VOX POP // voice of the people
Revelation leads to Response.
VOX // The voice of God speaks.
POPULI // God's people respond.
God reveals himself through His Word, we respond with awe + wonder, thanksgiving, joy and often questions.
The VOX POP blog is a place where we consider some of the questions & clarifications arising from our Sunday morning sermons. Feel free to send these in via text (604.239.8222), email (email@example.com) or simply conversation with Reality's leadership team.
As always, let God's Word be our highest authority on life & godliness, and may we be stirred up towards faith, hope & love in Christ Jesus.
TITHES, OFFERINGS AND FINANCIAL STEWARDSHIP
Reality Faith & Life article*
Q. How should Christians approach financial giving? Are we to ‘give until it hurts’, give out of our abundance, or give a certain percentage?
Jerry Maguire popularized the expression, “Show Me the Money” (1996). To hear some Christians (and many skeptics) discuss money and the church, you might get the impression this quote was attributed to Jesus.
While the scriptures do have much to teach about financial stewardship - few topics were as frequently addressed by Jesus himself - it’s also an area of deep misunderstanding and can easily become a point of division with the church and within socio-demographic groups (rich vs poor, etc)
As this question often comes up in our VoxPop series, below we’ll address our understanding of biblical tithing, generosity & giving.
Tithing in the Old Testament
The word “tithe” is derived from the word “tenth,” and Israel’s forefathers had long practiced a tradition of giving 10% (Gen. 14:20, 28:22) before it was instituted at Sinai (Lev. 27:30-32; Num. 18:21-28; Deut. 12:5-19, 14:22-29, 26:1-19).
Old Testament giving was diverse. Israel was to give sacrifices, freewill offerings, redeem their firstborn people and animals and pay various taxes, among other things. The 10% tithe on harvest and flock was simply one aspect of the diverse gifts required under the Mosaic Covenant, and some estimate that as much as 25% of income was required when considering the various festivals and offerings present.
Malachi 3:8-10 challenges God’s people to bring the full tithe into the storehouse, and seems to suggest that we test God’s faithfulness in financial provision. But does that mean 10% is required and expected of New Testament Christians? Or has the revelation of the gospel clarified how we are to think about giving?
Tithing in the New Testament
Beyond a mention of tithing in a parable (Luke 18:12) and a description of Abraham’s gift to Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:3-10), tithing is only mentioned in two parallel passages of the Gospels (Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42). The New Testament never commands the tithe, but the parallel gospel accounts assume it.
What are we to make of this virtual silence in the New Testament?
As with each and every element of the Old Testament, we must read through gospel-informed lenses. We don’t live in ancient Israel and thus must not woodenly apply the prescriptions of the Old Covenant as if not living in the New. The life, death and resurrection of Christ has fundamentally transformed how believers are to relate to the Mosaic Law.
Jesus changes everything by exposing motivation and intent.
Why and how are we to give?
God is a giver. No truth is more readily apparent in Scripture than the generosity, grace and gifts of God. He delights in giving. He himself is the gift and he delights in offering Himself.
As those being conformed to the image of Christ, we should equally delight in giving. And it isn’t just giving in general that is expected; rather it is selfless and sacrificial giving that overflows from a heart responding to the generosity of the gospel.
Here are a few principles to consider:
Consider 2 Corinthians 8-9. If you want to grasp giving, read those chapters and read them again. Not just the “God loves the cheerful giver” section, but the whole thing. The Macedonians gave generously, “beyond their means,” and begged earnestly for “the favour” of doing so. This is radical giving, not just throwing some toonies in the giving jar after a particularly inspiring sermon.
There is a reward for giving, but it is dependent upon a heart free from a lust for the temporal rewards of this earth (Matthew 6:1-4).
Gospel giving is cheerful and voluntary because it trusts that every deposit into the kingdom will earn eternal interest.
If you can’t give cheerfully, give anyway (don’t compound your internal sin with external sin), but as you do, confess your struggle, seek clarity on the disconnect between your heart and the gospel, pray for joy, and walk in repentance.
This is probably the most under-appreciated and under-applied principle for Christian giving today. It inconveniences us, and the flesh is quick to offer excuses and justification (our over-priced city, etc), but the gospel calls us to deep and radical sacrifice.
In 1 John 3:16-17, the apostle exhorts the Church to care for brothers in need as an overflow and implication of gospel love, the type of love that lays down one’s life for another. Do we actually give to the point that we feel it and the feeling stings? Does the call to take up our cross (Matthew 16:24-26) not also carry the charge to lay down our chequebooks?
A heart freed by the gospel does not wait for opportunities to give. It intentionally seeks them out. Gospel giving looks for chances to bless others and listens to the needs of those near and far.
Gospel generosity gives to those in desperate need(Matthew 5:42), risking the gift might not be used properly (which is not to say that it is not righteous and wise to occasionally withhold support for some greater purpose). Those walking in the light of the gospel engage in good deeds and meet pressing needs anytime and anywhere they arise.
Though we should give as need arises, we should also be consistent and disciplined in giving. Giving is linked with prayer and fasting (Matthew 6:1-18), and both should contain some element of discipline and regularity.
In 1 Corinthians 16:2, the apostle Paul explicitly commends a disciplined and orderly form of giving in addition to whatever spontaneous offerings and gifts we might be compelled to give.
I don’t think that Jesus necessarily intends for us to sign Christmas cards “Anonymous” but there is a general theme of secret giving for the sake of eternal reward. The flesh craves the praise of man, and thus we need to beware the hypocrisy and tendency to give in an effort to purchase the acclaim, attention and affection of others (Matthew 6:2-4).
Grace is the basis for gratitude. As those who have received grace, we should gratefully extend it to others.
To Whom Do Believers Give?
Knowing how we should give in principle, we see that Scripture calls us to give to:
- Our local church
- Our spiritual family
- Our biological family
- Our neighbours
- Our enemies
Though the law of the tithe as understood in its Old Testament context is no longer mandatory for believers, I would argue strongly that giving a regular, set amount to your local church is a healthy and helpful principle. God commands the church members to support those who explicitly labour for the sake of the kingdom (1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Corinthians 9:3-12), and the church leaders often have a greater picture of the church’s and the community’s needs.
Within the New Testament, we see the early church selling their possessions and laying the proceeds at the feet of the apostles (Acts 4:32-37), trusting them to discern how to best steward the gifts. In the same way, you should entrust a major portion of your giving to your local church.
If you are not currently covenanted with a church whose leadership you trust, you have a responsibility to honestly consider the motivations of your own heart and humbly dialogue through your concerns with your leaders. If, after taking these steps, your mistrust is found to be appropriate, go elsewhere. If you can’t trust your pastors and church with your giving, you probably shouldn’t trust them with your growth in Christ. If you find that your concerns are more rooted in your own heart, then repent and receive the gift of grace & forgiveness from the Lord as you covenant to steward His gifts for His glory.
In addition to giving to a local church, there are many missionaries and ministries in need of funding (Inner Hope, Power2Change, etc), as well as countless family, friends, neighbours, enemies, widows, orphans, and the impoverished and oppressed. Such need requires attentive hearts. It is hard to be generous and compassionate without being observant and aware of the needs around us.
Informed by gospel lenses, we should not think of giving as a mere responsibility, but an opportunity and privilege. In view of this reality, 10% should not be the goal. We should continue to think through how we can afford to give more and more.
The gospel compels us to give, confronting our fleshly tendencies toward greed, control, comfort and convenience.
What if a raise or promotion provided an opportunity to further advance the gospel rather than rent a bigger suite or buy a bigger home?
What if where we ate and traveled and what we wore and drove were all filtered through kingdom lenses?
What if we sought to give not 10%, but 20% or more?
Forget the tithe.
Ask yourself instead: ‘Am I giving generously, cheerfully, sacrificially, spontaneously, regularly, secretly and thankfully? If not, why not?
Jesus didn’t say ‘Show me the money’ but charged us to ‘deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him’. He said, ‘Where our treasure is, there our heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21).
To an often-uncomfortable degree, our financial stewardship reveals the condition of our heart. May we count the cost of discipleship and find great joy in delighting in Christ our provision, redeemer & sustainer.
GIVING AT REALITY
Realitiy does not have an explicit offering during the Sunday service due to the cultural challenges that money and the church have. Also we desire that visitors and guests feel welcome without any obligation to give financially. We want them to respond to Jesus, giving him Lordship over their hearts.
Financial giving happens at the back of the Chapel by putting one's offering into the giving jars. We emphasize that this should be done as an act of worship during communion time, before or after the service. Regular giving is also made possible through automatic pre-authorized donations (EFT). We'd encourage all covenant members to consider incorporating this discipline into their lives as they are able.
Please consider setting up EFT giving as we head into the summer months. Forms can be picked up at the Connect Corner or downloaded on our webpage.
Article adapted from The Village Church & Acts 29
COVENANT, DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE
Reality Faith & Life article*
Marriage was created by God for the display of His glory and for the joy of His people. Through this gift, we are called to consider not only God’s covenantal love, but also His incredible patience and unconditional mercy toward His beloved. Because marriage was designed to portray God’s goodness and faithfulness, marital discord, division, and divorce within Christian homes obscures and corrupts the image of God painted within the world. In other words, marital strife fails to glorify God. Since the pursuit of the glory of God is the chief end of all things, divisions in marriage are very sober and serious problems with implications and consequences far outside ourselves.
The image of marriage as it relates to the glory of God is particularly vivid and explicit in Ephesians 5 which parallels the relationship between husband and wife to that between Christ and the Church. Just as marriage is intended to point us to God, so we are able to look at the relationship between Christ and His bride to better understand our roles as husbands and wives and the power of covenant. Since we are the world’s worst spouse (unfaithful and self-serving), and Jesus is the perfect husband (modelling selfless, relentless and unconditional love) our marriages are to reflect the gospel itself: a gospel of forgiveness, patience, unconditional grace, compassion, covenant and humility. Failure to display these virtues corrupts the very essence of our calling and distorts the picture of the gospel which marriage is intended to portray to the watching world.
The labour of trusting and displaying the gospel in our marriages is an exceedingly difficult task because of sin. In the beginning, man and woman lived in rhythmic harmony with each other and the Lord. However, as creatures rebelled against the Creator, they were subjected to disharmony with Him, as well as with each other (Genesis 3:16). This conflict within the sacred union of man and woman continues through today and will do so until creation itself is set free from its bondage (Romans 8:19-23). The Scriptures declare that the source of quarrels and fights, whether marital or otherwise, is directly related to sinful desires within each party (James 4:1). Sin is our enemy in the fight for unity and peace within all relationships.
Given that divorce springs directly from the sin of at least one party and that it fails to properly reflect God’s character, it is clearly never the best option. However, what is not absolutely clear within the Scriptures is whether or not, and in what circumstances, it might be permissible. Complete agreement on the conditions and applications of these biblical guidelines does not exist within the evangelical church and our own community. Thus, our elders endeavour to prayerfully, biblically & thoughtfully wrestle with these issues on a case-by-case basis, as led by the Holy Spirit. That said, Reality Church has a general boundary of beliefs on this topic which no counselling or teaching will exceed.
The Hope of Reconciliation
Before discussing possible situations which might allow for divorce and eventual remarriage, it is first necessary to explicitly state the conviction that the hopeful resolution to all marital strife is reconciliation. Repentance and reconciliation is always the best option. Even if divorce is permissible in some instances, patiently working through the process of reconciliation in the context of a community of believers is always preferable.
As sin is the root issue in all strife, marital or otherwise, our greatest problem is not first and foremost the marital conflict itself, but rather one or both party’s rebellion against God. Unless one has responded to Him in the gospel by faith and repentance, attempts to reconcile marital or other relationships will never get to the root and will therefore only treat symptoms. Praise God that He has initiated reconciliation with us through the person and work of His beloved Son. This is how the Scriptures speak of this reconciliation:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” 2 Corinthians 5:17-6:1
The foundation for a healthy marriage is a right relationship with God, a relationship that will only come as we embrace the gospel of the love, mercy, forgiveness, grace and humility displayed in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who died for our sins to reconcile us to God. For this reason, we want to be faithful to preach Christ and not merely healthy marriages. The latter being the fruit of the former. The rationale for forgiveness, humility, grace and patience with a spouse is the Christian’s desire to be like Christ. Failure to patiently forgive and extend grace thus reflects an unwillingness to be conformed to the image of Christ, which is the ultimate hope of God’s children (Romans 8:28-30).
In light of Christ’s reconciliatory work toward us, we have been given the task of reconciliation within the world. This is the application of Paul’s words in the second half of the 2 Corinthians passage:
“…and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”
As ambassadors entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation, our urgent plea is for souls to be reconciled to God and to each other. Within the body of Christ, we not only have the right, but also the responsibility to call our brothers and sisters to holy and God-honouring obedience to His commands of marital fidelity and unity. Though the work of reconciliation may not be easy, it is certainly worth any cost to see God glorified and His children walking in the light.
Biblical Grounds for Divorce
Though once again stressing that divorce is not the best option, there are texts which would imply that it is sometimes permissible after all attempts at reconciliation have been exhausted. The two grounds upon which the Scriptures would possibly grant such release are sexual immorality and desertion by an unbeliever. Here are the pertinent texts:
- Matthew 5:31-32
- Matthew 19:6-10
- 1 Corinthians 7:12-15
In Matthew 5:31-32 Jesus seems to make allowance for divorce in the case of “sexual immorality.” This term in the Greek is very broad and would include such things as adultery, homosexuality, incest, etc. In the case of adultery, the offended spouse is encouraged to engage their husband or wife with the gospel and offer forgiveness and restoration (though it might be a slow process), but ultimately they may have freedom to be released from the marriage.
In 1 Corinthians 7:12-15 Paul discusses the case of a marriage between believer and unbeliever. In such an instance, the overarching command is clear; the believer should not divorce the unbeliever who is willing to remain married. However, if the unbelieving spouse does abandon the marriage, the believer is therefore free.
In the case of unrepentant and continued abuse, the abused is encouraged to immediately separate and is also expected to inform the Church who will attempt to engage both the abuser and the abused with the gospel in hopes of repentance and reconciliation. If such does not occur, the elders may deem the abuser an unbelieving spouse according to the tenets of Matthew 18:15-17 and allow for divorce on the basis of the spiritual desertion caused by the abuser. In some cases, local authorities may also become involved (police, Ministry of children and family services, etc) if there is suspected domestic violence and/or danger to children. Under no circumstances will the church allow or encourage ongoing abuse of any kind, and certainly not under the biblical concept of ‘headship’ - which should be lovingly laying down your life for your spouse, leading as a servant with humility, conviction & grace.
In all other issues of marital difficulty and division (including unmet expectations, communication issues, immaturity, illness, etc), the command of the Lord is clear for Christians: divorce is not to be pursued (1 Corinthians 7:10). If a covenant member of Reality Church pursues divorce on any non-biblical ground, they will be lovingly engaged by the pastors and elders of the church and called to repentance and reconciliation, to realign their lives & relationships with the gospel of grace (Gal 2:14). Those who’ve experienced divorce & remarriage prior to their time within Reality church, will not necessarily undergo church discipline, but will lovingly be called to a renewed covenant life in Christ.
The Possibility of Remarriage
As with the interpretation of the texts on permissible grounds for divorce, there is not complete unanimity in the evangelical church on the possibility of remarriage. However, in instances involving one who was divorced on the grounds of sexual immorality or desertion by an unbeliever, remarriage will be considered acceptable within Reality Church. In addition, depending on circumstances, there may be freedom to remarry one who was divorced before conversion on the grounds that such a person is a new creation in Christ. For all divorces which have occurred for reasons other than sexual immorality or desertion, where both parties were Christians at the time of marriage, the expectation is to pursue reconciliation. Until such time as reconciliation with the former spouse occurs, both spouses are to remain unmarried as indicated in 1 Corinthians 7:11.
The Church has not always given wise, compassionate & grace-based counsel regarding divorce. At times it has been too loosely allowed or even encouraged while at other times it has been weighted down with the stigma of some unforgivable sin. Both of these extremes are unfortunate and out of alignment with the gospel of grace + truth. Though divorce is tragic and costly, the cross of Christ is sufficient to cover all sin and thus we plead His blood for our hope. Whether you have been divorced or are currently going through a divorce, we would hope to encourage you to pursue reconciliation and, if the Spirit convicts, repentance while resting confidently in the love of the Father for those whom He calls to Himself.
The Scriptures are not given to weigh us down with God’s rules, but are intended to lead us into the joys and freedom of God’s intended order. Though forgiveness and reconciliation are never easy, they honestly bring about the greatest satisfaction in the end. We are a people who have been called by grace and mercy and thus are called to extend grace and mercy to others. Let us do so with glad hearts, confident that He who calls us to obey Him will equip us to do so and be faithful at every step of the journey.
For His glory & by His grace,
the Reality Elders
*content adapted from an article by The Village Church (Texas) 2015
Q. Is it OK for people to take a break from coming to church but still call themselves a Christian?
Before answering that question we need to define two really important words: "Christian" and "church".
What is a Christian?
The word "Christian" appears only three times in the Bible, and was first used by the people of Antioch to describe the growing group of the disciples of Jesus (Acts 11:26). It was an outside term used to label a disciple of Jesus. Today, being a Christian means many different things to different people. Culturally speaking, someone who is born into a family tradition that included going to church once or twice a year may label themselves a Christian. Someone who is a moral person, or someone who hails from the promised land of Abbotsford may label themselves a Christian. People who regularly attend a church may call themselves Christians, but not truly be. Scripturally speaking, ethnic identity, family history, church attendance, moral uprightness all have nothing to say about whether someone is truly a Christian. A Christian is someone who by God's grace is saved through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:5). A Christian is someone who has believed and confessed Jesus as Lord and Saviour (Romans 10:9). And a demonstration of this is a growing sense of desire to live life for Jesus. For His glory. His renown. His pleasure. In joyful submission to His authority as Lord. In awe and wonder of the gracious realities of the transformed identity of the Christian: forgiven, redeemed, adopted as a child of the King, saved from death, brought into life.
What is the Church?
The term "church" is much more common to the Bible. The book of Acts itself documents the beginning of the early church. While, apart from the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament is a collection of letters written to churches and the leaders of churches. Today, we often say things like: "how was church?", "on Sunday I go to church", "our church is on east 19th", etc. While these are by no means malicious sayings they do point to the deeply imbedded thought that church is an event or a place. The reality is that the Bible never talks about church in that way. The church is essentially the people of God, God's household, Christ's body (Ephesians 2:19; Romans 12:5). It is always spoken of in reference to the people that compose it, not the activities that those people participate in. On Sundays we gather as the church, at the Chapel on east 19th. Throughout the week we gather as the church in Community groups, in homes, in coffee shops. So while this may be a matter of syntax, it is important, because the way we talk about things says a lot about how we think about things.
So, is it OK for people to take a break from coming to church but still call themselves a Christian?
Yes, but not as a pattern or regular practice.
As we spoke about above and as was hit on in a previous blog a few weeks ago, salvation is found in Jesus and Jesus alone. It is by faith in Jesus, not by works, that we are saved (Ephesians 2:5). Church attendance doesn't save. Jesus saves (Luke 19:10). But with that said, remember what we just talked about, that the church isn't an event but a people, not a place but a community. One of the most precious pictures we have in Scripture is given of the church as the Bride of Christ (Revelation 19:6-10; 21:1-5, 9-10). Jesus' very bride. And if Jesus has in love saved us, claiming us as His own, and we now love Him in return, the norm should be that we love what He loves. And Jesus loves the church. As a good husband Jesus sacrificed everything for her to purify her. Jesus died for her (Ephesians 5:25-27). Also, the New Testament is filled with commands to love one another (John 13:34), to serve one another (Galatians 5:13), to bear with and forgive one another (Colossians 3:13) and to confess sins to one another and pray with one another (James 5:16). These are all played out in the gathering of the church, on Sundays and throughout the rest of the week as we do life together. So while our salvation is thankfully not linked with our church attendance, or any other works and rituals for that matter, the norm of the Christian life is active participation in the life of the church gathered.
With all of that said, a blog response can only go so far. If you are living with a condition or within circumstances that make participating in the life of the church difficult, or even impossible, please get in contact with us so that we can help you navigate this question better.
Q. Is it possible to think I’m saved and yet not be? Help!
First, I would say that it is a good sign to have concern over your salvation; within reason. It is very unlikely that someone who is unsaved would ever ask this question. It is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit that makes us care about these sorts of things.
Secondly, simply answering the question “Who is Jesus?” should be deeply reassuring. If you believe he is the Messiah (1 John 2:22), the Son of God (1 John 5:10), has come in flesh (1 John 4:2), died for your sin (Romans 5:8), is the only way, truth and life (John 14:6), this testifies to the new life given to you in Christ. Your theology should give you assurance.
Thirdly, recognizing that if you’ve ever believed and confessed Jesus as Lord & Saviour, you have been sealed by His Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13 & 4:30 talk about being sealed with the Spirit for the day of redemption. Since we are saved by grace, not by our works, we can rest in these promises. Additionally, Jesus talks often of his role as the Good Shepherd and in John 10:27-28 offers this assurance to us, his sheep, ‘I give them eternal life… and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus never loses a Christian.
In my experience, one of the most overlooked answers to this question has to do with community.
Assurance is a community project.
Often time deep doubt and insecurity about salvation comes from isolation. Are you connected to community? Are there people that know you well? If so, do not be afraid to ask them the questions: Do you see spiritual fruit in my life? Do you see me walking in hard-hearted sin or in unrepentance?
I know these questions can be scary; but isn’t it better to get some honest feedback than to wonder?
I try to come to church with the prayer, “Lord, the enemy is trying to get to my brother and sisters this week; use me to negate that work”. We need to be building each other up in love (Ephesians 4:16), and we should avail ourselves of the protection and edification that the Lord intended the church be for us.
~ Reality gospel + culture collective
2 Questions from the March 1, 2015 sermon entitled Encounters in the Wilderness // Mark 1:4-13
QUESTION #1 // Should I get baptized if I've been a follower of Christ for many years
Matthew 28:19 says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” This is the direct command of Jesus that we as Christians need to make disciples and baptize them.
Why is this so important?
Romans 6:3-5 says: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Baptism is a picture of what was accomplished through the life/death/burial/resurrection of Jesus, and the outward sign of the believers union, identification, and expression of faith with Christ. It is something the Bible clearly calls all believers to do.
Baptism is the outward expression of an inward reality, just as a wedding ring is the outward sign of marriage. It is the symbol of your new life as a Christian. Therefore, we would urge all believers, regardless of how long you have believed and followed Christ, to follow the command of Christ to be baptized. To those who were baptized as infants, to those who were baptized in a catechism program, and to those who were baptized prior to understanding the significance of the work of Christ symbolized in the act of baptism, we would urge you to follow the command of Christ and be baptized as a public profession of your faith and union with him.
QUESTION #2 // When does baptism in the Holy Spirit happen? Is it connected to, or separate from, our water baptism?
I (Joshua) grew up in an extremely charismatic church, and I had always been taught that there were two types of Christians: Regular Christians and Spirit-Filled Christians. I took great pride in the fact that I belonged to the latter category, and prayed for those friends and family members who I assumed had not yet received the Holy Spirit.
Having now read and studied this topic more in depth, and having sat under some more theologically informed teaching, my understanding of this has changed significantly. To begin with, I assumed that if someone wasn’t baptized in the Holy Spirit that they did not have the Holy Spirit. However, if it is the action of baptism that imparts the Holy SPirit to us, then that would also mean that the person asking the question above, who has been a believer and follower of Jesus but hasn’t yet been Baptized, has yet to receive Jesus because they are not yet baptized. This clearly isn’t the case. Baptism is the outward visible sign of the already existing inward and invisible reality.
In fact, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit works in us and gives us a new heart that enables us to respond to the Gospel (Ezekial 36:26 & 26:27, John 1:12-13) and that our being born-again isn’t something we do, but something that is done for us on our behalf (1 John 5:1, John 3:3, Ephesians 2:8). We aren’t regenerated at the time of baptism, nor do we first receive Jesus at the time of Baptism. It is clear that our regeneration precedes even our choosing, and the action of baptism is the outward expression of what has happened inside our hearts. It is an identifying with the death and resurrection of Jesus, and an admittance that it was Jesus who cleansed and washed us from our sin (through the action of our immersion), and that apart form Jesus we deserve death. But because of the perfect life of Jesus and his substitutionary work on the cross, we now (through him) will resurrect to eternal life (symbolized in the coming out of the water).
So, I now understand that I had the Holy Spirit at work in me before I even believed, after all it was in fact the Holy Spirit that enabled me to believe, and I know I had encountered and received Jesus before I was baptized in my pastors backyard pool. But the act of baptism is the outward sign of an inward identifying with Jesus’ life/death/resurrection, and likewise, if we have the Holy Spirit there will be outward signs of this new inward reality.
Once upon a time I believed that the sole sign (or evidence, or fruit) of the Spirit at work in a believers life was that they spoke in tongues. The Bible is clear that there will be signs and evidences that the Spirit is at work in you, but I would argue that there is no biblical indication that speaking in tongues is the sole evidence. The evidences we should exhibit as a result of being born of the Spirit include:
- The fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25 which is not fruit we naturally produce, but the fruit that results from being indwell by the Holt Spirit.
- A confidence in the assurance of salvation as given to us through belief in Jesus as Lord, as the Bible is clear that a regenerate heart that believes in Jesus is the first gift the Holy Spirit gives believers
- An increasing distaste for sin and an increasing desire for and satisfaction in the commands of the Lord.
The meaning of the word ‘baptism’ is: to be immersed or to be washed. As born-again Christians we understand that at the moment of conversion the Holy Spirit had already given us a new heart and already indwelt us. We believe that we were baptized (immersed, cleansed, and washed), and that the outward signs and evidences of this inward activity will continue on throughout the course of our lives.
~ Reality gospel + culture collective