Wednesday, January 27, 2010

To Believe in Jesus is to Believe Jesus, not the least concerning Baptism

To Believe in Jesus is to Believe Jesus.
It may seem a little redundant to say this. But this concerns the sacraments greatly. People, Baptists and other reformed sects, especially the ones claiming not to be denominations though they have a “satellite” in every city and small town across the nation, (you know who you are) have a way of thinking that if they only believe in Christ they can be saved while ignoring what Christ says concerning the sacraments. In this way they end up pitting scripture against scripture.
I’m going to use Romans 4 as an example here as it was on Paul’s discussion concerning the relationship between faith and circumcision where by a recent man I was dialoguing decided that this trumped anything else Paul or Christ said anywhere.
“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? [2] For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. [3] For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." [4] Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. [5] And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, [6] just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

[7] "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
[8] blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."

[9] Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. [10] How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. [11] He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, [12] and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Romans 4:1-12 (ESV)
Now it seemed a bit odd to bring this chapter into a discussion about baptism. I was told I did violence to the text in Romans 6, because my view is that you are actually buried with Christ and raised to new life in Baptism, and that would mean something other than faith would save you. Huh?
Tell you the truth I am almost at a complete loss to even follow this argument. Does not faith believe? And therefore Christian faith believes Christ. But there is a sort of naked faith doctrine. Faith in Christ alone is all you need. I don’t disagree, but what kind of faith is it in Christ that then ignores Christ and the apostles he sent? What kind of faith is it that says Paul is right in chapter four, but wrong in Chapter 6?
Somehow the man reads from this that God saves everyone the same way, so that negates the salvific gift of circumcision in the Old Testament, and Baptism in the new. I don’t get that. God saves through faith which believes the promises He makes, concerning Circumcision in the Old, and Baptism in the new. No one is trying to argue that Baptism without faith is effectual. In the same way that circumcision without faith is ineffectual, which is what I am getting from Romans four.
But it seems to me that Paul here is making an argument about circumcision here that would not have been made before Christ’s resurrection. Sure Abraham believed and was reckoned righteous before he was circumcised. He would have been regarded a rank unbeliever if he then refused to be circumcised, or talked bad of the covenant God made with him through circumcision, a covenant that tends to be more of a Testament (there is a difference). And I am beginning to think this of Baptists in general, because if they really believed in Christ it seems they would believe Christ. And see baptism as essential, as necessary for faith anyway. Though not as a work we do, but as a work that Christ does to us.
Paul would not have been able to make that argument before the resurrection. He would not be able to say that gentiles were saved without being circumcised, unless something had taken the place of circumcision as a seal of righteousness. That something is baptism. And so now Paul is able to say that it is possible for the uncircumcised to be saved just as it is possible for the circumcised to be saved, because what saves is faith and that faith is in Christ who commands baptism, not circumcision. It is a transition period here, though. And Jews who were accustomed to seeing circumcision as a sign of the covenant needed to be taught that this is no longer the case. Those that have been baptized, as even the circumcised Jews had been baptized, do not need to be circumcised. The Old Testament has closed, the New has opened up. Things have changed. No longer is a man to be regarded as a rank unbeliever for refusing to be circumcised. Faith has shed circumcision like a snake shedding old skin. And one might look to Colossians 2 to see how this is done.
“ In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, [12] having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. [13] And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, [14] by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. [15] He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Col. 2:11-15 (ESV)
But then I am told by these same people that Paul isn’t talking about baptism there, not “water baptism” anyway. I’m beginning to wonder if Paul ever talks about baptism where these people are concerned. Because if what Christ says through Paul here in Colossians is true of “water baptism” then that would mean baptism saves and not faith, even though faith is clearly operative in baptism according to this text. Why is faith operative here? Because faith not only believes in Christ, but also believes Christ and the apostles he sent, believes the promises he makes concerning baptism. So when he tells us, through Peter, that Baptism now saves you, he means it. Quit with the wedge.


Steve Martin said...

Nice one, Bror!

I'm going to bookmark this and send it to the non-believers who poo-poo baptism.

Just yesterday I had a talk with a young woman at work who wants to find a church with lots of programs and happy and positive people.

I asked her if it meant anything to hear the Word and to receive the body and blood of our Lord.

She said being around 'positive people' ws much more of what church meant to her.


Brigitte said...

I feel so bad for Michale Spencer, the I Monk, but I don't want to post this there because he's been fighting off a sacramental understanding and he is so sick, but maybe he'll figure it out for himself now.

As we know he is practically near death, the body subjected to cancer treatments and the spirit dancing with depression.

I've been at my mother's bedside for a year and a half when I was 19, and I got myself briefly into a near break-down once, and then, of course, there was last year... the point: when there is nothing left in you, the sacrament as a real thing is your only lifeline, your only life. You have nothing else left that can do anything that works. Not even a song or a word can cheer you up. Patient otherwise as good as dead.

The sacrament is the feeding tube, the blood infusion, the oxygen tank administered by others. You don't even have to feel good about it; it is still true and it is still available.

Bror Erickson said...

I feel bad for him too. Pray. To say that is all we can do, is to make an understatement of faith. Pray, it is what God asks us to do, and it is powerful. I read that bit on his site today and it almost brought me down.
As for his fighting off a sacramental view of things, well that kills me. I think it has almost come to the point of willful rejection of what he knows to be true. I can somewhat understand his dilemma, but... It isn't just an intellectual thing, it becomes an emotional thing. It means a repudiation of that which your parent's believe, and your family, a turning your back on the church you grew up in. And then I think, "I will visit the iniquities of the Father's to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me." How long Lord, How long?

Jonathan said...

That is what gets me. If you don't believe in the promises Christ makes in the sacraments, well OK then, just come out and say it. But please don't torture the Word and get yourself all contorted trying to cover it up.

Larry said...

First, they, Baptist and reformed sects, actually use their definition of a “sacrament” or ordinance to set “what a thing is”, then they can say, “see works salvation”. Well if one goes into “neutral analysis”, if there is such a thing, IF their definition of the “what a thing is”, the sacrament/ordinance, is correct, THEN to so trust/depend upon it would/could be seen as works. So issue number one is they overlay their presupposed definition then arrive at works righteousness via the sacrament/ordinance. If I concur for the moment for the sake of argument with their definition, then I’d have to concur with their conclusion. Something like this IF baptism is based on true and real and only true and real faith and it expresses that inward reality, THEN trust into it would be to trust into works, namely my faith and my believing and that would be works salvation. However, IF you can get them to equally enter into “neutral analysis ground” (a task I’ve personally NEVER succeeded at) and for a second likewise concur for the moment for the sake of argument with the Lutheran definition (and understand it) of a sacrament, that it is God’s work, word and name (similarly for the LS), THEN they MUST accept and concur with the conclusion – to trust in baptism is to trust nakedly in Christ alone (faith alone). Then it boils down, if you get this far, with, “what does the bible say, does it speak their way or the confessional Lutheran way.

Another way to see it is like this: Noah heard the naked Word say it would spare him and his family from the flood in the type/shadow of Christ (the Ark), and that same naked Word in which he nakedly trusted did instructed him to construct said Ark, God just didn’t lay it down out of the sky, and so Noah did. It would be obviously asinine if Noah were to suddenly become a Baptist or Reformed sect when the rain arrived and say, “Nope, I’m not going to work my way to heaven by getting on that Ark, I trust in the Word alone”.

Yet another similar way to see this is even more simple: Yes God saves us utterly apart from works, even without or in spite of them, but one DOES have to personally TAKE PART in that redemption. That’s not works righteousness, that simply obvious!

Another way, when Jesus said “be baptized” and “take eat/drink for…forgiveness of sins” and one does not, how is that believing in or to believe Him?

Another way is to go out a bit further and apply a kind of Agnostic/Pluralistic Baptist theology to “I am the way, the truth and the life”. For LOT’S of folks believe that God in general is/has to be gracious. So what’s all this works righteousness talk about having to believe ONLY in Christ alone. To the Baptistic/Reformed- Agnostic/Pluralist (my invented term) not only would trusting in or trusting the sacraments be legalistic and works righteous like, but to require the work of trusting only in Christ as opposed to a loose goose trust in a gracious God.


Larry said...


I know what you mean concerning Michael. He's from my neck of the woods and was a breath of fresh air for me back in my tormented evangelical days. I always, though never met him physically, a connection with him, he may never realize that though. It hit me in the gut to find that out a few days ago.

Yet he fights against the sacraments. THIS IS WHY I HATE baptist and reformed doctrine and call it demonic. Not because of the people but the deception it puts sufferers under like Michael and others. I hate it because its an insideous demonic lie that so starves souls of Christ that they don't even KNOW it.

"the spirit dancing with depression" and despair, THAT is where the for me in the sacraments so helps...that hell of 'where is God in all this' because I can't detect Him savingly with my reason, feelings or experiences.



Larry said...

The deception does not reveal itself until the law hits hard, usually on our death beds. It’s easy to deny the sacraments while I still have (so I estimate) 10, 20…50 more years of life. Entirely different when I’m actually facing death. Luther was right when he said if one can hold on to and stick to the actual eating and drinking of the body and blood of the Lord and all that it not only means but IS that one can die a good death. The real death is not the body’s death, the childish death as Luther put it, that’s why some people can commit suicide! They enter into the first death in hopes of alleviating the real pain of the death the second death – the bad conscience accused by the devil, the law and hell. I reached a point at the height of my health and life and things could not have been outwardly better for me, yet hell was all around me because as a Baptist, a Calvinistic Baptist, I was sure I was not elect and damned. Let me tell you this much, I was ready to off myself physically, physical death didn’t scare me, the law, hell and everlasting abandonment of God did! The second death, THAT’S, the death neither Calvin nor Spurgeon have ANY medicine for whatsoever. They ask “but do you believe and IF you do, you are then elect”. Foolish council from blind guides! They think the devil to be a dim-witted general. For it is a question of “do I really believe” that he torments you with. They think faith can be “mustered up” some how without the Word of God. They do not confess, “I confess that I cannot by my own strength or will believe in my faithful Savior Jesus Christ but am called by the Gospel by the Holy Spirit”. And thus they leave men to fight the devil sans Christ and by themselves in their moments of utter loneliness, and Judas like despair.

Steve Martin said...

I too, feel for Michael Spencer.

I met Bror at his site probably 3 or 4 years ago.

I will never hold that against Michael.

May the Lord comfort him and heal him from all his diseases.

Brigitte said...

"that hell of 'where is God in all this' because I can't detect Him savingly with my reason, feelings or experiences."

I like that Larry. To hell with it.

Rev. Daniel Robert Skillman said...

For those who are unsure about "the sacraments," and just want to stick with the Bible: The Bible IS a sacrament.