I think it is important to understand exactly what the scripture is saying, because, it reveals the will of God. And that must be the consideration. What does God want; not what makes the most sense (according to what we have always been taught from tradition). It is true that a CoC’er, or an ICOC’er (the Church of Christ is my back ground among others) will rely heavily on what I call “The Baptism Doctrine” which is basically as long as we get them in the water they’ll be okay. This couldn’t be farther from the truth (of course there is greater intense depth to both of these denominations). There can be little doubt that one must convert in order to be righteous. We can’t be righteous without converting, because if we could, why would we need to convert. So the question might be whether or not baptism is a work, a command, a response, or simply one of many requirements of joining God’s plan for us to be united with Him. There can be no doubt that we must be united with God in order to be “saved”. That can’t be argued with. To argue with that would be to say that we can be righteous outside of God…when God Himself IS righteousness. It is only through Christ God that we can even acknowledge what righteousness is or means. So if we must unite with God in order to be “saved”, then we must look at the complete story of Christ, and look at scripture in its intent and its entirety.
We can accomplish this by looking at Paul’s conversion. There are three telling’s of Paul’s conversion in Acts. And to really get a complete picture, we need to look at all three of them. For sure there is no simple solution to the need of righteousness. But the only conversion of Paul’s I want to look at for time’s sake is the second account in Acts 22. Paul is confronted by Yeshua in the desert and blinded, and given a command, which was fulfilled. He went and found Ananias. Ananias, being led by God (as seen in other accounts) shares with Paul that God wants to reveal His will to Paul, and that Paul is going to be used by Christ to evangelize the Gentiles. At this point, although Paul believes that Jesus is the Christ (and Lord), and has come to faith, he still hasn’t had his sins taken away. Now surely we must agree that in order to be righteous, we must have the wall of sin taken away between us and the Father, which was done in Christ Crucified and Resurrected. So, Paul, who believes, needs to have his sins forgiven…as so does Ananias command him to do, “And now, why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.” Paul, who believed, was told to finish his conversion by being baptized and calling on Christ’s Name.
Now let’s look at Romans. In Romans 4, Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, declares that Abraham was declared righteous before circumcision. This is true. But Paul is also equating the Mosaic Law with circumcision. In order to come to the conclusion that baptism equals circumcision, we must equate baptism with the “new” law of Christ, or perhaps the Mosaic law of the Ten Commandments. I’m not quite sure about that one. Later in Romans Paul also writes that the byproduct of Abe’s faith is the promise that the Christ will be one of his descendents, and therefore we all are a byproduct of Abe’s faith. But more so, later in 4 it says, “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through faith…For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham” The faith of Abraham was expressed in that Abraham believed. Paul believed also, but needed baptism to complete his conversion. We share the same righteousness from faith through grace, as stated in Ephesians. However, think about this, there is still a responsibility on the sinner’s part to obtain righteousness. A person can’t just say we are saved by Christ so we have no responsibility among ourselves in order to get saved. We, on our part, must have faith; so there IS something required of us to get right with God. If a loved one gives you a present, you still have to unwrap it.
Now, yes it is Jesus that saves, through his Death, Burial, and Resurrection (which also consist of the blood and everything that it entails). No doubt we have done nothing to deserve the right to claim an association to that event. When we ask Christ to “enter” our lives, it is we who perceives a deserving attribute. We say an incantation and He magically comes into our lives. So many of us believe that IF we say certain words in a certain order, we deserve sanctification. In fact, He is always in our lives…so are we to repeat a certain phrase and He will suddenly just forgive our transgressions? We assume that by repeating a preordained, non-biblical prayer that Jesus will just suddenly be allowed to “come into” our lives. He never left…it is you who had left. It is you who have betrayed His grace. You turned your back on him, and sinned. We are all guilty of sin (Romans 3). However, Ephesians also says that we are saved by grace. BUT, how is grace expressed? Is grace expressed through our willing it through an incantation like the sinner’s prayer? Or, is grace expressed some other way. I am convinced through the whole NT that God’s expression of Grace is Christ Jesus Himself. How does God express His love? According to 1 John, it is Christ who is the expression of God’s love. So, if God’s grace is expressed through Christ, then how do we come into contact with that grace? How does it all work? In order to have a complete faith, although not required for conversion (meaning a full understanding of the impact that Christ has on our souls and spirits), we must understand God’s expression of His Will for us. This is all revealed through the scripture, to that none of us doubt. So we must rely on the bare scripture, and not scripture manipulated by Christendom and Christian Sub-Cultures that have developed over the centuries.
Paul talks, in Ephesians, that—Grace expressed in his life—was the revelation of Jesus Christ. Let’s explore that. That must mean that grace is expressed by the Gospel revealed to us. It also says in Ephesians that our faith is also a byproduct of Grace. So, by Grace we hear the Gospel, and by Grace we believe the Gospel. So we are saved by Grace. Hearing, believing, these are all because God allows it. But, we can’t just say anything we want to hear when it comes to Grace. Grace isn’t free! It cost Christ his life! (At this point you might point out Romans 5 where Paul writes that the free gift of God is Grace. No, you must read it again. What it says is that the free gift we get in Grace is Jesus Christ. Again, the free gift is Jesus Christ in Grace. The free gift remains in the content of Grace, but Grace isn’t free, unarguably I say that Grace cost heavily, it is the price of the suffering of Christ. It is not merely semantics, it is important.) We aren’t just walking along and then hear that Jesus died, was buried, and then resurrected for the reconciliation of mankind, and then BAM, BOOM, we are saved. That is fantasy Christendom, not reality. WE MUST BELIEVE FIRST before we are reconciled. We do have an obligation to have faith. We are saved by grace through faith. It is through faith in Christ that we are saved by grace. SO if grace is Christ revealed, and reconciliation is through faith, then we have an act of will on our part. We must also keep in mind that nobody was baptized in the Spirit by asking for it…in scripture that is. Nobody asked for the Spirit to come upon them. The Eunuch saw water and asked to be baptized, but there was water. The brothers, the jailer, and others asked what to do, and the common response was (at which point they have already heard the gospel and come into a contrition bringing a Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7) which only brings one response…repent and be baptized. Don’t be stubborn and hard hearted. Repent! Don’t defend a conversion of the masses that isn’t the will of God. Yes, that’s right, if God doesn’t will it, then it’s not legit, and that does mean unrighteousness and all that it implies. By grace we are allowed to choose to love God back. This is amazing. BUT how do we love God back? Later, in Ephesians, Paul writes that we were all called to one Spirit, faith, and baptism. Why is baptism included in that same scripture talking about our calling? Because it is as essential as faith, Spirit, hope, Lord, and God the Father. Paul makes it clear. In Galatians, it also says that through faith we are all children of God, and that baptism into Christ is clothing ourselves with Christ. How can we be clothed in Christ and first not being baptized? It says that before faith there was law, then faith, then, being clothed in Christ at baptism.
Of course baptism isn’t the say all do all. It just so happens to be the topic of discussion. One must have certain contrition. One must also confess Christ as Lord, the Son of God, and the Messiah.
I digress. There is a scripture that reveals the spirit technology of how baptism works. It reveals exactly how baptism works in our lives, and how it allows us to break that wall of sin. Romans 6:1-11 says: “ 1 Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it? 3 Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? 4 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. 5 Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. 6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. 9 We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.” (NLT) This is an awesome scripture, and provides the evidence needed in scripture to define a definite condition of baptism.
There can be an argument to baptism being a work. Let’s look at why this is an issue. According to www.baptimalregenerationheresy.com, there is not a need to be baptized. According to whomever wrote that website, Baptism is a work, and it requires only trust to meet up with the blood of Christ. They say that some people who believe that baptism is needed for salvation, believe that Jesus’ blood is only half of the equation to getting saved. I have believed in baptism my whole journey with Christ, and have been among the Church of Christ people, and have never heard anyone say that. However, that doesn’t matter, because that too would be a false mind set…well, let’s say unbiblical. Trusting in Jesus to be saved and trust alone to be saved is an incomplete thinking as far as conversion is concerned. In truth, it is immature thinking. That trust that this person is talking about is not based on truth, but on ignorance of the whole biblical view. To get to know God, and to read the bible with the mindset that the whole bible is the expressed will of God, one will overwhelmingly become convinced that, not only is trust essential, but that trust is proved through action—action is the only way to please God, and action is our communication in our relationship with the Father through Christ.
My eyes weren’t really opened until I read the whole NT through in a two week process. I mean this, even though I was a person with a CoC background, I still didn’t really understand Jesus correctly until I read the NT straight through. Keep in mind also that I was going to school full time at Ohio University, and am also a father, Husband, and pet owner. I do have a record of doing a great deal of evangelizing in my background. I have brought dozens of people to the Lord, and led a gloriously celibate life of six years before marrying my wife at twenty six (that was 14 years ago). I state these things because I understand what self denial is. I understand what it is to have been fasting for forty hours and studying the bible at 3am with a person who is stubborn in their heart, praying and pleading and studying the bible, and still have to work that morning for a ten hour shift. I understand what life in the Lord is and how we as Christians should conduct our lives. Through these sacrifices, we get to know and understand Christ very well. But we can also be doing all those things I mentioned for the wrong reasons. Or, just because we have limited knowledge and we were committed to doing things the way we understood them. That being said, when I underwent an intense reading of the NT in a short time, things came together like crazy. The big picture happened.
One thing I know is that most people who belong to your average fundamental, evangelical church is way under read in scripture. I have studied the bible with over two hundred people, and I know full well what is out there. Even now, living in this higher end of the bible belt, I still know that the very religious, and often the extremely committed and passionate Christian, is still under read.
When my friends who think that trust alone is enough for us to meet with the blood of Christ, are in truth making a confession of reasonable ignorance of scripture. When you read the book of Acts, followed directly within hours reading Romans, then through the Corinthians into Galatians and Ephesians? Wow, I mean , yes, plainly baptism is necessary to come to the all saving blood of Christ, but there is so much more to it than that. It is not about trust; and personally, how can you come to trust the Lord without getting to know Him? You can’t get to know Him unless you were properly studied with by another Christian.
You also come to the conclusion that Christianity is never an “I” or “me” situation. It is a corporate environment, and you cannot become a Christian alone. Nowhere is somebody baptized into the Holy Spirit just because they make a decision to “trust” Jesus. It just isn’t in there. The bible cannot truly be understood with just a light reading! Repent! Turn that mindset out to the world where it belongs. If I saw you save somebody from being run over in traffic, would you then run up to them and say, “I accept you as my best friend, please always protect me from traffic.”…would I then expect them to always be there to protect me from traffic. No way! Maybe if you got to know that person, and you spent a great deal of personal time together, then yes, but just from an awkward invitation to have them be your best friend is not enough.
Let’s think this through…without using beaten to death scriptures. Let’s think it through on a humanistic level, and then we’ll look at it with God’s thinking. You say that we meet the blood of Christ simply by trusting Jesus and His will to bring you along with Him to Heaven. Well, this is so very complicated. I have many questions that only the bible can answer regarding the statement. Let’s go through them. One, how is that trust manifested? I mean, at what point does that trust meet the blood of Christ? And, what do you mean by trust? What statement from Christ, or the bible, do you trust that you will be “saved” once you trust? The scriptures that are usually stated—John 3:16, Romans 10:9-10, Revelation 3:20, John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5—are pretty commonly used in bible tracts and Christian literature guiding people on how to convert. Sadly, not one of these scriptures states that we must trust in the Lord to convert. Well, commonly, this trust is often said to be manifested though the “sinner’s prayer”. This prayer usually says something along the lines of, “Lord Jesus, I believe that you died on the cross for me, I repent of my sin’s, I trust Jesus as my personal Savior, and…whatever. I went to www.sinners-prayer.com and saw everything that is wrong with modern evangelical Christianity. That whole concept that is portrayed on this website is a horrid misrepresentation of Jesus Christ. There is a grave misunderstanding of who God is when we have a quick to serve conversion. Jesus makes it plain that religion is NOT, absolutely NOT what He wants. He says that true religion is meeting the needs of widows and orphans in distress. Although He acknowledged that there will always be poor people, we are to never forget them. Giving to the poor is huge with Jesus and the early believers. In fact, there wasn’t a post gospel focus on world evangelism as much as there is today. World evangelism was considered to be the Apostles life, and that was ultimately expressed through the four gospels. Yes we rely on the death and blood, the burial, and the resurrection in order to convert; but, there is so much more to the gospels than that. Nowhere in scripture is there a quick conversion. It just doesn’t exist. IF you are trusting Christ, then you should trust that he is helping you right now in bringing about your full conversion. Trust that he has had to work in your life up to this point in order to prepare you to accept this teaching as truth. There are so many functions of trust. Accommodating fear and desperateness is not conversion. We do see people in the Book of Acts having fear, but not most of them.
Our expression of love towards an ultimately loving God is to convert and be faithful. When we pray Jesus into our hearts, the mentality is simply self preservation. That is the problem with the “Saved” Christendom paradigm. We ask ourselves if we are saved in order to identify each other. That is not the will of Christ. There are so many problems with that. In 1 John, it says that we love God because He loved us through Christ…first. We become converts because we are responding to God’s intense and perfect expression of His love. We should not convert under the blanket of fear for a false teaching of what Hell is…no, we should convert because He sent his Son to take our punishment that we know we deserve. We know in our hearts that we are guilty of transgressions against Him and others. We know because of our conscience and because according to the Ecclesiastical teacher, God placed eternity on our hearts. We have a sense that God exists. We know it and that is why all humans in one form or another seek God.
So, in good graces, we know that God loves us, and we are to respond to His love, not His willingness to not send you to hell. But we get to know God in His personality because of the Gospel. When we hear the parables of Christ, and the miracles, and the compassion, and the preaching and rebuking of the religious, we are blown away. Jesus is Awesome. He is simply the most perfect person to have ever existed. He is beyond amazing. To read or hear the Gospel is to get to know Jesus of Nazareth. To know Jesus (Yeshua/Joshua) is to know God. The concept is told to the people over and over again…in the Gospel.
As we respond to the Gospel, we decide to convert. We love God because He is God. We love God because of who His is. We love God because of His person revealed through the Gospel. We convert for His sake, not ours. Our hearts must be, “God is so amazing and perfect that I will do whatever He wants!” The Father (which is what we are supposed to call Him Matthew 6:9) is beyond description in incredibleness. His passion for mankind is past monumental. What He did for mankind changed creation and all of mankind themselves. Not even Moses, David, or Isaiah changed history like Christ did. Our bond to our Creator is the life that Christ lived. We learn of this, and we obey Him, which is our expression of our love. Love = obedience. The Father knows this. He even set it up that He will do as you ask as long as it is according to His will. It is an exchange of love.
So, when we look at the biblical conversions, when we look at the complete bible in its wholesome intent, then we know that baptism is beyond recognizable for conversion. I have heard the argument that the Jews wouldn’t have known what water baptism would have meant, particularly in John 3:1-7 when Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again, or the water and of the spirit. When Jesus says be born of the water, he is talking about birth water, and not the water of baptism. That is a false teaching and I am sad in my broken heartedness with a preacher at Cavalry Chapel in Albuquerque who does a podcast. He is a brilliant teacher, and knows many of the ins and outs of what such and such means in the OT related to the such and such in the NT and things like that. He really is brilliant. What’s sad, is that after hearing him defend the birth water defense, my eyes were opened to how much he may have some knowledge, but not wisdom. The Proverbs has things to say about knowledge without wisdom. A person may be bible smart, but foolish in the things of God. I had hoped that God was going to open up an avenue for me to meet him, but at least at this point, it seems not…I hope I am wrong. I really love this brother…let me look for his name…Skip Heitzig is his name. He is brilliant, insightful, thoughtful, and really—really—smart. He has a certain charisma in his voice that makes you want to listen to him. He has a great podcast. However, one time he ended his podcast defending the birth water stance and it saddened me greatly. I don’t think that makes him Satan’s tool. No, Jesus knew there were others preaching about Him who weren’t a part of that group of the brothers, but He said that they should be let alone (Mark 9:38-40). Paul knew that there were those who preached Jesus for the wrong reasons, but said to let them be, because no matter what, Jesus was being preached about. In lieu of this, I don’t recommend stopping somebody from teaching about the wonders of Christ and the bible. It is just that when knowledgeable men are using foolishness to relay conversions that don’t exist in the scripture, then there is an issue that simply must be corrected.