Baptism: Once More into the Fray

baptism of Jesus

Kevin asked his question about baptism with such insight that I hate not giving him the best answer I can. On the other hand, like many readers, I’ve had my fill of the wrangling and false accusations and repetition of stale arguments.

I’m not going to go long with this, and I’m not going to tolerate the “my verse is truer than your verse” proof texting so common in both Church of Christ and Baptist rhetoric. We’ve heard it all before so very many times.

Rather, the only question I want to consider is whether baptism is a “work” as Paul uses the term. Therefore, there’s just not much in the Gospels or Acts relevant to the question. Obviously, there is much in those books relevant to baptism, but not to Paul’s use of “work.”

More precisely, my question is why Galatians 5:6 doesn’t exclude baptism as a means of appropriating the grace of God made available to us through Jesus —

(Gal 5:6 ESV) 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Reader Kevin has laid out the question regarding the necessity for baptism nicely.



I have been visiting your blog for quite a while, and I am working my way through your review of M&S. A little background…I have been in conservative churches of Christ all my life, but I am not one who is disillusioned. I like to challenge my thinking, so I am a frequent visitor here. I agree with the conservatives on many, many issues … but not all.

The first difference that I can recall was over the outcry in reference to a Rubel Shelly comment: “We do not contribute one whit to our salvation.” Now, I don’t know the full context of Bro. Shelly’s comments, but on the surface, I wholeheartedly agree IF he was referring to efficacy. Unless Shelly went full bore Calvinist, and I do not believe that he did, there is absolutely a sense in which we do not contribute to our salvation.

[JFG: Rubel is no Calvinist.]

I have long had a different opinion regarding Eph 2:8-9, a passage to which you refer in your review of chapter 5. The passage states, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (ESV)

Most conservative church of Christ commentators first seek to disprove “faith-only” teachings relative to the passage and then they often mention “works excluded” and “works included.” I have always rejected this position. In my view, Paul excludes any works whatsoever from the free gift of salvation by grace through faith.

[JFG: Couldn’t agree more. Paul is really very plain. And we should build on that understanding — not question it.]

On the other hand, I believe the Bible teaches the essentiality of baptism, so how do we reconcile these two ideas? Indeed, this attempt at reconciliation is what leads many within churches of Christ to adopt the “works excluded / works included” position.

[JFG: Exactly right and very perceptive. The effort to rescue baptism from the Baptist argument that baptism is a work has led many in the Churches to insist that works — certain works — are essential to salvation. They start with baptism, and then add countless other works — the entire “pattern” regime — as exceptions to faith “not as a result works” — as though “not” doesn’t mean “not.”]

I have a different idea, and I would like your opinion, if you have time. I am a career Marine (26 years and counting), and we often speak of Ways, Means, and Ends. We apply this construct to many things: strategy, transformation, warfighting, etc. I believe the NT often applies this methodology to salvation. For example, Eph 2:8-9 is referring to the “ways” of our salvation. Back to the Shelly comment; my position is that we do not contribute one whit to the salvation that Paul has in mind in this passage. Paul is discussing God’s work, or ways, relative to salvation, not man’s appropriation, or means. “We are saved through faith. This salvation is not of your doing; it is the gift of God. It (salvation) is not of works, so that no one may boast.”

[JFG: First, thanks for your service in the Marines. Second, we need a definition here. Why is circumcision a “way” and baptism not a “way”? Those insisting on circumcision weren’t saying that sacrifices of sheep were required in addition to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. They weren’t arguing the insufficiency of Jesus to save. They were arguing that faith in Jesus is insufficient to appropriate (to grasp or obtain) the grace of God available through Jesus. How is this different from the Church of Christ argument regarding baptism?]

Christ is the WAY, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Christ. Once we sin a single time, we need grace. Absent of Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection, we are hopelessly lost. Even if we never sinned another time throughout the rest of our lives, we can never atone for that single stain on our soul. All the prayers that we may pray, the hungry that we may feed, the money that we may give, the good deeds that we may do, the needy that we may aid, the prisons that we may visit … all is for naught over that single, solitary sin. Thank God for His grace and the work of Christ! In this sense, I agree with Shelly; we do not contribute one iota to the Ways of our salvation. That is 100% God.

[JFG: Amen, and well said!]

Since nothing we do can ever atone for a single sin, we can never boast.

[JFG: Would that it were so! Some of the most astonishing arrogance I’ve ever seen has been preachers claiming to be so doctrinally perfect that grace is not available for doctrinal error unless and until repented of — by correcting the error. These men truly believe that they meet this standard! And their supposed superior understanding of baptism is at the heart of their arrogance. We’ve taken an experience that should be a sign of humility — allowing oneself to be symbolically killed for sins committed — we die to self! — and we turned it into a mark of our vastly superior wisdom and Bible knowledge — so much s0 that we claim that those so foolish as to disagree with us (nearly all of Christendom) deserve damnation for their willful rejection of the gospel. And so I commend you for starting at exactly the right place: with questions. That is, humility.]

The only person who can boast is the one who lives a sinless life. That person would have merited salvation, but of course, no such person exists. Consequently, no human activity or amount of obedience can ever be viewed as meritorious or seen as earning salvation. Sin prohibits such, or should prohibit such.

[JFG: Again, we entirely agree.]

Other passages deal with the “means” of our salvation, such as John 8:24, Luke 13:3, Mark 16:15-16, etc.

[JFG: These refer to faith, repentance, and baptism. I’m not sure they are sui generis, that is, of the same category. Doesn’t Paul plainly make faith a different category from all else? And don’t forget, that because faith includes becoming faithful, repentance from sin is normally subsumed within “faith.” Moreover, we use “repent” to mean “repent from sin.” But if you study Acts closely, you’ll find it often used to mean “repent from unbelief” or “repent from being separated from God due to your rejection of Jesus.”]

It seems to me that much of the confusion in the religious world relative to salvation is the result of confusion between the “ways of salvation” and the “means of salvation.” My Baptist family and friends confuse the two when they eliminate virtually all human response other than belief and trust from the means of salvation based on Eph 2:9, and conservative churches of Christ confuse the two when they add “works included” to the ways of salvation in the same passage.




First, let me compliment you on having very well stated the conundrum. How can it be faith not works when baptism is sometimes spoken of as “into Christ” or “for the forgiveness of sins”? Doesn’t this imply that baptism is essential? And yet, if baptism is essential, why is it not a work? How is baptism not like circumcision, which Paul’s opponents insisted on as essential to salvation, just as the Churches of Christ insist on baptism as essential?

Unlike many, you don’t ignore the “faith not works” passages, implicitly arguing that the dozens upon dozens of passages that declare faith sufficient are somehow repealed by the baptism passages. But neither do you argue that the baptism passages are somehow magically repealed by the “faith not works” passages. Kudos. Both the Churches of Christ and Baptists push their positions by ignoring the verses argued by the other side, as though our denominational choice lets us decide which passages overrule which other passages!

[Readers: You are very welcome to discuss. But please don’t just pound your verses without respecting the inspiration and truth of the other side’s verses. Don’t tell us how your verses are true. Of course, they’re true! Tell us how you reconcile your verses with the other side’s verses.]

Starting about 15 years ago, I began very serious wrestling with these passages. Like you, I was unwilling to compel one set of passages to overrule another. I realized that the argument of Paul is not so much that circumcision is a work (it is, but that’s not the end of Paul’s argument) as circumcision’s not faith. And yet a First Century adult, male Gentile who would submit to circumcision to honor God would be a man of both great faithfulness and faith. There were no antibiotics and little in the way of anesthesia!

So why is circumcision wrong as a gateway into Christianity and baptism okay? It’s no easy questions, and entire books have been written wrestling with it. But the first and most important step is to recognize that this is indeed not an easy question.

On the other hand, I disagree with the ways and means distinction. I agree that baptism is a means (method of appropriation) but why isn’t faith also a means? Jesus is the way. Amen. Jesus provides the power of salvation (Rom 1:16). Faith is the means of appropriation. Circumcision is not a means because it’s not faith.

(Gal 5:4-6 ESV) 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

So what is baptism?

It’s the “but only” in verse 6 (and many parallel passages) that insists that circumcision cannot be a means because it’s not faith — although in the First Century, it could certainly be a product of faith — just as baptism could certainly be a product of faith.

More to come.

PS — I DISAGREE with the Baptist position — AND the traditional Church of Christ position. There are other possibilities to consider. Please don’t accuse me of Baptist baptismal theology. The Baptists get mad at me, too, and I’d rather we spend our time wrestling with the texts rather than — once again — explaining that you cannot prove the Church of Christ view by disproving the Baptist view … or vice versa. There is no proof without an explanation for both the “faith not works” and the “baptism into Christ” verses.

I have no interest in yet another trip on the “Yeah, but my verses say …” merry-go-round. Everyone here already know what your verses say. What they wonder is how ALL the verses can fit into a single, coherent theology of baptism that makes sense in light of Romans and Galatians.

And the old argument that “none of the verses say ‘faith only'” is irrelevant. You’ll notice that neither I nor Kevin has  argued “faith only.” Kevin and I have both argued “faith not works” — a summation of Ephesians 2:8-10.

See also —

(Rom 11:6 ESV) 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

Notice that, again, Paul’s logic is not “certain works don’t save” but “If it’s not faith, it doesn’t save.”

(Rom 4:4-9 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, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.” 9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness.

Oh, one last point. And this is important. It’s common cant in the Churches of Christ to argue that “faith” includes baptism. The claim is not proof. And it’s plainly untrue.

In the above passage, Paul says that faith is sufficient to save because of God’s covenant with Abraham to count faith as righteousness. See the rest of Rom 4 and also Gal 3. It’s a key part of Paul’s theology generally unheard of in Church of Christ preaching. (It doesn’t fit our narrative and is therefore ignored.)

Obviously, Abraham was never baptized, and yet this faith was counted as righteousness. And this is the foundational promise of God to bless the nations (us!) through Abraham’s seed.

That being the case, certainly in Rom 4 and Gal 3, Paul uses “faith” in the Abrahamic covenant sense — which includes covenant faithfulness by Abraham’s family and trust as well as belief in the intellectual acceptance of certain propositions sense. And it plainly does not include water baptism.

And so it’s not a very helpful argument — as tempting as it is to make because it would seem to explain so much. But it just can’t be right in light of the historical and narrative arguments made by Paul.

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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32 Responses to Baptism: Once More into the Fray

  1. George Guild says:

    In my opinion… I think that many would define “Work” as being any effort. In other words if you DO something, anything then that is “Work”. I disagree with that definition. I see “Work” as being worthy of receiving a wage. To have “Faith” is to have a belief that is worthy of being acted on. An example of “Work”: Someone drops something, and you are nice enough to pick it up for them, say a ball point pen. You do not expect some one to give you a $10 for your effort. So that effort is not worthy of a wage.

    I see baptism as an effort that is not worthy of a wage. Your faith causes you to act on your belief. To see baptism as a work in my mind would equal receiving a TRILLION dollars for picking up your dropped pen. Picking up a dropped pen is not worthy of a trillion dollar wage. I see this as an under exaggeration. On the scale of Eternity, one moment of getting wet, because of the faith you are acting on, is so insignificant to Forever.

    Salvation as a gift from God that is not “Worked” for. In my opinion it is like this…it is like a father handing a wrapped present to his child at his birthday party. The child has to reach out and receive it and then take the wrapping off to get to the present. Can you honestly call this “Work”? If you mean “effort”, then you are saying the child merits the birthday gift because he unwrapped it. That is not right. If you mean “wage” how does he merit a wage just by putting forth his hand to receive the gift? The father knows the gift will please the child and takes the time to acquire it. The father purchased the gift. Then he wrapped it and waited for the proper time to give it. It is the father that is doing all the “Work” not the child. The father does not say “give me $10 and then I’ll give you a gift” because then it is not a gift but an exchange, then the child could say that he worked for the gift. The gift ceases to be a gift when something is required for it.

    In my opinion…the effort it takes one to be baptized in no way warrants the wage of Eternity. It is like putting out your hand to receive the free gift of eternal life.

  2. laymond says:

    Jay, is baptism a work of man, or God ? I say baptism is the works of God, what man contributed to the event is faith in God’s works, and that is “ALL” man contributes, but that makes it on less necessary to salvation. If you were to of your own works go down to the river and jump in , without
    faith in God to cleanse your soul of sin you would only get wet, not saved. How many times have I heard that in the Church of Christ ? from the pulpit no less. Yes even the conservative branch, which by-the -way was the only branch when I was a child.”No faith no baptism, no baptism no salvation” I have heard it many times.

  3. John says:

    For me the question of baptism boils down to this: Is an individual a child of God before stepping into the water or not? After all the debate, this is what it comes down to.

    I know of many legalists who have no qualms about saying if an individual died before coming up out of the water that person is lost, that the person, after all, had rejected past opportunities. They feel that is the position that must be taken in order to preserve the pure doctrine of “Baptism for the Remission of Sins”. These people are not going to come out of their legalistic positions by any arguments. With most of them it usually takes God and love tugging at their heart over a period of time before they do.

    However, with those who are going through “heart tugs” the question of “when are we children of God?” is going to hang there; it will not go away.

    For me, the answer is that while we do read scripture through the rules of grammar and semantics, we rise above them when we realize that we are in the “hands and plans” of God who is above our understanding. That in desiring God who desires us, salvation is eternally more than the simple drawing of a baptistry on a chart with the word “into” above an arrow entering a circle labeled, “Christ” or “Church”. Awe and sublime reverence take place when we lose ourselves in faith and realize we are in the care of the creator of the universe. It is THIS reality that actually gives meaning and beauty to our proclamation of death and resurrection in baptism.

  4. David Himes says:

    In my own contemplation about things, I’ve recently become pre-occupied with the concept of submission, as it relates to our relationship to God, and the status of our righteousness.

    There is a sense in which I think submission is what God wants from us … not perfect submission of action, but willful submission of our hearts and intent. One of the things about baptism, which I think many people find objectionable is that it seems such a simplistic act. And it is. Why would baptism, of all things, have any place in defining our relationship with God?

    It’s a reasonable question from a human point of view. But, our “unwillingness” to be baptized, among other things, may demonstrate our lack of total and complete submission to God and his will.

    In a related way, our American culture today, really does not have much of a concept of Kingship or Lordship. We cannot imagine any one person have the right or power to make live or death decisions, unilaterally, about us. Don’t we get a say in such things?

    What God seeks from us is the abandonment of our will for our selves and submission to his will for ourselves. Part of the act of prayer is the act of submission. Recall the story of the “Publican and the Sinner”. The Publican was chastised by Jesus for his arrogance and self-centeredness. While the Sinner was praised for his humility and submissiveness.

    While we don’t teach much about submissiveness … and that’s regrettable … baptism is an act of submission. A demonstration of submission of my will to the will of God.

    But all this is just my point-of-view, for the time-being.

  5. Ray Downen says:

    Answering the question is not difficult except for those who think they know more than Jesus knows. Jesus requires (Matthew 28:18-20) that every NEW Christian is to be baptized. The one being baptized does no work. The one doing the baptizing is obeying Jesus and doing all the “work” involved in baptism. How foolish are those who think of being baptized as a “work.” The one being baptized should not be asked if they WANT to be baptized. They should be told that the next step in turning to Jesus (after the believer has repented to make Jesus Lord of the person’s life–a mental and moral WORK which is essential for salvation) is to be baptized, and the water is ready.

    Notice that I have not agreed that faith alone saves. Faith in Jesus is essential for salvation. Apostolic teaching and example shows also that REPENTANCE is essential for salvation. Repentance is turning to JESUS as Lord, resolving to follow HIM and to do what HE wants the person to do. It’s not just being sorry for having sinned. It’s RESOLVING to now follow Jesus wherever He leads.

    The worst error of faith-only teaching is that it omits REPENTANCE. Only those who have REPENTED (they have turned away from sin and resolved to obey JESUS as Lord) should be baptized. And they should never be offered baptism as an option. It’s simply doing what JESUS said to do. And apostolic doctrine has baptism being “INTO Christ” (Galatians 3:27). No one should ever be congratulated on being “in Christ” until the new birth of water and spirit (baptism AND repentance) is complete.

  6. Ray Downen says:

    David Himes is surely right. He would be totally right if he thought of and spoke of repentance as submission to Jesus as LORD. Becoming a Christian demands accepting JESUS AS LORD.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    George Guild seems to imply that being baptized really is work somehow. I affirm that the work, which is essential for salvation, is repenting to make Jesus Lord of the person. Salvation is not promised based on a simple change of mind. Conversion calls for a change of HEART. We speak of faith as what is believed. Mental. But repenting to Jesus is a change of SPIRIT, and no person will be saved who does not turn to Jesus as LORD. Of course salvation is not by faith ALONE. The only time in apostolic writing that faith alone is mentioned it’s spoken of as leading to death. So here come the dozens of references to the need for faith, and some mentally add “alone” every time, and insist that salvation is by faith alone. But who authorizes us to rewrite the Word? Anyone who teaches that salvation in Jesus is based on faith alone is totally misrepresenting Bible truth. And that’s precisely what it seems that some seek to do here!

  8. David Himes says:

    One cannot submit to God without repenting, Ray. The essence of repenting is turning away from our own will and turning towards Gods will

  9. Royce says:

    Ray, and Jay, I can’t resist. Where does the Bible say “sing” alone? It doesn’t. But many of our brothers insist that’s what it means. We make our rules of interpretation to suit our presuppositions don’t we? ( I know that neither Jay nor Ray believe the traditional coc view of the “sing” passages.)

  10. George Guild says:


    “George Guild seems to imply that being baptized really is work somehow. ”

    Please elaborate. Or reread the post, especially the definitions I give for “work.” I do not see how you (Ray) can imply baptism as a WORK from my post.

  11. I think we may overrun our revelation by presuming that every use of the word “saved” has exactly the same meaning. By “saved”, do we mean being granted eternal life? Do we mean being forgiven of our sins? (Does said forgiveness include bad acts in the future?) Do we mean being delivered from the consequences of our sins? From our propensity to sin? Do we mean spiritual adoption by the Father? We seem to have fallen into the bad habit of making doctrine by concordance instead of by context. This situation allows us to volley “saved” passages back and forth without even considering that our view might be wrong, having attached our certitude to the term, rather than the meaning of the term.

    Another reality we seem to ignore too often is the difference between that which is required for us to have eternal life and that which is required of us as obedient sons. We use the terms “necessary” and “required”, tacitly adding “in order to go to heaven”, whether that implication is made by the scripture or not. I appreciate Jay et al being willing to delve a bit into the words we are using instead of simply bouncing them off one another.

  12. It seems to me that George’s view of baptism is not as a work but as a corollary action to faith. I think this a good approach.

    Articulating the competing perspectives helps me. “Since you believe, you will _____________.” That is how I understand things God expects of us. The alternative perspective which is often employed says, “If you haven’t _____________________, then obviously you don’t believe.” Both approaches presume that faith produces works. But one is looking for evidence of unbelief in order to judge another person’s spiritual identity, while the other presumes another’s faith and spiritual identity, and celebrates confirmation of his faith in his corollary actions.

  13. Ray opens with, “Answering the question is not difficult except for those who think they know more than Jesus knows.” It is always easier to convince others of your own position if you stab them a little first, right, Ray? Show ’em they are deficient in character for even having to ask the question, THEN answer it for ’em. Sigh.

  14. George Guild says:


    “It seems to me that George’s view of baptism is not as a work but as a corollary action to faith. I think this a good approach.”

    Yes. Thank you Charles.

    Your “Belief in action” (Faith) should drive you to obedience (by submitting to baptism). You have not “earned” eternal life by “working” your way into a body of water and being submerged. Other wise every child that has played John the Baptist (or minister) with other kids at any swim hole has “worked” more (and the children who submit to being dunked have also “worked” more at this play) than many who believe that baptism is actually a genuine work.

  15. Neal says:

    Kevin and Jay, isn’t Faith in Messiah plus anything a false gospel? Romans opens all of this up for us if we will have the faith and courage to accept it. God wants all of each of us and has provided that opportunity when we are willing and able to give it to Him, it takes our whole life. He gives us His very Spirit as the power to move ever closer to Himself. Let’s move from this basic teaching and start telling people the Good News that Jesus saves. Yes, let’s do what Jesus said and did let’s truly do it from the core of our hearts. Thank you, Jay.

  16. Larry Cheek says:

    The relationship between a believer (which also identifies someone with faith), seems to me comparable to Abraham as he listened to God’s promise and his action to obey the instructions accompanying the promise. If Abraham had not obeyed and left the country would he still have received the promise? Was Abraham’s actions a work that earned him the promise, like a wage or a purchase? I don’t believe that anyone reading the posts would apply the same terminology as has been used to support the position of baptism being unnecessary, to the many clear pictures of God giving an individual or a nation gifts that they were required to perform some action to receive.

  17. the5ervant says:

    Is there any credibility in the conservative argument that the excluded “works” in various passages (e.g. Eph 2 and Gal 5) are referring to a required obedience to the Old Law?

  18. Jay Guin says:


    Yes and no.

    “Works” is short for “works of the Law.” Plainly, Paul has the Torah in mind. But the Torah includes the Ten Commandments and many moral laws that we feel very strongly about.

    Therefore, it’s argued that “works of the Law” means “works of the ceremonial Law” — and so the discussion becomes quickly confused because Paul doesn’t seem to be saying that at all.

    But the New Perspective authors — NT Wright, Dunn, Hayes — argue that “works of the Law” refers to boundary marker behaviors designed to distinguish Jews from Gentiles, such as circumcision, feast days, and food laws, that is, the ceremonial laws other than the sacrificial system. And this has a lot of appeal if joined with a proper grace-theology.

    In CoC discourse, however, the tendency is to therefore treat all commands other than WOTL as potential means of appropriating salvation, like baptism and faith, so that using an instrument or building a fellowship hall damns as surely as a lack of faith in Jesus. This is utter nonsense, a false gospel, and very nearly blasphemous.

    Both points of view condemn the notion that there are certain “works of Christ” that must be done to earn salvation — including the entire “pattern” of worship and church organization.

    If we can take that kind of reasoning off the table, then we can join the best theologians in the world in agreeing or disagreeing. For those who think I always agree with NT Wright, I bring to the discussion:, severely criticizing the New Perspective interpretation and taking “works” to mean anything alleged to have saving merit.

    Lord willing, I’ll have more to say on this in a post soon.

  19. Royce says:

    Larry Cheek, Just curious, who said “baptism is unnecessary?”

  20. Jay Guin says:


    From the bottom of my heart, thank you for that question. You’ve pushed me to a new/old approach I needed to spend time on. You’ll soon see a post on Rom 3 inspired by your question.

  21. Dwight says:

    Once again we make things harder than it has to be. In Acts 2, I doubt that after the converts believed and were baqtized, that they wondered now at which point was I really, really saved and on what level? They were just happy to be in that state and they moved on from there. Faith drove them to act and they acted on that faith. Then they grew in that faith and acted in that faith and grew in action. It is easy to rely on either faith or on works, but the point of God is where both of those meet and intertwine to fulfill each other.

  22. Jay Guin says:

    Dwight wrote,

    In Acts 2, I doubt that after the converts believed and were baqtized, that they wondered now at which point was I really, really saved and on what level?

    But what if they were run over by a chariot on the way to the mikveh?

    (Kidding …)

    In all seriousness, our doctrine has been corrupted by the desire for baptisms at revival meetings. The goal was to get people to come forward out of fear of shame and damnation. The “run over by a train” story was created so no one would go home and think about it. As any salesman knows, you’ve got to close the deal right now. If they go home to think, they may buy a Baptist membership rather than a Church of Christ membership. I mean, it’s just like selling timeshare units.

  23. Dwight says:

    I haven’t been to a revival meeting in ages, but they have been different things at different times. Now days we have gospel meetings to get the lost into assembly, whereas the past meetings went to the people and were generally non-descript. But in the farther past the revival meetings were to convert others of one way of thinking in Christ to the right way of thinking in Christ. One day we will realize that assembly was by the saints and for the saints and that these saints went into the world and helped convert and then those converts in Christ found an assembly. The deal wasn’t closed before people, but before God.

  24. Mark says:

    If you read what seems to be working today, it is the opposite of getting the lost into a revival. It is the church doing service projects and volunteering in the streets and homeless shelters and allowing anyone to come volunteer with them. When the young, liberal unbelievers see what Jesus’s intended Christianity looks like in action, some have concluded that it wasn’t as bad as they thought. I say bad because in some parts of the popular press, modern Christianity has gotten a less than stellar reputation.

  25. Dwight says:

    Yes, going unto the lost is what Jesus and the apostles and converts did. They did not convert from within the assembly. We have lost a Biblical concept through the ages and moderen Christianity maybe closer to ancient Chrsitianity, than the conventional is today. The term radical has gotten a bad rap, but it really means getting back to the root.

  26. Charles Smith says:

    Hi Jay. My sister is in a very conservative CoC. The same one that we were raised in since children and the same one my dad preached at for years. (He has passed away now). I send a lot of you post to her because we like to discuss the bible and we can do it with heated words and I love that. Here is a comment she made about this post and I was wondering if you can explain it better for send me to an earlier post or posts that will explain this better than I can at the moment.

    “I am confused why the writer always refers back to Abraham being saved by his faith and not baptism. It disturbs me every time i read that because i feel it is relevant. We have always been required to have faith. Abraham was not baptized because he wasn’t told to be. He did do what he was told to do. He had great faith and he believed and he did as God commanded. If he had been told to be baptized i have no doubt he would have been and we would read about it in the scriptures as our example. Baptism wasn’t commanded until Christ came. Now we are told that we put on Christ in baptism. We are told that we must put on Christ to be saved. So Abraham as an example of great faith and obedience to God is a wonderful example. Abraham as an example of being saved on faith and belief without baptism doesn’t make sense. To me it is comparing apples and oranges.”
    So I don’t know if you read back comments but if you or anyone sees this, I would love your help.

  27. Charles Smith says:

    I meant “without heated words”. sorry

  28. Dwight says:

    I think the early prophets and leaders like Abraham form a condrum when we look at them in terms of salvation. Most saints would argue that no one was saved during the time of the OT because there was nothing that could save them as the sacrifices were not good enough to do that only rolling the sins forward and that it took Jesus on the cross to save them in far sweeping backwards motion. And yet there was Elijah and Moses with Christ on the mountain top, so they must have been judged good enough to be there with Jesus. In the NT it talks of Abraham being justified by works and faith, so they were indeed justified. But then again Rahab was also justified before God and she was nowhere in the class of Abraham as she was a harlot.
    The point is that the rules for those in the OT do not neccessarily coincice with the rules for us in specifics, but they do in generalities. Faith and works do justify, but depending on when you lived you were bound to the same faith…in God, but possibly different works…baptism being one.

  29. David Himes says:

    Works never justify us, Dwight, they are our response to God’s grace, forgiveness and salvation. If works could justify, then we would not need Jesus, we could make it on our own.

  30. Mark says:

    Frequently preached from beautiful hand-carved, wooden pulpits but not cofC pulpits is “you’re saved, you get grace, you have been given the gift Holy Spirit (Ghost); now get out in the world and help people like Jesus did and told you to do.”

  31. Dwight says:

    David then I must be reading James wrong because he says that Abraham and Rahab were both justified by works. Also if works are not justifiable, then faith, which is a work (Gal.5:6, I Thess.1:3) is not justifiable either.
    James 2:24 “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” James makes it cler that faith and works are what justifies and not one of them alone. Unless you do not think that James is reliable.

    Mark, You are right. What we have a tendency to do is preach salvation from the pulpits to the save and then we keep on preaching salvation to the saved, while never taking the message to the lost. It is a viscious cycle. We concentrate ourselves on our assembly and have lost sight of where Jesus went…to the world.

  32. David Himes says:

    Faith is not a work, Dwight. Jay has written on that question extensively, so I’ll not try to repeat it. Please re-read Ephesians 2:8-9 and reconcile it with James 2:20.

    James 2:20 is a statement which says that if your faith does not result in you doing good things, then your faith is questionable — if not dead. It is not saying that works lead to salvation. Ephesians says it plainly that salvation is not by works.

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