“Muscle & Shovel”: Chapters 1, 2 & 3

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. As I’ve said before, Shank has an obvious talent for story telling, and it’s a nicely told tale.

The story begins with the author as a nominal Christian. He grew up in a Baptist Church, and although he’d said the “sinner’s prayer,” he’d never truly committed himself to Jesus. Nonetheless, he considered himself saved.

As the story proceeds, he ultimately converts and joins a Church of Christ and finds a new dedication and level of commitment. And each chapter describes his discussions with others about Christianity and the superiority of the (conservative or mainline) Church of Christ point of view over the views of “the denominations.”

Definitions and grammar

A couple of notes on my vocabulary.

First, I’m going to break the grammatical rule on starting sentences with a capital letter, fully aware that this would have cost me a letter grade in Ms. Brittain’s sixth grade class, for reasons that should become clear.

“Church of Christ” or “Churches of Christ” means the Yellow Pages Churches of Christ, a product of the American Restoration Movement or Stone-Campbell Movement. Many congregations prefer to use “church of Christ,” violating elementary rules of grammar to claim not to be a denomination, but I use the capital “C” because Ms. Brittain insisted that proper nouns should be capitalized.

I prefer the plural because the Bible uses “church” to refer to individual congregations and to the church-universal, but not to any other subset of the church-universal. That is, a denomination should not be called a “church.” (The Baptist Church is no church at all, but a collection of Baptist churches.) It’s not a big deal until we start trying to apply scriptural texts to our present reality. Then it becomes very important to use Bible words in Bible ways, or else we get just all kinds of confused.

“church of Christ” means the church universal, that is, all saved people everywhere of whatever congregational affiliation, and it’s not the same thing as Church of Christ, which I consider a subset of the church of Christ. This is the nearly universal meaning of that phrase in standard English usage. On a good day, even a member of the conservative Churches of Christ will admit that there are saved people not in the Churches of Christ (although they may intend to include only those few independent churches theoretically in existence that teach and practice identically to the conservative Churches of Christ with no knowledge of their history or institutions).

“denomination” means a denomination in the conventional, conversational sense of the word, that is, according to Google –

a recognized autonomous branch of the Christian Church

Dictionary.com says –

a religious group, usually including many local churches, often larger than a sect

Collins English Dictionary says,

a group having a distinctive interpretation of a religious faith and usually its own organization

That’s us. We even have a listing in the Handbook of Denominations, to which we contributed information! And which Church of Christ is listed in the Yellow Pages under anything other than “Church of Christ” and not “Nondenominational.” We quack, walk, and swim like a denomination, and we are one.

The Churches of Christ often disdain being referred to a denomination (I really never have understood why), and so they sometimes define “denomination” as a religious organization that lacks congregational autonomy, assuming the Churches of Christ to be uniquely autonomous, which is not even close to true. Other times, “denomination” is defined as “a subset of the entire church,” whereas the Churches of Christ consider themselves to be the entire church (implying, of course, that everyone else is damned).

I think it’s both scripturally and factually wrong (bad theology), not to mention offensive, to claim to be the only ones going to heaven — and therefore I refuse to call non-Church of Christ denominations “the denominations” as though the Churches of Christ are not a denomination. Rather, as I learned in the sixth grade, I try to use words as the dictionary defines them or else tell my readers that I’m using a word in a special way.

“conservative Churches of Christ” means those Churches of Christ that consider issues such as instrumental music in worship to be salvation issues.

“progressive Churches of Christ” means the other Churches of Christ.

I’m not thrilled with either term. Both sets of churches are “conservative” in the normal theological use of the word in that they both accept the Bible as inspired by God, believe in the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, believe the miracles of the Bible to have happened, etc. But I can’t find better words.

Just so, in some other contexts, “progressive” can refer to all sorts of crazy beliefs, and so it’s a word with some unfortunate associations. But I just can’t find a better word. “Liberal” is simply false because in church-jargon, “liberal” generally describes someone not conservative, and by that definition, the progressives are conservative, not “liberal.” So it’s a little confusing, and so I’m very open to serious suggestions that show proper respect and love.

Chapter 1

Chapter 1 serves as an introduction, describing the scene of his and his wife’s baptism at a Church of Christ, preparing the reader for the story of how he came to that decision.

How in the world did a young, white, small-town, materialistic, ambitious, partying, not too religious but members of a big denomination married couple get the top of these steps?

You’re about to find out.

Just consider yourself forewarned. It’s a crazy story… and entirely true.

(Kindle Locations 339-346).

Before we proceed to the next chapter, it’s important to realize that all denominations have “materialistic, ambitious, partying, not too religious” members. The Churches of Christ sure do.

I have a good friend who grew up Methodist. His wife insisted that they attend her congregation, and over time, he went from being a very nominal Christian to a very convicted Christian. In fact, he considers himself to have been lost while a Methodist. He found penitence and true commitment to Jesus at his wife’s Baptist Church.

There are plenty of Church of Christ members who grew up with a nominal commitment to Jesus who found the real Jesus and real commitment, and even salvation, at a community church, Baptist Church, or other non-Church of Christ.

It’s important that we not read this, or any, book with the assumption that everyone outside the Churches of Christ has a nominal or even false commitment to Jesus. That would be plainly false, and if you doubt me, get out and meet some people who aren’t members of your own congregation.

I certainly think Shank speaks the truth about himself. I’m sure that his conversion truly changed him. In fact, I doubt that I’ll question any of the events that he describes. I’m confident that he’s an honest man. My disagreements will be with his understanding of the Bible.

Chapter 2 

In chapter 2, Shank describes meeting a “young, African-American man” with “a natural confidence and an award winning smile that could set an executioner at ease.” There was something different about him. And he gave Shank some doughnuts.

Two hot Krispy Kremes trumped a Shell station bear-claw any day of the week and the sugar rush made me totally forget the red-neck salute flung at me earlier that morning. But what did Randall mean, “I might even have something better for you a little later?” We’d just met. We didn’t know each other.

I hadn’t yet developed any latent skepticism of humanity, nor did I possess any suspicions about the possibility of ulterior motives, so I went about the day.

However, Randall had an ulterior motive.

(Kindle Locations 489-495).

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 describes Randall’s initiating a series of spiritual conversations with Shank. Evidently, Randall had memorized his Bible from the King James Version, because Shank always quotes from the KJV.

(I find this odd, because the KJV uses language from 400 years ago, poor Greek manuscripts, and is difficult for many readers to understand. There are some elements in the Churches of Christ that continue to insist on the KJV, but most have moved on long ago to more modern, more readable, more accurate translations, such as the ESV (the NIV remains popular in many progressive circles). I used to read King James-ese pretty well, having grown up on it, but I’m decades out of practice and now find it annoying to have to translate a translation from Jacobean English to contemporary English just to understand the flow of Shank’s narrative. Oh, well.)

Randall soon asks Shank how he was saved. Shank explains that he said the Sinner’s Prayer and then, some time later, was baptized as “an outward show of an inward change.” Randall replied,

“Mr. Mike, saying the Sinner’s Prayer is not obeying the gospel of Christ. Secondly, no one in the Bible has ever been saved in that way.”

(Kindle Locations 599-601). Now, I’m no fan of the Sinner’s Prayer myself. In fact, many Baptists are starting to question the legitimacy of the practice. But I couldn’t help but notice the complete absence of any reference to “faith in Jesus” or even “Jesus.” The discussion about Shank’s salvation turned entirely on the Sinner’s Prayer vs. baptism, not whether Shank had faith or had repented.

Every gospel sermon in Acts is about Jesus, not baptism. Baptism may be mentioned (as in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost recorded in Acts 2), but it’s never the focus or center of the discussion. If Shank was in fact not saved, he needed to be taught about Jesus, his Savior. Or, at least, you’d think Randall would have asked about his relationship with Jesus long before he got around to asking about baptism. Isn’t the Great Confession about Jesus and not baptism? Aren’t we to make disciples of Jesus, not baptism? Didn’t Paul preach Jesus and the cross?

(1Co 1:17-18 ESV) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

(1Co 1:21-24 ESV)  21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

I do not at all object to Randall teaching baptism, but only after he teaches Jesus and the cross. True gospel preaching is about Jesus. Remember, Shank characterizes himself as not committed to Jesus — as “materialistic, ambitious, partying, not too religious.” And yet the path to salvation is evidently fear of hell (Randall had read Shank a passage threatening hell to the lost) and a good baptism. Maybe we’ll get to Jesus in a later chapter.

Moreover, Randall equates “obey the gospel” with “baptism,” which is a very suspect bit of theology.

(Rom 10:16-17 ESV)  16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

In Romans 10, Paul uses “obey the gospel” to mean to believe the gospel. The other two uses, 2 Thess 1:8 and 1 Pet 4:17, do not define the phrase, but neither is used in the context of baptism.

To equate “obey the gospel” with water baptism is sheer presumption. It’s just not the biblical meaning of the phrase.

This gets dangerously close to being saved by faith in baptism, rather than faith in Jesus (who is surely going to turn up at some point in the book).

Read the sermons in Acts. Note the subjects of them. Then compare to this kind of conversion teaching. You’ll find that the apostles preached Jesus. In Ephesians 19, Paul asked a group of believers whether they’d received the Spirit. Baptism is often the result of their preaching, but never is baptism their starting point, because the apostles understood that the gospel is the gospel of Jesus, as Messiah, not the gospel of baptism.

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80 Responses to “Muscle & Shovel”: Chapters 1, 2 & 3

  1. Price says:

    Progressive seems to be opposed by Retro…not Conservative… :)

    Is 2 Thess 1:8 not put into context by verse 10 ? [2Th 1:10 ESV] 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

  2. “Our” standard description of obeying the gospel is to Believe, Repent, and Be Baptized. In Scripture, when belief or faith and repentance are mentioned together, repentance always comes before faith, which is a good indication that the faith/belief/believing involved is not equivalent to acknowledging that God is without also having the conviction that He rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6). True faith involves “seeking” God. Unless we are seeking Him through him who said, “I am the way…” and without whom there is no other way to God, we do not really believe in the Biblical sense.

  3. Jeff says:

    Please provide the passage Randall used “threatening hell to the lost…” (Not all of us have a copy of the book as yet) I’m hoping Jesus finds His way into the narrative at some point as well.

  4. Monty says:

    Belief in Jesus as the Son of God is the catalyst for the outward actions of “confessing with the mouth”, and “calling on HIs name”(which I believe is closely associated with baptism) and the hearers in the church that Paul addresses in Romans 10(as in Ch. 6, a whole chapter) would have understood what Paul meant(as for us moderns, years of teaching that separates the union of believing and being baptized as a package deal for salvation – not so much).

  5. I really appreciate Jay trying to establish and clarify terms, as much of the sturm und drang in the argument over “denominations” or “the church” comes from conflation of biblical terms and the shifting use of said terms within a discussion. I have a dollar that says the very idea that Jay would set this debate aside will leave more than a few folks dusting their feet off. But this cannot be avoided, else the discussion will never leave the starting block.

    I would note that Randall starts out with a correction (one that contains a thinly-veiled condemnation) based on as-yet unexplained religious jargon. “Well, that’s not right, because it doesn’t mumblypeg the dovetailed divot, and the Bible says it doesn’t work.” Apparently, the “good news” to a Baptist starts with, “You’re wrong about being saved and the Bible says you’re still going to hell.” It’s stated with a little more subtlety, but not much more.

    I would also note that “the Bible” makes its appearance in this message before Jesus does. I expect it to continue to see this order of pre-eminence throughout, but I will wait to see.

    Staying tuned.

  6. Monty says:

    We aren’t supposed to have faith in baptism, any more so, than we are to have faith in our believing. Yet both are required for salvation.Someone asks, “Why are you saved?” The response given is “because I believe in Jesus”. Wrong! Technically that is. As I think Jay would say, “That isn’t the gospel.” You are saved because of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. That is the gospel. Our believing and our being baptized upon our belief, is our response to that Gospel. We all might know those who when asked, “why are you saved?” They would say, “because I have been baptized into Christ.” Technically it’s wrong to say that. But we know what they mean, don’t we? Shouldn’t we afford them the same grace we would afford the guy who says because he believes in Jesus. Of course save for those who really do actually trust in their act of believing or their act of being baptized, either one as some sort of meritorious work.

  7. Yet when baptism or belief in Jesus as God’s Son is taught as the way to salvation without reference to His death, resurrection and kingship can we rightly call that “obeying the gospel”?

  8. Grace says:

    Many folks have reduced Christianity to a bunch of rules, do this and don’t do that. We don’t have faith to merit our salvation, our faith is in what Jesus did for us on the cross. Faith is us knowing Jesus, that He is our Lord and Savior. We understanding who Jesus is and what He did for us. Faith is receiving the grace of God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we trust in what He did for us! We do what He says out of our love for Him because He first loved us.

  9. R.J. says:

    I thought you said he was of the non-institutional persuasion?

  10. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty wrote,

    Shouldn’t we afford them the same grace we would afford the guy who says because he believes in Jesus.

    You make a lot of sense, but if I’m talking to someone who is a materialist, party animal, as Shank describes his former self, my first question should not be “tell me about your baptism.” It should be more about his relationship with Jesus. (Randall will later deny that it’s even possible to have a “relationship” with Jesus. You see, “relationship” is not found in the Bible.)

    Moreover, even if I choose to lead with the baptism question, I should still quickly get to the real heart of Christianity — Jesus Christ. But I’m to chapter 8, and Shank and Randall haven’t gotten there yet.

    If Christianity is about becoming like Jesus, if salvation is about being saved by Jesus, if baptism is baptism into Jesus, you’d think that by page 148, they’d be talking about Jesus — maybe a little.

    It might be different if Randall were trying to “convert” a deeply religious, fully convicted Baptist who has a great relationship with Jesus and their only disagreement is over baptismal theology. But we’re talking about the conversion of someone who has not submitted to Jesus as Lord.

  11. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Jeff,

    It’s 2 Thess 1:6-10.

    (2Th 2:6-10 ESV) (2Th 1:6-10 ESV) 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

    Seems to damn those without faith (v. 10), making “do not obey the gospel” a failure to believe.

  12. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price,

    Thanks. You’re quite right. I just figured that out when I quoted the verse for Jeff. Great minds … and you beat me to it.

  13. hist0ryguy says:

    Jay, Jeff, Price,
    From my experience with those to my right (which are really conservative), they generally take the “do not obey the gospel” in 2 Thess. 1:6-10 (or any time in Scripture) as referring specifically to baptism. But the context (topic and audience) does not support that conclusion, part of which Jay noted.

  14. Royce says:

    A person can obey a command to be baptized. But, the good news is not about baptism, it’s about the person and work of Jesus. The biggest problem in our fellowship is that far to many people don’t know what Christ accomplished for ungodly sinners. The result of this ignorance is that men create their own righteousness when Christ alone is the righteousness they desperately need. Legalism is a symptom of ignorance and unbelief.

  15. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jay,

    You said: “Moreover, Randall equates “obey the gospel” with “baptism,” which is a very suspect bit of theology.”

    I don’t think that “obeying the gospel” equates solely to “baptism,” but I do think that baptism is primarily in view. I think most would agree that the facts of the Gospel are Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (I Cor 15:1-11). Most would also agree that we must “obey the Gospel” and that the consequence of “not obeying the Gospel” results in a sad-face day (Rom 10:16, 2 Thess 1:8, I Pet 4:17). How do we obey a set of facts…i.e. Christ’s DBR? I believe that Rom 6:1-23 provides the best answer in context.

    As you well know, Paul devotes a lot of time to the DBR of Christ and the associated implications in Rom 6. In verses 1-4, he discusses how baptism mirrors Christ’s DBR. Verses 5-11 discuss the implications of baptism wrt sin, enslavement, and freedom. Consequently, according to verses 12-23, Christians should not allow sin to reign over us and dominate our lives now that we have been saved. Verse 17 (NKJV) states, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” IMO, this verse is closely related to the term “obey the Gospel.” “Form” is from the Greek word tupos, meaning an imprint, a form, a pattern. NIV11 renders the verse, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.” I think it is important that verse 17 contrasts our previous enslavement to sin with our obedience to a form or pattern of teaching. In context, this “pattern of teaching” is predominantly baptism. A few verses earlier, in v6, Paul states “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”

  16. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Kevin wrote,

    I don’t think that “obeying the gospel” equates solely to “baptism,” but I do think that baptism is primarily in view.

    As I demonstrated in the above post, those verses speak in terms of having faith. See also my comment http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapters-1-2/#comment-46441 re 2 Thes 1:6-10. (I really should have modified the main post to include that point, and I apologize for not doing so. It’s important.)

    To obey the gospel is to believe in Jesus. The context is clear.

    (2Th 1:6-10 ESV) 6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

    Notice the plain contrast between those who “do not obey the gospel” in v. 8 with those “who have believed” in v. 10. That’s the contrast that defines the concept.

    Just so, in Romans –

    (Rom 10:15-17 ESV) 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

    Again, Paul plainly contrasts “not all obeyed the gospel” in v. 16 with “who has believed” and “faith comes” in vv. 16-17.

    Because “obey the gospel” has been so often been preached as “be baptized” in the Churches of Christ, we hear it in the words, but that is not Paul’s usage. Moreover, neither does “obey the gospel” mean “the Five-Step Plan of Salvation.” It’s faith — that comes by hearing.

    Now, this seems harmless enough to Church of Christ ears, until someone declares others damned because they’ve not “obeyed the gospel” in just the right way — even though they have a genuine faith in Jesus.

    Because “faith” includes “faithfulness,” clearly a new convert will submit to baptism as he is taught. Why not? And if he’s taught imperfectly, sin has occurred — but the sin is the sin of the evangelist, not the convert. The convert is innocent and remains faithful because he can only submit to baptism as well as he’d been taught.

    Does that mean that faith is optional if it’s not taught? No — because we can’t obey the gospel except with faith in Jesus. Definitions matter.

  17. Much of our difficulty in grasping this is that since the advent of infant baptism, baptism and faith have been divorced, in practice if not in theory. While those who baptize infants recognize there must be a connect between the two, they speak of the “faith and practice of the church” or depend on the pledge of the parents to bring the infant being baptized to faith. Others deny the need for baptism by a peculiar view of simply “asking Jesus into your heart.”

    In Galatians 3:26-27, Paul linked faith and baptism by saying, “…we are children of God by faith for [in the sense of because - Gk. gar] as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Thus, obeying the gospel by having faith in Jesus would include, not only baptism, but also putting on the likeness of Jesus. This, of course, is only by the Spirit He gives us because we are sons of God by faith (see Galatians 4:6).

  18. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jay,
    I understand your point wrt “obeying the gospel” equating to “believing in Jesus,” but I just don’t fully agree with it. While I concur that the context of 2 Thess 1:6-10 is clear, I think it is a bit of a stretch to limit “obey the gospel” to “belief in Jesus.” As you well know, the Greek word for believe in this passage is pisteuō, which Mounce defines as: to believe, give credit to; intrans. to believe, have a mental persuasion; to believe, be of opinion; to believe in or on; absol. to believe, be a believer; trans. to intrust, commit to the charge or power of; pass. to be intrusted with; to believe; convince; entrust; trust.

    You indicated in another post that Bible writers sometimes used a figure of speech called a synecdoche, and I believe that is exactly what Paul is doing in this passage. In my opinion, Paul is using “believe” to represent the entirety of one’s conversion experience (a part for the whole). This would not be the first time that Bible writers utilized this figure of speech relative to this word. Acts 19:2 states, “And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.””

    In this passage, Luke quotes Paul using “believe” as a synecdoche. Of this passage Coffman writes: “When ye believed … This cannot mean, as suggested by Trenchard, that Paul expected that they had received the Spirit, merely upon their having believed; but, as Plumptre said, the meaning is this: ‘Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? that is, did you receive the Holy Spirit upon your conversion and baptism? We are left to conjecture what prompted the question.’
    Plumptre is correct in seeing “believed” in this verse as a synecdoche for the whole process of conversion: faith, repentance and baptism.”

    IMO, Paul’s synecdoche in verse 2 is evident in the following verse, Acts 19:3: “And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”” Paul seems to be somewhat baffled at the disciples’ response. Consequently, he seeks clarification concerning the disciples’ baptism because baptism is a part (not the whole) of the conversion process.

  19. Royce says:

    Jay is right. There isn’t one reference (in context) in the New Testament where “obey the gospel” means anything other than “belief”. As for reception of the Spirit? How about Peter’s own words in Acts 10:47 “47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit JUST AS WE HAVE?” Then in the next chapter he further explains. ” If then God gave THE SAME GIFT to them as he gave to us WHEN WE BELIEVED in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” Acts 11:17. “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit JUST AS HE DID TO US, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts BY FAITH.”Acts 15:7b-9. How much more clear could he say it? How about this from Paul? ” In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” Ephesians 1:13 And to the Galatians he said it this way. ” Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” Galatians 3:2

    Why not just believe what the Bible says clearly rather than trying to find something in a text that is fuzzy or maybe not even there? Salvation is by grace though faith in Christ, and those who put their faith in Christ receive the life of Jesus which is eternal, the seal of God’s promise to complete the transaction at the resurrection and save the whole person, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is an odd thing that so many people desperately cling to “part” of what Peter said in Acts 2 and simply ignore what he said in Acts 10, 11, and 15.

  20. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Kevin,

    Synecdoche is a real figure of speech sometimes found in scripture, but we can’t argue synecdoche just to fit the passages into our theology. Context is key, and there is nothing at all in 1 Thes 1:6-10 or Rom 10:16 that hints that baptism is in mind other than a desire to fit a theory into the text.

    And I disagree with Coffman regarding Acts 19. It’s absurd to imagine that the Ephesian disciples would have heard “baptism” in “when you believed”! I mean, these people didn’t even know that the Messiah John promised had come as Jesus of Nazareth! It’s inconceivable that they had such a sophisticated baptismal theology that they’d hear “baptism” in “believe.” But neither was Paul making a Baptist theological claim. He was just trying to inquire as to their conversion and faith — and this was just the first question. Obviously, he also asked them about their baptisms for a reason.

    (Act 19:3 ESV) 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”

    He assumed that they’d been baptized, and he was right. This is because he knew that the normative practice was for faith, baptism, and receipt of the Spirit to go together, nearly simultaneously. And he surely would have been astonished at the ink spilt on what would happen if someone was run over by a chariot on the way to the local Roman baths to be immersed because of their faith. He didn’t answer the question because it never occurred to him that it could possibly matter.

    But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

  21. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Royce,
    You are wrong about many things. First, I am not desperately clinging to anything (assuming that I am one of those “so many people” to which you refer). I am merely searching for the truth, challenging my thinking, and challenging the thinking of others. Second, I am not ignoring Acts 10, 11, and 15. On the contrary, I have actually devoted a lot of time to these particular chapters. Third, you assume that the Bible “clearly” teaches your position. That’s convenient. Perhaps I should just trust your word for it since it is so very clear. Of course, the logical conclusion is that those who cannot mentally grasp “clear” Bible teaching are either ignorant or, perhaps, “desperately clinging” to a false concept and willfully ignoring the truth. Right? Have you ever criticized another’s position and their equally vocal use of “clear Bible teaching?” Conservative churches of Christ writers or preachers perhaps? They are not immune from doing this as well. If these topics were “clear” as you erroneously suggest, we wouldn’t be having this dialogue and Jay would have to find another outlet for his time. Maybe he likes to fish; I do.

    As to your substantive comments…maybe “obey the gospel” does mean “belief.” But, what does belief mean in this passage? I have stated what I think it means…a synecdoche in which belief stands for the entire conversion process. Show me where I am wrong.

    You quote Acts 10:47: “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit JUST AS WE HAVE?” Emphasis yours.
    Then you quote Acts 11:17: “If then God gave THE SAME GIFT to them as he gave to us WHEN WE BELIEVED in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” Emphasis yours.
    Next you quote Acts 15:7b-9: “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit JUST AS HE DID TO US, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts BY FAITH.” Emphasis yours.
    Finally, you ask, “How much more clear could he say it?”
    Okay. What exactly is your point? In answer to your question, I say that Peter is very clear. I totally get it. But, your point is not clear. What is your argument? I can only speculate based on your use of ALL CAPS. I THINK that your argument is that Cornelius received the spirit in the same manner and circumstances as did Peter and the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, and that Cornelius received the Holy Spirit by faith. If so, I believe your position is incorrect.

    My understanding of Cornelius’ conversion is that the Holy Spirit fell on him and his household before he was saved, yea before he had even heard the Gospel. Here is the timeline of the conversion: Peter receives a vision, Peter doubts the vision’s meaning, Spirit tells Peter to go, Peter is greeted by the unclean Gentile, Spirit falls on Cornelius, Peter is then convinced that Gospel is for the Gentiles, Peter preaches Gospel, Cornelius is saved.

    Let’s look at what we know:
    1) We know that Cornelius was lost – Acts 11: 13-14
    2) We know Peter was to meet Cornelius and to ‘tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” – Acts 11:13-14
    3) We know that the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius as Peter began to speak – Acts 11:15
    Consequently, if Cornelius was saved when the Holy Spirit fell on him, then he was saved before he heard the very words whereby he might be saved. Acts 10:44 states the general timeframe that the HS fell on Cornelius…sometime during Peter’s message. All we can glean from 10:44 is that sometime between Peter’s message from 10:34 to 10:43, the HS fell on Cornelius. We are not sure when. However, Acts 11:15 is very specific…”as Peter began to speak”…i.e. a reference to 10:34, the beginning of the message. Both verses address the timeing of the HS, but one passage provides a broad, uncertain timing (10:34-43), while the other (11:15) is very specific. The Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius before he was saved. If Cornelius was saved when the Holy Spirit fell on him, then he was saved before he heard the Gospel and developed faith.

    The Spirit was not for Cornelius’ benefit. It was meant as divine proof to a bunch of deeply prejudiced Jews that the Gospel was for the Gentiles (Acts 10:28). Even after Peter’s vision of unclean animals (Gentiles) and hearing the voice of Christ, Peter was still perplexed (Acts 10:17). It took the HS falling on Cornelius to convince Peter that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Peter subsequently preaches the Gospel, and Cornelius is baptized.

  22. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jay,
    I concur that we can’t argue synecdoche just to fit the passages into our theology. We also can’t remove synecdoche just to fit passages into our theology. I also don’t think we can properly define “obey the Gospel” without seriously considering Rom 6, and to me, this chapter is crucial to understanding the phrase. IMO, “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine” is the exact same thing as “obeying the Gospel.” Does that mean that both phrases refer to baptism alone? No. I think they have the entire conversion process in view.

  23. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Kevin,

    For centuries people have argued these passages by cramming their theology into the words — talking past each other. And everyone here knows the arguments backwards and forwards. And both sides make the same mistake.

    The real insight you offered was to suggest that we should work through the faith-not-works analysis of Paul — and I agree. That gets us past circular arguments and forces us to consider the same questions Paul was asking.

    Rather than showing that this or the other text might fit a theory, ask what makes baptism different from circumcision in light of Paul ‘s arguments.

  24. Alabama John says:

    Before going down in the water in baptism we today ask do you believe Jesus is the son of God or do you believe in Jesus and wait for the yes answer?
    We always require the belief or faith before baptism.

    To answer the question above, as my grandchildren have brought out, the differences is baptism is for both men and women as circumcision was not and the second big difference is baptism does not hurt physically but circumcision sure did and bled a lot. Third difference is baptism you come up happy and ready to celebrate and circumcision you are very sore and walk funny for several days.

  25. Grace says:

    Amen Royce! Those pesky Gentiles don’t fit in their theology so they try to say they were exceptions to the rules.

    Jay and some others in the CofC camp want to say that God gives grace to those of us who have “imperfect baptisms or flawed baptisms” as Jay likes to put it in so many of his posts. They say God’s grace is normally given when people act obedient to be baptized, that people have to act in obedience to earn His forgiveness. In Acts 15:8-11 Peter was proclaiming before the council that the Gentiles were the norm. Some in the CofC camp try to get around it saying God’s grace is given when people act obedient to be baptized, that is except for the exceptions He makes giving forgiveness to all who have faith.

    God knows our heart and our faith, He knows the heart of our faith. Circumcision didn’t earn salvation nor did all the bulls and goats that were sacrificed, they were a symbol for the true forgiveness of sins that was to come through the Messiah. All the sacrifices and washings were to point them to the sacrifice of Christ just as baptism points us back to the sacrifice of Christ. The good works we do point to the One who came to save us. We have all failed the commandments of God, Moses who was given the law failed and wasn’t allowed to take God’s people into the promised land, would you say that Moses isn’t saved through Christ’s sacrifice? God is not an angry mean God throwing orders down to us to see how well our efforts hold up, He has long-suffered all that people have done in our failings from Adam and Eve who He covered with the animal skin right after they sinned against Him, and Abraham who tried in his own efforts to have the child God promised, to David who God called him a man after God’s own heart, who committed adultery and killed a man. Would you say that they aren’t saved through Christ’s sacrifice? God has wanted to be with us since the beginning, even when we complain and fail in our efforts. Jesus came not to condemn us in our sins but to save us so we can be with Him eternally. The King of kings was willing to come to earth to give His life to be with us forever, He is also willing to meet us right where we are to forgive us.

    Psalm 34:18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart. And He saves those who are broken in spirit.

  26. Alabama John says:

    Kevin,

    we all have heard this practically all our lives as Jay said. In the end, opinions have not changed much and does it really matter? After a while arguing this, is it possible that all the time spent going round and round can become a sin itself?

    I appreciate your service to our country. The situation for so many is different as it is in the Marines. I remember the well taught and practiced Marines belief in being able to Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome and that thinking applies to this since the circumstances of time, place and situation varies a lot for those wanting to obey.

    God will consider on judgment day how you tried to overcome rather than did you do it any particular way good enough.

    Semper Fi

  27. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Grace wrote,

    They [including Jay] say God’s grace is normally given when people act obedient to be baptized, that people have to act in obedience to earn His forgiveness.

    Grace,

    That is not my position and never had been. Please don’t put words in my mouth. Straw man arguments do not help the discussion. And you should notice how very closely your statement agrees with much of what Kevin just posted — which I just agreed with.

    Otherwise what you say is obviously true and not in dispute here, to my knowledge, by any party to this discussion. You cannot simply assume that baptism is work. You may be right, but if you are right, you sure haven’t explained why. Tell us why baptism is a work — based on the NT scriptures — not assumption. That would be a very helpful addition to the discussion. How does Paul define “work”?

    And if baptism is a work, how do we reconcile that conclusion with the obvious fact that the NT church baptized their converts and often associates baptism with salvation and receipt of the Spirit?

    Those are the real questions. No one disputes that we are saved by grace, not works, and that we are utterly without hope but for the sacrifice of Jesus.

  28. laymond says:

    Why not consider what Jesus said about baptism ?

    Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
    NLT
    But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
    NIV
    Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

    Jhn 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

    This sounds a lot like what happens at baptism. John describes Jesus baptism in this way. Jesus was first baptized with water, then the spirit of God was poured upon him. Or it came upon him from heaven, and it seemed God was pleased with the way things happened. Jay I doubt you will post this comment , but if you bother to read it, I have done my part.

  29. laymond says:

    Jay asked, “Rather than showing that this or the other text might fit a theory, ask what makes baptism different from circumcision in light of Paul ‘s arguments.”

    Baptism is spiritual with no change to the body, circumcision is physical with no change to the spirit.

  30. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    You are not addressing the question asked. If you’ve construed John 3:5 correctly, then why isn’t baptism a work? Moreover, how is therefore a part of “faith” when we’ve been told so many times that faith is sufficient to save?

    I know the arguments. Everyone here does. How do you reconcile the arguments with the major theme of Romans and Galatians that we are saved by faith and not works?

  31. Grace says:

    Not everyone who reads the whole context of Jesus speaking to Nicodemus about born of water and the Spirit believes He is saying born of baptism in water and the Spirit. Such as, I see Jesus saying to Nicodemus he must be born again of the Spirit by the context of their conversation. Jesus answered Nicodemus in John 3:5 in accordance to the Jewish teachings that to be born physically Jewish they have the kingdom’s inheritance. Nicodemus couldn’t see being born again after the first birth of the womb, Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus about being born again in John 3:6-8 is what the new birth (second birth) is. Jesus was saying a second birth is being born again of the Spirit.

    John 3:6-8 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.

    And all who see it different are going to say they are right and those who disagree with them are wrong and so on and so on.

  32. laymond says:

    Jay, I believe James hit the nail on the head when he said, paraphrase; A living faith is a faith that in acted upon. if it is not acted upon it is a dead faith, If you have a true faith in what Jesus said and a desire to be with him in heaven, seems to me anyway we would live in faith that faith and obey the gospel. Seems to me anyway that the first words of the gospel were quoted in Mat 3:15.

  33. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    Matt 3:15 –

    (Mat 3:15 NET) 15 So Jesus replied to him, “Let it happen now, for it is right for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John yielded to him.

    Is this the first words of the gospel? Well, not really. The gospel — “good news” — goes back to at least Isaiah and the covenant goes back to Genesis. But I get your point. It starts with God/Jesus being righteous.

    The question is: what does it mean to “fulfill all righteousness”? And most commentaries are out of date on this issue. NT Wright, and others, have pointed out that the use of “righteousness” in the Prophets (and Romans etc.) is a reference to God’s covenant faithfulness. Jesus is thus declaring that he must be baptized to be faithful to God’s covenant with (most likely) Abraham. (We mess up by trying to define “righteousness” of God without regard to the OT background.)

    Not entirely obvious, I would agree, as to how faithfulness to God’s covenant requires Jesus to be immersed by John. But –

    (1Jo 5:6-11 NET) 6 Jesus Christ is the one who came by water and blood– not by the water only, but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify, 8 the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three are in agreement. 9 If we accept the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, because this is the testimony of God that he has testified concerning his Son. 10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has testified concerning his Son.) 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

    In his baptism, Jesus is declared the “Son” of God — a clear allusion to Psalm 2 among other passages speaking of the Messiah to come.

    His receipt of the Spirit further fulfills Isa. 61:1 ff, which Jesus read at the beginning of his ministry, as recorded in Luke — and foreshadows the outpouring the Spirit promised by the prophets when the Kingdom appears.

    We so focus on the immersion that we ignore the rest of the passage. The prophets say nothing about an immersed Messiah, but say quite a lot about God honoring his covenants due to his righteousness, the coming Spirit, and the Son of God/Messiah. So we must major in the majors. We can’t just skip straight to the water. It’s not irrelevant, but it must be interpreted in light of the Prophets.

    Indeed, the baptism of Jesus by John is recorded in all four Gospels, and yet Luke says nothing of water baptism and Mark only speaks of water baptism in a passage that is likely not part of the original Gospel (Mark 16:16). So the baptismal element — foreshadowing Christian baptism — while doubtlessly true, is not the emphasis or central point of the account.

    The (true) story is not about water baptism, except incidentally. It’s about Jesus. Who is the truest beginning of the Gospel. We call it “the baptism of Jesus,” but John seems to think it’s really “God’s testimony about Jesus.” Do you see the difference?

    To quote my old math teacher, sometimes understanding is about “holding your tongue right.” And you can’t even begin to discuss baptism helpfully until Jesus becomes the center and focus of the discussion. Not just what we say but how we think. It’s about a certain mindset. And it’s only when our mindset is to FIRST AND FOREMOST preach Jesus and therefore not baptism, that we can get baptism.

    (Sorry. I’ve gone to preaching. I’ll move this to a post, where it should have been in the first place.)

  34. Royce says:

    Kevin, This is not the first time I have seen someone say Cornelius and his house were not saved when the Spirit fell on them and that the reception of the HS was only a sign to the Jews. The problem is the text doesn’t say, or even hint of any such thing. Notice, God was very intentional about Peter taking the good news to the Gentiles. In Acts 15 as Peter made his defense for baptizing Gentiles he said this, (I will not use any caps since that bothers you so much. I am font challenged, no italics available here..) “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith”. So, first is the fact that God decided that the Gentiles should both hear the gospel and believe the gospel as Peter preached it. Then Peter went on to say, “11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

    The only “sign” given to the Jews that the Gentiles would also hear the gospel and believe was not the coming of the Spirit on Cornelius and his folks, it was the vision of the sheet let down. This vision was precisely the reason Peter went in the first place and he told that story in Acts 11:4-10 as he defended going to the Gentiles to the church leaders at Jerusalem. Now, here is the most positive proof the theory that the coming of the Spirit was the sign of inclusion is fiction. Acts 11:7-12 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ 10 This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. 11 And behold, at that very moment three men arrived at the house in which we were, sent to me from Caesarea. 12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.”. Verse 12 is very clear (I know you hate that…) “The Spirit told me….making no distinction”. You see, Peter was convinced that God wanted the Gentiles to hear the good news and believe it before he took a step toward the Gentiles. God took care of that. What the text actually says about the Spirit’s coming being a sign is this. vs 8 “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them (Gentiles), by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us. Why would he include that phrase “who knows the heart”? God knows who has faith in Jesus and who does not. Those who do receive the Spirit.

    (One of the other mistaken ideas is that Peter didn’t have the Holy Spirit until Pentecost. Of course he did. On the day of the resurrection Peter and the others received the Spirit. Pentecost in regard to the disciples was not about receiving the Spirit to indwell them, to seal them. No, Pentecost for them was being endued with with Holy Spirit power for gospel witness. It’s what Jesus plainly told them.)

    Now back to chapter 15 where I quoted above, ““Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” Hmm, “the word of the gospel”? What is the gospel Kevin? Was it, is it, the good news about Jesus, or is the gospel telling people about baptism in water. Maybe I misunderstand but it seems as though you and others believe the gospel Peter preached was water baptism. In Acts 2 if you read Peter’s address he never mentioned baptism in his sermon. He preached Christ! Only after God had pricked the hearts of those sinners and they asked what they should do did Peter mention baptism. Perhaps that would be a good pattern for us to follow.

    Baptism is not the gospel, it shows the gospel, demonstrates it just as the Lord’s Supper does but it is not the gospel but one response to it. To “obey the gospel” is to believe it, that is what the scriptures consistently say as Jay said earlier and I agree.

    Peter summed up the experience of taking the gospel to the Gentiles by saying this. “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they (Gentiles) will”. Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Geeks, sinners of every kind will be saved only one way, through the grace of the Lord Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-10. I agree with Peter and Paul.

  35. laymond says:

    “We can’t just skip straight to the water. It’s not irrelevant, but it must be interpreted in light of the Prophets.”
    It just seems right to me that the cleansing water comes first, to prepare us to receive the spirit.

    I am sorry it I am off subject, I thought everyone here was discussing whether baptism is necessary for salvation.

  36. Grace says:

    By the issue John was addressing and dealing with when he spoke about Jesus coming by water and blood points to John speaking of Jesus’ physical birth and physical death.

    A huge concern John had been dealing with when he wrote the first and second letter was the false teaching of those who denied that Jesus came in the flesh. 1 John 4:2 “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” Some were denying Jesus had come in the flesh, 1 John 4:3 “and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” 2 John 1:7 “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.”

    Jesus came in the flesh, by coming through human birth to shed His blood through human death. He provided Himself to us in a whole human life to redeem and heal us. 1 John 3:5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.

    The water is the physical birth of Christ. Jesus was born of a virgin and came as God manifest in the flesh. The water bears witness of the deity and humanity of the Jesus at His birth. 1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

    The blood bears witness to Jesus who came to provide the atoning sacrifice to pay the penalty of sin in our place. 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    The Spirit bears witness of Jesus through the Gospel of Jesus that is to be heard, which is about Him. John 15:26 But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

  37. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Grace,

    The NICNT on John by Leon Morris, regarding John 3:5, has a note re water and birth. Morris could find no evidence that the ancient world used water as a metaphor for what we call the water of birth, as in water breaking. Therefore, I take “water” in 1 John 5 to refer to his baptism.

  38. Grace says:

    The Messianic Jews I’m friends with disagree with the commentary by Leon Morris from the Jewish history they know that is different than the commentary you use.
    The CofC always like to use John 3:5 to promote their baptismal theology and leave out what Jesus said in John 3:6.

    John 3:6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.

    John 3:6 Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.

    John 3:6 Human life comes from human parents, but spiritual life comes from the Spirit.

    John 3:6 The only life people get from their human parents is physical. But the new life that the Spirit gives a person is spiritual.

    John 3:6 A person is born physically of human parents, but is born spiritually of the Spirit.

    The context of the conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus tells us a lot more about what Jesus was saying to him.

  39. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Grace,

    I would love to know your Jewish friends sources for the understanding of Second Temple Jews.

  40. Grace says:

    I will speak with them about it, some of them have family they keep in touch with who still live in Israel. We spend a lot of our time serving people and reaching out with the gospel of Jesus, but we also spend time together in our small group meetings. Though I’m not sure what your point is in asking about this in this discussion.

  41. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Grace,

    My point is asking is that I’d love to know. The use of “water” as a metaphor for birth impacts the interpretation of John 3:5 and 1 John 5. If there’s authority for a particular interpretation in Second Temple Jewish literature, it would be a big deal not only to me but to a lot of professional commentators.

  42. Royce says:

    Nicodemus said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answer must not be missed.

    vs.15 “whoever believes in him may have eternal life”
    vs 16 ” whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
    vs 18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned.”

    Jesus also told this Jewish leader the opposite truth.

    vs 18b “but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”.

    This should lay to rest any theory other than what is so plain. Unless water baptism is the exact same thing as faith there is no discussion. I know that faith, true faith is also faithful. But Jesus made a very compelling case for believing and being saved.

  43. Dwight says:

    There is faith and then there is faith. Even the demons believed, but that belief did not save them, as they did not believe unto repentance. There is a reason faith is put before baptism and after it as well, but faith is a work and works are a fulfillment of God’s will. We shouldn’t try to separate things out of God’s will.
    I believe that the water in question is not connected with the flesh, but is connected with the spirit, which is way he says, “unless one is born of water and the spirit”, otherwise he would be contradicting himself. The baptism that even Jesus went through was not of the flesh, but was connected to the spirit, which came as a dove upon him. Jesus was making Nicodemus understand that which is born of the water and spirit is not like being born of the flesh.

  44. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Royce,
    I couldn’t disagree more.

    You said: “Now, here is the most positive proof the theory that the coming of the Spirit was the sign of inclusion is fiction. Acts 11:7-12…12 And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction.”. Verse 12 is very clear (I know you hate that…) “The Spirit told me….making no distinction”. You see, Peter was convinced that God wanted the Gentiles to hear the good news and believe it before he took a step toward the Gentiles.”

    I absolutely agree that verse 12 is ‘very clear.’ IMO, the problem is that Acts 11:12 doesn’t mean what you think it means. Based on the verse, you assert that Peter was “convinced” about the Gentiles & the Gospel and that he “believed” it “before he took a step towards the Gentiles.” This assertion, however, stands in stark contrast to Acts 10. In actuality, Peter was quite confused and bewildered as to the meaning of the vision that he had seen. In 10:17, Luke records: “Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, othe men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate.” (ESV). HSCB states that Peter was deeply perplexed. Perplexed comes from the Greek word “diaporeo” [dia and aporeo], and BDAG defines the word as to “be greatly perplexed, at a loss.” Dia meaning “thoroughly” and aporeo meaning “to be in a confused state of mind, be at a loss, be in doubt, be uncertain.” Mounce defines the word as “to be utterly at a loss.” In other words, Peter didn’t have a clue. In 10:19ff, Peter begins to piece some things together, but even as late as 10:29…after he has met Cornelius, Peter still doesn’t know the exact nature of his mission as evidenced by his question to Cornelius: “I ask then why you sent for me?”

    It is important to note that neither the context of 10:9-29 nor the context of 11:4-12 indicate that Peter understood the endstate of his mission, namely preaching the Gospel to a group of uncircumcised Gentiles. On the contrary, at the time that Peter met with Cornelius, Peter was still associating his earlier vision with Jewish laws governing social activities between Jews and Gentiles…10:28 “And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” (ESV)

    Peter needed the vision to even go to the Gentiles and associate with them on a personal level (and so did most Jewish Christians), and everyone needed something more to accept them as brothers! It is no accident that Peter took along six Jewish brothers as witnesses for his meeting with Cornelius. Even the vaunted Apostle, yea the inner circle of Apostles, needed witnesses. Apparently, he knew something extraordinary was about to happen, and even he was not above questioning. Early Christians were not simply going to take his word for it. They needed proof, and God supplied it with a visual sign of acceptance in the form of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Notice the initial criticism in 11:2-3. Again, Peter was smart enough to anticipate the criticism and take along his six witnesses to explain his actions and the sign. This did not please the Pharisee Christians and Judaizers, for in Acts 15, they are at it again. Paul again explains his actions in 15:5-11. In fact, Peter explicitly links the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius and the Gentiles as God bearing witness to them, i.e. a divine sign. McGarvey states:

    “The position of the Pharisees not only condemned the course of Paul and Barnabas, but also involved a censure of Peter, who was the first of all the apostles, as he here asserts, to preach the Word to Gentiles. When arraigned once before for his conduct in the case of Cornelius, he had vindicated his procedure by relating the miraculous evidences of God’s will which had been his guide [Acts 11:1-18]; and now, to accomplish the same end with these brethren, he adduces the most decisive of those miracles, the gift of the Holy Spirit to uncircumcised Gentiles. Having given to them the same gift as to the apostles on Pentecost, and having imposed upon them none of the purifying rites of the law, but simply purifying their hearts by faith, he assumes that God had made no difference between them and the Jewish brethren.”

    As stated before, the textual evidence indicates that the outpouring of the HS was a sign to Peter and the Jews, especially the Judaizers that Peter took with him – Acts 10:45. That is an interesting passage. Luke writes, “And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” Two points: 1) they were amazed at the outpouring, i.e. the divine sign, and 2) why would Luke mention “believers from among the circumcised”? Luke is NOT merely recording that Jewish Christians accompanied him. These are Judaizers! Peter wasn’t bringing his buddies, he was bringing the Pharisees…they of the circumcision party in Acts 11:2…the Pharisee Christians of 15:5…the same group that would later intimidate Peter in Gal 2:12. No, Peter’s word or testimony regarding a vision that he alone witnessed just wasn’t going to cut it.

    Further, the HS fell on Cornelius and his household before they heard the Gospel and, consequently, while they were still lost. Again, we know:
    1) That Cornelius was lost – Acts 11: 13-14. 

    2) That Cornelius needed to hear the Gospel, i.e. “words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” – Acts 11:13-14

    3) That the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius as Peter BEGAN to speak – Acts 11:15
. “Began” is from the Greek work archo. BDAG defines it as “to initiate an action, process, or state of being, begin” and wrt to this specific verse…”Emphasis can be laid on the beginning.” Thayer is more specific, stating, “indicates that a thing was but just begun when it was interrupted by something else.”
    Consequently, if Cornelius was saved when the Holy Spirit fell on him, then he was saved before he heard the very words whereby he might be saved. Acts 10:44 states the general timeframe that the HS fell on Cornelius…sometime during Peter’s message from 10:34 to 10:43. We are not sure when. However, Acts 11:15 is very specific…”as Peter began to speak”…i.e. a reference to 10:34, the beginning of the message. Both verses address the timing of the HS, but one passage provides a broad, uncertain timing (10:34-43), while the other (11:15) is very specific. The Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius before he was saved. If Cornelius was saved when the Holy Spirit fell on him, then he was saved before he heard the Gospel.

    WRT the Gospel and baptism, you are speaking apples and oranges. You said: “What is the gospel Kevin? Was it, is it, the good news about Jesus, or is the gospel telling people about baptism in water. Maybe I misunderstand but it seems as though you and others believe the gospel Peter preached was water baptism.”
    You definitely misunderstood. I have been in conservative churches of Christ for most of my life, and I have never heard a single person state that baptism is the Gospel. Can you quote someone? I don’t know anyone who teaches that, even among the far right.

    You wrote: “Peter summed up the experience of taking the gospel to the Gentiles by saying this. “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they (Gentiles) will”. Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and Geeks, sinners of every kind will be saved only one way, through the grace of the Lord Jesus. Ephesians 2:1-10. I agree with Peter and Paul.”
    So do I; we are in 100% agreement. I don’t know of anyone, anywhere, who would disagree with this paragraph.

  45. Grace says:

    Peter came to speak with the Geniles, Luke recorded what the Gentiles heard Peter say, Acts 10:34-43. The gospel of Jesus was spoken and heard as Luke recorded in Acts 10:44, that “all those who HEARD the word” received the Holy Spirit. Acts 15:7-9 They heard the gospel and believed and God accepted them giving them the Holy Spirit purifying their hearts by faith.

    The Gentiles heard the gospel and believed and God who knows the heart saved them by accepting them giving them His Holy Spirit.

  46. Kevin says:

    Grace,
    Your timeline conflicts with scripture.

  47. Grace says:

    Luke recorded the very words the Gentiles “heard” Peter say (Acts 10:34-43), if Peter didn’t get to speak these words Luke would not have written them. Peter probably was intending to say plenty more to them, perhaps a speech that could have lasted two hours, but all that was needed was the gospel of Jesus to be “heard”, and according to Luke they heard the gospel and believed and were given the Holy Spirit.

  48. Skip says:

    Let’s then take all of Acts 10 if we are going to argue through this gentile conversion. In Acts 10:48 Peter immediately ordered that they be baptized. If baptism wasn’t important then why did Peter have urgency?

  49. Grace says:

    I never said baptism isn’t important, I would tell anyone who has been saved that baptism is important to do. I don’t think it is a state of emergency, Philip and the enuch came across some water and he was baptized.

  50. Royce says:

    There shouldn’t be any guessing about what happened or when. Verse 44 or chapter 10 says ” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.” The quote “As I began to speak…” does not mean the moment the first sound came from Peter’s mouth as verse 44 informs us.

  51. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Actually, Royce, that is exactly what it means. I quote Peter, “These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. And he told us how he had seen the angel stand in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.”

    Peter explicitely states that the HS fell as he began to speak. Thayer states, began “indicates that a thing was but just begun when it was interrupted by something else.”

  52. Royce says:

    Kevin, How hard is this to comprehend? Acts 15: “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith”.

    You can read commentaries, word studies, and other material until your eyes bleed and this will still be Peter’s record of the events as recorded by Luke. God chose that the Gentiles would both “hear” and “believe” the gospel, and they did. The Holy Spirit coming upon them was not a sign to the Jews but a “witness” from God to the Gentiles. The “them” of verse 8 is not Peter and the Jews, but the opposite.

    I know for some people it is painful to read of people being saved by faith before immersion but it is in the book.

    .

  53. Royce says:

    So, the quote ” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.” is not to be believed? Is that your position?

  54. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Royce,
    Are you serious?!?! You said: “Kevin, How hard is this to comprehend?” So, you have stooped to insulting those with whom you disagree on a Christian blog? What a blessing you have been today. You should be proud of the great example you set for others.

    Despite the obvious disparagement of my intelligence, I will answer your question. I don’t believe it is hard to comprehend at all. You quoted Acts 15:7-9. Good verses all. This does nothing to address the timing of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that I have detailed above. You haven’t dealt with that at all, and you must if you are honestly seeking the truth.

    You also said: “The Holy Spirit coming upon them was not a sign to the Jews but a “witness” from God to the Gentiles.” This is just not accurate. The fact that God bore witness TO the Jews on BEHALF of the Gentiles = the sign. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was definitely not a witness to the Gentiles as you indicate, at least not primarily. The outpouring was certainly for the benefit of the Jews, and it indicated to Peter and those of the circumcision party that the Gospel was also for the Gentiles. The ESV renders Acts 15:8 as “…bore them witness…” and the NKJV uses “…acknowledged them…” “Witness” comes from the Greek verb (aorist, active, indicative) μαρτυρέω martyreō and means to confirm or attest something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief, bear witness, be a witness, to offer testimony. Of this specific verse, BDAG defines it as “to offer testimony” and explains, “God testified for them by giving.” In other words, God testified on behalf of the Gentiles to the Jews. And that, is a sign; a sign that the Jews collectively needed. Peter admits as much when he was called before the circumcision party in Jerusalem when he stated in 11:17, “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the sign, is what convinced Peter, and it convinced the circumcision party as evidenced by 11:18, “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they iglorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” “

  55. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Royce said: “So, the quote ” While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.” is not to be believed? Is that your position?”

    I have already commented on this verse twice above, but I will cut and paste for you again.

    All we can glean from 10:44 [While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all] is that sometime between Peter’s message from 10:34 to 10:43, the HS fell on Cornelius. We are not sure when. However, Acts 11:15 is very specific…”as Peter began to speak”…i.e. a reference to 10:34, the beginning of the message. Both verses address the timeing of the HS, but one passage provides a broad, uncertain timing (10:34-43), while the other (11:15) is very specific. The Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius before he was saved. If Cornelius was saved when the Holy Spirit fell on him, then he was saved before he heard the Gospel and developed faith.

  56. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Grace,

    You: “Luke recorded the very words the Gentiles “heard” Peter say (Acts 10:34-43), if Peter didn’t get to speak these words Luke would not have written them.”
    True that.

    You: “Peter probably was intending to say plenty more to them, perhaps a speech that could have lasted two hours, but all that was needed was the gospel of Jesus to be “heard”…”
    Perhaps so.

    You: …”and according to Luke they heard the gospel and believed and were given the Holy Spirit.”
    How do you reconcile Acts 10:44 and Acts 11:15 to fit your timeline of hear…believe…HS?

  57. Grace says:

    Luke said they heard, Luke said God accepted them, Luke said they received the Holy Spirit, Luke said it was by faith. Luke reconciles it.

    You refuse to see that Luke said they heard the gospel Peter spoke.

  58. Avatar of Kevin Kevin says:

    Grace,
    Can you make an argument from scripture this time? I am sure you are aware that Luke wrote the entire book of Acts, which includes both 10:44 and 11:15.

    I concur with your first paragraph entirely. But then again, it doesn’t really add anything substantive to the discussion, does it?

    I vehemently disagree with your second paragraph. On the contrary, I have never stated that Cornelius and his household did not hear the Gospel as preached by Peter. Don’t put words in my mouth; I’ve noticed that you have been recently admonished for doing that to others.

  59. Grace says:

    Kevin, please tell me when I was admonished for putting words in someone’s mouth here. I know Ray an Laymond has done that to other people, don’ t know of when I have and was admonished.

    And it seems you like to play word games, you did say Cornelius and his household didn’t hear the gospel before they were given the Holy Spirit. Been across many whi want to play word ganes like that.

    Luke said in Acts10:44 and Acts 15:7-9 that the Gentles heard. I concur with Royce how painful it to some to read about God saving people who haven’t been baptized in water.

    Luke said they heard and believed and were given the Holy Spirit .

  60. Grace says:

    Please tell me when I was admonished for doing that, Ray and Laymond are good for putting words in other people’s mouth here, don’t know of when I ever did that.

    You did say Cornelieus’ household didn’t hear the gospel before given the Holy Spirit.

    Luke said the Gentiles heard in Acts 10:44 and Acts 15:7-9. I concur with Royce that it is painful to some to see God save people before being water baptized.

    They heard and believed and received the Holy Spirit.

  61. Grace says:

    Sorry about posting my comment again, was posting from my phone and the comment wouldn’t show.

  62. Grace says:

    Oh, and if you are referring to Jay’s comment on this post asking me not to put words in his mouth, by the comment I posted saying, “They say God’s grace is normally given when people act obedient to be baptized, that people have to act in obedience to earn His forgiveness.” When I said “they” that is what I meant, I wasn’t singling Jay out on that, this is what you hear from many who attend the CofC denomination.

    Anyone can go through Jay’s posts and see many times where he has said he and the CofC denomination has correct theology that salvation is normally when a person submits to baptism. Jay has said the CofC denomination exegetes baptism correctly, that salvation and receipt of the Spirit normally happens at water baptism, that a person enters salvation normally at the moment of water baptism.

    I don’t believe I put words in his mouth, what I said is what I’ve heard from many in the CofC denomination. I don’t think a person can be admonished for something they didn’t do.

    Now, hopefully we can get past playing word games. I have given Scripture and so has Royce that Luke said the Gentiles heard the gospel, believed and received the Holy Spirit.

    I echo Royce’s question, is Luke not to be believed that all those who heard the word received the Holy Spirit? Is that your position?

  63. Dwight says:

    It seems as though conversations wander from context. Mark 16:16 connects faith and baptism with salvation. Now when you get to Cornelius household they did recieve the Holy Spirit, but this caused them to speak in tongues and put all doubts in Peters mind that they too could be saved, which means they weren’t even after having the HS on them. They heard, believed and were baptized according to Mark 16:16. In fact this is pattern you see in the scriptures. You never see salvation and/or the reaction to salvation put before either faith or baptism in order. Urgency is a condition where we percieve something that needs to be answered to, the more important the more urgent. If baptism is important and the scripture says it is as important as faith, then the urgency should match. 3000 were baptized in Acts 2:38 and the indication is that it happened right then and was not put off. In reality baptism may not be as important as faith, but that is not my call and I don’t have anything telling me that it is not. “Thy word is a path…” so we should follow the path as given.

  64. Skip says:

    Dwight, Baptism is not nearly as important as faith as is evidenced by what I would call the faith-to-baptism ratio. Take all scriptures on faith and they far outweigh baptism verses. I think God’s priority in scriptures is made clear by his emphasis in scripture.

  65. Kevin says:

    Grace,
    June 28 at 8:57 am in this very comment section by Jay.

    Word games? Really? How closely do you read what others are writing? I am not perfect, but I actually try to pay attention and understand the person with whom I am corresponding. Observe:
    -On 10 July at 10:11 pm, you wrote: “You refuse to see that Luke said they heard the gospel Peter spoke.”
    -I’ve never said any such thing. In fact, on June 28 at 12:04 am, I specifically mentioned Peter’s message to Cornelius, even citing the range of Acts 10:34-43. Hearing the message is assumed. Of course they heard the message!
    -On 10 July at 8:35 pm, about an hour and a half before your comment, I again referenced Peter’s sermon to Cornelius. Again, of course they heard the message.

    Mentioning “word games” is just juvenile and silly. You’ll have to take that up with Luke, Peter, and the Holy Spirit who inspired them because I am merely quoting Peter as recorded by Luke as inspired by the Holy Spirit. I didn’t coin the sentence, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them…” If you don’t like it, you’ll have to take it up with much higher authority. Sorry.

    You wrote: “Luke said in Acts10:44 and Acts 15:7-9 that the Gentles heard.”
    This is another one of your straw man arguments (you’ve been called out for this recently too by the way). No one is arguing that the Gentiles didn’t hear the Gospel. Of course they heard it! The question is not IF they heard; the question is WHEN they heard. And Peter states explicitly, “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell…” Peter states, and Luke record, the exact timing. There is no ambiguity here. Began” is from the Greek work archo. BDAG defines it as “to initiate an action, process, or state of being, begin” and wrt to this specific verse…”Emphasis can be laid on the beginning.” Thayer is more specific, stating, “indicates that a thing was but just begun when it was interrupted by something else.”

  66. Royce says:

    We live in a free society where everyone has the absolute right to be wrong.

    Dwight cites Mark 16:16 (A verse that was not likely in the original manuscript by the way but let’s assume it was) The verse says ” Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” This verse weakens your position, it does not give it strength.

    Mark 16:16 mirrors John 3:18 ” 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”. You believe on Christ you are saved, you don’t believe on Christ you are not saved.

    John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” Jesus said that.

    John 6:40 ” For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” I encourage everyone to read the context here…

    John 6:47 ” Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” Jesus speaking again..

    John 7:38,39 ” Whoever believes in me, as[f] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Jesus was glorified on the day of his resurrection and on that very day the disciples received the Holy Spirit.

    John 10:25-30 “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    John 11:25,26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Oh how precious are the promises of Jesus. Just over a week ago I spoke with a man on the phone quoting this passage and it gave him great hope. He died the next day and Jesus will keep that promise.

    John 12:44-50 ” And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. 45 And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

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

    It was John the brother of Jesus who wrote this. He was an old man, an elder at Ephesus at the time. It was likely around 95 AD Why would John make such a summary statement if it isn’t true? It is true. John must have read the other gospels and much of what Peter and Paul had written yet he makes it clear that by believing on Jesus sinners can be made new. I have only quoted John. Of course there are Paul’s letters. Lots of Coc folks aren’t to fond of Paul lately but he wrote by inspiration just as did John and others.

    The salvation of God is a person and Jesus is his name. We “were” reconciled to God by the death of his son. Not by our doing but by his doing. Only He deserves any glory, not a rite, or ritual, or religious activity. Only Jesus saves, He is the plan of salvation. Trust Him.

  67. Royce says:

    What was the year when the churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ changed their historic belief that salvation is by faith? Does anyone know? i know that we didn’t begin there. The father’s speak.

    THOMAS CAMPBELL wrote: “We speak to all our Christian brethren, however diversified by professional epithets, those accidental distinctions which have happily and unscripturaly diversified the professing world. By our Christian brethren, then, we mean . . . ‘All that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, throughout the churches.’ ” (Millennial Harbinger, Series 1, May 1844, p. 199.)

    ALEXANDER CAMPBELL wrote: “But who is a Christian? I answer, every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will. . . . I cannot make any one duty the standard of Christian state or character, not even immersion into the name of Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and [cannot] in my heart regard all that have been sprinkled in infancy without their own knowledge and consent, as aliens from Christ and the well-grounded hope of heaven. Should I find a Pedobaptist [one baptized as an infant] more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually-minded and more devoted to the Lord than a Baptist, or one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith, I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most. Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians.” (Millennial Harbinger, 1837, p. 411-412.)

    Again, ALEXANDER CAMPBELL wrote: “The case is this: When I see a person who would die for Christ: whose brotherly kindness, sympathy, and active benevolence knows no bounds but his circumstances: whose seat in the Christian assembly is never empty; whose inward piety and devotion are attested by punctual obedience to every known duty; whose family is educated in the fear of the Lord; whose constant companion is the Bible; I say, when I see such a one ranked amongst heathen men and publicans, because he never happened to inquire, but always took it for granted that he had been scripturally baptized, and that [ranking] too, by one greatly destitute of all these public and private virtues, whose chief or exclusive recommendation is that he has been immersed, and that he holds a scriptural theory of the gospel, I feel no disposition to flatter such a one, but rather to disabuse him of his error. And while I would not lead the most excellent professor in any sect to disparage the least of all the commandments of Jesus, I would say to my immersed brother as Paul said to his Jewish brother who gloried in a system which he did not adorn: ‘Sir, will not his uncircumcision, or unbaptism, be counted to him for baptism? and will he not condemn you, who, though having the literal and true baptism, yet dost transgress or neglect the statues of your King?’” (Millennial Harbinger, 1837, p. 565.)

    BARTON W. STONE wrote: “My opinion is that immersion is the only baptism. But shall I therefore make my opinion a term of Christian fellowship? If in this case I thus act, where shall I cease from making my opinions terms of fellowship? I confess I see no end. . . . Let us still acknowledge all to be brethren, who believe in the Lord Jesus, and humbly and honestly obey him, as far as they know his will, and their duty.” (Christian Messenger, 1831, p. 19, 21.)

    WALTER SCOTT wrote: “Christians who have not been baptized for the remission of their sins! Strange! Whoever read of such Christians in God’s Word? But the times are peculiar, and as faith does purify the life of a man, and as the man of pure life and pure heart is accepted of God and may receive the Spirit, therefore we must allow, that there are now a days Christians in heart and life who have not been baptized for the remission of their sins. What evidences, then, have they for themselves and others, that they are possessed of the Spirit? None but the moral graces which have already been quoted, viz: love, joy etc.; they don’t need to depend upon an opinion; they feel within themselves and show to those without them by their fruits, that they have been made partakers of the Spirit of Christ.” (The Evangelist, No. 2, Vol. 2, Feb 4, 1833, p. 49.)

    ISAAC ERRETT wrote: “There are myriads of godly people, who are in error on baptism, of whom, nevertheless, we are compelled to say, ‘They are not of the world.’ To urge against these a strict and literal application of passages which are meant to mark the distinction between the church and the world, and thus to attempt to thrust them out from our Christian love, among heathens and reprobates, is, in our view, a grievous wrong. As it is a question growing out of the times — a question not directly known in form in the Scriptures, it must be settled in the light of well-established Christian principles, and not by a severely literal construction of Scripture language, spoken with reference to other classes of persons, and another condition of things.
    The saints were carried captive into Babylon and remained there a long time. The church lost her primitive purity and excellency. . . . Yet God had a people in Babylon. . . . Now our good brethren may be able to prove to their own satisfaction that all these people of God in Babylon were immersed believers; and they may point, here and there, to bands of religionists, who kept up a protest against the corruptions of Rome. But it strikes us that a people could not come out of Babylon who were not in Babylon; and immersed believers, walking in the light, would have been hard to find within Babylon’s limits! But there was a people of God in Babylon. We incline to the opinion that most of them were unimmersed. They were in many respects an erring people — in regard to baptism they certainly were in great error; but they ‘feared God and wrought righteousness’ and, — what seems as great a stumbling block to many good men now as it was to Peter, until the trammels of sectarianism were knocked off — ‘in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him.’” (Millennial Harbinger, 1862, p.120.)

    I seriously doubt that present day sectarians are better Christians than these.

  68. Larry Cheek says:

    Grace,
    You fight tooth and toenail to prove that God saved Cornelius prior to water baptism, and all this just for less than an hour between the time you consider him saved and the water baptism administered by an inspired Apostle. Yet, you have not stated your opinion of the amount of time that you would allow to transpire prior to baptizing those whom you find believing your testimony of Christ’s actions that saves. You are also accrediting God for the saving action in sending the holy Spirit, but that denies the exact words spoken to Cornelius by the Angel, and the context of all the rest of the communications by the men sent to Peter and Peters message to the Jews. It was the message that brought them into the knowledge of Christ’s action which they believed.
    ((Acts 10:22 NIV) The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”
    (Acts 10:33 NIV) So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.”
    (Acts 11:13 NIV) He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’
    If they were saved as soon as they believed, then immediately they were baptized by order of the Apostle Peter.
    This would be the longest period of time ever expressed in an example in scripture between the receiving of God’s Word and and baptism in water for an individual being identified as saved.

    Major question that I see for you to answer is, how long do you allow a believer to believe prior to administering baptism?

    Notice, even communications among the Jews indicate that the Gentiles received the Word. Do we hear men today expressing God saved so and so, or do we express that they became Christians? God does not force himself on anyone.
    (Acts 11:1 NIV) The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.

  69. Skip says:

    Royce, I don’t care what modern fathers say, only what the scriptures say.

  70. Grace says:

    According to Luke in Acts 10:44 and Acts 15:7-9 the Gentiles heard the word Peter came to speak to them, they believed and received the Holy Spirit. Luke says all those who received the Holy Spirit heard, the Holy Spirit was given AFTER they heard. Luke recorded what they heard, Acts 10:34-43. Peter told the gospel to them, they didn’t have faith in Peter to save them, they had faith in Jesus as they heard the gospel.

    If you want to believe they had faith in someone or something else to save them other than Jesus, that’s not what happened according to Luke. They heard, believed and received the Holy Spirit.

    Acts 15:7-9 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and He confirmed that He accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He cleansed their hearts through faith.

  71. Grace says:

    It is painful to some, obviously, from their denial that the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit after they heard as Luke recorded. They don’t like that the Holy Spirit was given before they were baptized and try so hard arguing to change it to the Gentiles didn’t hear any message and received the Holy Spirit, rather than what Luke said that all who heard the word received the Holy Spirit.

    So, the comment thrown at me is looking right at those who want to deny the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit after they had heard.

    All who heard the word received the Holy Spirit, that’s what Luke said. If you don’t like it, you’ll have to take it up with much higher authority. Sorry.

  72. Skip says:

    Grace, Of course you are right. Peter covered the whole gospel message about Jesus from Acts 10:34 to Acts 10:43. Peter preached about “the good news of peace through Jesus”, how “God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit”, how “Jesus was hung on a tree and was raised again”, how “They testified that Jesus is the to judge the living and the dead”, and lastly, Peter said, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name”. AFTER that message, the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit AND they praised God. THEN they were immediately ordered to be baptized. Some argue that Peter hadn’t spoken much as recorded in Acts 11:15. However, Acts 10 makes it abundantly clear that Peter said many, many things before Cornelius received the Holy Spirit. Don’t forget, Peter was long winded in Acts 2 and so in Acts 10 he considers his short summary of the whole gospel as having just begun speaking.
    Now it could be argued that this was not normative since no other case like this is seen in scripture but nevertheless, Cornelius and his household heard and received the Holy Spirit before their baptism.

  73. Grace says:

    Some want to say it’s not normative. The Scriptures Royce gave John didn’t think it was not normal, he spoke that it was normative. And Peter proclaimed that salvation given to the Gentiles is the norm, Acts 15:11 “But our Lord Jesus was kind to us, and we are saved by faith in him, just as the Gentiles are.”

  74. Dwight says:

    Skip, Even as I hat to address someone personally. My point in Mark 16:16 is not to say that baptism is more important, but that here we have Jesus placing faith and baptism together. We would like to say here is an example of faith and works, but there are scriptures that relate faith as a work or something produced from man in response to God. So what we have really is two works…one that is internal and one that is expressed externally. This is what James is all about, “faith without works is dead.” Making faith more important because it shows up more is like making Paul the main apostle because he shows up more, but Peter was on the same level as Paul in his own way. The apostles all worked for God in the way they were supposed to. What we end up doing is pitting scripture against scripture and instead of bringing it all together into focus we tear it apart instead focusing on what we want to. This vs that vs this. Baptism is not the focus, but neither should faith be…Christ is. Everything rest on Christ. This is what Act 2 was about. Christ and then what follows.

  75. Dwight says:

    I think it is an important note that the Gentiles receicved the HS, but this was for Peters comprehenseion that they too could be saved. Up until that point Peter wasn’t sure, but after that point this became Peter’s goal. He taught them and baptized them. They obviously had faith in between these points. This is the same pattern we see elsewhere as well. They are taught, they believe they are baptized. We do not see the saints timing the events or questioning at what points. They just accepted it and moved on. We seemingly can’t.

  76. Skip, you may not “care what any ‘fathers’ said” in your zeal to just “go by the Scriptures.” As a zealous young preacher, in his early to mid-20′s, I was amazed when I ready Alexander Campbells’s Christian System to find that he had anticipated a large number of “my” sermons – down to the terminology I was using. It might surprise you as well to see how much you are influenced by what they wrote as you read the Scriptures.

    That was fifty years ago. Today, I can read them and either agree or disagree – but I respect them enough to give them a hearing.

    Royce’s question is legitimate. “We, as a movement” have indeed drifted far from the principles they laid out – principles many of “us” still give lip-service to without accepting them in our practice.

  77. Skip says:

    Jerry, I will not be held accountable on judgment for what any “fathers” have said. I will however be held accountable by what the Word of God says. The “fathers” should include Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Arminius, Campbell and a host of others. I might read them to discover their extreme positions and understand the balance between two extremes. Heck, I might read someone who has a balanced position. However, I don’t regard the “fathers” as inspired and therefore every one of their nuanced comments is subject to my scrutiny. I might respect their insight but in the end I stand before Jesus, not insightful leaders from the past.

  78. Dwight says:

    Here is a interesting conversation that is brewing. I used to think that what we have today exist because of us today, but the more I look backwards the more I realize just how much we have been influenced by the past even when we look straight on at the scriptures. Many of our practices were influenced during the 1800s…the invitation, the invitation song, etc., so just because we do them doesn’t mean that they are the way we have determined them to be, but rather the way we have determined to keep them the way it was from before. The father’s were not indeed inspired, but then again neither are we. I like this quote, “The hallmark of an authentic evangelicalism is not the uncritical repetition of old traditions, but the willingness to submit every tradition, however ancient, to fresh Biblical scrutiny and, if necessary, reform” (John Stott)” A hard thing for us to accept is that if the early church who had the apostles right there with them could have issues, then how can we not and our issues are not so dissimilar to those of the past.

  79. Dwight says:

    We live in the same structures that were built by previous generations, physcially and mentally. The house of God is a good structure, but the house of man not so good, but comfortable. We are often molded by what we are taught and we pass this on, because what we are taught guides in how we look at the scripture, which is why two people taught differently can look at the same scripture and see two different things. A perfect example is I Cor.11 there are two concepts within this chapter, but one is taught a lot and one is taught hardly any and they are right next to each other. We are taught to regard one and not the other and we do this, even though they are both scripture and both applicable and both easily doable. Many times the choices we think are our own aren’t really our own, but that which we have taken in as our own.

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