I remember the story of a cathedral, built on the dry lakebed that would become Mexico City. Because the ground was very soft, the building began to shift and lean and sink into the earth. There are many magnificent buildings built all around the globe, but those structures that were built on a sure foundation stand the test of time. If the foundation is not solid, the whole structure is in jeopardy. The foundation of the Church is Jesus Christ. He tells us that He is the Word of God, the Way, Truth and Life. These are very exclusive statements that He makes about Himself – that no one comes to the Father except through Him [John 14:6]. If Jesus were not the real Savior of the world, then He would sound rather arrogant. But if He really is who He claims to be, then this is not arrogance; it is urgent, vital and truthful. Jesus is not boasting when He says these words –He is prompting. He is calling all of His disciples to take Him seriously.
The New Testament Church was begun by Jesus Christ, who was commissioned by His Father to get the job done. Jesus chose apostles (the word “apostle” means “witness”) to set the foundation for the Church. In other words, the teaching of the church was given to a select, hand-picked group.
“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.,” [1 Corinthians 3:10-11]
To be a true apostle, Jesus had to pick that person. And those people were given the task of recording for all time the foundational truth of the Church of Jesus Christ. We call this the New Testament. All of the New Testament books were written by apostles or by traveling companions of the apostles. All writing was done and approved by the apostles. This is why the New Testament is collectively called “The Apostles Teaching.” The Old Testament was also considered part of the Apostles’ Teaching, but this body of writings was called collectively the “Old Covenant” and sometimes (collectively or individually), the “Law,” the “Prophets,” or the “Writings.” The entire work that we call “Bible” (“Rule” [by which we believe and obey]), with both Old and New Covenants, in a marvelous and powerful sense, is the Word of God, Jesus Christ. He is the foundation of the Church. The New Testament Church followed the teaching, both written and by example, of the Apostles because Jesus chose them exclusively to set up the foundation of His Church:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved,” [Acts 2:42-47]
Jesus made it very clear that His disciples must obey Him if they dare to say that they love Him.
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him,” [John 14:21]
I haven’t met a person yet who both claims to be a disciple and says that he or she doesn’t love Jesus. We all want to love Jesus. But Jesus makes clear that His foundation is important –and a disciple cannot seriously be called a disciple if he or she doesn’t accept Jesus as the foundation of the church.
“God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his,” [2 Timothy 2:19]
Notice in the Scripture above how the foundation is directly connected to the concept of Jesus’ ownership of His disciples. In short, God’s Word matters. The truth matters. And we are only saved through Jesus Christ. He is the One who saves, period. And if the truth really matters (that is, the truth according to Jesus), then we had better pay close attention to what He has said.
Kouts Christian Church is a “New Testament” church that makes the bold claim that she will follow Jesus’ commands and the pattern left by the Apostles. The foundation has already been established; we follow Jesus and the New Testament as our rule, as our standard of faith. No man-made creeds, confessions, hierarchies, books, ideas or philosophies will govern us –only the Word of God, the Apostles Teaching. This is what unifies us. This is what enables us to call God’s blessing down upon us. And unity is the reason that I am writing.
I realize that many of you have not placed your membership in this church. And, more importantly, I know that many of you have never been immersed. This is very serious. I am pleading with all of you to examine carefully the Book of Acts. I am calling you all to examine the word “baptism” carefully on your own. Don’t take my word for it, examine it yourself. But the Bible teaches very clearly about baptism. The word baptism itself in the English language is an unfortunate product of tradition overruling truth. The New Testament meaning of the word baptism, when translated into English, is “immersion” or “submersion” and carries with it the connotation of death, burial, cleansing and unity. But early English translators of the Bible encountered a dilemma when they encountered this word, learning that the political and powerful denominational churches of their day were not practicing New Testament teaching. So, to cover the true meaning of the word (immersion), rather than use a literal translation, they transliterated the ancient Greek words baptisma (immersion) and baptidzo (to immerse) into English: Baptism and baptize. No wonder there is so much confusion over this subject. But the reason for this confusion is not found in the Word of God; the reason is found in the false teachings of men.
This year, for Easter, I am going to encourage all of you who have never placed your membership at Kouts to do so. Let us be one in spirit and purpose –because we love Jesus. I am going to encourage any who have not been immersed into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 6) to be united with Christ –the way that He and the apostles taught- on Easter Sunday. I am a firm believer that when people believe for themselves that Jesus is the Savior that they should be baptized immediately. Yes, I think it is that urgent. That is what I read in the book of Acts and in the New Testament –the rule and truth of our faith in Christ. But leading up to Easter, please consider seriously your relationship with Jesus Christ. No one can make you do this. No one can decide this for you. We all are held accountable to God personally. And should you take this teaching seriously before Easter and see the urgency of this command of Jesus, then please, do it and don’t hesitate! This doesn’t have to be on Sunday morning. It doesn’t even have to be done in our baptistery. And since Jesus is the One who unites us to His Body, it doesn’t matter if I immerse you or if another Christian does it –but please, do it. Leading up to Easter we will be talking a lot about service, the resurrection and salvation. And I am setting Easter aside as a special “immersion Sunday.” In the upcoming weeks in the newsletter, I will be talking about the history of immersion and how all of the contemporary teaching about this subject has become so confusing. Remember, it doesn’t matter what I say or what anyone else says about Christian teaching. What matters, what really matters, is what God says and what God wants. If we want to love God, we’ve got to obey God –we can’t have one without the other. And to obey Him, we have to know what He really says. Please continue to pray that God would:
Use us, Your church, to change the world
Send us out to serve You and turn our efforts for Your Kingdom into occasions where the unsaved give You glory
Send Your Power, send Your Spirit and refresh us all with the energy and enthusiasm necessary to serve You with confidence
Teach us all to be selfless and to agree concerning what You have said Flood us with a lot of reasons to get even more excited about You. Give us clear direction and guide us as we go
Teach us to fall deeply in love with You and with one another
Love in Jesus,