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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 23

As we progress toward the New Testament we begin to see something new taking shape in regards to judgment. The closer we get toward the end of the Old Testament, the more the focus is shifted from God’s judgment in the present, to the future judgment coinciding with the day of the Lord.

Joel 2:1, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand.”

Amos 5:18, “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness and not light.”

Obadiah 15, “For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is near; as you have done, it shall be done to you; your reprisal shall return upon your own head.”

As we can see from these passages as well as others, the closer we get toward the end of the Old Testament, the more the focus is now on the day of the Lord which is coming, a Day of Judgment and justice.

As we head into the New Testament we see the continuity of judgment, and the fact that not only is it part of God’s nature, but also one of His essential attributes.

Romans 1:18-19, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”

1 Peter 1:17, “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear;”

There is one thing I need to point out concerning the passage we just read in Romans and that is the actuality of God’s judgment. The judgments of God are not limited to a future time, but rather they operate presently in the lives of men. The passage does not say, ‘for the wrath of God will be revealed from heaven against all godliness’, but rather, ‘the wrath of God is revealed’ in the now, in the present.

The notion of a future judgment however, is heavily accentuated in the New Testament, which will coincide with the return of Christ Jesus, and the Word of God proves out that it is Jesus who will be that great Judge.

Acts 10:42, “And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.”

2 Timothy 4:8, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

So now that we’ve established there is a judgment, and that Christ will judge both the living and the dead on that day, the question begs to be asked, why is judgment necessary? Why is the doctrine of eternal judgment worth discussing and understanding?

There are three major reasons why judgment is necessary, the first of them being to highlight the sovereignty and glory of God through the revelation of every individual’s eternal destiny. On judgment day, the principal purpose will not be the destiny of individuals, but rather the glory of God. He who sees all things, He who knows all things will execute righteous judgment.

The second reason that judgment is necessary is to reveal the measure in which every individual will receive their reward or their punishment. Once again, this is God territory, something that only God will be in charge of.

The third reason that judgment is necessary is to give God the opportunity to establish the verdict, to pass sentence, on every individual. It will be a great and terrible day, this Day of Judgment, great for those who received the Christ, who fell at the foot of the cross and repented of their sins, a terrible day for those who rejected the Lamb of God, who scoffed and mocked and despised the merciful creator of all.

We must also look at the practical applications of judgment for our daily lives of faith and by doing so we will first and foremost realize that the doctrine of judgment satisfies the inward sentiment and feeling of a need for justice in the world. We see injustice everyday of our lives whether in greater or lesser measure, and something inside us cries out for justice each and every time. The knowledge that there will come a day when all will be revealed, when justice will be done, when the righteousness of God will pass sentence on the sin, injustice, inhumanity and depravity of this world satisfies our constant need to see justice done. We realize that God’s universe is just, and that the Creator keeps a strict accounting of all things, and He will act accordingly. Yes, God knows all things, and on that day He will judge all things.

Looking at the doctrine of judgment from a different perspective we realize it also helps us in forgiving others because the truth that vengeance is not ours but the Lord’s is cemented in our hearts.

Romans 12:19, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

When we accept and acknowledge God as the righteous judge of all, we rest in the knowledge that He will avenge His own, that He will defend His own, and He will do a far better job than we can do on our own.

This biblical doctrine of eternal judgment also motivates us to live in righteousness, and good works that we might store up treasures in heaven, wherein neither moth nor rust can destroy them, and where thieves do not break in and steal. It is a principle encouraged by none other than Christ Jesus, and He assures us that what we have stored up in heaven is there in perpetuity. What we have stored up in heaven cannot be lost or stolen, it does not lose value, and it is not subject to inflation. It is safe and secure waiting for us to claim it.

For the unbeliever, the doctrine of eternal judgment is also a motivator to repent, it is a warning that the Bible itself declares sternly, that rather than scoff at the imminent return of Christ, and walk according to their own lusts, they ought to humble themselves and seek the forgiveness and restoration that can only come by way of Jesus.

Within the context of eternal judgment, we as children of God are also motivated to evangelize, to preach the gospel to the nations, to urge them to repent and return to God. God’s desire is that none perish, but this does not mean that none will. God’s pleasure is that the wicked turn from their ways, that they reconcile themselves unto God that they may be spared the eternal torments of everlasting judgment.

Ezekiel 33:11, “Say to them: As I live, says the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn, from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?”

Yes, there is an eternal judgment, a day of reckoning when the living and the dead will be judged in righteousness, and in light of this truth, we must live accordingly.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 22

Since we’ve already covered repentance from dead works, faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, today we will begin our discussion concerning eternal judgment.

Now before we get started, I realize that eternal judgment is not very popular in many of today’s churches, it is given a wide berth by preachers, evangelists, and theologians alike, but it is a biblical doctrine, one that is encapsulated within the elementary principles of Christ, and as such we must be familiar with it, and know it. Yes, I’ve heard the theories just as you have that some have spawned from the depths of their bellies that there is no eternal judgment, that there is no hell, that all men end up in heaven eventually, but such doctrines and theories are not biblical, they go against the fabric and the truth of the gospel, and as such they must be rejected and summarily refuted. If we hope to stand in the truth of God’s word, then we must know the truth of God’s word, and not waver from it no matter the cost.

As previously mentioned, today we will be discussing the doctrine of eternal judgment, the last on Paul’s list of the elementary principles of Christ, and I must forewarn you, we will get a little scripture heavy, but it is necessary since my desire is to Biblically teach you these fundamental. It is of utmost importance that we allow the Word of God to speak to us, and not the doctrines or theories of men.

Before we get into the teaching there is one scripture passage concerning resurrection and the bodies of the translated living that we didn’t have time to cover on the previous post, but a scripture passage that gives great courage and hope to the children of God, one that gives us reason to look with gladness toward the day when our Lord and Savior Jesus will return in the clouds.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

It is the hope of His appearing, it is the hope of hearing that last trumpet sound, wherein the dead will be raised incorruptible and those who are still living, changed in the twinkling of an eye that makes the hardships and trials of this life seem as nothing more than a speed bump on the way to our final destination. Look for His glorious appearing dear friend, keep your eyes upon Jesus, and though trials may come, one day, and one day soon we shall be changed, in that moment, in that instant, at the last trumpet we shall all be changed, and the corruptible will put on the incorruptible, the mortal will put on immortality.

So why is the doctrine of eternal judgment important enough that it warranted being included among Paul’s elementary principles of Christ, or among the foundational principles of the faith? Eternal judgment is an important doctrine to understand precisely because it is real, it is biblical, and it will come to pass.

By way of eternal judgment we understand God’s right, through His sovereignty, to punish the disobedience of men, and rebellious angels alike. When we think of a judgment passed, a court or a tribunal, we think of it in human terms wherein men are able to plead their case, wherein they can claim their innocence, and bring proof thereof. But when it comes to God’s eternal judgment, it will be more of a passing of a sentence, wherein God will pronounce the final judgment, because in His omniscience all the facts are already known to Him, and there is nothing either men or angels will be able to say that will sway Him from His righteous judgments. When it comes to God, He already has all the facts, He already knows the hearts and minds of men, and it will not be so much a court hearing, wherein men present their defense, but rather a reading of a sentence that was already handed down via the prism of God’s righteousness and judgment.

Although the doctrine of eternal judgment is highly contested in today’s modern church, we see it taught and evidenced throughout the word of God, beginning with the Old Testament, and weaving its way throughout the entirety of scripture all the way to the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

What we know of the final judgment is that it will take place in a future time, but in certain cases God has already made his judgment manifest on the earth. Beginning with Noah and his family being placed on the ark then destroying the earth by water, to removing Lot from Sodom then burning it with fire, to the earth opening up and swallowing Korah, To Ananias and Saphira whom God struck down in the midst of the congregation, all these were manifestations of God’s judgment.

The history of the world is nothing more than the judgment of the world! Scripture shows us clearly and without a hint of doubt that after death men will be subject to judgment, because death and judgment are the two appointments none of us can miss. These two, death and judgment are set in stone, and try as men might they cannot avoid them.

From the first pages of scripture we see the notion of judgment as a right which God reserved for Himself.

We see this truth played out within the context of the first conversation God had with His creation, telling them that they could eat of every tree in the garden, but they could not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then God said something to both Adam and Eve, that cements the truth that God has reserved a right to judge His creation for Himself, ‘For in the day that you eat of it, meaning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall surely die.’

‘If you disobey, I will judge you’, God says, ‘and the penalty for your disobedience is death.’

Throughout the Bible we see God as judge of the entire earth, as well as a God of justice. Since time does not permit us to go into all the scripture references pertaining to God as judge over the earth, I will only share three with you so you can see for yourself that indeed, God is judge, and in His righteous judgment He passes sentence on the sons of disobedience.

Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.”

Psalm 9:8, “He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the people in uprightness.”

Ezekiel 7:27, “The king will mourn, the prince will be clothed with desolation, and the hands of the common people will tremble. I will do to them according to their way, and according to what they deserve I will judge them; Then they shall know that I am the Lord!”

Judgment is the action of God’s mercy, and wrath in history, as well as in individual lives. God is righteous, therefore He must judge unrighteousness, God is holy and as such He judges men according to their way, and according to what they deserve. If not for the blood of Christ that cleansed us, if not for the grace of Christ that clothed us, we would be judged according to what we deserve, and like it or not, we all to the last, deserved death, we all to the last deserved to be removed from before the face of God for all eternity. It is by the sacrifice of Christ, it is by the blood that was shed upon the cross at Calvary that we will not be judged together with the world.

What we must understand is that the judgment of God can bring justice to the righteous, and simultaneously bring the deserved judgments upon the ungodly. It is the same judgment of God, having different attributes depending on whom it is focused upon.

Deuteronomy 10:17-18, “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe. He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing.”

Isaiah 4:4-5, “When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the Lord will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering.”

Yes God exerts His judgment upon the earth, and sometimes He does so through men. Throughout the Bible we see three groups of individuals through whom the judgment of God was exerted, and these three were the elders, kings, and priests.

Exodus 18:13, “And so it was, on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening.”

1 Samuel 8:19-20, “Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”

Judgment throughout history, or the judgment of God carried out against an individual or a nation, often takes on very specific forms, such as war, famine, locusts, epidemics, and what we today would term natural disasters. Yes, wars are a judgment of God, as are epidemics, as is famine and as are natural disasters. I realize we don’t want to hear it, I know it’s difficult to process, but these truths are evidenced throughout the Word of God. Yes, God is sovereign, and yes God allows these things upon the earth as a form of judgment.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 21

I would be remiss, and severely so if I did not mention the last and greatest resurrection, that of Christ Jesus the Son of God who rose from the dead. He is as first Corinthians says, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep, for since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.

Yes, the doctrine of resurrection is a necessary and vital one in Christianity, because as Paul so aptly puts it, if the dead do not rise, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’

The Bible shows us in four distinct ways that the body will be resurrected.

The first of these is through Biblical affirmations of this truth, the most compelling of these being in the book of Daniel.

Daniel 12:2-3, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”

It would be easy for me to go off on a rabbit trail at this juncture, pointing out that those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and likewise pointing out that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We are however on a mission, with an established purpose in mind, so I will resist my urge to go into a rant of sorts and point out the need for the fear of the Lord and how it is to this generation’s detriment that we have stopped preaching it.

The physical body, is formed of flesh and blood, and is adapted for earthly survival. As such our spiritual bodies will be adapted to exist eternally with God, glorious and strong, likened unto the body of a resurrected Christ. There will be no more infirmity, there will be no more pain, there will be no more aches; we will have glorified bodies which will be in the presence of God for all time.

The second way the Bible shows us that the body will be revived or resurrected is through the declaration that our bodies are included in the act of redemption.

Romans 8:22-23, “for we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. And not only they, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.”

Third way the Bible shows us that the body will be revived or resurrected is through the affirmation of Christ that we will have glorified bodies as His own. After Jesus rose from the dead, He did have a body, and it was made of flesh and bone.

Luke 24:39, “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

The fourth way the Bible shows us that the body will be revived is by the reality of Christ’s return and of His judgments. When Christ returns, He will not judge the spirit, but men in their physical form.

1 Thessalonians 4:16, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.”

Revelation 20:11-13, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. Then sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.”

Although the Bible teaches the reanimation, or resurrection of the dead, Paul also tells us that once we awaken, we will have spiritual bodies, or glorified bodies, and goes on to enumerate the stark differences between our glorified bodies, and our current physical bodies.

1 Corinthians 15:41-44, “There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”

So what we know of the resurrection of the dead, as Paul continues to explain it, is that there will be a continuity of sorts, even though we will have glorified bodies. If there would be no continuity, then the resurrection would be unnecessary and Paul eludes to this when he says in 1 Corinthians 15:53, that this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

So what is the essence of this teaching on the resurrection of the dead? What is that we must understand and perceive from what the Word of God has to tell us?

First, that the resurrection of the body is a fundamental doctrine of the Bible, so much so that Paul included it within the elementary principles of Christ. When we speak of the resurrection of the dead, it refers to a literal resurrection or reanimation of the body which takes on new properties, becoming a glorified body.

The Second thing we must understand is that the resurrection of our bodies is essential, because Jesus redeemed us both in body, spirit and soul.

The fourth thing we conclude from the Word of God is that the resurrection is possible because Jesus rose from the dead.

The fifth and last thing we must be aware of, and this truth is evident throughout scripture is that there will be a first resurrection, of those who died in Christ upon His return, the resurrection unto everlasting life and there will be a second resurrection after the millennial reign of Christ, wherein the unbelievers, scoffers, and those who rejected Christ will be resurrected unto judgment.

Yes, the elementary principle of the resurrection is an intriguing one, and much more could be said, but alas we have run out of time.

What is true is the fact that the doctrine of the resurrection as well the Biblical evidence thereof cannot be denied. As such we must, as true followers of Christ have the unshakable hope that one day we will rise again, to meet our Lord in the clouds, one day we will hear the shout of the Lord, with the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God, and in an instant stand before His glorious presence. Our hope in Christ extends beyond this life, it extends beyond this present earth, it stretches far into eternity, because that is what our God is, eternal. In His limitless mercy He offers us a resurrection, He offers us life, He offers us eternity in His presence, and for this as well as His many graces toward us we must worship Him and thank Him in perpetuity.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 20

Although almost all religions speak about the immortality of the soul, the Bible speaks about the reanimation and revitalization of the entire person.

Now within the Old Testament we see at least three bodily resurrections being recorded, all three found within the books of first and second kings.

The first biblically documented resurrection of a dead person was the son of the widow woman, in first Kings 17, wherein Elijah stretched himself out on the son of the widow three times, and cried out to the Lord, praying ‘O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’

1 Kings 17:22, “Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.”

The Bible documents two distinct truths in this passage in Kings, first, that the sickness of the child was so severe that there was no breath left in him. The child was dead, the soul had departed, yet when the man of God prayed, the Word tells us that the soul of the child came back to him.

The second biblically documented resurrection or reanimation of a dead person was the son of the Shunammite woman who showed kindness to Elisha each time he passed through Shunem. The Word tells us that what began as a headache eventually led to the child’s death upon his mother’s knees.

What I’ve always found interesting about this passage in 2 Kings Chapter four is the fact that once the child was dead, the mother went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door, and went out to find the man of God. Similar to what Elijah had done, Elisha stretched himself out on the child, and his flesh became warm.

The third biblically documented resurrection or reanimation was that of a man whose family was burying him, and spying a band of raiders they put the man in Elisha’s tomb rather than his own. When the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.

So although resurrection or reanimation to life was sparse throughout the Old Testament it is still documented and taught. Even with these evidences in the Old Testament, and witnessing what Jesus had done throughout his ministry there were still Sadducees who denied the existence, or possibility of resurrection. For most throughout the Old Testament the afterlife was viewed as a mysterious thing, relegated to the mysteries that God alone understood.

As we journey to the New Testament however, we see an exponential increase in both resurrection, and the fact that the teaching on it becomes more widespread through what Jesus taught, and subsequently His disciples.

There are five distinct and individual examples of resurrection or reanimation in the New Testament, and these five do not include the resurrection of the many saints who were raised, coming out of their graves, and going into the holy city appearing to many upon Jesus’ death. In case you are wondering, or you haven’t happened upon this particular scripture it can be found in Matthew chapter 27, verses 51 through 53.

So, who were the five that saw death, whose souls had departed yet were resurrected and reanimated?

First on the list is the daughter of the ruler, who came to inform Jesus that his daughter had just died, but that he believed if Jesus laid His hand on her she would live again. When Jesus arrived there were flute players, and a noisy crowd wailing, and after the crowd scorned Him because He had said the girl was just sleeping, he went and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.

The second person in the New Testament who was reanimated and brought back to life was the widow’s son in a city called Nain. It was during what we would call the funeral procession that Jesus encountered this large crowd carrying away the dead man, and when Jesus saw this man’s mother, he had compassion on her.

Jesus then came and touched the open coffin, and said, ‘Young man, I say to you arise.’

Luke 7:15, “And he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He (meaning Jesus) presented him to his mother.”

Since this particular account came from the gospel according to Luke, we can rest assured that Luke did his due diligence on the matter, since he had been hired to investigate Jesus. There was enough proof, Luke perhaps even having spoken to the once dead man, that he included this account in his gospel.

Next to the resurrection of Jesus, the reanimation and resurrection of Lazarus is perhaps the best known account the Bible offers. All have heard of Lazarus, and the fact that he had been dead for four days when Jesus commanded that the stone be taken away from the mouth of the tomb where Lazarus’s body was laid to rest, and after saying a prayer, commanding Lazarus to come forth.

John 11:44, “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘loose him, and let him go.”

So Biblically speaking, Jesus reanimated, or resurrected the recently dead, but also one as Lazarus whose own sister Martha that he had been dead for such a long time that there surely was a stench. The flesh had started to decompose, yet when Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out, his soul returned to His body, and His flesh was made new.

There was also the case of Dorcas, or Tabitha, which Peter prayed over and returned to life, as well as the case of Euthycus the young man who fell from the third story, whom Paul revived after having been dead, but time does not permit us to go into great detail about these two. What is certain, is that the resurrection of the dead was not only taught by Christ, and His disciples, but it was visibly seen when God so chose to move. Neither Peter nor Paul went on from that day forward beating their chests and saying they had brought the dead to life, because they knew that it was not in their own strength, it was on in their own power, but the power of God working through them that reanimated these individuals.

We serve a God of power, a God who is omnipotent, or all powerful, a God who can breathe life back into the dead, a God who can create universes by simply speaking them into being, and this great God, this all powerful God loves us lowly, fractured, imperfect creatures so, that He sent His Son to die on a cross that we might have life.

I for one am in constant awe of God’s love, I for one am in constant awe of God’s mercy, and His extended grace toward mankind. How could we not desire to know more of Him? How could we not desire to know more of His power, His presence, His guidance and His will?

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 19

Thus far we have been on an extraordinary journey discovering the biblical truth about such topics as repentance, faith toward God, the doctrine of baptisms, and laying on of hands, and today we continue our journey into the fundamental teachings of the faith with a teaching on the resurrection of the dead, since it is the next thing that Paul lists as being among the elementary principles of Christ.

I know, the resurrection of the dead doesn’t seem all that elementary, and neither does eternal judgment, but alas, they are listed as such, and so we must receive them as such. Do you sometimes get the feeling that the primary church knew allot more than we do today? Do you sometimes get the feeling that the primary church was closer to God, and saw more of the power of God than we do today?

This generation of believers, the first generation of believers in fact, considered eternal judgment, and resurrection of the dead to be elementary principles of Christ. I wonder what the going on to perfection that Paul spoke of really is then, if these are just the foundation stones, and the elementary principles?

I want to begin today’s teaching with two scripture passages that highlight the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. After reading these two passages, we see why the resurrection of the dead is a paramount and necessary teaching, one that we must fully understand and receive as biblical truth.

1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain.”

1 Corinthians 15:18, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”

I wanted to include both verses, so we can understand a deep and fundamental truth concerning the resurrection of the dead. What Paul is attempting to convey to the church in Corinth is the paramount importance of believing in the resurrection of the dead, and of preaching a risen Christ, one who rose from the dead, because if He had not risen, then both his preaching and their faith were useless, worthless, futile, and ineffective. The reason Paul wrote such strong words to the church of Corinth is because there were among that church, at that time some who said that there was no resurrection of the dead. The conclusion that Paul comes to in his letter to the church at Corinth is both piercing and of great importance.

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen!

If Christ is not risen then all is lost. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then our faith is futile, and we are of all men most pitiable. Paul was attempting to convey the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, making it very clear that only by believing in the resurrection of the dead is it possible to also believe in a risen Christ.

The principle or the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is one that is to this day hotly contested among Christian denominations, even though the Bible clearly speaks of the resurrection of the dead both in the Old and the New Testament. The teaching on the resurrection of the dead is an essential one in the Bible, and it is one of the reasons that Paul includes it among the elementary principles of Christ. When we speak of the resurrection of the dead we must understand that it refers to the literal resurrection of the body by God from death, and the reuniting of the body with the soul and spirit from which it was separated.

Job’s simple question in Job 14:14, as to if a man dies, shall he live again? Has caused countless debates, and discussions among believers, but although Job posed this question, the Bible gives us the answer as well. The answer the Word of God gives us is undeniable, and it is within this answer that we have hope in Christ, not only in this life but the life to come.

Throughout the time of the early church, great emphasis was placed on the teaching of the resurrection of the dead, since they were certain that Christ had risen, and that they too would rise at the appointed time. It is the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and the fact that the Apostles taught it that ignited the first bout of persecution against the church.

What we must understand is that at first the church had favor with the people, because they were doing good works, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles, but then something happened after Peter healed the lame man, a great persecution arose, and we find the reason for this in the fourth chapter of the book of Acts.

Acts 4:1-3, “Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captains of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening.”

It was the fact that they preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead that so disturbed the priests and the Sadducees, so much so that they laid hands on them and put them in custody.

So why is the doctrine of the resurrection from the dead so important? Why is this doctrine important enough that the apostles risked being imprisoned and even killed for preaching it?

Because the resurrection from the dead is the final step in the application of redemption. This resurrection will occur when Christ returns, who will resurrect from the dead the bodies of those who have departed, reuniting them with their spirits, that those who believed in Him might receive glorious bodies as His now is, and go to their eternal reward, and those that rejected Him might go to their eternal judgment.

Although this is not a study on where the soul goes when it dies, and yes, it is a worthwhile study to have if the Lord permits one day, there are a few misconceptions as to where the unregenerate go to once the material is separated from the immaterial, once the soul leaves the body and the body is put into the earth from which it came.

There are two prevalent theories as to what happens to man after he dies that wholly contradict the Word of God, yet are still widely circulated.

The first theory is that of universalism. Universalism proposes that sooner or later all will be saved. During the second century it was taught that sinners would be saved after a temporary punishment of sorts, that they might atone for their sins, and the Universalists of today say that all men are saved, even if they don’t realize it. They come to this deceptive conclusion by taking a handful of scriptures out of context, but wholly overlook relevant passages that dispel their theory.

No, men are not saved regardless of whether or not they believed in Jesus, but only those who believes in the Son of God has everlasting life.

John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, (meaning those who did not believe in Christ), but the righteous into eternal life.”

There are countless more scriptures I can site, that dispel the notion of universal salvation, but alas time does not permit it. The Universalists of our generation and of generations past are quick to say that God is love, but they omit the fact that God is also justice, holiness, and wrath.

The second theory that is prevalent even in some Christian circles is that of conditionalism, or conditional immortality. What conditionalism teaches is that the soul is immortal only if it is regenerate, otherwise its final judgment will be its eternal annihilation.

The basis for conditionalism, or conditional immortality is based on an artificial exegesis of two Biblical texts, one found in 2 Thessalonians 1:9, the other found in Matthew 25:41, interpreting death to mean nonlife, or annihilation at a certain point in time. There is no eschatological event in the Bible that even hints at this annihilation of souls yet men continue to teach it to this day.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 18

There are three categories of individuals that the Bible specifies laid hands on others.

The first whom the Bible speaks of as laying hands on others were the Apostles. Once again we return to the seven men who were chosen to serve tables, and we see that they were brought before the Apostles, who after praying laid hands on them. It was not the entire congregation, but the Apostles who laid hands on these men.

The second category of individuals whom the Bible speaks of as having laid hands on others are prophets and teachers.

Acts 13:1-3, “Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

So it was these prophets and teachers that the Bible enumerates that laid hands on Saul and Barnabas for the work which God had called them to, and then they were sent away to go and pursue the ministry to which God had called them. Now the Bible tells us there was a church at Antioch, yet only these prophets and teachers laid hands on Barnabas and Saul. Why didn’t everybody just come up and lay hands on them? Well, because throughout the Bible we can clearly see that those who laid hands on others were men with the authority of God, full of the Holy Spirit, and recognized by the early church. In every case, with the exception of healing, the elders were those who laid hands on individuals. Due to the serious nature of the things laying on of hands entails, immature individuals are not allowed to participate in it.

The last category of individuals whom the Bibles speaks of as having laid hands on others are the elders. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul mentions the presbytery, or the elders of the church, and the fact that they had laid hands on him.

1 Timothy 4:14, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of hands of the presbytery.”

Now that we’ve discussed who it is the Bible says can lay hands on others, I want to discuss, if only briefly, the conditions one must meet in order for the laying on of hands to have an effect. Yes, there are conditions, and even though today’s church has chosen to ignore the word ‘if’ in the Bible, God is still God, His word is still His word, and when God says ‘if’ you do a certain thing then I will likewise do a certain thing, He means what he says.

The first condition that an individual must meet, in order for the laying on of hands to have an effect is that they must have faith in God. Absent faith in God, we can have elders, and prophets, teachers and apostles lay hands on us until kingdom come with no effect and no visible demonstration of any power.

As Jesus stood before the tomb of Lazarus who had been dead for four days, as Mary and Martha stood beside Him pleading with Him not to take away the stone from the tomb since there would be a stench, Jesus said something to Martha that we must all take to heart.

John 11:40, “Jesus said to her, ‘did I not tell you that if you believe you would see the glory of God?”

When we lay hands on an individual, be it for healing, for restoration or for the power of God, they must believe. If we believe, we too will see the glory of God, if we believe we too will see the miracles of God. But absent belief, absent faith, we will see absolutely nothing because faith stirs the heart of God and puts the plan of God into action.

John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to my Father.”

The second condition that we must meet, in order for the laying on of hands to have an effect is to fast and to pray. Yes a prayer life, and a life of fasting are essential ingredients in ensuring that when we, by the unction of the Holy Spirit lay hands on someone they will be healed, they will be restored, they will receive power and they will have authority.

There was a revelatory exchange between Christ and His disciples when a man who had a son that was an epileptic came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his son, informing him that he had first gone to His disciples but they could not cure him. After rebuking the demon, and after the demon had come out of him, the child was cured from that very hour, but the Disciples of Christ were perplexed as to why they could not do the same thing. Why was it, they inquired, that they could not cast out the demon?

Matthew 17:20-21, “So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

What we must remember is that although Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, He spent more time in prayer than any of His disciples. It is often that we find Jesus alone, withdrawn, by Himself praying to the Father for strength and for guidance. If Jesus had a prayer life, then as His disciples we must likewise have a healthy and consistent prayer life. As Jesus said, there are certain evils; there are certain demons that do not go out except by fasting and prayer. He didn’t say except by laying on of hands, but fasting and prayer, which equip you so that when you do go and lay hands on someone God answers the prayer.

For those who are receiving prayer, for those who are having hands laid on them there is also a condition that they must meet and it is important enough that we discuss it because it is a practice that has fallen out of favor with much of the church today.

The practice I speak of is that of confessing one’s sin before they receive prayer.

James 5:14-16, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

I realize that in our politically correct, non-confrontational, non-offensive society it might be difficult to speak to someone about confessing their sins. I realize it may get a bit awkward, but it must be done because it is the way in which the Bible says it must be done. Confess your trespasses, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. So what this verse is saying that in order to be healed, we must do these two things, confess and pray.

We must understand that the laying on of hands is always accompanied by prayer, showing us that the gifts of grace and of healing are from God, and not from the act of one individual laying his hands on another. It is the Lord that heals, it is the Lord that saves, it is the Lord that forgives. We are vessels; we are conduits through which the power and the presence of God can work.

Now there are instances when the sick individual either will not, or cannot pray for themselves for healing, there are instances when they are too far gone to communicate, and it is then that the prayer and faith of the one who is laying hands on them is essential and crucial.

Acts 14:8-10, “And in Lystra a certain man without strength in his feet was sitting, a cripple from his mother’s womb, who had never walked. This man heard Paul speaking. Paul observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand up straight on your feet!’ and he leaped and walked.”

The Word does not tell us that this crippled man confessed his sins, it does not tell us that he asked for prayer, all we are told is that Paul saw that he had faith to be healed. When he saw this, Paul simply commanded with a loud voice that this man stand up straight on his feet, and he did just that.

Whenever we lay hands, whether it is for healing, for blessing, or for power we must remember to do it in the name of Jesus, who having laid hands on many an individual never failed to see the power of God manifest through Him. We must acknowledge that absent Christ, that absent the power of God in us we are nothing but empty vessels, at the mercy of our Master waiting for Him to fill us.

So often we over estimate our own self-worth refusing to acknowledge that we as individuals live, and breathe and move in God and God alone, thinking ourselves greater than what we truly are. It is God who gives us power, it is God who gives us authority, and it is the power of God that heals, restores, blesses and baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fundamental Teachings part 17

Today we will be discussing the definition, the purpose, and the practice of laying on of hands both in the Old Testament as well as the new Testament.

Now there is one question that must be asked before we go any further. Why would Paul list laying on of hands as one of the elementary principles of Christ? Why is it relevant? Why would it be important enough to share the same stage as the doctrine of baptism, repentance, faith toward God, the resurrection of the dead, and the doctrine of eternal judgment?

Because dear friends, the elementary principle of laying on of hands is far deeper than one might believe at first glance, and there is much that this practice entails.

So why is the doctrine of laying on of hands so important? Why is it relevant enough that Paul felt compelled to include it among the elementary principles of Christ? In short, the teaching, or the doctrine of laying on of hands is important for the body of Christ, because it assures the continuity of the Church, or in other words the continuity of spiritual life from one generation to the next.

The lack of teaching, the marginalizing and avoidance of this doctrine both from a theological viewpoint as well as a practical one has caused it to be only sparingly represented in the life of what we would call the contemporary church.

As with all things that God instructs us to do in His Word, there is a well-defined purpose for laying on of hands, one that we must understand in order to appreciate this doctrine even though it has been relegated to the dustbin of forgotten church history for many decades now.

Laying on of hands is a practice that the primary church embraced from the olden days, through which God transfers, through a chosen vessel, a power of the Holy Spirit meant to bring blessing, healing, strength and the manifestation of certain gifts among which we can also count the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The elemental purpose of this practice is that of identifying. The individual laying hands on another, identifies the future growth, future blessing, future fellowship or the future ministry of the person he is laying hands upon. It is not a practice that we ought to take lightly; it is not something that ought to do hastily, but rather one that is reserved only for when the Spirit of God stirs us to do it, only for when we know that it is God who compelled us to lay hands on someone. Laying hands on others hastily is dangerous, because a connection is established between the two individuals, and if it is done hastily and not in a sanctified manner there can be grievous consequences.

1 Timothy 6:22, “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins. Keep yourself pure.”

So what is the purpose of laying on of hands, and what does it actually do? Well, the best way I can explain it, is that laying on of hands is a conduit which allows the transfer of power from God, through one individual and into another. Now before we get too excited, there is nothing mystical about laying on of hands, it is something natural and a practice embraced by the early church. Mothers lay hands on their children’s foreheads to see if they are warm, men greet each other by laying their hand on one another’ shoulder, so all these actions are natural, and what the Holy Spirit does is He takes this natural action and ads a spiritual component to it.

When we lay hands on others compelled by God, there are certain things that we can transfer or transmit to those we are laying hands upon.

By laying on of hands we can transfer or transmit blessing. We see this in the Old Testament, beginning with Joseph seeing his father lay his right hand on the head of Ephraim and blessing him.

By laying on of hands we can also transfer or transmit wisdom.

Deuteronomy 34:9, “Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”

So the Word is very clear that Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him. By laying hands on Joshua Moses transferred the spirit of wisdom to him.

By laying on of hands we can also transfer, or transmit the Holy Spirit. Now before citing biblical precedent, I must say that this practice, that of attempting to transfer the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands has indeed been widely abused in today’s modern church, with men standing in lines, having their foreheads touched and believing they received the Spirit, but just because something is abused in certain churches or denominations does not invalidate it, nor does it nullify the veracity of it. Yes, the Apostles laid hands on men that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

When Peter and John came to the city of Samaria inquiring if those who had been baptized had received the Holy Spirit, upon hearing that they had not the word tells us in Acts 8:17 that they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. So yes, it is scriptural, and biblical, and nowhere in the Bible are we told that this practice somehow ended or was nullified by God.

By laying on of hands we can also transfer, or transmit authority. When the Apostles of Christ picked seven men, of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom to watch over the daily distribution of food to the widows, they were brought before the apostles, and when they had prayed, they lay hands on them. After laying hands on them these men went out preaching the Word, and did great signs and wonders among the people.

Spiritual gifts can also be transferred or transmitted by the laying on of hands. In his second letter to Timothy Paul reminds him to stir up the gift of God which was in him by the laying on of his hands.

2 Timothy 1:6, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”

That dear friend is pretty self-explanatory. Once again, my purpose in doing this series is to see what the Word of God says concerning these elementary principles of Christ, these fundamental teachings of the faith, and not what some denomination or some individual has to say about them. When we go to the Word of God, we know that the truth we receive is established in God.

Although there are countless instances in the Old Testament wherein the laying on of hands was incorporated, whether for blessing, for ordination, for transferring the sin of the individual to the animal the Levites were about to sacrifice, if only symbolically so, time does not permit us to go into great depth as to the use of laying on of hands in the Old Testament. I would however like to go through a few scriptures in the New Testament to see where laying on of hands was incorporated, and what it was intended for.

One of the great differences in laying hands between the Old Testament and the New Testament is that in the New Testament laying on of hands was used for healing. Jesus often laid hands on the sick in His ministry, and this He did in two ways. He laid hands on the sick directly, but also indirectly, or by simply touching someone.

There are countless examples of Jesus laying hands on the sick and restoring them throughout the four gospels, but there are also examples where Jesus simply touched someone’s blind eyes, or someone’s deaf ears, and they were healed. The Apostle also utilized the laying on of hands when praying for the sick that they might be healed, the word telling us in Acts 5:12, that through the hands of the Apostles many signs and wonders were done.

So who can lay hands on others? If it is one of the elementary principles of Christ, if it is something that the Word of God encourages us to do, whether for healing, blessing, power, or authority, the question that remains to be asked is who exactly is Biblically allowed to lay hands on others?

If we study the Bible with diligence, we see who it was that laid hands on others. You see, just as throughout the universe there is an established order to things, God has an established order as well. It always amazes me when I go into a church and I see everyone laying hands on everyone else, from little children to fully grown adults, as though it was something ordinary, as though it was something irrelevant.

‘Just stretch out your hand and lay it on the person next to you.’

Sounds easy enough, but whom does the Bible say laid hands on others? Whom does the Bible identify as those commissioned to lay hands on the sick, on the possessed, on those needing strength and the power of God?

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 16

Although we can go further, and point out where the primary church believed that the Holy Spirit was for all believers, and where Peter testifies the same thing, I think we can take the words of Jesus as truth, as fact, as unshakable, and move on to the next question, which I must warn you is a tough one.

If we have Biblically established that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is still for today, if we have Biblically established that it is a necessary component in the life of every believer, why is it that so many deny this baptism, and some vehemently so?

Quite frankly, so many deny the baptism of the Holy Spirit because it comes with conditions that God requires of us in order to receive, and whether due to their doctrinal upbringing or outright indifference, an alarming number are simply unwilling to meet God’s requirements.

So what are God’s requirements? First and foremost is repentance. We return to Peter and the large crowd he was speaking to, and the first requirement that Peter laid out, the first thing he told them they must do is repent.

The second requirement that God has for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is that we be born again.

Galatians 4:6, “And because you are sons, God has sent for the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father!”

The fourth requirement that God has for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit is that we have faith. We must accept by faith that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and we must also by faith believe that we are beneficiaries of this blessed promise.

Mark 11:24, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

The next requirement that God has for receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit or the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that we be baptized. There are two notable exceptions to this requirement in the Bible, the first being Paul, who first received the Holy Spirit then was baptized, and the Second being Cornelius.

The fifth requirement is that we have desire, that we hunger after this gift, that we thirst after this baptism, that we desire it and ask it of God. Our desire must also be accompanied by prayer, and a believer absent of a prayer life must first obtain a prayer life before he can hope to receive this gift. The Disciples of Christ understood the hardships they would be facing in ministry, and so they dedicated themselves in their entirety to it. It was then, while they were in prayer that the power from above came, proving that only those willing to abandon all else, will obtain this priceless gift of God.

Since we are quickly running out of time, I want to discuss, if only briefly the ways in which the baptism of the Holy Spirit can be received. The first way in which the baptism of the Holy Spirit is received is by doing what those in the upper room did, praying and waiting on the Lord. The Bible however, also tells us that some received the Holy Spirit instantly and without much preparation as the Word tells us in the tenth chapter in Acts, wherein while Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word.

We are also told by way of Scripture that some received the power of the Holy Spirit by prayer, and laying on of hands, as was the case of the Samaritans when Peter and John laid hands on them.

Since we discussed the ways in which the baptism of the Holy Spirit can be received Biblically, it is only fair that we discuss the obstacles that stand in the way of receiving this gift.

For many today, the greatest obstacle is that of preconceived notions. Jesus did not explain to His disciples how they would receive the Holy Spirit, and His disciples did not ask, they simply waited in Jerusalem until it came. Some have already made up their mind concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and their preconceived opinions on this baptism, keeps them from receiving it.

The second obstacle is that of discouragement, and discouragement can come about if the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is delayed. Yes, sometimes God tests our patience, and all we can do is persevere and wait on the Lord until He pours out His blessing.

The third obstacle is doubt, and many today doubt the very existence of this promise, as well as the possibility of coming into possession of it. Listed in the top tier of obstacles that stand in the way of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit is also lack of consecration, as well as refusal to confess one’s sin. If the baptism of the Holy Spirit is seen as merely an alternative, then problems will surely arise, because it must be seen as a necessity, and this is why a complete and total dedication as well as a hunger and desire for this baptism are paramount.

More could be said concerning the obstacles that stand in the way of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but since time is pressing I want to discuss the evidence and the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is comprised of two elements. First is the receiving of a special power from the Holy Spirit, and second is the physical initial sign of the presence of this baptism which is manifested by speaking in tongues.

Yes, speaking in tongues is biblical, and it is the immediate evidence of having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is a supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit, through which the believer speaks in another tongue, a tongue that he has never studied or learned. Tongues can either be known languages of the earth, but they can also be unknown tongues.

Speaking in tongues can be received as a sign that one has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or as a gift, meaning one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. When speaking in tongue is the sign that one has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the believer and the Holy Spirit unite and praise and verbally prophecy. Tongues are not provoked by the mind of man, but they work in concert with our mental faculties.

1 Corinthians 13:14, “What is the result then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.”

Nowhere in scripture does it say that the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues but that we speak in tongues. Paul declares as such when he says, ‘for if I pray in another tongue, my spirit prays.’

The baptism of the Holy Spirit took place in Jerusalem, Samaria, Damascus, Caesarea, and Ephesus as the book of Acts tells us, and in three of the five cases, the sign of this experience was clearly defined. Although there exists a variety in the way we receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, whether by prayer, instantaneously or by laying on of hands, speaking in tongues was and is an integral part of it in every case. The first, as well as the last mention of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the book of acts, also includes the mention speaking in tongues.

The Church was born on resurrection day, when Christ breathed on His disciples and said, ‘take Holy Spirit’, and it was equipped with power on the day of Pentecost that it may preach the gospel of the kingdom of God with authority. So the baptism of the Holy Spirit is what equips the saints to walk the narrow path of faith, and absent the baptism of the Holy Spirit, we are ill equipped to fight the battles that we know we must fight along the way.

Before we go there is one last thing that we must understand, and it is crucial, speaking in tongues is not a power, but it is the proof that there is a power in us. Tongues are the proof that we have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but once we have received it we must continue to grow in the grace and gifts of God. For many speaking in tongues is a purpose in and of itself, however it ought not to be so. There is more to the baptism of the Holy Spirit than the initial evidence of speaking in tongues, and once we perceive the power and authority that comes with this anointing we will be able to do great exploits for God.

I realize there are still many aspects of the baptism of the Holy Spirit that I did not cover, but the person of the Holy Spirit is a deep and wide topic, thus the reason for the forthcoming series on the Holy Spirit. Yes, I rushed through a lot in a very short time, but there is only so much time we can spend together, and I want them to be packed with the truth, wisdom and knowledge of the Word of God. My prayer is that you now have a general knowledge of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, its benefits, its necessity, its present availability, and the fact that Jesus promised it to all those who believe, who humble themselves in repentance, and who cry out to Him in faith.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 15

Since we’ve already discussed the misconceptions concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit, today we will discuss what the Bible tells us about the Holy Spirit, and the baptism thereof.

So I want to begin by answering a simple yet profound question. What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Simply put, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a unique experience, initiated by the triune God, and realized supernaturally. It is the promise of the Father, and a gift to those who have come to repentance, and received Christ as Lord and Savior.

Since I promised at the beginning of this series that we will explore these elementary principles of Christ through the prism of God’s word, we will go through a few scriptures that bear out the truth of what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is.

So how do we know that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is initiated by the triune God? Simple answer, because Jesus told us.

John 16:7, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”

It must have been quite a sight to see the Disciples of Christ react to the words that He spoke in this passage. How could it be to their advantage that Jesus go away? How could it possibly be to their advantage that their Lord, the one whom they had forsaken everything to follow would depart from them? Because Jesus promised that He would not leave them as orphans, but that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who would give them power to go and preach the gospel to all nations.

Now we know that the Holy Spirit is a gift, because Peter said as such while he was speaking to the crowd that had been cut to the heart, but also because of what he says in another passage in the book of Acts.

Acts 5:32, “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.”

There are many other scriptures we could go through if time permitted, but just by these two scriptures alone we can glean that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not merited, it is not a reward, it is not a result of our labors or of our sacrifices. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift of the grace of God, and this is how we ought to perceive it.

Now that we’ve established what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is, namely a gift of God, and a unique experience for believers, I want to spend a little time and discover the purpose of it, and the reason it is necessary for us as believers today. In other words, what is it good for, and why should you have it?

It is no exaggeration when I say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is important in every aspect of our walk of faith, neither is it hyperbole. Just so we get an idea of the importance of the Holy Spirit in our Christian walk, I want to go through some of the benefits of this gift, not from my point of view, but from what the Word of God says about it.

First, the Holy Spirit gives us strength; it gives us power in our service toward God, and aids us in ministering to those around us.

Luke 4:18-19, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor, He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind. To set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.”

These were not the words of any mere man, but the words of Christ Jesus. What we must understand is that the life and ministry of Christ were dominated by this power. It was because the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him that He was able to heal, preach deliverance, set free, and preach the gospel.

Jesus also promised his Disciples something truly remarkable once they received this power and this gift.

John 14:12, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”

Did this promise ever come to pass? Did the Disciples of Christ do the works that He did? Well, read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and you will see miracle after miracle, healing after healing, thousands upon thousands believing in Jesus and being baptized both in water and the Holy Spirit, so yes, this promise began its fulfillment on the day of Pentecost.

The gift of the Holy Spirit also elevates our fellowship with God to the level of a personal experience, not something that we hear about from other sources, or second hand retellings of other men’s experiences.

When Peter recounts His ministry to the gentiles, in Acts chapter 11, he says something very telling indeed.

Acts 11:15, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning.”

What Peter is saying in this verse is essentially that these people, to whom he had started to speak, had had the same intimate and personal experience with God as those in the upper room had had on the day of Pentecost. It was real, and intimate, and personal for these gentiles of whom Peter spoke, as it had been for him.

The Holy Spirit also gives us strength on the path of righteousness, as well as strength in confessing Christ to others.

As Paul writes His first letter to the Corinthians he reminds them of the time he came to them, not as one who was eloquent, not as one who possessed excellence of speech, not as one who used persuasive words of human wisdom but rather in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

The Holy Spirit also gives us strength in our spiritual battles, helps us to understand the Bible more fully, He gives us strength in our trials and tribulations, and fuels our prayers, making intercession for us.

Although time does not permit me to list all the scriptures I would like to go through just a couple more so that we can understand the true value of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and why we as believers need it. Yes, it is a necessity for a believer that desires to live a life of victory, and not just an optional perk.

Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered.”

Do we understand the full weight of this verse? Are we beginning to see how necessary the Holy Spirit is in the life of a believer? The Spirit Himself makes intercession for us, even when we do not know what we should pray for as we ought. This is amazing, and this passage continues and tells us that He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.

So seeing how precious a gift the baptism of the Holy Spirit is, seeing how necessary it is for us as believers, the next question that we must ask is who was it intended for?

Was the baptism of the Holy Spirit only for those who lived in apostolic times? Was the baptism of the Holy Spirit intended only for missionaries, evangelists and pastors? Was it intended only for the privileged class, or for mature Christians?

The answer to all these questions is a resounding no. No, it was not intended only for those who lived in apostolic times since Peter testified that this gift was for those who heard him, for their children, and for those afar off; No, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not just for missionaries, evangelists and pastors since every member in the body of Christ is equally important, and all of us, to the last must war against the enemy; No, the baptism of the Holy Spirit was not intended only for the privileged class, or for mature Christians, because God is not a respecter of persons, and He does not subscribe to the idea of nepotism.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gift of the Holy Spirit is for all those who believe!

John 7:38-39, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”

Who spoke these words? Jesus! What did he promise to those who believe in Him? That out of their hearts will flow rivers of living water. Kind of obscure if the Bible would not have explained further, but it does. It tells us that this He spoke concerning the Spirit whom those believing in Him would receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 14

The second example I want to highlight is that of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. It is no doubt, that Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. The question that remains to be asked is, did he also receive the Holy Spirit upon his conversion?

Biblical answer, no he did not. Paul received the Holy Spirit three days later, through the ministry of Ananias.

Acts 9:17, “And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

There are more examples to be had, but alas time does not permit us to go into them. I do hope that we’ve established this truth, as self-evident by way of scripture, that conversion and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are not one and the same, but rather two very different experiences.

Another misconception that we must dispel, is that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is sanctification. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not sanctification. Yes, sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit and sanctification are two individual works.

Sanctification is a manifestation of the grace of God, which presents itself in two different ways. First, is instant sanctification due to the word of God, and second is progressive sanctification, a process, by which an individual is sanctified.

Now lest you label me a heretic, both of these means of sanctification are found in the Word, and I want to go through a couple of the Bible passages just so that there be no doubt on your part.

It is none other than Jesus who speaks of instant sanctification, as He says the following to His disciples in John 15:3, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”

Jesus did not say that they were in the process of becoming clean, that they would become clean, but rather that they were already clean because of the word which He had spoken to them.

There are also scriptures in the Bible that support progressive sanctification, and I will quickly go through a few just to establish this truth in your heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may our whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”

Hebrews 6:1, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection.”

So in both Thessalonians, and Hebrews, Paul speaks of a progressive sanctification. Whether going on to perfection, or being sanctified completely, both of these terms signify a work in progress, and ongoing process that had not as yet been completed. Whether through instant sanctification, or progressive sanctification, it is God’s choosing how we will be sanctified. The point of it all is that sanctification, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, are not one and the same work.

Yet another misconception about the baptism of the Holy Spirit is that it is somehow a reward. I have heard it often, from different men over the years that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a reward for the years of service one puts in as a disciple of Christ, and that it represents the pinnacle of the Christian experience. Some also share the false misconception that the baptism of the Holy Spirit somehow marks an individual as having achieved a superior state of spirituality. Both of these opinions are untrue, and have no basis in scripture. The word tells us that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the promise of the Father, and Peter, while speaking to a large crowd that had assembled before him states that after being baptized in water, they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said to them, ‘repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter didn’t say that they would have to wait for years, he did not say they would have to prove themselves first, he told those that had been cut to the heart at hearing his words, that they must repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and then they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Within this same passage of scripture, we also see that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was not exclusive to the day of Pentecost as some continue to affirm.

Acts 2:39, “For the promise is to you and to your children and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

So what Peter is saying is that the promise, the gift of the Holy Spirit was not exclusive to that day, or to that generation, but even to their children, and all who are afar off, meaning those many years from now, as many as the Lord God will call. The fact that certain individuals educated beyond their intelligence still continue to deny the actuality of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the work of the Holy Spirit for today never ceases to astound me. All I can say is that just as the sacrifice of Christ Jesus is eternal, able to restore, and reconcile men unto God from generation to generation, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is likewise a perpetual experience.

There is one more misconception I would like to clear up, and that is the affirmation that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a collective experience. Once again, biblically speaking, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not a collective experience but an individual one.

Although there were one hundred and twenty people in the upper room awaiting the promise, although they experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the same time, the tongues as of fire appeared and sat upon each of them individually.

Acts 2:4-5, “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a personal and intimate experience, it is not shared collectively but rather God searches the individual heart, and pours out His Holy Spirit individually.

Oddly enough, it would seem that during the last two posts we dealt with what the Holy Spirit is not, with the misconceptions surrounding the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the varied false doctrines that continue to plague the church. And so, during the next posts we will continue this discussion on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, discover by way of the Word what it is, the purpose and necessity of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, who the baptism of the Holy Spirit is for, the conditions we must meet in order to receive this precious gift, and if we have time, what the evidence and the results of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit are.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fundamental Teachings part 13

“How little chance the Holy Spirit has nowadays. The churches have so bound Him in red tape that they practically ask Him to sit in a corner while they do the work themselves.” – C.T. Studd

It seems in many a church, and many a denomination the Holy Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, are as taboo a topic as, well, the topic of repentance.

Whenever the topic of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is brought up in a church, there is invariably at least one individual who irate and flushed in the face stands up and says

‘God doesn’t do that anymore!’

When asked to prove the veracity of their claim biblically however, they cannot, because contrary to the belief of some, when Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit, He did not say that the Holy Spirit would be with us for a season, or for a limited time, but rather Jesus said that the Helper, the Holy Spirit would abide with us forever.

‘Well if God is still doing it, if the Holy Spirit is still among us, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is still available to the church, then why aren’t we seeing it?’

Truth be known, there are parts in the world, and even churches in America that are seeing the outpouring the Holy Spirit, there are still those experiencing the gifts the Holy Spirit, but quite frankly God will not pour new wine into an old wineskin, and before we can hope to receive this baptism, we must first and foremost make certain that our vessels are clean, that our wineskin is new, and that we are ready to receive that which God would gladly bestow upon us.

So let us begin, as the saying goes at the beginning, and when discussing the advent of the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit there is no better place to begin than the book of acts.

Acts 1:1-8, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, ‘which’, He said, ‘you have heard from Me; For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The book of Acts, or the Acts of the Apostles begins where the gospel according to Luke left off. Both are authored by the same individual, namely Luke, who was a doctor, hired by a wealthy man named Theophilus to investigate Jesus and come to a conclusion. Whether Jesus truly was the Son of God, or the greatest of charlatans, Theophilus wanted to know, and he was willing to pay substantial sums to find out. By hiring Luke, and sending him to investigate Christ, we have two books of the Bible that would otherwise not have been, and throughout his investigative journey, from speaking to those who knew Christ, to traveling with Paul the apostle, Luke came to the conclusion that indeed Jesus is the Son of God, that He died and rose again, and he mentions these truths in the first few lines of the book of acts. He speaks of Christ presenting Himself alive after His sufferings, he speaks of infallible proofs, of Jesus being seen speaking of things pertaining to the kingdom of God for forty days after His resurrection.

Within the first few verses of Acts, He also mentions the fact that Jesus commanded His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, and with the baptism of the Holy Spirit they would also receive power.

The reason I bring up Luke, and the reason he is relevant is that he began his investigation of Christ as an impartial third party. Luke had no vested interest, he had simply been hired by a man to investigate the claims of the one known as Jesus of Nazareth, but his investigation led him to faith in Christ, to repentance and conversion, and Christian history tells us that after preaching the gospel in Dalmatia, Gallia, Italy and Macedonia, he died as a martyr at the age of 74.

So, with that having been said, let us return to the discussion concerning the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. First off, because often times this unique experience is confused with other works of the Holy Spirit, I want to dispel certain misconceptions about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Contrary to popular belief within certain denominations, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not the second work of grace. In fact this expression cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, but even so many continue to assert this fallacy as gospel truth. If we believe that grace manifests itself progressively through more than one work, and that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is merely the second work of grace, why would we not believe that there is a third or a fourth work of grace as well?

What we can believe, because the Bible speaks of this is that there is a continued intensification of grace within a believer, as Peter so eloquently states in 2 Peter 3:18, we ought to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There is yet another expression that is never found within the pages of scripture, yet still makes its rounds among many Christian groups when discussing the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that is the assertion that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the second blessing, or the second outpouring. Once again, I point to the fact that it is not found anywhere in the Bible, yet men continue to teach this strange doctrine.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not sanctification either. It is a separate work, a unique work, and although some say that sanctification is in fact what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is, they are contradicted by scripture itself. Yes, sanctification is a work of the Holy Spirit, but it is by no means the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism with the Holy Spirit is also a separate work than that of being born again. It is a work which the same Holy Spirit of God performs, but it is a unique and distinctively different work than that of being born again, or regenerated. The baptism of the Holy Spirit completes the work of regeneration and sanctification that the Holy Spirit also performs in the hearts of those who have come to Christ.

On resurrection day, Jesus breathed on His disciples, and in John chapter 20 verse 22, the Word tells us he said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ This was to show that regeneration and a new life was given to them. It was the selfsame resurrected Christ, who then tells His disciples that they must tarry in the city of Jerusalem until they would be endued with power from on high.

Luke 24:49, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

So why is this important? What does it mean, and why is it relevant in our discussion of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

It is important because it clearly shows that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was a completely different experience for the Disciples of Christ than that of being born again. First, Christ breathed on His disciples and said, ‘receive the Holy Spirit’ but then He tells His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

I know it may irk some of you, but it is biblically proven that conversion or regeneration, being born again, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or the infilling with power from on high as Jesus stated, are two distinct and unique experiences.

Another thing that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not is conversion. I know, I know, certain scholars and theologians keeps saying that conversion and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit are synonymous, that they are one and the same thing, but once again we return to the Word of God, and let it have the final say.

The aforementioned Word of God, the Bible offers us clear examples that prove beyond a shadow of doubt that conversion and the baptism of the Holy Spirit are two distinct, unique, and different experiences.

The first example of conversion and the baptism of the Holy Spirit being two unique, distinct, and different experiences can be found in the eighth chapter of Acts. Although the Samaritans were converted through the preaching of Phillip, they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit a few days later through the ministry of Peter and John.

Now although the Samaritans believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, although both men and women were baptized, it was only later that they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17, “Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

Just to make this point as clear as possible, although they had been converted, although they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, they had as yet not received the Holy Spirit. Only After Peter and John laid hands on them, did they receive the Holy Spirit. These were individuals who had been converted, who believed, who had repented, who had even baptized, yet the apostles laid hands on them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is received at conversion, a some continue to assert, then why pray tell did Peter and John pray over these individuals, and how is it that they actually received something more, how is it that they received the Holy Spirit?

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fundamental Teachings Part 12

Having covered the generalities of baptism, I want to get into a few specifics, namely the requirements that one must fulfill in order to be baptized into Christ. Yes, there are requirements, there are conditions placed upon every man and woman who desire to make a covenant with God, and the first of these is something we spoke about during this series, and that is repentance. Whenever we begin discussing the elementary principles of Christ, whenever we begin discussing the fundamental teachings or the foundational truths of the faith, repentance always seems to be intertwined within these teachings.

Acts 2:37-38, “Now when they had heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter had just finished preaching a resurrected Christ to a large number of individuals, he had just finished rebuking them, and they were cut to the heart at hearing his words. It was in this brokenness that these men asked Peter what they should do, and it is Peter’s answer that I want to focus on for a while.

Peter didn’t tell them they needed to join a certain denomination, he didn’t tell them they needed to contribute something to his work, Peter didn’t tell them anything other than what John and Christ echoed throughout their ministries, Peter told the men that had been cut to the heart to repent!

The second requirement to being baptized into Christ is to believe. The individual seeking baptism must believe that Jesus is Lord that He is the Son of God, that Hung on a cross, died and rose again, that by His blood we are made clean, and by His stripes we are healed. In order for someone to be baptized, they must have faith in Christ, they must believe as Jesus told His disciples.

Mark 16:15-16, “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

It is he who believes, and is baptized that will be saved, not one who merely hears, not one that acknowledges Christ from a purely intellectual viewpoint, but one who believes in His divinity, and the imputation of His righteousness upon us.

The third requirement to being baptized into Christ is having a good conscience toward God. Before one can be baptized into Christ, before one can be immersed in the water, faith must have already taken place; repentance must have already taken place, because in essence water baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. It is the testimony of the individual that these things have already occurred in his life and heart.

1 Peter 3:21-22, “There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him.”

What Peter is saying, is that in and of itself baptism does not remove the filth of the flesh, but rather the removal of the filth of the flesh must have already occurred before baptism, and as such we are baptized as testimony of a good conscience toward God.

The last requirement is that one be a disciple of Christ. We talked about this during the last posts, and pointed out the fact that Jesus told His hearers to go and make disciples first, then baptize them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit. One must first repent, believe, have a good conscience, and thereby become a disciple of Christ, and only then can they be baptized into Him.

The day one gets baptized is a day they will never forget. It has been well over twenty years since I was baptized and I still remember that day as clearly as when it first happened. I still remember my grandfather in his white robe, beckoning me into the water, I still remember being asked the questions whether I believed that Jesus is the only Son of God, that He died and rose again, that He is the way the truth of the life, and after confessing these things to be true being submerged into the chilly waters of the Pacific ocean.

I also remember having gone through much soul searching before asking to be baptized, the elders of the church asking if I was ready to make a lifelong commitment toward God, and if I had confessed what I felt I needed to confess before I took this step.

Baptism is not to be taken lightly, baptism is not something one does simply to get it over with, but it is a covenant between man and God, an outwardly confession of an inner truth that one has established in their heart.

It is when we take the things of God lightly, when we look upon baptism as just a formality or a tradition that we must keep that our hearts are insincere toward God that our motives and intent are impure, and all we end up doing is taking a bath with our clothes on. We must understand the true meaning of baptism into Christ, the true meaning of being baptized from death into life that we may learn to appreciate and place value on this once in a lifetime experience.

It is a glorious thing to know that once we are baptized, we have made a covenant with God; that all our past is gone for good, and we are pure in His sight.

Now I touched on the topic of infant baptism if ever so briefly, and I know some might take issue with my stance on it, but after researching the Word thoroughly, and after spending much prayer concerning this topic, I felt I needed to discuss it in the light of Scripture.

There are two scripture passages that adherents to infant baptism like to use as defense of this practice, one of them being the tenth chapter of acts, which discusses Cornelius and his household as well as the sixteenth chapter of acts, which details the interaction between the keeper of the prison, and Paul and Silas.

There are many who say that the word household includes infants and children not yet of age, but from what the Bible tells us we can clearly see that this is not true, and that it is in fact a distortion of God’s holy Word.

Acts 10:1-2, “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.”

So what we are told in the book of acts is that Cornelius was a devout man, and his entire household feared God. By these two verses, and the thirty third verse of Acts chapter ten, wherein Cornelius says that they were all present before God, to hear all the things God commanded, we can deduce certain truths. First, all those of Cornelius’s household were old enough to fear God, and second, they were old enough to be present that they might hear and perceive all the things that God commanded.

When the Word tells us that Cornelius’s household was baptized, by the deductions we can readily make from scripture we come to the understanding that all those who were of this household were of age, and able to discern. No babies were present, because babies can neither fear God nor desire to hear and perceive all the things that God commands, they are babies.

When Peter baptized those of Cornelius’s household after they received the Holy Spirit, he baptized able bodied men and women, people of age, who were able to discern.

The same can be said of the Philippian jailer, wherein those of his household were old enough to hear, receive, and believe, then be baptized. I realize it is a popular practice to baptize anyone and everyone, because the more baptisms we have on the rosters, the more conversions we can boast about, but Biblically speaking we can only baptize those who having heard the gospel, who having experienced repentance, who having believed, who having had the confession of a clean conscience, desire to make a covenant with God by baptism.

So why is baptism an important and integral part of our faith, why is it listed among the fundamental teachings, or the elementary principles of Christ? Because since the beginning of the primary church baptism was practiced by those who believed. Beginning with the day of Pentecost, those who believed were baptized, but more importantly because Jesus Himself commanded that men be baptized in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit after having been made disciples.

Baptism is the symbol of death and resurrection. Paul tells us that by baptism we are buried together with Christ, dying to sin, dying to the world, and becoming alive in Him.

Romans 6:4-5, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.”

Baptism into Christ is the symbol of our being united with Him; it is the confession of our faith in Christ. After we have been freed from the bonds of our old life, we are given the power, through Christ, and in Christ to live a new life, and as such baptism makes our union with Christ visible, being the external manifestation of our having entered into the body of Christ.

Contrary to the belief of some, baptism does not save, although there are some passages within the Bible that if viewed superficially can cause one to come to this conclusion. In all the scriptures that would hint at baptism being the means to our salvation, we see the necessary ingredient plainly displayed, that ingredient being faith, and we are continually exhorted that it is by faith that we attain salvation, and not the act of baptism.

Two things are prerequisites to baptism, two things are required not by men, but by the word of God, and there can be no exception, or exemption for anyone, and those two things are repentance, and faith toward God. The repentance and faith I speak of are the selfsame repentance and faith toward God that Paul lists first in his list of the elementary principles of Christ. Yes, baptism into Christ is a crucial component of our Christian walk, but baptism must be preceded by repentance and faith.

Lest we forget the words of Christ, I want to reiterate them once more:

Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Go therefore and make disciples first! Make disciples of all nations! And only after you have made disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.