Friday, June 26, 2020

Baptism Debate Questions Answered: The Jacoby / Ross debate questions we ran out of time before answering, part 2 of 2

In my debate with Dr. Douglas Jacoby on the topic of whether faith before baptism is the moment of the new birth (I argued yes, he argued no) or baptism after faith is the moment of the new birth (I argued no, he argued yes), we had a question and answer session at the end of part two of our discussion.  Various questions that came in that we did not have time to answer during the discussion.  I have acquired copies of the questions and have answered them below, and have also invited Dr. Jacoby to answer them in the comment section. This blog post answers #8-14.  Questions #1-7 were be answered last Friday (click here for part 1).

If you did not already watch the debate, you can do so on YouTube by clicking here or by watching the embedded videos below.  The questions we did not get to answer commence after the videos.

Debate part 1, "We are born again before baptism" (Ross affirmative, Jacoby negative):

Debate part 2, "We are born again in baptism" (Ross negative, Jacoby affirmative):

Questions from the debates we did not get to answer in the Q & A session. Last time we put Thomas Ross's answer first, so this time we will put Douglas Jacoby's answer first.

8.) Isn’t it clear from John the Baptist response to the people coming to be baptized that he didn’t consider baptism as a work when he stopped them from being baptized by telling them to go and produce works in keeping with repentance?

DJ (Douglas Jacoby): Neither John nor Jesus nor any apostle ever designated baptism as a “work.” If we insist on calling it a work, we would only be correct that it is a work of God. After all, he is the one forgiving us! You are right to observe that the works follow baptism. Again, baptism itself was never called a work in the Bible, nor was it called a work in the course of the history of the church, until recent centuries.

TR (Thomas Ross): Matt. 3:7   But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. 10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

This passage says absolutely nothing about baptism not being a good work, a work of righteousness that is pleasing to God.  The word “work” in Scripture is not bad, it is good.  God has ordained that Christians do good works:

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

But those very good works do not save:

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

9.) If you never had a doctrinal position on salvation, or if you had never read the scriptures - (or didn’t know Greek)

What would you believe about how to become a Christian if you read through the gospels and Acts for the very first time?

DJ: Well, reading the gospel we learn a lot about the life to which we are called, but not so much about how to become a Christian. (After all, these were still the last days of the Old Covenant, which was in effect until Acts 2. In other words, the New Covenant is powered by Jesus’ death [Heb 9:15-17], though it doesn’t come into effect formally until Pentecost, 30 AD.) Many people are saved in the gospels, in the context of Judaism. For example, assuming he was a Jew, the thief on the cross (Luke 23:40-43) was saved as a penitent member of the Old Covenant people of God. There was no time to be baptized, nor any need—since baptism is a participation in Jesus’ death and resurrection (Rom 6:3-4), and Jesus had not yet been raised from the dead.

Acts is the book of the N.T. where we see people becoming Christians (present tense). The gospels anticipate Christian conversion; the letters assume and reflect back on it.

So let’s say we hand the book of Acts to a literate child, perhaps a 9- or 12-year-old. (It’s been done many times!) They read Peter’s Pentecost message (Acts 2:14-35). They hear the question asked by the crowd, “What shall we do?” (v.36). They listen to Peter’s response, “Repent and be baptized” (v.38). Finally, they note that those who accepted this message were baptized (v.41). Children grasp the connection between repentance and baptism and salvation. Unless they have been otherwise indoctrinated. This should not be controversial—but it is, since few churches really expect initial or ongoing repentance of their members, and entire denominations have lost their grip on Christian baptism.

TR: You would believe:

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:14-18). 

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). 

“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)

“And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:39)

 “And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31) 

Baptism as the point where sin is taken away is adopted because of religious tradition and a misinterpretation of a very small number of verses, while ignoring the huge numbers of verses that teach one receives eternal life at the moment of faith before baptism.

10.) I know many people whose life are godly and righteous but without an experience of baptism. If God is looks at the heart 1 Sam 16:7, then what heart issue is involved in getting baptized? 

You brought up early church teaching that mentions baptism.  Today, we have more translations, more books, and more teaching.  Why has it gotten foggier with time? Were there errors? New realizations?  Contradicting material discovered?

DJ: Sounds like we both know persons evidencing Christ in their lives, yet who have not been baptized. Of course, you are right: God looks at the heart. When I see Jesus in another believer, I am hesitant to write that person off simply because of a misunderstanding on some point of doctrine or practice. This perspective is consistent with biblical revelation. 2 Chron 30:18-20 and Rom 2:25-29 support such a perspective.

However, that doesn’t undo the command to be baptized. It’s one thing to be ignorant or misinformed, quite another to reject a divine command! So I still teach that people should understand baptism—this is always desirable—even though, as you note, judgment is up to God.

As for the heart (see the chart on salvation in the Ross-Jacoby debate), this is more connected with faith than with baptism. Hearing the Word changes our knowledge (and in a receptive heart, leads to faith—Rom 10:17). Faith is connected with a change of heart (Acts 15:9; Heb 10:22). Repentance (in a way, the other side of faith) leads to life changes (things we give up and things we begin to do). And baptism changes our relationship with God (rebirth, becoming his son or daughter).

As I reasoned in the debate, baptism is the normative point at which the rebirth takes place. I will let the Lord handle the exceptions.

TR: While baptism is not the point at which sin is removed, there is a heart issue involved in baptism.  Someone who is not willing to identify with Christ through baptism has a very serious heart problem.  The New Testament records many examples of people who were justified before baptism, but the New Testament records no examples of people who were born again who stubbornly and willfully refused and rejected baptism.  God expects you to reject false religion and follow Christ in His church after believing (Mark 16:16).

11.) You brought up early church teaching that mentions baptism.  Today, we have more translations, more books, and more teaching. Why has it gotten foggier with time? Were there errors? New realizations? Contradicting material discovered?

DJ: I wouldn't say this is quite right. When more ancient manuscripts are discovered, our translations become better—either by a more certain knowledge of the originally wording, or by improvements in translators’ understanding of the biblical languages. This is not to say you aren’t on to something. There are tens of thousands of church groups, each claiming to be authentically representing pristine, apostolic Christianity. Not everyone can be right. Dr. Ross and I both agree that the “new-fangled doctrine of 1835,” the Sinner’s Prayer—embraced by most of the evangelical world—has caused much harm. It’s not only unbiblical, but tends to actually dilute commitment to Christ.

At the same time, to be fair, I know of a number of evangelicals who are coming to a high regard of baptism, viewing it within the process of salvation. (Ironically, some groups with an historically high view of baptism are giving in to subjectivism, even accepting the Sinner’s Prayer.) So there is a lot of confusion. In the pages of the New Testament, as in other documents produced by the early church (esp. the first three centuries), the murkiness is absent. Repentance and baptism were regarded as the last actions of a non-Christian—essential to the process of salvation.

TR: While I did not have time to deal extensively with the patristic material in the debate, please note that I supplied significant evidence at the end of debate #2 that the idea that people were lost before baptism was far from the universal teaching of early Christianity.  Nor, for that matter, should the sources Dr. Jacoby cited be assumed to be advocates of baptismal regeneration (see, e. g., the article here and the further sources cited in it.)

Furthermore, we would trace the true churches to the dissenting movements that were the minority rather quickly in church history rather than to the majority that became the Roman Catholic religion, e. g.:

1.) Cardinal Hosius (Catholic, a member of the Council of Trent, A. D. 1560): “If the truth of religion were to be judged by the readiness and boldness of which a man of any sect shows in suffering, then the opinion and persuasion of no sect can be truer and surer than that of the Anabaptists since there have been none for these twelve hundred years past, that have been more generally punished.”  This Catholic prelate, living at the time of the Reformation, admitted that the Baptists had been around since A. D. 360.

2.) Mosheim (Lutheran, A. D. 1755), said, “The true origin of that sect which acquired the name of Anabaptists, by their administering anew the rite of baptism to those who came over to their communion . . . is hid in the remote depths of antiquity, and is consequently extremely difficult to be ascertained.”

3.) Dr. J. J. Durmont & Dr. Ypeig (Reformed writers specifically appointed by the King of Holland to ascertain if the historical claims of the Baptists were valid), concluded in A. D. 1819 that they were “descended from the tolerably pure evangelical Waldenses. . . . They were, therefore, in existence long before the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. . . . We have seen that the Baptists, who were formerly called Anabaptists . . . were the original Waldenses; and who have long in the history of the Church, received the honor of that origin.  On this account the Baptists may be considered the only Christian community which has stood since the Apostles; and as a Christian society which has preserved pure the doctrine of the gospel through all ages.”

4.) Alexander Campbell (founder of the “Disciples of Christ” and “Church of Christ” denominations, A. D. 1824):  “I would engage to show that baptism as viewed and practiced by the Baptists, had its advocates in every century up to the Christian era . . . clouds of witnesses attest the fact, that before the Reformation from popery, and from the apostolic age, to the present time, the sentiments of Baptists, and the practice of baptism have had a continued chain of advocates, and public monuments of their existence in every century can be produced.”

5.) Reformed writer Leonard Verduin stated, “No one is credited with having invented the Anabaptism of the sixteenth century for the simple reason that no one did. . . . There were Anabaptists, called by that name, in the fourth century.” pg. 189-190, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1965).

See Heaven Only for the Baptized? for sources and more information.

11A.) This question is for Dr. Jacoby:
If a person repents and has faith in Jesus as the Lord and Savior prior to baptism, must they also be aware of what is happening at the moment of their baptism to be born again? Put another way, can someone hold Dr. Ross' position yet still be receive the forgiveness of sins and gift of the Holy Spirit in baptism? Please explain your reasoning.

DJ: While it’s always ideal to know what we're getting into, we aren’t saved by comprehensive doctrinal understanding. (Joseph Harris and I flesh this point out in our book, Informed: Untangling Harmful Interpretations of Scripture.) Consider marriage. It is certainly possible to underestimate the energy and discipline it will take to be a godly wife or husband, and many enter marriage without having prepared themselves emotionally and spiritually. Nevertheless, if they have exchanged vows and complied with the law, they are married all the same.

Please see my response to [Q14], which overlaps your question. Note also that in our debate, while Thomas indicated he believed I was a non-Christian because I did not share his view on baptism, I did not follow suit / deny that he is a genuine believer in our Lord.

TR: It seems that Dr. Jacoby recognized that people can indeed be born again before baptism, although he stated that this was an exception. I appreciate his concession here, one which fits with the early history of his denomination, e. g., as cited in our debate, the questions below that I asked him:

Do you agree with Alexander Campbell’s statement:

“I observe, that if there be no Christians in the Protestant sects . . .  and therefore no Christians in the world except ourselves [in Campbell’s new sect] . . . for many centuries there [would have] been no church of Christ, no Christians in the world; and the promises concerning the everlasting kingdom of Messiah [would] have failed, and the gates of hell have prevailed against his church! This cannot be; and therefore there are Christians among the sects[.] . . . [W]ho is a Christian? I answer, everyone that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will. . . . There is no occasion, then, for making immersion, on a profession of the faith, absolutely essential to a Christian-though it may be greatly essential to his sanctification and comfort. . . . [There are] Christians in all denominations[.] . . . [Among] the different Episcopalian, Presbyterian,  Methodistic, and Baptist sects . . . [t]here are, no doubt, many . . . disciples of Christ.”

 (“The Lunenburg Letter: An Incident in the History of the Interpretation of Baptism,” Glenn Paden. Restoration Quarterly Vol. 2:1 (1958) 13-18 for original sources. cf.

Do you agree with Alexander Campbell’s statement:

“But who is a Christian? I answer, Every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to the measure of the knowledge of his will. . . . I cannot, therefore, make any one duty the standard of Christian state or character, not even immersion into the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and in my heart regard all that have been sprinkled in infancy without their own knowledge and consent, as aliens from Christ and the well-grounded hope of heaven. . . . Should I find a Pedobaptist more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually-minded and more devoted to the Lord than a Baptist, or one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith [Campbell’s new sect], I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most. Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians. . . . I do not substitute obedience to one commandment [baptism] for universal or even for general obedience. And should I see a sectarian Baptist or Pedobaptist more spiritually minded, more generally conformed to the requisitions of the Messiah, than one who precisely acquiesces with me in the theory or practice of immersion as I teach, doubtless the former, rather than the latter, would have more cordial approbation and love as a Christian. So I judge, and so I feel. . . . There is no occasion, then, for making immersion, on a profession of the faith, absolutely essential to a Christian.”

(Millenial Harbinger, September 1837, pgs. 411ff., acc. pgs. 133-135, The Millenial Harbinger, Alexander Campbell, co-ed. W. K. Pendleton, A. W. Campbell & Isaac Errett. Bethany, VA: Pub. A. Campbell, 1862. Series V, Vol V. elec. acc. cf. “The Gospel and Water Baptism: A Study of Acts 2:38, Lanny Thomas Tanton, Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society (Spring 1990) pgs. 27-52).

At the following appears, written in March of 2015:

F. LaGard Smith . . . states that those who are baptized even without the knowledge that they are baptized for the forgiveness of their sins are still saved in God’s eyes. So what if a person fully repents but believes he is saved by grace and he gets baptized as symbol of his commitment biblically, is he saved? . . . [D]espite their misunderstanding of baptism’s purpose . . . believers who are immersed in order to obey the command to be baptized might nevertheless be regarded in God’s eyes as saved believers. If so, of course, they would not have been saved at the point of faith (as they, themselves, think) but only at the point of their baptism–an odd situation, to say the least. . . . I am inclined to agree with LaGard Smith on this. I am fully cognizant that this has not been the stand of the churches of Christ in recent times. In fact, when a preacher back then took the position that those who did not have “baptismal cognizance . . . must be “rebaptized,” Alexander Campbell disfellowshipped this person for being divisive. The group known today as the Christadelphians resulted from this split. It is ironic that the Church of Christ now takes the view which Alexander Campbell once viewed as divisive. ( Accessed on 5/2/2020.)

Should the COC follow the practice of Alexander Campbell and place under church discipline/ separate from those who believe that one must either believe that his baptism is administered in order to obtain forgiveness or must submit to rebaptism?

Does the dominant COC view today that one must believe baptism remits sin when one is dipped mean that Alexander Campbell and other COC founders are in hell, for neither Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, Barton Stone, nor Walter Scott believed that baptism was the point at which sin was remitted when they were immersed?

While I appreciate Douglas Jacoby’s concession here the new birth before baptism is hardly an exception.  On the contrary, it is the plain teaching of huge numbers of verses of Scripture.  Those verses must control our understanding of the handful of texts—about 0.019% of the Bible—that even comes close to looking like it might contradict justification at the moment of faith before baptism.

11B.) This question is primarily for Dr. Ross (though both parties may respond):
How do you understand baptism in relation to the Suzerain-Vassal treaty? Was this type of treaty considered ratified when the two parties began the covenant making process or only after they had completed all aspects of that process?

DJ: No comment -- although it does seem a stretch to posit a connection between Ancient Near Eastern treaties and baptism. (Which isn't exactly a treaty.) I'd be interested in what Dr. Ross says.  

TR: The suzerain-vassal treaty format is more relevant to the books of Moses than to the New Testament teaching about baptism (see, e. g., the study on archaeological evidence for the Old Testament here). However, since there has always been only one human response God required of man in order to receive forgiveness—faith in God and His coming Messiah (Old Testament) or faith in God and His crucified and risen Messiah, Jesus (New Testament), one can still learn something about what God requires today from the pattern set millennia ago by Moses, e. g., God is in charge and we, as His vassals or servants, submit to Him and enter into covenant with Him.  I believe we would do better, however, to get our answer to the question of whether one is justified at the moment of faith or lost until baptized from careful exegesis of Scripture rather than from looking at details of ancient treaties that certainly provide useful background to the Old Testament but are only valuable insofar as they illuminate the meaning of the Biblical text itself.  In relation to the specific second question above, it is reasonable to conclude that a treaty was not ratified when two parties only began initial negotiations, but that does not correspond to saving faith, for when one entrusts himself to Christ as Lord and Savior he does enter into covenant with the Lord at that time.  I think it is very possible that such treaties were formally ratified at a time before a ceremony solemnized them took place, but the plain statements of Scripture on baptism are going to (and ought to drive) our view of what significance such a treaty format might have on our theology of conversion.

12.) Given that, in the three days beginning with his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, that Saul of Tarsus believed in Jesus, that he called Jesus "Lord," that he changed his life and began obeying Jesus, that he spent three days praying and fasting, that he saw a vision from God (of Ananias), that he was healed of his blindness; Why did Saul/Paul preach these things to a crowd he was trying to convert and then conclude that his own sins were not yet forgiven (Acts 22:16)?

DJ: It would be good to go back and reread the passage in full (Acts 22:1-16). Paul doesn’t “preach” prayer, fasting, healing, etc.—he only tells his story. And he wouldn’t have been saved by going through a checklist of activities or experiences anyway!

It is clear that the Lord had been working in his life, especially from the time of his Damascus Road experience. The text doesn’t address his inner thinking during those first couple of days after he realized he had been opposing the Lord. Once Ananias told him to be baptized and wash his sins away, any lingering confusion would have been cleared up. Saul/Paul needed divine forgiveness; it’s through faith, repentance, and baptism in the Lord’s name that this is freely offered.

[Technical point: It is true that the imperative verb is in the middle voice. That could mean that Saul should get himself baptized, or “wash off” his own sins, as Dr. Ross claims (an idiosyncratic translation). The first possibility makes sense—but not the second one. Nowhere are we told to wash off our own sins. Jesus takes care of everything in the sin department! Once we are reborn, there are no sins to wash away; we are pure.]

TR: Paul did not conclude that his sins were not yet forgiven in Acts 22:16.  He taught that baptism ceremonially or figuratively washes away sin.  It is very appropriate for one who has his hands covered in the blood of Christian martyrs, if he turns to Christ and receives forgiveness at the moment of his true faith and surrender, to outwardly represent what has already taken away inwardly by washing away his own sins (Greek middle voice) ceremonially in baptism.  Please see the discussion of Acts 22:16 in Heaven Only for the Baptized? or check out what I said (more quickly than I would have had I had more time) in my response to Douglas on Acts 22:16 in part 2 of our debate (1:44:30ff into part 2).

13.) If those who believe that sins are forgiven apart from baptism turn out to be wrong; What would you expect to happen to them on Judgement Day?

DJ: The second question I thought I squarely addressed in my presentation. I emphasized what is normative (not exceptional-- and of course the Lord can make any exceptions he likes), as well as the hope that God's grace may cover not only moral errors but even doctrinal ones. 

Surely lives of faithful discipleship speaks louder than technical correctness. Still, to know the Scriptures but then ignore what seems distasteful or inconvenient is not wise. 

TR: Christ plainly preached, and His Apostles recorded under the control of the Holy Spirit, over and over again, that one receives eternal life at the moment of faith:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. (John 6:47)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24)

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:18)

If one is not forgiven at the moment of true faith, then the Lord Jesus Christ is not God’s final Prophet, not the Messiah, and not the risen Savior.  Then at Judgment Day we would have to see what Allah or Vishnu or Zeus or Baal or whatever god of the religions of the world turns out to be true wants to do with Bible-believing Christians who are trusting in the death and blood of Jesus Christ.  However, since Christ has risen from the dead and He is the Savior, people are justified at the moment of faith before baptism.  It is as certain as the infallible words of God’s final Prophet and God’s ultimate Revelation, His incarnate Word Himself, can make it.

14.) How important is it for our salvation that we fall on the right side of the debate, whichever side is the “right side”? For example, if I believe in baptism in terms of an “outward sign of an inward grace,” believing baptism isn’t necessary for salvation but believe every Christian should be baptized, does that negate my salvation?

DJThis is a great question. Please see my comments on question 11. It’s always good to strive for biblical understanding. And we always need to be open to truth—to be rethinking, open to what the Lord is showing us. Yet the Bible never says perfect understanding is essential for us to receive God’s promises.

[Interested readers, please see my short technical paper “Greek Grammatical Structures Similar to Eis Aphesin… in Acts 2:38.” Here is the link.]

TR: In Acts 15 and in Galatians if people add even one thing to faith as the means through which we appropriate God’s grace, they are fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4) in that they turn away from the only way to receive salvation:

6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9).

What was Paul’s message?  No law of any kind has ever been given which can give life, and justification is through the sole instrumentality of faith in Christ:

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. (Galatians 3:21-22)

16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Being on the wrong side of this question means one is “accursed”—under God’s anathema, His eternal judgment.  It might seem to us as mere mortals that this is too severe, but that is what God says in His Word, and He is right, so we need to agree with Him, reject all false gospels, embrace the true gospel, and show love to those who do not believe the truth by plainly warning them about the error of their way and having no Christian fellowship with them, since they are not Christians.  If we truly love God and love them, we will respect them as human beings but we will recognize that affirming that people are Christians who believe a different gospel is actually the most unloving and cruel thing possible that we could do to them, for by so doing we are encouraging them to continue to believe a lie that will lead to their eternal torment separated from God and cost them the eternal joy of His blessed everlasting smile and presence.  “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11).


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Religion of Social Justice And Its Infiltration of Churches

For my entire lifetime, liberal theology has presented an alternative to the biblical story.  Man arises progressively through naturalistic origins.  The Christian story is superstition, proceeding from mythology in various cultures with hopes of explaining the past and the present.  Instead of taking the Bible literally, use it as an allegory, a source of archetypes for the physical well-being of mankind.  Truth that might spring from the metaphor parallels with conventional thinking, so the message can change.  Since man advanced progressively, improvements for man come from progressivism.  Cultural change mainly in the way of equaling social outcomes is salvation.  Liberalism is religion in all the ways I've just described.  For instance, 'presenting your body a living sacrifice' is enduring personal loss as an object of change through education, government, psychology, etc.

Before the coronavirus, I talked every week to liberal Methodists, liberal Lutherans, liberal Catholics, liberal Presbyterians, liberal Congregationalists, and liberal Baptists.  My next door neighbor, an elderly man, who just died in the last two years, was a conservative Lutheran, who grew up in a Missouri synod church in Northern Wisconsin, but lived his adult life in California.  There was no Lutheran church for him in our area, because all of them had turned liberal.  He lit up when I talked to him.  It made sense, except for the salvation by grace through faith alone.  He would not accept that he couldn't be saved through his good works.

Social justice could be said to be a branch of the larger denomination of liberalism.  Liberalism accepts social justice in its hierarchy.  Membership of a certain generation within evangelical or fundamentalist churches would not accept liberalism, it's denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ, the virgin birth, miracles, and the blood atonement.  The door stays closed to classic liberalism, but it opens to social justice, which is a denomination within big liberalism.  In fact, liberalism makes its way into churches through social justice.  Evangelicals have made way for the denomination of social justice into its churches through the lies it has told about social justice to pander to potential constituents.  For instance, they leave out the liberalism of Martin Luther King, Jr.  They embrace to a degree a Mother Theresa as if she were a saint.

Even conservative evangelicals present themselves as a face of social justice with stories of stands taken during the civil rights movement against the racism of Southern Baptist churches.  Those types of stories are confusing, because they don't give a clear delineation for who is preaching what.  There was racism in the United States, but did that mean that the black church leaders were preaching the same message as the white churches?  Even if the varied factions could have put aside the racial differences, would they still be meeting together, aligned with a common doctrine?  Common ground should not be attained by ignoring doctrinal error, including on the gospel.

A good source for racial history in the United States is the massive amounts of writing found in the fourteen volumes of the Booker T. Washington Papers (look at the index here).  C. Vann Woodward called them "the single most important research enterprise now under way in the field of American black history."  Many years ago, I read large chunks of these for hours in order to write a docudrama that our school performed on the life of Booker T. Washington.  Washington was relentless and harsh in his criticism of black clergy.  You can read this even in the classic Up from Slavery, which should be required reading in schools and especially Christian schools.  Washington and George Washington Carver would not be receptive to the social justice movement and its actual, real effects on black people in the United States.

How is social justice even infiltrating conservative churches?  It comes into the church with themes similar to and apparent counterparts to orthodoxy.   Those themes fall on the ears and minds of younger members through school and media, unprepared to diagnose the counterfeit.  In many, if not most cases, they also might just be unconverted.  They are thorny ground, raised with the acceptability of worldliness, because their leaders did not inform them well enough on cultural issues.  They even attacked those who did in order to indulge potential members for church growth.  They covered for this with the concept of "gospel first importance" or "essential doctrines," not found in scripture.  The church lost saltiness on the earth and dimmed light to the world.  It's probably too late to do anything about the damage, but the churches and leaders should repent, and take the true Christians they have left and stand where they didn't.  I'm not hopeful.

The infiltration of social justice occurs with first a well-known theme of sin.  It is a perversion of the doctrine, but the sin and guilt relates to apparent injustice, which really is differing outcomes based upon socio-economics.  The law broken isn't the law of God, but political correctness.  There are even standards that must be kept like the Pharisees or the Judaizers of the day of Jesus and the Apostles.  If those standards are not kept, separation occurs like not eating with the Gentiles.  These are almost never real sins that are committed.  Judgment comes on not accepting political correctness or following its standards.  They are changing standards, called progressive ones, but they can change based on progressivism.

Younger church members embraced the idea of group guilt for an entire race of people.  Sin and guilt doesn't work that way in reality.  Sin and guilt are individual, so this is a perversion, an important one.  God says the "soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20-24).  Group sin and guilt then changes the nature of redemption.  If no one committed a sin, just found himself already guilty for lacking in pigmentation, then there is also no individual redemption or forgiveness.  He must attempt to do penance by showing all the indications that he is woke.  He must use the correct language, take the correct posture, which might include kneeling, and then perhaps to pay an indulgence in the way of reparations, a kind of tithe to the system.  Redistribution of wealth is part of membership in the new group of the redeemed; however, never really finding redemption because the indulgence must keep being paid.

The canon of social justice isn't scripture, except for allegorized scripture.  It is leftist propaganda and psychology.  Members become duped in psychology and sociology.  Members of the Supreme Court have already joined this church by calling transgenders a sex.  There is no outcry in the country, even from evangelicals, because of the fear of retribution of some kind, a shaming way past the level of the shunning of the Amish.

Psychology and sociology have been canonized even in churches.  My father hit me when I was a child.  Social justice would shun him.  If I mouthed off to my dad or my mom, one or the other might smack me in the mouth, not in an injurious way.  I am a victim.  I could claim victim status.  This is part of the psychology.  The fear actually kept me from evil.  It wasn't sufficient, but it helped me in the short term, until my beliefs were settled.  The next generation resents spankings and if it received any physical discipline beyond spanking, that stands as justification for almost any behavior choice in contradiction of authority.

Saints in social justice are victims, even if they are wicked criminals, who have robbed and raped.  Victimhood itself is a form of sanctification, where blame shift occurs.  Someone is released from all blame as a victim, a kind of redemption from guilt.

Patriarchy is a social construct as a doctrine of the denomination of social justice.  Women are elevated in their position, so that any criticism is also a violation of political correctness in the canon of social justice.  Anyone who says a woman should take a required role is misogynist.  Men themselves in the general canon are misogynists.  Any man who continues on male patriarchy should be shunned.

You can see that the doctrine does not center on the condition of the heart.  It is external behavior.  The kingdom teaching would be progress until there is a classless, sexless, completely equal society.  As you might know, this won't or doesn't happen.  It will be turned into an oligarchy much like the nation of Chaz up in Seattle right now, ruled by violence.

What I've described in this post won't end well.  It is against God.  God is still in charge.  There is a real, true God with a real, true Bible, that is the standard by which He judges.  Someone can invent his own world in his head, but he still lives in God's world where God is the judge.  True saints should reject the denomination of social justice in the religion of liberalism.   Yes, today you will be persecuted.  You really are salt and light and you are being persecuted for righteousness.  Standing against the religion of social justice is righteous.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Lack of Application of Scripture to Cultural Issues and Ecclesiastical Separation Now Haunting Conservative Evangelicals Like MacArthur

Scripture exhaustively and scrupulously furnishes and profits unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  For scripture to do this, it must be applied.  The Bible doesn't say, "Thou shalt not smoke crack pipes."  The Bible does make that point, but it must be applied to do so.  Scripture applies to cultural issues.  God wants His Word applied to cultural issues.  To obey God's Word, the Bible must be applied to cultural issues.  When one disobeys God on cultural issues, he is sinning against God.

Not applying God's Word to cultural issues resulted in bigger evangelical churches, including the conservative ones.  They didn't apply the Word of God to many different cultural issues.  I've read what they have said through the years and confronted them directly on those.  These issues, like many through the years, bleed over into many other doctrinal and practical issues of God's Word.  You can see this in scripture too.

In 1 Corinthians 6:18 and then 1 Corinthians 10:14, the Apostle Paul made two related commands:  "Flee fornication" and "flee from idolatry."  In other places in scripture, God commands, "abstain from fornication" (1 Thess 4:13) and "ye shall make you no idols" (Lev 26:1).  The first two commands are beyond the second two.  How does someone obey the first two commands, which are more than merely not fornicating and not making idols?

Is "flee" to sprint away in the other direction?  Does that obey the command?  Does a believer obey the command to flee by running really fast and hard a different direction?  It might seem like I'm insulting your intelligence, but these commands must be applied in order to be obeyed.  In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul wrote to Timothy, "Flee youthful lusts."  Same thing.  In 1 Timothy 6:11, Paul commands, "Flee these things," things referring to "many foolish and hurtful lusts," which are related to money.  These "flee" commands are some of many similar type commands that require application to obey.

One is not adding to scripture or going "above that which is written" when applying these commands.  It isn't adding to scripture like a Pharisee.  These types of evangelical, including conservative evangelical, attacks are red herrings.  They make way for not applying scripture, especially on cultural issues.

In the great meeting of the Antioch and Jerusalem churches in Acts 15, James instructed the Gentile believers in the combination Jew and Gentile churches to "abstain from pollutions of idols."  What is the obedience to that instruction?  How do idols pollute?  How does one insure he is not being polluted by an idol?  This is the first thing James said directed toward the Gentiles in his speech.  The meaning of "pollutions" could be "contaminations."  This goes further than just abstaining from idol worship, but relates to association, something Paul addresses then in 1 Corinthians 10.

Evangelicals and conservative evangelicals, including John MacArthur and Phil Johnson, have called fundamentalists and separatist believers, "legalists," because of their application of the above types of commands in scripture that relate to social or cultural issues.  These issues do not reside in a vacuum.  They affect gospel oriented issues, even as they did in the Gentile cities, where Paul ministered.  I'm pointing out these two men, because now they and others, but especially them are being attacked because of their stands against evangelical compromise on cultural issues.  They are being attacked like they themselves attacked others in many different instances.  They accommodated the worldliness that now haunts all of evangelicalism.  They still don't separate over it.  I welcome them outside the camp, bearing the reproach, that they themselves have given out.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that the root identity of the believer, the citizen of His kingdom, is light and salt (Matthew 5:13-16).  Being those two meant not abrogating the Word of God (Matthew 5:17-20).  These are presented as salvation issues.  Someone leaves darkness to light.  He leaves the world system to the kingdom of God.

I see pollutions or contaminations of all sorts of kinds in conservative evangelicalism too.  They have not broken with worldly "worship," dress, and entertainment or amusement.  They see these as liberty issues.  Onc cannot flee from youthful lust and worldly lust and "make not provision for the flesh" (Romans 13:14) and accept these activities.  Peter refused to eat with Gentiles in Antioch in the presence of Jerusalem Judaizers and Paul withstood him to his face for that.  No scripture prohibited not eating with Gentiles -- that was another application of scripture by Paul.

Is the kingdom of Jesus Christ going to have the worldly and sensual worship of conservative evangelicalism?  Will it have the immodest swimming activities with bare legs and plunging necklines?  Will the inhabitants of the kingdom of the Lord listen to rock music and hip hop?  Will the women and the men dress in androgynous fashion in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, or will there be a return to the distinct male and female garment?

Phil Johnson has sad that strict application of scripture lead to the progressive evangelicalism we see today.  They were pendulum swinging away from the legalism, caused by fundamentalists.  No.  The lack of consistent application of scripture leads to further capitulation.  Evangelicals continued to associate.  They didn't flee.  They kept making provision.  Even without actual idolatry, it leads to pollution, contamination.  The contamination results in the gospel distortion now rampant in evangelicalism.

I don't think the conservative evangelicals will separate.  They won't start applying scripture like they should have before, like true believers have through the history of Christianity.  They will bewail the fall of evangelicalism loudly, as if they had nothing to do with it.  Their compromise helped cause it.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Baptism Debate Questions Answered: The Jacoby / Ross debate questions we ran out of time before answering, part 1 of 2

In my recent debate with Dr. Douglas Jacoby on the topic of whether faith before baptism is the moment of the new birth (I argued yes, he argued no) or baptism after faith is the moment of the new birth (I argued no, he argued yes), we had a question and answer session at the end of part two of our discussion.  There were numbers of questions that came in that we did not have time to answer during the debate.  I have acquired copies of the questions and have answered them below, and have also invited Dr. Jacoby to answer them in the comment section.   I would encourage readers to consider both of our responses to the questions.  Our answers will be relatively brief because of the number of the questions, but since we have the privilege of responding in writing we are able to be a bit more technical than is possible answering off the cuff.  Some of the questions below were specifically directed to one or the other speaker, but I have answered all of them.  This blog post will answer #1-7, and, Lord willing, questions #8-14 will be answered next Friday--click here for part 2's questions and answers.

If you did not already watch the debate, you can do so on YouTube by clicking here or by watching the embedded videos below.  The questions we did not get to answer commence after the videos.

Debate part 1, "We are born again before baptism" (Ross affirmative, Jacoby negative):

Debate part 2, "We are born again in baptism" (Ross negative, Jacoby affirmative):

Questions from the debates we did not get to answer in the Q & A session. My answers are TR (Thomas Ross) followed by his answers with a DJ (Douglas Jacoby). In the second post we will have answers for questions #8-14.

1.) Apollos was a believer and yet Priscilla and Aquila noted through the Holy Spirit that he only knew the baptism of John why was that critical and why did they need to teach him further if it wasn’t for the fact that he needed to learn about the baptism into Christ if belief was enough why did he need further teaching.

TR (Thomas Ross): Acts 18:24   And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. 26 And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. 27 And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: 28 For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publickly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.

Note that the text NEVER says that Apollos was lost and only became saved when he was baptized. Note as well that Apollos never actually was rebaptized—John’s baptism was sufficient for becoming united to the disciples in the church.  Acts 18:24-28 actually refutes baptism for justification.

In Acts 19:1-7 there is a contrast; the people there were non-Trinitarian. They did not believe in the Trinity, and so were unsaved (John 17:3), for they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit (19:2), although John preached about Him (Matthew 3:11). Their spurious discipleship is indicated by the fact that the plural word “disciples,” mathetai, is nonarticular in 19:1—unlike every single one of the 25 other references in the book of Acts to the word (1:15; 6:1-2, 7; 9:1, 19, 26, 38; 11:26, 29; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 18:23, 27; 19:1, 9, 30; 20:7, 30; 21:4, 16).  Paul does not tell these “disciples” that John’s baptism has passed away and Christian baptism has now been inaugurated; he tells them what John the Baptist really said (19:4), upon which they believed John’s message as expounded by Paul and submitted themselves to baptism (19:5-7).

Of course, this does not mean that Apollos did not need further teaching.  Of course he does need further teaching.

DJ (Douglas Jacoby): It seems Apollos (like the disciples in Acts 19) was not up to date on some important developments. After Jesus ascended, the Spirit (and the new birth) became available (Acts 2:30, 33; John 7:38-39). That is, the indwelling Spirit was not available until Pentecost (Acts 2:38). In short, John’s baptism was not the same thing as Christian baptism (baptism in Jesus’ name), even though John directed people to Jesus.

2.) Were the apostles saved before Pentecost?

TR: Yes, the Apostles were saved before Pentecost, the same way as in these texts:

Luke 7:50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
Luke 18:42 And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee.

DJ: Jesus told them (before Pentecost), “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). Keep in mind that the apostles were Jewish; as long as they were faithful to the (old) covenant, they were right with God. It is unreasonable, in my opinion, to hold that they needed to become “lost” so that they could become saved through Christ. A number of them submitted to John’s baptism. The Spirit came on them at Pentecost (Acts 2), though some interpreters take the Jesus’s prophetic action in John 20:22-23 to be the moment they received the Spirit.

Whatever was the unique case with the apostles, they told the rest of us that we would receive Spirit once we repented and were baptized (Acts 2:38). But back to your question: the N.T. never says the apostles were baptized at Pentecost (or later). One may speculate, but this remains an open matter.

3.) Are the commands "repent" and "be baptized" directed to the same audience in Acts 2:38?

TR: The grammatical structure of Acts 2:38 connects the receipt of the Holy Spirit (and thus the new birth “of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8) and its associated receipt of eternal life) with repentance, not baptism.  The section of the verse in question could be diagrammed as follows:
Repent (2nd person plural aorist imperative)
            be baptized (3rd person singular aorist imperative)
                        every one (nominative singular adjective)
                                    in (epi) the name of Jesus Christ
                                    for (eis) the remission of sins
            ye shall receive (2nd person future indicative) . . . the Holy Ghost
Both the command to repent and the promised receipt of the Holy Spirit are in the second person (i. e, “Repent [ye]” and “ye shall receive”).  The command to be baptized is in the third person singular, as is the adjective “every one” (hekastos).  Peter commands the whole crowd to repent and promises those who do the gift of the Holy Ghost (cf. Acts 10:47; 15:8).   The call to baptism was only for the “every one of you” that had already repented, received the Holy Ghost, and become the children of God.  The “be baptized every one of you” section of the verse is parenthetical to the command to repent and its associated promise of the Spirit.  Parenthetical statements, including those parallel in structure to Acts 2:38, are found throughout Scripture.  The grammar of Acts 2:38 requires the connection “Repent ye, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” not “Be each one baptized, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  The connection in Acts 2:38 between the receipt of the Holy Spirit and repentance, rather than baptism, overthrows the assertions of baptismal regenerations on the verse.

DJ: Yes. This is the audience out of whom some 3000 persons—this is a male-only count, as in Acts 4:4, Matt 14:21, etc.—accepted the message and were baptized. Their response is recorded in v.41.
Some note that “repent” is a second person plural aorist imperative, while “be baptized” is a third person singular aorist imperative, and conclude only repentance is connected with forgiveness of sins. But this doesn’t work. Just as in John 7:53, the plural followed by the singular is used for emphasis.

4.) In Acts 2:38, Peter says repent and be baptized...and you will receive the Holy Spirit.

If we are not children of God until we receive the Holy Spirit, then how is it that we are saved before baptism at the point of faith? 

It would strongly seem that Peter is saying repent and be baptized and then you will receive the Holy Spirit.

TR: Please see the discussion in question #3. Acts 2:38 teaches that the Holy Spirit is received at the moment of faith before baptism.  Peter also clearly affirmed elsewhere in Acts that at the moment of repentant faith one receives the Spirit and eternal life. As taught in all the rest of the New Testament, Peter believed that one “receive[s] the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14), not by baptism. In Acts 10:34-48, just as on the day of Pentecost (11:15, 17), eternal life, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, was received at the moment of repentant faith (11:18; 10:43-48) and before baptism.  Peter explicitly stated that God “purif[ied] [the] hearts by faith” (Acts 15:9) of those given eternal life in Acts 2 and 10, when they “heard the word of the gospel, and believe[d]” (15:7, cf. v. 11), at which time they received the Holy Spirit (15:7-9).  Furthermore, in the rest of the book of Acts, Peter proclaimed justification by repentant faith alone.  He preached, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).  He associated “repentance . . . and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).  He commanded men to “repent . . . and . . . be forgiven” (Acts 8:22).  In Acts 10:43, he preached that “through [Christ’s] name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”  If Peter taught forgiveness by baptism in Acts 2:38, why did he teach justification by repentant faith, as the other apostles did (Acts 13:39; 16:31), in all the rest of Acts?  Did he change his mind in Acts 10-11 and 15, and, twice, inform the very church at Jerusalem that included numerous converts from his sermon in Acts 2 that they were saved by faith, not by baptism?  Did the entire Jerusalem church agree with Peter’s new teaching and “glorify God” (11:18) for it, including those that were supposedly baptized in order to receive the remission of sins on that first Pentecost?  The allegation that Acts 2:38 conditions forgiveness of sins on baptism ignores the clear statements of Peter about what happened on that day, his preaching of the gospel everywhere else in the book, and the numerous affirmations of salvation by repentant faith alone by others in Acts.

DJ: Exactly right! It wouldn’t make sense that we’d receive the Holy Spirit (through faith), only to have to later be baptized to receive the Spirit. Salvation isn’t split into sections.
Religious leaders have caused needless confusion by teaching salvation by faith alone, before we have obeyed Peter’s simple command. “Faith alone” is a relatively recent teaching—dating only to the 16th century Reformation—an overreaction to the “priestcraft” and “works righteousness” of the medieval church. (See James’s balanced treatment of works in James 2:14-26.) As Peter further noted, God gives the Holy Spirit “to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32). Peter’s hearers on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, convicted by the gospel message, asked a simple question: “What shall we do?” To which the apostle offered a simple answer: “Repent and be baptized.”

We become God’s children when we receive his Holy Spirit (Gal 3:26-27; 4:6; Rom 8:9; Acts 2:38). Acts 2:38 doesn’t contradict John 3:5; baptism is the occasion on which we are saved by faith.

5.) Clearly the word baptism is not always referring to water baptism. "John indeed baptized with water, but..." so if we, in unity of the Spirit believe in "one Lord, one faith, one Baptism", then which baptism is it?

TR: The “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5 is being dipped in water with the authority of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  That neither proves nor disproves the idea that baptism is the point at which one is forgiven of his sin; 1 Corinthians also connects unity in the church with the Lord’s Supper, but Dr. Jacoby would agree that people are not unforgiven until they first partake of the Supper.
            Please see for an exposition of the Biblical teaching on Spirit baptism.

DJ: The significant difference between the baptism of John and the baptism of Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Both baptisms involved water, yet only baptism in Jesus’ name confers the Spirit. Most Christians I know distinguish the “Holy Spirit baptism” from regular water baptism. I am not so sure this distinction is valid, especially in light of verses like 1 Cor 12:13.

Eph 4:5 isn’t the only baptism verse in Ephesians. 5:14 and 5:26 are two more. As correctly noted by Baptist scholar George Beasley-Murray, baptism is more than simply an initiation ceremony. Something actually happens when a man or woman is baptized.

6.)  You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

QUESTION; Did the demons repent at the time they believed if faith/repentance are the same?

TR: James 2 is talking about a kind of “faith” that does not result in works.  Saving faith, as I explained in my first speech, is not just mental assent to facts (like the demons have) but entrusting oneself wholeheartedly to Christ as God, Lord, and Savior. James 2 both denies that simple mental assent is saving faith (James 2:19) and employs Abraham as a pattern of the New Testament Christian’s saving faith: “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23).  People are through the instrumentality of the (unbaptized) Abraham and are immediately accounted righteous at the point of faith, like Abraham was.  Mere “belief” like the devils have is not genuine faith.

DJ: If you mean that faith and repentance are the same, they are not.  It’s clear the demons don’t have saving faith. If they did, they would repent.

7.) In 1 Corinthians 1:14, if baptism is so vital, why does Paul say he thanked God that he baptized none of them, and why does he contrast that with the gospel, if the gospel apparently to you [Dr. Jacoby] includes baptism?

TR: 1 Corinthians excludes baptism from Paul’s gospel.  The apostle defines the message of salvation in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 as:
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
 “[T]he gospel . . . [is that] by which also ye are saved” (v. 1-2), and those who “received” it “believed” (v. 2).  It was “preach[ed], and . . . believed” (v. 11) in “faith” (v. 14, 17).  While faith is mentioned, Paul defines the gospel without any reference to baptism; it is, therefore, not part of the gospel, and is not a prerequisite to justification.  Paul confirms in 1 Corinthians 1:17 what he taught by omission in 1 Corinthians fifteen, stating, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (cf. Acts 26, Galatians 1:11-16).  He specifically contrasts the gospel, which saves from sin (15:2, cf. 4:15), and baptism, which does not.  Paul also thanks God that he did not baptize people (1:14) and does not remember if he baptized others (1:16).  How strange these assertions would be were baptism essential to obtain forgiveness! Their strangeness is not solved simply by recognizing that the church at Corinth was not united but had factions.  Furthermore, Paul tells the church that “though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15).  Paul was the one through whom the church had been born again—but he had baptized only a tiny fraction of the membership (1:14-17).  In 1 Corinthians, Paul states that the gospel saves (15:2, 4:15).  He also excludes baptism from the gospel (15:1-4; 1:17) and informs the members of the Corinthian church that he was the means through which they had been born again, although he had not baptized them (4:15, 1:14-17).  Furthermore, Paul affirms that on the road to Damascus, when he saw the risen Christ, he was “born” again (1 Corinthians 15:8), although yet unbaptized.  Paul’s statements about baptism and the gospel in 1 Corinthians are highly problematic for the idea that baptism is the point of forgiveness.

DJ: Now Paul doesn't say he baptized none of the Corinthians, only that he didn’t remember all those he baptized. Which was just as well, because anyone can baptize, but only one could die for our sins. Factions had been forming among the Corinthians (1 Cor 1:10-13; 3:3-6). People were identifying with human leaders instead of with Christ. Baptism is in the name of Christ—not the name of Paul or Apollos. “Was Paul crucified for you?” (1:13) suggests we are baptized into the one who crucified for us. (Rom 6:3-4 shows us that baptism is a participation in the death of Christ.)

Now the gospel doesn’t include baptism, nor does it even include faith. That would be to confuse the gospel with our response to the gospel. The Ethiopian responded to the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:36) by being baptized (Acts 8:38), so Philip, the person who instructed him, clearly included baptism in his message about Jesus. Yet again, while repentance and baptism are our response to the saving message, these actions are not themselves part of the gospel.

If all we’re doing in evangelism is counting souls we have won, we’re working at cross-purposes to the gospel; we’re leading people away from the Lord and towards mere humans. When Paul says he wasn’t sent to baptize, I understand him to be saying he wasn’t sent primarily to baptize. Of course he baptized! All the apostles did. It’s like John 12:47-48. Did Jesus come to judge the world? His primary purpose was a rescue mission. Yet he did come to judge (John 9:39). Reading John too quickly, one might finds a contradiction (Jesus came to judge; he didn’t come to judge). One more example: As a Christian teacher, my goal is not merely to publish books. My goal is to publish the truth—to cause others to think and rethink the faith. Book-writing is part of that, but I would be horrified if others measured their spirituality by how many of my books they had read! The emphasis must remain on Christ. It’s a matter of emphasis and perspective.

Please check back next Friday for the last seven questions and answers. You are encouraged to interact with this information in the comment section below, where we also can interact with each other's answers.