The Letter

Dearest church,

I write to you because there are matters of utmost concern that have come to my attention. You seem to not understand the importance of the mandates that have been prescribed.

Fellowship
I understand you have based your services on fellowship with one another, however, you seem to have neglected many of the other obligations that have been given to you. Fellowship is fine, but it has its place. You must focus on the aspects of the services. You can fellowship a few minutes before and after, and perhaps during an interlude, you can shake hands with a few people you haven’t spoken to yet, but you must keep the service in proper focus. Fellowship has its place, but you must strive to make the service of utmost importance.

Services
Please remain attentive to the speaker and do not interrupt with questions. Doubts and questions are the foundations of sin. I know you have read of the apostles’ answers, but it is time you started to learn how to be reverent and respectful of the anointed ones in your meetings. Questions cause division, and you must remain in unity.

You must be in attendance every Sunday. There are no valid excuses for tardiness or absence. Do not underestimate the importance of being under the teaching of the word and correct doctrine. You will easily fall out of favor if you are not consistently sustained with the words of these leaders.

In addition, you must give your tithe to the proper authority figure for use in continued services in the future. There should be no more of this sharing among yourselves as the funding for future services is severely lacking. Submit to the leaders and they will do what is appropriate for you.

Also, remember to stick with the service format and do not allow variation. Change is always bad. If you advance pass the format presented here, you will alienate each other from consistency and familiarity. Remember how good it was in the past and always strive to uphold that ideal. Ensure everyone upholds those past traditions so you remain compliant to the faith.

Sacrifice
I have noticed that while you are more than willing to sacrifice yourselves at the hands of the political authorities, you must consider the spreading of the gospel. How do you intend to spread the word if you’re dead? Do not throw your life away by such useless sacrifice. Instead, you must strive to become a force within the political arena. Christianity will die if you do not actively involve yourselves.

There are other ways in which you can sacrifice. You can sacrifice your time and assets to build the institution so it can become a force in the world for good. I know you are eager to place your efforts into a pursuit, and I can think of nothing better to spend your time and resources on than building the church in the world so there is a shining beacon of morality in which to base your lives around.

Submission
You must submit yourselves to the authorities. They know what is best for you. You can trust that they will not mislead you. They already know all that I am writing in this letter, so submit yourselves to them so they can direct you in the word. Without leadership, you will be lost and fall into error. These leaders have been strategically placed and trained so you can be comfortable in your salvation. They are masterful at pointing out sin and will guide and encourage you by specifying the rules you must live by in order to be a good Christian. There will be many examples of worldliness they will point out along the way to show you how righteous you are in comparison. Take note of these things and be confident in your salvation because you have done what is right.

Rituals
You must perform the rituals as prescribed. Every born again believer must be baptized with water as has been mandated. I will leave the methodology of this to you, but all assemblies must come to an agreement and use water in these rituals. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not enough. How else will you recognize each other as Christians if you don’t perform the prescribed mandates regularly?

Division
No more disagreements. You need to come to a consensus on everything so that no one falls into error. Differing views will cause division. It is important that if anyone disagrees with the majority, they must be cut off from the congregation lest they confuse and distort the message. Unity in everything done is the most important aspect of keeping your congregation healthy and active. If you follow all of these mandates, unity should not be a problem. Remember, separate yourselves from any dissenters so they cannot distract you from the path laid before you.

Remember, also, to abstain from sin. Do not allow yourself to be exposed to others. In doing so, you will cause controversy and be shown as weak and unworthy. The focus is on the worship service and not you individually. It is shameful to bring up your short-comings in such a holy place.

Warfare
Remember, you are at war so everything you experience outside of proper religion should be considered an attack. There are forces that will attack you financially, politically, and morally. When you suffer lose of these things, it is a spiritual attack. Remember, anything that causes you discomfort is bad and must be upheld as such.

Additionally, the errant dissenters have already been lost so you must separate yourselves and attack them with any weapon you can forge. Wielding scripture and prayer, you can do grievous harm to these aggressors. When all else fails, just ignore them and continually repeat what you have been mandated to believe.

Closing
I know the old system continually got these things wrong, but I believe you can do them right. Do not associate with those who will not conform to your corporate worship. In the future, you would do well to construct signs outside of your buildings to let the rest of society know how wrong they are through shrewd adages. There is no need to associate personally with those outside other than this unless it is to ask them their spiritual state. In this, you may cause them to come under conviction and persuade them that attending your congregation is the way to salvation.

The time is short as you can deduce from all the evil signs around you. You must get these things in proper order as quickly as possible lest you suffer the coming judgment. Just remember, hold on and one day everything will be okay.

I applaud you in advance for your devotion to these mandates. You can know that I will always be near when needed to help guide you back onto the appropriate path.

Sincerely,
Luci F. Er
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Is water baptism required?

I know this could be a controversial issue which is why I’ve struggled not to specifically write about it. I did mention some of my thoughts in a previous blog, however, I wanted to devote a post specifically to this topic. First, I want to state that I have no problem if people feel led by the Spirit to have a water baptism. When it becomes a requirement for salvation though, it starts resembling old law methods of external conformance.
First, we see John the Baptist performing water baptisms in preparation for Jesus’ coming. He states that he indeed was baptizing with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). Likewise, John was the last of the Old Covenant prophets pointing the way to the coming of the Kingdom. Jesus states that his water baptism was to fulfill all righteous. Similarly, he fulfilled the Law and the Prophets as he mentions a couple of chapters later and gives us the fulfillment of all of these things. It seems in this instant that water baptism was a temporary symbol (or shadow) of what was to come–baptism by Jesus into the Holy Spirit. In addition, if baptism is required because Jesus did it, so would circumcision as Jesus was also circumcised (Luke 2:21).
So, what about all the Acts verses and the directions of Peter that the early church should be baptized in water? Very early in Acts 1:5, we see Jesus repeat that John the Baptist used water, but that the disciples would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, which they were at Pentecost. Peter goes on to preach the three standards for entering the Kingdom–believe in Jesus, be baptized (in water), and receive the Holy Spirit. Now, this seems pretty cut and dry at this point. Peter preached the requirement for water baptism and therefore we must be baptized by water. Many stop right here and insist that water baptism is necessary and we should just go ahead and do it. This would be a legitimate conclusion if Jesus didn’t step in again to remind Peter of what he said in Acts 1:5. In Acts 11:15-17, the Holy Spirit falls onto the listeners of this Cesarean household. This happens when Peter is still speaking before he ever has a chance to baptize with water. He’s then reminded (v16) that this is exactly what Jesus was trying to communicate, and God’s mandate supersedes human ones (v17).
The ways I’ve seen water baptism presented today sound a lot like what the old law followers were trying to do to the early church (Act 15:5,10-11Galatians 5:1-2). They were stating that the gentile converts should just go ahead and get circumcised and get it over with so there would be unity (but what they really meant was conformity). I’ve heard this same thing stated about water baptism. This is a forceful attempt to bind people to external actions to gain a foothold of control by presenting an artificial standard that promotes “more” righteousness (Galatians 3:2-3). People seem to be manipulated to feel they aren’t a “real” Christian unless they are baptized by water. Then they can be manipulated to other political, financial, and societal agendas to further an organization’s goals. Those who don’t accept the popular view of water baptism are labeled as divisive, backsliders, sinners, or otherwise pointed to as the standard not to be. This is, of coarse, a worse case scenario, but I’ve witnessed it played out on several occasions and often in very subtle ways.
As stated before, I don’t have a problem if people desire a water baptism based on the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, when it becomes a requirement, it is turned into a mandate that must be followed to become a Christian similar to how the Pharisees defined the Old Covenant laws. Christians can be spiritually unified without having to be conformed externally to artificial standards.

Freedom

chains

I remember hearing about freedom in Jesus, but even after having that first major experience with him, I still felt like I was in bondage. I tried doing more, but this approach just made me more encumbered. It seems as though we are told that Jesus sets us free, but only if we bind ourselves to rules and regulations. One day about a year ago, I came across a verse I had heard several times, but never knew the context of:
Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.–Galatians 5:1
As I read the next few verses after this, I saw Paul was talking about circumcision and the old laws. Further, he goes on to state that if these people obligated themselves to this one rule, they would have to uphold all of the law and were alienated from Christ (v2-4). It seems there were Old Covenant followers within this congregation who were trying to keep their traditions and laws from being made obsolete. Likewise, comments of this same effect were made in Acts:
Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”–Acts 15:5
Peter’s response however again affirmed that these ways had been set aside:
Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”–Acts 15:10-11
Peter too was still trying to hold on to some of the old ways prior to this. First, we see him baptizing new believers in water. Ironically, John the Baptist, who was using water baptism to symbolize what was to come, stated this wasn’t to be the New Covenant way:
I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.–Matthew 3:11
Jesus later repeats this same statement in Acts 1:5. Peter however goes on to baptize in water until Acts 11 where he is corrected.
As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them, even as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said,‘John indeed baptized in water, but you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.’ If then God gave to them the same gift as us, when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I, that I could withstand God?”–Acts 11:15-17
This states it plainly, the New Covenant way is baptism into the Holy Spirit by Jesus. On a related note, Peter is also corrected about the old Jewish dietary requirements in the same chapter (v4-9). Jesus states in verse 9: “‘What God has cleansed, don’t you call unclean.” To me, this is saying that once we are freed from sin, we are truly cleansed:
If therefore the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.–John 8:36
All my life, I never truly felt free because I was made to believe I had to fight vehemently for it while also struggling to maintain all the Christian standards. “Freedom isn’t free” is one of the phrases we often here in America. This leads us to believe we have to uphold freedom by our own means, which isn’t freedom at all. No, freedom wasn’t free, Jesus paid for it. However, there is nothing we can do to earn or maintain this freedom. Our only task is to trust in God. How many today do we truly see living in the freedom that Jesus describes?
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”–Matthew 11:28
Our prison door has been opened and we are free to walk out. It is us who insist that we have to stay in the cell, when the price has already been paid.