Is it God real or not? What`s the difference between religion and a relationship with Him? Does He exists, and who is He? The answer of the following questions and more than that, in the interview with pastor Michael Dailey, a friend of AGAPIA`s Church.
Who is Jesus Christ, and why should we believe in Him?
Everyone who is born has a sin nature, because, in our father, Adam, we have all sinned and received his nature of rebellion against God. This means we have the capacity to do wrong things, even bad things. We DO bad things. We THINK bad things. We SAY bad things. In the Bible God calls this „sin.”
Sin is what separates us from our Creator God and prevents us from having fellowship (a personal relationship) with Him. God created us to live in relationship with Him, but our sin prevents this condition of fellowship to exist–even from our birth. Why? Because „All have sinned,” God tells us in His Word, the Bible,”and all have fallen short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23)
In another place He tells us „The wages of sin [what we earn because of our sinful rebellion against Him] is death, but the FREE GIFT of God is eternal life through JESUS CHRIST our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) So God has established it as HIS way and HIS plan, that Jesus Christ, „His one and only Son,” (John 3:16) is to be the payment for the sins of Man.
God established a spiritual rule (or law) that „without the shedding of blood, there can be no forgiveness for sins.” Jesus became God’s PERFECT Sacrifice for sin, because, in the shedding of His blood and in His death on the cross, He satisfied God’s perfect righteousness. The Bible says this: „Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him among you, just as you yourselves know–this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held by its power.”
These words, recorded in Acts 2:22-24, were spoken by Jesus’ disciple, Simon Peter, who was an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry and life and death and resurrection and His ascension into Heaven. Because of Who Jesus was and is and because of what He did for lost and fallen Man, the Bible tells us, „… there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name [than the Name of Jesus Christ] under Heaven that has been given among men by which we MUST be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and claimed to be very God (making Himself equal to God). Jesus said, „I am THE Way and THE Truth and THE Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 13:6) He did not say, „I am A way,” but THE Way! In another place He is recorded as saying, „I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30) All of men’s religions–ALL of them–are designed and intended as ways for Man to get to God, because we have been created with a „God-shaped vacuum ” in our hearts that makes us want to reestablish contact and have a relationship with Him.
But because of our sinfulness we cannot breach the chasm between us and God. Only God, in His great grace and mercy can create a way to reach Him. And He has done that. And it is not ANY religion or religious worship form. That „Way” is through Jesus Christ His Son, the Lord. So, as God’s Word, the Bible, says, we must receive the FREE GIFT of eternal life through placing our faith in Jesus Christ ALONE as God’s payment for our rebellion and sinfulness against Him.
No religion, no other person, can open the door to our fellowship and renewed relationship with God. Only Jesus Christ can do that. And He has done it through His shed blood on the cross. Religion is not the answer, and it is not true that „all roads lead to God!” Jesus Christ, and Him alone, is the ONE WAY, the one „Road” to God. We learn this truth from God Himself in His Word, the Bible. Only in Jesus Christ Alone will we find our peace (Romans 5:1) and our salvation.
What does it mean to be a Christian? Who are the real Christians?
This is a very good question, because there are many religions that claim to be Christian. Most of them have different religious practices and beliefs. There are different types of „Orthodox” religions–Eastern, Russian, Greek. There are Catholics and Baptists, and Pentecostals, and Methodists and Brethren and dozens of others, each with its own views and its own worship forms. It all can be very confusing.
Can they ALL be right? Are they all wrong? They all claim to be „Christian.” How can this be, and how do we know which one to trust? But it’s not really as difficult nor as confusing as one might think. One thing about religions that claim to be „Christian” that is pretty consistent is that they all have a single foundation in the Bible. The translations from the original texts may (and DO!) vary somewhat, but, generally speaking, they all claim the Bible as their foundational Truth. There are religions that attach themselves to the „idea” of being Christian, but are really and truly cults that are NOT Christian.
The two primary ones are the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons. Both of these have „scriptures” that are not biblical (or Christian) in any way. The Jehovah Witness version of the Bible changes and perverts what God has revealed about Himself and about Man in his fallenness. It is not at all like the Bible, though it seems to be like it. It makes Jesus Christ just a man like anyone else and not God.
It denies the the Holy Spirit is God. The Mormons add a whole different book, The Book of Mormon, to what they hold as scripture. This is forbidden by God. God is righteously jealous of His Word and His Truth and will not allow it to be changed. He will not permit others to add to it nor take away from it without judging them. (Revelation 22:18-19) So what does it mean to be a Christian? We must realize that true Christianity is not just another religion. In fact, it’s not a religion at all. Christianity is a relationship–a PERSONAL relationship–between an individual who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life and God Himself. We are called in God’s Word, the Bible, to give our lives to Him through Jesus Christ and to give ourselves to Him, making Him our Lord and Savior.
That is what becoming and being a Christian means according to the Bible. Jesus said, „If you would become My disciple, you must deny yourself and take up your cross every day, and follow Me. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) What He meant when He said this is that we must give ourselves completely to Him in every aspect and area of our lives (which is like death to ourselves), and He will give us HIS life, which is eternal life, as a free gift in return.
One must put his faith in Christ to receive eternal life from Him. Notice that this does not speak of Christianity as a religion of any kind nor of any specific religious practice. It speaks of being a Christian by entering into a personal relationship with God through the cross of His Son Who died for us. This biblical view of being a Christian transcends any kind of religion or religious practice–including anything that may call itself „Christian.”
I’m a Christian because God has called me, and I’ve responded by placing my faith in Jesus Christ as the One Who died for my sins and Who has become my Lord and Savior. I’ve entered into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is VERY personal. Anyone can do exactly the same thing as I according to the Bible. Notice there’s nothing about joining a Baptist Church or any other church or becoming Orthodox or getting involved in ANY religion. That is what makes Christianity so special–it is completely founded on one’s relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.
What does baptism represent? Do we become Christians after baptism or before baptism?
These are very important questions. It is important to understand the answers to these questions. First, baptism represents the fact that one has become a Christian by identifying with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Baptism is an outward expression of the faith we have placed in God for our salvation through Christ. As such, baptism is something that must logically and necessarily occur AFTER one becomes a Christian.
Because of what it signifies, and because it is an ordinance of Christ’s church that was established by God Himself, there is no point or significance to being baptized BEFORE one places his faith in Christ. Baptism sets one apart UNTO God as a testimony of personal faith in Christ. But it is very significant in another way (which also shows us that it is only intended for believers AFTER they have come to faith in Jesus Christ). Baptism is one’s identification with Christ’s DEATH and RESURRECTION. In Romans 6:3-7 God tells us both why baptism is important for us and also explains its personal significance for each individual Christian.
Here’s what He says, „…do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been BAPTIZED INTO HIS DEATH? Therefore we have been BURIED WITH HIM THROUGH BAPTISM INTO DEATH, so that as CHRIST WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD through the glory of the Father, so WE TOO MIGHT WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, then certainly WE SHALL ALSO BE IN THE LIKENESS OF HIS RESURRECTION, knowing this, that OUR OLD SELF WAS CRUCIFIED WITH HIM, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.”
What a joyous and glorious statement of God’s declaration of our identification with Christ in His death and His resurrection, but also His declaration of hope that we, as „slaves” of Christ through our faith in Him, are no longer slaves to our sin nature which formerly separated us from fellowship with God! I said earlier that God Himself instituted the ordinance of baptism for the church. We find this in Matthew 28:19 when Christ said, „Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND THE SON AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.”
One becomes a „disciple” by placing his faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, giving his life to Christ. So, AFTER one becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ by faith, then, in obedient response to the command of Christ (by His words here), he submits to baptism. This shows first, a break, a rejection, from the old sinful life (going down into the water, representing „death”) and, second, identification with Christ’s life (rising from the water as though resurrected to new life). Baptism is not only an obedient response to the command of God, it’s a sacred and holy act of worship for Who Christ is, what He has done for us to gain our salvation, and the hope of resurrection we have in Him. It is an act that looks to the past (our old life), the present (our life from now on as Christians), and our future life when we shall be resurrected to eternal life because of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.
When should one receive baptism ? Is it something based on knowledge or on feelings?
Much of this answer is found in my response to question 3. So I’ll just offer a couple of thoughts in direct response to this question from the slightly different context in which it question 3 is framed. Obviously, because of what the Bible says about the purpose and significance of baptism, it must be received AFTER one has come to faith in Christ.
And because of its deep spiritual meaning and significance, it must be entered into with knowledge and understanding of what one is doing– it is identifying ourselves/our lives with our Lord in His death and resurrection. In another way, if you’re wondering how long one should wait after becoming a Christian to be baptized, I would simply say that it depends on one’s level of spiritual understanding and discernment. That varies from one person to another. But it can never rightly be entered into lightly nor without spiritual understanding of its significance.
What to do if one feels God is calling him/her to be baptized but that one is concerned about what others will think or how others will react?
This is a question that addresses the practical aspects of the spiritual life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is always easy to answer for the one who doesn’t have to deal with the personal relationship issues involved. However, it is often very difficult to face if you are the one who is affected by these circumstances.
But there really is only one answer here: God is our Creator and Savior, and His glory must always be our objective in the Christian life. We are called to be faithful and obedient to Him; He promises to NEVER leave us nor forsake us, even though our obedience may bring emotional, even physical, pain. Or death! Christian history is filled with stories of those who have suffered everything from simple rejection to death for the cause of faithful obedience to Christ. Even today, throughout the world, this is the case.
We’re called by God to be identified with Christ, in His death and resurrection, through baptism. So there’s no need to wait for a call or feeling. Baptism is part of our Christian testimony and witness to a lost and dying world. If others are angered or offended by our obedience to Christ, we must understand that we cannot control the responses and actions of others nor what they think.
But we must be true to our God and Savior and trust HIM to draw near to us in times of trial and be our Comforter: „Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the FATHER OF MERCIES AND THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT, WHO COMFORTS US IN ALL OUR AFFLICTION so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) Christ NEVER avoided conflict by compromising the Truth of His life or His message or His faithfulness to His Heavenly Father. And neither must we. Regardless of the consequences.
Is it salvation without baptism?
The direct answer: YES! Here’s the explanation why… „By GRACE you have been saved through FAITH; and that [faith] not of yourselves, it is the GIFT OF GOD; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). „
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST FOR ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE…” (Romans 3:21-22 The Bible says in many places what these 2 passages teach us. We’ll use these as examples. In Ephesians we learn that salvation comes through God’s GRACE and the FAITH which He gives as a GIFT to all who believe, and salvation does NOT come as an act of any kind of works–clearly taught here!
To get baptized would be classified as a „work” on the part of a disciple. A „work” is something I do to earn favor with God or to earn my salvation. That would allow me the right to boast about what a good deed I did by getting baptized. God says in Ephesians it doesn’t work that way! In the Romans passage the Law could not bring righteousness in God’s eyes.
Why? Because keeping the Law is classified as „works”! „The righteousness of God was manifested” in what way according to this passage? „Through FAITH in Jesus Christ”! The righteousness of a believer is the righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ, NOT from ourselves or the works we perform. Notice neither one of these passages suggest or even raise the idea of „baptism”. Nor will you find it suggested anywhere else in the Scriptures.
In Acts 2:38 Peter says, „Repent, and each of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Context is everything when understanding the Bible. Great errors in understanding and interpretation occur when people take a single verse and try to develop a theological position–especially when there are so many other places in Scripture that contradict that „theology”.
Notice how this verse in Acts contradicts the passages we looked at in Ephesians and Romans. The context here is that Peter is preaching to a largely Jewish audience of men and women who participated in the crucifixion of the Lord less than 2 months previously. He first called them to „repent”. That means they were to change their minds about Who Jesus is and about their sinful act of participating in His trial and crucifixion.
Repenting means they already believe in Him and have recognized their sin. What FOLLOWS repentance and faith? Baptism! Peter isn’t suggesting here that baptism is a CONDITION of their salvation. Rather baptism is a RESULT of their faith in Christ. And baptism was especially important for this particular group, because, as Jews, they needed to be baptized in order to recognize their „death” to their old lives of the Law and their „resurrection” into their new lives from faith in Christ. (Romans 6:3-4) Please notice the explanation for this event found in Acts 2:41… „So then, those who had received his word were baptized…” First, they „received his word.” At that point by GRACE they put their FAITH in Christ. They became „saved.” Secondly, they were BAPTIZED. Baptism is the faithful, obedient RESPONSE to faith in Christ. It’s NOT a part of the act of salvation. There’s a time line here: salvation PRECEDES baptism!
Thanck you, Michael, for your love and your interest about peoples` soul and heart!