THE COMMON ERROR OF HUMANITY

(Acts 3:1-10; 14:8-18.) 

BY way of introduction, let us consider the following 
passages of Scripture : Eom. 8:6-8; 7 : 14-25 ; 2 Cor. 
5 : 1-4. These passages teach : 

(1) That man, in his earthly state, is dually minded 
— partly carnal, and partly spiritual. 

(2) That the carnal mind is subject to the laws of 
the flesh, and can not be subject to the law of God. 

(3) That the spiritual mind is subject to the law 
of God. 

(4) That man, while in the flesh, can not be alto- 
gether spiritually minded. 

The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God. 
It can not be. It would do no good to preach the gospel 
to a horse. Were it possible for a man to be altogether 
carnally minded, or totally depraved, he would be a 
mere brute, incapable of regeneration. 

The spiritual mind can hear, understand and obey 
the gospel (Acts 2 : 37, 38 ; 16 : 31 ; Eom. 10 : 16) . Those 
who are obedient from the heart unto the form of doc- 
trine (baptism, which symbolizes the death, burial and 
resurrection of Christ — Eom. 6:17) receive the Holy 
Spirit as a gift (Acts 2:38; 1 Cor. 6:19). As they 
grow in grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18), by con- 
tinuing stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine, the breaking 
of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42), they become 
partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:2-4). In other 
words, they become more and more spiritually 
minded (Rom. 8:6); they are spiritually alive; at 
peace with, reconciled to, God (Rom. 5:1; 1 John 5: 
12; Col. 1:21-23). 

There is but one way of ascertaining whether or 
not those who have been baptized have really been 
''born again" (John 3:3; Matt. 7:20; Gal. 5:19-24). 
Their works will indicate whether or not they can be 
called ' ' Christians. ' ' Genuine repentance must result 
in reformation and restitution (Acts 26:20). Hence, 
only the penitent believer is eligible for baptism (Acts 
2:38). There are many people in the churches of 
Christ who have never crucified the lusts of the flesh, 
never repented in the full meaning of the term, and 
consequently continue to do the works of the flesh. 

Jesus Christ possessed the Spirit without measure 
(John 3:34). Only those who obey the gospel and 
become partakers of the divine nature by faithful con- 
tinuance in Christian worship, can truly understand 
and appreciate the teachings of Christ. Only those 
who are spiritually minded can grasp the spiritual 
significance of His utterances. They alone can worship 
God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). 

The common error of humanity is that of putting 
a literal, or material, construction upon spiritual 
teachings. This was the error made by the Jews dur- 
ing the personal ministry of Christ; it was the error 
made by the apostles before they received the Spirit 
on Pentecost ; it was the error of the people in receiving 
the gospel during the apostolic period; it has been the 
principal error of theology during all ages ; and it is 
to-day the underlying cause of many false systems of 
religion. It is the purpose of this discourse to expose 
the principal errors that have arisen out of the mis- 
conceptions of the carnal mind of humanity in general. 

1. Concerning the new birth (John 3:1-17). Nico- 
demus recognized Jesus as a divine teacher. When 
Jesus explained to him the necessity of being "born 
again" he obtained a material conception, and asked 
how such a thing could be possible. And even when 
Jesus explained that one must be "born of water and 
of the Spirit" in order to enter the kingdom, he asked, 
"How can these things be?" He was thinking of 
earthly things when Jesus was speaking of heavenly 
things. 

Many to-day have an absolutely material idea of 
the new birth. Many regard baptism as a formal ordi- 
nance, when it is absolutely spiritual — obedience "from 
the heart 99 to the form of doctrine — the institution 
that symbolizes the death, burial and resurrection of 
Christ (Eom. 6: 17). It is an ordinance in which the 
sinner shows to the world that he believes that the 
working of that same power which raised the body of 
Jesus from the tomb, will raise his soul from the grave 
of sin, a new creature in Jesus Christ (Col. 2: 12; Rom. 
6:3-6). It is not the washing away of the filth of the 
flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards 
God (1 Pet. 3:21). 

Regeneration is a spiritual process, affecting only 
the spiritual man. It includes a change of mind from 
the contemplation of worldly to that of spiritual mat- 
ters; a change of life, a complete turning from the 
paths of sin to serve the living God; and a change 
of relationship consummated in the ordinance of bap- 
tism, which is called the " washing of regeneration" 
(Tit. 3:5), which brings the penitent believer into 
Christ (Gal. 3:27), into a state of reconciliation with 
God (Rom. 6:7-11). 

To be in the old covenant required a birth of the 
flesh (Gen. 17:9-13). The old covenant included those 
who were born in Abraham 's house or bought with 
Abraham's money. This included those infants and 
heathen servants who had to be taught to "know the 
Lord." But, in the new covenant, we are told that 
they shall all know Him, from the least to the greatest 
of them (Heb. 8). In fact, they must know Him before 
they can enter the covenant. In other words, they must 
believe in Christ before they can become Christians 
(Mark 16 : 16; John 3 : 16; Acts 16 : 31). They must be 
old enough to believe before they can be proper subjects 
for baptism. To be in the new covenant requires a 
birth of the Spirit, or spiritual regeneration (1 Pet. 
1:22, 23), a purification of the soul, which is brought 
about by obeying the truth through the Spirit. 

The sprinkling of water upon the unknowing babe, 
therefore, becomes a ceremony that has no spiritual sig- 
nificance whatever. Infant sprinkling is nothing more 
than "water regeneration," a thing never taught in 
the New Testament. It is practiced because certain 
systems of theology have made the new birth a material, 
rather than a spiritual, process. The infant needs no 
regeneration because it has no knowledge of law (Rom. 
5 : 13 ; 1 John 3:4); and is therefore already fit mate- 
rial for the kingdom of God (Matt. 18: 1-5; 19: 13-15). 

2. Concerning the bread of life (John 6). There 
was a time when Jesus was very popular. When He 
fed the hungry people with loaves and fishes, and 
healed their physical bodies, they followed Him by the 
thousands. But when He tried to turn their minds 
from temporal to spiritual matters, they murmured 
against Him. When He talked to them of "the bread 
of life/' that nourished the spiritual man, they, being 
carnally minded, turned back and walked with Him 
no longer. 

When churches to-day so conduct their services as 
to attract the careless multitude ; when they administer 
to hungry stomachs and diseased bodies — the people 
flock to them by the hundreds. But when they begin to 
talk about spiritual matters, to require a certain amount 
of individual service, and to preach a high standard of 
Christian living, these multitudes depart about as mys- 
teriously as they came. We believe in charity, but 
people must be made to understand that the church is 
here to administer to the spiritual, rather than to the 
physical, man. 

3. Concerning spiritual works (John 14:12). Here 
the Master has reference to the superiority of spiritual 
works over miracles of a material and temporal nature. 
This has long been the proof -text of "Christian Sci- 
ence," falsely so called. "Greater works than these 
shall they do" has meaning far above any literal inter- 
pretation. Are not works performed for the benefit 
of the spiritual man infinitely greater than those per- 
formed to benefit the physical man? While in the 
flesh, Jesus could not give salvation, immortality or 
eternal life (Luke 24:46, 47; Heb. 9:22, 26). But 
when, by His death, burial and resurrection, He had 
perfected the scheme of redemption (Eph. 1:3-10; Col. 
1:19-23), the apostles offered these exceeding great 
and precious promises to the world on the conditions 
of the gospel (2 Pet. 1:4; Acts 2:38, 39; Rom. 2:7). 
These spiritual works, such as regeneration, salvation, 
resurrection, glorification, immortality, and so on, are 
far greater than miracles of a material nature. And 
the preaching of the gospel for the obedience of faith, 
bringing about these spiritual works, is infinitely 
greater than supernatural signs (Luke 16:31). 

4. Concerning the kingdom (John 18: 36). This was 
the greatest error of the Jews. They expected Him to 
establish a temporal kingdom and deliver them from 
Roman rule. Even the apostles retained this idea until 
on Pentecost (Matt. 6:10; 10:7; 18:1-4; Luke 22: 
29, 30; Acts 1:6). Consequently, when He talked to 
the Jews about a spiritual kingdom, they turned away 
from Him. They charged Him with blasphemy and 
brought Him before Pilate for trial. It was on that 
occasion that He said, "My kingdom is not of this 
world" (John 28: 36, 37). His disappointment of their 
carnal desires was the principal theme of their mockery 
at the crucifixion (Matt. 27:29-44). 

But the kingdom of heaven is a spiritual kingdom. 
It came with power on Pentecost, and to stand forever 
(Mark 9:1; Dan. 2:44; Acts 2:1-4). Ultimately, it 
will encircle the globe (Matt. 24:14; 1 Cor. 15:24-26; 
Rev. 11:15). 

Many systems of theology give a material concep- 
tion of the kingdom, instead of a spiritual conception. 
The Catholic and Protestant world in general regard 
the church as a visible organization under ecclesiastical 
officers, instead of a spiritual institution of which 
Christ is the head (Eph. 1:22, 23), and all who are 
in Christ constitute the body (Gal. 3:27, 28; 1 Cor. 
12:27; Eph. 5:23-32; 1 Pet. 2:5-9). Those who are 
in Christ, or in the church, which is His body, con- 
stitute the citizenship of this kingdom (Heb. 12: 
22, 23), written in heaven, over which He is the 
absolute monarch (Matt. 28:18). The law of this 
kingdom is the will of God as revealed in the teachings 
of Christ and His apostles (John 14:6-11; 2 John 
9-11). It is the spiritual body of Christ (Eph. 4:4). 

5. Concerning salvation (John 3:17; 12:47; Acts 
4:12). A great many religious teachers and their 
followers have the impression that reformation is the 
chief end of Christianity. Many modern systems base 
their claim to existence upon their power to reform 
individual character. The trend of modern religious 
thought is to dwell upon the ethical side of Chris- 
tianity, and to overlook the spiritual. There is a great 
distinction between reformation and salvation. Ref- 
ormation merely reduces the practice of sin; but 
salvation goes to the extent of removing the guilt of 
sin. Jesus not only came to reform, but to save. No 
matter how great may be a man's moral reformation, 
the guilt of past sins must be upon his soul until 
removed by the blood of Christ (Col. 1:14; 1 John 
1:7). That system which overlooks the salvation of 
the soul from sin, which is obtained only by means 
of the blood of Christ, and can be appropriated to the 
individual soul only by obedience to the gospel (Mark 
16:16; Acts 2:38), is absolutely a false system (1 
Pet. 1:22, 23). We must look beyond the purification 
of the physical man, to the purification of the spiritual 
man. 

The lame man at the Beautiful Gate asked Peter 
and John for material substance, and received what 
he least expected, a spiritual blessing (Acts 3:1-10). 

Paul condemned the philosophers on Mars' Hill 
for their material conception of God, and urged upon 
them the conception of His spiritual being (Acts 17: 
22-31). 

While in Lystra, on his first missionary journey, 
Paul healed a cripple. The people, seeing the miracle, 
tried to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods "come 
down to earth in the likeness of men" (Acts 14: 8-18). 
This brought forth a stinging rebuke from the apostle, 
which might be made to all who are so carnally minded 
that they can not get a spiritual conception of spiritual 
matters. In his language, we urge all to whom we 
speak "to turn from such vanities unto the living 
God." Let us study the word of God so that we may 
have in each of us the mind that was in Christ (Phil. 
2:5).