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1994 Issue 4

Does your church practice baptism for the dead? If not, then is your church truly biblical? Are you missing part of God's will for your life? Are you living in disobedience to God.

This obscure verse has troubled and perplexed commentators forages. As the reader may be aware, this one text provides the basis for the extensive genealogical research of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). According to Mormon teaching, the vicarious baptism of the living provides salvific benefits for the dead. This explains their zeal and willingness to expend vast amounts of money and effort to collect and secure precise genealogical data. To my knowledge, only the Mormons among all professing Christian groups have made baptism for the dead an important part of their religious ritual.

What was it that drove thousands of Christians to leave the familiar surroundings of their homeland and cross a wild sea, to dwell "in a wilderness"? It wasn't merely the desire for adventure or the hankering to "see the world" It was a desire to have a hand in building a nation which would conform to the Word of God and seek to advance His purposes.

The central theme of the Reformation, "Sola Scriptura," drove hundreds of men and women to seek reformation in all areas of life. Christ was Lord of all and thus all things should be conformed to His Word. The "crown rights of King Jesus" demanded a reformed society. Thus, the goal of the Pilgrims and Puritans was expressed not merely by a desire to found a godly church, but to establish a City, a "city on a hill." A place where there would not only be faithful worship of the living God, but faithful, covenant living under the God whom they worshipped.

In Luke's account of the baptism of Jesus the emphasis is on four events connected with His baptism: (1). The praying of Jesus during His baptism; (2). The opening of the heavens; (3). The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus; and (4). The voice of God from heaven. At Jesus' baptism "the opened heavens, the descending Spirit and the voice of the Father alike bore testimony to the perfection of the Son." - G.C. Morgan, THE CRISES OF THE CHRIST, pg. 86.

Which would you consider the most difficult commandment to obey? The fourth commandment, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy?" The tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet"? Or, what about "The Great Commandment", "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart"?

Of all God's commandments, the command to submit to one another is perhaps the most challenging and difficult. One of the common vows of many churches for membership is "Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church...)" The commitment to and practice of obeying this vow may be the greatest evidence of spiritual maturity. Nothing cuts across the cultural grain of the human heart more than submitting ourselves to others. It is one thing to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, it is an even far more difficult thing to submit ourselves to others whom we know to be imperfect and sinful themselves.