Amazing Grace: Baptism, Part 8 (even more arguments)

grace2.jpgGod’s Right to Make Exceptions

Job teaches us that we have no business judging God, especially for his extraordinary generosity. I wish space allowed a thorough study of Job.

Chapters 33-42 particularly make the point. Beginning in chapter 33, Elihu charges Job with arrogance in being angry with God—

(Job 33:12-18, 29-30) “But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man. Why do you complain to him that he answers none of man’s words? For God does speak — now one way, now another—though man may not perceive it. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.” …

“God does all these things to a man — twice, even three times — to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him.”

God’s greatness manifests itself, not in condemnation, but in his continual efforts to rescue man from spiritual death. God is continually striving to save us, not to find a technicality by which to damn us!

Later, God himself upbraids Job for his arrogance —

(Job 40:2,8) “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!” …

“Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?”

These brief quotations give but a taste of the lesson taught in Job: God is so far beyond us that we have no right to question God’s justice and judgment. Nonetheless, we should also know that God is good. We may not live to see his ways come to righteous fruition, and we may be too foolish to even understand God’s purposes — but God’s purposes are always good.

Paul teaches a similar lesson in Rom. 9:8-26 —

Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? …

As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’”

God is sovereign. He will keep his promises, but he will also do more than he promises! This is his right and does not make him a liar. Rather, he makes him a loving, gracious God worthy of our worship.

Jesus describes God in the Parable of the Day Laborers as a master who pays some of his servants more than they have earned while others receive only the wages they deserve. When some servants complain, God replies,

(Matt. 20:15) “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

When we are unhappy that God might be more generous than he has promised, we act just like the envious day laborers — and we sin in so doing. We should rather celebrate serving a gracious Lord. God loves those whom he created. God loves the world so much that he gave up Jesus to die for our sins so that we might be saved through faith in him. How can we dare criticize God for making exceptions?

Everyone of us deserves damnation. That’s what sin means. And we’ve been saved on the thinnest of technicalities — the fact that Jesus can serve our sentence for us. Thank God for exceptions! And may he forever make exceptions generously!

(Psa. 135:5-6) I know that the LORD is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.

We should all be thankful that what pleases God is to do whatever is required to save people with faith, even though none of them deserve it.

Mercy, not sacrifice

The essence of the heart of Jesus is found, I believe, in Hosea 6:6—

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

This passage is so important to Jesus that Matthew twice refers to Jesus’ quoting from it (Matt. 9:11-13; 12:1-8). Now what does this have to do with baptism? Everything. Because sacrifice was the Mosaic event when forgiveness of sins was granted, just as baptism is the Christian event of forgiveness (for example, Lev. 16, dealing with Day of Atonement, and Lev. 4 and 5, dealing with sacrifices for unintentional sins). How could God prefer mercy to sacrifice when sacrifice is the prescribed covenant-means of forgiving sins?

Hosea’s declaration is hardly an isolated concept:

(Prov. 21:2-3) All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

(Isa. 1:11-20) “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations — I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

(Amos 5:21-24) “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

(Micah 6:6-8) With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

In each of these passages, which in many ways foreshadow the New Covenant, God disdains sacrifice and urges justice, mercy, humility, and righteousness. And in each case, forgiveness of sins is predicated, not on God’s own sacrificial system, but on whether we walk humbly with our God. Indeed, the prophets say, do so and “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool”—and all this without regard to ritual sacrifice.

Baptism is in many ways analogous to Old Testament sacrifice. The Law of Moses makes clear, for example, that sacrifice must be offered for the forgiveness of sin. But, of course, the sacrifice itself does not forgive the sin — forgiveness was by God’s grace. And yet the sacrifice was a necessary step.

Sacrifice, like baptism, was the event at which God’s forgiveness was received by the faithful. And baptism compares to sacrifice because it unites us with Christ’s sacrifice:

(Rom. 6:3) Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Jesus, following the prophets of the Old Testament, taught that the condition of a man’s heart is far more important than ritual — even a ritual commanded by God as a condition to and the very occasion of salvation!

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Amazing Grace: Baptism, Part 8 (even more arguments)

  1. Nick Gill says:

    This is extremely strong work, brother! One of the most shocking moments in my life was when I was told by a couple of "young preachers" (I was young too, but not a preacher) that God COULD NOT save anyone today except via baptism explicitly for remission of sins. I was at Lipscomb for a lectureship, and these young men were very angry with F. LaGard Smith for teaching that God could save whoever he chooses, whenever he chooses.

  2. josh keele says:

    Two points:

    1.) Job as a contemporary to Abraham had no written revelation of God, no Scripture. Yet, since the time of Job, God has given Scripture, and Jesus says "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35) Paul, discussing the notion of people not remaining faithful to God's covenant, says "If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself." That is, though we may cease to beleive God's revelation of Himself in Scripture, yet God will remain faithful to it, because He cannot deny Himself or act out of accordance with His revealed character.

    2.) You misunderstand the notion of having mercy on whom He will have mercy and hardening whom He will harden. To have mercy means to grant that person everything necessary to receiving the mercy, and to harden them is to withhold from them something necessary to receiving mercy. If God withhold the proper understanding of the gospel from a man, then God has hardened him. And if God has mercy on a man, he will give him the proper understanding of the gospel (as the case of Cornelius proves). In other words, this very verse (Rom 9:18) shows that none will be saved apart from being baptized as an appeal for forgiveness, because all who do not receive such baptism have clearly been hardened, whereas those who receive it have been shown mercy. You place mercy in the wrong spot, in other words. Mercy is in the beginning, not the middle.

  3. Alan says:


    F. Lagard Smith wrote about a similar situation (or perhaps the same situation) in "Who Is My Brother." As someone not raised around that brand of legalism, it is totally amazing to me that a rational person would hold the view that God cannot forgive anyone he wants. I cannot fathom such a belief.

    (Job 42:1) Then Job replied to the LORD :
    (Job 42:2) "I know that you can do all things;
    no plan of yours can be thwarted.
    (Job 42:3) You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
    (Job 42:4) "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.'
    (Job 42:5) My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
    (Job 42:6) Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes."

  4. josh keele says:

    "it is totally amazing to me that a rational person would hold the view that God cannot forgive anyone he wants"

    When someone puts it that way, they are not putting it the best way to be sure. The better way to say it is this: If God wants to save a person, he will make them understand the gospel aright.

    Ephesians 1:9 speaks of God "having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:" — In other words, God has made his will known. I can't say "maybe God wants to save unbaptized people" and "maybe God wants to save Muslims even without them beleiving in Jesus" or any such like. Why not? That seems strange to you, that I would say "God can't save anyone he wants." But no, even nay, I did not say that God cannot save anyone he wants. I said that he has revealed what he wants, and if he wants to save someone, he will make them to understand his will. Even as he did Cornelius. God clearly wanted to save Cornelius, but Cornelius was not a Christian. So, did God just wave his hand, breaking his word, and rush Cornelius into heaven? Cornelius also was unbaptized–did God leave him that way? No. He sent an angel to tell Cornelius to call from Peter and hear the gospel, and Peter baptized him. And God wanted to save Paul. Did God, therefore, click some ruby slippers together and wish upon a star? No, but he appeared to Paul in a vision and sent him into the city to await Ananias who preached the gospel to him and then said "Get up and be baptized and have your sins washed away calling on the name of the Lord." But God also wanted to save the ethiopian eunuch! And did he save him in unbelief or without baptism? This one I'll let you read for yourself; it's in Acts 8.

    The point is simple:

    "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28)

    If you don't ever get the true gospel, God clearly didn't work things out to your good, which clearly means you weren't called according to his purpose.

  5. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)

    If you don’t ever get the true gospel, God clearly didn’t work things out to your good, which clearly means you weren’t called according to his purpose.

    Josh, where in the world in that verse does it say "And we know that all things work together for good to them who get the true gospel"? It does not-it says that it will work together for good to them that LOVE God. You are making God into something He is not and limiting His ability to save. It both amazes and saddens me when I see people trying to press down, write off, or take away from the vast love, mercy, grace, and power of God. He wants ALL men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-5)-why should we not want the same?!

  6. josh keele says:

    Josh, where in the world in that verse does it say “And we know that all things work together for good to them who get the true gospel”?

    You are reading what I wrote backwards. All things work together for good for those who were called, ergo, those who are called get the true gospel. Getting the true gospel is all things working together for your good, not the cause of all things working together for your good.

  7. Nick Gill says:

    So if the church in 2008 is simply too affluent and complacent to preach the gospel to every corner of the globe, when the lost look to us on the day of judgment and ask, like the old hymn says, "Why Didn't You Mention Him To Me?"… we can point to God and say, "Ask Him. He chose not to work our laziness out to your benefit."

    That is an impressive line of reasoning to support the status quo.

  8. josh keele says:

    What are you talking about, Nick? Nobody is talking about laziness at all. Have you ever read Rom 8:28-31? Is there a word in there that suggest we shouldn't preach the gospel to the lost? No. And yet he clearly teaches predesintation of some sort, that whom God foresaw he did also predestinate and whom he predestinated he also called and whom he called he also justified. Now, that he uses a human agent to do the calling in the preaching of the gospel is obvious, and therefore your argument in favor of laziness is obliterated. But the point is this: If God has foreseen in the person whatever it is he must have foreseen to predestinate them and has therefore predestinated them, then he will also call them. Call them how? By the gospel. A fake gospel? Of course not. Will God call a man with a lie? And if God has foreseen and predestinated this man, will he not call him with the true gospel? And if God calls him (through men) with the true gospel, will the man not accept the true gospel? And if the man accepts the true gospel, will he not be justified? Obviously he will be. But the point is this: If a man never gets the true gospel, then was he not called by God for God does not call with a fake gospel. And if he was not called by God, then was he not predestinated. And if he was not predestinated, then was he not foreseen. And if he was not foreseen, then clearly all the arguments in the world about "God can save anyone that he wants to save" fall to the ground. And all of this can be asserted from this passage without even delving into how predestination works or in other words, what the basis thereof is or how God chose–that is irrelevant to the point, which is that if someone never believes the gospel, repents of their sins, confesses Christ before men, and gets baptized for the remission of sins, that person ain't s'posed to be saved. After all, we find in Acts 2:47 that "the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" and in Acts 13:48 "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." As many as were ordained, he says. There are some, therefore, who are not ordained for eternal life, and among these are those whom God allows to wallow in ignorance of baptism, such as those who die having only been sprinkled as babies and those who were immersed but only as a mere sign, etc.

  9. "There are some, therefore, who are not ordained for eternal life, and among these are those whom God allows to wallow in ignorance of baptism, such as those who die having only been sprinkled as babies and those who were immersed but only as a mere sign, etc."

    How do you know this? Do you have the power, wisdom, and judgment of God? You seem to have a warped view of God and salvation. This does not fall in line with the God I read in the Bible, who desires ALL men to be saved:

    "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." ~1 Timothy 2:3-4

    Notice the "and"-He does not say "if you receive the full gospel and understand it all, then I will save you". It's not that complicated, Josh-you are making the gift of salvation harder and more complicated that it is, and that dumbs down the gospel message and the Good News of the gospel.

  10. josh keele says:

    God desires all men to be saved, but all men are not saved nor will be. That's the point. Although God desires all men to be saved, it is not his purpose to save everyone in contradiction to his word but only to save those who are in compliance with it. That is the distinction between his "desire" and his "good pleasure." He desires all to be saved, but it is his good pleasure to save his people. In Isaiah 46:10 he says "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" but does not say "I will do all my desire." If you beleive that everyone will be saved, then you are very mistaken. But if you do not beleive that everyone will be saved, you contradict your own claim above and recognize that I am not making this up but that it is what Scripture says.

  11. josh keele says:

    And since your object, Katherine, is that I said God "allows [some] to wallow in ignorance," haven't you read about God sending a strong delusion to those who refuse to accept the truth? (2 Th 2:10-11) Or how that God sends the prophet to "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed"? (Isa 6:9-10) Which Paul refers to in Romans 11:8, "(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day." If there are not some, therefore, that God allows to wallow in ignorance, then the prophets and apostles are liars. But if I should call the prophets and apostles liars, then would I become one of those who is wallowing in ignorance.

  12. josh keele says:


  13. Jay Guin says:


    You seem to be teaching a version of prevenient grace, that is, that faith only comes to those empowered by God to believe. It's a position that is not without some merit. But the verses speak to faith in Jesus, not baptism.

    In Rom 11, when Paul speaks of the Jews' hearts being hardened, and so being "broken off," he concludes,

    (Rom 11:20) Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid.

    It's faith in Jesus that comes by hearing. The whole discussion in Rom 9-11 is about faith. Baptism is never mentioned.

    It's a hard topic I will be addressing in the next several weeks, but you just can't confuse baptism with the gospel of Christ. They are closely related, but Paul himself distinguishes them —

    (1 Cor 1:17) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel–not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

    As important as baptism is, it's not the gospel. Rather, the gospel is what is preached: "the message of the cross."

    Finally, how can people be said to have rejected the doctrine of baptism if they've never been taught the doctrine of baptism? If they're taught the gospel of Jesus but error in regards to baptism, they can hardly be said to have denied baptism because God hardened their hearts! They submitted to baptism in error because they were taught wrong!

  14. josh keele says:

    You completely misunderstand what I'm talking about. Try backing up to chapter 8.

  15. josh keele says:

    "Finally, how can people be said to have rejected the doctrine of baptism if they’ve never been taught the doctrine of baptism?"

    Per the end of Romans 8, those who have never heard the doctrine of baptism, or more properly those will never hear it, are not called according to God's purpose.

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  17. Royce says:

    The "true gospel" isn't baptism. Baptism is a response to the "true gospel". The good news is news about what Jesus has done for sinners. The good news is not news about baptism.

  18. Royce says:

    There is not even the slightest hint of teaching about baptism in Romans 8.

    You mention this passage, "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified"

    God calls by the good news about Jesus, He justifies according to Romans 4, and He glorifies all of those he chose, called, and justified.

    Predestined, called, justified, glorified, are all in the past tense. God chooses, God calls and gives repentance and faith, God justifies those who believe the record of His Son and trust him, and as sure as He justifies He will raise from the dead those same people in glorified bodies suitable for both heaven and earth. All of the promised of God have their yes in Jesus and because of this we say Amen to God. In the waters of baptismwe affirm the gospel story and symbolically die to self, dead works, and our worth, and rise to new life in Christ purposing to want what He wants and to live lives worthy of Him.

    Perhaps you don't intend to, but it seems you are putting water baptism on the same level of importance as the Christ it points to.

    The idea that Jesus could save anyone He wanted with a word before He died, was buried, arose, and ascended to the Father's right hand but now is limited to being able to save only those who have been properly taught about water baptism is foolish at best.

    Salvation is of the Lord. It is Christ centered, not man centered. You and I don't get to choose who will and will not be saved. That is the perogative of God alone.


  19. paul says:

    Fantastic debate. This one thing is clear from Genesis to Revelation: God alone makes the rules, and God alone can make exception. It is evident from all of the scripture that God decides who will be saved based on their heart toward Him. Adherance to rules without the right heart toward God mocks Him, is not what He desires, and He judges the heart first and foremost.

  20. Pingback: Amazing Grace: The ICOC and Baptism, Part 2 « One In

  21. Adam Legler says:

    In the Old Testament a male had to be circumcised to be a Jew based on the covenant God made with Abraham. In Gen. 17:14 God says:

    “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his

    people; he has broken my covenant.”

    This was obviously a high priority for God. But in Romans 2 Paul says:

    26If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

    28A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

    So is it a stretch to substitute baptism with circumcision here knowing the importance God puts on both? God said you shall be circumcised to be a Jew but then says even if you are circumcised but your heart is wrong you are not a Jew and says if your heart is right but you were not circumcised then you are a Jew. I not so ironically came across this Romans 2 passage after much prayer and wrestling with this very important topic of baptism.

    I believe God shows time and time again in the New Testament that he is a God of grace and mercy over rules. And in Hosea 6:6 God says:

    For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
    and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

    Of course we can read the book of Leviticus to see how much importance God put on sacrifices and burnt offerings yet he is saying here that the Jews put these requirements over sincerity and grace and He was much more willing to throw out these requirements for a person who is truly a follower of His.

    The New Covenant went into effect when Jesus died yet the thief on the cross died after Jesus did and was saved without being baptized. An exception God was willing to make.

    If you spend time working with churches that are not Church of Christ, you see ample evidence of God working in these groups even those these groups have a different belief on baptism than us in the Church of Christ do.

    The Pharisees had very good intentions with enforcing the law but we see Jesus judged them for this mindset because it became about the rules over mercy, grace, and unity.

    I do not believe God is bound by his own rules and requirements as evidence by the thief on the cross. I believe God is the ultimate judge of this but he has set precedent in his word not to get caught up in legalism and to value unity over rules if the rules get in the way of unity. Jesus prayed for unity of all believers in John 17:21 because this would be how the world would recognize him. If you spend time with the other demonations you see that they are believers in Jesus as well. I John 4 John says:

    15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
    God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

    I do not believe baptism should simply be ignored. Jesus was baptized and he commands that his followers be baptized as well. I have my own personal testimony about what happened when I was under the water in my baptism that I would not have experienced if I was not baptized. And one benefit of this is that I do not doubt my salvation. But not working with other people who also profess Christ as Lord and Savior because they have a different view on baptism is something I believe is sinful and God will judge on the day of judgment. He needs us all working together.

    It is through baptism that we come in contact with the blood of Christ. I do not take lightly Mark 16:16, Matthew 28, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:4, Gal. 3:27, Eph. 4:5, Col. 2:12, 1 Peter 3:21 Many passages regarding baptism just like God had Moses write the whole book of Leviticus regarding offerings and sacrifices that he later said was not the bottom line when it came to someone loving Him. You can also look at passages like Eph. 2:5,8 where Paul says, “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith”. I leave the judgment of who is saved and not saved based on baptism up to Him because of how God makes “amendments” if you will to sacrifices, burnt offerings, and circumcision that he was very adamant about.

    Bottom line based on all that I just explained. You must be baptized to be saved but there will be believers in Heaven who were never baptized. God values the heart and unity over the rules that even he himself made in the Old Testament and New Testament. There is a very important place for baptism and other things we see in the scriptures, but God speaks louder on loving Him, loving others, and on unity. He wants obedience in all of these things.

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