The Fork in the Road: Dialogue with Cougan: The Plan of Salvation, Part 2 of 4

Grace

Another critical mistake of 20th Century Church of Christ teaching is the false assumption that we receive more grace at baptism than is available to us afterwards. I’m sure many churches have members who’ve committed some horrible sin who can’t feel forgiven unless they are re-baptized. We’ve taught that God gives utterly complete forgiveness at baptism (he does) but that afterwards forgiveness depends on how well and how often we repent, confess, and pray for forgiveness — and even then that forgiveness isn’t given to those who don’t truly repent by eliminating that sin from their lives.

Thus, we argue, that those in the independent Christian Churches are damned because they’ve not repented of their use of the instrument — even if they commit their error utterly unaware that they are in error. Of course, the same logic would leads us to conclude that we aren’t forgiven of our lust unless we’ve stopped lusting entirely — and even more so, because we know that lust is a sin.

As a result, it’s very common for those raised on 20th Century Church of Christ teaching to believe they aren’t saved — or if they are, they are only saved briefly after their last prayer for forgiveness. You see, you can’t damn the independent Christian Churches without damning yourself — and our churches are filled with people who feel damned.

Now, the scriptures plainly teach that the forgiveness given us after our baptism is stronger, indeed “much more”, than the forgiveness we receive at baptism.

(Rom. 5:8-10a) But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. … 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son … .

In these verses, Paul is talking about the beginning of our justification — our pardon. He points out the amazing fact that God forgave us while we were still sinners and God’s enemies. We forget that we were not yet God’s children and not yet part of his church when he first forgave us. Rather, he forgave us so that we could become his children and a part of his Kingdom.

Paul then teaches a most extraordinary lesson –

(Rom 5:9-10) Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

We are now much more saved than when we were first baptized! It’s so important, Paul says it twice!

Take a moment to let this thought wash over you. Savor it. We know how utterly clean and washed we were at our baptism. Our souls were made spotless. Not a single sin was left charged to our account. We received the freshest of fresh starts.

Paul says that now that we are God’s friends, having been reconciled, it’s obvious that God will be even more — much more — willing to forgive! You see, baptism not only shows us the complete washing that takes place when we are immersed, it also shows the washing that will continue thereafter.

Now, I urgently point out that we are capable of surrendering this magnificent salvation. We can fall away. But that’s not the typical case. No — we are actually continuously cleansed and forgiven now that we’ve been saved.

The Pattern

While I think “pattern” is the wrong term for the boundaries of salvation, if that’s the term you insist on, then the “pattern” is the same for entry into the Kingdom as for exit from the Kingdom. We are added to the church because of faith and repentance. When we lose our faith or our repentance, we are removed from the church. The boundaries are the same. However, it’s harder to leave than to enter, because God’s Spirit lives in those who’ve been saved, helping them stay away from those boundaries.

You see, the Bible plainly teaches that faith in Jesus remains a boundary after we’ve been saved —

(1 John 4:2-3)  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

And the Bible teaches that a lack of penitence (a failure to submit to Jesus as Lord) damns —

(Heb 10:26-27)  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that adding boundaries that God didn’t add also damns. The whole point of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is that seeking salvation by works rather than faith damns — and he is particularly tough on those who teach such things, because they sow the seeds of division and take hope away from people that Jesus died to give hope to.

Symmetry

The result is a marvelous symmetry. We are saved by God through the work of Jesus if we have faith and repent. We fall away when we lose either our faith or our repentance.

Now, are there boundaries? Of course. Jesus is Lord, and that means we are to obey him. But obedience is the natural product of our faith, repentance, and the Spirit’s work in our hearts. If those things are present, we’ll be obedient. We won’t be perfectly obedient, but obedience will characterize our lives — and we’ll still be saved. We’ll meet the standard that you stated.

But if we lose our faith or our repentance or if we so grieve the Spirit that we quench the Spirit and lose the Spirit, well, we can’t possibly be obedient enough to make it. Then, only perfect obedience will do.

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Marks of the Church

I’m sure some readers are still asking: but where are the boundaries? And by “boundaries,” they mean the rules. Where are the rules for how to live as Christians?

Well, we can’t discuss these things until we’ve first learned something about how we’re saved — because we in the Churches of Christ want to turn our ethics into the laws of how someone falls away. We desperately want to declare as damned those who worship or organize their churches differently than we do — because we want to vaunt our denomination over theirs. And this is simply not how it works.

Yes, the Bible addresses these issues. No, they do not define the boundaries of the Kingdom. Rather, the marks of the church are exactly what you’d expect —

(John 13:34-35)  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

(John 17:20-23)  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

(Eph 1:13-14)  And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory.

And, of course, faith in Jesus. You see, it all fits.

Never do the scriptures say that the true church will be marked as Christ’s church by having the right acts of worship or the right number of elders, which is why the scriptures say so much more about faith, love, unity, and the Spirit than instrumental music and such like.

You see, we’ve inherited a 16th Century Reformation mode of thought, seeking to determine the true church by finding error in the church down the road. But that’s not the direction in which the New Testament points.

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47 Responses

  1. Jay,

    You stated: “Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that adding boundaries that God didn’t add also damns. The whole point of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is that seeking salvation by works rather than faith damns — and he is particularly tough on those who teach such things, because they sow the seeds of division and take hope away from people that Jesus died to give hope to.”

    If this statement is true, and it is true, many of the people we refer to as “brothers” are not brothers at all, but enemies of Christ and the gospel. If one teaches that a person cannot be saved unless they worship without instruments, are they not guilty of “adding boundaries that God didn’t add”?

    Royce

  2. Funny how folks miss that. “They” are going to hell because “they” do things God did not specifically say “they” could do, but “we” are just fine adding commandments to God’s Word which is something that He specifically forbid. (Of course I should point of that as of last October I am now officially a “they.”)

  3. Jay has hit a home run again. It’s habitual with him! But we need to love equally those who love us and agree with us and those who do not agree with us and who show no love toward us. Yes? So we want to speak well of all who are aiming at pleasing Jesus. We want to remove stumbling blocks rather than add them. I know that God does NOT hate musicians, as is the implication of an anti-instrument law. But those who know no better than to believe in that law must not be despised or rejected from fellowship in the church of God. Yet we dare not submit to any human law as if it were from God if our aim is to please the Law-giver. I have never held to an anti-instrument law. That doesn’t make me superior to better brothers who do so. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone. And let us love one another, for love is of God.

  4. Ray

    We must have a tremendous capacity for love, especially those who disagree with us and those who we disagree with such as the denominational world. Not to mention the Coptic, Orthodox and who knows what else. This would probably be 98% of all known Christianity. We are but a speck in comparison.

    Bob

  5. Jay,

    Can you add laws unaware just like you can violate them unaware? Does adding them unaware threaten your soul? Does it make any difference whether the person doing the adding believes they are adding? When people genuinely believe they aren’t adding laws at all but are coming to know laws that are God-given, is that different than those who add laws deliberately?

    –Guy

  6. I don’t believe Paul was extending the right hand of fellowship to those he addressed in the letter to the Galatians who insisted Christians ought to be circumcised. I don’t see the difference.

    It is not a matter of love. We are to love our enemies, even those who call us names and insist we are lost because we reject their version of the gospel with is in reality “another gospel”.

    Royce

  7. Is it possible to add “laws” without realizing it? Yes, of course. When we assume that our inferences are equal to God’s commands, we are most apt to make a law concerning what we infer. As long as we ourselves are the only ones we think must obey “our” law, we’re fine. It’s when we tell others they also must obey what we infer that we step out of bounds. Should we recognize as brothers those who ignore “our” laws? If both of us love Jesus and seek to serve Him faithfully, yes, we should consider one another as brothers.

  8. “how much more having been reconciled shall we be saved through His life”…… I never thought of it in just the way you explained it.

    Thank you, Jay. An excellent point which I shall be using in my counseling practice….. Dan

  9. Ray,

    Could i be convinced that something is a law from God even though i’m mistaken and i’ve actually added something? I’m gathering you grant me this.

    i’m fine in doing so as long as i don’t bind what i genuinely believe to be a law of God on anyone else (have i understood you right?).

    i believe that God obligates men to believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s son, God-incarnate, the Christ in order to be saved.

    But i could be mistaken–this could be one of the very things about which i’m mistaken and have actually added rather than it being from God.

    Therefore, i’ll be fine as long as i don’t bind on anyone else the view that they must believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s son, God-incarnate, the Christ in order to be saved. Right?

    –Guy

  10. Guy,

    You make a great point. I wonder the same thing about baptism. It is clear from Jay’s post that he believes baptism to be an integral part of salvation. But I also know from reading his book that he believes grace will cover those who disagree and don’t find baptism to be essential (or if they get baptized for the “wrong” reason). NOTE: Jay, please correct me if I’ve understood you wrong on either of these accounts.*

    So for me, this creates quite a dilemma. Do I teach others’ that baptism is essential? After all, I personally question some things about the *absolute* necessity of the practice. I could teach that, and I could be adding a qualifier. Or I could say that I believe we have plenty of examples where it is done to enter Christ’s body, but I’m not 100% convicted that this is the “be all/end all” of salvation. And I could be wrong.

    So what do I do? I avoid the discussion like the plague, and hope to get more clarity of belief on the matter.

    The point Guy brings up is a real point of struggle for me, namely when it comes to baptism.

    There is something about reconciling what Jay said (hear, believe, confess, repent are all inward) with the idea that baptism is an outward work. I can’t find any way to describe baptism where it moves us towards loving one another more fully (as is the summary of the new covenant). To me, it just doesn’t “fit” with what Jay calls Christology. It is one specific outward act that many of us believe is an absolute for salvation. One can love like no other (Mother Teresa), serve man (Ghandi), and love God with all of their hearts (many denoms), but unless they’ve done this certain act, they are hopelessly lost.

    Anyways, this is my struggle. Pray for me!!

  11. What has been said is that ADDED laws don’t affect anyone except the one or ones who added them. But to suggest that to believe what the Bible says then becomes optional simply doesn’t track. Jesus is God. He affirmed it. He proved it. What anyone thinks about His deity doesn’t affect the truthfulness of anything the Bible clearly teaches. Our discussion of options has to do with things some believe but that the Bible does NOT clearly teach. Such as that one being baptized must know at the time that it’s for the remission of sins. It is for the remission of sins. Every Christian should soon realize the fact. But it’s not essential that the one being baptized know all about the act and its consequences. It’s enough if the one being baptized knows that its being done because Jesus wants it done. But for some to come up with an anti-instrument law that is totally foreign to revealed truth does not compute. One who so believes would do wrong if the person ever (any time, anywhere) sang a godly song while someone was playing a musical instrument. But the person has no right to tell anyone else they are not free to sing to and about God regardless of what musical instruments are being played at the time. If Jesus or His apostles say a practice is wrong, it’s wrong. They say nothing to oppose musical praise to God at any time.

  12. Ray,

    I respect your conviction that there is no clarity of teaching in regards to IM. I agree with you.

    But how do you reconcile the idea that not everyone agrees with you on your reason for baptism? I mean, these are God fearing people that desire to follow Christ, just as you and I do. And they differ with you (and possibly myself) on the reason for baptism. It is clear to you, but it is not clear to them. So is there necessarily one that is right and one that is eternally wrong?

    Like I said, I really struggle with this. I speak as the Devil’s Advocate, as I am up in the air.

  13. I’ll add to my previous post.

    A friend of mine has suggested to me that he believes this is Satan fooling most of the Christian world into falsely believing they are saved. Obviously a circular argument, as I simply said, “…or it is Satan dissuading you from unity with other believers.”

    I don’t like that proposal, because to me, it makes it seem like Satan is more powerful that Christ…as though Satan can snatch away followers/disciples of Christ on technicalities.

  14. Royce,

    Teaching that it’s sin to use an instrument is not damnable. However, teaching that you are damned if you use an instrument — even if you are true to your faith in Jesus and penitent — is to teach another gospel because it replaces justification by faith with justification by works and because it divides the body of Christ. This is one reason the scriptures repeatedly warn us against adding commands to the Bible, especially as salvation issues or marks of the church. It’s deadly, deadly danagerous. http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/do-we-teach-another-gospel/

  15. The “much more so” argument aka the a fortiori argument as used by Paul in Romans says that if God saved us while we were His enemies (at enmity with Him) how much more will He save us now that we have been reconciled to Him and become His friends. It is a most powerful argument for the doctrine of perseverance of the saints.

    After all, if He did the most difficult thing (the crucifixion of His completely unique Son) to get us saved would He not also do whatever else (any lesser thing) is necessary to keep us saved?

    The answer to the question is so plain as to make the question merely rhetorical. The lovingkindness of the LORD is everlasting.

    Hesed,
    Randall

  16. Guy,

    It is, of course, sin to add a command to God’s word, whether it’s intentional or not. In theory, adding one intentionally would be a truly great sin, as you’d be intentionally taking on the role of God, that is, acting as though you have authority to make laws. And I think some people actually do this, but the vast majority who make up laws do so sincerely believing they are honoring God’s word.

    But the great danger is to seek justification by works rather than faith — as this is to teach another gospel. And creating an array of artificial marks based on human accomplishment rather than faith and love is to seek salvation by works.

  17. JMF,

    I think one critical aspect — not the only aspect — of baptism is its corporate/group/community nature. As the baptism of the eunuch demonstrates, it can be done with just two people, but it takes at least two. In the Jewish mikveh, you self-immersed. In Christian practice, baptism is always spoken of in the passive voice — you are baptized. And this helps emphasize that you are being baptized into the body, so that Jesus saves you not only personally but by including you into his community. To be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into his church.

  18. I hate to draw attention away from another discussion of the plan (or pattern) of Salvation and additional discussion of IM, but I do want to make your readers aware that Bobby Valentine’s blog has a new post titled: Social Concerns in Churches of Christ: Trends Since the King Years, 1950-2000. You can read it here:
    http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/

    It is long, but no longer than some of the posts and commetns you read on this blog.

    Hesed,
    Randall

  19. The missing in above is reply to CC comment to part 1. If you beleive the Spirit is added at baptism, then anyone not baptised is without the Spirit.
    We know the Spirit can be given by God’s any time, as to the Jewish elders in Exodus, or the apostles at Pentecost or Cornelius. However, the normal process seems to be baptism per Acts. So normally CC’s argument holds that the Bride of Christ is the baptised.
    There is a definite problem with saying baptism saves. First, God saves not the power of our performance. Second, we can not evoke God. By saying the magic words, or doing the ritual, we can not make God cleans sins, give Spirit or anything else. Only by faith and a repentant heart can we ask Him to take our feable action and make something eternal of it.

  20. Jay,

    So i take you to be granting that one’s intentions in the matter do make a difference.

    (1) i don’t believe i’ve ever met anyone in the CoC who honestly thought their list of do’s and don’t’s were additions. They genuinely believed that they had inferred what God intended for them to infer. Surely you’d grant that among conservatives there are plenty of capable, good-hearted, intellegent people drawing these conclusions. What, then, is the difference between your (well, capable, good-hearted, intelligent progressives) conclusions and theirs in terms of (a) how it will impact one’s own soul to hold either of the positions, (b) and the possibility of being mistaken and thus guilty of unintentional additions?

    (2) i also don’t think i’ve met anyone who genuinely thought their list of do’s and don’t’s weren’t themselves contained in or a part of “faith in Christ.” i’ve never heard any conservative say, “faith in Christ just won’t do it, it’s really this particular list of behaviors that makes the difference.” i understand that this is how you understand many conservative’s positions. But do you acknowledge that *they* don’t understand their own position that way? i’m sure you can probably point me to some conservatives saying something like that. But surely those are exceptions. i grew up conservative and went to a preaching school and served in at least three conservative congregations and never encountered someone openly espousing the position you’re talking about. if you grant this, i’m guessing then you think that even *unintentional* salvation by “works” is damnable?

    (3) What’s really floating in the back of my mind through this discussion is this: If i genuinely and responsibly (as a matter of study and prayer) believe that the Bible teaches that all men are obligated to X in order to be saved, and if i am in a position to teach and/or evangelize, should i not consider myself obligated to teach others that they are obligated to X in order to be saved?

    –Guy

  21. While I wait for Jay to respond to part 1, I would like to make a few comments about what JMF has said:

    Guy,
    You make a great point. I wonder the same thing about baptism. It is clear from Jay’s post that he believes baptism to be an integral part of salvation. But I also know from reading his book that he believes grace will cover those who disagree and don’t find baptism to be essential (or if they get baptized for the “wrong” reason). NOTE: Jay, please correct me if I’ve understood you wrong on either of these accounts.*

    JMF I hope you are wrong about what Jay thinks about baptism because how could baptism be essential to salvation and the same time not be essential? If he does believe that grace will cover those who do not find baptism essential, why stop there. If grace with cover them, then why not those who do not find confession, repentance, or belief essential?

    You then said:

    So for me, this creates quite a dilemma. Do I teach others’ that baptism is essential? After all, I personally question some things about the *absolute* necessity of the practice. I could teach that, and I could be adding a qualifier. Or I could say that I believe we have plenty of examples where it is done to enter Christ’s body, but I’m not 100% convicted that this is the “be all/end all” of salvation. And I could be wrong.
    So what do I do? I avoid the discussion like the plague, and hope to get more clarity of belief on the matter.

    If you want to teach what the Bible teaches then you should teach that baptism is essential. But do not take my word for it, look at what Bible teaches about baptism.

    It is the point our sins are washed away and when receive the gift of the HS (Acts 2:38-9; 22:16).
    It is when we are united with Christ in His death and are raised alive with Him (Rom. 6, Col. 2:11ff).
    It is how we are added to the kingdom/church (Jn. 3:5; 1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 2:47).
    It is how we are put into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3).
    Jesus and Peter says that it saves (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
    It was commanded by Jesus (Mt. 28:19).
    Every example of conversion in the book of Acts that give any details ALWAYS mention that the people were baptized.

    This is just a short list, but a powerful one that shows the baptism is necessary for salvation, but it is not any more important than belief, repentance or confessing Jesus as Lord. All these steps work together with baptism to bring about salvation.

    Then you said:

    There is something about reconciling what Jay said (hear, believe, confess, repent are all inward) with the idea that baptism is an outward work. I can’t find any way to describe baptism where it moves us towards loving one another more fully (as is the summary of the new covenant). To me, it just doesn’t “fit” with what Jay calls Christology. It is one specific outward act that many of us believe is an absolute for salvation. One can love like no other (Mother Teresa), serve man (Ghandi), and love God with all of their hearts (many denoms), but unless they’ve done this certain act, they are hopelessly lost.

    JMF I want you to understand that baptism is NOT an outward work because it a work of God just like faith is.

    John 6:29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

    Colossians 2:12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
    Just like faith is work of God so is baptism.

    Jay is right that baptism is passive, which means that when we go under the water with our faith focused on the working of God, we can know without doubt that God is doing everything to us as described in Romans 6:

    Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    By our faith in the working of God, we can know that our sins are being washed away at the point of our baptism and that we are being united with Christ, sealed with HS (Eph. 1:13) and we are being added to the body/church of Christ (Acts 2:47). The only part we play in our baptism is getting in the water and putting our faith into what God is doing because all thingsthat are happening to us as we submit to water baptism is being done by God.

    I hope this information helps JMF

  22. “Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that adding boundaries that God didn’t add also damns.”

    Sounds a little judgmental. I mean just like you hold to the unscriptural doctrine that someone continuing in adultery is still saved without repenting, maybe some people hold to the unscriptural doctrine that people can be saved without believing in Jesus. They’d accuse you of adding boundaries that God didn’t.

  23. Jay did write, “Teaching that it’s sin to use an instrument is not damnable.” In a later post, he posits, “It is, of course, sin to add a command to God’s word, whether it’s intentional or not. In theory, adding one intentionally would be a truly great sin, as you’d be intentionally taking on the role of God, that is, acting as though you have authority to make laws. And I think some people actually do this, but the vast majority who make up laws do so sincerely believing they are honoring God’s word.”
    Do we see a conflict there? Is it a sin to add, or is it not a sin? The command added by some is that Christians must sing “psalms, hymns, and odes” only a cappella. Since the apostle didn’t make such a command, and Jesus didn’t make any such command, what keeps the command from being an added command?
    As for baptism being essential, surely it is or Jesus would not have made it part of His “great commission.” And Peter would not have made it part of obeying the gospel. Being baptized is simply essential to the new birth of water and spirit. It’s the climax of that experience. NO ONE can be saved without both repenting and being baptized because of faith in Jesus as Lord. No less than faith in Jesus as Lord, in order to be saved the Bible teaches that sinners MUST repent and be baptized. No apology is needed for pointing out Bible truth. Or for believing it!

  24. One brother, seeking clarity, wrote, “There is something about reconciling what Jay said (hear, believe, confess, repent are all inward) with the idea that baptism is an outward work.”

    Should we not realize that baptism is NOT a WORK performed by the one being baptized? We submit to baptism which is performed by another. To class our baptism as a “work of merit” by which we hope to gain admission to glory is to misunderstand totally. Jesus said we were to BE BAPTIZED. That’s passive. It’s done TO us, not BY us. Peter urges sinners to repent and BE BAPTIZED. That’s passive. It’s done TO us, not BY us. It’s not a human work. It’s simple obedience, accepting a sign that Jesus did the work and we are simply obeying Him!

    How does this differ from human works of righteousness? Human works are ones we think up for ourselves. Roman Catholic theologians have been good at that. Do this. Do that. And behold, your sin will be cleansed. Or pay this amount and certain results will surely follow. Whether the sinner thinks up the human acts, or is told by a trusted authority figure, these “human” acts are human works of righteousness. But baptism is commanded by Jesus. We merely submit to allow it without needing to understand why or how it accomplishes anything at all. If JESUS says do it, if we believe in Jesus we do it. There’s no need for us to decide what will happen to those who are not baptized. That’s up to Jesus, who doesn’t need our advice or comments.

  25. Thanks Ray Dowden,

    I am “the brother seeking clarity.” That is a great point about “being baptized/passive”. I’ve not considered that.

    Like I said in my posts on this subject, it is just something I’m studying and trying to come to a clearer understanding on. Baptism just seems…..so Old Testament to me! I don’t mean that in a negative way…I just think of everything else we are commanded to do or given examples of, and they all have clear, logical heart-related reasons why we should do them.

    Don’t murder. Help the poor. Pray. Give. Faith.

    And then there is baptism. It just seems to fit better with sacrifice, incense, etc.

    I know some can’t help but to read this and feel they need to draw their sword to defend their Savior, but I don’t mean it in a blasphemous way. I’ve believed/been taught my whole life that baptism is a dealbreaker, but I’m working out my own salvation now. And this is something that is requiring further reflection.

  26. Guy,

    It is my understanding of Galatians that seeking justification by works rather than faith can damn. I don’t think there’s a good faith exception.

    Intentions matter for those saved by faith. Intentions don’t matter for those who reject salvation by faith. They are obligated to keep the whole law.

  27. Ray,

    You’re right. Baptism is not a “work” in Paul’s vocabulary. It’s a gift.

  28. Jay,

    Conservatives by and large don’t see themselves as seeking justification apart from faith. Yet you find them mistaken. They could be damned and not see it. But there are intelligent, good-hearted people who have drawn “conservative” conclusions. Do you consider yourself intelligent or good-hearted? Do i? You or i both could be mistaken and misunderstanding something such that we are seeking justification apart from faith unawares. Thus we could be damned and not see it. Seems to me the combination of your positions at this point could undermine assurance. In order to know i’m saved, it’s not just being a penitent, baptized believer, but i also have to know that i’m not seeking justification by works. You might say “well, i know i’m not seeking it by works.” Do you think those intelligent, good-hearted conservatives would say any different?

    –Guy

  29. JMF wrote: “….but I am working out my own salvation now. And this is this is something that is requiring further reflection.”

    JMF, come sit next to me. 🙂

  30. JMF wrote”how do you reconcile the idea that not everyone agrees with you on your reason for baptism? I mean, these are God fearing people that desire to follow Christ, just as you and I do.”

    Why should we count votes on whether what Jesus says is necessary is really necessary? What election is needed to read and believe Acts 2:38? Baptism is part of the new birth of water and the spirit. Why is it? Not because I say so. Not because lots of people see that’s what the Word teaches. It would be true if I were the only one who could read English or any language in which the Bible is available. Jesus and His apostles are all the majority we need to understand that baptism is part of the gospel plan for salvation of sinners. Those who oppose God’s plan will see in the judgment that God always knows best. Those who are taught properly about Jesus will have heard that baptism is performed because HE said it should be performed. Counting noses who oppose Jesus is a futile exercise. All on the negative side are simply wrong, however much in the majority they might be.

    It can’t be denied that Jesus taught His apostles they should baptize those who came to believe in Him as they spread the good gospel news. It can’t be denied that the apostles both believed in and practiced baptizing every new believer. Why then would it matter if every Bible student in the world denied that baptism into Christ was part of the new birth? Their opinion would not alter the situation. Not in the slightest.

  31. The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus shows us that Jesus said water referring to Nicodemus’ physical 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.

    “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 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.” (John 3:7-8)

    The context of the discussion between Jesus and Nicodemus shows that Jesus was telling Nicodemus he needed to be born again of the Spirit.

  32. Anonymous,

    Nicodemus thought that being born of water meant physical birth. So what? Nicodemus didn’t understand anything else Jesus was saying. Why do you think he got that part right?

  33. Nicodemus didn’t understand born again.

  34. Btw, It doesn’t bother me that you tried to twist my comment to say something it doesn’t, anyone who has been around people from the COC denomination long enough ususally are use to it.

  35. I cannot post here. I just started and this is the second person to accuse me of doing something I obviously did not. Christian unity does not exist because people don’t want it to. They’d rather just attack.

  36. Jesus said that essential for entrance into His kingdom was a “new birth of water and the spirit.” This is not at all an old birth of water and a new birth of the Spirit. Peter explains the new birth when asked by seekers what they needed to do to be saved. This is the same as to enter the kingdom of Jesus Christ. And Peter was inspired to tell them what they needed to do. It wasn’t, as Nicodemus well knew, to enter their mother’s womb and be reborn. It wasn’t something spiritual, unseen by human eyes. It was a change of heart and mind. Peter described it as repentance. AND to accept baptism in water (a new birth of the spirit–repentance, and of water–immersion in water and being raised up into new life). What was true on the birthday when the church was born is true every day. Sinners MUST repent and be baptized in order to receive remission of sins and the GIFT of the Spirit. The new birth is not done by the Spirit. The Spirit is received as a result of the new birth which is repentance and baptism.

  37. I disagree with your interpretation.

    Luke 5:12-14 “And it happened when He was in a certain city, that behold, a man who was full of leprosy saw Jesus; and he fell on his face and implored Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Then He put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately the leprosy left him. And He charged him to tell no one, “But go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as a testimony to them, just as Moses commanded.”

    The man showed himself making an offering toward the cleansing he had already gotten.

    Peter told them to Repent, then they were to be baptized for the remission of sins (toward the forgiveness they had already gotten), Acts 2:38 “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

    Peter’s emphasis was on repentance.

    As we see in Peter’s very next sermon he told the people to repent which is having a change of mind, Acts 3:19-20 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before.”

    Jesus said there is more joy in heaven over a sinner who repents.

    Luke 15:7 “I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

    Luke 15:10 “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

    Peter reminds people of God’s promise.

    2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

    Peter spoke the gospel to Cornelius and his household.

    Acts 10:34-43 “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ–He is Lord of all– that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”

    Cornelius and his household received the Holy Spirit before they were water baptized.

    Acts 10:44-48 “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.”

    Peter confirmed that God accepted the Gentiles, the same as the apostles were accepted by God, giving both the apostles and the Gentiles the Holy Spirit, and neither was during water baptism.

    Acts 15:7-9 “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: “Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”

    I believe God is all knowing. I believe God Who knows everyone’s heart knows when a person has genuine faith.

  38. Guy,

    My views are explained in detail in Do We Teach Another Gospel? http://oneinjesus.info/books-by-jay-guin/

    Yes, the fact that you can fall from grace by seeking justification by works rather than faith undermines assurance. But it’s what Paul teaches.

    Now, Paul makes the strongest assertions against the teachers —

    (Gal 1:8-9) But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

    (Gal 5:10) I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be.

    (Gal 5:12) As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

    He warns the “pewsitters” (I know it’s an anachronism), as well, but I think the fairest reading is that God will judge the teachers of this heresy much more severely than those deceived by the teachers.

    I’ve corresponded with the teachers and the victims of the teachers — and there’s an obvious difference in their hearts. God will, of course, through his Spirit strive with all of us to keep us from falling away this (or any other) way. And it’s easy to see that the more legalistic someone is, the less influence the Spirit has on him. You can see the battle being fought and being lost in so many places.

    And it scares me — greatly — that so many are in jeopardy for their souls because they’ve been deceived by so many ministers and elders — especially ministers — into believing that they will only be saved by having the right works. I grieve continuously for those made miserable and divided from their brothers and sisters by such teaching. And I grieve all the more for those whose hearts are being hardened against the gospel and the cross by faith in their inferences and opinions.

    This is the original purpose of the blog — to try to rescue people from the false gospel being taught in so many of our churches and reinforced in so many periodicals. That’s how I see it.

    The progressive/conservative split is no mere Romans 14 difference of opinion. It’s a Galatians issue. And the fruit of the legalism tree is seen at the CFTF lectures.

  39. One commentor speaks at length to insist that water is not water if that requires baptism for taking away sin. But Jesus still is quoted as saying that what is essential is a NEW BIRTH of water and the spirit. It won’t be Jesus who saves if someone leaves out part of the new birth. How refreshing it is to read the thoughts shared by Jay Guin.

  40. Mike,

    Trust me: I know where you’re coming from. Two thoughts —

    1. When someone has to distort your views to win an argument, well, they’ve conceded defeat. Most readers see that.

    2. If necessary, email me privately and I’ll address the issue with the person misrepresenting you.

  41. Jay, you accuse someone of distorting another person’s view also accusing them of doing so to win an argument, neither which are true being I am who you are pointing at. You have misrepresented me Jay.

    I have told you that I don’t attend with a COC denomination. I know that many COCer’s come from an environment that has taught them that anyone who disagrees with your opinion is always wrong, and that environment has made it hard on COCer’s to love their neighbor when it’s not someone from the COC denomination.

    Btw, I’m not angry at you Jay, we all have shortcomings. I really do like you Jay 🙂

  42. going back to the very first comment on this thread , Royce said,” The whole point of Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is that seeking salvation by works rather than faith damns”

    If that is so why does Paul say, he keeps working toward the goal?

    Phl 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

    NLT – Phl 3:12 –
    I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be.

    NIV – Phl 3:12 –
    Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.

  43. Laymond,

    Paul doesn’t say not to do works. He says not to seek justification through works.

    The NT Wright interpretation is that by “works of the law,” Paul particularly in mind those works that supposedly distinguish the saved from the lost. Thus, the false teachers said you are only saved if you’re circumcised. They added circumcision to faith/penitence and baptism.

    Just so, we often add a cappella music etc. as a mark of the church that’s so important grace can’t cover the mistake — singing instrumental takes you automatically outside grace regardless of your heart or intentions. And that’s the sort of thing Paul condemns as another gospel.

  44. James 2
    21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
    25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

    It’s like we’re not supposed to SEEK justification by works, and yet we ARE justified by works. It’s really hard to understand this.

  45. Aaron,

    Neither Abraham nor Rahab were justified by “works of the law” which is (I believe) Paul’s focus.

    They were justified because they obeyed the royal Law – Love God, love neighbor.

    The two writers, Paul and James, are discussing different kinds of works. Some works truly do declare a person’s righteousness (they make it clear to see before the watching world), while others merely make a person look religious.

  46. Aaron,

    Different writers use words in different ways. James is not using “justified” in the technical, law-court sense that Paul uses. There’s nothing in Genesis that says God declared him righteous by his works. Rather, in context, James’ point is that Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice showed his righteousness — his faithfulness to his covenant with God.

    After all, God had already declared him righteous for his faith decades earlier.

    (Jas 2:21 ESV) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

    James is saying that true faith must result in works, and that is true and consistent with Paul. “Faith” is not mere intellectual assent. It’s not saving faith unless it’s also faithfulness.

  47. Larry Short, on March 16, 2010 at 10:51 pm Said:
    The missing in above is reply to CC comment to part 1. If you beleive the Spirit is added at baptism, then anyone not baptised is without the Spirit.
    We know the Spirit can be given by God’s any time, as to the Jewish elders in Exodus, or the apostles at Pentecost or Cornelius. However, the normal process seems to be baptism per Acts. So normally CC’s argument holds that the Bride of Christ is the baptised.
    There is a definite problem with saying baptism saves. First, God saves not the power of our performance. Second, we can not evoke God. By saying the magic words, or doing the ritual, we can not make God cleans sins, give Spirit or anything else. Only by faith and a repentant heart can we ask Him to take our feable action and make something eternal of it.
    RAY: We all need to recognize that we are not God. Our understandings or misunderstandings do not change God’s plans or His speech. We are not claiming that baptism saves. It’s too bad that some don’t hear what we ARE saying: Only those who experience a NEW BIRTH OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT can enter Christ’s kingdom. Baptism alone is not a new birth of water AND the spirit. Praying for salvation is not a new birth of water and the spirit. Nor is gifting some spiritual leader any new birth of water and the spirit. But in Acts 2:38 the apostle makes clear that what is needed for remission of sins is for a sinner to repent and BE BAPTIZED. And this brings the former sinner into the kingdom. Sins are washed away. Because of the water alone? No because of obedience to the gospel. Because of faith in Jesus who offers new life to those who choose to obey the gospel. And THEN Jesus gifts the newborn saint with His Spirit. THEN Jesus writes the newborn’s name in the Book of Life. The newborn saint is now part of the church which IS the earthly kingdom of Christ. What excuse can anyone give for not believing that Peter knew what was needed for entry into Christ’s kingdom? What daring some have to say Peter was wrong! Or equally serious, to ignore him!

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