LCN Article


The Ceremony You Don’t Want to Miss!

March / April 2019
Personal

Gerald Weston

Dear Brethren,

Baptism is an exciting and important ceremony, a time of rejoicing. Sadly, however, it is too often viewed as an end when it is, instead, a beginning—a first step in a long journey. Traditional “Christianity” fails to understand this important distinction. Millions are deceived by satanically inspired doctrines preached by ministers who are often themselves deceived.

Satan led some early Church theologians to compromise with heathen practices, and Scripture is not kind toward such leaders. Jesus called them greedy wolves in sheep’s clothing: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Paul called them deceivers and frauds: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13). We all know this.

Having forsaken the Holy Days and Festivals God instituted, these deceivers taught the observance of days that they knew very well came from pagan origins, and naïve people accepted them with little thought. That was me at one time, and that was many of you. But ignorance does not equal innocence, and there is nothing innocent about rejecting or neglecting the word of God to follow man-made traditions.

Many nominal Christians believe in and accept the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Catholic, Orthodox, and some Protestant denominations practice infant christening or “baptism.” Others teach baptism by immersion, and their adherents are baptized in their early teen years or as adults. These often accept the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. Hypocritical religious leaders teach them, “It has all been done for you. There is nothing required of you. You don’t have to keep the law. You are under grace.” It is true that we are under grace, but this truth is twisted in a way Scripture does not support (Romans 6:14–15; Jude 3–4). The New Testament is full of passages that tell a different story—such as Matthew 7:21; 19:17; John 14:21; 15:10.

Then there is the book of Hebrews: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (6:4–6). Traditional “Christianity” rarely teaches the truth of this plain passage.

In addition to the abundantly clear scriptures showing that it has not all been done for us, we have the message of God’s Festivals and Holy Days. We are reminded in the first of the seven Festivals, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Yes, Christ is our Passover Lamb, who predicted His own sacrifice nearly 1,500 years in advance when He instituted this Festival.

On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter convicted those in his audience that they were guilty of killing the true Passover Lamb. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). His listeners were personally and profoundly affected by this statement, and knew they had to respond in some way to this grievous sin. “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (v. 37). Peter then told them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v. 38).

We find within these three verses an outline of the first three Festivals of God: Passover (Christ’s sacrifice), the Days of Unleavened Bread (repentance and baptism), and Pentecost (receiving the Holy Spirit). Too many in nominal Christianity stop with Passover. They have a limited understanding that Jesus Christ’s death pays the penalty for sin. Some understand the need to “repent,” but of what? Some sins are obvious, but apart from Scripture, the concept of sin can be fuzzy and differ from person to person.

I still remember discussions in my Bible classes while growing up in mainstream Protestantism. We would debate what sin is, and ideas such as “that which hurts others” were thrown about. While that is true to some extent, never did I hear, “that which disrespects God” nor the biblical definition of sin: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4, King James Version).

The right response to Christ’s sacrifice is to recognize our need for His saving grace, identify sin, repent of it, and turn to a new way of life. It is not enough to repent of past sins—we must come to understand our sinful nature. When counseling individuals for baptism, I ask what Romans 8:7 means to them personally: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” Often, people see this as a generic statement that refers to humanity in general, not to themselves. However, is this not the whole point of baptism—coming to see our own sinful nature and turning from it?

The Days of Unleavened Bread teach us that sin is bondage and that we must put forth effort to come out of spiritual Egypt. The last Day of Unleavened Bread is when Israel walked through the Red Sea, a type of baptism (1 Corinthians 10:1–4). Yet, although the people of Israel kept these Days of Unleavened Bread and were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, they did not enter the promised land. A whole generation died in the wilderness, having failed to reach their goal. Why? And what is the lesson for us?

Pentecost follows Unleavened Bread, and it provides the answer to this question. It was the day on which the Old Covenant was made with Israel, and Deuteronomy 5:29 tells us that the Israelites did not have the heart to obey. It is the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost that solves the problem of a rebellious heart. “‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,’ says the Lord, ‘I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people’” (Hebrews 8:10).

After convicting the people of their responsibility for the death of the true Passover Lamb, Peter answered their question of what to do. He told them to repent and be baptized, “and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). It is through this Power that Christ lives within us, working on our conscience to shape and mold us to think as He thinks and act as He acts (Galatians 2:20). Following baptism and repentance, God’s Spirit unites with the spirit in man—the spirit that sets us apart from the animals—and a new man is formed (Romans 8:16).

The events pictured by the Feast of Trumpets ultimately culminate in the resurrection of those who are overcomers in this life and are Christ’s at His coming. Can we grasp what a wonderful day that will be? Baptism is a time of rejoicing, and even the angels in heaven rejoice (Luke 15:7, 10). But the completion of the journey is infinitely greater. Can you imagine the transformation of our lowly bodies into powerful spirit bodies that will never feel pain? Can you imagine the emotions we will feel? Consider standing on the sea of glass before the very throne of God, and the emotions He and Christ will have when They see Their newly born family. Now that is a truth you should want to deeply understand—and a ceremony you don’t want to miss!