Faith Alone? What does God say?

Water is a very powerful element. It can save a life or destroy it. It can convey good health or transport deadly bacteria. It washes away dirt and historical records. Water, in many ways, is very much a representation of good and evil.

Anyone who has read my previous articles knows that I have struggled mightily with this issue. And I have come to a simple conclusion: If the Bible says it and repeats it, then it is what it is.  I was almost persuaded that we are “saved by faith alone”, but scripture does not support this. Remember, David says “The sum of your word is truth”.

In the Old Testament, we find water turned to blood as a plague against Egypt (Exodus 7). Later God instruct the priests thus: “and he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird, and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar wood, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet: ” Lev 14:52.  Leviticus 14:1-5 involves the procedure of blood being spilled over running water for the cleansing of leprosy. In Ezekiel God speaks to Israel and says “Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil.”  (Ezekiel 16:9 ASV)

The Word says that God destroyed the evil world that was in Noah’s day….with water. That is, God cleansed the world of sin with the Flood.

The Word says that God destroyed an anti-type of sin, the Egyptian army….with water. The Bible makes clear that, just like God’s promise concerning our sins, “not one of them remained”. I heard an old church of Christ preacher, Marshall Keeble, in a rare recording of a sermon, explain that thinking one can be saved just by believing Jesus Christ died for you is like washing a load of dirty clothes with just detergent. It doesn’t do any good if you don’t include….water! Perhaps that seems presumptuous to say, but read what John says:

This is he who came by water and blood–Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.” (1 John 5:6-8 ESV)

Who are you going to believe? Your preacher? A theologian? Or John the beloved; who saw, worked with, ate with, was taught by and physically touched the Savior? In the New Testament, we see John emphasize the connection between the two again: ” howbeit one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and straightway there came out blood and water. ” (John 19:34 ASV). Then the Hebrews writer says “For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses unto all the people according to the law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people” (Hebrews 9:19 ASV)

Why does anyone honestly think Paul says “not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit“? (Titus 3:5 ASV)  Baptism is referred to here, make no mistake!

Baptism is not a work! The baptized person submits to the process that is plainly ordained by Christ Jesus “to fulfill ALL righteousness”. And again, in Hebrews we read ” let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience: and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22 ASV). Where is sprinkling effected? In the heart by the Holy Spirit. What is washed? Our body is! And, as Peter tries so hard to make clear, it’s not about washing off dirt from off the outside of our bodies, but it’s an appeal for a cleansed conscience! (1 Peter 3:21) How do we get a clear conscience?  When we believe our sins are forgiven and forgotten!!

Now, I admit, it probably makes no sense to most that God would care whether our bodies are washed in baptism or not, but Christ insisted on it, as did ALL the Apostles. If water was just symbolic, why is it so prevalent? The Israelites passed through water two times. Once for each generation; the first generation, which were rejected by God, were first baptized through the Red Sea, into Moses. The next generation, under 18 at the time God rejected the original bunch, had to pass through the Jordan river in order to inherit the Promised Land. These things are symbols of spiritual truths. Jesus did not spiritualize the water. He actually submitted to it, by John’s baptism, to show His approval of it and declared it a necessity (Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-16).

Marshall Keeble also told a couple of great stories about baptisms, where the person being baptized “got it”. Keep in mind that these stories hark back to the pre-civil rights movement days as I paraphrase what Marshall said:

One old black lady, who apparently worked for some rich folk, was considered a very good woman and was referred to by all as “mother”. However, when she heard the gospel preached concerning the need for belief, repentance, followed by baptism, she showed a remarkable understanding of the purpose of baptism. She had some ladies go to her place and bring back her wedding dress, a white silk dress she had married her now dead husband in. With their help she got that dress on and, as she prepared to enter the river they were baptizing her in, some friends were saying “You’re going to ruin that beautiful dress gettin’ into that muddy water!” She replied “I married my first husband in this dress and now I’m marrying one much greater than he was!” She understood that baptism meant she was going to be wed to Christ, and be raised a new woman in Him.

Water is regularly combined with blood in both the Old and New testaments. When Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born again of water and Spirit, I have heard intelligent men say “That refers to the afterbirth, or amniotic fluid from childbirth.” I say, they are twisting scripture. If Jesus meant water from your mother’s womb, don’t you think He’d have said “born of woman” instead of being supposedly ambiguous with just “water”? Besides, it is a fact thta most women do not experience their water “breaking” before giving birth. Most often the amniotic sac is expelled intact after the birth. And often it is hardly looking like water, being colored anything from milky, greenish, yellowish, or reddish. I don’t believe Jesus was stating the obvious here (that a person has to become a living human being before they can be “born again”) when He said “of water”.

I have heard references made to the idea that making baptism a requirement is just like the Judaizers claiming a person couldn’t be saved if they weren’t circumcised. Let’s just stop for a second and think this through. First, it was established in the first great counsel described in Acts  15, that circumcision was not required for salvation.  Secondly, if baptism, as taught by many Reformed teachers, was the replacement for circumcision, don’t you think that would have been brought up? As well, if baptism wasn’t necessary sacrament, why is it never openly challenged by anyone in the Bible?

Yet Paul plainly says “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:9-12 ESV)

One baptism = the simultaneous spiritual circumcision and physical dunking working together to perform a work of God. The Holy Spirit peforms the circumcision “made without hands”, that is, inwardly. We cannot be buried by any means other than immersion. We cannot be raised from a sprinkling or pouring, either.

I read another person’s explanation that it was only because Jews were used to baptism being a proper means of cleansing (as after a woman giving birth) that it was natural “for them” to assume baptism did something truly cleansing.

That’s saying that Peter gave more importance to baptism than was necessary simply because of his Jewish background. Was he, or was he not, a disciple of the One and Only Christ? Who would know better than a former disciple, and present tense Apostle, whether baptism was necessary? Why on earth would Peter even allude to baptism’s saving effect if it was not so? Or if there was any possibility that those baptized believers he was writing to might have misunderstood it?

Take away the parenthetical and he’s saying “Baptism now saves you through the resurrection of Christ.” That means, plainly, that baptism saves us because Jesus was raised from the dead. And because Jesus commands it “in faith”.

There are those who will say this represents the baptism of the Spirit. Their logic, then, escapes me! How can baptism of the Spirit be a representation of being buried and resurrected? As the verse I quoted says “having been buried with Him in baptism, you were raised with Him through faith. “with Him” is significant, because it implies that we were doing something with/like Jesus through baptism. The symbolism is very powerful, but also very pointed.

The first part, burial in baptism, is what man does. The second part, which is the first resurrection (John 5:25 , Rev 20:4-6), is done as a result of faith, inwardly, when we are also physically raised from the water of baptism. These coincide, which is also why Jesus said “Unless a man is born of water AND spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

If Jesus, in His Great Commission had said “He that believes and is circumcised shall be saved” do you honestly think  people would try to say things like “He doesn’t mean physical circumcision, it’s a spiritual thing”. Well, I do believe people would say that!

What about this? If Jesus said “he that believes and is tattooed”? do you think preachers and scholars would dance around that? I do! My point is this: I believe that if Jesus said it, He meant it, and if He meant baptized with the Holy Spirit, He would have said that. Paul re-baptized the disciples of John in Acts 19 and they then received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, note the disciples under Philip; they were baptized and then received the Holy Spirit when the Apostles arrived to lay hands on them. True, Cornelius and his friends and family were baptized in the Holy Spirit before they were baptized, but Peter commanded that they be baptized. Unlike in Acts 15:24 where the elders and Apostles said, concerning the Judaizers of the circumcision, “to whom we gave no commandment” .

Some say that using the story of Naaman, from 2 Kings 5, is a bad analogy, but I disagree. Naaman also thought that washing himself in the muddy Jordan made absolutely no sense, but it wasn’t until he did what God told him through Elisha to do, that he was cleansed. Jesus made a point of it, saying “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” (Luke 4:27) I think Jesus was emphasizing that only those who truly are willing to do what God tells them to do will be saved. Many regard baptism as a secondary thing, but will not even cross the line to say that baptism isn’t necessary. Why is that? If baptism isn’t part of becoming a new creature, part of the new birth, why do they shrink from saying it’s not important? Because, in their heart of hearts, they are like Naaman. They can’t see how it fits in with faith alone, but God wants obedience, too. They will say, a Christian who won’t be baptized is not a true Christian, but then negate that by saying baptism isn’t part of salvation.

Now, I confess, I had a hard time with this when I first perceived it, before I aligned myself with the churches of Christ. I just had this overwhelming sense, from what little I had read of the Bible, that after I repented of my sins and asked God to forgive by believing on Christ Jesus, I was under a real burden to be baptized ASAP. I did not get baptized as soon as I felt led to because I didn’t even know that baptism was something that could be done unscheduled. I admit also, that I did not feel safe in my salvation until I was baptized. Many things and thoughts tried to dissuade me from being baptized, but thankfully, my wife invited all her family and friend to witness this and I could not have backed out anyway. I remember asking people at the church I was attending what would happen if I died before I was baptized. Of course, they used the “thief” example (below), but it didn’t convince me for long.  I didn’t feel like baptism would save me, so much as it would “seal” me, or make me complete. And I say that to emphasize that I do not believe baptism of itself can save anyone. Only a repentant, believing person who has confessed to God they are a sinner can be saved. Baptism is the part of the new covenant where we are “united with Him” (Romans 6:5) and our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).

Of course we have the example of the thief on the cross. But, no one can prove that that man wasn’t baptized for the remission of sins by John the baptist earlier. I can’t prove that he was. But, one thing is sure: only God in Christ can make an exception, just like Enoch and Elijah were exempted from the law of sin and death and did not die, but were apparently translated into another sphere. God IS sovereign. That is why we must obey His commandments through Christ. And baptism into the NAME of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit IS a commandment. Jesus said “Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” and I believe that means we must keep our reading of the Word uncomplicated. I hate it when people bend over backwards to say that the word for, in the phrase “for the forgiveness (or remission) of sins” in Acts 2:38 is like saying “wanted for bank robbery” as in for sins already forgiven. Why would Peter also tell them to repent if their sins were already forgiven them?

The argument that Paul distanced himself from baptism in 1 Corinthians 1 is false. He was simply saying he was glad he didn’t have people creating a sect around him because he had baptized them. If anything this shows how important the early church believed baptism was! They were not saying “I am of Apollos because he preaches the way I like” or “I like the way they do communion”. No, they knew that they were baptized into Christ by these men but, made the mistake of thinking who baptized them was more important that Who they were baptized into!

Baptism by itself regenerates no one except when it is in concert with the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6). To make baptism simply an outward symbol means one has to spiritualize the entire New Testament  and it’s many, many references to baptism as essential and cooperative. What convinced me beyond any doubt was this simple fact: Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit to meet the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. The Holy Spirit  “caught Philip away” only AFTER the eunuch had the gospel preached to him and he was willingly baptized. If that isn’t plain enough for you, I don’t know how you will ever understand that this simple thing is associated with every single conversion story in the book of Acts and that means God was making it inexcusably plain to anyone with an honest heart.

Comments are welcome and disputations encouraged, but only if you use the Word and not just human logic.

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22 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Andy on November 23, 2009 at 6:49 am

    Hi Steve,

    Just want to make sure I understand what you are saying in your post:-

    Are you saying that:-

    Baptism is a necessary part of salvation?

    or to put it another way,

    Those who believe in Jesus Christ, but are not baptised, are not saved?

    God bless,

    Andy

  2. Thank you for your comments, Andy.

    What I am saying, is that, scripturally speaking, there is no such thing as an un-baptized Christian. It is a commandment of the Lord that we make disciples and baptize them. Peter’s answer, to those wanting to know what they must do in order to be made right with God, was “Repent, and be baptized…” You can take the rest of this verse and wrangle it all you want, but the command for them, Cornelius, and us is to be baptized as believers.

    I’ve yet to find a person wh believes the Bible who will say a believer should not be baptized. Yet many will still say, “It is not necessary.” I’m afraid they cannot find sufficient scriptural evidence that baptism is optional. I sincerely believe scripture indicates that anyone who is a believer and not baptized is in the same position as Cornelius, the first Gentile Christian, who, though a God-fearer still needed to be saved (Acts 11:14)and baptized (Acts 10:48). Peter commanded it even after the sign of the Holy Spirit being poured out on Cornelius and friends, Jesus was baptized and yet without sin, so who is it that thinks they need not be baptized? Perhaps someone who believes they are better than (or an exception to) Christ or Peter, but not any believer who has tuly repented and is following Jesus’s example, commandment, and instruction in how to be born again (John 3:5 AND 3:16).

    I accept anyone who is baptized, as an adult or accountable youth, and is living a life that evidences repentance from dead works, as my brother and sister in Christ. Anyone outside of Christ (Paul says we “clothe” ourselves, “are united with” Christ through baptism, and he re-baptized those who were not baptized into Jesus in Acts 19:1-5) is outside of the spiritual Ark, which is Jesus. Anyone refusing baptism is disobedient to the clear word of God and does not truly believe (1 John 5:2).

    One caveat to all of this, of course, is that water does us no good, spiritually, unless it accompanies true belief and repentance. So, I just want to be sure that you understand that baptism alone saves no one. Only in conjunction with God’s calling on a person to repentance and a sincere faith in the Son of God do baptism and the Spirit of God work as one. What John speaks of in 1 John 5:6-8 is a clear co-mingling of Spirit, water, and blood. Where do these come together in any other clear way than through baptism?

  3. Posted by Andy on November 24, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Having read it and your original post again I understand what you are saying.

    I have always believed that baptism is an act of obedience to the command of Christ rather than being necessary to be saved.

    Certainly these verses make no mention of baptism in that regards:-

    Romans 3:21-26 (NASB)
    21But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,

    22even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;

    23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

    25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;

    26for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

    Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)
    9that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

    10for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

    Ephesians 2:8 (NASB)
    8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

    However, I certainly agree with you that all believers should be baptised 🙂 .

  4. “However, I certainly agree with you that all believers should be baptised.”

    That’s good enough for me, Andy! Obedience is greater than sacrifice and we must approach many of these things as children. While Paul does say confession and faith are ‘prima-facie’ to salvation, he never separates baptism from this. Paul specifically points to baptism too many times, and in a way that includes water, for it to be construed that he makes it of no importance, or even passing importance.

    Is it good enough for God? I believe so, since He judges us by the heart and we are only accountable for what He clearly shows us. I am sure there are some who will not investigate this for fear that they may find their baptism, or lack of it, unacceptable. Will God let them slide because they didn’t seek God’s will in the matter?

    Some go so far as to say baptism must be done with the knowledge that it washes away sin or is for the remission thereof. I doubt seriously that everyone, even those taught this, understands the how and when of it. Didn’t Jesus say that those born of the Spirit are like trying to figure where the wind comes from or where it goes?

    My emphasis is to obey the gospel and be baptized because you desire God, His Spirit, and His pleasure.

  5. Posted by debtpaid4 on November 28, 2009 at 9:32 am

    So many people want to say performing righteous acts makes them worthy to go to heaven. I’m sorry but when have they lived a perfect sinless life as Jesus? When did they die nailed to a cross bearing the sins of the world past, present, and future?

    Baptismal Regenerationlists – these people’s faith in Jesus as their Savior who can’t be baptized aren’t good enough to be saved by Jesus’ work on the cross – People who are 700-900 pounds obese that are completely unable to leave the walls of their bedroom, people who have trach tubes helping them breath, people who suffer having epidermolysis a skin disease that is severly painful and the slightest touch can peel their skin off of them. I knew a man who could not bear the pain of a bath or shower who could only be wiped down lightly with a special solution.

    Baptismal regenerationalists put baptism on the level of the crucified Messiah. There is nothing that can compare to what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is more than enough.

    Baptismal regeneration lists – The baptistery breaks leaving no water, uh oh! hurry run to the nearest river Jesus’ didn’t do enough on the cross. That is not beautiful at all. What is beautiful is the love, grace, and mercy God gave sacrificing His Son who died a horrible death to pay the debt of our sins, a debt that none of us can ever pay.

    I will not stand before God and say – being baptized makes me deserving to go to heaven looking at a preacher standing at a baptismal pool, oh yeah Jesus had some to do with it too being crucified on the cross and all. When a person stands before God they better have Jesus Christ standing there as their only Savior.

  6. Dear Debtpaid4,

    I admit you have very valid questions about baptism in regard to these people. I honestly don’t know the answer to these problems. It has caused me to do a lot of searching, but these are exceptions to what God has clearly set as a rule of practice. The only one who can make an exception to God’s rule is God Himself. Indeed, as far back as Ignatius, we have evidence that the apostolic tradition considered baptism “for the remission of sins”. Indeed, even the Nicaean Creed states this plainly, although I lose confidence in the church fathers at that point due to the Constantine compromise.

    However, consider the Bible also says,”If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Well, what we do with do with those poor folk who cannot speak?

    Surely God is a meciful and gracious God who’s justice is sure and fair. I believe God does make exceptions to the rule; the thief on the cross and Cornelius come to mind. Yet, we are commanded to baptize. It is not an option, but a command (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:16). In the examples you state, I honestly don’t know what the answer would be. But, what is impossible with man is possible with God. So, I would, as you suggest, simply accept their faith and believe that God judges the heart.

    Nevertheless the exception does not make the rule. Just because a person cannot now be baptized, doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been at a previous time and visitation of the Holy Spirit.

    Calling me a baptismal regenerationist doesn’t bother me too much, since Paul refers to it as such (Titus 3:5), but the real point is that baptism is actually a work of God, just as the Israelites crossing the Red Sea was an act of God, but the Israelites had to participate in their deliverance by entering into the chasm and following Moses (the anti-type of Jesus) to the other side.

    Please find me scripture where baptism is performed or commanded with an exception made. Then I will entertain the idea that we humans have some room to make exceptions in God’s clear pattern of redemption.

  7. Posted by debtpaid4 on November 28, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Titus 3:5-6 “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

    Jesus’ blood is sufficient to wash us clean. Titus 3:5-6 we are regenerated washed clean through the renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us through Jesus Christ, not baptism. We are baptized with water symbolizing the washing He has done in us.

    Romans 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

    You say Cornelius was an exception having received the Holy Spirit before they were baptized. Peter said we are all saved the same.

    Acts 15:11 “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”

  8. Your use of Acts 15:11 is telling, since Peter’s emphasis is that we are all being saved and will be saved at the time of Christ’s appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). Faith is what scripture tells us we must hold fast to. Not faith in our baptisms, nor faith in our creeds, but faith in the promise of eternal life to all who believe on Jesus as the Truth, the Life, and the Way.

    Baptism is a commandment and I’ve yet to see scripture that says it is symbolic only. Else, why would Paul insist on re-baptizing the disciples of John in Acts 19? If baptism is of no consequence, why does Paul make clear that their former baptisms were not proper?

    Further, since no one but the Apostles were able to bestow the outward baptism of th Holy Spirit on believers (Read Acts 8:5-12, 14-17), what other baptism was Philip using than baptism in water?

    I would be wary of receiving the judgment Jesus speaks of here: “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19 ESV)

    Perhaps those who are not baptized will be saved in spite of that lack, but only because of special circumstances that prevent it. As Tertullian said (and I am paraphrasing him here)”It is not damning to be unbaptized, but is is damning to refuse baptism.” While that is an uninspired view, I feel it is accurate, since our Lord aid plainly “Unless a man is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

  9. Posted by debtpaid4 on November 28, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    Who is saying we shouldn’t be baptized. I believe we should be trying to follow God’s commands doing so shines His light to other people.

    I believe it was God who gave people the Holy Spirit, of course the apostles were there they were first sent to tell people that Jesus is the Messiah. Acts 19:2 Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit showing that it is not them who give the Holy Spirit but is God who knows the heart.

    Romans 3:2-3 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

    The many righteous works Abraham did justified him that he was seen to others as a great man of God, though the works he did could not justify him before God. Abraham and others who had faith looking forward to the promise of eternal life through the Messiah who would save mankind saved them. We are all saved the same through the blood of Jesus.

    We partake of the Lord’s Supper and know the drink and the bread are symbolic of His blood and body even though the Bible never says they are symbolic.

    The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus shows us that Jesus said water referring to Nicodemus’ first birth.
    “Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John3:4)
    “Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6).
    Jesus answered Nicodemus who was thinking of being born in the physical sense that he also needed to be born again of the Spirit.
    “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

    Jesus was clearly telling Nicodemus he needed to be born again of the Spirit.

    Matthew 7:22-23 shows that those who think performing works get them to heaven Jesus tells them He never knew them.

  10. Posted by debtpaid4 on November 28, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Romans 3:2-3 was suppose to be typed Romans 4:2-3
    Sorry about typing very small keyboard.

  11. Not a problem, DP4!

    I make typos all the time, despite my best attempts to avoid them.

    I disagree that Jesus is referring to natural birth when He says “born of water and spirit”. I am certain that if Jesus meant “born of woman” that is what He’d have said. I wrestled a lot with this even trying to make it match the scientific fact that our bodies are 90% water, but that cannot be what Jesus was telling a man who was unaware of that ratio.

    My genuine feeling is that if you believe and can be baptized, you have no excuse to not be, nor will it occur to you to find an excuse. If you cannot be baptized for a reason beyond your, or anyone else’s, ability to overcome then I believe in a fair and just God who judges the heart in these cases. But, I would never presume to tell anyone that they could opt out because they didn’t want to be baptized. I’d question whether they had saving faith at that point.

    I appreciate your input and apologize for the delay in getting back to you.

  12. Posted by Andy on December 3, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Hi PK/DP4

    With reference to John 3:5

    5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

    Jesus is reminding Nicodemus of things he should already know as a teacher of Israel. In this verse Jesus is referring to Ezekiel 36:25-26

    25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

    Jesus even rebukes Nicodemus in John 3:10 for his apparent lack of spiritual understanding.

    Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?

    God bless,

    Andy

  13. Posted by debtpaid4 on December 4, 2009 at 7:32 pm

    Psalm 51:1-11 “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
    Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
    Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins,
    And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.”

    David said the same thing, performing rituals are symbols they do not take away sins from any man, Jesus’ blood is sufficient to take away sins, we are all saved the same through the blood of Jesus.

  14. Be they rituals or not, these are part of Jesus’ commandments:

    “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21 ESV)

    “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.(John 15:10)

    “And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:32)

    “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.(1 John 5:2-3)

    If we do all these things in faith, God will always honor it.

  15. Posted by debtpaid4 on December 6, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Acts 5:32 The disciples obeyed the gospel that God had sent the Messiah our Savior whom many from past were looking forward to. The priests did not believe the gospel, they missed Jesus the Messiah, they had turned to religion to save them.

    Romans 10:16 “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, who has believed our report?”

    John 14:21, John 15:10, 1 John 5:2-3 Jesus wants us to follow His commandments we should be following His commandments. Jesus wants His disciples to love each other, to love other people, Jesus wants His disciples to bear fruit. When we love other people doing so we are loving God, when we aren’t loving people we are not loving God. It is always better to love people shining His light to others.

    1 John 4:7-11 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

  16. Love IS the primary commandment, isn’t it? So, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.”

  17. Posted by sreneetn1 on February 23, 2010 at 5:13 am

    PK,

    I recently came across this and found it interesting – thought I would share it with you…its too long to place in this format, so I just placed the link. /sherry

    http://awildernessvoice.com/Church&Churches-Chapt13.html

  18. Thanks, Sherry.

    I have read similar arguments, but none of them answer the question, “If baptism is only symbolic, why did Christ command it as well as belief and repentance?” Are the latter two unimportant in any way? When the author says, “immersion is only part of the process, and a person merely immersed would not remain alive” they are very close to the truth of the matter. Indeed, baptism is where Paul says we die and are united with Christ in Romans 6:2-5. The author agrees that there was no such thing as an unbaptized Christian in the early church. The biggest flaw in the argument that baptism has no part to play in conversion ascribes Jesus words “water and spirit” as not meaning what they are intended to. If the new birth is completely spiritual and non-participatory on the part of man, why did Jesus tell the disciples to do what only the Spirit could? God will not refuse anyone who receives His Word as a child, because that is what we are told is what we must do in order to enter the Kingdom.

  19. Sherry,

    Or anyone else who’s interested, here is a link to an article that I think destroys the logical arguments concerning baptism: http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/546-a-divine-platform-for-christian-unity

  20. Posted by sreneetn1 on February 25, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Thanks PK!

    I will check it out.

  21. Hey Steven. Been a long time since I have checked out your blog. I see you and I have been on a similar page in regards to baptism. I agree with your post. I still am not sure on many things but baptism I am. Take care.

  22. Hi Randy!

    It’s good to see you have reached a point of no compromise on baptism. That is where I am, and by God’s grace will remain. Acts 8:26-40 and Galatians 3:25-27 are sufficient, in and of themselves to convince me that faith and baptism are intertwined and inseparable responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    I preach baptism whenever I preach obedience to the gospel and I make no apology for that. In other areas, I agree, there remain many questions, but I am convinced brother, that we are simply called to follow Romans 14 in accepting everyone who believes the gospel correctly even if we disagree about other things.

    Great to hear from you!

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