The Latest

The Pope visited Ireland this weekend and everyone has been talking about the abuse scandal etc. While I join my voice with those calling for more to be done, this is not the only issue I have with this man.
During his visit he talked about baptism and its importance. Here's a quote from a similar talk the pope gave back in April (source)

“Why baptize a child who does not understand?” the pope asked “When we baptize a child, the Holy Spirit enters that child, and the Holy Spirit makes... the Christian virtues grow in that child, who will then flourish.”

His statement on Saturday in Dublin was very similar.
One thing about being 'reformed' is that I believe the Bible has higher authority than any other religious teacher. Everyone, including the most learned theologians must bow before Scripture and if they teach anything contrary to it they are in the wrong. So what does the Bible say?

Receiving the Holy Spirit is a salvation issue.
"...anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Him." Romans 8:9

We receive the Spirit by faith in the Word of God, not works or acts.
"Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?" Galatians 3:2


Pentecost gives a great example of how we see baptisms place alongside the preaching of God's word.
Peter preaches and in Acts 2:41 it states

"So those who received his word were baptized..."


Peter had preached a clear explanation that Christ had been crucified, raised back to life and was now exalted as Lord and about 3,000 were added to the Church that day. Receiving the word means that we hear and believe the Gospel. We trust that Christ's work was enough for our salvation. It is at this point of belief that we receive the Holy Spirit. If we believe, we have received the Holy Spirit and if we have received the Holy Spirit, we have believed.

The Spirit of Christ leads us into obedience and we openly and publicly express our salvation and faith in Jesus through baptism. The Spirit transforms our lives and we begin to live more and more obediently to the Word of God, and less and less in sin. Baptism is an expression of faith and a public declaration that we have been filled by the Spirit of Christ, not a means to receive salvation or the Spirit.

Summary
We receive the Spirit through faith in the word of God (Galatians 3:2) not by works such as baptism. But baptism is an expression of our salvation (Acts 2:41). If we have not received the Spirit we are not saved (Romans 8:9). And so by pointing people to receive the Spirit by baptism the pope is pointing to an unBiblical means of salvation and offering false hope that baptising infants secures them with the Spirit. I guess that leads to a whole different argument "should infants be baptised?" I see no Scripture pointing to it and anyone i've talked to have given vague answers with stretched thoughts about texts. baptism is for believers and not for making believers.

[Ok the picture is job not Job but it fits]

“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there,
 and backward, but I do not perceive him;
on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him;
 he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him.
But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
My foot has held fast to his steps;
I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
 I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
What he desires, that he does.
For he will complete what he appoints for me,
 and many such things are in his mind.
Therefore I am terrified at his presence;
 when I consider, I am in dread of him.
God has made my heart faint;
the Almighty has terrified me;
yet I am not silenced because of the darkness,
nor because thick darkness covers my face."

Job is the greatest book in the Bible concerning practical life. It deals with something every single human has or will face - suffering. In fact it would be accurate to say that for most people suffering and hardship is something we face for a huge percentage of our lives.

For Christians there are times we go through periods when we seem blind to God. For my own experience it was a lengthy period of not seeing Him. The Bible dried up and became ink on a page. Prayers were whispers in the wind, and I felt much like Job describes in the passage above.

I reached a point where I stopped reading the Scriptures.

Then, a friend (Simon Wade) began asking what i'd read that day, he asked out of genuine interest and no other motive. He persisted to ask this 5 days a week, every week of the month until I started reading my Bible just to have an answer for him. After a few days of forced reading, a passage resonated. It was Job 23:8-17. I was blown away that Job put into words what i'd been experiencing and the next day my reading wasn't forced.

When we struggle in our devotions and fellowship with Christ we can cling to the words of Job;

"when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold."

This is a season of testing to see whether our foot will slip into unfaithfulness. And like the season of winter, spring will come. There may be many dark nights of the soul, many storms that batter us with gales and rain. We may cry tears that could fill an ocean, but the season will end.

When the passage says
 "For he will complete what he appoints for me"
I can't help but think of Philippians 1:6

"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ."

While we live this side of Christ's Kingdom we will suffer, and face soul battering storms. We will act like blind beggars calling out for the Son of David to have mercy on us. We may shout and shout and shout until our breath fails. But He will hear, and He will heal us.

Keep going forward, backward, to the right and left because He knows your way and will lead you out as gold...




"Awake, oh North wind,
and come, oh South wind!
Blow upon my garden,
and let its spices flow."
SOS 4:16

We have been reading and following this couple share their love story, and in ch 3:6 they begin to reminisce about their wedding day.
Solomon arrives in style and they begin to compliment each other in the weirdest ways - at least culturally to us this goes into a series of strange compliments. But understanding the historic background, the traditions etc can help bring richness out of these things. But that is not what we will focus on!

In chapter 4 verse 12 he compliments her virginity and integrity:
"A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
a spring locked, a fountain sealed."

She kept herself for marriage and this couple can look back over their dating and courting with purity. But with marriage the garden is unlocked and the fountain unsealed. In verse 17 (ch4) we don't read the usual call that we do not stir up or awaken love until its time, oh no. Rather we read:

"Awake, oh North wind,
and come, oh South wind!
Blow upon my garden,
and let its spices flow."

It is very clear that Scripture's teaching here is that once the vows have been made and a couple are married it IS TIME to stir up and awaken physical love, and as the old Hebrew word hints at, intertwine our souls one with another through love making.

Many scholars believe that ch5vs1b is God speaking into marriage "eat friends, drink, and be drunk with love."