Similar Problems, Similar Questions, Similar Men, In Similar Circumstances

Uzziah was a very powerful king of Judah; he reigned fifty-two years, the longest reign of any king in Israel. He was raised under the tutelage of Zechariah the prophet. He conquered the Philistines and the Arabians; the Ammonites brought him gifts. He built towers and dug wells and constructed vineyards. He commanded an elite fighting force of 307,500 men. He supported this army with an armory that constructed coats of mail, helmets, shields, bows, spears, and slings. And as the great mathematician Archimedes did for Carthage, Uzziah built for Jerusalem great engines of war–catapults and cranes–to defend the city against attack. Uzziah was of a good heritage, powerful, intelligent, and blessed of God, and he let this go to his head. For although we read from 2 Chronicles 26:3-15 of all these tremendous accomplishments under his hand, we also read in verses 16-21 of his great downfall–his pride.

There was among the priests in Jerusalem a spirit of valiance at this time. The priests respected the authority of God and subsequently the silence of the scriptures. They understood that God’s priests were the only ones authorized to enter into the holy place and worship there and that only Aaron and his sons were to burn the incense. Moreover, they were willing to uphold these ordinances even if the king himself purposed to transgress them. They had read in Exodus 30:7,8 the law of the altar, “And Aaron shall burn thereon sweet incense every morning: when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn incense upon it. And when Aaron lighteth the lamps at even, he shall burn incense upon it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations.” And they knew of the pride that had come against the altar in the days of the rebellious Korah; Numbers 16:39, 40 reminded them: “And Eleazar the priest took the brazen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.”

We have then set before us in the history of Israel an incident with two lessons: one in regard to great pride, the other in regard to great valiance. Solomon in the Proverbs wrote, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). We read in Psalm 10:4, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (We add, as a contrast to this verse, that the humble person will always put God in all of his thoughts!) Pride is listed in Mark 7:22 among the sins that will corrupt the heart from within. “And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man” (Mark 7:20-23).

In contrast to pride, a boldness that exerts itself beyond its abilities, valor, on the other hand, is a boldness that comes as a result of humility; it is a boldness that knows its limits and is content to remain within them; it is boldness for the truth! Jehovah would criticize the Israelites for their lack of valor; he says through Jeremiah, “. . . they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:3). David was considered a valiant man as well as a man after God’s own heart. The latter was, in fact, the secret of his valiance. In 1 Samuel 16:18 we read of this connection: “Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.” David recognized this connection and speaks of it twice in the Psalms, “Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies” (Psalms 60:12; 108:13). The source of true valiance is Jehovah God!

The great contrast between these two attributes is laid forth to us in the sin of King Uzziah. The King’s pride caused him to go beyond that which God had written; the priests valiance caused them to expose and oppose the error. We read, “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honor from the LORD God. Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him” (2 Chronicles 26:16-20). It is important that we realize the difference between pride and valiance. The one seeks self beyond God’s limits; the other seeks God beyond self’s limits. The difference is subtle, but extremely consequential.

As many well know, history has a way of repeating itself. The sin of Uzziah is not unique. Travel with me, if you will, through time from c.750 B.C. to c.1850 A.D. and notice some similarities between King Uzziah and yesteryear’s champion of liberalism, Isaac Errett. Much like king Uzziah, Isaac Errett had a notable background. He was brought up in a strict religious Scottish sect and was taught to respect the “letter of the law.” Elder Robert McLaren eventually baptized him in 1833. He became a printing apprentice and learned to write articles that evinced his remarkable talent in writing. By June 18, 1840, Errett, at only twenty years of age, having been strongly encouraged by the older brethren, was “set apart” as an evangelist by the church as was their custom at that time. Errett was young when he started; he was talented and he was “reared” at the church at Pittsburgh on sermons by men such as Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, and Samuel Church. Errett preached faithfully until he moved to the church in Detroit, Michigan in 1863. It was here that his liberal tendencies began to manifest themselves.

One of the first signs of his pride came when he put a nameplate on his office door which read, “Rev. I. Errett.” He also published what was entitled “A Synopsis of The Faith And Practice of The Church of Christ.” Many brethren felt that what Errett had, in essence done, was establish a creed. Needless to say, these brethren were opposed to Errett’s “Synopsis.” Moreover, Errett established the Christian Standard on April 7, 1866, and it is the conclusion of at least one historian that this periodical was initiated at least in part, to hurt the influence of Ben Franklin and the American Christian Review. J. S. Lamar’s biography of Errett seemed to confirm this in the mind of David Lipscomb; he writes:

In one word, Brother Lamar’s theory as to the origin of the Christian Standard is, that the whole enterprise was projected by the “leading minds among the brotherhood” and that those “leading minds” were “wiser, sweeter, better” than the unlovely and earth-born spirit” which dominated such papers as the American Christian Review, Lard’s Quarterly, and the Gospel Advocate, and inspired such men as Benjamin Franklin, Tolbert Fanning, Moses E. Lard, David Lipscomb, E. G. Sewell, and Phillip S. Fall. Such is Brother Lamar’s theory.[1]

Errett not only used his influence to undermine these men, but also advanced an agenda of “progressive” thought that would eventually result in the ultimate 1906 division between the churches of Christ and the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. In regard to the mechanical instrument of music in an article entitled, “Instrumental Music in Our Churches,” he said:

“Before proceeding to give our reasons against instrumental music in public worship, we desire to elaborate more fully that thought presented in our last article on the subject, namely, that the real difference among us is a difference of opinion as to the expediency of instrumental music in public worship, and therefore, it is wrong to make this difference a test of fellowship, on one hand, or an occasion of stumbling on the other.”[2]

Franklin, Lard, and others were not long in challenging Errett’s characterization of the instrument arguing that in no way could the use of the instrument be opinion or an expedient because it was not aboriginally authorized. This division continues today.

There is one more area of interest that we would like to notice in relationship to Errett’s “progressive” spirit. This regards the question of whether or not there are true Christians in the denominations. In the month of August 1861, Errett responded to a query from R. Hawley; the subject as recorded in the Millennial Harbinger was “Communion with the ‘Sects.'” Errett’s key point lies in the third and fourth points of his letter. We reproduce the letter in full for your consideration:

Muir, Mich., August 20, 1861.

Dear Bro. Hawley:–Yours of the 15th is to hand, and deserves a much more complete reply than I at present can give it. it is a hurrying time, and I can only take a few minutes to answer your inquiries. As to the admission of unimmersed persons to the Lord’s Table our view is,

1. That in primitive times there is no doubt that all who came to the Lord’s table, as well as all who participated in prayer, singing, &c., were immersed believers: and we are trying to bring back that state of things.

2. But the corruptions of Popery, out of which the church has not yet half recovered, have made the people of God an erring, scattered and divided people.

3. We are pleading for further reformation: our plea proceeds on the integrity of previous pleas–it is a plea for the re-union of the scattered people of God. It does not recognize sects, on human bases, as divine–but it recognizes a people of God among these sects, and seeks to call them out.

4. We are compelled, therefore, to recognize as Christians many who have been in error on baptism, but who in the spirit of obedience are Christians indeed. (See Romans2.28,29.) I confess, for my own part, did I understand the position of the brethren to deny this, I would recoil from my position among them with utter disgust. It will never do to unchristianize those on whose shoulders we are standing, and because of whose previous labors we are enabled to see some truths more clearly than they. Yet, while fully according to them the piety and Christian standing which they deserve, it is clear that they are in great error on the question of baptism–and we must be careful not to compromise the truth. Our practice, therefore is neither to invite nor reject particular classes of persons, but to spread the table in the name of the Lord, for the Lord’s people, and allow all to come who will, each on his own responsibility. It is very common for Methodists, Presbyterians, &c, to sit down with us. We do not fail to teach them on all these questions, and very often we immerse them.

As to our practice generally, my impression is, that fully two-thirds of our churches in the United States occupy this position; those churches which originally were Baptists, are rather more unyielding.

For myself, while fully devoted to our plea, I have no wish to limit and fetter my sympathies and affections to our own people.

Truly your Bro.,

Isaac Errett.[3]

Although Errett is addressing the question of open communion, he candidly makes assertions concerning the existence of bonifide Christians in the “sects.” Such would seem to invalidate the need to teach them concerning the true way of Baptism if they were truly Christians. What need would they have for the forgiveness of their sins? They are Christians, and a Christian is one who has had his sins forgiven. Baptism becomes ineffectual, non-productive, and impotent. It does not have the power that it was designed to have–to bring men into contact with the blood of the cross and wash man’s sins away. His arguments that we cannot reject those upon whom we stand fall short for he has indicated in point two that Catholicism does not contain any Christians, yet the church “stands” upon some of the work that institution did, even as corrupt as it was. We are compelled to ask, “Are men made Christians because they support, at least in regard to the plan of salvation, some truth? Or is it the whole plan that makes a person a Christian?” Many today, which assert similar influences as Errett, must answer these questions. It is in this spirit then, that we come to our own time and see similar problems and ask similar questions from similar men in similar circumstances as was King Uzziah, and Isaac Errett.

We have in mind a certain fellow, who, like King Uzziah and Isaac Errett, took it upon himself to impose his opinions upon God’s authority. And, the similarities are striking indeed when we compare the background, actions and writings of this individual to those who have gone before whether it is in history sacred or profane. We begin, as we did with the other two, with the gentleman’s background. He was a promising youth, or so we are told, both eloquent and mighty in the scriptures. His articles were of tremendous value in defense of the truth and are still occasionally used to show the extent of his departure. No doubt, like King Uzziah and Isaac Errett, his education and background resulted in his undoing. For when he was “strong” he was overcome with pride and sought to do that which was beyond the boundaries of God’s authority. And so, men rose up–valiant men–men who themselves were accused of being prideful as were David Lipscomb, Moses E. Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Azariah and his priests. “Who are you,” asks Uzziah, Errett, and our modern day friend, “to challenge the will of the king.” “You are a lowly priest;” or “you are a dogmatic sectarian;” or “you do not have a PhD.” Such is the ad hominem arguments wielded against those who would confront error with truth.

Our modern day friend follows Errett in another matter. He has started in recent years a new publication that has the goal of bringing about “change” in the churches of Christ. And much like Errett’s paper which attacked and belittled faithful brethren such as Moses E. Lard, David Lipscomb, and Benjamin Franklin, this publication, by and large, attacks faithful brethren today who are endeavoring to hold to the pattern of sound doctrine as did their spiritual ancestors before them. In fact, the paper ridicules the idea that the New Testament is a Pattern for Christian theology today; it holds up to scorn the very plan of salvation; it mocks the church–the beautiful bride of Christ–as some sort of freak in today’s modern world; and it holds up for ridicule the precious mother of Jesus Christ our Lord as a woman of questionable reputation.

Moreover, our modern day friend’s words are very similar to those of yesteryear’s Isaac Errett. Please read them carefully, and compare them to what was written just a little over 100 years ago. Concerning instrumental music as a test of fellowship he writes:

I don’t draw the line at the instrument. I don’t think the Lord died over that. I’m not going to make that a test of fellowship with you in Christ . . . I don’t want to be divisive over it. I refuse to be divisive over it. If I were in a congregation where the will of that congregation, the decision of the elders, was that the instrument was going to be used next week, I wouldn’t mount the pulpit and condemn them and divide the church. I’d have a conscience question whether I could stay and worship with that church, but I would not stand up and say, “Let the faithful of God step across the line and stand with me.”[4]

Here, Errett and our friend are right in line. Errett did not make the instrument a test of fellowship to the chagrin of Lipscomb, Lard, Franklin and others, and so also, our friend does not make the instrument a test of fellowship to the chagrin of many faithful brethren today. The red letter question is, of course, is the instrument an innovation or isn’t it? If it is, then its insertion is no less a sin than the innovation of King Uzziah’s offering of incense in the temple and is sin and must be dealt with accordingly by severing fellowship with those who continue to insert such innovations into God’s worship. If our friend can prove otherwise–that the instrument is not an innovation in the worship–then we will be happy to join hands with him in fellowship and have no conscientious problems with the instrument–for having proven that it is not an innovation, it must of necessity be that which God has included in his worship. The challenge stands before him, just as it did in the days of yesteryear.

Concerning whether or not there are bonifide Christians in the denominations he writes:

Surely there are individuals in practically all the denominations known today who’ve learned of Jesus, looked to him in sincere faith, turned away from their conscience rebellion against his will and embraced him as savior through immersion in his name. And their unfortunate entanglement in some denominational error or some other in no way alters the fact that they are Christians.

There are sincere, knowledgeable, devout Christians scattered among all the various denominations. Yet, they are separated from one another by credal formulations, human names, cumbersome organization structures.

Our friend does not make the same mistakes as Errett does in regard to baptism. He claims it is required before one can become a Christian. Errett did not necessarily make this claim. However, he does claim that there are Christians, sincere Christians, knowledgeable Christians, devout Christians, scattered among the denominations. However, if they are so devout, then why have they not realized that denominational Christianity is inherently divisive and therefore contrary to the Lord’s will as found in 1 Corinthians1:10? If they are so knowledgeable then why do they fail to realize that efficacious baptism is only based upon a realization that one is in sin and needs the blood of Christ to remove those sins (Ephesians1:7); that baptism is the way in which he comes into contact with the blood of Christ; that the blood of Christ purchased the church of Christ; and that when one comes in contact with that blood he is added to the church of Christ? (And if he can find a knowledgeable person who believes these things in a denomination, then I will show him an apostate–one who refuses to come out of sectarian fellowship.) If they are so sincere, then how can they live with their own consciences knowing that they are continuing in vain worship so long as they are remaining amongst the denominations? In fact, the very notion of sincere, devout, and knowledgeable Christians who are abiding in denominations is antithetical to the pleas of Christ in John 17 concerning true Christian unity–“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20, 21). Our friend–Rubel Shelly–is no different than King Uzziah, or Isaac Errett.

Often times, liberals will accuse conservatives of pride because they dare to hold a liberal against the standard of truth. On the contrary, it is liberal’s such as Errett and Shelly who displays the kind of pride that King Uzziah displayed, for they seek to go beyond the limits which God has set. And when valiant individuals point out the truth to them, they confuse the valiance for pride. When one stands up for the truth in defense of God’s word, let it never be said that that person is prideful; however, those who raise their heads against that which God has bound will ultimately fall because they have gone beyond God’s limits in search of self gratification–the epitome of pride!


[1]David Lipscomb,”Concerning the Width and Sweetness of Things,” Gospel Advocate, Vol.XXXIV, No.24 (June 16, 1892), p.370.

[2]Isaac Errett, “Instrumental Music in Our Churches, ” Christian Standard, Vol. V. No. 20 (May 14, 1870), p.156.

[3]Isaac Errett, “Letter from I Errett,” Millennial Harbinger, Fifth Series Vol.IV, No.12 (December, 1861) p 711.

[4]Behold the Pattern, pg. 279

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Should We Use Instrumental Music in Worship?

Yes! In fact, we have a divine obligation to use instrumental music in worship! Perhaps you are wondering at this point if this writer is the same Kevin Cauley who preaches for the Berryville church of Christ in Berryville, Arkansas. You know, the church that doesn’t believe in “instrumental music.” Well, it is the same one. Some of you have probably already caught on as to what is coming in the article. To the rest I say, read on dear friend!

Many people today use pianos, guitars, and other similar instruments in their worship. This is NOT the kind of instrument of which I am speaking. But the Bible does teach us to use an instrument to accompany our singing in worship to God. In Ephesians 5:19 we read, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Notice the phrase “in your heart” in this passage. The instrument upon which God expects the Christian to “play” is the heart. Colossians 3:16 states this principle in similar words, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” In both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 instrumental accompaniment is commanded. Singing is to be accompanied with a specific instrument-the heart. Please note that when God specifies something, we must respect God’s instructions. Let’s look at several Bible examples that illustrate this principle.

One great example where God specifies the use of a particular item is Noah and the ark. If we look back at Genesis 6:14, God tells Noah, “Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.” We don’t know what gopher wood was, but Noah knew! God specified this type of wood for a reason and Noah was expected to respect God’s specific instructions in that regard. In Genesis 6:22, “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.” Noah built the ark out of gopher wood because God told him to do it that way and was saved from the flood.

Another great example is found in Exodus 12, where God gives Moses specific instructions for how to avoid the tenth plague-the death of the firstborn. Part of the instructions were to kill a lamb, take the blood and put it on the doorposts and lintel with a bunch of hyssop twigs (Exodus 12:7, 22). The Bible says that when God saw the blood, He would pass over the house and spare the firstborn. God specified a lamb’s blood. Those who followed God’s specific instructions were spared the life of their firstborn. Those who used anything but the blood of a lamb lost their firstborn that night.

We read of a man named Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5. Naaman had leprosy, a deadly disease, but through the prophet Elisha, God gave Naaman the opportunity to be healed. God gave Naaman a specific condition. Naaman had to immerse himself in the Jordan river seven times. Naaman was angry because he didn’t want to get into that nasty, muddy, dirty Jordan River, but God had specified THAT river. Naaman wanted to go back to his homeland and immerse himself in one of the rivers of Damascas. He said, “Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel” Could I not wash in them and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage? (2 Kings 5:12). But those rivers could not have cleansed him. Only after washing seven times in the Jordan did Naaman’s leprosy go away.

As a last example, many in the religious world today observe the Lord’s supper. Paul tells us that this holy meal is to be observed in remembrance of the death of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24). Both Jesus body and His blood are represented in this supper. No doubt everyone in the religious world who observes the Lord’s supper can tell you the elements used within it. These elements are the bread and the fruit of the vine. These things were specifically mentioned by Jesus as items that were to be used to in this supper (Matthew 26:26-29). Now ask one who observes this religious practice if Jesus would be happy if we substituted a McDonald’s hamburger for the bread and Coca Cola for the fruit of the vine. The predominant response you would receive would be, “Of course not. Jesus said to use bread and fruit of the vine and that settles that.” To which we reply, Amen.

In each of these Bible examples God specified something and those who wanted to receive the blessings of God were expected to do as God had specified. Noah was to build the ark of gopher wood because that was what God specified. Moses was to use the blood of a lamb because that was what God specified. Naaman was to immerse himself seven times in the Jordan river because that is what God specified. Christians are expected to partake of the bread and fruit of the vine in the Lord’s supper because that is what God specifies. In each of these instances to abandon, substitute, or add something different for what God specified would have lead to disaster. Noah’s ark would have sunk. Moses would have lost his firstborn son. Naaman would have died of leprosy. Christians would have observed “in an unworthy manner” (1 Corinthians 11:29). The principle in each of these examples is the same. When God specifies how He wants something done, we must do it the way God says to do it without deletion, substitution, or addition.

Let me refine my question in the title of this article. What instrument should the Christian use to worship God in song? The heart-God has specified the heart as the instrument the Christian is to accompany song in worship to Him. If we delete the heart, substitute some other instrument for the heart or add some other instrument to the heart, then we worship in vain. Should we accompany our worship to God in song with any other instrument of music than the heart? No, we should not. To do such would be to abandon the blessings that God says we have through worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Our worship to God must be done as God has specified. To worship God in any other way than the way God has specified is to place our own righteousness above the righteousness of God. Let us humbly submit to God’s will in our songs of worship.

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“Puttin’ on the Ritz”

Perhaps you have heard the old song in the title of this article. Some of the lyrics of the song state:

If you’re blue and you don’t know
where to go to why don’t you go
where fashion sits
Puttin’ on the Ritz
Different types who wear a day
coat pants with stripes and cutaway
coat perfect fits
Puttin’ on the Ritz
Dressed up like a million-dollar trooper
Tryin’ hard to look like Gary Cooper (super duper)
Come let’s mix where Rockefellers
walk with sticks or um-ber-ellas
in their mitts
Puttin’ on the Ritz

The emphasis of this song is to have on the right clothes so that you can fit in with the right crowd. The crowd, in the song, is the high-fashion crowd. The clothes are high fashion clothes. The word “Ritz” symbolizes riches and high fashion. And when one wears such garments, the song states, one may chase away the blues.

The Bible speaks concerning wearing the right clothes and when we wear these clothes, we chase away the darkness. In Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus tells a parable of a wedding feast. In the parable, the king calls his servants to invite others to come to the wedding feast. But those who are invited do not come. The king then sends his servants into the highways and byways to invite others, both good and bad, to come to the wedding feast. When the feast was furnished with guests, the king comes in and finds one of the guests without a wedding garment. The one without the garment is bound hand and foot and cast into outer darkness. This individual did not have the right clothes and was summarily cast out.

In understanding this parable, we should note that Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is likened unto this situation. Today there are many who need the gospel and Jesus commands his servants to go out into the highways and byways and invite all that are there both good and bad to come into the kingdom. This is the period of time in which we live right now. The day will come, however, when the King will return. And when He returns, He will judge. It is important that we be prepared for that day. How do we prepare? We must make sure that we are adorned with the appropriate wedding garments. Let’s notice a few things about doing just that, that is, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” of Christ.

Those who “put on the Ritz” don’t go out naked! They realize that they must put on their clothes. In Romans 13:14 we read, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” To be separated from the world, we must put on the clothing which is Christ! Without Christ, we are naked. Without Christ we are old and decrepit. But with Christ we are robed in righteousness and our sins have been covered. Ephesians 4:24 says, “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Colossians 3:10 says, “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” The new man has been created in righteousness and true holiness. The new man has been renewed in knowledge after Christ’s image. The new man has been robed in Christ–has put on Christ!

Those who “put on the Ritz” don’t go out with the wrong clothing. They realize that to be recognized as having “put on the Ritz” they must be clothed with the right clothing. The Bible teaches that those who are saved will wear God’s garments–not man’s. In Isaiah 61:10, we read, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” In this prophecy of the Messiah and His people, we read that the people of God would be clothed with garments. These garments are described in this passage as garments of salvation, and robes of righteousness. These are the garments that God gives to His people. To wear some garment other than the one which God gives is to robe ourselves in a righteousness of our own and that won’t save (Romans 10:3). In order to remain at the wedding feast when the king comes, we must be wearing the garments He has given us.

Those who “put on the ritz” take care not to dirty up their garments so as to appear shoddy and shabby. The Bible teaches that after we have been clothed in the proper garments, we must keep them pure. We read in Revelation 3:4 “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” This passage teaches there were some who had defiled their garments. This we ought not to do, but should keep our garments pure. Notice Revelation 16:15 “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” Failure to watch and keep our garments results in nakedness and one will not see heaven in such a spiritually clothed state.

The question that needs to be asked now is this: Have you put on the wedding garments? Are you robed in righteousness? Have you put on the new man? Have you been created in righteousness and true holiness? Are you renewed in knowledge after Christ’s image? Do you want to remain at the wedding feast? “But,” you say, “how can I know if I have put on the garments of Christ?” The scriptures give us the answer. Galatians 3:27 says, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” When we are baptized, we put on Christ. We robe ourselves in his righteousness which comes from understanding and obeying his word (Romans 1:16, 17). When we obey His word, we are assured that we have not substituted a righteousness of our own. We put on the new man by putting to death the old man of sin, burying that old man in a watery grave, and being raised up as a new man in Christ (Romans 6:3-11). Christian baptism is the point at which we bury the old man and make alive the new. It is the point at which we are robed in Christ’s righteousness through his word. It is the point at which we put on the wedding garments. Christian baptism is the point at which we put on Christ. If you believe that you put on Christ before baptism, then you put on the wrong garment. You need to take that one off and put the right one on. There is only one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). There is only one garment to wear for the wedding feast. Will you be wearing it when the King returns? Have you “Put on the Ritz” of Christ, today.

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Purity of Purpose

It is clear from the scriptures that in order for one to be saved, one must be baptized (Mark 16:16). Since the word “baptize” is a transliteration from the Greek word “baptizo” the significance of the word is lost to us in the English language. So it is within the context of how the word “baptize” is used that we come to the conclusion that baptism must be immersion. Specifically in Romans 6:1-11, where we are taught that baptism is in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. To be buried, one must be completely immersed in the burial material, water. For one to be baptized in a way that is not burial (such as pouring or sprinkling) would not be a fulfillment of the requirement to be buried. To this, most members of the Lord’s body would agree. However, when it comes to the stated purpose for which one is baptized, many accept the idea that as long as the candidate is submersed, then they are saved, regardless of their state of mind. With this idea, many say that although one may not believe that baptism is necessary for remission of sins, if one is immersed God will forgive those sins regardless of the individual’s belief regarding baptism itself. Is this a correct understanding of the scriptures? Let’s examine the question in light of the plan of salvation. The Bible teaches that for a person to come into a state of salvation, one must: (1) hear the gospel message (Romans 10:17), (2) believe it (John 3:16), (3) repent of ones sins (Acts 17:30), (4) confess the name of Christ (Matthew 10:32) and (5) be baptized (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). Each of these steps involves purity of purpose. Let’s look at some scriptures that indicate this.

When we look at the step of hearing the gospel, we recognize that not any hearing will suffice. It takes more than just letting the word go in one ear and out the other in order for a person to respond. Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-27 that the person who hears and acts upon what he hears is like a wise man, but that the person who hears and does not act upon what he hears is like a foolish man. In other words, not only must we hear the gospel message, but also we must hear it in a certain way, with a specific purpose. We must hear the gospel with the view that we are going to act upon it i.e., obey it. So when one hears the gospel, one must hear it with the purpose in mind of obeying what one hears otherwise, hearing the gospel is useless.

When we look at the step of believing the gospel, we recognize that purity of purpose must be involved here as well. It is not sufficient to believe just anything, but we must believe the message of the Gospel. Moreover, we must not have ulterior motives for believing the gospel. One cannot believe something with the purpose in mind of simply making another person happy. One must believe with a view of salvation in mind. There are certain things that a person must believe in order to be saved and there is the proper motive for believing those things. Romans 10:10 states that with the heart man believes unto righteousness. The heart must be pure in order to believe the gospel. The purpose must be understood, otherwise the feigned faith is useless.

When we look at the step of repentance, the Bible is clear that it is more than merely being sorry. In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we read, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” It is not sufficient to merely be sorry for one’s sins. The purpose of repentance is more than mere sorrow. The purpose of repentance is to stop doing the sinful things that one once did and to reform the pattern of one’s life after righteousness (Acts 26:20). So repentance must be with the proper attitude and correct purpose or else it is no repentance at all. Again, the purpose must be understood for one to be saved.

One’s confession as well must be pure. Does saying the words, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” regardless of one’s attitude fulfill the requirement of confession? No. An atheist can say the words, but that does not make him a Christian. The words in and of themselves contain no “magic” formula that works salvation upon an individual. These words must come from the heart; they must be meant. Again, Romans 10:10 says that with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. That presupposes that one has already believed. Confession must be done with purity of purpose and that purpose must be understood for one to be saved.

Now we get to the step of baptism. Should we conclude anything different regarding this particular step of salvation? Should we conclude that in all the other steps one’s motive and purpose must be pure, but that when it comes to baptism that we do not have to have a pure motive and purpose? There is nothing magic in the waters of baptism. The water is just water. So dunking a person under the water just for the sake of dunking someone under the water is not going to cut it. If the proper motive and purpose is not present, it is meaningless just like all the other steps of salvation. If a person is not baptized for the proper motives and purposes, he is just getting wet. The Bible clearly teaches that the purpose of baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16).

At this point many will ask, “What if a person is being baptized to obey God, but does not understand that baptism is for the remission of sins.” Well, would God allow the other steps of salvation to be “obeyed” without an understanding of their purposes? Clearly God would not. He expects us to hear, believe, repent, and confess with a proper understanding of what these things involve when we do them as illustrated above. Why should we think that baptism is any different and why should we think that a person can “obey God” without a proper understanding of baptism? Would God accept an atheist who says the words “I believe Jesus is the Son of God” when he doesn’t really mean them? No, because confession is not a magic formula, it is based upon faith. So also immersion is not a “magic formula” with intrinsic value, it is based upon faith.

The Bible teaches that when a person is baptized, they must believe that baptism is for the remission of their sins–that is the act of faith in baptism. Colossians 2:12 says, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Without that act of faith involved in baptism, one is merely getting wet. If a person is just baptized “to obey God” what is the act of faith? Wherein are you putting your trust when you are baptized “to obey God?” Someone says, “I am putting my trust in God.” Great! So what are you putting your trust in God to do? When faith trusts God, it trusts God to do something (Romans 4:20-22; Hebrews 11). Baptism doesn’t need to show that one merely believes God; confession accomplishes that! Baptism is not just a restatement of one’s confession. It is more than that. Notice what Peter says on the matter of baptism. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Notice what is said in this passage. (1) Baptism saves us. (2) Baptism is not merely taking a bath. (3) Baptism is the response to God of a good conscience. (4) Baptism saves by the resurrection of Jesus. Notice item number (3). When we are baptized, we have to have a good conscience about it–we must do it with the right purposes in mind. The good conscience when taught properly is going to understand that baptism is necessary for salvation and is going to motivate the individual to take the appropriate action. To say that one can be baptized correctly without understanding the purpose of baptism denies the role of the conscience in baptism.

Many have asked me the question: “Can you be taught wrong and baptized right?” In response, I ask, “Can you be taught wrong and hear right?” “Can you be taught wrong and believe right?” “Can you be taught wrong and repent right?” “Can you be taught wrong and confess right?” If we cannot do these things, then what makes us think that we can be taught wrong and baptized right? The bottom line is that God has clearly identified the purity of purpose for baptism. There is no reason for someone not to know what the purpose of baptism is when they are baptized and if they are not following the purposes that God has clearly set forth, they are just getting wet.

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Please, O Please, Hear the Word of the Lord!

“O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD” is the great proclamation of Jeremiah (22:29). When we look on all the problems that the world faces today. Whether we should wage war against one country or another; whether we should spend money on this program or that; whether an individual will stop drinking and reform his life. We shout from the rooftops with Jeremiah “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD!” Herein lies the solution to all of earth’s problems regardless of how great or small the problem may be. Do we truly listen to the word of the Lord? Do we truly read it for what it is worth and bow ourselves in obeisance to it? Therein lies the greatest problem for all mankind-the attitude of not listening to God’s word. And listening implies obedience from God’s standpoint. If one has not obeyed, one has not truly listened. “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD!”

I remember as a high school student being asked the question, “If you were granted one wish, what would it be?” Those who wished for “world peace” were always the ones who stood out as seeming wiser than others. However, I now know exactly what to wish for. My wish would be for the world to listen to God’s word and obey it. What a simple, but profound solution to all the problems of mankind whether big or small. In truth, there is only one problem that is truly a problem-the refusal of man to heed the word of God. “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD!”

Does not God look down upon this earth as an experienced father would look at his teenage children and say, “If they would only listen to me, I would be able to help them?” But in rebellion and stubbornness, we refuse to listen. Would that every man would take up God’s challenge to them as found in Malachi 3:10, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Go ahead and take up God’s challenge. Hear his word and obey it and see if he won’t bless you! Don’t you believe that every good father who has ever had teenage children wants them to understand this-that life for them would be so much easier if they would just listen! This is the message that God has for us as His creation. “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD!”

We sing the children’s song, “The wise man built his house upon a rock.” Do we listen to the very song we teach our children? Jesus said, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. . .” (Matthew 7:24). The wise man listens to Jesus and acts upon what he hears. Who does Jesus define as the foolish man? “And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand. . .” (Matthew 7:26). Wise or foolish–the choice stands before us today. “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD!”

“O, Earth, Earth, Earth . . .”

Are you with sorrows bent down low?

Do you have troubles that plague you so?

Would you have worries and cares be gone?

Do you, for peace, wait all the day long?

Listen, dear one, to the message sublime.

Incline your ear to the word Divine.

Does sickness knock each day at dawn?

Do friends forsake and are loved ones gone?

Can you turn with ease upon your bed?

Or does each movement fill with dread?

Hearken, sweet friend, to the One from Above.

Hear the blessed word of God.

Does money get you feeling low?

Do you wonder each day where it goes?

Can you find a dime to spare at noon?

Do you feel that all you do is swoon?

Haste to hear the voice so sweet.

God’s word, will your problems meet.

Has someone near and dear passed on?

Does life remove the faintest song?

What troubled cares arise within?

What distant memories wear your soul thin?

Turn to Him in such distress.

Let His words your soul caress.

What great problem can arise?

What great difficulty surmise?

What awful hurtful things may come?

What tearful soulless evil haunt?

Be it pain, peril, death or sword,

“O earth, earth, earth hear the WORD of the LORD!”

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