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Doctrine in dialogue format
21Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1Thes 5:)
In today's episode we find Pastor Leo with his friend Pastor Otto discussing the Bible. Listen:
"Otto, I have a question for you."
"You usually do. And you usually have an underlying reason for asking them. But I'm game. Shoot. What's your question?"
"How are we saved Otto?"
"How are we saved? Is that your question Leo? how are we saved? We're saved by grace of course. Why would you ask me such an obvious question as that?"
"It does seem rather obvious, doesn't it Otto. Then, in your opinion, we are not saved by works. Am I correct?"
"Of course. It's grace alone Leo. No works whatever are involved."
"Are we saved by baptism then Otto?"
"No, baptism doesn't save us, but in order to be saved, we must be baptized."
"Then, it's saved by grace and baptism. Is that correct Otto?"
"No Leo. We're not saved by baptism, but we must be baptized in order to be born agin into the Spiritual family of God. You know all this, why are you asking me such foolish questions?"
"I don't think they're foolish at all Otto. I think the entire process is confusing the way we teach it. We must be baptized, but baptism doesn't save us. Grace and grace alone saves us, but not without being baptized. Where does repentance fit into this equation Otto? Do we have to confess our sins in order to be saved?"
"Yes Leo, we must confess our sins. That's part of the package. Confess, repent, and be baptized. If we do these things we will be saved."
"I thought we were saved by grace Otto. Now you've added three more things to the process. If we're baptized and repent, but we don't confess our sins, are we saved?"
"That's iffy Leo. I can't really tell you that because I don't know what someone does in their heart. They may confess silently. And I suppose if they do that, they're saved."
"We read in the Bible that whenever someone was baptized, they confessed their sins publicly. Doesn't it seem that to actually have confessed, it must be public?"
"I don't see why. I don't make public confessions, and we don't encourage those being baptized to confess their sins. If we did, no one would dare get baptized, and we'd have to close down the churches. And if pastors and elders made public confessions, we'd be kicked out of the church for what we do, or worse, be put in jail. No Leo, I don't think public confession is such a good idea."
"I didn't ask if you thought it was a good idea or not Otto, I asked if it is required for salvation. What do you think of James' statement that we should confess our faults to one another? Don't you think he meant we should make public our sins?"
"Yes, I mean no. I mean, I really don't know what James meant because he didn't discuss it with me. Anyway, he was making a suggestion, not conveying a commandment of God."
"You think the epistles, unless absolutely stated otherwise, are a collection of suggestions then Otto? You don't count them as commandments, just because the writers don't pound their fist on the table when they say it? Does God have to make threats like He did to the Israelites before we'll pay any attention to Him?"
"You're stretching things way out of proportion Leo. We already know the bottom line, so why don't you just leave things as they are. Experts of the Bible, much more knowledgeable than we are has figured all this out. It's not up to us to challenge their findings."
"Which what Leo? Make yourself clear."
"Which experts are you talking about? We have Pentecostal experts, we have Fundamentalist experts. We have Mormon experts. Which experts are you saying we should blindly follow? You and I believe essentially the same things, yet we're miles apart on many issues. You follow your expert. I want to know what you believe above and beyond what your expert has to say. Surely you must have given thought to many of the verses of Scripture that don't line up with what you've been taught. I have as much education as you do, but I find many places where I think the experts have slipped up badly. And I want to find the truth for myself. In some cases, like that of how we're saved, the answers we come up with may easily effect, not only our life here and now, but our eternity as well. And since we preach what we believe, we effect not only our own eternity, but the eternity of all those we preach to. Don't you think that is sufficient reason to ask foolish questions Otto?"
"If you put it that way Leo, I guess I can't say no. So go on then, ask your foolish questions."
"Thank you Otto. Now where were we? Oh yes, confession. So how about repentance? Do we have to repent?"
"Of course we have to repent Leo. The Bible makes that very clear. There is no salvation without repentance."
"How many times must we repent Otto? Once? a hundred? How many times?"
"Whenever we sin we have to repent Leo. How many times do you sin? That's how many times you have to repent."
"Some people preach that it's an affront to what Jesus did on the cross to confess and repent more than once. And they find what they teach in the same Bible we read. What do you think of that Otto?"
"I think they're wrong Leo. We must confess and repent every time we sin. There's no getting around that."
"So, we must confess, we must repent, and we must be baptized. And we can't work. But doesn't it seem as if these three things are work Otto? I mean, they're something we do, not God. So that being the case, it seems to me we have to work for our salvation."
"Again you're stretching the Scriptures way out of proportions. Those are not works, they're ordinances, like communion. They're like washing your face and hands before eating, or prayers. Those things aren't works, and neither is confession and baptism."
"Let's say that's true Otto. Now, if confession, repentance, and baptism is what saves us, then are the Mormons and the Witnesses born again when they follow these ordinances?"
"No they're not Leo."
"Because they don't believe that Jesus is God. They don't follow the true Messiah. We must believe in the Trinity to be saved. This is part of the requirements for salvation."
"Ah. So now we have yet another item that must be added to the salvation list. I wonder how many more there are. Do you see what I'm getting at Leo? Aren't you finding that there's a lot more to the conversion process than we've bothered to look for? Doesn't it make you curious at all?"
"No it doesn't Leo, and I'll tell you why. If I tried to question every doctrine that I preach, I would be spending all my time doing nothing but studying the Word, and I still would be no better off then I am now. I would just confuse myself the way you've done. Why don't you just accept things the way they are and do what you're hired to do, and that is to provide leadership to your church? That's why they called you. And that's you're responsibly. It's the job of the theologian to figure out the Bible and show us what we are to do. His job is not to preach, and ours is not to figure things out, nor to question. Just follow orders like a good soldier and don't make waves. That's my advice to you Leo. Don't make waves."
"Yes, Otto. And I've heard those same words before."
"You have? Where?"
"That's what the Pharisees were telling Jesus. Don't make waves."
11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12Therefore many of them believed; (Acts 17:)
15Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17And their word will eat as doth a canker: (2Tim 2:)
5For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7Be not ye therefore partakers with them. 8For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: 9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) 10Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Eph 5:)
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