This could be a very short answer, but I will do my best to string it out a bit.
Why isn't Communion, the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper, mentioned in the creeds of the church?
In the Nicene Creed, one of the most quoted and respected creeds, it says, "We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins." What does that mean? Did they believe baptism saved a person?
One of the things that we, westernized people, like today is what we call distinctions. We are constantly trying to separate things into their smallest details; wood is made up of fibers, fibers are made up of atoms, and atoms are made up of quarks. These distinctions have also made their way into theology (which is a blessing and curse at times).
First, the early church believed that ONLY Jesus saves us, not baptism, but baptism was still related. Today we see baptism in 2 parts, one is the act of baptism where we identify with Jesus in an outward display by being 'baptized' in water, the second (or the first) is the spiritual side where the Spirit takes us and places us into the family of God. Where we differentiate these two things, the early church did not, they were seen as being essentially part of the same act. It is why you see when people believed, in the early church, they were immediately baptized. It wasn't that the water baptism saved them, it was the fact that it was all a response to salvation and considered one act.
Acts 8:35-39 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. In this context it all became one essential act.
The Nicene Creed is referencing both the physical act of water baptism and the spiritual reality of new birth; it is baptism in its ideal consideration. Water does not wash away sins, but the church, through the Creed, was making a statement about what God does for those who have faith in Christ.
One commentator says that in Acts 2:38, where the Creed draws its wording from, the word "for" should be understood (and could be translated as) "with reference to." The reading would be "be baptized with reference to the remission of sins."
The historic context would be the sacramental union of the sign, water baptism, and the thing that is signified is the washing of our sins and the engrafting into Christ.
I recently received an email forward, because some of you have too much time on your hands and you think I do too. The email forward was a little PowerPoint show that was meant to be funny, but it was more perplexing to me than funny.
It started off with things like "In the beginning God created the Heavens and earth and populated it with broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and…vegetables." It goes on to say "then using God's gifts, Satan created…ice cream and…donuts." God creates salad and Satan makes fatty dressings, God brings running shoes and Satan brings a TV remote, God brings potatoes and Satan makes French fries, and God may have made ground beef, but Satan makes McDonalds.
As I read this I grew more and more frustrated because, even as a joke, this seemingly 'funny' forward reinforces the exact idea that I think Satan wants to people to believe: God creates boring stuff and Satan makes all things better. This is the lie all the way back to the Garden. God couldn't possibly be as good as He said He is, God would never give people the ability to make hamburgers or ice cream, only Satan could do that. The lie is: "don't trust Jesus for joy, he wouldn't know joy if it sat in His lap, only I, your friend the Devil, brings bliss."
We forget that the scriptures warn us against this type of thinking.
We forget that everything good COMES from the hand of God.
It is the same old thing, the devil speaks lies, we believe them, pass them around, and joke about it. How about we think and live in the truth that says, "if Ice Cream is awesome, it is because Jesus is awesome. If hamburgers, remote controls, salad dressing, and desserts are amazing, it is only because our God is amazing." Ecclesiastes 9:7 Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart…Why? Because Jesus is good and we can rest in that hope.
Ultimately, all of our joy should stem from the fact that our God sought us in our lost state, while we were sending email forwards, while even misunderstanding Him…and died for our sins and rose to raise us to new life and relationship in Him.
That's some reason for joy.
I have a relative who has been grilling me about some verses and brought up John 14:14, which he says can't be true since we clearly don't get everything we ask for from God. Do you have any insight?
Do I have any insight? I have an opinion about everything. In context let's start in verse 12, John 14:12-14 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it."
This is one of those sections of scripture that is constantly taken out of the context of what surrounds it by people who believe that God is a genie in a bottle whose every desire is to give us what we think we want. Notice the verse starts out speaking of Jesus' work in the world and us being a part of it. Jesus' work continues, and grows even greater, because of the sheer amount of people involved in His work. This is why today the Gospel is not confined simply to a bit of real-estate that we call Israel (or even the Middle East). Because of what Jesus has done, and is doing in His people, good is happening all around the world. As the Gospel Transformation Bible says "our work for Jesus is really our work with Jesus."
When Jesus says, "ask for whatever you want in my name," He is not saying, "Want a car? Say 'Jesus name.' Want a smaller waist line? Say 'Jesus name.' Want to win the lottery? Say 'Jesus name.'" There are some very off base people today who tell you exactly that, but instead of whacking God like a piñata, I think we ought to whack them around a bit (with good theology).
In the context of the verses, the types of prayers that Jesus is referring to are those that further His work and bring glory to the Father. Most of our prayers today are about our own self-glorification (God give me a man, give me a woman, give me a house, get me a job, give me straighter teeth, and/or make me smarter). Jesus says that the prayers, in this context, that He answers are ones that honor God. We are to make it about His glory, His honor, and His gospel.
What should we pray for? How about:
It seems as if almost no one prays, "God, give me opportunity to serve others."
Prayer is about changing the heart of God's people, not changing God. When you begin to pray for others your heart towards them will melt…I think this is why we are told to love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
Again, in context, Jesus follows verse 14 by saying John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments." It sounds to me like He is reinforcing that we should be a people who are about His work in the world, not our own selfish wants and desires. Love for Jesus has everything to do with what we pray about, how we live, and how we partner with Him in the world.