Saturday, February 25, 2012

Cut & Paste, Part 4

Peter likewise describes physical baptism as a symbol (antitype, NKJV) and that the act itself does not save, 1st Peter 3:21. He explains that the act of removing the filth of the flesh avails nothing; but rather the answer of a good conscience in God’s sight that consents to be baptized, as is our Lord’s first command for new believers, Matthew 28:19.

The willingness to follow our Lord’s will straightway is a confirming sign of new spiritual life in you; the act itself only testifies of the spiritual reality within. We find it so throughout Acts when Christians are converted: they are saved through the gospel and then baptized, Acts 2:41; 8:36-38; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 16:30-34. Circumcision was the water baptism of the OT; it was a sign that one had become a Jew and one of the people of God. It was a sign of the covenant made with Abraham, and failure to adhere to it resulted in expulsion from Israel and death, Genesis 17:9-14. Such was the importance of this sign that God was willing to kill Moses for failing to adhere to it, Exodus 4:24-26. Clearly it was important to be circumcised then. But what does Paul say regarding circumcision?

Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised,” Romans 4:9-12.

The term “seal” in this passage is “sphargis” and is a derivative of two Greek words: “sphargizo” meaning to place a mark on something to demonstrate ownership, and “katasphragizo” which means to be sealed up. Like a painter scrawls their mark to demonstrate that the painting in question is without doubt theirs, so too does God have a “scrawl:” circumcision in the OT for the Jews, and baptism in the NT for Christians. The act then can also be said to publicly demonstrate God’s ownership of us.

In other words, circumcision didn’t save; for Abraham was a saved man long before the covenant of circumcision was given. God saves men the same way throughout all of human history: through faith in Him. Circumcision, though commanded, never saved anyone in the OT, Romans 2:25-29. It is just as true with water baptism: the new sign for the church. It is commanded and should be performed, but it does not impart life or remission of sins.

I will attempt to anticipate another objection. Someone might be wondering, “You’re trying to tell me that what Scripture plainly tells me is not really what it means?” Not quite. What I’m telling you is that if you take every verse of the Bible at face value you will inherit a legion of contradictions, a veritable Gordian knot of problems. For instance if you lifted the verse, “then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die,’” (Genesis 3:4) out of context we could safely come to the conclusion that sinning against God does not cause spiritual death, or eternal separation from Him. But it was Satan speaking these words to Eve in an effort to deceive her, and the whole story, along with its ramifications, is told to the reader throughout the whole of the Bible, concluding in Revelation where the serpent’s identity is clearly revealed, Revelation 12:9.

So we conclude that statements in the Bible, taken in isolation, DO NOT always tell the whole story, or exhaust a doctrine. Especially not a doctrine so massive and important as one’s salvation. Were it so simple as this Paul would never have had to admonish Timothy to be diligent in doctrine so he might rightly divide the word. Peter warned of those who would twist Scripture to their own destruction, and confessed that at least some doctrine in the Bible was “hard to understand.” He addressed those who twisted Scripture as “untaught;” implying that Christians need to be taught. The writer of Hebrews corroborated Peter’s admonition when he chastised Jewish Christians for needing to re-taught even rudimentary principles of Christianity, including baptism, Hebrews 5:12; 6:1-2. This is why James warns that not many should be teachers; teachers will be judged by God more harshly, James 3:1; Matthew 5:19. This is why God the Holy Spirit raised up teachers, 1st Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11. Only those truly called of God to be teachers should be doing so. It isn’t a vocation, but a gift of God.

In fact, most of the New Testament epistles were written to correct wrong thinking and erroneous doctrine. Paul was passionate about defending God’s truth, as should we be. The Holy Spirit gave to us the Bible as a means to comprehend the character of God and His plan of salvation for mankind. In its pages we also find the structure of the church, and how the church is to function properly on this earth. Water baptism has its place, as does communion, but it is not the cardinal place proponents of baptismal regeneration allot it.

The Bible must be taken as a cohesive whole in whatever topic it addresses. This includes prayer, sin’s consequence on our race, and what is required for a man to be saved. Isolating a verse or passage and forcing that passage to be the light by which you “understand” the rest of Scripture creates an irreconcilable problem; you are not permitting the Holy Spirit to speak for Himself about the topics He inspired men of God to put in writing. Faith is the requisite for entering Heaven; this is stated in unambiguous language literally hundreds of times in the Bible. Again, failing to believe condemns a soul according to numerous passages of Scripture. There is not one verse that tells you failing to be baptized in water condemns. Old Testament saints were never baptized, yet their faith saved them, Habakkuk 2:4; Hebrews 11:39-40. In fact Old Testament saints and New Testament saints living prior to Rome’s advent were saved without the church, its hierarchy and its sacraments.

This creates in an exegesis of the Bible a critical problem. If the saints prior to Pentecost were saved without water baptism then God changed how He saves men. Yet the Bible tells us in clear language and in numerous places that God’s plan for man and redemption had been put in place before the world was created or man inhabited it, Romans 16:25; 2nd Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:1-2; Revelation 13:8. Furthermore the exegetes who advance this theory willingly forget that God testifies of Himself that He does not change, Psalm 102:27; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 1:12; 13:8. To persist then that God now makes water baptism a criterion for salvation is to run contrary to Scripture’s revelation and God’s revealed character. Unfortunately, those who espouse baptismal regeneration become so entrenched in it that they cut themselves off from hearing reason, and the very admonition and exhortation the Bible is written to give to those trained by it is rejected, 2nd Timothy 3:16-17.

2 comments:

  1. Great explanation as to why the scriptures need to be studied as a whole.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Dfish. It is my wish to honestly and simply present Scripture in as clear a light as humanly possible. If God can use my message to impact another I am very glad.

    ReplyDelete

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