What was Luther’s Plea?


“I pray you leave my name alone and do not call yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine: I have not been crucified for any one… How does it then benefit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of Christ? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions; away with all of them; and let us call ourselves only Christians, after Him from whom our doctrine comes.” LIFE OF LUTHER, p. 262

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  1 Cor. 1:10-13

Do We Leave Out the Most Important Part?

Water wave

I HAVE OFTEN heard folks tell their friends, “You need to be baptized.”

It’s certainly true that immersion is necessary (Acts 8:38; Rom. 6:3; 1 Pet. 3:21; cf. 2 Kgs. 5:13-14).

Despite what our denominational neighbors say to the contrary, baptism is essential for salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5).

But I fear that, at least at times, we’ve not said nearly enough when we tell people, “You need to be baptized…”

Hear me out.

Simply getting in the water is insufficient.  Yes, I said insufficient.

If there was something miraculous or holy about the water in and of itself, we could just strong-arm folks up to the baptistry and force them under.  But there is no inherent power in the water itself.  Water is water–whether it’s in a baptistry, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, a pond, a creek, a river or an ocean.

An individual has to be buried (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), but sometimes well-intentioned church folk stop there at immersion in water and in so doing, stop short of their responsibility (cf. Mat. 28:19-20).

They push the action of faith without first properly and fully emphasizing the person of faith.  They fixate on the water without focusing upon the One who mandates the water in the first place.

But beloved, without Christ baptism is simply a bath; the removal of the filth of the flesh (1 Pet. 3:21).

Christ is the center, the beginning and the end, and He’s why water is important in the first place!

Through the years I’ve watched us (i.e., the church) baptize folks in numbers I cannot recall, both stateside as well as on foreign soil.  And I’ve also watched many of those folks who went down into the water leave the church soon thereafter because even though they got the water right, they never got the Savior right.  They heard, “You need to be baptized…” and “You’ll be lost in hell if you don’t get baptized.”  They were told and heard “water” and perhaps wanted an insurance policy against eternal fire (Mat. 25:46a).

Our Baptist friends sometimes accuse us of what they call, “water salvation.”  I suspect on occasion, they may actually be right.

Christ is everything!

  • We are saved by Christ.  1 Tim. 1:15
  • We are saved by faith in Christ.  John 8:24; cf. Jas. 2:17, 24
  • We are saved by repenting of sins committed against Christ.  Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; cf. Mat. 12:41; Jonah 3:10
  • We are saved by confessing Christ.  Mat. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:10
  • We are saved by baptism into Christ.  Gal. 3:27
  • We are saved by the name and authority of Christ.  Acts 4:12
  • We are saved by the words of Christ.  John 6:63
  • We are saved by the works of Christ.  John 20:30-31
  • We are saved by the blood of Christ.  Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7
  • We are saved by the death of Christ.  Rom. 5:10a
  • We are saved by the perfect life of Christ.  Rom. 5:10b
  • We are saved by the resurrection of Christ.  Rom. 4:25
  • We are saved by hope in Christ.  Rom. 8:24
  • We are saved by calling on the name of Christ (i.e., baptism).  Acts 22:16; 2:21; cf. Mat. 7:21
  • And at baptism God adds us to the body/church of Christ.  Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 11:24; cf. Rom. 16:16

Let me say it here–and please don’t wrest my words out of their context.  It’s not the water in and of itself that saves.  It is Christ who saves and He graciously does so through obedient faith that accepts His word and goes down into the water (Mark 16:15-16; Eph. 2:8-9).

In Christ alone my hope is found

He is my light, my strength, my song

This cornerstone, this solid ground

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease

My Comforter, my All in All

Here in the love of Christ I stand

Songwriters: Keith Getty/Stuart Townend
In Christ Alone lyrics @ Capitol Christian Music Group

Who Receives Both Sunshine and Rain?

IN HIS BOOK, Marriage God’s Way, Scott LaPierre tells husbands, “Our Christianity is related directly to the way we treat our spouse.  Our marriages are an outpouring of our relationship with Christ.”

There are doctrinal issues where I respectfully disagree with Mr. LaPierre, but in this particular context, He’s spot on.  There is a direct correlation between a man’s relationship with His Savior (John 15:7; Rom. 7:4; Rev. 3:20) and his relationship with his mate.  And it’s impossible for him to either neglect or mistreat his wife and simultaneously be close to Christ—because his marriage to her is an outpouring of his marriage to Jesus.

Men, we must remember #1—CONSISTENCY (see the previous blog post), but we must also remember #2—MATURITY.  Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mat. 5:48).

No, that’s not a misprint, brothers; that’s Bible. “You.shall.be.perfect.JUST.AS.your.Father.in.heaven.is.perfect…”

Don’t choke while you’re chewing on that, okay?  Jesus said it, not me.  “Perfect.”

It is helpful to remember that the Greek word rendered “perfect” in our English Bible is teleios and is sometimes translated “complete” (cf. 19:21) or “mature” (1 Cor. 2:6; 14:20; Eph. 4:13).  Hang on to that idea for a second, guys.

God is THE standard by which we measure ourselves as men and husbands.  He is absolute perfection.  But now, with that in mind, go back and re-plow Matthew 5:48 in its immediate context:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only what do you do more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so” (Mat. 5:43-47)?

Watch it.  A man’s standard, his perfectly straight measuring stick for how he treats his wife is Jehovah God (cf. Deut. 18:13; Lev. 19:2; 1 Pet. 1:15-16; Luke 6:36).  And as God lavishes His blessings on both the evil and the good, a husband is to love his wife in the exact same fashion.  He is to act towards her with a divine, perfect love (cf. Eph. 5:25).


“But Mike, what’s that mean…?” you ask.  It means that when your wife’s words are short, impatient or terse, you don’t fire back with your own salvo of verbal weaponry.  On the contrary, you express your care and appreciation for/to her—even and especially when she isn’t acting or sounding lovable (Eph. 5:28-29).  And when and if your wife acts in anger, you as her husband don’t attack her with an ill-tempered retaliatory strike of your own.  Instead, you show her a perfect, God-like love and give her your time and attention—even when she doesn’t appear to deserve it at the moment.  And when she is sometimes emotional and easily brought to tears, you don’t push her away in frustration.  Rather, you hold her close and confirm your constant devotion (Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 2:8) because that’s how God loves (cf. Hosea 1:2-3; 3:1).

He doesn’t withhold His love from sinners.  He gives sunshine and rain to saints and sinners alike.  Both are the recipients of His providential blessings and favor.

Can You Make Grape Jelly from Briers?

THIS GUY JUST punched a bunch of us right in the face.

And it wasn’t a little, friendly, tongue-in-check “pop” across the jaw.  No, it was a big, full-handed “knock Goliath down” wallop.  He busted our chops.

Employee/husband. . .read this preacher’s next few paragraphs and see if you’re not reeling from his stinging indictment:

“Almost all of my waking hours were packed with studying, teaching, counseling, making phone calls, sending emails, attending meetings, addressing administrative responsibilities, and tending to benevolence issues.  When I was home, where I should have been an engaged…husband, I didn’t have much left for my [wife] emotionally, mentally, or physically.

Although I was failing as a husband…, I was able to convince myself I was still pleasing to the Lord.  I compartmentalized my life by saying, ‘I’m a Christian first.  I’m a spouse second…  I’m an employee third.’  Instead, I should have said, ‘I’m a Christian spouse.  I’m a Christian employee.’  The danger of seeing ourselves as a Christian first and a spouse second is we can find ourselves believing the lie I bought into at the time:  ‘If I can be a good [employee], I can please God even though I am not the best husband.’  The truth is that I was a poor husband, and I should have recognized that meant I was not pleasing the Lord.’

The reason we cannot please the Lord while failing as a husband…is that our Christianity is related directly to the way we treat our spouse.  Our marriages are an outpouring of our relationship with Christ.”1

With these thoughts and insights in mind husbands, let me encourage us to remember the following three words as we go about our day:

#1  CONSISTENCY—Jesus asked rhetorically, “Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles” (Mat. 7:16b; cf. Jas. 3:12).  The obvious answer is, “No”.  It’s inconsistent to think folks can make jelly from what they glean from a bunch of briers.  Grape vines produce grapes; thornbushes produce thorns (Mat. 7:16a; cf. Gen. 1:11; Gal. 6:7).  I’ll eat the former on a hot, buttered, gluten-free biscuit, but not the latter.


It is equally inconsistent to think that we as Christian men can labor and lead in our jobs (Eph. 4:28; 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 3:7-9, 10; 1 Tim. 5:8) as children of the King of kings, and still please Him when we’re not also devoted to our relationships with our wives and guiding them towards heaven (1 Pet. 3:7).  Regardless of what our peers may think about our dedication, our willingness to give long hours to our professions, and our commendable ethics, we are Christians first and foremost of all—and to thrive in our careers and then flounder in our marriages as husbands is not only unbiblical (Eph. 5:25), but it says we can subdivide our hearts and legitimately produce both good as well as bad fruit in the most important, and most intimate of all earthly bonds.


1 Scott LaPierre, “Your Marriage Reflects Your Relationship with Christ,” Marriage God’s Way, 3-4 (emphasis mine—mb).

When’s the Last Time You Went to the Circus?


IT’S EASY TO scoff at the ancient Corinth church of Christ.  Her assemblies, dare I say it–were something of a circus.  And yes, there is evidence to support that troubling claim.

First of all, two or more brethren were speaking simultaneously during the preaching (1 Cor. 14:6-18; 26ff).  It’s challenging enough today to really listen and worship during a sermon, but imagine having to do so when more than one speaker is talking–and each of them is transmitting God’s word in a foreign language–a language which you’ve never studied.  “Honey, what did you get out of today’s sermon?”  “I didn’t get anything out of today’s revelation because I couldn’t understand it…”

Second, Corinth’s confusion wasn’t just limited to what came out of the pulpit or Bible class.  Division, fracture and schism permeated the local church body in a myriad of ways (1 Cor. 1-3).  Paul said, “For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you…” (1:18).

These divisions were most evident, of all places, at the Lord’s Table (vv. 19ff).  I can’t call it “communion” (1 Cor. 10:16), because what Corinthian was doing at that period of worship was anything but communing–either among themselves or with the Lord (11:17, 20; cf. Mat. 26:29).

Some members were eating ahead of of other members (v. 21).  And it’s not just that everybody wasn’t eating at the same time, it’s that some members were eating while others were actually going hungry.

Imagine attending a congregational dinner-on-the-grounds on an empty stomach while watching some of your own brethren eating to the point of over indulgence–even drunkenness (v. 21b).  This obviously wasn’t what Christ had in mind when He said the church was to come together on the first day of the week to partake of His body and blood (cf. Mat. 26:26-29; cf. Acts 20:7).  Corinth failed to understand that fact and made the unfortunate mistake of combining the common and the spiritual.  She had mixed what we call a potluck (e.g., love feast–Jude 13) with the Supper of the Lord.

Back at the very first Lord’s Supper, after Jesus and the twelve finished the Passover, the Lord instituted the commemorative feast in order to help the future church focus on the real Lamb of God (cf. Exo. 12; John 1:29).  Corinth, despite apostolic teaching to the contrary (1:4-5), had amalgamated a meal for the belly (from the Passover) with a meal for the heart (the Lord’s Supper).

The saints not only misunderstood the proper form of worship, but they also held improper views about the heart and spirit of worship.  Yes–there was activity, but that activity was shallow and self-centered rather than Christ-centered.  Yes, they were coming together (11:17, 18, 20, 33), but it wasn’t coming together in an effort to honor the risen Lord, share in His spiritual blessings, and announce His inevitable return (11:26).  The church at Corinth was coming together for, “gulp,” judgment (v. 34).

It was clownish.  Circus-like.  It was the Big Top.  A spectacle.  Carnal as opposed to spiritual.  “Me” instead of Christ in the limelight.

Of course, Corinth, at least initially, didn’t possess divinely-ordained, written-down documentation in completed form.  At that time frame in the churches’ early history, the Word existed in mortal vessels–people–as the Spirit gave them utterance (2 Cor. 4:7; 2 Pet. 1:21).

But we don’t have that excuse today, do we (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3)?  We have the complete, inspired revelation of God (Jude 3).  Which means, of course, that we don’t struggle today at or with the Lord’s Supper, right?  When we gather as the church, we always do it just as our Savior prescribed.  Right?  A few, sincere brethren might chime in and day, “But Mike, we’ve got it right–we have unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine, and we’re a sound church because we observe the Lord’s Supper just as Jesus authorized.”  Maybe.  Maybe no.

The biblical word translated “sound” (1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:13; 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1) means healthy; it’s where we get our English word “hygiene.”  Friend, may I ask some probing questions about the Lord’s Supper for your personal introspection?  (NOTE:  If the questions I’m about to ask aren’t applicable to you personally, then drop this in the waste paper basket and go on about your day, but if you do discover that I’m stepping on your toes, in the interest of your eternal soul, please give this some honest thought and repent of when and where you’re failing.

  • When we rush through the Supper like a McDonald’s drive-through and regularly treat it like something to be checked off our to-do list, can we really say were sound?
  • When we harbor ill-will and hard feelings toward fellow saints and we talk about them behind their backs without actually going to them one-on-one for reconciliation (Mat. 18:15-17), can we consume the bread and fruit of the vine and then honestly say we’re healthy in God’s eyes?
  • When we habitually come late to the services, shake a quick couple of hands, fail to bring, much less open our Bibles, consume the elements of the supper with little or no personal inspection, and then hurry out of the assembly early to get to a ball game or the beach, are we really so deluded to think we possess healthy souls?
  • When we partake of that small bit of unleavened bread and the contents of the tiny plastic cup while members of our own church family are quite literally starving for attention, love and some needed gesture of compassion, how are we not participating with Corinth in the circus?
  • When our minds are consumed with temporal matters and we only offer God a momentary flash of gratitude at the supper, while widows are brokenhearted, single parents beg for physical assistance, and teenagers aren’t receiving spiritual and moral guidance outside of the pulpit, is it accurate to categorize ourselves as sound in the faith?
  • When we eat the bread and drink the cup and then head out to the local buffet while simultaneously feasting on roasted preacher and/or broiled elder, can we truly argue we’ve done so with Christ’s authority (Col. 3:17; Gal. 5:15)?
  • When we consume unleavened bread and fruit of the vine at the table, but then work behind the scenes to get rid of the current preacher so that we can a new one that we like, is spiritual well-being a reality in our lives?

Sure, Corinth is easy pickings.  She was the worst-case scenario of carnality at the very time when we she should have been spiritual.  She had turned sacred worship into a selfish stage of self-aggrandizement.  Her assemblies were Barnum and Bailey.  “Turn the lights on me.  Ladies and gentlemen–let me direct your attention to the center ring–where I speak first (or at the same time you do), while I follow Paul, or Peter, or Apollos (or Jame, or Frank, or Bob), and where I eat the loaf and drink the cup while simultaneously devouring (or neglecting) my kind in the Lord.”  You get the point.

The Lord’s Supper is when saints in the Lord are to lovingly commune with the Lord and His church.  “When we meet in sweet communion…”  “Hearts are brought in closer union…”

It’s not my purpose to injure by beloved church family–either here or abroad, nor do I have an ax to grind with any particular member–past or present.  I’m simply saying we have to get the supper right (John 4:24).  We.  HAVE.  To.

And to do that, some of us may need to close the circus, grab the scalpel of the word, engage in serious heart surgery (11:28-34; cf. Psm. 139:23), and then make genuine amends.  Paul said, “Let a man examine himself…” That’s what Corinth needed two-millennia ago; that’s what many of us need today.  Only then can we truly be healthy.