How Simple it Is!
by David M. McNabb
I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ." (2 Cor. 11:3)
During the first forty years after the ascension of our Savior, some of the Jewish ministers, perhaps in all good faith, tried to force the circumcision of the flesh upon the new converts who were from among the Gentiles. That erroneous idea was defeated at the council of "Apostles and Elders, with the brethren," which is recorded in Acts chapter fifteen. There is no doubt that other efforts were made to bring error into the church from time to time. Paul even mentioned that "the mystery of iniquity doth already work." (2 Thess. 2:7)
It seems as if, as long as the Twelve Apostles were still living, all such efforts were withstood, as the people "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship." (Acts 2:42) However, according to the Epistle of Jude, late in the first century a.d., ministers in the Church of God began to complicate and corrupt the simple and pure message of redemption through Christ Jesus. Jude said they had "turn(ed) the grace of God into lasciviousness."
Until this day, we still hear of some Christian ministers insisting that membership in a certain group (large and small) will somehow guarantee your salvation. Others insist that if you are not baptized in water, you have no hope in Christ. Still others forcefully assert that if you are not baptized in water their way, with a certain series of words, said a certain way, you are not "in." Well did the prophet say, "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts." (Prov. 21:2)
However, those are not the things which prompt God to have your name written in "the Lamb’s Book of Life." Those assertions only complicate a very simple thing. Isaiah put it so well, "An highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." (Isa 35:8)
The great revival in Acts 5:11-14 did not result in anyone becoming a member of Peter’s organization. As for water baptism, Peter said that it did not accomplish "the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but rather it was the answer of a good conscience toward God." (1 Pet. 3:21) Phillip, the evangelist, agrees, indicating that water baptism shouldn’t even be allowed until a person accepts Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. That account is given in Acts 8:35-37. "As they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’"
Jesus said, in Matt. 28:19,20, that water baptism was a part of the work of teaching those who accept the gospel message. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
A person does not even have to be a stable member of some community, nor does God require that he have any understanding to enter, and walk in, the way of holiness. Church membership has its place, as does water baptism, but it is believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God which will get your name written in the "Lamb’s Book of Life."
"The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." (Rev. 22:17