The Salvation of the Christians: The Cross, Part 4 (Baptism, Part 2)

Bible and cross

Something old, something new …

So having hopefully avoided some of the more tedious arguments, let’s talk about something new. Well, not “new” but old. Really old.

Paul writes in Gal 3 and Rom 4 that we are saved by the covenant with Abraham in which God promised to count faith as righteousness. That covenant survives the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and remains true today.

But faith saved Abraham without baptism. God went through an incredibly elaborate blood oath covenant to demonstrate his sincerity to Abraham in Gen 15:9-21. But God credited Abraham with righteousness based on his faith before the ceremony (in Gen 15:6), in fact, the day before.

There was no ceremony exactly comparable to baptism in Judaism. (Proselyte baptism was a human invention and dates no earlier than the First Century so far as the historians can determine.) Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Christians: The Cross, Part 4 (Baptism, Part 1)

Bible and crossI admit it. I’m still recovering from back surgery. I’ve been in a lot of pain for a long time. And I’m running low on patience. I’m especially impatient with the endless repeating of the Church of Christ vs. Baptist arguments on baptism.

It’s not that the issue isn’t important, but —

1. It’s not nearly as important as we imagine. If it were, then every third word of the NT would be “baptism” or “Sinner’s Prayer.” And it’s just not. The NT authors seem to have had other priorities.

2. Quoting your pet verses while ignoring the other side’s pet verses is not Christian argumentation. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy. It’s self-deceiving. The other side’s verses are just as true as yours, regardless of how many times you put your verses in all caps, bold, italics, and underlined — with exclamation points. Continue reading

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Dralms: Pillars & Pyres

Has Pink Floyd been reincarnated? With a little Radiohead mixed in?

Pillars & Pyre

This is Hell for the weak ones
For the strong, this is Heaven on Earth

Anyone’s guess as to the meaning of the lyrics, but I think I hear biblical echoes.

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The Salvation of the Christians: The Cross, Part 3 (What Changes with Christianity? Continued)

Bible and crossWe continue to consider how, if salvation by faith is based on the covenant with Abraham, Christianity is different. So far, we’ve covered two points:

1. Christianity is based on promises already fulfilled. Judaism is based on promises not yet fulfilled.

2. “Faith” in Christianity is faith in Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah and LORD. In Judaism, it’s faith in God and a Messiah not yet revealed.

To these we now add —

3. In Christianity, the nations are invited in, granted repentance unto salvation, and grafted into the Jewish root. This was promised to Abraham and appears occasionally in the prophets, but it was a radical change in God’s relationship with his people.

Before Jesus, much of the Torah was dedicated to separating the Jews from the Gentiles. Commands such as circumcision, the Sabbath, the food laws, and the annual festivals marked the Jews as a distinctive people. When the Gentiles were invited in, these commands were obsolesced and needed to be obeyed no longer. Gentiles did not have to become Jews to be saved. Rather, the intent in Christianity was to erase the distinction altogether. Continue reading

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High Dive Heart: Vintage

Any song about Dylan, Hendrix, Woodstock, vinyl records, paper books, and FM radio has to be worth a listen.

Sonic Graffiti

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The Salvation of the Christians: The Cross, Part 2 (Paul and the Faithfulness of God)

Bible and crossNow, in Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God 4), N. T. Wright attempts to explain why the early church saw Jesus as God while not denying monotheism — a tricky bit of theology if ever there was one — but a critically important one.

It was a matter of [the First Century Jews] pondering the promises of the One God whose identity, as Bauckham has rightly stressed, was made clear in the scriptures, and wondering what it would look like when he returned to Zion, when he came back to judge the world and rescue his people, when he did again what he had done at the Exodus.

Not for nothing had Jesus chosen Passover as the moment for his decisive action, and his decisive Passion. It was then a matter of Jesus’ followers coming to believe that in him, and supremely in his death and resurrection—the resurrection, of course, revealing that the death was itself to be radically re-evaluated—Israel’s God had done what he had long promised. He had returned to be king. He had ‘visited’ his people and ‘redeemed’ them. He had returned to dwell in the midst of his people. Jesus had done what God had said he and he alone would do. … Continue reading

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Indelible Grace: From the Depths of Woe (Psalm 130)

A masterpiece.

Joy Beyond the Sorrow: Indelible Grace VI

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The Salvation of the Christians: The Cross, Part 1 (What Changes with Christianity?)

Bible and crossSo, remarkably, we find that the Christian covenant is very much made up of the Abrahamic covenant. Reckoning faith as righteousness (Gen 15:16). Blessing the nations (Gen 18:18). Producing justice and righteousness within those in covenant relationship (Gen 18:19).

If you’ll recall the lesson taught here some time ago, God’s blood oath with Abraham also speaks to the Christian covenant. God symbolically promised to pay, with his own life, the price for the sins of Abraham (and his descendants) in blood (Gen 15).

It’s not all there, but a lot of it’s there.

Then in the Law of Moses, we find the promise of Deu 30:6 for God to circumcise the hearts of his people, a promise that the prophets later explained would be fulfilled through the outpouring of the Spirit.

So what was “new” in the new covenant? Why is the covenant of Christ better than the covenants that preceded? After all, the theme of Hebrews is the superiority of Christ and his covenant. Continue reading

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I Am They: We Are Yours

I Am They

You can’t take away
What the world didn’t give
We were made for more
We were made for more

At the end of the day,
This will remain:
Forever we are yours
Forever we are yours

Marvelous. Could be a good congregational song. With shaped note and all.

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The Salvation of the Jews: The Constancy of the Salvation of the Jews

jewish_starA few days ago, long-time reader Price asked me about the nature of Jewish salvation before the cross.

You pointed out that forgiveness of sin was already available under the Law … and included scriptural support which one can’t really argue with … so is John the Baptist just stating the obvious? That if one repents, forgiveness is available under the present Law? If that is the case, then the sins that are forgiven are a one time forgiveness … not a continual product of grace provided for in the new covenant at the cross … Is that correct ?

I answered in the comments, but I thought the question merited consideration as a main post. Here’s my answer from the comment, edited —

I think it’s kind of in layers.

One layer is that the Jews were always saved by faith — to the extent any one was saved at all. “Faith” includes faithfulness includes repentance. Being penitent is essential to having faith at all. That’s the individual layer. And God saves individuals.

But God also deals with Israel as a nation, and John the Baptist was calling the entire nation to repent because God was granting repentance to the Jews — as a nation — to end the Exile and bring the Kingdom. Continue reading

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