The Fork in the Road: The Rules, Part 2

Love didn’t disappear from 20th Century Church of Christ theology. It was certainly taught. But it was never taught the way Paul taught it–

(Gal 5:6b)  The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

To preach a sermon that actually agreed with Paul on this point was considered heresy — showing how very far from the Bible the 20th Century Churches of Christ had fallen.

Ironically, though, many Churches adopted this verse as a slogan, but they redefined “faith” to mean a system of doctrine, including inferences from inferences. And this made institutionalism or non-instititutionalism and hat wearing or non-hat wearing equivalent to faith in Jesus — and thus damning issues. The result was that any conclusion drawn from scripture — no matter how indirect or subtle — was treated as “faith” and so a salvation issue.

That’s what defining Christianity in terms of rules does.

So are there really rules? And if so, what are they?

Well, for one, there’s faith, which means faith in Jesus. And this excludes idolatry. So idolatry is wrong. And that means it’s wrong to make anything an idol — which disallows things like greed, as well as selfishness, as well as any loyalty of any kind that interferes with loyalty to God. If my loyalty to my country or my denomination or my political party contradicts my loyalty to God, God wins. Period. And that’s a pretty tough rule.

Of course, it doesn’t mark the Churches of Christ as uniquely saved, but that’s not the test of a good rule, not really.

And then there’s love — which Jesus defined for us as love as he loved us — that is, love so intense that we’ll die for others. That’s a much tougher rule than “don’t use a piano.” But it doesn’t separate us from the other denominations.

You see, some people actually sneer at these rules as too easy, too “liberal,” too mushy — in part because they’ve not thought seriously about how very hard they are. And in part because they started the conversation wanting to show how only the Churches of Christ are going to heaven, and these rules don’t get them to that conclusion and so must be minimized in preference to “better” rules.

And it bothers some people that these aren’t yes/no rules. In other words, it’s pretty easy to ask: do you use a piano? It’s yes or no. Love and faith are kind of fuzzy. We all love some, but do we love as we should? We really never get there, do we? And we Christians all have faith, but we often struggle with idolatry and our faith can be weak — and it’s certainly never strong enough.

Therefore, it’s hard to check the box “yes” or “no.” The answer tends to be “yes, but ….” And if we see salvation and Christianity as being about the rules, well, this is terribly distressing because we can gain no comfort at all. We can say with assurance that we have the right position on faith and on love, but we can’t say we’ve actually lived these things so well that we can check the box “yes.”

And in a religion, such as the 20th Century Churches of Christ, that defines salvation by a checklist of “yes” and “no” answers on the “issues,” to declare that faith and love are vastly more important than the yes/no issues is to create chaos — because how will we know? If salvation is about having the right positions, then when we move to an overarching emphasis on the right heart and virtues instead, well, we can no longer be so confident in ourselves.

And that’s a big problem. If I can’t be confident in my salvation from having all the right positions on the rules, where else could my confidence come from?

(2 Cor 3:4-5)  Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

(Eph 3:12)  In [Jesus Christ our Lord] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Indeed, we find here another rule. The rule is: don’t be confident in yourself; be confident in Jesus. If the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love, then my competence and my expertise on the issues don’t count — so long as I have faith that expresses itself through love.

And we need to consider one more essential passage —

(2 Pet 1:5-11)  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

According to v. 10, how do I make my salvation “sure”? Well, if I “do these things.” What things? Faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perserverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love — in increasing measure. Christian virtues. Oh, wow!

Each of these virtues is a step toward a mature Christian love. They aren’t independent boxes to check, but a roadmap toward growth.

And these aren’t positions on the issues — which leads, of course, to the natural and obvious objection: How can it not be important to have the right positions? Do I just throw all my Bible notes and knowledge away?

And here’s the turning point. No. Keep your notes. Retain your knowledge. Just stop imagining that they keep you saved and stop imagining that those people who disagree with you on instrumental music or whether an elder must have two or more children are damned. They are saved by faith expressing itself through love, too.

But since they have faith and truly love God and his people, they will study hard to get the right answers on how to organize and worship. Just as you do. And you’ll sometimes disagree. And you’ll both still be saved. Salvation isn’t found in the issues. It’s found in Jesus, and we are baptized into Jesus upon faith and repentance. And that’s how we stay in Jesus.

You see, the major flaw in 20th Century Chruch of Christ teaching was the presumption that getting all the “issues” right was the path to salvation. That’s Gnosticism, the attempt to find salvation through knowledge. The deadly, dangerous thing about Gnosticism is that it’s very close to the truth. Of course, Bible study is good. Of course, knowledge of the Bible is important. Of course, we should study. Yes, yes, yes! But this isn’t what saves us. This is, rather, how we serve Jesus now that we’ve been saved.

Now, for the sake of space, just a few quick conclusions —

1. The way we fall away is plainly taught in the Bible. We can surrender our faith (1 John 4:2-3), we can surrender our submission to Jesus as Lord (Heb 10:26-27), or we can seek salvation by some means other than faith (Gal 5:1-6). If we no longer submit to Jesus as Lord, it’ll be because we want to be our own lords, which is both idolatry and selfishness, that is, a lack of love.

2. I’ve not dealt with baptism here, because baptism is solely about how to become saved, rather than how to stay saved. The main thing to remember about baptism is that it’s not a work and therefore we don’t need to teach salvation by works to defend baptism. Baptism is always in the passive voice and so is something received, not done. It’s a gift.

The 20th Century Churches of Christ made a huge blunder by buying the argument that baptism is a work and that therefore we are saved by works — despite Paul’s repeated statements to the contrary. This led to ignoring, abusing, misunderstanding, and even contradicting much of Paul. It’s a bad place to be.

3. None of this sets aside what the scriptures say on elders, the role of women, etc. What the Bible teaches should be honored and obeyed. But it does affect how we understand these passages. No one would argue that these passages be ignored. But they can’t be understood correctly by someone who sees the Bible in terms of rules, issues, and checkboxes. It’s not until we leave our legalism behind that the truths of these passages can be seen.

4. We’ve not even touched on the Spirit — and the coming of the Spirit to the church was prophesied going all the way back to Deuteronomy. The 20th Century Churches of Christ were so anxious to repudiate Irresistible Grace and Pentecostalism that we declared the Spirit dead in 100 AD, which distorted much of our understanding the New Testament. This all makes much better sense when the work of the Spirit today — directly on the heart of the Christian — is understood.

You see, to a rules-oriented mind, direct operation necessarily means direct revelation of the rules, because it’s all about the rules. But when we see Christianity in terms of love, faith, and Christian virtues, we understand the Spirit’s work in us to be primarily about those very things —

(Gal 5:22-23)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

And these are no longer matters best studied by the Ladies Bible Class; rather, these fruit are Paul’s explanation of what faith expressing itself through love does – in contrast to justification by works. And so, if these aren’t a huge part of your theology, you have the wrong theology.

There’s much more, of course, but I hope this begins to explain while choices 1, 2, and 3 are each wrong.

Advertisements

27 Responses

  1. Jay

    Well said, now you will get the rude replies.

    Thank you for this post. I promise to stop, look and listen. Don’t want to get hit by a train

    Bob

  2. People know that many of these instances are not rare, but happen everyday around the globe.

    People who are 700-900 pounds obese that are completely unable to leave the walls of their bedroom, people who have trach tubes helping them breath, people who suffer having epidermolysis a skin disease that is severly painful and the slightest touch can peel their skin off of them.

    A man who lives in Africa is sent a Bible in his language and he reads it and comes to have faith in Jesus Christ. He lives many miles away from water and would have to walk to get there, his wife is very sick with malaria and if he leaves her side she will die.
    A Muslim comes to the U.S. and he is in a very bad car accident and is taken to a hospital where he has tubes and machines hooked to him that cannot be removed or he will die. A Biblical preacher walks in and tells him the gospel and the man converts having faith in Jesus Christ.

    A person sitting on a plane is told the gospel the first time and comes to have faith, the plane lands 10 hours later, before the person gets to a place where they can be baptized they have a heart attack and die. A person riding in a car in the middle of a dry land, they hear the gospel the first time from the radio and come to have faith, it takes them days to get to the city, when they get to the city they are in a car accident and die before they can get to where there’s water. Someone comes to have faith at a church, the baptistery breaks leaving no water, “uh oh! hurry run to the nearest river, Jesus’ didn’t do enough on the cross, but don’t work up a sweat so people won’t think were actually working to get salvation.

    I asked Jay on an earlier post two questions:

    Jay, do you believe all believer’s have to be baptized to be accepted by God that believers who are not baptized are condemned?

    Jay, do you believe in multiple plans, a plan for some believers and another plan for other believers?

    Jay answered:

    I’m really not sure what you mean by multiple “plans.” It’s not a biblical term. The 20th Century CoC view of “plan” is a five-step path to a one-time, temporary forgiveness of sins. It’s not entirely wrong, but it has some serious flaws.

    My own view is to first notice that the scriptures usually combine all the steps into one word: faith.

    (Mark 9:23) “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.”

    (John 1:12-13) Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

    (John 3:14-18) Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

    (John 3:36) “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

    (John 5:24) “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

    (John 6:29) Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

    (John 6:35) Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

    (John 6:40) “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

    (John 6:47) “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”

    (John 7:38-39) “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

    (John 11:25-26) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

    (John 12:46) “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

    (John 20:31) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

    (Acts 10:43) “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
    (Acts 13:38-39) “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.”

    (Acts 16:31) They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household.”

    (Rom. 1:16-17) I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

    (Rom. 3:22-24) This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

    (Rom. 3:25-28) God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

    (Rom. 4:4-5) Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

    (Rom. 5:1-2) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
    (Rom. 10:4) Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

    (Rom. 10:9-13) That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

    (1 Cor. 1:21) For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

    (Gal. 2:15-16) “We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

    (Gal. 3:2) I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?

    (Gal. 3:22) But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

    (Gal. 5:6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

    (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, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.

    (Eph. 2:8-10) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

    (2 Thess. 2:13) But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.

    (1 Tim. 1:16) But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

    (Heb. 10:39) But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

    (1 John 3:23-24) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

    (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.

    (1 John 5:1) Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well.

    (1 John 5:3-5) This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

    (1 John 5:13) I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

    That’s just a few examples.

    If we remember that pistis includes the idea of faithfulness, we readily see how the author can consider “faith” to include repentance. None of these passages denies the necessity of a changed life that follows Jesus. That’s part of “faith” as John and Paul use faith. (James uses “faith” to refer to mere intellectual acceptance in order to refute the abuse of the teaching by others.)

    But we can be good students of the Bible and say that all with faith are saved. That’s what all those verses say. I think God was serious when he inspired them.

    Of course, there are also baptism passages that strongly suggest that baptism is required for salvation. And in the First Century, everyone with faith was baptized. But today, due to what I consider incorrect teaching, many with faith are baptized imperfectly — without immersion, before coming to faith, etc. And a very, very few come to faith and are never baptized at all.

    If the revival preachers from my childhood were right, these are those who were struck by a train on their way to the baptistry. It seems that in northwest Alabama, if you cross a train track on the way to the baptistry, you’ll get killed. Every time. (I insisted that my parents take the safest possible route!)

    Does God damn those who would have been baptized but for being struck by a train or being wrongly instructed on the meaning of eis or baptizo or “household”?
    Unquestionably. You see, God keeps his promises. He keeps all his promises. Always. And all those verses I just quoted say that all with faith are saved.

    So there’s just one plan: faith in Jesus. God intends that those with faith receive the gift of salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit at the same time they receive the gift of the baptism — by immersion upon a confession of their faith. That’s his desire and that should be the ordinary case. But the scriptures teach that God has never rejected anyone who came to him with faith[fulness]/penitence.

    Jay’s answer to my questions which again were:

    Jay, do you believe all believers have to be baptized to be accepted by God that believers who are not baptized are condemned?

    Jay, do you believe in multiple plans, a plan for some believers and another plan for other believers?

    From Jay’s answer, I take that his answer to the first question is No, and his answer to the second question is No.

    There are not multiple plans, a plan for some believers – faith plus baptism, and another plan for other believers – faith. There is one plan of salvation, all believers are saved the same by God’s grace through – faith… not faith plus their being baptized.

  3. “When Peter saw him (the other disciple) he saked: Lord, what about him? Jesus answered: If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:21-22)

    If our Lord said, whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:15+16) we can easily point to the thief on the cross, to 700pounders, to people who die in a car accident on their way to baptism and the like … What is that to you? You must follow Him.

    Making a word search with verses containing “faith” doen’t really help, becauise in many instances baptism is either mentioned in the context (Acts 10, Acts 16, Gal 3, John 3) or else it is written to baptized people.

    Who is the one to decide? We have no vote in whether a person is going to be saved or not. We must follow Him; and I would be very reluctant to say I have a guaranteed ticket to heaven. I’ll see when I’ll be there, but on the way there I trust in God’s Grace, not in my baptism. Baptism was at the beginning of may walk with the Lord, but I have to endure until the end.

    I we are really concerned about all those who are not baptized yet: Let’s go and teach them the whole counsel of God and not a gospel reduced to “faith only”. If we talk about grace, then we have to teach baptism as a means for obtaining grace. That’s because we have to be born again of water and spirit – that’s our Lord’s idea, not mine …

    Alexander

  4. that’s our Lord’s idea, not mine …

    By the way: If we were to “invent” a way to salvation, what would it look like?

  5. I disagree with your interpretation of the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus about born again.

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

  6. Ya gotta love how Jay posts on issues he knows people have conflicts. Great blogging strategy 😉

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

    … Now that I found out about bockquote, I am happy 😉 …

    To be honest, that’s the first time I heard this interpretation. Do you know, when it originated? Or who brought it up first? The physical birth normally is called “according to the flesh” – this would be the only verse using “of water” for the physical birth in the Scriptures.

    I suppose you generally doupt the necessity of baptism. I’m not writing here to convert you, I am sure you have heard our arguments over and over.

    Alexander

  8. I’ve already been converted by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as my only Lord and Savior.

    Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”, Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

    After I had been to a couple of very legalistic churches that taught baptism constantly rarely teaching about Jesus, and constantly showing me that one sentence. After I found a church that taught us to look at the context of what is being said, since so many like to pull verses out of context, I did my own personal study of what Jesus was saying there to Nicodemus. I prayed that the Spirit guide me as I studied and when I was reading it in the context of the conversation that took place it was very clear. I later asked several other people there thoughts on it without telling them mine and they had seen the context of the discussion the same as I had. Context of what is being said does mean a lot doesn’t it.

  9. This is the way I understand what Jesus told Nicodemus too (and I don’t know Anonymous). This seems to make sense in light of vs. 6 where Jesus says “that which is born of flesh is flesh”. It seems that Jesus is contrasting the physical birth with a spiritual birth (regeneration). Obviously, John emphasizes the spiritual in his writings. We do find water used as a metaphor (imu) for cleansing too although, my understanding of the scriptures is that God is always the agent of the cleansing.

    Jay, I’ve noticed that you have been using the term “20th century Church of Christ” more often. Is it your observation that the Church of Christ dogma has changed dramatically in nine years? I wonder how many of your posters find themselves in a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation among their own congregations. You even post a disclaimer that you don’t speak for your own church family. Do your views differ?

  10. Jay,

    “Each of these virtues is a step toward a mature Christian love.” (Referring to 2 Peter 1.5-11)

    and:

    “these fruit are Paul’s explanation of what faith expressing itself through love does” (Referring to Galatians 5.22-23)

    That is exactly what I have been saying all along.

    John

  11. I will share the tract I wrote based on John 3:5. I hope you find it helpful.

    Nicodemus was curious about Jesus because He had performed many signs (Jn. 3:2). So, he came to Jesus at night to speak to Jesus and to find out more about Him. Notice what Jesus tells Him in the following verses:

    “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born-again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 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?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

    Jesus’ answer confuses Nicodemus because all he could think of was the physical. He knew that he belonged to the physical kingdom of Israel and as Jew, he was considered to be part of God’s chosen nation. Now, Jesus is telling him that you must be born-again or you cannot enter the kingdom of God or even see it.

    In verse 4, Nicodemus is trying to make sense of Jesus’ statement from a physical point of view. This is why he asked, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” He thought Jesus statement was crazy because he knew it was impossible to be physically reborn. So, Jesus restates what He said to help Nicodemus understand that He was talking about a spiritual rebirth and not a physical one. Jesus makes it clear that a person cannot enter the kingdom of God that John the Baptist said was at hand (Mk. 1:15), unless they are born-again. This means a person cannot be saved unless they are born of water and the spirit. Since, these two elements are necessary for salvation, it’s important that we take a closer look at what they are and how we are born-again.

    First, let’s take a look at the word “water” and how it relates to being born-again. The word “water” comes from the Greek word “hudor,” which simply means water. It should be easy to see that water is one of the elements necessary to be born-again, which points to baptism. In fact, we can see that water is required for baptism. For instance, when John was baptizing, he baptized with water (Mk. 1:8-10; Jn. 3:23). When the apostles and disciples were carrying out the great commission, they baptized with water (Acts 8:36-39; 10:47). When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he declared there is only one baptism that saves (Eph. 4:4-5), and Peter tells us that one baptism is by water (1 Pet. 3:20-21). In Rom. 6:3ff Paul describes baptism as a burial where we die to our sins and we are made alive with Jesus (Col. 2:13). This is exactly what Jesus described to Nicodemus about being born-again. We put to death our old man of sin as we are buried under the water, and we are “born-again” as a new creature of Christ without our sins when we are raised from the water. The evidence I have provided proves that water baptism is one of the essential elements necessary to enter the kingdom of God and be saved. In fact, all the early writers, known as the “church fathers,” agree that John 3:5 is talking about water baptism.

    “In his monumental work, History of Infant Baptism, William Wall, a leading scholar in the Church of England, asserted that not a single writer of antiquity denied the identification of the “water” of John 3:5 with baptism. He suggested that John Calvin was the first to disassociate the two items, and that Calvin even conceded that his interpretation was “new” (Oxford, 1862, Vol. I, p. 443 – christiancourier.com).”

    Not only does the Bible prove that Jesus is talking about water baptism, all these early noninspired writers understood that Jesus was talking about water baptism as well.

    Second, let’s take a look at the word “spirit” and how it relates to being born-again. Now, we need to keep in mind there is only one birth and it consists of water and spirit. Therefore, there are not two births as some teach, but only one. Jesus is teaching us the Holy Spirit is involved in being born-again. But, the question is, how? To answer this question, we must go beyond this one passage and look at the whole counsel of God. What you will discover is the Holy Spirit instructs us through the Word of God on how to be saved. This is the role that He plays in our being born-again.
    The Holy Spirit’s primary purpose was to reveal the Word of God to us (Jn. 14:26; 16:13-15). He spoke through some of Jesus’ disciples, who in turn recorded these revelations to us in our Bibles (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). So there would be no confusion, He proved a person was speaking the Word of God by backing it up with a miracle (Mk. 16:20; Acts 2:43; 5;12; 6:8; 8:13; Rom. 15:19). Jesus says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63) Paul refers to the New Testament as being a spirit (2 Cor. 3:6). This teaches us the Holy Spirit works through the Word to show us how we are to enter the kingdom of God (Eph. 6:17). It is through the Word, or we could say by the Spirit, that we learn how to be saved (1 Pet. 1:23; Rom. 1:16, Jam. 1:18, 21).

    To further show how the Holy Spirit works in our conversion with water baptism, take a look at the following parallel passages.

    “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26)

    Notice, the 3 elements: the word, washing of water and cleanse. The “word” is obviously a reference to the Word of God. “Washing of water” refers to water baptism. “Sanctify and cleanse” refers to being saved with our sins being removed.

    “…He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

    Notice the 3 elements: Holy Spirit, washing of regeneration and saved. “Renewing of the Holy Spirit” refers to how the Holy Spirit works through the Word to save us (James 1:21). “Washing” is defined as “Washing, cleansing; water (USB).” “Regeneration” is defined as a new birth or renewal or restoration of life after death (Strong’s).” So, “washing of regeneration” is referring to water baptism and “saved” means salvation.
    “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13).

    Notice the 3 elements: Spirit, baptized, one body. Please notice Paul says, “By one Spirit” and not “With one Spirit.” This is important because this shows the baptism being spoken of here is not Holy Spirit baptism, but is by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit instructs us through the Word that we must be baptized in water into the name of Jesus for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). So, “baptism” refers to water baptism. “One body” is the same as saying the kingdom because the body is the church (Col. 1:18, 24) and the church is the same as the kingdom (Mat. 16:18-19). Now, examine the following chart.

    John 3:5 – Sprit – Water – Kingdom
    Eph. 5:26 – Word – Water – Cleansed
    Tit. 3:5 – Holy Spirit – Washing – Saved
    1 Cor. 12:13 – Spirit – Baptized – Body

    All these verses show that the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God and teaches us what we must do to be born-again, which includes believing Jesus is the Son of God (Jn. 8:24), repenting (Lk. 13:3), confessing Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9-10) and being baptized (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 22:16). When we obey the Holy Spirit’s instructions, we are added to the kingdom by God (Acts 2:47), which is Jesus’ church or body (Col. 1:18, 24) that He will save (Eph. 5:23).

    Whenever we are born again, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32), which means we have been sealed by Him (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22). The word “seal” means “To mark with a seal as a means of identification, mark, seal so that the mark denoting ownership also carries with it the protection of the owner (BDAG).” This fits perfectly with the great commission (Mat. 28:19), which teaches us that we are baptized into the name of, or into the possession of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This seal is our guarantee of a home in heaven if we remain faithful (Rev. 2:10). Just as the Holy Spirit was a witness for Jesus (1 Jn. 5:6), He bears witness that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16). Once we are born-again, we are considered to be the temple of God and all three members of the Godhead will dwell in us (Holy Spirit: 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Rom. 8:9, 11; Father: 2 Cor. 6:16; Jn. 14:23; Jesus: Rom. 8:10; 2 Cor. 13:5; Jn. 6:56). How do they dwell in us? It is by our faith (Eph. 3:17). We can know that they dwell in us just like we can know that our sins are being removed and we are being united with Christ at the point of baptism (Col. 2:12). Again, it is by our faith in the working of God.
    So, Jesus taught Nicodemus and us a valuable lesson. If we want to be saved and be able to enter the kingdom of God, we must be born-again by obeying the instructions of the Holy Spirit, which includes being water baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of our sins.

    Now, I want to deal with the objections that some have with these verses.

    1. Some would say that Jesus is talking about Holy Spirit baptism. Now, I have already proven the baptism that saves us is water baptism, but let’s take a look as some more reasons this cannot be talking about Holy Spirit baptism. Holy Spirit baptism only occurs two times in scripture and it was followed with the miraculous ability to speak in another language. First, at the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and second, at Cornelius’ house (Acts 10). Holy Spirit baptism was a promise that Jesus would administer and He only promised it to His apostles (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:33). If Jesus was talking about Holy Spirit baptism, then it would be necessary for every single person to receive it to enter the kingdom of God. Again, we only have two cases of this recorded for us in scripture. If Holy Spirit baptism was essential for salvation and water baptism is not, then we are going to have a difficult time explaining why Philip baptized the people of Samaria in water and then left them out of the kingdom (Acts 8:14-16). The only other way that a person could receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit was by the laying on of hands by an apostle. This is why Peter and John had to go to Samaria. This ability died out with the last apostle and is not available today. If Holy Spirit baptism was necessary, then why did Ananias tell Paul to get up and get himself baptized (Acts 22:16)? If Holy Spirit baptism is what saves, then the Holy Spirit could have baptized Paul right then and there even if he was standing on his head. It should be obvious that water baptism is what Jesus is talking about in this verse because it was commanded and is to be done by us (Mat. 28:18-20). Water baptism was done throughout the book of Acts because it is the one baptism that saves (Eph. 4:4-5).

    2. Some have said the water is talking about the amniotic fluid that surrounds a baby in the womb and the spirit is referring to being born of the Spirit, which brings us back to Holy Spirit baptism. First, it wouldn’t make sense for Jesus to say that you must be born from the water of your mother because who isn’t born from their mother? So, if Jesus wanted us to know that Holy Spirit baptism was necessary, he would have simply said you must be born of the Spirit. Second, Jesus had the chance to explain to Nicodemus that he had already accomplished the first element in verse 5. But instead, he said he must be born of water and spirit. Obviously, Jesus was letting him know that he had not experienced this new birth of water and spirit. Third, the word water used in this text is never used in the Bible to refer to childbirth. This should be enough to show the water in this verse does not refer to childbirth.

    In conclusion, we have examined the first reference to water baptism that Jesus would command under the new covenant, which was necessary to enter the kingdom of God. The only way we can be born-again and freed from our sins is by obeying the instructions of the Holy Spirit. This would include believing Jesus is the Son of God, repenting, confessing Jesus as Lord and being water baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins. Jesus’ instructions to Nicodemus proves that water baptism is necessary for salvation.

  12. Cougan

    Do you believe the gift of the Spirit promised after baptism is his indwelling in the Christian?

    Thank you for the above explanation.

    Grace and peace.

    Bob

  13. Cougan Collins guesses, “Whenever we are born again, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32), which means we have been sealed by Him (Eph. 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:22).”

    My guess is different, based on several verses which speak of the Spirit gifted to us at conversion and the spirit involved in conversion. I never see the Spirit involved in getting a person saved. We are not sealed BY the Spirit. We are sealed WITH the Spirit. This is done AFTER we repent and are baptized, if Peter understood the process.

    Peter plainly places the receiving of the Spirit at the END of conversion, not any earlier in the process. The “seal” is when God gifts us with His Spirit, which gift is not given by the Spirit as our brother supposes. It’s given by God. It’s the Spirit who is sent to dwell within each new Christian.

    Peter surely understood how sinners needed to obey the gospel in order to be saved. Why do some insist Peter was wrong? Peter told new believers that they MUST repent and be baptized, which was immersion in water. Peter, led by the Spirit, knew that Jesus had stated that entrance into His kingdom was by a new birth of water and the spirit.

    Peter named these two steps as repenting and being baptized. The repenting is a spiritual CHANGE, without which no sinner can be saved. The being baptized is in WATER, which is the second element Jesus placed prior to entrance into His kingdom. Is that hard to understand? Only if a person wants it to not be true. Only if a person is willing to believe Peter was NOT inspired.

    Is faith necessary for salvation? Faith in Jesus as Lord, we mean. Yes, essential without doubt. Is repentance essential for salvation? How could it NOT be needed? Is God going to accept an unrepentant person into the kingdom? Why would He? Is repentance part of faith. No. Indeed it is not. Faith is believing. Repenting is changing desires and plans. Repenting is not believing. Faith leads TO repentance. They are two separate things. Some who believe do NOT repent of sin. They die in their sin.

    And is obedience to the gospel complete without the sinner being baptized? Not if Jesus knew what was needed. Not if Peter knew what was needed. Not if Paul was given correct advice when HE wanted to be saved. No, except for exceptional cases where Jesus sees faith present with no opportunity to BE baptized can any person expect to be saved without accepting the baptism in water which Jesus says needs to accompany proclaiming His gospel. Baptism was HIS idea, after all, not any man’s. A man must be very brave to think he knows more than Jesus did and does.

  14. Ray

    How about Jeremiah 31:31-36 We will receive a new covenant. His laws will be put into their minds and . I will be their God written on our hearts. Also 2 Corinthians 3:3 The Spirit writes not on tables of stone but on our hearts.

    Bob

  15. Bob, Ray, Cougan, Alexander, Anonymous, etc.,

    As Bob points out above, the New covenant promises are important here – however, I (and many others) would contend that it’s the NC promises in Ezekiel 36 that is in view in John 3:

    25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

    Israel was hoping (at least, meant to be hoping) for the day that they would be cleansed and filled – hard to see how this passage wouldn’t be the background to John 3:5?

  16. Many people who say Jesus was speaking baptism to Nicodemus already have a preconceived idea or theology and want to insist that Jesus is saying baptism when nowhere in the discussion does Jesus speak baptism. Jesus wasn’t known to have issues with saying baptize to people, baptisms were nothing new to the Jewish community, the Jewish practice of baptizing Gentiles to Judaism and the baptisms of purification were very prominent in the Jewish lifestyle where they performed ceremonial washings in obedience.

    When Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again to see the kingdom of heaven, that was more than a huge blow to a Jewish man being a Pharisee of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. To Nicodemus to be born a Jew was to be born in the kingdom of God, Nicodemus thought he had a reserved seat in heaven, it was mind blowing to Nicodemus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
    “Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.“ Jesus was telling Nicodemus being born a Jew wasn‘t enough, but that he needed to be born of the Spirit.

    The people saw Jesus differently than they saw their so called experts. He gave them mercy and compassion that was evident in His nature toward them that was totally opposite from the their so called experts that spoke with great dogmatism .

  17. What brought me to the church of Christ’s understanding of baptism was not a tract of a contemporary church of Christ. In fact, my brother was baptized in the ICoC (the Vienna ICoC now reuninted with the CoC) while I was still an Evangelical and we had some debates about baptism. He did not convince me.

    But after I have read David Bercots’s book “Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up” (www.scrollpublishing.com) and listened to his CD “What the Early Christians believed about baptism” I began reading them myself and became convinced that Baptism is (a) for the remission of sin (b) the new birth and (c) for receiving the Holy Spirit. It is essential for salvation, but not the complete salvation, which is a process of an obedient love-faith relationship with Christ.

    The Early Christian understanding of John 3:5 is crystal clear and without exception they understand water to speak of water-baptism. This is highly significant, because their writings are in the context of the earliest churches, sometimes even contemporaries of the Apostles (e.g. the letter of Barnabas, ca. 70 AD) or by disciples of the Apostles (Ignatius of Antioch, Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna). And as you see by the placenames, they served as Elders in congregations that were planted by the Apostles only one generation ago. These were – so to say – the faithful men Paul spoke of in 2Tim 2:2.

    The idea, baptism is merely a symbol (not a sacrament) originated in the 1500s with the Swiss reformation (Zwingli). This idea was totally unknown in the centuries before (down to the Apostolic times), except for some Gnostic (!!!) groups. Virtually all churches, except those who have their roots in the Swiss Reformation, believe that a person in born again in baptism (that’s true for Lutherans, Catholics and the various Orthodox churches), although most of them apply this to infant baptism.

    The idea, we could leave out baptism and be saved entirely by “faith alone” is a fruit of the revivals among infant-baptizing churches, and goes back no earlier than the 1700s – and there they would not have said, baptism is unimportant, but infant baptism is valid. At least infant baptism can claim some antiquity: In the western churches (Lyon, Carthage) it can be traced back to the late 2nd century.

    The idea we could skip baptism all together was first introduced by the Society of Friends, and is now embraced by post-modern Evangelicalism, totally in line with the relativism of our times. This idea is so young, it still needs diapers!

    OK. Are we to follow a faith that was made up centuries after the Apostles or are we to hold fast (or to restore) the Apostolic Faith? I’m sorry to say, Anonymus and the others: There is a historic level to this question, and on this level there can be no debate on the understanding of John 3:5 in particular and the necessity of baptism in general.

    Do you think, I cheered when I discovered that? No, I was UPSET!!! I had to renounce an error, I was deeply entrenched in through my Evangelical mind set, that I taught publicly in Bible classes and sermons!!! Boy, was I ever humbled ….

    So, I really urge you, who disagree: Proove to me the antiquity of your theology and I’ll gladly come back to your side! But, please, don’t just repeat commentaries that someone made up during the last years, decades or even centuries – Go for the original!

    Alexander

  18. Alexander,

    I get where you’re coming from. BTW, a very close friend of mine was part of Vienna ICoC.

    I’m afraid that a hope for a new covenant predates even Ignatius and Clement – it predates creation, but was revealed to Abraham in some ways, Moses in some ways, Jeremiah, Isaiah and others quite clearly, and fleshed out in great detail by Ezekiel.

    And this is the tie with Jay’s post here – it’s about how we live! The older covenant was powerless to produce fruit. Whether in the analogies of figs (Jeremiah, Jesus), vineyards (Isaiah, Jesus), hearts of stone (Ezekiel, Jesus), impotent husbands (Romans 7) etc., God is glorified when his people are fruitful – when they live virtuously.

    Now Ezekiel promised a lot in ch 36 – restored land (even looking like Eden), an ingathered Israel, etc. And there’s this glorious hope of a people cleansed with water and empowered by the Spirit to obey their God and thus their God would be glorified.

    John 3:5 has to look to that – and of course the church will see baptism in it, because baptism must be tied up in it. But that doesn’t make it fundamentally about baptism! It’s fundamentally about God’s purposes for Israel finally coming to their conclusion in Jesus.

    Whether baptism is seen as appropriating the cleansing and/or symbolizing the cleansing, baptism is not the focus of the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy, nor of Nicodemus’ problem. Nicodemus’ problem was that of all Pharisees – a hope that God’s kingdom would come by a detailed restoration of obedience to the Mosaic Law.

    Nicodemus is called to get on board God’s program which is coming about in Jesus; a true cleansing and a new empowerment for virtue. This is clearly tied up with baptism, but if we say the text is about baptism I think we’ll miss something.

  19. Your swelling words that anyone who disagrees with your opinion is wrong really don’t intimidate me. You haven’t, as you put it, “converted” me to your side. I guess the little old grandma back in the woods and the young uns at her feet who trust Christ alone as their salvation and not in their righteous deeds that don’t read about Nicodemus as you interpret are going to burn in hell for it. I guess the Jewish converts, fluent in Hebrew and Greek who disagree with you are all going to hell too. So are people who are 700-900 pounds obese that are completely unable to leave the walls of their bedroom, people who have trach tubes helping them breath, people who suffer having epidermolysis that is severly painful and the slightest touch can peel their skin off of them, a person sitting on a plane who comes to have faith who dies before they get to a place where they can be baptized, a person in the middle of a dry land who comes to have faith and dies before they can get to a place where they can be baptized. Evidently Jesus didn’t do enough.

  20. I guess the little old grandma back in the woods and the young uns at her feet who trust Christ alone as their salvation and not in their righteous deeds that don’t read about Nicodemus as you interpret are going to burn in hell for it.

    Me neither, but that’s not the point. As long as you say: “What about them?” you will miss “You must follow me.”

    There will always be circumstances where the “ordinary process of salvation” will not be followed in every detail – but thta does not rule outthe fact that there is a “pattern for salvation”.

    Your argument goes like: ince baptism could not be applied or expected in these situations, baptism cannot be necessary for salvation. Where doe sch a kind of logic end? Is it necessary to kow about Jesus to be saved? What if someone never had a chance to hear the gospel? … Your logic simply doesn’t work, because then it would be better never to preach the gospel, so all natione would have the excuse of not having heard about Jesus.

    Now Ezekiel promised a lot in ch 36 – restored land (even looking like Eden), an ingathered Israel, etc. And there’s this glorious hope of a people cleansed with water and empowered by the Spirit to obey their God and thus their God would be glorified.

    John 3:5 has to look to that – and of course the church will see baptism in it, because baptism must be tied up in it. But that doesn’t make it fundamentally about baptism! It’s fundamentally about God’s purposes for Israel finally coming to their conclusion in Jesus.

    I can agree with that.

  21. We partake of the Lord’s Supper and know the drink and the bread are metaphors of His blood and body, we aren’t literally eating flesh and drinking blood.

    Ezekiel’s use of sprinkle with water is a metaphor of the true cleansing. All the rituals the Jewish people did were metaphors of the true cleansing. Your argument is Jesus was telling Nicodemus to be sprinkled with water. Then the Catholic church obviously practice this correctly as they sprinkle Holy water…you know the magical water where Jesus’ blood is locked up. But of course the COC denomination would rather us come on over to their building and behold the blood of Jesus contained in the pool of water at their Holy of Holies. Be there or be square.

  22. I don’t believe the gospel is a big unknown secret, I believe everyone is drawn to Him, I believe all people as they go through life come across the gospel at some point, but not all believe it.

  23. We are not better than the Hebrew Scripture Patriarchs, our performing obedience to His commands do not surpass their righteousness. Romans 3:9 “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.”

    The many righteous works Abraham did justified him that he was seen to others as a great man of God, though the works he did could not justify him before God, Romans 4:2 “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.” Abraham and others who had faith looking forward to the promise of eternal life through Christ who would save mankind, Christ was their salvation. We are all saved the same as Abraham through the blood of Jesus.

    Galatians 3:10-14 “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

    Peter spoke the gospel to the Gentiles.

    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.

  24. We partake of the Lord’s Supper and know the drink and the bread are metaphors of His blood and body, we aren’t literally eating flesh and drinking blood.

    “We know” … really? No, we read and interpret what we read according to our modern western mind set. There are very serious brothers even among us who would not agree with you on that.

    In general: I got the impression that when our Lord Jesus introduced symbols they were more than “metaphors”. They were something to partake in, they involve us physically. Wikipedia defines metaphor only on the level of speech and words(definition: Metaphor). That’s a huge difference, because it only invlves our intellect. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (and footwashing) involves us with our spirit, soul and body, our whole being.

    Becoming involved physically makes me part of the act and vice versa. I am not only dipped into water, I am dipped into what the water stands for: the death and resurrection of Christ. And the benefits of this bless me spirutually. Thus it becomes a reality beyond the material aspect of the water.

    The same is true for the Lord’s Supper. I’m not just eating bread and wine, I am partaking of His body and blood in a spirutual way, thus His sacrifice and His covenant become (more and more) part of myself. All this goes beyond the material aspects of bread and wine in a way that is maybe a little too high for us to understand.

    We do have a natural tendency to rationalize these mysteries, to make them unmderstandable. The Roman Catholics tried to explain it this way: The bread is changed into the flesh of Christ, and this is best explained by the definition of “transubstantiation”. But this definition was a human invention based on Greek philosophy. So the Swiss reformers said, not it is just a symbol, a metaphor – and their way of thinking was shaped by renaissance-humanism (or: a different kind of Greek philosophy).

    So either way we try to explain it, we add or we take away from it. But as soon as we depart from our philosphical background we can become more open to 1st century biblical thinking. It is about partaking, about becoming one with what the act stands for.

    Alexander

  25. Taking part of these sacraments are special and should be special to followers of Christ. They are metaphors that point at Jesus, but are not equal to Jesus. Performing righteous deeds are insufficient to atone human sins, only Jesus’ sacrifice is sufficient to a Holy God. I am a sinner saved by the grace of God, Jesus’ blood Holy and righteous which He shed brings me to my knees falling flat on my face before such a Holy God. His glory is much, much bigger than anything I can ever do.

  26. Let’s try this example: You use a different name: “Anonymous” – and obviously this name is not your name. And by talking to “Anonymous” I can rightfully say, that I see no person, no face behind it: It is a metaphor.

    But when I start insulting the metaphor, the person behind it would get mad. And rightfully so, because he (or she) behind the metaphor still identifies with it. It is a hidden and mysterious way to express him/herself.

    It has some benefits: I don’t know your age, so I can meet you on eye lavel. I don’t know your many academic titles (if there are any), so I won’t be intimitated. Or the other way round: I don’t see how young you are and I treat you as an equal.

    It’s similar to the bread and the wine: It is our Lord Jesus is a form “we can handle”; it is bread and wine and it remains bread and wine. But He stands behind these two elements, He identifies with them.

    We can trat bread and wine reverently or irreverenty, and thus we treat the Lord reverently or irreverently. So the symbols are signs of His presence, bread, but no ordinary bread. Wine, but sanctified wine.

    We can have communiun with Him in a way we can survive, because when John saw the Lord in His Glory on Patmos he fell down like dead.

    So I think using the word metaphor in the context of the Lord’s Supper falls short of its significance; just as I would treat you as a metaphor. I have to see the real person behind “Anonymous” and treat it with love and respect. I could not threat a metaphor (“Anonymous” or bread and wine with love and respect without the persons behind it). And besides: THe scriptures don’t use the word metaphor (or a synonymous term) in that context. The Lord simply said: “This is my body”.

    Alexander

  27. Please don’t attempt to belittle my taking of the Lord’s Supper, you do not see my thoughts as God does. I don’t believe the bread and wine is turned to blood and flesh, much of the Bible speaks using metaphors, I believe the bread and wine are symbols. Do not try to belittle me again, such tactics cannot hurt me, I am aware of the many tactics the COC denomination use when people disagree with their opinion. The Lord’s Supper is very special to me, I love taking the Lord’s Supper as it is very meaningful to me. If you don’t want to believe that ….then don’t. I know God sees everything, He sees everything about me, while you my friend don’t.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: