of these bounds or any conduct which overestimates these bounds equating them with or comparing them to the necessity of the gospel of Christ is wrong. This is clearly the truth Paul sets forth in the first Corinthian letter.

Seeing that the gospel of Christ is, in our day, so little known one ought not be surprised to find rank error concerning these other things and not just contention over them. To say Paul was merely rebuking the party spirit only in Corinth rather than placing baptism and men where they belong, as absolutely not a part of the gospel of Christ, is to accuse Paul of melodramatics, that is, highly exaggerating the case. Note that Paul said: "I thank God that I baptized none of you " save only a few and, "I know not whether I baptized any other" (vv. 14-16). There are those who say we might look at it this way. Paul is saying Christ sent him not PRIMARILY to baptize but to preach the gospel. This may seem to help but it can confound the issue. Paul is rather saying that he was sent by Christ with a message and that message DID NOT include baptism! Even so that message DID NOT include men in any way for as to any increase they are nothing (3:7,21).

Some people have a hard time distinguishing these things, but others refuse to distinguish these things at all. Those who have a hard time "rightly dividing" these things are uneasy with those of us who do divide them, and those who refuse to divide them reject us all together; but both accuse us of "inconsistency concerning" and "the belittling of" the things and men of God. Yet this truly is of no consequence to the truth for the truth yet stands: baptism (though ordained of God as the answering of a good conscience, I Pet. 3:21) and men (though called of God to preach) are not a part of the good news of the cross of Christ.

Thousands of people constantly preach about how many they have baptized, and thousands more preach about how many are preaching and converting the masses; but very few are preaching the gospel of the cross of Christ, and very few are believing the gospel of Christ. How can I make a statement like this in light of all the preaching which is done today? The preaching of the gospel has to do with the proclamation of Christ's person "Jesus Christ" and His work "and him crucified" (I Cor. 2:2). The preaching of the cross (1:18) signifies Christ's work and the preaching of Christ the power and wisdom of God (1:24) signifies the One who performed the work.

Christ is the power of God in that He and He alone can call the sinner from death to life (Jn. 5:21,25-26). Christ is the wisdom of God in that He and He alone is the way in which the Holy God can be just and yet justify a person who is actually a sinner, ungodly, yet who believes (Rom. 3:23-26; 4:5). Even the message preached about this is not that power and wisdom intrinsically to the dead, alien sinner. That is to say, that even a person who is one of the elect of God and is yet dead in trespasses and in sins is not given life by someone preaching this to them, any more than the preaching of this message to them is that which justifies them. Christ Himself gives life and He both has and yet does justify! The message of the cross of Christ is the power of God, but only to those who ARE saved (I Cor. 1:18) and by the foolishness of preaching it pleased God TO save them that believe (I Cor. 1:21). Men and women must first be "called" before the preaching of Christ crucified reveals Christ as the power and wisdom of God to them (I Cor. 1:23-24). Nevertheless, Christ is Himself the power and wisdom of God before they are so called. This is clearly explained by Paul in chapter two.

NO MAN can know the things of God save the Spirit of God, and thus the Spirit of God Himself must reveal the things of God (2:9-11). These things are not taught to men without them being spoken, but they are not taught by the men who speak them but by the Holy Ghost (vs. 13). But one must first have the Spirit which is of God (not the spirit which is of the world) before he can know the things that God FREELY gives to him (vs. 12). Thus again I say, before any man can know what he is hearing from those who speak the gospel, and thus be taught by the Spirit, he must have that life from God which is spiritual and can discern spiritual things (vs. 14). Thus having spiritual life from the Spirit of God (who is called the Spirit of Christ, Rom. 8:9-10) is essential.

No one can believe the gospel [thus be saved or spared from a life consumed by error, falsehood, and other sins of the flesh] spoken by men unless he is first called into spiritual existence [saved or spared from an inward death] by God. Thus Paul speaks of being saved before we are called (II Tim. 1:9) and being chosen to salvation which can only be realized after, "...sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 2:13-14). So salvation both precedes and follows the gospel message being believed. Moreover, salvation also follows our actual confession of the mouth (Rom. 10:10) which can only come after we have heard the gospel preached, believed in Him of whom we have heard, and called on Him in whom we have believed (Rom. 10:11-14). Most people preach only of a salvation gained, and that by believing some message preached, but very few are preaching Christ and His work of salvation. The gospel of the one great salvation God has accomplished in Christ is eternal and has many different aspects, and God brings all His elect through every aspect.

It is because of this that so few believe the gospel, even of those who hear it. And it is because of man's own vile, ungodly, dead state in sin that so many reject the gospel. We might say we need to preach the gospel more, and maybe so, but preaching it more will bring no more than God has chosen to call, for only those chosen will be so called (I Cor. 1:26-29) and all chosen will be so called (Rom. 8:28-30). This is one reason why we have so many different gospels which are not the gospel at all but are perversions (Gal. 1:6-7). Man is religious by nature, but he is not spiritual by nature. Man will readily cling to a vestige of most all things that are true about the gospel but he cannot receive the truth of the gospel itself. Men will readily receive election so long as it is based upon something in themselves rather than in God Himself. They will readily receive redemption so long as they can have some part in it. They readily receive believing so long as it depends on their free will and/or the faithfulness and zeal of the messenger, and so on with every other truth. But since the gospel of Christ refutes all these they are hell-bent on rejecting Christ as He is and His work as it is: Full, Free, Absolute, and to the GLORY OF GOD ALONE! This is what Paul teaches thus this is the message Christ sent him to preach.

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