“Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 5, Part 3C (Further on Baptism)

muscleshovelIn the comments, Gary asked,

Jay, is not baptism the re-enactment of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection? No one in the Ole Test. could be baptized for that reason. Are you saying we don’t need to be baptized. Maybe I missed the point.

Gary,

I’ll answer your second question first.

In my opinion, both the Church of Christ side and the Baptist side of the debate are wrong. I fit in neither camp — and so don’t bother asking which camp I’m in. Neither.

I believe the Churches of Christ generally exegete the baptism passages correctly and that salvation and receipt of the Spirit normatively happen at water baptism. I think that’s God’s intent.

But in Acts, God reveals that he is not tied to that pattern. And in many dozens of verses he promises to save everyone with “faith” in Jesus — “faith” being defined as I describe in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapter-5-part-2-faith/.

Therefore, when someone is baptized incorrectly — too soon, too little water, misunderstanding its purposes — God will keep his many promises to save all with “faith” as defined in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapter-5-part-2-faith/

Does that make baptism unnecessary? Only if you care nothing about obeying God’s known commands. Does that mean we can be careless about how we baptize? Only if you aren’t afraid of losing God’s grace by intentionally violating his will.

Does that mean the Baptists are going to heaven? Yes, if the only reason a given Baptist might not is a flawed baptism. (Baptists can fall away just like we in the Churches of Christ.) I stand with Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, and David Lipscomb in saying that the Baptists are saved despite their misunderstanding of baptism. They might misunderstand when it is God saves them, but God will save them because of their faith as defined in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapter-5-part-2-faith/

Does this mean Church of Christ members are saved even when they’re baptized convinced that they will not receive the personal indwelling of the Spirit? Yes, Church of Christ members qualify for God’s grace, too — if they have faith as defined in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapter-5-part-2-faith/

Does this make both those in the Churches of Christ and Baptist Church in error regarding baptism? Yes.

Does God save people in error? Yes. It’s called “grace.” But there is one error you cannot make and still be saved. You must get right having faith in Jesus as defined in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapter-5-part-2-faith/

You don’t have to know the definition of “faith,” but you must believe Jesus to be Lord and Messiah, you must by faithful to Jesus, and you must trust Jesus to save based on faith, not works.

For Church of Christ members, the hardest part of “faith” as defined in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapter-5-part-2-faith/ is trust. And trust is where it all begins, because Abram was credited with righteousness for his faith/trust in God’s promises. Therefore, I try very hard to trust God’s promises and I object to theology that requires us to doubt God’s promises.

Because that would be a very serious thing indeed.

Now, as to your first question, Paul in Galatians 3 and Romans 4 says that we’re saved by faith because of God’s covenant with Abraham in which he credited Abraham with righteousness because of his faith.

Paul spends the first four chapters 0f Romans on salvation by faith and not works, repeating declaring that everyone with faith in Jesus (correctly defined) will be saved — and he says nothing at all about baptism until Romans 6.

Galatians is all about salvation by faith (correctly defined) and not works, and there are many verses emphasizing the sufficiency of faith and one verse that mentions baptism.

The baptism verses are true and real and intended, but they do not drive the salvation train. The promise is to all with faith (correctly defined), not to all with baptism. And that’s a really, really important distinction.

In fact, John the Baptist baptized by immersion for remission of sins before the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism such as John’s could have been practiced going all the way back to Abraham, but it wasn’t.

The prophets in the Old Testament could have told us about water baptism in addition to telling us about faith, Jesus, and the Spirit. But they didn’t.

Luke’s Gospel might have mentioned Christian baptism, but it doesn’t.

John the Baptist could have prophesied the water baptism of Jesus, but he spoke only of Jesus’ baptizing with the Spirit — entirely consistent with the ancient prophets.

The emphasis of scripture — in many ways and many places — is on faith in Jesus (correctly defined). Therefore, that must also be our own doctrinal emphasis. Not a rejection of baptism, but an understanding that, in the Five Step Plan of Salvation, faith in Jesus is — by far — the most important thing.

Therefore, we should absolutely obey the baptism verses. We should baptize those we teach about Jesus. We should understand that baptism is normally the moment of salvation and receipt of the Spirit.

We just shouldn’t treat those with less-perfect baptisms as damned in their sins when they have faith in Jesus (correctly defined). God keeps his promises, and God has repeatedly promised to honor his covenant with Abraham, and to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies, and to save everyone with faith. Everyone.

Baptism is therefore not the center of our religion. Jesus is.

(Joh 10:9 ESV) 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

(Rom 5:1-2 ESV)  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

[If you’re wondering why I keep referring back to the earlier posts defining “faith,” it’s a conditioned reflex, because at this point in the discussion someone inevitably charges me with teaching “faith only” meaning “faith without obedience.” And we’ve covered that and I don’t want to have to go there once again — not this soon. If you feel that urge, do not comment — go read the previous posts in this series.]

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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25 Responses to “Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 5, Part 3C (Further on Baptism)

  1. Hank says:

    Jay, you wrote:

    “We just shouldn’t treat those with less-perfect baptisms as damned in their sins when they have faith in Jesus (correctly defined).”

    Do you believe that the unbaptized (never been baptized at all), can also be considered “those with less than perfect baptisms”, provided they still have faith?

    Or, is it necessary to be baptized in order to be considered baptized?

  2. Randall says:

    Hi Jay,
    I appreciate what I think the thrust of your message is here. That is, a person can be confused about baptism as the mode, time, their theological understanding at the moment of baptism and still be saved. And I agree completely!

    So please forgive me if I nitpick. It may be part of my depravity. I do like theological precision even though my obedience falls so short of precision as does my mere human understanding.

    Above you wrote the following: “I believe the Churches of Christ generally exegete the baptism passages correctly and that salvation and receipt of the Spirit normatively happen at water baptism. I think that’s God’s intent.”

    I would suggest that in scripture it is normative for a person to be baptized immediately upon recognition they have come to faith in Jesus. Baptism is very closely associated with salvation (in time and space) but not the magic moment that one’s sin is forgiven and they receive the Holy Spirit.

    You also wrote: “Does this mean Church of Christ members are saved even when they’re baptized convinced that they will not receive the personal indwelling of the Spirit? Yes, Church of Christ members qualify for God’s grace, too — if they have “faith” as defined in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/02/muscle-shovel-chapter-5-part-2-faith/

    This suggests that grace follows faith and is the result of it. Either faith CAUSES us to receive grace or is the divine consequence of faith. I would suggest the grace precedes faith and faith is the divine consequence of grace lest we make faith meritorious.

    Hesed,
    Randall

    PS. I’ve spent a lot of time here lately and all the chatter about baptism wears me out so don’t ever be surprised if I opt out for a while.

  3. Price says:

    Jay, just a couple of questions… You mentioned JTB as immersing “for” the forgiveness of sin… Hebrews says there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood.. What blood was shed in order for JTB to immerse “for” the result of forgiveness of sin… Or, perhaps, JTB’s immersion was “for” repentance, “looking forward” to the forgiveness of sin… Also, is it your understanding that there was some kind of “in-between” covenant that put aside the Law of Moses while Jesus was still alive in order that the faithful Jews could be immersed by JTB or perhaps even Jesus’ own disciples that would have negated further requirements under the Law to be forgiven? Seems Jesus was awfully consistent with the Law to allow for a deviation by JTB or His own disciples… One would agree that Jesus had the authority to forgive sin…but JTB ?? And, wasn’t the Law a temporary fix rather than an eternal forgiveness…??

    Did Jesus ever speak of baptism as being salvific? I find his instructions to make disciples and then baptize them but He doesn’t say for what purpose… He is quoted heavily by the Apostle John as declaring salvation by faith but never by immersion… If I’ve missed that please provide at your convenience.. If it’s not recorded in the text, and it’s necessary to be saved, wouldn’t that qualify for the greatest omission in all of biblical text.. Here we have Jesus, defining the new covenant, and he doesn’t give a declarative statement regarding the purpose of baptism.. One might assume that He understood that everybody knew that water immersion was, from long ago, a symbolic gesture and obedience to a command only….

    Lastly, if Jesus never proclaimed water immersion to be salvific (and he went to the trouble of clearly stating that He would baptize the Apostles with the HS in CONTRAST to JTB’s WATER), then who gave Peter the authority to declare water salvific if indeed that is the correct translation of 2:38… If Jesus didn’t tell him that…one would think Peter would have declared the basis of his authority to add water immersion to the salvation process.. None of the other Apostles spoke up about it either.. So, either they ALL had been told by Jesus that water was salvific or they ALL understood that water immersion from the beginning of the Law to present times was entirely symbolic… It’s so odd that he would quote Joel, [Act 2:21 ESV] 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ And, then declare salvation by water immersion a requirement when no prophet nor Jesus ever declared such…odd..

  4. Nick Gill says:

    Price, read the opening of Mark’s Gospel and the close of Mark’s gospel.

    What did JtB “come, preaching” in the first chapter?

    In the last chapter, to what subset of humanity does Jesus promise salvation?

  5. Glenn Ziegler says:

    Jay,

    I think I have figured out where I get uncomfortable with your writings about salvation. It is the near total lack of balance and generally reactionary tenor of your writings on this subject. You pit faith v. baptism as much as anyone you accuse of ‘getting it wrong’ about salvation. Did Paul ever do that? Nope! So why should we? Jesus never did it either. Nor did even the beleaguered James ever pit faith v. baptism.

    Maybe we take the media we use as license. Shall our written words be judged any less or by any lesser standard than that used for scripture? On what basis?

    Be not,therefore, many of you teachers…

    But blog whatever you like.

    G

  6. Ray Downen says:

    Jay supposes, “John the Baptist could have prophesied the water baptism of Jesus, but he spoke only of Jesus’ baptizing with the Spirit — entirely consistent with the ancient prophets.” And Jay is speaking of something that never happened or will happen, that is, of Jesus baptizing in water. Jesus commanded that WE are to baptize in water. He didn’t say HE would baptize in water. I surely wish Jay had written about the water baptism COMMANDED BY JESUS. But that seems to be off the subject somehow. Unimportant. For we’re saved by faith ALONE in all the verses Jay has listed for us to consider. The verses which show that Jesus COMMANDS baptism and the apostles PRACTICED baptism in every case are not listed by one who considers baptism unimportant in following Jesus as Lord.

    Is that a harsh judgment not proved by what Jay and others are writing? I see it as an honest judgment based on what Jay and others are clearly expressing. I hear them saying that the baptism commanded by Jesus doesn’t affect salvation, that believers are saved by faith (alone). That IS Baptist doctrine. It is NOT Christian doctrine. Bible students will see that preaching is about Jesus and what HE has done. They will also note the expected and demanded response TO the preaching is turning to Jesus as Lord and obeying Him in all things. And they should see from comparing John 3:3-5 with Acts 2:37,38 that both REPENTANCE and BAPTISM are part of the new birth of WATER and spirit. The gift of the Spirit follows believers repenting and being baptized. Yes, I claim that it FOLLOWS repenting and being baptized, for that’s what the apostles taught.

  7. “I think you should hush, but, whatever, go ahead if you insist…” I have never found this to be a very compelling argument against what someone has posited.

    Even though I don’t fully agree with Jay on the subject, his view does not read to me as “faith vs baptism” in any way. And Jay is nowhere nearly as reactionary as Paul was to the Galatians. McLean Standard Version, “If being circumcised is what it takes to please God, then why not REALLY please God and cut the whole thing off?”

    Next to that, this discussion is pretty mild-mannered, on all sides.

  8. Ray Downen says:

    Jay graciously comments: Baptism is therefore not the center of our religion. Jesus is.

    (Joh 10:9 ESV) 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

    (Rom 5:1-2 ESV) Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

    [If you’re wondering why I keep referring back to the earlier post defining “faith,” it’s a conditioned reflex, because at this point in the discussion someone inevitably charges me with teaching “faith only” meaning “faith without obedience.” And we’ve covered that and I don’t want to have to go there once again — not this soon. If you feel that urge, do not comment — go read the previous posts in this series.]

    It does somehow seem impolite and unbrotherly to expect anyone teaching about conversion to not claim it’s just a matter of changing your mind. Some want to pretend that Acts 2:38 is not the apostolic response to new believers inquiring what they need to do to get right with God. For the answer I see in what Jay is explaining does not agree with Peter. Peter’s comment reported by Luke surely is what all the apostles were teaching that day (Pentecost A.D.30). Luke reports only on what the ONE apostle said, but who will affirm that Peter spoke only for himself and differed from what other apostles also preached that day?

    Faith demands obedience. Mental assent is NOT enough. And surely any Bible student/teacher will not want to ignore Romans 6:1-11 in any study of conversion. Paul agrees with the other apostles in teaching that we become “Christians” (the term is in wide use today, but was used seldom in apostolic writings) through new birth of water and spirit (repenting and being baptized) rather than by faith alone. Mental assent (faith) simply doesn’t get the job done if we’re speaking of new birth of water and spirit and entering the kingdom of the Messiah.

  9. In my view, faith does not demand obedience, but rather produces it. The distinction is critical, and suggests that while faith is sufficient, it is never really “alone”. Works are integral to faith, not additive. James offers works as evidence of faith, not as additions to it. Certainly faith is more than mental recognition. Faith is a spiritual thing. I think this makes us somewhat uncomfortable in that such an invisible quality is beyond our ability to judge in someone else. All we can do is read the indirect evidence. And frankly, even that is not sufficient for judging anyone else’s faith. Obedience is evidence, not proof. Obedience can also be motivated by fear, or greed, or even peer pressure. Which leaves us little with which to grasp the judge’s gavel.

  10. Royce says:

    The gospel of John (1 3 and 3 John, and Revelation) were written by John the Apostle, then an elder in Ephesus. It was near the end of his life, perhaps in about 95 AD. He said of Jesus in 1st John,

    “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

    Jesus himself is eternal life. John declares Jesus to his readers, not some theory or doctrine, or set of rules. The remainder of the book of 1st John give a series of markers so that we can know if we are in Christ or not. They are not the way to get into Christ.

    Now in the gospel of John, the beloved disciple, elder, Apostle pours out his eyewitness story of what he had seen and heard as the Holy Spirit led him to write. In chapter 20 he makes a summation statement. He clearly gives the purpose of the document he was just finishing. Here is what he said.

    “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 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.” John 20:23

    It is so clear, concise, and concrete the purpose of the book. (not unlike 1st john…) He wrote it so the readers would “believe” on the biblical Jesus, and that “by believing” they would have life.

    Price is on to something. Is this the greatest blunder in history? Or, is it truth?

  11. Ray Downen says:

    A tragic blunder is to assume that salvation in Christ is by faith ALONE. The apostles were led into ALL truth. They did not teach salvation by faith ALONE. Those who do so teach are in error. Peter spoke for all the apostles (Acts 2) when he was asked what believers needed to do in order to, as Peter describes, it “save themselves.” It was not enough to believe. Obviously when they asked, it was because they DID believe.

    Peter invited them to save themselves by turning to JESUS as LORD and being baptized in His name as He commanded was to be done. That’s how sinners today are saved. No change. God doesn’t change His mind frivolously. What was true on Pentecost (Acts 2) is no less true today. Those who want to “get right with God” because they believe in Jesus need to turn to HIM as LORD and accept baptism as He commanded for each new believer.

    Those who are already IN Christ (Galatians 3:27) and realize they have sinned need to repent of wrong-doing and pray for forgiveness (Acts chapter 8–the Samaritan who sought to buy from the apostles powers he desired as a magician). Since baptism brings sinners INTO Christ (Galatians 3:27) we surely cannot be re-baptized any more than a human who has died can be brought back to life again. Spiritual rebirth is a one-time event. But sorrow for sin and repentance and prayer may be frequent.

  12. Price says:

    Nick, JTB preached a message of Repentance….for (looking forward to) the forgiveness of sin.. For it to be in actuality to obtain forgiveness of sin, it would have been in stark contrast to the Law of Moses which Jesus passionately defended (not the Pharisaical interpretations) and in contrast to the writer of Hebrews which says that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. Also, it would make forgiveness of sin completely based on one’s repentance without anything else.. which is a view held by very very few…

    Ray… why do you bring up the strawman argument of saved by faith alone… no one argues that point.. We aren’t saved by faith and we aren’t saved by ceremonial immersion in water.. We are saved by Grace. Nothing that we do can force God into granting us eternal life…If one listens to Jesus, we are eternally saved by faith/belief in Him.. He made no other provisional requirement.. Or, one would have to say that He was incomplete and somehow forgot to include the most important part of one’s ability to be saved…Surely, you can’t believe that… but perhaps…you do still try and argue against faith alone which is an argument no one makes.

  13. Nick Gill says:

    Price,

    So for means “looking forward to” in Mark 1, but it means “because of” in Acts 2? And neither one anything close to the most common usage of the word?

    If John’s baptism violated the Law of Moses, so did the baptism that Jesus disciples practiced, and so did Jesus’ multiple pronouncements to people, on his own authority, that their sins were forgiven.

    For that matter, the angel’s purging of Isaiah’s sins would also have violated the Law of Moses.

    You seem to have a great deal invested in finding a way to make this text say something other than what it says. Why *wouldn’t* the authorized forerunner of the in-breaking Kingdom of God be empowered to naturalize people INTO (*eis*) that kingdom and all the blessings it promised?

  14. Price says:

    Nick, Jesus, as God, is the only one who can forgive sin.. He can do what he wishes… JTB however, didn’t even perform any signs or miracles and would not have had authority to forgive sins.. You avoided entirely the Hebrew author’s statement that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood.. I didn’t say it or make it up.. It’s right there in Chapter 9 I think.. So, you’re shuffling around trying to make JTB’s baptism something that it wasn’t and even Paul had the Ephesian brethren RE-BAPTIZED because John’s baptism was insufficient.. If indeed it forgave sin, contrary to the Hebrew writer’s claim, then it was temporary or there would have been no need to have the Ephesians rebaptized…Paul could have just laid hands on them as he did for the Samaritans…

    As for JTB’s baptism violating the Law and Jesus’ disciple’s baptism as well….only if they did what you suggest.. which pretty much puts that to rest… Jesus would not have tried to implement an “in-between” covenant relationship with only those fortunate to hear the words of His disciples or John’s…that’s just not supportable in my opinion.. It is a rare person that actually holds to that position because it is filled with sooooo many inconsistencies…

    And, you know better than to suggest that “eis” doesn’t ever mean “because of”…the men of Ninevah repented “eis” the preaching of Jonah… come on man.. And, quite frankly, no I don’t believe 2:38 means in order to obtain… There was no previous basis for water to secure forgiveness of sin… although commanded it was symbolic at best and the whole crowd who heard him preach understood that… They would have gladly “purified themselves” symbolically and was the custom of the use of water in that respect…

    None of this however makes up for the fact that Jesus doesn’t utter a word about baptism being eternally salvific..but He says plenty about faith/belief doing so… just an observation.. I may be way wrong.. But, He said what He said about faith… Read the book of John.. It’s replete with bold statements about Jesus regarding salvation based on one’s acceptance of Him… These are the ones that jumped to my mind… I don’t see how one could misinterpret them…

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

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

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

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

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

    8. (John 8:24) I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”

    9. (John 11:25-27) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and
    believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

    10. (John 20:29,31) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his
    name. Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

  15. Nick Gill says:

    Jesus, as God, is the only one who can forgive sin.. He can do what he wishes

    This contradicts your own statements concerning the shedding of blood in Hebrews 9. If Jesus, as God, can do what he wishes, then he can certainly empower the Messiah’s forerunner to invite people into the forgiveness of sins that is a synecdoche for the fullness of the blessings of kingdom citizenship.

    Paul had the Ephesian brethren RE-BAPTIZED because John’s baptism was insufficient.. If indeed it forgave sin, contrary to the Hebrew writer’s claim, then it was temporary or there would have been no need to have the Ephesians rebaptized.

    Paul and Luke are quite clear in Acts 19:1-6 about the reason for the rebaptism of the Ephesian brethren — they’re particularly precise concerning what John’s baptism lacked (cf Jn 20:21-23).

    Jesus would not have tried to implement an “in-between” covenant relationship with only those fortunate to hear the words of His disciples or John’s…

    In-between? In between what? Paul clearly says in Galatians that we are forgiven by grace through faith because of God’s covenant with Abraham. The Law of Moses was not intended to provide forgiveness or salvation. While Jesus’ covenant is indeed *sealed* with his blood, any promises made by Jesus or his forerunner, even before that sealing, are still guaranteed by His own person. John announced the coming kingdom and invited people to prepare themselves for it.

    you know better than to suggest that “eis” doesn’t ever mean “because of”…the men of Ninevah repented “eis” the preaching of Jonah

    Didn’t say “doesn’t ever.” Please argue against what I actually communicate, rather than what you wish to argue against.

    None of this however makes up for the fact that Jesus doesn’t utter a word about baptism being eternally salvific.

    I guess that, for you, Mark’s Gospel ends at chapter 15. And, of course, everyone who reads the scriptures honestly agrees that the “water” in John 3:5 refers to childbirth rather than water baptism. Only legalists would think otherwise.

    You can use quotes from John like trump cards until you’re blue in the face — they don’t blot out the baptismal passages. Jay’s thinking makes the most sense of all the passages. Yours sticks its fingers in its ears and screams “LALALALALALALA!” whenever anyone speaks one of the passages commanding Christian water baptism and marking it as the normative point when forgiveness occurs and the Spirit is received.

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price,

    Regarding the interpretation of eis

    ESV Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

    KJV Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

    NAU Matthew 12:41 “The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

    NET Matthew 12:41 The people of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented when Jonah preached to them– and now, something greater than Jonah is here!

    NIV Matthew 12:41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here.

    Eis is found 9535 in the Greek OT and NT and Apocrypha. That’s the only verse I’ve ever heard used to argue for a “because of” meaning. The most literal meaning is “into” and “baptism” would very naturally be heard to take that meaning after a verb of physical motion “immersed into” or “dipped into.”

    BDAG says,

    a. at, in the face of metanoei/n eivj to. kh,rugma repent at the proclamation Mt 12:41; Lk 11:32; cp. Ro 4:20 and perh. Mt 3:11. JMantey, JBL 70, ’51, 45-48, 309-11 argues for a causal use here because of the proclam., with reff.; against him RMarcus, ibid. 129f; 71, ’52, 43f; JDavis, Restoration Qtrly 24, ’81, 80-88.

    (Did you notice the citation to the Restoration Quarterly! And that article is not in the Internet archives, or else I’d post from here, and I don’t have a copy.)

    BDAG says as to Acts 2:38 —

    a. at, in the face of metanoei/n eivj to. kh,rugma repent at the proclamation Mt 12:41; Lk 11:32; cp. Ro 4:20 and perh. Mt 3:11. JMantey, JBL 70, ’51, 45-48, 309-11 argues for a causal use here because of the proclam., with reff.; against him RMarcus, ibid. 129f; 71, ’52, 43f; JDavis, Restoration Qtrly 24, ’81, 80-88.

    Here’s how I’ve got it figured.

    * Even if we can find four or five examples of “into” meaning “because of” or “in response to,” that’s a sense that shows up literally 1 in a thousand times. The context has to make it quite clear or else Peter’s listener’s would not have understood.

    * Prepositions take on a huge number of possible meanings, but the context always drives which one applies. It’s never sufficient to show that X preposition might take meaning Y unless you can also show how the readers/listeners would have easily reached that conclusion. (And you sure can’t argue on the grounds of a theology not yet revealed to the Jews at Pentecost.)

    * In Acts 2:38, multiple possible meanings would make sense, but only one is right. It’s unlikely that Peter was attempting a rare prepositional pun. He had one particular thought in mind.

    * The meaning should come from the words preceding the preposition. It’s not an absolute rule, but speakers expect to be heard and understood in the word order in which they speak. If you have to take the meaning from a following word, you’ll likely confuse your listener.

    * In English and in Greek, “into” generally refers to motion from outside to inside. To take another meaning, the listeners need to be tipped off contextually.

    “I’m into her” — the fact that “into” follows “I’m” is the clue that “into” takes a non-standard meaning since it’s really hard to imagine a sentence beginning “I’m into” that uses the standard meaning. “I” can be “in” the room, but I “go into” the room. Standard meaning of “into” requires a verb of motion.

    Just so, the presence of a verb of motion begs for the standard meaning of “into.” “I’m going into” tells you that “into” will be used in its standard sense.

    Go to a standard definition of “into” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/into and it becomes clear that the verb preceding the “into” tells the reader/listener what “into” means.

    * Peter was likely preaching in the temple courts, with mikvahs all around. “Baptize” had already been impressed on the Jewish consciousness by John and Jesus. Ritual cleanings were well known to all in the audience. Therefore, they surely heard “baptize” as “immerse” or “dip” — and those verbs would naturally give eis its primary meaning “into.” And I find nothing in the immediate context that would suggest to a listener that he/she should apply a different meaning.

    Human listeners interpret words like eis in milliseconds — while the speaker speaks. I can’t imagine them taking eis/into as meaning “to obtain” or “because of.” Indeed, the fact that both meanings actually fit and make sense proves that Peter gave no verbal clues pointing toward one and not the other. The only verbal clue is “immerse,” which refers to physical motion and is very naturally followed by “into.” And if he meant “into,” what other word could he have used?

    Hence, it’s a beautiful metaphor: “(Act 2:38 JFG) Change your hearts [to believe that Jesus is the Messiah] and be immersed every one of you, by the power of the name of Jesus, the Messiah, into the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift that is Holy Spirit.” Very pretty phrasing by Peter, I think.

    The Jews who heard him were “cut to the heart.” They’d just been persuaded that their nation had killed God’s Messiah! They were in agony of conscience and dreading what God might do in response to such a horrible crime. A community drenched in the rituals of cleanliness surely felt filthy.

    And Peter promised them immersion into forgiveness — the outpouring of the Spirit would allow them to be, not just washed, but soaked in the forgiveness of God!

    Therefore, just as we should expect, Peter’s point was the overwhelming sufficiency of God’s grace. He was telling them what they needed to hear. They had to no need to know that salvation precedes baptism. Irrelevant to the topic at hand. But they need to know that they’d be completely, utterly, thoroughly clean from history’s greatest crime.

  17. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Price asked,

    You mentioned JTB as immersing “for” the forgiveness of sin… Hebrews says there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood

    (Mar 1:4 ESV) John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

    (Luk 3:3 ESV) And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

    The Greek of these two verses re “for the forgiveness of sins” is the same as in Acts 2:38. THerefore, whatever “for” means in Acts 2:38 is what it means in the earlier verses. Why would Luke, who wrote Acts, use the identical phrasing from Acts 2:38 in Luke 3:3 unless he intended the same thing. (And this fact also shoots a hole in the “because of” theory, because “because of” really doesn’t make sense at the time of John the Baptist.)

    I’ve never believed the “sins rolled forward” theory based on Hebrews. It doesn’t say that. And there are many mentions of sin being presently forgiven pre-Pentecost in the Torah, in the Gospels, and elsewhere.

    The “rolled forward” theory comes from —

    “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4).

    There are two possible explanations — and I’m under the weather and so won’t try to figure which is one right.

    1. The references to being “perfect” are shorthand for Jesus making us “perfect forever” (Heb 7:28; 10:14) — that is, forgiven “once for all.” Only the sacrifice of Jesus can do this. Thus, if Jesus forgave a leper of his sins, he was forgiven but not made “perfect forever, once for all.” That requires the sacrifice of Jesus and the indwelling of the Spirit (Heb 8).

    Thus, the sacrifices of bulls and goats produced actual, present forgiveness, but did not put the worshiper in a perfect forever, once for all relationship. Commit another sin and you have to come back be forgiven all over again.

    Just so, John’s baptism did not include the Spirit — a point he made himself and that is repeated in Acts. The indwelling Spirit not only remits sins but he keeps new sins remitted — no more sacrifice is needed.

    I think that’s likely the meaning.

    2. Forgiveness occurs where God is, and God is in heaven, and heaven is outside created time and space. If God waited for the death of Jesus to forgive Abraham, well, God’s forgiveness is not bound by our time. He is not only omnipresent, he’s omni-temporal (just made that up!). He can forgive Abraham when Abraham sins after Jesus dies because God is not bound by time.

    And that’s true, I’m convinced, but may not be what the authors of Hebrews had on his mind.

    But both of those explanations allow the scriptures that speak of present forgiveness in OT times to be entirely consistent with Hebrews.

  18. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Randall,

    Prevenient grace gives me a headache (like epistemology) and ultimately seems to be of theoretical consequence only. Maybe the theories are really important, but it has no pastoral consequence at all, so far as I can tell. I don’t spend much time on it.

    It’s possible that the baptism verses are closely associated with salvation and baptism because baptism so closely followed faith in NT times. It’s not my reading of the passages, but it’s a respectable position. I’ll happily book a time to sit with you and Paul in heaven and see which one of us is right.

  19. Price says:

    @ Jay, it’s just odd to me that Jesus never linked forgiveness of sin and eternal life to water immersion.. It was always belief/faith.. Given, as you say, that the Jews who were in the audience at Pentecost were familiar with Mikvahs and the purification rituals and “various washings” that were symbolic, on what basis do you see Peter suggesting out of the blue that salvation was now based upon not only Jesus’ sacrifice, one’s acceptance by faith in keeping with the covenant of Abraham, but adding water immersion ? He doesn’t say who told him that or that he was given some insight.. In fact he quotes from Joel who says it is by faith…odd to me at least… Then we have the Apostles and Cornelius who receive the HS by the faith after Jesus says that is how they will receive it rather than by water which John used..Just very odd circumstances to inaugurate the new covenant in both the Jewish and Gentile families in a way that we are to assume is an exception rather than a norm…

    But, this verse, that I read tonight in a men’s bible study sort of wrapped up my feelings about it entirely… [Jhn 3:36 ESV] 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” There seems to be a direct connection between faith and obedience.. But, one cannot dismiss the words of Jesus Himself when he says, [Jhn 11:25-26 ESV] 25 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?” I don’t see Jesus’ modifying belief in anything that He ever said although obedience is a clear indication of one’s sincere belief. Baptism is obviously a command..but as Rom 4 clearly states, one isn’t declared righteous by adherence to the rules, or faith is nullified and the promise is made void.

    A gentleman the other day said that both sides believe they are obedient to Acts 2:38…Perhaps God will be merciful to those of us that have an incomplete theological understanding..

    Hope you feel better soon..

  20. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Hank asked,

    Or, is it necessary to be baptized in order to be considered baptized?

    Well, what does the Bible say?

    (Mat 3:11-12 ESV) 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

    (Mar 1:8 ESV) 8 “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    (Luk 3:16 ESV) 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

    (Act 1:4-5 ESV) 4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

    (Act 11:16-17 ESV) 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 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?”

    If we consider John the Baptist a prophet — and Jesus says he was the greatest of all the prophets — then we must take John’s words very seriously. And he describes Jesus as baptizing with the Spirit in contrast to his own water baptism.

    Then we see the apostles baptized with the Spirit and then Cornelius — separate from water baptism.

    Normatively, water and Spirit baptism are simultaneous. Both are received at once, one from God and one from the human baptizer. Together, they constitute “baptism.”

    And God does not intend that they be separated, but God himself can separate them, and the work of the Spirit is what saves — not the water.

    (1Co 6:11 ESV) 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    The baptism of the Spirit is referred to as an outpouring or even a washing. Water doesn’t clean sin, nor does the human conducting the rite. It comes exclusively from Above.

    And so suppose someone comes to a genuine faith and is prevented by health or circumstance from immersion. It happens. Might God choose to baptize such a person with the Spirit despite the circumstances? Of course.

    Would he violate some law binding on the Holy Trinity in so doing? Of course not; there are no such laws.

    Would such an action be in fulfillment of God’s covenants and promises? Certainly. Obviously.

    Would he do it? Without a doubt.

  21. Randall says:

    Hi Jay,
    I know I indicated I would probably take a break but it has been very cold and icy outside, so here I am again. You know that theological precision is more important to you than you let on in your last reply to one of comments. That’s what the whole (saving) faith vs works is about isn’t it? I do sort of understand the headache though due to so many years in the CofC.

    You did write “I’ll happily book a time to sit with you and Paul in heaven and see which one of us is right.” We both know that each of us sees through a glass darkly and therefore neither of us has it all the way right. I’m also pretty sure that Paul wants us to understand theology better. After all, the way we think about things has a significant impact on our behavior. We don’t have to wait for Paul to explain that much to us. Either baptism is the magic moment or it is not. Either we are saved by grace through faith or we aren’t. It isn’t that some are saved at the moment of water baptism and others are not. Either faith is meritorious and results in grace / or grace is the divine consequence of faith or it isn’t. I suggest (Eph 2:8-10) that by grace through faith we are saved and to God alone be the glory. Does the whole of scripture teach faith is efficacious to salvation or is our salvation by efficacious grace alone, through faith alone?

    After all the stuff that people comment on here surely considering my comments doesn’t lead to your having a headache. -_^
    Hesed,
    Randall

  22. Price says:

    Nick, I will and give you a response but will refrain from the usual CoC trash talking… Let’s save that for the other FB pages and give Jay some respect. He is always most gracious and we should try and respect his page.

    Regarding Jesus or God’s ability forgive sin… Nehemiah (9:17) and David (130:4) spoke of God’s forgiveness.. He apparently is capable of forgiving one’s sin without asking Nick or Price or Jay what we think He should do. I agree that “forgiveness” under the Law was more of a purification but I’ll let the linguists debate all of that. I agree with Jay that any sins forgiven were temporary and and not eternal, ongoing forgiveness.. But, it wasn’t me who said that there was no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood it was the writer of Hebrews… Perhaps what he/she meant was connected in what WE do..as say one might offer a bull or goat to be purified or “forgiven” temporarily.. In order for us to seek and obtain some “pardon” to not be struck dead or swallowed up by a sink hole, we went forward to the priests and made offerings to make amends. There was shedding of blood. In Jesus’ death the blood that was shed was not our doing. It was given to us but blood was still shed.. The result was that the price was paid for us.

    regarding John’s baptism… for whatever reason…lack of knowing about the Holy Spirit or whatever reason you want to theologically attach to it… it was deficient under the new covenant.. So, if it did indeed provide for a new way of sin forgiveness, it would have been a new thing than the law of Moses which you stated did not forgive sin. It was only good up until the death of Jesus so my point was that it would be seen as some kind of “partial” or “in-between” covenant. Something that bridged the gap between the Law of Rules and the Law of Grace extended to only those fortunate enough to hear…

    You are correct that I erred by indicating you said “eis” was never used as “because.” You suggested, if I understand correctly, that one should translate according to the common usage of a word. Is that correct? Well, it seems that context determines the common usage of a word like “eis” which can mean any number of things when the context changes. Jay even reluctantly allows for its use in this manner if not but once in a thousand times.. But frequency doesn’t seem to rule this debate as faith/belief overwhelm any mention of water immersion for the forgiveness of sin.. All, I seem to have successfully pointed out is that it is possible…Perhaps not probable, but possible. But, again, if frequency determines what is right based then water immersion for the forgiveness of sin is possible, but not probable.. I’m not sure frequency is what one would prefer to argue…

    Perhaps the 16th Chapter of Mark is complete and accurate in all degrees. There seems to be overwhelming support by those who study such things that it is not. That some parts of it are additions made by some unknown and possibly uninspired person.. 16:16 is included in that questionable portion.. It does seem odd that a major foundational statement such as water immersion is paramount to salvation might be included in all the Gospels yet this statement is only found in Mark. Of course so are the other attributes of what a believer would demonstrate such as drinking poison and living, handling snakes altogether without harm, casting out demons, speaking in tongues… It would surprise me if the majority of those that believe that Mark 16:16 is inspired practice such things in their assembly. That seems precarious at best to pick and choose which lines, which words, which demonstrations of faith one would prefer to be inspired and which ones offend the senses. For me, it’s not wise to base doctrine or tradition on questionable passages that the majority believes was not part of the original..

    But, whatever.. Like I said earlier. I believe baptism is a command and that real faith leads to obedience. I’m just not going to discount the very words of Jesus Himself which I posted above and say that they are somehow modified in content by Paul and Peter as if Jesus spent 3 years and forgot to mention that water immersion would be required to be saved…and that one would be in hell forever, if for any reason whatsoever one was unable to get completely out of the baptismal water before they died. Most who believe that baptism is salvific fail to adhere to the premise that one is doomed to eternal death if for some unfortunate reason they died on their way to the church. They always claim that God is God and the Judge not them.. but if their doctrine is true, then God has no choice. I’m going with Grace by Faith and followed up with a life long journey of an attempt to be obedient..

  23. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Randall wrote,

    I suggest (Eph 2:8-10) that by grace through faith we are saved and to God alone be the glory. Does the whole of scripture teach faith is efficacious to salvation or is our salvation by efficacious grace alone, through faith alone?

    Of course I consider Eph 2:8-10 to speak the truth. Not sure what your question is asking. Maybe this will help.

    Step back and think about my approach to baptism/salvation. Under my theory, everyone with faith in Jesus is saved by grace through faith in Jesus — everyone. Therefore, my theory does not contradict those verses even a little bit.

    However, my theory does create a little messiness regarding when salvation occurs. It’s normally at the moment of baptism, but doesn’t have to be — if it has to be different for God to honor his promises to save all with faith (as previously defined) in Jesus. And that little bit of messiness bothers some quite a lot — although this messiness is found elsewhere in scriptures.

    At the very same time John was baptizing for remission of sins, other Jews were at the temple having their sins forgiven by animal sacrifice. Jesus sometimes baptized his followers (through his apostles), but sometimes he just declared them forgiven without baptism.

    While John was baptizing for forgiveness, Jesus was sometimes just speaking forgiveness.

    While Israelites were taking animal offerings to the Tabernacle for forgiveness, God was forgiving David without any animal sacrifice.

    God is perfectly capable of having more than one means of forgiveness operating at the same time. He’s perfectly capable of forgiving some via baptism while others are forgiven without baptism.

    The problem isn’t God or logic, it’s our cussed OCD-ness — and I’m among the worst. I just had to give it up to God to find a way through this thicket. Once I realized that I was imposing my own, man-made one-system-at-a-time theology, it got easier. I think my own difficulties trace all the way back to the old Dispensation lessons I had as a kid, teaching that God imposed a salvation system, repealed it, and replaced it with another — 1,2,3 — nice and simple. I actually tried to find room for a John the Baptist dispensation right in the midst of Jesus’ ministry. But it just doesn’t make into cool PowerPoint charts.

    As I’ve extricated myself from dispensationalism, I’ve come to see that God isn’t nearly so neat and pretty. He’s much about saving souls than systematic theology.

    I read an article about Naaman somewhere and the author pointed out how very messy the theology of Naaman is. Not circumcised. No sacrifices. Not even a gift to the prophet. And he was allowed to enter the temple of an idol with his king! And God approved him. “Go in peace,” said Elisha.

    It fits no scheme or theory, no theology or soteriology, and yet God could not turn his back on genuine faith and repentance. He never does — even if it messes up our theories.

  24. Randall says:

    Hi Jay,
    At times, systematic theology does pound a square peg into a round hole just for the sake of being systematic.

    Sorry I didn’t make my question clear. I have been reading (perhaps incorrectly) you indicating that grace is the result of faith. My suggestion is that faith is the result of grace. I believe that fits every instance you provided above, and it doesn’t lock us into anything more that God saves who he wants and the magic moment is when God gives the grace – not as a result of any particular act of man, baptism or something different. Though He may give additional grace to one who has come to faith. Remember the words from the song: Thou must save and Thou alone. Our faith and any good thing we posses we have been given by God. It depends not on the man who runs or the man who wills, but on God who shows mercy.

    Of course this does not mean we should neglect baptism – and I believe it is most appropriate for a believer and by immersion and done essentially immediately upon recognition that they have come to faith in Jesus. I think it was F.F. Bruce that wrote the baptism is not an optional extra.

    Thanks for addressing my questions in the past. I have spoken my piece. I know you are busy and I think just replying to all the comments on your blog must be a full time effort. Please do not feel any obligation to reply to this comment.

    I appreciate all that you are trying to accomplish with your blog and wish you Godspeed.
    Hesed,
    Randall

  25. Alabama John says:

    Jay, I really appreciate your last post. I could never say it as good as you can and did.

    Thank you.

    I find that thinking in the past you just expressed was for those very sick or old and getting ready to meet their maker.

    Not meaning you are, but those in situations I just mentioned are looking at God in a different light than those wanting to win an argument or be right and prove all others wrong.

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