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Question asked by - Byenkya Samuel
Location - Kampala, Uganda
Question - Praise the good Lord! I have a question. If someone gets married in Anglican church when they are a born again Christian, is that marriage valid in the eyes of the Lord?
Our Answer - According to my research, the Anglican church in Uganda is traditional in its doctrine opposing gay marriage, especially among church leadership (see information about the Church of Uganda in Wikipedia). It adheres to the scripture which states, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders" (1 Corinthians 6:9 NIV. Also, see Romans 1:18-32). The Ugandan church has grown closer to Christ than many Anglican branches in the western world. For it has come out of terrible persecution through leaders like Idi Amin. There, unless your church has adopted some unorthodox doctrines that I am unaware of, I would say, absolutely, it is valid in the eyes of God!
However, make sure you check out everything they teach with a good Bible translation, because many churches that were once grounded firmly in the Word of God have tended to backslide into whatever is considered popular or politically correct. Jesus and His apostles warned us of this (Matthew 15:7-9, Matthew 7:15, Acts 20:29-30, Galatians 1:6-9, 1 Timothy 1:3, 6:3-5).
However, you don't need to worry about marriage in the Ugandan Anglican church. The original church came about as a result of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. And in its basic, original form, it is sound in true Biblical doctrine. Nevertheless, remember that the church is not the mediator between God and man. Jesus is (1 Timothy 2:5). So your faith in God should revolve around Christ, not any structure built by human hands (Acts 7:49-51). And the Holy Spirit should take up residence in the heart of every believer! Best wishes for God's blessings on the marriage!
Question asked by - Mark Gadett
Location - San Mateo, California
Question - Do I need to be baptized in water in order to be saved in Christ?
Our Answer - Your question is one that many people are confused about. There has been a lot of conflicting doctrine on the subject. But let me put it this way. Suppose you are at a church and become Born Again. Then on the way home you are hit by a truck and killed. You never had a chance to become water baptized. Does that mean that you will not get to Heaven? No! The thief on the cross never had a chance to be Born Again and he still got to Heaven. Yet Jesus said to him, "...I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43 NIV). Paradise was the waiting area where the Old Testament righteous went when they died. They could not get into Heaven because Jesus had not paid for their sins yet. The Lord spoke of Paradise in Luke 16:19-31 and Abraham was there, among the righteous. After Jesus died His spirit went into the depth of the earth, where Paradise was, and took those awaiting Him up to Heaven (Ephesians 4:7-10). So we know that the thief on the cross was saved and was among those whom Jesus took with Him when He ascended into Heaven.
As Christians we are to follow Christ's example (1 Peter 2:21). And Christ was water baptized. It is a ceremonial act stating to the world that you love Christ and, through Him, you have died to sin (Romans 6:1-5). That's why, during the procedure, you are placed quickly under the water, signifying death, then raised up out of the water, signifying that you died to sin and now have new life in Christ. Therefore, we are encouraged, in the Bible, to be water baptized. However, the mere act of water baptism will not save you if you are not sincerely committed to live for Christ and have repented of your sins. God know our hearts and is aware of whether we are sincere or not (1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Peter 3:12). Let me also say here that infant water baptism is not biblical, although many people think it is sufficient. Infants should be dedicated to the Lord, as the baby Jesus was in Luke 2:22. The person must be old enough to think for him or herself and make their own decisions to accept Christ as their Savior and live for Him. Jesus was an adult when He was water baptized.
I know that very often Christians are pressured into making a speedy trip to the church baptismal tank. However, the location at which you are baptized does make a difference to God. If the church is backslidden and the Holy Spirit is not present, the pastor may be on an ego trip to glorify himself by having mass water baptisms that he can brag about and gloat over in front of his peers. In that case, the Lord may choose another location for your water baptism. Because God wants all the glory for Himself (Isaiah 42:8, 48:11, 1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Here's a personal example of my experience with it. Back in my single days, the church I attended had occasional water baptisms. But, even though God had baptized me in His Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11, John 14:16-17, 26, 16:7, Acts 18:24 thru 19:7), for personal reasons, I did not feel led to become water baptized at that time. However, through a friend of mine, I became acquainted with a young Christian man who did not attend my church. When he found out that I had not become water baptized, he began to reprimand me sternly. Yet, despite his rebuking, I did not feel any confirmation from the Lord that He wanted me to become water baptized at that time. Then, in 1984, several years after Eric and I were married, we had an opportunity to go on vacation to the Holy Land. It was with a non-denominational Christian touring group. They were planning to have a water baptism service in the Jordan River. The same river in which Christ Himself had been baptized (Matthew 3:13)! It was as if God spoke to my heart and said, "That's where I want you to be baptized!" And we were! It was not done through any specific church denomination. But it was in a location that all Christians can agree was a very special place to the Lord!
Now this is very important. Water baptisms should not be confused with the baptism in the Holy Spirit! At the time of John the Baptist, Jesus had not yet died for our sin. So all that John the Baptist could do was to baptize people with water. "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: 'You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance... The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire'" (Matthew 3:5-12 NIV).
The Pharisees and Sadducees were the powerful and hypocritical religious leaders of his day. They claimed to be righteous but they had all the attributes of the proud, arrogant, sinful life that Jesus hates (see Matthew 6:1-7, 23:2-7). Therefore, John knew that they were not sincere in their relationship with God and he refused to water baptize them. It's the same worry that Paul had when he wrote, "And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve" (2 Corinthians 11:12-15 NIV). Paul knew that the religious leaders in his day wanted to pretend that they were just as righteous as Paul was. It was what Jesus described metaphorically in Matthew 13:24-30. When you tell someone that you're a Christian, they may say, "Oh, I'm a Christian too." You know that they are not really living for Christ because Jesus said, "By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?" (Matthew 7:16 NIV). Spiritual "fruit" is described in Galatians 5:19-24. So the Apostle Paul wrote, "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25 NIV).
The reason why I am emphasizing the distinction is because there is a doctrine going around that claims that after you are Born Again, and water baptized, that is all you need in your relationship with God. However, the book of Acts tells us that Paul, on one of his missionary trips, "...arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.' So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' 'John's baptism,' they replied. Paul said, 'John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.' On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied" (Acts 19:1-6 NIV). The subject of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is vast, but I hope to go into more detail about it in the future.
Going back to water baptism, see how the Lord leads you. It is a ceremonial act, and Jesus always gave a certain amount of leeway in such things (Matthew 15:1-9, 12:8-14). Jesus was more concerned with the condition of the person's heart (Mark 2:16-17) than their righteousness in front of men (Mark 12:38-40). Nevertheless, when you feel in your heart, through the Holy Spirit that the Lord has prepared a place for you to be water baptized, I recommend that you do not ignore Him on this matter. God wants the glory for Himself & will lead you to the placed where He knows He will get the most glory. And there you should be water baptized.
Question asked by - June
Location - Indianapolis, Indiana
Question - I am looking to move my membership. I have attended this church for almost ten years, and it seems like every time we get new members, the Elders and the Pastor runs them away insisting they tithe 10%. I believe in giving and I believe it should be with the spirit of joy. Love and kindness mean a lot to me and I want to be obedient to the Lord. I am saved and I love God. I want to know if I should allow my pastor to make my decisions. I believe in Jesus and what He has done for me. I just need info.
Our Answer - Your attitude is the right one. I wrote about this kind of thing in an article entitled "The Popular Sin of Churchianity" in our Autumn 2008 issue of "The Good News Letter."
"My mother once told me about the pastor of a large, wealthy church she had stopped attending. She said that he had preached so much about prosperity and how God will bless people who give to their church that a woman in his congregation had asked him, "Pastor, I don't have much money for giving. I have to pay the mortgage on my house. But should I give the money to the church instead and trust God that He will provide the mortgage money?" The pastor told the woman yes. My mother said that, as a result, the woman lost her house and her husband divorced her. It's what Jude was talking about when he wrote, "These men are... shepherds who feed only themselves... without fruit and uprooted - twice dead" (Jude 1:12 NIV). Faith is a good thing (Hebrews 11:1,6) when God tells us specifically to do something, and we obey Him. But when it comes to something as important as a house payment, the Holy Spirit is the only one who has the right to tell you not to pay it, but to trust God. Does that mean that a pastor cannot tell a member of his congregation that God has told him to tell them to do such and so? No. It is a minister's job to hear the Word of God, even in the lives of specific individuals, and tell them about it. However, if it's really coming from God, the Holy Spirit will confirm it in the heart of the recipient!"
To sum it up, when the Bible says to give a tithe to God, first He is talking to Old Testament believers. So it was under the old laws of God. We no longer live under the law, but by faith (Romans 3:19-24). However the law must not be totally disregarded (Matthew 5:18-20). It is a guideline for us. Our love for God should be our determination. You should be guided by the Holy Spirit. Also, your donation should go to God, not a hypocritical church led by wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15 and Acts 20:29-31). So spend time in prayer and ask the Lord to lead you to the right entity to donate to someone who is truly getting the Gospel out and not just puffing up their own ego and false teaching (2 Peter 1:21 thru 2 Peter 2:3).
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