Salvation 2.0: Part 6.1: Justification: Baptism, a Third Option

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Justification

Baptism

I’ve written so much and so long on baptism that I really just want to hit the high points. Of course, when it comes to baptism, there are a lot of high points.

First point: It is my view that salvation and baptism normatively occur simultaneously. I believe that the Spirit is normatively received at the moment of water baptism. However, I do not believe that God is bound to damn when this rule is violated. In fact, I’m confident that all who have genuine faith in Jesus (as we’ve defined “faith” in the previous posts) will be saved.

“Normatively” means that this is how God intends for it to be, but not how it has to be. God intends for us not to sin, but grace covers our sin even though it violates God’s will. God intends for Christians to love each other as Jesus loves them — sacrificially. But God’s grace covers our failure to do this. All this assumes, of course, the absence of rebellious intent. Innocent error is covered by grace. That’s the whole point of grace.

Now, the sad truth is that many in the Churches of Christ are willing to throw grace out the window in order to win arguments against the Baptists. Many deny dozens of scriptural passages just for the joy of being smarter than those Baptists. Get over it. Denominational pride proves nothing, and it’s more than a little ugly. 

But — and notice this very closely — I do not agree with the Baptists either. I am not making the Baptist argument, and you may not fill the comments with anti-Baptist arguments. That’s not the argument I’m making.

You see, as is nearly always the case, there are more than two possibilities. The Baptists teach salvation at the moment of faith (or the moment the Sinner’s Prayer is offered to God). The Churches of Christ teach that salvation occurs at the moment of water baptism
— and only if baptism is understood by the believer as being for the forgiveness of sins. Some add further conditions.

My view is that, in fact, God normally saves at the moment of water baptism — for those who come to baptism with true faith. (I’m going to stop saying “true faith” rather than “faith” because they are the very same thing. “Faith” implies no intention to violate a known command of God because “faith” includes faithfulness.) But God doesn’t have to. He is free to save earlier if he so chooses.

If someone with faith is run over by the proverbial train on the way to the baptistry, God will save him. When? Well, no later than Judgment Day, when it matters most. Otherwise, God would not keep his many, many promises to save everyone with faith.

If someone with faith is taught incorrectly regarding the right way or time to be baptized, God will overlook the error and save that person anyway. After all, the sin is in the false teaching. God does not expect new converts to have faith in baptism. He does not require them to understand baptism better than most of the most accomplished NT scholars alive today. He does not expect them to know how to translate eis in the Greek.

He absolutely insists that they have faith in Jesus. And faith requires a faithful heart — which requires the convert to obey as he’s been taught regarding baptism. But he does not require baptism to a standard greater than what the convert knows to do. What more could be demanded of an infant in Christ?

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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3 Responses to Salvation 2.0: Part 6.1: Justification: Baptism, a Third Option

  1. John says:

    Jay, short, but very well thought out and written. We who grew up in the Church of Christ, and those in the Baptist Church, debated ourselves into corners of hard and fast conclusions in which the love and mercy of God were squeezed out.

    However, my own thoughts are, while baptism is the physical separation from our former way of life, our faith is embraced by God as if all things have been completed. After all, the Lord’s Supper is where we physically remember the broken body and the shed blood of Jesus; yet to the person who has come to faith, the body and blood of Jesus is partaken of before the first piece of bread and cup of wine ever touches the lips.

    Again, I appreciate how you think through Biblical subjects, rather than coming to easy conclusions that box in God’s mercy. Christianity is a challenge, in mind as well as in behavior; and both demand work. Unfortunately, a legalism still exists in some areas in which the idea that one’s secret sins are forgiven by a grace that is found ONLY in a perfect belief and understanding. It is this idea that has created the rise and fall of so many “moral heroes”. But more and more we see the shallowness of that thought being recognized and, to be honest, laughed to scorn, by those not of the church. That is what happens when the church, in protecting itself, sets thinking aside.

  2. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Good post, Jay. I think you make valid points. At the end of the day, do we serve a God that is more concerned with misunderstandings or the heart? When we read the Gospel accounts, I get the sense that Christ was more concerned with the latter. What are we doing for our fellow man? Are we being servants? Christ’s comments in Matt 25 are telling:

    41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away kinto eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

    The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001. Print.

    Faith in this passage is a given. Yet the emphasis at judgement is not whether we technically understood all the nuances of baptism. The emphasis is on the heart and loving our neighbor.

  3. John F says:

    Real ife story: Sone years ago, I studied at length with a customer (travelling salesman). Some weeks later and 3000 miles away, he called and shared with me that he had been baptized at the xyz Baptist church. My response was not “Oh no, but praise god, Dan.” I know he was taught well (after all, I HAD DONE SO — okay, get pride out of the way). I am absolutely convinced of his response of faith — the efficacy of baptism has NOTHING to do with who performs the act. A good Nazarene friend with whom I studied came to tell me that he “had been immersed for the remission of his sins” and the his mother refused to observe, but he knew what he needed to do to be faithful.
    I don’t have contact with Dan any more so do not know where his journey of faith has led him. I do have contact with my Nazarene friend — he is still “Nazarene” — will his journey of faith lead him out of some of those “errors of understanding?” I think not at this time, but can we not allow God, the righteous judge, to make the judgment, or must we take His place?

    Bottom line? Speak the truth in love and allow grace to rightfully reign.

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