Baptism: On the Covenant with Abraham

JESUS BAPTISMI’m going to leave baptism as a topic with this one last thought. And it’s all about God’s covenant with Abraham (Abram at the time) —

(Gen 15:3–6 ESV) 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

Recall that this is the text that Paul uses in Rom 4 and Gal 3 to argue that God saves Gentiles by faith because of this very covenant. That’s good, solid narrative, covenant theology. This parallels our own faith in Jesus.

So what happens next? Continue reading

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Baptism: Stray Thoughts



It’s time to pick up some stray thoughts from prior posts and the comments.

Col 2:11-14

A few posts ago, I argued that the “circumcision not made with hands” is the receipt of the Holy Spirit when we’re saved. But I left open v. 12 —

(Col 2:11-12 NET) 11 In him you also were circumcised – not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. 12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead.

Paul associates baptism with the burial of Jesus, as he also does in Rom 6. And I agree with the nearly universal view of commentators that this is not a reference to Holy Spirit baptism. After all, that was the subject of v. 11. Here he is adding to that thought. Continue reading

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Baptism: The Need for a Ritual, Part 2


Imagine that two devout Christians get married, with the preacher, bridesmaids, the whole works. They later have two children. Ten years later, the husband discovers that the preacher forgot to sign the wedding certificate. A lawyer tells him that his marriage is legally invalid (wouldn’t be true in Alabama, but assume it’s true wherever you live). Would it be sin for the man to abandon his “wife” and children, and then go marry a pretty young thing?

Well, to a heartless legalist, the man would be leaving a relationship of fornication and entering into the holy estate of matrimony. But most people would see it as God surely would — as sin. He made a commitment and he needs to keep it. Even though the ceremony was done wrong, he’s bound to his commitment. Continue reading

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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.


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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