Football, Annoying Comments, and Baptism (Not in Order of Importance)

A question has been raised regarding where my attentions have been. Well … I should think it would have been obvious. I’ve been busy watching Alabama beat Arkansas —

This has got to be one of the all-time great runs — any time, anywhere. I mean, freshman Trent Richardson broke four tackles by an SEC defense to score that touchdown. Oh, wow!

I’ve had a surprise bump in hit count, which I’ve traced to a post at Roll Bama Roll (world’s greatest college football blog) linking to my earlier post about Bear Bryant.

Let’s see. My earlier post defending my views on baptism have triggered a flood of comments (43 and counting). Stan asks whether he is the most annoying commenter. The answer is: you aren’t annoying at all. But we’ve had some SERIOUSLY annoying folks around here in the past. I mean, I know annoying. Disagreeing with me or others here is not annoying — it’s what makes the blog worthwhile and interesting. Annoying? Not even close.

Now, regarding baptism, let me suggest a different way of looking at the question. We seem to want to argue: Is baptism essential? This is a question that divides the Churches of Christ from the Southern Baptist Churches, and so we tend to focus on this one — as it’s an identity issue. Right? But it’s not really the right question. After all, the Baptists do get baptized. They even baptize believers by immersion. They just disagree with us over when salvation occurs.

I think our constant disputing with the Baptists has duped us into arguing the wrong question. We argue our differences — to prove ourselves right. But the truly important question to me is this: will God accept a less-than-perfect baptism? Now that’s a harder and, to me, much better question. You see, if God insists on a perfect baptism, well, many in the Churches of Christ aren’t saved. After all, most of us were baptized denying that we’d receive the Spirit’s indwelling as a result — which is very serious error. Does God’s grace cover that error?

And if God requires a perfect baptism, then does he also require a perfect faith in Jesus? Or perfect repentance? Or, I suppose, perfect hearing of the gospel? And which of these is the weightier element of salvation — faith in Jesus or baptism?

You see, the Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians all think they’ve been baptized. They are astonished that we argue that one must be baptized when they are all baptized! What’s the point? they wonder. Most even agree on the necessity of baptism.

It’s easy enough to show that infant baptism or baptism that’s not for remission of sins is in error. It is. It makes the baptism imperfect. But does it make it no baptism at all? How much of a mistake makes a baptism void? Where does God draw the line?

Some would argue that baptism has to be perfect — or at least involve no misunderstanding of its meaning. And that argument damns most in the Churches of Christ. Some argue that God will overlook small errors — such as not going all the way under or a toe popping up or forgetting to say “for the remission of sins” or forgetting to say “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” If so, then perfection isn’t the standard (thank God!)

So, anyway, the question that really matters — the one we rarely actually discuss — is, given that nearly all believers have been baptized imperfectly, what is God going to do with them?

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86 Responses

  1. Jay,
    Not a bad run for Bama…. we’ll see what happens when they play Georgia… “go dawgs…. ooooga, ooooga”.

    Jack

  2. Jay,
    Re: being saved. I remember when I first started ‘preaching’, that I baptized someone into Christ, and instead of “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, for some reason still unknown to me, I said, “in the name of Jesus, for the remission of sins”. Which I think is fine… I mean if I am immersed into the possession of Jesus, I belong to the Father and Spirit as well. Well, there was a slight problem in the little congregation. They didn’t notice I had not said, “and you will receive God’s gift of His Spirit”. (Not that one has to say that.) But I ended up having to do it again, the ‘right’ way. I guess the first one didn’t take.
    My opinion is that our Father knows the intentions of the heart. It’s the heart of love and obedience and surrender that matters to God. Not whether or not I get all the toes and fingers under. (Actually I worried about that too.)
    As far as Baptists and others are concerned… well, I know there are many in Russia and other mission fields that are called Baptists, that immerse for the remission of sins. I have no real problem there.

    Now, I don’t think it is just a matter of what words are said. I think a person needs to understand as Peter said, that we are to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Its not a magic formulae, its something that is between the one surrendering and God who does the saving. All I know is thats what Peter said.
    Thanks Jay,
    Jack

  3. A couple of centuries before Luther nailed his theses to the church door, Catholic theologians were debating whether or not mispronunciation of the words in the baptismal formula invalidated the baptism. We think that is foolish since they had so much else wrong. We (rightly) say they should have been debating infant baptism, or if faith is required in the subject (instead of the church), and other issues.

    Now we are almost back where they were – debating the correct formula. I know an instance where elders required a boy who grew up in that congregation and was baptized by his deacon father to be immersed again because his father inadvertently omitted “for the remission of sins” from his “baptismal formula.”

    By the way, Thomas Aquinas said that if the intent was to do what the church teaches, then mis-pronunciation of the “formula” does not matter, even if the baptism was performed by a non-Catholic.

  4. Jay, you should consider changing the title of this post…this is a very important issue and it may be overlooked by those that are not interested in SEC football.

  5. As a Hawg fan, congratulations to Alabama on a game well played. However, to call our defense an SEC defense gives us way too much credit…to this point. Look what Georgia did to us.

    Anyway, I digress. I’m glad to see that we are “growing up” some in our understanding of baptism. I will forever believe it’s essential, but we have, in some cases, converted people to baptism and not Jesus.

    One Sunday a while back, I baptized a lady who came forward. Our baptistry was having a little trouble holding water, so I had to lower her a long way down to the water. I said the words, lowered her down, brought her up, the congregation applauded, the curtains closed and the song leader started leading a song. I hugged her and we started up the steps, only to be met by an elder who said, “You didn’t get her all the way under.” (He was right, the crown of her head didn’t get wet and some of her hair floated up.) I said, “What do you want me to do?” He said, “Do it again.” So, while the congregation was singing they heard this loud “SPLASH” come through the P.A. system. I’m sure she will now get to go to heaven and not have to leave the top of her head behind. 🙂

  6. Wow, see how far people go when they think being baptized is salvation.

    Jesus’ blood is sufficient.

  7. The words spoken at baptism are not an incantation. The one performing the baptism is not casting a spell.

    J. W. McGarvey wrote that there are three roles in a baptism: the one performing the baptism, the one being baptized, and God. Each one has some responsibilities related to the baptism. The one performing the baptism is responsible for teaching the candidate, determining that the candidate believes in Jesus, repents of sin, and is making Jesus Lord. The one being baptized is responsible to do those three things: believe in Jesus, repent of sin, and make Jesus Lord. God’s role is to keep his promise to forgive, to grant the Holy Spirit, and to give all the other blessings associated with baptism. God always does his part right. If the one performing the baptism fails in his responsibilities, he is accountable before God. But the one being baptized is not penalized for any failure of the one performing the baptism. As long as the baptized person meets his obligations, he receives all of the blessings.

    I think McGarvey had it about right.

    The person performing the baptism is not a priest — not a mediator between man and God. The blessings of God don’t flow through that person to the baptized person.

  8. Why is the precise moment of salvation (if there is one) even relevant? Jesus didn’t say “Go, and make converts.” He said, “Go, and make disciples.” Discipling is a long process, and somewhere along the way people get converted, be it in the first 5 minutes or the first 5 years.

    I will always return to the parable of the sower. Note that Jesus had many followers, fewer disciples, and even fewer apostles. In the parable of the sower, there are four types of results, but we’re not to be concerned with three-fourths of them. The concern is with the good soil, which is able to sustain a crop.

    Just as a farmer has a relationship with the process of raising a crop, we, too, must have a relationship with those who have been placed in our “field” in order to see a harvest.

    Farmers can’t tell you the exact moment their seeds germinate. They *can* tell you what it takes to raise that seed all the way to harvest. So it should be with us. There are definite markers, indicators, and touchstone moments for sure, but the focus should be on the entire disciple-making process, rather than a moment that we actually might not even understand, or be able to measure as accurately as we think we can.

    God does not make sure someone was baptized, only to turn His attention to the next convert. He’s there prior to conversion, all the way to the end of the age. Let’s be more like Him.

  9. With reluctance, I have picked up my pen again, now that I know I’m not annoying.

    What is a perfect baptism? Well mine wasn’t perfect, at least I ‘m beginning to think it wasn’t perfect, because . . . I can’t stop sinning! It must not have been perfect. The one baptizing me must have messed up because it wasn’t me.

    1. I was immersed . . . so we got that part right.
    2. It was for the remission of my sins . . . in other words . . . my sins were to be remised.
    3. I did go all the way under too.
    4. And it was in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
    5. I confessed the name of Jesus.
    6. I even wore a white robe. It might have been dingy though.

    Maybe:
    1. The preacherman should have said Holy Ghost instead of Holy Spirit.
    2. The preacherman had sinned the night before, and God would not hear him? (I’m not talking about Preacherman who comments on this blog, although he probably sins too.)
    3. I was too young. You know I hadn’t even kissed a girl when I was baptized. I had barely even seen one barefoot. No, that’s not true! I did kiss a girl in the first grade . . . how could I have forgotten my first kiss! She was a brunette. Maybe that’s why I married a brunette.

    AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH. It would be so much easier if we could all just say, “Hey, I haven’t sinned since I was baptized, so it must have been a perfect baptism.” Why can’t it work that way? I just wanted to do what Jesus wanted me to do. And I wanted to go to heaven. And it was so good. But my sins . . . o man.

    I’ll think on this some more. You know more is coming.

  10. Alan, I think you and McGarvey are wrong. There is no qualification for the baptiser. Often it is the evangelist like Philip. What if two are shipwrecked on an island with a Bible. After lots of reading time, one wishes to be baptised, why can’t the non-believer do it? What if only one is shiprecked, can they baptise themselves? If I was in that position, I would.
    You said the baptiser doesn’t have to be a priest. If its a Christian, he’s a priest and a saint!

  11. Brad, to your comment Haleluyah! That’s my biggest complaint with Calvinism, the nit picky moment of salvation. Its a life commitment. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight” not I had my salvation moment.
    I think the moment idea is very damaging. No Christian life is a moment, no marriage is a moment, no parenthood is a moment, no citizenship, etc. Too many stary-eyed brides dream of the wedding ceremony and reception. Too many grooms concentrate on the honeymoon. Better marriages if both are trying to build lives together. Christians last longer if we encourage the whole life, not just baptism.

  12. Larry, I think your point is the same as McGarvey’s. If the baptizer errs, it does not affect the salvation of the one baptized. He’s not saying the baptizer has to meet certain standards in order for the baptism to be valid. However, he is saying (and I agree) that when the baptizer fails to teach or to perform the baptism according to directions, he is accountable for that. Those who teach will be judged more severely.

  13. Larry, a good comment! There is absolutely no emphasis on who does the baptizing in the Scriptures!

    If we must be baptized by a faithful Christian, how will we know he was baptized by a faithful Christian who was baptized by a faithful Christian, and so on and so on and so on?

    Baptism is a faith-response to the gospel, not to be confused with another “notch” on the baptizer’s six-shooter, er “sword.”

  14. There was a time, when I was indoctrinated to think that we must let the Church Fathers interpret the scriptures for us, so that I worried about a failure to baptize by dipping three times (one for each name) and doing so naked (!), as the early church did.

    And many in the early church insisted that the baptism be in living water — such as a creek — and not anything so un-natural, so un-God-made as a fiberglass baptistry with a painted Jordan River scene behind it. I heard that one church actually had a creek flow into and through their baptistry to make sure they followed the New Testament pattern!

    See the Didache http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.viii.iii.vii.html giving baptismal instructions from no later than early Second Century.

    And the Apostolic Constitutions,

    Here is a quote from the Apostolical Constitutions written sometime around A.D. 200:

    50. If any bishop or presbyter does not perform the three immersions of the one admission, but one immersion, which is given into the death of Christ, let him be deprived; for the Lord did not say, “Baptize into my death,” but, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Do ye, therefore, O bishops, baptize thrice into one Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, according to the will of Christ, and our constitution by the Spirit?

    (Apostolical Constitutions, Ante-Nicene Christian Library, vol. 17, p. 263).

    And it appears that the convert was anointed after the baptism. Apostolic Constitutions 3,16:

    “After that, either thou, O bishop, or a presbyter that is under thee, shall in the solemn form name over them the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, and shall dip them in the water; and let a deacon receive the man, and a deaconess the woman, that so the conferring of this inviolable seal may take place with a becoming decency. And after that, let the bishop anoint those that are baptized with ointment.”

    Everett Ferguson says early Christians were baptized naked. http://books.google.com/books?id=xC9GAdUGX5sC&pg=PA330&lpg=PA330&dq=baptism+naked&source=bl&ots=BrdN11I_sB&sig=prrCff1W-KkQRtd3KXa70Na96uk&hl=en&ei=tavCSraBO-CvtgfYyoXjBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBAQ6AEwATge#v=onepage&q=baptism%20naked&f=false

    It would seem, wouldn’t it, that the SAFE course is to baptize three times, in living water, naked, and to then anoint with oil. Why would we take chances with a practice as important as baptism?

    This is all quite silly, of course. Even though these early Christians had scriptural arguments for their practices, we can be entirely confident that we have no need to follow their practices. We have no reason to be concerned about their superior knowledge of the Greek and their unique access to an oral apostolic tradition. Those arguments only apply to instrumental music!

    (Okay. The sardonic mood has passed.) Here’s the point. We only adopt Patristic practice when it suits our traditions and we only ignore the Patristic practice when it offends our traditions. We always read the Patristics through the lens of Church of Christ/Protestant tradition.

    If we weren’t raised in the Churches, we wouldn’t be quite so sure of our baptismal practices. We’d emphasize other elements, such as an awareness of the receipt of the Spirit or the commitment to being a new creation in Jesus or the ethical obligations of a Christian or the coming bodily resurrection or the meaning of being added to the church. Different traditions emphasize different things.

    What if the convert being baptized doesn’t know what it means to be added to the church? (Most don’t.) What if they deny the indwelling of the Spirit? What if they don’t realize the high ethical standards they are committing to?

    For that matter, what if we baptize a child who isn’t quite at the age of accountability? Does it take? What if preacher says “for the remission of sins” but the person being baptized has no idea what “remission” means?

    We deny but practice that the words said by the preacher matter more than what the convert intends. If he says “unto the remission of sins,” it’s a good baptism even if the 10-year child being baptized has little concept of what those words mean.

    God’s grace is given to help with our weaknesses and inadequacies. It’ll even cover the inadequacy of our baptisms — if we come to God with the right heart. And the scriptures define that heart very precisely: it must have faith and be penitent.

  15. Sometime around 1988, I found a Gospel Advocate book store in South Dallas. The store had a section in it that dealt with history of the church and history of the Church of Christ movement. I had never seen books like this. One book I found was Historical Documents Advocating Christian Union. It contained the Last Will and Testament of The Springfield Presbytery. I opened it up and saw the part where it says, “Item. We will, that the church of Christ resume her native right of internal government .” and I thought . . . O my God, why don’t I already know about this? I stuck it under my arm and kept digging through the books. I left the store with 5 books. I spent all the money I had on me. One of the other books was the first edition of Early Christians Speak. I couldn’t put it down. I lit a fire of interest in me.

    But there was one thing that I hated about Ferguson’s book. It was that living water thing. Everett Ferguson . . . why did you have to tell me all that stuff about the living water! And there I was in a movement that was dedicated to being as much like the first century church that it could be . . . but we aren’t using living water . . . Huh.

    I believe my dad’s parents were baptized in living water in Texas. They were immersed as adults . . . I think in the 1930s. But no one in my family has been baptized in living water since. I eventually came to think that if no one else was worrying about it . . . preachers and elders and Christian college Bible professors . . . then maybe I shouldn’t worry about it either.

    I believe that the Reformation teaching of sola scriptura should be in our mindset as well as the Restoration principal of silence where the Bible is silent. And so I don’t advocate that we tear out our baptisteries. But every now and then…like when Jay mentions it . . . the question raises its head. Thank you Jay.

    Living water. This is one of those things that keeps burning a question in my head, a question I know you have heard before. Did the first century church understand some truths that we don’t get? Did the Apostles pass something to them that has been lost? More questions.
    God’s grace is a wonderful thing.

  16. I don’t believe the early churches were perfect as we read in the Bible, the apostles also weren’t perfect as we read in the Bible, and I certainly don’t believe churches were perfect after that were perfect, but brought in their own opinions.

    Our actions are full of imperfections, we all need Jesus who is our only Mediator and not anything or anyone else can take His place.

  17. Sorry about the typing. Was having computer difficulties at the same time.

  18. Alan, forget the baptiser, and I agree that anyone teaching should be careful of what he is teaching. Its entirely possible for the baptiser to not have taught anything. When the 3000 were baptised on Pentecost, probably many that helped baptise did not teach at all. All validity is on the baptisee, covered by God’s mercy.

  19. I really like the living water. Its not Bible commanded but connects the baptism more closely to nature. My grandparents were baptised in the ocean (mother’s side) and streams (father’s side). The original church building in Miami was on the bay, and baptisms were out back in the saltwater.
    If our baptisms were nude in a river, lake, or ocean, our baptisms would be much more popular! Looks like a good opportunity for a new mega church!

  20. I was baptized in a Florida lake. It was living with all manner of creatures! We had watchmen to look out for moccasins and alligators!.

    When I was first in New Zealand, we used the ocean, which led to some humorous memories! One young man was baptized during a campaign, and wanted the elder (from the States) who had taught him to baptize him. The elder said, “I’ve never baptized any one!” The young man said, “And I’ve never been baptized either, so we’re even.” At the bay, waves were coming in about 5-6 feet high. The elder got him out a little more than knee deep, and practically threw him into the next wave. There was no question about whether he was completely submerged or not!

  21. No action we do can save us. Praise the Lord He is able to save us!

  22. Of the 3000 baptisms on Pentecost probably none were in “living water”. There are no rivers or lakes in Jerusalem. The temple had baptismal pools, and the city had several pools.

  23. There probably were people at places who had to travel a ways to get to water, as there are some places like that today.

  24. Alan said “The one performing the baptism is responsible for teaching the candidate, determining that the candidate believes in Jesus, repents of sin, and is making Jesus Lord”.

    If one believes ( as most coC folks do) that a person is not saved and not indwelt by the Holy Spirit until he is immersed there is a huge problem. Do you really expect a lost person, who is dead in trespasses and sins, who is a slave to sin, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and is God’s enemy to be making Jesus Lord? That is utter nonsense!

    Is it a common belief that a wicked sinner cleans up his own life and only then comes to Christ? If the answer is yes, and apparently it is, then why does he need Jesus?

    If you put the gospel cart before the horse you have confusion and not much else. The seemingly endless discussions about baptism never solve anything. If they do then why wasn’t the matter settled 50 or more years ago?

    Royce

  25. Royce, I’m missing the connection between the part you quoted from my post and your comment.

    If one believes ( as most coC folks do) that a person is not saved and not indwelt by the Holy Spirit until he is immersed there is a huge problem.

    I would say it differently. If one believes that God cannot forgive sins of one who misunderstands some aspect of biblical teaching on baptism, then there is a huge problem. If one believes God cannot forgive sins of anyone He chooses, then there is a huge problem. We all know that Jesus forgave the thief on the cross, who did not meet the requirements of any covenant.

    OTOH, if one believes that it is therefore ok to teach salvation on some other basis than what is stated in scripture, there is a huge problem.

    I’m tired of arguments about whether a person who is never baptized can be saved. That’s no more relevant than arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Frankly it’s none of our business. We should teach people to believe the gospel, to repent of their sins, and to be baptized, and to obey everything else written in scripture… because the scriptures teach that. And we should quit trying to tell God what to do with those who miss the part about baptism.

    Ok I’m off my soapbox. Nothing personal — just something I wanted to get off my chest!

  26. Royce,

    I forget who likened the new birth to a physical birth in that there is developing life even before the actual emergence from the womb. The child is regarded as a child even before it is born, a la Elizabeth and John the Baptist. It is loved and nurtured while in the womb. Sadly, some are aborted, either naturally or by evil design, and never come to birth. At birth, the child has the breath of life, even though the mother’s breath has provided life through the entire gestation period.

    So with the spiritual birth. We are begotten through the Holy Spirit as He convicts us of sin. He brings us to the point of repentance and leads us into faith before we are ever baptized. At baptism, we receive the Spirit within us as a gift. The Spirit has already been active, but now the Spirit (breath) of Life actually lives within us.

    Do we bring ourselves to repentance? It is God’s goodness that leads us there through His Spirit. Do we bring ourselves to faith? No, it is God’s Spirit using the sword of the Spirit on our heart (so faith does come by hearing the Word of God – but it is the Spirit of God who is wielding the sword of the Spirit!).

    What brings us to the point of saying, “What must I do?” if it is not the Spirit of God as He brings us to repentance and faith? Our problem as a movement has been our tendency to push the Spirit to one side and to focus on where the Spirit is trying to lead men instead of letting the Spirit do His work of leading them there. We want to do the job ourselves, and we botch it terribly – then wonder why so many of our “converts” immediately revert to the world.

    Thus, we try to get men to repent by telling them they are sinners; we try to bring men to faith by trying to provide logical arguments that there is a God and Jesus is His Son; and we try to bring men to baptism by arguing that it is essential.

    The Spirit does none of these things. He lifts up the Christ. There we see the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. We see His mighty deeds and gracious acts, and that leads us to believe in Him (trust Him). Then we are ready, with the crowd at Pentecost, to cry out, “What shall we do?”

    Even more important, we are then ready to continue to walk in the Spirit as we allow Him to lead us deeper and deeper into the life of Jesus as disciples of Jesus instead of as members of a church or “movement.”

  27. Your right Royce these discussions are endless. Which usually cause strife and contentions as observed too many times.

    God have mercy on us all!

  28. so if someone was intending to get baptized died in a car wreck on the way to the service will God have mercy on their soul and consider them saved? i remember that annoying question from highschool

  29. Jerry wrote:

    Thus, we try to get men to repent by telling them they are sinners; we try to bring men to faith by trying to provide logical arguments that there is a God and Jesus is His Son; and we try to bring men to baptism by arguing that it is essential.

    Let’s take those one at a time:
    1) trying to get men to repent by telling them they are sinners:

    Mat 3:2 Jesus did it
    Luke 3:7-14 John the baptist did it.
    Luke 24:47 Jesus told the apostles to do it
    Acts 2:36 Peter did it
    Acts 3:19 Peter did it again
    Acts 17:30 God does it
    Acts 20:21 Paul did it
    etc… many other examples could be cited.

    2) trying to provide logical arguments that there is a God and Jesus is His Son

    Acts 17:2, 18:4, 18:19 Paul did it with the Jews
    Acts 17:22-34 Paul did it with the Gentiles
    Acts 18:28 Apollos did it

    3) and we try to bring men to baptism by arguing that it is essential.
    This did not become a disputed point until the Reformation. But Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize the disciples they made (Matt 28:18-20). In my mind that means it is not optional. And on at least eight occasions in Acts we have accounts of converts being baptized. We have no examples in Acts of a convert who was not baptized.

  30. I have never heard anyone teach that we should not baptize believers. I have taught new believers about baptism and that they should be immersed immediately and join themselves with Christ honoring, Bible teaching Christians and purpose to do everything they learn God wants them to do.

    Peter’s testimony was that he, (Acts 11:15-18, 15:6-11) received the Holy Spirit when he believed. Over 70 times the NT says men are saved by faith. Baptism, no matter when it is done, how it is done, or what is said while it is being done, is not faith. It is the outworking, result of saving faith. Peter’s own words stand in stark contrast to the idea that in some unexplained way faith only happens at the exact moment of immersion.

    Royce

  31. Alan,
    Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I was not intending to say that we should not teach about sin & repentance or point to evidences that lead to faith, or even encourage people to be baptized – though when I read the quote, which you extracted from my comment it certainly seems that way.

    The point I was trying to make (not very clearly) is that we tend to do these things as if these things were our work instead of us being instruments in the hands of God through His Spirit.

    Royce had earlier commented:

    “If one believes ( as most coC folks do) that a person is not saved and not indwelt by the Holy Spirit until he is immersed there is a huge problem. Do you really expect a lost person, who is dead in trespasses and sins, who is a slave to sin, fulfilling the desires of the flesh, and is God’s enemy to be making Jesus Lord? That is utter nonsense!
    Is it a common belief that a wicked sinner cleans up his own life and only then comes to Christ? If the answer is yes, and apparently it is, then why does he need Jesus?”

    My comment was to show that the Holy Spirit is involved from the very beginning of the conversion process. This leaves us nothing of which to boast as in saying, “We converted x number of people last year.” Conversion is a work of God. Does the “subject” have anything to say or do in the process? Yes, he does. He can resist the Holy Spirit – or not. He can confess Christ – or not. He can accept baptism – or not. We still have choices, and these choices will determine if we come to God when He calls us – or not.

    Yet, God is involved – not only by “giving us the plan of salvation so we can obey and be saved” (which seems to make God’s part limited to formulating the plan), but in conviction of sin, bringing us to repentance, leading us to faith, and leading us into the waters of baptism.

    Let’s not leave the Holy Spirit of God out of the process. Let’s exalt Christ, not the church. Let’s teach in such a way that our hearers become disciples of Jesus. Then the rest will come in a natural progression.

  32. Hi Jerry,
    I completely agree about the role of the Holy Spirit in conversion. The Holy Spirit himself convicts men of sin, righteousness, and judgment. However I do think that mortal Christians play a role. In Acts 14:1, we are told that Paul and Barnabas “spoke so effectively” that a great number of people believed. Of course I also believe the Holy Spirit was behind that. But it also involved the willing participation of Paul and Barnabas. Paul told Timothy to entrust the teaching to “reliable men” who would then teach others. Paul said “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” We are God’s co-workers. We certainly are responsible to teach, and to teach accurately. We will be held accountable for doing so. (James 3:1)

    Furthermore, if we do not, we may be guilty of causing people to go astray after false teachings. There can be real consequences in the lives of our hearers if we do not teach accurately. (1 Tim 4:16, Titus 1:11)

  33. Please specify the false teachings you speak of Alan.

  34. Well, there are many false teachings, but we’ve been discussing the doctrine of baptism, and whether perfect understanding of it is required in order to be forgiven of sins. I’ve tried to lay out what I think about that pretty clearly in previous comments (Sep 29 11:08am; Oct 1 10:10pm; etc).

  35. Again I ask, Alan please state specifically the false teaching you are referring to explaining it in detail. It also would make it more clear if you would please tell us when someone is teaching another person.

  36. Anonymous, I think my previous comments are clear enough. Those of us who teach have a responsibility to teach accurate doctrine on a variety of subject areas. Is there a particular false teaching that you want to discuss?

  37. Your comments state that those who teach baptism wrong are false teachers. I just want you to state what it is people are teaching wrong about it.

    You also said “I’m tired of arguments about whether a person who is never baptized can be saved. That’s no more relevant than arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    I would say it is very relevant to people who are 700-900 pounds obese that are completely unable to leave the walls of their bedroom, to people who have trach tubes helping them breath, to 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.

  38. Your comments state that those who teach baptism wrong are false teachers.

    That’s hardly a controvesial statement.

    I just want you to state what it is people are teaching wrong about it.

    There are lots of answers to that question. Baptism means immersion, but people sprinkle. Belief in Jesus and repentance are prerequisites, but people baptize babies. Jesus said to make disciples and baptize them, but people teach others to pray Jesus into their hearts instead, with no mention of baptism.

    I would say it is very relevant to people…

    I won’t dispute the scenarios you described. So, yes, I overstated the case when I compared it to angels dancing on a pin. But I get the impression that you misunderstood my point. As teachers, we should be teaching and practising what the scriptures say about baptism. In the overwhelming majority of cases, people are not in the kind of scenarios that you described. There is simply no excuse for not immersing the new convert. Not doing so is disobedience to an unambiguous, direct command of Jesus.

    OTOH the scriptures simply don’t define the degree of understanding that the new convert must have about baptism at the time they are baptized. I suspect you and I are in agreement on this.

  39. I believe baptism should be taught as something we do to follow Jesus.

    I believe Jesus’ blood is sufficient and worthy enough to save us, not anything or anyone else can take His place.

    I believe performing acts do not save us, only the blood of Jesus saves us.

    I believe God knows every persons heart.

    Do you believe this is error?

  40. I think it’s true as far as it goes, but incomplete. There is a lot more said about baptism in the scriptures than just “something we to follow Jesus.” Now, I’m not saying someone has to understand all that at the time of baptism. But not knowing it doesn’t make it untrue.

  41. I disagree with the theology that performing an act saves us. I believe Jesus is sufficient. Jesus Himself is our only Savior.

    Obviously we both feel strongly what we believe.

    God bless

  42. If you read Acts 11 and Acts 15, twice Peter makes it crystal clear that he received the Holy Spirit just like the gentiles in the household of Cornelius, when they believed.

    Only Christians have the Holy Spirit and some folks received that blessed gift “before” they were baptized.

    When you step back and think about it….Would’t it be odd that a God who can speak and things leap into existence, knows everything, has all power in heaven and in earth, must save only when it is convenient for mere man?

    And, odd isn’t it that by the standards of most of today’s coC teaching Alexander Campbell was lost when he first started to call for the unity of all believers. There are some gaping holes in our theology.

    Royce

  43. I disagree with the theology that performing an act saves us.</blockquote.
    That misrepresents my belief. I do believe repentance and obedience are essential to salvation. But they don't "save us." The blood of Jesus saves us, but there are conditions. Jesus said "Not everyone who says to me "Lord, Lord" will enter the Kingdom of God, but only those who do the will of the Father who is in heaven. (Mat 7:21)

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

  45. Matt 7:21-23 comes at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus told us what is the will of the Father. It does involve doing some things.

  46. When did I say we shouldn’t be doing good things?

  47. Yeah Alan. Calvin’s God alone saves and modern thought that works are any physical act and Greek philosophy that physical is evit are not God’s view.
    Rev 7:13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
    22:14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. (TNIV, ibs.org)
    Man must act! Those who wash go to heaven. Does the washing earn it? No, the blood of Christ did it. We have no detergent for sin. But we have to wash.

  48. Yes, Larry, it seems that some of us are so convinced our salvation depends on what we do and we pay so little attention to what God does in us that we run to James 2 to counter what Peter, Paul, and John all say about faith and believing.

    I realize this is a reaction against the way “faith only” has been misinterpreted and misrepresented in the larger evangelical world.

    But it still stifles our appreciation of grace and many devout Christians live in constant fear that they have not done enough to be saved. They just cannot grasp how much God wants to save them! He will not save us if we are not in Christ. But since we are in Christ by His grace, not by our works, we are still saved by grace through faith, not by works.

    But we must remember that all of our “doing” as we “work out our salvation” is God “working in us to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

    Why do most of our people only quote verse 12 here? Is it because down deep we really thing that our works of obedience are the source of our salvation?

  49. Royce,

    You’re onto something with Alan:

    Alan said “The one performing the baptism is responsible for teaching the candidate, determining that the candidate believes in Jesus, repents of sin, and is making Jesus Lord”.

    How does the person performing the baptism determine that the candidate believes in Jesus, repents of sin, and is making Jesus Lord? Someone can teach a lost person about Jesus and call them to repent and submit to him as savior and Lord, but how can they know that the lost person has really done those things without making the lost person prove it? If the lost person tries to prove anything in their lost state, they perform a man-made work that doesn’t do anything for their salvation. So if the person performing the baptism tries to determine the lost person’s status by their deeds, doesn’t that turn baptism from a work of God into a work of man that must be earned?

  50. Baptism symbolizes the washing that already took place in us when we had faith that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.

    We are washed by His blood which is sufficient enough to save us and cannot be replaced by anything or anyone.

  51. Please read Revelation again. We were washed? No we wash, God supplied the detergent that we cannot afford. He died for all, so if His gift is “sufficient” then all are saved regardless of what we do or believe. See how blood is sufficent theology falls apart. God left us work to do, not as wages to earn, but to show our acceptance.
    Col 2:11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your sinful nature was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
    Fits the Revelation exactly, He made the detergent, supplied the water, gave us ability to walk in the water, etc. All He asked was that we wash. God has always given us something to do.
    Gn 2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. (TNIV, ibs.org)

  52. Guys,

    NT baptism is always in the passive voice. I do not baptize myself. Rather, I am baptized by someone else.

    Baptism is not a work. It is a gift received. This is Luther’s understanding, and I think a correct and wise one.

    If we argue that it’s a work, then we make Paul contradict himself in such passages as —

    (Gal 3:26-27) You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

    Paul says we are sons of God “for” we have been baptized. “For” means “because” or “as explained by the fact that …” And this is in the very book where Paul condemns those who seek justification other than by faith.

    I am unwilling to surrender any of Paul’s teachings. Yes, salvation is not by works of the law. Yes, we are saved “for” we have been baptized.

    There are other reasons that baptism isn’t a work, but the simplest and, I think, the one closest to the heart of the issue is that baptism is a gift received.

    Is it essential? It’s an ephemeral question when you are arguing with others who also baptize. I mean, the Zwinglian/Calvinist branch of Protestantism vigorously denies that baptism has much of anything to do with remission of sins, and yet they baptize.

    The better question is whether one must understand that baptism remits sin for our sins to be remitted. And the answer is clearly “no.” Otherwise, what we must hear, believe, and confess in order to be baptized is our faith that baptism remits sin, and that would be very far removed from the gospel. Rather, faith in Jesus is enough.

  53. Christ circumcises us when we have faith we also are symbolically buried in baptism.

    Symbolism is used a lot in the Bible.

    Jesus also said the bread we eat is His body and the cup we drink is His blood. Surely you don’t believe we are literally eating flesh and drinking blood. We know it is symkbolic of His body and blood.

  54. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins does not happen by chance.

    Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins.

    God has made a promise.
    The promise is meaningful to those who have been prompted by the Spirit with the teaching of the Gospel. Those who believe the Gospel and who are told the Promise while their hearts are open to the Spirit’s call respond in faith. And by faith, they lay claim to the Promise. That’s what we find in Acts 2.

    The Promise goes like this:
    Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
    Or we could say…Turn from your sins and be baptized so that I can forgive you.

    They laid claim to the Promise by repenting and being baptized. It didn’t happen by chance. It was purposeful. The blessings of the Promise were given to those who responded in faith to the Promise. It still doesn’t happen by chance.

    Jay has documented in Born of Water that the Lord is merciful and that he would not condemn one whose heart is right even though he may not have followed the normal path to forgiveness and sainthood. The arguments make sense. These arguments reflect what we think the mind of Christ is . . . though they do not take the place of the Covenant God gave us. However……

    You have stated the following:
    “The better question is whether one must understand that baptism remits sin for our sins to be remitted. And the answer is clearly “no.” Otherwise, what we must hear, believe, and confess in order to be baptized is our faith that baptism remits sin, and that would be very far removed from the gospel. Rather, faith in Jesus is enough.”

    I do not agree with this statement. I’m not sure what you mean. In the normal path that is described in Acts 2, the Jesus followers who responded believed that their sins would be forgiven when they responded in repentance and baptism. The baptism was for the forgiveness of sins . . . so that they would be forgiven. The purpose of the baptism was taught in the same sentence that baptism was mentioned. Those people at Pentecost who were baptized were baptized with the purpose Peter mentioned in their minds. Their hearts were set on it. They believed the promise. They believed. They were believers. Their actions were in response to the promise. Their actions were not in response to belief in the Gospel alone. The Gospel alone did not spell out the faith response God asked the Jesus followers to do. That’s what we find in Acts 2. This is the normative salvation process preserved in scripture.

    No one was told at Pentecost that they were saved because they believed the story of Jesus. No one was told at Pentecost that they were saved because Jesus had died for their sins. Go read it. No one was told at Pentecost that Jesus was enough. Not one.

    They were told about Jesus though…don’t get me wrong. They were told the story of Jesus and how God had been at work throughout history to accomplish his purpose of reclaiming His created people. (Praise our God that He loves His created people.) And then the Promise was spoken that was made possible because of Jesus. Jesus made it reality. (Shout loud praise to the Son.) God could give the Promise he gave in Acts 2:38 because of Jesus. Yes the Gospel is what makes our salvation possible. But without the Promise . . . there is no hope. We have hope because our God is faithful! Thanks to Jesus, God can be the promise giver He wants to be.

    We should be bold in teaching the lost the covenant God gave us. We have not been called to be a people who teach the lost our perceived exceptions over and above the Covenant..

    It’s a never ending circle . . . this relationship between the Gospel, the promise, belief, faith, grace, repentance, baptism, the Spirit. It is all there in Acts 2.

    The baptism the Apostles taught in Acts was a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We can reason all we want to. How will that change the covenant?

  55. Jay & Luther said it well.
    Anon, the symbol is well said, actually that is the sense of Col 2:11+ that our baptism makes us a participant symoblically in the cross and resurrection. What you missed was asking me to choose the moment of our salvation. To God it is creation, when he foreknew that His sacrifice would be required. For us it is when we want to change and seek to access his grace, however as Jesus says faith will follow with obedience. (Jn 14)
    Works is a hot button word to many, because Paul was fighting an earn it Jewish mentality. It was again in Luther’s time because the Catholic church was emphasizing works, and selling indulgences.
    I think there is a harmony in our design, where what we believe becomes what we do, so an act of faith is perfectly harmonious with all revelation. In the purity of God, all belief becomes action, but we know people say they love, believe, etc. but lie and never act on their confession. I see evil in the disconnect.
    To me, the faith with desire to change and do His will, will be “credited as righteousness”, like Abraham in Hebrews. That probably solves all the “dies in an accident on the way to the water” problems. However, lack of follow through, negates the living faith.reducing it belief in God as the demons do. As Jay says, making our actions as the major in grace, leads to a false extreme, but saying “blood is sufficient” seems to get to the other also bad extreme, that we have nothing to do. Mt 11: 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
    I know who is doing the heavy lifting! But He said “take my yoke” not throw away all yokes and quit.
    Just as works become fighting words, grace alone or blood is sufficient, sound like disconnected belief and obedience. What God joined together…….
    Sorry Jay, I had symphatic feelings for Alan’s view. Also, I am a dedicated harmonizer of all His word. Should have been born in Berea.

  56. Larry, I really like the way you write. You tie things together.

  57. Thanks Stan, when we get unbalanced, arguing an extreme, even righteous things, we mess up. If salvation is ALL the blood of Jesus, everybody is saved, anything you do is a waste, baptism is a fairy tale, preaching is useless, etc. If salvation is ALL us doing, why did Jesus die? Any extreme doesn’t work.
    If I can put Genesis, Gospels, Romans, James, and Revelation together and the Spirit fills the cracks in my understanding I may have some glimpse of eternal truth. Thanks to all who give discusssion, between us a better understanding can emerge.

  58. We should be doing good works evidencing we are saved.
    So many people want to say doing good works makes them worthy to go to heaven. 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?

    I never said all people are saved. To some of us who believe Jesus is the Messiah our Savior His blood is sufficient. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is more than enough to save us.

  59. On what basis does one decide that “be baptized” carries more weight than “repent” in Acts 2:38? Unless one first changes his mind (repents) baptism is useless. In the scriptures repentance and faith are joined together as two sides of a coin, neither is possible without the other.

    Why is it that a very large percentage of people in coC churches have been baptized 2 or more times? Isn’t it that they expected baptism to do something for them that it didn’t do?

    Explain why many, many people in the churches of Christ did not show any hint of the Christian disciplines present in their lives until many years after they were immersed?

    I wonder how many deceived souls believe that because they are members of a church of Christ, have been immersed, and do the “5 acts” each week they are “probably” saved. ( I have not yet met one person who has any real assurance of salvation who is not fully trusting Christ instead of church affiliation, works, or baptism.)

    I have talked to people who came to me wanting to be baptized and were shocked when I asked “Why?”. Answers like “I want a better life” and similar responses usually follow. After asking more questions I find that most of them don’t have a clue about the gospel. Only after I carefully teach them about what God has accomplished in Christ for them and have their assurance that they are depending only upon Him alone do I baptize them for the remission of their sins. I have seen dozens who were immersed as only one step in the 5 step plan who never came back to church the first time. Why, they never put their trust in Jesus.

    I have a big problem with men who preach church of Christ, baptism, a cappella singing, etc. far more than they preach Christ. No honest person can deny that Christ is not the center of attention in many of our coC congregations. That fact is a shame and disgrace to the blood of Christ.

    Royce

  60. “I think there is a harmony in our design, where what we believe becomes what we do, so an act of faith is perfectly harmonious with all revelation. In the purity of God, all belief becomes action, but we know people say they love, believe, etc. but lie and never act on their confession. I see evil in the disconnect.”

    Jesus taught us the mechanics of this in Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. There are those who show growth, but who are not planted in the field. The farmer is not concerned with false results, only the plants planted in good soil that will yield the harvest.

    There is also a traditional disconnect in the CofC between the Spirit motivating people to choose and obey God, and the idea that is is solely up to man to choose and obey.

    The Calvanist says God’s call is irresistible. The CofC I grew up knowing taught it was all up to man to choose God once the invitation was given. I think both extremes are unscriptural. Salvation is a beautiful dance that woos us, a courtship that is two-sided, but in God’s favor.

    As Solomon would say, there are a few things on the earth that he (the wisest man) could not understand, one of that being the way of a man with a woman. Indeed, the romantic relationship is but a shadow of the wooing that God does with us. There is man and wife, yet they are one. There is God and the church, yet they are one. How that happens can not be fully understood by the human mind, yet the CofC has preached it over the years as if it’s all about the logic, the theology, and the responsibility of man. There is evil in that imbalance as well.

    The CofC arguments are framed in logic. “There is an offer. Man must say yes or no,” is how it sounds. “Look at Acts 2 for the action/reaction,” is another way to say it. There is much missing from this.

    The defining passage for the CofC has been Acts 2:38. It should be Acts 2:37: “When the people heard [that they had not only missed out on the Messiah when He was here, but that Jesus had been raised from the dead and the Spirit was being poured out, and that prophecies they had grown up with were being fulfilled in front of their very eyes] they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ ”

    Conviction, rather than conversion, is a much more difficult thing to put in a box. It’s easy to talk about baptism. How do we do that? Get into some water. Be buried in it. Come up and out of the water.

    But what are the steps to conviction? How come no one talks about the point of conviction? This is where the dance with God happens, and it’s not possible to define it.

    It is not Peter’s sermon that convicted. If I preach that sermon to an unchurched American, it will mean nothing to him – the history, the poetry, even the wondrous result. The Spirit is the one who teaches and convicts – through the “foolishness” of preaching, by the way. This is why Paul says, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2) If God makes an invitation, but a man does not have ears to hear, the invitation literally falls on deaf ears. There is something else that must happen there.

    Have we set an atmosphere ripe for conviction, or ripe for logic? Logic will produce some baptisms. But conviction will produce disciples. Which one does your church count?

    If we’re going to speak with authority about conversion, let’s talk about the whole process, not just one aspect of it. Focusing on a single aspect of God has led to the death of many groups, including the CofC. Why do we continue to do it, if the goal is bringing people to Christ?

    Yes, be baptized! Yes to anything God says! But don’t preach baptism as if its the defining moment of the gospel. It’s in the middle of the beginning of a very long – and mysterious – process, placed in the middle of the unfolding story of God.

  61. Royce wrote:

    How does the person performing the baptism determine that the candidate believes in Jesus, repents of sin, and is making Jesus Lord?

    John the baptist called for evidence (“fruit in keeping with repentance”) before he would baptize someone. Obviously there are limits in how certain we can be about that, but it’s apparently possible. At a minimum, I think we should notice the obvious.

    I’m still puzzled by your disagreement. Having read your comments on similar topics for a long time, I would have guessed that you would agree with my primary point, that the failure of the teacher to teach correctly would be held against the teacher only, not against the student.

  62. “How does the person performing the baptism determine that the candidate believes in Jesus, repents of sin, and is making Jesus Lord?”

    That’s a question of discipleship and relationship, rather than “teaching”, which is a sub-set of both.

  63. Royce you are so right. John the Batptist, Jesus, and Peter preached “repent, repent, repent” Peter only mentions baptism when asked what to do. Our sermons should be those other verses too. I think us Americans are bottom line people and we skip to the last step as fast as possible. The greatest work is changing the human heart. Just so hard to photograpth for the church bulletin, baptism is easier.
    Brad, thanks for adding scripture to my plea for balance. Also, you are right about romance. If we only tried to please God like you romantic interest, people would rusn to the water, read the Bible for hours, just because they knew it would please God.
    To alll contributors in these comments, thanks. I have learned from each of you the will of God better, and our fellow beleiver’s tendancies better. Ocassionally I do not see the dangers in earning salvation for example, becasue I grew up in Miami and didn’t hear those legalistic sermons or classes. I never heard of 5 acts of worship until later adult years. Actually the congregation was conservative but we read Peter’s whole sermon and were not big on proof verses.
    For you amusement I’ll give you an incident from my freshman year at Abilene. A friend I had met there was from LA area, and we both thought the very strict and separate men’s and woment’s pool times at ACU was odd. (To us, you don’t go to the beach in LA or Miami and ask all the other sex to leave!) During Febuary lectureship it rainned a lot, and ponds formed between sidewalks to Moody Arena. My LA friend and I were going back to dorms after supper and noticed how big the ponds were. I joked, “someone better make sure there’s no mixed swimming.” During the night my LA friend put up a sign in the middle of the largest pond, “Lake Moody, No Mixed Bathing”. It stayed up for most a day near a 5,500 seat arena with several full lectures that day. Background does affect your perspective.

  64. How does the person performing the baptism determine that the candidate believes in Jesus, repents of sin, and is making Jesus Lord?

    John the baptist called for evidence (”fruit in keeping with repentance”) before he would baptize someone.

    First, the baptism of John the Baptist may not be the best example because it’s not the baptism we see in Acts 2 and later. Second, Matthew 3:7 shows who John said to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”: the Pharisees and Sadducees. As we see in the rest of the scripture, this “brood of vipers” didn’t repent (as a group). Third, it appears that the key indicator of repentance was the humility to ask the question “What should we do then?” (Luke 3:10). It looks like John didn’t tell the tax collectors and soldiers to go home and prove their repentance by their deeds first before getting baptized.

    Obviously there are limits in how certain we can be about that, but it’s apparently possible. At a minimum, I think we should notice the obvious.

    What’s the line between “the obvious” being sufficient and “the obvious” being a work or series of works? A lost person’s works can’t save.

  65. Larry,

    You noted (a few dozen comments earlier) that none of the baptisms in Acts 2 were in living water as the mikvehs in the temple weren’t tied to flowing natural streams. Hmm …

    We have examples of baptisms not in living water. We have no examples of baptisms in living water. Does this mean we have no authority to use living water? Does that make living-water baptisms sin? Are they even effective?

    (This is not a serious argument, of course, as no argument based on the Regulative Principle should be taken seriously.)

  66. Stan wrote,

    You have stated the following:
    “The better question is whether one must understand that baptism remits sin for our sins to be remitted. And the answer is clearly “no.” Otherwise, what we must hear, believe, and confess in order to be baptized is our faith that baptism remits sin, and that would be very far removed from the gospel. Rather, faith in Jesus is enough.”

    I do not agree with this statement. I’m not sure what you mean. In the normal path that is described in Acts 2, the Jesus followers who responded believed that their sins would be forgiven when they responded in repentance and baptism. The baptism was for the forgiveness of sins . . . so that they would be forgiven. The purpose of the baptism was taught in the same sentence that baptism was mentioned.

    Stan,

    It’s true that baptism is “eis” the forgiveness of sins. That’s what Acts 2:38 says, and so it is true. “Eis” is the Greek preposition translated “for” in some translations. A better translation of “eis” would be “into” as it’s usually translated following “baptizo.” After all, the natural preposition to follow “immerse” is “into” — and that is the most literal meaning of “eis.”

    Therefore, Peter is not stating that “for the remission of sins” is the necessary intent of the person being baptized. Rather, he’s saying that baptism has an effect — it’s into the forgiveness of sins. “Remission”/”Forgiveness” is about effect not purpose. That’s the grammar.

    Therefore, while Acts 2:38 certainly teaches that baptism is (in the normal case) into the forgiveness of sins, it’s does not teach that the person being baptized has to have that intent.

    I discuss this in much more detail in chapter 13 of Born of Water. http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/born-of-water/ and at http://oneinjesus.info/2008/03/12/amazing-grace-should-we-re-baptize-baptists/ (shortened version of same material).

    I discuss the question of timing (how can all with faith be saved — as many scriptures state — when baptism normally follows faith?) at http://oneinjesus.info/index-under-construction/searching-for-the-third-way/ — but you have to read all the posts on baptism in order for it make any sense (if it does at all).

  67. xray342 wrote:

    First, the baptism of John the Baptist may not be the best example because it’s not the baptism we see in Acts 2 and later.

    The question concerned whether we can determine that someone has repented. So the example of John the Baptist is a great example to answer that question.

    Second, Matthew 3:7 shows who John said to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”: the Pharisees and Sadducees

    He was talking to the crowds (Luke 3:7). He told the crowds what repentance would mean for them (verses 10-11). He told tax collectors (verse 13) and soldiers (verse 14) what repentance would mean for them.

    It looks like John didn’t tell the tax collectors and soldiers to go home and prove their repentance by their deeds first before getting baptized.

    I’m not sure I agree. The text doesn’t say what you described. I think it is strongly implied that some of the crowd was turned away because they were not willing to repent.

    Personally, I would not baptize a person who was not willing to repent. For example, I would not baptize a man while he continues living with his girlfriend in an immoral relationship. Would you?

  68. Alan, you believe baptism is salvation, yet you won’t baptize a sinner. You are choosing when you should save that person.

    A person has to get their life straight without help from God. When they have straightened themselves up you then will decide it’s o.k. to save them.

  69. Anonymous, you misrepresent my belief about baptism But I stand behind my statement that we should not baptize someone who has not repented. I suppose you and I will just have to disagree about that.

  70. I’m reading…I’m reading.

  71. Is it possible that the multitude of comments on these posts is the evidence of God moving? There is much that can be said about the theology expressed herein – but ‘OH THAT GOD WOULD SPEAK’ – let it be each of our prayer today.

    Listening and being receptive to the gentle voice of God is a spiritual discipline. Let us all read these comments with fresh eyes – and a renewed purpose to seek Him first so that He might continue the great work that He has begun in us – for HIS glory!

    Psalm 85:6-9
    6 Will You not revive us again,
    That Your people may rejoice in You?
    7 Show us Your mercy, LORD,
    And grant us Your salvation.

    8 I will hear what God the LORD will speak,
    For He will speak peace
    To His people and to His saints;
    But let them not turn back to folly.
    9 Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
    That glory may dwell in our land.

    Revelation 2:7
    7 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.”’

  72. Alan,

    It looks like John didn’t tell the tax collectors and soldiers to go home and prove their repentance by their deeds first before getting baptized.

    I’m not sure I agree. The text doesn’t say what you described.

    Exactly. Obvious repentance is not someone doing the deeds of repentance before baptism.

    Personally, I would not baptize a person who was not willing to repent. For example, I would not baptize a man while he continues living with his girlfriend in an immoral relationship. Would you?

    So at what point would this guy be a candidate for baptism? Would he have to move out first? Have definite plans on moving out? Telling his sweetheart that he’s moving out? Setting a wedding date?

  73. xray,

    When people came to John the Baptist to be baptized, without having shown fruits of repentance, he turned them away. That’s the most straightforward reading of the text. Luke proceeded to record several examples of the kind of fruits of repentance John the Baptist was looking for.

    There may be more than one way that the person can show fruits of repentance in the hypothetical case we are discussing. But continuing to live in an immoral relationship is not one of those ways.

  74. if your baptistry has a leak, then you’ve got living water, at least according to the Mishnah.

    Most mikvehs in Jewish life were basically baptistries with slow-drip leaks to let the water be moving and, thus, living.

  75. The baptistery breaks leaving no water (which has happened), “uh oh! hurry run to the nearest river, but don’t work up a sweat so people won’t think we’re working to earn salvation.”

  76. Nick,

    I’ve got my Craftsman drill and I’m heading to the church to put a slow leak in the baptistry. And then we’re going to re-baptize the entire congregation — just to be safe.

  77. When we moved into a new building awhile back, we had a waterfall in the baptistry. I liked it, and would even more with this living water pseudo theology. We shut it off after several months because it induced sleep during prayers and sermon, and doubled people leaving service to use the restrooms!

  78. Alan,

    When people came to John the Baptist to be baptized, without having shown fruits of repentance, he turned them away. That’s the most straightforward reading of the text.

    “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Luke 3:8) doesn’t necessarily mean that they had to prove their repentance by their deeds (Acts 26:20) first. How can a lost person’s works be meritorious? (Is this “salvation by induction” where lost people do the first step and God takes care of the rest?)

    Luke proceeded to record several examples of the kind of fruits of repentance John the Baptist was looking for.

    Luke 3:10 and Acts 2:37 show us the “obvious” (your words) fruit of repentance: “What should we do then?” The crowd (sans the Pharisees and Sadducees) is cut to the heart, broken, and surrendered to the will of God. They didn’t do anything with their money or possessions until after they had repented and been baptized.

    There may be more than one way that the person can show fruits of repentance in the hypothetical case we are discussing. But continuing to live in an immoral relationship is not one of those ways.

    So you would not accept the repentance (and consequently not baptize) of a lost man who wakes up with his girlfriend whom he’s living with, goes to a church invited by a Christian friend, hears the gospel preached, and decides to start following Jesus even though he’s still technically literally “living in sin”?

  79. How can a lost person’s works be meritorious?

    That’s a non-sequitur. Of course our works don’t merit salvation. But there are conditions. When we meet those conditions we don’t therefore deserve salvation, but when we don’t meet those conditions we forfeit the salvation that could be ours.

    They didn’t do anything with their money or possessions until after they had repented and been baptized.

    I’m not advocating a period of time to demonstrate repentance before baptism. But the scriptures do demand repentance. John the Baptist’s call for evidence of repentance is recorded for a reason.

    So you would not accept the repentance…

    I would not baptize a person who would not commit to leaving an immoral relationship “on the spot.” He doesn’t get another few nights sleeping with his girlfriend after the baptism.

  80. I agree and disagree with Alan. He states:

    “Of course our works don’t merit salvation. But there are conditions. When we meet those conditions we don’t therefore deserve salvation, but when we don’t meet those conditions we forfeit the salvation that could be ours.”

    This is another way of saying what I think Alan is saying: ‘Of course our works (baptism/acts of obedience) don’t merit salvation. But there are conditions (faith + baptism). When we meet those conditions (faith + baptism) we don’t therefore deserve salvation (but that IS when we get salvation), but when we don’t meet those conditions (faith + baptism) we forfeit the salvation that could be ours.

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

    Notice carefully, he does not say: This salvation was not owing to works done in legalism. He says: This salvation—this new birth—is not owing to works done in righteousness. Not only your worst works and worst motives (trying to earn your own salvation), but even your best works and best motives (biblical obedience) are excluded. They didn’t make you regenerate; they don’t cause you to stay regenerate. Staying regenerate causes them.

    [Baptism = a work done in righteousness)

    Not Baptism
    This is one reason why I do not think the “washing of regeneration” in verse 5 refers to baptism. Whether circumcision in the old covenant or baptism in the new covenant—it is not good things we do that causes us to be born again. The kindness of God. The love of God. The absolutely free mercy of God explains our new birth. Not circumcision. Not baptism. Not any works done by us in righteousness. New birth comes and brings righteous deeds with it, not the other way around.

    I agree with Alan that we ought not to be baptizing people we don’t know – at least on some level. People are dying in their sin even though they thought they were saved because they were baptized. We need, we ought to want, to make disciples – people who have made a mature choice to follow HIM. There is a cross to carry – not just a grave to avoid. How many people do you know who have gone down into the waters of baptism who have never counted the cost – and quickly fallen away?

    I’m not saying that it has to happen that way – I do believe that some have come quickly who have sincerely submitted their lives to God. I also believe that if that is true – then that person should understand when another man of God says “brother, I love you and I am thankful that you have come. However, it is not our practise to baptize those we have just met without some time of study and consideration. Can we meet some time this week for an hour or so? Can we search the Scriptures together – get to know each other just a bit?”

    I know what you are thinking now – ‘Ok so then if that man dies before he able to get baptized……….’. I would simply point to Titus 3 again and suggest that God meant what He inspired in this text.

    A water baptism done to save one’s self – is no baptism at all. A baptism done as a ‘work of righteousness’ that (in our minds) allows God to bestow upon us His promised salvation – is not a biblical baptism – and does not honor God.

  81. Tammy, here is a comment you said above:

    They didn’t make you regenerate; they don’t cause you to stay regenerate. Staying regenerate causes them.”

    Now think about regeneration. If it happens before one is taught to turn away from their sins and be baptized so that God would forgive them, then why would the regenerated person need to be told these things? Wouldn’t the regenerated person already know to turn away from their sins? How can a person be regenerated and not know that their sins should be turned away from? Why would Peter have told those people who expressed belief in the Gospel story that they needed to turn away from their sins? Regenerated people already know this. One cannot be regenerated by the Spirit and be ignorant about repentance.

    Regeneration comes after repentance in response to the Gospel. Then those who are filed with the Spirit go on to live lives of repentance.

    —————————————————————————

    Do you remember when the Spirit descended upon Jesus? Was it before his baptism or after his baptism?

    Remember when Jesus began his public ministry? Again…before baptism…or after baptism?

    Remember when Jesus began performing his miracles, healing untold numbers of people. Again,…before…..after?

    Remember when Jesus began teaching the multitudes?

    Jesus was impowered with the Spirit after his baptism.
    Not before.

    —————————————————————————

    And yes, The Lord will save according to his own mercy. And he has made it plan.

    —————————————————————————

    Baptism is not a work Tammy. Quit trying to make it one. It is a faith response. It is not a “good” work. It is not a work done in righteousness. Baptism is the demonstration of faith in God’s promise. It is like a prayer…a plea…a pledge.

    Baptism is no where near the same as circumcision and does not play the same role. God did not promise to grant his Spirit to those who submitted to circumcision. Circumcision was almost always not a faith response. It was mainly done to male children who professed no faith. To those male children whose parents had them circumcised, their circumcision was not a demonstration of the child’s faith or belief. It had nothing to do with their faith or belief. It had to do with their parents’ faith or their parents’ obedience to ritual.

    But The Prophet that Moses promised would come brought a new covenant. This new prophet, The Lord, asked his believing followers upon hearing the Gospel, to repent and be baptized so that he could forgive them and give them His Spirit. Baptism is nothing like circumcision.

    We have every reason to believe that those people who beleived God’s promise also responded to that promise, as documented throughout Acts, and that they received the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on them richly through Jesus Christ their Savior, and that they were justified by his grace and become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4 is not talking about baptism.

    —————————————————————————

    I know very few adults who have gone down into the waters of baptism who have quickly fallen away. Very few. I do know of many children who have gone down into the waters of baptism before counting the costs…because they don’t know what the costs are. But they do have the faith of children. They come to the Lord with their tender hearts. They love God. Yes, there are exceptions. like those who are herded down the isle by parents and the like…or those children who feel pressured by peers or something else…these are not the kind of baptisms that are depicted in Acts.

  82. Are you saying Jesus didn’t have the Holy Spirit before He was baptized?? Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And when Jesus was baptized God said He was well pleased. God is pleased when anyone is baptized and those who are not in the Spirit cannot please God, Romans 8:7-8 “Because the the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

  83. People who don’t have the Holy Spirit don’t really care or know about what it symbolizes and that is not being baptized but only getting wet.

  84. I don’t know everything…I know that’s a shock.

    When I read that Jesus grew in stature with God and man , , , what that tells me is that he lived a human life like any Jewish boy would in his day. He did not come to this Earth fully ready and fully equiped to begin his ministry. He had to grow up like you and me.

    How Jesus came to know his destiny I do not know. In scripture…in one glimpse he is a child…and in the next he is an adult looking for his cousin to baptize him. How he came to that decision and action I do not know. What I do know is that Jesus came to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness…because it was the right thing to do.

    And then Jesus is baptized . . . we have the spirit descending . . . and then his public ministry begins. We find him healing, making dead people live again, walking on water, teaching multitudes…lots of neat stuff. The scriptures seem to suggest that Jesus received gifts from the Spirit that enabled him to embark on the public ministry we read about.

  85. There is a difference between being prompted by the Holy Spirit and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit…is there not.

  86. Romans 8:7-9-“Because the the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

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