On the advice of a friend I began reading a series of books, the first entitled The Last Jihad. The first book quickly caught my attention. In my estimation I was reading something inbetween Tom Clancy and David Baldacci, lots of action laced with terrorism that we have come to know so well. The second book included overtones of Christian conviction. I use the term "Christian" loosely here as anyone who believes Jesus died for their sins. It was not until the third book that I realized the magnitude of the writer's intent. This writer was using "a novel of fiction" to put forth his message of "the last days", a belief of many that Christ will come back to the earth and literally reign for a period of time before the judgement.
Don't misunderstand me. I read the Harry Potter series and loved it! I read the Da Vinci Code and enjoyed it, too. Fiction is just that to me--fiction. Fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, I love them all. Who I worry about is the immature reader who has trouble discerning fiction from truth. This can be the young or the not-so-young. And when a writer takes scripture and misuses it, the immature reader or the reader who has a background lacking in Biblical study, often takes what's written as truth and not for the work of fiction it really is.
So, back to the Rosenberg series. Rosenberg proceeded to weave a connection between holy scripture, books written by others that were not included in The Bible, and fictionalised events to cause the reader to question and possibly come to the conclusion that exerpts from the books of Daniel, Revelation, and Ezekiel forecast a reign of terror of Biblical porportion prior to the second coming of Christ. And, that prior to these events, God will send "signs" predicting such.
What concerns me is that people will go to great lengths to join passages of scripture together to make their "case" about something, yet won't take complete passages that are repeated over and over as essential. Take scripture concerning baptism. Most people who consider themselves Christians do not think baptism is essential to salvation. However, the following scriptures say otherwise.
Acts 2:37-38 "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Acts 8:12 "But when they believed Philip preaching the good tidings concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."
Acts 8:26-40 v.35- " Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water; and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."
Acts 9 (Concerning the conversion of Saul--Paul, the apostle) v.4-6 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. ... v.18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized."
Acts 22 (Paul relates his conversion) v.12-16 And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hours I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Romans 6: 1ff What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together [become united with him] in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection."
Notice what Paul says to the Corinthians about the disputes among them in I Corinthians 1. (Read the entire chapter) (v.10) "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisons among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (v. 21-25) For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; andthe weakness fo God is stronger than men. (v.27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound [put to shame] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound [put to shame] the things which are mighty [strong]."
Question--If baptism isn't essential to salvation, why is it mentioned so many times? Now, I believe that God only needs to say it once for me to understand that it is necessary, but here for arguements sake let's ask ourselves why the apostles stressed it if it wasn't essential? The answer is that they knew it was essential so they made sure everyone understood that message. God requires that we submit ourselves to baptism where we come in contact with His blood. Not literally but symbolically. Baptism is a burial in water symbolizing the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.
I Corinthians 1 shows us that God has selected how we are to obey Him. Paul also states that many will reject God's word because they either require a sign to believe or consider the method chosen by God as foolish. It is important that we take all of God's word and not select only what we want to believe.