Trust but verify
This phrase became popular by President Ronald Regan. It was a good policy when dealing with Russia, and it is a good policy when dealing with Bible teaching and preaching. We all want to believe everything we hear on the radio, on TV, or from a pulpit is correct, but the Bible instructs us to follow a policy similar to trust but verify. That policy paraphrased is “listen but check for yourself.” You have no scriptural reason whatsoever to follow an allegorical interpretation of scripture unless the Bible itself is clear that the speaker is using an allegory. In John chapter 6, Jesus uses an obvious allegory when speaking of eating his flesh and blood. We know this is an obvious allegory because in verse 63 Jesus goes on to say: John 6:63 “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
Jesus makes it clear what he said earlier should be taken as an allegory. Unfortunately, many people are taught otherwise. Churches today are full of well-intended people allegorizing much of the Bible. Obviously when major portions of scripture are given a “spiritual” meaning only confusion can result. The lost world looks within the church and sees this confusion. I had a conversation recently with a girl who made the point that Christians use scripture against each other. This is a direct result of allegorizing the Bible. Each teacher picks the slant they want to put on scripture based on their agenda. I would challenge you to follow the policy we started with “trust but verify.” Christians follow the trust part and ignore the verify part. Have you ever taken the time to read the theological positions of other denominations, and the verses they use to prove their position? Here is the result if you have the honesty and enough desire for the truth to do it. You will see that the people your denomination says are wrong also use the Bible to prove their position and also have verses to support their position. When you do this enough, you can very well come to a point where you just give up and only follow the “trust” part. You feel like you can’t understand the Bible, and you never verify anything you just follow. We are NOT meant to just blindly follow. Romans 14:12 tells us we will give account of ourselves to God. Chances are you attend a church that has allegorized the entire earthly kingdom program God promised to Israel. This is the basis of ALL the confusion in Christianity today. If you read the literal meaning of a verse and it seems different than the meaning you are being taught, it is your imperative to verify. You verify by reading the verse just as it stands and see if the literal meaning can make sense within scripture if the verse makes sense then never spiritualize it! If the verse is speaking to Israel then don’t change it or put yourself into the context. If Jesus is speaking, the context is always his ministry to Israel because his ministry was only to Israel. Jesus sent Paul to you. Doctrine for the body of Christ is found in Paul’s epistles. Be a Berean and trust but verify.
An unfortunate byproduct of the way we were taught is the assumption that when we read the word baptism in the Bible we think water. This “water assumption” is just part of the reason Christianity is so divided and at odds against each other over baptism. One of the most egregious passages that this assumption happens in is Romans chapter 6. I challenge you to find water anywhere in this passage. You won’t find water because it’s just not there. More importantly, what you lose by forcing water into Romans chapter 6 is the proper understanding of an extremely important doctrine every Christian should know and understand.
Romans 6:3-4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Did you notice how clearly these verses explain what you are baptized into? This is an identification into Christ’s death, NOT water. The reason you might not agree with this statement is you were never taught that Jesus was baptized TWICE. You’ve probably never been taught this but just read what Jesus said.
Luke 12:50 But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
Jesus was baptized twice! Jesus himself calls his death a baptism. So I ask you, which baptism of Jesus would you want to be identified with? His water baptism that had nothing to do with you, or his death baptism that had so much to do with securing your salvation. I realize your denomination teaches you there is water in Romans chapter 6, wouldn’t you rather just let the Bible say what it says and believe it? Can you explain what our Apostle Paul means when he says “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal 2:20) when you force water into this passage? Can you fully comprehend what it means to be dead to sin without a proper understanding of our identification with Christ’s death? Will you properly understand Colossians 2:12 and our being “buried with him in baptism” when you think water? You should know the answer but I’ll say it anyway. You will never understand these and other vastly important things when you force water into baptism passages where there is NO water. Christ’s death was a baptism according to scripture. If your church teaches Romans 6 is a water baptism then if they were honest they would be teaching that water is a REQUIREMENT for salvation because if this is a water baptism then it’s also how you get into Christ! We get into Christ today by the only baptism valid today and the only one Paul tells you matters today, the “One Baptism” of Ephesians 4:5, Galatians 3:27, Romans 6:3-4, I Corinthians 12:13, and Colossians 2:12. I’m sorry this does not fit your tradition but scripture is clear. Water baptism is arguably the most divisive doctrine in Christianity. Rightly dividing the Bible and following your Apostle Paul makes the argument about baptism go away overnight. Why? Because if you were following your bible WATER BAPTISM would go away overnight.
Tradition can be a very important thing in our life. Many have a family tradition they hold dear and look forward to each year. One of my favorite traditions is going to my mom’s and eating pork roast and sauerkraut for my birthday. This is by far my favorite meal of the year. Christianity is full of tradition. Most Christians are too quick to blame the Catholic church for holding traditions when they hold too many themselves. Religious tradition is something Jesus dealt with throughout his earthly ministry.
Mat 15:1-3 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
Jesus knew they were holding their tradition on equal ground or even higher than scripture. Something many do in error today. Unfortunately today, many Christians know the information that has been passed down to them in church but can’t use the Bible to find scriptural support for the things they believe. Jesus was not upset that they washed before eating, he was upset at the importance they put on this act. They were holding their man made tradition over scripture and even rejecting God’s word with their traditions.
Mar 7:7-9 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
They were “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men”. This is the result when Christians spiritualize the Bible. In their failure to rightly divide scripture and in their attempt to force things together that God made separate they teach for doctrine the commandments of men. Your church probably teaches you that you must tithe 10% of your income and even goes so far as to say that this must be calculated before taxes. Your church will use Malachi 3:8-10 to teach you this doctrine. Thousands if not millions of churches across the world teach this tradition. They of course have to ignore verse 6 in the context which specifically puts the “sons of Jacob” in view as the people being spoken to, but you have been taught to read yourself into all kinds of context where you don’t belong. Verse 12 in this chapter, and the immediate context, is also ignored which clearly states that someday “all nations” will call Israel blessed. This verse doesn’t fit into the man made theology that most churches follow today which ignores all the promises and prophecies of Israel’s future earthly kingdom. None of these verses line up with church tradition as taught today in denominational churches because they have assumed Israel’s promises and Israel’s prophecies for themselves. Why can they do this so easily? Christians today don’t know why they believe what they say they believe. Christians today blindly follow the theology of their chosen denomination over the Bible rightly divided. Malachi chapter three belongs to the people TO WHOM it was written. You don’t give because you are commanded to in this chapter. In this dispensation we give because we have the privilege to and because of the grace God extended to us. This is a higher standard than 10%. God is interested in your heart. God does have an interest in your giving, and his standard in found in Paul’s epistles. You know, the books in the Bible that are specifically written to the body of Christ in this dispensation. Our motivation is God’s grace not Israel’s tithe. Your giving is a direct indicator of how thankful you are to God for his grace. How are you doing?
In our last blog we talked about the fact that the huge argument in, and the Jerusalem council of Acts chapter 15 is virtually unknown by much of Christianity. How can such an important turning point in history go untaught and left in obscurity? The same way so many other vastly important topics in our Bible get left aside. They don’t fit the agenda. It’s much easier to spend another Sunday preaching on the sin in society than to tackle something that will only stir up debate and questions right? So I guess some might say right division of my King James Bible is an agenda, but at least God specifically directed us to rightly divide, and that makes it His agenda. There’s something else about the Jerusalem council of Acts chapter 15 you might not know, Paul explains the OUTCOME of this argument in Galatians chapter 2. You might say, “I didn’t know that” and I would say, “That doesn’t surprise me”. Why? There are vastly important things in the book of Galatians you were never taught. Just take a quick look at Gal 1:11-12 and you will quickly see why. The Bible clearly and convincingly teaches the truth that Paul’s Gospel is different that the disciples and apostles that came before him, but were back to differing agendas again…. In Gal 2:7-9 Paul clearly lays out the outcome from the Jerusalem council, and it will surprise you. The “all nations” of Jesus’ great commission is SET ASIDE by the council, and it is determined who will go to whom! The GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION is committed to Peter and his little flock and the GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION is committed to Paul. Can you not see the clarity of this moment? If you have any real desire to understand your Bible as God intended, will you just let the Bible say what it says? I understand this sounds different than what you’ve been taught your whole life. I am asking you to believe your bible OVER the traditional church theology. Does not the Bible ask you to do this? Can you not see the animosity between Peter and Paul in Gal 2:11 when Paul sets Peter in his place? Church tradition tells you to just ignore this section of scripture as your teachers have done. I’m asking you to READ THE BIBLE and let it SAY WHAT IT SAYS! I ask you this: Does it not bother you that most everything Jesus says about salvation is a contradiction to most everything Paul said about salvation? If you say Jesus and Paul don’t contradict, then I can easily prove you don’t know much about what one of these two people taught about salvation. I can even tell you who you don’t know. You probably know plenty about what PAUL teaches about salvation. You probably know LITTLE about what Jesus taught on the subject. You will find required works, enduring to the end, selling all you have, and law keeping are all part of the gospel Jesus taught. This is because Jesus came to Israel, fulfilling the law and offering an earthly kingdom and you were not in the audience of Jesus’ preaching. The “unknown argument” of Acts 15 and the “unknown outcome” of Galatians 2 are just a few of the “untaught subjects” you could understand if you would just be willing to let God say what he says and leave your church tradition out of the equation.
The more I learned about rightly dividing the Bible the more I ran across things that I was unaware of in scripture. Not obscure and relatively unimportant things, but obvious and very important events or instructions in scripture. Many people learn some of these things and become upset with their preacher and the fact that they were never taught these things. The more you learn about your Bible apart from any preconceived agenda the more you learn that your preacher was not hiding things from you but rather he is unaware of these things just as much as you were. One example of a very important event and quite literally a turning point in scripture that I don’t recall ever being taught about is the argument of Acts chapter 15. This event like so many others is not studied, taught, or even considered in week after week of lessons and sermons. I implore you to stop and read this chapter now. In this chapter you notice what I will call “The Unknown Argument”. Members from the church at Jerusalem have went behind the Apostle Paul and are telling Paul’s converts they must be circumcised and follow the law of Moses to be saved. Already this doesn’t fit your denominational agenda because you probably trace yourself back to the “New Testament” church. Well, that new testament church is requiring LAW KEEPING to be saved. Paul has quite the argument with these law keepers to the extent that it is decided that Paul must come to Jerusalem to discuss the subject with the apostles and elders. Once in Jerusalem the heated argument continues and from the passage it seems no end is in sight. Paul is explaining HIS gospel to the little flock back at Jerusalem and of course Paul’s gospel is DIFFERENT from the gospel Jesus, Peter, and the disciples were preaching. This is painfully obvious from the context but once again this does not fit into most churches man made theology. When there seems no end to the strife Peter (Who is no longer in charge at Jerusalem) finally speaks up of a strange event in his past, the Holy Ghost falling on Gentiles in the house of Cornelius. Peter finally figures out the obvious, and says the following words in Vs 11, “But we believe that through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved even as they” Peter understands that the Kingdom program to Israel has been set aside and Paul is preaching what God is doing now. Paul is preaching his gospel of the GRACE OF GOD. Did you notice the “we” and “they” in verse 11? Peter knows what almost no church in your town knows that there were TWO gospels and the one he and the church at Jerusalem was preaching is over and Paul’s gospel of grace was the only gospel at this point. I challenge you to find Peter anywhere in scripture after this point. This argument in Acts 15, that you have probably never understood correctly is just one of the many proofs that during the Acts transitional period the little flock of Israel, the believing Jews, were still following the law and requiring works while Paul’s gospel of grace was coming to the forefront. You will NEVER understand your Bible until you separate what God separates! The gospel of the earthly kingdom and the gospel of the grace of God are DIFFERENT! Christians today fight stubbornly to keep the traditions they were taught and read right past the obvious the Holy Spirit left them in scripture. What about you? Believing the Bible over church tradition is a hard thing.
I had the opportunity to travel to Georgia last weekend to visit Hope Bible Church in Locust Grove. If you are new to studying the Bible rightly divided, you might think there is no one else around that follows Paul’s instructions about Bible study, but this is not the case. There are many people in Bible Studies, home churches and yes even very nice church buildings studying the Bible as God intended. Unfortunately, there are not churches in every city that rightly divide. What you will find within these groups is a surprising amount of agreement about the meaning of verses and doctrine. This is not found within Christianity as a whole. The main difference being the literal interpretation of scripture. Christianity as a whole gives many verses and entire passages or doctrines an allegorical or “spiritual” meaning. The result of the allegorical interpretation of scripture is a wide variety of meanings for verses. Each teacher can “interpret” verses in his own manner with differing applications and opinions of the meaning. The dispensational teacher follows a strict literal interpretation of verses which results in typically only one outcome on the meaning of a verse. My wife recently talked to a pastor about Ephesians 4:5. This verse clearly states there is “one baptism.” This pastor quickly replied; “that’s not what that verse means.” This is a convenient answer for a pastor with a “two-baptism” doctrine to uphold. Pulpits are filled with people teaching you that verses don’t mean what they say. If there were a way you could leave this verse alone and believe it EXACTLY AS IT IS WRITTEN and it would still make COMPLETE sense why would you want to not believe it? Why would you work so hard to convince people verses don’t mean what they say? I don’t believe this Pastor is deliberately hiding the truth. This pastor was not taught to believe his Bible ALONE. This pastor was taught to believe his Bible in relation to his denominational stance. His agenda is water baptism, therefore this verse contradicts his agenda. This type of teaching is the reason why so many Christians believe they will never understand the Bible. They watch Pastors and teachers explain away the literal meaning of verses, so they can teach a different meaning. To the person in the pew this makes the Bible seam hard to understand and they feel frustrated with Bible study and defeated. Dispensational Bible study is basically just the concept of believing the Bible AS WRITTEN and not reading yourself into verses that were NEVER written to you. You ARE in the audience of Ephesians 4:5 and the “one baptism” it describes. You are NOT in the audience of John the Baptist and Jesus’ water baptism. When you follow scripture rightly divided you CAN understand the Bible! Wouldn’t you like to know how?
You might have noticed the name change on our website, or maybe not. In scripture names can have significant meaning and add very interesting tidbits of information to a story. We started out as Grace Bible Study for several different reasons. Recently we changed our name to Abundant Grace Bible Fellowship. This name better describes what we are doing here. Our Apostle Paul tells us of the abundant grace we have by being in Christ. We are a group of Bible believers that believe the Bible as it stands. We don’t put our spin on the verses to make them match an agenda. The Grace of our Savior Jesus Christ is truly abundant and is fully understood by studying the Bible God’s way. Many Christians are content with what they currently know about the Bible. Many have little interest is spending time around God’s word comparing scripture with scripture. Rather, churches today create ministry after ministry attempting to get each member locked into doing something “at church”. Modern church growth methods abound with finding things for each member to do. Paul tells us clearly the ministry we are left here with is the ministry of reconciliation 2 Cor 5:18-20. Paul would have us to make all men see the “fellowship of the mystery” Eph 3:9. Churches today are filled with preaching but void of members with a proper understanding of God’s heavenly purpose for the body of Christ. Churches today are filled with “ministries” but members that are void of a clear understanding of God’s will for this time. Christians today can quote some proof texts for a denominational position but can’t clearly explain the gospel by which we are saved or give even a simple description of what God is doing throughout scripture. God’s grace is truly abundant now because we are living in the age of grace. God is saving people today apart from works and on the sole merits of what Christ did for us. This message of Grace alone is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You might quote a few verses in John chapter 3 but clearly the Gospels are void of the message of grace alone. If grace alone is so prevalent in the gospels what do the majority of Christian know the “Romans Road” so well? Why don’t you have a “Matthews Road”? I’ll tell you why, because the grace message is not in Matthew. The message of grace alone is only found in Paul’s epistles. Grace and truth did come by Jesus Christ but no one knew about it at the cross. The disciples did not understand the resurrection, John 20:9. They thought Mary was seeing things and did not believe she had seen Jesus, so much so that Thomas said he would not believe unless he put his hand in Jesus’ scar. Don’t you find this odd? Seriously… If Jesus had been preaching his death burial and resurrection during his earthly ministry, why all this confusion? These are the questions that Christians never ask. These are the things that when you rightly divide your bible all become crystal clear. Jesus was sent here for an earthly purpose Rom 15:8, Paul was sent to you for a heavenly purpose Rom 15:16. Are you content with what you don’t know about your Bible?
If Christians would study the message of John the Baptist they would discover some interesting things. Why would you want to study John’s message? Because many churches today claim to be able to trace themselves back to John the Baptist. Why would you want to be able to do this? Because most churches today claim to be “New Testament” churches and claim to be “New Testament Christians” So, are you a NT Christian? Stop now and read Luke 3:1-14……. John’s message and preaching is very clear in this passage. John was an OT prophet specifically preaching things that were clearly revealed in the OT to Israel. What was the good news John was preaching? His message is “wrath to come” and what did John require? “fruits worthy of repentance” John’s good news continues in verse 9, saying any tree not producing fruit is cast into the fire. Obviously, these people are very concerned about their future and want to know “what shall we do then?” Here is a clear question in scripture, so what comes next is clearly definition. You must always pay close attention to anytime the Bible defines things for you. You already read the passage, so I will very loosely paraphrase, Vs 11: give stuff away if you have plenty and be generous. Vs 13: Be honest and fair in your dealings. Vs 14: Be honest, content and nice to people. John the Baptist required works. John required you to DO things. This is in direct contradiction to the message of Grace we should be preaching today that salvation is available solely on the merits of what Christ accomplished on the cross. So why do churches today still break their necks to trace themselves back to John? They want his water baptism. Churches today are so tied to their water that they will trace themselves back to John to get his OT Jewish ceremonial washing for purification, but they will then ignore his preaching. We can find many things like this that churches pick and choose something they want and avoid what they don’t want. John’s baptism is preached regularly but John’s message that was PART OF his baptism is never taught or preached. This is the direct result of hundreds of years of tradition being mixed with a failure to rightly divide God’s prophecy program from his mystery program. This problem has snowballed over time to the extent that when you try to show many people what the Bible actually says they refuse to read the words for what they say. How does every word of what John the Baptist said make complete sense? Leave his words and his baptism right where God put them. In the Old Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and to his people Israel.
On occasion I like to read or watch objections to dispensational right division of the Bible. I don’t mind reading the reasons why people don’t agree with the position of taking everything in the Bible as God said it. One of the reasons given by many people for rejecting the Bible rightly divided is that we “chop up the Bible” and we “throw out large portions of the Bible.” Reading these objections is one way to help me understand if I am standing in the truth. One thing I regularly see from those tied to a denomination is a refusal to look at scripture openly and with a willingness to believe thy could be wrong. I recently read Dr. Ruckman’s book on Dispensationalism twice. Ruckman of course hated dispensationalism. Reading information from people that disagree with you should be something that a Bible believer has no problem doing. I remember being “encouraged” a few years ago not to suggest that we should read the position of other denominations. This is something I have done a lot, and one of the reasons that I am a Mid-Acts Dispensationalist today. Do you realize other people have Bible verses for the positions you don’t agree with? Do you want to know the truth regardless if it is different than what you currently believe? So, do we chop up the Bible and throw out large sections of the Bible? It’s actually the exact opposite. As a right divider I believe EVERY verse as it stands. John 4:22 specifically says “salvation is of the Jews” Most of Christianity does not believe this verse. Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38 say repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and one of the largest denominations there is doesn’t believe this. Jesus told his disciples not to go to the Gentiles and almost no one believes this. The fact is we can find hundreds of verses that much of Christianity ignores, avoids and does not believe. As a right divider I read, teach and believe all these verses as they stand. The unbelievable part is when you stop forcing the Bible into a predetermined agenda and follow Paul’s pattern all these verses harmonize. We regularly teach from Israel’s Old Testament as well as Israel’s New Testament and we believe every verse they contain. We also regularly teach from Paul’s 13 epistles written to the body of Christ and we believe every verse in there also. What we DO NOT do is conveniently avoid teaching certain verses or chapters. There is a “big picture” that is missing in most Christians Bible study and most Bible teachers teaching. The big picture is that God has an earthly purpose and a heavenly purpose clearly outlined in scripture. If you are saved today, you are part of God’s heavenly purpose but unfortunately you have been taught to read yourself into God’s earthly purpose. You are not God’s “Kingdom Builders”. Jesus will not need your help once it comes time for him to set up his kingdom. We are still teaching what the Bible actually teaches about water baptism here on Sundays. If you had any clue how many verses are regularly ignored and avoided about water baptism (ceremonial washing) in today’s churches you would be shocked. The Bible is clear, tradition is hard to overcome.
Last week here at Grace Bible Study we started studying what is arguably one of, if not, the most divisive doctrines in Christianity. There are several on this list, but you have to agree that baptism is at or near the top. Each denomination has their traditional opinions about the subject, and each one uses the Bible to prove their point. Did you see my point in the last sentence? Every denomination uses the Bible to prove their position about baptism, and each one thinks the others are wrong. Church members are fed the proof texts of their “Biblical” position, and each group goes on stubbornly claiming why they are right, and why everyone else is wrong. Satan sits back with a grin on his face viewing his job well done. This division is not God’s plan, but a direct result of Satan’s plans. Look around and you cannot help but see the confusion and strife that abounds in churches today over the subject of baptism. This is a direct result of the failure of Christianity to study scripture as God told us to. No doubt you cannot help but think that this debate will continue until we are called off this earth because there is no end in sight. Do you want the answer? Most people don’t because most people are so tied to their traditions and water ceremonies. Here is the answer: Ephesians 4:5 “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” we teach Bible belief over tradition. We teach that words matter. The answer is literally this simple. Paul teaches us that in this age there is “one baptism.” Your church no-doubt teaches at least two or maybe more. If Christianity would just take their Bible literally and spend the time to see what the “one baptism” that Paul teaches is, we would see this division in Christianity dissolve overnight. I know you find this hard to believe because you have been taught differently your whole Christian life. It is hard to believe the Bible over tradition because your whole Christian life you have been taught by hearing your denominations position and then you are given the proof texts for that position. God is NOT pleased with the divisive doctrine of water baptism as taught in Christianity today. Your proof texts for water baptism come from Israel’s kingdom doctrine, NOT from Paul’s gospel of the grace of God. Ephesians 1:13 says you are sealed by the Holy Spirit when you believe the gospel of the grace of God. I Corinthians 12:13, Galatians 3:27 and Romans chapter 6 clearly explain Paul’s one baptism into the body of Christ sealing you eternally “in Christ.” According to the Bible, this Spirit baptism is the ONLY baptism you need. There’s not one drop of water in any of these passages, but you were probably taught there is. When you rightly divide Israel’s prophecy information from our mystery information the Bible becomes clear and understandable. When you mix the two, you end up teaching two baptisms which is clearly a contradiction to the direct teaching of the Apostle Paul. Why do churches today continue to teach there are 2 or more baptisms when the Bible tells us there is 1 for this age? Unfortunately, Christianity is equally, if not more, committed to its old testament legal ceremonial washings than the one baptism of the Holy Spirit that seals us eternally into Jesus Christ.
Steve Schoenberger is a student of the Bible and the teacher of Grace Bible Study, A Mid-Acts Dispensational Bible study teaching the Bible rightly divided according the the revelation of the mystery delivered to the Apostle Paul