grace7Back in 2009, Todd Deaver and I engaged in a dialog with Greg Tidwell, Phil Sanders, and Mac Deaver regarding the scope of grace — that is, how do we determine which sins or errors damn and which do not? The dialogue was posted over a series of several months at

The site has recently had more activity than usual, even though the last post was seven years ago. I thought I’d check the traffic data at Google Analytics.

There have been 118,958 pageviews since the site was established. These views involve 8,607 unique visitors. The day with the highest traffic (April 27, 2009) generated 1,943 views.

I’ve kept the site up ever since we wrapped it up, in hopes it would be of benefit to anyone studying the scope of God’s grace.

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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14 Responses to

  1. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    It definitely helps, Jay. I’m proof…and I am certainly not alone.

  2. Does Paul’s idea of grace and faith include baptism?

  3. Dwight says:

    You wrote “scope of grace- that is, how do we determine which sins or errors damn and which do not?”, but this sounds more like mercy, in that we are not getting what we deserve due to sin.
    Grace is getting what we do not deserve.
    Mercy is not grace, but they are connected and one should lead to the other.
    Sin is what I do and mercy is what is offer to counter it, and grace is what is offered beyond that.

  4. Royce says:

    Mercy is that you are not going to perish in the fire though you deserve it.
    Grace is the gifts of righteousness, sonship, and eternal life.

    You had little to do with either.

  5. If understanding stuff is required, I will need lots of grace that I do not fully understand.

  6. Alabama John says:

    Royce, couldn’t of been said better!!!

  7. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    counselingskills asked,

    Does Paul’s idea of grace and faith include baptism?

    Paul mentions baptism more than once, and generally in the context of a discussion of grace and faith. But he doesn’t speak of baptism nearly as often as faith in Jesus.

  8. The whole chapter of Romans 6 is about baptism. Should we be adding up all the scripture references about faith and baptism and compare the totals, then go with the one mentioned most often? Or should we be looking at what is said about the terms and their meanings provided in scripture?

  9. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:


    Actually, chapter 6 is about the question: “Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound,” a question triggered by —

    (Rom. 5:20-21 ESV) 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    It’s unusual in the Churches of Christ to hear a sermon about the abundance of God’s grace — so abundant that grace abounds all the more as we sin all the more! God knew that the revelation of his will through Torah would make Israel far more accountable for their sins, and so result in damnation rather than salvation — but for God’s abundant grace.

    In the conservative Churches of Christ, the presence of greater knowledge leads to greater sin leads to damnation. It’s a very different theology.

    Paul responds to the question in chapters 6 – 8, culminating in his discussion of the indwelling Spirit and the doxology that concludes chapter 8.

    Baptism is used to make the point that, when we became Christians, we died to sin and so should not take advantage of God’s grace to sin. The chapter is not really about baptism; it’s about grace, faith, and obedience, with baptism being illustrative of Paul’s initial points.

    Now, when our teaching and preaching emphasize what the Bible does not emphasize and understate what the Bible does emphasize, we obviously have a problem with our teaching. When our preachers would blush to preach what Paul preached, we have a problem. And when we so revere baptism that we take Rom 6 and make it about how to be saved rather than making Paul’s own point, we are coming at the text with a distorted vision.

    (Rom. 6:1-12 ESV) What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

    Read the text carefully. Paul is not saying “There are five acts by which you are saved, culminating in baptism.” His point is that baptism illustrates and demonstrates that we are to put sin behind us as people who are now “in Christ.” Baptism demonstrates that we are not to take advantage of God’s abundant grace to sin.

    That’s what chapter 6 is about — not sinning in response to grace. Baptism is one illustration of why that is true. Paul then continues with additional points about not sinning in response to grace — ultimately concluding in Rom 8 that we are led by the Spirit and so must not continue in sin.

    So chapter 6 is not about baptism. It’s about grace and not taking advantage of grace to sin with baptism being illustrative of Paul’s point.

    But, of course, Paul does speak of baptism — but he doesn’t make baptism our Savior. He doesn’t declare that baptism is as important as faith in Jesus. He doesn’t damn those who were baptized to obey God.

    So, yes, our teaching should reflect the emphasis of the scriptures — not by some rote formula, as every context requires certain lessons more than others. But when a denomination forsakes the salvific power of faith in Jesus — so much so that we can recite the entire Five Steps of Salvation and not once mention Jesus, we have a problem in emphasis.

  10. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    You are exactly right. In looking back at my life within Churches of Christ, I knew a lot of scripture, but that knowledge was devoid of context. We don’t read scripture in the COC; we read isolated passages. We miss the broader connective story and narrative.

    On Rom 6, Richard Longenecker writes (and sorry for the length):

    Paul raises three questions in 6:1–7:13 with respect to what he earlier presented in 5:1–11 (i.e., his “transitional and thesis material,” which stands over all he presents in chs. 5–8) and 5:12–21 (i.e., his “universal and foundational story” regarding the two primal persons in human history); both earlier subsections were focused on the overwhelming greatness of God’s grace as expressed through the ministry of Jesus Christ vis-à-vis human sin, universal death, and any supposed redemptive powers of the Mosaic law…

    6:3–4 In these two verses Paul highlights in rhetorical fashion a matter of great importance in the proclamation of the Christian gospel: all who have been baptized into Christ “were baptized into his death” “so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life.” The particle ἤ (“or”) occurs frequently in koine Greek either (1) to separate mutually exclusive opposites or (2) to relate similar terms or expressions, with the second term or expression supplementing the first—perhaps even taking the place of the first. And that is how it usually functions in the NT as well.

    Yet the particle ἤ (“or”) is also used in both secular and biblical Greek as an opening rhetorical feature in an interrogative sentence simply to highlight the question being asked—and so may be either translated or not, depending on how a translator or commentator understands the need for such a rhetorical device in his or her own receptor language.18 Thus Paul’s use of ἤ (“or”) at the beginning of the question in 6:3, as well as at the beginning of the question in 7:1,19 may or may not be thought necessary in a contemporary translation. We believe that in this particular context the translation of ἤ (“or”) is not only unnecessary in English but also a bit cumbersome.

    In explicating the reason why those who are true believers in Jesus cannot “continue in sin”—that is, because they have “died to sin” and so “cannot still live in it”—Paul highlights the newness of a Christian’s life that has been brought about by God through the agency of Christian baptism. These statements of 6:3–4 constitute the principal discussion of Christian baptism in Paul’s letters.20

    Paul, of course, thought of himself as a Christian apostle and evangelist, whose ministry was to proclaim the Christian message and to bring people to the experience of faith in Christ. He did not, however, think of himself as a church official, whose ministry was confined to the local church and whose function included officiating at the Christian ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Thus he could write to his converts in the church at Corinth, who were attaching themselves to the names of one or another of the early Christian worthies, the following:

    I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel. (1 Cor 1:14–17a)

    But that does not mean that Paul disparaged in any way Christian baptism. Rather, as evidenced by his statements here in 6:3–4, he used Christian baptism as the basis for his exhortations to believers in Jesus to live a new life in Christ and as the primary illustration of what it means for one to live such a new life.

    Although there are many references in the Jewish (OT) Scriptures to the purification of people and things by the use of water,21 the baptism of a person in water as an initiatory religious rite is not spoken of at all in the OT. Some have argued that the origin of baptism as a religious rite stemmed from the ancient Near Eastern cults of Mithra (the Persian god of light) and Isis (the Egyptian goddess of nature, who was the wife and sister of Osiris).22 But that thesis is thoroughly discounted today.23

    Jews of the first century A.D. constructed and used for religious purification purposes a rather large number of ritual baths (singular miqveh; plural miqvoth), as we now know from excavations at the southern end of the Temple Mount at Jerusalem and throughout southern Judea24—as did the Essene covenanters in their community northwest of the Dead Sea, as seen by the excavated remains of their system of ritual baths at Qumran. All these types of ritual washings evidently gave rise to the practice of “proselyte baptism” during the period of “early” or “formative Judaism,” that is, of baptizing Gentiles who had converted to Judaism.25 Likewise, John the Baptist is portrayed as calling people to a “baptism of repentance” and baptizing them in the Jordan River at some place near the city of Jericho (Matt 3:1–6; Mark 1:4–6; Luke 3:2–6; see also John 1:31). And Jesus was baptized by John in the river Jordan (Matt 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; see also John 1:29–34).

    Much more investigation needs to be undertaken, and much more could be said, about Jewish ritual bathing and initiatory baptism. Suffice it here to point out that (1) the earliest Jewish believers in Jesus, in line with their understanding of Jewish purification rites and practices, were physically “baptized into Jesus Christ,” (2) Paul drew his understanding of Christian baptism from his own Jewish background and from the early Christian tradition that existed before him, (3) Paul in his Gentile mission expected that his converts to Christ would be baptized (even though, as he says in 1 Cor 1:14–17 regarding his early experience at Corinth, he himself baptized only Crispus, Gaius, and “the household of Stephanas,” who were presumably the first converts to Christ in that city), and (4) Paul left the performance of this Christian religious rite to others who had become leaders in the local congregations of the cities he evangelized.

    Further, Jesus is recorded in Mark 10:38–39 and Luke 12:50 as referring to his approaching death as his “baptism,” thereby bringing into association ideas of “baptism” and “death”—and, by extension, the correspondence of “resurrection” and “new life.” Paul evidently picked up on this imagery in urging the Christians at Rome to view their Christian baptism as representing their union with Jesus in both his death and his resurrection—and therefore, just as death meant the end to Jesus’ earthly life and resurrection meant the commencing of Jesus’ new life, so these believers were to consider themselves dead to the sins of their past lives and alive to the transforming features of their new lives. Thus he declares to his Roman addressees: “We were buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we might live a new life.”

    Longenecker, Richard N. The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text. Ed. I. Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2016. Print. New International Greek Testament Commentary.

  11. Ray Downen says:

    It doesn’t take many words to point out that Jesus commanded that every NEW BELIEVER was to be baptized (immersed) as an initiation into the church of Christ. What was done by Jews earlier has nothing to do with the subject, as far as I can tell. Jesus commands the baptism (immersion in water) of every new believer. We should baptize new believers! Why? Because Jesus is our boss.

  12. Alabama John says:

    Ray, I appreciate what you just posted and believe as you do

    We “should” is the key here. In dealing with those dying on battlefields, hospitals and those also in prison that wanted to be baptized but couldn’t. Some do not have that body covering water available to them and surely God understands that and will allow an exception in those cases.

    Coc preachers have told me that is just tough as they didn’t obey the law command so they are lost, no exceptions. One even said they should of thought of that before getting in that situation.

    Gods goodness, grace and mercy is either believed or the law is believed to be our God.

  13. God can figure out the eternal destiny of those who die on the way down to the water.

  14. JES says:

    AJ, isn’t it a shame that as we prepare to enter 2017 our tribe still has people that think they can speak for God!!!

    Lord forgive our arrogance.

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