We are finishing up our look at Acts 16. We will finally get to Philippians today, after we take a look one more look at the events that led to the beginnings of the church at Philippi. We pick up with Paul and Silas in prison, singing hymns at midnight. The other prisoners—being violent, dangerous criminals having either no religion or, at best, a pagan set of beliefs—these men are listening as the Jews are singing and praising their God and Savior, Jesus Christ. God then shook the jail—the doors opened, all the chains fell off—yet even the most wicked criminal in this inner prison did not flee. They knew that Paul and Silas knew who was truly the Most High God. Then the keeper of the jail comes running in, he’s about to kill himself, Paul cries out, “We’re ALL still here!” The jailer asked “What must I do to be saved?” And Paul says, “Well, you know, there’s really not just ONE way to be saved. I mean, there is more than just one way to Heaven. I mean, we can't know for sure what truth really is, you see. After all, we all have our own set of beliefs. Let’s go talk about this over a cup of coffee and let’s talk about what salvation means to you.” No, that’s not what he said. He said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household.” We’re going to begin today, finishing up in Acts, by discussing a doctrine that is common in some denominations, and that springs forth from what happens next. That is the subject of infant baptism. And I may step on some toes of my dear readers, but this is one of those places where we can disagree. Right?
Now, different denominations have different ideas about what infant baptism accomplishes. The Roman Catholic system believes that when an infant is baptized, that means the child will automatically go to Heaven. They call it “Baptismal Regeneration.” And it’s wrong. Period, paragraph. Presbyterians and Lutherans believe that it’s simply symbolic, but it is commanded by God. All those who believe in infant baptism, regardless of what they believe it accomplishes, they get the idea from Acts 16:30-33—30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. Notice the order these things happen: …they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Which came first: believing, or baptism?
Those who teach infant baptism have it backwards. They say an infant can be baptized before they believe. They say that this verse is the “model” for infant baptism. But it’s not. In fact, it contradicts the belief, because it says, they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house…then they were baptized. They spoke the word to how many that were in his house? The word “house” here means “family.” They spoke the word to all who were in his family. THEN they were baptized. They were not baptized until they understood what the word of the Lord was. The same today. A person MUST be shown the way to salvation, accept it with their whole heart, understand what it means—THEN and only then should they be baptized.
Now, look at verses 31-33. Do you see the word “infant?” What these people do is they assume there were infants in this house. Now, there are times when we can assume or infer something that the Bible is not explicit about. When we were talking about the rich man and Lazarus, I mentioned that because Lazarus was covered with sores, we could assume he was a leper. BUT, that’s not something I’m going to use to build a doctrine. There are things we can assume without changing the nature of God, the means of salvation, the person of Jesus Christ, that if we are wrong, so be it. We’re wrong. It’s not something that is going to condemn us. I know a couple of devout, God-fearing men who are wonderful teachers of the Word. And they do believe in infant baptism. Does that mean they're not saved? No. We can disagree about infant baptism—so long as we do not believe an infant is saved because they get dunked. We can disagree about whether we need to be baptized in order to be saved—like the Church of Christ. Do you need to be baptized in order to be saved? No. Does that mean people in the Church of Christ aren't saved? No. They're just wrong. They also believe you can lose your salvation. does that mean they're not saved? No. again, they're just wrong. This passage says nothing about infants being baptized, and to say that it does is wrong.
In studying the Bible, there is a term known as exegesis. It means drawing the meaning out of a passage of Scripture. But these people practice what is called eisegesis. That means taking a belief that is outside of Scripture and reading it into the text. The Roman Catholic system does that with almost all of their beliefs. They come up with some doctrine and try and find a phrase in one little verse that they can latch onto and say, “See! It’s biblical!” Even though that’s not what it means and there are 100 other complete verses and passages that say the exact opposite.
The Bible does not teach infant baptism. Period. Baptism is an act we go through to show the world that we have been born again—it is a sign, it is not the means to salvation. You can dunk or sprinkle your baby all day every day, and they are no more saved than they were before. Just like circumcision. When Paul had Timothy circumcised, he was telling the unbelieving Jews, “There. Ya happy? You mutilated him, and it didn’t do a bit of good.” We could go much deeper than that, but I think that about covers it. So, this was the founding of the church at Philippi.
Go ahead and turn over a few pages to the book of Philippians. From Acts, you go past Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Chapter 1, verse 1. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians about 62 AD, about 10 years, give or take, after the events we have covered in Acts 16. The persecution of the church by the Roman government had not yet begun in earnest. It was coming, but hadn't happened yet. There is this little group of people who worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Lovers of God who will not bow their knee to the Caesar. If they were Jewish they would proclaim “Shema Yisrael! YHVH Eloheinu YHVH Echad!” The Shema, in Deuteronomy 6:4. Hear, O Israel! YHVH is God, YHVH alone! But in this city, this Roman colony, following the Lord Jesus Christ—not just following His teachings, but following Him—meant renouncing Caesar as lord. If you were caught, you were brought before the authorities and commanded to proclaim “Caesar est dominus—Caesar is lord!”
About 20 years after Philippians was written, a man named Domitian became emperor in about 81 AD. He was one of the cruelest emperors Rome ever had. According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, “a law was made, ‘That no Christian…should be exempted from punishment without renouncing his religion. A variety of fabricated tales were…composed in order to injure the Christians. Such was the infatuation of the pagans, that, if famine, pestilence, or earthquakes afflicted any of the Roman provinces, it was laid upon the Christians. These persecutions among the Christians increased the number of informers and many, for the sake of gain, swore away the lives of the innocent. Another hardship was, that, when any Christians were brought before the magistrates, a test oath was proposed…if they refused to take it, death was pronounced against them; and if they confessed themselves Christians, the sentence was the same.’”
A man named Ignatius, a disciple of the apostle Peter, was being transported to Rome to be fed to wild beasts. He wrote to the churches to not try and help him escape. “Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!” Rome hated Christ. The world still hates Christ. The spirit that controlled Rome and led it to try and crush the church under its tyrannical heel is still alive and seeking to destroy her still today. John 15:18-20—“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, ‘The servant is not greater than his lord.’ If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” To think that following Christ will bring applause from a sinful world, that it is the automatic guarantee of health, wealth, and prosperity—to believe that is complete lunacy.
What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to follow Christ? What does one become when they offer their life to the Lord who bought them with His blood? Philippians 1:1—1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ… The NLT, and two lesser-known translations (The Analytical-Literal Translation and Green's Literal Version)--out of all the most well-known translations, and there are I don’t know how many, only 3 get that word right. “Bondservant” is close. “Slave” nails it. What is the difference between a “bondservant” and a “slave?” The difference between house arrest and maximum security. The difference between probation and a life sentence with no parole. Philemon 1:1—Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ. Paul did not consider himself to be simply a “servant.” He was a “slave.” The Greek word is δουλος (doulos). One dictionary defines it as “devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests.”
When we, as Paul told the jailer at Philippi, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” it’s not just saying a little prayer. It’s not just going to church and trying to do good, and little acts of kindness. When we belong to Christ we are His slave. If He says “Jump” we don’t even bother asking “How high?” We just jump until He says “That’s enough.” Just read the words Paul used in the books of the Bible he wrote. Every verse just drips with the attitude that he almost thought he could not do enough for his Lord. Can we do enough? Ever? But guess what. We don’t have to try and “do enough.” We just do. Because He did the work of saving. We are slaves of Christ Jesus because He paid our debt.
How much was our debt? Would you believe 3 BILLION dollars? In Matthew 18, Jesus tells a parable of a servant who owed his master 10,000 talents. He was saying that is what we owe God for all the sins we have committed against Him. How much of that debt do we pay? Matthew 18:23-27—23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.”
While we are still walking around with our sins clinging to us, we are slaves who owe 10,000 talents. An amount we could never pay. In fact it would take about 100,000 years to pay it. I don’t think any of us have that kind of time. But when we repent of our sins, when we accept Christ’s blood as payment for those sins—because His blood could cover trillions of talents worth of debt, Amen—when we come pleading to the throne of God, and beg is pardon, he releases us from the debt, we are no longer under obligation to pay that debt—because Jesus paid it for us. We are sons, but we are also slaves. Slaves of Christ. Some people try to say that the Bible doesn’t talk about slavery. Oh, yes. It does indeed. Philippians 1:1—1 Paul and Timothy, slaves—douloi (plural of doulos)—of Jesus Christ…
Some other places where we find this attitude—
• Romans 1:1—Paul, a doulos of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle…
• Titus 1:1—Paul, a doulos of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ…
• James 1:1—James, a doulos of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
• 2nd Peter 1:1—Simon Peter, a doulos and apostle of Jesus Christ,
• Jude 1:1—Jude, a doulos of Jesus Christ,
All these men, who could have bragged and boasted about their positions and the revelations given to them, instead considered themselves slaves.
What would this mean to an audience that was made up of Roman citizens who were familiar with the concept of slavery? Well, first we need to dispel some preconceptions we have about slaves. See, in this country, the only concept of slavery we have is the atrocities that occurred in the years when human beings were treated like animals by greedy landowners and slave-traders. And yes, the Bible does speak against THAT KIND of slavery. We don’t have time today, but it does. But slavery wasn’t always like that. In many cultures, slaves were treated rather well. They may not have had all the rights of a freeman, but they did have rights, they were treated with some dignity. And this was true of slaves in the Roman culture.
For one thing, slaves could be quite expensive. A wealthy Roman was not about to beat his slave to death, knowing how much it would cost to buy a new one. According to one article I found, “Once bought, a slave was a slave for life. A slave could only get their freedom if they were given it by their owner or if they bought their freedom. To buy your freedom, you had to raise the same sum of money that your master had paid for you – a virtually impossible task.” Fred Price, Kenneth Copeland have said that "If the payment for your sins was physical death, the two thieves could have paid it." (You can read more of their blasphemous quotes about that here.)
So what was the message Paul was trying to get across to these Roman citizens by calling himself a slave of Jesus Christ? He’s saying he was bought for a very high price. 1st Corinthians 6:20—For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which [belong to God]. He’s saying that God chose him. When did God choose him? Before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He’s saying that his Master has bought him and owns him forever. He’s saying that the only way he could ever stop being God’s slave is if he could come up with a payment equal to that of what his Master paid for him. Could he ever do that? Could any of us ever do that? Yet so many people try. So many people think they can earn enough points, do enough things, to equal the payment God made for us. Impossible! Another thing he’s saying is this: did slaves buy their way into a household? How did they become slaves? The master paid for them. But here’s a difference. In Rome, a master saw a person who was “qualified” to be a slave. Yet God buys us when we are lowly, depraved, sinful wretches. Amazing Grace, how swet the sound, that saved a.......what?
Everyone is a slave. Every single person on the face of the earth is a slave. There are only two masters: you can be a slave to sin, or you can be a slave to Christ. Romans 6:16-23—16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves doulos to obey, you are that one’s doulos whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were doulos of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became doulos of righteousness. 19 …For just as you presented your members as doulos of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as doulos of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were doulos of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness…22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become doulos of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of [slavery to] sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The wages that sin pays is death. Literally, death of the body. Want to live forever and never die? Don’t sin. How many of us are going to die? Because how many of us sin? This is from the book of Romans. What kind of audience was the book of Romans was written to? Romans and Philippians were written to citizens of the Roman Empire. Which is why there are so many references to us as being slaves. And let me just leave you with this little preview from Philippians 2:7, which says that Jesus made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a doulos and coming in the likeness of men. Christ Jesus Himself became a doulos. Are we better than Him? A servant is not greater than his master!