Baptism: The Need for a Ritual, Part 1

[This is a rerun from way back in January 2011.]

JESUS BAPTISMPeople need rituals. God doesn’t so much, but people do.

Love

Consider a young couple. The young man embraces his girl friend and for the first time says, “I love you.” She hugs him, smiles, kisses him passionately, and the evening ends.

Later he discusses the evening with a friend over coffee. The friend says, “Wow, it’s great that you have a girlfriend who is so affectionate! Can’t you see in her eyes how much she loves you?”

“Yes, I know she loves me,” the young man says, “but I need her to say that she loves me. In fact, if she won’t say it, I don’t think I can continue in this relationship.” Continue reading

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Baptism: On Marketing Our Way to Insipid Christianity

baptism of JesusA diatribe on works and revival preaching

One of the great errors of the Christian church is to seek heretics over any and all doctrinal errors, as though our intellects were perfectible (a Gnostic point of view).

Indeed, we can all be just as legalistic about doctrine as the Pharisees were about law keeping. Hence, some exaggerate Paul’s works/faith theology to the point that they feel it’s necessary to insist that we do nothing at all to contribute to our own salvation when preaching to new converts.

We take “not a work” and turn it into “we don’t do anything at all,” which is not really Paul’s point. Some even balk at my teaching that “faith” includes faithfulness, because having a heart turned toward God sounds like “doing something,” but then, so does “believe.” Continue reading

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Apologetics: July 6, 2014 Sunday School class on the Christian worldview

lapelmicAs you know, much of the material I post here is for use in my church’s Bible classes. The apologetics series recently completed is for a series I’m teaching this summer.

I’ve had a number of requests to record these classes, due to students being on vacation or otherwise having conflicts, and so I’m giving it a try.

Click the play button to listen to the class. Or click the download link to download a .m4a sound file that you can play on your iPod or smartphone.

 

Download July 6, 2014 Class (19 MB) Continue reading

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Jon Guerra: “Wherever You Are”

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Baptism: Is Baptism a “Work”? Part 5 (If Baptism Isn’t a Work … )

baptism of JesusSo it seems clear that baptism is not a “work” as Paul uses “work” in Romans and Galatians. This is because in Paul’s vocabulary, “works” is short for “works of the law,” that is, the Law of Moses.

But he’s seeing the Law of Moses as an expression of God’s will. Thus, those Gentiles who’ve never heard of the Law of Moses, but who discover morality in their culture, in their hearts, or in Creation (God’s “general revelation”) are guilty of violating the Law and so need a Savior. And this means that everyone everywhere violates the Law of Moses, even though they are only accountable for the portions of the Law they are aware of.

Baptism is just not part of the Law of Moses, and so Paul never sees any need to discuss why baptism is not a work of the Law. It’s an obvious conclusion once the terms are understood. Continue reading

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NeedToBreathe: “Wasteland”

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Baptism: Is Baptism a “Work”? Part 4 (Alternative Theories)

baptism of JesusWorks of intrinsic merit

A common theory is that “works” means only actions having intrinsic merit before God. I’ve taught that one myself, and it’s partly true. Obviously there’s a heavy overlap between the Law of Moses (including the moral laws) and merit.

But circumcision, as argued by the Judaizing teachers in Galatia, was not so much about merit as appropriation of God’s grace. They considered it as essential to salvation as faith in Jesus. We know that because Paul contrasted it with faith over and over. He obviously considered them to teach circumcision as playing a role parallel to faith. Continue reading

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Baptism: Is Baptism a “Work”? Part 3 (Further on the Definition of “Works”)

baptism of JesusIn the last post, we tentatively defined “works of the law” as “obedience to God’s laws known either through the Law of Moses or general revelation (the creation, man’s moral nature, the judgments we impose on others).”

Hmm … Are there any laws discoverable through God’s general revelation not also found in the Law of Moses? Well, where can we find a list of laws that people unfamiliar with the Law ought to be able to discern from the Creation? Continue reading

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Baptism: Is Baptism a “Work”? Part 2

baptism of Jesus

Works — at long last

And so, I said all that to say this (and because sorting through Romans is great fun) –

(Rom 3:20 NET) 20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.

What is Paul’s point — in context? Well, as we discussed above, he’s just about to declare that the children of Israel were saved — rather than left to die and cease to exist like the Gentiles — by the power of Jesus through his crucifixion. The Mercy Seat is where the High Priest went once a year on the Day of Atonement to make a sacrifice for the sins of all Israel. And this is where God himself dwelled through his Shekinah (or Glory). And from Moses to John the Baptist, forgiveness was available to faithful Israel only because of the work of Jesus on the cross. Continue reading

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Baptism: Is Baptism a “Work”? Part 1

baptism of JesusLet’s take another look an old question. And we should begin with the answer: obviously, baptism, correctly understood, is not a work. If it were, Paul would no more associate baptism with salvation and entry into the church and receipt of the Spirit than circumcision.

The better question is: Do we make baptism a work when we insist that those with a genuine, penitent faith in Jesus (hereafter, simply “faith”) who fail to be baptized correctly due to being wrongly instructed as new converts (“convert” meaning someone with faith, whether or not yet baptized, with no implication intended as to their saved status).

Now, we could work through a 20-part series on each point, but let’s proceed figuring we understand each other well enough to do so. Continue reading

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