Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Reply to A Better Way (1b)

What the Apostles and elders did in Acts 15 on the question of circumcision was gather the evidence from statements of prophecy, examples of conversions without circumcision, and then drawing the “judgment”, verdict, or necessary inference. They did what we all have to do on any question. There is really just one common sense way to approach any Bible subjected. You gather the evidence as they did, you test it for relevance to the issue at hand, and you draw the necessary conclusions from the tested evidence.


Our courts are set up to use this approach because it is common sense. Suppose someone came along and said we need to free all prisoners because the courts have been using a faulty hermeneutic? That would certainly cause us some concern for the person making such a claim. But, I’m sure there would be people who would rally to that man and act like he was really thinking and being wise and conscientious. The fact would still remain that in order for the man to be credible he would have to do more than CLAIM that a faulty hermeneutic was the problem of the injustice of having so many men and women in prison, but he would have to show exactly HOW the evidence SHOULD be handled in order to arrive at the right conclusions and judgment. Unless he can clearly set forth his case for a “new hermeneutic” his credibility will rightly fall flat.


In similar manner, brethren today who say we need a “new hermeneutic” and then proceed to say that the old way of judging and determining truth was faulty and brought about faulty conclusions, will view this man suspiciously until he sets forth the clarity of a better way of handling evidence. We would gladly listen if the man will actually show a better way of gathering, handling, and testing evidence so that the right conclusions can be drawn. But, merely claiming that gathering the evidence, testing it, and drawing the necessary conclusions is a faulty process and a faulty “hermeneutic” is not going to clear up anything.


Before someone came along and termed it CENI, we have long been doing it as in Acts 15 long before a summarizing acrostic (CENI) was invented to describe it. There is nothing wrong with the description summary, but I never consciously think of the acrostic description while I am studying the evidence on a topic. I simply gather the available evidence as they did in Acts 15 and try to draw the necessary conclusions.


Now, if the teachers of circumcision had accused the apostles and elders of needing a “new hermeneutic” and that the problem was that their SENI approach (statements, examples, necessary inference approach) is what blinded them and was causing division, the apostles and elders would have probably engaged the man further to see what was wrong with their hermeneutic. If the man did not show clearly what was wrong with what they did, then they would have good reason to mark that man (Rom.16:17).


The problem is not with the summarizing acrostic (CENI). It is just a summary of what we do without even thinking about it. It summarizes that we gather the relevant evidence and draw the conclusions from the evidence. That is all we can do.


Even if you never hear of the acrostic, you do the same thing they did in Acts 15. So, why not call it “the Acts 15 hermeneutic” if CENI gives you problems? What you CALL what you do with evidence and conclusions is NEVER the problem. The problem is always either: 1) Not gathering all the evidence, or 2) mishandling the evidence, or 3 ) ignoring the evidence. And, this is why different conclusions are reached. Disputing is good if you are testing ideas. The apostles and elders engaged “much dispute” before they laid out the evidence and drew the conclusion they reached over the circumcision question.


Using Acts 15 as the model for a process of dealing with issues of differences, it is unifying if you truly want truth. If you don’t want truth it doesn’t do any good to test ideas in “much dispute”. The process even in Acts 15 does not work for those who do not WANT the truth.


If we don’t like the conclusions on a matter, then retest the evidence and show where the conclusions went wrong, but don’t blame a summary acrostic for causing blindness and division. Let us not divide over an acrostic summary. Call it the “Acts 15 Hermeneutic” and go on and gather the evidence and draw the conclusions demanded. We don’t need a new hermeneutic. We just need to use the same common sense they used in Acts 15. Combine that process with love, honesty, and desire for truth, and we can come to the unity of the faith in the unity of the Spirit. -Terry W. Benton

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Reply to “A Better Way” (1a)

My Reply to “A Better Way” (1a)

I do not want to be uncharitable or seem uncharitable.  So, I am not. Replying to what I deem as misleading information is not being unkind or uncharitable.  I labor to say the right things in the best way possible, trying hard to speak the truth in love.  I want to respond to some things a brother (MR ) has published on the internet.  I do not know this brother, and have no personal dislike for him.  This is not about personalities. It is about ideas. This is wholly an examination of ideas that he has expressed publicly. I will quote the ideas he expressed and show what I think are mistakes in the idea presented.

MR: I still stand behind my affirmations that the presently accepted (Command, Example, Necessary Inference) approach used by brethren in Churches of Christ is inadequate and flawed.

TB: I would desire for an “adequate and unflawed” approach, but do not anticipate that our brother will be able to avoid using commands, examples, and necessary inferences and still present to us an approach that is both “adequate and unflawed”.  What will a man look at and consider in the scriptures if he will not draw his conclusions (necessary inference) from commands and examples in the scriptures?  On the surface it seems that his approach will seek to avoid the very things he has to use to get to something less flawed and fully adequate.  Since the scriptures come to us in the form of commands, statements, and examples, and reasoning upon the scriptures requires necessary conclusions, how will our brother avoid these things? 

MR: . I will get to a presentation of what I consider to be a better way to understand God's will for both ourselves individually and for the church but first I must make some preliminary observations before I get to that.

TB: We are to anticipate from our brother a better way ‘to understand God’s will” than gathering information in the form of commands and examples, and a better way than drawing necessary inferences from the evidence.  On the surface it seems to me to be an impossible task.  The preliminary observations are to me a useless exercise.  It seems designed to create doubt and frustration and suspicion by use of prejudicial inferences and unfair misrepresentation of what brethren have done with their approach to the scriptures.

MR: All we have to do is look at the evidence all around us in the devastation of division with its attendant animosity to see that what is supposed to be the best way to understand the Bible just isn't working – at all.

TB: I contend that it is not a problem with the way to understand the Bible, but more with the will to understand and apply the Bible. I would contend that gathering information from the Bible and drawing necessary inference from that evidence is all we can do, and that our brother will not be able to avoid commands and examples or the necessary inferences from the evidence.

MR: Rather than finding the peace and unity we professedly all want, the landscape is littered with the ruins and devastation of incessant battles and rings with the continual sniping of partisans rather than genuine love accompanied with the peace that naturally flows from hearts that are ruled by love.

TB:  I agree whole-heartedly that genuine love is necessary and that our hearts should be ruled with love, but, even when we are genuinely guided by love, we are still to “test all things” and “hold fast what is good” and “mark those who cause divisions contrary to the doctrine”.

Love does not forbid the testing of ideas and love does not demand the surrendering of truth and just agreeing to ignore practices our consciences forbid us to participate in and condone.

What normally happens is that brethren who want a “new hermeneutic” do the “sniping” and show no genuine love, and when brethren love them enough to tell them the truth, they start “sniping” brethren and accusing them of no love and of having a bad attitude.  Paul asked, “Have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth”?  Paul “loved” the Galatian brethren enough to tell them the truth. It was not a pleasant thing for him to do, but it was a “loving” thing for Paul to do.  Likewise, when brethren start saying that we are wrong to appeal to “commands, examples, and draw the necessary inferences from the total evidence of scripture, and then when we point out the error of such thinking, it is the loving thing to do on our part, but the new hermeneutic brother thinks we have become their enemy by telling them the truth.  Why won’t the new hermeneutic brother love us and quit impugning our motives and attitude?

Why is it that we cannot be viewed as loving God with all our heart and our brethren, when like Paul, we try to tell brethren the truth?  How is it that we have to accept their view and their mishandling of scripture before we can be viewed as loving God and our brethren?  I believe this is what Paul meant when he appealed to some brethren at Corinth to be at least as “open” to him as they were the false teachers of another Jesus, to be at least “equally yoked” to true Jesus teachers so as to give truth the same chance as they were willing to give error.

Perhaps through bad experience with a few, we think all brethren who seek authority through God’s commands and examples in scripture cannot possibly “love” God as much as the man who is advocating “love” and fellowship of all erroneous practices. We must take heed to be fair-minded.  I know plenty of brethren who respect authority, agree to “prove all things” by examining the evidence of commands and examples and then drawing the necessary inferences of the total scriptural evidence, and who are very kind and loving men and women.  Don’t forget those brethren just because you had a bad experience.

I do not see attacking “commands, examples, and necessary inferences” as loving simply because it is not right. It is misguided and reckless, and therefore we need to point this out if we are to do the “loving” thing.  The problem is not CENI (commands, examples, necessary inference).  Jesus and the apostles used all of these. The problems we have is in the MISUSE of commands, examples, necessary inferences, or not caring enough to use the Bible at all to “prove what is acceptable to the Lord”. Not using commands and examples, or misuse of commands and examples, is the problem every time. It is never the FACT that we appeal to these things.

It takes nothing but common sense and reading the Bible to discover that Jesus appealed to commands (Matt.4:1ff) and examples (Matt.12) and drew necessary inferences (Matt.22).  It was not the fact that Jesus appealed to each of these things that caused problems. It was the fact that He did and His hearers did not like the TRUTH that caused problems.  Anybody can misuse a command or example and therefore draw the wrong inference.  You blame that persons’ misuse, not the very use of such.

MR: We never consider the possibility that there could be anything wrong with our conclusions because there is something wrong with the method we have employed in reaching those conclusions.

TB: Of course we would consider the possibility that there is something wrong with our conclusions and of the method used to reach those erroneous conclusions if someone would point it out. I have changed my mind on various things through the years because someone tested my idea and did an excellent job of showing the evidence, showing how the evidence was mishandled earlier, showing the right way to handle the evidence, and then reaching the right conclusion.  That is how truth-seekers have always worked out of error into the light of truth.  But, for a brother to suggest that we are wrong to gather the evidence of scripture (looking at the available commands, statements, and examples) and drawing a necessary inference from that evidence, tells me this person is not a truth-seeker.  He wants us to consider that we may be wrong, but he does not want to consider that he may be wrong, and is wrong.

We have to be fair-minded and not just blame the other person. But, we don’t need to humble ourselves to the point that we cannot trust our conclusions about truth just because the other person might accuse us of being prideful.  Paul rebuked Peter “because he was to be blamed”.  It would not be right for Peter to turn and accuse Paul of thinking he was always right.  But, if Peter was a false teacher, he just might have turned the tables on Paul in that way.  I’m thankful that Paul rebuked Peter when it was right to do so, and I’m thankful that Peter was man enough and humble enough to accept correction. That should be the manner of all of us.

MR: . The question that must be answered before we can even approach the matter of what is authorized is “How does God exercise his authority through the Bible?”

TB: Instead of beating around the bush with continual prejudice against gathering commands, statements, examples, and drawing necessary inference, I truly wish our brother would come right out and tell us “How does God exercise his authority through the Bible?” The mystery of what “better way” of “proving what is acceptable to the Lord” has got me on edge, hoping his next paragraph will clear it all up. Sadly, he goes a whole series of articles and never clears it up, and then he came out with “A Better Way (5)” and still made nothing any clearer.

There are two things that keep me bothered about our brother’s approach: 1) He never shows WHY we are wrong to gather total Bible evidence on a subject and draw necessary inferences, and 2) He keeps leading us along like he is going to show what we missed, how God REALLY exercises His authority through the Bible”, and never comes out with it. 

MR: There is agreement among all I know – even those who question the validity of the CENI approach – that Bible is authoritative.

TB: I wonder what “method” we all used to reach this agreement.  Was it not the fact that we looked at the total evidence of statements and examples and drew the necessary inference that the Bible IS “authoritative”?   If that was how we reached agreement on the issue of WHETHER the Bible is authoritative, do we take a different approach on how to use the authoritative word to find out how to “prove what is acceptable to the Lord?”

MR: The assumption made by those who rely on CENI approach is that this is the correct and ONLY way that his authority can be determined.

TB: CENI simply means “commands, examples, and necessary inference”.  It says NOTHING about how to “approach” anything.  If someone has “approached” commands, examples, and necessary inferences in the wrong way, we do not throw out commands, examples, and necessary inferences. We simply try to correct the fellow that was “approaching” commands, examples, and necessary inferences in a wrong manner.  It was his MANNER of approach, not CENI that would be the problem.

 Now, whether I ever heard of that acrostic or not, I will have to look at the Bible, consider the commands and examples pertaining to any subject, and try to draw the necessary conclusion or inferences from the evidence.  CENI does not tell me to ignore any other biblical form of evidence. If it is an acrostic to remember to gather just the words expressed in the form of examples and commands, but don’t consider statements, exclamations, or other forms of literary expression, then I would be the first to say that it is wrong.  But, that is just getting too technical.  What the Bible is, is an EXAMPLE of God’s communication to other people in other places of the world.  So, in that sense we are looking at examples of commands and statements and other forms of literature written to other people.  We are to gather evidence, all the evidence, on a topic such as baptism or the Lord’s Supper and draw a necessary conclusion about what God wants from us using someone else’s mail.

CENI (commands, examples, necessary inferences) IS NOT AN APPROACH to the Bible. Rather, it is WHAT we are approaching just by handling the Bible.  The Bible is basically a book with a great story of God’s love in trying to redeem a condemned people. Inside the expectation part of the story are commands and examples that demand necessary inferences about what applies and how it applies.  How would we determine how His authority is to be executed if we do not look at what has been commanded and the examples of those who were carrying out His will?

Making the issue the very use of the acrostic, CENI, is a mistake.  What needs to be done is to simply acknowledge that God’s authority is indeed revealed to us in commands and examples, and the evidence does in fact have to be reasoned upon to draw the right conclusions, and then to discuss with our brethren where and how some have misused a command or example and drew the wrong inferences.  I would encourage brethren to refrain from muddying the water and clouding the issues. That is what happens when you make CENI, a memory acrostic, the problem.  That is not a problem and never has been and never will be.

It is ALWAYS the misuse of evidence in whatever form, or not appealing at all to the evidence, ignoring the evidence, or misusing the evidence that causes problems. But the evidence itself is not the problem.  When brethren realize this, they will quit making a memory acrostic the issue and will start to reason over the evidence and start drawing the necessary conclusions and be equipped to show how others mishandled the evidence and drew the wrong conclusions. When we start talking TO each other about the evidence, and start discussing the evidence and the proper handling of the evidence, we will start making some progress.  Those who do not want to test their ideas and those who do not want to reason together will get culled out, and the remaining disciples will have a greater amount of unity. I pray that we can do more of the kind of thing we see done in Acts 15 when we disagree.  We ought to engage much dispute if necessary to test the ideas.  Our courts of law believe that evidence can be tested in such a manner that 12 jurors can draw the right judgment.  It is a matter of evidence, testing the evidence, and drawing the necessary conclusion.  If courts of the world can do it, surely brethren in the Lord can do that as well.  That is pretty much what we see in the efforts made in Acts 15.  That is a good pattern for brethren to follow.   Terry W. Benton




Monday, November 26, 2012

Facts About Christmas

Facts About Christmas
(Kent E. Heaton Sr.)

Some years ago, a Catholic Priest preached a sermon that Santa Clause was
dead. What a commotion was caused and parents came out of church crying.
Imagine messing with a tradition as strong as that and not getting into a
lot of trouble about it all. It reminds me of the fellow who said he knew
that Santa Clause was real because the Easter bunny had told him so.

Christmas is here again and it looks like it will be here for a very long
time. The longer one tells an untruth, the more it becomes truth - so it is
with Christmas. The sad part is there are children of God who still do not
understand that Christmas is a Catholic mass. To celebrate Christmas as the
birth of Christ is to embrace Catholicism.

As the Catholic church is the mother of all apostasy, her children called
Protestants have followed in her same way. The World Book Encyclopedia
explains that Christmas is of Catholic origin meaning, "Christes Masse".
Bishop Liberius of Rome adopted December 25 as the birth day of Jesus in the
year 354. They chose this date because the feast of the sun, or winter
solstice, was a familiar Roman feast celebrating the victory of light over

The disciples of the New Testament never celebrated the birth of Jesus.
They remembered His death, burial and resurrection once a week but never His
birth. In fact, they lived during the same time of Jesus and could very
well have known what day Jesus was born. They were his age and even older
and Mary His mother was with the disciples in Acts 1. Why was the day of
His birth never given in scripture? It is not important to God!

The Christian should recognize that to take part in any facet of Christmas
as the birth of Christ (mangers, angels, stars, shepherds, wise men, etc.)
is to practice something that God never gave authority for. It makes a
difference to God!

No one knows what day He was born. December 25 could not be the birth day
of Jesus because the shepherds would not be in the field with their sheep
during this time of the year.
The Bible never said to celebrate His birth - the Catholic church did.
Myriad's of secular writers and religious writers affirm that no one knows
the birth date of Jesus.

The wise men never saw Jesus in the manger. Matthew 2:11 says they found
him in a "house." If Herod's order to kill the children from two years old
and under is a help in determining the age of Jesus, a rough guess could be
that Jesus (as a "child" - Matthew 2:11) was at least a year old and maybe a
little older. The reasoning I offer for this is if Jesus is six months old,
why kill two-year-old children? Herod wanted to make certain the baby Jesus
was killed. (I suggest this only as an idea - not really worth a plug
nickel but food for thought) The fact is though - Jesus was a child when
the Wise men saw him.

No one knows how many wise men there were. There could have been three,
four, five, twenty-five or ten. No one knows. To suggest there were three
because three gifts were given is to suggest that if you received three
gifts for your birthday that three people gave them to you.

The church in Trenton will not celebrate today or next week in any fashion
that points to the birth of Jesus. Is this because we do not accept or
believe in His birth? On the contrary, the greatest birth ever blessed upon
this world was that holy night of redemption. We will celebrate his death,
burial and resurrection as we do each first day of the week.

It is important to us that we follow the Bible and the Bible alone.
"Christmas" is not found in God's holy writ. That matters to us and we pray
it will matter to you. It is a nice thought to celebrate the birth of Jesus
but God said that we could not add to His revelation - even if an angel said
so. (Galatians 1:9,10) Christmas did not come from the mind of God and God
minds what we say comes from Him. We are seeking the paths of God's will
and we ask you to join with us in that journey.

Kent E. Heaton Sr.
P. O. Box 265
Trenton, Florida 32693

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Has Anyone Seen God?

Has Anyone Seen God?

The Argument:

Has anyone seen God? John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time. (Ex 33:20; Tim. 6:16; John 6:46; I John 4:12) Gen. 32:30 For I have seen god face to face. (Ex. 33:11, 23; Is. 6:1; Job 42:5)

How do you harmonize these passages?

The Answer:

Seeing  God "face to face" is the highest imaginable experience.  A person gets so close to "face to face" that they cannot imagine getting any closer.  So, when a person says he came "face to face" with death, they mean that they cannot imagine getting any closer to the actual experience.

Still, it is a figure of speech.  Mortals cannot literally look into the face of God and live. This body is not suitable for such an event.  Thus, God has revealed Himself in veiled ways and some have come closer to the experience than others in meeting God in as personable way as can be allowed.  The experience was far more intimate and personal than before, and so, in comparison to prior experiences, a person might be known to say that, as far as he was concerned, he had seen God "face to face".  If we allow for figures of speech (which we must), then we cannot consider these face-to-face statements to be any more of a contradiction than the example of the biography that said both "he went to church"( meaning "usually" in one context) and in a later part of the biography we find "he did not go to church" (meaning with reference to a specific day when he was sick).  There is a way for both statements to be true in their various contexts.

If one text says "no man has seen God" (with, perhaps, an unveiled, fully revealed, presence in mind) and another passage shows where man "saw God" (but has in mind, a close encounter, but somewhat less than full disclosure of His actual glory), then the language does not represent an actual ontradiction. It would be that a figure of speech was used in the encounter much like "I came face to face with death".  To counter my argument, which admittedly was not a full treatment of the subject, one writer presented the case for a real, face-to-face encounter between Moses and God. The writer appeals to the

following passage:

Exodus 33:7 -Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp. 8 Whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of them, at the entrance of their tents and watch Moses until he had gone into the tent.  9 When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent,   and the LORD would speak with Moses. 10 When all the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, all the people would rise and bow down, all of them, at the entrance of their tent. 11 Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then he would return to the camp; but his young assistant, Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the tent.

Note: What gives away the fact that this is not a literal "face-to-face" (viewing each other personally) encounter?  Well, verse 9 has Moses inside the tent and verse 10 has the Lord in the "pillar of cloud"(which conceals full glory) and "at the entrance of the tent" (which is not actually inside and unconcealed where Moses was).  No doubt it was special, a very close encounter. But, this was still not unveiled face-to-face (personally looking in the literal face of God). Two Muslim women could talk face to face as one speaks to a friend and still have their veils on.  The expression "face-to-face" does not tell us how naked or covered their literal faces were.  It speaks of a more intimate encounter and conversation than God had with the other people.  In comparison to the others, it was face to face, that is, much more intimate than their own encounter.

It would be much like watching a robber on a monitor and seeing his disguised form move face to face with the store clerk.  Even if the robber were wearing a mask, it would still be a face-to-face encounter between the robber and the clerk, but it would not be face to face with those viewing only the monitor or seeing this happen from a distance.  But, to further demonstrate that Moses did not have an unveiled encounter with God, we see Moses admitting this just a few verses later.

18 Moses said, "Show me your glory, I pray."

19 And he said, "I will make all my goodness pass before you, and  will proclaim before you the name, 'The LORD'; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But," he said, "you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live."

Note: How could it be "face to face" without seeing His face?  By "face to face" meaning close, intimate, and personal encounter rather than having to do with what Moses actually SAW with his own eyes.  The expression "face to face" does not have to do with what we SEE. It is an expression of close, intimate encounter.  Thus, it is a figure of speech in this context.  To get around this, the Bible critic invents the idea that this part of the passage "contradicts" the other part, or they try to rationalize that two different  authors are involved in which the first writer is contradicted by the later writer.  No, there is no contradiction.  There is simply a misunderstanding (intentional or unintentional) as to what is meant by "face to face".

21 And the LORD continued, "See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; 23 then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen."

Now, to counter my argument, Mr. Weida (or Vida) said:

It is quite obvious from the reading in exodus that god actually comes down and makes his presence,  possibly physical, known to Moses in direct contact, face to face, as one speaks to a friend. This doesn't indicate to me that the relationship god and Moses had was "face to face" figuratively, as one speaks to a friend. It indicates literally, as one would sit down and speak to a friend, literally face to face,

My Reply:

The Hebrew word has various shades of meaning. A common nuance is "presence to presence",  The word is most commonly rendered "before", which means in this case that each one was before the other (saying nothing about what was literally seen or how extensively revealed or covered each party was).  So, all we can gather from the context is that Moses met "face to face" with God, and that expression does not reflect what either party actually SAW.

It was a literal "presence to presence" confrontation, but the expression is also not a literal, precise declaration of what Moses SAW.  The store clerk came face to face with a robber, but that does not tell us anything about the literal face of the robber.  He could be wearing a mask and it is still a face to face experience. Our text tells us that Moses COULD NOT see the actual face of God and live.  So, there are various levels of interaction, and face to face was not, in this case, a SIGHT-OF-GOD'S-FACE matter, but a close, person-to-person presence with each other.

The text tells us specifically where Moses was (in the tent), where God was (in a cloud at the door of the tent) and specifically what Moses DID NOT SEE.  The text also tells exactly WHY Moses could not see the actual face of God. It was because "no man can see the face of God and live".  This is a much more intimate encounter that man is not suited to experience.  Therefore, SPEAKING face to face as one speaks to a friend, does not equate with SEEING the actual face of God.  "Face to face" is a manner of speech, confrontation, communication, but does not necessarily relate to what one SEES in the face to face experience.  I have shown that the context defines the nature of the face to face as close encounter and intimate communication. There are other passages that have this same connotation:

Strong's defines "paniym" (paw-neem'); plural (but always as singular) of an unused noun [paneh (paw-neh'); from OT:6437]; the face (as the part that turns); used in a great variety of applications (literally and figuratively); also (with prepositional prefix) as a preposition (before,etc.):


(Biblesoft's New Exhaustive Strong's Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright (c) 1994, Biblesoft and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

 Num 12:8

8 I speak with him face to face, Even plainly, and not in dark sayings; And he sees the form of the LORD.

Why then were you not afraid To speak against My servant Moses?" NKJV

This passage pertains to the closeness and more direct SPEAKING and HEARING experience and explains that face to face means "EVEN PLAINLY" and not in dark sayings, and he SEES THE FORM of the Lord (not His face).  Therefore, face to face does not have to do with what one SEES, necessarily, but in the proximity of two individuals in communication.

Num 14:13-15

13 And Moses said to the LORD: "Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and that Your cloud stands above them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.  NKJV

This passage claims that compared to other people, Israel saw God face to face in the presence they saw in the cloud and pillar of fire.  This was a face to face experience for the Israelites, though it does not make a claim about them seeing the actual face of God.

Deut 5:3-6

3 The LORD did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, those who are here today, all of us who are alive. 4 The LORD talked with you face to face on the mountain from the midst of the fire. 5 I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up the mountain. He said:

6'I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.NKJV

Once again, this is a passage that denotes "presence to presence" as the nature of the "face to face" experience, but says nothing about them seeing God in all His unveiled, radiant glory, or seeing His face.

Deut 34:10-12

10 But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 in all the signs and wonders which the LORDsent  him to do in the land of Egypt, before Pharaoh, before all his servants, and in all his land, 12 and by all that mighty power and all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. NKJV

This passage shows that Moses knew the Lord face to face IN ALL THE SIGNS AND WONDERS. It is a claim to the intimate connection Moses had with God, but does not relate to Moses glaring in the unveiled face of God.

Ezek 20:34-37

 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. 36 Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you," says the Lord GOD. NKJV

This is long after the Babylonian Captivity.  The same idea of what face to face meant is continued.  God wanted to plead with them face to face. But, He wanted to do it in the same manner that He did it in the wilderness of the land of Egypt.  But, in the wilderness of the land of Egypt they did not look directly into the unveiled face of God, nor did He present Himself to them in that way. The evidence shows that face to face speaks of presence to presence communication, but does not always relate to what one sees, or even if one sees the actual face of God.  Therefore, I must conclude that Mr. Weida (Vida) is mistaken as to what the passages speak of in Exodus, Isaiah, and Job.  Each case was a close encounter of a personal nature, but in neither case does the text say that man saw the actual face of God.  They saw a form, or a cloud, or a mental dream-vision, or a pillar of fire, or a whirlwind, or some other veiled experience, but they did not see the unveiled, actual face of God and live to tell about it.  This cannot be done until we are clothed with that immortal body that is suited to the glorious experience.

Terry W. Benton

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Unconditional Love?

Unconditional Love?

That God’s love is “unconditional” means one thing to one person and a different thing to someone else. The Bible does not use the expression “unconditional love” but does imply it.  God “so loved” the world (John 3:16).  That would mean that love is what moved Him to give His Son for the sinful world.  Paul said that he loved us “while we were yet sinners” (Rom.5:8).  Thus, it was not a situation of God would love us IF…..  God loved us when we were at our worst. Thus, in that regard, it was an unconditional love.  But, what does that mean?  Some seem to think that because God loves us all unconditionally, that therefore He ACCEPTS us unconditionally.  Is this what the Bible really teaches?

False Concepts of God’s Love


One clearly false concept is that God only loves us IF we perfectly obey Him.  But, that is not the case because the Bible says He loved us at our worst, “while we were yet sinners”(Rom.5:8).  The Prodigal Son’s father loved him unconditionally, but certainly was not pleased with his son’s choices. To love is not to accept any and all behavior.  A parent can “so love” a child but not be pleased with the lifestyle of that child.  Still,  love is what causes the parent to keep hoping for a turn around and return of the lost child.  Love longs for a turning point in the thinking of the child, and love is unconditional.  But, love does not accept the child in rebellious behavior.  The prodigal son’s father never stopped loving his son, but there was broken fellowship and relationship.  The father was not glad about the son’s choices and behavior, and did not pretend that relationship remained the same as ever.  Perfect obedience was not the reason he loved his son.  He loved his son while he was yet a sinner in hope of his son’s coming to himself and returning in humility. Love is that way.  God is not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness (Psalm 5:4-6). A person determined to keep practicing sin is certainly not acceptable to the Lord (Prov.15:8-9).  Love means God longs for a sinner who is ruining his life and his potential, longing for the sinner to wake up and turn back to God. God’s love causes Him to also hate what the sinner represents and how that sinner influences others to ruin their lives as well (Rom.1:20ff).

A similar false concept is that “God Only Loves Us BECAUSE We Deserve His Love”.  God’s love is totally unconditional. The Character of God Is LOVE.  Relationship with God is in fact conditional. Love does not equate to relationship and acceptance.  As an illustration we might say that George loves everyone. Does everyone love George? And Does George automatically let everyone in his house?  Can we not love our enemies without trusting them with our house and our children?  Love does not equate with relationship and acceptance.

Things God’s Love Will NOT Do


Love will not automatically accept you “as you are” if that means “as you have been”. Love does not mean I accept my child as a murderer or adulterer or thief.  Love means I have “good will” for someone and will help them get right with God.  If one is “continuing in sin”, love means that I am sad for them and long for their salvation from sin and ruin.

Love does not automatically forgive you.  Forgiveness is conditioned on being “in Christ”(Eph.1:3,7; Gal.3:26-27). Love longs for our forgiveness and will provide a just way that it can happen if we want it. There are conditions for coming into Christ where forgiveness is enjoyed.   God’s love longs to forgive, but will not automatically accept you “as you are”, if that means you are going to decide to continue as you are.

Love will not force your love and service to Him. It will not force you to act against your will, but yearns to get you to change your will in His favor.  Therefore, love will not, by itself, prevent you from going to torment or hell. God loved even the rich man, but the rich man still went to torment (Luke 16:19f). It was not that God did not love him. It was that the rich man did not love God and therefore did not love his fellow man. 

Things God’s Love WILL Do


God’s love will provide a conditional way for you to be saved. (John 3:16; Mark 16:15-16). These conditions do not merit salvation on your end.  They are things that you MUST do (Acts 2:37-41), and yet they are not works of merit whereby God OWES us anything (Eph.2:8-9).  Belief and baptism in Jesus’ name are not meritorious works, nor are they works of perfect law-keeping.  They are both actions of mind, will, and appeal to God for His mercy.  God loves us and will forgive us if we believe, repent, and are baptized in Jesus’ name for remission of sins.  God’s love provides the remission of sins and the conditions.

These conditions are within your power to do. There is no excuse for not meeting these conditions.

God’s love will try to attract your better possibilities and potential and will provide the greatest incentives for you to repent (Rom.2:4-8). Heaven and Hell are incentives, but God’s amazing love and fellowship is a primary incentive.

God’s love is so great that He will do what is painful to Himself in order to be merciful and just in an effort to win your love and fellowship.  God IS Love. (1 John 3).

How do we define His Love?


We cannot define it as automatic acceptance.  It does not mean that none will be lost. What does it mean? It means that there is “good will”, mercy, and compassion already resident within His character. It is there driving Jesus to the cross for your possible salvation. It is your greatest opportunity in life to have reconciliation with God now so that He can bring you home to glory.

Don’t blow your opportunity to experience and enjoy His greatness of Being. There are conditions for being made acceptable (Rom.5:1f).  We see how 3,000 Jews came from lost and condemned to being acceptable, having remission of sins (Acts 2:36-41) all because of the love of God.  You have the same opportunity because of His love.  What will your response be?   -Terry W. Benton


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

DANGER: Church of Christ -Reply Part 2


DANGER: The Church of Christ
By David J. Stewart
Reviewed and Refuted by Terry W. Benton

 Part 2

David J. Stewart said previously: As we see in 1st Corinthians 5:5, some believers live in unrepentant sin; yet, they are still saved. -Unquote.

TB: Let us consider 1 Cor.5:5. Does this verse teach that unrepentant sinful believers "are still saved"? No! It speaks of the church taking a certain action "that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus". Without taking this action, he may not be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. What action were they taking? It is called "delivering such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh". What does that mean? It means to withdraw fellowship and tell him he is with Satan, not with them. When he is made to realize that he cannot practice his sin AND continue in fellowship with them and God, then it may cause him to give up and destroy the sinful, fleshly activity that is making him lose God and the brethren. Repentance destroys the fleshly power of sin in the blood of Christ, and as a result his spirit may be saved. So, this verse actually teaches the opposite of what Stewart is claiming.

Stewart says the verse means this:

1 Cor 5:5  - deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, because his spirit is already saved even to the day of the Lord Jesus. (David J. Stewart Version).

But, now notice the difference between David's version of the verse and what the verse actually says:

 1 Cor. 5:5  deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. NKJV

The word "that" means "in order that" pointing to desired goals or results. It is the same in the whole context.

1 Cor 5:2  And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that (in order that) he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.KJV

1 Cor 5:5  To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that (in order that) the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.KJV

1 Cor 5:7  Purge out therefore the old leaven, that (in order that) ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: KJV

So, once again, this man that calls churches of Christ a "damnable religion" from the "pits of Hell" is sure perverting and twisting a lot of scripture in order to promote his own "heresy". For him to abuse the Bible like this means that he is the one, in fact, who is working with Satan to "make you a victim of his damnable religion". If you read the book of Acts you will see how the early church was maligned and falsely accused in similar ways. Let us not allow someone like David J. Stewart to pervert the word and falsely abuse and misrepresent God's people.

If Stewart has been saved by “faith only” then we have too, and if by faith only we have all been “once-saved-always-saved” then Stewart should hold that there can be no “damnable heresy” to anybody who has faith and has been “once-saved-always-saved”.  He should view churches of Christ according to his own belief.  If he does not, then he is showing himself to be a very confused man who does not even believe his OWN teaching.  Clearly the problem is that this man is twisting the scriptures to his own destruction.  (2 Pet.3:17f). 

 (to be continued).

Terry W. Benton


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

DANGER: The Church of Christ -REPLY Part 1

DANGER: The Church of Christ
By David J. Stewart

Reviewed and Refuted by Terry W. Benton

Part 1

DS: The Church of Christ is a false church. They require good works for

TB: Would belief be a good work? (John 6:28,29). If so, then David Stewart is
falsely teaching that a good work is required for salvation. Would repentance be
a good work or a bad work? (Acts 17:30,31; Acts 2:38; Rom.2:4). If repentance
is a good work, then Stewart is teaching falsely that you must not repent for
salvation. Is it a "good work" to "say a little prayer"? If so, then Stewart is
telling you that you must not say a little prayer for salvation. On one post
Stewart said: "All that God REQUIRES of a man to be saved is that he "confess"
(admit) his sinful condition and turn to the Saviour in faith, that man does NOT
need to give his all." But, is confessing a good work or a bad work? If it is
a good work, then Stewart is shooting his own doctrine in the foot. He would
have to say that one must not confess or turn, since those are good works for
salvation. Work is defined as exertion or effort directed to produce or
accomplish something; labor; toil. Well, Stewart teaches that you must exert
effort to learn, believe, confess, and turn. All of that is work. Thus, Stewart
teaches false doctrine according to his own claim against churches of Christ.
Thus, Stewart shows that he is not going to be fair and honest right here in his
first two sentences.

DS: The Church of Christ is just as dangerous as Catholicism, Jehovah's
Witness, or the Mormons, because they claim to be "Christian"; BUT they are not!
Whereas religions like Islam and Black Muslim openly deny the Christian faith;
the Church of Christ claims to be Christian, and so Satan uses them to seduce
people into Hellfire.

TB: Well, if that is so, then David Stewart is used by Satan to seduce people
into hellfire because he teaches that one must do good works to be saved. He is
just as dangerous as Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Mormons. He claims
to be "Christian", but he is NOT. Satan is using David Stewart to seduce people
into Hellfire.

DS: The following doctrinal statement is taken directly from the Church of
Christ website:

How does one become a member of the church of Christ?

In the salvation of man's soul there are 2 necessary parts: God's part and man's
part. God's part is the big part, "For by grace you have been saved through
faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift if God; not of works, that no
man should glory" (Ephesians 2:8-9). The love which God felt for man led him to
send Christ into the world to redeem man. The life and teaching of Jesus, the
sacrifice on the cross, and the proclaiming of the gospel to men constitute
God's part in salvation.

Though God's part is the big part, man's part is also necessary if man is to
reach heaven. Man must comply with the conditions of pardon which the Lord has
announced. Man's part can clearly set forth in the following steps:

Hear the Gospel. "How shall they call on him whom they have not believed? and
how shall they believe him whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear
without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14).

Believe. "And without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing unto him; for
he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them
that seek after him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Repent of past sins. "The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now
he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent" (Acts 17:30).

Confess Jesus as Lord. "Behold here is water; What doth hinder me to be baptized
? And Philip said, if thou believeth with all thy heart thou mayest. And he
answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts

Be baptized for the remission of sins. "And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and
be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of
your sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).

Live a Christian life. "Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of
him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).

SOURCE: Who are the churches of Christ?

There is much heresy in the preceding statement.

First, salvation is of God alone, and not men. This is plainly stated in
John1:12-13, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the
sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of
blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Man
has no part in God's salvation.

TB: Notice carefully the verse and then notice how David Stewart denied the
verse. The verse says that man has a part. Man has to "receive him". Those that
receive him are given power to become sons of God. Born of the will of man means
our parents wanted us to be born so that God would have another human to call
His. No, physical birth by the will of man does not make a child of God.
Stewart goes too far in saying that "man has NO PART in God's salvation". Man
cannot be born of God's will without some cooperation. If man has NO PART, then
only God is to blame if people are not His children. Stewart makes another
self-contradicting statement in another article of his. He says:

People go to hell for one reason and for one reason only, because they rejected
Jesus Christ as their own personal Saviour.-

But, if there is no WILL to reject or accept, and it all depends on God and "Man
has NO PART in God's salvation", then rejection is not man's fault. How can I be
blamed for "rejecting" when I was not given the power to reject or not reject?
Stewart is certainly twisting the scriptures to get himself in this mess.

John 1:13 is not saying that man has no part in his salvation. Man does have, at
the very least, a "cooperative" part. The text is best view this way:

John 1:13

therefore, neither the will of the flesh-anything that the corrupt heart of man
could purpose or determine in its own behalf; nor the will of man-anything that
another may be disposed to do in our behalf, can avail here; this new birth must
come through the will of God-through his own unlimited power and boundless
mercy, prescribing salvation by Christ Jesus alone.

(from Adam Clarke's Commentary)

John 1:13

[Nor of the will of the flesh] Not by natural generation.

[Nor of the will of man] This MAY refer, perhaps, to the will of man in adopting
a child, as the former phrases do to the natural birth; and the design of using
these three phrases MAY have been to say that they became the children of God
neither in virtue of their descent from illustrious parents like Abraham, nor by
their natural birth, nor by being "adopted" by a pious man. None of the ways by
which we become entitled to the privileges of "children" among people can give
us a title to be called the sons of God. It is not by human power or agency that
men become children of the Most High.

[But of God] That is, God produces the change, and confers the privilege of
being called his children. The heart is changed by his power. No unaided effort
of man, no works of ours, can produce this change. At the same time, it is true
that no man is renewed who does not himself "desire" and "will" to be a
believer; for the effect of the change is on his "will" (Ps 110:3), and no one
is changed who does not strive to enter in at the strait gate, Phil 2:12. This
important verse, therefore, teaches us:

1. that if men are saved they must be born again.

2. that their salvation is not the result of their birth, or of any honorable or
pious parentage.

3. that the children of the rich and the noble, as well as of the poor, must be
born of God if they will be saved.

4. that the children of pious parents must be born again; or they cannot be
saved. None will go to heaven simply because their "parents" are Christians.

5. that this work is the work of God, and "no man" can do it for us.

6. that we should forsake all human dependence, cast off all confidence in the
flesh, and go at once to the throne of grace, and beseech of God to adopt us
into his family and save our souls from death.

(from Barnes' Notes)

John 1:6-9

Believers are further described in terms of what God does for them. They are
born . . . of God. This is not a natural process such as brings people into the
world-not of blood (literally, bloods), suggesting the mingling of paternal and
maternal strains in procreation. The will of the flesh suggests the natural,
human desire for children, as the will of man (the word for husband) suggests
the special desire for progeny to carry on a family name. So the new birth,
something supernatural, is carefully guarded from confusion with natural birth.

(from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary)

John 1:13

There is a progress of thought in the three following clauses, describing the
proper origin of a believer's new life. Children of God are begotten, not of
blood, nor of the will of man. "The new birth is not brought about by descent,
by desire, or by human power" (Westcott).

(from Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament)

So, Stewart has misused John 1:12-13 to teach that man has NO PART in the
salvation process. If that is so, then it cannot be man's fault if he remains
lost. If it is totally up to God, then it is totally up to God, and man cannot
be faulted for not being among the arbitrarily selected ones. Stewart teaches
"unconditional election" and "limited atonement" and "irresistible grace" which
means that God arbitrarily selects the individuals he wants and rejects the
rest. They can do nothing about it. The selected cannot resist salvation and the
rest cannot desire and get it. Yet, Stewart wants you to think that the Churches
of Christ are teaching false doctrine when the fact is that Stewart is teaching

DS: In Philippians 2:12 the Apostle Paul states, "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye
have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence,
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Carefully notice that the
Bible says "work out YOUR OWN salvation"; it does not say anything about God's

TB: Your own salvation is what God has given you. When God gives the gift of
salvation TO US, then it becomes OUR OWN salvation. The gift of salvation is a
package of things: 1) remission of our past sins, 2) the blood to use when we
need it for new sins we will commit, 3) the hope of heaven, 4) the access to the
throne of grace in the name of Jesus to find help in time of need. How do we
"work out our own salvation"? We use the tools He gave us. Stewart is wrong
about this passage as well.

DS: When God saves a man, it is then up to that man whether or not he is going
to obey God or not. God saves us by faith, but then it is up to us to allow the
Lord to live the Christian life through us.

TB: Stewart sounds very confused. He speaks as though "it is NOT up to man"
whether God will save him, but then after saving him against his will, Stewart
then speaks as though NOW it is "up to us" whether to allow the Lord to work out
our salvation by obedience. Stewart is struggling with this passage also.
Obviously these brethren have a part in their salvation to both accept initial
salvation from sin AND continuing the salvation by yielded obedience.

DS: This has nothing to do with salvation. So many heretics today are trying to
add holy living to faith for salvation. No sir! As we see in 1st Corinthians
5:5, some believers live in unrepentant sin; yet, they are still saved.

TB: Once again David J. Stewart is denial of the word of God because it does not
agree with his Calvinistic doctrines. He says salvation is "NOT up to man" but
totally up to God, and then says is "up to us" whether we allow the Lord to work
out our salvation, and then says Phil.2:12 "has nothing to do with salvation"
even though it says "salvation". Perhaps Stewart's dilemma is increased by the
fact that the Bible uses "salvation" in two ways: 1) Salvation from past sins
and condemnation due, and 2) Salvation from a corruptible body and a world of
temptation. So, one can be saved from sin, but need to work out making sure
that we stay saved by faithful obedience so that we can reach the goal, eternal
salvation (1 Pet.1:5-10;Heb.5:9).

But did you notice David J. Stewart's contradiction above? If "some believers
"live in unrepentant sin" and yet they are still saved, then one sin they can
live in is the sin of heresy. He cannot say that we who have believed in Jesus
for salvation are now lost. He teaches that "some believers live in unrepentant
sin; yet, they are still saved." So, at best that is all he can say about the
churches of Christ. Yet, he is in contradiction of his own doctrine because he
calls these believers a heresy that is "damnable". AT the end of his article he

The Church of Christ is straight from the pits of Hell. I plead with you not to
become a victim of their damnable religion.-Unquote.

But, all members of the church of Christ believe in Jesus Christ. We believed
even before we were baptized. Thus, Stewart would have to say that we are saved
at the moment of faith exactly as the Jews in Acts 2:37. What we do and teach
after that point cannot effect our salvation (according to his doctrine of
Once-Saved-Always-Saved). His misuse of 1 Cor.5:5 should be apparent to all. So,
Stewart is claiming a group of believers today is not saved by faith only, and
not "once-saved-always-saved". Stewart cannot have it both ways. Either the
churches of Christ are still saved by faith only and "once-saved-always-saved"
regardless of false teaching, OR the doctrines of Stewart about salvation by
"faith only" and "once-saved-always-saved" are false. Stewart cannot have it
both ways.

(To be continued). Terry W. Benton

Friday, August 24, 2012

Is Salvation Given in a Metaphorical Baptism?

Is Salvation Given in a Metaphorical Baptism?


(This a letter I sent to a brother years ago).


Dear Keith,


     I appreciate you meeting and discussing these vital topics of eternal value.  I truly believe that you are doing the right thing in discussing and testing the validity of concepts held by others as well as self.  I appreciate anyone who can and will take the time to discuss spiritual things in an effort to tear down walls of misunderstanding and establish the truth more firmly in one's mind and heart.  Sometimes the process can be long, but we are commanded to be "longsuffering as we teach the word".


I'm afraid that the vast majority of religious people today are not inclined to see how their own views could stand under cross-examination.  Those who are truly interested in the truth of God's word are not afraid to change their mind for the sake of pleasing God.  With this attitude any two people who disagree on the Bible, can begin little by little to chip away at the walls that divide them. It seems that real Biblical "love" urges this upon us. So, in response to your thanking me, the pleasure is mine and the feeling is mutual.



     You bring up Luke 12:50 again, and I must say something that I did not get to say the other night.  Yes, I agree that baptism can sometimes be used to refer to some kind of metaphorical submersion, immersion, or overwhelming.  I certainly agree that the context is the determining factor as to how any given word is used.  I don't think I said that baptism is always a word that talks about immersion in water.  It means immersion, which normally implied water, but that does not mean that it might not at times be employed in another way.


  In this case, it is the context which shows that Jesus was speaking metaphorically. In any other context, we would think Jesus meant that he needed to be baptized (and we would automatically think of immersion in water because that is its normal significance).  Even you would have thought that in another context.  What about this context makes us think of some other submersion?  Notice the statement that joins itself to the 50th verse. "I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!"  It is obvious that He is not talking about literal fire, but metaphorically speaking of the fire of religious passion and zeal.  But such fire would not be kindled until after Jesus was flooded(baptized) with suffering.  His suffering in the garden, His crucifixion, and His resurrection, kindled the fire in the disciples' hearts and they said "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"(Luke 24:32).  The fire was kindled after Jesus was bathed or flooded with suffering. "So the serpent spewed water out of his mouth like a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away by the flood"(Rev.12:15).  Metaphorically then, Jesus was baptized by Satan in his attempt to wash away the worlds' only hope, seeking to destroy Jesus in the suffering and death of the cross.  But, Jesus then crushed the serpents' head when He was raised from the dead.  The disciples would also experience an immersion in sufferings for the cause of Christ, but the "gates of Hades would not prevail" against the church.


This is clearly a metaphorical use of baptism, but not the normal use.  The question you have to answer Keith is which of the following passages take on a metaphorical meaning rather than its normal meaning?


Matt.28:19?  Mk.16:16?  Jno.3:22,23?  Acts 2:38? Acts 2:41?  Acts 8:12,13?  Acts 8:36-38?  Acts 9:18? Acts 10:47-48?  Acts 16:33?  Acts 18:8?  Acts 19:5?  Acts 22:16?  Rom.6:3,4? 1 Cor.1:13-17?  I Cor.12:13?  Gal.3:27?  Col.2:12?  I Pet.3:21?


You will have to take each passage and demonstrate when and why the context changes the normal use into a metaphor.  This is the area that you and I need to have/take time to discuss more thoroughly.


  The baptism of the Great Commission (Matt.28:19; Mk.16:16) was performed by the disciples "in the name of Jesus Christ"(Acts 2:38;10:47-48; 8:12,13), in "water"(Acts 10:47-48; 8:36-38), "for the remission of sins"(Acts 2:38; 22:16). You cannot demonstrate a single person in the New Testament (after the Great Commission began to be carried out) that thought they were saved before and without baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.


  We can dream up situations all we want, but when it comes back to looking at what the Bible says, salvation and the joy attendant to that experience always followed baptism.  That does not necessarily fit what I would like to believe, but I cannot get over the fact that God did not ask me what I wanted to believe about His terms of entrance into the body of Christ.  It seems clear that baptism was certainly involved in the salvation process (Mk.16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; I Pet.3:21), and it takes some fantastic ingenuity of logic to remove it from that process. I hope I can see it if it is true.


     The other area of discussion is the area of "faith versus works". It is not a discussion of faith versus activity, but a discussion of faith(what is involved in following Christ) versus Works(what one would have to do to be justified before God should that person not believe in Jesus).  There are works that demonstrate the reality and life of faith (Jas.2:19-24). Without this activity, the faith is no good, it is dead.  The works of which Paul says a man might boast, is the imagined works that some of the Jews apparently felt they could have by meeting the full demands of the law(Acts 13:38,39;Rom.2:17-23; 3:19-24).


 The faith was always an active faith, "obedience to the faith"(Rom.1:5; 6:17,18; 16:26), a "walking in the steps of Abraham faith"(Rom.4:12).  Abraham was not justified before he demonstrated faith. Neither are we.  The point and act of demonstration may be different, but the faith is the same.  There is no doubt that had God told Abraham to believe in Jesus and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins, that Abraham would have done that without question.  Had Abraham questioned God or said that he didn't see any sense in His commands, then Abraham would not have been justified by faith.  He would be demonstrating a LACK of faith.  This issue of salvation by "faith only" is thoroughly denounced by James and never advocated by Paul or any other inspired man.  It was imagined by Luther, Calvin, and others, but not taught by the scriptures.  We will need to spend more time on this subject as well.


     I am looking forward to our next period of discussion. I too enjoy it so much when we get together.  I thought I would ask if you would like to correspond on these matters in the mean time?


     Again, thank you for your love and concern for me and your willingness to bear with the challenge that such studies naturally bring.  It can only do good as long as our spirits are tempered with the desire to help each other make it to the wonderful Promised Land.




                                  Terry W. Benton