You might say that I enjoy a good potluck just as much as the next person. In fact, were one to take a good gander at my physique, I would dare say that the conclusion would be that I don’t miss too many meals. And judging from some of the other men in our congregation, I believe the same could be said regarding them as well (after all, I didn’t start the tradition of potlucks in Berryville; someone wiser than I did that). To some degree, eating is considered the sign of a healthy person. And while, admittedly, there are those of us (ahem) that could eat less, nevertheless, it can be generally stated that we get our “three squares.”

There are, however, those who do not eat like they are supposed to eat. I’m not talking about those who are so poor in the world that they don’t have food, but rather, those who refuse to eat as and when they ought. The condition that I am referring to is known as anorexia. This is a medical condition that describes a state of mind that compels an individual to eat so little so as to be dangerous. The thought seems very foreign to those of us who like to eat. However, did you know that there are actually pro-anorexia “help” groups available on the Internet for people who WANT to be anorexic? I recently learned that the search engine Google contains links to over 30,000 web pages related to the search term “pro-anorexia.” One might ask, “Who in their right mind would not want to eat?” And that is exactly the point. Those who have such a medical condition are not thinking correctly. And yet, many suffer malnutrition and some even suffer death due to this condition. Yet, what is most astonishing is that many of these have abundant access to food on a daily basis. It’s not that they don’t have food; they just refuse to eat it.

As horrible as the problem of anorexia is, there is an even worse problem. I’m not speaking about physical anorexia, but spiritual. There are many today who suffer from the condition of spiritual anorexia. Oh, they may be healthy physically, but their spirits are malnourished. They don’t eat like they are supposed to eat, spiritually. Like those who are physically anorexic, these believe that somehow, they will be better off by not eating. Yet, their condition does not grow better, but worse each day. It is (like the physical problem of anorexia) a faulty state of mind that causes someone to so think and act. And yes, you can find many groups on the Internet that will help someone to starve spiritually; I’m afraid to say that there are much more than 30,000 web sites devoted to spiritual pro-anorexic groups. Amazingly, some actually desire to starve spiritually. Is it that there is no access to spiritual food? No, there is plenty of spiritual food available; it is just that these refuse to eat. The consequences, however, for spiritual malnutrition are far more deadly than the physical�eternal separation from God.

We learn from the scriptures that Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35, 48). He desires that everyone eat that spiritual bread and live (John 6:51, 58). He has made an abundance of spiritual food available for all (Matthew 5:6). Why would one not want to be nourished spiritually so that they may have eternal life? One can only come to the conclusion that they have a disorder in their life. What is that disorder? It is sin. Sin is what separates man from God (Isaiah 59:2) and what ultimately leads to spiritual death (Romans 6:23; James 1:15). Yet, amazingly, some refuse to come to Jesus that they may have life (John 5:40).

How can we avoid spiritual anorexia? We must sit up and take a bit of nourishment on a regular basis. We have opportunities for congregational Bible study on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. We each have our own personal Bible that we can study at any time. We have tracts, bulletins, pamphlets and other materials that we may take with us to study at other opportunities. The nourishment is available; what will we do with it? Will we eat? Or will we be “pro-anorexic”?

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What Does baptism of the Dead Mean?

What is the meaning of “baptized for the dead” in 1 Cor 15:29: “Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?” Two observations: 1. “the dead” seems to be plural, so I can’t see this as a reference to Christ. 2. The question “…why then are THEY baptized for THEM…” seems to indicate that the ones being baptized are not the same as the ones whom the baptism is for.

When we come across a passage within the Bible that is difficult to interpret or seemingly means something that contradicts another plain teaching of scripture, we must look at it through our understanding of the plain teaching of scriptures. Many choose to interpret the difficult passage first and then take perfectly plain scriptures and twist them to fit their interpretation of the difficult passage. Such we must not do, for such is handling the word of God incorrectly. We read in 2 Peter 3:16 the words of Peter who describes some of Paul’s epistles. He says, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” We must make sure that we do not wrest the scriptures to our own destruction.

So with those things in mind, we come to 1 Corinthians 15:29. “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?” The context of this particular passage is that of Paul’s proving to the Corinthians that the resurrection is going to happen. There were some in that day who were teaching that there was no resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12). The Sadducees believed this too (Matthew 22:23). Some were teaching that the resurrection had passed (2 Tim.2:18). Paul, however, was teaching that the resurrection was still coming and he used every available means to prove this to those in Corinth. So whatever this phrase means–that is, whatever the phrase “baptism for the dead” means–its significance is that the resurrection is still coming.

This phrase does not mean what those of the Mormon faith believe that it means. Mormons believe that one may be baptized for someone who is dead who was not a Mormon, and that person will then have the opportunity, after death, to accept the gospel. The long and short of this teaching is that you get a second chance to be saved after you die. This doctrine just does not mesh with other clear teaching that is within the scriptures. We read in Hebrews 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” In Luke 16:24 we read, that the rich man wanted Lazarus to come cool his tongue. Abraham replied, “And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Acts 16:26). The rich man knew that there was no escape because he then asked that Abraham send someone so that his brothers would escape this place. Jesus said in John 9:4 “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” The night when no man can work is after death. There are no more works that a person can do to affect one’s salvation after death. Perhaps a statement made by Isaiah makes this quite plain. He says, “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back. For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day: the father to the children shall make known thy truth” (Isaiah 38:17-19). Isaiah makes it clear that the time for forgiveness of sins is now. The time to be delivered from the pit of corruption is while one is living. Once one has died and is lost, there is no more hope for truth. The living are the ones who have the obligation to make known God’s truth. Paul says, “For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Today is the day of the living. Today is the day of salvation.

So what does the phrase “baptism for the dead” mean? To be honest, I am not sure that I know what it means. There have been many different suggestions. Some have suggested that it refers to Christian baptism. These suggest that the phrase “the dead” refers to those who have died to sin and are being made alive in Christ. When they do this, they affirm the resurrection of Christ according to Romans 6:1-11. In this understanding, “the dead” is actually short hand for “the resurrection of the dead.” So that it would be baptism for the resurrection of the dead, i.e. in order to obtain the resurrection of the dead.

Others have suggested that Paul is referring to this group of people who are teaching that there is no resurrection for the dead implying some kind of self-contradiction among their own teaching. In other words, they were teaching that there was no resurrection, but they were practicing “baptism for the dead,” i.e. a vicarious baptism for those who had already died without being baptized. This, however, implied a resurrection because baptism is the form of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Those who hold this view say that Paul is not giving an endorsement to the doctrine, but merely stating that if one believed it, then it would imply that their doctrine of no resurrection is false.

Yet another interpretation states that those who had come to accept Christian baptism did so due to the influence of the faithful dead over the many years prior to their baptism. In this sense, they are being baptized for, that is, on account of, the dead who came before them. So if they were being baptized on account of the dead, then they should recognize that they would one day be raised. Finally, one view says that we have the punctuation wrong in the translation. Instead of reading as we would normally read, this view opts for the reading, “Else what shall they do that are baptized? If the dead are not raised at all, (baptism) is for the dead (spiritually). Why are they then baptized for the dead?” This view sees the phrase “the dead” as referring to people who are spiritually dead and thus baptism has no effect for them. I.E. if there is no resurrection, then baptism doesn’t take us out of death and into life, it just leaves us in a state of spiritual death and does nothing for us. We are merely being baptized to become dead. I don’t believe that I can say for certain that I know what this phrase means. I do know, however, that it does not endorse some type of proxy baptism for those who have died un-repented.

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Why Didn’t God Appear to the Rest of the World?

As we read in the bible we only read about the presence of God in the area of the Old and New Testaments (Middle East, Greece, Rome, etc). Where was God for the rest of the world (China, North America, Island Nations, etc.)? Why didn’t he appear to them?

Just because we do not have a record of God’s appearing in other areas of the world doesn’t mean that He didn�t do that.

In the times of the Old Testament, God made a special covenant with the people of Israel that He didn’t make with the other nations (Exodus 19:5, 6, Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2). So God dealt specially with the children of Israel in ways that He didn’t deal with the rest of the nations. God did send prophets to some Gentile nations as illustrated in the book of Jonah.

In the New Testament, Jesus told the apostles in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15, 16 to preach the gospel to all the world. This was about 30 A.D. Paul says in Colossians 1:23 that the gospel was preached to every creature under heaven. This was around 60 A.D. So every person who lived on the world in that day heard God’s message at that time. I have no doubt that the Lord aided them in their efforts to accomplish this task. Sometimes he even transported them miraculously to new places (Acts 8:39).

The bottom line is that the Bible teaches that God is present everywhere (Psalm 24:1) and that He doesn’t necessarily tell everything that He does to all men (Psalm 50:12). There are some things that are hidden from man’s knowledge (Deuteronomy 29:29, Romans 11:33). We must be concerned with the things that God reveals to us today in His word.

We can be assured that God is a just, holy, and merciful God and that His judgment will be fair and reasonable in that regard (Psalm 89:14).

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