The Fork in the Road: Moral vs. Positive Law: Baptized into Christ

Argument 3.

It would be a mistake, of course, to discuss morality without discussing Christology. We are baptized “into” Christ. We become a part of his body on earth. We are transformed by the Spirit into his likeness. Therefore, acting/becoming like Jesus is moral. All else is positive.

What did Jesus do on earth? Preached the good news of the kingdom of heaven, did works of compassion, and gave his life to serve those he loves. This is moral. All else is positive.

(Rom 6:1-5)  What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

We use this as a proof text on baptism, but we overlook the reason Paul actually wrote it. Paul says in baptism we died with Jesus and so are resurrected with Jesus. This assures us that we’ll be resurrected at the end of time.

(Rom 6:6-7)  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Paul’s point — looking ahead to chapter 8’s teachings on the Spirit — is not that we stop sinning by ourselves. He says we’ve “been freed from sin.” You see, by being in Christ, Christ is also in us through his Spirit, and he begins to change us.

We skip to chapter 12 (wishing we had time to cover chapter 8) —

(Rom 12:2)  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

“Be transformed” is passive voice, and it refers to God’s transforming work in us, begun at our baptism. And the result of God’s work is that we “test and approve” God’s will. In other words, as we allow God to transform us, we begin to want to do God’s will. We delight in being God’s obedient people.

What does this lead to? Two things in particular —

(Rom 12:6-8)  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

First, through his Spirit, God equips us to serve in his Kingdom. And we are supposed to use the gifts God gives us in Kingdom purposes. It’s not a command: serve or go to hell! It’s a change: God has changed your heart and mind to be an encourager. Therefore, you are charged to use God’s gifts for God’s purposes — which you, of course, want to do.

Now, this doctrine — found here in and in 1 Cor 12 and Eph 4 and the Parable of the Talents — tells us that God is alive, well, and active in our congregations. And when we see someone gifted for God’s service, that person is authorized — indeed, charged — to use those gifts for God.


(Rom 12:9-10)  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Nearly all the rest of the book — the rest of chapter 12 and chapters 13, 14, and most of 15 — are commentary on “Love your neighbor.” In Paul’s greatest book on salvation and atonement, he concludes with a lengthy, detailed lesson on how to love each other, not with how to organize a church or conduct a worship service.

And he argues from, among other things, the nature of Jesus —

(Rom 13:13-14)  Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

What is the command? Well, it’s not so much a command as a new way of being. And the new way of being is to be just like Jesus — because Jesus is in us and we’re in him.

(Rom 14:17-18)  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

Chapter 14 is about disagreements over “disputable matters” — and the examples he gives are positive commands. Paul wraps up by pointing out that the Kingdom is simply not about those kinds of rules. It’s about “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” — which are ways to serve Christ.

Now get this! Joy is a way of serving Christ. Joy. Really. So is peace.

We skip right over this because it doesn’t fit our legalistic paradigm. Rather, we prefer to make people miserable and sow discord by wrongly interpreting “righteousness.” We’ll come back to righteousness after we consider —

(Rom 15:13)  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

What is the source of our hope? The Spirit. And what does God do in us through his Spirit — fill us with joy and peace. Evidently, these are actually a big deal.

Now, as much as we want to make “righteousness” about getting the positive commands right, it’s just not true. Paul just said so in the first part of chapter 14. Moreover, Paul has also just spend the first part of Romans talking about righteousness in detail.

(Rom 3:21-23)  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

“Righteousness” is the righteousness God gives by grace “through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” It’s the righteousness credited to us that we don’t deserve.

(Rom 10:4)  Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Paul isn’t saying in 14:17-18 that the kingdom is about strict obedience to the silences of the scriptures. He’s saying it’s about righteousness given as a free gift of grace, leading to peace and joy.

We must, of course, repent, but we repent to turn toward God to be like his Son — who is like God — and when we do this, God responds by giving us of his Spirit — a part of himself — so that it really happens.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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20 Responses to The Fork in the Road: Moral vs. Positive Law: Baptized into Christ

  1. Bob Harry says:

    I could not add one iota to that post. Let the Holy Spirit rule. We are totally incapable of righteousness without the Spirit.

    Thanks Jay


  2. Royce says:

    (Rom 6:6-7) For we know that our old self was crucified WITH HIM so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

    When we were represented by Adam we died because he died. Our new representative, Christ died freeing us from the written code. And, when he died we died WITH HIM.

    When we are baptized "into Christ" we are baptized "into his death" reenacting the real event with a "like figure".

    Our salvation was complete some 2,000 years before we were born. We have absolutely no standing with God on our own, we have no bargaining power, ours is a position of weakness. When we come to faith in Christ we appropriate for ourselves what has long been already accomplished. This is why we cannot boast, we cannot claim any part of our own salvation. It is a FREE GIFT.

  3. Bob Harry says:

    Jesus chose to yield His Spirit at exactly the same time the high priest cut the throat of the sin sacrifice. He is both the mercy seat and the sacrifice.By his blood he entered Satan's slave market and set us free . We were redeemed by His blood and now we are his bond servant.

    What a terrible price Jesus paid to make us righteous. How could we ever hope to do anything of ourself to merit what he did? I can do nothing of myself and must trust the Spirit.

    I agonize over the fact that the old cOC never taught on the Spirit. Now at last after years I am free. But that freedom came at a price and I must obey the two most vital of his commandements, all else waxes pale.


  4. Hank says:

    Royce wrote:

    "This is why we cannot boast, we cannot claim any part of our own salvation. It is a FREE GIFT."

    While salvation is indeed a free gift, and while God does 100% of the saving, and while we can never earn or boast in our salvation….we do have a role in it.

    In other words, we must come to God on his conditions in order to be saved by him. Otherwise, if man has absolutely no part in his salvation whatsoever…why are so many lost?

    I mean, if the free gift of salvation is for all men (which it is Tit. 2:11), then why are so many men not saved? Is it not their own fault?

    Remember that the inspired apostle Peter told the crowd on Pentecost, "Save yourselves…" Obviously, he had in mind that they had some part to play in their salvation. Namely, to repent and be baptized.

  5. Royce says:

    Hank said "While salvation is indeed a free gift, and while God does 100% of the saving, and while we can never earn or boast in our salvation….we do have a role in it."

    You are being self contradictory here. You obviously believe man does help to save himself. If so then it is not 100% a free gift is it?

    Let's say your part is only 2% and God's part is 98%. Then you and God saved you and you rightly deserve 2% of the praise and glory for doing so.

    Both faith and repentance are given by God. If you want the references I can provide them.


  6. Royce says:

    Perhaps it is helpful to think about the ground or basis of our justification and final salvation. We are set right with God based wholly upon the obedience of Jesus. He died "for our sins according to the scriptures". (ALL of our sins)

    His perfect obedience satisfied the Father's righteous demand that every code be perfectly kept. He offered on our behalf a perfect life of obedience which we could never do. Also, he committed no sin. Thus he qualified to be the perfect payment for our sins, dying by blood shed for us and in our place.

    Based completely (100%) upon Christ's worth and work God is now able to declare a wicked sinner righteous and in no way violate his holiness or justice.

    My part and yours was one helpless and hopeless sinner unable to do anything to get God's approval.

    "And you who were DEAD has God made alive; for by grace are you saved". A dead man contributes nothing to anything, and especially so in the plan of salvation.

  7. Hank says:

    Royce, do you believe that God's desire is for all men to be saved?

    Just wondering….because, I do.

  8. Hank says:

    Seriously, I am thinking that you don't believe that God's desire is for all men to be saved? Because if the salvation of a man is completely up to God, and if a man is not sved, the implcation would be that God did not want him to be saved at all? So, what do you think?

    And, what do you believe Peter had in mind when he told thousands of lost sinners to "save yourselves"? Was he telling them that there was something for them to do?


  9. Royce says:

    He does not will that any should perish. However many will because they love their sin and refuse God's gracious offer.

  10. Hank says:

    That's what I mean. Every man has a choice in terms of whether accepting or refusing God's gracious offer. When Peter told them to save themselves, he was telling them to accept it (by repenting and being baptized). In that sense, man plays a part in his salvation. He has a choice. Me must decide for himself to trust God and come to him in order to be saved. And when a man DOES that….God will save him.

    When Peter said, "save yourselves," he did not mean that God did less than 100% of the saving. But, he clearly believed man had a decision to make (as well as a command to obey) in order to be saved.

    Perhaps we are saying the same thing?

  11. Hank says:

    Someone might decied to offer a free carwash. He may even hope to wash every car in the neighborhood. But only those who bring their cars to him will actually get them washed. The people who drive away with clean cars had to "do" something in order to benefit. They most definately had "a part" in getting their car washed. Even though it was washed entirely by someone else.

  12. Royce says:

    Romans 8:29-30 "29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    "Those he foreknew he also predestined to be to be conformed to the image of his Son". Who? Those, not all.

    Those he predestined he also called. Who? Those, not all.

    Those he called he justified. Who? Those, not all.

    Those he justified he glorified. Who? "Those" he foreknew, predestined to be like Jesus, the ones he called, the ones he justified and glorified.

    ALL of those he foreknew and predestined will wind up glorified. God is in charge of the process of salvation from beginning to end, not man.


  13. pilgrim says:

    Which brings God MORE glory?

    a) Me CHOOSING (my 2% contribution) to receive His FREE gift because I love Him


    b) Him deciding for me 100%

    If you are concerned about man STEALING God's Glory Royce, I think it honors Him LESS if God made the choice for me.

    Choice is the purpose of Earth…. that we would CHOOSE Him over ourselves as lucifer did.

    Job CHOSE to not sin against God even though God allowed satan to chastise Job. That is the SAME EXACT choice we get to make everyday. The Choice IS to Father's Glory… it is not stealing it, even if our part is 2%.

    But no, I don't have a great explanation for those verses in Romans 8. But I know the fruit of TULIP teaching has promoted lukewarmness, and that isn't good. Lukewarmness is unacceptable (Rev 3)

  14. Jay Guin says:

    Hank and others,

    Let's not get into the doctrine of election. We covered that not too long ago. /index-under-construction/t… and I'm having trouble keeping up with the comments as it is.

  15. Jay Guin says:

    Hank and others,

    I should add that most Baptists teach POTS but do not teach the TULI in TULIP. (John Piper is pushing the Baptists back toward TULI + P.) The doctrines are often taught together, but they don't have to go together.

  16. Bob Harry says:


    what is TULIP? sorry for being dense


  17. Randall says:

    Bob try Wikipedia for a brief discussion of TULIP aka the five points of Calvinism

    Google it and your computer will take you there.

  18. Bob Harry says:


    Thank you for taking the time to inform me. Your kindness is appreciated.
    Who knows, much of what Calvin taught is interesting to read. I suppose I am leaning toward free will aided by the Holy Spirit.
    I hope and believe that God's mercy will compensate for our lack of completely understanding His commandments.
    The more I study His word I realize how little we understand his will.


  19. Royce says:

    Bob Harry,

    Calvinists have the acronym TULIP as a way to remember the 5 points of Calvinism. Did you know that many church of Christ people have their flower too? It is the DAISY. "He loves me, He loves me not, He loves me He loves me not…."

    Funny but sadly not far from the truth.


  20. Bob Harry says:


    Tell me about it. Don't ever cross them.

    Thanks for the humor.


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