When did you accept Jesus?

“‘Well, I didn’t. He accepted me.”

No no no…I mean, when were you saved?Decisions for Christ

“Yesterday.     Today.     And tomorrow.”

Umm…you’re still not getting it…when did you become a Christian?

“At my baptism…when I was an infant.”

But babies cannot accept Christ!

“Now, you’re starting to get it.”

______________________________________________________________

Where in the New Testament does it say that one needs to accept Jesus as his or her personal Savior?

Where does it say in the New Testament that we have to make our decision for Christ?

Where in the New Testament does it say that we have “free will” to choose God?

I have been told these things numerous times by Evangelicals but as yet no one has been able to show me biblical texts that say those things.  I have, though, seen many passages that state the opposite is true.

Am I missing something?  (It wouldn’t be the first time…today even!)

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110 Responses

  1. The answer is: nowhere! (at least not in these terms)
    But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is a legitimate element of invitation, attempt of persuasion, even to the point of urgent pleading in the evangelistic work portrayed in the New Testament: from Jesus’ own call to repentance (Mt.4:17) and invitation (Mt.11:28) to the ministry of the apostles and the church as a whole (Acts 2:38+40; 18:4; 2 Cor.5:20; Rev. 22:17).

    I’m not sure whether “accepting Christ” is the best term to describe it (John talks about “receiving Christ” in John 1:12) but I think we can agree that there is an element of a personal response involved in order to live out what it means to be reconciled to God.

    The whole process how this happens is not explained in detail (apart from the fact that it cannot happen without the Holy Spirit’s conviction and enlightenment) and doesn’t fit into our usual theological categories, may they be evangelical, baptist, lutheran, calvinistic or from some other denominational persuasion.

    I think it’s more important to stick to what we know already: God is for us, no matter what, we’re saved by grace, and we share this word of grace with others, knowing that it will not return void! What more do we really NEED to know?

  2. Not sure how this smiley face got in – it’s supposed to say: Mt. 11:28!

  3. Josh,

    I recently did the smiley face thingy by accident, too.

    I think it’s important that we figure out how this relationship between ourselves and God starts lest we believe that we actually had something to do with it.

    St. Paul tells us in Romans that “no one seeks for God.”

    We don’t want Him. That’s what those first few chapters in Romans are saying to us.

    That’s why we nailed (all of us) Him to the cross. He was good, He was God, and we just wouldn’t have it (Him) He had to go.

    I’ll just throw out some passages and we’ll see what comes of it:

    “who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the WILL OF MAN, but of God.” (added emphasis )

    “I chose you, you did not choose me” – Jesus

    “You have to be born from above, the Spirit is like the wind, it bloes where it will.”

    ” No one can come to me, unless the Father draw him.” (the word draw is the same Greek word for compel used when describing how Paul was thrown into jail)

    I like to ask my “free will” Christian friends what Paul (Saul) was doing when he made his decision for Christ?

    I think when a proper understanding of how the realtionship begins (all by God) then the pride of the believer is taken out of the equation.

    “Well, I did it. I made the right decision.” “I did it, I accepted Jesus.” The forst thing that’s going to be there is pride. “Of course ,I made the right choice.”

    After He accepts us, then, yes…we will accept Him and reject Him on a regular basis. Just the fact that we continue to sin means that we really haven’t decided to accept Him …at least not all the way!

    My pastor says this, and I agree with him, “free will is the biggest problem in the Church today.”

    It sets the sinner off on the wrong foot. The whole project began with me…and it will continue with me. That’s how we end up with all these ‘holiness churches’ where the whole Christian life revolves around…’me’…and what I am doing…for God or for my neighbor..or whatever, and not what God has done…for me. The em pha sis is on the wrong syl la ble.

  4. “That’s how we end up with all these ‘holiness churches’ where the whole Christian life revolves around…’me’…and what I am doing…for God or for my neighbor..or whatever, and not what God has done…for me. The em pha sis is on the wrong syl la ble”.

    Sure.
    I guess the basis for much of this is the Biblical usage of the term ‘repentance’. The understanding is that you have the preaching and then you have the response – repentance – like in Acts 2, but no one ever really stops to unpack what was actually going on in cases like that (people cut to the heart due their actual rejection of Christ, then being baptized as a result of the preaching).
    Altar calls were the key thing in so many churches of my youth – Jesus was always ‘at the door of our hearts, knocking’ – a little different to Lewis’ ‘hounds of heaven’! I look back on those times with very mixed feelings. I had been baptized (Christened) as a child (weird when I had an agnostic dad), and recall the ‘wind’ of the spirit working through my reading of Narnia long before hearing Billy Graham or praying a ’sinners prayer’. The mercy is that God rescues us in spite of all the interference we deem necessary (religion of one shade or another). What I find marvelous is how many of those I have traveled with over the last twenty plus years have also discerned the wheat from the chaff. The Lord alone makes us to be His, and nothing changes that.

  5. In the Holy Scriptures(Sola Scriptura) we find that salvation is by grace alone(Sola Gratia) of Christ alone(Solus Christus) through faith in Him alone (Sola Fide) for the glory of God alone(SoliDeo Gloria).

  6. The issue is not “believing” in Jesus. It’s TRUSTING in Jesus. We TRUST that he was perfect and the only one on this earth who was ever perfect (i.e. sinless). God demands this perfection and we all fall short of His glory. We TRUST that what Jesus did on the cross and his resurrection paid the price for our sins and gives us eternal life.

    It’s not important that you remember WHEN you trusted. It’s just important that you have trusted. I don’t think a baby can trust in Christ–this is where we differ, I guess. But I also believe in election.

    I’m off to church now, so perhaps more on this later.

  7. “Where in the New Testament does it say that one needs to accept Jesus as his or her personal Savior?”
    Personally, I have always liked thinking of Jesus as savior of the world, and very publicly. I really hate this business where all these people are running around trying to claim him for themselves.
    But making him personal makes him subjective, like the liver shiver the Mormon’s were attempting to get me to try the other day. Poor souls, they had to knock on my door. For some reason I didn’t have it in me to be cordial even. Especially after that line that they believe the same thing I do, that they are Christian. I don’t have time for these lies. They couldn’t bring themselves after wards to tell me Jesus is God, they denied the trinity. And they know that is what Christians believe, but they will walk around the neighborhood telling the Bald face lie that they believe in the same Jesus you believe in. Then they start in with Joseph smith being the prophet, and they KNOW this. they know it because they had a liver shiver, they though curiously call it a burning bosom. Quite frankly I don’t want mine to burn. But it makes it all quite unassailable for them. I had a personal experience. Who are you to question whether my bosom burned. But we sound the same way. He is my personal savior. I used to be…. then I accepted Jesus, and gave up sinning. See I don’t smoke! What a joke.

  8. I mean we sound the same way when we start talking about Jesus as a personal savior. If he didn’t die for the world, he didn’t die for me.

  9. I don’t understand what you’re trying to argue here.

    Are you arguing predestination or everyone being saved even apart from faith in Jesus?

  10. “It’s not important that you remember WHEN you trusted. It’s just important that you have trusted. I don’t think a baby can trust in Christ–this is where we differ, I guess. But I also believe in election.”
    You no roger you are absolutely right. It is impossible for a baby to trust his Father in heaven. Babies are incapable of trust. Look how untrusting they are when it comes to their earthly parents. of course if your going to pick someone not to trust and the choice is between God and your parents, well might not be so trusting of your parents.
    Seriously, what do you mean you don’t think a baby can trust in Jesus? Why not? You believe in election? But God can only elect adults? what???

  11. Matthew,

    Thanks for stopping by ‘the old Adam”.

    I guess what I am arguing for is an end to the un biblical doctrine of putting people in charge of their own salvation. It is idolatry.

    I’m arguing for a return to actually reading and understanding what the texts actually say.

    I’d like for preachers and teachers of God’s Word to know that when they advocate such unsound doctrine that they are helping to put people on a ‘treadmill of religiosity which will harm their life of faith…not help it.

    I realize that when that is the only way one has understood things (been taught) it is hard to accept an idea that is totally opposite of it. But, in this case, the scriptures are quite clear. I forgot to mention anything of Romans 9 in my earlier examples. Your mentioning “predestination” reminded me.

    The goal here, Matthew, is not to say…”WE are RIGHT!…YOU GUYS are WRONG!”

    The goal is to 1) get people to go back to the scriptures and look at this again. 2) realize the differences in the actual results of the believing of the two competing doctrines.

    Thanks very much, Matthew.

    – Steve

  12. On the header of this blog it says:

    “Mankind’s struggle to stay in the saddle at all costs.”

    God is trying to kill us off and make a new creation out of us. One of the first things He is trying to do, is to get us to understand who actually is in charge here.

    And it ain’t us.

  13. Amen. That is the most difficult thing to understand and accept(except for infants).

  14. “But babies cannot accept Christ!”

    Now then, about that…

    Luther’s new emphasis on promise and faith made infant baptism difficult to justify because some kind of infant belief has to be understood. This had never been an issue for the Catholic Church because the belief in ex opere operato made faith secondary. In The Babylonian Captivity Luther argues that children are aided by the faith of their parents and sponsors and, of course, by the prayers of the church. At the same time he argued that the faith of children was simple and less problematic than that of adults. They were less likely to be contaminated by “greed and superstition.” In his treatise Concerning Rebaptism Luther gives three reasons for baptising infants:

    1) In relation to biblical texts Luther is aware that there is no specific instruction to baptise infants but characteristically, he casts the burden of proof on to his detractors, effectively asking that if it is not explicitly forbidden in scripture how could anyone be sure that children do not have faith? Among other passages, (The murder of the Holy Innocents in Mat Ch 2, John leaping in Elizabeth’s womb in Luke 1.14 ) Luther notes that Jesus warned his listeners to become like children because the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of such as those. Even so he argues

    “Yet even if they could establish that children are without faith when they are baptised, it would make no difference to me … for faith doesn’t exist for the sake of baptism but baptism for the sake of faith. When faith comes, baptism is complete.”

    2) Luther also believes that the baptism of children has been practiced since the days of the apostles.

    3) Perhaps the most significant justification for infant baptism is its foundation in the will of God. God has made a covenant with all people and baptism is a sign of that bond. Since the covenant is for everyone, the church must baptise everyone, and that obviously includes children. God will take care of faith:

    “Christians have done enough when they preach and baptise.” Central to his detractors was the argument that because children have no reason they can not believe. To Luther God is able to create faith in human hearts despite reason. Thus infant baptism can be called the surest and most certain baptism.

    Just saying!

  15. You no roger you are absolutely right. It is impossible for a baby to trust his Father in heaven. Babies are incapable of trust. Look how untrusting they are when it comes to their earthly parents. of course if your going to pick someone not to trust and the choice is between God and your parents, well might not be so trusting of your parents.
    Seriously, what do you mean you don’t think a baby can trust in Jesus? Why not? You believe in election? But God can only elect adults? what???

    Bror:

    Interesting (really). You’ve caused me to think deeply about infant baptism and an infant’s ability to trust in Christ. I have many a high church (Lutherans, PCA Presbyterians and more) friend and have had quite a few discussions about the subject.

    I went back to some trusty verses and decided against throwing a verse, passage or chapter back at you for your consideration. I’m electing to do this because infant baptism is one of those things that the scripture does not speak directly about. That doesn’t mean that I’m discounting it at all. I’m just saying that because it’s not an issue that is spelled out very specifically in scripture* (like communion IS) then I think it’s ok for me to refer to some common sense as you did (and I liked your point very much).

    Let me be clear. The subject at hand is not infant baptism but the ability of an infant to trust in Christ. I agree that all an infant CAN do is trust–trust in a mother for milk, parents/caregivers for warmth and safety, etc. It would make sense that the infant could trust in God without even being able to conjure up the idea of God. Many in the evangelical churches refer to the “age of accountability” for infants and children. This is the idea that these individuals are not accountable for not trusting in Christ because they are not old enough to understand. It seems like a great idea to me, but scripture is silent on the issue.

    If a person is baptized in the church as an infant, can they fall back on that for salvation? What must we do to be saved from eternal damnation and granted eternity with God in heaven? That’s what The Old Adam is asking. We must TRUST that what Jesus did pays the price for our sin. When a parent baptizes a child, I think of it as the parents trusting Christ with their child. They may be responsible for that child, including how they bring him/her up, but ultimately that person will be responsible for their actions. Since we all fall short of the glory of God, at some point, that person will have to put his/her trust in God. It’s not important that they remember when it happened at all–just that they are trusting in Christ alone.

    And while the date and time is not the issue, it IS important that we share the good news of Jesus Christ with those who do not know Him. It’s a privilege that God uses us to share the good news. We are not responsible for anyone’s salvation.

    When it comes to predestination, I’m in. I’m a Calvinist. But there’s also a bit of a mystery involved with our ability to understand it as humans. We don’t do a good job of comprehending eternity the way that God does. Someday it will make sense to me. But for now, it is my duty and privilege to share Christ with my family and my neighbors.

    Roger

    *NOTE ON MY COMMENT ABOUT INFANT BAPTISM – I don’t want to change the subject of this post. If you disagree, maybe that’s a point that Steve will want to bring up in another post–I’m guessing you’ve already discussed it.

  16. Doormen-Priest:

    Excellent post on infant baptism. I think you presented it quite well. Thanks.

  17. Hi there. I just found you through your comment on my blog. There’s some excellent discussion going on here.

    I am a Baptist, so in my tradition the profession of faith followed by baptism is very, very important, but I agree that it can lead to putting the em*pha*sis on the wrong syl*la*ble. Profession of faith can so easily become a work that we presume saves us, instead of a public declaration of our decision to trust in God’s grace (i.e., our recognition of the gift that God has already given us). Ideally, believer’s baptism is a celebration of the work that God has already done and it still doing, but that the believers is just now coming to recognize.

    I know many of my Baptist brothers and sisters have issues with infant baptism. I’m not convinced that it’s the *best* model (a topic for a different day), but I can see the benefit in it because of the recognition that we bring nothing to the table when it comes to our salvation.

  18. “‘Well, I didn’t. He accepted me.”

    No no no…I mean, when were you saved?Decisions for Christ

    “Yesterday. Today. And tomorrow.”

    Umm…you’re still not getting it…when did you become a Christian?

    “At my baptism…when I was an infant.”

    But babies cannot accept Christ!

    “Now, you’re starting to get it.”

    Steve,

    That might just be the most brilliant thing I’ve ever read. Especially the last two sentences. GOSPEL BRILLIANT!

    Larry

  19. I think Bror’s point about about Jesus, the Savior of the world not (just) my personal Savior, is a good insight.

    It always takes more than one to create and sustain faith.

    More than one to speak the good news, more than one to pronounce forgiveness, more than one to baptize, more than one to preach, more than one to read the Bible (there is a writer), more than one to commune.

    The only time it’s just me and God, is praying in my room. And even then, there are prayers we did not come up with by ourselves, all the time, praying the Lord’s prayer, etc.

  20. The very expression ‘believer’s baptism’ exposes the emphasis. What is decisive, no matter what the spin, is the believer’s faith. The roots of this switch lie not in the historic faith but in the effects of Enlightenment humanism on the radical reformation. It was not ‘reasonable’ to believe that a child could believe, they maintained. Nor is it reasonable to believe that our so-called free will does not have a place in coming to faith.
    It was inevitable that the radical reformers would jettison the sacraments as acts of God once the subjection of faith to the constraints of humanism and rationalism became normative for their theology. Infant baptism was, and is for these folk, too gracious.

    For Luther and the conservative reformers infant baptism is not a ‘sign’ of pre-existing grace. It is not a sign of anything. Baptism is an actual ‘doing’ of the Word of cross and resurrection to the child. The New Testament is filled with references to baptism. In nearly every case, God is the subject of the verb. God is the one who is doing the baptizing. This has been and remains the pervasive, objective view of baptism held by the vast majority of the world’s Christians. And while the historic church holds various perspectives held on the implications, all would confess that Infant baptism is an act of Divine election, an intersection where God’s decision, not mine, is defining.

  21. I am saved.
    I am being saved.
    I will be saved

    .”To beleive Him, not just when I accept Christ as Savior, but every moment, one moment at a time: this is the Christian life, and this is true spirituality.” (Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality) .

    The emphasis on a specific turning point in time misses the point. Such a time is the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journery.

    Good post, even with the infant baptism.. 😉

  22. The following is a comment from Steve Blackwell regarding baptism and a comment I made on his blog
    http://prodigalsknots.wordpress.com/
    (I beleive). I thought it interesting and germane to our discussion. I am reprinting it here with his permission.

    The Old Adam,

    Let me the first to respond to your comment.

    I don’t know who you are or where you are at in your walk with the Lord, but by your response to Prodigal’s excellent article I will venture to say that you are either very young and/or very misguided. The reason, for Paul’s admonition of “let not many be teachers,” is aptly demonstrated here. It is without doubt that someone is wrong concerning this verse you mention, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38). It is safe to say that the blood of Christ was sufficient to satisfy the righteous demands of God, and that nothing else can be added to that work. Having said that it is obvious that you have misunderstood the passage. This is a big leap for men to accept; even though God is satisfied, men are not. Baptismal regeneration is a doctrine of devils to trick men out of their free gift of salvation. If Christ satisfied God, then we must admit that we do not understand scripture and pray for revelation into this mystery.

    I don’t have the time right now to expound on the meaning of “salvation” and “baptism,” but it is fair to say that “the handwriting of ordinances were nailed to the cross,” your ordinances included. Will you hinder Prodigal’s return by strapping him with a thousand pound weight that neither you nor your forefathers could bear? You have taken an essential element of our freedom (baptism) and traded it for chains, and locks, and bars! You have taken the mystery of godliness and claim to have deciphered it by applying the wisdom of men? You need to pray for the revelation that Prodigal has received and begin to experience the true freedom of which the Gospel speaks. You are not a free man and you need to be delivered into God’s glorious liberty. This is said in love.

    Steve Blackwell

  23. For someone like me, and I have met a few, who had a “Damascus Road” experience, where the Holy Spirit caused repentance and belief without any warning or provocation, it is easy to say when I was saved. I know others that just kind of grew into it. I am glad I was able to chose my baptism time and enjoy the Believers Baptism. I know that children are not in danger of hell fire from various places in scripture.
    I was saved, done
    I am being sanctified, still in progress
    I will be saved, unconditionally.

  24. Bror Erickson, “with such a one do not even eat.”
    I do not know what causes the “liver shiver” but I want nothing to do with it.
    LDS deserves a post of it’s own.

  25. Pastor Anderson,

    I think you are correct, the very name reveals its issue, “believers baptism”. When in fact the Scriptures speak of and I think Luther would turn a word or two this way, “unbelievers baptism” (e.g. Acts 2). After all that’s what it means to be a sinner receiving “sinners baptism”.

    Larry

  26. Before I give you my answer, let me affirm that I do believe in election or predestination whatever you want to call it. However the Bible is very clear about faith. The Bible says God chose us before the foundation of the earth so I don’t think if someone is chosen they can deny his offer. Yet, there is a faith aspect.

    Ephesians 2:8-9

    Romans 3:21-26

    I will also add that salvation requires no physical action by us.

  27. The problem is how baptists (lower case “b” – meaning not necessarily denominational Baptists but those who believe in “believer’s baptism”) tend to see Baptism as Law and not Gospel, whereas Lutherans see Baptism as Gospel and not Law. In other words, God is the one doing the work, applying the Gospel to an individual.

    When baptists hear the term “baptismal regeneration,” they hear “you believe we must be saved by faith PLUS the work of baptism!” This is likely what Mr. Blackwell hears and why he is saying what he is saying. But baptism is not our work, it is God’s work.

    I find it very ironic that Mr. Blackwell would consider someone to be still in slavery who believes in baptism as Gospel rather than Law. I think this really reveals the misunderstanding baptists have of the Lutheran view of baptism. To speak of my personal experience, it was only upon the realization that God had saved me objectively and personally in baptism (in addition to saving me earlier through His Word) that I have been free to believe that the Gospel is really for me. For years I was under the slavery of trying to figure out whether I was really a Christian by the state of my faith, whether I had enough good works to be a “true Christian” or whether my commitment(s) to Christ had been sincere enough.

    I don’t mean to knock the baptists on this site, I am just speaking as a person who has spent most of my life as a baptist and who has just recently discovered the treasures of Lutheranism. If anyone believes that I am misrepresenting the baptist view, please feel free to correct me.

  28. Steve, I just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t trying to support some Arminian version of a free will or claim that we have any part in the initial establishment of a relationship with God. Spiritually dead people cannot raise themselves back to life. The Good Shepherd found us and carried us home, not vice versa. No argument there.

    What I DID try to point out is the potential pitfalls of the kind of human logic that COULD say: “If this is so, there is no need to give an invitation or to urge people to think about and respond to what we share with them!” Sure, it NEVER should be given in a way that would suggest that everything now depends on us and the “decision” we somehow need to come to on our own!

    I believe that the Holy Spirit used Paul’s appeals both in his preaching and also in his letters. I do see the danger also of not emphasizing enough that even our response towards God is essentially only possible because of His work in us. But this is ususually pointed out to those who are already part of the Body of Christ. Or can you give me a New Testament example of unbelievers getting a detailed theological explanation of what they are able or unable to do before they are invited to respond?

  29. Josh,

    “… I DID try to point out is the potential pitfalls of the kind of human logic that COULD say: “If this is so, there is no need to give an invitation or to urge people to think about and respond to what we share with them!”

    I see where you are coming from, Josh.

    In Lutheran theology, we believe that the invitation is contained in the announcement (of the gospel itself).
    The response is brought about by God in the person that hears and believes.

    “Or can you give me a New Testament example of unbelievers getting a detailed theological explanation of what they are able or unable to do before they are invited to respond?”

    How about Jesus saying, that “no one can come to Me unless the Faher draw him”

    “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.”

    Jesus says, “apart from Me you can do nothing.”

    Niccodemus asked Jesus how all this happens and Jesus told him basically that he can’t do it (be born again) it has to come from above. The Spirit blows like the wind, where it will.

    As you say, Josh, after we are born agin from above there are responses to God’s Word of Law and gospel. God’s Word does it’s work on us and we do respond in a myriad of ways.

    Thank you, Josh!

    – Steve

  30. Dawn K.,

    Thanks for a great explanation from someone who has been on both sides of the issue. (a few others here as well, have a similar perspective)

    The Lutheran view of baptism, contrary to many other views, is very freeing and liberating, and places all the eggs (work) in God’s basket…and in our basket…nothing but our sin.

    I think this view naturally relies on God for…everything…and I believe it is true and the most pleasing to God.

    Thanks so much, Dawn!

    – Steve

  31. Bill N.,

    “Good post, even with the infant baptism. ”

    Bill, you are alright in my book!

    – Steve

  32. Teresa,

    I appreciate your honest and open consideration of the ‘believer’s vs ,infant, baptism debate.

    Your willingness to examine a viwpoint that may be realtively new and foreign to you, says much about you.

    The goal here is not to be right, but rather to expose each other to theological ideas using the scriptures, that the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ may burn as bright as possible.

    Thanks very much, Teresa!

    – Steve

  33. Pastor Mark,

    “The very expression ‘believer’s baptism’ exposes the emphasis. What is decisive, no matter what the spin, is the believer’s faith. The roots of this switch lie not in the historic faith but in the effects of Enlightenment humanism on the radical reformation.”

    The “switch” seems to be where ‘the old Adam’ asserts himself yet again. Replacing God with a god of our own making (in this case, ‘ourselves’ ) is the specialty of the old Man/Woman.

    In baptism, God takes care of this idolatrous imposter and puts him/her to death. (Romans 6)

    Pastor, thanks again for a clear, unvarnished, defense of Christ’s work us.

    – Steve

  34. Bror, Larry, Howard, Jim R., Brigitte, Willohroots, Roger, Doorman-Priest, James, Matthew, Craig, and all here,

    You are all terrific! I appreciate your opinions and ideas, and insight into this controversial topic.

    I’m going to go back and look more closely at some of the comments here, and I might just come around to your way of thinking.

    But bear with me, I’m a little slower than the average bear.

    This is a great discussion, thanks to all the thoughtful input here. Feel free to keep it going if you think of something more, or in an effort to clarify an earlier point.

    Thanks all!

    – Steve

  35. Steve, I think only the John 6 passage fits the bill somewhat, although it seems to me that Jesus is giving less of an invitation than explaining why some reject his teaching (John 6:64-65). The rest is either directed to his own disciples (in Paul’s case: to the believers in the church in Philippi) or not part of a direct invitation to embrace him in faith at that moment.

    Once you get into Acts and the actual description of the apostles’ evangelistic activity, you’ll find very personal appeals – at the end of their explanation of the good news – like: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation!” (Acts 2:40), “Repent then and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out! (Acts 3:19), or think of the very direct answer Paul and Silas gave the jailer when he asked how he could get saved: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household!” (Acts 16:31).

    I certainly agree with you and Lutheran theology that the response of faith is brought about in the announcement of the Gospel itself. That should not prevent us however to be just as direct in an evangelistic message as the apostles when they made their appeals to those who heard the Gospel for the first time.

  36. P.S.: I like the way Bo Giertz described it:

    “The great experience of the call, with its joy and strength, has in and of itself no decisive meaning. Some people need this help and receive it from God.
    Others do not need it. Regardless, the light finds its way to them. God does not require that anyone should be able to say when the sun first shone on his soul. It is enough that it shines.”

  37. And one more of his quotes along the same lines (which is pretty much targetting the same thing as your post):

    “No man shall therefore base his certainty of being a Christian on that which he once experienced. It is often a sign of spiritual shallowness when people again and again talk about how they at one time “came to faith”. What they are describing is most often nothing other than those events and experiences through which God called them, that is, the very beginnings of that work which God wants to perform in them. The one who, after his call, truly has let himself be moved further along on God’s way, must have discovered that
    it was not as complete with his conversion as he once thought. He must also have tested the truth of the words which Jesus once aimed at a disciple at the
    time of his call: “You will see greater things than these.” Therefore a true Christian usually does not speak much about his first encounter with God.”

  38. “The roots of this switch lie not in the historic faith but in the effects of Enlightenment humanism on the radical reformation. It was not ‘reasonable’ to believe that a child could believe, they maintained. Nor is it reasonable to believe that our so-called free will does not have a place in coming to faith.
    It was inevitable that the radical reformers would jettison the sacraments as acts of God once the subjection of faith to the constraints of humanism and rationalism became normative for their theology”.

    This is key for a major discussion on the spirituality of much of what passes as ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ in popularist churches today. If we have essentially deposed or ignored the very essence of Christianity, replacing this with what ‘seems good’ to us, what really marks us as different from the ‘works’ approach of a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness? We say it’s what we believe, but if we believe that WE are in some manner or degree the manufacturers of ‘our’ faith, does that not tarnish and deny the miracle of salvation solely by Christ and His gifts of faith and grace? If salvation is a miracle from beginning to end (nothing of our doing), then why should not a baby be reconciled? Why can Christ not be fed to us through Bread and Wine? Why would we think it right to in some manner demean the message of scripture here by seeking to entwine the sacraments, as one theologian noted, in ‘the death of a thousand qualifications’?

    I spent years in the ‘only a symbol’ camp on these issues, but the scriptures continued to argue with me until I came to see this approach as totally unsatisfactory. There is far more to consider here, and to do so, we must take on board the approach of the church for much of its history, as so passionately and rightly contended by brother Martin.

  39. “I wish to accomplish putting the glory and honor into God’s side of the salvation equation…where it belongs and away from man’s side of the equation…where it doesn’t belong.”

    The Old Adam

    The Bible speaks of the mystery of righteousness and godliness, yet nearly all Christians will say “where’s the mystery, it’s not that hard to figure out.” We go to Bible school, we sit under some “anointed” teacher, we read our Bible daily, we pray, we debate, we analyze and contextualize, and go off and divide the Body of Christ into a million pieces, and contend that we have it all figured out. What is wrong with this picture? From Genesis to Revelation one thing is absolutely clear, the human race is a deceived race. So, we come to the impossible task of trying to understand the mind of God and decipher this riddle we call the Bible, that clearly says we won’t be able to understand it with the human mind, and set off to build libraries to house our knowledge and by that prove that God was wrong, that we can understand, unaided by the Master Teacher. Is the Holy Spirit teaching one person that you can be once-saved-always-saved and another that you can lose your salvation? Is the Holy Spirit teaching one person that you need to be baptized to be saved and another that the blood of Christ is enough? Is truth not truth? Or, is there more than one truth? Is God a man like us? Does He reason like we do? Yes, we humans are deceived. Satan is the “deceiver of the whole world” the “deceiver of whole nations,” do you think you are the exception?

    The fruit of disobedience that we shared in, with Adam and Eve, has forever destroyed our ability to decipher the riddle. We cannot trust our thoughts, they will lead us to only one place; guess where? But, our we dissuaded? No! We pretend that we have received a new ability to reason correctly since our conversion. Even Christ did not reason out the will of His Father; He said He did only those things that He receives of the Father and that His Father is doing, and was led by the Holy Spirit, and walked in the Spirit, just as He directs us to do. But, men in their deception walk in the wisdom of their own minds and the pride of their own hearts, and will be compensated accordingly.

    The organized church system today has covered over the foundation of Zion with all the rubbish of this world and built all their own temples on every high ground, the walls are destroyed and the gates burned. God is calling men out today to return from their captivity and to rebuild Zion, according to His plans, “let everything be done according to the vision,” was His directions to Moses, and it has never changed. Christians do not understand the Bible, it is still a locked book for most, but there is a key, and it is costly. We must die. Our most prized possessions must go, be it family, entertainment, or addiction. God will not accept the blind and the feeble, only the best will do. When that saint of old brought his prized bull to the altar, the one that would have started the new herd, the one that was to be his retirement, the one that had become the family pet, he knew that was what God required. The priest slit its throat and he watched as his future, his whole life, run out onto the ground, and the earth drank it up. He watched as the priest prepared the carcass, it was stripped and divided, and laid on the altar, and he watched as his whole life went up in smoke, and he watched as his heart filled with a new understanding that his sacrifice had been accepted, and that God was pleased. He learned through obedience, through the things that he suffered, that when his ways pleased the Lord that God would come to him, and be his everything, and cause him to finally understand the mystery. That is the key! it is morbid, but it is true.

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.indywatchman.com

  40. Well I am sorry, but after stirring this nest up I cannot stay to keep it agitated.
    I would like to contribute more to this conversation and had no idea it was going to take off like this. Computer is at work, and I don’t check much from home. I am heading out of town for the week. See you Thursday Steve. Great post, sorry I derailed it onto this infant baptism bit. love that topic too. This pains me.

  41. Steve Blackwell,

    Steve, thanks for stopping by. There are some competeing theologies here and it takes some courage to take on ideas that are different than yours.

    The things of God are difficult to understand. That is why He has given us the bible, that we might be able to have His Word in it to lead us to His truths.

    I am fully aware that people interpret scripture differently. As Luthereans we interpret scripture through a theology of the cross. This way of looking at God see everything through what He has done for us…and not what we do, say, feel, or think. For since we are infected with sin, we always want to curve everything back onto ourselves and make what WE do, the focus.

    You rightly say that we must die. When we look at scripture (the first few chapters of Romans – and elswhere) we see that we do not want God. No one does. So then, if the self , our wills are determined to stay in control, then how are we going to die?

    Romans 6 tells us that it is in baptism. “We are baptised into a dearth like His.”

    Since we don’t want to die on our own, God does it to us in baptism. He puts us to death and then raises us anew…totally aside from anything that we so, say, feel, or think.

    God coming to us, from outside of ourselves, is a way God can act for us without our help. He doesn’t need our help. When it comes to granting us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation…He doesn’t want our help. Our help is tainted.

    That’s why we believe Christ instituted the sacraments. Why He commanded us to “go, and baptise…” and why He said we “must eat His body and drink His blood.”

    Steve, you are so right. Christ’s blood is enough. Can someone not be baptised and be saved? Absolutely! Can someone be baptised and be saved? Absolutely!

    We do these things (Baptism and Holy Communion) because our Lord told us to do them. St. Paul (and others) help us to understand why).

    We believe that this is the right understanding because it is Christ centered (His work for us) and it keeps our old Adam or Eve out of the game of righteousness. This certainly relies on God for everything and helps keep that old Adam in check and off of the religious ladder of works.

    Thanks very much, Steve!

    – Steve M.

  42. Bror,

    You derailed nothing. To infant baptism is where the discussion should logically have gone.

    Thanks, Bror, for your great input and steadfast defense of the work our Lord has done for us in baptism.

    Have a great trip and may God bless you and use to the utmost …wherever you go!

    – Steve

  43. Howard,

    “If salvation is a miracle from beginning to end (nothing of our doing), then why should not a baby be reconciled?”

    No good reason that I can think of.

    “If we have essentially deposed or ignored the very essence of Christianity, replacing this with what ’seems good’ to us, what really marks us as different from the ‘works’ approach of a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness?”

    I often look at Evangelicalism in the same light as our Mormon and JW friends. Works/righteousness and focused on self performance.

    Great points, Howard!

    Thank you, Sir!

    – Steve

  44. Josh,

    Bo Giertz is great! Thanks for those quotes!

    I think it is wise to not try and pin God down with respect to our experiences or feelings of salvation.

    But an act of His…a place where He has done something for us, made promises to us, apart from our feelings or our actions is different.

    That is why the Israelites returned to places like Shiloh and Bethel. These were places where God spoke to them.

    Luther taught us to “return to our baptisms daily”.

    Our baptisms are like Bethel and Shiloh. God acted there…spoke to us there and made us a promise to be our God, there at the font, in the water and the Word.

    So, I think that returning to our baptisms is something that gives us assurance of our salvation, totally outside of ourselves. This also helps to keep the old Adam at bay. For we know that “we are to consider ourselves dead to sin.” Baptism is how God killed us, and baptism is how God raised (raises) us again.

    It is a picture of the cross. Death and resurrecetion. Repentance and forgiveness.

    Thanks very much, Josh!

    – Steve

  45. i love and trust jesus. i didnt decide that one day. it grew to be over time.

  46. many people will follow jesus down an aisle and into the water. not many will follow him past there.

  47. That is why we must remember our baptism every day.

  48. “God will not accept the blind and the feeble, only the best will do”.

    I am blind, feeble, rebellious, foolish,
    I am no better than a smoldering flax.

    I am certainly weary of religion which constantly ‘instructs’ me I must do this, not do that, and be much, much better –

    a corpse isn’t that useful in such endeavors,
    however much we dress it up!

    Peace with God is by one thing alone,
    resting in the finished, perfect work of the Lord Jesus Christ,
    who loved the wretched and the blind,
    who, WHILST WE WERE YET SINNERS, died for us.

    Yours, in the wonder of the mercy of the
    God who JUSTIFIES the ungodly
    (as I’m certainly, outside of His righteousness, in that camp).

  49. Howard,

    Yes, that caught my attention also, then I was distracted and forgot about it (excuses, excuses).

    I too, am blind and feeble. I am an lowly sinner not fit to inhabit God’s Kingdom.

    But my Lord is strong and worthy and righteous. And by His death on that cross and His forgiveness for sinners and in my baptism…He declares me worthy. I have His worthiness…certainly not my own.

    “WHILST WE WERE YET SINNERS, died for us.”

    Amen, Howard!!

  50. I have questions. I have read books about baptism and the differences in views between infant and believer’s baptism or paedo and credal baptism. Most of the arguments I have seen in favor of infant baptism mention that it is a sign of inclusion into the body of Christ and the community of Christ much like circumcision was a sign of inclusion into God’s chosen people Israel in OT times. Is that fair or accurate or am I missing something? The Catholic church taught for years that unbaptized infants do not go to heaven in fact, which I understand they have softened in recent years. Does a person who is baptized as an infant and then denies belief in God receive forgiveness because their parents had them sprinkled? Does a person who believes in God, but never is baptized for whatever reason receive damnation because they never got baptized? What level of importance do we assign to baptism?
    I just finished preaching and studying my way through the book of Romans. And I am particularly interested in how this plays out in light of Romans 10 and 11, when Paul is wrestling with God’s faithfulness regarding his election of the children of Israel.
    Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
    This is the only time in Romans that Paul even mentions baptism. I am curious as to what new life he is referring to in the case of infants. Presumably they never had much chance to have an “old life” to turn from. Maybe I am understanding this too simply. If so, I am certainly open to other opinions. Sorry for the long comment, but I am genuinely curious what folks here think about this.
    Blessings,
    Jeff

  51. I see in all of these conversations that the goal of being right, and discovering the technical definition of baptism is the main focus. Union with Christ is the very heart of all that has been revealed of God’s thought concerning man and of mans’ relationship to God. We can be technically correct and go to hell.

    To give all this its true and final value, I think it is necessary to contemplate or have revealed to us the meaning of Christ, to see what a vast thing has taken place by the Son of God becoming the Son of man, and the path which He traveled to show us the Way. It is a question of our being taken, not into a correct understanding of some mere doctrine, but into God’s Son incarnate. Is not the goal of all our preaching of Scripture to preach Christ, or is it enough to be a technician of the Bible, with all our memorization of verses, our exegesis, four point sermons, and programmable meetings?

    The first preachers of the Christian message preached Christ. They did not, as a first rule, preach salvation or sanctification or forgiveness, or judgment or heaven, or baptism. That does not mean that they did not preach those things: they did; but not in the first place. They preached Christ, and all those other things were included in the preaching of Christ; Christ as inclusive of all and as transcending all; for, after all, such things as salvation and sanctification, forgiveness, justification, and baptism are subordinate, they come afterward. Christ was before them all and Christ will be after them all. They are inside of Christ, but He vastly outstrips them all.

    “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit.” John 12:24.

    Christ said of Himself that He had “come to scatter fire on the earth,” and that He was “straightened until it was accomplished.” A baptism was necessary in order that this divine fire or life might be liberated, and the ”straightening” of Himself ended. He groaned, ”Oh, that it were already accomplished.” This baptism was a baptism through death, and it was through the Cross that He looked for the realization of all that He would complete. It was thus essential that they should be identified with Him, and identification with Christ is only found at the Cross, where such passages as the following have their deepest meaning:-

    “I have been crucified with Christ and yet I live and yet no longer I but Christ liveth in me.” Galatians 2:20.

    “Having been buried with Him.” Colossians 2:12.

    “We were baptised into His death.” Romans 6:3.

    “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection.” Romans 6:5.

    “Like as Christ was raised from the dead, so also we.” Romans 6:4.

    Are we saved through baptism? Absolutely! None of the above applies unless there was that baptism. If we have with absolute faith “reckoned” our self dead with Christ, then dead bodies are disposed of by burial. If we have indeed died and been liberated from this world then why do most Christians live defeated and tormented lives? They say they were baptized and obeyed the letter of the law. Because they have not in fact died by seeing their selves in that Cross their vine is withered and their fruit bitter. The evidence of life in Christ is a changed life, not the confession that they were baptized.

    If we are going to manifest that life of Christ, and if that vital indestructible something is going to bear its powerful testimony in the world, if that divine life – that very life of God Himself – indestructible, victorious, is going to bear its mighty witness and make itself felt in the world in the members of His Body, it is only through their oneness with Him in death and resurrection, and the transitional act of burial (baptism).

    Until we know this oneness, our Christian life will count for little. We must take our place in one initial, all-inclusive reckoning with Him in death to the old self, and the old world with all its ambitions, desires, programs, ideas, standards, technical purity, and then allow that death to be wrought out in us daily in order that the resurrection life may be increasingly manifest in us. The life of God cannot come into the old creation, it is the new creation life. The remembering of that burial service and the true knowledge that the old man is “really” dead is the due diligence that we must pay to ourself whenever Satan reminds us that “you are not really dead.” The Bible says it is so, so, it is so.

    Does not Paul tell us to go on past the childishness of baptism? Enter into the reality of the death and burial and manifest a life of resurrection. If we have in FACT died with Christ, then we have in FACT been resurrected with Him.

    There is a great bounty awaiting those who understand the meaning of baptism, not technically, but spiritually.

    Steve Blackwell
    http://www.indywatchman.com

  52. Jeff,

    Those are great questions.

    We (Lutherans) believe that baptism is more than a sign. Something actually takes place in baptism.

    Babies are concieved in sin and are as guilty as the rest of us, and therefore need forgiveness of their sin just as the rest of us.

    If they die before they are baptised, are they not saved? Well, God knows them and their hearts, and we know what kind of a god we have, a merciful one, so we would hope and pray that the Lord would have mercy on the un baptised, child or not.

    Although God does give us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in baptism…the sinner can choose not to believe it. The sinner can walk away from his/her baptism.

    I think St. Paul’s language in Romans, to describe baptism is very strong and it is the language of action…God’s action. It (baptism) puts us to death with Christ and it raises us (including infants) to the new life, where sin no longer has dominion over us, in Christ.

    Great questions, Jeff.

    There may be some better answers than mine yet to come here.

  53. Steve B.,

    “If we are going to manifest that life of Christ, and if that vital indestructible something is going to bear its powerful testimony in the world, if that divine life – that very life of God Himself – indestructible, victorious, is going to bear its mighty witness and make itself felt in the world in the members of His Body, it is only through their oneness with Him in death and resurrection, and the transitional act of burial (baptism).”

    “Does not Paul tell us to go on past the childishness of baptism?”

    There seems to be a contradiction here.

    I don’t believe I’m familiar with that passage where Paul tells us the baptism is childish, Steve.
    Where is that in scripture?

    Thanks!

    – Steve M.

  54. Heb 6:1-3 sounds like Paul to me; who knows?

    “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary (simple, childish, basic, etc.) principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.”

    There is no contradiction. We are not to get bogged down in doctrinal study as a practice in and of itself. If we have died, then bury the dead body, and get on with life. We need not hang out at the funeral home to unravel the mysteries of death, let the morticians get rid of the stiff for crying out loud. Why hang out at the brink of the Red Sea, move out with God and get Egypt behind us.

    I’m sorry, I don’t debate very well, it all seems so simple now. Faith is absolute trust that God will supply all our needs, even the spiritual meaning of baptism, something not available through debate or certificate. It is more like walking a tightrope without a net, then jumping. I’m not talking suicidal nonsense, but trust in the creator God who loves us. Honestly baptism means very little to me, except when someone tries to bind me or my friends with weights they themselves cannot carry. Entering into life is not what is going on here Steve, and God wants so much more than debate for His children.

    I wish the best for you and God willing you will come to understand the blessedness of being free.

    Steve Blackwell

  55. I think what he’s referring to are Paul’s remarks in the early chapters of 1 Corinthians. He tells them in chapter 3 that they are worldly and as immature as infants in Christ. In chapter 1 he also addresses the divisions in the church and reminds them that they weren’t baptized into the name of Paul. As a matter of fact, he only baptized Crispus, Gaius and the household of Stephanas, from what he can remember (1:13-16).

    He then concludes: “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross be emptied of its power.” (V.17)

    It’s quite the exegetical jump to claim that Paul saw baptism in general as something childish. The childishness is clearly attributed to the divisions and tendency to follow Christian “celebrities”.

    The one thing I do agree with Steve B. on is the fact that any shift from a relational understanding of the Gospel towards technicalities and dogmatic understandings puts the emphasis away from Christ Himself and may very well leave us with nothing but the same divisions Paul was admonishing the Corinthians for.

  56. Ok, well … I guess I had the wrong hunch. One should never try and assume to know what someone else was trying to say! 🙂

  57. Steve Blackwell’s comments on this blog are obviously heartfelt and designed to edify, that much is clear and appreciated. What is also true is that taken together they represent a point of view. They are not above doctrine, but filled with doctrinal assumptions. Baptism may not mean much to him but being dismissive does not resolve the myriad issues that revolve around baptism. In fact, for many of us, the “blessedness of being free” of which he writes flows from our understanding of the nature of baptism. Barth’s critique of the 19th century’s love affair with positive religious experience even as it negated the actual referentiality of baptismal language remains valid:

    “Baptism is a sacrament of truth and holiness; and it is a sacrament, because it is the sign which directs us to God’s revelation of eternal life and declares, not
    merely the Christian myth, but the Word of God. It does not merely signify eternal reality, but is eternal reality….If, then, baptism is what it signifies, why should we not choose it as our base of operations in the temporal and concrete world?”

    Finally, for Luther baptism was utterly reliable as an actual event of divine election because the Word of God can always be trusted. In that trust, that God has acted in baptism and not merely given a sign, is the foundation of our freedom.

  58. Steve B,
    No offense, but the leap from the word elementary to the idea that baptism is “childish” is a long one. The word behind elementary is actually better understood as beginning or foundational. Note the use of the word “foundation” in fact in regards to those doctrines that are described.
    So this is hardly a “childish” discussion. It is a discussion of the foundations of the faith itself. And just to address a point you made earlier, for me this isn’t a discussion of technical distinctions or being right either.
    If there is one thing I have discovered about God, it is that He has an amazing capacity to overlook our ability to get nearly everything wrong. I have been wrong and I will continue to be wrong, but I trust Him and His plan and His way more than anything. In my case, I am more interested in hearing why people who think about this issue differently from me arrive at their conclusions. I find it helps me understand God better when I am talking and learning from my brothers and sisters who know Him and have experienced Him in a different way than me. And if I happen to disagree on a point or two, it will be OK. If I am wrong, I will learn and grow and it will be good.

  59. I don’t mean to be facetious, Pastor Mark, but I do find it ironic that you quote Karl Barth who is known as a vocal critic of infant baptism and pretty much contradicted most of the commenters’ opinions regarding the significance of that practice.

    Here’s a post that deals with Barth’s stance:

    http://irishanddangerous.blogspot.com/2008/02/karl-barth-and-infant-baptism.html

  60. Yes, Barth definitely hammered away at infant baptism which prompted a war of words that went on for years. My context for Barth’s comments is his critique of modernism’s emphasis on positive religious experience and it’s negative implications regarding the presence of the Word of God as it relates to baptism….a context that is a bit obscure, I admit.
    Luther’s view of baptism – including infant baptism – is decisive for me.

  61. I think too many christians and so called pastors who think it is about “following Jesus”, WWJD, and so forth forget that when Peter said, “no Jesus you won’t die for me”, “drew his sword to fight and die “for Jesus”, said, “Not me Lord I will never leave you”….Jesus point blank called him Satan.

    If God, in my efforts to prove “my faith” via baptism or following Jesus, called me Satan that ought to cause me at a minimum pause.

    Larry

  62. The question really is are things like baptism sacraments ordinances or are they sacraments — for me at least. Scripture says we are to be baptised by the water and by the Spirit. I try not to stretch beyond that.

    Nowhere in scripture are infants baptised but at the same time I would baptise my children as babies if I did it all over again. Why? Because it “symbolizes” to me God doing the work.

    No answers here just questions. 😎

  63. I can’t get over the fact that Jesus commanded that we baptise. That He put it ahead of ‘teaching’ in matthew 28.

    Some folks believe that God can absolutely believe that God can be present in their own hearts…but then how can they turn around and then say that He can’t be present in a bowl of water accompanied by His Word of promise? I don’t get it.

    If you had your choice…which way would you rarther have it…if you had to pick one or the other…Your decision for God (believer’s baptism)…or God’s decision for you (infant, or sacramental baptism) ???

  64. Jon,

    Baptism is a sacrament, a promise or vow of faithfulness from God to us.

    Since that is what it is, then it is more than a “symbol”.

    Baptism actually carries the freight, because God is actually there in His Word, and when God shows up somewhere on behalf of His people…He just doesn’t sit around and twiddle His thumbs.

    He acts!

    Funny…that is exactly what the book of Acts says ( 2:38 )

    “Repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of your sins and to receive the Holy Spirit.”

    Sounds like a whole lot more going on there than symbolism. 😀

  65. Larrydhughes,

    I think you have given me reason to pause.

    Thank you, Larry!

    – Steve

  66. Sacrament Vs. Ordinance?

    It really boils down to bondage of the will, what is election/predestination (not as we’ve been taught from the Reformed side of the house, nor Wesley, both are wrong), and grace.

    In a nutshell: Sacrament is the way the new man sees it, ordinance the old adam/man. The old Adam is forever procuring for himself things to do, even in the most twisted way the Gospel be it in word, water, bread or wine.

    Ford on the true Bondage of the Will of which Luther spoke and predestination is helpful:

    “This bondage or lack of freedom is not, for the Reformation, the result of a deduction from God’s almightiness or immutability. It is rather the result of our REACTION to the very idea of God, or recoil from the idea of God’s “goodness”, he being “above us”. In other words, it Is not because God rules all things immutably or by necessity that I am unfree-bound in the Reformation sense-but rather it is because I CAN’T TAKE THE IDEA of God at all that I recoil in horror and FALL BACK ON MY OWN RESOURCES (this is why we ultimately fight CONSTANTLY Justification by faith ALONE and sanctification that is getting use to that, and sacraments AS GOSPEL – added LDH) We must remember that we are dealing with the BONDAGE of the will, not a theoretical determinism of the will. In those things which are above me I am not free, not because I am somehow secretly or mysteriously controlled like a puppet on an invisible string, but because of what I have done with my freedom, because I simply am bound. The die is cast. I can’t be reconciled, because I DON’T WANT TO BE (this is why ULTIMATELY other doctrinal confessions, like believers baptism, don’t accept it as regenerative Gospel – we DON’T WANT God to save/give to us freely. THAT’s the bondage of the will – LDH added)! What happens is this. When I come up against the idea of God, one who by definition is absolute, one who in addition is the Almighty Creator who disposes over all things by his providence, predestination, and election, I am, in my alienation, BOUND to react a certain way. The “logic” of the case tells me that God determines everything, including my own destiny. In the face of that, what can I do? I can only say no, in one way or another. Frightened by what seems to be the logic of the case, I simply ASSERT my own freedom so as to have something to say about my own responsibility and destiny. Given the fact that I don’t know God-really, I don’t know what he is up to but have only heard about him and drawn some logical conclusions about him-given the fact, as Luther would have put it, that God is hidden, I must take my destiny into my own hands. I must claim at least a little bit of freedom. We must note here that under the circumstances that is something I MUST do; I am bound to do it because I don’t want to do anything else. I must say to God, in effect, “God, I don’t know what you are up to. I can’t trust you with your goodness. Therefore, I must take my destiny into my own hands, because I think it would be better that way”. After all, “We do have a choice, don’t we?” “I think it would be better if I decided such matters.” “You can be almighty, God, in everything except what concerns my ultimate destiny!” In this light, the assertion of free will is not really a logical position at all. It is a recoil from God, a defense mechanism against God (here we see the connection of something like believers baptism – it’s ultimately a recoiling from God’s free gift – LDH added). At bottom it is a faith sui generis, a faith in myself in defiance of God…”

    Forde continues powerfully on down further…”That is exactly the point of the doctrine of predestination-God makes the move to come to us. It is not a doctrine about what God might or might not be up to in heaven, but what he is ACTUALLY ABOUT HERE ON EARTH. It is a question of what he ACTUALLY DOES. He cannot come to us directly, so he comes to die for us. He chose to so to do-to reconcile the world unto himself-all by himself! That is the point of what was called the theology of the Cross. God comes, as Luther said, “under the form of opposites.” –End Quote.

    Now Forde is not speaking explicitly of the sacraments but by extension as Gospel and the free proclaiming word, and baptism to which he alluded to early in the book is part of the entire implication. The REAL reason people put forth a “believers baptism” or “no body and blood really in the bread and wine” really boils down to the old Adam not knowing God. So in the sacraments he, the old Adam, procures EVEN THESE for his program. At the end of the day when all is said and done believers baptism is a reassertion of the will to save itself, a last refuge and hold out for self salvation. Because as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve we simply cannot stomach a free gift – because our wills are THAT bound. When infants are baptized, who may or may not have faith (it’s irrelevant to the entire enterprise) it is THAT that believers baptism wars against because at the end of the day it is worshipping its idol, the self. It wants baptism to be IT’s DOING and not God’s. Which is the repulsion due to the bondage of the will, we simply will not let God be God for us and THAT is the touchstone essence of the fall.

    Baptized infants is God’s OPEN and blatant witness against believers baptism, which the doctrine, confused members aside, really is Satanic. It is the whisper of “hath God really said”, which is nothing less than denying God to be our God, the fall from the first commandment from which all else ensues. Because infant baptism most plainly declares the utter fall of man, his bondage of will, and God MUST ALONE come to us. There is NO middle ground between the two, none what so ever, nor can there ever be.

  67. Larry, I need a summary…. :-). My ADD is kicking in at the end of reading this.

    Thanks for all the input. As always, I will give it all consideration.

  68. Hey Jon,

    I suppose the summary is this:

    1. Deep, deep, deep down we don’t want an unconditional declared free grace in whatever form it comes.

    2. That is our real bondage of the will. So, we do two simultaneous things:

    A. Like crucifying Christ Who came the first time, we “kick out” doctrinally as much as we can the free gifts that GIVE US that (baptism and the LS).

    B. Appropriate, these same things to our legal schemes and designs (e.g. believers baptism and non-prescence LSs).

    3. Keeping in mind the A and B of #2 are driven by our fundamental bondage of the will which really will not have God be God to us.

    4. Predestination & Election are God BEING God that is from HIS SIDE, declaring the unconditional decree of justification (of which baptism and the LS are crucial to this).

    In short we REALLY DON’T trust God to be God FOR US – think of Job. Job is the most beautiful Gospel there is when you understand it at the end. Most, sadly, read it for law. Which is what we do, we take even Good News, like the sacraments, and implement them into our soul improvement programs. E.g. Believers Baptism is NOTHING less than the doing of this very thing, aquiring what is the Gospel and twisting it around to be a part of our works program, that little something I chip in to help God out.

    E.g. Sanctification is usurped the same way and instead of it being “getting use to your justification” (the SOURCE of good works) it becomes the goal of good works in the legal scheme/program of man. The old Adam never tires of doing this, he must die and die by the Word of unconditional declaration of Justification. Otherwise being a “hammer” everything looks like a nail to him. Being legal by nature and fallen, everything ultimately looks like something he needs to do, even faith.

    Hope that helps,

    Larry

  69. Steve, Steve, Steve!!!

    Bad misunderstanding of real Evangelical theology… Aahhh I don’t have time to pontificate at the moment, but if I do later I’ll have to jump in!!!

    To be fair, your post does illiustrate the pathetic dumbing down that Evangelicalism has suffered for generations now… the is no “accepting Christ” as you point out, and Jesus indeed chooses me.

    But there is a clear point of passing from darkness to light, of regeneration, of salvation, of trustiung Christ. The exact moment may not always be clear to the one who is born again, but i promise you God knows the moment of birth… new birth!

  70. Steve Luaghlin,

    Thanks for checking in, Steve!

    We are all looking forward to you expounding on your brief comment here.

    I’m always up for learning something new about God and what he has done for me!

    Talk to you soon, Steve!

    – Steve M.

  71. Larry, you lost me on step 2. ADD! Sorry! 😎

    Actually, understood, I love Luthers Bondage of the Will

  72. Larry, your E.g is very well stated.

    E.g. Sanctification is usurped the same way and instead of it being “getting use to your justification” (the SOURCE of good works) it becomes the goal of good works in the legal scheme/program of man. The old Adam never tires of doing this, he must die and die by the Word of unconditional declaration of Justification. Otherwise being a “hammer” everything looks like a nail to him. Being legal by nature and fallen, everything ultimately looks like something he needs to do, even faith.

    I liked this because Paul Vanderklay did a topic on the unity of justification and sanctification.

    http://www.leadingchurch.com/weblog/pivot/entry.php?id=415

  73. Jon,

    Larry might have lost you (step 2), but our Lord will never lose you!

    He adopted you in your baptism and that is something you can be absolutely sure of, no matter how you feel, or what someone else tells you.

    You are His, called and chosen…in your baptism!

    Now that is the assurance that God wants you to have!

  74. “You are His, called and chosen…in your baptism!”

    Strange, when I read Ephesians 1:5+13, adoption isn’t linked to baptism at all!

  75. Josh,

    When we invoke the name of the triune God (Mathew 28) in baptism, God gives us His name. When we invoke His name…He shows up..and acts.

    He promises to give us His Spirit (Acts 2:38) He forgives us our sins (also Acts 2:38).

    If that is not adoption into His family…I don’t know what is.

    And it reminds me of adoption in other ways, as well. A baby doesn’t choose to be adopted. It has no say. it is adopted by the will of the parents.

    When God chooses an infant in baptism, it is the same thing…only more so. Human parents may not keep their promises to take care of that baby…but God will. His promises never fail.

  76. I’m going to make a couple provocative statements now and everyone can react to it as they please:

    Baptism is necessarily linked to salvation but salvation is not necessarily linked to baptism.

    Salvation in its essence (a restored relationship of trust) follows neither the act of being baptized nor a decision of mine. The faith (trust) that God creates through His word and Spirit in a person IS that salvation.

  77. Still no time to really go in deep here, but for what it’s worth, the idea that we “accept” Jesus or that we “make a decision” is terribly flawed. It belongs in the realm of “pop theology” and is widely circulated in various strains of conservative Evangelicalism, but it is neither historic Protestant nor Evangelical theology.

    The reality is that we are chosen (Eph. 1:4 et al) and our salvation is simply not a product of human will or ingenuity or effort.

    I like what John says:
    “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – (here’s the important part) children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13)

    We become children of God when we are birthed by God – born again. How are we born again?

    The Spirit of God makes us alive in Christ even when we are dead in our sins and tresspasses (Eph. 2:4-5, Col. 2:13). That’s called regeneration. We had nothing to do with it. Because we are regenerated, we can be converted (in the theological sense of the word – faith and repentance Acts 20:21, etc.). When we place our faith in Christ (which is a gift of God – Eph. 2:8) we are then justified by that faith.

    So here’s how I (and most orthodox Evangelicals who are not Arminian) see it: Regeneration > Conversion > Justification > Sanctification. These are the things that happen in the moment of salvation.

    Yes – I said “moment”.

    Salvation has past present and future aspects, which I simply cannot unpack right now. I am saved, I am being saved, I will be saved. An example of “I am saved” is Eph. 2:8 – “For it is by grace you HAVE BEEN SAVED.”

    Where you guys connect baptism with this (and I say this with the utmost respect) I have no idea. I’m simply flabbergasted on that one.

    Steve, I love your blog and I hate to disrespect it by “hitting and running”, but I have to go!

    If I get time, I’ll try to respond more…

    They call us “Baptists” for a reason! Lol…

  78. I’ve got goofy little smiley faces where i did not intend them…sheeeesh.

    Josh,

    In Ephesians 1:13 the text mentions being “…sealed with the Holy Spirit which is the guarentee of our inheritance…”

    back to Acts 2:38 again “…be baptised to receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit.

  79. Josh,

    “The faith (trust) that God creates through His word and Spirit in a person IS that salvation.” ( Josh )

    And why can’t that happen in baptism?

    – Steve M.

  80. Steve, I’m not trying to undermine the value of baptism or deny that there is no connection between baptism and our acceptance into God’s family. All I’m saying is: it does not BEGIN here – as if baptism was a prerequisite. Our adoption is first and foremost linked to Jesus Christ, not the presence or absence of a sacramental act. If ithe sacramental act mattered this much (as one COULD conclude from your wording) then I would expect it to be included in this Ephesian 1 passage. It is NOT! Why do YOU believe it is not there?

  81. Don’t mix texts, Steve when the immediate context says something else: in hearing and believing the WORD they were sealed (in a timeline that would be clearly BEFORE they were baptized!).

  82. Steve L.,

    I too, have to run.

    I’ll be brief. We also believe that salvation is a process.

    We believe that baptism carries us along inside of it like a boat on that jouney.

    That’s why Luther said that ” we ought return to our Baptisms, daily.”

    For Lutherans, baptism isn’t a one time event that we gradually move away from. It goes with us.

    Thanks, Steve L. !

    PS- I love your blog, too, Steve!
    http://revolutioninthespirit.blogspot.com/

  83. “And why can’t that happen in baptism?”

    I didn’t say that it can’t. I’m saying it happens wherever the Spirit blows. And it blows where He choses to blow. He won’t limit His work to this one sacrament (as Acts clearly illustrates!).

  84. Josh,

    Not all theological constructs are contained in every verse. We do theology and put it together rightly.

    Paul makes quite an issue of baptism as the vehicle wherein God puts the sinful self to death and where he raises to new life (Romans 6).

    Ist Peter 3:21 also tells us that baptism saves us.

    When Jesus tells us in Matthew 28 to go and make disciples…baptising and teaching. Baptising comes first. How does one make disciples? Baptise and teach. “Panta ethne”…all peoples . No mention of age requirements. All peoples.

    “And the promise is for you and your children.” (Acts 2)

    Paul also hammers baptism home in Galatians 3:27, “For as many of you that were baptised into Christ have put on Christ.”

    In the New Testament, almost every single time the word baptism is uses it is to refer to WATER BAPTISM.

    I’m quite familiar with the “spiritual baptism” argument and I don’t buy it (for the reason I just stated)

    Thanks, Josh!

    Gotta run!

    – Steve M.

  85. “Not all theological constructs are contained in every verse. We do theology and put it together rightly.”

    True, but often our theological constructs put things together that don’t always belong together – any conversation with a Jehovah’s witness teaches us that lesson real quick.

    I just think that ignoring the immediate context of a statement is dangerous. Fact is: Paul does talk about our adoption in Ephesians 1. He does talk about believers being sealed with the Holy Spirit. Of course acceptance of the Christian gospel and baptism went hand in hand in the practice of the Early Church. And Paul I’m sure had no intention artificially seperating the 2 things. I would certainly expect that His teaching would do justice to both things he and the other apostles witnessed in their own ministry: that people received the Spirit just by hearing the message (Acts 10:44 – BEFORE they were baptized after the recognition of the fact that they indeed did receive Him) and also in the process of responding to the call to be baptized (Acts 2:38).

    Part of the problem in our attempts to do Systematic Theology is the fact that the “Wind” continues to elude our attempts to put him in a box. So I’m not trying to contradict you, Steve, but to widen the view beyond what we feel is acceptable from the limitations our treasured denominational heritage leaves us with.

  86. Josh,

    I think I see what you are driving at, Josh, and there is no doubt that I come to my beliefs about baptisn with the help of my Lutheran heritage…but, I still maintain that Lutheranism and Luther were about as scripturally sound as one could possible be.

    I do think that a sacramental theology helps keep us out of the “religion” game, wherein our feelings, our sincerity, even our faith can be the focus of our faith instead of the promises and actions of God for us.

    One last thing and then I have to really run(I left the house without my phone and had to return).

    Didn’t Paul come across some believers who were ignorant of the Holy Spirit and at that point he asked if they had been baptised or not? Then He baptised them? Something like that?

    Thanks Josh.

    I’ll read your response later this evening.

    – Steve M.

  87. Not quite. As a matter of fact Paul specifically anticipated with his question that these followers of John may have received the Spirit when they BELIEVED (Acts 19:2) – same connection as Ephesians 1:13! When it turned out that they had not even heard about the Holy Spirit and also had not received a proper Christian baptism, he did NOT baptize them but laid hands on them and PRAYED for them. And the Holy Spirit was given as an answer to that prayer – which I think confirms my point that the Holy Spirit will not just be exclusively tied to the act of Baptism.

  88. And one more thing: sacramental theology CAN keep us out of the religion game but it also can reinforce it. If it weren’t so, the Reformation would not have been necessary.

  89. Sorry, my mistake – of course they were baptized in Jesus’ name – I got this confused with a charismatic presentation I once heard – which of couse didn’t emphasise the baptism part but the speaking in tongues.

  90. This is really a fascinating discussion. One thing I’ve come to believe very strongly over the years is that the best way to understand a theology that is different from my own is to listen, really listen, to people who hold that theology. Too often, we base our ideas about others on the writings of people from our own tradition who are trying to convince us of others’ errors, and so they give us caricatures. Completely counterproductive!

    So in the interest of furthering dialogue, a few comments and questions. I haven’t had time to give every post the attention it deserves, so I’m responding to some general threads I’m seeing in the comments. And I apologize in advance for the length.

    Comments:
    1. I agree that to some extent, our ideas about baptism do boil down to sacramental or non-sacramental. Understanding the sacramental perspective is essential to understanding infant baptism. The whole idea of infant baptism never made any kind of sense to me until I someone explained the idea of sacraments to me. (I had always seen it as just shorthand for mysterious, supernatural ritual, rather than a rite that in some way conveys grace to the receiver.)

    2. Among Baptists, I have seen some tendency to dismiss the sacramental understanding because it seems “unreasonable,” but I think that’s more a result of post-Enlightenment life than anything else. I’m not sure that going back to a sacramental understanding would counter that since it’s so deeply embedded in our society. (And I daresay there are some from sacramental traditions who personally maintain a symbolic understanding, just as I know some Baptists who believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist.)

    3. I think there is some misunderstanding of baptist theology going on here, and I want to clarify a few points. The reason we require a person to express belief before becoming baptism is *not* because the believer saves him or herself by believing, but because the expression of belief is evidence that *God* has chosen to give grace to that person. To baptize someone who has not expressed such belief would imply that we get to decide whom God is giving grace to. That’s why we wait for evidence of God’s work.

    4. Some Arminians, but not all credobaptists, do hold on to free will, but most that I know would say that we only have the free will to refuse, or to not open the door: Rev 3:20 “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” God still chooses which door to knock on, and opinions vary regarding how universal that knocking is. (In my experience, among baptists and evangelicals, the role of free will vs predestination is a matter of great debate, but very few would say we get complete liberty to choose.)

    5. Regarding the criticism of WWJD and “following Jesus,” any credobaptists who says we are saved by “following Jesus” has been badly taught. (And many have, it’s true.) That is not evangelical theology. Following Jesus is how we live out our salvation, and we do it imperfectly. Still, we are called to “run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Cor. 9:12) and pray for God’s help as we do so.

    And a few questions:

    6. Regarding infant baptism: How do Lutherans deal with the fact that some who were baptized as infants eventually reject Christ? Was their baptism not effective? Is the idea to provide the sacramental rite to everyone who is brought forward, and leave it to God to decide who is truly baptized? Or is the rite always efficacious?

    7. Regarding sanctification: How do you read scriptures that do imply that there is work for us to do? (Matthew 10:38–Take up your cross and follow me; or Matt 25–the parable of the sheep and the goats). Or Matthew 7:20 and Galatians 5:19-23, which suggest that certain behaviors and attitudes are normative among Christians? (And to clarify, good evangelical theology would not say that following Jesus or having the fruits of the spirit bring salvation, but that these behaviors are evidence of God’s work in us.)

    Again, sorry about the long comment. There’s a lot here that I wanted to respond to!

  91. And to throw in another wrinkle to the whole baptism/Holy Spirit discussion. In Acts 8:14-17, we have people who had been baptized in the name of Jesus but had not received the Holy Spirit until Peter and John prayed for them. (Might that have been the passage you were thinking of, Josh?) At any rate, it shows that the baptism Holy Spirit connection is not absolute.

  92. Maybe the point of “evidence of God’s work” Teresa mentions in point 3. is what Lutheran’s are trying to cover by complementing baptism with confirmation. I’m surprised confirmation hasn’t come up in the discussion yet or did I miss something?

  93. Yes, Teresa, I probably got the two passages mixed up. I still think it’s relevant that Paul asked in Acts 19 about faith first and baptism second.

  94. Just to clarify a common misunderstanding. Revelation 3:20 is written to a Christian church and believers. It is not speaking of Christ knocking on the doors of unbeliever’s hearts. It was spoken to believers who felt like they already had all that they needed, but had left Christ outside.

  95. Thanks for the clarification, jeofurry. That’s what I get for just quoting the verse that came to mind and not examining the context a bit further! Yes, the Laodicean letter is all about the lukewarm church that has left Christ out.

    At the moment, I’m currently up to my elbows in the Medieval discussions of predestination/double predestination, and free will. There are lots of nuances to be considered—and that’s all without bringing in Reformation and post-Reformation theologians! Personally, I’m not drawing any firm conclusions on this question, nor do I expect to anytime soon.

  96. what do you mean you don’t think a baby can trust in Jesus?

    Babies cannot do anything, you have to do things for them. So at Baptism, God undertakes the responsibility of doing for them what they cannot do for themselves.

    LPC

  97. The objections raised against infant baptism are all attempts to preserve the illusion of free will. It is precisely the sheer graciousness of infant baptism that is so offensive. If I had a buck for every believer’s baptism christian who has attacked my baptism and tried to save me over the years, I could retire! Luther stated that those who disparage such grace do not deserve it. In their case the “clay is baked” and it is usually best to move on.

  98. I find it fascinating, when it comes to looking at something immediate and tangible in our faith (in this case, the sacraments), how often the old card of our will comes into play – we ‘come forward’ for baptism in the same, seeker-sensitive mode, that we ‘come forward’ to respond to the ‘knocking’ of one at the doors of our heart. As I stated before, evangelicalism is brimming with such ‘approaches’ (modes) – placing the spiritual in some almost mystical ‘above and beyond’ realm, instead of water, bread and wine – things which are most certainly and deliberately tangible and immediate to express just how present Christ and His work actually are.
    I don’t doubt conversion experiences (I had one myself), but I’m very aware that the work of the Lord ‘opening their hearts to the message of eternal life’ is a far deeper (and in that sense, mysterious) work than the ‘hatched and dispatched’ assembly-line like methods often deemed as the viable pass to salvation recognize.
    We can preserve the illusions of such methods at great cost, when we need to pursue a richer, deeper grace.

  99. Pastor Mark,

    “The objections raised against infant baptism are all attempts to preserve the illusion of free will” and etc…

    PRECISELY.

    Howard,

    Spot on.

    When we assert free will it is nothing less than the death rattle of the old man trying to grasp at straws to live. So he tries to even grab baptism for his work. That’s the real connection. This is precisely the connection of believers baptism, we take even the Gospel wet Word (baptism) and integrate it into our salvation program. Those who reject it as salvific and regenerative are openly rejecting it in unbelief, by their own admission against it. E.g. If you say baptism regenerates and saves, and I say it doesn’t, I’m truly saying, “I don’t believe it is”. That’s the entire point of what I’m saying there, I don’t believe it, that is to say unbelief point blank. Just as rejecting the true body and blood of Jesus in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. All the doctrinal apologizing and explaining really boils down to a “I don’t believe it is”. Stepping back to 50,000 feet; doctrinal apologizing doesn’t cover the unbelief, in fact it confesses it in all its apologizing.

    The ENTIRE point of the book of Acts is not “look for the Spirit in other gifts” (charismatics), nor that there is a disconnect between baptism and the Spirit. The ENTIRE point of the book of Acts in connection with the Spirit and baptism is that baptism BRINGS the Spirit. Not because we’ve bound the Spirit there, but He has promised to be there. Everywhere there is a baptism in the old and new Testament, even the baptismal nature of creation, lo and behold you find the Spirit. “He hovered brooding over the waters”, “the dove descends at the end of the flood”, “the Spirit as dove descends upon Jesus in His baptism”, the spirit comes at Pentecost with baptism, Peter realizes he must baptize NOW the Gentiles because God has given them His Spirit.

    When an evangelical confesses Christ alone and does nakedly trust in Christ alone, he/she doesn’t realize he/she is denying believers baptism. Just as a Roman Catholic who attends the Mass, which he/she should not, who later in his/her private life really trusts Jesus is actually rejecting the Mass. They just don’t make the connection and I suppose it’s a battle of the flesh in an insidious way. There is ultimately theologically no difference in believers baptism as a doctrine and the Roman Mass, both recrucify Christ.

    Yours,

    Larry

  100. I also find it interesting that God has seen fit to mediate both the reality of redemption and the very manner of this – the Incarnation – through the means found within creation itself (flesh, bread & wine, water); surely a ‘shout’ from heaven which re-affirms the sanctity of the ‘day’ (both in Genesis and its fulfillment in Revelation) in which we see the tyranny of severance between heaven and earth canceled and the two married – “Behold the dwelling place of God is amongst men’ because of the ministry of HIs Son.
    Why would we once again wish to seek a ‘ministry’ which in essence intends to re-establish an untorn curtain, barring us for His presence, when God is the one who has torn this asunder?

  101. Wow! Now if that doesn’t excite one. That leaves me speechless in awesome wonder. That makes a Christian smile as he dies! Wow again!

    Larry

  102. Howard,

    You know this is so very true. We see that in the type and shadows of the OT. We’ve been so inundated by false doctrines over the sacraments and some of its necessary outcomes, like dispensationalism, we hardly understand the great joy and push everything into these Gnostic categories. That perpetual disconnecting of things earthly, when Jesus in fact restores us so we CAN BE creatures again and not high flying spirits storming the heavens. The “earthy” is good, in “very good”.

    E.g. most, I too grew up this way, view the taking away at the end of the age that the Christians will be taken away from the earth (e.g. the LaHaye series). But in reality Jesus speaks of the unbelievers as the one’s taken out from the earth, just as it was in the days of Noah, Noah remained, the unbelievers were removed, thus we remain.

    But in some of the most stark OT types and shadows this is true. Take Joshua (type and shadow for Jesus, Joshua is the Latinized name “Jesus” or Yaweh saves) for example. Joshua returns and takes Israel through the Jordan, a baptism, (the baptized people) over to Jericho into the Promised Land. Jericho is of course type and shadow of the city of man, fallen man’s kingdom(s), and at last Satan’s kingdom, that has squatted into the garden of God, the city of God, the kingdom and land of God, the earth, God’s creation – they think they own the land but are usurpers. So Joshua and the baptized go over and parade around sounding a trumpet once every day for seven days (fast forward to Revelation, the trumpets sounding in judgment. The wall of the fallen city of man looks impenetrable during this 7 day worship march, they laugh they scoff, these usurpers. Then on the seven day the final trumpet of judgment sounds (paralleled with Revelation) and the walls fall. The rest of Joshua is the removal of the usurpers from the promised land.

    I say that because of the false teachings via these various Gnostic errors unto the sacraments and dispensationalism teach the Christian to hope for this removal into a “spiritual” realm. But in reality this earth which will be a new earth will be ours, the baptized. While it looks like, like the walls of Jericho, we have no were to go and the fallen world continually pushes and squeezes the Christian out both individually and corporately, when that seventh trumpet sounds it will be the city of man that will fall utterly and the usurpers “taken away”. The baptized are not the squatters. The world who thinks it owns the world are the usurpers and those whom it tries to eject, the baptized, these are the real inheritors of creation of God, not vice versa. Joshua, Jesus, is taking the baptized into the land of promise to worship against the walls of the city of man. And I don’t think its small at all that the OT type and shadow of the Lord’s Supper, the Passover meal, was given to the baptized as we too take and eat now the reality, the body and blood of Christ as the church. Six trumpets are blowing now, this is the last day, this age, the age to come is near at hand, even dawning as reality in the sacraments within the church.

    Blessings,

    Larry

  103. Larry’s and Howard’s observations on this topic could not be more relevant. The sectarian/believers’ baptism folk are continually trying to convince the sinner’s will to make room for Christ, as if some kind of an appeal to reason will stir the so-called ‘free will’ to seal the deal – always, of course, with a tip of the hat to role of the Holy Spirit. But Christ Jesus is not some kind of second-rate god who stands around in the waiting room until we make up our minds about Him.
    Our minds HAVE been made up – and humanity’s conclusion regarding God is no…in fact it is hell no!

    Into this maelstrom of godlessness – often masking itself in religion – Christ comes in all His power, might, authority and purpose to make sinners His own – as HE wills – in the Word and the sacraments. God’s will to justify the ungodly is the only will that matters!

    Therefore, we say Christ actually gives Himself in Word, water, bread…does the justifying deed TO sinners – those who by nature do NOT want Him, who are willingly bound to sin. There could be nothing more offensive to the old Adam and Eve – thus the continuing tantrums over infant baptism and the real presence in defense of reason and the will.

  104. Larry wrote:”That perpetual disconnecting of things earthly, when Jesus in fact restores us so we CAN BE creatures again and not high flying spirits storming the heavens. The “earthy” is good, in “very good”.

    “Only God himself could address man in His never-abolished creatureliness, and He does this in Jesus Christ in the cross.
    He speaks of the creatureliness of man as the truth which is spoken by God, and which, because of God, we believe in spite of all our knowledge of (current-fallen) reality” Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    The natural (fallen) propensity of ourselves is towards forms of spirituality which cultivate a gnostic/dualistic approach to the spiritual (usually galvanized by a plethora of do and don’t rules along the lines of those Paul renounced in Colossians 2), but such fail to marry us to the truth.

    My faith was stung into total reflection some years ago whilst reading Lewis’ description of the redeemed woman in ‘the Great Divorce’. His description of her was so vibrant, so real, I found numerous lines of prior inquiry merging into striking clarity – so much Christian spirituality was poor because it failed to be as immediate as this – as Christ, standing amongst His disciples and eating after the resurrection, as the breakfast with them on the shores of Galilee (Lewis’ brilliant observation – that Christ was MORE, not less solid than the room is brilliant and vital).
    We worship ‘from a distance’, when the REAL meaning of the oft mis-quoted verse in Revelation 3 is that CHRIST IS HERE!
    The show us that aside from grace, He is indeed a God too close for comfort. Not some ‘spirit’ of the sky, seated in a place that only the ‘ascended’ spirit communes with Him from the ‘gnosis’ of deep reflection in the communion ceremony – NO!
    This is the God who sits amongst us, who calls to us from our own streets, and calls us to come and fellowship, to eat and drink with Him!

    The pain of so much which passes under the banner of Christianity is that it inherently a rejection of the God who is with us, and thereby keeps the door at many services on Sunday firmly closed to all those who are not of the ‘gnosis’ only persuasion.

  105. I just want to reintroduce the two questions I posed eariler.

    1. Regarding infant baptism: How do Lutherans deal with the fact that some who were baptized as infants eventually reject Christ? Was their baptism not effective? Is the idea to provide the sacramental rite to everyone who is brought forward, and leave it to God to decide who is truly baptized? Or is the rite always efficacious?

    2. Regarding sanctification: How do you read scriptures that do imply that there is work for us to do? (Matthew 10:38–Take up your cross and follow me; or Matt 25–the parable of the sheep and the goats). Or Matthew 7:20 and Galatians 5:19-23, which suggest that certain behaviors and attitudes are normative among Christians? (And to clarify, good evangelical theology would not say that following Jesus or having the fruits of the spirit bring salvation, but that these behaviors are evidence of God’s work in us.)

    Understand that I have no interest in converting anybody. I am not that kind of evangelical. (In fact, I’m the first to protest when I hear anyone in my baptist church suggest that we should require new members to be baptised as adults.) I ask in the spirit of honest inquiry, and I would hope to be answered in that spirit as well instead of being hammered with scriptures and quotes from Luther about denying grace and what have you. That is not helpful.

  106. And I might add that I do appreciate the notion that Howard expresses ” that God has seen fit to mediate both the reality of redemption and the very manner of this – the Incarnation – through the means found within creation itself (flesh, bread & wine, water).” The incarnation itself is such a marvelous example of God’s redeeming of creation, but I hadn’t thought to connect it to the sacraments. Something to ponder, for sure. As I said earlier, sacramental theology is new to me, and I’m still making up my mind about it. (And I trust God to be patient with me on this one.)

    But Pastor Mark, I’m not sure it’s fair to say that “The objections raised against infant baptism are all attempts to preserve the illusion of free will.” I think we might be dealing with different understandings of free will. If I read my Augustine correctly, without God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, we are absolutely not free to choose God; we are only free to choose sin, to choose self. God’s grace allows us to make better choices. For the credobaptist, one such choice would be baptism. (I haven’t read Luther on this topic, and I don’t expect I’ll have time to anytime soon, but I’m sure it will be a major topic when I study the Reformation next Fall, and I’m very much looking forward to that !)

  107. Teresa,

    That some will walk away from their baptism and not trust God is a real possibility…no matter if they were baptised as infants or adults.

    We are free to reject God’s grace. The promises given in baptism are always good. God’s Word is always good. Whether we trust it or not… is another matter.

    Sanctification. The Lord calls us, gathers us, enlightens us, and sanctifies us…as He does the whole Christian Church on earth. (Luther’s small catechism)

    “He who began a good work in us will bring ot to completion.”

    The late Dr. Gerhard Forde wrote that “sanctification is getting used to our justification.”

    Us Lutheran types (most of us anyway) and many who may not be Lutherans but love Luther, are not really trying to convert anyone, either.

    We would just like for that light of Christ, which is sometimes just a flickering flame, to be fanned by the pure, sweet, freedom giving gospel, that the small flame may become a raging bonfire!

    That’s my motivation, anyway.

    Thanks Teresa!

    – Steve

  108. Thanks, Steve. This is very helpful!

    Based on your answers, I’d say we’re not all that far apart on some of these matters. But sometimes our vocabulary and our assumptions about others’ meaning gets in the way.

    For me, free will is merely the freedom to refuse, not the freedom to choose, because I’m too spiritually sick to choose Christ that on my own. (And I’m not alone among Baptists in believing this; I just got home from a Bible Study where a major topic for discussion was how God is the one who does all the work in our salvation. Even the preachers of the gospel are mere instruments.)

    And yes, God is the one who sanctifies. It seems to me that it’s when we try to do the work of sanctification in our own power that we get burned out and turned off. The difficulty, for me anyway, is discerning when God the Holy Spirit is guiding me to do something and when the church or my own guilt or false sense of obligation are guiding me. I love the idea of sanctification being getting used to your justification. I’ll have to give that a good ponder.

    And, yes, may the gospel indeed become a raging bonfire. Hallelujah and amen!

  109. Teresa wrote: “The incarnation itself is such a marvelous example of God’s redeeming of creation, but I hadn’t thought to connect it to the sacraments. Something to ponder, for sure”.

    Many thanks for the response, Teresa.
    Can I recommend, as a very useful introduction to what might be termed ‘creational’ theology, the book “Man and the Incarnation” by Gustaf Wingren – a marvelous gateway into the subject via a study of the theology of Irenaeus.

    Regards from England!

  110. While I do not believe that any of us can use sufficient words to describe what happens to us, or even when it happens to us, we all have a story written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God when He draws us to Jesus and recreates our spirit within us…not of ourselves, but totally by His will and grace. This is the story written on my heart:

    I was fourteen years old when I accepted Jesus into my life, or at least realized I wanted to do so…I believed in my heart that I needed Him and that He was willing and able to accept me and conform me into His image. An exchange of promises occurred that day…Father God promised to make me like Jesus, and I promised to let Him. Did I at this young age understand what that would mean over the next years…? No, what I did know was I wanted to be like Jesus and was willing to start the journey.

    It is very much the same in marriage. We fall in love and join our lives not really knowing or understanding the fullness of the commitment. The questions that follow are often difficult as two lives are melded into one. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to say there are no doubts, no challenges to belief in promises shared?? That just isn’t the human condition. What we can say, is that as we get to know our loved one, and choose daily to recommit and lay our lives down for each other, we are reassured of love’s endurance, if we will let it be so.

    It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that brings the understanding of the character of God and the assurance of our eternal standing with Him through the Blood of Jesus. Once we get that part right…there is little room for the enemy to whisper… “Did God really say or mean…”

    When we let the love of Jesus rule our hearts, He is the one who will through His indwelling Holy Spirit, answer the questions that come. I am as sure of that as the sunrise each morning. Do I have all my theology down with every i dotted and every t crossed? Of course not.

    Now that which we see is as if we were looking in a broken mirror. But then we will see everything. Now I know only a part. But then I will know everything in a perfect way. That is how God knows me right now.
    1 Corinthians 13:12 (New Life Version)

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