“Born Again” – by baptism? or faith and repentance? or BOTH?

I almost hate to start this discussion because I am beginning to have doubts about the churches of Christ understanding of baptism. And yet, it has been prompted by several things I’ve seen over time. But, please bear in mind that the following is my own understanding, which I am sharing for discussion; not for the purpose of declaring that I alone have the “inside story” on any of this. Let God and His Word with the help of His Holy Spirit and prayer be your guide alone.

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I have noticed over the year or so that I became convinced baptism does what Peter says it does, that in many cases baptism seems to be a bit of a stumbling block. For instance, in a letter that was shared with me, a missionary was explaining how they had a disciple who was convinced of his need to be saved, confessed Christ as His Savior, but the missionary was unable – for two days!- to baptize him. Another incident was similar to those I have seen in the churches of Christ, where a young lady put off her baptism, with the silent approval of the church, until the time of her own choosing. I have seen this happen several times and it has made me think.

What it has made me think is this: I believe baptism is commanded and that anyone who wants to follow Jesus truthfully will not refuse it. However, in many cases we are placing a MAN between a new believer and Jesus Christ! If a person cannot be saved until a MAN baptizes them, who then does a person’s salvation become mediated by?

I have advocated for baptism very enthusiastically, but since that is not how I came to the Lord, I’ve been quite hypocritical to declare something like immediate  baptism as essential when I was not changed by my baptism. I was changed when I finally received the faith to believe that Jesus had really and truly died to save me…not my brother or friend or some poor lost soul in a foreign land, but ME! That was when I was changed, became a new creature and wanted to be baptized. The latter didn’t occur for six weeks, but I “set my face” towards the Jerusalem of baptism from the moment I knew it was part of becoming a believer. Was I unsaved and my sins still clinging to me until I was actually baptized? How about baptizing people in the same water? Does the first get baptized in “clean” water and the ones following get dipped into “dirty” water because of the first person’s sins?

I often countered rebuttals against baptism being necessary for salvation with “If it’s not saving, then why even perform it? Would you say a person could claim to be a Christian and refuse to be baptized?” Now, I find myself asking questions like ” If baptism is how we are cleansed of our sins, where does the blood of Jesus come into play?” The churches of Christ emphasize that we come into contact with the blood through baptism, but I really don’t see a definite proof of that in scripture. But…..if it is so, then how does the blood get applied to later sins, after our baptism? Hebrews 10:22 says “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” When and how are our hearts sprinkled with the blood of our saviour? Peter says “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ” (1 Peter 1:2 ESV) Paul says “we have now been justified by his blood” and “we have redemption through his blood”. In Revelation 1:5 we have John offering a benediction “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. ” (ESV)

One thing that always bothered me about John’s gospel was that there are no overt references to baptism after John the Baptist’s role is described and Jesus disciples are said to have taken to doing it in place of John. I used to carry Pocket Testaments, which are simply the gospel of John, but quit doing so because John doesn’t flatly state that baptism is necessary for salvation (or does he? see my last notes). I felt that Matthew or Mark would be more appropriate  So I stopped handing these Gospels out…because I doubted that the Word of God could do the job of informing people of the whole gospel. True, Jesus was baptized by John and ordained baptism as a ordinance for His followers to observe in obedient submission. Yet Jesus’ baptism wasn’t salvic, for He never sinned. So what was His baptism? An act of obedience and a symbol of His humility and righteousness. It certainly wasn’t anything more than that!  Jesus illustrated how repentance was obtained for the tax collector vs. the Pharisee. We have the great commission which says ” Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 28:19 ESV) And, there are at least five incidents of conversion described in the book of Acts that do not even mention baptism (Acts 4:4, 13:12, 14:1, 17:12, 17:34).

Romans 6 makes a great case that immersion is the proper form of baptism, but have any of us been “in the likeness of His death” in a physical way? Wasn’t His death one that occurred on a cross? How do we do anything in that likeness except within our hearts? Baptism is a likeness of Christ’s burial, true. But not of His death. Else Christ’s own baptism could be said to be a likeness of His death. But it wasn’t! Christ being lifted up was the form of His death and His victory.

I am becoming persuaded that we are like the Pharisees who took the Law so literally that they tied God’s words to their forehead and their chests. Jesus made a point of saying their phylacteries were of no use. That young man could have died during the two days his baptism was postponed! What about the Catechumen of the second and third century churches who died as martyrs of Jesus, yet were unbaptized because they were “probationary disciples” of the churches of that time? The way the church got around that was to say these were baptized in blood instead of water.

All I know is my fervor and zeal for witnessing have been hampered by the idea that anyone I witness to cannot be saved unless I can talk them off that bus on their way home to their kids or a doctor’s appointment and be baptized. How do you baptize an Eskimo in the arctic, or an Arab in the middle of the Sahara? Where do you baptize a person you just met and convinced needed to be saved, when you are getting off a plane in a city neither one of you know at midnight in the middle of a blizzard? Interestingly enough, my church group were discussing the very idea of baptizing in snow because of the snowstorm we were and have experienced lately. We came to a unanimous position that baptism in snow would be acceptable.

These are the problems I am beginning to have with the churches of Christ putting an act before the grace of God. Do we really think that Charles Wesley or George Mueller were not men of God? Neither were baptized by immersion. Ditto for many other men of God through the ages, some of whom did not hold our doctrine, but we don’t hesitate to quote them either. Jesus said “For the one who is not against us is for us. ” (Mark 9:40 ESV) Was Arthur W. Pink against Jesus Christ? Was Charles Spurgeon? How about Mother Teresa? I have serious reservations about Mother Teresa because she was a Catholic and she was surely not baptized by immersion. But, I often hear church of Christ people quote her and seek to emulate her in benevolence. So, does Jesus’ next words apply here? “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41 ESV) I am not Mother Teresa’s judge and I fear for her soul, but I cannot know her heart and I observe that she had more heart for others than many “Christians” who have become such following the right “prescription” as Marshal Keeble described it. I believe in baptism, but I’m afraid we have become like the lawyers Jesus addressed when he said “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” (Luke 11:52 ESV)  If in fact we convince ourselves and others that we are not saved until a MAN baptizes us. I really believe we have been fooled by our own form of “wisdom”.

In Romans 4 Paul makes a strong case that Abraham was justified by faith before he was circumcised. And that circumcision was the sign, or seal, of the Abramic covenant. In Romans 10 Paul again makes a point that “whoever will call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”. And in verse 9-10 he emphasizes “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10 NASB)

I have often felt, after coming to believe that baptism is a non-optional ordinance, that the example of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch was the best open and shut case for baptism being required. And yet, the Bible tells us again and again we are saved by faith and not works. On the other hand, I was explaining to my wife last night, that just as the earth and everything that lives on it was created from and by water and nothing is born without water, so God has birthed us by His Spirit and by water. The two are inseparable. However, I have a big problem with the church of Christ position that a person

1. must completely understand and believe that they are being baptised for the remission or washing away of their sins for it to be effective and

2. the rite must be performed by a church of Christ member, and

3. there can be no delay between faith and baptism.

And yet I see people, supposedly ready to be “converted”, waiting until their birthday to be baptized, or when grandma comes to town, all with the approval of the elders and ministers. And yet I see no sorrow for past sins, no confession of past sins, all of which the gospel prescribes. Instead the candidate for baptism must simply answer “Yes” to the question “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?” I have yet to see what I would call a heartfelt confession of Jesus Christ as Lord or sorrow for sins that were committed against the very God who is saving them. I am convinced that there are many in the churches of Christ who are relying on this single confession and rite of baptism as their salvation and not by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection. Some do believe in faith, but I think they are the exception. And I think the same applies to many who have prayed the “Sinner’s prayer” or filled out a “Decision Card” or, God forbid, raised their hand “with every eye closed” and think they have received Christ.

Hebrews 10:22 shows that our hearts are cleansed by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, and our sins are forgiven, not when we are baptized, but when we believe. Our past sins may very well be washed away in baptism, but it can only be symbolically if our sins are forgiven and we are justified by faith. Yet, baptism is non-negotiable. A believing Christian cannot refuse it and it is, as Peter said, an answer of a good conscience toward God. No Bible believing person can say truthfully that baptism isn’t necessary. But, I dare say there are exceptions and whether we say “it was for a sign to Peter” or something else, we cannot believe that Cornelius and friends, if they had died before they were baptized would have died in their sins. Peter said “Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17 NASB) Peter says right here that the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit when they believed on Jesus as the Christ. The argument is often made that the thief on the cross didn’t need to be baptized because Christ hadn’t yet died and been resurrected. But, Jesus had already consecrated baptism with His own and his disciples were “baptizing more than John” afterwards. Either the thief had to have been baptized or the argument carries no weight.

Who baptized the disciples? They did not die before Christ was resurrected. Yet we have no record that they were baptized by Christ or each other. Indeed, if they were, it would have been by John the Baptist and in Acts 19 Paul demonstrated that this baptism was not sufficient! What was necessary was that they had received the Holy Spirit. And back to Cornelius we go; Peter said they were saved before they were baptized. But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t think they needed baptizing for he commanded it to be done.

So, I think the emphasis on baptism is warranted, but not if it becomes the sole object of conversion or is considered the actual means of forgiveness. I think a better analogy is the reference in Revelation to those that have washed their robes and Paul’s reference to baptism being how we are clothed in Christ. And, of course, none of us are actually dragging around our dead crucified body. It’s symbolic. It’s metaphoric in the sense that it helps us grasp what Christ has commanded us to do. Baptism is like circumcision; a seal, or sign of the inward forgiveness we obtain through faith in and by the blood of Christ. And it is not optional, just as Moses was in danger of being killed by God because he had not circumcised his son (Exodus 4:24-26).

Lastly, Jesus statement “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. ” in John 3:5 does not leave any room for “amniotic fluid”. Jesus was speaking to a learned man who did not need a metaphor on top of a metaphor to understand what Jesus was saying when he answered Nicodemus’ question. Water plays into every true Christian conversion. Woe to the man who says baptism isn’t necessary! But, it doesn’t have any saving power in itself. Salvation is from God and by God. Our including water in baptism is simply obeying Jesus’ commandment. Once it becomes the “letter” of becoming a Christian we have perverted it into the very means of salvation. No wonder infant baptism became almost universally accepted as salvic!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, “(1 Peter 1:3 ESV) and ” since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; ” (1 Peter 1:23 ESV) And Jesus declared that the disciples were saved before His death in Luke 10:20 and that  “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

Is baptism optional? Is baptism what saves us? I think the answers are “No” and “No”

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48 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by indywatchman on January 11, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Prodigal,

    This is an excellent and interesting article. It is obvious that this is not just a fleeting thought and has troubled you deeply. You have both asked thought provoking questions and given good answers. I believe your discoveries are right on the money. Most of my own theology and doctrine has resulted from such questioning of the status quo, tradition, and what organized religion calls normal, which when examined is quite abnormal. The revelations of God come to us in varied ways, not least of these are the red flags that our conscience raise in questioning the established “norm.” The child of God should not ignore these, but give due diligence in the pursuit of truth, and you have, it appears, handled these conflicts or crises’ in a way that is commendable. In such a way every teaching of modern Christianity should be examined, and the nugget of truth, that lay at the core of most doctrine sought and cherished . The foundation of truth is covered with much rubbish and refuse, and much work is needed if we are to clear the foundation of a pure testimony, rebuild the walls, and secure the gates of the city, but this is the job description of those who have thrown in there lot with a returning remnant.

    Baptism is a beautiful thing, and so misunderstood by the rank and file Christian, because of a lack of spiritually induced desire for the deep things of God. The Cross was the means God used to bring to an end the old things of our former life, by providing for us a cross of our own in a common death with Christ. By this cross the “old man” was moved out of the way, and a path opened. And, the Resurrection was the means He employed to deliver to us all that was necessary for life in a new world. But, between the Cross and the resurrection is a grave. “We were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the Glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” Rom6:4. Romans uses a couple of words that pass by most people, they are the words “know” and “reckon.” It is a fact that we have died with Christ, not because we sense it, or feel it, but because the Bible says it is so, and we accept that; it is final. The resurrection is likewise final, because it is stated as a fact by God. We are dead, we must accept that, and what do we do with dead bodies, we bury them. If we hang onto dead bodies we are mentally ill, they will corrupt us, we must dispose of them. We can hold a memorial service for the dead person, then secretly store that body in a closet, but it will not take long for that secret to become apparent to all. If we are dead and buried how can we live anymore in the old man? By our recognition of that death as a fact, and the burial also, we are saved from living with a corpse and freed to live out a new life for God. We have been buried, it is a fact, because the bible says so. Our baptism should be our proclamation to all that we are no longer the same person; that person is dead and buried, and it is impossible for those who have this understanding to live anymore in the flesh; we walk in the spirit, to the glory of God, as children of glory.

    Of course there is so much more that our Father wants us to know on this subject that only the experience of real faith can reveal. The spiritual desire that has taken up life in our new life compels us to enter into all that God has for us, and drives us toward the rebuilding of Zion.

    Ps 137:1-6 “By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth — If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy.

    Blessings,

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.indywatchman.com

  2. Thank you Steve for the wonderful comments!

    I especially like the comparison of our former lives to a body in the closet if we do not truly forsake our sins. And you are correct about my misgivings and lengthy search for the truth on this subject.

    I discussed this tonight with one of the elders explaining that I feel the rush to baptism is “putting the cart before the horse”. People have a hard enough time as it is, these days, accepting the idea that God would condemn anyone to Hell or that they are indeed fallen creatures. It grieves me to see baptism emphasized without hardly a mention of our natural depravity and our need for repentance before we get wet.

    At the same time, I realize that many evangelical churches are selling the gospel short, as well. Grace without the conviction of sin is a cure that the patient won’t take as prescribed. It won’t save them without true confession and a surrender of one’s life to God. We need preachers like A.W.Pink, Whitefield, and others who told their listeners the awful truth along with the glorious Hope.

    Grace and peace to you, my brother in Christ!

  3. Posted by sreneetn1 on January 12, 2009 at 3:57 am

    What a wonderful post!

    In my early years of becoming a Christian, I was so caught up in how to be baptized – in fact, I first was sprinkled in a Presbyterian church – and later being led to be immersed, so got immersed in a Seventh Day Adventist Church…I have made my rounds in many denominations!

    I have been led to where you are – “Water plays into every true Christian conversion. Woe to the man who says baptism isn’t necessary! But, it doesn’t have any saving power in itself. Salvation is from God and by God. Our including water in baptism is simply obeying Jesus’ commandment. Once it becomes the “letter” of becoming a Christian we have perverted it into the very means of salvation.” Amen!

    What I see lacking, like with many things, is the reverence to the things of the Lord. Baptism has become so perverted! In a local congregation, I believe a Methodist denomination, it is the norm to baptize the youth when they reach a certain age – regardless to where their heart is – it is just the thing to do – a ritual. I have heard kids say they do it just because their friends did it. Sad!

    Many thanks, PK for this post.

  4. Posted by memnan on January 13, 2009 at 7:09 am

    Excellent!

  5. Posted by walkinginlove on January 14, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Greetings,

    Interesting viewpoints, and certainly far enough off the hypercon path of the CoC to get you booted out of their version of the CoC.

    John 3:5 my issue with the use of water here as being baptism is simply this. Jesus seems to take time to explain to old Nic what the deal is, he next says flesh gives birth to flesh and then starts to concentrate on the spirit only.

    Now originally I was thinking that water equated to physical birth, but I think Jesus was not focused on the physical of anything, not even baptism. I recall reading where Jesus talked about giving living water, so I have to wonder was water really Jesus way of talking about something totally spiritual in nature.

    In my studies I see to many disconnects from baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit and I also have a huge issue with the Thief on the Cross, because the thief dies after the Veil is torn and is under a New Covenant as the old relationship was dead otherwise everyone who saw the veil torn would have died because they would have seen the place they were not supposed to see without much preparation.

    You said one word that I think is key to this. Stumbling blocks is a Biblical principle taught by Paul, though he was only dealing with food at the time I believe it sheds some light on Acts 2:38. To me Peter clearly points to the Jews who had helped kill Jesus, they came to realize that they had helped kill God. Water was used by the Priests in Leviticus to prepare to handle the atonement sacrifice. So Peter is involving a process they were already aware of in their religion to move them into the new, thus it was perfectly understood by them that they were having an opportunity to move from killers of God to priests of God. Thus the transition was easier, I also believe that Paul leaned more towards the symbolic nature of Baptism because he was dealing with Gentiles who would not understand the Priests roll in the Old Covenant. And that is the part that is clouding both sides of the Baptism debate.

    So I would be the person who is whoa to because the simple question remains, does Jesus blood have the power to save or does water or lack of water stop the power of God?

    Oh and for the record I was baptized before I started this study, many years ago. I took up the study of this issue because a couple of devout CoCers explained how I had to be baptized by a CoC preacher and attend a CoC church to really be saved and that the Thief died under the Old Covenant and that Cornelius was simply a sign and didn’t count. So I decided to verify what they said!

    First there is nothing in the Bible about a preacher being needed to baptize you, there is no command of who should do the Baptizing that I can find but I have not looked hard on that issue as it seems more a denominational driven thing then anything else.

    My studies leave the time between the death of Jesus and the Thief dieing as a prime time for the Thief to have sinned, go hit yourself with a hammer and see if you fell the loving feelings for the hammer and then think about someone hitting you with a club to break your legs while you were already in great pain! Thus to me the argument of Jesus forgave his sins already does not hold because Jesus was dead when this opportunity to sin came. Can I prove he sinned, no but I do understand pain and I know if I was alive when they took a club to me I would be very distressed, do any of you think you could take that pain level for hours and then have it raised even more towards the end?

    Could you take that and not have a sinful thought? Especially without the help of the comforter and the Thief does not have the Holy Spirit!

    Cornelius in Acts 10 is already being heard by God, he is speaking to an Angel who he calls Lord, this word is a word of authority over you and the same word used when talking to Jesus or others in position of power and authority over you, yet I also know that John was told to get up when he fell at the feet of an Angel who said he was a servant like John. So what Angels or beings have authority over us?

    The bottom line in Acts 10, and 11 is Peter says the Angel told Cornelius that Peter would give him a message that his family would be saved. In the text of Acts 10 the word saved is never used, there is nothing but a reference to a message, secondly Peter tells them in his preaching that they already know who Jesus was and much of what he did.

    My personal conclusion is that Jesus was that Angel, that Cornelius was already living in faith and thus saved as Romans talks about with Abraham’s faith and his prayers and gifts to the poor were an honor to God. But to make it official and thus keep Peter from being killed by the Jewish followers who still grumbled until Peter basically blamed God. Thus they had no choice but to accept it! I could not have happened any better!!

    I mean we are basically talking about the Grand Dragon of a clan going to see someone of another race and making them part of the clan, that is the level of the racism that was at in that time. Gentiles were uncircumcised unclean people not worthy of a real Jews time and here Peter is going in their home and then they have the Holy Spirit fall on them. Peter was close to being killed and he knew it.

    Also Peter could have been biased himself, since he saw and taught his fellow Jews that salvation was through Baptism, perhaps this was something that God did not fully explain to him and he was simply assuming that salvation was spoken of in Acts 10. No matter what the Angel in Acts 10 does not say what Peter says in Acts 10, and there is nothing in the text to show that Peter had a revelation of that from God through the Holy Spirit but gained the information from the people who were sent to bring him back and Cornelius himself who retold the story.

    So could Peter not have fully understood? My first thought was absolutely not surely he knew, but then again when the matter of Circumcision was debated it seems that at least a little time passed before they came to a decision. And I know the examples where people were not fully given total knowledge of where they were going when asked to go etc. So God was not obligated to give Peter complete knowledge of things he was in fact doing.

    So my answer would be, while I do not believe water holds any real power, I would still be baptized to avoid being a stumbling block to another who did see it that way.

    Other issues are totally in the theology level having to do with Matthew 28:19 and the ending of Mark.

    I found one site who the person was sure that Father Son and Holy Spirit named baptism was an alteration of Scripture. And another source that explained how some codex do not include the ending of Mark from chapter 9 on. Both tie Baptism into Jesus teachings.

    Now I am not asking you to give up anything as that would be a sin, but this is where I am now and thought I would add to your blog topic another point of view.

    God Bless

    WIL

  6. WIL,

    NOW I get what you meant about Peter being killed!!!

    I tend to agree with you, for the most part. I think you especially make a good case for why Cornelius received the Holy Spirit in the manner they did. It was for a sign of Christ’s acceptance. But, I disagree that Cornelius was saved before he heard the gospel as preached. Thanks for the comments and explanation of your views.

  7. Prodigal (or should I use PK?),

    I’m excited to see this post. I haven’t been following your blog, so I may not have your whole story, but it seems you are taking a tentative step of faith out onto a scary ledge here. It’s not easy to stand up for what you believe in, I found that out. I left a legalistic Baptist fundamentalism group, and it wasn’t easy. But through all my journeys I’ve been drawn by a desire to learn and know the truth of Scripture. And by God’s grace I’ve tried to hold faithfully to it and live in accordance with it.

    I think you are moving in the right direction concerning the place of Baptism. If baptism is as essentially and extremely important as the Church of Christ teaches, how could Paul make this declaration:

    “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17a)

    Now I believe baptism to be commanded by God, and believers obey God’s commands. They are the ones who desire to please God, although they often fall and fail to give God perfect obedience.

    But baptism is not part of the gospel. And the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Indeed 1 Cor. 1 goes on to teach that: “…it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.” (v. 21b) The message preached was what saved those who believed. See also Eph. 1:13 in this light: “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”. When you heard the gospel message (word of truth), you then believed, and were then (before baptism) sealed with the Holy Spirit.

    Here we should pause to consider something. I’m aware that Peter said “repent and be baptized…”, and I know Mark wrote “he that believes and is baptized…”. Furthermore, Jesus did say “he who endures to the end will be saved”. Now faced with Eph. 1:13 above, how shall we harmonize these different teachings? One method is to compile them into an several point plan, which includes everything required to be truly saved. We could then publish this plan as our doctrinal statement and use it to win the lost. Problem is, it ends up being better than how God did it. When the Bible was written each book was completely true by itself. The other books support and give witness to each other, but each book is true by itself. So if we just had Ephesians, would we be led astray? What if we just had John? In our day of printing presses and cheap paper, we all have 3 or 4 Bibles, but in the first couple hundred years after Christ, not even every church had all 27 New Testament books.

    Here’s what I propose. We study each of the four passages out and see how it could be that they don’t contradict or say different things. How could they harmonize into a unified whole? How can they all be true but not in such a way that they only speak part of the truth? I think this is what Paul means when he tells Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth. We need to view it properly as a whole, and we need to see how each part fits into the overall teaching of Scripture. And we need to be sure we don’t come away with a teaching that leaves us with contradictions everywhere,as that would not jive with the Biblical teaching of a perfect inspiration of Scripture.

    I’m sure I’ve gone on far too long already. But I’d like to point out that prior to 1850 or so, there were no Church of Christ ministers to get baptized from. I believe Alexander Campbell had a Baptist baptism, really. I get leery of movements that claim to restore the original church teaching that was lost, when Christ said his church would remain throughout all generations.

    A couple more points and I’m done here. In John 3 I believe Jesus is referring to the promise of Ezekiel 36:25-27 and not really referencing baptism at all. Baptism is a sign, a picture of internal washing of the Spirit. It symbolically cleanses of us sin. But it is truly by Christ’s blood that the cleansing is performed (as you point out in your post).

    Finally, if you’re interested, you could explore my blog for posts on baptism. I’ve learned a lot in interacting with and studying Reformed paedobaptism. There are Scriptural reasons for their practice, although I remain a Baptist. Through all of this, I’ve become less dogmatic on my Baptist views and more sure of the main point of Baptism – that we are participating in the sign that says Jesus cleansed us and we belong to Him. I think there is room for various viewpoints as Scripture doesn’t directly address the question of how to baptize the children of believers.

    Anyway, I hope some of what I say may help or challenge you. I don’t want to discourage you from your own independent study. Stay true to Christ. And I’m sure He will bring you to the place that will be best for you.

    Always Reforming,

    Bob Hayton
    Fundamentally Reformed

  8. Bob,

    I agree, it is scary and troubling to discover that what you once fervently tried to convince others of is probably wrong. However, I am becoming more and more convinced that the problem with Christianity today is that most of us don’t really believe what God has said. We want to tidy everything up and make it match what seems logical to our human minds.

    I appreciate what you said about rightly dividing the Word. That is where I believe, and pray, I am heading. I really got sick and tired of what I began to perceive as a stumbling block in this prerequisite of baptism before salvation. And you are very correct about Campbell and Stone, the founders of the churches and disciples of Christ in the mid 1800’s. Both received baptisms by Baptist or Presbyterian ministers. Neither was ever re-baptized and Campbell admits in his writings that he never believed baptism was for the actual remission of sins.

    Lastly, I really appreciiate you reminding me of a story I read about some folk in China, I believe, during the Mao Tse Tung purge that had all their Bibles confiscated and burned. While a pile of Bibles was burning, one brave soul dashed out under the cover of the smoke and snatched what he could from the flames. It turned out to be a single page from the gospel of John. This single page both inpired and blessed these isolated people for nearly 40 years and the group of believers who had this single page actually multiplied exponentially based on the truths that were in that page. The word of Jesus “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39 ESV) is evidence that Jesus is Who saves us, not the exact letter of any particular scripture. They point us to Christ, but He is the true Word, and only He can save us. Not an exact duplication of every little thing we find the disciples did. If that were the case, what has happened to the “holy kiss”?

    So, your proposition that we should base our faith primarily on what all the books of the New testament teach individually that are also consistently supported clearly in the other books is sound. A lot of what has propelled me in this direction is the evidence I see of changed lives outside the churches of Christ and a true affection for and adherence to the scripture in the newer revival of Reformed thought that also rejects secularism as a viable component of religious practice.

    Thanks, for your comments here, brother!

  9. Posted by churchesofchrist on January 21, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Great post !!

    I plan to print this and go over it in more detail. You are at the place I am, and there are others too…but they fear they would be dis-fellowshipped for such positions. Some would even mark you as a false teacher…WIL can verify this, he knows who I refer to.

  10. Posted by indywatchman on January 21, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    Prodigal,

    In your comment to Bob you said,

    “I agree, it is scary and troubling to discover that what you once fervently tried to convince others of is probably wrong.”

    It is scary, and the penalty for such “heresy” can be devastating for him who loves fellowship more than truth. But the love of the truth constrains us to press on in all truth, not just the truth of baptism. I can assure you from personal experience that your discoveries will not be welcome, and if you continue in such, you will quickly recognize the reason for your fear. But, when all is said and done, what organized religion calls heresy is, many times, is nothing other than a saint growing into maturity.

    Much of carnal Christianity is the result of once faithful brothers and sisters being browbeat into conformity with tradition. Today we need Christians who will risk everything for the truth, and through off the shackles of carnality and declare, unashamedly, that “I was wrong,” and as the Lord gives more light, I reserve the right to be wrong again. But, being wrong comes with a price, as you are finding out. There is coming a near future day when being wrong, but being found “in Christ,” will cost even more.

    Praise God that He is in these last days calling out believers to lift high the banner of truth, at any cost. The Father Himself will give us encouragement and fellowship; the blessed fellowship of all suffering saint, and Christ as the One we emulate.

    Blessing my brother,

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.indywatchman.com

  11. Thanks Steve.

    I truly do worry that some of my opinions may be wrong and that I could be heading in the wrong direction. But, when I see what is accepted as Christianity today in so many churches, I figure I am at least looking beyond the traditions of men and relying on God’s Word.

    Like you, if I am wrong about anything, I sincerely want it proven to me by scripture. I pray, and have prayed regularly, that God will allow me to find, know, and love the truth and to forgive me and have mercy on me if I have strayed.
    God has promised “You shall know the truth”, but only if we look diligently for it. The fact that so many things taught in church are not in the Bible gives me the best confirmation that I am right to reject much of it. At the same time, I don’t want to get so caught up in some of the non-critical issues when what I want to really be sure of is that I know and teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

    My constant prayer is that I will not believe or teach anything that is not true. And I am willing to reject anything that isn’t in scripture or isn’t plainly revealed.

    God’s blessings to you as well.

  12. Randy,

    I have the distinct advantage of:

    1. not being “church of Christ” born and bred
    2. already having a reputation of speaking my mind
    3. knowing when my life changed and how

    It would be very difficult to reject these things if I were raised believing them. I realize now that a lot of my initial attraction to the churches of Christ was it’s involvement in doing good works and the nearness of it’;s beliefs to the system I was raised in.

    I am finding, however, that I am being led, through study and accepting God’s Word for what it says rather than what seems logical, back to what originally drew me: the Reformed view of scripture, faith, and grace. I see far too many shallow people and a overemphasis on procedure in the churches of Christ for me to be convinced they have a corner on the “full” gospel. I was never comfortable with the idea that people who evidently loved and served the Lord much more fervently than anyone I knew could be “unsaved believers” because they had a “wrong” view of baptism.

    John 6:40 and Romans 10:4-11 were instrumental in my coming to grips with Romans 4:10-11 which makes clear, I think, that baptism really is for believers, who cannot be that without faith and repentance from God, so it truly is a sign and not the means of salvation. It’s a seal, a commitment, a declaration of submission. We are saved by Jesus blood, but the Bible only speaks of our robes being washed, and our hearts being “sprinkled” (Heb 10:22, 1 Peter 1:2). Our bodies are referred to as being “washed”, but it is our hearts that must be circumcised with the “circumcision made without hands”. Water baptism is done with hands, by man. Nothing we DO outwardly can save us, or else we didn’t need to be saved by faith!

  13. Posted by Carol on January 23, 2009 at 11:21 am

    By the grace of God I am beginning to understand more about why this external act is so important. It is symbolic of our being cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. It is symbolic of our death with Christ. It is symbolic of our ressurection in Christ. For we know we have been crucified with Christ and it is now Him that is alive in believers. I really think the devil is into symbolism and I wonder if this symbolic act is intended to drive a dagger into the heart of the devil and his wicked entourage. When the devil sees these signs of obedience by believers on behalf of the Risen God, I pray that he shudders because he knows he has lost this war. He knows his time is short.

  14. Posted by walkinginlove on January 23, 2009 at 11:51 am

    As long as you do not begin to worship the symbolism, I knew someone who sat in church who did not even believe in God anymore but did it because it was expected of them. If they followed all the symbolic outside the cup rituals and did not change inside the symbolism would be nothing.

    Point the mirror into the inside of the cup, there is where the real symbol of change will show itself.

  15. Posted by churchesofchrist on January 26, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Stephen, I guess am frustrated mostly with the conservative side, who all claim to have some grip on scripture that overrides everyone else. And they stress “the pattern” but not one can give a COMPLETE detailed list of what the pattern is….the reason being, is because each assembly has its own set of rules they call “the pattern.” Many disfellowship Christian based upon what they perceive as the pattern. Don’t believe me, try clapping during a song in some churches of Christ, you will be ask to stop or leave. Try asking a woman to lead the assembly in a song, again you will be ask to leave. Ask a woman to hand out the crackers and wine – grape juice, you again will be ask to stop or leave….and their rules go on and on….all which can result in disfellowship if not obeyed….in other words it is Jesus PLUS something – Jesus plus a set of rules man- made and I fear these groups have fallen from grace to law. I was told by one certain church of Christ preacher, that I must not only be willing to participate in the Lords Supper each Sunday, but I must understand the importance of frequency to be each Sunday, and if I didn’t agree, I would be banned from communion. The church of Christ is on the road to legalism and I fear they are leading many astray. The focus has shifted from Christ to a set of rules……and often rules built from inferences and opinions.

  16. Posted by Darren on February 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Excellent Post! Insightful and thorough – One would be hard-pressed to argue against your conclusions. For me Christ’s Atoning death is enough for my Salvation. When I was baptized in 1984 I had already embraced God’s Grace given through His Son’s sacrificial act…and I would never suggest for a Christian not to be baptized – but ‘why’ we’re baptized is quite the mystery that your essay has tackled admirably. Well said, my friend! I’ve struggled with this for many years and now I have a peace and understanding I didn’t before I checked in. Keep writing!

    Darren J.

  17. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 4, 2009 at 6:04 am

    Wonder why the Judean disciples in Acts 15 were not re-baptized? They were convinced that circumcision, in addition to obedience in baptism, was necessary to be saved, yet no question is raised about the validity of their baptisms (Acts 15).

  18. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 4, 2009 at 6:11 am

    Commands are to be obeyed, but how do you obey a promise? When Jesus announced, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” The promised result was not a part of the command. Promises and results are not things a person can do. In Matthew’s account of the Great Commission, no mention is made of the purpose or promise connected with baptism (Matt. 28:18-20), yet we can be confident that God saved those who were obedient.

    Other purposes were fulfilled through baptism in response to faith and repentance also. We are baptized (6) into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3-4). By our baptism we are brought (7) into the one body, (8) the church (1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:18). It is through this obedience that we are (9) born again, (10) become a child of God, and (11) enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5; Gal. 3:26-27). There we find (12) newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4) and (13) are circumcised with the circumcision of Christ (Col. 2:11-14).

    These are things that God through his Spirit accomplished in and for us when we obeyed him in baptism, whether we understood it or not. If one must have had those purposes in mind prior to baptism, then few of us could have confidence that God’s promises were fulfilled in us. Most of us would need rebaptism!

    Is Acts 2:38 “for the remission of your sins” a part of the command/purpose or a part of the promise? If it is a part of the command, then one is required to understand that purpose and to be immersed specifically for that purpose. If it is a part of the promise, then it is fulfilled by God to the one obeying his command to be immersed whether that person understands fully or not.

    Is Acts 2:38 “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” a part of the command/purpose or part of the promise? If it is a part of the command, then one is required to understand that purpose and to be immersed specifically for that purpose. If it is a part of the promise, then it is fulfilled by God to the one obeying his command to be immersed whether that person understands fully or not.

    Again, if we demand part of Acts 2:38 be understood 100% to make baptism valid – logic and consistency demands we do the same with “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” seeing it is part of Acts 2:38 too.

    Were you baptized purposely in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? Why make an issue of one promise and not the other? In the one account of rebaptism in the Scriptures, converts of Apollos were asked by Paul, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” We are not told of any inquiry into the understood purpose of their prior baptisms (Acts 19:1-9).

    Do we ask church of Christ folks today “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

  19. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 4, 2009 at 7:31 am

    I have looked at every argument possible from both sides and to state one must understand “for ( eis ) the remission of sins” before God will act also means one should understand “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” before God will act. But, they don’t stress this part of this verse, and the reason why is because most of the church of Christ members didn’t understand this when they were baptized. Heck, some don’t even hear this part of the verse…

    The men in Acts 2 had faith in Christ evidenced by them asking Peter “what shall we do” … do about what??? In others words, how do we become forgiven, since hearing and believing the gospel? Peter gave them the command “repent and be baptized” …this is what they must DO after having faith in Jesus. And the results will be “remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    What motivated them to ask “what shall we do”? The message Peter preached ( the Gospel ) moved them to seek forgiveness. The proper motive was seeing their sin and seeing a redeemer of their sins. The proper command to sinners“ repent and be baptized.” The work of God “remission of sins, and the reception of the Holy Spirit” upon obedient faith “repent and be baptized.” Both remission of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit are works of God gifted to the sinner who obeys the command repent and be baptized upon faith in Jesus Christ.

  20. Baptism is God’s Word to us that He will forgive us, In baptism we receive forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)

    Jesus commands the disciples to go…baptising and teaching. Baptising comes before teaching. The order is important.

    God does the baptising and that is why He can baptise babies.

    Grace before faith. That’s why we dare to baptise babies.

    For a thousand years (Luther said) the whole of the christian Church were baptised as babies, including the Church Fathers. Do you mean to tell me that they weren’t Christians? (Luther asked)

    Not being able to accept infant baptism is an inability to give up the ‘self’. Placing the will of the self and the action of the ‘self’ above the will and action of God.

    I was baptised as an infant. Am I not a child of God?

    Some would say, no, that I need to be re-baptised. Read Luther on re-baptisim. He pulls no punches.

    Thanks!

    – Steve Martin San Clemente, CA

  21. That happy face was supposed to be a closed parenthesis mark )

  22. That happy face was supposed to be a closed parenthesis mark )

  23. Posted by indywatchman on February 8, 2009 at 10:11 am

    The Old Adam,

    Let me the first to respond to your comment.

    I don’t know who you are or where you are at in your walk with the Lord, but by your response to Prodigal’s excellent article I will venture to say that you are either very young and/or very misguided. The reason, for Paul’s admonition of “let not many be teachers,” is aptly demonstrated here. It is without doubt that someone is wrong concerning this verse you mention, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38). It is safe to say that the blood of Christ was sufficient to satisfy the righteous demands of God, and that nothing else can be added to that work. Having said that it is obvious that you have misunderstood the passage. This is a big leap for men to accept; even though God is satisfied, men are not. Baptismal regeneration is a doctrine of devils to trick men out of their free gift of salvation. If Christ satisfied God, then we must admit that we do not understand scripture and pray for revelation into this mystery.

    I don’t have the time right now to expound on the meaning of “salvation” and “baptism,” but it is fair to say that “the handwriting of ordinances were nailed to the cross,” your ordinances included. Will you hinder Prodigal’s return by strapping him with a thousand pound weight that neither you nor your forefathers could bear? You have taken an essential element of our freedom (baptism) and traded it for chains, and locks, and bars! You have taken the mystery of godliness and claim to have deciphered it by applying the wisdom of men? You need to pray for the revelation that Prodigal has received and begin to experience the true freedom of which the Gospel speaks. You are not a free man and you need to be delivered into God’s glorious liberty. This is said in love.

    Steve Blackwell

  24. “Baptismal regeneration is a doctrine of devils to trick men out of their free gift of salvation.”

    Steve,

    Matthew 28

    Jesus commands us to baptise.

    A doctrine of the devil?

    Come now, I hardly think jesus would command us to do something like that.

    Our Lord never commanded us to do anything where He wouldn’t be present it.

    You are pretty cock sure of yourself.

    Did it ever cross your mind that you could be wrong, and that the course of the Christian Church over the last two thousand years could be right?

  25. Steve B.,

    Would you mind if I copied your last comment to me and out it in the comment section of my blog (latest post ‘When did you accept Jesus?’) ??

    There are a few of my ilk that maybe haven’t heard your arguments against regenerational baptism.

    It could make for more interersting debate.

    Thanks Steve B.!

  26. That should be ‘put’.

    ‘Put it in the comment section…’

  27. Posted by indywatchman on February 8, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    The Old Adam,

    If you were not convinced by Prodigal’s argument against the law requiring baptism for salvation I fear there is no argument that will convince you. The letter kills but the Spirit makes alive, and trying to argue from the letter is futile. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would receive the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation” as if there was something more to a true understanding than mere debate and coming to some kind of consensus. Debate only gives men a notch in their gun to brag and be puffed up, that they bested their opponent, will this insure that we have gotten “truth?” If this is the case then let us train professional debaters, and essentially that is what we have done, but truth does not come by debate, but rather by revelation. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew the letter of the law and the power of debate and prided themselves in their knowledge of when and how Messiah would appear, but their knowledge failed them, and they missed the one they waited for, and mistakenly killed their King, and remain in darkness to this very day. So, what do you expect to accomplish by this obviously useless forum, besides “pride”?

    I will repeat, what can you add to what Christ has done that will improve your lot? Any sane Christian will answer with an unqualified, NOTHING! You presume to possess a power that you do not have. Like Paul, “I marvel that you are so soon removed from Him that called you into the GRACE of Christ unto another Gospel.” You will not simply admit that you have misinterpreted the riddle of Holy Scripture, but you are not alone, nearly all of organized religion for the “past two thousand years” sides with you. You have failed to see the obvious because of your need to be right. What you are trying to prove is futile; it is impossible. What you need is not debate. What you need is the Holy Spirit to enlighten you.

    Copy whatever you like of what I have written here or anywhere else; I don’t own it. As far as a few of your “ilk” not having heard my argument, it is plain that none of you have, else you would not believe such an awful doctrine. When your will, is to do His will, then you will know of the doctrine, whether He spoke as a mere man, or if He spoke those things He heard from the Father, Jn. 7:17.

    If the Holy Spirit requires me to answer you more in depth I will, but we will have to wait and see. “He must increase, but I must decrease” Jn. 3:30.

    Steve Blackwell

  28. Steve B.,

    I wish to accomplish putting the glory and honor into God’s side of the salvation equation…where it belongs and away from man’s side of the equation…where it doesn’t belong.

    We are discussing this right now on my blog and we would be glad to have your input.

    http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/when-did-you-accept-jesus/

    Thanks, Steve!

  29. Thanks, Steve B. for your support. I cherish it.

    And Steve from San Clemente….I understand where you are coming from, but I believe baptism by immersion is prescribed for “believers”. At the same time, in Acts 15-16 we see entire households baptized with the “head” of the household. As I was recenty reminded, we independent minded Americans have no concept of real family fidelity or clan loyalty so we cannot understand these things.

    Did God count Luther and Calvin’s infant baptisms? I don’t know, but I suspect He does, since baptism itself doesn’t determine whether or not one is saved. But, I would never affirm that one with knowledge of believer’s baptism as evidenced in Acts and in history should rest of their christening. Luther and company were under such religious rivalry and a blending of civil and church powers that we cannot judge them as we should judge ourselves.

  30. Darren,

    Many thanks for the visit and the encouragement! This was a post I had kept as a draft until I was sure I believed what I wrote. I appreciate all the good thoughts of my brohters and sisters in christ, but the fact is, I can barely believe I wrote this. It, apparently, turned out to be far more succint and understandable than I dared hope.

    I give God the credit and trust He accepts it.

  31. ProdigalKnot,

    This surely is a great topic.

    We (Lutherans – most of us anyway) believe that baptism is a work that God performs.

    1) since Jesus commanded it (Matthew 28), He is there. He never commanded us to do anything where he would not be there in it for us.

    2) Since God is the One doing the baptising, making the promises, then it does not matter the age of the baptised, or the mode of baptism.

    3) Is baptism a free ticket to Heaven? No. People can wal away from their baptisms as they can walk away from God Himself.

    4) Just about every one of the Church Fathers and Reformers were baptised as infants (including Luther) and none of them to my knowledge was ever re-baptised. If you want to read a good piece on this google Luther on re-baptism.

    Thanks very much, ProdigalKnot!

    – Steve

  32. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 10, 2009 at 7:42 am

    I would like you guys to explain your take on Acts 2:38 “eis remission of sins” seeing this is the verse that many use as proof that one must be baptized in order to receive forgiveness

  33. churchesofchrist,

    My take is this. “Repent”. One ought repent of the desire to keep the law for the sake of righteousness. To repent for not being what God expects and give in to God.

    “be baptised”…submit to God’s righteousness…to God’s will.

    The Lord leads us to repentance. Even then, our old Adam fights Him tooth and nail. Proof of this is found in the fact that we do not want to stop sinning. If we did…if we raelly did…we would stop. But we don’t. We like to sin so we do it.

    But St. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that “we are to consider ourselves dead to sin.”

    How can we do this? The answer comes right before that…in baptism. In baptism “we were baptised into a death like His.” The old sinful self was put to death. We will still sin, but “sin no longer has dominion over us.”

    This is done by God’s work on the cross and the promise made sure in our baptisms.

    Also, in Matthew 28, Jesus Himself commnads us to “go and baptise and teach…” Baptism comes before teaching in the order here and Jesus mentions nothing about someone believing in Him first. In fact He says to do this to allthe world, ‘panta ethne’ (all people)…no distinction of age.

    That’s my take. A take that is decidely Christ centered (focused on the work and promises from Him)…and not ‘me’ or ‘self’ centered…focused on the work that ‘we’ ought be doing.

    Thanks!

  34. Posted by indywatchman on February 10, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    The Old Adam,

    To “consider” ourself dead to sin is not to do something, to consider ourself dead is simply to “reckon” it so. Being baptized is not submitting to God’s righteousness. When Christ says “come unto me” that is what He means, come. Christ did not set aside one set of rules just to create another. How do you know that the blood has cleansed you of sin? Because you were baptized? No! We know we have been forgiven because the Bible says so! You do not have to do anything, simply believe that it is true and you receive it. The receiving of forgiveness, afforded by the blood of Christ, is the easy part. No one can take that from us. If anyone points to your misdeeds, you point them to Christ and the value of His shed blood to cleans. But, the blood and the cross are two different things.

    Men who have had a steady diet of fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil have difficulty sorting things out in their head, which is to be expected, since our minds and hearts are totally untrustworthy organs. The natural man will not let go of his “natural” ability to reason his way to a correct understanding. The cross is the answer! The blood of Christ, we know, has accomplished for us the impossible task of receiving the forgiveness of God. You see, that blood was not for us at all, it was for God; God required blood, and the blood of the Man Jesus satisfied God. So we have acquired freely the gift of forgiveness of “sins” by way of atonement, through the blood of Christ. That act has taken care of our “sins,” plural, past, present, and future. But, there is still that problem of “sin” singular, which we have by nature, the “old man.” That “sin” nature is the whole issue of the seventh chapter of Romans. We know we have been forgiven because Christ shed His blood, but I continue to do the things that I hate, and the things I don’t want to do, I find myself doing, so we unconsciously imagine that there is something left undone. This occurs because we feel compelled by the “old man” to continue to rely on his ability to direct our affairs as in the days before rebirth. We can not understand correctly through the flesh, it is only through revelation that we attain truth. So, rather than surrender all to Christ the Christian continues to rationalize, with his old faculties, his way to God, the way those stiff neck Jews were discovered to do.

    In the cross we find the answer to the dilemma of how to live for God and how to walk in the Spirit. Chapter seven of Romans informs us that we are married to the Law and we must be freed, but that is impossible because if we are married to another then we are found to be adulterous, and the Law will not die so that we may be made free. I don’t hate the Law, it is just that this marriage will destroy me and there is no way out. “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24. The answer is the cross. If I can not be delivered in and of myself, then I need help, and Christ comes to my rescue. He tells me, “Steve, if the Law is perfect and it will never die, then there is only one answer, YOU must die. In your death you will be set free to marry another, even Me, your Lord.” In this we understand what baptism represents. It is the proclamation to the “world” and the “old man” that they no longer have a claim on me, even though they return over and over again to re-establish their rights through rules and regulations that have absolutely no part in my new marriage. How do I know I have been forgiven? Because the Bible says so! How do I know that I have died (even though I pinch myself and feel pain) because the Bible says so! I am dead, praise God, I am dead to all those claims on a man who has been buried, and if I died in Christ, then wherever Christ is that is where I am. He is resurrected and I am with Him. If I have died with Christ WHY live anymore in this world. His blood bought me forgiveness, and His cross empowers me to put off all the vestiges of that past rotten relationship that meant only death, and to lay down my life as my Lord did, to enter into life with my brothers and sisters without dictates and demands, and to freely give what I have received. The deliverance that comes by finally understanding baptism is the only way a person can live in the narrow way. In that grave is a body; I have to understand that, otherwise the old task master returns to whip and punish and put me in chains. A baby can not understand that; I seriously doubt that there is one in a hundred that get it. It took me thirty three years of pretending I “got it” before the Lord pulled the rug from under my feet and planted me six feet down. The stiff neck Jew is here today, and organized religion packs the house each week with those who think they “get it,” but those who”got it” two thousand years ago brutally murdered their Prince and Messiah.

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.indywatchman.com

  35. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 11, 2009 at 7:27 am

    In light of everything you stated – please explain “for the remission of sins” as stated by Peter in Acts 2:38

  36. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 11, 2009 at 11:51 am

    “What did Peter say, and what did he mean, when he spoke on the Day of Pentecost, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit?”

    Peter directed terrified sinners to declare, as an accomplished fact, the very Remission which they had not received, but were at that moment seeking; and to declare this, too, by Believing, as well as by Baptism!

    The natural and obvious interpretation cannot give undue importance to Baptism, for Baptism is here united with Repentance and Faith. It cannot undervalue the Atonement, for the Baptism is one resting upon, and deriving all its value from, the name of the Lamb of God; and this is distinctly understood by the person baptized, who submits to the rite as a believer in that name. It cannot disparage the work of the Spirit, since he alone effectually calls men to Repentance and Faith; and it is by one Spirit that we were all baptized into one body

    Certainly, it would seem that Baptism must be very important, intimately connected with Remission and Salvation. How can an unprejudiced mind survey this testimony and then relegate Baptism to the realm of mere Emblem, Symbol and Profession? However they are to be explained, the facts from the record are these. Our Lord before his departure commanded that those who would be his disciples should be baptized; and united Baptism with Faith in the promise of Salvation. The apostles and their co-laborers directed inquirers to repent, believe and be immersed in order to Remission. Baptism is often alluded to in the Epistles in harmony with this view of it, and also as related to other important things in Christian life and hope.

    Without controversy, by Baptism God separates the believer from the world, and puts upon him the mark of Christ and the weight of solemn vows.

    Baptism (with Repentance and Faith) secures the divine assurance of pardon and eternal life. The penitent believer baptized has for those blessings the word of a king who can never be “worse” (though he may be “better”) than his word. So much objectively. Can we reasonably doubt that the Holy Spirit, in Baptism, “seals the grace” of forgiveness to the believer’s soul?

    Baptism consummates the union of the soul with Christ. The Saviour accepts the believer’s act of consecration, and self-identification with him; and the union of the soul with Christ becomes an established fact. So much is implied in the expressions, “saves us… by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” “Baptized into [so as to be in] Jesus Christ.”

    So Baptism incorporates the Believer into the Church, the body of Christ. Baptized into one body, that is, so as to be a member of the one body.

    In a word, the Spirit of God plants the germ of a new life in the soil of the human heart. Then, according to the law of a normal development, grows the dark root of Repentance, rises the firm stalk of Faith, blooms the “bright consummate flower” of Baptism, ripen the fruits of the Spirit unto Life Eternal.

  37. Posted by bondservant3 on February 11, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    ProdigalKnot, This is Truth from over at Randy’s blog, had to use bondservant3 to get logged in. I will try to comment some here too.

    Thank you for helping me get logged in.

  38. Arguing FOR baptismal regeneration now? Is this WIL or Randy?

    Anyway, if baptism is regenerative, then so must communion be. Did not Christ tell us we must eat of His flesh and drink His blood? And “Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever”?

    When do we literalize and when should we see symbolism? Regenerative baptism is what the Roman church believes, but nowhere in the Bible do we get proof of this. The Roman church also believes that giving Communion and the Eucharist are indeed salvic. So, traditionally, the church has always been inclined to literalize things that many believe are symbolic.

    Scripture tells us in both covenants that faith is the determining factor. Only men were circumcised in the OT, but what of the women? What of babies that died before they were circumcised? Were circumcised men the only heirs of the promises given to Abraham? I am sure many discussions arose over these issues, but we know, in hindsight, that every Jew was not a real Jew even if they were circumcised. Only those who faithfully believed in God and served Him were considered righteous.

    I don’t know how one should parse Acts 2:38 but Strong’s defines ‘eis’ as:
    “to or into (indicating the point reached or entered), of place, time, or (figuratively) purpose (result, etc.)”
    Note the idea of “figuratively” and compare to Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 3:21 –

    “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: ” (1 Peter 3:21 KJV)

    Now, what is Peter calling a “figure”? The flood or baptism? We know the flood was a real thing, so the “figure”, symbol, or antitype MUST be baptism! The filth of the flesh is a term used in scripture to refer to the sins of the flesh, immorality or carnal sin, not dirt (2 Cor 7:1).

    If that is correct, then Peter is saying baptism does not literally remove the sinfulness (or sins) of the flesh.

    So, it seems Acts 2:38 could also be translated as “Repent, for the forgiveness of sins, and be baptized, every one of you, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” All I really know is that Christians should be baptized and I really don’t think we need to debate the how, when, where or why of it as long as it is done in faith.

  39. Thank you Steve B. for that wonderful summary of what true baptism is: killing the Old Man, not in a one-time symbolic act, but with a mental reckoning that one’s old life is dead. Jesus was completely serious when He said, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25)

    As you infer, far too many people have never learned to hate their former lives or understand the idea of seriously reckoning the old way of living to be over, done, finished!

    I love the way Peter puts it “so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” (1 Peter 4:2-3)

  40. Posted by bondservant3 on February 11, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    ProdigalKnot, I’ve tried to explain to Randy that filth of the flesh is sin, not literal dirt. Because of our sins we are dirty, but with Jesus we are made righteous in our Father’s eyes.

    I don’t believe we as Christians are sending a very good message to others with the levels these arguments go to. As I see it happening all I can think is God have mercy on us all. We are suppose to be showing people the love He has and I pray that we yield more to His Spirit as He guides us to be better servants to Him and to other people.

  41. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 12, 2009 at 3:43 am

    TRUTH, I will look at thios again from you POV. I have the same questions you have about this. I am honestly looking at this from middle ground, and I see points from both sides that are valid. WIL suppose to be working on something from another view point and he will post this on the blog churchesofChrist…if I wasnt willing to look at both sides, I sure wouldnt have given the blog over to him…I did post the last two post in support of baptism as being connected to forgiveness…he may choose to write something that is opposite….so be looking for that…take care

  42. Posted by bondservant3 on February 12, 2009 at 9:45 am

    ProdigalKnot, Don’t let them intimidate you over there on Randy’s blog. You have support from others who know you are being true. Keep looking to Jesus, I do believe He is doing wondrous works within you. You are a bondservant of the Lord a free slave saved by the grace of God.

  43. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 12, 2009 at 11:31 am

    TRUTH, I really am trying to seek an understanding on these issues and I am in the same place Steve is….trying to sort this out…..my goal is not to discourage you or anyone, but to deal with the issues before me

  44. Posted by bondservant3 on February 16, 2009 at 6:59 am

    Steve,

    Randy don’t let Randy intimidate you and keep playing his games. Randy wants to continue his line of questioning which results in contentious arguments. I agree with you that this needs to end. And I believe you made that clear to him on his blog.

    I believe you are studying His Word with an honest and open heart.

    Grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

  45. Posted by churchesofchrist on February 16, 2009 at 7:10 am

    TRUTH, please dont put words where there arent any. If you could read my email, you wouldnt make such statments. As I keep saying …I am there where Steve is…questioning things in light if grace and other teachings. Please dont jump the gun and think I have some agenda when you clearly do not know me. My line of questions are legit concerns, so please dont make me something I am not.

  46. Posted by bondservant3 on February 16, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Randy,

    We have discussed this over and over. We have dicussed Acts 2:38 over and over and over, along with other scripture.

    Keep studying.

  47. Posted by bondservant3 on February 16, 2009 at 7:25 am

    Please excuse my typing, really busy at the moment.

  48. Thanks Truth, for your ongoing support. I am inclined to give Randy my full attention. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, but am not interested in going round and round with this either.

    Grace and peace to you my brother!

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