Regarding slavery in the United States before the Civil War, Stephen Yafa writes: “Whatever course the future took, it carried with it a tarnished promise that democracy might someday mean true equality, or that when pressed to choose, its preeminent elected officials would put aside personal reward to en-sure the liberty of one and all… Slavery had been outlawed in Europe for nearly two decades. In 1834 Parliament emancipated all blacks throughout the British Empire. Confederates argued that of the eleven million slaves brought to the New World over the previous centuries, only a tiny fraction, fewer than five percent, or about 500,000 came to America. By contrast, Brazil and the West Indies accounted for nine million slaves… That argument meant little to men and women unwilling to allow any individual from this day forward to selectively determine who was or was not entitled to ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ To them there were no asterisks in the Declaration of Independence.” (Stephen Yafa, Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber, 127).
The British aptly pointed out (to the dismay of our Founding Fathers), the incongruity that American slaveholders yelped the loudest for “independence” during the Revolutionary War. It was not only incongruous, but hypocritical as well. It was the same argument the abolitionists rightly and continually pointed out to the Southern sons of the Founding Fathers. “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are given by God as the right of all men, (so our “embarrassing” founding document declared). And it did not contain any asterisks!
So, too, the Bible contains no “asterisks” (unless God gives them in the text). We cannot go to the “fine” print and find “exception” clauses. The comedian W.C. Fields, as an old man, was (uncharacteristically) reading the Bible when a friend arrived to see him. His friend asked, “What are you doing?” Fields replied, “Looking for loopholes.” The Bible doesn’t have any of those either. I’m not taking “grace” away from God’s great plan, but neither do I believe in the cavalier theory that it doesn’t matter what you do once you’re saved, because you can’t do anything to lose your salvation anyway! The Bible tersely claims otherwise (cf. Galatians 5:1-4; Hebrews 6:4-6). Once God by grace saves us, He demands that we live holy lives (1Peter 1:15-16). He demands that if we love Him, we will obey Him (John 14:15). There are no asterisks to this rule.
We have entered perilous times. “You’re okay, I’m okay, and don’t bother me” is the motto of our age. The only ones who aren’t “okay” are those who dare to suggest some others are not “okay.” And if we aren’t careful, we will imbibe the spirit of the age among God’s people. We will begin to say things like, “You know, God is love, and He wouldn’t want any of His creatures to be unhappy—so marry as many times as you like, because God wants you to be happy.” The last time I looked God gave two asterisks to the right of a spouse to marry someone else (the death or infidelity of their current spouse; see Matthew 19:9; Romans 7:2-3). His rule is blunt: one man marries one woman for life (Read Genesis 1-2 and Matthew 19:4-6). There aren’t any other asterisks lurking in the fine print of the appendices!
If we are not careful we will begin to look at our “denominational” friends and say: “They sure are good folks. And they believe in Jesus. I can’t believe they’re lost just be-cause they haven’t been baptized.” Last time I looked there are no asterisks to Mark 16:16 or Acts 2:38. God separates all accountable humanity into two groups: those who believe and are baptized unto salvation; all others are counted as “unbelievers.” There are no asterisks. The Ethiopian rightly said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized” (Acts 8:36). The unspoken answer is: “Nothing, save your own unbelief in baptism’s necessity for salvation” (cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21). Phillip answered: “If you believe with all your heart, you may” (Acts 8:37). You know the rest of the story in Acts regarding conversions —they were all immediately baptized upon their belief in Jesus.
If we are not careful, we will imbibe the spirit of our age and regard with haughty indifference the Bible’s claim that there is “one body, one church” that be-longs to Jesus (cf. Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23; Colossians 1:24). We will say some-thing like: “I know preachers use to say this. But it will just turn people off to-day if we tell them there is only ‘one’ church and have the audacity to claim that we are it.” The church is Jesus’ creation; therefore only His rules for how men and women enter it apply.
There are no asterisks. If someone doesn’t believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; if they do not repent of their sins; if they do not make the good confession of His name; and if they are not baptized into His death—then they do not belong to Him and are not in His church! There are no asterisks to this! Please read Acts 2:38; 1 Timothy 6:12-13; Romans 10:9-10; 6:1ff.
We live in perilous times, so be true to His word! And make sure we are following no asterisks of our own creation.
Drawing Near to God (9-2-12)