The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 3

“Faith” in Paul and in John isn’t mere intellectual acceptance.

The meaning of “faith”

It’s true, of course, as I’ve frequently argued, that “faith” in Paul and John includes the sense of repentance or loyalty or faithfulness, but this is the state of one’s heart, not a particular apprehension of God’s requirements. Consider, for example —

(Gal 3:12 ESV) But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”

“Faith” does not encompass perfect obedience to God’s law, because that would impose an impossible standard. And yet faith and obedience go together —

(Rom 1:5-6 ESV) 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,  6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

So what’s the difference? Well, “the obedience of faith” is obedience that comes from faith: if we are faithful to Jesus, we will obey. But — obviously enough — we won’t obey perfectly and we can only obey as well as we understand his will. The “obedience of faith” does not, therefore, require that we must get every single doctrine exactly right.

As Robertson writes in A Grammar of Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 500, “obedience of faith” is a subjective genitive, meaning obedience is something coming from faith. Faith (or faithfulness) is a state of the heart that leads to obedience, but obedience is its product, not its essence.

Therefore, if we are saved by faith — as the Bible insists on teaching us — then we are saved by our willingness to obey — our submission — not by the fact that we obey everything correctly — which would make salvation impossible. Therefore, people with faith obey, but they don’t obey perfectly, meaning we can’t declare, “You got this command wrong and so you’re damned!” — provided we are speaking of someone who wants to obey — that is, who isn’t in rebellion (Heb 10:26-27).

It’s plainly a mistake to argue that those who aren’t baptized or who use an instrument or who worship on Saturday night aren’t obedient and therefore don’t have saving faith — unless they are acting in conscious rebellion. Nor can we willy nilly privilege certain commands and insist on them while granting grace as to others — based purely on our faith tradition or comfort level.

No, if we’re going to hold up one command as more essential than another, we must have solid scriptural justification. And most of these arguments fail at the outset because they fail to show why this particular form of obedience is essential to salvation while this other form of obedience is within the power of grace to forgive continuously.

James doesn’t contradict John and Paul.

In the Church of Christ mind, the James rut runs deep and long. Yes, James unquestionably says,

(Jam 2:14-26 ESV) 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,  16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?  17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe–and shudder!  20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?  21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?  22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;  23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”–and he was called a friend of God.  24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?  26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Faith produces works, but it doesn’t necessarily produce particular works. In other words, my brother across the street may be a very generous contributor to foreign missions and may travel 12 times a year to foreign mission fields, where he brings thousands to Jesus — but he may have not feed the hungry. Does that mean he has no faith?

James argues that faith is dead if it produces no works, and gives feeding the poor as an example (v. 16). Does that mean you have no faith if you are a great evangelist and benefactor and don’t feed the poor? Of course, not. James is speaking of a heart that loves and serves, not obedience to a checklist of commands.

Well, what about the demons? They “believe and shudder.” Yes, but they don’t have “faith” in the sense in which John and Paul use the term, because the “faith” they describe inevitably produces works — the obedience of faith. The demons don’t have that kind of faith.

The demons believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They may even understand that he is Lord of the universe. But they’ve not submitted to him. They have faith in the sense of mere intellectual acceptance, but they’ve not repented. They’ve not turned toward Jesus. They don’t have the faith that saves.

Now, many subscribers to 20th Century Church of Christ theology want to take this kind of faith — a dried out, worthless faith — and import it into John, reading 3:18, for example, as something like —

(John 3:18 ESV) Whoever believes in him [with a faith that does not submit] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God [with a faith that does not submit].

Well, it’s obvious that John doesn’t use “faith” in the same sense that James writes in James 2:19. To argue otherwise is sheer absurdity. No, John means what he says and James means what he says, and they can’t be made to contradict. John speaks of a submissive faith. James speaks of an alleged faith that does not submit.

Thus, we interpret —

(James 2:24-26 ESV)  You see that a person is justified by works and not by [mere intellectual acceptance] alone. …  6 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also [mere intellectual acceptance] apart from works is dead.

Any other reading makes the New Testament into nonsense. And, by the way, this contradicts the teaching of some that we are saved by faith even if we’ve not submitted to Jesus as Lord. The faith that brings salvation submits to Jesus as Lord.

A more technical argument can be found at GraceConversation — Faith, Works, and Obedience, by Todd Deaver

Next: Resolving the paradox

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.
This entry was posted in Baptism, Fork in the Road, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to The Fork in the Road: On Imperfect Baptisms, Part 3

  1. John Miller says:

    Jay, a thought just hit me as I re-read Romans 1:5-6. Since we cannot perfectly obey, could it be that faith is the obedience we're called to perform?

    It seems to me that as long as we hold on to our Biblical faith (even if it waivers as it did in the lives of Abraham, David, Peter, and so many others), we are perfectly obedient. Does that make sense?

  2. Ray says:


    Great write up. I really liked this, "John speaks of a submissive faith. James speaks of an alleged faith that does not submit."

    it is interesting to me, in my experience, that the conservative cofc, says that the OT is not binding as law, but turns around, and attempts to find in the NT "the law of Christ" and then bind that law on the believer and unbeliever alike. No matter the 'law' OT or NT believers cannot be justified by adherence to it, hence, the need for faith in Jesus as the Messiah the ultimate price-paid for human transgression, yet through that faith, comes a heart that desires to live as Jesus lived.

    Jay, you do great work. Keep it up.

  3. Anne says:

    "It’s plainly a mistake to argue that those who aren’t baptized or who use an instrument or who worship on Saturday night aren’t obedient and therefore don’t have saving faith"

    Sorry, I'm no theologian, but this is just a little confusing to me. So if you are not baptized then your faith in Jesus will still save you because you have obedient faith?

  4. Laymond says:

    Jay said, "It’s plainly a mistake to argue that those who aren’t baptized or who use an instrument or who worship on Saturday night aren’t obedient and therefore don’t have saving faith — unless they are acting in conscious rebellion. Nor can we willy nilly privilege certain commands and insist on them while granting grace as to others — based purely on our faith tradition or comfort level"

    Jay It is not like baptism is something hard to grasp, it is not some mental act we are talking about, baptism means immersion, Physically being immersed in water, it is a physical act, if you have made all the mental/spiritual decisions to become a child of God why not consummate the act with baptism. Jesus don't ask a lot of physical things of us, but baptism is one, like giving to the poor is one, When Jesus said give to the poor he was not referring to "giving our blessings" when he said be baptized, he was not referring to having faith. I don't see how seeing the refusal of baptism as anything but rebelling.

  5. Laymond says:

    Anne, said "Sorry, I’m no theologian, but this is just a little confusing to me. So if you are not baptized then your faith in Jesus will still save you because you have obedient faith?"

    I do believe that is what they are saying Anne, I kinda choked on that myself.

  6. Laymond says:

    Anne, this is one of those times where Jesus said" why call me Lord, and disobey me" or something to that effect.

  7. Nancy says:

    Jay wrote:

    "Therefore, if we are saved by faith — as the Bible insists on teaching us — then we are saved by our willingness to obey — our submission — not by the fact that we obey everything correctly "

    Where is the head hitting the wall emoticon when you need one. We are saved by grace through faith – the faith of Jesus Christ to accomplish His work on the Cross.

    We are saved by Jesus Christ, by God. Our works demonstrate that we have faith in this biblical truth.

  8. Arland says:

    I am no theologian either but it seems like that line of reasoning takes us back to salvation by mere faith, assent to the truth of certain propositions about God. There must be a reason why God appointed apostles, prophets, etc., but no theologians.
    Not only does faith without "works" prove ineffective but faith without love is nothing. Only when mere faith is combined with love does it produce the obedience of faith.
    To compare the use of instruments to baptism is an apple-orange thing. James is speaking about justification- the coming into an initial relationship with our Lord. We are saved by baptism, not because we are justified by that act (legalism), but because that act perfects our faith resulting in faith being reckoned for righteousness.

  9. Anne says:

    Also with that line of reasoning it is hard to read the conversion of Paul in Acts. Paul had already changed his mind about what he had been doing, he was convinced that Jesus was the Lord and Savior, he was obedient to the point that he asked "What shall I do Lord?" The Lord didn't say your faith has saved you go and in peace. No he said go to Damascus and you will be told what to do. Ananias then tells him to be baptized to wash away his sins.
    Sometimes I think we try to make simple things complicated.

  10. Ray Downen says:

    How pleasant it is to see logic and faith linked by the several comments above. Jay is wrong. He wants faith to mean one thing in one statement but something quite different in another statement. No, it retains its meaning in both examples mentioned. Faith does NOT include obedience. It leads TO obedience, but it is not obedience.

    It's odd for any Bible teacher who claims to be faithful to Jesus to link what is commanded with things which are not commanded and imply that all are optional. What is commanded by God is not ever optional. Unless God Himself excepts it, which of course would be His right.

    But WE dare not say that what is commanded is optional. And that's exactly what Jay has said unless words mean nothing or I'm misunderstanding. Jesus commands that we who tell others of Him are to BAPTIZE them if they believe and want to obey Jesus.
    We have no vote on whether or not baptism is needed. Jesus said to baptize. That SHOULD answer every question. It's too bad when it doesn't do so.

    Use of musical instruments by Christians is a different matter. We're not told we have to use them. We ARE told we have to baptize new believers. So the one is optional while the other is not optional. Why do some dare to omit doing what Jesus says is to be done? And why would any Bible teacher suggest it didn't matter? We can agree that Jesus can save any way He chooses. But why would we think what He teaches is possibly not needed? Why?

  11. Guy says:


    (1) i think "faith" is used even more widely than you are allowing for here. In Acts 16, the Philippian jailer rejoiced because he had come to "believe" in Christ. But notice at what point in the story the text says this of him–after repentance and baptism.

    More telling is Acts 19 when Paul encountered a band of John's disciples. He asked them if they'd received the Holy Spirit when they believed. When they said no, his very next question was, 'then into what were you baptized?" That line of questioning makes no sense unless Paul understood baptism and whatever it entails to be housed in the term "believe." Paul clearly assumes that "when you believed" (vs 2) implied that a baptism into something took place (vs 3).

    There are at least some occasions, then, when "pistis" and "pisteo" reference not a mere inward state, but rather one's conversion to being a disciple of Christ.

    (2) "Imperfect baptism" talk is bottom line just begging the question. If by "baptism" we mean to reference the particular ritual as it was practiced by the early church, then "imperfect baptism" assumes that the event in question (say, a baptist or methodist ritual) is, in fact, a baptism.

    But we often hear the question "Was that baptism valid?" i don't know how to understand that question except to be asking: "is the particular ritual in question the same as the one practiced by the early church, thus producing the same results?" "Imperfect baptism" seems to harbor a latent affirmation of validity–a latent affirmation of identity with the first century ritual. Now it may very well be the case that the individuals involved intended for that validity and identity to be present. But that is not what is in question; in fact, i don't know anyone who's calling that point into doubt. We are examining whether it is, in fact, the case.

    (3) If God will accept an "imperfect baptism," why weren't the disciples in Ephesus Paul encountered in Acts 19 fine as they were? Paul did not merely tell them to develop a certain inward state the object of which was Jesus of Nazareth; he also re-baptized them.


  12. Ray Downen says:

    Guy says good things about baptism. But we are not the judge who can say whose baptism was valid or whose was not, are we? Many Methodists nowadays, I'm told, are immersed. If the water had been sprinkled on them or poured over them, I'd say "invalid." But God knows our hearts. And He knows whether or not any person was baptized. If any person presents himself or herself to us as a baptized believer in Jesus, do we really need to delve closely into the details of the person's baptism? I think not.

    Yes, Paul baptized disciples whose baptism was not in the name of Jesus even though it was an immersion. His question to them, surprisingly was whether or not they had "received the Spirit" when they were baptized. How many today could answer that question with a "yes"? There's something there to think about!

    When "believe" implies obedience, that's normal. But faith itself does not include obedience. The two things are totally separate, as James makes clear. Every person who has faith in Jesus is sure to obey Him as best they understand or are taught. And our marching orders call for us to baptize those who DO believe. Since baptism brings us INTO Christ, should we ever baptize someone who felt they were already IN Christ?

  13. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay (and others):
    What is your conclusion regarding Titus 3:4-7? What is the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit that Paul teaches? I noticed you spent very little time looking at the text in your study of baptism. Believe that since you have now posted a good bit on the subject, this is a good time to surface the text for discussion. Looking forward to it.

    I noted this bit of good counsel from 100 years ago:

    J. H. Garrison, editor, The Old Faith Restated (St. Louis, MO: Christian Publishing Company, 1891). At the conclusion of his essay on baptism, J. B. Briney writes, “let the reader carefully study John 3:5, Titus 3:5, and Heb. 5:9….” (239)

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  14. Ray Downen says:

    I've a friend who highly regards Titus 3:5, feeling that it describes how the Spirit acts to save lost sinners.
    Titus 3:5-7 (ESV)
    he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, [7] so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    God saves through Jesus Christ our Savior. The washing of regeneration is described by Peter in Acts 2:38 which also mentions the gift of the Spirit which Paul here calls a "renewal" of the Holy Spirit. My friend wants to read into the verse his thought that it's the Spirit which washes away sin with the blood of Jesus. But that's not what Paul is saying.

    This passage, since it's inspired by the same force which inspired Acts 2:38, must harmonize with it. It will not be giving a different teaching from the simple way Peter described the new birth in Acts 2:38, or we can throw away all our Bibles as uninspired. So we don't want to read this passage as if looking for different teaching than that of Acts 2, do we?

    The new birth of water and spirit is essential entry into the church of the Lord. That's what Jesus said. We believe it. When asked, Peter advised that entry was by way of repentance (a spiritual change) and baptism in water. This is a new birth of water and spirit. Paul had this experience, and himself later baptized many after teaching them about Jesus.

    So how is us receiving the gift of the Spirit a "renewal" of the the Holy Spirit? It might be so simple a thing as that babies, without sin, are inhabited by God through His Spirit. If so, when the Spirit is sent to inhabit mature people who recently have not had the Spirit within are now renewed in possession of the Spirit. Yes?

    What I'm sure Paul is NOT saying is that the regeneration is an act performed by the Spirit. Jesus calls it a new birth of water and spirit. Peter calls it repenting and being baptized into Jesus. I'm sure Paul agrees, even if not in the same words.

  15. Jay Guin says:


    As I've said, my views of such verses is boringly orthodox Church of Christ. I think the passage is plainly discussing baptism.

    (Tit 3:4-7 ESV) 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

    "Washing of regeneration" is, in my view, a reference to water baptism. That was the church's universal interpretation until the Reformation.

    "Renewal" means to make new again — a reference both to rebirth and to restoring us to God's image per Gen 1:26-27. It's the same word used in Matt 19:28 of the Eschaton "the renewal of all things" — putting things back in their right place, restoring the world to the way God always meant for it to be.

  16. Bruce Morton says:

    I appreciate your post and comment, but genuinely do not understand "boringly orthodox Church of Christ." Your phrase makes the apostolic teaching sound almost uninviting. Anything there you want to chat about (even by phone)?

    When we understand Scripture and teach it, seems to me that understanding is a joy of the Lord and should lift us up! And it helps others as well! Correct? It indeeds become part of how the Spirit guides us to "post-denominational" Christianity.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  17. Jay Guin says:


    There are, of course, many commenters here who will argue different interpretations of key baptismal proof texts than the interpretation found in 20th Century Church of Christ exegesis. Many assume that because I disagree with the 20CCOC conclusion that I disagree with their exegesis. I do not. Therefore, if an advocate for the 20CCOC perspective wants to argue those texts with me, it'll be a boring conversation.

    And therefore it doesn't progress the conversation (with me) much to point out classic COC proof texts. I've read them and I agree with the convention CoC exegesis. I just think you have to consider the other passages as well.

  18. Bruce Morton says:

    Hmmm? I do not understand "progress the conversation." And then "I just think you have to consider the other passages as well." Are you suggesting that Titus 3:4-7 clashes with other apostolic teaching?

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  19. Jay Guin says:

    Guy asked,

    If God will accept an “imperfect baptism,” why weren’t the disciples in Ephesus Paul encountered in Acts 19 fine as they were?

    (Act 19:1-7 ESV) And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 3 And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" They said, "Into John's baptism." 4 And Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus." 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

    Paul's first question is: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" This is the test of a valid conversion. And Paul assumes that they'll know that they've received the Spirit — either through teaching or experience — but they'll know. When we question the validity of a baptism, we don't ask what Paul asked, and therefore we must not have the same theology as Paul. That's a problem.

    When Paul learned that they'd not even heard about the Spirit, then Paul knew they'd not received orthodox Christian instruction — such as Peter preached at Pentecost. The receipt of the Spirit is a critical component of the Kingdom. Thus, Paul suspected they'd not been baptized into the name of Jesus — and so he asked.

    They said they were baptized with John's baptism — for repentance (for the remission of sins! Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77). This is insufficient — even though for the remission of sins — because, as Paul explains —

    "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus."

    Evidently, Paul believed that didn't have faith in Jesus — as he uses the teaching of John to explain the necessity for this faith. Paul didn't respond to the baptism problem by preaching a better baptism. He pointed out that John pointed his disciples toward faith in Jesus.

    Now, while this seems clear enough from what was said, Luke refers to the Ephesians as "disciples." The term is used as a near synonym for "Christian" up to this point in Acts, but as they hadn't received the Spirit and even evidently lacked faith in Jesus, it's problemmatic. Rom 8:9-11 is explicit that you are lost if you don't have the Spirit. John the Baptist taught the same, I believe — baptism with "fire and Spirit" refers to the two possibilities.

    Luke uses “disciples” to refer to followers of John the Baptist (Luke 5:33) as well as to Jesus’ followers. It seems likely that these 12 were followers of John the Baptist, expecting the Messiah, but not knowing Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah prophesied by John. Otherwise, why re-baptize those already saved and in receipt of the Spirit? And why did Paul tell them to believe in Jesus — rather than to be re-baptized correctly. You see, the teaching Luke records is Paul's insistence on the right faith.

    They were re-baptized, but that was in response to their coming to faith.

    Why did Paul re-baptize them? Because they'd not received the Spirit and because they had lacked faith in Jesus (believing rather in a Messiah not yet revealed). And when they came to a saving faith, they responded by being baptized and so received the Spirit — which is the normal course.

    Now, a fascinating contrast is found in the immediately preceding verses —

    (Act 18:24-28 ESV) 24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

    Notice that Apollos had faith in Jesus but only knew John's baptism. The result is that Priscilla and Aquila "took him and explained to him the way of God more accurately." But there's no re-baptism — unlike Eph 19. It's possible that he was baptized and Luke didn't bother to record the fact, but Acts is filled with conversion stories that end with baptism and the receipt of the Spirit. Why not this time?

    Well, because Apollos had faith and gave clear evidence that he had the Spirit. He just needed to be better taught regarding baptism so that his converts would be properly instructed.

    Now, some would question my conclusion that Apollos already had the Spirit, but Luke says so. You see "fervent in spirit" (18:25) is really "fervent in the spirit" which is really "fervent in the Spirit."

    (Act 18:25 BGT) ?? ????????

    "To" or ?? is the definite article ("the"). The same construction is found in —

    (Act 6:10 ESV) Acts 6:10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

    (Act 7:51 ESV) ESV Acts 7:51 "You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

    (Act 15:28 ESV) For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements:

    (Act 16:18 ESV) Acts 16:18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And it came out that very hour.

    (Act 19:21 ESV) Acts 19:21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome."

    (Act 20:22 ESV) Acts 20:22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there,

    Everywhere those two words appear together in Acts, they refer either to "the Spirit" or else to an evil spirit — not to the person's heart or attitude. Therefore, the natural reading is that Apollos had the Spirit — despite an imperfect baptism. And, of course, the text is clear that he had faith.

    If that's not right, then why wasn't he re-baptized? If he was re-baptized, why did Luke omit it — given that Luke just told us that he'd only received John's baptism and that Luke routinely records the baptisms of converts?

  20. Jay Guin says:


    I contend that you have to consider all the relevant scriptures. I am not disputing that Tit 3:4-7 has a reference to water baptism. So I have no interest in arguing over whether it does. We agree. I just don't think that we can stop at one proof text and claim to have a complete understanding of the issue.

  21. Ray Downen says:

    It's good to wonder why certain things are mentioned and other things are not mentioned. Jay writes, "Therefore, the natural reading is that Apollos had the Spirit — despite an imperfect baptism. And, of course, the text is clear that he had faith. If that's not right, then why wasn't he re-baptized? If he WAS re-baptized, why did Luke omit it, given that Luke just told us that he'd only received John's baptism and that Luke routinely records the baptism of converts?"

    Aha! Now we're second-guessing Luke and apparently building doctrine on what Luke did NOT say (write). I think we do better to study carefully what inspred writers DID write than to create doctrine based on what they did NOT say.

    We don't know whether or not Apollos was re-baptized. Must we decide what the significance of his baptism or not being re-baptized means? I think Luke's point was that Apollos was taught correctly and then began to TEACH correctly. Or must we get Luke to edit his report? Incomplete! That's how we'll judge it. Or else we'll build doctrine on what was omitted. Strange thinking, that is.

    If we want to believe anything significant in what Luke didn't write, we might remember that he's already told us what happens when folks who have not been baptized into Christ are told about Him. They're baptized INTO CHRIST. What we might well assume is that the normal thing was done. Apollos was re-baptized. But Luke's point is to share with us that a woman taught a man, isn't it?

    Apollos was a "powerful" speaker before he became a Christian, but he was seeking Christians. Was it in order to become one with them? Luke doesn't go into great detail. If additional details had been needed, Luke would have been led to provide them!

  22. Ray Downen says:

    Such a misunderstanding: John the Baptist taught the same, I believe — baptism with “fire and Spirit” refers to the two possibilities.

    The writer misunderstands entirely what the prophecy points to. Only a very few were baptized in the Spirit. Every unsaved person will be baptized in fire. But the vast majority of saved people will not experience a baptism in the Spirit. It was accompanied, you remember by significant sgns of loud noises and peculiar flame-like appearances which sat upon the heads of the apostles. The "gift" of the Spirit we receive is totally different from baptism in the Spirit.

    Every Christian is promised the gift. But note that Jesus promised the baptism ONLY to the apostles, and it was given only to the apostles. Only THEY were to be led into all truth. Only THEY were to be reminded of what Jesus had taught them. These were NOT general promises given to all Christians.

    So the throwaway comment is simply out of order. John was not announcing to everyone that THEY were to receive one or the other of two baptisms. Some in his hearing may have been present when the apostles were baptized in the Spirit. Some in his hearing may have been among the apostles, in fact. But the promise of Jesus baptizing in spirit or fire was not a universal promise affecting everyone.

    This should be obvious to any reader who notes what Jesus commissioned his apostles to do after He was gone. THEY were to tell and THEY were to baptize. John's promise of Spirit baptism was that JESUS would baptize in the Spirit and/or in fire. We need to think of this prophecy in the light of the apostle Paul's clear statement that for this present age there is ONE baptism, and that has to be the one Jesus commanded US to perform or else our Lord's commission is useless. We would not do well to think that.

  23. Ray Downen says:

    Does Acts 2:38's promise of the Spirit being given as a result of the new birth of water and spirit mean nothing? This might be implied by: Paul's first question is: "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" This is the test of a valid conversion.

    I don't for an instant believe that the test of a valid conversion is whether or not the one baptized knew they had received the gift of the Holly Spirit. No indeed. The test is did they believe in Jesus as Lord, had they repented of sin, and did they want to live for Jesus. In the case under consideration, John's baptism had been widely preached to all Jews. It included no promise of receiving the Spirit. This made it reasonable for Paul to ask the question he dd ask. So he then preached JESUS to these disciples of John and then, of course, baptized them into JESUS.

    But that doesn't make his question to these disciples of John into THE test of validity of baptism. Most who are baptized do so to signify obedience to JESUS. That they are given the Spirit is no part of their decision. They turned to JESUS, not to His Spirit. The test question should be "Do you love Jesus?" If not, then baptism wasn't valid. But many go through life having received this divine gift but not being aware of having it. They're saved just the same–by JESUS.

  24. Jay Guin says:

    Anne. Bruce, Ray, and others,

    I agree that we sometimes try to make simple things complicated. But we also sometimes avoid the issue.

    One question I ask is how to resolve the paradox created by the many passages that teach that faith is sufficient to save and those passages that insist on baptism. The answer I'm hearing is that we should ignore the faith-is-sufficient verses and pick the baptism verses as controlling — but the only rationale I hear is that the baptism verses say what they say. But that "logic" ignores the fact that the "faith is sufficient" verses say what they say. Others seem to argue that there are no "faith is sufficient" verses.

    Sound hermeneutics don't deny that the verses teach what they teach; nor do they impose entirely unrealistic meanings on such phrases as "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (John 3:36). Rather, the sound approach — the approach that most fully respects the inspiration and authority of scripture — admits that both sets of passages say what they say and then looks for a resolution of the paradox outside tradition and personal preference — instead looking at larger principles than just those passages.

    And so far, I seem to be the only one arguing outside the proof texts. As I said in part 2, it's hard to leave a deeply worn rut.

    It is my belief that God meant for water baptism to correspond with Spirit baptism in the normal case — that is, that converts would become saved concurrently with their immersions. In such a world — the world in which the NT was written — the two sets of passages present no paradox and create no interpretive problems.

    But they do today because — obviously — there are plenty of people with a genuine, submissive faith in Jesus, giving every evidence of having the Spirit, who were not baptized as the NT anticipates. So are they damned anyway? Or not?

    The usual CoC answer is to refuse judgment ("only God can say") and to nonetheless respond with judgment ("how dare you be in fellowship with the unimmersed!"). I don't think that's the right approach. Rather, I think the scriptures tell us the answer — in many ways. You just have to get outside the proof texts and read the rest of the Bible, too — for what's really being said about God, Jesus, and the Spirit.

  25. Jay Guin says:


    I just posted a comment explaining how "faith" does not mean mere intellectual acceptance (except as used by James to condemn a false faith).

    I agree that the "faith being reckoned for righteousness" passages are a good place to go looking for answers. But I don't believe it's sound to declare that baptism causes our faith to be reckoned as righteousness. Consider such passages as —

    (Rom 4:4-5 ESV) 4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

    (Rom 4:23-25 ESV) 23 But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

    Gal 3:14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

    You allude to God's covenant with Abraham — which is exactly right, because it takes us back to first principles. Paul argues both in Rom and Gal that our salvation is the result of God's honoring his promise to Abraham — to credit righteousness to those who come to him with faith.

    In each case where Paul makes this argument, he states that faith is sufficient ("faith" being, of course, a submissive faith, that is, faithfulness). And that only makes sense, because God didn't require Abraham to be baptized — only to have faith. How would God be faithful to his covenant with Abraham if he damned those with a genuine, submissive faith because they misunderstood how to be properly baptized?

    And notice how Paul argues in Rom 4:10 that circumcision can't be a requirement of salvation because God didn't require Abraham to be circumcised until after he was credited with righteousness due to his faith. And yet, much later, God threatened to kill Moses if he didn't circumcise his children. Ex 4:24 ff. You see, Paul demands that we find our soteriology (theology of salvation) in God's initial forgiving act with Abraham — with no additions.

    So I entirely agree that we need to look at passages such as the Abrahamic-covenant passages — because they show us some of the "why" in the plan of salvation. And hard questions can't be answered until we dig into the why.

    Does that mean we don't baptize those we convert? Of course, not. And we should speak of baptism as being "into the forgiveness of sins." We just shouldn't conclude that God will violate his promise to Abraham just because someone misunderstood the proper way to baptize.

  26. Jay Guin says:


    Makes a lot of sense to me — so long as we remember that "faith" is more than intellectual acceptance. Faith submits to the will of God — just not perfectly.

  27. JMF says:

    Ray Downen wrote:

    "Aha! Now we’re second-guessing Luke and apparently building doctrine on what Luke did NOT say (write). I think we do better to study carefully what inspred writers DID write than to create doctrine based on what they did NOT say."



    It seems as if you are guilty of the exact thing with which you charge Jay! Luke did NOT say that Apollos was re-baptized–yet you move forth with your doctrine assuming that he was (putting words in Luke's mouth). There must be no question as to where you stand on the silence of the scriptures debate! 🙂


    You should add this Apollos bit to an actual post–I'd hate for anyone to miss that (I'm sure many just read your posts). That was good stuff.


    Are you in Joplin? I live in Spfld.

  28. Ray Downen says:

    JMF, Yes I live in Joplin. My family moved here when I was pre-school and not now remembering much about Texas OR Missouri as it was then. But we later lived near Lebanon while I was attending Ozark Bible College in Joplin. I drove through Springfield many times during those years, and on occasion visited one friend in particular there. He taught at the state college there–I've forgotten the initial-name.

    I can assume Apollos was baptized as easily as others can assume otherwise, I reckon. But I'm sure if it mattered, Luke would have told us about it. I'm also amazed that one on this blog would resent my telling the truth which he didn't want to believe.

    As to where I stand on the debate about the silence of the Scriptures, I'm confident that God said all that NEEDS to be said and we shouldn't second guess Him by positing a second baptism for Christians when He says clearly there is only one baptism.

    We shouldn't second guess any of the inspired writers, of course. Not one of them says that we can be saved by faith alone. One says we can't be saved by faith alone. So some pronounce pontifically that we CAN be saved and must be saved by faith alone, since we can't believe what God only says once.

    Write to me at . I'd like to know you better. I'm amazed that Jay would say what his recent posts have said in disregard of revealed truth. Even if it's not polite to say so, I must speak! There's also politely presented truth on my web site at .

    I'll add just one more unpleasant fact. Truth is not untruth. Mistaken statements are not true. Jay wrote: It is my belief that God meant for water baptism to correspond with Spirit baptism in the normal case — that is, that converts would become saved concurrently with their immersions. In such a world — the world in which the NT was written — the two sets of passages present no paradox and create no interpretive problems.

    How is this new doctrine supposed to agree with Paul's list of the unities of Ephesians 4. Jay feels there are two baptisms for Christians, one never spoken of in inspired writings. To him this creates no interpretive problems. It would to anyone who believed the Bible was inspired. Simple facts. Jesus commanded that men who tell others about Him should baptize those who believe the good news. Is that agreed?

    How many baptisms is that? Is it one? Or is it two baptisms?

    John prophesied that Jesus would baptize, not in water but in spirit and in fire. Did Jesus baptize in fire? No, not yet. He has promised He WILL do so at the nd of time. Did Jesus baptize in spirit? Yes, indeed. He promised His apostles He would baptize THEM in just a few days after the promise was given. He did so, as recorded in Acts chapter two. Later, ONE TIME, a second experience like that baptism in the Spirit is recorded. It was not identical. So far as Luke tells us the Gentiles had not been with Jesus in person, so they didn't receive perfect recall of what Jesus had personally taught them. Nor does it seem that the Gentiles were led into all truth. What Luke says is that they spoke in other languages as the apostles did on Pentecost. Peter compares what he saw there with what he experienced on Pentecost. And Peter was convinced it was God's will for Gentiles to be admitted to the Lord's church, so he had the Jewish Christians with him baptize these formerly untouchable Gentiles.

    That's twice for baptism in the Spirit. But how many thousands of converts had been baptized in water by this time? A great many thousand, some of whom had died because of their faith in Jesus, including Steven.

    Now a brother wants us to believe that baptism in the Spirit was done silently and unreported for everyone? Making TWO baptisms for Christians. That's exactly what he has said. Not ONE baptism. TWO baptisms, one most of them knew nothing about. Sneaky doings. Secret rituals? Mustn't tell? But baptism into Christ is a public display of doing what Jesus said was to be done. Nothing secret about it at all. A public statement of faith in Jesus the risen Lord.

    It's marvelous that some can come up with doctrines totally foreign to the Bible and make people believe they're teaching the gospel! But it wouldn't be polite to say so, of course. How soon will we hear of a Spirit-baptism sect within Churches of Christ? Did you think we already had more than enough divsions? Do we now have another?

  29. Guy says:


    If Paul can ask (1) "Did you receive the Spirit when you believed"?" and (2) "Then into what were you baptized?", clearly indicating that Paul assumed baptism was included in "when you believed," then why must we assume that all "faith is sufficient" passages exclude or are contrastive to baptism?


  30. Anne says:

    "But they do today because — obviously — there are plenty of people with a genuine, submissive faith in Jesus, giving every evidence of having the Spirit, who were not baptized as the NT anticipates. So are they damned anyway? Or not?"

    So let me see if this summarizes your belief—baptism is for remission of sins and baptism is the point where you come into contact with the blood of Christ which saves us, but because there are nice genuine people out there who weren't baptized "correctly" but they have faith in Jesus that surely God can't condemn them?

  31. Jay Guin says:


    Not far off. It's not because folks are "nice genuine people" (which I've not said) but because they have a genuine, submissive faith in Jesus — and because God repeatedly promised to save ALL who have faith in Jesus.

    And so it's because I believe God keeps his promises.

    I might add that it's also because I've seen the fruit of baptismal perfectionism. There are members of the Churches of Christ who've been repeatedly baptized, feeling the necessity every time they gain a new understanding of God's will. Many years ago at my own church, dozens were re-baptized after a sermon on the Lordship of Jesus. Evidently those being baptized couldn't recall being taught that Jesus was Lord before they were baptized or something like that.

    You see, we've created an approach to salvation that leaves people feeling uncertain of their baptism, their faith, their doctrine, and their salvation — other than those who are either so arrogant as to suppose they've gotten it all right (they exist, you know) or who manage to live in denial until they hear a sermon that touches them, making them feel so guilty that have to wash the guilt off in a new baptism — hoping that this time it will surely take.

    I think our confidence should be in Jesus and the grace of God, not the perfection of our obedience.

  32. Nancy says:

    Oh, oh…and speaking of "contacting the blood of Jesus" in the waters of baptism, I've never been able to figure out why some dogmatically reject the concept of transubstantiation, but will embrace the idea that we actually "contact" the blood of Jesus when we are physically in the water. If one is possible, isn't the other possible?

    In fact, I wonder what are the consequences of an imperfect understanding of Holy Communion?

  33. Wendy says:

    Jay, wrt folks "who weren't baptised correctly" ..who "have a genuine, submissive faith in Jesus "…folks like William Wilberforce. John Newton. CS Lewis. Tom Wright…

    Someone persuade me that these folks are lost because of their imperfect baptisms.. these and all the Christian martyrs (I would guess that almost all those Foxe chronicles were baptised an infants) over the centuries…

    (I'm being sarcastic. If that is the case then I am completely misunderstanding the character of God)

  34. Ray Downen says:

    A note from Ray Downen, P O Box 4502, Joplin, MO 64803-4502, web site and e-mail address [email protected]. I had included address info in an earlier post, but had it in a form that didn't pass muster, so spaces were left but not the info.

    On my web site I explain at length why it's clear that the Bible teaches salvation in a particular way which is not by faith alone. I first point to the conversion examples in Acts, briefly seeing what each convert did, then looking to what Jesus taught while He was on earth, then looking at what is taught in the apostolic writings on the subject. Not one of those sources taught that salvation was by faith alone. The facts are presented. They are true facts.

    There's no controversy between salvation by faith alone and salvation through repentance and baptism. For there's no arguments in favor of salvation by faith alone to be made.

    Before believing that faith which saves is faith alone, you would do well to examine the proofs. Just listing and quoting verses which point out that faith is essential for salvation proves nothing about whether or not salvation is by faith alone. Yes, we have been told in this series that the verses prove that all it takes is faith. But the assertion is not correct. It puts a theory up against revealed truth, and revealed truth will win every time.

    How many baptisms are taught for Christians? We'd better get well in mind what the correct answer to that question is. We're being told there are two, which in fact MUST be three since the only two spoken of in the inspired writings are baptism by humans and baptism by Jesus, and this baptism we're told is the one that saves us is thought to be a baptism by the Spirit.

    That's THREE baptisms, not two and not one. And how many does the author who is thought by some to have brought in this third baptism say there are for us? He clearly says there is ONE baptism. That should let every Bible BELIEVER know that the theory of a third baptism is baloney. Please rephrase that if you feel it's too blunt. But it's true even if an unpleasant truth.

    If Jesus is Lord, and we all claim to believe He is, then no one will be saved (will enter Christ's kingdom) except through a new birth of water and spirit. Believe it. He said it. It's true.

    Peter, on Pentecost as described in Acts 2, makes clear what HE thinks brings sinners into the church. It's a change of heart and a change of status. NOT just a change of mind. He speaks of this as repentance and baptism. Believe it. That's what he said. It's true.

    Therefore, unless Jesus makes an exception for particularly beloved sinners, then sinners who seek salvation need to repent and be baptized. And only foolish fellows would suppose their way was better than the way taught by the apostle Peter and throughout the inspired history of the early church.

    Anne is right that some are teaching on this list that all it takes to be saved is to believe, with the right kind of belief, of course. They put in the scales a certain number of verses which speak of faith and salvation in the same sentence, and balance that against a lesser number of verses which point out that we are saved by obeying the gospel, and they conclude that after all really OBEYING the gospel is nice but not necessary. For their faith, and an imaginary baptism by the Holy Spirit which is given to those who have faith in Jesus, will save them. Did we get that right? Is that what we've been told?

  35. Anne says:

    Jay, I'm sorry but this is really quite confusing and I'm not quite sure I am understanding really what you are saying. I've not had time to read all the of your articles on this subject yet and maybe that is what I need to do to understand fully what you are saying.
    It seems to be that on one hand you are saying that we are saved by grace and faith not by the "work" of baptism, but evidence of that salvation is by the works that are evident. That is part of what is confusing to me.

    We can name a long list of people that we can say surely God will not condemn them to hell because look at their lives, they were so good and the faith that they have, they traveled to the remotest parts of the earth, they lived among the poorest of poor, they write such faith filled articles, etc. isn't that basing your salvation on works not grace?

    It just seems inconsistent to me to say that yes baptism is important, but yet you can be saved without being baptized or baptized as it describes in the Bible. This is partly what I am having trouble with. Paul goes to great lengths to illustrate what happens in baptism, that it is a washing and we are buried with Christ, to rise again renewed. Paul who on the road to Damascus was evidently convinced about Jesus and had the faith and the submission to the point of obedience, but he didn't stop there and Jesus did not say he was saved. No he went on to Damascus where he was told to arise and wash away his sins. So when was Paul saved?
    Are we disagreeing on the mode of the baptism or the point of salvation?

  36. Bruce Morton says:

    So, God will save those who "have a genuine, submissive faith in Jesus — and because God repeatedly promised to save ALL who have faith in Jesus." That is what you are teaching? The foundation of this weblog? That is why baptism is negotiable? Correct?

    Just want to make sure we have gotten to the taproot before I ask a question.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  37. Ray Downen says:

    In a 2007 book, Jay makes clear his position that we are saved by faith alone (which he says includes repentance, but of course the two things are separate as James makes clear by speaking of demons who without question do believe and are hell-bound). He writes, "The Bible treats the faith that saves and repentance as inseparable concepts." But the fact is that someone is reading INTO Bible texts the thought they want to have found there. Faith is mental assent. It is not a change of will, which is repentance. It's believing. That's all. And changing our minds doesn't change our state regarding salvation. Not in the slightest. Unless our change of mind results in obeying the gospel we're lost. Not because I think so. Because God says so.

    If JESUS wants to save someone without baptism, He is Lord. He can do so. Since WE are not lords, we'd better obey what our Lord tells us to do and BAPTIZE those who believe after we have told them about Jesus. Immediately. No delay. Then we continue to teach, Jesus says, not assuming the work's all done because of baptism. To claim sinners are saved without baptism is to contradict the inspired writings which call for baptism "into Christ." To claim there's some other baptism than the one commanded by Jesus is to assume HE didn't know what He was doing when He commanded that men should baptize. And isn't it also to deny the inspiration of the Bible since the apostle clearly states there IS one baptism for Christians and we would be saying there are at least two baptisms for Christians? Why would we want to do that? Don't we claim to be Bible-believing saved sinners?

  38. Jay Guin says:


    I'm not sure that we are disagreeing on either the mode of baptism or the point of salvation. Neither is really the question. Rather, to me the question is what will God do with those who have a genuine submissive faith and yet aren't properly baptized, believing in all good conscience that they're obeying God's will regarding baptism?

    Now, the point of mentioning holy people who were not baptized is not to argue that they earned heaven. No one other than Jesus has earned heaven! No, the point is that their lives are Spirit-filled. They give clear evidence of being filled with the Spirit.

    Consider, for example,

    (1Co 2:12-16 ESV) 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 "For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

    That passage sure seems to say that we have to have the Spirit to truly understand spiritual things. And if that's so, C. S. Lewis and N. T. Wright have the Spirit — because they understand spiritual things better than anyone I've ever met in person — and they live(d) lives that give every evidence of Spirit-filled living.

    Rom 8:9-11 says that all who have the Spirit are saved.

    Or consider —

    (1Co 12:3 ESV) 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.

    Now, we understand that Paul has more in mind than saying the words "Jesus is Lord," right? He's speaking of submitting to Jesus as Lord — and he says only those with the Spirit can do that. (I've yet to hear an alternative interpretation that makes any sense at all).

    Therefore, when I see someone with a deep faith, who submits his will to Jesus, making sacrifices I can't imagine making, I have to figure God is in him through the Spirit.

    So why does Paul explain what happens in baptism? Well, I agree that Paul wants converts baptized, by immersion, for forgiveness of sin. That's what he taught, I'm convinced. But I'm equally convinced that Paul's theology leads to the conclusion that those who think they were baptized as the scriptures teach and who are mistaken are nonetheless saved — IF they have a genuine, submissive faith.

  39. Jay Guin says:


    "Negotiable"? Not sure I understand what you're saying.

  40. Anne says:

    But with that line of thinking you could bypass baptism altogether rendering it useless. That seems as if you are looking at the works of a person as proof of their salvation.

  41. Jay Guin says:


    What does Paul say?

    (2Th 1:4-5 ESV) 4 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. 5 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–

    Paul says that their steadfastness and faith are evidence that God has judged them worthy of the kingdom! He looks at their lives and finds evidence of God's salvation. I think it makes sense because I believe the Spirit lives in us powerfully — when we let him.

    But, of course, saving faith is a submissive faith — and a submissive faith will submit to baptism as taught to the convert. And the church is commanded to baptize those we convert.

  42. Ray Downen says:

    Question: Are we saved by Jesus or by the Spirit? All this about inadequate baptisms makes no sense. As does relying on the Spirit for salvation. Peter (the apostle) points out our need for US to add to our faith. He doesn't urge us to let the Spirit do it. He calls for US to do the growing and the work and take the blows of life. As a helper, the Spirit is there to remind us of JESUS who is our Savior and Lord and leader. And no one has proved that faith saves without sweat. Scriptures in plenty point out that we'll not be saved without faith. Not one of those scriptures implies in the slightest that we'll be saved by faith alone. So why all this talk about "saving faith"? The implication is that faith saves (period). That is, faith alone. And that's not scriptural fact. We do well to encourage one another to remain faithful to JESUS if we seek salvation.

    A friend wrote today to wonder if I had any literature available to help him share truth with someone who was thinking he was always going to be saved because he had once "been saved." I encouraged my friend to study Hebrews with his friend, especially noting chapters six,ten and twelve.

    Those who are not born again of water and spirit are NOT in the kingdom of Christ. They are not saved by any amount of faith which doesn't produce obedience to the gospel. Baptism is to bring us INTO Christ. Christian baptism is when one person immerses another in water and raises the person up from the water to walk in new life with Jesus as Lord. I again recommend my book, available from on the internet, RAISED INTO NEW LIFE. It explains how faith saves by causing sinners to obey the gospel.

  43. Jay Guin says:

    Ray asks, "Are we saved by Jesus or by the Spirit?" It's a false dichotomy. Paul says that all who have the Spirit are saved. Rom 8:9-11.

    A proper understanding of salvation is Trinitarian —

    (Tit 3:4-6 ESV) But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

    God "saved us … by the … renewal of the Holy Spirit … poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior." So God saves us. Jesus is our Savior. And the Spirit renews us when he poured out on us (a reference to Joel and other OT prophesies of the coming Spirit).


    As I asked Alexander earlier, how many times do I have to type "submissive faith" or "the obedience of faith" or "faith in/faithfulness to" to avoid the accusation that I deny the importance that Christians be submissive, faithful, and obedient? Surely you intend to be arguing with someone else, because I've never, ever denied that Christians are to do works. In my series on Perseverance based on Hebrews I took that position in depth. /index-under-construction/t

    You are trying to pidgeon-hole me into the Calvinist or Baptist perspective. That's not me.

    However, what I deny — vehemently — is that obedience/faithfulness/submission/repentance requires people of faith to obey perfectly. It doesn't. You cannot argue, consistently with the scriptures that those who have faith are obedient (true), and therefore will be baptized exactly right (not true). Rather, people of faith will be baptized as well as they understand the command.

  44. Ray Downen says:

    Jay denies that he teaches contrary to truth about receiving the Spirit and about baptism by the Spirit and about salvation by faith alone. I appreciate his great ability to express his thoughts, and his announced desire to teach only truth. Jay does well indeed.

    He also sets up a peculiar contrast between "imperfect baptism" which is no baptism at all and salvation based on faith alone. So far as I can tell, there is no "perfect" baptism since all of us who practice baptism are imperfect. That's the very point the apostle is making in the verse which by wrong translation is causing a great deal of trouble.

    I'm simple minded all the way. I don't want to make things complicated. I'm sure the gospel is intended to be easy enough to understand that a wayfaring man not extremely intelligent can yet understand it.

    Simple fact number one: Jesus commanded that men should baptize those who came to believe in Him by hearing the gospel. Who will dispute the fact?

    Simple fact number two: The apostle Paul points out the true fact that for contemporary Christians there is ONE baptism. He is not denying there have been other baptisms and will be at least one other baptism. But he simply says there IS one baptism.

    Simple fact number three puts the one and two together. The one baptism for Christians is performed by men. It is NOT performed by priests. It is NOT performed by the Holy Spirit. It is performed by those who carry gospel truth throughout the world.

    THEREFORE, translators who attempt to cause Paul to speak of another baptism than the one commanded by Jesus are mistaken. Paul has stated there is only ONE. He would not then, under inspiration, dispute with himself by creating another baptism for Christians. When he speaks of baptism for Christians he is every time speaking of the ONE baptism of Ephesians 4:4-6.

    Yet some Bible teachers, who are not simple minded, want us to believe that Paul is wrong either in writing to the Ephesians or in many passages where the apostle speaks of baptism into Christ. So these teachers want us to believe that much of the time Paul was speaking of a third baptism which was, they assume, performed by the Holy Spirit. The second possibility some posit is that Jesus baptizes everyone in the Holy Spirit even though he told men that THEY were to perform the baptism which brings sinners into the Way of Jesus.

    Jay worries about imperfect baptisms. The Bible doesn't speak of any such. Immersions are hard to do wrong unless you hold the convert under too long, which would surely be a bad thing. I appeal to readers to avoid long-winded persuasions and stick instead to simple logic. If something smells, it may be bad. Gospel truth smells sweet. It's about each sinner hearing, believing and obeying the gospel by being buried with Christ in baptism and then raised up to walk in NEW LIFE with Jesus. The perfection is in Jesus. And he WILL perfectly save those who obey the gospel and thereby are born again of water and spirit. No one will be saved without it.

  45. Ray Downen says:

    A brother comments: Ray asks, "Are we saved by Jesus or by the Spirit?" It's a false dichotomy. Paul says that all who have the Spirit are saved. Rom 8:9-11.

    RAY: Does Paul intend to dispute with Jesus, who states that to enter His kingdom (to be saved) any sinner MUST BE BORN AGAIN of water and spirit? You obviously are willing to not accept the need for the new birth. But I believe Paul was not. I think you're misunderstanding what you read in Romans 8:9-11 if you think Paul means all it takes to be saved is to somehow get hold of God's Spirit.

    All study about becoming a Christian needs to center in Acts 2:38. And no inspired writing will disagree with it! That's where the gospel was first offered to sinners so they could enter the church of God which was that day born.

    Acts 2:38 includes the simple fact that all who ARE reborn will receive the Spirit. So of course Paul can speak of the need of having the Spirit. But in Romans 8 he's not talking about how we obtain the Spirit, is he? He is expressing the truth that when we were reborn of water and spirit we did RECEIVE the Spirit and now should walk with Jesus with help from His Spirit within us. In stating that every Christian possesses the Spirit, he is not disagreeing with Peter who explains how we obtain the Spirit! What Paul is really saying is that ALL who are saved are given the Spirit. He's not crediting the Spirit with the saving.

  46. On June 25th above Arland wrote:

    James is speaking about justification- the coming into an initial relationship with our Lord.

    Where do you get that? James talks about works of mercy and love, not about what it takes to become a Christian. The example of Abraham, which he cites, shows his work of obedience fulfilling his faith decades after the Scripture says he was justified by faith (which was also before he was circumcised, according to Paul).

    Your exegesis of James is flawed.


  47. Ray Downen says:

    Jay suggests "James speaks of an alleged faith that does not submit." Alleged faith? James doesn't address what KIND of faith is dead other than to say it's a faith which produces no faithful works. But James very obviously is speaking of faith. If he wanted us to think of something other than faith, surely he would have used another word. No, he was talking about FAITH, faith which leads to salvation if it's joined with obedience. Paul calls this "obeying the gospel." But it's faith if held by demons or men. Genuine faith. Dead FAITH. Faith alone is not productive of life here or hereafter. Faith is essential for salvation. That truth is spoken frequently by inspiration. We shouldn't read into those true statements an "alone" which changes the meaning totally. We are NOT saved by faith alone or by any spiritual experience which makes us think we've received the Spirit other than as set forth in Acts 2:38. The gift of the Spirit is promised to EVERY repentant, baptized believer in Jesus as Lord. Do we not do well to believe God's promises? He is able. His words are not idle.

  48. Jay Guin says:


    The scriptures often credit the Spirit with our salvation — without, of course, denying that the power of our salvation comes from the blood of Christ. But the Spirit is not merely given post-salvation. The Spirit is intensely involved in the salvation process.

    (2Co 3:6 ESV) who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

    (2Th 2:13 ESV) But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

    (Tit 3:5 ESV) he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

    (Eze 37:14 ESV) And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD."

    (Joe 2:28-32 NIV) 28 "And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

  49. abasnar says:

    Dear Jay

    You're doing the same with the spirit-verses as with the faith-verses. I am not sure whether you really understood my critcism on proof-texting (not criticizing you as a person, though).

    All the verses you quoted are true of course. But – as Ray pointed out – we cannot speak of receiving the Spirit apart from baptism, that is: In the "normal course of things". Four notable exceptions are mentioned in the book of acts: The Apostles at pentecost, the church in Samaria, the house of Cornelius and Apollos. I can agree that God sometimes works and saves outside of the "normal course of things".

    But you (we) cannot take these exceptions to create a new and different way to salvation. These exceptions were always God's souvereign choices to do things a little different; but we cannot choose to teach or do anything else than the "normal course of things".

    And also some of the verses you quoted point to the "normal course of things"

    Tit 3:5 speaks of the washing of regeneration, which is baptism.
    Joel 2:28-32 is quoted by Peter at Pentecost and the application was clear: Acts 2:38 be baptized and you will receive what is promised in Joel.
    And also in Acts 22:16 the condition of Joel – calling upon the name ofthe Lord is linked to baptism for the remission of sins.

    As for the other verses: You cannot say, that salvation is only about the Spirit or only about faith when quoting them. Because all of these verses have to be read in the light of the whole way of salvation – "the normal course of things" – of which baptism is a vital part, since in baptism God's Grace becomes real to us through faith.

    I am not sure whether you'll get it now, Jay: Your proof-text approach is a wrong methodology. But I know and see that we all have been taught and trained and used to this methodology all our lives, because it makes us so confident that we can prove that our doctrinal positions are correct. So all denominations have their (more or less) impressive lists of proof-texts, thus revealing the schismatic fruit thereof. And it is a bad fruit.

    Maybe you'd like to reconsider your approach …


  50. Ray Downen says:

    Jay makes clear his misunderstanding of the new birth of water and spirit: "The scriptures often credit the Spirit with our salvation — without, of course, denying that the power of our salvation comes from the blood of Christ. But the Spirit is not merely given post-salvation. The Spirit is intensely involved in the salvation process."

    May I state once again what is obvious truth? Jesus is quoted by the apostle John as pointing out that NO ONE enters the eternal kingdom except by new birth of water and spirit. Jesus contrasts the physical birth and a spiritual rebirth. Flesh is contrasted with spirit. Not God's Spirit. Man's spirit. Man's heart. His desires, hopes, and aims in life. By nature, humans are self-centered. This is not bad. It's good. God makes us that way. That's how we ALL start out. The very young child learns "MINE!" and wants to keep what belongs to him alone. What is natural is not wrong. For until the person realizes personhood, there's no basis for a further recognition of kinship.

    But as children grow, they each are taught to care about others. If they remain selfish they do not develop into the person God intends them to be. Do we attempt to teach higher math to kindergartners? Is it in the first school grade that calculus is introduced for the person's learning? No, there's progession in learning, one fact built upon what was already learned until the mature person has learned many good lessons and can take part in adult activities.

    Does progression apply to religion or only to personhood? Is there a right time and many wrong times for new thoughts to be presented to people? God knows the right time for the right things to be done to bless and instruct people. Right?

    Do we agree that God knows all things, that NOTHING is hidden from His eyes? Can we believe that God loves us and provides all that we really need? Does He have work for us to do, work which calls for maturity and unselfishness? I think so.

    What about people who won't understand even simple truths? Do we go to them for advice about more abstract ideas? Do we make children our teachers? Some seem to do so. But wiser adults seek to learn from mature leaders. It's that way in the church of God. God has planned that in each grouping of His family that mature leaders shall be selected by the group to help them walk in ways pleasing to God.

    So each congregation has elders. These are married men who have helped raise good sons and daughters well. Men who are respected in the community, known to be honest and capable and liked. To become an elder, men should learn well whatever lessons God has taught for our good. They should be able to detect what is true and what is not true. And they should love truth and defend it with courage.

    When false teachers come, as they will, God's leaders need to recognize the wrong teaching and protect their people from it. When true teachers come, God's leaders need to encourage and support them in teaching truth.

    All this to say that just because something sounds possibly true does not make it true. Lists of Bible verses which MIGHT mean another verse is wrong are most apt to be misleading. I point out again that we start with SIMPLE lessons, and progress to more difficult lessons only after the simple ones are well learned. If we want to know how sinners become saints, we do well to not jump around all over the revelation seeking light. It's good to START with simple things.

    Jay would have us believe that the Spirit is our Savior, that the Spirit is "intensely involved in the salvation process." I wish I didn't think he means in selecting who can be saved from sin. The Spirit IS given as a helper to those who are saved by Jesus Christ. That's spoken of in many places. Are we ever told to pray to the Spirit? Are we ever promised that what we pray in the name of the Spirit is surely going to be heard? Some might marvel how someone so intensely involved in our salvation can do so when we know so little about Him. Jesus says that what we ask in HIS name will be given. Here comes someone saying we should ask in the name of the Spirit? Is God more apt to answer our prayers if we do NOT pray in the name of His Son?

    Kindergarten. School for small children. That's what the book of Acts is for us who want to know how sinners should seek salvation. It's in the HISTORY book of the early church that we find examples of sinners being led to Christ and salvation in His name. And in not ONE case was the teaching/preaching about the Holy Spirit! The message which led to salvation was about JESUS and what HE said and did. Miracles were done in the name of JESUS. Peter was inspired. Wasn't he? Do we doubt it? Or do we recognize it?

    The Spirit was sent to the apostles the first day Christ's church existed. He had been promised. He was delivered. Jesus sent Him. He came to empower the APOSTLES by enabling them to heal and teach with authority and to lay hands upon others to bless them and gift them with healing or special spiritual gifts. This sending of the Spirit was never repeated in exactly the same ways, with siren sounds and mysterious flame-like appearance upon the apostles. A second time the Spirit was sent in order to convince the apostles and all Jewish Christians that God equally loved non-Jewish sinners just as He loved Jewish sinners.

    For the first ten years or so, the gospel was not considered as being available for anyone other than Jews. So it took several miracles to convince even the apostles that God's love extended beyond the borders of Abraham's descendents. But, back to Jerusalem and the first day of the church.

    What part did the Spirit have in changing the hearts of those who that day were added to the number in God's family? The sounds brought a crowd together. The flame-like appearance and the use of languages not known by the speakers were seen by all. But did those signs save the 3,000? No, God had Peter and the other apostles speak to individuals, in their own languages, a message which Luke summarizes for us. The message was not telling people they needed to get the Spirit in order to become people of God. It was a message about Jesus whose death made possible salvation for sinners. The message which converted many was about a resurrected man they knew had been put to death soon before that day.

    And, speaking as to small children, may we point out that the invitation given to all that day was that they could have their sins taken away and could receive a "gift of the Spirit" by taking action toward God. They were told what they needed to do was to repent and be baptized. They were NOT told they needed to let the Spirit control or that they needed to speak in "tongues" or that they needed to pray for God to send the Spirit to them. They were assured that salvation is in JESUS, who alone can save. They were encouraged to turn away from sin and make JESUS their Lord. They heard Peter say that they needed to be immersed in water to signify and seal salvation. They were promised if THEY chose to do these things then God WOULD remit their sins and WOULD send His Spirit to them. Is this not true? Is this not how the church began? It was decisions made by individual sinners which brought salvation to them. God gave His Spirit because the sinners acted in obedience to what they were told they should do. Yes?

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