No More Dying?

Once we become Christians (however you think that happens) the dying is supossed to stop…right? From that point on in our life with Christ, it is upward and onwarDeath Becomes Med…right? We will have an immunity from the trials and tribulations that plague other people (non-Christians), and we will not have to deal with the little deaths along the rest of our journey in this world…right?

Any Christian worth his or her salt…I take that back, any Christian that has a pulse, knows that those statements are patently false.

St. Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15:29-31, “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptised on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptised on their behalf? Why am I in peril every hour?  I protest, brethren, by my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die everyday!”

“I die everyday.”   St. Paul knew the power of sin, the flesh and the devil. But he also knew that the power of Christ and His victory over death was the real truth about himself.

As Christians, we are not immune from troubles of life and the little deaths that occur as the result of the whirlwind of sin that we all contribute to and reap the benefits from. Death and dying, for the Christian is not a one time event when you are born again, or when you “accept” Jesus.

As Christians we all accept and reject Jesus each and every day…. many times within a single day, especially for someone like me who’s faith is at times weak at best.

Dying and rising (‘being raised’- to be more accurate) is the shape of the Christian’s life. Repentance and forgiveness…dying and rising, these are synonymous. This dying and rising is the process that we go through. It is the race that we run. But we don’t run it alone. We don’t go through it alone. Our Lord is right there to carry us along the way. We are carried in the forgiveness of sins, in our baptisms, like a boat carries you along through the water. And along the journey we are fed by His Word and His Holy Supper. And along the journey we return to our baptism, daily (as Luther said), and that is not hard for us to do because it is the boat in which we travel.

 Baptism is not a one time event that we do, or that is done to us by a pastor, priest, or minister, it is something tangible, done to us by God Himself. Baptism moves with us through life and carrries us though life. It promises us and gives us new life…over, and over, and over again, as we need it, each day, everytime the circumstances of life, or the results of our own sin, or the sin of others, or the work of the devil, bring us to the point of death. And again we are washed clean and riased  with Him to new life.

I think the advocates of ‘after you are born again, there is no more dying’  defend their point of view because they somehow believe it is preserving God’s power.  I think, that they think, that if you believe in a cycle of dying and rising that somehow God’s power hasn’t really been enough to squash the powers of darkness and evil in the world. Also, if you believe that salvation is a process, you somehow are tying this in to man’s efforts to save himself. I think they believe these things because they fail to recognize the paradox that is the life of faith. What apprears to be so, really isn’t, and vice verse.  Failure to recognize the paradoxes in Christianity will naturally bring about a desire to nail everything to the floor and make it understandable.

The one thing that all of us ought to remember is that God’s ways are certainlly not our ways.

Do I know everything about God and the Christian faith? Hah! That’s a good one! Of course I don’t. I’m going by what I have been taught, what is in scripture, and of course what the Spirit of God reveals to me as truth.

I always appreciate it when someone is able to straighten me out when I might be in error. So here’s your chance to do something good for a brother in Christ! Thanks!

   – Steve Martin

32 Responses

  1. Good post Steve. I don’t know if you need straightning out though…..

    I read through this a couple of times to make sure I thought I understood what you were trying to say (Esp. after our other conversation)

    I do understand what your saying about accepting and rejecting Christ daily. None of us truly live by faith and the words of Christ. If we did we would be perfect.

    So I take the ‘rejecting’ part of that statement to mean that we reject Christ when we ‘fall’ into a sin (Because if we were diving into sin with full knowledge that it was sin, I don’t know how we could call ourselves Christian). So in that sense, it is a rejection of Christ/God because we are not trusting Him at that moment.

    The Apostle Peter was a great example of this. In one breath he said that Jesus was the Christ, and Christ commended him for it…and in the next Jesus was chiding him saying “get behind Me Satan”. Then Peter was denying Jesus after His arrest but then goes on to be a bold and dynamic preacher of the Gospel.

    As we agreed to before….we are constantly working out our salvation that will one day be made complete. But, until then, we are always repenting and always trusting that Christ will save us from God’s wrath on the great Day of Judgment.

    But I still say that the act of being born again is a one time event followed by a continual repentence and trusting of the Savior.

    The dying to self and taking up our cross is a constant and daily part of the Christian life that we must always be in practive of.


  2. That should be ‘practice’……I don’t know what a practive is…lol

  3. Wayne,

    Very well said, Wayne.
    I knew you meant ‘practice’. I don’t know ehy these blog hosters don’t have a way to edit comments one time after you’ve clicked the ‘submit’ button!

    I think I understand where you are coming from, but I do have a question.

    With my understanding of being ‘born again’ many times, where do you think I miss the boat? Or in other words, is my way of understanding ‘born again’ detrimental to my faith, or my understanding of how all this works?

    I think my understanding of being ‘born again’ many times keeps me from taking my salvation for granted. It keeps my feet on the ground with respect to my performance as a Christian, and it places God’s sacraments in a more prominent position with respect to my Christian walk.

    In essence it places God’s work (for me) central and moves my work into a completely different category all together, and that is for the service of my neighbor.

    Thanks Wayne!

    – Steve M.

  4. God fulfills His promise by sending John the Baptist who will redeem His people. John is the greatest of all the prophets. People went out to John, confessing their sins, and then they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John’s ministry is about repentance (a change of the heart) and turning to God in preparation for His coming. It’s preparing the heart, cleansing it through confession, in preparation of God (internal cleansing). This makes me think as though a guest is coming and we are preparing for Him (Jesus) to dwell with us.

    Bear the fruit that is keeping in with repentance—believe in Jesus Christ (which is the work of the Holy Spirit).

    Jesus’ baptism is the first act of the new covenant. We are to go and make disciples by baptism and sharing/teaching God’s Word.

    In Matthew 3:16-17 we see God pour out His Holy Spirit into our lives through Jesus’ baptism. “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” “

  5. This thread is a blessing. Reading scripture (Matthew), I realized that in the act of Jesus’ baptism in verse 3:15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

    In Jesus’ baptism, Jesus is already taking on the sin of the world (even before the cross). The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all present at this moment. This is extremely important, because Jesus’ ministry does not begin until Baptism takes place. When the dove descended from the heavens above (the heavens open) and we are sealed as the children of God. God’s Word is spoken… God’s living Word. These means of grace follow us throughout our lives. These moments are much more powerful than our world realizes. To become disciples by baptism, share God’s Word and love one another.

  6. I do not believe that we reject Christ when we sin.

    Nor do I believe that Salvation is a process.

    We sin because it is our nature to sin. We are saint and sinner simultaneously. God knew this, He sent His Son to die in our place.

    Our Salvation is secure with Christ. It is done. A gift.

  7. Steve,

    Life does feel like a race sometimes. I agree, our Lord is right there with us carrying us along the way.

    Amen about being fed by His Word, Holy Communion, etc.

    The church’s treasures … the means of grace. Gifts that God has provided to deliver His grace to those who believe. The means of grace (God’s Word, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion) and prayer, of course.

    Like the journey you mentioned, God makes Himself known to us through these means of grace—gifts.

  8. Steve – I don’t think your understanding of born-again is detrimental to your faith at all….I’m pretty sure I understand what you mean by it. I think you are to be commended on how you don’t take your salvation for granted….I wish more Christians felt the same way. It’s sad to see Christians who do take salvation for granted and take a license to sin…

    When I look at John 3 and read where Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, I don’t see Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born again and again and again.

    Some translations have Jesus saying, “…you be must be born from above.” Being born again, or born from above, could only be possible after Christ died on the cross and rose again. For us to be born again and again would seem to imply that He (Christ) would have to be continually sacrificed for our sins. Christ said it was finished and sat down at the right hand of the Father. His work was complete. Salvation for us will be made complete in its totality when we enter into His presence.

    Magdalene – I don’t think I meant to imply that we reject Christ/God about who He is or His saving grace when we sin, I think I meant to say that when we sin, ultimately there is a rejection we are showing against God because we fail to fully trust Him and fall into sin….does that make sense?

  9. Hi Steve,

    I think you’ll enjoy this article from the blog “Lutheran Confessions.” It’s entitled “Luther and Suffering” and is at Blessings.

  10. Wayne, Magdalene,

    There are a lot of seemingly contradictory passages about dying and rising, being born again, being put to death in baptism (Romans 6).

    Being born again is a can of worms for so many people. Many people think being born again is a choice, as if they had anything to do with themselves being born the first time. Being born again does come from above. Jesus told Nicodemus that “the Spirit of God is like the wind, it blows where it will.” You can’t do it. I digress (but it is all related)

    In the Greek, the language that Paul uses to describe baptism means that baptism is not a one time event, but rather a force that moves with you through life, carrying you. And in Romans 6 Paul describes baptism as dying and rising, actually participating in the dying and rising of Jesus.

    So. if baptism is something that moves with you, and it is death and resurrection, then (in my mind) it seems that we do experience death and rebirth over and over again.

    I have to admit, it took me a long time to come to this understanding of baptism and how the law (God’s Law) works on us in life. But this understanding makes sense for me in light of the scriptures and in light of my own life.

    I know this is a radically different understanding than most people have, but I do think it is biblical.

    When St. Paul says to us that we are “being saved”, it tells me that salvation is a process (one that we can trust in, and be certain of) that God does for us, that He works in us (sanctification).

    It is great fun (at least for me) to express these different views of the faith. I imagine that there isn’t a one of us who’s got all this stuff exactly right, and we’ll be looking pretty stupid when God says…”Ah… Steve you were way off on that one. But you were right with your idea of not eating pizza for communion.”

    I just appreciate the chance to exchange our thoughts on these questions in the faith that we might all have our faith strengthened in some way.

  11. Ivy,

    That was a terrific article you sent me. Excellent quotes from Luther. Thank you.
    Suffering certainly is the shape of the Christian life. “In this world you will trouble, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

    By the way, Ivy, how are you feeling? Is the pain subsiding?

    – Steve

  12. …”Ah… Steve you were way off on that one. But you were right with your idea of not eating pizza for communion.”

    Now that was funny! 🙂

  13. If nothin’ else…at least I can make you laugh!:D

  14. Regarding salvation as a process: Perhaps it would be helpful to think of the process of salvation as meaning ‘already but not yet’. After all, salvation in it’s fullness is total restoration to God. Obviously, that has not happened – yet. Therefore it is really not possible to speak of salvation as if it were an accomplished fact. The eschatological hope lies in the future yet to be revealed. LIfe with God now has the shape of baptism – a perpetual dying and rising with all that is Godly perceived only by faith. Steve is absolutely correct in his reading of Paul on this point. Our life in the world – as those who live within the promise of God’s salvation – looks very much like the life of our Lord. The fullness of God’s shalom was with Him but it was not readily apparent to the vast majority of those around Him. Nor is apparent to the world today that God’s salvation is breaking out all over the place.
    There is also a more salient point, I believe. God is the author of salvation. In other words we are dependent on God – in His freedom – to act on our behalf to save as He wills (“The wind blows where it will.” ) God’s freedom is the point – both of justification and of salvation. We do not deserve justification or salvation neither can we demand it of God – even when He has promised it. We are dependent upon God to keep that promise but we have no right to appeal to some theological formula because of which God is obligated to save us. We hold no coupon to exchange for salvation. God’s hands are not tied. He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy. We believe – trust – He will have mercy on us because His Word is trustworthy. I believe the Christian can and should have supreme assurance in this promise but always within the context of humility before the sovereignty and freedom of God.

    Good comments on this blog and a refreshingly civil tone – thanks, Steve!

    Pastor Mark

  15. Pastor Anderson,

    Thanks very much for contributing to this discussion.
    I think I understand that salvation is a process, but Wayne brought up a good point, that being that Jesus said on the cross, “it is finished”.

    How do we square that with St. Paul who tells us that “we are being saved”. What is finished, if now the process starts?

    Thanks Pastor Anderson!

    – Steve M.

    Note: For those that don’t already know, Pastor Anderson is my Pastor at Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar CA

  16. Big subject, with so, so many contexts, tenses and applications…where does one begin?
    well, I find in the ESV these NT stats:
    “die” occurs 41X
    “died” 62X
    “dead” 143X
    “death” 141X
    all that to say we have our work cut out for us in discerning God’s true and final word on the subject-as He speaks to the multi layered facets. As for me, I desire, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to abandon my puny thoughts in favor of His.
    Along with the living and enduring Word of God, you may also find one of God’s servants, Gerhard Forde, who is now in glory, helpful with the insights given him by God! check out:

  17. on another note, we must see BOTH the distinction AND relationship between doctrines like union with Christ, justification, sanctification and glorification. One the one hand these doctrines are seperate AND inseperable.
    Pastor Mark makes an excellent and Biblical observation in the “already / not yet” paradigm, as understood within the “finished” work of Christ.
    Unlike Rome, we believe that one is justified by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ alone. with that we believe we also live likewise…by same grace through faith. Never is our forensic justification nor our being conformed into the image of Christ (i.e. sanctification) ever by our works, obendience to God’s Law or following the “principles and steps” (new law) …”but just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, so continue to live in Him” (Col 2.6)
    We have been justified, are being justified and will be justified…the whole kit-n-kaboodle….a FREE gift of God! Taste it????????

  18. Good stuff Danny!

    I love that article by Forde. Thanks for the link!
    It is another paradox of faith, that the work is not yet finished , but it is finished.

    I guess this truth keeps us grounded in His work for us, and yet not presumptious of it.

    I loved it when you said…”the whole kit and kaboodle…a FREE gift of God! Taste it??????”

    I think that is exactly what our Lord had in mind when He told us to eat His body and drink His blood!

    Yes! I can actually taste it!

    Thanks Danny.

    – Steve

  19. Spot on, Steve. This needs to be said over and over again, if not to dispel the theological myths which holds currency in the modern evangelical circles.

  20. Jason,

    I do think it is important, also, Jason, if only that these folks hear it…at least once!

    Thanks, my friend!

    – Steve

  21. Wayne wrote, ‘I think I meant to say that when we sin, ultimately there is a rejection we are showing against God because we fail to fully trust Him and fall into sin….does that make sense?’

    Hello Wayne. Yes, I agree. We fail. We fail to trust Him and fall into sin.

  22. Steve thanks for asking re: the pain. I believe I have turned a corner this week. I am not in pain almost continually and have been able to take less pain meds. I may well even be driving by next week and ready for outpatient physical therapy. With my physical therapist watching, I took a little spin around the parking lot Wed. and did so pain free!!!!!! I have also slept through the night for the past several nights. Once the sleep thing is settled and I can once again comfortably sleep in bed, rather than the couch, I will indeed be a very happy camper. He is faithful!

  23. Ivy,

    I’m so glad you are doing much better. Pain is a terrible thing. It is another form of death.

    “We rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

    Yes, Ivy, He certainly is faithful.

    I’m praying that you’ll be back to normal very soon.

    Your friend,


  24. Steve – Let me make sure I qualify what you were quoting about me to Paster Mark –

    When I said that Christ said it was finished, I was meaning that the work that Christ did on the cross was complete. He (Christ) through His death and ressurection, completed the task the Father sent Him to do. Christ’s work of reconcilliation of man to God was made complete through the cross.

    I agree that we are ‘being’ saved. As Pastor Mark pointed out very well, ‘already, but not yet’. I like that!

    I’m just trying to say that salvation in a one time thing. I don’t think we can keep ‘getting’ saved, but rather we are saved and look forward to its completion.

    I don’t know if any of that makes sense…

  25. Wayne,

    I think I did realize what you meant, Wayne.

    Thanks for the clarification, though.

    But something still doesn’t quite seem right to say that salvation is a one time event. If we are in a spiritual battle, and if this is a process, then for me(anyway) it seems to make more sense to say that I have the hope of salvation. This is that I don’t presume anything and that I know that the devil is still after me.

    But I certainly do understand (or think I do anyway) why one might prefer the other statement that it is a done deal. That is so you don’t put people on a works righteousness program, relying on something further than the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    Sometimes this stuff can get a bit confusing…at least for me.

    I’m thankful for all the great comments and ideas here to help me straighten this out a bit in my pea brain.

    Thank you , Wayne!

    – Steve M.

  26. Wayne,

    I had another thought (praise be to God… maybe).

    In looking at our salvation as a process, rather than a one time event, it helps keep us off the project.

    I know that I said that I thought that keeping us off the ‘religious project’ might be a reason for looking at salavation as a one time event.

    I think many folks, not necessarily anyone reading this, think of salvation as something ‘way back there’, either in history or their personal history. So that is done, now, what do I do? The temptation, especially with so much law, or Christian ‘how to’ preaching everywhere in the Church, is to get on your horse and start riding, to move on to the next place, the next mountain, the next ‘victory’, anything that has to do with ‘my doing’.

    So, I think looking at it as a process that God is fulfilling and that we are included in, might help us to live in the battle, in the here and now and get get carried away with ‘Christian progression’.

    And if, as you say, (and you are absolutely right) that the war is won, there is no need to progress towards anything where God is concerned, but rather we are freed for the neighbor.

    I’d better stop, I think I’m starting to confuse myself again.:D

  27. *I think many folks, not necessarily anyone reading this, think of salvation as something ‘way back there’, either in history or their personal history. So that is done, now, what do I do?*

    Wow – That’s a great point………

    For folks who do feel that way…well, that’s just plain sad. The ‘been there, done that’ attitude with our salvation is very dangerous mindset indeed.

    Good one Steve.

  28. for what its worth, most I have talked with that see salvation as a process see it in terms of Rome…

    “if we __________ then God will _______”.
    sort of God will save me if I get better at this Christian thing…
    which boils down to self salvation and more deadly than that makes man the initiator and God the debtor!

    Now methinks that is ‘another gospel” which is no gospel at all…anathema!

    the “already” in the “already/not yet” scheme is a done deal! Romans 4, highlighting Gen 15 speaks of God leveling the Hammer of Justice and declaring the sinner just, as He covenants and alone passes between the pieces of the contract sacrifice of that day! Done deal. A point in time. A once for all…that has eternal (that is, today, tomorrow and all the tomorrows of eternity) impact, so that we, who have been justified, actually live by grace alone through faith alone in the Promises of God alone…Soli Deo Gloria

  29. Wayne,

    Thanks. I probaly stole that one from Mark (Pastor Anderson) somewhere down the line.

    Pretty much anything that makes any sense that comes out of my mouth, he is resposnsible for…and anything that is pretty goofy, well, I probably thought of it myself.

    In any event, I appreciate the encouragement, Wayne!

    Thanks, my friend!

    – Steve

  30. Danny,

    You have something there with your comment about thinking of the salvation ‘process’ as being tied to Rome and good works. That is how I’ve always thought of it.

    And now the ‘already/not yet’ paradigm is sometimes hard to square because of my earlier notions about the subject.

    The ‘done deal’, but don’t presume on it, attitude seems to be best, realizing that this is God’s promise to us and He won’t break it, but realizing that it isn’t a contract or a business deal either, and that God can and will do whatever He pleases.

    Thanks Danny! To God all the Glory!

    – Steve

  31. Steve,

    The way I think of it is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. He is bringing still that reconciliation to man by the means of grace. He now brings the work of his son to us human beings.

    We can only do two things – a.) tell him that we do not need anyone to pay for our sins or b.) tell him we can pay it ourselves thanks very much.

    Or c.) when we do believe that reconciliation we merit nothing because it is a promise received by faith and that too – faith is the gift of God created by the means of grace – Word & Sacrament into our hearts, so all goes to God’s glory.

    As is often said – the Gospel is not a proposal, but it is a proclamation of peace.


  32. “… – faith is the gift of God created by the means of grace – Word & Sacrament into our hearts, so all goes to God’s glory.

    As is often said – the Gospel is not a proposal, but it is a proclamation of peace.”

    Nice work, L.P.C.!

    I believe every word of it (by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jersus)

    Thank you, Sir!

    – Steve

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