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).



KJB1611 said...

I have the following further responses to Dr. Douglas Jacoby's answers.

Response to his comment on question #8:

A study of the "work" (ergon/ergadzomai) word group shows that it is in fact rare that "works" is used in the NT specifically of Jewish ceremonial regulations. The types of good works imprinted on the Gentile heart that has never heard of Moses are called "the work of the law" (Romans 2:15). Many passages teach in very close connection that the very good works Christians must do cannot save; in addition to Ephesians 2:8-10, consider Titus 3:5-8:

5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;

6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;

7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.

The very good works of righteousness for which Christians must be zealous cannot save.

Furthermore, the works that are a result of repentance--of which baptism is a central one--are the works that do not save (again, same word as in Ephesians 2:9):

But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:20)

The Bible actually means it when it says good works, works of God, works that please the Lord, cannot merit eternal life.

Response to Dr. Jacoby's comment on question #9:

I still find it very strange that with dozens of texts in the Gospels that promise eternal life at the moment of faith--Gospels written in the Christian era and read by churches--one of which says, in the Christian era, that it is specifically written to show people post-cross how to have eternal life (John 20:31)--how Dr. Jacoby can affirm that the Gospels say little about how to become a Christian. If they say little that even looks like his position, maybe it is time to change the position.

His argument on the thief on the cross also seems inconsistent with his affirmation in our debate that John the Baptist's baptism was the means sin was taken away (and consistent with my position that John's baptism does not remit sin).

I would suggest that a person reading Acts would understand that the only time the question "What must I do to be saved?" is asked the answer is "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:30-31) would understand that a person is saved by faith. When the question is not "What must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30) but instead "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) or "What wilt thou have me to do?" (Acts 9:6) and baptism is mentioned, then we should conclude we must believe in order to be saved and we must be baptized in order to be obedient.

KJB1611 said...

Response to Dr. Jacoby's comment on #10:

Douglas cites Acts 15:9 and states that one's heart is purified by faith before baptism. I am glad he believes this--it is true. But consider the context in Acts 15:

1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.

2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.

3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.

4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.

5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.

6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.

7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

8 And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;

9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.

10 Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?

11 But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.

Since the Gentiles had purified hearts and the Holy Ghost and were saved the same way as the Jews in Acts 2, in a passage that is clearly a "how to get eternal life" context, since they had purified hearts before baptism, they had eternal life before baptism.

KJB1611 said...

Response to Dr. Jacoby's comment on #11:

Please note the sources I supplied in my response. The first Christian centuries were very far from a universal view like Dr. Jacoby's COC denomination. I was also surprised, in light of the origin of his denomination in the 19th century in the USA, that he would make the argument--it would seem better for someone who rejects the Biblical truth of sola Scriptura (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and does not lead one to join the COC, but to become Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic.

Response to Dr. Jacoby's comment on #11A-B:

I would agree that the suzerain-vassal treaty is not the first place I would go, although the continuity of OT and NT salvation provides it some relevance.

Response to Dr. Jacoby's comment on #12:

The only text in the Greek OT (LXX) with the verb "wash away" that is found in Acts 22:16 is Job 9:30:

"For if I WASH MYSELF with snow and CLEANSE MYSELF with pure hands."

The same Greek middle voice appears. It is not unreasonable in the least to understand the verb in Acts 22:16 to refer to Paul washing away his own sins in a ceremonial sense in light of the use in the LXX, which, at least as far as I can remember, Dr. Jacoby never dealt with.

Response to Dr. Jacoby on #13:

I agree that it is very unwise to ignore anything in Scripture. That is a terrible idea. Don't do it.

KJB1611 said...

Response to Dr. Jacoby on #14:

I thought it was fascinating that Dr. Jacoby's paper contained the following affirmation:

"[A] literal reading o fthe passage [Matthew 26:28] suggests that communion is necessary for salvation."

His argument from eis + aphesin here appears to prove too much--if it proves baptism is a necessary prerequisite for passing from death to life, it would appear to also prove that everyone is lost who has not yet taken the Lord's Supper.

I also want to point out, for those who do not know Greek, that many of the verses Dr. Jacoby referenced do not even have eis + aphesin in them, but a completely different preposition, hina. As I argued in the debate, there are NT verses with exactly the construction of eis + aphesin found in Acts 2:38 where the sense is "on account of the remission of sins," and those are the texts where baptism is in view, namely, Mark 1:4 and Luke 3:3, where John's baptism, which does not remit sins for the reasons I mentioned in the debate, is in view.

Nor is eis + aphesin used for the instant sin is forgiven in the LXX in Leviticus 16:26, the only OT text where the two words are right next to each other.

While Dr. Jacoby's study may be something his friends in the COC who take a different view of baptismal intentionality need to consider, I respectfully submit it does not do anything to prove his view of Acts 2:38 is correct or that the view I presented in the debate is incorrect.

I would like to thank Douglas for taking the time to respond to these questions.

A said...

Thanks for all of the Scriptural points that were made in this debate. Those points were the points that really stood out as uniquely authoritative and I truly appreciate that.

Especially thanks to the Spirit of God who we know that inspired these words and providentially preserved them for us today without error, as no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation and all is ready for those that will simply accept it and obey that truth (Rom. 2:8)

1) I was a bit concerned with a few points in the first part of this debate which I have so far watched, namely: at 26:42 and 29:00 mark where it appears that Dr. Jacoby may have unintentionally misquoted part John 3:5. Please Note that Roman Catholic and other apologists have long used an altered version of the verse John 3:5 which adds the word "again" after the word "born", which destroys the fact that He is referring to two separate births here, and they have used this altered form (only in Latin, not found in the Greek) and generally handled this verse loosely (loosely misquoting it, etc) in order to help support their view on how they think the verse relates to baptism. An example of this exact instance may be found in the (ACTA SYNODI ATREBATENSIS) all the way back in 1025 AD, for those who may be interested; the Bishop there (Gerard), in quoting John 3:5 completely misquoted and added an entire sentence before this very same verse in order to characterize his claims about what John 3:5 really signifies. He actually added to and totally corrupted scripture in this verse to support an unscriptural point. As many have done since. The original form of John 3:5 may be read from the Authorized Version below:

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

So with that in mind, just for reference to the rest of us, at 26:42 he said the following "Jesus gives a bit more information: you must be born of water and the spirit."

Actually, Dr. Jacoby, in this case Jesus didn't say "you must be" as if this was a singular act (as you suppose He did at 26:42), but rather He said "Except a man be, etc." signifying the fact that the first part of being only born by water is not enough and not what He was talking about. One can be born of water and then born again of the Spirit, as Jesus clearly elaborated in the very next verse: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." In John 3:5 there He is explaining in more detail how it is that being born the second time is exactly different from being born the first time. One is of water, the other is of the Spirit, just as that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit! It is extremely clear when taken in context. Which, if we had taken John 3:3 in context this would have been made clear as well. Because the Lord first used the term "born again" in verse 3, and then when Nicodemus asked his question in John 3:4, then Jesus went on to explain how exactly being born again was different from being born once and how you must be born not only of water but also of the Spirit.

It's really very clear when you take John 3:5 in context and do not misquote it and take it out of context. If someone is just trying to take things out of context they can make different sentences seem to argue for so many odd doctrines that would never stand on their own weight with Scripture. Doctrines also matter, I should add. You can't just get away with making it say whatever and there be no consequence for it. So that's also important too.

Also, at the 29:00 mark of the first part, Dr. Jacoby actually misquoted John 3:5 a second time. There, he said "It was not possible to be REBORN of water and the spirit." (cont'd)

A said...

...Notice how (at 29:00) he changed it from born of the water and the Spirit into REborn of water and the spirit. This is actually the exact change that the Vulgate makes when it changes the word "natus" to "renatus" in the Latin, which is equivalent to the changes we've already mentioned. Respectably, Dr. Jacoby, Jesus did not say "REborn of water and the spirit" in that passage or elsewhere.

This is important that we do not alter the scripture and trim a piece of altered scripture out of context to suit our predispositions. It's not trivial. Especially with this very particular passage which has been abused as I've pointed out for at least 1000 years now. The abuse of and corruption of John 3:5, truly needs to stop. This is nothing personal, I have seen it too many times to count and I now feel that every act of doing so is a betrayal of trust toward the listeners who are expecting to hear God's word and not a misrepresentation and a misquote of such.

2) With regard to Dr. Jacoby's answer to #13,

He said: "Surely lives of faithful discipleship speaks louder than technical correctness."

Could you please expand on what you mean by this sentence for us?

3) One last question for Dr. Jacoby if I am still permitted to make a point.

He said: "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."

It appears like at one point you drew up a quotation from Dr. Ross's website and said rather emphatically afterward that "Well that's serious, we need to talk about that." However, in reading said quote, you left out the two Scripture references, Romans 3:28 and Galatians 1:8-9, as you were reading it, and it sort of sounded like you felt what he said there was serious and crossed some kind of line, as though it were his opinion only with no scripture attached, and further that it was directed at you in the debate. Just as you imply again here in this written answer. I don't think that was the case. Standing for the truth requires one to make clear distinctions, I don't think any of that was uncharitably directed, not at any time. God our Saviour will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

KJB1611 said...

Thanks A, good to think about.

Jon Gleason said...

Brother Ross, I just thought I'd mention this. Dr Jacoby said this:
"And we always need to be open to truth—to be rethinking, open to what the Lord is showing us."

Certainly, we never stop learning, we get things wrong, we don't understand everything as well as we could, there ARE things we should be rethinking.

The Gospel is not one of them. When someone says that in regard to something as foundational as how/when a person is saved, it brings to mind "continue thou in the things thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus."

I don't see any rethinking there, and when someone starts talking about rethinking things related to salvation, my radar system goes on high alert.

How can one truly obey II Timothy 2:2 if one is rethinking the things of salvation?

Anonymous said...

Sure thing, Dr. Ross. I didn't have any questions for you, as the fundamentals stands on its own very well. Good to hear from you again, and thanks.

KJB1611 said...

Dear Jon,

Good point, thanks.

A said...

Hi again, finished the second part of the debate and I have a question for you this time at the end Dr. Ross.

I agree with your point on Patristics and especially the Novatianist point.. I think the wider issue, though, which I know would have been a major side track for your debate, is that we shouldn't be relying on what it appears like the majority of people at a given time might have thought; even if there wasn't chance for misattribution or corruption of those extrabiblical texts, in the time between when they were written and now, or the real possibility of losing the context of the statement entirely (2 Peter 1:20 only applies to Scripture), or the possibility of them being fallible from the start; however even without those caveats we still shouldn't rely on what it appears the majority of people think, we should ask ourselves does Scripture teach it or not. And I think this ties in with a bigger issue I see regarding the apparent different approaches, where one side of these arguments is treating Scripture as a coherent whole, inspired by God and preserved (note, not removing or casting doubt on Mark 16, not leaving out Acts 8:37 from the graphic, etc.) while the other side of the debate seems to think more that the part of Scripture subsequent to the ascension of Christ was somehow "developed out" by different people from their own ideas and not actually the inspired word of God. That's why I am concerned about statements given by Dr. Jacoby such as where he said at 4:08 that Jesus "taught only a little". Well actually all of Scripture is his inspired word, given that is he God, the eternally pre-existent Word made flesh whose word is true from the beginning of time (Psalm 119:160) and revealed later in due time (Hebrews 1:1-2)! He taught a lot! This includes the epistles, they are all indeed the teachings and doctrine of Christ inspired by the Holy Spirit as 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17 describes, and therefore, authored by God; not just the independent musings of some individual branches of tradition. Does Dr. Jacoby treat these books as separate, different branches when he implies that different sets of letters were for different groups and therefore cannot be compared, as when he says that one apostle was apostle for the Jews and another for the Gentiles? Is not this similar to the hyperdispensationalism of someone like Darby, which posits that different parts of the New Testament are intended for different people, splitting it up into different parts as if not all inspired by the same Spirit and do not make up a coherent whole? Does he think that only the words spoken by Jesus in the Gospel account are universal truth? At 2:19:25 Dr. Jacoby says one is the apostle to the Jews and the other to the Gentiles: Is that supposed to mean that we ignore the truth claims of one set of writings as being "not for us" as they will do in hyperdispensationalism and that's how we get around every scripture discordant to our views?? These are serious questions that have been raised to me from watching this whole debate.

In particular, the statement "Jesus only taught a little." That one statement perturbs me greatly, because of the implications of it, which is that the later epistles are essentially no different than patristics and treated as such, so that patristical evidence is allowed to outweigh inspired evidence.

This seems to be a major unspoken but overarching theme of this debate.

This time I did have a question for Dr. Ross at the last question with respect to Galatians 6:16. I was wondering could you possibly clarify in further detail what you meant on that last thing you said about the Israel of God: I'm not sure if you agree with me, but I thought the verse was pretty clearly referring to as many as walk according to this rule when it says Israel of God, going from the grammar, and don't see the contradiction in that. Do you agree?

KJB1611 said...

Dear A.,

Thanks for the comment. I was kind of surprised myself when, for example, Dr. Jacoby defended his view that John 3:3 refers to baptism by arguing from patristics rather than the context of the passage itself, which refers to physical birth. It is something I would have expected more from a Catholic than from a member of the COC, but, on the other hand, I really don't know a good way to defend John 3:3 as a reference to baptism from the context of the passage itself. I do think that spending so much time on post-biblical sources was surprising since I believe Dr. Jacoby would, I believe, claim to agree with Sola Scriptura.

As to his motives or overarching hermeneutic, if Dr. Jacoby reads this and wishes to comment, I will let him address that.

I believe Galatians 6:16 distinguishes "as many as walk according to this rule" (saved Gentiles) and the "Israel of God" (saved Jews) since there is no clear instance in the NT where "Israel" is used to refer to non-Jews. The passage on its own could either equate or not equate the two, but when there are many, many texts where "Israel" is Jews, we would need something very clear before we say "Israel" = Gentiles.


A said...

Hi Dr. Ross. Okay, Thanks for that answer. I understand where you're coming from better now; the only part that seems kind of unusual there is the idea that as many as walk according to this rule would only include physical non-descendants of Jacob. But I get where you're coming from. I have no further questions for you on this topic.

Just for future record though, I would point to several points of fulfilled prophecy which show clearly the correct usage of each of these terms from a Biblical standpoint (note: not necessarily the world's standpoint). First, with regard to Israel being the people of God, also Christ himself in particular, I would look at numerous mentions in the Old Testament such as for example Isaiah 42:1-4, Isaiah 44:1-5, Isaiah 45:3-4 as clearly referring to Christ and those in Him, the "Israel of God" (sole instance) being those then in particular that God recognizes as Israel, not those that man recognizes as Israel. This accords also with Romans 9:6, and Galatians 3:16,29, Galatians 4:7,28... all of these are particularly fitting in the context of Galatians 6:16 with reference to the Israel of God, as it being much more than an isolated instance.

I would state with this in mind that if God says you are in it, if He gives you a name, then you are in it, and thinking that God cannot raise up of these stones sons unto Abraham (Matthew 3:9) would be both an underestimation of God, who is the one who first gave the name, as well as a powerful stumblingblock to the Pharisees, who are blinded to the way God sees things; this is also why they thought they could kill the true heir and thereby gain the vineyard (as it were—— in parable form) for themselves (Matthew 21:38,45) simply because they do not understand what being the seed of Abraham truly is (Galatians 3:16,29; Revelation 3:9, 11:2).

I would also say that with regards to these things we each are free to look up the cross-references in Hosea 1:10 (look at the start of the verse) and Romans 9:24-26, also Hosea 2:23 and 1 Peter 2:9-10, also Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:6-10 — as providing further context and shedding further light on all of this. With the usage of the term seed, I would refer to the passages in Genesis 3:15 and 22:17-18 in context of Galatians 3:16. So then we see that the promise in question were given with Christ specifically in mind. As Scripture says this:

Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. - Galatians 3:16

A said...

I would also add as a follow-on that Galatians 6:16 is also the verse at the End-point of the "Golden Chain of Israel" which is comprised of Genesis 3:15 - 22:17 - Galatians 3:16 - 3:29 - 4:7 - 4:28 - 6:16.