On this rock I will build my church
By Kelvin Pugh
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The Apostle Paul traveled great distances to preach and teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Did Paul teach different means of entrance into the Lord's church? Looking at the many religions today, one would think he did. The beliefs and teachings which are contrary to the New Testament were not taught by Paul nor by any of the other apostles, but have been adulterated from the truth of God's Word. "For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church" (1 Corinthians 4:17). Paul taught the same doctrine every where and in every church. Timothy also taught the same things Paul taught. Both were teaching the ways of Christ. If this is the case, whatever Paul taught concerning salvation in one place, he taught in another. Today, there are so many varied opinions concerning salvation. How can one know what is right? We must go to the source of truth, the word of God (John 17:17).
Paul preached the gospel in the city of Ephesus (Acts 19:1-6). He later devotes an entire epistle to the saints at Ephesus. What did these people do to become members of the church? It is our intent in this short study to see what moved these people from an unsaved state to a saved state.
Paul, while passing through the upper coast came to Ephesus. The Bible explains he found certain disciples there, and he preached Christ to them (Acts 19:1-5). In his letter to the Ephesian church he said, "In whom ye trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation..." (Ephesians 1:13). It must be concluded that the preaching and teaching of the gospel is an essential step toward salvation.
Continuing with the same verse, Paul recorded "...in whom also after that ye believed..." (Ephesians 1:13). After hearing the preached message, the people of Ephesus believed on Jesus. "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus (Acts 19:4). Belief on Christ is an essential element toward salvation.
Paul, as he was preparing to sail away from Ephesus, called the elders of the church from Ephesus to meet with him at Miletus. He said to them, "Testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21). Paul taught repentance while in Ephesus.
After encountering the situation with the sons of Sceva, the Bible states, "...and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds" (Acts 19:17-18). What did the Ephesians confess? The Romans were told, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10:9).
After hearing the preaching of Paul, the people at Ephesus were baptized. "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:5). The Bible clearly teaches baptism saves and places one in Christ (1 Peter 3:21; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27).
Paul then states the Ephesians were saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). All of these actions saved the Ephesians and saved any one else to whom Paul preached. Today, the same is required to be saved and to be added to the church by the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:47). Have you surrendered to the will of the Lord and obeyed the gospel as the Ephesians did?
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"God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth" (John 17:17). "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). From this we learn that to worship God and have our worship accepted, it must be according to truth. God's word is said to be truth, so it is another way of saying that we must do by faith that which comes from hearing God's word. Now our hearts may dictate many things and all be wrong. Paul's heart dictated many things to him, which he did. Yet, when he heard God and obeyed him (walking by faith, not by what he thought), he learned that he was persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:4). "I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which things I also did in Jerusalem; and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priest; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them" (Acts 26:9-10). Yes, Paul's dictates of his heart, or what he thought he should do, led him to persecute the Son of God whom he sought to serve.
When a man worships God according to the dictates of his own heart, he is being directed by the creed of a man and not the truth of God, which gives him faith to please God. Jesus said of those who sought to serve him while on earth, "This people draweth night unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:8-9).
The creeds and commandments of man will not produce the faith which is essential to acceptable worship to God. The dictates, thoughts and creeds of man constitute completely vain worship according to no less authority than the Son of God. Man does not, has never, nor will he ever have the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own heart!What about us today?
Jesus said that he has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Paul said that the "Gospel of Christ" was God's power to save, not the dictates of men (Romans 1:16). The Hebrew writer said that Jesus is the "author of eternal salvation to those who obey him" (Hebrews 5:9). He is not the author of eternal salvation to those who worship God according to the dictates of their own hearts. Paul said that if one of the apostles, an angel, or any man preached any other Gospel than the Gospel which he preached, such a one would be cursed. This was the Gospel Paul received from God (Galatians 1:8-12), not the one he preached when the "thought within himself". For while he thought within himself he made "havoc" of the Lord's Church (Acts 8:3).
All those who do not obey the gospel of Christ will be lost (II Thessalonians 1:7-9). Man's heart will never dictate this Gospel or the faith which comes from the study of this gospel. Jesus died to give us the Gospel of Christ (I Corinthians 15:1-4). Man does not have the right to worship God according to the dictates of his own heart, and he will be lost if he does.
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