“Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 8D (Cornelius and H. Leo Boles)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.

Nick Gill commented earlier, and I completely misunderstood his question (my fault), and I wrote a 2,000-word reply to the wrong question. But the essay addresses issues that are being vigorously debated in the comments. And so I figure some other readers might be interested in my thoughts.

The issue I addressed (unasked) is whether the “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is in fact different from ordinary Christian baptism.

Contrary to traditional Church of Christ teaching, I think every saved person is baptized with the Spirit. This is just another way to say “receives the Spirit.” Therefore, I reject the notion that baptism with the Spirit necessarily involves miraculous manifestations.

Rather, there is one type or “measure” of the Spirit available to Christians, going back to Pentecost, but the gifts of the Spirit associated the gift (singular) of the Spirit (i.e., the Spirit) vary depending on the Spirit’s will, as described particularly clearly in 1 Cor 13.

Two preliminary notes:

1. I use “Cornelius” to mean “Cornelius and his household” to facilitate both typing and reading.

2. “Occam’s Razor” is a principle of logic that says the simplest answer is usually (but not always) right. The truth of the principle is seen especially well in physics, where incredibly difficult and complex ideas often reduce to something as simple at E=mc2. But not all physics equations are quite that simple.

Hence, physicists and mathematicians and good theologians learn to look for the beauty and elegance in what they study. Complexity will never be escaped entirely, because the world is complicated, but the essential principles tend toward the simple. But Occam’s Razor is never proof of anything; just a reminder of what to look for.

(I don’t know whether Bible students are taught this or have to figure it out on their own, but it’s a great help in digging out biblical truths.)

First Argument: In re “measures of the Spirit”

You seem to be arguing from the H. Leo Boles playbook. [I misunderstood the question from my first sentence. Oh, well.] I disagree with Boles on many things, including his notion that “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is somehow different from the “ordinary” indwelling. I reject Boles’ thesis (found his book The Holy Spirit: His Personality, Nature and Works, which has heavily influenced Church of Christ thinking but is very unorthodox as to the broader world of Christianity) for the following reasons:

* I accept Boles’ theory, we’d also have to accept that when John the Baptist told his disciples,

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

John found it more important to talk to his disciples about the salvation of the apostles and Cornelius than the salvation of his disciples when the Kingdom comes or the salvation of Jesus’ disciples generally. (Nothing in any of the four Gospels suggests that John was speaking to just those men who would later become apostles.)

And to accept that “baptism with the Holy Spirit” is only what happened at Pentecost and the conversion of Cornelius, we’d have to accept that John’s speech to his disciples was not intended to be understood by them, because they certainly couldn’t have gotten from “baptism with the Spirit” that only about 20 people would one day receive this gift. They would have heard an allusion to the Spirit being outpoured on all flesh, as Joel and other prophets promised.

(Joe 2:28 ESV)  28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

(Isa 44:3-4 ESV)  3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  4 They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.

* Boles’ thesis implies that the baptism of the Spirit promised by Jesus to his apostles in Acts 1 is different in kind from the Spirit promised in Acts 2:38, although Peter seems to clearly tell his listeners that it’s all the same. He refers to the “gift of the Holy Spirit” as the “promise” in v. 39, which refers back to v. 33 “promise of the Holy Spirit” — which is a reference to Joel’s prophecy, which Peter says is exactly what the apostles received. Re-read the sermon top to bottom and see whether you don’t agree.

* Acts 11 seems to make this abundantly clear to me (and is what convinced me to reject Bole’s highly selective Baconian methodology[1]) –

(Act 11:1-4 ESV) Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, 3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them in order:

Acts 11 relates a conversation between Peter and members of the “circumcision party” — Christian Jews who weren’t keen on seeing Gentiles saved without circumcision.

(Act 11:15-17 ESV) 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?”

Peter at this point has not mentioned the apostles or the 120 disciples present at Pentecost. Hence, “us” refers to its most recent antecedent: those present, a group of Jewish men. Peter meant, of course, “us Jewish Christians” in contrast to “them” Gentiles.

(Act 11:18 ESV) 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.”

Their reaction is that God has granted salvation “to the Gentiles” — not just Cornelius — because they are speaking and thinking in terms of Jews and Gentiles, not apostles and Cornelius. If they had perceived Cornelius to be some kind of special case who did not receive the same Spirit as the Jews in general, then they’d not have so quickly generalized to Gentiles in general.

* Acts 15 is even clearer –

(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.

Plainly, “us” is Christian Jews, not the apostles only, and “them” is Christian Gentiles. “Made no distinction between us and them” surely doesn’t mean that God treated Cornelius like an apostle of Jesus. No, the point is that both races/ethnicities receive the same Spirit prophesied by the apostles.

This is much of what Acts is about — the Gentiles enter the Kingdom just as do the Jews. Cornelius was not a special case, except for being first. He was a typical, exemplary case meant to be generalized to all Gentiles.

* Luke’s use of “fall” regarding receipt of the Spirit is also instructive. Peter says that the “Spirit fell on all who heard,” speaking of Cornelius and his household. In Acts 11:15, Peter says “the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning.” Perhaps this unusual word indicates the uniqueness of the conversion of Cornelius.

But consider —

(Act 8:14-16 ESV)  14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John,  15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit,  16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

In the case of the conversion of the Samaritans, Philip the Evangelist considered it surprising that when the Samaritans were water baptized (Acts 8:12) the Holy Spirit did not “fall” on any of them.

This is the very same, most unusual word used for the falling of the Spirit on Cornelius — only two chapters later. And yet Philip was surprised that the Samaritans did not receive this gift. He hardly would have been surprised that the Samaritans weren’t treated like the apostles! This is clearly a reference to the “ordinary” indwelling.

(It seems likely that the church had come to use “fall” as a synonym for “poured out from heaven.” In both cases, the metaphor pictures something descending rapidly from above.)

* Paul writes,

(Tit 3:4-7 ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Notice that Paul uses the language of the Prophets — “poured out” — with regard to the gift of the Spirit received by all Christians.

* The same thing is true in Rom 5:5 –

(Rom 5:5 ESV) 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

The use of “pour” with “Spirit” also refers back to several Old Testament prophecies as well as to Acts 2. And Acts also describes an outpouring of the Spirit (also following the language of Joel). Same language; same Spirit.

Per Occam’s Razor (always a fan of Occam), the simplest explanation is just one Spirit, one outpouring, one “type” or “measure” of Spirit. The gifts that come with the Spirit vary according to the Spirit’s will, but it’s all the personal indwelling.

Questions:

So why use “baptism with the Spirit” in Acts 2 and 10? Because there was no concurrent baptism of water — and Luke wants to make the point that this is just as salvific as if immersion had taken place. It’s “baptism” but just not the water kind.

Why not refer to the several other baptisms in Acts as baptism with the Spirit? Because they were in both water and Spirit – and so normative and in no need of deep explanation. Luke was writing a history, not a theology of baptism.

AND because the two references to John the Baptist promising baptism in the Spirit were intended to set a major theme of Luke-Acts — with “baptism” to be closely tied to “pour out” (more on this in a future post) and hence harken back to the prophets’ promises re the outpouring of the Spirit on “all flesh” (per Joel). Hence, we should read John the Baptist as telling us that all baptisms in the name of Jesus are in the Spirit (unless the Spirit has already been received).

The “all flesh” prophecy that Peter quotes in Acts 2 and Peter’s sermon as a whole tie all future receipts of the Spirit together with Pentecost. Pentecost, as described by Luke, has a much stronger emphasis on the Spirit being poured out on all flesh (a theme of Acts!) than water baptism (which is important but not the centerpiece of the sermon).

Second Argument: When was Cornelius saved?

* Cornelius did not receive a “measure” of the Spirit unlike that of the ordinary Christian. (See above.) (“Measures” are quantitative whereas Boles tries to use the word for qualitative differences — which is more than a little forced.)

* In Acts 11 and Acts 15, Peter’s recounting of the salvation of Cornelius does not mention the water baptism. Peter is only concerned with what God did. And Peter plainly intends to be understood as saying these Gentiles have been saved.

(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.”

Acts 11:13-14 states the theme of the passage: Cornelius “will be saved.” Vv. 18 recapitulates the theme with the Jews of the circumcision party declaring that God has saved them “has granted repentance that leads to life.” And yet Peter says nothing of their water baptism. In fact, he quotes John the Baptist’s contrasting water baptism with Spirit baptism — and if we’d been there listening to Peter quote John, we’d not have asked about water baptism either — because we were just told that Jesus himself would baptize with Spirit in contrast to water baptism.

(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 [Jewish Christians], 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

Before the Jerusalem Council, Peter doesn’t say “God showed me it was okay to water baptize Gentiles.” Rather, he says that the Gentiles heard the gospel, believed, and God gave them the Spirit and “cleansed their hearts by faith.” Again, water baptism is not mentioned — just Spirit baptism.

In accord with Occam’s Razor, it’s really easy to simplify all this, as Paul has done –

(Rom 8:9-11 ESV) 9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

If you have the indwelling Spirit, you are saved; otherwise, not.

Absent the confusion sown by Boles’ speculations, it’s really pretty easy. But the Churches of Christ have largely ignored all the above because so many deny the personal indwelling of the Spirit — which forces an unorthodox theory about measures and cessationism and all kinds of other stuff just not found in the Bible.

Oh, and this moves baptism out the center and replaces it, in the center, with things like faith in Jesus and the receipt of the Spirit, which is what Peter actually talks about. That doesn’t erase water baptism, but it gives it a healthier emphasis — so that it was entirely appropriate for Peter to speak at the Jerusalem Council about salvation and Cornelius — with the apostles and elders and Paul and Barnabas present, among many others — and not mention water baptism, because baptism is not the question. It’s how God chooses to respond to those who approach him with faith.

______________________

[1] Sir Frances Bacon was philosopher who helped create the Enlightenment. He suggested that one way to understand something is to look at its components and classify and categorize the elements. And sometimes this works well, but sometimes it’s like trying to understand your girlfriend by dissecting her. And the Spirit is a person, with a personality and will, not a law of nature or a rock collection. The Eastern and First Century Jewish mindset is much more about understanding holistically.

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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22 Responses to “Muscle & Shovel”: Chapter 8D (Cornelius and H. Leo Boles)

  1. Excellent article! One of your correspondents has insisted to you elsewhere, as he has to me on my blog and in private correspondence, that Jesus is the one who baptized in the Spirit, but that his disciples are commanded to baptize in water, which he also contends is the one baptism of Ephesians 4. He follows Boles’ position about the different “measures” of the Spirit, but does maintain there is an ordinary, in dwelling measure received by all penitent believers at baptism.

    My position for some time has been that just as Israel was baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea, we are baptized in water and the Spirit. But how can we as disciples of Jesus baptize in the Spirit when John said clearly that Jesus would be the one to baptize in the Spirit?

    Two thoughts: First, we baptize in the name of Jesus. Second, in the Spirit of the first few verses of John 4, where Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, though Jesus baptized not, but his disciples did. even so, when we baptize in Jesus’ name, he is effectively the one who is doing the baptizing.

    All of this is really not the main point about the Spirit though. Joel’s prophecy was that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, just as Isaiah prophecies that all flesh would see God’s salvation. Peter quoted Joel to describe what happened on Pentecost – and he included men, women, young, and old who would dream dreams and see visions. That can hardly be limited to the apostles, even if you also accept that Cornelius was also baptized in the Spirit.

    In 1 Cor 12:13, Paul plainly says we were all baptized in one Spirit in a context where “Spirit” is clearly the one Holy Spirit of God. The preposition there is the same as John the Baptist used whe he said Jesus would baptize in the Holy Spirit.

    Hence, Paul and Peter agree that all Christians are baptized in the Holy Spirit, just as you have argued above. Thanks for this article!

  2. theophilusdr says:

    Jay, very nice and thorough analysis of conversion of Cornelius, fell upon (epipipto) – Cornelius & Samaritans, and Spirit/water baptism. Quite consistent with an analysis of conversion in Act –:
    http://www.intheimageofthecreator.com/operation-of-the-holy-spirit-2/operation-of-the-holy-spirit/

    The example of Cornelius is unmistakable because to make sure the message is understood, Luke covers it three times. Baptism within Spirit Holy is God’s salvation and not ours to control. Because God accepted the Gentiles into His fellowship, who were Peter and the others to not do the same? They would have withstood God. Water baptism symbolizes fellowship with God through Christ, just as did the Jews eating with the Gentiles.

    God saves, we fellowship. End of doctrine.

    Jerry, you rightly point out the similarity in syntax between Spirit and water baptism. Immersion is within a medium – surrounded by and enclosed. Immersion within water; immersion within Spirit Holy. Cornelius makes it clear which one saves. If there is “one baptism,” it is clear which one it must be. 1 Cor. 12:13 is consistent, but not always translated correctly. (“within” one Spirit, not “by” one Spirit- dative locative not instrumental). Within one Spirit we are immersed into (eis) one body. Same as Acts 2:38.
    http://www.intheimageofthecreator.com/created-in-the-image-of-god/the-new-creation/

    Baptized within Spirit Holy, born from out of the Spirit, gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father, the spiritual DNA of God poured into our hearts by the love of God, to be translated into the behavioral phenotype of Jesus Christ through transformation. The predestined plan of God before creation.

    A well-documented and refreshing post to read, Jay. Thank you. I pray your posts will help these types of “issues” be laid to rest so we can move on toward becoming like God. Otherwise, we are squandering the time God has given to us on this earth. (hello, parable of the talents).

  3. laymond says:

    Jay, as we see in act chap 10, when Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius, one of the first things Peter said was ” you already know what I am going to tell you” and evidently he did, (except that salvation was no longer just for the Jews.) We know how Cornelius was described, many accolades and a man who believed in God. So why was the spirit poured out at that special time, Peter hadn’t even finished talking , so it had to be something else. Could it have been the faith Cornelius had shown by obeying God and sending for Peter, as he had been commanded ?

    What was it Peter told Cornelius ? I believe he said you are ready to be baptized into the lord’s church.

  4. hist0ryguy says:

    Jay,
    I have seen several different combinations of ideas on the topic and verses you covered, but found your mixture interesting. I appreciate your post and will reexamine the issue.

  5. “Boles’ thesis implies”

    No Jay, you are inferring something from what you believe Boles’ thesis to be. Let’s keep this straight. You are speaking for a dead person and then telling us how he is incorrect.

  6. laymond says:

    Some people have to prove they are smarter and better than others. I attended school to improve myself, I was baptized to better myself. That neither makes me smarter, or better than others, that only makes me smarter, and better than I was.

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    The faith that saves is faith in Jesus. The Jews who believed in God but not Jesus were not saved. The same is true of Cornelius.

    There is nothing that suggests that Cornelius believed in Jesus before Peter preached to him or that he was somehow already saved. Indeed, to suggest that he was already saved misses the entire point of the narrative, which is God himself moving to open the Kingdom to the Gentile and fulfill his promises to pour out his Spirit and save all nations.

    (Act 11:13-15 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.

    The angel did not preach Jesus to Cornelius — only that he would receive “a message by which you will be saved.” What is that message? We need not speculate —

    (Act 10:34-43 ESV) 34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

    Peter’s sermon is all about faith in Jesus. Not a word about baptism. He concludes in v. 43 with a plea to believe in him, promising “that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

    At this point, we learn from chapter 11 and 15, although it’s contextually obvious in chapter 10, that Cornelius comes to faith in Jesus (covered in last night’s post). He may have believed the raw facts about his ministry etc, but he did not commit to him as biblical faith requires. “Even the demons believe and tremble,” but the demons don’t trust or submit to Jesus in faithfulness.

  8. rich constant says:

    🙂
    just gota say,,,j

    also i would like an answer…
    does this not imply that the 120 were baptized in like manner in acts 2…bugged me for about 10 years now.

    Then Peter said, 10:47 “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did,134 can he?”135

    2. “Occam’s Razor” is a principle of logic that says the simplest answer is usually (but not always) right. The truth of the principle is seen especially well in physics, where incredibly difficult and complex ideas often reduce to something as simple at E=mc2. But not all physics equations are quite that simple.

  9. rich constant says:

    and that would be inclusive of all the apostles.
    and yes i know i am walking all over them being “especially sanctified” but was not Paul.
    God being no respecter of persons.

    ya know

  10. Grace says:

    Jay said: Oh, and this moves baptism out the center and replaces it, in the center, with things like faith in Jesus and the receipt of the Spirit, which is what Peter actually talks about. That doesn’t erase water baptism, but it gives it a healthier emphasis — so that it was entirely appropriate for Peter to speak at the Jerusalem Council about salvation and Cornelius — with the apostles and elders and Paul and Barnabas present, among many others — and not mention water baptism, because baptism is not the question. It’s how God chooses to respond to those who approach him with faith.

    I totally agree. Peter said that God who knows people’s hearts gave them His Holy Spirit. God knows the depths of our hearts and minds, He sees deep in our souls. Peter said it is by grace through faith we are saved.

  11. rich constant says:

    10:22 They said, “Cornelius the centurion,53 a righteous54 and God-fearing man, well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation,55 was directed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and to hear a message56 from you.”

    10:33 Therefore I sent for you at once, and you were kind enough to come.86 So now we are all here in the presence of God87 to listen88 to everything the Lord has commanded you to say to us.”89

    10:34 Then Peter started speaking:90 “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people,91 10:35 but in every nation92 the person who fears him93 and does what is right94 is welcomed before him.

    Then Peter said, 10:47 “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did,134 can he?”135
    10:48 So he gave orders to have them baptized136 in the name of Jesus Christ.137 Then they asked him to stay for several days.

    11:13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 11:14 who will speak a message23 to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’

    my point:

    at what point is the message of the gospel complete?
    amongst other questions above?

  12. laymond says:

    Jay, how did Cornelius become faithful to Jesus just by hearing a sermon, or a partial sermon by Peter. As James said you might have faith, but unless you show faithfulness by some action. Your faith is dead. The only action by Cornelius that I see that would show his faith in Jesus was when he consented to be baptized into Jesus’ church. are you saying that all the “good” Cornelius had previously done counted as faithfulness to Jesus. I don’t see how.

  13. Grace says:

    What was recorded was the message heard (Acts 10:34-43) this was just the beginning of Peter speaking to them, and before he could continue speaking anymore the Holy Spirit was poured out. Once they heard the gospel of Jesus they believed the message and received the Holy Spirit. Then after they received the Holy Spirit they followed the Great Commission to baptize them.

  14. rich constant says:

    Jay
    by a great philosopher whose name escapes me.

    “what WE have here is a failure to communicate…”

  15. rich constant says:

    TRADITION BA HUMBUG
    BOY OH BOY

  16. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    When James says “faith without works is dead” he is not saying that your faith in worthless until you perform some work. Abraham was credited with righteousness without any works at all. But the works came later — because he had a faith that works.

    God knows these things. He knows whose faith will be demonstrated by works when the time comes and whose will not.

  17. Grace says:

    When the gospel of Jesus was preached the message was complete. Peter spoke about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, that is the gospel of Jesus. Luke said they believed the message and received the Holy Spirit. God knew their hearts, He knew they believed and had turned toward Him. Peter said that God who knows people’s hearts gave them His Spirit. The gospel of Jesus is the message.

    Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, The righteous shall live by faith.

  18. laymond says:

    Jay said “God knows these things.” yet I believe Jay said God didn’t know that Cornelius would accept Jesus as his lord and savior, unless Peter preached a sermon on the subject. Jay does God know all things about a person, and how he will react or just the things that support your belief ?

  19. Jay does seem to fall on a sharp edge here. In defining faith at least somewhat as “faithfulness” in other posts, he finds himself at once having us saved by faith and also having us saved by our works, or at more specifically by God’s foreknowledge of our works. “Those God foreknew, he also chose” is certainly biblical. But “Those whose obedient works God foreknew he also chose” would be a different thing.

    But Cornelius was not without works. He did the one work which Jesus said God requires– to believe. Sufficient to God, but not to us. The reasons we challenge, doubt, marginalize and even isolate Cornelius’ experience, rather than trying to identify with it, is worthy of examination. Instead of gratitude for God’s grace, and amazement at his mercy and power, we pick at every aspect of the event, to distance ourselves as far as possible from it, to find a way to wall it off in the past, as an “exception” or “not normative”. It is hard for me to imagine that our need to maintain a proud and ungrateful doctrine that makes sure we get eternal credit for being better than the fellow next to us so keeps us from embracing such examples of our Father’s great love.

  20. laymond says:

    Jay said, “God knows these things. He knows whose faith will be demonstrated by works when the time comes and whose will not.”

    I agree with Jay, probably more than he does,( not exactly how he said it) what Jay said is God sees the heart of man , and by the heart man will be judged. The heart of man has to be led by the spirit, a good spirit produces fruit of the spirit.
    Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
    Gal 5:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
    Gal 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
    Gal 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
    Gal 5:26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

    Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

    Man reveals his fruit by the work he does. Cornelius was acceptable for the fruit he had already revealed, not a revelation to come,but he was saved by his obedience to God through baptism. We often seem to forget that Jesus said “I speak the words God gives me” I believe he also said, ” I speak for God, not myself ” so when we quote Jesus, we are really quoting God the Father.

  21. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Charles,

    1. “Faith” in the NT is faith in Jesus. (I know you know this but some commenters seem to want to dismiss this elemental truth.)
    2. On a close reading of Romans, obedience is produced by the “Torah of the Spirit of life” — that is, they’re works prompted by the Spirit, in love. This is the point of Rom 12-15. All four chapters are about being led by the Spirit, as Romans 8 says we must be, into living the love of Jesus. Just so, in Galatians, we’re not under law if we’re led by the Spirit.
    3. Therefore, the only works that can demonstrate the possession of faith in Jesus are works done after we come to faith and receive the Spirit. “Works” done outside the prompting of the Spirit and without faith in Jesus mean nothing.
    4. We are to baptize those with faith in Jesus. If you accept my position (or that of most Christian denominations without roots in Calvinism), normatively, the Spirit is received at the time of baptism. Therefore, works done pre-baptism may show you to be a very good person but they cannot possibly demonstrate your possession of the Spirit.
    5. I read James as arguing the contrapositive of [Faith in Jesus => (implies or necessarily produces) good works]. That is, the [absence of good works => the absence of faith in Jesus], which is the logical exact equivalent, but in both cases, we assume enough time for the Spirit to transform hearts and demonstrate its presence through good works.
    If you are a square, you are also a rectangle. Therefore, if you are not a rectangle, you certainly are not a square. The statements are logically identical.
    6. Abraham received grace before he sacrificed Isaac.

    (Jam 2:21-23 ESV) 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”– and he was called a friend of God.

    Those events are separated by many years, some say 30 years or more. And yet James says his works “justified” him. Abraham had been in covenant relationship with God long before he offered Isaac. Therefore, it’s a mistake to read “justified” here as the same as “saved.” It’s absurd to imagine that Abraham was not saved as soon as God credited him with righteousness for his faith.

    (Rom 4:20-25 ESV) 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

    (Gal 3:5-9 ESV) 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith– 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

    Now, “justified” per N. T. Wright (and many other scholars) is not the moment of grace. It’s the moment when you are declared not guilty. And given that James knew that Abraham had been forgiven by faith long before and was placed in covenant relationship with God long before, surely James doesn’t mean that Abraham was damned until he offered Isaac! Rather, his willingness to offer Isaac demonstrated objectively what had long ago occurred in fact, but invisible to mere mortals.

    Thus, to James (who is not required to define his terms exactly as Paul does since this is not the Code of Alabama and they write to two very different cultures and audiences) “justification” is when the faith is declared by God to human ears.

    Or we can put it this way. James says God’s grace given to Abraham was “fulfilled” when Abraham offered Isaac. God was, in effect, saying, by crediting him with righteousness, that he would in fact live righteously — not perfectly — but that he would justify God’s faith in/faithfulness to him. (Cool turn of phrase, huh?) God trusted Abraham to be righteous — why else enter into covenant relationship? — but not to be perfect.

    James also says the Abraham’s work “completed” his faith, but we surely can’t take James as saying that Abraham was in a lost state until then. Rather, God knew Abraham’s heart to be faithful when he trusted God’s promises. He was credited with righteousness. Therefore, he was in fact “just” (in the Greek, the same word as “righteous.”) But the verdict was not yet announced by God on Mt. Moriah, future site of the temple and the sacrifice of Jesus himself.

    To be called “righteous” is to be described, in general, as one who conforms to a standard. But life is not lived simply in the general; we live in particular worlds. So, to be called “righteous” in the Bible means that one’s behavior and life conform to the Torah, the standard of God (Gen 38:26). To be called “righteous” in Judaism means that one’s behavior and life conform to the Torah as interpreted by one’s authorities—e.g., the Teacher of Righteousness at Qumran or Hillel or Shammai. To be called “righteous” in the messianic community of James means that one’s behavior and life conform to the Torah as interpreted by Jesus (Luke 18:14) and the leaders of that messianic community, most especially James (1:26–27; 2:8–13, etc.). To be called “righteous” in the world of Paul means to be conformed to the standard of God by union with Christ (Gal 3:11–12; Rom 2:13; 3:23–26; 4:5). Even if Paul uses this term in an innovative way, the sense of judgment by God and moral conformity to God’s will are in one way or another always present.

    Scot McKnight, The Letter of James, The New International Commentary on the Old and New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2011), 246.

    Alternatively, the binding of Isaac is the last recorded good work of Abraham. Perhaps the point is simply this: you must remain faithful to the end in order to be truly justified — found righteous by God.

    In fact, Abraham was surely justified in the Pauline sense when he first came to faith but his justification was not complete — fully demonstrated or fully realized — until he passed the final test.

    The key is to not fall to the temptation to assume that James and Paul, writing at different times to different audiences about different things have the identical vocabulary. Or to yank a sentence out of context and ignore the historical context of Abraham’s relationship with God.

    And what clearly is not true would be the absurd notion that Abraham was damned and not in covenant relationship with God until he offered Isaac. You can’t read Genesis, or for that matter, Paul and come to that conclusion.

    The works that demonstrate our salvation will necessarily follow, and not precede, our coming to faith and being placed into covenant relationship with God. Abraham only offered to sacrifice Isaac because of his existing relationship with God and incredible trust in God that he might revive his son from death. The offering did not put him into relationship, obviously. It did, however, demonstrate the greatness of his faith.

    Abraham was “faithful” because of the state of his heart. Works only matter as a consequence of a faithful heart. The works are not themselves faithfulness (there are many reasons to do a particular deed). The motivation matters. And the heart is what God judges, and the works are just the outflowing of a circumcised heart. Abraham’s relationship with God was marked (in a very physical sense) by his circumcision, but the ultimate mark of his relationship was his willingness to sacrifice what was most dear to him. The circumcision would have only been a mutilation but for the life that Abraham lived thereafter. Hence, faithfulness is more important than works, but faithfulness will produce works.

  22. Actually, the Bible mentions baptize with the Spirit 6 times with that phrasing and not once does it define it or say what its purpose is.

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