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Pepperdine Bible Lectures | 2016From Livestream. The keynote addresses.


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Born of Water: The “faith was sufficient for Abraham and Israel” argument, Part 1

BaptismofJesus2For many years, Paul has been read as saying that the Jews were saved by works under the Law of Moses, but Christians are now saved by faith. And Paul certainly wrote extensively on law versus faith in Gal and Rom. But recent scholarship has concluded that we’ve badly misread the NT.

First, we’ve assumed that the dispensations – Abrahamic (or Patriarchal), Mosaic, and Christian – each repeal and replace the previous dispensation. This teaching largely comes from the study notes in the Scofield Study Bibles sold beginning in the 19th Century.  In the Churches of Christ, many were converted by use of the Jule Miller filmstrips, which taught Scofield’s dispensational theory. Even those not converted using the filmstrips likely saw them in Bible class.

Scofield was, of course, correct to note the series of dispensations and that God’s relationship with his people changed in each one. But he failed to realize that the old covenants weren’t so much repealed as fulfilled and transformed by God over time. In fact, the NT is quite clear that we are saved today under the terms of God’s covenant with Abraham. This is the point of Gal 3 and Rom 4. It’s also clear that the Jews under Moses were also saved by faith due to the promises given to Abraham. Paul makes this point in Rom 4 and Eph 3, and it’s especially clear in the “rollcall of the faithful” in Heb 11, which repeatedly declares that the heroes of the OT were saved by their faith. We will cover these passages shortly. Continue reading

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Born of Water: Is baptism a work?

BaptismofJesus2Those with a Southern Baptist or Calvinist background often argue that baptism can’t be essential for salvation or else it would be a “work,” and Paul is very clear that it’s error – even damning error – to add a work to faith as a requirement for salvation. For example, in Gal 5, Paul writes,

(Gal 5:2-4 ESV) Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

In other words, Paul argues that if you insist on any element of the law as a condition of salvation, you must apply the entirety of the law. We can’t pick and choose. And, obviously enough, no one can perfectly keep the entirety of the Law of Moses, and so adding any element of the Law of Moses creates a standard that cannot be met and which therefore damns. Continue reading

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Born of Water: Colossians 2:11-14

BaptismofJesus2Perhaps the argument most commonly used by those arguing for infant baptism or for the necessity of baptism is based on Col 2:11-14:

(Col 2:11-14 ESV) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

In this passage, many commentators believe that Paul compares Christian baptism to the Jewish practice of circumcision. Circumcision goes back to the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen 17:9-14). The requirement to be circumcised was renewed in the Law of Moses (Lev 12:3). Circumcision therefore held a very high place in Jewish thought. Continue reading

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Pepperdine Podcasts

The lectures from Pepperdine are up at Itunes as downloadable or streaming podcasts. Free (cheap)!

Here’s the link.

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Born of Water: Martin Luther wrongly added “alone” to “faith” in Rom 3:28

BaptismofJesus2Although John Wycliffe’s 1382 English translation of the Bible is likely the first translation into the language of the people since the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church thoroughly suppressed his work, and his translation was forgotten by the time of the Reformation.

Much later, in the 16th Century, Martin Luther translated the scriptures into German, and thus lit a fire under the Protestant Reformation. Soon, William Tyndale translated the Bible into English, and although he was burned at the stake for doing so, the church authorities were unable to keep translations out of the hands of the people. Soon the church was publishing its own translation (one of which is now called the King James Version).

Famously, Luther translated Rom 3:28 by adding “alone” after “faith” (in German, of course) – Continue reading

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Born of Water: The baptism of John the Baptist, Part 3

BaptismofJesus2These are addition comments I posted in response to Price’s questions about John the Baptist’s (JTB) baptism.

I find these discussion fascinating because (a) they’re about God, Jesus, and the Bible and (b) they push me into unfamiliar territory, forcing me to test my theology against stories and events that I don’t usually consider.

After all, JTB is no longer baptizing, and, in one sense, whatever led to his baptismal practices is of historical interest only. But on the other hand — it happened. And it happened for a reason — and it was so important that all four Gospels speak of JTB. Indeed, they use JTB to set the stage for Jesus — and we (I) generally fail to understand how that works.

So maybe these thoughts will help. Continue reading

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Pepperdine Bible Lectures 2016: N. T. Wright on Living in Light of the Jesus Story

I wasn’t able to attend (very sad about that), but Pepperdine is posting much of the material on YouTube. Highly recommended.

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Born of Water: The baptism of John the Baptist, Part 2


So where does faith fit into the picture, if at all? Well, to a Jew, faith and repentance were inseparable concepts. How can you love your Father and not obey him? How can you trust God’s promises and refuse to care for the poor or use power to oppress the weak?

But faith, at this time, was in a Messiah yet to be revealed. It was faith in God’s messianic and Kingdom promises — combined with an eager expectation that the Messiah would soon appear and bring the Spirit promised by the prophets — that is, baptism of the Spirit, who would soon be outpoured like water falling from heaven.

So what are the salvific implications? Here’s the best I can make of it — Continue reading

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Born of Water: The baptism of John the Baptist, Part 1

BaptismofJesus2Price asked,

Were the disciples of Christ baptizing in the same manner as John the Baptist and his disciples ? If so, wasn’t that baptism just an outward expression of a repentance, changing of their ways ? Seems so. How else could baptism for salvation be augmented into the Old Law when Jesus said not one thing would be altered ? And, was this salvation only to those that were fortunate enough to hear this new teaching ?


The scriptures leave a lot of questions about John the Baptist (JTB) unanswered. And we usually come at JTB asking how it impacts the Plan of Salvation. We see baptism solely in terms of its effect on our individual salvation. This is, of course, a hugely important question, but it’s not the only question or the only point of John’s baptism — as I understand it. Continue reading

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