Sermon 08-27-17: “Faith Alone, Part 1”

September 21, 2017

Five hundred years ago this October 31, Martin Luther inadvertently launched the Protestant Reformation when he nailed his “Ninety-five Theses” to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg. One of his core convictions, derived from scripture, is that we are justified by faith alone. We Methodists share his conviction that we can do nothing to earn or merit God’s saving grace. It is only on the basis of what Christ has done through his life, death, and resurrection that we’re saved. Why does this doctrine remain relevant today? Why do we still need to hear this message? That’s what this sermon is about.

Sermon Text: Galatians 2:11-14; 3:1-6

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Nearly 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517, an Augustinian monk and theology professor named Martin Luther nailed a document, now known as the Ninety-five Theses, to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. It wasn’t unusual to nail things to that door; it was the equivalent of a community bulletin board—a way of making announcements, or in this case inviting church officials to debate him. In this document, he took issue with a particular practice in his church—the Roman Catholic church—that he believed was unbiblical, un-Christian, and needed to be reformed. Little did he know that this action would launch what would become the Protestant Reformation.

A couple of centuries later, in England, it would even enable the establishment of our own Methodist church.

As Methodists, we are Protestants. And I know that’s just a label, and we probably haven’t thought much about what it means aside from knowing that it means, “Not Catholic.” But in this new sermon series, celebrating the 500th anniversary of Protestantism, I want to talk about the five core convictions that nearly all of us Protestants have in common. Because I believe they’re still relevant today. And I believe if we take each of them to heart they will help us fall in love with and glorify our Lord Jesus more and become more faithful followers of him.

So let’s begin today with the Protestant conviction that in Latin is known as Sola Fide: that we are justified by faith alone.

First, what does it mean to be “justified.” Justification happens the moment we place our faith in Christ, and his atoning work on the cross, and his resurrection. When we are justified, God forgives us of all our sins—past, present, and future—such that we can be confident right now that we will be saved. We can be confident right now that when we die and stand before God in final judgment, he will pronounce the following verdict over our sins: Not guilty. We can be confident right now that we will spend eternity in heaven with our Lord. We Methodists like to refer to this confidence as assurance. As Paul says in Romans 8, after we’re justified, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.”[1] One Methodist pastor gave me this mnemonic device that I still find helpful: When we’re justified, it’s “just as if we’d never sinned.”

And how are we justified? Through faith in Jesus Christ… Alone.

And this is the main meaning of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. False teachers had infiltrated these churches that Paul had started on one of his missionary journeys. And in Paul’s absence, they were teaching these Galatian Christians that they cannot be justified unless or until their men get circumcised; and they follow Jewish dietary laws; and they observe all the Jewish holy days and festivals. Yes, they still need to place their faith in Jesus and his atoning work on the cross in order to be saved. But they also need to do these other things to be saved.

And Paul, in his most impassioned writing in the New Testament, says no. In fact, he says that if he, or some other apostle, or if even an angel from heaven should come to them and preach a different gospel from the one that he preached to them years earlier when they first got saved, “let him be accursed.

To help his readers understand why, in today’s scripture Paul describes an incident that happened some years earlier, in Antioch where Paul was based. The apostle Peter had come to visit Paul’s church. And while he was there, Peter was happily sharing meals with Gentile Christians. This was not something that Jews normally did. Why? Because Gentiles didn’t follow Jewish purity laws and dietary laws and were ritually unclean, according to the law of Moses. So if Jews ate with Gentiles, they risked making themselves unclean. But the gospel changed all that, as Peter himself understood. As Paul says later in this letter, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[2] All of us, through faith in Christ and nothing else, are completely equal in the eyes of God; there are no “second-class” Christians. We are all the same—we are all beloved children of God, and brothers and sisters of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But while Peter was still in Antioch, Paul says in verse 12, “certain men came from James” to the church there. James was the brother of Jesus and the apostle who wrote the New Testament letter—and these men, like the false teachers in the churches in Galatia, had misunderstood the gospel. James didn’t misunderstand, but they did. When they showed up, Peter got scared. He was worried about what these other people would think of him if they saw him eating with Gentiles. So he changed his behavior. He withdrew from the Gentiles, stopped eating with them, and started acting again as if the ceremonial laws in the law of Moses still applied. And suddenly Peter wouldn’t fellowship with these Christians unless or until they got circumcised, and fulfilled other ceremonial aspects of the Law. And Peter’s example caused other Jewish Christians in the church to follow suit.

So Paul, who was afraid of no man, saw what was happening. He writes, “I said to Cephas before them all, ‘If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?’” In other words, “Peter, you’re breaking the law of Moses in a million different ways, yet somehow you want Gentiles to start following the law? Physician, heal thyself! You’re being a hypocrite.”

So Paul uses this incident with Peter to make the following point: If you believe that keeping God’s law, even just a small part of it—or performing any good work—plays any role in your salvation, you have utterly misunderstood the gospel of Jesus Christ. You have misunderstood what Christ accomplished for you: he lived the life of perfect obedience to his Father that we were unable to live. And he took our sins upon himself and paid the penalty for them, on the cross—in our place. One ancient Christian writer called this the “sweet exchange”: on the cross, Christ exchanges our sins for his righteousness. He takes our sins upon himself and gives us his righteousness in return.

And how does Christ give us his righteousness?

Think of it like this: Queen Elizabeth’s husband is who? Prince Philip. So even though he married the queen, he didn’t become King Philip. On the other hand, when Elizabeth’s grandson, Prince William, finally becomes king, the woman who married him, the lovely Catherine Middleton—Duchess “Kate”—will become Queen. She will become Queen Catherine. Her husband the king will bestow upon her that title—and all the privileges that come with it. Because all that the husband has now also belongs to his wife—including his royal status.

That makes sense, right? Now, think about the metaphor that the Bible uses in both Old and New Testaments to describe the relationship between God and his people. It’s of a husband and wife. We Christians are called what? The “bride” of Christ. In Ephesians 5, Paul compares the relationship of husband and wife to the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church. It’s no exaggeration to say that when we unite with Christ through faith—as two of our children did today as represented by their baptism—it’s as if we are married to Jesus. And what is his becomes ours—just as Duchess Kate will inherit Prince William’s royal status, so we Christians inherit Christ’s righteousness. Remember what I said earlier? From God’s perspective, when we’re justified, it’s “just as if” we had never sinned; because Christ’s righteousness becomes our righteousness. Not because we did anything to earn it or deserve it.

I told you a few weeks ago about my friend David, who is Catholic. Years ago, when I was in seminary, I pastored a small Methodist church down in Forsyth, Georgia, for three years. And one weekend David and his family came to visit us. We were living in a parsonage next to the church. I was excited that David would get to see the reason that I had uprooted my family, gone back to school, drastically changed my life. He would get to see me in action as a pastor. And he was excited, too. Only… when he arrived at my house on Saturday afternoon he told me that he and his family would have to go down to Macon, to the Catholic church there, later that evening and attend Mass. And then they’d come back up to Forsyth on Saturday night and spend the rest of the weekend with us. So they were happy to go to church with us, but first they had to go to Mass.

And this really bothered me at the time: “Is my church not good enough that you can’t come to it for one Sunday without also going to Mass?” That’s what I wanted to ask.

Of course, I now see that David was acting in a way that was completely consistent with his Catholic faith. He wouldn’t dare miss Mass! Why? Because as a Catholic he doesn’t believe—sadly—in justification by faith alone. He doesn’t believe that it’s on the basis of Christ’s righteousness, rather than our own, that we’re made acceptable to God. Faith is a part of it, of course, but it isn’t all of it. Instead, David believes that he needs to go to Mass, go to confession, do all the other things required of Catholics, week after week. And receive a little bit of grace and a little bit of grace and a little bit of grace. Until finally, after he dies, he hopes he’ll have merited through his good works enough of this grace to go to heaven. And to go there without spending a considerable amount of time in purgatory first! No Catholic can know for sure their eternal destiny before they die. Because they have to add to faith these good works, and they can’t know how much of these good works is enough.

Look, I don’t doubt for a moment that my friend David is saved, although he probably would. I don’t doubt for a moment that because of his faith in Christ he will be saved. But how can my friend know peace in his life with this nagging thought in the back of his mind: “What if I haven’t done enough?” And how can he love and trust and glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ knowing that, in spite of his faith, in spite of his years of “following the rules” that his church has laid before him, he could reach the end of his life only to find that he missed the goal toward which he’d been striving all his life—heaven—because in addition to his faith, he hadn’t done enough to be saved?

I don’t believe that will happen to him. Because I know the gospel, and I know that we’re justified by faith alone and not works. But my friend thinks that’s at least a possibility. And that’s got to affect the way he feels about Jesus, right? How can he not be a little afraid of him?

I share this story because I want you to see, by contrast, what we have in the pure gospel of salvation by grace through faith! Do we believe it? Do we really?

I did not grow up Methodist. Always Protestant, but not Methodist. I was a Baptist. Let me tell you about someone I knew from youth group back then. His name was Ricky. He was cool and popular and good-looking and always had cute girls fawning over him, so naturally I hated him even though I wanted to be like him. Anyway, in the Baptist tradition, when the preacher gives an altar call, a part of that invitation is to “rededicate” your life to Christ. This was for those who are already Christians, but whose life has gotten off course, and they’re telling God publicly that they want to repent and make a new start. I’m not against that; it’s just not a big part of our Methodist tradition.

Anyway, every winter on youth retreat and every summer at youth camp, on the night when the pastor would issue an altar call, you could count on Ricky walking down the aisle—in tears—to rededicate his life to Christ. And when he did that, a part of me would think, “I may not be as cool as Ricky, but at least I’ve never cried in front of my fellow youth!” But Ricky would tearfully rededicate his life to Christ, repent of his sins, start over again… Every year, twice a year, like clockwork. We’d all sort of roll our eyes… There goes Ricky again! Walking down the aisle. It was sort of a joke to us. It wasn’t a joke to Ricky, but it was to us.

If I were his pastor now, and I saw how plagued he was by his guilty conscience, I would remind him of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I would remind him that the basis upon which we’re accepted by God isn’t what we do—or what we fail to do. It’s what Christ has done for us, through his life, death, and resurrection. And I would also gently tell him that walking down an aisle and rededicating your life doesn’t save you either—because even that can become like a “good work” that we have to perform in order to be saved. No, we believe that Christ saves us. And we receive this gift of salvation by faith. And we can be confident, so long as keep trusting in him, we can be confident that he’s not going to take that gift away!

That’s what I would tell him now. But you know what I was thinking back then—along with some of my fellow youth? “Ricky, what’s your problem? Get it right this time! Get your act together! Stop messing up so badly that you need to constantly ‘rededicate’ your life every time we have a retreat or youth camp!”

We were so dumb. Because you know what we were really meant? “Ricky, you need to be at least as good as we are. You need to be at least as righteous as we are. Stop messing up worse than we mess up.” In other words, we had our own standards of righteousness by which we judged ourselves and others—and so long as we lived up to these standards, and followed these little laws, we would feel accepted by God… forgiven by God… loved by God.

Just follow these rules… Obey these laws… Sure, Ricky couldn’t live up to these standards, but we can! Aren’t we something? Aren’t we special? No need to “rededicate” our lives here. No, sir! God loves us… look at all the good things we do, and all the bad things we avoid doing!

And then when we fall below those standards and break those little laws—oh, the guilt, the self-loathing!

I hope you see my point. Just because we say we believe in justification by faith alone doesn’t mean that we really believe it.

All of us have serious problems. None of us “gets it right” most of the time. None of us has our act together most of the time. All of us have messed up so badly that we all need to rededicate our lives to Christ every day, if not every hour. None of us can do anything to deserve or merit God’s love or forgiveness.

We’re a mess, let’s face it.

Thank God that he sent his Son Jesus into the world to save us in spite of that fact. That’s the gospel truth. Amen?

1. Romans 8:16 ESV

2. Galatians 3:28 ESV

40 Responses to “Sermon 08-27-17: “Faith Alone, Part 1””

  1. Grant Essex Says:

    From one big mess,

    Amen!

  2. Tom Harkins Says:

    I believe that we have to “believe in Jesus” for salvation. I believe we cannot earn or deserve our salvation. I believe salvation is by faith instead of by [perfect] works by the grace of God. Ephesians 2:8-9. [My interpolation.]

    SO, what do I think differently? I am not quite certain about it; or, perhaps, less certain than I used to be. But, I nonetheless think that we also have to “repent.” “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” “‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ ‘Repent and be baptized, for the forgiveness of sin.'” If I recall correctly, Paul himself says in Acts, paraphrased, “I preached to anybody and everybody that they must repent.”

    SO, what does “faith plus repentance” look like? Some preachers I have heard say “repent” means “turn around.” Stop going in the direction you were going and go the other way. We can’t do that “perfectly,” which is where grace comes in. But, I think we have got to try!

    In Galatians at least, where Paul reports his reproof of Peter, he was emphasizing that “Jewish works” were not necessary (much as we might say “Catholic works” are unnecessary). You don’t have to be circumcised. You don’t have to make sacrifices. You don’t have to keep holy days. You don’t have to abstain from certain foods. You don’t have to worship at the Temple. (You don’t have to have Mass every Sunday. You don’t have to go to confessional.) He did not necessarily mean that the “generalized” term we use for “works” has absolutely nothing to do with salvation.

    Jesus says some pretty startling things about being his disciple (which is not different from being saved). “If anyone puts his hand to the plow, and looks back, he is not worthy to be my disciple.” “If a man loves his father or mother or … more than me, he cannot be my disciple.” “Count the cost.” Etc.

    Here are two of my “word pictures” that I have for this. One: You have to “surrender.” As in, lay down your arms and stop shooting at Union soldiers to receive Lincoln’s amnesty. Two: Salvation is a “my life for your life” exchange. God wants our lives so much that He was willing to give this life to get them. We want God’s life so much that we are willing to give up our lives to get it.

    How does this all tie in to “faith”? Here is where I have a bit of difficulty. But we can’t ignore the repentance passages out of sole reliance on the faith ones. I note, however, that “obedient works” follow in those who actually have faith. Hebrews 11 says, “By faith so-and-so did such-and-such.” I don’t think it is sufficient to just say that if you have “real” faith it will “necessarily” result in works. Perhaps we can say instead that PART of faith is the recognition that by God’s grace my works don’t have to be PERFECT for me to be saved, but not that I don’t have to “turn around” as part of the “deal.” The need for repentance precludes that.

    • brentwhite Says:

      You’re going to have to wait for my next sermon, using James as my text, in which I explicitly say this sentence: “Good works are necessary for salvation!” I explain why this is not a contradiction with what I’ve said here. I think it will address your concerns.

  3. bobbob Says:

    i grew up catholic. from my perspective, catholics don’t add a little bit of grace, a little at a time. rather, according to my CCD lessons, a catholic can’t know their eternity because to die outside of a state of grace doomed them. and to attain such a state, one must go to confession, then communion (don’t sin in between!!), then die before sinning. even as a boy of 8 or 9 i knew this was silly. we’d go to confession and make stuff up to tell the priest. yeah, that’s the way to earn heaven. or as alan jackson says “working hard to get to heaven.”

    needless to say, I don’t ascribe to such a scheme. “sola the worka of Christ” is where i go.

  4. Grant Essex Says:

    I think Tom is spot on. Paul says as much in Romans 10.

    Romans 10:9-13New King James Version (NKJV)

    9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”[a] 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”


  5. Hi Brent,
    The only place I can find the words ‘faith alone’ in the bible is in James 2:24 where it says, “You see that a man is justified by works and NOT by faith alone”, which is the exact opposite of what you teach!

    James also writes similarly: “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17) and “But are you willing to recognise, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”.

    Faith alone does NOT save. If it did, then the demons would also be saved, as the bible clearly teaches that the demons believe and have faith in God – as they also recognised Jesus as the Son of God:
    James 2:19 “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe and shudder”.
    Mark 1:34 “And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was”.
    Mark 3:11-12 “Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, “You are the Son of God!” And he earnestly warned them not to tell them who He was.”

    All Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16). James taught that you cannot be saved based on faith alone. And we cannot be saved by just faith and confession – as the above passage in Mark 3:11-12 shows that the demons themselves confessed Jesus to be the Son of God. And I’m sure you would agree with me that the demons are not saved.

    Peter outlines very clearly the steps necessary for our salvation in Acts 2:36-38, 41-42. We must believe, confess, repent and be baptised FOR the forgiveness of our sins, and then continually devote ourselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

    Faith and works go hand in hand to show our devotion to God and Christ. Part of those works are belief, confession, repentance, baptism and following in the apostles teaching (prayer, breaking of bread, fellowship etc – all the commands that the New Testament teaches).

    I hope you will reconsider this life-saving matter.

    • brentwhite Says:

      I gather from your name that you represent some branch of the Church of Christ? Which denomination is that affiliated with? To be clear, you believe that unless a person is baptized (by immersion), they cannot be saved? Further, do you believe that they must be baptized in a Church of Christ church such as yours?

      I’m sure we disagree on a number of things. Your argument from James 2:24 is precisely the argument that Catholics use against the classic Protestant position as well. Have you at least read what great Protestant thinkers have said about that verse? Do you think that none of them who believe in Sola Fide has ever offered a response? Google it, if nothing else!

      Regardless, as in the case of many Catholic apologists, you seem unwilling to even consider the context in which James is writing these words. I completely agree that faith, if it is mere intellectual assent to a set of propositions about God, Jesus, the plan of salvation, etc., cannot save you. By all means! Another word for this kind of faith is “dead faith.” Dead faith, which by definition produces no works, cannot save anyone.

      But dead faith is not at all what we Protestants mean—indeed, it isn’t the kind of faith that Paul means—when we talk about justification by faith alone: a living faith produces works, apart from which we cannot be saved. Those works don’t _save_ us; rather, they are a sign that we have saving faith.

      What does Jesus say? “Every good tree bears good fruit.” Obviously, the fruit itself can’t make a tree healthy. It can only point to the reality that the tree is healthy. The same goes for good works: they demonstrate that we have been born again by the Spirit by grace through faith. It is that work of the Spirit alone, made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that saves us.

      If you check back later this week, you’ll see that in Part Two of this series, I address this very passage in James. My sermon is called, “Dead Faith Can’t Save You.”


      • Hi Brent,
        Thank you for your reply. I apologise for taking some time getting back to you. I’ve investigated ‘Sola Fide’ as you suggested and the following is my reply.

        The Church of Christ:
        I am not affiliated with any denomination as Paul says in 1 Cor 10:10 that “there must be no divisions among you, but you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgement”. All denominations do this, they divide people on the scriptures, basically taking away from the word of God (e.g. teaching faith alone for salvation) or adding to it with men’s ideas and traditions (Matt 15:9 – “In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”).

        1 Cor 1:11 onwards Paul teaches that there were quarrels among the Corinthian church and they were each following a different leader, some of Apollos, others of Paul, some of Christ. Christ cannot be divided (1 Cor 1:13) and on the last day there will only be two groups, the sheep and the goats, one will go into eternal life and the other to eternal punishment (Matt 25:32, 33, 41, 46). This doesn’t mean to say that we don’t believe the words of Paul, we know that Paul was an inspired writer of God. It means we take ONLY scripture and ALL of scripture to understand what God’s righteousness is. So to answer your first question, I worship at a non-denominational church, part of the one church that was set up on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

        Baptism, a necessary part of salvation:
        To answer your second question, yes, baptism is a necessary part of salvation as Peter preached this on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Jesus also preached baptism for salvation in Mk 16:16: “He who has believed and been baptised shall be saved; he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” and commanded His disciples to “…Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…”.

        All of the New Testament plainly teaches that baptism is a necessary part of salvation – we must be careful not to take scriptures out on their own. I’m sure that you would agree that the New Testament, as the inspired words from God Himself (2Tim 3:16,17), cannot contradict itself, as then God would be contradicting Himself and we would have faith in a hypocrite! For example, if we pull out Luke 24:46, 47 we could teach that we don’t need belief or baptism for salvation, but rather just repentance! “He said to them…that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations…” Did Christ contradict Himself here with Mk 16:16, Matt 28:18 and Peter in Acts 2:38? Of course not! Repentance, like baptism, is a PART of salvation (Acts 2:38).

        Forgiveness of sins ONLY occurs when we have believed, repented, and been baptised. If we look at Acts 16: 31 it appears that belief is only needed for our salvation: “They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31). On the other hand, if we take 1 Peter 3:21 “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” it appears that baptism is only needed for salvation, not belief. So where does that leave us? We must put ALL scripture together, as the inspired word of God. So faith and baptism is necessary for salvation as Jesus plainly taught in Mark 16:16: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned”. Just as one cannot be saved by baptism without belief, so one cannot be saved by belief without baptism. In not recognising baptism as a part of salvation, we are not obeying the commandments of Jesus, sent from God.

        Let me ask you, how do you explain that baptism is NOT necessary for salvation – if the Son of God Himself commanded it?

      • brentwhite Says:

        Sorry I made the mistake of calling Church of Christ churches a denomination. I know that’s a sticking point for Christians who are part of your tradition. As for whether water baptism plays a role in salvation, I defer to Grant: the thief on the cross, along with many others, were saved by Christ apart from it. In Romans 10:9-10, Paul says confess and believe and you’ll be saved. Why no mention of baptism there? As for the verse in 1 Peter 3, look at the context in which he says those words: Noah and the ark. He’s making an analogy. It’s not the mere act of being physically immersed in water; in fact the “washing away of filth” that Peter mentions suggests that the power of baptism lies not in the superficial act but what it signifies about the spiritual baptism that has already taken place—the whole saving act of God through Christ.
        We don’t want to interpret a single verse in isolation from all others. We must interpret scripture in light of other scripture. Indeed, as Tom pointed out earlier, there’s an example in Acts of Gentiles having already received the Spirit prior to Christian baptism. We don’t receive the Spirit apart from saving faith. These Gentiles were saved, therefore, before they were baptized.
        But willfully choosing NOT to get baptized would be a sign of serious disobedience to the Lord such that I would wonder if the person’s faith was sincere. But unlike the Churches of Christ, I don’t believe for a moment that if someone dies between their profession of faith and repentance and getting baptized that person is going to hell. Heaven forbid! In my view that’s a very superficial, even superstitious, understanding of baptism. You share much in common with Catholic doctrine on this subject


      • Hi Brent,
        The points you have raised do not allude to the fact that baptism is not required for salvation. Let me explain these scriptures to you.

        The Thief on the Cross:

        The scriptures explain that the thief repented and died during the Old Testament period, subject to its terms. The New Testament (and baptism into Christ) did not come into effect until Christ’s death established it. Read Hebrews 9:15-17: “15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.”

        Paul in Romans:

        Paul had already covered baptism earlier in Romans 6: 3-4 “3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”. Paul recognised the importance of baptism for salvation as through baptism we are able to walk in newness of life (v4). Baptism is immersion in water as it makes sense involving being ‘buried’ or ‘raised’. Read also Colossians 2:12:
        “12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” and Acts 8:38 “38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him”.

        Paul himself was told by Ananais that it was through baptism that his sins would be washed away. Read Acts 22:16.16 ~’Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, AND wash away your sins, calling on His name.’ Note here, there is no delay between our faith in God, belief in Jesus, repentance and baptism. Baptism is done as soon as possible, as it is the culminating act that gives us the ability to have our sins washed away and walking in newness of life. Without it, we are no better off than the demons who confess and believe. And those who have been so-called ‘baptised’ down the track, separate from their belief in Jesus, have really only been ‘dunked’ in water, as they have no belief that it is the final act of baptism that washes away their sins.

        So your question of why Paul does not mention baptism further on in Romans 10:9-10 can be answered firstly, Paul has already shown the importance of baptism earlier in his letter in Rom 6:3-4, and secondly, in the context of chapter 10, he is focusing on the importance of our mouth and heart in the process of salvation (v8-9): “8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
        9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”. If you use the line of thinking that baptism is not mentioned here for salvation so therefore it is not required, then from what I can read there is no mention of repentance here either. In the same line of your thinking, does that mean I don’t need to repent to be saved? Of course not! We NEED repentance (Luke 24:46, 47)! We NEED to be baptised (Acts 2:38)! We NEED belief (Rom 10:8-10)!

        1 Pet 3: 21

        Where is your scriptural reference for “the spiritual baptism that has already taken place—the whole saving act of God through Christ.”? I find no mention of baptism referring to what you claim, so will be keen to see the scripture you use to prove this claim.

        Peter, the apostle who wrote 1 Peter 3:21, is the VERY SAME Peter that outlined the way we are saved on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2: 38 when 3000 were baptised FOR forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38,41). Peter was not making an analogy on the day of Pentecost. It was the physical act of baptism that was required for salvation. Your explanation of 1 Peter 3: 21 contradicts what Peter himself taught on the day of Pentecost. Who do you expect me to believe? Yourself or Peter?

        The Gentiles in Acts (Holy Spirit Baptism) and Baptism in the New Testament

        I presume the account to which you refer to where the Gentiles were baptised with the Holy Spirit is the one recorded in Acts 10. This baptism was prophesied by the last Old Testament prophet (John the Baptist) in Matt 3:10,11: 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

        Some years later, at the point of Jesus’ ascension, He spoke to His disciples and reminded them of “4 …what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5). This promise was fulfilled a few days later, on the day of Pentecost (Acts2:1-4), with miraculous manifestations. The ONLY other recorded occasion for such a demonstration involved the Gentiles (the Roman centurion Cornelius, and his household) to convince the Jewish Christians that 18 “…God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (see Acts 10:44-46 and 11:15-18). Note that the unusual circumstances were equated by the apostle Peter with what happened “at the beginning” (Acts 11:15), a clear reference to the events on the day of Pentecost. It also implies that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was NOT the general expectation for Christians. As we read on in Acts 10:46-48 we read that they were still ordered to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. If baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is not required for salvation, then why did these Gentiles go through with it?

        You mention at the end of your previous reply that “I don’t believe for a moment that if someone dies between their profession of faith and repentance and getting baptized that person is going to hell”. This is the direct opposite of what the scriptures teach as Jesus states in Mark 16:16: 16 “He who has believed AND has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned”. How can you reject Jesus’ plain teaching that belief AND baptism is required to be saved? God’s word states that he who has believed AND been baptised shall be saved. Whatever excuses or factual situations we may pose, God’s word makes NO provision for exceptions. On another note, you state here that repentance is part of salvation, when your argument using Rom 10:9-10 has no mention of repentance, it only mentions belief and confession. I’m afraid your words do not add up.

        You are offering verses which state faith for salvation suggesting that baptism is not mentioned, therefore it cannot be essential. However, have you not read that many of these verses also do not mention repentance, but you would not deny the necessity for repentance for salvation (Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30)? If you are honest you will admit that other scriptures state the need for repentance and the same situation applies to baptism.

        I find it so baffling why you raise so many objections to baptism. Remember Naaman’s reaction to Elisha’s command to immerse himself in the Jordan river to be cleansed from his leprosy (2 Kings 5). 2 Kings 5:11-12 11 “But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ 12 “Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.” His servants wisely prevailed on Naaman to change his attitude (repent) by saying “…My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” (v13).

        Baptism appears to offer a similar offence to you. Why not come to your senses like Naaman did?

      • brentwhite Says:

        I invite any confused readers to Google “how to respond to Church of Christ on baptism.” Many people have already responded to each of these objections in ways with which I completely agree. You know your talking points on this issue. I don’t believe you and I are having a sincere conversation anymore.

        Let me ask you one question: I was baptized by immersion in a Baptist church at age 14 after professing faith in Christ. Assuming my faith is sincere, am I saved? Or perhaps I should say, is it at least possible that I’m saved right now?


      • Hi Brent,
        Why google men’s excuses, opinions and arguments towards baptism? Why not consult the word of God for it stands on its own. Consult your concordance and the Scriptures, read the references I have given you with an open and honest heart and be like the Bereans who in Acts 17:11 “…received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so”.

        From where I stand, I have never been more sincere. My very purpose has been to show you that the doctrine of ‘faith alone’ or Sola Fide, is NOT scriptural and WILL NOT save you at that last day. Many ‘good’ people have a “…zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge” (Rom 10:2) and my prayer is that of Paul’s, “…my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation…”(Rom 10:1).

        There is no provision for exceptions in God’s word. Jesus’ plainly states in Mark 16:16 “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned”. It is almost as though God has placed baptism at the door of salvation as a test of faith. Do you believe enough to obey Him implicitly?

        As for your question: “I was baptized by immersion in a Baptist church at age 14 after professing faith in Christ. Assuming my faith is sincere, am I saved? Or perhaps I should say, is it at least possible that I’m saved right now?”

        I cannot judge your heart and intentions when you were baptised, but what I can say is that the Scriptures teach that if one is “baptised”, believing that they were saved BEFORE that baptism, then they haven’t yet been baptised in the name of Jesus: Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Note in particular that baptism in the name of Jesus is FOR forgiveness of sins, or in order to have your sins forgiven: Acts 22:16 “Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, AND wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

      • brentwhite Says:

        So if I was mistaken about whether of not I was already saved during those two months between professing faith in Christ and being baptized, then I am not now saved? Even though I was baptized properly?

        I find this utterly bizarre and legalistic. Who’s doing the saving here? God or myself? Where is grace?

        In the last paragraph, I notice you place an emphasis on baptism “in Jesus’ name.” Are you also saying that if, per Matthew 28:19, we are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we are not saved?

        What is your name, by the way?


      • Hi Brent,

        My name is Jody.

        Being baptised ‘properly’

        People are only released from their sins through the blood of Jesus (Rev.1:5b = “… and released us from our sins by His blood.”), and the way we access that release through the blood of Jesus is by means of baptism, after having believed and repented (Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.).

        Being baptised ‘properly’ means that you believe what Peter said on the day of Pentecost, that you are baptised FOR forgiveness of sins. Any other so-called ‘baptism’ is no different than being dunked in water, as there is NO BELIEF by the individual that the process of being baptised is what washes our sins away (Acts 22:16). Belief and baptism go hand in hand together for salvation (Mark 16:16). If one does not believe that the culminating act of baptism is what washes away their sins, then they do not believe the words of Jesus and His apostles!

        James 2:26 states that “faith without works is dead”. James, along with the other inspired writers, is simply drawing attention to the need for obedience to God’s will to be demonstrated. Jesus said “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word” (John 14:23). John wrote, “ by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). The question we must ask ourselves is whether we believe in Jesus enough to recognise baptism is part of His word, His commandments, and readily keep or obey it?

        Time gaps between belief and baptism:

        Again, people are only released from their sins through the blood of Jesus (Rev.1:5b = “… and released us from our sins by His blood.”), and the way we access that release through the blood of Jesus is by means of baptism, after having believed and repented (Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.). Belief, confession and repentance are the beginning of the process to salvation, but unless one is baptised FOR forgiveness of sins, then that individual is still in their sins as they have not followed the commands of Jesus.

        When we understand that baptism is FOR forgiveness of sins, we should make haste to meet God’s requirements. Especially since we do not know the hour or the day that our Lord will return! (Matt 24:36).
        • Consider the Ethiopian eunuch who left the desert and went to water (Acts 8:26, 36).
        • As soon as the Jews believed the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost, they were baptised that very same day “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).
        • Paul himself, who had already believed and repented (Acts 22:10, 11) was told by Ananais to not delay his baptism as it is through baptism Paul’s sins would be washed away: ‘Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’ (Acts 22:16).
        • When the jailer in Phillipi asked Paul and Silas “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house” (Acts 16: 30-32). The jailer did not delay his baptism, but rather it was done that very hour of the night: “And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household” (Acts 16:33). Note also here that “speaking the word of the Lord” (Acts 16:32) involves speaking about baptism! (Acts 16:33). Similarly in Acts 8:34-36, 38, Phillip preached Jesus to the eunuch and then the eunuch was baptised. Baptism is part of preaching Jesus to others so they can complete the process to salvation and have their sins forgiven.

        It is not until we are baptised (with the belief that it is FOR forgiveness of sins) that we obtain God’s blessings. Let’s take a look at what the Scriptures teach when we are baptised:
        • Before we are baptised, our sins have not been forgiven, but after we are baptised our sins are forgiven (Acts 2:38; 22:16).
        • Before we are baptised we are condemned and after we are baptised we are saved (Mark 16:15,16; 1Pet 3:21).
        • Before we are baptised we are dead in transgressions, but after we are baptised we are made alive (Col 2:12, 13).
        • Before we are baptised we are our old self, slaves to sin, but after we have been baptised we walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-6).
        • Before we are baptised we are not in Christ, but after we are baptised we are in Christ (Gal 3:27).
        • Before we are baptised we do not belong in the body, but after we are baptised are in one body (1 Cor 12:13; Col 1:18).
        • Before we are baptised we are without the Spirit, but after we are baptised we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

        Again, when we understand what happens when we are baptised FOR forgiveness of sins, we should make haste to meet God’s requirements! There should be no delay. And why would anyone want to delay baptism, knowing that the Lord could return at any moment and they would be still dead in their transgressions (Col 2:12, 13) by not following all the commands of Jesus?

        God’s grace

        We are justified by God’s grace, but the way we access that grace is by “the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit”, or baptism. Read Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness of God our Saviour and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour,7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

        Baptism in Jesus’ name

        In Matt 28:18, Jesus claimed “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth”. This leaves no room for anyone else to usurp His authority and particularly, to declare alternative terms for our salvation.

        Jesus continued (v19), “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Notice Jesus emphasises the importance of baptism by calling upon the authority vested “in the name (singular) of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Baptism in Jesus’ name (Acts 2:38) or in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19) is the SAME baptism.

        Again, it is almost as though God has placed baptism at the door of salvation as a test of faith. If one has not complied with Christ’s command, can they honestly say why?

        Acts 2:37-38 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
        38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

      • Grant Essex Says:

        Jody argues salvation by baptism like a white shoe lawyer.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Jody, I don’t think you can possibly be right that baptism only “counts” if someone believes that it is the water baptism that saves them. Where are you getting that from? Even it I were to agree with you that water baptism is a “final step” necessary for salvation (see my other comment to the contrary), I don’t see anywhere that anyone in scripture says to the person he is baptizing, “Now, just so you understand, this baptism is totally irrelevant to anything unless you say with me, ‘I believe it is this water baptism that saves me.'” Aren’t you the one adding to scripture on that point?


      • Hi Tom,
        Just as we are to have faith (belief) in Jesus that He is the Son of God, so also we are to have faith (belief) in what baptism in Jesus’ name can do for us. Otherwise, why go through with baptism in the first place?

        There is a problem that lies where people ‘believe’ they are saved. I have heard some people refer to baptism as “the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace”. They intend to imply that the subject of baptism is already saved and a Christian, and merely submits to baptism to show this. It also suggests that baptism is relatively unimportant, and its observance a matter for personal choice.

        Peter’s answer in Acts 2:38 plainly teaches that the process of baptism is FOR forgiveness of sins. It is the way we wash our sins away (Acts 22:16). It is the way we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). That is why those that believe in Jesus, understand they have sinned, and believe Jesus’ commands that they need to go through with baptism to be forgiven. They have faith/belief that the only way to be clean in God’s sight is to have their sins removed at baptism. Those who believe they are already saved at faith, and then at some point goes through with a ‘so-called’ baptism are NOT being baptised in Jesus’ name. In fact, by their line of reasoning, they are already ‘clean’, already ‘saved’. Their ‘baptism’ then is useless. It is not a baptism FOR forgiveness of their sins. It is not a baptism to wash their sins away. They believe they are already clean. It is then no different than a bath. They misunderstand the Scriptures and their worship of Jesus is vain. Matthew 15:8-9 (NASB) 8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'”

        So, where am I getting this from? 1Pet.3:21 states that “baptism now saves you” … people are to know this when getting baptized (that’s why Peter told them it was “for forgiveness of sins” on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) and to “save” themselves (Acts 2:40,41), and Ananias told Paul it was how he could “wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16)).

        Note that Paul didn’t say to the 12 men in Ephesus … “OK, you’ve already had a sort of baptism (John’s baptism as it turns out), so you don’t need to worry about baptism anymore”. Rather, he got them to be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-7)!

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        I think one thing to keep in mind may be, when does a person “feel” or “believe” that they are saved? For most people I doubt that this experience waits until water baptism. Instead, that occurs when one is “baptized by the Holy Spirit,” which is what makes someone a Christian, which several passages indicate, and as the incident of Cornelius indicates.

      • brentwhite Says:

        That’s true in my experience. About two months passed between my “feeling saved” (at a youth retreat) and getting baptized. I was NOT worried about getting baptized during those two months, to say the least. I knew I was saved. It was a powerful feeling.


      • Hi Tom,
        Unfortunately feelings cannot be trusted when it comes to knowing God’s will. Proverbs 14:12 says that ” There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” We can only trust the scriptures (2 Tim 3:16,17). What you feel does not change the plain teaching of Acts 2:38. Forgiveness of sins only follows baptism according to that verse.

        The Gentiles in Acts (Holy Spirit Baptism) and Baptism in the New Testament:

        The account where the Gentiles were baptised with the Holy Spirit is the one recorded in Acts 10. This baptism was prophesied by the last Old Testament prophet (John the Baptist) in Matt 3:10,11: 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

        Some years later, at the point of Jesus’ ascension, He spoke to His disciples and reminded them of “4 …what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5). This promise was fulfilled a few days later, on the day of Pentecost (Acts2:1-4), with miraculous manifestations. The ONLY other recorded occasion for such a demonstration involved the Gentiles (the Roman centurion Cornelius, and his household) to which you refer – to convince the Jewish Christians that 18 “…God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” (see Acts 10:44-46 and 11:15-18). Note that the unusual circumstances were equated by the apostle Peter with what happened “at the beginning” (Acts 11:15), a clear reference to the events on the day of Pentecost. It also implies that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was NOT the general expectation for Christians. As we read on in Acts 10:46-48 we read that they were still ordered to be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ. If baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is not required for salvation, then why did these Gentiles go through with it?

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        CCHC, I do agree with you that feelings and thoughts can be deceptive. However, consider my context. I am talking about people who do ultimately do “follow through” with baptism, and their lives also demonstrate that they are saved. (“By their fruits shall you know them.”) The point is, for most of those people, the moment that they attribute their salvation to is earlier than water baptism, not at that particular moment. These are not people who are being deceived about their salvation. Their confidence is in tandem with their transformed lives proving up their salvation. So the point about when they feel they were saved is pertinent as to such people; and, hence, to our debate.

        I agree with you that the singular “manifestation” of receiving the Holy Spirit as to Cornelius was meant as a “sign” to Jewish Christians that the gospel extended to the Gentiles as well. But this still leaves the question–why before the baptism by water instead of after? The Spirit baptism would have been just as effective a witness after water baptism as before. As it stands, however, this is much more like Paul’s proof of salvation by faith rather than works in Romans, where he points out that Abraham’s salvation was obtained before circumcision rather than after, to show that the circumcision, while absolutely commanded, was not the “moment” of salvation for him. Exactly the same is true of water baptism under the “new” covenant.


      • Hi Tom,
        There is a problem that lies where people ‘believe’ they are saved. I have discussed this with your previous reply. We are either baptised acknowledging it is done FOR forgiveness of our sins or we are not. Those who believe we are saved by faith alone do not believe the words of Peter, that baptism is FOR forgiveness of sins. Thus they inadvertently must believe that baptism is NOT for forgiveness of sins. This contradicts the plain teaching of Peter, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. They do not believe that it is the act of baptism that washes their sins away (Acts 22:16). Again, they contradict Paul’s instruction by Ananais.

        You will know them by their fruits (Matt.7:16,20):

        People who have not been baptized in the name of the Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38), because they thought they were saved before their “baptism”, are showing by this very fruit that they are not saved! No need to look any further!

        The Pharisees did some good things (e.g. teaching (Matt.23:2,3) and tithing (Matt.23:23)), and if you just looked at those “fruits”, you might be tempted to think that they were OK. Yet they had rejected God’s purpose for themselves, not having been baptized by John (Luke 7:30)! The same today … some people may be doing some good things, but if they haven’t been baptized in the name of Jesus, they have rejected God’s purpose for themselves. Some good fruit does not prove that their so-called baptism was OK.

        Baptism with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:16)

        You have answered your own question on this one. The Holy Spirit baptism was the “sign” needed to show that baptism in water was to be extended to Gentiles in Acts 10. They would not have baptized the Gentiles unless the “sign” had first taken place! So the order in Acts 10 is correct (Holy Spirit baptism then water baptism, Acts 10:44-48). Your proposal of water baptism followed by Holy Spirit baptism does not meet the requirements of the context.

        Abraham

        Physical circumcision is not to be equated with baptism in water, else only the males would be baptized, and that when they were 8 days old (Gen.17:12)! Baptism is like a circumcision “made without hands”, in that “the body of the flesh” is removed (Col.2:11-13), and we rise from baptism to walk in newness of life (Rom.6:3,4). This shows, along with Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc., that baptism is the “moment” of salvation, unlike physical circumcision.

        Paul

        Paul did not teach salvation by faith alone. He was baptised himself to have his sins washed away by Ananais (Acts 22:16). Are we to think that Paul got baptised to have his sins washed away and then did not preach this message to others! Of course not! Paul writes to the Ephesians in Eph 4:5 that there is “5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism”. Paul taught baptism in Romans 6:3, 4 as the way that we can walk in newness of life: “3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life”.

        Further when Paul preached the gospel to the Corinthians (Acts 18:1-7), the result was that “many of the Corinthians when they heard (the gospel) were believing and being baptised” (v8). Crispis, the leader of the synagogue (v8) was baptised by Paul himself (1 Cor 1:14). Obviously, Paul’s companions baptised many others.

        Clearly baptism is part of the gospel and must be accepted by all who would put obedient trust in the Lord. Any who would place undue emphasis on the practice of baptism and on whoever performs the baptising, as some of the Corinthian Christians were doing, has substituted works for faith, and man for Christ. Baptism is not a work of merit, but is an act out of obedient faith to Christ’s command for salvation.

  6. Grant Essex Says:

    My understanding of Martin Luther’s epiphany on Faith came from Romans 1:17.

    He was struggling with his own justification and this verse moved him. It became the foundational rock on which he built his life.

    Am I wrong?

    • brentwhite Says:

      Probably. Romans and Galatians, especially, gave him great reassurance.

      How would you respond to our Church of Christ commenter that James 2 contradicts Sola Fide?

  7. Grant Essex Says:

    I really love your “Tree and Fruit” explanation.

    The FAITH is the thing. Fruit is just proof. James is just making sure that no one fools himself, or others, by just claiming “faith”. Saying “Lord Lord” isn’t enough. You have to be a born again, new person. The old man is dead and the new man is alive in Christ Jesus.

    Martin Lloyd Jones has some fabulous sermons from Ephesians on the “New Man” and what it really entails.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Saying “Lord, Lord” isn’t enough, indeed. But consider Jesus’ words there: those who say “Lord, Lord” have (objectively speaking) some impressive works to show for themselves: Jesus says that they’re literally working miracles. Yet those works are worthless apart from saving faith! Genuine faith, and the transformed heart that goes along with it, is still the key.

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        Actually, it says, “Many will SAY to me … have we not done many miraculous works?” Respectfully, there are a lot of charismatics who SAY they are doing miracles in Christ’s name, but they aren’t actually doing so. I am not sure that someone who IN FACT does a mighty miracle in Christ’s name is a “false professor.”

      • brentwhite Says:

        I never interpreted that verse to mean that they were lying about doing those works… but I don’t know. Satan has a limited power to work miraculous signs through people, right?

      • Tom Harkins Says:

        In Egypt the sorcerers were able to “copy” some of the miraculous signs of Moses and Aaron. I don’t know if that is still possible. But I think Jesus said, “No one can do a miracle in my name and lightly speak evil of me” (KJV). It is my opinion that these people are actually liars, but I suppose that is not necessary to the point Jesus was making.

  8. Grant Essex Says:

    Right Tom. I think the point is that you cannot fool God. A genuine saving faith is required.

  9. Tom Harkins Says:

    With respect to the Church of Christ position, and more particularly as to baptism, there are certainly some passages which on their face could make that a salvation requirement. But, considering scripture in light of scripture, I don’t think that is the case–rather, it is a mandated requirement of a “profession” of faith. In other words, I do think that not getting baptized is a significant instance of “disobedience”, but not a proof, standing alone, that no “regeneration” has occurred.

    In support of that, I would cite to Cornelius, as to whom the Holy Spirit fell FIRST, THEN Peter said, “Is there any reason why they should not be baptized?” Also, interestingly enough, there is no record of the Twelve Disciples ever getting baptized, which I think would be a little curious if that were actually a requirement. Also, Paul said that generally speaking he did not baptize his new converts, again surprising if they would not actually get saved until that was done.

    So why is baptism referenced by Peter in saying, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”? Acts 2:38 (NIV). This should be considered in light of another passage about what is involved in being saved, Romans 10:9-10. There we are told to “confess with your mouth,” and “it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Notably, Paul does not mention baptism here–just belief and confession. But what is involved in confession, and why is it necessary? There can be no such thing as a “closet Christian.” If you have received the Spirit, it is impossible never to speak of it.

    It is in this light that I would “tie together” baptism and “speaking.” When Peter walked the earth, the sign of identification with a religious order was to be baptized “into that name,” as in the baptism of John. Jesus said in the Great Commission, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Hence, when Paul encountered the disciples of John the Baptist in Acts, he asked, “Unto what baptism then were you baptized?” So, in the process of being baptized, one would confess unto whom he was being baptized. The point here being, that confession is necessary; and, when Peter preached at Pentecost, the notable METHOD of confessing was being baptized. So, I don’t think the METHOD of baptism is the entirely unique method of “confessing,” in light of the other passages I have discussed. Nevertheless, I do think that is a PROPER method, and also enjoined.

    As to works, I look forward to your further sermons, Brent! But I think we could all agree that “faith without works is dead,” meaning that a lifestyle unchanged is proof of a life unchanged. Hence, I come back to my original comment that faith must be accompanied by repentance, regardless whether that is considered a “separate” thing or the “same” thing. Either way, it is certainly “necessary.”

  10. Grant Essex Says:

    I’d like to weigh in on baptism. Certainly the baptism of the Holy Spirit is necessary for salvation. Baptism with water, emersion or sprinkling, is a worldly procedure that gives testimony to the baptism of the spirit. Certainly, One could be baptized with water to no effect if baptism by the Holy Spirit has not occurred.

    The Thief on the Cross is in paradise and he had no water baptism. I believe that hundreds, perhaps thousands and thousands, have come to saving faith just before meeting their worldly end. Soldiers in battle, or people plunging to earth in a plane crash come to mind. They call on the Lord for salvation and forgiveness and I think he plucks up the truly repentant, even at the last moment. No water baptism is possible or necessary.

    IMHOP

    • Tom Harkins Says:

      I’m inclined to agree as a general matter. But I think God allows for what you can do, as opposed to that meaning there are no rules. Thus, Paul says, “Confess with your mouth,” but there are some people who are born dumb.and therefore cannot comply with this “literal” requirement. God allows for such “exceptions,” but the “exceptions” do not mean there are no rules to be excepted from. Still, I think that this does not necessarily mean water baptism is “salvific,” as opposed to a rule, and as such a rule, God is not pleased with its being flaunted.

      • Grant Essex Says:

        I (we) could find many passages in the Bible to illustrate that Jesus got very frustrated with rules, or the form of religion. The Pharisees were great keepers of rules, and great finger pointers when someone “broke the rules”.

        Therefore, I agree with Tom. Jesus knows our heart. He knows if we are his, and we know when we have been made new, even as we also know it’s a very imperfect “new” in terms of our obedience. If I had to depend on my own performance against Jesus’ true standard, I would be doomed. It is by His power, not mine, that I am saved.

  11. Grant Essex Says:

    The “proper understanding” of water baptism is another one of those issues that has varied opinions that can all be supported by Scripture. There isn’t one clear answer. For instance: Does it have to be full emersion? What about the baptism of infants? Are multiple baptisms appropriate? Can lay people baptise new believers? Are there certain words that must be said?, etc, etc.

    “People of authority” write books on this stuff and still there is no consensus.

    I was baptized as an adult on confession of faith, by sprinkling, and I’m totally comfortable and secure in my salvation. I feel no need to go back and get a full emersion, or anything else.

  12. Tom Harkins Says:

    Jody, I have a few responses to your positions. First, do you imagine that the entirety of the professing Christians of the Church from the Church Fathers up until today, and especially the Protestant Churches, are all either in Hell or headed there, other than the very small minority of believers who are in the Church of Christ? Martin Luther? John Calvin? The Wesleys? Charles Spurgeon? C.S. Lewis? Etc., etc.? Heaven will be pretty sparsely populated!

    Second, I still don’t agree with you that, even if water baptism is, in fact, a final required step, the person so being baptized has to understand the “theology” that you espouse about its significance for it to be “effective.” So far as I am aware, almost all baptisms are done “in the name of Jesus” or “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Certainly most all Baptist baptisms are, including mine. I fail to see how my “comprehension” of its significance changes its effectiveness, if, indeed, I was so baptized on my “profession of faith” and “in the name of.” Again, the mere fact that water baptism following a profession may be necessary (conceding your point for purposes of argument at the moment), and has to be “in Jesus’ name” hardly means that the person must also have some “theological understanding” about the ceremony. Very many of those saved and baptized are young enough that they could hardly be expected to understand any such “theological nicety.”

    Third, I don’t agree with your assessment of the Cornelius episode. You say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues as a physical manifestation was necessary to prove to Jewish Christians that salvation and “Church membership” was open to Gentiles as well. I agree. What puzzles me about your view is that such a manifestation would be given prior to the water baptism; if, indeed, water baptism was required as the final step for salvation? Why should not Peter have simply water baptized them based on their profession, so that they would in fact be saved at the moment, and then the Holy Spirit confirm that salvation by tongues? I can’t follow your logic that the baptism by the Spirit for some reason had to precede the baptism by water in that instance; if, in fact, water baptism was necessary for someone to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. If they weren’t saved until the water baptism, why would the Spirit have confirmed their salvation before that?

    Fourth, I don’t agree with your assessment of the significance of the “you shall know them by their fruits” as being some mechanical analysis of whether they have been water baptized or not. “The fruit of the Spirit is love….” While it may be true that this assessment is not simple to determine as to everyone hardly means that is not, in fact, the test. Someone who devotes his entire life to God, without any doubt manifesting the fruit, is someone we have to take seriously as being a Christian. Therefore, if our theology about salvation does not “match up” with what we can plainly see about people, perhaps it is our theology which needs to be reexamined. By all means, rely on scripture, but it is a notorious fact that very many truehearted Christians come to differing opinions as to their interpretation of what specific passages may mean. Seeing that is the case, perhaps we should not put ourselves on the pedestal of claiming that only our view is the correct one in the face of so much evidence of people being devoted to God and having a different view from us on one point or another.

    Finally, as far as “confidence” is concerned, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the sons of God,” Paul says. What do you make of that Bible passage? Brent, Grant, and I all are totally confident that the Spirit resides within us, as He bears witness to us that we are. Again, you say, “But people can be mistaken.” Granted; but, again, that does not mean this is not the test. You are never going to be able to convince the three of us that we are not saved, particularly as we were all baptized in the name of Jesus based on our professions of faith, regardless the fact that we can’t agree with you that if we did not have some understanding that this was an essential “last step” of salvation, as opposed to a “sign” of the salvation already obtained (as with Cornelius)–just as circumcision was a “sign” of Abraham’s salvation already obtained by his “belief,” as Paul says, we are just kidding ourselves. Circumcision was just as much required by Abraham and the children of Israel (indeed, on penalty of death) as baptism is. But it still was not necessary to salvation itself, as Paul proves. Baptism is prescribed for Christians, but there is certainly no necessity that Christians believe it is “salvific” as opposed to a “public testimony” of the salvation by faith already obtained.


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