Parents, teachers, and others frequently express concern over the lack of religious conviction evidenced by many youth today. A materially-minded society, the unsettling prospect of growing up in a world threatened with nuclear destruction, and the inconsistencies between "saying" and "doing" which youngsters see on every hand surely affect their thinking. The truth is that the philosophies of youth often reflect the philosophies of their elders. Why should we be surprised, when so many of the parents and teachers of our time reject God as He reveals Himself in the Bible and His testimony proclaiming Jesus Christ as His Son sent to reign as King of our lives?
An honest examination of the evidence for the divinity of Jesus compared with that given in support of figures in secular history makes one wonder how a would-be thinker doubts the first, yet believes the second. Alleged exploits of the Pharaohs, Babylonian kings, Persian rulers, Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, the Caesars, the Herods, along with the multitude of characters and events of the last 19 centuries are accepted usually without question of their validity; however, when unbelievers and critics of Biblical history are faced with Biblical testimony of equal weight pertaining to alleged historical facts, they often discredit such matters simply because they do not appeal to their reason.
Certain rigid realities center in the alleged resurrection of Jesus. These events are narrated by the four gospel writers and the Apostle Paul. Matthew and John write as
Eyewitnesses and Luke as one who had traced the course of all things accurately from the first. (Luke 1:1-4). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul alleges himself to be one of a multitude of eye-witnesses of the risen Jesus and as one untimely born. In this text Paul affirmed that more than half of the 500 persons who had seen Jesus at one time were still alive when he wrote. The implication is that they could be interrogated. Paul's statement to Festus in Acts 26:26 was "These things were not done in a corner."
This alleged fact of Jesus's conquering death manifested itself in many forms. First, there was a change in attitude on the part of his disciples from despair to joy as their disbelief turned into belief on the ever-increasing testimony of eye-witnesses. One of the strongest evidences of the resurrection is that those who were later to give lives for their testimony were at first the strongest disbelievers; they had to be convinced before they would preach what they believed and seal their faith with their blood.
Second, the evangelistic fervor growing out of the original announcement must be explained by an honest doubter.
Third, this evangelism inevitably led the witnesses into conflict which brought them pain, hence the need for the skeptic to explain the suffering endured at the hands of both Jews and Romans because of their religious convictions founded in the alleged fact behind it.
Fourth, the moral reformation produced by the gospel must be explained by an honest critic; for example, one must account for the change in the lives of the Corinthians. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
Fifth, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, with the implication of what he was and had, as opposed to what he became and gave up, must be explained. (1 Phil 3:3-11)
When the two lines of evidence (secular history and Biblical history) are considered, there is no doubt that the Biblical writers have been subjected to an incomparably greater critical analysis than any other writers of antiquity—including Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Virgil and others whose works are glibly quoted. The question, is: how can an honest person be so certain that the Biblical narrative is not authentic and is undependable whereas the alleged contributions of these other writers are of such great cultural value and so meaningful to our knowledge of the past?
It has been said that on the same basis that evidences are admitted into any court of equity according to the strictest interpretations of English law, Jesus Christ stands before the world confirmed by the most carefully screened testimony as the Son of God possessing all the authority He claimed for Himself. An examination of the evidence proves that He rightfully commands our submission to Him as Lord and obedience to His Word as revealed in the Bible. - James R. Cope, The Bible – The Way, 1-17-1971
I have often seen someone ask for an “unspoken prayer request”. This is when someone asks for prayers publicly, yet does not give the reason for the prayer, or anything about what is going on. Most of the time, they will add that “God knows the reason.” Nothing is wrong with this thought, as we always should seek the prayers and support of others. However, we must keep in mind that our prayers (and their direction) are very important. This is time devoted to spending with our Lord in focused remembrance of where we are in relation to Him. Let us consider some examples where when to pray and not pray is discussed in the Scriptures.
First, I should make it clear that when we do see these requests, we ought to be praying for that person in a general way, that God’s will be done in their life and that their spiritual growth begins or continues (1 Tim. 2:1-2; Phil. 4:6; Rom. 10:1-4). In fact, in some cases it seems that ending the practice of prayer for others would be a violation of God’s will. When the Israelites said, “…we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations…” (1 Sam. 8:19–20), the response from God was to give them a king. Samuel helped to accomplish this, anointing Saul, but the Israelites also understood their need to repent of the rebellious attitude they had displayed (12:19). However, Samuel’s response was gracious: "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.” (12:23) Samuel implies that to stop praying for them would be sinful. We need to understand and apply this great truth. We have brothers and sisters who are spiritually suffering and need our prayers. We need to be willing and able to see these troubles and pray for those suffering from them (James 5:16).
That said, there are certain situations where the Scriptures seem to indicate that praying for certain situations would not be very fruitful. John speaks to one of these situations: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.” (1 John 5:16-17) Specifically, John is saying that we can hope for results from prayer for the Christian who is struggling with sin yet wants to follow God, yet we should not always expect results from prayers for the Christian who has completely turned away and has no interest in doing the right thing. Certainly we can pray generally for their well-being and have a hope that one day they will change, but if we understand the record of Scripture, we see that God eventually “gives up” those who do not want to be a part of His kingdom (Ps. 81:12; Rom. 1:24).
The difficult question is knowing when such a thing has occurred. We cannot and will not have a perfect knowledge of the matters of others, and praying for others does not require this. However, the effectiveness of our prayers is tied somehow to the confession of others (James 5:16). Thus it would seem that we have a need to know SOMETHING if someone is to “confess [their] trespasses”.
Jesus encourages us to do good in the light of day. When I see a post on Facebook that says, “unspoken prayer request. God knows,” I have to wonder about Jesus’ words: “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (Jn. 3:19–21)
Of course, we can appreciate a measure of privacy in our lives, and we are not required to share every detail publicly. In fact, there are situations where this would be unwise if not dangerous. However, if I am working in the light of day, and petition others for prayers, I will want them to have some basic idea of what I’m struggling with so that their prayers can be properly focused.
The Scriptures seem to be plain; while I can pray generally for God’s will to be done in any situation, I have found no examples in Scripture of someone requesting prayer without giving the reason for such a prayer. We should not expect help from others when we are unwilling to be open and honest about our struggles. Anyone who is doing good things will work within the light, with nothing unscrupulously hidden. -Steven McCrary
Some say that we are saved by grace alone; others say that we are saved by faith only. The Baptists say in Article 4 of their confession of faith “We believe that the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace,” and in Article 5 they say concerning justification that it is “solely through faith.” They are not only confused about what the Bible teaches, but are also confused about what they teach.
“Wholly of Grace”
When the Baptists say that “the salvation of sinners is wholly of grace” they are excluding everything else. The word “wholly” means “To the whole amount, extent, etc.; so as to compromise or involve all; entirely; totally; altogether; quite.” For a sinner to be saved wholly by grace means everything else but grace is excluded. If it is wholly of grace, then, there is no place for faith or repentance. If you bring in faith and repentance it is not wholly of grace.
“Solely of Faith”
In speaking of justification article five of the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which is used by Baptist Churches, says it is accomplished “solely through faith in the Redeemer’s blood.” “Solely” means “The only one or ones; exclusively or only; wholly; merely.” If the justification of a sinner is “solely through faith” then, it cannot be “wholly of grace.” In fact, it cannot be of grace at all. If it is “solely through faith” repentance has no place in the justification of sinners. Christ said, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)
Which Shall We Believe?
Which shall we believe, article four or article five of the Manual? Neither, for both articles are wrong; the Bible does not teach that the salvation of a sinner is “wholly of grace,” nor that a sinner’s justification is “solely through faith,” but “by grace are ye saved through faith.” (Eph. 2:8) Not “wholly of grace” nor “solely of faith,” but “by grace are ye saved through faith.” Again we read: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1,2) It is by faith that we have access into grace by which we are saved. “Access” means “admittance; approach; passage; path.” So faith is the path or passage that leads to the grace of God and without either of the two, sinners would be hopelessly lost.
What about These?
We are saved by repentance (Acts 11:18), by confession (Rom. 10:10), by baptism (1 Pet. 3:21), by the gospel (I Cor. 15:2), by calling on the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:13),by hope (Rom. 8:24), by works (James 2:24), by the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9. by love (John 3:16), by obedience (Heb. 5:9), by Christ (Matt. 1:21), and it also is stated that God is our Savior in 1 Timothy 4:10. On the day of Pentecost Peter exhorted the people saying, “save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts 2:40) Which of these saves us? Al1 of them. God saves us, but he uses all of these things in saving us. By what authority could we leave out one thing that the Scripture says saves us?
We Understand This
We know that blood is essential to life, but the body may be full of blood and yet die because the heart fails to pump that blood through the body. Remove a man’s brains and death is certain. Because this is true, we will not take the position that our lungs are not essential to life. Because the body needs air we will not deny it food and water. Since we understand that all of these things are essential to life of the body, why can’t we understand that everything that the Bible says saves is essential to salvation?
The Bible Says...
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 3:21) This passage states just as plainly that baptism saves as Eph. 2:8; states that we are saved by grace. If we can understand one then we ought to understand the other. Again we read:
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mk. 16:16) If we can understand that faith is essential to salvation we ought to be able to see that baptism is also essential. If we can understand that repentance in Acts 2:38 is in order to the remission of sins, why can’t we understand that baptism is for the same purpose? It is an ignorant and foolish generation which can understand the organs of the body. but cannot understand plain commands of God. -Walter N. Henderson