Amazing Grace: “Plain Talk” Questions Born of Water

grace2.jpgI get emails —


I feel your comments about 1 Cor 1: 17 miss the mark and I don’t know what your statement about making a choice between faith only and faith and baptism means.

I have had faith only people cite this passage in support of their position!

I too believe that God will take into account the opportunity people have had in the past but find it difficult to understand how anyone in this country could hope for leniency on that basis.  Surely the failure to obey the gospel is more than a techicality.

In Christ,

Arland Pafford

Attached to the email is the text of an internet article by Br. Pafford criticizing one of my arguments regarding baptism made in Born of Water. I later re-stated this argument as part of the “Amazing Grace” series of posts, particularly at this post where this argument was challenged in the comments by others and defended by me.

I very much appreciate Br. Pafford’s emailing me his post, as it gives me the opportunity to respond. I respond here, rather than at “Plain Talk,” as “Plain Talk” is not a blog and so doesn’t provide an opportunity to comment the way a blog does (which is not a criticism — just an observation).

* In Born of Water I argue that the Churches of Christ have been correct that the scriptural mode of baptism is immersion in water and that the appropriate recipient of baptism is a believer — but that God will overlook honest mistakes in how a baptism is conducted for someone who comes to him with a genuine faith and repentance. I offer several arguments for this, all based on scripture.

* My argument from 1 Cor 1:17 is intended to be cumulative with several other arguments made in Born of Water and in the “Amazing Grace” series. So … yes, by itself, the argument is insufficient to prove the point. That doesn’t make it wrong; it just means that you have to read it with the other arguments made. Even if I’m dead wrong regarding 1 Cor 1:17, the conclusion is the same, because the other arguments are, to my thinking, much stronger.

* I am, therefore, not greatly distressed that someone disagrees with me on 1 Cor 1:17. Even some who agree with my over-arching position disagree as to that particular passage.

* However, I’m greatly concerned by this argument made by Br. Pafford —

Inadvertent misrepresentation

Brother Guin states, “Plainly Paul’s point is that baptism is secondary to faith.”  Really?  Plain Talk suggests that baptism is secondary to faith but that faith without the obedience of faith is dead and ineffective.

Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name’s sake.  (Romans 1; 5)

This verse does not give the impression that Paul took the obedience of faith (including baptism ?) lightly.  Bringing the Gentiles to the obedience of faith was the purpose of receiving grace and apostleship.   Romans is the great epistle in which Paul elucidates the great doctrine of justification by faith.  Paul tells us that justification is by faith, not by works of the Law or any other kind of works done to be righteous before God.  (Titus 3: 5)  But Paul together with James recognized the insufficiency of faith alone in regard to salvation and justification.

And if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13: 2)

Faith without works (obedience of faith) is useless.  (James 1: 20)

You see that a man is justified by works (obedience of faith), and not by faith alone.  (James 2: 24)

Faith without works (the obedience of faith) is dead.  (James 2: 26)

Obedience proceeds from faith and in that sense faith takes precedent over obedience, but faith without obedience is dead and ineffective and faith without love is  nothing.  This is the perspective we must have to properly understand the relationship among faith and obedience and love.  Faith when combined with love will produce obedience; faith is perfected (made complete) by obedience.  Love motivates, activates and energizes faith.  Jesus said if you love Me keep My commandments.  Is baptism secondary to faith?  Clearly love is the summum bonum and biblical faith and obedience exist in an unbreakable union; faith precedes obedience but obedience is indispensable to faith.  (1 Corinthians 13: 13)

In our zeal to defend our view of baptism against all challenges, we in the Churches of Christ often overstate the case in a way that erodes the Bible’s doctrine of salvation by faith. Br. Pafford and I agree that a genuine faith must produce love —

(Gal 5:6b) The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

(Gal 5:14)  The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

However, it’s a mistake to reason: faith must produce love (true), love must produce obedience (true), and obedience necessarily includes baptism by immersion while a believer (not true). You see, if you can declare that you are not obedient unless you correctly obey the command to be baptized, then you can also declare that you are not obedient unless you have 5 and only 5 acts of worship, are scripturally organized, don’t grant women authority, etc., etc.

You see, if “obedience” means obedience to all commands, then we’re all going straight to hell. But if obedience requires only obedience to certain specific commands (5 acts of worship, scriptural organization, scriptural name, for example), then we have to find the verses that say those commands (inferences, really) are the ones that must be obeyed on penalty of damnation, and just those. To equate “obedience” with “perfect obedience to certain commands” is not Blblical.

A more scriptural understanding is proposed in an article Todd Deaver and I authored over at GraceConversation

Consider the meaning of “obey” in 1 John —

(1 John 1:8-10)  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. … 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

(1 John 2:3-5a)  We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4 The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.

At first glance, John seems to contradict himself. In one breath he insists that we all sin. In the next, he says we’re lost unless we “obey” Jesus. Obviously, the solution is to understand that “obey” in this context does not mean “perfectly obey.” It’s rather a reference to the overall direction of our lives and to our submission to Jesus as Lord.

This is just so critical — indeed, this point is at the heart of the conservative/progressive split in the Churches of Christ, with the conservative brothers arguing that “obey” requires obedience to certain discrete commands and inferences, with there being no grace as to these special commands and inferences, while the progressives argue that God judges the heart and so requires an obedient heart. But an obedient heart (in a penitent believer) that misunderstands God’s will for how to conduct the assembly, for example, is still an obedient heart and still saved.

This understanding of grace changes everything. It allows us to treat as saved those fellow believers who are mistaken on any number of things — so long as they are believers and penitent. By this understanding, we can take as entirely literal such verses as —

(Gal 5:6b) The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Paul really means it.

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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56 Responses to Amazing Grace: “Plain Talk” Questions Born of Water

  1. David Himes says:

    It's fascinating to me how many believers simply reject the simplicity of what Paul wrote in Gal 5:6. There seems to be this human tendency to make it more complicated.

    Jesus gave us only one command: to love one another the way he loved us (John 13:34 and John 15:12). No where else does Jesus describe his own words as commands, except in these two passages.

  2. Stan says:


    When you preach the gospel, do you preach the well defined covenant that our God has established? I quote from page 57 if Born of Water,

    "In each dispensation God has establish a well-defined covenant as to how he will
    forgive the sins of those with faith in him—and in each dispensation God has repeatedly made exceptions, frequently granting forgiveness to those with penitent faith outside the specific terms of his covenant.”

    I was just wondering. I basically agree with what you have said in Born of Water. I sense something though . . . and I may be wrong . . . I hope I am wrong. Do you preach that God has asked for repentance and Christian immersion so that God will forgive them? . . . you know . . . the way Peter did as recorded in Acts 2? Do you preach the well defined covenant like Peter did? Or . . . do you preach the exception more than the well defined covenant? Can someone visit your congregation and leave believing that they don’t need to respond in faith to the Lord in baptism? Are they taught to trust in what God said . . . or to trust in examples of when God granted exceptions?

    Actually . . . I don’t think you preach the “if you want to” version. But from what I have seen at our congregation and some others . . . that has been the effect of our new found wisdom. It is as if the teaching is . . . you should be immersed . . . but you don’t really have to because all these other people who haven’t been immersed(baptized) are saved. You don’t really have to be baptized seems to eventually become . . . you can be baptized if you want to . . . but if you don’t . . . it’s okay . . . and you can still teach Sunday Bible class to our children . . . and you can still lead one of our life groups . . . and you can be one of our deacons . . . and you can be one of our elders . . . and you can be in charge of our Finance Committee . . . and you can be one of us.

    Yes God makes exceptions. And that is just the point. God makes the exceptions. I don’t get to. No matter how well reasoned I think I am . . . I don’t get to make the exceptions. The elders and preacher at our congregation don’t have authority to grant exceptions either, but they act like they do. Jay . . . are you listening?

    Something is wrong. We shouldn’t be in the business of trying to evaluate the hearts of others who have not responded to the Lord under the “well defined covenant.” Let God do that. Something is wrong when we spend more time justifying those who did not put the Lord on in baptism than we do actively spreading the message. Something is wrong. There is a better way. And I know someone who can help the churches of Christ get on the right tract. And that someone is you . . . Jay.

    We are not managing our new found wisdom. Many of the leaders of the congregation I am a part of are more interested in reconciling with others who do not follow the “well defined covenant” than they are with reaching the lost with the message of grace like Peter at Pentecost. This trend is all over the place. Our life groups are full of it. It is affecting our youth programs galore.

    "Hey . . . if I don't need to respond in faith by being baptized so God will forgive me . . .I'll just go with my girl friend to the Methodist church. See ya later CoC." "You know if God doesn't care about baptism…if I don't need to repond in faith like they did at Pentecost…then who needs baptism. My belief is enough. You see Dad . . . I don't need to be baptized. I already believe. Baptism isn't important any more."

    You are articulate enough to help lead the direction of the movement in the path it should go. I know you know that the exception is not the path. I know you know there is a difference between acknowledging that God grants exceptions as opposed to taking the path that removes baptism from the covenant.

    Many at our congregation have forgotten the message. We can’t preach or teach a message that we don’t remember. And we can’t effectively preach or teach something we don’t believe. I ‘m in a quandary because I have children and a wife that I deeply care for. I don’t think they are hearing the message that leads to the faith God asked for. I don't feel comfortable inviting anyone to worship because I don't know what they will hear. I don’t know what to do.

    Jay . . . the ship is headed for the rocks. Get a grip and start steering.

  3. Zach Price says:

    so one argument is something like

    1. faith= salvation
    2. faith without works = dead faith
    3. dead faith=no faith
    therefore faith without works= no salvation

    this seems to be the argument for any sort of works salvation (not getting baptized right or doing communion not exactly right). i disagree with the third premise
    really it should be more like

    I believe that God loves not only me but my neighbor (faith-John 3:16)
    since I believe God loves me —> I should love him
    since I believe God loves my neighbor and since I love God —> I should love my neighbor (good works)

    notice the word “should”

    or in this way

    (1) We are saved by grace not works (Ephesians 2:8)
    (2) But God created us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10)
    (3) We believe in God in faith
    (4) part of that belief is the belief in God is that he did (2) [created us to do good works]
    (5) We love God
    Therefore since we believe God Created us to do good works and we love God then we should do those good works he created us to do

    again notice the emphasis on “should”

  4. Kyle says:

    On the one hand I’m really tired of discussions of this nature. It seems nit picky and honestly seems to miss the point of what jesus did based on a really poor definition of what “the gospel” is.

    On the other hand I completely understand that we all have differing opinions and sometimes they clash. And also salvation is an important issue. If for no other fact that the feeling of our own salvation provides the motivation to spread Jesus’ love to everyone around us (which, in theory, is what happens).

    Thanks Jay for once again reminding me that obediance isn’t necessarily perfect obediance. I tend to forget that fact….most days.

  5. Tammy says:

    I have been reading these posts for several months as well as the posts at I have been a member of a CofC here in NJ for 12 years now. I was not raised in one.

    I am soooo saddened by the things that I have come to understand about the CofC’s doctrinal beliefs – especially regarding baptism – but lately I have started to realize that it is more than that.

    I believe that the CofC is experiencing an exodus because of these 3 things (which I believe come in this order and one begets the next):
    1 – false understanding of water baptism
    2 – legalism
    3 – little to no spirituality

    Water baptism – is extremely important and significant in the life of a believer. It is a ‘living stone’ that points to a living faith. It is a beautiful act of obedience that demonstrates how a believer dies to self/sin and rises to newness of life in Christ – that we now are a new creature that lives to righteousness. It is a command and a true believer ought to submit to it (and will if they ARE a true believer). This ought to be done by immersion (understanding the original language and it’s meaning), and by a professing believer – not an infant. This is scriptural.

    The CofC errors when it reads Scripture on the surface – for example “.. and this is the baptism that saves you” and then turns around and HANGS their entire doctrine on this one hook – ‘after all the Bible says it saves you’. We need to read God’s Word with a shovel in our hands Christians. Dig down – dig deep and find the pure gold that is there. We are irresponsible and immature when we treat God’s Word so carelessly. It’s not the words people – it’s their meaning that matter.

    When you are looking for a job and the ad says ‘bachelor’s degree required’ – what does that mean? That you own a ‘diploma’ that says you have a 4 year degree or that you actually have the 4 years of education, experience and knowledge? The diploma is nothing more than the proof of the 4 year commitment/program. So even though is SAYS you need a bachelor’s degree it MEANS you need the education and experience. The same is true in Scripture. The water baptism (although very significant) points to the one and ONLY thing that saves us – Jesus Christ. The water in NO WAY washes away our sin – it is NOT in baptism that our sins are forgiven. NO NO NO – Jesus finished it on the Cross for you and for me. Stop acting as if He couldn’t quite finish it – that He actually needs us to finish it for Him. Any hint of this thinking is nothing short of idolatry. I could go on but I fear I already have more than I should.

    Legalism – This is engrained into the teaching and preaching that I have sat under for the last 12 years. I believe that if you were born and raised in the CofC, you will never (short of divine intervention) realize how you participate in this practice. Just these last 3 Sundays – we are being taught “obey, obey, obey – lest you lose your salvation” – “come on people are you doing enough, are you doing it right, cuz if you’re not it may be you the Scripture is referring to when it says ‘away from Me, I never knew you’ ”

    Does that kind of teaching make anyone else feel uncomfortable? Doesn’t it seem to suggest that WE earn our salvation – or at least that WE ‘maintain’ our salvation. So God gives us salvation at the beginning of our Christian walk but WE maintain it through our obedience, or we lose it through our disobedience.

    I am tired of the implication or suggestion that my salvation hangs in the balance – waiting on my obedience to seal the deal. I long to hear that our obedience is that beautiful reflection of the full and complete salvation that has been planted within us and that we do it because we love God:

    John 14:15 – If you love me you will follow my commands

    John 14:21 – Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

    John 14:31 – but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

    The Bible is jammed with verses that point to LOVE of the Father and Jesus as the motivation for obedience – which results in the fulfillment of God’s work here on Earth.

    1 Corinthians 6:20 – you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.

    A true and deep understanding of God, who He is, and what He has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ ought to result in a radical respect and love for God and Jesus. The manifestation of which is obedience and Biblical integrity.

    I think most people get this – in theory. But we aren’t deliberate when we think about these things, so we easily listen to sermons or teachings on obedience that are really ‘soft legalism’ sermons, and we nod our heads in agreement, offer an occasional Amen, and go out with mixed emotions of both failure and motivation to do better. I like being motivated to be better – but MAN – how empty is that?

    I don’t want to leave Church empty yet motivated to go fill myself up. No, God forbid it! Fill me up in Church so much that I’m spilling over when I leave and I am so full of joy and thankfulness and awe that I can’t wait to do God’s will and fulfill His commands.

    I think this is just another tragic example of how we morph God’s Word into these exhausting ‘to do’ lists – and we soooooo fool ourselves by clinging to this empty ‘religion’ – concluding at the end of every day – I was good today (legalistic righteousness), or I fell short again (legalistic righteousness disguised as humility).

    Again, this is not an intentional take over on our part – but it is a misguided and fruitless one. The Jew of old clung to the law in hopes that it would save him but it only brought condemnation. The same is true of OUR ‘religion’ which includes this false notion that our obedience will give us something that only God can give – Salvation. We certainly don’t finish it with our human works. Isaiah’s message tells us that if we don’t internalize – or personalize what is behind the sacrifices (or the works) – if we don’t overcome or transcend the human – and get to the HEART of the matter –anything and everything we do with our hands, our feet, or our tongue is of no value to God. There’s a Pharisee in each of us and it can be so subtle at times that we don’t recognize it.

    Lack of Spirituality – I have come up dry after 12 years here. I love my church family – every last one of them and i don’t question their hearts at all. But am slowly dying without spiritual food to sustain me any longer. I think this is true of many, many CorCers out there. Legalism has killed this church. I believe that if God were to speak to the CofC today – He would say the same thing that He said to the church in Ephesus: Revelation 2:4-5 – Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

    I believe there needs to be true and deep repentence over these very serious issues. Lord have mercy on us. All we want is do Your good and perfect will – lead and guide us – convict us – encourage us and discipline us – that we might be pleasing to You.

    I want to be the broken sinner who walks away forgiven – enlightened – CHANGED FOREVER and EVER – because of HIS GREAT LOVE, because of HIS AMAZING GRACE – BECAUSE OF JESUS.

    A bridge has been built, and a way has been made. In it’s path lies an old rugged cross and PRAISE GOD – an empty tomb! THANK YOU JESUS! Let me always honor YOU in all I do – because I LOVE YOU!

  6. Jay Guin says:


    I think you just broke Robert Prater's record for longest comment ever! And I thank you for it.

    It's a great comment, rich with vital thoughts.

  7. David Himes says:

    I appreciate some things about the point you are trying to make. But I think a big part of the problem is that we teach about doctrine whether than Jesus. Baptism becomes relevant after one is committed to Jesus. If someone is not convicted, as were so many in the audience at Pentecost, then baptism is not relevant.

    Unfortunately, we bring up baptism at the beginning. When someone is convicted, and thru the Holy Spirit, says Jesus is Lord, then they will ask, What must I do? And baptism is part of the answer.

    Let’s stop talking about baptism until it’s a relevant topic to an unbeliever, and likely, we’ll have a lot less debate over it.

  8. Jay Guin says:


    If you’ve read Born of Water, you know what I teach, and it sounds like we are pretty close in our thinking. I do not encourage or condone the elimination of baptism from our teaching.

    On the other hand, Jesus said to make disciples and then baptize them. He didn’t say to convert people to baptism. We start by making disciples. And if they’re disciples, they’ll gladly submit to immersion.

    At my congregation we rarely/frequently have a lesson on baptism. The preacher rarely says anything about it — which is fine. But we frequently have baptisms — often before the sermon — as a planned, celebratory part of the service. When our children are baptized, it’s often done by their father (which is cool beyond description). Therefore, visitors often see the joy of baptism and the celebration it engenders (we clap — long and hard).

    And I’m pretty happy with this approach, although there are certainly other ways of doing it that are just as good, I’m sure.

  9. Larry Short says:

    John the B and Jesus’ disciples baptised for repentance, then Peter preached the Mesiah has come, repent. Finally, when they ask what should we do, repent & baptise for more than repentance.
    David Hines is right, we mistime our message. The first message is REPENT, then the how includes baptism. Never start evangelism with Baptism! Check Acts, no sermons on baptism.
    Tammy, you got the spirit! Sorry fellow Cof Cers aren’t helping keep the fire lit. People really should read Exodus and Numbers more. Lots of commands, perscirbed sacrifices, blueprints of tabernacle design, rules, and where to move to next. In between, lots of passages on why you are a chosen people, be the chosen people, be holy, obey with all your heart, soul, mind, etc. Yes God has things He wants us to do, but we should do them because we love Him, not because the end of a to do list is a paycheck in salvation. God wanted Israel to be a special, holy, people, and showed His works: the plagues, the parting of the red sea, manna, etc. as proof that yes you are selected. For us (and them, not revealed) He only paid a debt we can never afford by the cross, we should rush to baptism, communion, helping orphans, etc. because we love, rather than compiling a to do list or as many denominations do, the absolute minimum theology, accept the grace. There is no love in either choice.
    Hope you find or inspire some others to be real people of God. People who love Him so much that they seek to find everything He wants us to do, and do it joyfully because we love Him. A legalistic church is working on the list. Do the list and more because you love God and want to do everything He likes. Jesus said the scribes and Pharasees are the place to go to learn the law, but make you attitude different because they are hypocrites. Cof Cers do try to follow God by a legalistic obedience. The listing isn’t wrong, nor the obedience, but the attitude must be changed. Be a change agent!

  10. Royce says:

    The person who spoke the inspired words of Act 2 later in Acts twice said he received the gift of the Holy Spirit when he believed.

    When the Bible uses the term "obey the gospel" it never refers to water baptism but always refers to faith. I have asked over and over for anyone to prove me incorrect and to date not one person has come forward. (see my post:… "obey the gospel" is first to believe it. All other obedience, including water baptism, follows saving fath which in every case produces obedience by the new Christian though not one of us ever obeys perfectly.

    Phillip's instruction to the Ethopian about baptism was "If you believe with all your heart you may" and that is the way it should be when we give instructions to those who want to claim Christ.

    We are somehow offended when those outside our movement accuse us of teaching baptismal regeneration but most of us teach it all the time. It is a justified criticism in my view.


  11. Stan says:

    I know there are churches of Christ that have misunderstood grace . . . and that are continually trying to earn salvation. If you are or were a part of such a congregation I am so sorry. Understand though that there is a difference between earning salvation through legalism and preaching the new covenant.

    Teaching the gospel story like Peter did at Pentecost and telling the people who are cut to the heart about the response the Lord has asked for is not legalism. It isn’t about getting it right. It isn;t about a list. It isn’t about elevating baptism above everything else. It isn’t about prescribed commands.

    It is about listening and believing . . . just like they did that first day at Pentecost. Go back and read it . . . it isn’t complicated. It becomes complicated when we try to change the message to fit our desires.

    It is about listening and believing . . . just like Paul did. Go back and read it. He listened and believed. He went to Antioch a believer. He was told to arise and be baptized . . . and he did. It isn’t complicated. It becomes complicated when we try to change the story to fit our own desires.

    The believers at Pentecost would not have known to be baptized if Peter had not told them to. Paul wouldn’t have known to be baptized if he had not been told to do so by Ananias. He was taught to be baptized to wash his sins away. That was the well defined covenant. Paul didn’t question it. Neither did Cornelius and his household, Neither did the Jailer and his household. No one questionned it. But you know what they did . . . they believed . . . and they were baptized.

    No one in scripture said, “I love the Lord so much . . . I am so grateful for what He has done for me . . . I am so thankful that He has saved me . . . that I think it would be a good idea to be baptized.”

    Nope . . . not one. Those who were baptized were baptized because they were told to be baptized. Someone had to teach them. Let me ask you . . . are you teaching those whom you share the gospel with to be baptized so that the person you are teaching can hear the same thing they heard at Pentecost and respond like they did at Pentecost?. Are you teaching the same think Ananias taught Paul, so that the person you are teaching can hear what Paul heard and respond like Paul did?

    Or have you become wiser than Peter? “Have you become wiser than Ananias? Have you become wiser than Paul? These men were filled with the Spirit and spoke holy words . . . godly words . . . words of love. It was all based on love. They did not leave baptism out.

    But apparantly many of you are wiser than they. Or has the Spirit changed His mind . . . and now promotes a new covenant? I don’t think so friends.

    Legalism should be erradicated from our hearts and churches. But let’s don’t make the mistake of thinking teaching new converts about baptism is legalism. Baptism is part ot the new covenant . . . just as much as repentance. It’s not about getting it right. It is about hearing and believing.

  12. Stan says:

    Royce, I agree with what you say. Here are your words:

    “Phillip’s instruction to the Ethopian about baptism was “If you believe with all your heart you may” and that is the way it should be when we give instructions to those who want to claim Christ.”

    And that is just the point. Baptism was taught as the faith response to the Gospel. If we don’t include it…the way Philip did…the way Peter did…the way Ananias did…how will those we teach know that the Lord asked them to do so? We are asked to baptize them. You know…go into all the world……? He that believeth and….? Baptism now saves you……?

    You don’t preach the gospel to someone, make them a disciple, and then hope that they somehow realize that they can ba baptized all on their own. That doesn’t fit the Biblical example. Peter told them to be baptized during the sermon as he preached the gospel. Ananias told Paul when the scales fell off his eyes(shortly after arriving in the city) to arise and wash his sins away. Philip told the Eunich as he was preaching the gospel. Paul told the jailer that very night. Peter told Cornelius before he left his house. They didn’t leave it up to the new converts to somehow…figure it out on their own. They were told to be baptized in the same setting as the gospel was preached. We should do the same.

    Here is a challenge. Go teach someone about Christ and leave baptism out of it on purpose…teach the gospel narrative and purposefully don’t mention baptism . . . and then stand before the Great I AM and explain why you . . . being wiser and more informed than Peter, Ananias, Paul, and Philip as mentioned above . . . decided that baptism no longer needed to be included in the gospel narrative. No…never mind . . . don’t do it. If you love those you are teaching…don’t go there. And I love you too much to sit by and let you think baptism isn’t a part of the gospel narrative.

    One cannot teach Christ, be silent on baptism, and teach as these men taught. Baptism was always a part of the gospel narrative in the specific examples included in our Bibles.

    And by the way, nothing said by those who are outside our movement offends me. I do learn from others outside the movement…but I am not offended by them.

    I will check out your link. Thanks.

  13. Jody B says:

    Please see I Pet. 3:18-22 to see what baptism does. Romans 6:3-7 also demonstrates the same point.

    There are many other verses that state the purpose of baptism. It is not a work. It is submission. The dead do not bury themselves.

    I’ve always used the illustration of Naaman in II Kings 5:11-14 to emphasize what baptism does. Everyone knows that the Jordan River did not have the power to wash away leprosy. It was miraculous and only God could have facilitated that cleansing. It is the same with baptism.

    Answer this. How does Moody’s “sinners prayer” save us when it is a man-made response to the Gospel which has nice overtones, but fails to take away sins?

    Tell the truth and all of it. Don’t defend 250+ years of false teaching.

  14. Royce says:

    1 Corinthians 15 is the definitive passage on what the gospel is and Paul said it is of “first importance”. Other things are important but not as important as the gospel. Baptism is not the gospel but like the Lord’s Supper beautifully illustrates it and proclaims it.

    BTW “God be merciful to me a sinner” was a sinner’s prayer and I think the theif on the cross too prayed a sinner’s prayer.

    I never have diminished the value and importance of baptism given in the Bible. What I have said is that to “Obey the gospel” is first to believe it ,and every passage in the NT regarding obedience or disobeying the gospel has to do with faith, not baptism. I think we should put the emphasis where the Bible puts it.

    Our churches of Christ have tens of thousands who have been baptised 2, 3 or more times because they expected baptism to do something for them they could only get by putting their whole trust in Jesus. Unless the one who goes down into the water is an active believer in Jesus Christ baptism is a mockery and can become an idol.

    Baptism is one response to the gospel but it is not the gospel as some teach.


  15. Stan says:

    How anyone can read what I have written and believe I endorse sending people into the water who are not active believers . . . well I guess it just shows that some people don’t listen. I guess the effect of them being a part of a legalistic congregation at some part in their lives has hardened their hearts to the point where when they hear BAPTISM they fret LEGALISM. They are no longer able to recognize the New Covenant

    The beleivers we read about in the Bible were taught to be baptized in the same hearing of the gospel, In other words . . . the gospel and baptism in His name are a part of the same story . . . the redemption story . . . they are taught together. Believers are asked to be baptized in simple trusting faith.

    Do you think the believers who were baptized at Pentecost made a mockery of baptism? I don’t think so. And guess what? . . . They were asked to be baptized right after they expressed belief (what shall we do Peter???) Baptism was taught in the same setting that the converts came to belief in all the Biblical examples we have.

    Baptism is not “one response” to the gospel. Submitting to Baptism is the visible response the Lord has asked for. When we submit to it . . . one is saying “I trust in you O God. I believe what you have promised.”

    Royce, Peter did not ask the new believers at Pentecost to take the Lord’s Supper to demonstrate their faith. Ananias did not ask Paul to take the Lord’s Supper to demonstrate his faith. Neither was the Jailer…nor Cornelius…nor the Eunich………………………………………………. Baptism is not in the same boat as the Lord’s Supper. No where near. (This does not diminish the action of God in the Lord’s Supper.)

    Take physical baptism out of the equation if you want Royce. But if you do so . . . you will have distorted the message. When we submit to baptism, God is at work. It is a part of the normative salvation process in the New Covenant.

  16. David Himes says:

    I regret that, as I see things, many in the CofC are so anxious to find things that separate us from other Christian groups, we make too big a deal about any difference we can identify.

    Baptism falls into that category.

    Let's just agree to preach Jesus, first, and preaching baptism before preaching Jesus, teaches that obedience saves, when it is only God's gracious forgiveness and love, as manifested most clearly in Jesus, that grants to us a righteous relationship with God.

  17. Tammy says:

    Reading this exchange is so depressing – especially since I know (based on my own experience within the CoC) that there are many others who would respond exactly as Stan has here. My guess is that Stan was born and raised in the CofC – although I do know some who came to the church later in life and still share this misguided (in my view) loyalty to the ‘ceremony’ of baptism. These reactive comments serve as the very proof of the indoctrination that has infected this church. You defend water baptism even when it is not necessary to do so. No one who has commented on this post has said or suggested that ‘physical baptism should be taken out of the equation’ – on the contrary, I think we all agree that it is a very important part of our Christian walk.

    Here’s the rub: you believe (based on your comments) that water baptism is part of what saves a person – and because you believe this, you over focus on it – certainly more than even scripture itself focuses on it. In doing this – you dilute the blood of Jesus Christ and you grieve God. Peter preached about the Gospel in Acts 2 – and the people were cut to their hearts. They said – Wow, what should we do now? Peter responded, as you know, ‘repent and be baptised’. Don’t miss the clear separation here: there is the Gospel that saves us and then there is the response (repentence, baptism, obedience, etc…). Repentence does not save us – baptism does not save us – our own obedience does not save us. Only God’s begotten son and Him crucified saves us.

    Do I want to discuss whether or not baptism is essential for salvation or not? No, I don’t – and neither ought you to do so. It’s foolishness (I’m sorry if I sound harsh). GO AFTER THE HEART AND YOU WILL GET THE BAPTISM – it will be a fruit of the true and living faith that God through Jesus has given us.

    To elevate water baptism to the level of Gospel, to give something else (ANYYTHING else) that kind of sovereignty and respect is to add more mist to an already cloudy view of God in our world today.

  18. Jody B says:

    Tammy, one must simply teach the whole Gospel. As I said earlier: read the passages I posted above and then come back and say that baptism is not the point at which one receives salvation. Baptism does not save one outside of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, but the scriptures give no indication that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ saves one apart from baptism.

    Would Naaman have been healed from his leprosy apart from dipping in the Jordan river? Tammy please tell me how you can read the passages I posted and still be critical of Stan simply restating the passages.

    I don't care if you call me a legalist or liberal. I'm simply not going to tread lightly on people's feelings at the expense of not teaching the FULL response of a saving faith.

  19. Stan says:

    Those who believe what God promises to do are the ones who live to see his promises fulfilled. They have assurance that He will do what He said He would do because He is faithful. Those who believe what God promised at Pentecost will live to see His promise fulfilled. They too have assurance in His promise. They have assurance of salvation. And it is tied to the blood of Jesus. It is God’s work.

    The freed Hebrews believed in God. The Israelites knew He existed and was real. They had seen His work. They could tell vivid stories about the plagues He had sent. They experienced delivery from slavery . . . and awoke to find manna in the mornings . . . sweet and nourishing. They watched the cloud that led their path during the day and the fire that led them through the night. They knew about God. They knew things about God we do not know. They were there . . . we only get to read about it. They trusted in Him in certain ways. But except for a few . . . they did not believe God could do what He specifically promised to do . . . which was to give them the land . . . the promised land. They did not have enough faith to go into battle against the "giants" while trusting that God could be faithful to them and bring them to victory.
    And because they did not believe God could do what he promised . . . the unbelievers perished in the sand. They knew God at some level . . . but they didn’t believe the promise, and that was what really mattered to God. Belief! God is the Promise Giver, and He rewards those who trust in the promises He makes. Go ask Abraham.

    But their descendants believed. As they watched their parents and grandparents die in the wild lands, I believe the children heard their testimonies before burying them. They knew . . . they believed. Joshua saw to it. They understood to trust in what the Lord actually said. They did not take possession of the land with unbelief in their hearts. They knew that if they responded to God in faith by going into battle that God would be at work and the land would be theirs. God wasn’t just going to hand the land over to them. They were going to have to put their lives on the line and have faith that God would continue to be faithful to them and that God would deliver on His promise.
    The new generation of Israelites believed this great god would do what he specifically promised he would do. Not only did they believe in God . . . but they believed the promise He had given. And God gave them the land . . . the Promised Land. God was at work in their midst. It wasn’t their doing . . . it was God’s doing. God GAVE them the land. They did not earn the land. It wasn’t about them getting it right and checking off lists. It was about them believing that God would do what He said. It was about hearing and believing.

    Nothing has changed. Except that God . . . who has been at work to bring his created people back into communion with Him through Jesus Christ (as Peter describes for us in Acts 2) . . . has made good on his promise to bring a New Covenant.

    Belief. It really is all about belief. Belief in the promise God has given. I believe. And I know He is faithful to deliver on His promise. So, I responded in faith to His promise which is specifically stated in Acts 2:38. I turned from sin and was baptized so the Lord would forgive me, knowing that He had already made the necessary provisions to cleanse me . . . knowing that His love triumphed over me . . . knowing that He had already paid the price. In simple trusting faith . . . I believed and still believe. And as Peter says, I appealed to God for a clean conscience. That’s what baptism is . . . an appeal. And my god is faithful. God is faithful. The only reason I knew about the promise was because someone shared it with me. And the promise is to you and to your children . . . and to all who are far off. That means you and me.

  20. Tammy says:

    Stan – I think I agree with almost everything you have said in this last post.

    I do believe that you are putting too much trust in what YOU do – verses what GOD has done on your behalf. You said above: "So, I responded in faith to His promise which is specifically stated in Acts 2:38. I turned from sin and was baptized so the Lord would forgive me, knowing that He had already made the necessary provisions to cleanse me . . . knowing that His love triumphed over me . . . knowing that He had already paid the price. In simple trusting faith."

    Can you see how you have acknowledge all that God has done on our behalf – and then with these words "I responded………….so the Lord would forgive me" you have diminished what He has done on our behalf – taking away the final piece of glory – giving it to yourself – you have assumed ownership of the final act that finishes salvation. In previous posts above you said it is 'listening and believing' – here you have said 'no, in fact it is my response that brings the forgiveness of sin.

    So I would say that you didn't receive the forgiveness of sins through YOUR act of 'turning from sin and being baptised' – those things are both responses to what saves us, or what washes away our sin – Jesus Christ on the Cross – His blood and His broken body – the fulfillment of prophesy. God never prophesied that a new commandment would save us (to be baptised) – He spoke of a Savior.

    It was the conversion in your heart given to you by God that saved you (prior to anything else) and you then did exactly what we should do – repent and be baptised.

    We obey because we are saved – not to receive salvation. If obedience is not forthcoming in the life of a professing believer – there is something wrong with the professing faith. If one says 'no, i don't need to be baptised – I believe and that is enough' – then there is a problem – a BIG one. Yes we need to teach people about baptism – I was baptised on Oct. 18th, 1998 – it was a significant moment in my life.

    Thank you Stan for your heart for God. Life is busy and you have kids and a wife and I'm sure that there are many other things that you could be spending your time on.

  21. Tammy, I really like the way you express yourself

  22. Tammy says:

    Jody – I have been seeking God and praying over your questions. I did not want to respond in haste as this kind of thing often goes – bantering back and forth and no one is really listening to the other. I do plan to provide my response to the scriptures in question – however, I am short on time today as my in-laws are arriving and I have 3 small children as well. I will hopefully be able to spend some time tonight after bedtime.

    I do want to just mention this scripture before I go – Romans 4 – that speaks to how righteousness was credited to Abaham.

    Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

    There is so much here – really the entire Chapter and even more. All of Galatians as well. Understanding that the 'circumcision of old' is equivalent to the 'baptism of the new covenant' – you can clearly see Paul's point here. It is EXACTLY the opposite of your assertion above – that baptism is the moment of salvation. Abaham was credited with righteousness (salvation) prior to his circumsion (or baptism for our purposes). I don't know that we need to go much further than that.

    Although I am not afraid to do so because when you understand baptism as I claim it – I have no disconnects at all in the whole of scripture. I can read all of God's Word and it ALL makes sense.

    What do you do with this scripture? How do you reconcile the multitude of verses that speak against your belief that baptism enables salvation to come. What do you say to Romans 4 or the entire book of Galatians?

    Just food for thought.

  23. Jody B says:

    For brevity, I have borrowed the following from an article at this link:

    Finally, notice some other reasons why it is fallacious to teach that “baptism replaced circumcision”:

    * “The covenant of circumcision” (Acts 7:8) was confined to descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and those converted to Judaism (Genesis 17:12-13; Exodus 12:48); baptism is for all nations (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8).
    * Circumcision was confined to males; baptism is for both male and female (cf. Galatians 3:28).
    * If “baptism replaced circumcision” as some allege, people who already were circumcised according to the law could not be baptized. As J.W. Shepherd stated: “If the one came in the place of the other, the two could not exist at the same time in the same person. But all the Jews that had been circumcised on believing in Christ were baptized” (1929, p. 17). It was God’s will that the Jews, who heard John the Baptist, Jesus, and/or one of His disciples, be baptized regardless of their circumcision (Luke 7:30; John 3:22-24; 4:1-2). If baptism replaced circumcision, how could they both be in effect at the same time, among the same people, and under the same covenant (Brents, 1874, pp. 345-347)?

    In reference to Romans 4, the purpose of Paul's discourse is to show the superiority of the new covenant over the old. That discourse is not to say that baptism is not necessary for salvation. In contrast to your isolation of Paul's writings in Romans 4 and Galatians 2, both letters contain references to baptism as being essential to salvation.

    Romans 6 states:

    3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

    5If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

    The words "in order that" qualify our salvation as a result of our response of submission to his will.

    Galatians 3 says:

    26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

    I do not want to meet my maker NOT clothed with Christ.

    There is NO salvation as a result of our baptism without the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ and our faith and penitence based on that fact. Baptism seals the deal so to speak.

    In addition, one must still take Peter's words as having the authority of Christ. Just because God can make exceptions if he wants doesn't mean that we can be presumptuous in teaching that he will.

  24. Stan says:

    Okay . . . one more thing. Well maybe more than one.

    Possession of the land was given the Israelites when they expressed their faith. They expressed their faith by being prepared to do whatever it took . . . going into battle . . . expecting God would be at work to give them victory as He promised. If they had not been willing to do what the Lord asked them to do to take the land . . . the Lord would not have given them the land. The land was given them when they expressed their faith in the promise . . . not when they believed. They actually had to follow through on their belief. Those true Israelite believers expressed their faith that God is faithful. They expressed their faith by actually going in to take possession . . . and God gave it to them. They did not go into battle because they already were in possession of the land. True belief in a promise God makes is expressed in the terms of the promise. And these true Israelite believers knew that although they had to go in to take possession of the land . . . it was God who would give them the land. They did not win the battles. God gave them the victories. They had no right to boast. It was all the work of God. The fact that they fought their best and put their hearts into the war effort did not diminish what God was doing. They did not assume ownership of the victory. The glory all belonged to the Lord. This too describes my heart and the heart of all true believers.

    Peter never expected for us to think that we are saved before expressing our faith as God asked. He never expected that we would think that we have forgiveness without turning away from the sins that we like. He never expected that we would think that we have forgiveness without expressing our hearts desire to have a clean conscience. Just as the Israelites did not go into battle because they were already in possession of the land, Peter would not expect us to believe that we should repent and be baptized because we are already saved. Peter tells us that baptism is an appeal for a clean conscience. And baptism was included as a part of the conditional promise. Peter tells us that the seal of the Spirit is given after we express our faith in repentance and baptism. I don’t know of anyone who is saved in the normative salvation process of the new covenant who does not have the seal of the Spirit. And once again, the seal comes after baptism. And it is all the work of God. It is all the gift of God. Praise God! By the way, I know God is a god of mercy who grants exceptions, but as a believer (one who believes the promise) I don’t bank on exceptions and I don’t trust in myself. I trust God to be faithful to His promise.

    True believers . . . like the Israelites who settled in the Promised Land . . . the ones who listen and believe . . . . . . the ones who believe that God will forgive them if they will only turn away from the sins that entice them and be baptized . . . just as he said . . . true believers express their faith as needed under the terms of the new covenant out of willing, thankful, humble hearts. The expression does not earn salvation. Salvation is the gift of God.

    My repentance and baptism is not me trusting in what I have done. My repentance and baptism is the expression of complete trust in what God has done in Christ and what God will do as he promised. Repentance and Baptism are the expressions of trust in God’s promise.

    I have assumed no personal glory. The whole process is one of humility and relief . . . freedom from worry . . . a clean conscience . . . renewal . . . expectation . . . anticipation. The glory all belongs to the Lord, the great God of all gods, my saviour.

    Thank you Tammy, David, Royce, Larry, Jay, and Jody for engaging in this discussion. I really love you all.

  25. Anonymous says:

    The Bible speaks symbolically in many passages. Jesus’ blood is sufficient and cannot be replaced by anything or anyone.

  26. Larry Short says:

    There are a few things to most of the above. First, there is an undercurrent of timing of salvation. I think Hollywood is at fault here. All those old religious movies, at some point someone changes their mind, sees the light, and the soundtrack music kicks in. For some the Hollywood moment has become the believer's prayer. In reality its different.
    For God, the salvation moment was creation, when He knew the cross was coming. For God, the movement He sees faith, He knows the consequence it will take, and the salvation he will (or post cross, has) provided. For us, we must act out the faith, Abram had to pack to leave Ur, get the circumcision, etc. Stan reminds us that the promised land, only remains a promise until the reality of conquering. Again for God, the promise is it because of His foreknowledge of our result.
    Take the parable of the sower, some seed never sprouts, some sprouts and dies, and some endures. That's life with God and His gospel (the seed). Where is the Hollywood moment? I guess the seed sowing. But the only effective planting was what endured.
    When was my salvation moment? Was it the years I spent really deciding some of this, the day I decided to be baptised, or later when I stood up to walk down the aisle, or ……? Does it matter?
    Baptism is a handy time marker, because its public. Actually its similar to marriage. My weding night was not the first time I kissed my wife, but for most of the audience, it was the first time they saw it. Baptism was not the first moment I loved and wanted to obey God, but it was a pledge in public of it. I love God and my wife more now than all those years ago, and both loves have endured. If done by Hollywood, the theme music should be getting louder all the time, and the moment isn't over. For me, there is an increasing salvation in the now.

  27. Tammy says:

    Jody – It is my opinion (as I have stated previously) that the word 'baptize' or 'baptized' or 'baptism' should not be read so shallowly. If you read scripture like this – more times than not, you will miss the exegesis – the message God intended to convey.

    To be 'baptized into Christ' (in Romans 6) points to the Gospel (Jesus), not the baptismal. He is referring to a much more grandiose reality – being ‘buried with Him through baptism into death’ is referring to us joining Him in death (dying to sin) – or as vs. 5 says “uniting with Him in his death” – which is a choice we make after we have been cut to the heart by the truth of the Gospel. Likewise, “being raised from the dead” is in no way referring to us in the waters of baptism.

    I would challenge you and others (myself included of course) to think more deeply about the things of God. Study the character of God – know Him. You stated “our salvation is a result of our response of submission to His will” – I say (and I believe the Bible says) NO. That is the very teaching that my family and I are now leaving the church over.

    Where is Jesus in your statement? Twice you mention self (our salvation and our response) – If what you say is true, we don’t even need Jesus – because it’s all about what we ‘DO’ – we just need to ‘respond with submission to God’s will’ – so God could have JUST said ‘be baptized’ and He could have prophesied about a coming ceremony that would redeem mankind.

    Based on your previous posts – I know you do not believe this way. But Christians – WE CANNOT CONTINUE TO SELL THE GOSPEL IN THIS WAY – PEOPLE WILL LEAVE – SOULS WILL BE LOST.

    I am sooooooo tired of being asked to filter people’s words. We had a meeting with our Elders a while back – I had transcribed one of the sermons and read parts of it back to them and expressed my concerns. Let’s just take Jody’s statement above as an example, as that is most definitely something I would expect to hear at our church. One of the Elders responded with this: “I know that if you were to sit down with @#%& (preacher), he would agree with you”. COME ON CHURCH – IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE THIS WAY, THAN DON’T SPEAK THIS WAY. It is not my job to run your careless expression of the Gospel through a filter in order to glean any value out of it. My filter is worn out and I am spiritually destitute at the CoC. How dare us take Jesus out of what saves us. SHAME ON US!.

    For those who say these things and actually DO mean them (there are many) – you have been deceived by the enemy. This doctrine WILL NOT stand before a Holy God. Prayer and fasting are in order and I believe there should be weeping and remorse – a deep repentance before our God and our Savior.

    It’s time to get spiritual – to set the intellectual mind asides for a time so that we can once again be cut to the heart by the recognition of our own wickedness and the acknowledgement of God’s AMAZING GRACE.

    Friends – the Bible tells us that salvation is a free gift given to us by faith through grace – not of ourselves so that no one can boast. Open your arms and receive it in it’s fullness. Once you have been enlightened by truth – by love – then figure out what must we do now – and get busy doing it – never stop!

  28. Jody B says:

    Opinion is not the same as fact. I disagree with the church over many issues does not mean I will throw out the teachings of Christ (e.g. Mt. 28:19-20, Acts 2:38, Jn 3:5, Mk. 16:15-16).

    Tammy, if one does not respond to the Gospel, that person cannot be saved. It is not about effort. It is about humility that says, "no matter what God requires of me, I will do it" (see Naaman in II Ki. 5). It is not up to me to say who is and isn't saved (Rom. 9). It IS my responsibility to teach the word of God as it is written.

    Tammy, is your problem with the word of God or the disposition of those who teach it? Just because you disagree with someone on why they teach certain issues doesn't mean that you have to throw out what they teach. Believe me, I have huge issues with legalism in the church, but teaching something that is a direct command of Christ himself and is referenced through numerous passages through the Bible as being pivotal to salvation is not legalism. I certainly hope you wouldn't teach that a person who does not believe or repent could be saved as Jesus clearly stated otherwise in Mk 16:15-16. Why would you leave out baptism as being a part of that process?

    You talk about focusing on spiritual issues and claim that I'm reading it "shallow". Do you have special spiritual knowledge about what the word "baptism" means about which some do not have access? You are asking where Jesus is in my statement regarding the scriptures view of the significance of baptism. I'm asking you where are His teachings regarding your opinions? I value Jesus' word as I value his work. They are one in the same since they are both true and come from God.

    I will clarify an earlier statement of mine: baptism has no value outside of faith in Jesus' word and work. However, to teach that baptism is not a necessary response to his word and work is to reject Him not me.

  29. Jody B says:

    A seeming contridiction is found in my second paragraph of the last post

    "if one does not respond to the Gospel, that person cannot be saved" certainly means those of the ability to understand the Gospel and comes from the teaching of Heb 5:5-10, II Thes. 1:8. Therefore it is not I who state that those who do not respond to the Gospel may not be saved but God himself.

  30. nick gill says:

    No one is saying that *no* response to the Gospel is necessary.

    No one is saying that open rebellion will be tolerated.

    No one is saying that some of God's Word should be buried or ignored.

    What I'm hearing about the timing of the teaching on baptism is that no one was taught about baptism until after they were cut to the heart. Baptism wasn't taught as a work, a step on the climb to heaven, but as a response, a vital response. Unbelievers never heard of baptism until they were ready to obey — they weren't begged and cajoled and harangued to just do this one thing. If that is the pattern of sound teaching as taught us by Peter and Paul, why do we so glibly reject that pattern for the sake of efficiency on Sunday morning???

    What I'm hearing about the necessity of response is not that baptism may be rejected, but that water immersion might be the ideal that God seeks, but that he will have mercy on those who respond submissively, but mistakenly.

  31. Jody B says:

    Nick, I can't say who God will and won't have mercy upon. Therefore, it is my duty to teach the command, not the exception. I agree with you 1000% (if that's possible) regarding our focus upon baptism during the "invitation" for efficiency. That is hucksterism.

  32. Terry says:

    As I understand 1 Peter 3:21, baptism needs to be understood as a type of "sinner's prayer." In baptism, the new believer is making a plea for God's grace and pledging to following the resurrected Christ as his Lord. If we saw it as a sinner's prayer of reliance upon Christ (as I believe Peter intended), much of the debate would not be necessary.

  33. Royce Ogle says:

    Once a few years ago while doing my Bible reading I discovered at least 70 clear statements that teach sinners are justified by faith in Christ. (By that the Bible never means only accepting some historical facts as true. That is not biblical faith.)

    In order to arrive at some other conclusion you must violate the most fundamental and elementary accepted rules of Bible interpretation.

    Only God can declare a rotten sinner "just" and He does that on the basis of the worth and worth of Jesus plus nothing. The moment you add to what God has provided in the life and death and life again of Jesus you have crossed the line.

    Just as Lazarus had no power to come out of the tomb, even so those who are dead in sin have no power to help save themselves, it is wholly God's doing.


  34. Tammy says:

    I couldn't agree more Jody – if one does not respond to the Gospel, one cannot be saved. That response is belief, faith, identifying personally with Christ's suffering – it's a heart issue. Then enters baptism (or obedience). You bet we better be doing whatever God requires of us – again, I couldn't agree with you more: John 14:31 – but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me" I desperately want (I need in my very soul) to please my God. But in no way do I fool myself into believing that my acts of submission or my obedience is a condition for salvation – no, no – it's a symtom of it.

    If there is no obedience are we saved? – likely not (I'm tempted to say definitely not but because I fear the Lord – I choose not to be dogmatic here). But if a person lacks salvation it isn't because they weren't baptized, it's because they were unwilling to personally identify and assume ownership of the Gospel msg – it points to the lack of faith/belief.

    You state above that "teaching something that is a direct command of Christ himself and is referenced through numerous passages through the Bible as being pivotal to salvation is not legalism". It is legalism to say – Gospel + water baptism = salvation. This is not what the Bible teaches but it is what the CofC believes and sells to the world (from the pulpit, The Christian Chronicle, the Gospel Advocate, authors like F. Largard Smith, Harding University, Abilene Christian University, Freed-Hardeman Univ., Lipscomb, Pepperdine, Sunset School of Preaching, etc…..).

    I believe that any scripture that uses the word baptism as it relates to salvation (as I have already stated) is not referring to the ceremony of water baptism (many times it is referring to the baptism of the Holy Spirit)

    1 Peter 3:18-22
    18For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19through whom[d] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

    It's funny that in the 12 years that I have been at the CoC, I have repeatedly heard this verse quoted in support of the view that water baptism saves us – when in fact that is the opposite of what this verse is claiming. See v.22 "the baptism that now saves you is NOT THE REMOVAL OF DIRT FROM THE BODY" – Please, please don't miss this. He states it plainly and deliberately – it is not the water baptism that saves. What does save us? – "the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" These are the inspired words of a Holy God – we ought to believe them. John 3-16 'whosoever believes", Eph. 2:8 "it is by grace you have been saved" – and hundreds of other references that make this same point. They don't say they almost save us – or imply in any way that it isn't complete – waiting on a human ceremony.

    Let's leave baptism where God already put it and not be deceived into believing that humans could complete something that the Divine could not.

    I have included below a brief commentary from Matthew Henry on 1 Peter 3:18-22 – I appreciate the wisdom therein.

    Noah's salvation in the ark upon the water, which carried him above the floods, set forth the salvation of all true believers. That temporal salvation by the ark was a type of the eternal salvation of believers by baptism of the Holy Spirit. To prevent mistakes, the apostle declares what he means by saving baptism; not the outward ceremony of washing with water, which, in itself, does no more than put away the filth of the flesh, but that baptism, of which the baptismal water formed the sign. Not the outward ordinance, but when a man, by the regeneration of the Spirit, was enabled to repent and profess faith, and purpose a new life, uprightly, and as in the presence of God. Let us beware that we rest not upon outward forms. Let us learn to look on the ordinances of God spiritually, and to inquire after the spiritual effect and working of them on our consciences. We would willingly have all religion reduced to outward things. But many who were baptized, and constantly attended the ordinances, have remained without Christ, died in their sins, and are now past recovery. Rest not then till thou art cleansed by the Spirit of Christ and the blood of Christ. His resurrection from the dead is that whereby we are assured of purifying and peace.

  35. Stan says:

    Matthew Henry was a great man. Great men are not always right. He read too much into the text when commenting on 1 Peter 3: 18-22 – I think. His thoughts are not supported by the text. I believe he relied too much on what he believed about baptism and forced that belief on this text. All of us share this in our nature . . . the tendency to impose our beliefs on the different texts we study. I believe Henry was sincere . . . but we should not follow him on this one. I also recognize this tendency and strive to keep my heart open to what the Spirit intended the texts to convey.

    True, Peter says there is no power in the water itself because the only thing the water can do is wash away dirt. He says that the power is not from the water . . . rather, “It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” . . . the Ascended Lord. The power comes from God. It is the working of God.

    I see nothing in the text that should indicate to us that Peter is speaking figuratively about baptism by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is mentioned in Chapter 1:2:

    1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen
    2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

    So Peter is speaking to those who are covered by the blood of Jesus, having obeyed in response to the prompting of the Spirit who seeks to sanctify His people. Seems clear enough.

    We are not advocating that any should rest on outward forms. We are advocating that in simple trusting faith, one should submit to baptism fully expecting the Lord of Lords to be at work . . . as He promised He would.

  36. Nancy says:

    It is interesting to me that when the leper came to Jesus and asked for cleansing, Jesus healed him and THEN ask him to present himself to the priests for the ceremonial cleansing that would signal to society that the man was clean. The man believed Jesus could heal him and Jesus did. Nothing more. Jesus was the cleansing agent, not the ceremony.

  37. Todd Collier says:

    Ok, I am amused and I can't help myself. Even as we recover from "legalism" we cannot help ourselves from arguing like legalists.

    Gospel + baptism saves? No. But then again the gospel includes baptism doesn't it?
    Washing in water removes my sin? No. But the washing which is the pledge of a good conscience before God is a part of that cleansing.
    Did Jesus teach baptism? Yes. Did the apostles? Yes. Did Paul? Yes.
    Did they teach that baptism was in and of itself sufficient? Absolutely not. Good works cannot earn salvation for us.
    Did they teach that God's grace was the source of our salvation? Without question, and that salvation was prepared before the foundations of the world in Christ.
    Does a requirement that a believer be baptized at some point negate grace? An absurd suggestion, for what can being dipped in water accomplish unless God through His grace empowers such an act.

    Works without faith = dead
    Faith without works = dead

    Salvation is God's grace reponded to through faith displayed by faithful living which would include not merely baptism, but charity, tithing, temperance in all things, displaying Christ in every action and in dispensing God's grace in its many forms to those around us. Works done not to earn approval, but as a response to the love we have received.

    Abraham had to both believe God and pack up and leave Ur to be considered righteous. (Put Paul and James together) But the fact that God considered him righteous for these things was the result of God's grace, for Abraham had faith issues and integrity gaps long after God declared him righteous.

    I had to believe the gospel and respond to it according to faith – repentence from works of death, confession of my Lord and Savior, baptism, continuing submission for God to declare me sanctified, righteous, justified, et al. But this is all the result of God's grace in the first place, the middle place and even this morning for I too have my faith and life issue gaps that would give the lie to the things God declares are true about me with out His grace.

    Grace provided the Gospel in the first place. The God provided –
    Grace to hear
    Grace to believe
    Grace to repent
    Grace to confess
    Grace to partake of discipleship and baptism
    Grace to keep walking in a renewed life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit

    Grace, grace, grace and no boasting anywhere about anything of our own.

  38. Anonymous says:

    Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!” tetelestai, which means paid in full or complete. Tetelestai was what people said when someone had paid a debt in full. Jesus said, “It is finished!”, there could be nothing added to what He had done. The beginning and the end of salvation was finished by the work of Jesus Christ.

    Romans 10:4 “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”

    1 Timothy 2:5 “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

    Revelation 1:5 “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

    Jesus did it all on the cross. Jesus’ blood is all sufficient.

  39. Jody B says:

    Todd, I think I'll just hush up now, because that is what I wanted to say but my limited comprehension wouldn't.

  40. Stan says:

    Todd . . . I wondered when you were going to chime in. But where is Jay? Aaahhhh . . . Jay is ignoring us. He must be catching up on his sleep. Or . . . is he waiting for us to display all of our ignorance . . . and then at some point plans to reveal who gets the prize for being the most annoying? Okay . . . I know it's me. I probably win the prize for being the most annoying. This is not the first time I have won such a prize.

  41. Jody B says:

    Stan, I've got ya beat.

  42. Hal Snyder says:

    Jay – I have not read your comments about 1 Cor. 1:17, nor have I read your argument. But I have read 1 Cor. 1:17. If I understand the English language (KJV), all the text says is that "Christ sent me [Paul] not to baptize but to preach the gospel…" Neither you nor me are included in this passage–we should preach the gospel with the aim of baptizing those who hear the gospel preached (Rom. 10:17). The power of baptism lies not in the one who baptizes (1 Cor. 1:1-16); rather the power is in the obedience (Luke 6:46).

  43. Larry Short says:

    Terry, the "believer's prayer" is an invention long after baptism. The reverse is true, the "believer's prayer" is something like baptism, today replacing baptism by people afraid of 'works' . Actually, every act of obedience or worship is like a prayer. We are praying (communicating with God) by communion, baptism, singing, receiving instruction, etc.
    Change my not be effective, as referred in comments above Natham want to go home to his fine rivers rather than dip in the Jordan. The prophet's assistant urged him to do what the prophet said.

  44. Larry Short says:

    Tammy, I am very sorry that the congregation(s) you have experienced present the gospel so poorly. Its so much easy to worship an idol, its right there. Its easier to push baptism for salvation because its obvious, rather than a changed, submissive heart. You cannot take a picture of heart change for the church bulletin!
    One other reason to be kinder to CofCers. We live in a world that largely sets aside God's morals and practices for its own, or to be more popular politically correct. Sometimes we are over zealous for practices being neglected, which we read in the Bible.
    Baptism can become an idol, in that we beleive more in it than the God who asked for it. I'm sure that's what Peter meant by "not the removal of dirt". Jesus said the same Mt 23 "25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. 27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
    Peter's Pentecost sermon is repent, repent, repent…. Then the crowd says what should we do? Peter says repent and be baptised. Notice the hugh emphasis on repent. Changing people's hearts not urging them to get washed is the priority. I have to teach it the same today. Sorry for brethern who say this so poorly.

  45. Larry Short says:

    Stan, thanks for your peace keeping spirit. I agree that MH got Peter's Noah flood and baptism a little wrong. Interesting that Peter does a good analogy. Think of the flood scene; as the water rises a few are being saved by following God's instructions, and the rest are lost. Flood or baptism, the power of salvation isn't in the people but beleiving and obeying God.
    Sadly, we read Romans and Hebrews but not the OT that they refer to. YES, there were people of faith (NT) but they were people of living faith (James & OT) because they beleived and acted on that faith. Abram beleived and left his home, later beleived and went to sacrifice Isaac, Joshua beleived and fought for the land God promised, etc.
    Too many comments pro doing or pro faith or pro grace, and too few addressing the whole human. Glad God has love for us, and responds by doing; sending us blessings, especially His Son. Imitate God by beleiving, loving, and doing.

  46. Tammy says:

    Hello again friends – just can't seem to let this one go – sorry. I just have one final point that comes out of the Book of Titus that speaks directly to our discussion.

    Before I do that I want to clarify why I care about this – so that when you read this, you see in my words the same thing that I pray God sees when He searches my heart.

    Two burdens:

    1) God created mankind to glorify himself, He sacraficed His one and only Son for us. This foothold that Satan has gained in the CoC's is detestable to our God. I can't think of another sin that could be more of an offense against Heaven than one that – IN ANY WAY – diminishes the perfect, full, complete, free gift of salvation given to us by God. When I sit under this kind of teaching/preaching – I cringe. I close my eyes and I pray "I'm sorry Lord, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" I stand in the gap for my brothers and sisters who have been deceived into believing "I don't know what it is but there's something about the water" (an actual statement made by one of our elders) – minimizing the Cross and maximizing the waters of baptism.

    2) Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven ……. away from me, I never knew you" . I think of this verse every day regarding my own soul – He is talking to the Church in this scripture – make no mistake here – that means YOU and ME. 'Why will you die in your sin O' Israel?' If the CoC is wrong in the way they interpret the scriptures on baptism – and the Holy God of Heaven sees this as idol worship – where will we spend our eternity? There will be no time for excuses – no explainations – judgement will come swiftly. Pray (as I do and continue to do daily) for discernment and wisdom now while there is still time.

    Summation of burden 1 – I love God and Jesus.
    Summation of burden 2 – I love you.


    Titus 3:4-7

    4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    This is a piece of a sermon from John Piper that makes the point so beautifully. Pay special attention to the paragraph that starts with: "When it comes to salvation through the new birth,"

    By the Mercy of God, Not Our Deeds – We close by mentioning the third aspect of God’s nature that explains our new birth, and by mentioning the opposite, which would be to explain it by our own deeds. Verse 5: “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration.”

    Mercy. If you are born again, you owe it to the mercy of God. God is merciful. We didn’t deserve to be born again. We were hard and resistant and spiritually dead. God would have been just to pass us by. “But God, being rich in mercy . . . even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5). We owe our new life—our new birth—to mercy.

    Not Even Our Best Works and Best Motives – God is kind. God is loving toward humanity. God is merciful. That is how we were born again. God did it. Paul could have left it like that. Only positive statements. But he didn’t. He said in verse 5, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness.” He knows our tendencies. We tend to think that if something good happens to us, it must be because we did something good. Paul knows this about us. And he warns.

    When it comes to salvation through the new birth, don’t think that way. Notice carefully, he does not say: This salvation was not owing to works done in legalism. He says: This salvation—this new birth—is not owing to works done in righteousness. Not only your worst works and worst motives, but even your best works and best motives are excluded. They didn’t make you regenerate; they don’t cause you to stay regenerate. Staying regenerate causes them.

    Not Baptism
    This is one reason why I do not think the “washing of regeneration” in verse 5 refers to baptism. Whether circumcision in the old covenant or baptism in the new covenant—it is not good things we do that causes us to be born again. The kindness of God. The love of God. The absolutely free mercy of God explains our new birth. Not circumcision. Not baptism. Not any works done by us in righteousness. New birth comes and brings righteous deeds with it, not the other way around.

    AMEN brother John! So not even true acts of righteousness – ones done for the purest and best reasons (because we love God) can claim any responsibility for a soul's salvation.

  47. Stan says:

    Baptism is not a work. It is an expression of faith. It is not a good work. It’s not a bad work either. It has nothing to do with works.

    Teaching the gospel is not complicated. We know that our reasoning has complicated and possibly perverted the message when the gospel we preach no longer resembles what we find in Acts 2.

    Peter told the story of Jesus. He tied the story of Jesus to the god who had been at work in the world to redeem his creation. He tied the story of Jesus to the prophets. Some believed. They trusted in the message. Their hearts cried out to God. They didn’t want to be separated from Him. They knew their sin separated them from God. They wanted to know what to do.

    Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Or we could say it this way. Peter told them to turn from their sins and be baptized so that God would forgive them.

    And ‘they” did. In simple, trusting faith…they did.

    They did repent. They had repentant hearts. Not perfect hearts. Not hearts that had tackled every sin. They were not even aware of all of their sins. But they had the right heart. They had a heart that said I don’t want to live in a way that is going to separate me from God. Their heart was repentant. Learning to truly repent was going to take a life time. This they would learn.

    They were baptized. They were immersed in water. In God’s name. It had nothing to do with works. Again, it had nothing to do with works. And it wasn’t idol worship. It didn’t diminish the free gift of God. It didn’t take the place of Jesus’ blood. Jesus’ blood is what made it all possible. And they knew that. Their baptism was their expression of faith in the promise of God. Proper baptism is an expression of faith. It is not a work.

    And they did this in great expectation that God was faithful to his promise of forgiveness and the gift of His Spirit. They were not even sure what this gift of the Spirit meant. They didn’t have to understand it. In fact…it was best that they didn’t. The conversions were based on simple trusting faith. That’s the kind of faith God seeks.

    And then God added them. He added them to His family, His body, His church.

    The rest of Scripture elucidates this story and supports belief. It sets the historical setting…illustrates the working of God throughout history to accomplish His goal of communion with His creation, supports the story of Jesus’ time on Earth, supports the coming kingdom, shines on the kingdom that is at hand, or shines on the kingdom that is.

    Nothing in scripture invalidates the account we find in Acts 2…nothing. It is the opposite. The rest of scripture validates the account. It either leads up to Pentecost or it looks back to Pentecost. Pentecost was the day God revealed the promise. He had been at work throughout the history of man to accomplish what needed to be done…through Jesus Christ…so that He could proclaim the promise…to you and your children and to all that are far off…to achieve communion between God and man. We owe it all to Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no promise worth trusting in. Jesus made the promise real.

    If one’s faith is based on beliefs that ignore Acts 2, or on a perversion of the story, then that faith is not the faith “They” had.

    That does not mean that all who teach and practice baptism for the forgiveness of sins have the right heart. There may well be many who have idolized baptism…who are more concerned that they dunk people under the water than they are concerned about belief in the gospel and faith in the promise God gave. Their hearts are not right with God.

    I do not see the gospel Peter preached in the version you are promoting.

  48. Anonymous says:

    Amen, Tammy!! I admire your dedication to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and that His blood is sufficient and worthy enough to save us. Not anything or anyone else can take His place

    If you are still looking to find another church I would be glad to help you the best I can. So that we aren’t giving any private information out on the internet you can just click on my link and post a comment. I will see your email and will email you mine.

    Grace and peace

  49. Larry Short says:

    Wow Alan. Well worded. Unfortunately the theology of the middle ages fractured human minds into extremes. Looking for the moment of salvation, looking for the minor humam reaction to unlease God's everflowing salvation, etc.
    Tammy please be kinder to people of action, even if they express faith poorly. Lk 7:29 All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John. (TNIV,
    God respected the people's actions! It was an expression of their changed heart. Our baptism is that and more because God added more, the "gift of the Holy Spirit"
    Please keep reminding us that God did the great work at the cross, our minor responsces like baptism are good but God is great. the source of good.

  50. Anonymous says:

    God does want people to be baptized, who has said otherwise? He also wants people to love other people and there are people including people who attend the cofC denomination who do far the opposite.

    Performing acts do not save us only the blood of Jesus saves us. I believe God knows every persons heart.

  51. Larry Short says:

    Jn 14:12 Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing
    Col 2:11 Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
    Ja 2:20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. 24 You see that people are justified by what they do and not by faith alone.
    Just like Revelation above, people must act. The act no way repays sin, only the cross does, so salvation is from God, but He asks for a responce from us, "wash" or "buried with Him in baptism". Jesus says "faith in me will do the works". From Abraham to Revelation its believing and doing. Do not misrepresent His design.

  52. Anonymous says:

    We should be doing works that evidence we are saved.

  53. Tammy says:

    Larry and others – I was away for the weekend but I want to respond to this:

    'Tammy please be kinder to people of action, even if they express faith poorly'.

    You are absolutely right. I know the Bible speaks to this as well. Please forgive my jagged words.

    I pray that you can see past the delivery to the broken heart behind it – that desperately longs for truth to reign. – Not just for God's glory but also so that we can be completely set free in Christ, and enter into the process of regeneration that brings joy unspeakable.

    I trust we ALL want this – so the real prayer here is that God will speak to us and give us ALL discernment regarding His Word and His message.

    Keep looking up – He is coming!

  54. BRUCE LAIRD says:

    Book of Romans
    3:27 –
    Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

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