The Simple Truth of Mark 16:16

When it comes to the question of whether baptism is prerequisite for salvation, Mark 16:15, 16 stands out as a clear beacon in contrast to the fog of the doctrines and teachings of men today. The words of Jesus as recorded by inspiration of the Holy Spirit in this passage ring clear and true among the cacophony of sounds heard within the religious world today. Jesus says, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”NKJV

From an honest inspection of this passage, one will come to the conclusion that Jesus expected his disciples to preach that those lost in sin could not be saved until after they were baptized. Two prerequisites are mentioned in this text: believing, and baptism. They are joined together by the conjunction “and” indicating that both are required to lead to the predicate of the sentence, “will be saved.” The language is simple and clear. When used with any other statement of English, the meaning is plain. If I were to advertise in the paper, “He who memorizes and sings the Star Spangled Banner will receive $1,000,000.00,” there would be people waiting by my front door the next morning expecting to be paid. If you were to cash a check at the bank, the clerk would tell you to “write out the check and sign it and you will receive your cash.” No one misunderstands that. In each sentence, two things are required to receive the desired results. In the first, it is 1) memorization, and 2) singing. In the second, it is 1) writing the check, and 2) signing it. So also is it with Jesus statement. He who would be saved must 1) believe, and 2) be baptized. There is just no other way around it.

This simply phrasing of words so clearly exposes many who teach otherwise today. Notice how the order of these words changes under a different teaching of salvation. Those who believe that one is saved before baptism but after faith (i.e. faith only) would have Jesus say, “He who believes will be saved, and then may be baptized.” But this is clearly not what Jesus says. Those who believe that infants are saved through baptism would have Jesus say, “He who is baptized will be saved, and then may believe.” Again, this is not what Jesus plainly said. And then those who hold that all will be saved regardless of either would have Jesus say, “He who is saved, may believe and be baptized.” In each of these cases, the order of Jesus original statement has been modified to support a particular view of salvation. There is only one view that fits the passage. That is that the person who believes, and then based upon that faith, is baptized, will after the point of baptism, be saved. There is just no getting around the truth of this passage.

Perhaps the most common objection to such clear and simple language is the next statement that Jesus makes: “but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Many say, “But Jesus didn’t say that if you were not baptized you would be condemned.” And yes, strictly speaking, Jesus did not say those particular words. But let’s look at the validity of this argument. Using the same examples above, let’s suppose a person comes to my house with a piece of paper with the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner written out and sings the song from those lyrics. Would he receive the $1,000,000.00? Of course he wouldn’t. He did not memorize the song and that was one of the requirements. Must one fail in both requirements to fail in the whole? No. One needs only to fail in one requirement to miss out on the whole. Supposing I go to the bank and make out the check, but fail to sign it, will the cashier give me my cash? She will say, “Please sign the check.” But in protest I say, “But the check is made out. The amount is there.” Such would be to no avail, because it must both be made out and signed to get the cash. Why would Jesus need to deny both? He only needs to deny one to show that someone will be condemned. Why, do you suppose, did Jesus say that the person who does not believe would be condemned? For this simple reason, if a person doesn’t believe, they certainly are not going to be baptized. In fact, the Bible teaches exactly this, that one who refuses to be baptized is really one who refuses to believe. Luke 7:29, 30 says the following about those who refused John’s baptism. “And when all the people heard him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.” Refusing John’s baptism is equated to refusing the counsel of God. Why should we not understand that refusing Jesus baptism would be considered by Jesus to be of similar consequence?

There are also those who try to suggest that Mark 16:9-20 was not part of the Bible. Many newer versions have placed a footnote or marginal reading that says that these verses are not found in the some oldest manuscripts of the New Testament. And such is true. Two of the oldest manuscripts do not have these verses. However, in one of these manuscripts is a blank space large enough to fit these verses. Also within that same one, the book of Revelation is missing. Would we deny that the book of Revelation is of God? The same reasoning would have us do so. There are, however, many ancient manuscripts that do include this text and many ancient translations as well. However, the bottom line is that when all is said and done, those verses are still selected by the translators to be part of the text of their version. Yes, they make a footnote, but when it comes to placing the words in the text, they are there. Why is that? It is because the translators recognize the authority of those verses. There may be a question as to whether they were written by the penman Mark, but as to their authority and inspiration, there is no doubt; the verses are in the Bible and so they appear in your Bible as well.

Sadly, there will be many people on the day of judgment who stand before Christ having confessed him as Lord (Matthew 7:21-23), but having failed to do the will of the Father in understanding and respecting this very simple verse, Mark 16:16. Will you be one of those people? If your heart is tender toward the will of God within the gospel of Christ, you will come to the plain and simple understanding of this verse. Jesus could not have made it any plainer than this. Won’t you be believe and be baptized to receive salvation today?

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The Truth About Men

Perhaps some of you have heard the recent country song by Tracy Byrd titled, “The Truth About Men.” The song claims to speak for all men and touts several aspects of the male gender such as eating potato chips, watching football, looking at the tools at Home Depot, hunting, golfing, playing guitars, watching action movies, working on cars, etc. However, the song also depicts men as being beer guzzling fools, lying, cheating, cussing, and sex-crazed. As a man myself, I personally am offended by this song. I do not guzzle beer; I do not lie; I do not cheat; I do not cuss; I am not sex-crazed. However, the thing about this song that offends me the most is the statement, “We ain’t wrong; we ain’t sorry, and it’s probably gonna happen again.” This statement lies at the heart of what it means to be a sinner–impenitence.

“We ain’t wrong.”

Today, many readily admit that they are in sin and commit sin on a daily basis. The song testifies in its own behalf in this regard. However, the real problem lies in the fact that many do not recognize the wrongness of sin, as stated in this song’s lyrics, “We ain’t wrong.” This is the bigger issue–that is, convincing me that I am wrong in my sin. The fact of the matter is, that if we love sin, then we are wrong (period). We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”ESV Those who take pleasure in unrighteousness (i.e. those who fail to admit its wrongness) will be condemned for not believing the truth. We need to recognize the sinfulness of sin (Romans 7:13)! Real men recognize the sinfulness of sin and will admit its wrongness.

“We ain’t sorry.”

The song also touts an additional element of impenitence in society today–sorrow. One may get a person to admit the wrongness of their sin, but then he or she may not be sorry for it. That is, they may think that being wrong is no big deal and hence, why should I be sorry for something even though I am wrong? The Bible teaches that we ought to be sorry for our sins. Psalm 38:18 says, “For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.”KJV Sin separates man from God (Isaiah 59:2). That is truly something for which to be sorry. Sin is also what put Jesus on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:3). That is also something for which to be sorry. When we fail to be sorry for our sins, we fail to recognize our tremendous failure in our relationship with God. When we fail to be sorry for our sins, we fail to recognize the price that God had to pay to bring us back into a right relationship with him. Real men are sorry for sin!

“And it’s probably gonna’ happen again.”

We see yet a third opponent to repentance–the unwillingness on the part of the sinner to change. One may admit that sin is wrong; one may even be sorry for it, but then when it comes down to it, one may simply continue to practice the sin that one is in. As the song states, “And it’s probably gonna’ happen again.” The Bible, however, teaches that once one has repented of sin, one should not continue within it. The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”KJV Those who have repented of sin should stop committing sin. The apostle Paul’s words regarding this aspect of repentance are recorded for us in Acts 26:20. He says that he preached to all “that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance.”ASV So many simply wish to acknowledge wrong, say they are sorry, then engage in the same sin in which they were formerly involved. This is not the way of the gospel. Those who repent must do works worthy of repentance. Real men stop committing sin and do works worthy of repentance.

Repentance is not some trivial matter that makes for amusing song lyrics. It is something upon which our very salvation depends. It is critical that we recognize what repentance is and that we implement it in our life. When we recognize the sinfulness of sin, are sorry for it, and make the commitment not to let it live in our life any more, then we have experienced what the Bible describes as repentance. Notice 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10 “Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”KJV Godly sorrow, the recognition of sin and proper remorse for it, brings repentance that leads to salvation to our lives. For many today, true repentance stands between them and heaven. God does not want any to perish, but one must repent to avoid eternal condemnation (2 Peter 3:9). The truth about men may be the truth about sinful men, but it is not the truth about those who want to be eternally saved in heaven with God. If you would be a REAL MAN, a NEW MAN (Colossians 3:10), let repentance live in your life, and that’s the truth about men.

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The Sin of Fornication

It was not too many years ago after graduating from college that I took a job working at the student health center at the University of Texas at Austin. Not too long after my employment there, I learned that there was a program in place that actually encouraged the students of the University to have sex with one another. The student health center was key in promoting this program. The participants of the program were trained to hold classes and work in booths to promote the concept of “safe sex,” to teach people how to have sex, and to promote sex as a recreational activity. The participants were volunteers, but each participant was required to have sex (whether they were married or not) a specified number of times each week. So, the University of Texas, was actually sponsoring a program, for which state money was being spent, that required its participants to engage in the sin of fornication. Needless to say, I didn’t stay in that job for very long.

This true situation is illustrative of the attitudes that society currently has toward fornication. The sexual revolution of the sixties brought sexual activity out of the privacy of the home and publicly placed it squarely in the face of every person who lives in America. It is now, not uncommon to hear people discussing their sex life with their friends in public places. We are constantly barraged with the lust for sex on television, radio, movie theaters, art displays, books, newspapers, the Internet, and other public venues in which free speech is allowed. While many of these venues have embraced fornication for quite some time, their depictions of such activity are increasingly graphic and offensive. When asked why they do such, the answer is always the same, “because society demands it.” And in my experience, I have found this to be basically correct. Society, as a whole, does demand this type of content within their entertainment. What, then, is a Christian to do?

We must educate everyone we know as to what the sin of fornication is. Most importantly, we must educate our children! At one time, society’s silence regarding the issue was enough to let many young people know that there was something not right about it. However, society does not act that way toward fornication any more. Society now glamorizes and embraces such activity as recreational, fun, and just like going to the movies. Society is not going to teach our children that such behavior is sinful, so we MUST teach them. I once received a question in which a young person in asking a related question indicated that he did not know that fornication was a sin. There should not be any young person that we know who does not understand the sinfulness of fornication. For one to grow up not understanding such is a serious failure on our part as adults to teach the word of God. With that in mind, let us pursue a little education in this matter.

The word “fornication” is considered to be obsolete in the English language, but it is, nonetheless, a word that many recognize and understand. Most modern versions of the Bible use the phrase “sexual immorality” in its place today. But the phrase “sexual immorality” simply does not capture the correct concept that the word “fornication” provides. Fornication is the illicit interaction of sexual genitalia between two persons of the opposite sex, persons of the same sex whether men or woman, or some person and an animal of the same or opposite sex. The only place where God approves of sexual relations is between a husband and a wife in a private setting. This means that everything else within the above definition, is fornication. Sexual immorality includes fornication, but is not specific enough. Sexual immorality includes the concept of petting, but petting is not necessarily fornication, although it is condemned within the Bible as lasciviousness.

What do the scriptures say regarding fornication? There are several passages which speak of fornication as a sin. One such is found in 1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” Fornication is a sin, the likes of which, it takes the flesh of our own body to commit. When one commits fornication, the body is the instrument for the sin. Paul contrasts the sin of fornication with being sanctified in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication.” The sin of fornication militates against Christian sanctification, holiness, and purity. Those who practice fornication, we are told, will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9). Fornication is a salvation issue!

Let us resolve as Christians to educate everyone around us regarding the sin of fornication. Let us especially resolve to educate our children regarding this particular sin. Christians have a calling to be holy and those who are not holy will not see God (Hebrews 12:14). If we desire to live godly, pure, and sanctified lives, then we will abstain from fornication. Those who do not, will not see eternal life. That’s plain and simple Bible doctrine.

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Sons of Thunder

One of the more curious appellations that we find in the scriptures is the name that Jesus gave to the brothers James and John–Boanerges. Mark records this moniker in 3:17 “And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder.” One does not have to wonder as to why Jesus so marked these two brothers. In Luke 9:51 Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem and he is passing through Samaria to get there. He sends some disciples ahead to find a place to lodge, but no one wants to put Jesus up because they know he is going to Jerusalem. (Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along too well in those days and these Samaritans evidently didn’t want anything to do with a Jew who was going to Jerusalem.) Upon learning that no one was going to put them up for the night James and John suggest the following: “Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” (Luke 9:54).

One can certainly understand James and John’s sentiments. Here is the Lord of the universe in human form. He has come to earth divesting Himself of His heavenly glory so that he could serve man. He is on his way to Jerusalem to go to the Passover and he needed a place to stay for one evening. He had already spent time among the Samaritans (John 4:43) and they would likely have known that he held no ill will toward them and was, in fact, their friend. But cultural bigotry can be a strong force in influencing people not to aid those of other cultures and this day, the Samaritans were not feeling particularly hospitable. What bigots! What racists! Didn’t they know with whom they were dealing? Those ungrateful wretches! Surely the Lord would want them destroyed until nothing was left but a heap of smoldering ashes and cinders! However, we read, “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village” (Luke 9:55, 56). Let’s think about a few things we learn from this incident.

First, God does not desire that anyone be lost. We read in Ezekiel 18:32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.” God does not take pleasure in destroying evil people. There are some today who picture God as some malevolent dictator who sits up in heaven eagerly waiting to press the “smite” button. Such is not the God that we serve. Those who eventually will be lost, are lost not because of God, but in spite of God. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God wants all men to be saved and so he is patient, kind, and longsuffering. God is desirous that men repent and live. James and John’s request to bring down fire upon these Samaritans was out of character with God’s desires for man’s salvation.

Second, attitude plays a key role in preaching the gospel. Jesus said of James and John, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” Their attitudes were not right. They should have been seeking to forgive these Samaritans instead of condemn them. This is not to excuse the sin of the Samaritans, but instead to look for ways to bring them out of sin so that they could be saved. James and John should also have been seeking to humble themselves for the sake of these lost Samaritans. Humility was a problem with the disciples. On at least one occasion these two asked to be seated in positions of authority (Mark 10:37). Jesus taught them that those who serve would be the greatest in the kingdom. Too, James and John should also have been seeking to sacrifice themselves for the salvation of other souls. Jesus died for all men while in their sins (Romans 5:8). The servant is not greater than his Lord (John 13:16), hence, James and John’s attitude should have been one of sacrifice instead of condemnation. James and John’s request to bring fire down out of heaven was out of character with Jesus mission.

Third, we must realize that Satan is the enemy, not other men. Perhaps in calling down fire James and John felt that they could right a terrible wrong, but they would not have dealt with the true enemy. Satan was the one who stirred up those national hatreds within the Samaritans. Destroying a few Samaritans wouldn’t get rid of him. Satan must be fought on a spiritual level. He must be fought with teaching and instruction. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). We avenge disobedience by bringing people to Christ and bringing them to full obedience, not by waging physical war against them. This is what overthrows the influence of Satan, the true enemy. James and John’s request was out of character with who the true enemy was.

It is easy for us to be like James and John today. People wrong us and we feel as if we need to be avenged. Wrongs come at all levels in our society. Those in high office are openly criticized for their mistakes in power. Individuals sue other people for enormous sums of money and win because they are seeking retribution. It is easy for a Christian to be caught up in the atmosphere of seeking “justice” even to the point of castigating one’s fellow brother in Christ. But let us ask ourselves before engaging in such “justice”: Are we seeking something consistent with God’s character? Does our attitude reflect the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost? Does our request recognize who the true enemy is? One other lesson that the sons of thunder teach us is this, even when injustice occurs, it is not always worth pursuing correction. Are we seeking to call down fire from heaven to consume our enemies? Let us examine our hearts and motives each and every day in following the Lord to ensure consistency with God’s will in our lives.

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Sin of Adultery

As sexual sins continue to increase in our society, we need to be ready with scriptural answers as to why these activities are indeed sin. A few weeks ago we looked at the sin of fornication. The Bible clearly condemns such sexual activity. The focus of this article will be upon adultery as a sin. Many today simply do not understand what adultery is. There have been others who have been mislead by false teachers as to the definition of adultery. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say about it.

The sin of adultery is first discussed in the ten commandments. Exodus 20:14 says, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” The commandment assumes that everyone knows what adultery means, but in looking through the scriptures, we see it defined in several scriptures. Leviticus 20:10 states the following: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” From this passage we learn that adultery is something that a man and a woman do together. It is something that is done with someone else’s spouse. Jeremiah 3:8 speaks of adultery in the same context as one who is a harlot. A harlot is a prostitute, someone who commits fornication for money. Jeremiah 29:23 confirms that adultery is something done with another’s spouse: “Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.” Ezekiel 16:32 perhaps gives us the clearest definition, “But as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!” So we conclude from these scriptures that adultery is fornication with someone else’s spouse. This is the basic biblical definition of adultery. Other passages that place adultery within the realm of sexual sins are: Proverbs 6:26; Hosea 4:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9; and Hebrews 13:4.

The Bible clearly teaches that adultery is a sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9 states, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind�.” Those who practice it will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, i.e. they will not be saved. Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” In contrast to the honorable state of marriage, adultery is dishonorable and worthy of God’s judgment. As we have seen from Leviticus 20:10, those who were caught engaging in adultery were punishable by death. That it is included in the ten commandments as a prohibition also indicates that adultery is a sin.

Many efforts have been made by many false teachers to change the definition of adultery into something that the Bible simply does not teach. There are those who have suggested that adultery is merely covenant breaking. While committing adultery is certainly being unfaithful to one’s spouse and thereby involves breaking a covenant, adultery is not merely covenant breaking. This argument is set forth in an effort to justify marriage relationships between those who have been put away from their spouses for fornication (see Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9). It is alleged that since adultery is merely covenant breaking all one need to do to repent is to not break any more covenants. Thus, the one guilty of this may remarry without consequence. However, such is not the biblical definition of adultery. As we have seen from the scriptures, adultery involves fornication. How does one conclude that adultery is merely covenant breaking? The argument set forth is from the Old Testament examples of the children of Israel going after idols. God called this adultery and those who claim that adultery is merely covenant breaking suggest that the word adultery as used by God did not contain any concept of fornication or other sexual activity, but that they were merely practicing idolatry. Those who argue for such appeal to Jeremiah 3:6-10 as one of their proof-texts for such a definition. There are several things, however, that we should note regarding God’s use of the word adultery to describe idolatry. First, it is the case that many times in the practice of idolatry, the actual sexual act of adultery was committed. Jeremiah 23:13, 14 shows this to be the case. Second, even if the sexual act is not under consideration in such passages, the use of the term is figurative. Jeremiah 3:6-10 clearly indicates this as it places God in the position of being husband to Israel. Was God literally Israel’s husband? No, there was no literal fleshly relationship. God used the example of husband and wife to illustrate the unfaithfulness of the children of Israel. So it is a figurative usage of the term adultery, not a literal one. To appeal to a figurative usage of the term as a complete definition is simply a misunderstanding of the nature of figures within the Bible.

Another passage that many have used to try to support the idea that adultery is merely covenant breaking is Matthew 5:28 which says, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” It is alleged that since adultery in this passage is obviously not referring to a physical sexual act, then the word must have a meaning that is beyond that physical act. However, a closer examination of this verse indicates that the word IS referring to the physical act. Notice that Jesus says that adultery has been committed, but it is within the heart. What is the heart? It is the mind. The act is still the sexual act, only, it is not committed with the body, but in the mind. The mind can imagine the physical act itself. That does not take away from the definition of the word. Adultery may involve breaking a covenant, but that is not the full scope of the definition of the word in its most literal sense.

Another way in which man tries to escape from the true definition of adultery is to suggest that Jesus redefined adultery in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. It is suggested by some that since Jesus said, “…whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” and “…Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery,” that it is not the sexual act that is adultery, but the divorcing and remarrying. Those who suggest such say that as long as one repents of divorcing and remarrying then one may continue to live in marriage with whoever that one is married at the time subsequent to multiple divorces and remarriages. However, this is not consistent with the definition of the word. Jesus specific chose the word adultery to say something regarding the legitimacy of such a marriage. That is, adultery is still the sexual sin of fornication with another’s spouse. That is how it is used in the context of Matthew 5:32. That is how the word was understood in the day of Jesus as well. John 8:1-11 bears out this definition. Those who came to Jesus with the woman caught in adultery said that she had been taken “in the very act.” Was this woman caught divorcing and remarrying someone else? That is obviously not what the Pharisees were accusing her of doing. She was taken in the act of fornication with another’s spouse. Jesus recognized this definition and was not seeking to redefine adultery in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9. What was Jesus point in those passages? His point was that marriage does not legitimize adultery. That is, a person cannot divorce his or her spouse, marry someone else, and then claim legitimacy. That situation, according to Jesus, is still defined as adultery. We find corroboration for this in Romans 7:3. Marriage does not dissolve the situation of adultery. One does not repent of adultery by getting married to the person with whom one is committing adultery. One can only repent of adultery by dissolving the relationship with the one with whom one has been committing adultery.

Adultery is a serious sin and one which will cause one’s soul to be lost eternally if one continues in an impenitent state. Adulterers will not inherit God’s kingdom. Adulterers will be judged by God. Adulterers are guilty of practicing sin. Let us preach and teach the truth on this subject to all who are around us. Our society today is steeped in sexual sins including adultery. But these individuals are not lost yet. The gospel has the power to change them if they will obey it. Let us continue to preach the word to those who need it most.

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