Born of Water: John 3:1-8, Part 2

BaptismofJesus2b. Baptism is very much in the context. John 1:19 ff. discusses the baptism of John. Indeed, in 1:26, John the Baptist says “I baptize with water” and in 1:33, John says that Jesus “will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” This is, of course, parallel with “born of water and Spirit” (although John the Baptist speaks disjunctively – it’s water or it’s Spirit) whereas Jesus is speaking conjunctively (which is closer to the church’s traditional understanding but not how John the Baptist spoke). Immediately after the account of Jesus with Nicodemus, we read in 3:22 that Jesus and his disciples went to the countryside and baptized with water.

c. There is no evidence that the Jews thought of water as an element of or symbol for physical birth. Indeed, John’s earlier references to natural physical birth speak of being “born of blood.” John 1:12-13.[4] In both cases, “of” is the same preposition, ‘ek. One commentator who sought evidence that the Jews used “water” to refer to physical birth came up with considerable evidence of water being a Jewish metaphor for conception, but nothing for associating water with physical birth.[5] Continue reading

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Born of Water: John 3:1-8, Part 1

[There was a section by this name in the original Born of Water, but I entirely rewrote it.]

BaptismofJesus2Now, as we’ve seen, there are plenty of passages that teach that if you have faith and are baptized, then you are saved. None of the previously quoted “baptism” passages, however, says what happens if you have faith and are not baptized. Perhaps baptism is one but not the only path to salvation.

We have to consider John 3:1-8 –

(John 3:1-8 ESV) Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”

5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

If “born of water” in verse 5 refers to baptism in water, Jesus has said that baptism is not only a path to heaven, it is the only path to heaven. Continue reading

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Born of Water: Don’t we contact the blood of Christ at baptism?

BaptismofJesus2In the Churches of Christ, it’s long been taught that souls are cleansed when we contact the blood of Christ in baptism. Very typical is this from Jeffrey Asher[1]

I submit that the Scriptures teach the blood of Christ is applied to sinners in baptism, and that this is what the apostle Paul had in mind in Romans 6:3 when he said we are “baptized into [Christ’s] death.” …

Baptism into Christ’s death enables us reach the blood of his cross (John 19:34). Baptism is God’s operation of washing us in the blood of the Lamb and cleansing us of our sins (Col. 2:12,13). “[You] were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses. . . . ” How much clearer can it be? God forgives men of their sins when they obey his command for baptism.

Of course, John 19:34 says nothing about baptism. Continue reading

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Homosexuality: The Conversation in the United Methodist Church

the-bible-and-sexuality-blog-heading (1)Adam Hamilton is  senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, a congregation of 20,000 members. He recently posted a blog article captioned “The Bible, Homosexuality, and the UMC — Part One.” He has not yet posted a part 2. The article advocates for acceptance of gay marriage by the Methodist Church. He argues,

Had the early church held these assumptions consistently, they would never have reached the decisions that circumcision was no longer required of Christians, or that Christians were no longer bound by much that is found in the Law of Moses.  We would still be worshipping on Saturdays, eating only what was kosher, offering animal sacrifices, and administering capital punishment for everything from working on the Sabbath to rebelliousness on the part of children (Jesus never explicitly taught that these portions of the Scripture were no longer binding upon his followers; this call was made by the apostles at the urging of Paul). …

On the issue of same gender acts, they wrote based upon their understanding of human sexuality, in the light of the prevailing same-gender practices of their time. And though we believe that they were inspired, the precise nature and extent of that inspiration remains a mystery. We do know that this inspiration was not some kind of divine dictation, but it was through the impulse of the Spirit at work in very human authors who were addressing the people and circumstances in which they lived. This inspiration did not prevent historical or scientific errors. It did not prohibit the recording of differing accounts of the same story in the Gospels. It did not keep the Bible’s authors from allowing slavery and genocide; and it did not transform the biblical authors’ patriarchal perspectives on women.

The blog post was picked up by the Ministry Matters website, a popular site providing ministry resources for preachers and pastors. (You should read Hamilton’s entire article.) Continue reading

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Born of Water: Baptism as a Story that Defines Us, Part 2

BaptismofJesus2We’ve all experienced our own Exodus, our own escape from slavery, our own defeat of the armies of the enemy, our own entry into the protection and leadership of God – through baptism. And this tells us how to live as Christians.

Just so, Paul writes,

(Gal. 3:23-29 ESV) Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Again, we see the two great defining narratives of Judaism: sonship of Abraham and freedom from slavery. But Paul redefines these narratives in vital ways. Continue reading

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Pepperdine

pepperdine2I’d been planning on being at the Pepperdine lectureship for nearly a year now, and scheduled to teach two classes on baptism. Unfortunately, my arthritis has badly flared and I can’t handle either the flight or the walking.

I was counting on hearing the inestimable N.T. Wright speak and meeting him in person as a faculty member, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

I was looking forward especially to meeting many of my readers, some for the first time. Maybe another time …

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Born of Water: Baptism as a Story that Defines Us, Part 1

Over the next few days, I’m going to post some new material written for the new edition of Born of Water.

BaptismofJesus2Most Americans have a Western mindset, born of the Enlightenment and, long before that, the Greek philosophers. We think in terms of propositional truths. We’re all lawyers and scientists. What is true is that which can be stated in a simple, declaratory sentence and tested by logic and experience.

The Jews of biblical times, however, had an Eastern mindset. They thought much more in terms of story and narrative. Hence, their greatest teacher famously taught using parables. He even used his own life as the largest of canvases on which to paint his lessons.

When we Westerners confront a parable of Jesus, we insist on extracting a moral or lesson or principle – ripping the lesson out of its narrative. And that’s not wrong. It just limits what we can learn. Easterners, however, see the story as the moral, and so they seek to live in the story. Continue reading

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Born of Water Expanded

BaptismofJesus2Last night, I got an unusually good night’s sleep, and I woke up realizing that I failed to conclude the book with a practical applications chapter. And so I added new chapter 14.

And then I added chapter 15 (excerpts from Campbell’s Lunenburg letter correspondence) because it seemed like a good idea.

I mean, he and I come to very similar conclusions. I just didn’t want to build the book on Campbell as though he were an apostle. But still he sometimes says things very well.

Born of Water 050116

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Born of Water rewritten

BaptismofJesus2Back in 2002, I taught a Bible class on whether those not properly baptized are damned. I survived.

I wrote up my notes and gave copies to the students. I survived that, too.

By 2005, I’d turned the notes into a book — but never published it.

In 2007, when I started this blog, I posted the book as a free ebook download in .pdf. I’ve not looked at it seriously since. Until now. (I figure books get the greatest circulation if they’re free.)

In preparing to teach on baptism at the Pepperdine Lectures, I thought I should re-read and edit the book. I wound up heavily re-writing it based on the countless conversations I’ve had with the readers here in the posts and in the comments. I mean, over 9 years of daily blogging means I’ve learned a lot from the readers — or in response to the readers’ questions. In either case, because of the readers. It’s now a much deeper, richer, better book. Thank you.

(And I could use some help proofing it. Please let me know if you find any mistakes.)

Download Born of Water 042416. Free (cheap)!

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Thought Question: Hospitality and Islam

jummahChallenging post from Jason Micheli at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog. I’m still hiatusing (not a real word, but it should be). Here’s a key quote, but do take the time to read the whole thing.

Several years ago the church I serve opened the doors of its youth wing to welcome the members of a local mosque. Their own facility was undergoing construction and they needed a place to offer their Friday Jummah prayers. Even though many of the Muslims who came to pray in our building were the same people who drove cabs in our neighborhood, owned the service stations that inspect our cars, cared for our aging parents in the nursing homes, and cleaned our locker rooms at the gym, many from the community greeted the worshippers with fear.

As the Other.

As the enemy.

The members of my church council voted unanimously to show hospitality to our Muslim neighbors; the gesture was not so unanimous in the larger congregation. Many church members and families left over the decision.

Here’s the question: What do you think?

If you were an elder at a church that received such a request, what decision would you make?

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