The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 2

It’s hard to think new thoughts

There’s this old preacher story — that is, it’s an old story, not necessarily a story told by old preachers. It’s goes like this —

I was driving on the Alaska Highway from the 48 contiguous states up to Alaska, right after the road had been built and long before it had been paved. At the beginning, someone had posted a sign saying: Choose your rut carefully. You ‘ll be in it for the next 200 miles!

I suspect this is purely apocryphal (I’ve always wondered about that), but it’s still a great line — and makes a very real point. It’s hard for people to change how they think. Once our brains get grooved in thinking a certain way, shaking that pattern of thought is very hard.

And this discussion is a case in point. The arguments made aren’t illegitimate or ignorant (whether I agree with them or not). But they aren’t responsive to the arguments I made. You see, we struggle to even hear new arguments, much less process them as valid or not.

This is not a moral failing. It’s just the nature of being human. But it means we have to work extra hard to hear what others are saying — and not just assume that they’re saying the same old thing.

So let’s start over — and I’ll try to explain my understanding more carefully.

I think the Churches of Christ have historically exegeted the baptism passages correctly.

I think Tit 3:4ff and Rom 6:1-6 and Acts 2:28 and all the other verses are really talking about the immersion of believers into the remission of their sins. There’s no need to tell me to read G. R. Beasley-Murray’s Baptism in the New Testament, because I own it, I’ve read it cover to cover, and think he’s right — including what he says about the necessity of baptism.

You could sit me down with the ghost of H. Leo Boles and have us discuss the meaning of these verses, and we’d largely be in agreement — except I disagree that the convert must have faith in the power of baptism to remit sins. The forgiveness is an effect of baptism, not the essential subjective intent of the convert. Other than that, when it comes to verse-by-verse exegesis, I’m boringly orthodox Church of Christ. That’s not where I disagree.

But we’ve wrongly ignored the “faith saves” passages.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingRather, I think the 20th Century Churches of Christ have erred by unconsciously editing many other verses out of the text — not unlike Thomas Jefferson, who literally took scissors to his New Testament to cut out passages he disagreed with. Our historical approach to baptism has been to focus on the verses we like and to ignore the verses we don’t. And that’s bad hermeneutics. We have to consider all the passages — and give them all their full meaning.

Consider such passages as —

(Mark 9:23) “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

(John 1:12-13) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

(John 3:14-18) Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

(John 3:36) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

(John 5:24) “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

(John 6:29) Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

(John 6:35) Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

(John 6:40) “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

(John 6:47) “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”

(John 7:38-39) “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

(John 11:25-26) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

(John 12:46) “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

(John 20:31) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

(Acts 10:43) “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

(Acts 13:38-39) “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

(Acts 16:31) They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.”

(Rom. 1:16-17) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

(Rom. 3:22-24) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

(Rom. 3:25-28) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

(Rom. 4:4-5) Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

(Rom. 5:1-2) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

(Rom. 10:4) Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

(Rom. 10:9-13) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

(1 Cor. 1:21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

(Gal. 2:15-16) “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

(Gal. 3:2) I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

(Gal. 3:22) But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

(Gal. 5:6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

(Eph. 1:13-14) And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.

(Eph. 2:8-10) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

(2 Thess. 2:13) But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

(1 Tim. 1:16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

(Heb. 10:39) But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

(1 John 3:23-24) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

(1 John 4:2-3) This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

(1 John 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

(1 John 5:3-5) This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

(1 John 5:13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Now, these aren’t all the verses that teach that faith is sufficient to save. They’re just the ones that are the most obvious. I could easily add dozens more.

So here’s one argument. The Bible repeatedly says that EVERYONE with faith is saved.

(John 3:18 ESV) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

It hardly matters that the scriptural writers don’t say “faith only” or “faith alone” when they write this plainly.

(1 John 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

“Everyone” means everyone. (And, yes, I’ll be getting to James.) So in some verses, God promises salvation to all with faith. In other verses (not nearly as many), God promises salvation to all with faith who are baptized.

So how do we reconcile the “baptism + faith saves” passages with the “faith saves” passages? You see, it’s not a question of whose verses we read last. All are inspired, and all must be respected. Which promise does God keep? The one that forces him to breach another promise? Or the one that forces him to do more than he promised elsewhere?

Next: What does faith require?

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.

This entry was posted in Baptism, Fork in the Road, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 2

  1. Richard Kruse says:

    I don't know about the Alaska story. However, I did see a hand written sign on a logging road in Minnesota listing 20 miles – and as we drove the first mile, we began to think it could be true!
    I once preached in a small community in the South. I emphasized baptism and never baptized a person that year. The Baptist preacher emphasized submission to Jesus and baptized a person almost every week.

  2. David P Himes says:

    Preaching Jesus never gets in the way of baptism, but preaching baptism often gets in the way of Jesus

  3. Grizz says:

    Jay,

    There is a disconnect here, but I would suggest that the disconnect is between those who left these arguments years ago and those who are still wallowing in them. Your hyperbole betrays how out-of-step many have become.

    Let's take Ephesians 2:8-10 for a case in point. That is NOT a 'saved by faith' passage by any stretch. It IS a 'saved by grace' passage. Re-read it if that sounds strange to you. No controversy without mis-reading it.

    Now look into the context of those other 'faith' passages. They are grace passages, too.

    Stop debating pieces and parts. Salvation is not a cafeteria or a la carte meal. God doesn't offer a dollar/value menu. It's all or nothing. End of story. Let's get past the mid-20th century and into the 21st century.

    And in the for-what-it's-worth column, exchanging neglect of any group of passages for marginalizing another isn't really progress, is it?

    Blessings,

    Grizz

  4. Tim Archer says:

    I am a strong believer in the place of baptism in man's response. I believe that God is able to save anyone that he chooses, so I'm cautious about talking about "essentiality," but I think that a response to God that does not include baptism is incomplete at best.

    I don't feel like I've ignored any of the verses quoted in the second half of the article. To me, it's a question of what it means to have faith or to believe. I don't accept the idea that faith means sitting in one's tent thinking good thoughts about God. Faith and belief, in the Bible, include a response. Hebrews 11, the great chapter on faith, is full of action.

    The story in Acts 16 is a great example. As you quoted, Paul and Silas told the jailer that he needed to believe in Jesus. The jailer then does a whole series of things, including baptism. After he's done those things, Luke says the man rejoiced because he had believed in God.

    Biblical faith is active and obedient. Or it's not faith.

    As to "preaching baptism," which the above commenters referred to, I see that as pure folly. It's like trying to convince a young couple to have a wedding, rather than teaching them about love and marriage. The focus needs to be on the relationship being entered into.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  5. Ray Downen says:

    Jay writes, "I disagree that the convert must have faith in the power of baptism to remit sins. The forgiveness is an effect of baptism, not the essential subjective intent of the convert." And Ray fully agrees. That is I. we should never preach baptism. The gospel isn't about baptism. The gospel is about Jesus, and He should be our message wherever we go and with whomever we may speak. Baptism FOLLOWS the gospel. It's caused BY the gospel. It is not the gospel. Jay is entirely right in saying so. The person being baptized is being ushered INTO CHRIST whether or not the person understands anything about baptism other than that Jesus said to do it. And we should make that clear prior to performing any baptism. Jay is right!

    Well, mainly. It's never right to downgrade baptism by in any way implying that sinners are reborn of water and spirit WITHOUT being baptized.

    Verse after verse which speak of the need of faith in Jesus do not in any way nullify the clear statement on record from Jesus that entrance into His kingdom is by way of new birth of water and spirit. So, whether at night or noon, we do well to preach Jesus and call folks to salvation in HIm, and then to immediately baptize those who believe the message.

    Richard does well to point out that the message is about JESUS. Baptism saves only because of the person's faith in JESUS who commands baptism.

  6. Tim Archere says:

    Todd,

    Since you quoted from my comment, I'll take that as a response to me. 🙂

    I don't think anyone believes that faith is merely intellectual assent. I guess that's what I'm driving at, actually. When we try to set up "faith only" passages in opposition to passages on baptism, for example, we're using a false dichotomy that would only be true if faith were mere intellectual assent. As Todd stated so eloquently, "The issue has never actually been whether or not obedience was required but what role obedience played in the life of the believer."

    Some have responded to the "theological overemphasis" with "theological underemphasis." It's the pendulum swing that is so harmful in theological endeavors. "They overemphasize the role of baptism in salvation so I will deny it any place at all in salvation."

    We are not saved by baptism any more than the ancient believers were forgiven through sacrifice. However, they were forgiven when they performed the sacrifices as God asked them to, not because of the sacrifice but because of their faith in the God that offered them that means of grace.

    If we put our faith in the ritual itself, it becomes empty of meaning. If we deny the efficacy of the ritual, we betray a lack of faith in the God behind it.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  7. Laymond says:

    Baptism, in my belief continues to be very misunderstood in the minds of many, baptism is a sacrifice, yes a sacrifice to God, "an offering to the Lord" the simplicity of the act does not diminish it's importance, in my opinion, it is "signing on the dotted line" vowing to try to live up to what is expected of us. signing our part of the new covenant, before witnesses.

    I believe the age at which a person is baptized is also important in the understanding of the sacrifice we are making to God.
    I have heard it said God gives us no indication as to the age of accountability, not so. let's look at the following requirements and the age of atonement of the soul.

    Exd 30:14 Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the LORD.
    Exd 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when [they] give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls.

    Now that said Jesus gives us plenty of reason to believe children, and those who do not have the capacity to grasp what is given, are not accountable.

    Mat 5:3 Blessed [are] the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    When we are baptized, we are putting away the old sinful man, and bringing forth the new. To my mind that exempts children and those who are mentally incapable.
    When I was baptized, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior, that also meant I accepted the gospel he brought from God. All of it.

  8. Laymond says:

    Tim said, " I believe that God is able to save anyone that he chooses, so I’m cautious about talking about “essentiality,” ".
    Tim, I believe it is writen that God is not willing that any should perish, in your opinion does this mean that all will be saved and all Jesus teachings was for naught.?
    Or will God save only those who meet certain requirements.

  9. Laymond says:

    Tim said, "We are not saved by baptism any more than the ancient believers were forgiven through sacrifice."

    Peter said,
    1Pe 3:21 The like figure whereunto [even] baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

    Who am I to believe Tim?

  10. Royce Ogle says:

    Lets revisit Acts 2. (Every coc member can quote part of it!)

    Peter had preached Christ and accused the listeners of his murder (many of them had likely actually participated in the crucifixion)

    After hearing Peter preach Christ's death and resurrection those who were baptized were:

    "Cut to the heart" The Holy Spirit had convicted them of their sinfulness and their need of Christ.

    Were willing. "What must we do?"

    Repented. Peter said "repent" first.

    They "gladly received his word".

    These believing men were candidates for believers baptism. There is no precedent for baptizing lost people in the Bible.

    Now, the truth is we don't know everything Peter said to these who were baptized. " And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation."

    What we do know is that Peter's consistent personal testimony is that he received the Holy Spirit just like the house of Cornelius did, "when we believed". So, I can't think of any reason to believe that these 3,000 and those millions who have been saved since didn't receive the Holy Spirit when they believed.

    Faith? Yes Baptism? Yes What saves? Jesus

  11. Laymond says:

    Matt, I don't see where I am using Exodus 30 in a different way than the writer did. he said everyone above that age was accountable, it wasn't because everyone above that age had money.

    I don't believe Peter, or Tim used the phrase " getting dunked" , I would think they both understand what baptism is.

  12. Matt Dabbs says:

    Laymond,

    If you have a moment to respond, why not answer my questions?

  13. Matt Dabbs says:

    It cracks me up that a bunch of baptized believers can get all worked up over how essential it is or all the dynamics of what God is doing when or how faith comes into play with works, grace, God's will, our freedom, when we are accountable, etc. We often make things way to complicated for our own good. It is fun to think about and analyze. But bottom line is, God has told us what he expects of us and to try to slide by unconcerned about His wishes really reveals something deeper inside our hearts that I can guarantee you God does care about. I am just glad to be God's kid.

  14. Laymond says:

    Matt, question #1 unless you can show me another place where the age of accountability is mentioned, (God never changes) I believe people should be baptized when they feel like they are ready, What I am saying is God set an age at which he holds people accountable.

    #2 Was Noah saved by the ark or obedience to God, the ark and baptism are both vehicles by which God saves.
    If Noah, believed, and trusted in God, after building that ark, had not gotten aboard, would he have been saved ? after believing, confessing and repenting, and we deny baptism, can we be saved. I think that final step has to be fulfilled in order to receive salvation.

  15. Matt Dabbs says:

    There is a misconception that because salvation is a “free gift”, that comes by grace, that there is nothing we have to do or are required to do to receive it. There is the alternate misconception that because God places requirements on us that somehow we earn our salvation through faith and/or works.

    Both misconceptions have elements of truth in them. It is true that salvation is a “free gift” but that does not mean it has no requirements. But those requirements do not mean we earn our salvation. Romans 3 helps us unravel some of these misconceptions and help us come to a more biblical understand of the cost of our salvation.

    Romans 3:21-26:
    “21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

    Here, Paul says that righteousness comes from God, apart from the law (implying obedience to the law). It comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ. If righteousness comes from God it does not come from us. In other words, we are unable to make ourselves righteous because of what verse 23 says. We cannot accomplish enough good things in order to be declared righteous apart from God’s work in us. Keep in mind what righteousness is. It is a big word we use for a simple concept – being in the right. You are not “in the right” if there is even one wrong thing in you or about you. So because we all have sin, we are not righteous in and of ourselves or by our own merits.

    In verse 24 he says all have sinned and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Notice, this is not a universal statement that all people, everywhere are justified no matter what they believe. He is writing to a specific group of people for some specific reasons that we cannot go into here. Next Paul tells us that justification comes by grace and it is free. What is justification? It is the verb that means being put into the right/being made right. It is the verb that has the result in making someone righteous or in the right again. How does this happen, this justification or act of making us righteous? Paul tells us plain and clear. It happens through redemption that came by Jesus Christ (vs. 24). What does that mean? Justification is free (3:24) in that we don’t have to pay for it. But someone did have to pay for it, through the redemption (a financial/marketplace term) that came by Christ Jesus”. So being justified came at a price to Jesus Christ and with that price being paid in order to redeem us from sin we were justified and therefore made righteous.

    Notice that this is all free to us (3:24). That does not mean that we are not involved in the process. Here is where people get confused. They believe that if they have any part in the process (faith, repentance, baptism, etc) that it is no longer free because they partnered in it. They did what God required and so God brings salvation because they met his requirements. But Paul says flat out that justification is free.(That doesn’t make baptism and repentance any less important or any less required, by the way…it just means that those acts don’t pay for or merit/earn salvation. Salvation is still a free/already paid for gift).

    So how do you make all that fit together in a way that is consistent with scripture? God freely paid the price for our salvation. He did it through Jesus’ reconciling and redemptive work on the cross. Through his blood (which was the price to be paid) he has removed all debt from those who put faith in Christ Jesus (= redemption, remember…a financial term). Our responding in faith doesn’t “pay” for anything. If we actually could pay anything toward our salvation it could only be accepted if we lead perfect lives of obedience as Jesus lived and died with no sin, perfect. But we cannot do that and so we do not contribute toward “paying” the debt of our sin. We contribute to meeting the conditions God has set for those who will receive the justification he has already paid for (through the blood of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice – 3:24-25). So we do contribute through faith but that contribution does not pay /merit/earn our salvation in and of itself. Only the blood of Jesus can do that. Read Romans 4-5 and catch the language Paul uses about salvation being a gift, not paid out of obligation as if we had earned it.

    So let’s not get caught up into thinking that because we have to meet certain conditions means we contributed toward the actual cost of our justification. Paul makes it clear, that is only done through the blood of Jesus. We can’t pay that price. But that doesn’t mean we don’t contribute by faith to meet the conditions God set forth for us to meet in order to receive the justification he has in store for those who want to receive it freely from him. Here baptism is not a work designed to merit anything but is a responsive act that partners with God in the salvation process that he works out completely in our lives on our behalf.

  16. Todd Collier says:

    An issue I often find in my attempts to teach on grace, faith and obedience is that assumption that “faith only” means “sitting in one’s tent thinking good thoughts about God.” I have never met a “faith only” brother or sister who did not believe that “faith only” required true life change and discipleship. The issue has never actually been whether or not obedience was required but what role obedience played in the life of the believer. They reject baptism as a means of salvation not because they reject baptism itself (in fact most require baptism as a step in the discipleship process) but because they believe that no ritual observance purchases grace for us. It is not a rejection of the act, it is a rejection of the theological overemphasis of the act.

  17. Rich W says:

    Verse A says that faith saves us. Verse B says that Jesus saves us. Verse C says that God’s grace saves us. Verse D says that baptism saves us (yes, it’s there).

    Can we really be saved if any of these are missing?

  18. Matt Dabbs says:

    Laymond,

    A couple of questions regarding your comments.

    – Are you saying people should not be baptized under the age of 20? If you are saying that is the age of accountability as defined by scripture, isn’t that the logical conclusion to using that verse in the way you are using it?

    – Are you saying the actual act of being immersed saves us or that God saves us? I think that gets to the heart of what Tim was saying in his comment. Getting dunked in water doesn’t save us in and of itself. God saves us. Is baptism a part of that process? Yes. It shows that our faith is being put into action. But it is also a purely submissive/passive event (as the verb for baptism in the NT is always passive in reference to the one being baptized. The only time it is active is when people are told to go and baptize others.). The fact that it is a passive act, something done to us, would show that God is the one doing the saving here.

  19. Laymond says:

    Royce, do you believe Jesus died to save sinners, one at a time, or to put into motion a process by which we can be saved “one at a time” ?

    I believe he said he had come to save the world.
    save the world from who, or what.?

  20. Laymond says:

    Matt, for some reason, I don’t find it as funny as you do, It kinda makes me sad.

  21. Matt Dabbs says:

    Thanks for clarifying on #1. I thought you were going down that old line of “we shouldn’t be baptizing young folks because they may not be over the limit of the age of accountability” train of thought.

    As far as #2 goes, I get what you are saying. But I also want to make sure the main point is the main point. Whether it is a boat, water, etc that God uses…it is God who is doing the saving. If it was all about boats, I am sure in the days of Noah a bunch of other guys hoped on boats, right? But Noah survived because God providentially worked to keep him alive. God did the saving. Noah had to listen and do his best. Problem is, even if we do our best, it isn’t enough. In the end, God graciously has to save us from our sins. God is the one who does the cleansing. I am not saying we need to throw out baptism. I think we need to hold it high and recognize that God is so, so gracious. He could have required a cross for us. Instead he asks for faith expressed in particular ways. I don’t think that is asking too much!

  22. Matt Dabbs says:

    Laymond,

    I am glad I have you around to be my filter and constant critique of my every word. Thanks for the correction. I will do better next time 😉

  23. Laymond says:

    Matt, I know you will, and it is no problem for me to correct you if you don’t 🙂

  24. Anonymous says:

    God was already with Noah before he built the ark, Genesis 6:9, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.” The ark was a picture of Christ, the ark didn’t remove Noah’s sins, right after the flood was over Noah got drunk and naked, Genesis 9:20-21”And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent.”

    Performing righteous acts does not remove our sins, the blood of Christ is the only sufficient sacrifice to remove sins.

  25. Ray Downen says:

    Royce improves on Luke's reporting: After hearing Peter preach Christ’s death and resurrection those who were baptized were:

    “Cut to the heart” The Holy Spirit had convicted them of their sinfulness and their need of Christ.

    Luke didn't know the Spirit did this TO them, so he only reported that they WERE cut to the heart. Luke knew that the Spirit was given to those who HAD repented and been baptized. He didn't realize the Spirit had to cause the repenting.

    I like Luke's report much better than that of Royce. I'm sure that Peter told them that THEY should repent. Surely he should have had them pray that the Spirit would convict them. Or maybe not. In any case Luke records the facts. And Luke has the Spirit being given AFTER the repentance and baptism.

  26. Ray Downen says:

    Anonymous asks foolish questions based on an apparent idea he has that only Church of Christ preachers can baptize sinners into Christ. No, he shouldn't ask a Satan-worshipper to baptize him. Of course not. But any Christian can baptize a sinner into Christ. And no one is IN the body of Christ until they are born again of water and spirit by repenting and being baptized. See Galatians 3:26,27. Believe it. Note that each conversion reported in inspire writings includes baptism–an immersion in water and being raised up then into NEW LIFE. See Romans 6 and the following teaching concerning new life in Christ.

  27. Ray Downen says:

    Royce opines: These believing men were candidates for believers baptism. There is no precedent for baptizing lost people in the Bible.

    RAY: But the fact is that no Christian could possibly be baptized, for baptism, according to the apostle Paul, brings us INTO Christ (Galatians 3:27 and the truth is also repeated in what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:13). Human opinions may be interesting. But inspired facts are much better bed fellows. Yes, those to be baptized must be believers. But they are not yet Christians. Sinners are raised up INTO new life. After being buried in baptismal waters.

  28. Royce Ogle says:

    Ray, Is God obligated to save everyone we baptize? If not why not?

  29. Ray Downen says:

    I hope Jay will notice the questions "Anonymous" wants answered. And I was also asked a question by Royce which I feel should be directed to Jay since this is HIS blog, not mine. God is under no obligation to do anything I ask Him to do or expect Him to do. We do not baptize in order to tell God what to do. We baptize because JESUS said to do so, and we love and respect Him as God's unique Son. Why else would we perform a baptism? Was it OUR idea? No, it was the command of JESUS. Let's not continue thinking we have a choice in whether or not to obey Jesus. Well, we do have a choice. But the wrong choice will cost us! We should do whatever Jesus tells us to do. And if we trust Him we'll not be asking lots of questions. Especially instead of obeying!

  30. Tom Forrester says:

    A man humbled by his sin hears the good news of Jesus Christ and believes. He’s pricked in the heart and greatly desires to be united with the Savior. He’s baptized calling upon the name of the Lord. He begins his journey of becoming Christlike. At what point was he saved? Who cares!!! Praise God for this precious gift (and it’s okay to leave some of the logistics to God).

  31. Ray Downen says:

    Jay wrote: The Bible repeatedly says that EVERYONE with faith is saved.

    (John 3:18 ESV) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

    It hardly matters that the scriptural writers don’t say “faith only” or “faith alone” when they write this plainly.

    (1 John 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

    “Everyone” means everyone. (And, yes, I’ll be getting to James.) So in some verses, God promises salvation to all with faith. In other verses (not nearly as many), God promises salvation to all with faith who are baptized.

    Yet Jesus points out that the new birth is “of water and spirit.” For us to decide it’s by faith alone is to rewrite what Jesus reveals and deny the truth that HE spoke. One clear statement also denies the addition of “alone” to all the faith promises. That’s in 2 Thess. 1:6-10. There Paul speaksto the possibility that some will speak correct words but will not practice godly ways which lead to salvation. Those who do not “obey the gospel” will be lost. Had they obeyed prior to being baptized into Christ? Obviously not. Romans 6 makes clear we must die to sin before we can be raised into new life through baptism. Peter describes this as repenting and being baptized. In Galatians 3, Paul tells how sinner can “clothe themselves with Christ.” It’s not by faith alone. Scripture piled upon scripture cannot make us saved by faith alone. How futile the attempt.

  32. Ray Downen says:

    A brother affirms that it’s the Spirit who saves us all, and all are saved just like the apostles were on Pentecost. Really? This would assume the apostles received the same baptism which Peter invited sinners to accept. But the facts clearly dispute that theory. It was so rare as to be only the second time in recorded history when God sent the same baptismal experience upon Gentiles likely at least ten years later. But were the apostles baptized, or were these Gentiles baptized in the Spirit to SAVE them? No indeed. It was to EMPOWER the apostles. It was to ENABLE the Gentiles. The baptisms Jesus performed (in the Spirit) were not at all for salvation. The baptism people performed was for salvation, per instructions to that effect from the Lord. I wonder why some are so eager to suppose Jesus didn’t know what He was doing when He instructed that those who teach others about Him should BAPTIZE them. If we accept that the teaching is important, why do some want to think that the baptizing is not?

  33. Anonymous says:

    If a COC preacher won’t baptize me, will I be lost until I can find a COC preacher who will? If water is present and the only person nearby is a Satan worshiper should I get the Satan worshiper to water baptize me?

    If the water pipes broke and the baptistery is empty, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell?

    How are Abraham and David saved by the blood of Christ when they were not baptized by a COC preacher?

    How is Timothy, his mother and grandmother all saved by the same faith when they weren’t all baptized by a COC preacher?

  34. Ray Downen says:

    Todd Collier reminds: The issue has never actually been whether or not obedience was required but what role obedience played in the life of the believer. They reject baptism as a means of salvation not because they reject baptism itself (in fact most require baptism as a step in the discipleship process) but because they believe that no ritual observance purchases grace for us. It is not a rejection of the act, it is a rejection of the theological overemphasis of the act.

    RAY: How is it possible to overemphasize obeying what Jesus requires? I hope not to be disagreeable, but those who insist we’re saved prior to baptism are disputing with the Lord Jesus and His apostles. Yes, our message should be about JESUS rather than about any obedience required. It’s when the question is asked, “What must we do?” that faith-only folks forsake revealed truth and substitute other acts which they think are more appropriate than the inspired, “Repent and be baptized.” I think we should empasize giving the inspired answer!

  35. Anonymous says:

    Why not get the Satan worshiper to baptize me if I need to be baptized or else be condemned? Will I be lost until I find a true Christian to baptize me? What if the person I get to baptize me isn’t really a Christian but is a wolf in sheeps clothing?

    And please answer the other questions:

    If a COC’er won’t baptize me, will I be lost until I can find a true Christian who will?

    If the water pipes broke and the baptistery is empty, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell?

    How are Abraham and David saved by the blood of Christ when they were not baptized by a COC preacher?

    How is Timothy, his mother and grandmother all saved by the same faith when they weren’t all baptized by a COC preacher?

  36. Bruce Morton says:

    Anyone want to hear Leonard Allen’s, Richard Hughes’, and Michael Weed’s simple conclusion regarding baptism?:

    “When we are immersed into Christ we are buried with him, crucified with him, raised with him, and live with him (Rom. 6:4-8).” The Worldly Church, 2nd ed (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 1992): 77-8.

    Let me also share that Everett Ferguson’s new Baptism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 2009) provides clarity as well by means of a thorough look at the first five centuries. It leaves no question regarding what the apostles taught and how aberrations in early teaching developed. I hope we avoid similar aberrations in the years ahead.

    Baptism is not separate from the Gospel or a distraction from the Gospel, it is the Gospel acted out in our lives! The action of God’s grace washing away sins as we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection. Wonderful!

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  37. Todd Collier says:

    Ray:

    I was raised in the CoC. We over emphasize baptism to the extent that we make it the center point of our teaching and ever so slightly (or not so slightly at all) suggest that it is the pinnacle of the process. We need to emphasize everything we have been taught by Jesus, not just baptism. And very truthfully we don't.

    As Jay has pointed out our zeal to get this right has caused us to miss the mark on other things we also need to get right.

    We can also over emphasize something we are commanded to do if we somehow achieve the viewpoint that if we have received baptism we have achieved all and that is all we need to worry about.

    In these two ways it is indeed possible to over emphasize a command.

    I need air, food and water. If I over emphasize one to the exclusion of the others I will still die or at least be less than healthy. If I find balance among these three I will thrive.

  38. Royce Ogle says:

    We (coc) have lost out way in regard to the ideals of those earliest Restorationists who believed everyone who made a confession of Christ as Lord and whose life was pious was their brothers and sisters.

    Jay is right on the money and agrees with these founders. http://gracedigest.com/2008/09/30/from-the-mouths

  39. Ray Downen says:

    Terry has done well to respond to questions from "anonymous."

    Todd repents of having in the past over-emphasized baptism in the "process" of entering Christ's kingdom. Good for Todd. We should not over-emphasize. Neither should we pretend that baptism is not the "pinnacle" of conversion. Just as the actual birth is the pinnacle of having a baby, baptism is the time for coming out, for declaring publicly that a change has taken place inside the sinner.

    Jesus put it there. We didn't. The entire process of a sinner hearing the gospel and responding to it in faith was designed by Jesus, not by us. Our call is simply to obey. To do what our Lord says we should do. Does He call for us to preach baptism? He does not. Does He call for us to preach Jesus. He does.

    Then we should preach Jesus, shouldn't we? Not faith. Not even repentance. It's JESUS we should preach. But we then need to invite folks to join Jesus by believing in Him and obeying the gospel. So we need to then instruct in REPENTANCE and BAPTISM sufficiently that the person realizes that obeying Jesus calls for repentance and baptism. If that's an over-emphasis, so be it. We should not overemphasize any one truth at the expense of other truths.

    But until we reach Heaven, we're apt to remain here on earth where folks are not perfect. We should learn from and emulate those we see as the "best" teachers of truth, keeping in mind always that ultimate truth is revealed in the inspired Word. A probable reason some may have indeed been guilty of overemphasizing baptism is because so many who should be teaching and practicing it are not doing so. We try to keep things level and balanced.

  40. Terry says:

    I’ll try to answer anonymous’ questions…

    1. The person doing the baptizing does not invalidate one’s baptism. Your baptism is an appeal to God and a pledge to God to live a new life (1 Peter 3:21). It marks the end of your life without Christ and the beginning of your life of following Christ (Romans 6). The person doing the baptizing may be a complete fraud, but your faith and repentance can be absolutely sincere and effective.

    2. You can be rejected by a Church of Christ and still be a Christian. Sometimes church leaders have been known to reject those who have been accepted by God (see 3 John 10).

    3. While I firmly believe that repentant believers in Jesus Christ need to be baptized as soon as possible (Acts 2:38; 16:33), I don’t really worry about those who may die on the way to the water. I think the principle that God “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17) would apply. In context, as I see it, God called Abraham “the father of many nations” before he had become a father (thus recognizing obedience in Abraham that had not happened yet). God can see our willingness to obey. He knows that the man or woman who died on the way to the water was going to the water in order to obey because of his or her faith in Christ.

    4. Abraham and David were not told to be baptized. Before John the Baptist appeared, no one in the biblical narrative was required to be baptized. After John started telling people that they needed to be baptized, those who refused “rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him” (Luke 7:30). Today, since Christ has given the great commission, we need to be baptized.

    5. I don’t know who baptized Timothy, his mother, or his grandmother. As I pointed out in my first answer, the person doing the baptizing cannot invalidate the baptism.

  41. Alan says:

    I think we've watered down what "faith" means to the point that it no longer means much of anything. Here's a pretty good summation of what it means to have faith:

    Rev 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.
    Rev 2:11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

    He says "Be faithful even to the point of death." That's ?????? , the same word translated as believe or faith in other places. Being faithful involves both our belief and our actions. A debate about faith vs works completely misses that point.
    Paul was on "death row" when he wrote 2 Timothy. He wrote:

    2Ti 2:11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him;
    2Ti 2:12 if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us;
    2Ti 2:13 if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

    Not long after he wrote that, he had the opportunity to testify for his life in front of the Roman authorities. And when he wrote the above, he knew that day was coming. He would have to say either "Jesus is Lord", or "Caesar is Lord." One answer would be faithful, and the other faithless.

    2Ti 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.
    2Ti 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
    2Ti 4:8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

    That pretty much sums up what it means to have faith in Jesus. And it destroys arguments about whether we are saved by faith or works.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Why not get the Satan worshiper to baptize me if I need to be baptized or else be condemned? Will I be lost until I find a true Christian to baptize me? What if the person I get to baptize me isn’t really a Christian but is a wolf in sheeps clothing?

    1. The person doing the baptizing does not invalidate one’s baptism. Your baptism is an appeal to God and a pledge to God to live a new life (1 Peter 3:21). It marks the end of your life without Christ and the beginning of your life of following Christ (Romans 6). The person doing the baptizing may be a complete fraud, but your faith and repentance can be absolutely sincere and effective.

    I don’t like to use many paraphrased books especially the NIV since much has been taken out and added to many passages.

    1 Peter 3:21 “There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

    You left out that baptism doesn’t remove the filth of the flesh. Filth of the flesh was an expression of sin people used, Ezra 6:21 “Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel.” Baptism does not save us from our sins, baptism saves as the answer of a good conscience toward God, we can be baptized with a clear conscience toward God. Hebrews 9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” The believer being baptized already has a good conscience from which they answer to God, His blood has already cleansed them.

    If a COC’er won’t baptize me, will I be lost until I can find a true Christian who will? If the water pipes broke and the baptistery is empty, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell?

    2. You can be rejected by a Church of Christ and still be a Christian. Sometimes church leaders have been known to reject those who have been accepted by God (see 3 John 10).
    3. While I firmly believe that repentant believers in Jesus Christ need to be baptized as soon as possible (Acts 2:38; 16:33), I don’t really worry about those who may die on the way to the water. I think the principle that God “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17) would apply. In context, as I see it, God called Abraham “the father of many nations” before he had become a father (thus recognizing obedience in Abraham that had not happened yet). God can see our willingness to obey. He knows that the man or woman who died on the way to the water was going to the water in order to obey because of his or her faith in Christ.

    The COC denomination teaches that there are many methods of salvation. There is only one method of salvation, since the beginning throughout all time, that is by grace through faith. The COC denomination try to avoid their dilemma by making up a baptism “the baptism of desire“….how pathetic!!

    Acts 2:38 The people were feeling convicted by Peter’s speech, they were starting to wonder if they really had crucified the Christ. In the midst of their conviction the people asked Peter what they should do.

    Peter told the people to repent before they were to be baptized.

    There is more joy in heaven over a sinner who repents.

    Luke 15:7 “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
    Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    Why is all that joy going on in heaven, I don’t believe heaven rejoices when someone is lost.

    It was after repentance they were baptized for the forgiveness they had already received. Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

    The fact that God sees everyone’s heart is a very important fact, legalist have a hard time grasping this fact. People are not saved performing works of the law, we cannot keep the law perfectly. People are saved upon their faith trusting in God alone, we are saved through faith apart from works. Acts 10:44-45 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” Acts 15:8-9 “So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” Romans 3:28 “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.” Galatians 3:11 “But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”

    How are Abraham and David saved by the blood of Christ when they were not baptized by a COC preacher? How is Timothy, his mother and grandmother all saved by the same faith when they weren’t all baptized by a COC preacher?

    4. Abraham and David were not told to be baptized. Before John the Baptist appeared, no one in the biblical narrative was required to be baptized. After John started telling people that they needed to be baptized, those who refused “rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him” (Luke 7:30). Today, since Christ has given the great commission, we need to be baptized.
    5. I don’t know who baptized Timothy, his mother, or his grandmother. As I pointed out in my first answer, the person doing the baptizing cannot invalidate the baptism.

    The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God, Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.”

    The Pharisees and lawyers didn’t believe Jesus is the Messiah, people who don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah don’t want to have anything to do with Him. John 10:24-27 “Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”

    You said Abraham, David, and Timothy’s grandmother (not just a grandmother that was still around) were not told to be baptized, however you did not say how they are saved. Romans 4:2 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” The righteous works Abraham performed did justified him that he was seen to others as a great man of God, though the works he did could not justify him before God. The Hebrew Scripture saints were saved the same as we are saved, Isaiah 45:22 “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” We are all saved the same, Ephesians 2:8-10 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

  43. Jay Guin says:

    Anon,

    Good questions.

    Must someone be baptized by a saved person? Obviously, not. If that were true, I’d have to know whether my baptizer was baptized by a saved person — and on and on back to the apostles.

    Why do you suppose some conclude that a CoC member is required for a baptism to take? (Preacher’s don’t say this, but member hear this.) Well, it’s because we sometimes presume that the convert has the same understanding as the person doing the baptizing — so only a “sound” preacher can effect a good baptism.

    I once asserted in an Internet forum that many outside the CoC were baptized for remission of sins. A preacher argued that he had often had people ask to place membership claiming to have been baptized for remission of sins — but when he called the preacher who immersed them, he discovered that they weren’t. I suggested that the intent of the convert matters — not the intent of the immerser — and no one knows better what intent the convert had than the convert. The other fellow disappeared from the forum for a while.

    So sometimes we so denominationalize our teaching that only one of “ours” can effect a good baptism. And yet we struggle to raise funds for missions! We can actually be very proud of our sectarianism — and very reluctant to consider any teaching that might allow those outside our tribe to be saved. It’s a wicked attitude.

    Bruce has asked whether I believe Satan is alive and leading people away from the Lord today. Yes, I do.

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