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July 2020

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Books for the Journey:

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Here is yet another story (that resembles the assault on Lot’s home in Sodom) about the poor moral condition of Israel where a Levite reconciles with an unfaithful concubine (usually a female servant forced into a spousal relationship – and, assuming the extra donkey is for her to ride rather than follow the custom of forcing a woman to walk beside her riding husband suggests at least some feelings for this woman) and sets out for home (after five days, instead of three, as again required by Jewish custom suggesting there is still some observance of the Law) about 3:00pm and as night approaches stops in Gibeah (rather than the very close Canaanite town of Jebus – an example of how close the Jews lived with the Canaanites despite opposing instructions of God) assuming safety in an Israelite town. They finally find lodging (the general failure of the townsfolk to honor the custom of hospitality should have been a warning of perilous morals afoot and they only find lodging from a fellow Ephraim who was passing through) but some men in the town come to rape him (the sin that brought judgment on Sodom is now common in Israel) and (after the host offers his own daughter attempting to honor his obligation to protect a quest at any cost) the Levite throws his concubine to them where they rape and brutalize her all night and she returns to die in the street outside the house alone. The Levite takes her body home and sends a slice of her body to each of the 12 tribes as gruesome evidence of the atrocity (as a call to arms).

While the Levite is silent about his own part in the murder, the judicial court (“before the Lord”) decides the acts of the Gibeahites merit death under OT Law and they chose (by lot) a tenth of their men. The Benjamites additionally merit their own death by refusing to punish the wicked. Their haste initially ends them with two losses in battle. Judah is sent first to fight, perhaps as a reminder they were supposed to be fighting the Canaanites as in 1:1-2 rather than fighting each other. The slings of the Benjamites (like the one used by David) were capable of accurately throwing 1 pound smooth rocks at up to 90 miles per hour – and yet, they were outnumbered (400,000 to 26,700), eventually out maneuvered, and killed to the last 600 men (who would carry on the tribe’s name). The mention of Phinehas (who earlier stopped the plague at Peor in Num 25:6-11) suggests these events occurred about the time of Joshua (see Josh 22). Without a king and royal court there was no place to rule over unjust treatment of visitors or revenge killing.

While the impression in John 3:22 is given that Jesus baptized, John corrects this idea in 4:2. Jesus provided the authority while the disciples performed the task. While I have heard many sermons on baptism, I have heard surprisingly little about the baptism of the Holy Spirit or of fire that John the Baptist spoke of in Matthew 13:11. We read yesterday, “He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.” But, when does this new birth and spiritual baptism occur? It could be as soon as believing turns to a belief, when a repenting becomes a calling on the Lord, or during or after a baptism. Certainly baptism is not required for salvation as the thief next to Jesus on the cross had no opportunity and yet was assured entrance into heaven with Christ. All of the ten conversions in Acts involved a seven-step process described in many places of when hearing becomes a belief in Christ (Mark 16:15), a confession (Proverbs 28:13; Romans 10:9), a repenting (Acts 2:38), calling on the Lord (Acts 22:16), a baptism (Matthew 3:13), the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:5-21; Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 1:6-7; 1 Corinthians 12:7), and rebirth with Great Commission discipleship in the body of Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). These ingredients for a new Christian usually all take place in a very short time, almost as a singular event. The Catechism of the Catholic Church similarly describes the journey with the steps of “proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion.” But, Paul came across some Ephesian disciples who had received the baptism of John the Baptists without receiving the Holy Spirit. Paul conferred the Holy Spirit onto them through the “laying on of hands” (Acts 19:6). The Holy Spirit was also similarly imparted by Peter and John in Acts 8:14-17 to the Samaritans. And finally, Paul writes to Timothy, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith… For this reason I remind you to fan into flames the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Paul said in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit” and Jesus said he wants us to be so full of the Spirit that it will flow out of us “like a river of living water” (John 7:27-39). To be baptized in the Spirit is to be immersed to the point that it take over one’s life, including thoughts, words, and actions. John the Baptist continuing his work long after the Messiah arrives and takes over reminds us that there could well be a period of adjustment. Some believe that it is possible to have the Spirit without this by accepting Jesus as Savior but not as Lord – who have so grieved the Spirit that it is residing but not presiding. Nevertheless, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Wall, and Brenner have all affirmed that baptizo meant full immerse just as Romans 6:4 equates baptism to burial and not just to getting dirty. “For thirteen hundred years baptism was an immersion of the person under water.” (Brenner, Catholic) “When you send your Spirit, new life is born to replenish all the living of the earth.”

Infants, of course, cannot express a belief, a confession, a sorrow, call on the Lord, make a decision to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, or demonstrate an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This can only occur later in life, even for any “sanctified” infants. The ten baptisms in Acts occurred at once when people believed, upon hearing, or soon after on the same day of the conversion. The baptism did not came first and none involved getting someone else to do the baptizing as the “converter” carried it out each time – just as the Great Commission directs us to “convert AND baptize.” The Roman Catholic Church (and many others) would seem to view Baptism as only that of John as they believe as per the Catechism that even unbelievers with good intentions are somehow able to confer a baptism. The Catholic suggestion that an infant can only be “freed from the power of darkness” through infant baptism who would otherwise not be a “child of God” has historically even often lead to baptisms required for salvation at any cost including the death of the mother. It can be said that each moment carries with it every other moment. In other words, in a universe that carries the purpose of God, the present incorporates the past and the future. Evangelical Christians often speak of having received salvation at some point in the past, when they committed themselves to Jesus as Lord. The thief next to Christ on the cross, for example, was with Christ that day (assuming the comma comes before the word "today") in paradise due to his belief. Jude 3 speaks about “the salvation we share,” in the past tense just as Titus 3:5 states, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth,” similarly as does Acts 15:11; Romans 8:24; Ephesians 2:5, 8; and 2 Timothy 1:9. At the same time, Peter speaks of salvation as a goal, an end result, not as something already possessed. Peter refers to a future salvation (1 Pet 1:5, 9-10; 2:2, 4:18) every time but when referring to Noah’s salvation (1 Pet 3:20-21). The New Testament makes frequent reference to salvation in the future (Rom 5:9-10; 10:9; 11:26; 13:11; 1 Cor 3:15; 15:2; 2 Cor 7:10; Phil 1:28; 1 Thess 5:8-9; 1 Tim 4:16; Heb 1:14; 9:28; 10:39). Finally, salvation is spoken of as a present process (1 Cor 1:18; 2 Cor 2:15). Each is true because salvation is not a moment in time, but a journey through time with a God who is timeless and outside of time. Saint Augustine held the Bible teaches that God transcends time and that creation is “with time” not “in time” (agreed to by the Big Bang theory). The mark of those who are “being saved” is their ability to remain firm in their faith under pressure. It is not those who just “make a decision for Christ,” but those who “stand firm to the end” (Mt 10:22; 24:13; Mk 13:13) who will be saved. In the Wesleyan tradition, salvation is tentative and may be lost, while in the Reformed tradition, God assures that those whom he has truly regenerated will in fact endure. Both traditions, however, accurately reflect that it is not a one-time decision, even if long ignored, that brings salvation, but a commitment to Christ lived out through obedience to the end of life. “I will praise my God to my last breath!”

Hi Liz. :) Good stuff.

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