Baptism: Grace and Baptism, Part 1 (The Flat Hermeneutic Problem)

baptism of JesusIn recent discussions about baptism, I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I believe that God’s grace will cover baptismal error. Grace will not, however, cover the absence of faith in Jesus.

I had hoped that the doctrine of grace was well enough understood that this would bring clarity to the discussion. And perhaps it did for some, but it certainly created confusion for others. So let’s talk about grace.

Grace

The classic statement explaining grace is —

(Eph 2:8-10 ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Grace is “through faith.” Notice the complete absence of baptism from the discussion. No faith, no grace.

Let’s go back a few verses —

(Eph 2:4-7 ESV) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Grace is a result of God’s character — his mercy (chesed in Hebrew), love, and kindness. Any interpretation has to be consistent with who God is.

Flat Hermeneutics

I’m hardly the first to point out that the traditional Church of Christ approach to salvation is built on a “flat hermeneutic.” That is, we tend to treat everything as equally important. Therefore, every mistake is equally culpable. And since — plainly — some mistakes damn (or fail to save), we conclude that all mistakes damn (or fail to save).

Hence, if faith is essential to salvation, so is the correct position on baptism, and so is the correct position in instrumental music. And fellowship halls. Everything is equal.

And if a Christian is damned for a lack of faith, then a lack of baptism will just as assuredly damn. It’s all the same.

Now, just as soon as the “logic” is stated plainly, surely it’s obviously absurd because a flat hermeneutic destroys grace. If all error damns, then we’re all damned.

Deflattening our Hermeneutics

We start with —

(1Co 15:1-8 ESV) Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ [Messiah] died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Paul says that the gospel is of first importance, and he centers the gospel on Jesus, especially his death and resurrection. Not a word about baptism, yet again.

Another definition of “gospel” from Paul is found in —

(Rom 1:1-6 ESV) Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God [Messiah] in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

Again, Paul’s focus is on the resurrection, and in both passages he refers to Jesus as Messiah (Christ or the Son of God of Psalm 2). And not a word about baptism.

As I mentioned in a recent post, the Gospels define “gospel” by reference to the prophets, who promised “good news” in the coming of the Messiah. “Messiah” means Anointed One and is a metaphor for King. And the same prophecies speak of the coming Kingdom. There can’t be a Messiah without a Kingdom (Psalm 2 is quite clear).

Hence, “faith” that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, is faith that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the prophets — and Lord (Psalm 18; Acts 2:25-31). (Notice how I’m following the outline of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 — Luke went to great effort to make this stuff clear.)

In short, we see in Romans, Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, Acts, and the Gospels that the gospel, which is of first importance, is centered on faith in Jesus as Messiah — the Anointed One of God promised by the prophets.

Of course, Acts 2:38 mentions baptism as our response to this, but this is the only place baptism shows up in a thread that flows from Genesis 15 (God’s covenant with Abraham), through 1 & 2 Samuel (in the covenant with David and prophecies about his lineage), through the Psalms, through the Prophets, through the Gospels, and into the Epistles. Faith and the coming Messiah are part of the backbone of all of scripture. Baptism can make no such claim.

Now, if you insist on a flat hermeneutic, your reaction to the preceding statement is to insist that the baptism verses are just as inspired, etc., as the faith verses. But I’m not remotely questioning the inspiration of the baptism verses. I’ve only said that faith is above and beyond more important — just as the resurrection is far more important than the census numbers in Numbers. It’s not all flat. Paul said the gospel is more important. The entirety of scripture supports his claim. And I believe him.

Promises

(Psa 105:7-10 ESV) 7 He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. 8 He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 9 the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant … .

Over and over and over, the Torah, the Prophets, etc. repeat that God will honor his covenant with Abraham. Paul explains this —

(Rom 4:3-10 ESV) 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

(Rom 4:23-25 ESV) 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.

God fulfills his covenant with Abraham by saving those with faith in Jesus. The covenant promised salvation to those with faith. Not a word about baptism.

For God to keep his promises, he must reckon graciously with those who fail to be baptized exactly right, because the promise is to “us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord.” And there are tens of millions with faith in Jesus who were not baptized quite right.

Flat Baptism

The flat hermeneutic teaches that any error in baptism makes it not a baptism at all. Because faith is plainly essential, so is having the right purpose in being immersed. So is knowing exactly when God saves vis-à-vis baptism. So is having enough water. So is having someone say the right words as you go under. So is being entirely immersed.

But if that’s so, then the gospel isn’t of first importance and God doesn’t keep his many promises to save all with faith.

Indeed, if the flat hermeneutic is true, those who go under denying that they’ll receive the Spirit as a personal indwelling are in error — and damned. And those who don’t receive the laying on of hands are damned, too. There are plenty of examples of the practice, and it’s just as associated with the receipt of the Spirit as is baptism.

And what about an imperfect confession? What if the person confesses the right words but doesn’t really know what “Christ” and “Son of the Living God” mean? And just how sophisticated does their Christology need to be?

After all, it’s all equally important.

But it’s just not. A line has to be drawn, and the scriptures draw it plainly — at faith.

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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68 Responses to Baptism: Grace and Baptism, Part 1 (The Flat Hermeneutic Problem)

  1. laymond says:

    Jay, speaking of the importance of baptism, which is the proper way to baptize a sinner into the kingdom? Are you to baptize in the name of Jesus or are you to mention the offices of the full Godhead? (the trinity) I was baptized according to Peter (at my request) should I have a do-over, or do you think I am covered?

    Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

    Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

    I believe baptism without faith, is just a dunking. And faith without baptism is an incomplete faith.

  2. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond asked,

    which is the proper way to baptize a sinner into the kingdom? Are you to baptize in the name of Jesus or are you to mention the offices of the full Godhead? (the trinity)

    I baptize in the three names of the Trinity, per Matt 28:19. The Eastern Orthodox interpret the same passage as requiring three immersions! Acts 2:38 mentions only the “name of the Jesus Christ.”

    Rom 10 teaches,

    (Rom 10:8-13 ESV) 8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    Both Acts 2:38 and Rom 10:13 insist that we call “on the name of the Lord” — who is defined as Jesus. Therefore, I consider calling on the name of Jesus sufficient, but calling on all three names the better practice, as it reflects a deeper understanding of the nature of Jesus. But God promised to save all who call on the name of the Lord (Jesus), and so he will.

  3. Grace says:

    Confessing Jesus is Lord is confessing Him, calling on Jesus is calling on Him, and baptizing in the name of Jesus is being baptized in His name.

    To say these all equate baptism is really trying to stretch them. [characterization delete per site policy]

  4. Ray Downen says:

    I’m sorry I have to differ with an implication made by Jay! He wrote

    I’m hardly the first to point out that the traditional Church of Christ approach to salvation is built on a “flat hermeneutic.” That is, we tend to treat everything as equally important. Therefore, every mistake is equally culpable. And since — plainly — some mistakes damn (or fail to save), we conclude that all mistakes damn (or fail to save).

    Hence, if faith is essential to salvation, so is the correct position on baptism, and so is the correct position in instrumental music. And fellowship halls. Everything is equal.

    And if a Christian is damned for a lack of faith, then a lack of baptism will just as assuredly damn. It’s all the same.

    If he had stopped the comparison with faith as compared to the “correct position on baptism” (the baptism commanded by Jesus) his expression would have been acceptable. But he brings in things about which Jesus made NO COMMAND (as He did about baptizing new believers), and destroys the logic of what he is saying. There’s a vital difference between what Jesus commands and what humans decide and teach about singing and fellowship “halls.”

    Jesus COMMANDS THAT NEW BELIEVERS ARE TO BE BAPTIZED. He’s made no rules about exactly what must and what must not be done when Christians assemble or what building we’re to do to aid in our meeting comfortably together. Jay lumps together what is commanded with what is NOT even spoken of and apparently wants us to consider these disparate things as being the same. They are NOT the same.

    Faith in Jesus is essential for salvation. The baptism commanded by Jesus is essential for salvation. What we do in our church buildings is NOT essential for salvation. I surely wish Jay had not brought them into the discussion. Faith in Jesus IS essential for salvation. Jesus commands that every NEW BELIEVER is to be baptized. Is baptism optional or unimportant? No, what Jesus commands is essential. Jay may be correct that SOME misguided brothers consider equally important what they think and what Jesus SAYS, but most people I know would disagree with that idea. We honor Jesus even more than we honor one another. Jesus is LORD. What Jesus commands is what we should do regardless of what WE think on any matter.

    We can go to Heaven without ever singing a note of music. Jesus does NOT command that we must sing. We can go to Heaven without ever having fellowship in a building owned by our church. Jesus does NOT command that we build a building for fellowship. But Jesus DOES command that we baptize new believers. What Jesus commands is not optional. He is boss. We do what He says we are to do.

    And are we agreed that HE SAYS we are to baptize each new believer? Surely we see that He has NOT spoken about what songs we are to sing anywhere, as individuals or as a congregation of individuals (other than listing the three kinds of songs that are appropriate, which are hymns, spiritual songs, and psalms, and that instruction is for everywhere at any time, not just in our assemblies).

    So I point out that trying to link apples and oranges as all being apples is not helpful. Baptism matters because Jesus commands it for every NEW BELIEVER. What we do as Christians is a totally separate question from how we are converted INTO Christ. Jesus says the entry is by way of NEW BIRTH. Are we all agreed that conversion is by way of NEW BIRTH?

    Speaking for all the apostles, Peter, in Acts 2:38 affirms that the new birth is a change of spirit (repenting) and being baptized as Jesus commands for every new believer. He says nothing about whether we have to sing or enjoy being with other Christians AFTER we’re baptized. But he surely says that we need to REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED. Why are some now so eager to say baptism isn’t important and is NOT needed? I hope that’s not what Jay is implying or stating in any way.

  5. laymond says:

    Jay, not trying to be ” smart ” here just trying to be sure as to your thinking. If you are baptized in the names of the offices of the “trinity” , do you become a Christian, or a Trinitarian ?
    Do you trust in Jesus to save, or do you feel more comfortable if he has backup?

  6. Ray Downen says:

    Jay continues,

    Indeed, if the flat hermeneutic is true, those who go under denying that they’ll receive the Spirit as a personal indwelling are in error — and damned. And those who don’t receive the laying on of hands are damned, too. There are plenty of examples of the practice, and it’s just as associated with the receipt of the Spirit as baptism.

    In this note, Jay is linking things which ARE commanded with other things which are NOT COMMANDED and implying the two are equal. They are not equal. Jesus COMMANDS that each new believer is to be baptized. Are we agreed on that? Is Matthew 28:18-20 acceptable to us all? Do we believe it applies to us as well as to the apostles to whom it was directly addressed? I do. Perhaps others disagree.

    Obviously others DO disagree, since they seem to believe that Jesus did NOT command baptism for new believers.

    So we examine the conversions Luke tells us about in Acts. In each case except in chapter three, Luke MENTIONS that the convert was immediately baptized. In Acts 2:38 the apostolic entreaty is that hearers should REPENT AND BE BAPTIZED, with a promise that those who do so will receive a gift from God as well as remission of their sins. The apostles are not silent about the NEED for seekers to repent and be baptized. They say nothing about any other need in order for the promised gifts to follow. They don’t bring in anything about speaking in tongues, and we’ve no good reason to suppose anyone did speak in any unknown language in chapter two of Acts other than the apostles.

    Luke doesn’t link tongue-speaking with conversion in any conversion account. The Gentile tongue-speaking was obviously to convince the JEWISH Christians that Gentiles also could be baptized (in water) INTO CHRIST, which the Jewish Christians had not been accepting. It was not to empower the Gentiles in any way at all. It didn’t save them. It didn’t make them able to heal others or themselves. It clearly was a sign to the Christians who all at that time were Jewish that Gentiles COULD become Christians. So these Gentiles were baptized INTO CHRIST and received then the Spirit to walk with them as all Christians are promised (Acts 2:38). Note that it was not Christians who spoke in tongues in chapter 10. It was Gentiles who were NOT at that time “in Christ.”

    If we’re discussing conversion INTO CHRIST, we should note what was done in every case recorded by Luke, I’d think. And almost without exception the convert was baptized into Christ. Speaking in tongues rarely happened. It obviously is no part of normal conversions. So why bring it into a discussion of conversion? My preference is to simply look at Acts 2:38 and determine what it is that’s ESSENTIAL for conversion of a believer into being a Christian. We will surely agree that faith in Jesus as Lord is required. Turning to HIM as Lord is essential to conversion. Surely no one would dispute that requirement.

    And Jesus requires that each NEW BELIEVER is to be baptized (Matthew 28:18-20). The apostles baptized each new believer, and felt that AFTER BEING BAPTIZED the believer was part of the kingdom (the church) of Christ. They then belonged to Christ. Essential was faith IN Jesus and then turning to Him as Lord (repenting) and being baptized, as He commands is to be done for every new believer. Why bring in anything else that sometimes happened in the apostolic age?

    It worries me that Jay or anyone would equate baptism which is commanded by Jesus with ANYTHING that sometimes happened during conversions but was NOT COMMANDED by Jesus OR HIS APOSTLES.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    I’d like to comment also about this statement by Jay

    Of course, Acts 2:38 mentions baptism as our response to this, but this is the only place baptism shows up in a thread that flows from Genesis 15 (God’s covenant with Abraham), through 1 & 2 Samuel (in the covenant with David and prophecies about his lineage), through the Psalms, through the Prophets, through the Gospels, and into the Epistles. Faith and the coming Messiah are part of the backbone of all of scripture. Baptism can make no such claim.

    I wonder how many times Jesus needs to say something for it to be true. If we’re agreed that Matthew (an apostle who was present and reports on what Jesus said) correctly heard and tells what Jesus said to His apostles just prior to departing this earth to return to heaven, then we will believe that Jesus wants each NEW BELIEVER to be baptized. He is saying that we are to tell about HIM wherever we go and that WE ARE TO BAPTIZE those who believe. Yes?

    Why would anyone dispute with the need for us to baptize each new believer? Are we not to obey Jesus? Do we know more than He about what is needed to please Him? Did He need to repeat the order ten times in order for us to know He meant it? Or twenty times?

    Why do some now want to not baptize as Jesus commands is to be done? Are they wiser than Jesus? Jay may seem to imply that the only time baptism is mentioned in Acts is in chapter two, but I’m sure he and we all know that baptism is mentioned in EVERY conversion account except for the 2,000 in chapter three. That’s not then a rare mention as might be implied by Acts 2:38 being “the only place baptism shows up…” It’s in Matthew 28, as mentioned. And in Galatians 3:27, in Ephesians 4:5, and in Romans 6:3-8, etc. But, for believers, once would have been enough!

  8. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ray wrote,

    It worries me that Jay or anyone would equate baptism which is commanded by Jesus with ANYTHING that sometimes happened during conversions but was NOT COMMANDED by Jesus OR HIS APOSTLES.

    Ray,

    In the Churches of Christ, it is commonly taught that being baptized understanding baptism to be for obedience and not for salvation renders the baptism void. Hence, many teach that a misunderstanding of the effect of baptism renders baptism null. And receipt of the Spirit is just as much an effect as is forgiveness of sin. My point is that grace covers errors of this nature as well.

    As I’ve said many times now, I’m not teaching that we need not be baptized. I know of no one who teaches such a thing. In fact, I believe we should be baptized for remission of sins. I just think God’s grace covers our mistakes in baptismal theology and practice.

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    I fail to see how “Christian” and “Trinitarian” are mutually exclusive. It’s a false choice. I’m both. I feel more comfortable submitting to both Matt 28:19 AND Acts 2:38 because both are in the inspired text and I see no reason to make a choice.

  10. Monty says:

    Jay said, “Grace is “through faith.” Notice the complete absence of baptism from the discussion. No faith, no grace.”

    Jay, while I agree that salvation is through faith as Paul said, I see (even in this passage) allusions to baptism that I believe the early church would pick up on and even so today if we don’t try to pit faith against baptism(the old faith versus works argument).

    While baptism isn’t specifically mentioned(in that sense you are right) if you go back to Chapter 1 the phrase “in Christ” is mentioned in regards to the saved Christian some 13 times or so, depending on which version you read. How does one get “into Christ?” aren’t we told by Paul himself that we are baptized into Him? Verse 13 of chapter 1 says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit in Christ. Isn’t that referring to baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit(as you say) normative? Chapter 2 begins by saying, “you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Question; ” When were they quickened(the NIV waits to verse 4 to bring this aspect in). When were they “made alive?” Was it not when believing on Jesus they were baptized in to Christ? Isn’t this the same lingo Paul uses in Colossians 2 when teaching that we are operated on by God in baptism, that we are made alive in Jesus? v 13. “and you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened(made alive) together with him, forgiven you all your trespasses..” question: When (as a baptized believer) do you think Paul is getting at? The context is clear, when by faith on Jesus, they were baptized into Him. In Baptism, those who were formerly considered dead, were made alive. No magic in the water, but the time and place(normative) that God decides He will spiritually make someone who is dead, alive.

    Ephesians 2:6 and having “raised us up” together ….. compare that with Romans 6:4 “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead,…… we too may live a new life. In context, Paul says you were all buried with Christ through baptism and you are all “raised with him” through that same baptism. So, getting back to Ephesians 2, though baptism isn’t specifically mentioned, those blessings given in baptism (through faith in Jesus) certainly are. We are made alive with Christ, when through faith in the atoning work of the cross, we were baptized into Jesus.

  11. Royce says:

    Jay, You are a brave man! Constantly dealing with knuckleheads (me included) is hard work. You handle the assignment quite well. Some of your readers are open to having their beliefs challenged and most are set like concrete. A person will never learn from attacking those they disagree with or repeating the same thing over and over and over. Most of the men and women I know have changed their beliefs over the past 20 to 30 years. We are to “grow in GRACE and in the knowledge of Jesus. ” Talking about baptism over and over isn’t helping me so I’ll just read for a while and refrain from commenting. I doubt that my participation has been helpful.

  12. laymond says:

    Jay, I was just wondering if one insists on, or prefers, Matt 28:19 does that express less faith in Jesus Christ.

  13. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    I’m not interested in a conversation about your theories on the Trinity at this time. It’s hard enough to keep up with the baptism discussion. But the answer is no. Jesus is the one who told us to baptize in all three names — not that the name of Jesus is inadequate to save but because, I believe, Jesus encourages us to remember the roles played by all three members of the Trinity. After all, we’re saved by the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, but it’s the Spirit who regenerates and transforms us into the image of God afterwards. They all have a place in the economy of salvation, and it’s right that all three be acknowledged.

  14. Randall says:

    Hi Jay,
    I am a little confuse about one point. Perhaps I am simply reading it wrong and that is what has caused me to misunderstand.

    **********************************************
    Above I read:

    Grace

    The classic statement explaining grace is —

    (Eph 2:8-10 ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    Grace is “through faith.” Notice the complete absence of baptism from the discussion. No faith, no grace.
    ********************************************

    I read the scripture as we are saved by grace and we come to faith through grace – not we come to grace through faith. This would logically make faith meritorious to receiving grace b/c of our faith.

    It is my understanding that the traditional view is that we are saved by grace through (not by) faith.

    (Yes, we place WAY too much emphasis on prepositions)

    Some read it that this “by grace through faith” salvation is the gift of God. – And I have no problem with this view.

    Some in the CofC have read it that we receive the gift of salvation after coming to faith and they include baptism as implied. They do understand that the person that came to faith gets credit for coming to faith so salvation is the gift – not the grace nor the faith.

    Could you help me understand your view a little betTer please?
    Hesed,
    Randall

  15. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Randall,

    I disagree with the Calvinist meme that suggests that we can contribute nothing at all to our own salvation. What Paul says is that we’re not saved by “works,” and “works” is short for “works of the law.” He’s talking about Torah.

    More to the point, he rejects works as saving because he insists on faith. The test isn’t whether or not it’s a work but whether or not it’s faith.

    (Gal 5:5-6 ESV) 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

    Now, the NT sometimes speaks of faith as a gift from God, but sometimes as something that we do.

    (Rom 10:10 ESV) 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

    “One believes” sure sounds like something one does. Confession is undeniably a volitional act. But neither is a work of the Law, so neither violates Pauline theology.

    Years ago, in the Third Way series, I went into this in detail. But not really inclined to cover that ground again. Besides, I feel the need to rethink things a bit before posting in detail. And the whole prevenient grace thing gives me a headache and I don’t see how it much matters. It’s very theoretical — and ultimately has no impact on what we do. I mean, under anyone’s theory, we preach the word, people respond in faith, and we invite them to be baptized into Jesus. And that’s what matters most for me.

  16. Alabama John says:

    The bottom line is for 160 years I am aware of those not baptized regardless of their circumstance and died went to hell, no exceptions, as taught by all the churchs of Christ and we had that teaching as our flagship in our communities. Ask anyone in the community who we were and two things were immediately said, Only ones going to heaven and must be baptized or be hell bound was the first things out of their mouth.

    That thinking is changing to seeing the situation of the individual and considering Gods grace for that person. All the churches of Christ agreed on that grace for those mentally handicapped.
    Interestingly those who never heard of Jesus and couldn’t obey went to hell too. Obey or burn.

    A few like Al, Jay, Henry, and me (notice I also intentionally included myself with those scholars earlier and didn’t get a single laugh) are just simply seeing more grace from God.

    We believe if something prevents you from being baptized and you die, God who can read minds will take that in consideration and grace will abound.

    Change comes with pain and did when the churches of Christ eliminated so many other traditionally held teachings (remember when only KJV bibles were allowed in homes and assemblies and all prayers were in thee and thou KJV language) but, this baptism or burn will change to seeing a more grace giving God and the Bible being a book of Gods love for us instead of a law book written to condemn.

  17. Randall says:

    Hi Jay,

    I thought that in my comment here and other places it made it clear that coming to faith is something we do – and I did come to faith by my choice, as a result of God’s grace. I simply give God ALL (not 99%) of the credit for my coming to faith.

    The issue is whether I came to faith in and of my myself or whether I came to faith by means of the grace of God. Even if God gave an “equal” amount of grace to everyone w/o exception and some made use of it to come to faith and others did not then the ones that made proper use of it and came to faith deserve more credit than the ones that did not.

    If everyone gets the same amount of grace and some made good use of it and others didn’t then the difference is our individual choice rather than the grace of God. It seems that your view as expressed above is one’s coming to faith is meritorious to receiving additional grace leading to salvation. So one is saved b/c s/he took advantage of the grace offered to all and the other guy/gal didn’t. So give the one that came to faith a pat on the back for doing so and condemn the one that didn’t take advantage of the grace given to all. (May as well call it a work of the mind, heart, or will.) You suggest that we get grace as a result of faith rather than we come to faith as a result of grace given to us. In the former case faith is meritorious, but not in the latter.

    Was that redundant?

    Yous also wrote as follows:
    “I disagree with the Calvinist meme that suggests that we can contribute nothing at all to our own salvation. What Paul says is that we’re not saved by “works,” and “works” is short for “works of the law.” He’s talking about Torah.”

    This seems to suggest that those of us that came to faith DO contribute to our salvation. In my view that means God saves us b/c we were better in some small way than those that didn’t. Is that what makes us right with God? What must “I do” to contribute enough to my salvation? Sort of like asking “Which particular works and how many of them?”

    I don’t think any of us believe that doing the works of the Torah will get us saved. If you do believe that it is news to me. Surely you are not suggesting that Paul teaches that works of the Torah will not get us saved but other (distinctly Christian) works do contribute to our coming into a saved state as a Christian. Or do I misunderstand?

    Yes “one believes” is something that one does. I did it and others didn’t. The issue is WHY does one do it and another not do it. As I have already stated “I” came to faith. It was MY choice. The issue is WHY did I do it and another not. Was the one that came to faith better or more deserving in some way, or were who are saved not any better people than those that did not. Whosoever will may come. But just who are the “wills” and who are the “won’ts?”

    Yeah, I know you’ve addressed this before in your third way series but you’ve changed positions on other issues we disagreed on since then. Perhaps this one is just around the corner (by the grace of God.”

    Yes, I know this is a bit tedious but you are a bright guy as well as a student of the scriptures and theology. This isn’t the only issue that is tedious but it is an important one, at least theologically, if not in your “practical” experience.

    It is after 1 AM so I hope I wrote what I intended to convey. I’m going to bed. Hope you sleep well too.

    Hesed,
    Randall

  18. laymond says:

    Jay said, ” I consider calling on the name of Jesus sufficient, but calling on all three names the better practice, as it reflects a deeper understanding of the nature of Jesus.”

    Jay, do you consider Peter in need of ” a deeper understanding of the nature of Jesus.” when he made the following statement. ?
    Act 4:10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
    Act 4:11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
    Act 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

    Jay, in my humble opinion Jesus Christ could never have spoken the words of Mathew 28-19
    and remained true to all his other teachings.

  19. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    Every manuscript of Matthew that we possess has the Trinitarian language, and so there’s no objective reason to dispute its inspiration/canonicity.

    We find all three members of the Trinity in the accounts of Jesus’ baptism, and so the idea that all are involved in baptism is hardly unique to this passage. However, it’s also true that Acts emphasizes the use of the name of Jesus in connection with baptism, making the use of just Jesus’ name plainly sufficient to save.

    The language of Jesus does not have to be taken as liturgical, that is, Jesus is more likely saying what the effect of baptism IS rather than the words that must be SAID. I.e., whether or not the words are spoken, those who are baptized submit to the authority of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and receive the blessings that come from a relationship with all three.

  20. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Randall wrote,

    The issue is whether I came to faith in and of my myself or whether I came to faith by means of the grace of God.

    Well, it’s by grace that I heard the gospel at all. The preaching of the word is from the Spirit by the generosity of God.

    Prevenient grace teaches that the Spirit opened my heart to the word. Arminians would say that I then had a choice to accept or reject. Does my acceptance make me more “meritorious”? I don’t think so.

    The fact that X chooses to be saved and Y does not does not make X a better, more moral person. Not yet. Indeed, someone may choose Jesus because of their own lack of merit — their struggles to be good.

    The woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair was commended for her faith, not her merit. But she made a choice, not to be a better person (which would be meritorious) but to throw herself on the mercies of Jesus.

    Over and over in the Gospels, those who come to Jesus by choice — before the Spirit was given — are commended for their faith, not their merit. So it was obviously possible for someone to choose Jesus, without the Spirit’s direct involvement, and yet do so on the basis of faith.

    In short, to me, claiming “merit” for choosing Jesus misses the point. We choose Jesus, not because we are better people, but because we are aware that we are not.

  21. Monty says:

    “In short, to me, claiming “merit” for choosing Jesus misses the point.”

    Exactly! We’ve been handed down this “either- or” choice of grace vs. works. The terms used and defined were set by those long ago, and many today just go with what’s been said and what continues to be said. Except some have failed to properly understand what Paul was getting at when setting forth his argument. Choosing to believe isn’t meritorious and neither is submitting to the Lord’s command to be baptized. It’s all grace. The old argument that anything done(any physical act) by the person God saves nullifies grace is simply […] wrong [characterization deleted per site policy].

  22. Ray Downen says:

    Perhaps I’m mistaken in thinking the gospel Jesus calls for us to share with others is about HIM and what HE did and what HE said and what HE offers. I don’t understand that He calls for us to carry throughout the world with us a message about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and what each has done to make salvation possible for seekers. What is the gospel message?

  23. Randall says:

    HI jay.
    First of all, Calvinistic soteriology teaches that those that are saved come to a very real and personal faith and repentance. They willingly make a personal decision. Perhaps this is why historically they have been among the most evangelistic/mission minded. To state that Calvinism drags a person against their will into belief/faith/salvation is a caricature.

    Per your comment above it seems logical to me that you would agree with the following. However, I do NOT want to be among those that say that if you believe A then you must believe B. That is, I don’t want to put words in your mouth that you neither said nor believe. It simply seems to me to be logical, but I’ve been wrong more than a few times in the past.
    ******************************************************
    Above you wrote:

    “Well, it’s by grace that I heard the gospel at all. The preaching of the word is from the Spirit by the generosity of God.

    Prevenient grace teaches that the Spirit opened my heart to the word. Arminians would say that I then had a choice to accept or reject. Does my acceptance make me more “meritorious”? I don’t think so.”
    ********************************************************

    First a rather fine distinction. It is my understanding that Prevenient grace teaches that the Spirit ATTEMPTED TO open my heart to the word, but isn’t always successful b/c the person may refuse.
    *************************************
    next:
    So if I recognize that I am not a better person then I take advantage of prevenient grace but if I don’t recognize that I am not a better person I am lost. In every Arminian scenario the person contributes to their salvation so logically they shouldn’t sing “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” The real difference between the lost and the saved person is simply that the saved person did something that the lost person coulda/shoulda/woulda done. Logically that makes what the person did meritorious in at least some small way. But the scripture says of Lydia (Acts 13:48) that God opened her heart to receive the things that Paul was saying. What about the other folks there that heard the same words from Paul? God opened Lydia’s heart but there is no indication He opened the heart of ALL of the others. Seems He made a distinction between Lydia and some of the others.
    **************************************

    It is like the old issue of salvation by grace alone or salvation by grace plus works. Everyone gets the grace but the only saved ones are the ones that added works to it. So the REAL difference between the two is WORKS. May as well say that works save if that is the difference between the saved and the lost.

    One may change works to baptism, making a decision for Christ.believing/coming to faith. In each case, the difference between the saved and the lost is that the saved person did something that the lost person did not. That is to say “I was saved because of what I did plus what God did.” (synergism) I simply claim that I am saved b/c Jesus saved me. (monergism)

    The only example of synergism I can agree with is the story about the elderly gentleman with little book learning who said “the Lord and I together are responsible for my salvation. I was a great sinner and He did the rest. 😉

    The scriptures clearly teach the absolute sovereignty of God over all his creation. NO ONE thwarts Him, surprises Him or alters His sovereign will. I am unaware of any scripture that teaches God turned his sovereignty over to man regarding salvation. Sometimes I think we love God everywhere except ruling on His throne. I think A.W. Pink wrote that in The Attributes of God.

    Like I said somewhere on you blog recently; that’s the way I view it but no one is obligated to see it through my eyes.

    Hesed,
    Randall

  24. Randall says:

    Okay one last point and then I’ll do my level best to leave this be.

    In a reply to one of my comments Jay wrote the following; “Prevenient grace teaches that the Spirit opened my heart to the word. Arminians would say that I then had a choice to accept or reject. Does my acceptance make me more “meritorious”? I don’t think so.”

    Jay, Yes, I think so. I have to disagree completely with your conclusion here. I find it illogical. Salvation is offered to all w/o exception but given only to those that open their heart and accept the offer. As a consequence of that choice they are saved and those who reject or ignore the offer are forever damned. (Let’s simply assume this is correct for now.) You have already made the point (I quote it if you prefer) that believing is something we do. I think I came to faith b/c of God’s work in me (John 6:29 from the KJV on line – 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.) You thick (please, please correct me if I am off base here) that a person comes to faith apart from the special of efficacious grace of God. In my case I can take no credit for believing b/c it is something God has done in me. In your case one person is saved and another damned because of something THEY DID. Once person had the type of heart or mind or temperament or intellect or what ever that was pivotal (or at least important) in their coming to faith and the other did not. So that whatever it was that the saved person had is the difference between God saving the person or damning them. Sounds a lot like God being a respecter of persons. Logically the person who did the thing (believing) deserves credit for it and the unbeliever does not get credit for it. He is either damned or remains damned if he already was to begin with – take your pick. Could you please explain to me why one person pleases the Father or meets His condition(s) and is saved doesn’t deserve the merit badge? If something I do or don’t do makes a difference in my salvation or not then why not give me credit for doing it?

    Hesed,
    Randall

  25. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Randall,

    I’m confused. You say,

    Salvation is offered to all w/o exception but given only to those that open their heart and accept the offer.

    I agree. What are we disagreeing about? I think that’s your assumption that everything someone does toward his own salvation necessarily involves “works” as Paul uses works. That’s an assumption, not a proof or even an argument. It’s a position merely.

    If we leave Medieval Scholasticism and Reformation theology behind and get back to what Paul was actually discussing, we find that he defines “works” as “work of the Torah” — obedience to the Law of Moses. I defend this position in http://oneinjesus.info/2014/07/32916/ and http://oneinjesus.info/2014/07/baptism-is-baptism-a-work-part-3-further-on-the-definition-of-works/. Now, we can do works of the Law without having heard of the Torah because many of the Torah’s laws — the moral laws — are written on our hearts. Hence, even Gentiles unaware of the Torah can be guilty of Torah violations.

    Hence, “works” does not mean “something I do” but “obedience to the Law of Moses, as revealed through Torah or God’s general revelation.”

    And now this is a hugely important point: Paul is not arguing in Gal that circumcision fails because it something people do. His argument is that it’s not faith. It’s faith in Jesus that shows us to be God’s people, and nothing else. Hence, circumcision, because it’s not faith in Jesus, avails nothing. It does not declare us righteous.

    I will shortly post on the meaning of “justification.” It does not mean “saved.” It means “declared innocent by a judge.” Hence, “justified by faith” does not mean “go to heaven because you believe” but “declared by God to be innocent as shown by your faith.” Hence, circumcision does not show a man to be God’s person because it’s just not faith. Therefore, no work of the Law can show someone acquitted and found innocent. ONLY faith can do this.

    So when we speak in First Century categories, we no longer get into the Calvinist/Arminian disputes over words and metaphysics. It’s much simpler. The question is whether circumcision, eating kosher, or Sabbath keeping marks us as God’s people. And they do not and cannot because the only mark that matters is faith in Jesus working through love.

    The meaning for the contemporary church is profound. We are also not marked by our a cappella singing, the absence of kitchens, or how we use the church treasury. We are marked by our faith in Jesus. The boundary marker is faith in Jesus working through love.

    Of course, “faith” includes faithfulness to Jesus. Hence, the faithful will do the things that faithful people know to do, but only as well as they’ve been instructed. They’ll love others. They’ll help the poor. They’ll cry for justice for the oppressed. But only if they’ve been taught God’s will regarding these things. Faithful people behave faithfully to what they know. And this is part of faith.

    And they’ll live lives of trust in God, relying on his promises, assuming they’ve been so taught.

    Thus, faith (faithfulness/trust) is the boundary marker showing who is and isn’t saved. We are justified by faith. We are declared innocent by the faith that we have. It’s our faith that shows us to be part of the covenant community because God has promised to save all who have faith.

    So it’s not about “do or don’t do” but is it faith/faithfulness/trust or is it something else?

  26. laymond says:

    Jay said “Every manuscript of Matthew that we possess has the Trinitarian language,”
    And as far as I know he is right. But Eusebius, the greatest Greek teacher of the Church and most learned theologian of his time… Till about 40 years of age lived in great intimacy with the martyr Pamphilus, a learned and devout man of Caesurae, and founder of an extensive library there, from which Eusebius derived his vast store of learning.

    According to Conybeare:
    Eusebius cites this text (Matt. 28:19) again and again in works written between 300 and 336, namely in his long commentaries on the Psalms, on Isaiah, his Demonstratio Evangelica, his Theophany …in his famous history of the Church, and in his panegyric of the emperor Constantine. I have, after a moderate search in these works of Eusebius, found eighteen citations of Matthew 28:19, and always in the following form: “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in My name, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I commanded you.”

  27. Paula Robbins says:

    Dear Jay,
    I am in no way a theologian, so some of these discussions may have been over my head. I’d like to share a couple observations.

    It seems to me that there is some confusion between meritorious “works” and commanded participation in our salvation. I am commanded to put my faith for salvation in Jesus. There is nothing about the quality or quantity of my faith that can make me deserve salvation; that would be be merit. It is the object of my faith, Jesus, that saves me; that is grace. I am required to have faith, but my faith has no inherent merit. If it did, there is no reason for Jesus to have died. Since the reality of salvation is being brought into relationship with God, of course I have to be a participant. That is the nature of a relationship. But the fact that I’m allowed to be a participant in this relationship is a gift; again, grace. Perhaps this is a simplistic way of viewing these issues, but is it not consistent with what scripture teaches?

    Re: baptism, correct doctrine, and many other subjects, it seems that a (sometimes) subtle and dangerous shift in focus has plagued our fellowship. Instead of faithfully and humbly embracing the various aspects of faith and the Gospel, we have made those things the focus of our devotion and trust. I realize this is a sweeping statement to which there are undoubtedly many exceptions, but I have observed examples of this trend all of my life. We’ve boasted about being “people of the Word”, but then become more interested in and devoted to Bible knowledge and “correct” doctrine than in the Bible’s author. We’re so insistent about the necessity of baptism, and the correct beliefs about the nature of baptism, that our trust for salvation is in our “correct” baptism rather than in the Messiah to whom our baptism unites us (Romans 6:3-5). We take what God has done and make it about us. We take the focus off what God has given us and done for us and put the focus on our “correct” understanding/ doctrine/ obedience. It seems that this is the persistent sin that Paul addresses in Romans 5-7. Regardless of whether people lived with no knowledge of God’s law, lived under the Levitical law or had put their faith in Christ, they (and we) are easily drawn into self-centered motives and self-serving behavior. It’s human nature, but it becomes much more difficult to avoid when we institutionalize it.

    Re: Matthew 28:19- We’re told to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Not “names”, name. One name; one identity and nature; one authority. In light of this oneness, I can’t see any contradiction (or even difference) in Matthew 28 and Acts 2:38. I expect that God, along with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, will do exactly what He has promised to do in our baptism regardless of the words used at the time of the baptism. After all, it is God’s action in baptism that saves us, not ours. I trust that He will get the job done!

    If this ramble is a re-statement of things you have already said in your previous writings, I apologize. I have not yet read your Third Way series. If I’m off base in anything I’ve said, I’ll appreciate your correction and comments.

    Blessings,

    Paula

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Paula wrote,

    We’ve boasted about being “people of the Word”, but then become more interested in and devoted to Bible knowledge and “correct” doctrine than in the Bible’s author. We’re so insistent about the necessity of baptism, and the correct beliefs about the nature of baptism, that our trust for salvation is in our “correct” baptism rather than in the Messiah to whom our baptism unites us (Romans 6:3-5).

    You sound like a mighty fine theologian to me.

    Amen.

  29. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    What you say is quite true, except you overstate the importance of Eusebius. He was a historian and scholar, but hardly the “greatest Greek teacher of the church.” Read Defending Constantine for a bit of history on the man. Nonetheless, he is a respectable witness to the text. But he wrote in the Fourth Century — a contemporary of Constantine.

    The manuscript evidence is older than Eusebius and shows not a hint of a dispute as to this text. In fact, the Early Church Fathers much older than Eusebius routinely cite to the Mat 28:19 Trinitarian formula. It didn’t take long to find this information —

    The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, in Chapter 2 (see here) says, Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to “baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost….”.

    Tertullian, c. 200 AD (see here writes in On Baptism, Chapter XIII: “For the law of baptizing has been imposed, and the formula prescribed: “Go,” He saith, “teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” and in Against Praxeas, chapter 2 says, “After His resurrection ..He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost”.

    Hippolytus (170-236 AD says in Fragments: Part II.-Dogmatical and Historical.–Against the Heresy of One Noetus, “gave this charge to the disciples after He rose from the dead: Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

    Cyprian (200-258AD) in The Seventh Council of Carthage Under Cyprian says, And again, after His resurrection, sending His apostles, He gave them charge, saying, “All power is given unto me, in heaven and in earth. Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” and alludes to the same passage in other places as well.

    Gregory Thaumaturgus (205-265 AD) in A Sectional Confession of Faith, XIII (see here says, “….the Lord sends forth His disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?”

    http://www.tektonics.org/lp/matt2819.php

    In short, we have both manuscript evidence and ECF evidence much closer to the time of Jesus that support the Trinitarian language. Meanwhile, it’s also true that the ECFs did not always quote with precision. After all, they often wrote from memory, and the standards of the day weren’t the same as today, given the expense and rarity of books and how difficult it was for most to have copies of the entire NT.

    Eusebius quotes Matthew 28:19 twenty-one
    times. Sixteen times he quotes Jesus as
    saying “in my name,” and five times he
    uses the words found in the received text.52
    There are weaknesses with the view that
    the text originally said “in my name,” however.
    First, Eusebius is not consistent or exact
    in the way in which he quotes the New
    Testament. Second, there is no other patristic
    source which corroborates Eusebius’ reading.
    53 Most significantly, there are no Greek
    manuscripts that attest to “in my name.”
    The most likely conclusion, then, is that the
    received text is original.

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=19&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CE4QFjAIOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sbts.edu%2Fresources%2Ffiles%2F2010%2F02%2Fsbjt_014_win97_freeman.pdf&ei=Y6WoVJrGNIafggTCo4DYCA&usg=AFQjCNESHBBIR5H0jq1HW8qcA6rv_Msirg&bvm=bv.82001339,d.aWw

    See also Everett Ferguson’s learned discussion at https://books.google.com/books?id=xC9GAdUGX5sC&pg=PA156&lpg=PA156&dq=eusebius+matthew+28:19&source=bl&ots=BtaJ2ZPZzA&sig=lJDb9tjSf9rfgpkkkbAGyZb5zCM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=z6aoVLKeG4SigwTtrYLoDA&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAjgU#v=onepage&q=eusebius%20matthew%2028%3A19&f=false.

    Finally, Tatian’s Diatessaron (a harmony of the four gospels) dates to around AD 160, and it includes the Trinitarian formula. Eusebius is 200 years later.

  30. Randall says:

    Jay,
    You previously made the point that believing is something that we do and it is efficacious to salvation. You may choose to call it a work or not, but nonetheless what we do is the basis on which God saves us or damns us. Thus belief merits salvation as it is the basis on which God declares us righteous or not. I don’t see the point in arguing whether Paul is talking about works of the Torah (sacrifice, circumcision, alms giving, Sabbath keeping etc.) or distinctly Christian works.

    As I am sure you’re aware, a number of conservative scholars would argue that Paul is talking about salvation on the basis of works, not necessarily limited to works of the Torah, but works in a broader sense (things we do) as the basis of salvation. You disagree with that but I don’t see it as particularly different whether we exchange one set of works for another or substitute a different word for a thing we do.

    You still say that believing in something we do and it is the yardstick by which God decides to save or damn us – either we measure up on that yardstick or we don’t.. That logically makes belief in Jesus meritorious. Those that do it get grace/salvation and those that don’t do it don’t get grace/salvation.

    Logically the person that believes did something that impressed God favorably (met the mark on His yardstick) so he “respects” those that had a heart. disposition. personality, intellect, or whatever so that they believed and another lacked what the first one had. You could call it curly hair, purple skin, a “good” heart or any other human attribute.

    Logically they are “better” or scored better on the yardstick than the other. That makes belief meritorious. It isn’t difficult, one simply replaces one thing a person did (works) with another thing a person does (belief). As you said, it is the boundary marker. One person crossed over the boundary line and another did not.

    On the other hand, if coming to faith in Jesus is the work of God in a person then the person really couldn’t/shouldn’t claim credit and doesn’t deserve credit for it as God did it in the person so God gets the glory/credit for it; not the recipient of the gift.

    I guess I’ve said it several times now. Surely you get the point. God gives something to one person that He didn’t give to another and he is completely within His rights to do so. He called Abraham while he was a pagan. He interceded in Paul’s life on the road to Damascus. He opened Lydia’s heart. He hardened Pharaoh and others. He shows mercy to whom He will and He hardens whom he will. It is part of His being sovereign and it is His right. Who is more qualified to decide about salvation, the natural man who runs/wills or God? Obviously it is God the creator, not the creature. Paul understands that and teaches us to accept it. Will the pot say to the potter “Why have you made me like this?”

    Above you concluded: “So it’s not about “do or don’t do” but is it faith/faithfulness/trust or is it something else?”

    Yes it is about do or don’t. Either do believe (have faith/be faithful) or don’t. Either one has a consequence and the consequence is salvation or damnation. One is declared righteous by the Judge (even though they aren’t) and the other isn’t declared righteous by the Judge.

    Hesed,
    Randall

  31. Ray Downen says:

    Jay is saying we are saved by faith alone, it seems, even while making clear his understanding that faith produces good works without fail. He wrote

    Thus, faith (faithfulness/trust) is the boundary marker showing who is and isn’t saved. We are justified by faith. We are declared innocent by the faith that we have. It’s our faith that shows us to be part of the covenant community because God has promised to save all who have faith.

    I see that only those who have been baptized INTO CHRIST are saved. Therefore, I suggest that the “marker” showing who is and who isn’t saved is baptism INTO CHRIST.

    I don’t see that we’re saved if we’re outside of Christ. I see the clear teaching that baptism brings seekers INTO CHRIST (Galatians 3:27 and other passages make this clear). Therefore I see apostolic teaching (and practice) making clear that those who have been baptized are IN CHRIST and those who have NOT been baptized are not yet IN CHRIST. I’m sure that God is just and is not going to do what is wrong about people who believe in Jesus but for some reason are not baptized as He instructs is always to be done. We have no business saying that God will or will not do anything other than what He has promised in clear speech that He will do.

    God promises through Jesus through His apostles that those who repent and are baptized WILL have sin remitted and WILL receive the Holy Spirit as a result of their obeying “the gospel.” This is made clear in Acts 2:37,38. We do well to believe what is written and not try to rewrite according to what we like better than what was written.

  32. Ray Downen says:

    I hope we all are aware that the command to baptize is not given to the one who now believes the gospel but is instead given to the one who told about Jesus so that the person could believe in Him. As to the instant of salvation, why would we fret about that question? I point out that we are baptized INTO CHRIST, which would be impossible if we were already IN CHRIST prior to being baptized as He commanded was to be done. Consider:

    Galatians 3:27 English Standard Version (ESV) 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

    Paul did not say that all who had believed in Jesus had “put on Christ.” He assumes belief in Jesus as Lord, but speaks of the ACT which brings anyone INTO CHRIST.

    If any passage speaks of salvation by faith in Jesus, we do well to look for the word “only” or “alone” WITH faith if we want to teach that salvation is by faith ALONE. We surely want to teach Bible TRUTH even in our implications. Some insist that salvation is by faith alone, simply because that’s what they want to believe. That doctrine is never taught in apostolic writings. That baptism is “into Christ” is taught by Jesus and His apostles. Baptism always follows believing IN JESUS and turning to Him (repenting) as Lord deserving of our obedience. We baptize because JESUS said to baptize. Baptism wasn’t thought up by humans. The need for baptism wasn’t stated by humans until after JESUS commanded the act for every new believer.

  33. R.J. says:

    I think Ephesians 2 is dealing with works of human effort/labor or strugle. Not merely works of the law.

  34. Dwight says:

    It is kind of a strange discussion as grace saves, but if faith saves through grace, then grace is built upon a condition of faith that the person must have. but we also read elsewhere that faith is work, as it is something that man has to produce. Grace is a gift, but faith isn’t. Faith also produces a response and the scripture is pretty clear that God requires not faith only, but faith that has works. God never accepts a person for just believing, but only after that one has fulfilled an action based on his faith. This is a pattern seen from Abraham to Jesus. Thus if God tells us to do something in our faith to secure our salvation, then will God be pleased when we don’t do that if we can? God never tells us to do something we can’t do when we can?

    Ray presents a great verse Galatians 3:27 (ESV) 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
    Also Rom.6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    The thought is that Grace might be free, but we still must participate in the conditions for this grace that is extended to us. In Acts 2:38 they ask what must we do to be saved, Peter says, repent and be baptized, so even if you subtract baptism, you are still left with repentance, which is connected to, but not the same as faith. Another condition for this grace, so why not baptism?

    Romans seems to argue against the law, but if law is bad, then the gospel is bad, because it is called the Perfect Law of Liberty. So law must not be bad and working within the law must not be bad as long as it is based on and in Christ. God requires love of us as in John 13, but love is a requirement and a condition and in fact this love is stronger than faith from I Cor.13, so one more condition and this condition of love is not listed in this faith saving through grace passage. So are we to argue that love doesn’t save us as well after all if we love God we will do His commandments? So back to Acts 2:38.

  35. Paula Robbins says:

    You state that “faith is something man has to produce”. You might want to consider what Jesus said in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” In some way, it seems that we are dependent on God for our faith; that, too is a gift from God.

  36. Randall says:

    Paula,
    Nice comment. Hope others will read it and give it fair consideration. Of course there are other passages that go hand in glove with the one you’ve referred to here.
    Hesed,
    Randall

  37. Larry Cheek says:

    Paula Robbins and Randall,
    I am not sure that the verse that you have quoted by its self fills the whole context. Faith is not even mentioned. But notice the Romans message God has shown men enough that he could have faith but mans faith is definitely dependent upon man, God does not just insert it into anyone. Verse 20 states that man is without excuse, if he does not have faith from the visibility of the creation. It is also revealed in the Gospel, verses 16,17.

    Joh 6:43-46 ESV Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. (44) No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (45) It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— (46) not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

    Rom 1:16-23 ESV 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. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (19) For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (20) For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (21) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (23) and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

  38. laymond says:

    Jay, what about what Jesus told the apostles when he was preparing to die, does it not countradict (in your opinion) in any way the wording of Mat-28-19 ?

    Jhn 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
    Jhn 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
    Jhn 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

    Jay, does this statement not even sound a little contradictory to you.?
    Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
    Mat 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
    ” All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. “

  39. Dwight says:

    Paula, our faith is built upon our knowledge of God and Jesus and our understanding that He fulfills His promises and this is built on our hearing of this, so in that way we derive faith from this, but that hearing of the word is still implanted in us (parable of the soils) and we either grow the faith that is neccessary or we don’t. There are plenty of scriptures that directly argue for faith as a work. Here are two, but go to Strong’s concordance or any other and place in (faith work) and you will get about four or five as this is how I did my search. Gal.5:6 “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love”
    I Thess.1:3 “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.” Peter had faith, but from the stormy sea account his faith went from strong to little in the presence of Jesus, some peoples faith is non-existant, some incredible,but it is dependant upon our trust in Jesus. Real faith works. James 2:18

  40. Grace says:

    Romans 12:3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.

    1 Corinthians 4:7 What are you so puffed up about? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if all you have is from God, why act as though you are so great, and as though you have accomplished something on your own?

    Hebrews 12:2 Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.

  41. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Laymond,

    To a true Trinitarian such a myself, no, no contradiction at all. After all, to a Trinitarian, the distinctions between Father, Son, and Spirit are somewhat blurred. They are not three but both one and three. Hence, to baptize into the name of Jesus, correctly understood, includes Father and Spirit, as they are inseparable. Not the same but defined in part in terms of each other. After all, can you define “Son” or even “Spirit” without reference to the Father?

  42. Randall says:

    Hi Jay,

    I thought I had already posted a comment something like this but I can’t find it. Another senior moment I suppose.

    In one of your replies to one of my comments you wrote the following:

    “If we leave Medieval Scholasticism and Reformation theology behind and get back to what Paul was actually discussing, we find that he defines “works” as “work of the Torah” — obedience to the Law of Moses. I defend this position in”…
    *************************************************************
    The understanding of atonement generally called penal substitution falls into the category of “Medieval Scholasticism and Reformation theology”

    From the following site we read: http://www.theopedia.com/Penal_substitutionary_atonement

    Penal substitutionary atonement refers to the doctrine that Christ died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. God imputed the guilt of our sins to Christ, and he, in our place, bore the punishment that we deserve. This was a full payment for sins, which satisfied both the wrath and the righteousness of God, so that He could forgive sinners without compromising His own holy standard.

    Background
    The Penal-Substitution Theory of the atonement was formulated by the 16th century Reformers as an extension of Anselm’sSatisfaction theory. Anselm’s theory was correct in introducing the satisfaction aspect of Christ’s work and its necessity; however the Reformers saw it as insufficient because it was referenced to God’s honor rather than his justice and holiness and was couched more in terms of a commercial transaction than a penal substitution. This Reformed view says simply that Christ died for man, in man’s place, taking his sins and bearing them for him. The bearing of man’s sins takes the punishment for them and sets the believer free from the penal demands of the law: The righteousness of the law and the holiness of God are satisfied by this substitution.
    *********************************************
    Justification theology also has some roots in the Reformation theology; Please see this from the following site: https://bible.org/article/what-does-it-mean-be-justified-brief-exposition-romans-321-26-part-2

    What does it mean to be justified? Roman Catholics and Protestants are divided over this issue. Catholicism generally regards justification to mean imparted righteousness while Protestants generally take it to mean imputed righteousness. The difference is important: if imparted, then God makes us righteous. If imputed, then God declares us to be righteous. If imparted, then there is no assurance of salvation since God does not make us righteous immediately. If imputed, there is indeed assurance of salvation since the legal declaration of our righteousness is the divine statement about our status, not about our practice. Lest we think, however, that the Reformed view is automatically correct, we would do well to pause and wrestle with the history of interpretation of this passage. As far as I am aware, it was not until the Reformation that anyone in church history—from the second century on—viewed justification as imputed righteousness. Even Augustine, whom Protestants look to almost as a Luther before Luther, did not hold to this forensic view of justification.
    ***************************************
    You seem to have suggested that “we leave Medieval Scholasticism and Reformation theology behind” and get back to what Paul was discussing.
    I am guessing you don’t want to leave penal substitution behind nor justification. Additionally, we must recognize that we can’t simply read the scripture with the mind set of a person living in the first century as we don’t live there and were not raised in that culture. We also can’t simply approach scripture as though in a vacuum. It is good, even great, to try to overcome our cultural biases but, we would have to first recognize not only that we have some but identify what they are. Then we could try to gain the way of thinking one might have had in the first century with their cultural biases. Or we could simply employ the best scholarship we can study and pray that the HS will illuminate the scripture to us.

    I know it is popular in some circles today to bash that old, obsolete Reformation theology. I don’t happen to be one and I am not saying that you are in that camp. It is my preference to stand on the shoulders of giants that have gone before. I think I can see better from up there. I benefit from it even though Christian doctrine is still developing and improving.

    Hesed,
    Randall

  43. Dwight says:

    Grace, I understand “Romans 12:3 And because of God’s gracious gift to me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you should. Instead, be modest in your thinking, and judge yourself according to the amount of faith that God has given you.”
    So does God give strong faith or weak faith? Which does he supply us with? If weak faith then God is supplying us with less than He wants us to have. Hebrews 12:2 Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect. He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing because of the joy that God put before him. And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne. The above Hebrews doesn’t argue for Jesus making us have faith, but for Jesus being the on who we have faith. The word “perfect” used above argues for “completion” or “making complete”, thus Jesus also completes our faith, so weak faith is not from Jesus, or is it. Peter had strong faith and weak faith, so which one was from Jesus, or did Jesus supply both faiths, but then again Jesus condemned Peter for the weak faith.

  44. Dwight says:

    Grace, I do agree that faith is founded in Jesus, but faith is not cast upon us. We grow in faith, we cultivate it and we control it. Hebrews 11:1-3 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
    This doesn’t mention Jesus or God in what faith is and yet we know that without Jesus or God there would be no faith or anything to have faith in. “By faith we understand tht the worlds were made by God” so our faith makes us see what can’t be seen, but is known.
    If there is an origin of our faith and evertything that is good it is God and it is placed in us when we open our hearts and yet we work with the faith that we have and we grow in it or not. This was the point, not where it came from, but that faith works within us as we work with it. Faith works.

  45. Dwight says:

    Grace, here is an admission, I thought I knew what faith was but that was then, now I believe that faith like many things are only as good as person who directs it and who it is directed towards. The attribute of faith is driven by the type of faith as in who and from where.
    When we grow up we develop the concept of faith, love, hope, grace and all of these things, except that these are primarily directed towards our parents and then the world. So in a general sense we have faith, love, hope, etc. We have faith in our parents, we love our parents, we hope that our parents will give us what they promise, etc.
    We have all of these things. In the case of Paul he had a great amount of zeal for God…and he did bad things with that zeal. And he had faith in God, from the Jewish standpoint, but not in Jesus. We could argue that his faith saved him and that his zeal was good, but this is not true. His faith and zeal was misdirected, misapplied, but he did have them.

  46. Dwight says:

    Then comes Jesus. The love that we have for the world now is to be directed towards God, who is the author of love and really everything. We find that although we have these things, that we are not using them in the right way. Until we realized that God is epitomy of love, we think our parents were. Until we realize that God gives us everything, we thought our parents did. OR we thought that we could get them ourselves.
    Now to faith. We grow up in faith, but not in God’s faith, until we recognized God, then the faith that we have is transformed into a Godly faith. The faith that we worked towards other things, we now work towards God’s will. Not only has our faith been surplanted, but it has been improved in quality and we must move towards quantity of the quality. So in this sense we produce faith, love, hope, and we always did, but now when we come to know Jesus this particular faith comes from God and we are to produce it. The only thing we cannot produce or replace what we have is saving grace, as this is external to us. Our faith can change, but only Grace is in God’s hands.

  47. Royce says:

    Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

    Faith “comes”….from somewhere. That somewhere (or someone) is God.

    Jesus said: John 6:63-65; 37, 44 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing … and that no one can come to Me (believe the gospel) unless it has been granted him from the Father” and (v37) that all that the Father gives the Son will come to him (i.e will believe the gospel) and 44 says that no one comes unless God draws him and those same people he will raise up at the last day.

    I’m going with Jesus on this one.

  48. Paula Robbins says:

    Dear Larry,
    Your points are well-made. And I simply do not know all the ways in which God/ the Holy Spirit may influence us; certainly they do through the Scripture, nature and other believers. I do not believe that God distributes faith arbitrarily (Calvinist doctrine?) and that we have no choice in the process. But I also am not convinced that we come to faith through our own wisdom and knowledge in examining the evidence. I’ve seen that line of thinking lead to pride, arrogance and harsh judgement toward anyone who doesn’t come to the “obvious” conclusion to which we hold. I suspect that, even at its inception, our faith is somehow interactive; both we and God play a part. As in any relationship, the participation of both parties is required; my faith can’t be passive. But my relationship with God is completely dependent on God’s love, mercy and grace. God invites me to participate, but it is He and He alone that makes the relationship possible (consistent with Ephesians 2:9).

    One of my goals for this year is to study through Romans. You’re comments have given me added incentive to do this! Thank you for your insights.

  49. Larry Cheek says:

    Royce,
    The verse that you quote is not saying what you are claiming.
    Look carefully again.
    Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
    The word of Christ is the message. Hearing the message is where faith comes from. The hearing is the part that you play, you can chose not to hear, you can even refuse to believe, if you do not believe what you hear faith will not come to you.
    If God or Christ was responsible for the faith that you have weak, strong or none at all, then he would be also responsible for all men lack of faith.

    Explain, did God give Abraham this faith that allowed him to be counted as righteous?
    (Rom 4:9 ESV) Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.
    (Rom 4:12 ESV) and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.
    (Rom 4:13 ESV) For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.
    (Rom 4:16 ESV) That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
    (Gal 3:7 ESV) Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
    (Gal 3:8 ESV) 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.”
    (Gal 3:9 ESV) So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
    (Gal 3:14 ESV) so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
    (Heb 11:8 ESV) By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
    (Heb 11:17 ESV) By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son,
    In Heb, if God gave Abraham the faith spoken of here then it was impossible for him to obey or be tested. A failure would have been God’s failure.

  50. Royce says:

    And what of the quote from Jesus ?

  51. Larry Cheek says:

    Another thought was presented while I was reading Paula’s last post and reviewing my last post. There is very much emphasis in many of these posts that the point of our salvation comes to us when we come to faith. Of course we seem to be very worried about assumptions which we can contrive concerning what might happen if catastrophic events happen at a time when we don’t have all our ducks in a row. But, if we place God with the responsibility to give us that faith, then in reality God would be responsible for our inability to respond with faith, thus we would not receive salvation.
    Romans in my last post verifies that we obtain nothing without “hearing”. Without hearing we will not know what to believe, thus “no belief”. With no hearing and no belief we will not have “faith”.

  52. Paula Robbins says:

    Dear Dwight,
    I think that perhaps we are talking about different definitions of “faith” and “works”. The verses you quoted seem to refer to faith producing works (results), not the other way around. And God-centered faith always produces changes (results, works), although that may look quite different from one person to another. But there is no level of faith, obedience, good works, etc. that can ever merit or earn salvation; only Jesus’ sacrifice can do that.

    I think your post from earlier this evening illustrates my thinking about faith. It isn’t the quality or quantity of faith that saves me; it is the the OBJECT of my faith. I trust Jesus’ promise that He earned my salvation; part of that trust is the acknowledgement that I could never earn salvation in any other way. And, as you also stated, the most important aspect is to realize that this is all centered on God.

    In a way, this discussion seems like a debate about what is necessary for life. The heart? The kidneys? The brain? The digestive tract? Other things? The answer is: Yes! The various things to which God calls us, components of faith, are not in competition. They are intertwined, sometimes to the point that I think it’s impossible to determine where one ends and another begins. But it is all permeated by God’s love, mercy and faithfulness and driven by His power.

  53. Paula Robbins says:

    Amen!

  54. Ray Downen says:

    Good for Dwight and all who seek light from apostolic writings! Dwight is right.

  55. laymond says:

    Jay could Paul say the same today about the Church of Christ that he said in Corinth .?

    1Co 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
    1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
    1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
    1Co 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;
    1Co 1:15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

    Jay, in order to keep things in context, would it not be correct to say Paul said we are supposed to be baptized in the name of the one who was crucified for us. Maybe not directly, but contextually. I don’t see how what he said could be read any oher way, than “we are to be baptized for remission of sins, in no other name than the one who suffered and died for our sins” I know of only one name that could possibly be.

  56. Bonneebee says:

    RE: I believe that God’s grace will cover baptismal error.
    ME: I desparately want you to be right – I’d sleep so much better if you were because I would not be concerned about so many people I dearly love, but I don’t think you are.
    .
    RE: Hence, if faith is essential to salvation, so is the correct position on baptism, and so is the correct position in instrumental music. And fellowship halls. Everything is equal.
    ME: I disagree because the Bible itself actually says in 1 John 5

    16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
    17 All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.

  57. Terry Purcell says:

    You can sleep better, your loved ones are saved by faith and the Grace of God. They are not perfect nor or we. Take joy in your fellowship with your loved ones. God bless.

  58. Monty says:

    One of the biggest shames I have seen is CofC parents who raised their kids to love God and they do, except they have moved away from the CofC legalism and have found grace in another denomination. The (many I have seen) feel like they have lost their kids to the devil and no longer even consider them saved but fallen away and their unity as a family who loves the Lord is shattered. The kids didn’t leave for a cult, or to live a life of sin, only to worship God as they feel led with other grace centered believers.

    It’s time to quit believing we’re the only ones faithful. The kids today are seeing right through that stuff. Our exclusiveness, in many cases, is what drives our kids away to worship with more grace centered believers. They don’t believe God would condemn them for IM when he seems perfectly good with it in the OT. You can use all the hermeneutic wranglings you choose to on them but they don’t buy it. Good for them. They believe Jesus saves them not the COfC pattern that isn’t even agreed on by the membership among the general populace. I don’t know how many CofC members I know who still worship in mainstream congregations while accapella , they don’t believe IM is wrong. It’s mainly the preachers who do. I also know several mainstream preachers who don’t believe IM is wrong, they just aren’t going to rattle the cage of the elders, unnecessarily. These times they are a changing. Time to repent and admit our hermeneutic didn’t always lead us to a healthy place. So many times it only divided and caused unnecessary division. What a shame.

  59. Dwight says:

    Bonneebee, you said, “RE: I believe that God’s grace will cover baptismal error.
    ME: I desparately want you to be right – I’d sleep so much better if you were because I would not be concerned about so many people I dearly love, but I don’t think you are.”

    I believe “baptismal error” is really a red herring. One cannot be baptized in error. Now one can be baptized without faith, but this isn’t error, but lack of faith. And one can be baptized into other people than Jesus, as some were baptized into John, but this didn’t make the baptism an error, it just didn’t place one into Jesus. John’s baptism was never called an error, even though it didn’t save.
    Now if man has faith in Jesus and is baptized into Jesus, then man is in Jesus and is forgiven by Jesus. The only qualifier for baptism in terms of salvation is a belief in Jesus as the Son of God and our savoir.

    You said, “RE: Hence, if faith is essential to salvation, so is the correct position on baptism, and so is the correct position in instrumental music. And fellowship halls. Everything is equal.
    ME: I disagree because the Bible itself actually says in 1 John 5 :16-17 “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.”

    In regards to the RE: statement, I believe Jay is making the point that not all things save, but certain things save.
    It is poorly stated, but he makes it clear later on in the thread.
    We must have faith in Jesus and we must be baptized into this faith in Jesus, but whether we believe in baptism as saving or for or against instrumental music or for or against fellowship halls, isn’t a position of salvation. Jay was actually arguing against a flat hermeneutic that lumps all things into that which saves man or condemns man.
    All of the things mentioned in the RE: statement do not constitute sinful things and only one of them leads to salvation.
    Faith in Jesus and being baptized.
    However the only correct position on baptism is faith in Jesus who saves us and then we are baptized. There are no other positions on baptism that save us nor condemns us.

    I believe Jay’s overall point was that there is really only one position we must have and that is a belief in Jesus as our Lord and Savior (the point of the gospel) and then based on this one position we act in faith and repentance and baptism, etc towards being in Christ. Man however often lumps many other things into what it takes to be saved. Now there are many things that might condemn us, but even so it comes down to if we follow Jesus or not.

  60. laymond says:

    Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    Seems to me there may be some “work” involved there. And I believe doing it right , might be the will of the Father. If God tells you what to do, and how to do it, I would be careful not to change those directions to suit myself. I believe we have a record of that being tried , and it didn’t work out so well.

  61. laymond says:

    This is what Jesus said about baptism.
    Mat 3:14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
    Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.

    NLT
    But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
    NLT
    But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

  62. Dwight says:

    Laymond, I don’t think anyone disagrees that we must work or that doing God’s will isn’t work, but still we are dependent upon God’s grace and mercy, because as much work as we do, we will fail in some way. We can never work enough and we will never be good enough.
    I do believe that Jesus was arguing for the same thing that is argued in James, faith completed by works.
    An interesting thing as I read James, as I am preparing for a lesson, is that the works in question in James are patience, listening and not speaking, resisting temptation and taking care of widows (others). These are not what we would call the acts of worship as done in assembly. They are acts of a Christian in life.

    In Matt.7:21 Jesus says, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:”
    He says this after he tell them to love their enemies, go the second mile, be chaste in heart and body, not become angry to wrath, be charitable, pray and fast in secret, do good, etc. None of these are focused on what we would call “worship service” or corporate worship which is where we usually place our religiousness.
    The works, then come from our heart towards God and others.
    Mercy and forgiveness will be shown to us as we show it to others.
    This is God’s will, just as Jesus showed to man.
    This is reflected in Jesus in the garden, “If it be thy will let this cup pass from me”, but God’s will was for Jesus to die for man’s sins.

  63. Monty says:

    The worship service “pattern” is what’s wrong with the CofC. It divides and separates us rather than pulls us together. The sad thing though is there is no real worship service “pattern” in the scripture but a pieced together inference and example by us that is presented as a Sinai etched in stone law declaration. Could God have given us a pattern or law just exactly like the Law? Sure. But it’s glaring that he didn’t. Did he? The closest he got was when Jesus said, the greatest commandment that fulfilled the Law was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and then love your neighbor as you love yourself. Practice this everyday. Encourage(could mean many things)your local assembly and do good as you go. Not to be saved but because you are saved. I seriously don’t think anyone who puts their faith in Jesus and does the above is going to have to worry about did they get IM right or the number of cups right or any of the other silly things we divide over. But scare tactics make it easier to control the sheep.

  64. Dwight says:

    Monty, I over all agree. I know many people that complain that “others don’t worship God right”, and yet if pressed they can’t detail how they should worship from a list. God gave a list in the
    OT through the Law, but didn’t give one in the NT.
    But many hate the proposition that “worship God in spirit and in Truth” doesn’t mean in a relegated way using all of the examples that are given.
    Well most of the examples.
    OK only the relevant ones.
    What I find disturbing is that we in the coC hold people over the fire on some things and yet excuse ourselves from other things….it must be non-IM in worship, because of silence, but when it comes to the Lord’s Supper, even though we are told they partook of the “Lord’s Supper” in the evening as a meal, that is no big deal, after all we are following the spirit of the command.

  65. Larry Cheek says:

    I recently visited a lectureship wherein I attempted to explain to one of the preachers who had been preaching for over 50 years who had spoken of worship being in the assembly, that worship was to be 24/7 and that we were to gather to build and edify each other. He immediately asked, where do you find that in scripture? Well, I was stopped short of being able to explain, he did not have time to listen.

  66. Dwight says:

    Larry, a common teaching in the churches is called partitioning or where we as Christians go to worship God in assembly and then leave assembly and don’t worship.
    There is this gulf between “corporate church” and the church, between corporate worship and worship, between corporate giving and giving or at least we create this gulf.
    Heb.10:25 is about assembly, not necessarily Sunday Lord’s Supper assembly, but the point of assembly was to edify each other. Even I Cor.11-14 where the saints are expressing spiritual gifts, the point was to edify each other. Regulated ceremonial worship is never even mentioned in these context.
    I was talking to a preacher the other day who argued that his Christianity was secured through the church and I argued that out Christianity is secured through Christ and that assembly is but one extension of our Christianity. He stopped his discussion with me at that point.

  67. Dwight says:

    I was supposed to be doing a class on James and one of my points was going to be “What it means to be religious”. It is ironic that to us, being religious is how much time we spend in worship service, but in James being religious is how much time we spend in helping those around us, specifically the widows.
    In my Bible in James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” was a footnote I almost missed where it lead to Isaiah 1:13 where God is talking about how the Israelites are not helping the helpless and being good to those around them, so he despises their worship and feast. This should make us think in terms of while we pride ourselves on our worship, how those who may not do worship “correctly”, but spend more time in helping those around them, might be more religious than we are. .

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