Thursday, November 30, 2017
“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. . .And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:41, 47).
Can you imagine 3,000 being added to the saved by Almighty God after hearing their first Christian sermon? Did God “weed” out anyone “who received his word and were baptized”? If so, Luke leaves us without that answer! Someone asked Peter, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (V.37). Peter gave his answer in verse 38, but like some today, he wasn’t quitting (verse 40a)! How long his testifying and exhorting extended that lesson is unknown (verse 40b). Wrist watches were not available, the Baptists and Cracker Barrel did not exist, and a sun dial was not handy! That first sermon ended with, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Somewhat different from how sermons end today! They believed, repented for crucifying God’s Son, and were baptized (verses 23, 41).
Where was the nearest baptistry? They were not yet invented. Was it in the Jordan River? It so, that was 33 kilometers distance (that is 21 miles)! Since church buses were not in the equation, can you imagine marching 3,000 people twenty-one miles to be immersed? Did Jerusalem have a public swimming pool or YMCA? Non-existent. There were large reservoirs of water used for purposes other than drinking. A change into baptistry garments is a modern tradition. Only the preacher being authorized to baptize is another tradition, likely borrowed from the Catholics. Paul preached, but personally baptized only a few who responded (1 Corinthians 1:14-16). The first century 120 that were saved did not vote whether the 3,000 should be accepted. Perhaps the 120 of Acts 1 pitched in and took care of immersing that many people? Men and women may immerse, but God is the One who adds (Colossians 1:12-13)! Is man authorized to vote for or against, or question those which God adds?
Was anyone questioned about his marital status prior to baptism? Polygamy, like owning slaves, was practiced. Philemon was a slave owner. Is there any evidence that he or other owners were denied salvation by the Lord? Is there any scriptural evidence, that before baptism was administered to such owners, they were required to free all their slaves? The same is true concerning those who had more than one wife at home. Only those qualifying for the work of an overseer or deacon, were limited to “one.” (1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6). No evidence is given that a man was required to give up all but the first wife if he wished to be added. The usual thought on these matters is, “They were grandfathered in.” Scripture??
If a person was a member of the Pharisee party, they were not told to drop that party affiliation prior to being baptized. God is the One who added them to the saved! Some from that party questioned Peter after he went to the house of Cornelius. There would have been no interrogation if Cornelius had been a circumcised proselyte (Acts 11:1-3)! That same party came from James, the brother of Jesus, and Peter hypocritically stopped his fellowship with Gentile Christians prior to their arrival (Galatians 2:11-13). Those same “added” individuals insisted that all Gentile converts be circumcised, according to the Law of Moses, if they wanted to be saved (Acts 15:1-2, 5)! The irony is that God had “added” the Pharisee Party as well as the Gentiles to the saved! The Pharisees were not required to give up their party affiliation before being “added,” nor were the Gentiles required to undergo surgery before receiving it!
When Paul wrote to the church of God in Corinth, he was not writing to the unsaved. He was writing to individuals who had already been added to the saved. Every single individual that made up that assembly was a saved person. God Himself had added them (2 Timothy 2:19b)! When John wrote to Sardis, which the Lord called Adead,@ everyone in it had been added! No lost individual was on the “church” roll. This was true in all the other assemblies addressed in Revelation 2 and 3. Not one assembly is addressed that had an unsaved member! What about every member in the church at Corinth? All were saved. Why? Because God did the adding and the inspired writer addressed them as the saved! What about Laodicea? Saved. In each case, God is the one who added them. The Holy Spirit knows who are His people since he dwells in them (1 Corinthians 3:16). Letters were written to the saved in different locales, not to the unadded. Church rolls are a more modern tradition, created by men, not God!
Despite the problems in first century fellowships, not one single saved group refused fellowship to a sister called out group (John 17:20-21). Warnings were given to assemblies, but one did not withdraw from another. Only individuals were being disciplined. A few examples are Paul referring to Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Timothy 1:19-20). One individual in Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:1-11). Simon was told to repent and did (Acts 8:18-24). Ananias and Sapphira lied and died in the assembly (Acts 5:1-11). Some fell away (Hebrews 4-6; 10:25-29). Paul warned some about preaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). John mentioned Diotrephes (3 John 1:9-10).
Would we question God’s adding if we had lived in the first century? Would we be offended by God’s way of subtracting from the “added” (Acts 5:1-11)?