By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Being a Christian and a Gospel preacher demands sacrifice and being willing to suffer for Christ. Paul tells us that those who desire to live in godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12), and Peter said that when we suffer as Christians we must glorify God on this behalf (or in this name-I Peter 4:16). In my life as a Christian and a Gospel preacher I have faced threats, had slit tires, shots fired over my home, and told of plots by those who would have robbed me for the money in my wallet. I have had people approach me with knives, warnings, threatened with dogs, and have even been hexed by satanists and witches on occasion (at least if I have understood correctly what some have told me).
Recently, while in a Bible discussion with some interesting preachers who refer to themselves as “apostles” of Christ, the following was said:
“”its too late for you to talk now you are done sealed you sent yourself and your whole family and your congregation to hell i serve the most high the Alfa and Omega you sent yourself to hell and your family cursed do you feel good about it i am showing the difference between a man of God and a b______ like you because that is what God call you can’t talk no with God God won’t allow.” (the “apostle” Clovis Richardson)
“”Every one needs to stop worrying with this demon the Apostle Clovis Robinson sealed his soul for hell last night all the preacxers and Christians in the world can pray for this man till he dies but hell will be his home on one even to himself cant help him and if my memory is correct he cursed his whole family his is about to lose every thing even his life.” (‘Apostle” Michael Robinson)
I would like to share with you some lessons that I have learned relating to this discussion.
The Lord Jesus calls upon His followers to learn to love those who curse us (Matthew 5:44-45). Clovis and Michael are false teachers, and preach a false gospel. With that being said, nothing would make me happier than to see them turn to Christ Jesus and be saved. I bear them no ill-will for their words and actions: indeed (as I will share in more detail later), much good has come through the entire situation. I invite them to turn to The Lord (cf. Acts 2:37-38) and be added to His church (Acts 2:47).
Baptism In The Plan Of Salvation
Our entire discussion began with the subject of baptism in the plan of salvation. Many of my friends affirm a belief in water baptism, but teach sinners that they are saved by faith only, before baptism into Christ.
In contrast, every passage in the New Testament which mentions baptism and salvation together places baptism before salvation. For example:
Mark 16:15-16-15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to 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.
Acts 22:16-And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Romans 6:3-4-3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
I Peter 3:20-21-20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Other Scriptures could be cited, but these are sufficient to establish the case that baptism is part of God’s plan of salvation. Nevertheless, many in the religious world find this fact offensive, for they often teach that a sinner is saved by faith only.
The Bible is clear, however, that we are not saved by faith only: in fact, the Scriptures teach that it is by works a man is justified, and not by faith only (James 2:24). Further, James clearly shows us that Bible “faith” necessarily involves obedience:
James 2:20-24-20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
Many are angered by the truth of God’s Word; yet the truth of God’s Word still places baptism before salvation.
My friends, in their anger, leveled a “curse” against me. Many people are not aware that there is a place for a Scriptural “curse” upon those who preach false gospels and who disturb and trouble the church. For example, Paul used the word “Anathema” upon those who pervert the Gospel and who do not give Christ the proper place of honor which He deserves (Galatians 1:6-9; I Corinthians 16:22). What is the significance of this word? According to the Holman Bible Dictionary:
“In the NT, “anathema” has two seemingly opposite meanings. It means gifts dedicated to God (Luke 21:5 HCSB) as well as something cursed. Paul invoked such a curse on those who did not love the Lord (1 Cor. 16:22) as well as one who preached another gospel other than the gospel of grace (Gal. 1:8- 9).” (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2744 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Holman Reference)
There is a place for a scriptural curse, as Paul cursed Elymas.
Acts 13:9-11-9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? 11 And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
The aforementioned apostles placed me (in fact, my entire family) under a curse. Now, I am not concerned; my life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). I have been cursed by far more intimidating persons, and God has been with me and brought me through (as He always will with His people). What concerns me is the context upon which this curse was uttered. For example:
Why would an alleged apostle of God place a curse upon a Christian and Gospel preacher for discussing the Word of God with people?
Why would an alleged apostle of God damn someone to Hell for saying the exact same thing that Jesus said (cf. Mark 16:16)?
Why would an alleged apostle of Christ be so angry when called upon to prove his apostleship (since the Apostle Paul said that we are to ‘prove all things’ [I Thessalonians 5:21], and John says that we are to test the spirits [I John 4:1]), if he was truly an Apostle of Christ?
Why would these alleged apostles of God call a person a demon for proclaiming what the inspired Apostles of Christ did regarding baptism and the plan of salvation?
Beloved, there is something seriously wrong with this picture!
I also learned (i.e., was reminded) from this experience that the subject of “deathbed conversions” is one which often comes up. What about the person on the way to the baptistry to get baptized and drops dead? What about the person on their hospital bed who is too sick to get baptized? What about the person in the Sahara Desert who wants to get baptized and there is no water?
Just what should we think about “deathbed conversions?”
First, I know of many examples in the Bible where people on their ‘deathbed’ wanted God to save them and He refused (Jeremiah 11:11; 14:12; Proverbs 1:28; Ezekiel 8:18; Micah 3:4; Zechariah 7:13). A study of the context of these passages demonstrate that the reason why He did not save the people on these occasions was because they did not repent of their sins and intend to truly turn to Him (Jeremiah 11:11-14; 14:10-12; Proverbs 1:28-30; Ezekiel 8:17-18; Micah 3:2-4; Zechariah 7:11-13).
Second, I know of at least one example in the Bible where a sinner was saved on his “deathbed” when he truly repented. We know him as the thief on the cross (Luke 23:42-43). The thief was not under the New Law of Christ and had no obligation to be baptized with Great Commission baptism (Hebrews 9:16-17; Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16). Living and dying under the Old Law, he was required to offer restitution and make certain sacrifices before he could be forgiven (see Leviticus 6). However, being on the cross, he was not able to carry out the Law’s demands. Christ showed him mercy, however. This tells me that God knows circumstances where a person is truly hindered from obeying Him, and He will do what is right in that circumstance.
Third, I know that the Bible reminds us there is only one Judge (James 4:12), and that the Blessed God will do what is right in these (and all) circumstances (Genesis 18:25). The person who dies on their deathbed, desiring to be baptized into Christ and who is thus hindered, falls into the hands of a loving and just God (as do we all).
Finally, I know that I will not let extreme questions and situations deter me from doing what God commands. If a person persists in denying the truth of God’s Word because of objections such as this, do they truly have an honest and noble heart?
The Bible Teaching Regarding “Apostleship”
I have met many men (and some women) who have told me that they are “apostles” of Christ. I am quite certain that they are not Apostles of Christ, and fairly certain that they do not understanding the meaning of the word “apostle.”
You see, the word “apostle” had some very specific connotations in the original languages of the Bible. Please notice the common elements involved in this word:
“…(apostolos), literally, ‘one sent forth,’ an envoy, missionary…For the meaning of this name as it meets us in the New Testament, reference is sometimes made to classical and Jewish parallels. In earlier Classical Greek there was a distinction between an aggelos or messenger and an apostolos, who was not a mere messenger, but a delegate or representative of the person who sent him.” (J.C. Lambert, ‘Apostles,’ in James Orr, The International Standard Encyclopedia, 11559 (Kindle Edition); OSNOVA)
“apostle, the English transliteration of a Greek word meaning ‘one who is sent out.’ An apostle is a personal messenger or envoy, commissioned to transmit the message or otherwise carry out the instructions of the commissioning agent. In the NT Gospels, the term is commonly associated with the inner circle of Jesus’s twelve disciples, chosen and commissioned by him to accompany him during his ministry, to receive his teachings and observe his actions, and to follow his instructions. Thus, they are uniquely qualified to both authenticate his message and carry on his work through the ministry of the church.” (Phillip L. Shuler, ‘Apostles,’ in Mark Allen Powell (General Editor), HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, 2830 (Kindle Edition; emphasis added); HarperCollins E-Books)
“Apostello and Pempo. In secular Greek the verbs apostello and pempo are used of the sending of persons and things. There is, however, a discernible difference in the usage of the two terms. Pempo is used where mere sending is involved, whereas apostello is used to denote sending of persons with a commission and in some cases to denote a divine sending and authorization…Those who trace the idea of the Christian apostolate back to Jesus recognize, of course, that Jesus Himself probably did not use the Greek term apostolos. He would have used, most likely, either the Aramaic (Seliha), or the Hebrew “Saliah) equivalent…The institution of the Saliah is well documented in rabbinic writings…where it refers to someone who has been authorized to carry out certain functions on behalf of another. The adage ‘a man’s envoy is as himself’ occurs frequently in the rabbinic literature, and it underlines both the representative character of the Sailah and that he carries the full authority of his principal.” (C.G. Kruse, ‘Apostles,’ in Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight (Editors, Dictionary Of Jesus And The Gospels: A Compendium Of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship, 2088-2104 (Kindle Edition; emphasis added); Downers Grove, Illinois; Intervarsity Press)
Please notice that an apostle (in its’ technical definition) carried the idea of one invested with the authority of the one who sent him. This office could not be handed down to another! In fact:
“We saw in Chapter Four that the principle of apostolicity was central to the idea of a canon, and that it stems from the earliest days of the Christian community-indeed from the lifetime of Jesus himself. He appointed the Twelve to be his apostles, his shelichim, a word with very special meaning in Judaism. It meant a representative equipped with the full powers of his principal…“…It is interesting to note that the Jewish shaliach (apostle) could not hand on his commission to anyone else; it was for him alone…There was something unique and unrepeatable about their position. They were the guarantors of the continuity between the incarnate Jesus who walked the streets of Palestine and the glorified Jesus whom the church worshipped.” (Dr. Michael Green, The Books The Church Suppressed: Fiction And Truth In The Da Vinci Code, 84-84; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Monarch Books; emphasis added)
When the Apostles were preparing to replace the Apostleship of Judas, we are told that Peter specified that an Apostle must be an eyewitness of resurrected Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:21-23). Now, since Paul wrote that the resurrected Christ was seen “last of all” by him (I Corinthians 15:8), then it follows that the Apostle Paul was the last Apostle of Christ. This is how I know that these men (and all others who claim to be modern day Apostles of Christ) are not true Apostles of The Lord.
Holy Spirit Baptism
My friends claimed that they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Their words and their actions, however, demonstrate that this is not true. The Holy Spirit is the third Person of the Godhead (I John 5:7), existing eternally as God along with God the Father and God the Son (cf. Isaiah 48:16). Baptism is immersion, and as such, Holy Spirit baptism had reference to where a person was literally immersed in or with the Holy Spirit. Joel the prophet prophesied of this (Joel 2: 28-32), as did John the Baptist (Matthew 3:11). There are a few things about the baptism of the Holy Spirit which are often misunderstood and overlooked, so we will briefly consider them here.
First, Holy Spirit baptism was a promise to be received and not a command to be obeyed. Jesus said that Holy Spirit baptism is the “Promise of the Father” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). A person cannot obey a promise; he can only receive a promise.
Second, this Promise of the Father (Holy Spirit baptism) was not for every disciple of Christ. When Jesus spoke this (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5), to whom was He speaking?
Acts 1:1-2-1 The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach; 2 until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen,
Christ was speaking this directly to His Apostles. In fact, it is fascinating to notice that there were about one hundred and twenty other disciples present (Acts 1;15), yet when the baptism of the Holy Spirit descended (Acts 2:1-4), it only descended on the Apostles (the antecedent of “they” is the “Apostles” of Acts 1:26).
The only other occurrence of Holy Spirit recorded in the New Testament is that of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:44-46). (We may also safely deduce that the Apostle Paul was baptized with the Spirit, since he was an Apostle of Christ as well).
Third, Holy Spirit baptism had a very distinct purpose. Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit baptism would guide His Apostles into all truth and bring to their remembrance all things which He taught them (John 14:26; 16:13). Thus, Holy Spirit baptism was for the purpose of the revelation and the confirmation of the Word of God. The same is seen to be the case with Cornelius and his household. Peter says that they had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit to confirm that the Gospel could henceforth be preached to the Gentiles (Acts 11;14-17). Thus, it is easily discernible that Holy Spirit baptism was for very specific purposes of revealing and confirming the Word of God. We do not need Holy Spirit baptism today since the complete Word of God has been delivered to us in the Scriptures (II Timothy 3:16-17).
Fourth, only Christ Jesus could administer Holy Spirit baptism (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1;33). Any person could administer water baptism (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; I Corinthians 1:17).
Fifth, Holy Spirit baptism was always accompanied with miraculous demonstration (such as true speaking in tongues, raising the dead, etc.-Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46).
Finally, Paul said that by the time he was writing his letter to the church at Ephesus, there was only ONE baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6). This is clearly the baptism of the Great Commission since it was intended to continue “until the end of the Age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
My friends Clovis and Michael claimed to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, but when I pressed for proof of this I was condemned to Hell, and my entire family was threatened. As they said in one of their cryptic messages, they do not bear their sword in vain (a reference to Romans 13; yet their words show that they misunderstood even this statement of the Apostle Paul there, as he was referring to government and governing authority).
Please notice the contrast with the Bible, beloved. When John the Baptist had doubts and questions about Who Jesus is, we are told that he sent his disciples to Jesus with an inquiry: Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?
Now, Jesus did not berate John for having questions; He did not consign John to Hell for having doubts. He did not tell him, “I am from God, and you will accept it no matter what.”
Instead, He sent John’s disciples back to him with the proof that He was the Son of God: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the Gospel is preached to the poor (i.e., fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about the Mission of the Messiah) (Matthew 11:1-5). These miraculous gifts were given to prove that Christ was truly from God (cf. John 3:2; 20:31-31; Acts 2:22). They were given to create faith in unbelievers as the Word was confirmed (Hebrews 2:4). In the same way, the Apostle Paul had the “signs” of an Apostle (II Corinthians 12:12).
When I asked for evidence that these men were truly Holy Spirit baptized apostles of Christ (as they claim), I was told that their evidence lies in bad social security paperwork (no joke), and then was cursed with fire and damnation for questioning their authority.
Maybe We Should Not Talk About Disagreements?
Sadly, there were some who continued in their creeds and experiences through the discussion. Also, there were some precious souls who claimed that they were not interested in going to church services for disagreements such as this. Should we just sit by and say nothing when religious people disagree? Should we perhaps simply “agree to disagree?” Even some Christians claim that we should have no part in controversy! So, what is the answer?
Well, the Bible says that there will be controversy in this world because Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), and we are at war with him and his forces (Ephesians 6:10-18). As such, there will be controversy at times. Satan and his demonic powers are the guiders of demonic deceptions and false teaching (I Timothy 4:1-4).
Paul understood this, didn’t he? In several passages (like Acts 9:29; 17:2, 17; 18:4), we are told that Paul and the early Christians ‘reasoned’ with their neighbors. What did this mean?
“dialegomai (1256), “to think different things with oneself, to ponder,” then, “to dispute with others,” is translated “to reason in Acts 17:2, KJV and RV; 17:17, RV; 18:4, 19, KJV and RV; 19:8, 9, RV; 24:25, KJV and RV; Heb. 12:5, RV, “reasoneth (with you),” KJV, “speaketh (unto you). (W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old And New Testament Words, 50624 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The word thus carried the idea of public debate and dispute. Indeed, all Christians are called upon to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)
I would love for all religious people to be able to agree; yet how do we find agreement? Can we “agree to disagree” with those who fundamentally change the Gospel of Christ? How can two walk together except they be agreed (Amos 3:3)? The only way to reach agreement is to return to the Bible (cf. Jeremiah 6:16).
Can Christians sit back as people rush headlong into eternity unprepared to meet God because their denomination and their preachers have taught them that they do not need to be baptized into Christ?
No, I will not be silent. Judgment Day is coming my friends, and because I do care for people, I will speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I will be harassed, threatened, hexed, attacked, and if necessary, I will lay down my life for Christ.
When I consider that Jesus loved me so much that He endured Calvary, how can I do less?
When I consider that Jesus loved every person so much that He went to that Cross, how can I not?
Through it all, there has been good wrought. One person began to message me privately through this conversation, asking questions about miraculous gifts and the plan of salvation. Others contacted me later, and some Bible studies have been set up, some new friends made. Even today, a good friend told me that a person in her family had been asking questions and was aghast at the “hexing” that I received by these “apostles.” She is hopefully going to consider New Testament Christianity and the churches of Christ.
I was also invited by a secular preacher to call in and discuss these issues on his radio program. When I shared several verses of Scripture which place baptism before salvation, he responded with his religious experiences. I have no doubt that people were able to hear this, and maybe-just maybe-the Seed was planted in their heart (Luke 8:11; Matthew 13:19). I believe that many could see the difference between one actually quoting the Bible, and one who was simply speaking about his subjective religious experiences.
God will bring good through any situation, and I am encouraged to see the good He brings even today. Do not be afraid to speak the Word of God to your friends and neighbors; speak the truth in love and share His Word. This is what He calls us to do (Colossians 4:5-6)!
The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Post note: Recently it was brought to my attention that at least one of these gentlemen is now teaching that a person must be baptized if he desires remission of sins and salvation. God continues to bring good out of every situation!