The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 6.1 (Summary of Arguments Made in the Comments)

Guy asked,

But where’s the bottom? At what point is it not a baptism at all? If there’s no bottom, then no one really needs baptized at all. Because if everything’s a baptism to some degree, then nothing is.

It’s a legitimate question, but not a question that I create. After all, the Churches of Christ have wrestled with and divided over exactly this issue for over 100 years: Where is the bottom? No one gets to escape the question.

And it’s easy to show that most people’s answer is subjective — “You must at least understand that it’s for remission of sins but you don’t have to understand that it’s for receipt of the Holy Spirit” — that sort of artificiality fills the discussion.

My answer is found in (among other places) —

(John 1:31-34 ESV) 1 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Notice John the Baptist’s explicit contrast between baptism in water and baptism in Spirit — and he is quoting God. Jesus came to bring baptism with the Holy Spirit. Of course, in the normal case, baptism with the Spirit and baptism with water correspond in time. Hence, Paul can speak of there being but “one baptism.”

But in the case of the apostles at Pentecost and Cornelius, the Spirit was received separate from water, and thus was “baptism with the Spirit” only. But, quite plainly, God reveals to us that he is capable of baptizing with the Spirit separate from water when it suits his purposes.

The test of salvation Paul gives us in Rom 8:9-11 is whether we are indwelt by the Spirit. It fits. Just so, John says,

(1Jo 4:13 ESV) 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

I think the scriptures teach that the botttom is the Spirit. Either you are baptized with the Spirit or you are not. The evidence of this is normally water baptism following a profession of faith, but the scriptures offer multiple exceptions. God is not bound to that rule — and he has made that abundantly clear.

Guy also asks,

But c’mon, biblically baptism is not in the same boat as IM or order of worship. Surely you could acknowledge that a person with a “hard” stance on baptism is not in precisely the same category as a person with a “hard” stance on instrumental music. The biblical treatment of the two topics just aren’t the same.

I agree. As I said in Part 1.5, those insisting on an entirely correct baptism can go down either of two paths. Either they can argue that baptism is essential because it’s a matter of obedience or they can argue that it’s an absolute condition. Arguing that it’s a matter of obedience is, in my view, heresy because the same arguments compels perfect obedience to all commands and thus damns us all. It’s the Galatian heresy.

But arguing that baptism is an absolute condition — like faith — is not nearly as flawed an argument. When readers argue from obedience, the instrumental music response is accurate. They are simply repeating the errors of the 20th Century Churches of Christ and repeating the same flawed reasoning — a flawed way of thinking that has led to countless divisions and misery.

But if you argue from the baptism passages that baptism is an absolute condition, like faith, then we can have a serious discussion about the deep things of God, such as —

* If God reckoned Abraham’s faith as righteousnss, without baptism, why doesn’t the same hold true today — for someone who misunderstands the Bible’s teachings on baptism?

* Why is faith an absolute condition? Is it an arbitrary law God made? Or is there a deep reason why we must believe in Jesus to be approved by God? And is that underlying reason the same reason God chose baptism as his initiatory rite?

* As Alexander Campbell argued, was there no one saved from Constantine until Campbell? I mean, even the Anabaptists often had a Zwinglian understanding of baptism, and many baptized by pouring. It seems hard to imagine that the Gates of Hell prevailed for 1,500 years.

* And there’s a careful consideration of the work of the Spirit to be had. Why is it that Church of Christ members and preachers constantly look to writers outside the Churches of Christ for deeper, richer insights into the scriptures? If we have the Spirit and they don’t, how can they be our teachers? Does 1 Corinthians 2 teach that the Spirit is required to understand spiritual things?

* And then there’s the “where’s the bottom?” problem. If baptism is an absolute condition, what are the minimum requirements? What does the believer have to understand is happening? What words must be said? What confession is sufficient? What about emergency situations? You see, when it gets down to the emergency situation — the person whose health won’t permit a baptism — just as the author of the Didache concluded, you do the best you can do under the circumstances and figure God’s not going to deny someone salvation over baptism if they have a genuine faith and truly want to obey God’s command but are held back by reasons beyond their control. And in such a case, we find ourselves fully expecting God to baptize with the Spirit without water — because God keeps his promises.

I’ve explored most of these thought in the comments. While the “absolute condition” argument isn’t heretical, I think it ultimately fails when we peer very deeply into the scriptures. But it takes some serious peering.

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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32 Responses to The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 6.1 (Summary of Arguments Made in the Comments)

  1. Guy says:

    Jay,

    Abraham and the Jews had circumcision, and God plainly stated that people who weren't circumcised were to be "cut off from his people." i suppose by "absolute condition," you mean also to refer to timelessness? i don't know what that feature is required.

    i don't think faith is arbitrary. But neither do i think baptism is either. Didn't you say you'd read K.C. Moser? He covers that very point repeatedly–that the CoC has historically treated baptism as though it's arbitrarily required. But it's not arbitrary–that's why it's a big deal to insist that it's required.

    i've seen more than one book document groups of people that immersed adults in water for forgiveness of sins at least since the dark ages. So first, to assume that no one was out there doing it because we don't hear about it much is to assume that we're exposed to an accurate and exhaustive record of history. History as an enterprise doesn't work that way–not even when you're talking about reading up on something that happened yesterday.

    Second, so what if there was only a handful of people who were saved at a certain time? Does God owe it to us to keep some bare minimum number at any given time even if it means He has to fudge His standards in order to keep the quota we've assigned Him?

    I mean, what about Genesis 6-9? There were several million people on the planet at that time and God destroyed all but 8. Couldn't we just as easily throw the same fit? "Are you telling me for that entire period of time, there were only 8 people that were okay with God and who weren't the recipients of His wrath?!?!?!" Yes. That's what i'm telling you because that's what it says. So do you think Hell was prevailing against God during that period of time? That God was failing? That His purposes were thwarted? That the devil was winning?

    –Guy

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    Paul addresses the circumcision argument directly in Romans.

    (Rom 4:9-13 ESV) 9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. 13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

    Paul points out that salvation by faith was given to Abraham before the covenant of circumcision, and therefore circumcision is not timeless. But justification by faith is timeless because it’s a promise given to “Abraham and his offspring” (v. 13).

    (Rom 4:16-17 ESV) 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

    The result is that salvation is given to “the one who shares the faith of Abraham” — a genuine, submissive faith.

  3. Guy says:

    Jay,

    i never said circumcision or baptism was timeless. But God did say circumcision was necessary for Abraham and for Jews. Was God just kidding when He said the “cut off from his people” line? Sounds like an absolute line to me.

    Abraham didn’t have faith *in Jesus.* If “the one who shares the faith of Abraham” means that anyone anywhere is okay as long as they have something similar to what Abraham had, then faith *in Jesus* is not an absolute condition either. (which at the very least makes Christ a liar)

    –Guy

  4. Johnny says:

    f you're trying to compare circumcision to baptism, then only MALES are to be baptized…

    Abraham did have faith in Christ….John 8:56 says," Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad."

  5. Pastor Mike says:

    What of these characters who had neither baptism or circumcision? Would there be a suggestion here that it is not requisit for God's endorsement to have received either sacramental act?
    Hebrews 11:1-7
    11 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. ?2? This is what the ancients were commended for.
    ?3? By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
    ?4? By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
    ?5? By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. ?6? And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
    ?7? By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

  6. K. Rex Butts says:

    Woe be if someone were to be martyred for confessing the name of Jesus on their way to baptism…according to a friend of mine from the continent of Africa, that actually happened and it seems that according to some, such a person has no promise of hope.

    Some want to use baptism to separate the weeds from the wheat, by citing examples where Paul engaged in such practice regarding those who were trying to rely on the law for salvation or where John engaged in such practice regarding those who denied that Jesus Christ had come in the flesh. What those wanting to separate weeds from wheat seem to forget is that they are not the Apostle Paul or John and no where do either of these Apostles make such specific judgment regarding the issue of baptism.

    What is interesting about that is that when one reads the Didache (an early Christian document generally dated to the late 1st century) one finds that the mode/practice of baptism had changed a bit. In most cases, baptism was a tri-partate immersion (3-dips) in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. However, in the event of someone being ill, baptism was the pouring of water over their head. Heresy? If the form of baptism was that central to the issue of salvation, why did the Apostle John not speak about it in his three epistles (documents dating to the late 1st century)? Why did John not condemn such practice (assuming he was aware of it)?

    I am not suggesting that the CoC changes its mode/form for practicing baptism nor am I suggesting that baptism is not an important biblical practice. However, is it just possible that we have made the practice of baptism in relation to salvation a bigger issue than it actually is?

    Just thinking out loud,

    Rex

  7. Anne says:

    So we completely disavow baptism as essential in salvation to address a few anomalies? God is more than able to decide those cases without our help.

  8. Pastor Mike says:

    I think baptism is the normal and natural thing for Christians and it should be pursued. I question whether it is legitimate to say it is essential. Can the taking of the sacrament of communion/The Lord's Supper be said to be essential for salvation?

  9. Pastor Mike says:

    Jesus did say to do it (take the bread and cup)

  10. Aaron says:

    Anne,

    By insisting on the essentiality of baptism as we teach and understand it, and treating those who disagree (with us and our understanding) as damned, we've "decided" those cases without any help from God. That's the problem. And that is what we've done.

  11. abasnar says:

    What is interesting about that is that when one reads the Didache (an early Christian document generally dated to the late 1st century) one finds that the mode/practice of baptism had changed a bit. In most cases, baptism was a tri-partate immersion (3-dips) in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. However, in the event of someone being ill, baptism was the pouring of water over their head.

    Who says that the mode had changed in these few years adter the apostles? Where in the NT is any detailed description of baptism that could be compared to the Didache?

    Triple immersion is the norm whenever baptism is described in a little more detail in the Ante-Nicene church. And this is still the mode in the Eastern Orthodox churches (even though they apply it to infants).

    I would assume the churches of Christ are – most likely – not completely restored, yet.

    And that's why we cannot make salvation dependent of a perfect understanding or mode of baptism. Then most of us would be damned, to be honest.

    But we cannot proof-text away the necessity of baptism by faith-verses. Even pointing to saints in the OT is really out of place!

    I agree with Jay when he criticizes the theology that requires a perfect understanding of baptism in order to be a valid baptism. But in is effort to prove this wrong he goes to a differerent extreme by proof-texting taht faith alone saves; making it sound (or seem) that baptism is not essential after all.

    Alexander

  12. Pastor Mike says:

    Alexander,

    I like what you say; "we cannot proof-text away the necessity of baptism by faith-verses." I agree with you. Is there a possibility that there is element of proof-texting the necessity of baptism by baptism-verses?

    Pastor Mike

  13. Guy says:

    Pastor Mike,

    i don't think circumcision was sacramental. And i'm pretty sure that circumcision was not a part of the covenant to which the people you mention were held.

    –Guy

  14. Guy says:

    Johnny,

    To say that object A and B are similar is not the same as nor does it imply that object A and B share *all* the same properties.

    "if you're comparing circumcision to baptism, then baptism must have something to do with foreskins."

    it doesn't follow.

    –Guy

  15. Guy says:

    Rex,

    (1a) In Matthew 13 where Jesus used the parable of the weeds and wheat you keep referring to, Jesus states that the "field" is the world, not the church. No one here that i know about is talking about trying to remove the "weeds" from the world.

    (1b) Do you believe that an atheist is saved? Do you believe someone that openly worships Satan is saved? Do you believe you are obligated to treat those two people as your brothers in Christ? If not, then by acknowledging that they are not your brothers, but need the gospel, are you guilty of trying to "separate weeds from wheat"? Jesus said, "Do not throw your pearls before swine." If i'm supposed to obey Jesus, then someone has to decide who the pigs are. i'm not saying the people relevant to our current questions are "swine;" i'm saying that i don't see that simply asking the question "who is in Christ?" and wanting a clear answer so i know who my family is–i don't see how i've done anything sinful or ungodly there.

    (2a) Just because something happened in the late first century does not necessarily mean that the apostles or NT writers were yet aware of it.

    (2b) It may very well be the case that some things were taught against in the first century, but such teaching wasn't written down or was lost. The fact is, since we don't have a record, we don't know either way. We don't know that they condemned, we don't know that they approved. If you can point to textual silence and make such a knowledge claim, then why can't a conservative do the same thing about instrumental music?

    –Guy

  16. Pastor Mike says:

    Guy,
    I take baptism as both a means and a sign, but your point is well taken. I shall have to ponder the means aspect more as it may or may not pertain to circumcision.

  17. K. Rex Butts says:

    Alexander,

    I am certainly not interested in trying to diminish the importance and necessity of baptism…baptism is part of the response I teach to all who come to believe in Jesus. I was only referencing the Didache because of its historical proximation to the writings of John's Epistles to suggest that even though baptism is necessary and important, that the CoC's may have historically made it more important than it is in relation to salvation.

    I think Pastor Mike has a good point and question when he asks "I like what you say; 'we cannot proof-text away the necessity of baptism by faith-verses.' I agree with you. Is there a possibility that there is element of proof-texting the necessity of baptism by baptism-verses?"

    ——————-

    Guy,

    Again, you are missing the point of why I keep refering to the parable of the weeds. Though I believe the Kingdom of God is bigger than the church, the church is part of the Kingdom of God (or K. of Heaven as in the Gospel of Matthew).

    You keep missing the point and turning what I have said into something that I am not saying. Great Ad Hominem strategy except that such strategy gets us nowhere.

    I am not articulating a universalistic salvation. I am saying that in the 21st century – the century we live in and not the first century – the understanding of what biblical baptism is has become very confused over many years. How people arrive at their conclusions as to what the Bible teaches about baptism is not as simple as simply picking up the Bible and reading it. This interpretive process involves many hermenuetical assumptions that a person may or may not be aware of, even for the Restorationist.

    Therefore on this issue (not an issue such as the Lordship of Jesus, or the Divine nature of God, etc…) we ought to adhere to Jesus warning and that means teach what we believe scripture teaches about baptism but do so without using that teaching to decide who is our fellow Christian and who is not.

    Many in the CoC object to this, justifying their role as judge by citing other examples in scripture where people were judged for other issues. Still, no where in scripture is there any negative judgment made against someone over the issue of baptism so for someone in the 21st century to make such a judgment, it requires them to do so based on an "interpretative leap" leap that *could* be wrong. And I know all the modern logic that used to make such leaps…I hope those who make such leaps are never wrong because I would much rather face God in judgment having accepted as a fellow Christian someone that turn out not to be one rather than excluding someone that God actually has accepted.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  18. Arland says:

    Jay-
    We can wonder and speculate about many things including an imperfect baptism, what ever that is, but we can only know that which has been revealed.
    The bottom line is being born of both water and the Spirit. There is one baptism but two elements; one birth, two elements.
    Cornelius and the Samaritans are not normative. They are special circumstances and neither was complete until both elements were completed.
    Acts 2: 38, 39 is normative. We know that because it was to the Jews and their children and to all those that were far off.
    Who can be baptized? (!) A person must believe in God (the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and that He rewards those that seek Him. (motivation). We must believe that God, in love, gave Jesus His Son who is the One and that in love Jesus died for our sins, was buried and rose again and thenreturned to the Father. The person should understand that they need to repent and be baptized for the forgivenss of sins and that they will receive the Holy Spirit.
    Yes, salvation is by faith but it is a mature or perfected faith, not mere faith. Obedience of faith, repentance and baptism are necessary to complete faith, so that it becomes a saving faith. When mere faith is combined with love it is motivated to obey. We say that salvation is by grace through faith which obeys in love.
    The order in making disciples is baptism (implying all the above) then teaching to observe all that has been commanded. We don;t teach all things first,
    Arland
    ,

  19. K. Rex Butts says:

    Guy,

    Last comment for me on this subject…

    Respectfully, you are still missing what I am saying in what seems to be an effort to make me say something I am not saying. I know you do not mean anything malicious by this.

    All I am saying is that I believe the CoC's need to excercise humilty with the doctrine of baptism and not use it as a means to exclude those who differ on the understanding of baptism from Christian fellowship. Teach baptism…yes! Use Baptism as a means of judgment…No!

    There are a number of issues in which the CoC's (and other church groups) believe are quite biblical but are never used as a catalyst to judge and condemn those who confess the name of Jesus and strive to live as a disciple of Jesus. I believe the CoC would be much healthier as a fellowship if baptism was not used for such (arrogant?) judgment. I believe that we can refrain from using baptism as a means of judgment without diminishing its importance and necessity.

    So all I am calling for is humility with regards to the doctrine of baptism rather than the arrogant – "we got all the essentials of baptism figured out and therefore any confessing believer of Jesus who believes/practices baptism differently than us is no Christian at all" – judgment that has dominated our fellowship in regards to baptism and other Christians outside the CoCs.

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  20. abasnar says:

    To Pastor Mike and Rex

    Is there a possibility that there is element of proof-texting the necessity of baptism by baptism-verses?

    Of course there is! You can proof-text anything, but that's a wrong approach.

    You have to take all the Scriptures teach about salvation. You cannot treat a single verse as if it contained the whole truth. For instance Mark 16:16 says those who believe and are baptized will be saved. And that's true, isn't it? But is it all that can be said about salvation? What about this: Heb 12:14 says we must strive for peace and holiness if we want to see the Lord. And that's true as well. But does it say anything about faith or baptism? Not really. Or Rom 3:28 speaks only about faith. And this verse in itself is 100% true. But it does not teach the whole truth about salvation.

    If we proof-text we put verses in conflict with each other. So many Protestants have a hard time "reconciling" Rom 3:28 with Heb 12:14 or with James 2:24. Which is not necessary at all, as soon as you grasp that you cannot built sound teaching on a selection of proof texts. There is not one verse in the New Testament that can be used as a complete statement on salvation. Not even John 3:16 (Say "Hi!" to Max Lucado from me)

    If anything comes near a complete teaching on salvation it would be Romans chapters 2 through 8. But we must not divide it up, must not take out a few verses that we see as a summary. In all these seven chapters there is not one verse that sums up the gospel. You have to read and understand the whole thing. There you will find the place of the Law, the Grace of God, Faith, Baptism and livong holy lives. There you will see the harmony between Mark 16:16, Rom 3:28 and Heb 12:14.

    I am repetitive, but it is so imoportant: Proof-texting treats the verses of the Bibel as if they were a complete statement of the faith. But each verse is just like a piece in a jig-saw puzzle. Only if you put all verses together you will see the whole picture.

    I am very picky on that, I know, but I come from that corner, as I said, and so I read this discussion with different eyes.

    Alexander

  21. Pastor Mike says:

    About being Sacramental –

    Sacrament: n A rite believed to be a means of or visible form of grace, (Dictionary.com)

    In that circumcision was an outward sign of a covenant relationship with God, a relationship dependent upon God’s grace, it would seem to sacramental in nature.

  22. Rich W says:

    Pastor Mike said,

    I think baptism is the normal and natural thing for Christians and it should be pursued. I question whether it is legitimate to say it is essential. Can the taking of the sacrament of communion/The Lord’s Supper be said to be essential for salvation?

    There are several scriptures that associate baptism with saving us, forgiveness of sins, beginning of a new life and the like. I don’t see such an explicit connection with other important items like The Lord’s Supper, giving to the poor, etc. That’s why the issue of baptism is so critical.

  23. Guy says:

    Pastor Mike,

    i can see the visible form definition there. But i guess i’ve never heard that definition used when, say, a baptist was objecting to a “sacramental” view of baptism. i don’t think of being necessary and being sacramental as being the same thing, though something could be both. i take sacramental more in the “means of conveying grace” definition–that the event infuses you with saving benefits you didn’t possess prior to that event. Do you really think circumcision did that for Jews? i always thought of circumcision as being more of the mere “mark” that many evangelicals treat baptism to be.

    –Guy

  24. paul says:

    Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God;
    (Romans 14:10 ESV)

    Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
    (Romans 14:13 ESV)

    Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
    (Colossians 2:16-17 ESV)

    The substance belongs to Christ ! The substance is not found in nit-picky questions and over magnified disputes over certain particulars not specifically made plain by scripture, is it? No, the substance belongs to Christ; if our personal relationship is not right with Jesus (God) then no amount of "rightness" in doctrine (C of C doctrine) and ritual (five acts of worship etc) can ever make us saved or get us to Heaven.

    If someone is not a "Church of Christ-er", does that make them not a Christian? Far too many in the C of C would say that "someone" is not a Christian and is going to Hell because: a) They have their singing accompanied by a musical instrument; b) they don't teach Baptism the "correct" way; c) their building has a different name on the sign board, etc.

    Jesus did NOT teach that His disciples would be verified based on such things, did He ! So why do we Judge in the manner of the Pharisees ? The Pharisees and their ways were condemned by God Himself (Jesus) !

    John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward. "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.
    (Mark 9:38-42 ESV)

  25. Pastor Mike says:

    As to what is essential, if we are not careful, we can create quite a list. Given the somewhat dogmatic approach some seem inclined to take, I propose that this might be a good place to start.

    ?8? He has showed you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
    To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God.
    The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Mic 6:8). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

    Just a thought.

  26. Anne says:

    Yes Alexander, that is my contention with some things I have read on this site, we must look at the whole not dissect a passage until it becomes unrecognizable.

    And Rex "I believe the CoC would be much healthier as a fellowship if baptism was not used for such (arrogant?) judgment. I believe that we can refrain from using baptism as a means of judgment without diminishing its importance and necessity." etc.
    My problem is that I can't see how it can be done without diminishing its importance. And is it really arrogant judgment when your basis is the word of God? Is that saying that "we are the only ones right?" well if you are basing your conviction on the word of God –yes! Does that mean we should be mean and ugly to people –no! I find no reference to sprinkling, no reference to the "sinner's prayer", no reference to being baptized and saved later, no reference to infant baptism in scripture, not that it is an "imperfect baptism" but that it is not mentioned in scripture and I really do not see that as arrogant, but the result of studying God's word. And I know some people currently and in the past have not been too tactful in their teaching, but that doesn't mean the teaching is wrong just because the teacher is bad.
    If we believe that baptism is obedience to God, that we come into contact with the blood of Christ in that baptism that washes us clean, are we to essentially downplay that importance because we do not want to appear to be judgmental?

  27. Guy says:

    Rex,

    (1) i agree there are a number of hermeneutical moves needed to make conclusions about baptism. But seems to me the same is true of the Lordship of Christ or the details about God’s nature. They may differ in degree, but not in kind. Just because a greater number of people may agree on these issues, or because fewer hermeneutical assumptions were needed, that doesn’t mean the process of getting to those conclusion wasn’t the same.

    (2) No, no one was warned in scripture about teaching incorrectly about baptism. But neither was anyone in scripture warned for adhering to adoptionism or arianism or other Christological heresies. The issues hadn’t arisen yet. We don’t know how the apostles/NT would’ve responded to various alterations made to baptismal practice. For all you know they would’ve condemned it. For all i know they wouldn’t have. i can only take what they *did* say about baptism and go from there.

    (3) Where exactly did Jesus warn us to “teach what we believe scripture teaches about baptism but do so without using that teaching to decide who is our fellow Christian and who is not”? Can you cite this?

    Just consider for a moment:

    (a) i believe that X is true.
    (b) If X is true, then Y must also be true.
    (c) i will not believe or behave as though Y is true.

    Rex, c’mon. That’s crazy. (a) and (c) are not consistent. If you choose (c), then you don’t really believe X. You’re saying it’s wrong for a person to accept the consequences of their beliefs?

    –Guy

  28. Jay Guin says:

    Johnny,

    Paul actually made that comparison —

    (Col 2:11-12 ESV) 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    But it's a comparison. They aren't the same thing. But clearly Paul says baptism supplants circumcision. We can actually go a little deeper when we remember that the Jews were looking forward to the day God himself would circumcise the heart — and we realize that the Spirit (normally received at baptism) accomplishes that. http://oneinjesus.info/2010/01/the-fork-in-the-ro

    I think Paul's highly compressed thought is that circumcision of the heart by God replaces physical circumcision, based on Deu 30:6, and that circumcision of the heart is accomplished by the Spirit (Rom 2:29), which happens at baptism. Therefore, baptism replaces circumcision.

  29. Jay Guin says:

    Anne,

    Exactly. God is more than able and will take care of cases where someone with a genuine, submissive faith in Jesus fails to be correctly baptized. He doesn't need anyone's help — certainly not mine. My place is to recognize that God's character is such that he will do it.

  30. Nancy says:

    Anne,

    You wrote that you find no reference to sprinkling in scriptures. You might want to read in Leviticus where God himself instituted a cleansing ceremony that did in fact include sprinkling. The same ceremony that our Lord instructed the leper to observe after He had cleansed the man. The Lord did the cleansing not the ceremony. As for infants being baptized, it may be that the "households" that were baptized (Cornelius' for example) included infants and/or young children. It's not reasonable to exclude the possibility.

  31. Pastor Mike says:

    For me – the last word on this –

    One day, we will all stand before the Fatjer. When it becomes appropriate, He will share with us what He really meant. And all of us will be pleased and embarrassed. We will all be surprised by who is there, and who isn't. I look forward to meeting you all there, if not before.

    Pastor Mike

  32. Anonymous says:

    When Licinius ruled the eastern half of the Roman Empire, it was his intent to eliminate Christianity. Licinius said the army had to be rid of the undesirables: the followers of Jesus Christ and issued an edict that all soldiers had to bow down to the pagan gods. Those who would not bow to the gods of Rome would be made to suffer cruel death. Thus it was unacceptable in 320 when the Legio XII Fulminata: the “Thundering Legion” in the Armenian town of Sebaste was found to have forty Christians who would not pay homage to the Roman gods.

    Furious with their contempt, the judge sent by Licinius sentenced the forty Christians to death. It was winter with a bitter cold wind blowing. The forty Christians were to be stripped naked, and made to stand throughout the night on a frozen pond, left to the elements, the exposure would no doubt kill them. To tempt them, fires were built on shore, with warm baths, blankets, clothing, and hot food and drink, anyone who agreed to bow down to the Roman gods could leave the surface of the pond and come to the shore where they could warm their bones.

    One of the centurions who had been obedient to the gods of Rome, Sempronius, stood guard on the shore and watched the forty Christians stand shivering in the midst of their torture as they were singing and crying out to God joyfully.

    "Oh Lord, forty have come forth to fight for Thee. Grant that forty may gain the victory!"

    One of the forty soldiers standing on the pond gave into the temptation awaiting on the shore, and left the group. The Christians still continued to sing and pray aloud to God.

    Sempronius, watching those who were determined to stay true to their Lord even unto death, stripped off his clothes, ran to frozen pool to stand with the thirty-nine while yelling out that he is a believer confessing Christ. Sempronius then joined with the thirty-nine other Christians stood naked on the frozen pool.

    By dawn, forty Christians, their number unbroken, died giving glory of God. Among them was Sempronius, who had willingly become a believer and died a believer. Most of the forty Christians had frozen to death during the night. Some were barely alive, but immobile. The bodies of all, were gathered up to be burned.

    The COC denomination's stance is that Sempronius’ faith couldn’t save him. The COC denomination must declare by their theology, that Sempronius a man who had faith went to hell when he died… Sempronius was never baptized, he only had faith!

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