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The Backbone of the Gospel (Newsletter 2-8 Blog)

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By Ben Weeks

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities.” said Winston Churchill, “Because it is the quality that guarantees all others.” It is in our nature to admire individuals who display extraordinary courage.

The Bible offers plenty of examples. A young shepherd boy boldly faced a Philistine giant and won. Since that notable encounter, the story of David and Goliath has been told millions of times. Noah courageously preached to a skeptical world for perhaps 100 years. Daniel bravely chose a den of lions over capitulating to the pressure of a godless Babylon. Knowing well that such a request could expedite his execution, Paul volunteered to testify before Caesar in Rome. God’s men have always been people who possessed outstanding valor.

There is an ancient figure of speech found in Scripture that indicates courageous behavior. It is a Hebrew idiom that, in the King James Version, is translated as “in the self same day:’ However, in the terminology of antiquity, it is rather stated, “On the bone of the ‘ day:’ Rabbi Daniel Lapin says this ancient expression is closely akin to a familiar modern term that is still in use. In declaring that one has tremendous courage, we would say that he or she has “backbone’

Lapin also points out three specific instances where this phrase appears in the Old Testament. The first reference is in the life of Noah. He dwelt among a people who were unbelieving and evil of heart. He experienced their taunting and suffered their mockery for many years. And yet Noah stood by his conviction that the only way to salvation from the coming judgment of God was in the ark!

Notice in Genesis 7:13, it states, “In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with Air them, into the ark:’ It was a spectacular show of courage for Noah to insist that his entire 4+, family enter into the ark despite the fact it had never rained on the earth.

Another incident is found in the story of Abraham. In an era when circumcision was typically unknown, Abraham obeyed the terms of God’s covenant. He required that his his household bear the marks of submission. We are informed, ‘And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him” (Genesis 17:23).

And finally, perhaps the most glorious illustration of this principle is found in the Passover. In spite of the reluctance of Pharaoh and the Egyptians to let the children of Israel go, God had a unique plan for delivering the nation 4, of slaves from their vicious taskmasters. For every Israelite family, a lamb had to be slain. The blood of the slaughtered animal had to be brushed on the front doorway of each house. The meat was boiled and then served as the family meal that evening.

True to his word, God set the Hebrews free from the land of bondage. When they followed his instructions to the letter, God brought them out with a mighty hand. We read in Exodus 12:51, ‘And it came to pass the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their armies:’

What do each of these passages have to do with one another? Let us examine a little closer. We find a common thread running through them when we turn to the New Testament. Each of these examples illustrates a necessary aspect of the new-birth covenant.

We can learn from a reference to Noah. Apostle Peter wrote about a time when “the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (I Peter 3:20). He then explained the concept even further, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us” (I Peter 3:21). Clearly, the waters of judgment in Noah’s day represent the waters of baptism in the church age. Obviously, baptism is a salvation issue.

Next, we discover a discussion about New Testament circumcision in the writings of Paul. He declares, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism;’ (Colossians 2:1112). Among the types and shadows of the old covenant, circumcision is given as a symbol of baptism.

Paul also wrote about the release of the Israelites from Egypt. He recorded, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (I Corinthians 10:1-2).

Paul, the Jewish scholar, is emphasizing that every single one of the Hebrew refugees was baptized in the exact same fashion. Their actions serve as a beautiful illustration of becoming set free from sin. For those of us in the modern age, we must take the same path out of bondage — through the waters of baptism.

Later in the passage, Paul drives the point home by.saying, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (I Corinthians 10:11). He leaves no doubt, we who live in the grace dispensation must follow their lead. Just as the Israelites forsook Egypt by the Red Sea route, so also do those who forsake their transgressions to follow Christ. In the case of the born again Christian, he travels the route that runs through water immersion in the only “name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Each of these examples of Old Testament courage are, in fact, emblems of New Testament baptism. Any religious person should sincerely ask himself, “If baptism is truly unimportant, why is it addressed so many times in the word of God?”

A majority of so-called Christians today seem to believe that baptism is a nonessential. In a religious world that attempts to downplay baptism in the name of Jesus, it takes fortitude to stand.

If it doesn’t require courage to remain faithful to the apostles’ doctrine, then why are so many abandoning the mode of baptism practiced in the book of Acts? It appears that there has been a forsaking of the “old paths” so that certain people can attain the approval of the larger religious community. It takes backbone to stand sure-footed on what we believe. We live in an hour when the overwhelming consensus seems to be against those who steadfastly hold to the teachings of first-century Christianity.

Ephesians 4:5 declares, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism:’ Baptism is placed on the exalted plateau of core foundational truths. Jude exhorted believers to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). I’m sure he had Jesus name baptism in mind. After all, we could call it the backbone of the gospel!

Ben Weeks is the pastor of Truth Harbor Apostolic Church in Lake Park, Georgia.

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