“Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 5, Part 3B (Reconciling baptism and faith)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel. And we’re continuing a consideration of the Bible’s teaching on baptism and faith.

[Two posts today and nothing on Muscle & Shovel tomorrow. I figured the readers needed to read both parts before drawing conclusions.]

Honoring the baptism verses

Baptism is closely tied to salvation in several passages. Doesn’t saving all with faith write those verses out of the Bible? Do they mean anything at all?

Some hold that baptism is merely symbolic of a salvation that occurs when faith is first realized. That’s Zwingli’s position, and he’s been followed by most Calvinists and by denominations with Calvinistic roots, such as Southern Baptists.

I think most of the Church of Christ debating points against that position are right. I think we’ve interpreted Acts 2:38 largely correctly (except for those of us who ignore the gift of the Spirit).

But the Churches of Christ have been debating the Baptists on this point for over 100 years — so long that we assume that the only possible positions are our traditional view and the Zwinglian/Baptist view. We don’t even consider whether there might be a third way. But there is.

I make this proposal for your consideration: Salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit is received, and this is normally at water baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 8:9-11). Yes, the baptism verses are true. However, God is not bound to only give the Spirit at water baptism. In fact, he makes exceptions when it suits him, and it suits God to keep his promise to save all with faith.

Baptism is for new converts, mere babes in Christ novices, new to Bible study.  To hold that a flawed baptism damns is to require a novice — sometimes even a child — to understand Greek grammar better than many professional translators. God never meant for it be that hard to be saved!

In New Testament times, faith, water baptism, and the receipt of the Spirit almost always happened in close proximity. In the normal case, there was no question of faith without water baptism. But there were exceptions. Acts plainly shows that there is no great law in heaven, binding on God himself, that he may only pour the Spirit onto those being water baptized. Clearly the apostles and Cornelius did not receive the Spirit and salvation and water baptism simultaneously (if the apostles received Christian water baptism at all).

God’s promises

God keeps his promises — all his promises. (Numbers 23:19Joshua 23:14;2 Corinthians 1:20;Titus 1:22 Peter 3:9). And sometimes God does even more than he promises! And if God promises to save all with faith in Jesus, that is exactly what he’ll do.

Jesus describes God in the Parable of the Day Laborers as a master who pays some of his servants more than they have earned while others receive only the wages they deserve. When some servants complain, God replies,

(Matthew 20:15) “Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?”

When we are unhappy that God might be more generous to others than to us, we act just like the envious day laborers — and we sin in so doing. We should rather celebrate serving a gracious Lord. God loves the world so much that he gave up Jesus to die for our sins so that we might be saved through faith in him. How can we dare criticize God for making exceptions?

Every one of us deserves damnation. That’s what sin means. And we’ve been saved on the thinnest of technicalities — the fact that Jesus promised to serve our sentence for us. Thank God for exceptions! And may he forever make exceptions generously!

And, no, I’m not making exceptions for God. I’m not speculating. God explicitly and repeatedly promises to credit faith as righteousness. And he’ll keep that promise — every single time.

A perfect baptism?

We don’t require a perfect faith or a perfect penitence as a condition of salvation. No one being baptized has yet moved a mountain, and no one has yet stopped sinning altogether following his baptism. And if an imperfect, immature faith and imperfect, immature repentance suffices — by grace — why wouldn’t an imperfect, immature baptism suffice as well? To conclude otherwise is to make baptism more important than faith in Jesus, but the promise by which we’re saved is God’s covenant with Abraham — based on faith. Abraham was never baptized.

Salvation outside the covenant terms

In every age, God has forgiven sins outside the prescribed covenant means of grace. When Jonah preached to Nineveh, God forgave them without circumcision. When David sinned with Bathsheba, God forgave him without sacrifice. Melchizedek was a priest of God even though he was not part of God’s covenant with Abraham. Naaman was approved by God without circumcision or animal sacrifice. The Jews of the Northern Kingdom who attended Hezekiah’s Passover while unclean were accepted by God, even though the Law requires the death penalty, because they didn’t know any better! (2 Chron 30, an excellent chapter to read). Our God is a God of exceptions.

And this is true even when the exception requires contradicting a plainly mandatory command, such as the command to offer a bull for sins in Leviticus 4 and the many commands to be circumcised — and this one –

(Lev 15:31 ESV)  31 “Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst.”

Threatening death to those who enter the Tabernacle (or, later, the Temple) for entering unclean. The Passover lamb could only be sacrificed at the Temple.

And so God always accepts those who come to him with faith and penitence. It’s easy to find examples of those accepted outside the covenant rituals. There’s not a single example of someone coming to God with a genuine faith and penitence who was rejected by God.

Conclusion

In short, the problem of baptism — of flawed baptisms administered for the wrong reason, at the wrong time, or with the wrong quantity of water — is solved, not by dissecting the baptism verses, but by contemplating the grand narrative of the Scriptures, indeed, the purposes of God as revealed from Genesis to Revelation.

From the time of Abraham, God’s promises were built on faith — not a faith that is a mere intellectual acceptance of a fact but a faith that leads to faithfulness, that is, to penitent living.

When we insist on making any one act of obedience the essential, non-negotiable test of salvation, we turn salvation by faith into salvation by works — and we destroy the gospel.

Thus, to be true to the gospel, we must admit that an honest misunderstanding of baptism does not damn. But, of course, that no more means we stop preaching the truth about baptism than God’s willingness to forgive David means we stop preaching against adultery and murder!

We love God and we love the things of God. Baptism is a gift from God, a blessing, and we are commanded to preach and practice baptism. And so we must. We are privileged to understand baptism better than many and to preach God’s truth soundly. But never should we let baptism — which is one of the seven “ones” in Ephesians 4 — become a basis for division of brother against brother. What a sad perversion of a blessing from God that would be!

The grave danger is that we become so obsessed with baptismal perfectionism that we let the truth of baptism supplant God’s many promises to save all with faith in Jesus. And when that happens, we turn the Bible upside down and inside out.

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

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49 Responses to “Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 5, Part 3B (Reconciling baptism and faith)

  1. Hank says:

    Jay, at the start of part B you wrote:

    “Some hold that baptism is merely symbolic of a salvation that occurs when faith is first realized. That’s Zwingli’s position, and he’s been followed by most Calvinists and by denominations with Calvinistic roots, such as Southern Baptists.

    I think most of the Church of Christ debating points against that position are right.”

    So, you “think mist of the Church of Christ debating points AGAINST THAT POSITION (emp. mine), are right”.

    Well “that position” debated against was the idea that baptism was for those who ALREADY were saved. Who ALREADY were converts. Who ALREADY were “in Christ”. The church of Christ debating was against that position. You say the Church of Christ debating points against that position are right (and I agree).

    But then, a mere paragraph or so later, you write this:

    “Baptism is for new converts, mere babes in Christ.”

    Which is precisely the position of the baptists, the position you say the CoC debating points were right to oppose?!

    Which is it? You seem to be all over the place here…

  2. John says:

    The third way, I believe, is exemplified in the two passages in which the Old Testament is used by New Testament writers. The first is found in 1 Corithinans10 where Paul says that Israel was baptized into Moses under the cloud and in the sea. And, of course, 1 Peter 3 where Noah being saved by water is likened to baptism. Israel and Noah were in God’s grace before the Red Sea and the flood. However, the recognizable separation of the old and the new was through their “baptism”.

    We have this need of making God’s redemption dependent on an “either-or” dividing line. However, from birth to the grave only God can judge the heart and the intent. And while we teach and express the beauty of faith and baptism and how they are the path in becoming a Christian, God’s recognition of the child of God is far beyond our rationalizing and deductions.

  3. Chris says:

    Paul lays out the message of faith in Romans 10:8-13. Jay, when Paul uses the words “confessing with our mouth” and “calling on the name of the Lord,” is he linking this to water baptism? It appears that “calling on the name of the Lord” was linked to his baptism.

    It seems that our response to hearing the gospel and believing isn’t wrapped up in repeating a simple prayer but is rather wonderfully displayed in calling on the name of the Lord in water baptism. Peter also appears to use the word “pledge” in his explanation of water baptism and salvation. I’m some what persuaded that this is the intent of these verses, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on the matter.

    If confessing is an important part of saving faith, can we accurately say that baptism is our response (our confession) to our faith and believing in our heart in Jesus, and as such, is part of the message of faith where in salvation most typically occurs as Paul explains in Romans?

  4. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Hank,

    I agree with you that I shouldn’t have said “in Christ” after “mere babes.” I’ll consider whether English provides a better word than “convert” for someone persuaded to become a Christian who has not yet been baptized. I’m not sure there is but your editing points are well taken.I’ll correct the post and appreciate the editing. But please don’t confuse editing with persuasion. Nitpicking my work will help me be a better writer but it doesn’t address any substantive disagreements we might have.

  5. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Chris,

    I’m entirely for baptizing by immersion believers for remission of sins. But I just don’t see baptism in Rom 10:8-13 — and the original readers would not have had a copy of 2 Peter to see a reference to his famous baptismal passage.

    Rather, Rom 10:8-13 is replete with references to the OT prophets, who spoke of faith and the gospel and the kingdom, but not baptism. And so the deeper we dig into Rom 10, the more we see Paul reminding his readers of the prophecies about the coming kingdom.

    Rom 10:13, for example, is taken from Joel 2:32, which is about the outpouring of the Spirit but says nothing of water baptism. Hence, we really can’t read water baptism into Rom 10:8-13 without doing damage to Paul’s real point, which is that all this was anticipated by the prophets.

    (Rom 9 – 11 is next to impossible to sort out without a good cross-referencing Bible. You have to read the scriptures Paul cites in context to get his point. I did a series on this some time ago. http://oneinjesus.info/category/index/theology-index/calvinism-theology-index/election-calvinism-theology-index/ (just the posts captioned “Election” that reference Rom 9 – 11).)

    I completely agree that the Sinner’s Prayer is not biblical and is often practiced in ways that are very unhealthy for the church. There’s a great sermon by David Platt (Radical) a Baptist pastor questioning whether the Sinner’s Prayer should be dispensed with altogether — and he makes some very good points. It’s on YouTube.

    I very much agree that baptism is ” where in salvation most typically occurs as Paul explains in Romans” — and think water baptism of believers by immersion for remission of sins was conventional practice in the First Century.

  6. Dan Harris says:

    Jay, you wrote, “The grave danger is that we become so obsessed with baptismal perfectionism that we let the truth of baptism supplant God’s many promises to save all with faith in Jesus. And when that happens, we turn the Bible upside down and inside out.” I once asked an older minister, if one marries without really understanding what marriage is; is that person truly married? I wasn’t trying to be a trickster, I really wanted to know. He asserted that the married are married even if they didn’t understand entirely what it was or what it involved. At the time I disagreed with him, because if that were true then one would have to also say that those baptized with a shallow understanding of baptism were as saved as ‘real Christians’ and that would be opening the door to anybody who said they believed (in Jesus) and would also be undermining a foundational difference of what sets apart the church of Christ faith from the denominational world. I was so arrogant and self righteous that I couldn’t accept that thought.

    I understand just because I couldn’t sort out the knowledge needed for a right baptism or marriage doesn’t prove anything one way or the other, but it does offer a glimpse into how I was thinking and how I believe many sincere church ‘o christers believe. I think your explanation from scripture is a much better guide than my logical consequence argument. An additional thought I have considered as a church ‘o christer is that nothing I can do is good enough for God BUT that I SHOULD be able to do good enough to please God. ….. a strange contradictory thought in which grace is both acknowledged and discounted in one mixed up idea. “Yes , we all need grace, but you better be dad-blamed sure you don’t need to much of it!” It seems I have even heard Luke 17:9 invoked in this kind of argument where in the parable Jesus said the master does not thank the servant for doing what is commanded. It is simply expected.

    So the master does not thank the servant for obedience. But the Bible teaches us that there is a reward. How can this be? What ,if anything, would, or does God thank us for (a God who needs nothing from me and is entirely sufficient on his own). Why would God thank us with an eternal home if we have done nothing but obey commands we were expected to obey? Is there anything for which God would thank mere mortal men?

    Well, if the mind of Paul is any example of what God would thank us for then these verses might be helpful. ( note- He doesn’t thank people for taking the communion, for a capella singing, or for getting baptized.)

    2 Thessalonians 2:13
    But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth,

    Romans 16:4
    Priscilla and Aquila who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.

    Colossians 2:4
    3 We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints;

    2 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers, 3 remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father,

    Romans 1:8
    First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

    1 Corinthians 1:4
    I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,

    1 Thessalonians 2:13
    For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

    2 Thessalonians 1:3
    We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other,

    Philemon 1:4
    I thank my God, making mention of you always in my prayers hearing of your love and faith.

    Paul thanks Christians for their belief, for their faith, their love, for their risking their necks for him, for the grace of God manifested in them. If obedience gets mentioned it seems to be in the context of obedience as an outgrowth of faith. The one time Paul says thanks and baptism in the same sentence is when he told those in Corinth he was thankful that he had not baptized them. —– which does not mean baptism isn’t taught only that in this instance baptism had become confused with something more important —like faith in Christ.

    To hold up baptism as one of the 5 steps to salvation is a thing as foreign to truth as any lie born in hell. And to believe it is to start turning the gospel inside out because it removes Christ as the center of the gospel, the center of our faith, the center of our thoughts, the center of our world, the center of our universe, the center of our souls. Faith in Christ is the thing.

    It seems to me that the thing which God would thank us for is the one thing which he has not or cannot command; faith in Christ. All good works and obedience are a by product of that.

  7. Skip says:

    Dan, Awesome comparison to our understanding at the marriage altar.

  8. Hank says:

    Jay, you originally wrote: “Baptism is for new converts, mere babes in Christ.” I understand you now say that you should not have said “converts” or “in Christ”.

    I am not trying to merely nitpick here. Would you have rather said that baptism is NOT for new “converts” nor for those “in Christ”?

    You know what I am asking I am sure?

  9. Royce says:

    Jay says “baptism is for believers” and he is correct. He also says those who believe are saved because God keeps his promises. I suspect that many, many people who have been baptized in our churches of Christ were saved before they got in the water. I cannot reconcile that God keeps his promises and saves some who have a flawed or even no baptism because they weren’t properly taught, and does not save those with faith who in short order will be baptized right. It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Either God saves those with faith (trust, faithfulness, etc. as Jay states) or he doesn’t. If he does he saves EVERYONE who believes. If he doesn’t then the whole thing does not hinge on faith but rather on water baptism which is the position of most folks here.

    I believe as much as anyone that everyone who puts their trust in Jesus should be immersed ASAP. It is the Bible way of doing things. But I also believe that the order in the narrative of Cornelius is the norm and not the exception. God had a plan to reach the Gentiles. It began with Peter. The plan was two fold. First God decided that the Gentiles would hear the gospel. The second part of his plan was that they would believe. In 2014 Gentiles are still hearing and believing and being baptized.

  10. Royce says:

    I wanted to add this reference. Acts 15:7

  11. hist0ryguy says:

    Thank you for sharing your view. I am not inclined to disagree.

    I empathize with and see your sincere attempt to be true to God’s unchanging nature, “bare faith” in the OT, and the NT verses connecting the salvation, Spirit, and water baptism (esp. Acts 2, 8, 10, 19). Your post reminded me of our brother Tertullian (albeit he is a brother with several odd beliefs) and his work “On Baptism” almost 1800 years ago. Virtually all the ECFs hold firm to what they consider normative, but always apply God’s graciousness, which they ground in Scripture, to those who are unable to comply. God takes pleasure, not in knowledge, but in the hearts who desire to grow closer to him. Growing closer to him includes understanding and applying his teaching – but that his holiness (not salvation). We press on, unafraid.

    To promote investigation, I try to share the ECF quotes and source locations that I mention. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0321.htm

    “[the church says]… without baptism, salvation is attainable by none… there arise immediately scrupulous, nay rather audacious, doubts on the part of some… in days gone by there was salvation by means of bare faith [such as Abraham], before the passion and resurrection of the Lord. But now that faith has been enlarged, and has become a faith which believes in His nativity, passion, and resurrection, there has been an amplification added to the sacrament… the sealing act of baptism… [but] we have indeed, likewise, a second font… of blood… concerning which the Lord said, I have to be baptized with a baptism, when He had been baptized [with water] already. For He had come “by means of water and blood…” This [baptism of desire/martyrs blood] is the baptism which both stands in lieu of the fontal bathing when that [water] has not been received…

  12. Hank says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Royce. Let’s see what Jay has to say.

  13. Hank says:

    Royce said-
    “Jay says “baptism is for believers” and he is correct.”

    I wonder if by “believers”, does Jay mean Christians?

    Is baptism for Christians? Or, to become Christians?

    Which is it?

  14. Hank says:

    Not to “nitpick”. But, please clarify…

  15. rich constant says:

    hist0ry
    guy
    this is another interesting artical in misusing what we consider simple words…
    blessings
    http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_SCP_MindSpiritSoulBody.htm

    Society of Christian Philosophers: Regional Meeting, Fordham University

    March 2011

    Main Paper, Friday March 18

    ‘Mind, Spirit, Soul and Body: All for One and One for All

    Reflections on Paul’s Anthropology in his Complex Contexts’

    By the Rt Revd Prof N. T. Wright

    University of St Andrews

    An exegete among philosophers! I don’t know whether that is more like a Daniel among the lions or like a bull in a china shop. We shall see.

    When I was teaching in Oxford twenty years ago, I had a student who wanted to study Buddhism; so I sent her to Professor Gombrich for tutorials. After a week or two he asked her to compare the Buddhist view of the soul with the Christian view. She replied that she didn’t know what the Christian view was. He wrote me a sharp little letter, saying, in effect, ‘You’ve been teaching this young woman theology for a whole year and she doesn’t know what the soul is.’ My reply was straightforward: we had spent that first year studying the Old and New Testaments, and the question of the ‘soul’ simply hadn’t arisen.

  16. Syllogism:

    1. We baptize only those persons who have already come to faith in Jesus. We do not baptize unbelievers.
    2. Believers have eternal life, Jesus declares this unequivocally in John 5:24

    3. Therefore, we receive eternal life before baptism.

    I’d make the syllogism more complicated if it actually WERE more complicated, but, alas, it is not.

  17. John says:

    Works for me, Charles. I truly believe that many church members do not take the time to think of how their theology has hell’s path leading right up to the edge of the baptistry; then again, some of them do and glory in the “knowledge”. That is the sad part.

    Baptism is not the door; or hearts are the door, and when Christ stands and knocks and we open, Christ comes in and accompanies us through our baptism into Christ. Did not Moses accompany the children of Israel through their baptism into him? “With and into” is what makes baptism so beautiful.

  18. John says:

    I am convinced that those church members who see a convert still walking the path of hell until they make themselves to the edge of the baptistry, actually trip up at the language of Acts 2:38, ” for the forgiveness of sins”, or as the NIV and others state it, “…so that your sins make be forgiven”. Indeed, when we witness a believer come and go through the waters of baptism, we say “YES, their sins are forgiven”. But for God, whose ways are not our ways, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, there is the “YES”, eternal, before and beyond our own.

  19. laymond says:

    Royce said “I believe as much as anyone that everyone who puts their trust in Jesus should be immersed ASAP.”

    WHY?? It couldn’t be for remission of sins, could it? Not if Jesus had already forgiven your sins, and God had added you to his Church. So Royce what would be your reason for being baptized ?
    Would it be the same as why people believe in non instrument worship “tradition”. ?
    I believe Royce said “It is the Bible way of doing things.” How come something he disagrees with, is the “bible’s way” when he agrees it is Jesus’ way ? It is hard to define “the bible’s way” from Jesus’ way.

  20. Hank says:

    Charles,

    Syllogism:

    1. Only those persons who beliebe and have already come to faith in Jesus call upon his name and/or “accept him as Lord”.

    2. Believers have eternal life, Jesus declares this unequivocally in John 5:24

    3. Therefore, we receive eternal life before we call upon the name of the Lord and/or “accept him as Lord”.

    There is a saying that goes “Anything that proves TOO MUCH, proves nothing at all”…

  21. Hank says:

    Jay,

    It seems as though everybody here is on one side or the other. It seems as though you wish to be on both.

  22. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Hank wrote,

    It seems as though everybody here is on one side or the other. It seems as though you wish to be on both.

    If you’re speaking of the Baptist/Church of Christ debate over baptism, I’d rather not be on either side. I’m not picking a side at all; I’m trying to interpret the scriptures without writing any set of passages out of the text — not “theirs” and not “ours.” I want to learn from and be edified by both sets of scriptures.

  23. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Hank,

    What does “believer” mean to you?

  24. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I was desiring to reread a comment that I made on January 13, but it seems the posts from January 2 through January 14 are missing.

  25. Doug says:

    Jay, you wrote: “Salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit is received,…”. I wonder if you would agree that this gift of the Holy Spirit doesn’t usually come with a big cosmic bang but rather with a small seed of Spirit that must be nurtured and developed.
    I was baptized when I was 10 yrs old and all I can remember today is the preacher who baptized me and that the water was very cold. There’s no recollection of a blinding light or babbling tongues. But, I do feel that the Spirit’s seed was implanted and over the years it has experienced considerable growth and I think I live more by the Spirit with each passing day. And, since that time, I have from time to time “Felt” the Spirit moving me to worship and action.
    I think that some feel that sort of feeling should accompany the deposit of the Holy Spirit within a young convert and that may or may not be the case. That may be the reason so many who were baptized at an early age are baptized a second time when they are older.

  26. Hank, your response to my syllogism may be the most bizarre thing I have read in a while. But you did leave me without an argument. All I have left is a story:

    A lecturer on cosmology spoke to a civic group about the solar system. As he was leaving, an old lady cornered him and began to correct him, insisting that the Earth does not simply hang in space, but in fact sits on the back of a giant turtle. Not wanting to be unkind to the lady, the scientist gently asked, “Well, then, upon what does the turtle sit?”

    “On a bigger turtle, of course!” was the tart reply.

    The scientist smiled and said, “And that turtle sits on….”

    “He sits on an even bigger turtle, young man! And don’t think I don’t know where you are going with this. Everybody knows it’s just turtles and more turtles, all the way down!”

  27. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Doug asked,

    I wonder if you would agree that this gift of the Holy Spirit doesn’t usually come with a big cosmic bang but rather with a small seed of Spirit that must be nurtured and developed.

    My experience is the small seed of Spirit. The scriptures make clear that a big cosmic bang is possible, but that’s not my experience. And like you, it’s easier to see the Spirit in retrospect at times. I can often see what the Spirit has done within my congregation but usually after the fact — although, with practice, I’m getting better at seeing what’s happening now. But it’s like the wind, you know.

  28. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    That’s when this site was moved to a new server. I didn’t realize the loss of comments was that severe! Is it ALL the comments during that time? I looked at my emailed comments for 1/13 and didn’t see one from you — but I have several from others. Very odd.

    I’ll see what the webhost can do, but don’t hold out much hope.

  29. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    I found two comments from you that day and have emailed them to you. I hope one is the one you’re looking for.

  30. Hank says:

    Jay,

    Sorry for the delay, for some reason I keep having trouble getting notifications to following comments.

    You asked what a “believer” means to me. Thats a good question. In general, a “believer” just means one who believes. However, not all believers are saved since the demons believe. So did the rulers of Jn 12 who would not confess Christ. We know that neither them or the demons were saved.

    Other times, the Bible refers to those in the church as believers. So it depends. A “believer” can be a demon, a religious Person who refuses to confess Christ, or Christians in the church.

    Which is why the “syllogism” of Charles was invalid. He used the term “believers” but used the term with differing meanings throughout his syllogism. Which made it no good.

  31. Hank says:

    Charles,

    Here is a better syllogism:

    In Christ there is salvation (2 Tim. 2:10).
    We are baptized into Christ (ROM 6:3).
    Therefore we are baptized into salvation.

    Or:

    In Christ there is redemption (Col 1:14)
    We are baptized into Christ (Rom 6:3)
    Therefore we are baptized into redemption.

    The above two syllogisms are try and valid.

    We could even argue:

    In Christ there is no condemnation (Rom 8:1)
    We are baptized into Christ
    Therefore, we are bapized into no condemnation.

    That’s another true and valid syllogism.

    The one you used was not valid because of your confusion with the term “believer”. Sometimes, believers are those who have been baptized into Christ. Other times, they are those who refuse to confess him or even demons.

  32. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Hank,

    Hard to imagine the demons being called “believers” in the NT language –

    (2Co 6:15 ESV) 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

    A believer is, as you say, someone who believes. English speakers often get confused, not realizing that in Greek “faith” and “belief” are the same word. We just traditionally use “faith” for “faith in Jesus” rather than “belief in Jesus,” but “faith” does not have a verb form — you have to say something awkward, like “put your faith in.” Hence, “to believe in Jesus” is “to have faith in Jesus.” They are perfect synonyms because they are the same in the Greek.

    So “believer” is someone with faith in Jesus, and when I use the term, I use it the same way I use “faith” — with the meaning given in the previous posts.

    I am not pushing the Baptist point of view, and so do not argue that all with faith in Jesus are in a present saved condition. I think that normatively, salvation occurs at the moment of water baptism. And that God makes exceptions in accordance with his promises.

  33. Hank says:

    Jay,

    Have you already written on how and why and what’s the difference between believing “IN” Christ and being baptized “INTO” Christ?

    Why does every translation make that distinction in the word (eis)? As far as I know, we never read of belief “INTO” Christ. Nor do we ever read of being baptized “IN” Christ. Its always the other way around.

    Jimmy Allen preached a great sermon titled “Into What Were You Baptized?” He included that sermon in his book “Rebaptism – What Must One Know To Be Born Again”. As far as I can tell, he holds the same position as do you. However, on page 228 of said book, he makes an interesting point regarding the difference between “in” and “into”. He wrote:

    ” ‘in’ suggests location or enclosure. “You are now in the building. One stands in his yard. A person is lost in the forest. Fish are to be found in the water. Birds fly in the air. ‘Into’ is a preposition which the notes motion from without to within. A man puts his hands into his pockets. A boy dives into the water. People drive out of 1 state into another. You may hear one say he put his hands his pockets or he jumped in the water. Technically, both expressions are incorrect. When a transposition takes place, “into” is the proper word to use. The saved are “in” Christ. All Bible believers accept this conclusion. How is one transposed from without to within Christ? What is the action one must take to get into Christ? The Bible emphatically declares that we are “baptized into Jesus Christ.” There is no other way to bring about this union.”

    Do you agree with the above? Wouldn’t arguing that one can be saved today before and/or without being baptized be the same thing as arguing that one can be saved outside of Christ?

  34. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Hank,

    I’ve written extensively on “in” and “into” in the context of baptism. I find the translations very inconsistent and the Greek very consistent. The NIV is all over the board. And I agree that “baptize into” means from outside to inside.

    But we err when we insist that God may save in one and only one way. Yes, there are plenty of verses that speak of being baptized “into” Christ, but you keep forgetting that this is entirely consistent with my approach. Again: I do not accept the Baptist view of baptism. I think that normatively believers are saved at the moment of water baptism — so, to me, it makes perfect sense for the Greek to say “baptize into” Christ.

    As I’ve pointed out recently, God often saves people outside the covenant means of forgiveness. David was forgiven for murder without animal sacrifice. Jesus sometimes baptized (through his apostles) and sometimes forgave without baptism — although he could told those he forgive with a word to go be baptized.

    Meanwhile, post-Pentecost, God himself gave the Spirit to the apostles and to Cornelius separate from water baptism — and Rom 8:9-11 says that if you have the Spirit, you’re saved and if you don’t have it, you’re not.

    And so God is entirely capable of doing better than the system he himself set up. In fact, that’s his nature.

  35. Now, the demons are believers, according to Hank. Incredible. Well, we have spent so many years demonizing other believers, it has apparently now stuck…

  36. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I cannot believe that Romans 8:9 is in any way applicable to the Spirit being in anyone who has not been baptized into Christ. All those who Paul is writing to in Rome were baptized Christians, that is exactly what he was explaining in chapter 6. I have never encountered passages of scripture where one of the Apostles or teachers trained by them testified of an individual who had received the Spirit spoken of in this passage unless that individual had been baptized, except Cornelius. Of course there is a lot more to be considered in that event. I had offered a proposed answers to your 3 challenges on January 13 but, you were involved with medical repairs. No one stepped in with evidence to explain how my message was not correct. Maybe you could help me understand where I missed the boat.

  37. Hank says:

    Jay, it may be a mistake to assume that Cornelius was a lost (unsaved) man who “became saved” as soon as the Holy Spirit fell upon him and his house. Do you contend that EVERY faithful Gentile (according to their own law) be came instantly unsaved and lost at Pentecost and that their was not a single saved Gentile throughout the first ten years of the church?

    Is it not possible that the faithful Gentiles like Cornelius simply continued being saved upon their acceptance/obedience to gospel (once it finally was preached to them?). Remember, Jesus had “other sheep” (not of this fold) who would eventually be joined together making one fold. I believe Cornelius was on of the “other sheep”, one of the children of God “not of this nation”. Besides, Peter said that the HS falling on them was just like when the HS fell on them “at the beginning”. Which had nothing to do with the apostles going from a lost to saved state.

    It may be kind of like John saying that Jesus came unto his own and they did not receive him but to as many as received him gave he the power “to become” children of God. Yet, we understand that when a faithful Jew (a child of God) learned about and received him and “became” a child of God, it did not mean that they had to be lost first. Otherwise, their was not a single saved and faithful person living once Jesus appeared. We know that is not true.

    Basically, the case of Cornelius may not be as you assume. Otherwise, you have many other questions to answer regarding the faithful Gentiles who were saved under their own law at the inception of the church.

    Lastly, I believe that the “ignorance” (lack of divine teaching) of the Gentiles was overlooked (there were two folds of Gods sheep/his children) up until the time Paul said God no longer overlooked it. Which was in Acts 17. In 14, Paul said that God had meanwhile been suffering the nations (Gentiles) to walk in their own ways. Of course we know that God was talking about overlooking their sin. Rather, the wrath of Gidvis against ALL ungodliness. But, Cornelius was not ungodly. He was quite faithful to God all along including up to the day he first met Peter. WHY assume he was lost and unsaved?

  38. Hank says:

    Charles writes:

    “Now, the demons are believers, according to Hank. Incredible. Well, we have spent so many years demonizing other believers, it has apparently now stuck…”

    How about, according the Matthew??? He is the one who claimed the following:

    Matthew 8:28-29 ESV — And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

    You don’t think they were believers?? Again Charles, you need to realize that not everyone who believed and/or were called believers ate the same.

    Consider also:

    John 12:42-43 ESV

    Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

    Charles, John (the apostle) claimed that the authorities who “believed in him”, believed in him. The problem is in your insistence that everyone “who believes” is saved. Like you assumed in your syllogism. The fact that some believers are saved and some are not, is what made your syllogism invalid. Unless (and to be consistent), you will now argue that the authorities who “believed” but would not confess it were actually saved?

    Remember, I am not the one who wrote Matthew 8 or John 12.

  39. I will gladly allow God to decide who truly believes and who does not. That requires no great humility on my part, just a small dose of reality. I don’t buy the argument that just because we cannot quantify faith to one another’s satisfaction, that an insufficient understanding on our part makes faith insufficient to give someone eternal life. God does not suffer from our limitations in this regard. Nobody is getting -or failing to get- eternal life based on a technicality. Besides, we are outside this argument entirely, anyway. No one here is trying to study this matter to see if HE himself believes, only to try to judge whether somebody else believes, regardless of that person’s testimony. When we give up trying to judge who believes and who doesn’t, this whole argument becomes moot.

    One thing I will not do is open an argument with Jesus over whether his words in John 5:24 are an “incomplete plan of salvation” because he fails to mention Walter Scott’s other four fingers. I confess that I have a lot of nerve… but not THAT much nerve.

  40. Hank says:

    Charles, thanks for your honesty. But, doesnt the part that says that they did not confess it (their belief in Jesus), so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God, suggest that they were not in a saved state at that time?

    What about:

    Matthew 10:32-33 ESV

    So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

    I have never heard of anybody take their position of whoever “believes” will be saved to include those Pharisees who refused to confess their belief before men. Now, THAT is incredible.

    And remember, even the demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. As much as you try and avoid it, at some point your just gonna have to “quantify faith.”

    Otherwise, the demons enter into heaven right along side of all who believed but refuse to admit it…

  41. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Hank wrote,

    Lastly, I believe that the “ignorance” (lack of divine teaching) of the Gentiles was overlooked (there were two folds of Gods sheep/his children) up until the time Paul said God no longer overlooked it.

    True enough that God overlooked the ignorance of the Gentiles up until Pentecost, but Peter preached to Cornelius many years after Pentecost and he had no faith in Jesus until then. He was a God fearer, likely meaning a Gentile who worshiped God and kept some elements of the Torah but had not become circumcised as a proselyte. I see no reason to imagine that he was saved pre-receipt of the Spirit.

    Rom 8:9-11 declares that those without the Spirit are not saved and those with the Spirit are. Seems pretty simple.

    And I don’t believe that we’re likely to meet Nebuchadnezzar and Artaxerxes and the Pharaoh of the exodus in heaven. Neither are they in hell. Rather, when they died, they ceased to exist. Immortality, according to scripture, is a gift from God given only to certain people. The notion that humans are inherently immortal is Platonic, that is, Greek and pagan, and not Jewish or Christian.

    Consider –

    (Act 17:30-31 ESV) 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    Paul says that God overlooked Gentile ignorance, not that they are saved.

    (Act 14:15-16 ESV) 15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.

    Just so, previously, God allowed the nations to “walk in their ways,” meaning did not punish them — which hardly means he gives them grace and rewards them with heaven.

    And if the Gentiles went to heaven pre-Pentecost, in what sense is the gospel good news? It only made salvation harder to achieve!

    I do not accept the Available Light theory that good people who’ve never heard of Jesus go to heaven. (You seem to lean in that direction.) But neither do I agree with the Medieval notion that man is inherently immortal and destined either to live in heaven or hell forever. Destruction is a very real possibility.

    (Mat 10:28 ESV) 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    See http://oneinjesus.info/2011/06/15011/ for a more indepth explanation.

  42. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry wrote,

    I have never encountered passages of scripture where one of the Apostles or teachers trained by them testified of an individual who had received the Spirit spoken of in this passage unless that individual had been baptized, except Cornelius.

    Cornelius, his household, and the disciples on whom the Spirit was poured out in Acts 2. And the idea that Paul implicitly included water baptism in Rom 8:9-11 is an assumption and, in my opinion, a seriously flawed one. After all, receipt of the Spirit comes from God — not by some sort of accident. And God is not bound to worry about water baptism if it suits him. If someone receives the Spirit apart from water baptism, then God has done that, and I would not put conditions on God, especially when we have examples of God not obeying his own “pattern.”

    Notice how Peter describes the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 11 –

    (Act 11:13-18 ESV) 13 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; 14 he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.’ 15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 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?” 18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

    Notice that Peter, speaking of their salvation, doesn’t even mention their baptism. He only mentions their receipt of the Spirit in response to the message of the gospel.

    Then notice how Peter explains the salvation of Cornelius in Acts 15 –

    (Act 15:7-9 ESV) 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “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.

    He mentions that their hearts were “cleansed … by faith” and that they heard the gospel and believed — and they received the Spirit. Again, no mention of baptism.

    Thus, in both cases where Peter recounts their salvation to a very skeptical audience, he does not mention water baptism but the preaching of the gospel, faith in Jesus, receipt of the Spirit, and salvation.

    It’s clear to me that we cannot hammer him into our Five Step Plan. He just doesn’t fit — and that’s the point. God was so insistent on saving Cornelius that he handled the baptism (in the Spirit) himself, so that their admission into the church was not a question of Peter’s choice but God’s.

    And could you repost the January 13 comment? It’s not easy to go back that far. I was mostly dead at the time and in no shape to do anything.

  43. Randall says:

    Hi Jay,
    Above you wrote: “And I don’t believe that we’re likely to meet Nebuchadnezzar and Artaxerxes and the Pharaoh of the exodus in heaven. Neither are they in hell. Rather, when they died, they ceased to exist.”

    and also: “Just so, previously, God allowed the nations to “walk in their ways,” meaning did not punish them — which hardly means he gives them grace and rewards them with heaven.”

    “And if the Gentiles went to heaven pre-Pentecost, in what sense is the gospel good news? It only made salvation harder to achieve!”

    Where in the world did that come from? The scriptures you cited seem to require a good bit of inference. Did those Gentiles that recognized and praised the God of Abraham as the true God not receive saving grace, or come to it on their own w/o God’s grace? You argue that faith saves then come up with hey ceased to exist? Did the real pagans cease to exist or were they punished or did I misunderstand you? Obviously, I’m a bit confused about your understanding of this issue.

    “Heaven” is something I see as a gift more than a reward (though there are cases where the word “reward” is used) for something I understood or performed correctly – as is “obedience” to the gospel. But then, I believe that all we are, have, or obtain is a gift rather than something merited by doing something/thinking correctly. EVERYTHING we do, have, or are is a gift from God isn’t it? If we gain it in some way other than grace then it is something we merited in some small way.
    Hesed,
    Randall

  44. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    I will re-post my comment, I may do a little revising of grammar etc as I seem to always when reading an earlier document think, what in the world made you (me) attempt to communicate with those words.
    As I read your comment following these thoughts came to my attention.
    “And the idea that Paul implicitly included water baptism in Rom 8:9-11 is an assumption and, in my opinion, a seriously flawed one. After all, receipt of the Spirit comes from God — not by some sort of accident. And God is not bound to worry about water baptism if it suits him. If someone receives the Spirit apart from water baptism, then God has done that, and I would not put conditions on God, especially when we have examples of God not obeying his own “pattern””

    Is there any evidence in Romans through Revelation of any of God’s inspired writers encountering individuals whom they recognized as having received God’s Spirit that had not been baptized? If they had encountered an individual matching that description, considering the message that they were commanded of Jesus to teach, what message could you verify that they would convey?

    I believe that Paul did not have a need or obligation to speak about how baptism fit into the picture in Romans 8:9-11 because there was no one in the audience he was addressing that had not been baptized and he had explained that thoroughly in chapter 6 to the same audience. In other words his communication on the matter was directed to only the brethren in Christ.

  45. Avatar of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry,

    Why omit Acts? Paul was present at the Jerusalem Council that considered the conversion of Cornelius. It seems wildly improbable that he’d not heard of the events of Pentecost.

  46. Hank– As to refusing to confess Jesus, I think Peter did that to a fare-thee-well. And the rest of the Twelve sure kept their mouths shut. I don’t think this obviates their salvation. So, if the Ten bailed out physically on Jesus because they were afraid of arrest, and Peter disassociated himself from Jesus verbally –probably for the same reason– then how does that make them any different from those Pharisees who would not confess their faith out of fear of losing their positions? Grace abounds, Hank.

    Sometimes I think our expression of how we come to salvation is like the coded lock on my office door. It has five buttons; press them in the right order and the door unlocks. Miss a number, or get the numbers out of order, and you won’t get in. Our concatenated “plan of salvation” sounds like a series of barriers to scale, rather than like anything Jesus said about it. It sounds like someone trying to keep out the riff-raff, rather than like someone dying for them.

    As to quantifying faith, perhaps we would be wise to take James’ approach. He satisfied himself with identifying what it was not. If Jesus did not provide a definition of the sort that we continue to try to articulate, I think I won’t plunge headlong into filling in for Him what He did not say.

  47. Larry asked, “Is there any evidence in Romans through Revelation of any of God’s inspired writers encountering individuals whom they recognized as having received God’s Spirit that had not been baptized?” So, do we now have yet ANOTHER dispensational line? One between Acts and Romans? So things are so different after the end of Acts that we need both pre-Romans evidence AND later evidence of a thing if we are going to believe? Really? This is going to be problematic, as the letter to the Romans was written during the period of time described in Acts. And Romans was written BEFORE Acts was. Besides, poor Jule Miller is going to have to revise all his charts to put another vertical line in. And it’s really going to foul up a lot of sermon outlines– as “meeting on the first day of the week to break bread” does not cross this newly-discovered Acts/Romans border.

    Sometimes we are so intent on refusing to believe something, that our demands for evidence really reveal our refusal to accept any.

  48. Hank says:

    Charles, the fact that our sin will not jeapordize our salvation (even to the extent of refusing to acknowledge the Lord), is some wonderful news!

    “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be LOST?!”

  49. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay and Charles,
    Both of you have asked questions about the Book of Acts, therefore possibly I did not identify carefully enough why I left it out of the equation.
    Charles suggested Jule Miller, but I doubt that he has nearly the experience with his teachings as I have, and I will assure him that I do not call on Jule for this conclusion. The conclusion that I have found is that Acts is very much a book evangelizing the lost in the world to Christ. Displaying information of the workings of the Apostles and others making disciples from the lost. I am not sure that we can find communications in Acts directed specifically to guiding a body of Christians as they are attempting to associate with each other as the body of Christ.
    In comparison to that concept, beginning in the Book of Romans even though it and several other books were written first the content is definitely directed to the body of believers meeting in different locations. There are some instances where specific individuals are addressed with directions concerning their particular situation, but I have never found communications in those books addressing a message to an individual who was not committed to Christ with instructions how to become a Christian.
    If you can identify one of those situations, show me, I might be convinced.

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