As the series goes along, I’ll be addressing several of the comments within the flow of the overarching argument. This is just to add some additional thoughts prompted by the comments.
There are two arguments being made in favor of the tradition position on baptism. First, you can argue that baptism is an absolute condition because the baptism text expressly say it’s an absolute condition. And that’s an entirely respectable position to take.
By “absolute condition” I mean a condition like faith in Jesus. There is no salvation found anywhere else, and the scriptures repeatedly so say. It’s not about obedience. It’s about the path into grace.
This is the best argument in favor of the traditional position, in my view, and I’ll address it in future posts.
The other argument is that baptism is a matter of obedience — like any other matter of obedience. In support of this argument, one might cite the numerous verses teaching that Christians are required to be obedient to God, to be disciples, to repent, etc. And there are many such verses.
This is the most commonly voiced argument in Church of Christ baptismal polemics. And this is the same argument made to teach that instrumental music, one-cup, head coverings, etc., etc. are salvation issues. After all, Christians must obey, the Bible teaches we are to do X, and therefore, if you don’t do X, you’re damned.
And the problem with this argument, of course, is that it proves too much — as it makes every command a requirement for salvation. And I’m not the first person to notice —
(Gal 5:3-4 ESV) 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
That’s Paul’s point. If you insist on circumcision, then why not tassels and refusal to eat pork? How can you demand that some commands are more essential than others? And yet, if you make them all essential, you damn everyone? What’s the solution? Well, the solution is —
(Gal 5:5-6 ESV) 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Understand that, and you’ve escaped legalism. Get that wrong, and you may as well be demanding circumcision — and that does not lead to good place at all.
More to come on this argument in Part 3.