As 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
So 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
Works 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
In 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
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
Let’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
We are Modernists — most of us — and we therefore assume without reflection that the world is explained rationally and logically — and simply enough for a reasonably bright person to understand.
This is not the Christian worldview, and the doctrine of the Trinity plainly shows it. To a First Century Jew, not everything could be understood, but that was God’s problem. Our job is to believe, and God will explain it one day — if it suits him. And that’s entirely up to God. Continue reading
One of the most interesting passages regarding baptism is Colossians 2:11-14, but I believe that our traditional interpretation is entirely mistaken.
(Col 2:11-14 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. 13 And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. 14 He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.
Many commentators take v. 12 as saying that baptism is like circumcision, making it the essential initiatory rite into Christianity — just like but replacing Old Testament circumcision.
In the Churches of Christ, the argument is made to support the necessity of baptism. In many other denominations, the argument is used to support infant baptism. (Be careful of picking arguments just because they help you win!)
And while this has a certain superficial appeal, that is not Paul’s point. We should parse Paul’s language in light of the Old Testament history of some of his words and phrases. If we miss the narrative context, we miss Paul’s point entirely.