Ye Must Be Baptized Again

Tim Challies keeps explaining what he is not. This time, it’s paedobaptist — not.

What is curious about the post, aside from how circumstantial Challies’ theological evolution is/was, is his adoption of the Gospel Coalition policy of looking the other way:

I suppose I am credobaptist rather than paedobaptist for the very reason most paedobaptists are not credobaptists: I am following my best understanding of God’s Word. My position seems every bit as obvious to me as the other position seems to those who hold it. What an odd reality that God allows there to be disagreement on even so crucial a doctrine as baptism. What a joy, though, that we can affirm that both views are well within the bounds of orthodoxy and that we can gladly labor together for the sake of the gospel.

But if credos and paedos can all get along, why did Challies have to be re-baptized? He admits that he was baptized as an infant in an Anglican church. But then he became a Baptist:

When we moved to our new home we began attending Baptist churches. We eventually settled into one and, in order to become a member, I had to be baptized as a believer. By then my convictions had grown and deepened enough that I believed it was the right thing to do. Since that day my convictions have grown all the more.

If both views are within the bounds of orthodoxy, why don’t Baptists (Reformed or not) recognize Presbyterian or Anglican baptisms? Or why don’t Baptists like Challies object to Presbyterians like Tim Keller for baptizing unbelievers? I grew up Baptist and was baptized sometime during my misspent adolescence. So far, the PCA, CRC, and OPC have not required re-baptism of mmmmmeeeeeEEEEEE.

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90 thoughts on “Ye Must Be Baptized Again

  1. Tim Challies: “My position seems every bit as obvious to me as the other position seems to those who hold it. What an odd reality that God allows there to be disagreement on even so crucial a doctrine as baptism. What a joy, though, that we can affirm that both views are well within the bounds of orthodoxy and that we can gladly labor together for the sake of the gospel.”

    Now insert Federal Vision as the antecedent.

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  2. When I attended Tim’s church about 8 years ago they would not accept infant baptism for membership.

    One multi-child Rerformed family made a big deal of this during a Q&A after an evening service and I was left with the impression that this was a strictly credo-baptist entity.

    Maybe they have changed….

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  3. “What an odd reality that God allows there to be disagreement on even so crucial a doctrine as baptism.”

    He does? Depends on your definition of “allows”, I guess.

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  4. And, what is Challies’ graphic with the rings supposed to mean? Paedobaptists are nearly as bad as Arminians, and not quite as acceptable as dispensationalists?

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  5. I Peter 3:20 —“In the ark a few—that is, eight people[—were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the appeal of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

    Colossians 2:11 —“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

    There are many who have been watered two or three times, but who have not yet been baptized into Christ’s death. And I reckon there are some who have been baptized by God into Christ’s death who have not yet been watered even one time. I am so grateful that the baptism which saves is not water. I am also grateful that I don’t have to wait until my children are old enough to go to the sacrament before I can teach them right or wrong.

    John Calvin—“The integrity of the sacrament lies here, that the flesh and blood of Christ are not less truly given to the unworthy than to the elect believers of God; and yet it is true, that just as the rain falling on the hard rock runs away because it cannot penetrate, so the wicked by their hardness repel the grace of God, and prevent it from reaching them.

    Galatians does not say that “baptism” has replaced circumcision. That is why it’s so important to talk about the nature of “baptism”. “We have have been baptized into Christ” is NOT about water ritualism. The baptism on view in I {Peter 3 and Colossians 2 and Romans 6 Is NOT ‘an outward sign of an inward change”

    1. It’s not an outward sign, because it’s not water.. Water does not fulfill the type of physical circumcision.

    2. Nor is the baptism first of all about “inward change”, or regeneration or Christ indwelling us”. The baptism of Romans 6, of Galatians 3, of Colossians 2 is God’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect, God legally placing the elect (born guilty in Adam) into Christ’s death.

    3. This is “Baptism that saves”. It’s not possible efficacy conditioned on other factors. “The Spirit is life because of righteousness. ” The Holy Spirit is given to all those placed into Christ’s righteousness. The righteousness is not given because of or by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given because of and through the righteousness imputed (II Peter 1:1)

    Abraham had heirs according to different promises. Circumcision was part of the Abrahamic covenant, and Galatians does NOT say that Circumcision was temporary because it was replaced by water baptism. Nor does it say that circumcision was temporary because it was only a Mosaic thing, and not an Abrahamic thing.

    Baptism in these three texts is not water. Circumcision done by hands pointed to the legal reality of federal identification with Christ’s death. . Imputation without hands into Christ’s death is the fulfillment of the circumcision with hands.

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2015/07/24/i-will-be-god-to-you/

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  6. Show me yours and I will show you mine? We do non-paedobaptisms and so do you, and so we accept yours, so why don’t you accept our paedo-water (as we accept the paedowater of the Romanist antichrist).

    Even those who think of themselves as “two kingdom” who are still “reformed” remind us that they also water non infant believers of the gospel. But since they still define “church” also in terms of their own physical children, they still think that some of the world for which Christ never died are temporarily included “in the new covenant”. (Of course many Reformed now believe that Christ died “in some sense ” for the non-elect)

    “Presbyterians not only believe in credobaptism, they practice it; they just don’t believe in exclusive credobaptim. This means that every instance of adult/believer/credobaptism in Scripture fits within both the paedobaptist view and the credobaptist view.”

    And I answer; Roman Catholics not only believe in grace but also in faith. They just don’t believe in grace that excludes salvation by our lawkeeping and they don’t believe in faith that excludes works. The “Reformed” will keep on watering infants and once these infants get brought into “the one visible church”, they will tolerate many doctrinal differences about their own Reformed confessions that these ‘covenant members” have, as long as these members attend “the means of grace” and are not too immoral. .

    Being certain that we can’t be certain about who is elect, the Reformed are nevertheless CERTAIN that their own physical children, even if not elect, must be included in the visible church. If the children did not begin in the covenant, they tell us, we could not teach them the promise of the gospel and it would be worthless to even teach them right or wrong. But like Jonathan Edwards, most Reformed people do not take this idea “too far”, so they keep the watered children away from the sacrament and disagree with Stoddard about it being a “converting ritual”.

    Thus the Reformed ignore what the parable of the wheat and tares says about the field being the world and use the parable for a lack of discipline in a visible congregation.

    What’s the effect of saying “we also do credo-baptisms”? Does this mean that there is not one baptism, but two kinds of water, and that the one kind of water is a better sign of “sovereign grace” than the professing water kind, since it does not wait for any witness to an effectual call? But if there are two kinds of water baptism, and the Bible says “one baptism”, what is that “one baptism” ? Maybe it’s not water!

    Mark Dever—“Water baptism SHOULD be required for church membership: Because Jesus clearly commanded baptism and to disobey this command is sin [whether intentional or not]. To continue in such an unbaptized state is unrepentant sin [whether intentional or not]. Thus, no careful paedo-baptist will follow Piper’s apparent “generosity” about membership. That is, they will never knowingly admit someone to the Lord’s Table that they understand to be unbaptized (even if they took that evangelical Quaker or believing Salvationist to be their brother or sister in Christ). ”

    Mark Dever—“John Piper wants us to admit to the Lord’s Table those that he and we all agree are not baptized. Piper has no doubt that infant baptism is not baptism. He is solid on that point. But I think that actually leaves his position unusually open to other difficulties–knowingly admitting the unbaptized to regular communion. I simply don’t want to take the responsibility to so disregard Jesus’ commands (not that John Piper intends to in anyway disregard Jesus’ commands). I especially don’t want to do this in what has been an area of relatively unanimous Christian agreement from Jesus til now. Baptism precedes the Lord’s Table.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/adrianwarnock/2007/08/mark-dever-joins-grudem-vs-piper/

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  7. ok, to keep you from preaching completely to the choir alone- my pastor (young, wise, faithful) does not re-baptize one who has make a prior baptism profession of faith, but may baptize one who had been infant-baptized, never having made that faith profession. This is consistent with belief in believer’s baptism and seems faithful to the word to me.

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  8. @ Mark: Galatians does not say that “baptism” has replaced circumcision. That is why it’s so important to talk about the nature of “baptism”. “We have have been baptized into Christ” is NOT about water ritualism. The baptism on view in I {Peter 3 and Colossians 2 and Romans 6 Is NOT ‘an outward sign of an inward change”

    1. It’s not an outward sign, because it’s not water.. Water does not fulfill the type of physical circumcision…

    You state this with great certainty, but I’ve never understood why.

    As I understand, there are three broad families of ways to interpret baptizo and cognates in the NT.

    (1) Sacerdotal: All uses of baptizo refer to water baptism, which is efficacious ex opere operato. The exception is explicitly marked references to baptism by the Spirit, which refer to a miraculous work of the Spirit that “counts” for baptism.

    (2) Sacramental: Uses of baptizo generally refer to water baptism as a sign for Spirit baptism. The exception is explicitly marked references to baptism by the Spirit, which are talking only about the underlying reality pointed to by the sign.

    (3) Baptist: Uses of baptizo refer to water baptism, or Spirit baptism, but never both at once .

    So you assert the Baptist understanding, and further that “baptism” in Galatians, 1 Peter, Colossians 2, and Romans 6 is definitely Spirit and not water.

    So this leads to two obvious questions:

    (A) Why is the Baptist understanding correct?
    (B) What criterion are you using to determine that baptism in the four mentioned passages is Spirit, not water?

    As a way of testing your answer to (B), would you say that “baptize” in Acts 2.38, 8.12, 18.8, and 22.16 refer to water or Spirit? Matthew 28.19?

    And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ — Acts 22.16

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  9. Belgic Confession, Article 34: The Sacrament of Baptism

    We believe and confess that Jesus Christ, in whom the law is fulfilled, has by his shed blood put an end to every other shedding of blood, which anyone might do or wish to do in order to atone or satisfy for sins. Having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, he established in its place the sacrament of baptism. By it we are received into God’s church and set apart from all other people and alien religions, that we may be dedicated entirely to him, bearing his mark and sign. It also witnesses to us that he will be our God forever, since he is our gracious Father. Therefore he has commanded that all those who belong to him be baptized with pure water in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this way he signifies to us that just as water washes away the dirt of the body when it is poured on us and also is seen on the body of the baptized when it is sprinkled on him, so too the blood of Christ does the same thing internally, in the soul, by the Holy Spirit. It washes and cleanses it from its sins and transforms us from being the children of wrath into the children of God. This does not happen by the physical water but by the sprinkling of the precious blood of the Son of God, who is our Red Sea, through which we must pass to escape the tyranny of Pharoah, who is the devil, and to enter the spiritual land of Canaan. So ministers, as far as their work is concerned, give us the sacrament and what is visible, but our Lord gives what the sacrament signifies– namely the invisible gifts and graces; washing, purifying, and cleansing our souls of all filth and unrighteousness; renewing our hearts and filling them with all comfort; giving us true assurance of his fatherly goodness; clothing us with the “new man” and stripping off the “old,” with all its works. FOR THIS REASON WE BELIEVE THAT ANYONE WHO ASPIRES TO REACH ETERNAL LIFE OUGHT TO BE BAPTIZED ONLY ONCE WITHOUT EVER REPEATING IT – FOR WE CANNOT BE BORN TWICE. Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives. FOR THIS REASON WE DETEST THE ERROR OF THE ANABAPTISTS WHO ARE NOT CONTENT WITH A SINGLE BAPTISM ONCE RECEIVED AND ALSO CONDEMN THE BAPTISM OF THE CHILDREN OF BELIEVERS. We believe our children ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as little children were circumcised in Israel on the basis of the same promises made to our children. And truly, Christ has shed his blood no less for washing the little children of believers than he did for adults. Therefore they ought to receive the sign and sacrament of what Christ has done for them, just as the Lord commanded in the law that by offering a lamb for them the sacrament of the suffering and death of Christ would be granted them shortly after their birth. This was the sacrament of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, baptism does for our children what circumcision did for the Jewish people. That is why Paul calls baptism the “circumcision of Christ.”

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  10. mcmark—We have have been baptized into Christ” is NOT about the water ritual. The baptism on view in I Peter 3 and Colossians 2 and Romans 6 Is NOT ‘an outward sign of an inward change…. Water does not fulfill the type of physical circumcision…

    Jeff—(3) Baptist: Uses of baptizo refer to water baptism, or Spirit baptism, but never both at once .
    So you assert the Baptist understanding

    mcmark—No, you might be talking to the last baptist you met, Jeff, but you are not interacting with what I wrote. One, I was not giving “the baptist view” Most baptists I know are as likely to assume that “baptism” means also water as any paedobaptist. (See for example, though I like Robert Haldane’s commentary, his remarks on Romans 6.) Two, I never said anything about Spirit baptism. The Holy Spirit does not baptize into Christ, at least not so far as any Bible text teaches. I Cor 12:13 correctly translated reads –”in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” The text does not say “by the Spirit” or teach that the Holy Spirit is the baptizer. The I Cor 12:13 agrees with the other six Spirit baptism texts in teaching that Christ is the agent who gives the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not give Christ, and the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in Romans 6. It is not the Holy Spirit who “baptizes into the death” and, Jeff, if you were interacting with what I wrote in those last posts, you would have seen that. Yes, many baptists assume that the Holy Spirit is the agent in Romans 6, but they also wrongly agree with many paedobaptists who assume that any text with the word “baptism” must have reference to the work of the Spirit and read that idea into Romans 6 and Colossians 2 and I Peter 3.

    Even though the Lord Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit, I was not talking about that baptism either. Yet you write
    “(2) Sacramental: Uses of baptizo generally refer to water baptism as a sign for Spirit baptism. The exception is explicitly marked references to baptism by the Spirit, which are talking only about the underlying reality pointed to by the sign. ” Jeff, why don’t you tell me what you think about the three texts? Do you think there’s water in Romans 6 and in Colossians 2 and I peter 3? You can copy and paste that “the exceptions are explicitly references to baptism by the Spirit”, but that does not deal with either the texts or what I wrote. There is no text anywhere that talks about “baptism by the Spirit”, and the three texts a) don’t refer to water but instead to something that actually saves and b. don’t refer to the Spirit or to the new birth. All three texts are about legal identity with Christ’s death. They don’t use the word “imputation”, but their legal context has nothing about the Holy Spirit or regeneration (or water)

    With great certainty, Jeff, you assume only two alternatives—some version of your covenant theology OR dispensationalism, either water baptism OT Spirit Baptism, either paedobaptism or “the credobaptist view”

    Jeff– What criterion are you using to determine that baptism in the four mentioned passages is Spirit, not water?

    Four texts? I guess you are including Galatians 3: 27 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. ” Although that text is different from the other texts in not having a direct reference to death and resurrection, I agree that it’s not water either.

    I understand if you don’t have time, but since I never said that Romans 6 or Colossians 2 or I Peter 3 were about the Spirit, your question is not helpful. I only said the texts were not about water. If not water, then what? As I argued, not water, but the Father’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect. I never denied that many “baptism” texts are about water, and about some texts, I might still be agnostic. We could go from “John the Baptist with water, but Jesus with the Spirit to the Great Commission. But until you have time to talk about the three texts in question, you need to stop assuming “water” or “water as a reference to the Spirit”. That paradigm does not fit all the biblical evidence.

    I think we are going to have to talk about “the one baptism” (Ephesians) and also about I Corinthians 12:13 (baptized into one Spirit) What’s the effect of saying “we also do credo-baptisms”? Does this mean that there are two kinds of water baptism or is Leithart correct to say that “all baptism is paedobaptism”? Is one kind of water baptism a better sign of “sovereign grace” than the professing water kind, since it does not wait for any witness to an effectual call?

    Since I deny that the new birth comes before God’s imputation of Christ’s death and say that it’s Christ’s death imputed which results in having Christ and life, am I also begging the question about what “union” means? I hope not. Christ, who was far off, is brought near by the news of the gospel (Romans 10:8), and united to the elect when God credits them with His righteousness (which is the value and merit of Christ’s death) and effectually calls them . The elect don’t first get Christ and then get His righteousness . The elect cannot first “put on Christ”, and only after that get “baptized into His death” Being placed into Christ’s death is in order to being in Christ and then having Christ in us. Being baptized into Christ in Romans 6 (which is NOT regeneration by the Spirit, which is NOT baptism by the Spirit) is another way to talk about God’s imputation. And this means that Christ baptizing the elect with or into the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13) is not first, but the result of legal union with Christ.

    Berkhof—-“It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification. Justification is always a declaration of God, not on the basis of an existing (or future) condition, but on that of a gracious imputation–a declaration which is not in harmony with the existing condition of the sinner. The judicial ground for all the grace which we receive lies in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is freely imputed to us.”

    Cal Beisner— “To answer Leithart’s questions: First, the term baptism did not mean, primarily, a ritual application of water. Second, commentators argue in two ways that in Romans 6 baptism does not denote the rite: (a) consistent application of that sense in the immediate context (verses 1-10) would yield the conclusion (contrary to other passages of Scripture) that all, without exception, who undergo the rite are regenerate, converted, justified, sanctified, and finally glorified, and (b) Paul himself, who certainly views circumcision and baptism as type and antitype (Colossians 2:11-12), had already written in the same epistle that it was not the rite of circumcision but the spiritual reality designated by it….
    p 324 http://www.ecalvinbeisner.com/freearticles/AATConclusion.pdf

    I

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  11. well, anyway, one thing we can have unity about for sure, as always, giving credit where credit is due!
    to our Great God- Father, Son, Spirit

    We are put into Christ’s body in the same way: baptized by Jesus; with the agency of the Spirit; given also by the Father ..sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus; baptized into Christ; clothed with Christ; all one in Christ Jesus; belonging to Christ; heirs according to promise! Gal 3:26-29

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  12. Ali, re your post yesterday@ 9:08, the practice at every Baptist church that I have been a member of (over 5 decades now) is exactly as you describe it. No Baptist Church that I have any personal knowledge of does anything different. The only rebaptisms I have witnessed of adults who were previously Baptized after a confession of faith have been people who were Baptized as Jehovah’s witnesses. My understanding is that the same policy would apply to “Oneness Pentecostals” and Mormons, though I am not personally aware of any actual case coming up in the Churches I have been a member of.

    And apropos another thread, anyone Baptized upon a confession of faith (Jesus is Lord) in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit by you or Petros would not be rebaptized. Such lay Baptisms are considered irregular, not invalid. The Deacons might well ask the Pastor to counsel you all. But heck, if they knew how much time I spent reading what Presbyterians were excited about, they would probably ask the Pastor to counsel me!

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  13. Ali, that sounds like a Baptist church in practice, which is to say one that takes that particular sacrament seriously by not re-baptizing. Which would seem to imply that re-baptizing isn’t in the realm of orthodoxy. So why does Challies say “While all Protestants affirm the necessity of baptism, there are two broad understandings of who should be the recipient of this act, and both are within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.” Belgic doesn’t speak this way. It says (in part): “Neither doth this baptism only avail us, at the time when the water is poured upon us, and received by us, but also through the whole course of our life; therefore we detest the error of the Anabaptists, who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received, and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers, whom we believe ought to be baptized and sealed with the sign of the covenant, as the children in Israel formerly were circumcised, upon the same promises which are made unto our children.”

    In other words, your church’s practice and the Belgic’s confession, while taking differing views, seem to take their views seriously enough to draw serious lines with regard to recipients. Not so with Challies. Like I said, he doesn’t sound like a Baptist, he sounds like an E-Free.

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  14. Hi Zrim, as far as I can tell, Tim Challies is a faithful teacher of the word of God and I have never noticed error.

    Dan, thanks, you might be interested to know that I was baptized by a leader/mentor of a woman’s prayer group at that time – never even had a thought then that it was irregular, believe it or not. Also, about pastoral counsel you mention –what might it be? – “ God is not happy for you to comingle with ‘those’ people so much”, or something like that? :)

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  15. Ali, I wouldn’t expect you do but that wasn’t the point. The point about Challies is that he is a latitudinarian on baptism, so why does he exist in a doctrinaire church, indeed one that makes so much of baptism that they identify themselves by their particular doctrine on it (Baptists)? Why not exist in a latitudinarian denom like the E-Free?

    Which raises a point about Baptists in general (sorry, Dan, if this ruffles). There seem to be two basic species of Baptists, those that take their sacramental doctrine seriously and those that don’t. On the latter group, why continue to call yourself (credo) Baptist when you also think baptizing children is potato-pahtahto? Challies thinks they both fall within the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy.

    (And while I’m at it, if credo-baptism and paedo-communionism are mirror errors of each other, when will we see the advent of Communionists, i.e. those who take their doctrine of who gets to participate in the second sacrament so seriously they drop the broader term of Reformed and adopt an identification based on it? The Northern Communionist Conference?)

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  16. @Dan That’s interesting. Perhaps it points to the diversity among Baptists? My only experience has been among the SBC. My wife made a profession of faith at age 8 and was baptized. After college she made what she considers a legitimate profession and was baptized a second time (same church and pastor – her dad). In the SBC church I grew up in, it was not uncommon for one of our youth who had been baptized as a child to make a profession at youth camp and get baptized now that they “really” were a Christian. I suspect that had it occurred to anyone to wonder about that, they would not have considered the previous baptism(s) legit as they weren’t believers the previous times. I also seem to recall that the mode of baptism mattered as well. If you had not been immersed, you hadn’t been baptized.

    I wasn’t particularly theologically astute as a high schooler, and I have not read all that deeply into SBC theology since then to know whether this was irregular. The pastor of the church I grew up in went on to serve as the president of Southwestern (Hemphill), so I don’t think it could have been all that controversial. These two data points obviously do not prove that the practice was wide spread, but it is not unheard of in SBC churches.

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  17. @Zrim, suppose a high schooler comes to faith at a Youth for Christ summer camp, and a non-ordained 23-yr old YFC leader baptizes that person in the lake at the camp. Now that high schooler comes to your church and wants to join. You grill him about his faith, and from all accounts he’s a legit believer. Do you accept his baptism?

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  18. It seems to me that a consistent Baptist theology wherein the sacrament is merely an outward declaration of one’s faith would require rebaptism every time someone commits himself to Christ. Baptized at 12 but not really converted until 23, you get baptized again. Baptized at 23 but its at 46 that you realize you had a false conversion, get baptized again.

    I don’t see what the point of remaining Baptist is if you don’t rebaptize every time a new conversion experience happens. Because by not rebaptizing you are already conceding the point that the efficacy of baptism (whatever it may be) is not tied to the point at which the sacrament is administered. And if it is not tied to that point, why not infant baptism?

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  19. Robert, that’s a great argument that I hadn’t heard before. Then again, wouldn’t the Baptist just act like the Romanist does about the marriage sacrament?

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  20. @Petros
    My understanding (such as it is) is it would count if the baptism was trinititarian. If a youth leader in our church was performing such rogue baptisms, s/he would be drawn and quartered (or at least told to cut it out).

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  21. @Robert, you are correct. The idea is to be baptized after, and only after, a genuine profession of faith. Once. (Our theology would have heartburn with someone claiming a repetitive on-again, off-again, relationship with Christ — “THIS time I really mean it”, kind of thing.)

    Of course, then there are the weirdo Furtick’s of the world…..

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  22. Zrim: , i.e. those who take their doctrine of who gets to participate in the second sacrament so seriously they drop the broader term of Reformed and adopt an identification based on it? The Northern Communionist Conference?)

    Lutheran Missouri Synod

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  23. Petros, what both Dan and sdb said–irregular (and if the church has jurisdiction over that wanna be John the Baptizer, a chat is in order) but likely valid (i.e. trinitarian). BTW, we accept Roman, EO and evangie baptisms. So much for being sectarian.

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  24. Robert, I’m not so sure. To be fair, the better credos base baptism on a credible profession of faith (still misplaced eucharistic theology onto baptism, of course, and so “a detestable error”) and would oppose any re-baptism for the reasons you cite. Then again, there are worse credos, those more conversionist than credo, who would then keep re-baptizing.

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  25. McMark: If not water, then what? As I argued, not water, but the Father’s imputation of Christ’s death to the elect.

    OK, so this helps clarify a bit. To reflect back what you seem to be saying:

    * You believe that “baptism” in Col 2, Gal 3, Rom 6, and 1 Peter 3 refers specifically to imputation.
    * Further, you argue that this imputation precedes baptism by the Spirit, so that baptism-meaning-imputation is not a result of, but a cause of, the new birth.

    Is that correct?

    If so, then my question stands in modified form: by what criterion does one know that Col 2, Gal 3, Rom 6, and 1 Pet 3 are referring to baptism-as-imputation rather than baptism-as-sacrament or baptism by the Spirit?

    Following up, which meaning of baptism (water, Spirit, imputation) is the best understanding of the various Acts passages? Why, for instance, does Ananias tell Paul to “arise and be baptized, washing away your sins” when it is clear within the passage that Paul has already believed — hence, has already experience both baptism by Spirit and also imputation.

    You asked, why don’t you tell me what you think about the three texts? Do you think there’s water in Romans 6 and in Colossians 2 and I peter 3?

    Yes, I do, in the sacramental sense. Paul uses the word baptism as a symbol for the underlying spiritual reality; the act of baptizing with water is a repetition of Paul’s words in liquid form.

    As a general hermeneutical principle, I would say that context controls the lexicon. In the context of a letter from Paul to a church, it is (in my view) unreasonable to think that Paul would speak to the Romans of “baptism” and expect them to understand “but not the baptism that you all had performed on you, but a completely different one.” It is (again in my view) much more reasonable to think that Paul would be directing their attention to the baptism they know about, but expanding their understanding of what it means. That is generally how a teacher teaches.

    Even in 1 Peter 3, when Peter contrasts “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”, he does not say “that baptism does not save you, but this baptism does.”

    That is, he does not introduce two kinds of baptism. Rather, he says that “baptism saves you, not in this way, but in that.” That is, the one act of baptism does not save by the outward action of washing, but by the promise contained within it. The outward action is not salvific but symbolic; the meaning of the symbol is that which saves.

    Calvin really handles this well in the discussion of Rom 6.

    Farther, it is not to the point to say, that this power is not apparent in all the baptized; for Paul, according to his usual manner, where he speaks of the faithful, connects the reality and the effect with the outward sign; for we know that whatever the Lord offers by the visible symbol is confirmed and ratified by their faith. In short, he teaches what is the real character of baptism when rightly received. So he testifies to the Galatians, that all who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Ga 3:27.) Thus indeed must we speak, as long as the institution of the Lord and the faith of the godly unite together; for we never have naked and empty symbols, except when our ingratitude and wickedness hinder the working of divine beneficence.

    — Calv Comm Rom 6

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  26. @ Dan, Petros, Ali:

    So the question really seems to be whether we should say that “paedobaptism should not be performed” OR “paedobaptism is no baptism at all.”

    If the former, then rebaptizing paedos is actually taking a lax view of baptism. If the latter, then one might have difficulty explaining why paedobaptism is not baptism, but credo is.

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  27. Jeff, I’m okay with BOTH your statements. That is, since paedo baptism cannot be a “real” baptism (as in, it has no efficacy upon, nor symbolic value pointing to, the reality of the baby’s present or future salvific state), therefore, paedo baptisms should not be performed. You’re likely aware that John MacArthur capably gives the credo arguments in his ‘debate’ with RC Sproul.

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  28. and I will just add, Jeff, that George can send any capitalized comment about ‘detesting’ something that he wants, but it doesn’t faze my conscience in the least; further I would advise to be very careful about that type of condemnation, because, for example, I believe the Lord was pleased with my specific obedience to Him to publically profess my faith and be baptized.

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  29. Petros, but you do realize you’d have to say the same about OT circumcision: “…since paedo circumcision cannot be a ‘real’ circumcision (as in, it has no efficacy upon, nor symbolic value pointing to, the reality of the baby’s present or future salvific state), therefore, paedo circumcisions should not be performed.” Ouch.

    And since sectarianism is the constant eeeevangie gripe against confessionalists, who’s being more schismatic, those who say that trinitarian baptisms of the children of believers are completely invalid or those who accept trinitarian baptisms of EO, Roman and eeeevangelical varieties?

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  30. Zrim, the bit about making baptism parallel to circumcision is an exegetical non sequitur to some of us. And, this whole “valid” vs “invalid” construct is itself a-biblical, so it’s not a very compelling issue to debate. Recall, I’m fine with the latitudinarian eeeee-Free philosophy. You know, like CW, I love everybody.

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  31. Ali – I didn’t say it; I just emphasized sections of the Belgic Confession for the purpose of the argument at hand. The 16th Reformed churches of the Netherlands said it in counter to the Arminian controversy of the time. I WILL (sorry, another capitalization), however say two things: 1) baptism is passive – that is, it’s something that the person of the holy spirit does TO us, not something WE do, since anything conjured up out of our own corrupt experiences would not find truth, and 2) since it’s passive it can be assigned to an infant as a sign and seal and promise.

    All of which is to say that the various 2nd and even 3rd baptisms I’ve witnessed in baptistic churches over the past ten years or so always seem to stem from people who had been baptized as infants (particularly in the RCC), didn’t understand anything about it (understandably so), and were subsequently re-baptized (had to be by immersion, of course!) in order to proclaim a newly found understanding of faith (credo).

    Why couldn’t these same people simply have stood up in front of the congregation and explained that their infant baptism had worked on them in on them in wondrous ways over years, leading them to proclaim that they “finally got it?”

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  32. DGH, sorry if you were intimidated. I should have known you scare easily. John MacArthur was only offered to inform your THINKing.

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  33. @ cam5254, you ask, why couldn’t an adult believer explain that their infant baptism “worked on them”? Because it DIDN’T work on them! But, for those of you out there that believe in the spiritual magic of water, can you explain why it doesn’t always “work”?

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  34. Well, Petros, for the same reason why the Reformed believe that salvation is only for the elect. While you may disagree with this thinking, it is what we believe. At least within the confines of the sideline communions anyway, we have unity in this regard.

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  35. @ cam5254, fine for you to believe in your particular brand of election. But, it’s not clear how/why you’d attribute any measure of salvific efficacy to a water ceremony.

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  36. Petros – not my “particular brand,” just that of the confessional Reformed communions. But to be clear, the “water ceremony” is a sign and seal of God’s promise for the parent’s infant, that as parents of believers, he’s/she’s been baptized into a household who will in insure his growth and understanding of why he/she has faith in such things so that one day they can stand in front of the congregation and recite their true profession of faith.

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  37. @ Petros:

    There’s a particular difference in understanding between Reformed and credos concerning the meaning of baptism. Without understanding that difference, it’s hard for conversational gears to mesh.

    For a baptist, baptism says “this one has been justified (as far as we can tell).” The baptism is a message from the recipient and church to the world that the recipient is numbered among the saints.

    For the Reformed, baptism is a sign from God to the church that God washes away sins. It is a symbol of the gospel promise.

    Important to understand is that the Reformed understanding does NOT entail any belief that the action of baptizing justifies. You seemed to be taking that line with George.

    It is the promise — really, the promised blood of Christ — that justifies, not the rite.

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  38. oh,didn’t realize everybody liked John MacArthur here..
    http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/1787/pauls-arrest-part-4-the-attitude-of-paul

    “Wash away thy sins…doing what?…calling on the name of the Lord.” The thing that modifies wash away thy sins is the phrase calling on the name of the Lord. Do you know how to get saved? Get baptized? No, do what? Call on the name of the name of the Lord. That’s the message Paul got. Look at it, Romans 10:13. “For ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be…what?…saved.'” Now, do you see what message Paul got that day? He got that message. He didn’t get the message, “Get baptized and get your sins washed away.” He got the message, “You’ll be saved when you call on the name of the Lord.” That’s the modifier. That’s the way to interpret the verse. The New Testament never teaches that a man can be saved by water. Teaches that a man is saved by grace through faith, that confessing Jesus Christ is Lord, believing in his heart means salvation.

    Calling on the name of the Lord. What does that mean? That means to ask God to be all that He is in your life. Calling on His name, calling on His fullness, appropriating all that He is unto yourself…You say, “Well, what does the baptizing have to do with it?” That’s the public testimony. Since your sins have been washed away by calling on the name of the Lord, arise and make it public. Baptism was the symbol, the outward symbol of an inward reality. Says Paul didn’t make any big deal out of baptism.

    First Corinthians 1:13, very interesting. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name…name of Paul?” And he’s showing that there’s no sense in having little factions of people in the church. Verse 14, “I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius.” Now, if baptism equals salvation, that’s a very strange statement, isn’t it? “Boy, am I thankful I didn’t lead any of you to Christ except Crispus and Gaius.”
    “Lest any should say that I had baptized in my own name. Oh, I also baptized the household of Stephanas. Besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.” Now watch this. “For Christ sent me not to baptize.” Yikes! Not to baptize. What’d He send you to do? “To preach the gospel.” Did you know that baptizing and preaching the gospel are two different things? Therefore, baptism isn’t part of the gospel. Salvation is apart from baptism. Baptism, folks, is an outward work, and you can’t be saved by works, right? Ephesians 2:8 and 9. It’s only a visual testimony to an internal transformation. That’s all. Paul says, “I thank God I didn’t baptize any more of you, and God did not send me…Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” Two different things.

    Go back to Acts 21. Ananias says, “All right, Paul, do something about it,” Paul does. Praise God, Paul did believe. He was baptized. You can check it out, Acts 9:17 and 18.

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  39. Jeff, fair enough, I agree with your characterization. As you note, the semantics and understanding of what baptism “is”, alters the trajectory of these kinds of conversations. But, fwiw, to the ears of credo’s, when George uses the language of “their infant baptism had worked on them”, it sure sounds like the rite itself has some sort of mystical efficacy.

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  40. Petros, baptism is efficacious, just like the Supper. Otherwise, what’s the point? CBs tend to be the memorialists. But only in the power of the Spirit who attends the sacraments, not in in and of themselves or in the one administering them (which is why PBs don’t require those baptized by a hypocrite to re-baptized the way some CBs do). Still, one could just as easily make the same charge against credos and their baptisms (which are the same among paedobaptists–remember we baptize both adult believers and their children): What gives with all the re-baptisms? The magic didn’t take the first, second and third times? It’s actually in re-baptizing that magic water syndrome reveals itself. But if God really is the one baptizing, it needs no repetition. Re-baptizing only reveals a lack of faith in God’s power to save.

    I count four more rakes. That’s gotta hurt after a while.

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  41. @Ali

    and I will just add, Jeff, that George can send any capitalized comment about ‘detesting’ something that he wants, but it doesn’t faze my conscience in the least; further I would advise to be very careful about that type of condemnation, because, for example, I believe the Lord was pleased with my specific obedience to Him to publically profess my faith and be baptized.

    It is curious to me that the reformed confessions have no impact on your conscience and that the 16th century reformers should be very careful about their condemnation of heretical views because of a subjective belief you hold. Maybe I’m misreading you here, and if so I will happily stand corrected. But it looks to me that the structure of your thinking expressed here is identical to those who would say, “We should be very careful about condemning same sex marriage because, for example, I believe the Lord was pleased with my marriage.”

    I suspect that most of us here who heard such an argument would immediately respond that your belief about what the Lord is pleased with should be determined by scripture. Now it becomes an exegetical argument. How should we approach scripture? Each of us following our own nose to determine what the Bible means or should we submit to the elders who God has put in authority over us testing their words against scripture. Since the Belgic confession was written by those godly reformers, it seems to me that they should be given the benefit of the doubt until we have a very solid basis for rejecting their views. My subjective feeling about what the Lord was pleased with is not a very good guide.

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  42. ” it sure sounds like the rite itself has some sort of mystical efficacy.”
    Would you say that circumcision had not sort of mystical efficacy? That strikes me as an odd reading of the OT (and NT for that matter). Here is what the Belgic has to say about the efficacy of the sacraments,

    We believe that our good God, mindful of our crudeness and weakness, has ordained sacraments for us to seal his promises in us, to pledge good will and grace toward us, and also to nourish and sustain our faith. God has added these to the Word of the gospel to represent better to our external senses both what God enables us to understand by the Word and what he does inwardly in our hearts, confirming in us the salvation he imparts to us.

    For they are visible signs and seals of something internal and invisible, by means of which God works in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. So they are not empty and hollow signs to fool and deceive us, for their truth is Jesus Christ, without whom they would be nothing.

    Regarding baptism, it goes on to say that, “Yet this baptism is profitable not only when the water is on us and when we receive it but throughout our entire lives.” This strikes me as an important bit. The sacraments really are efficacious. The catechism is helpful here as well:

    65 Q. It is through faith alone that we share in Christ and all his benefits: where then does that faith come from?
    A. The Holy Spirit produces it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

    66 Q. What are sacraments?
    A. Sacraments are visible, holy signs and seals. They were instituted by God so that by our use of them he might make us understand more clearly the promise of the gospel, and seal that promise. And this is God’s gospel promise: to grant us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by grace because of Christ’s one sacrifice accomplished on the cross.

    67 Q. Are both the word and the sacraments then intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation?
    A. Yes! In the gospel the Holy Spirit teaches us and by the holy sacraments confirms that our entire salvation rests on Christ’s one sacrifice for us on the cross.

    68 Q. How many sacraments did Christ institute in the New Testament?
    A. Two: holy baptism and the holy supper.1

    69 Q. How does holy baptism remind and assure you that Christ’s one sacrifice on the cross benefits you personally?
    A. In this way: Christ instituted this outward washing and with it promised that, as surely as water washes away the dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul’s impurity, that is, all my sins.

    70 Q. What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?
    A. To be washed with Christ’s blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven our sins because of Christ’s blood poured out for us in his sacrifice on the cross. To be washed with Christ’s Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed and sanctified us to be members of Christ, so that more and more we become dead to sin and live holy and blameless lives.

    71 Q. Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?
    A. In the institution of baptism, where he says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” “The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.” This promise is repeated when Scripture calls baptism “the water of rebirth” and the washing away of sins.

    72 Q. Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins?
    A. No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.

    73 Q. Why then does the Holy Spirit call baptism the water of rebirth and the washing away of sins?
    A. God has good reason for these words. To begin with, God wants to teach us that the blood and Spirit of Christ take away our sins just as water removes dirt from the body. But more important, God wants to assure us, by this divine pledge and sign, that we are as truly washed of our sins spiritually as our bodies are washed with water physically.

    74 Q. Should infants also be baptized?
    A. Yes. Infants as well as adults are included in God’s covenant and people, and they, no less than adults, are promised
    deliverance from sin through Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit who produces faith. Therefore, by baptism, the sign of the covenant, they too should be incorporated into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers. This was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, which was replaced in the New Testament by baptism.

    So, baptism itself doesn’t save, but it the a means ordained by God to build our faith. The sacrament teaches us, and it is effective for our entire life – not merely when it is applied. Anyway, I don’t expect anyone to be convinced by reading a catechism or creed, but I do think it does clarify what is actually believed. To that end, I hope it helps!

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  43. b, sd, “It is curious to me that the reformed confessions have no impact on your conscience”

    Same goes for Peter’s attachment to TKNY who (sometimes) holds to the Reformed confessions and baptizes babies.

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  44. Jeff–Even in 1 Peter 3, when Peter contrasts “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”, Peter does not say “that baptism does not save you, but this baptism does”

    mcmark—Ephesians 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all. one baptism.

    So, Jeff, does this one baptism always save or only sometimes save? As long as you teach in such a way as to bring water into every “baptism” , you need to be clear about if you are saying–perhaps Baptism” will save? Or does “baptism” promise salvation? I have no problem saying that where there is God’s imputation into Christ’s death, there is the Holy Spirit, and salvation. But as long as you read water into every “baptism” verse”, I think you will equivocate ( even if you never speak of losing election and covenant apostasy when you do the baby)

    Leithart: “The big difference between the word and baptism is that the word offers God’s grace to everyone-in-general while baptism declares God’s favor TO ME . Baptism wraps the gift of forgiveness and justification and puts MY NAME on the package. Like the gospel, BAPTISM REQUIRES a response of ENDURING faith. Faith involves believing what baptism says ABOUT YOU . The baptismal declaration is that we are “justified from sin” by union with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And I can’t, of course, live a life of unbelief and disobedience, and expect baptism to rescue me at the end. Such a life would betray my baptism…..”

    mcmark_- I understand that you might not agree with Leithart, Jeff, you probably would t say that the water is not about the person being watered but simply a sign and a seal that water sometimes saves. But if that is so, why restrict the water to those who have one Christian parents? What would it matter who gets the water, if it’s only an objective but conditional promise?

    Scott Clark writes: “Fundamentally, baptism is to strengthen our faith, not replace it. It is a seal to those who believe, that what baptism promises is actually true of them.” (p 8, “Baptism and the Benefits of Christ”, Confessional Presbyterian 2, 2006) p 12: “Paul’s interest is not to argue that baptism confers Christ’s benefits, but rather to appeal to it as illustration of the union that already exists.”

    Greg Bahnsen—“The signs of the covenant, whether circumcision or baptism, declare the objective truth that justification comes only by faith in God’s promise. Circumcision and baptism are NOT an individual’s personal, subjective testimony to having saving faith for himself. So, those who are in the visible church but not elect are nevertheless within the covenant of grace but under its curse.”

    Mcmark—Certainly I think Bahnsen’s conclusion is less destructive to the gospel than Leithart at this point, but Bahnsen gets there by agreeing with Mike Horton that “baptism” does not save but rather speaks of a “visible church” which is needed before the gospel can be taught. How can you be cursed by the new covenant if you are not born in the new covenant?

    mcmark–So, Jeff, is the water the sign and seal of the efficacy of law, or sign and seal of the efficacy of grace? Time will tell?

    Mike Horton—”God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. … The word proclaimed and sealed in the sacraments is valid, regardless of our response, but we don’t enjoy the blessings apart from receiving Christ …..To be claimed as part of God’s holy field comes with threats as well as blessings. Covenant members who do not believe are under the covenant curse. How can they fall under the curses of a covenant to which they didn’t belong? ”

    mcmark—If you need to have children in the covenant before you can teach them, then you need a Christendom in which Christianity is assumed at birth, not presumptive regeneration, but presumptive water efficacy with the timing to be delayed ( or the grace and efficacy later withdrawn). Why not simply say that God’s law applies to everybody, without suggesting that the law is grace, or that the “covenant status” is grace?
    http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/kingdom-through-covenant-a-review-by-michael-horton

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  45. sdb: condemnation of heretical views because of a subjective belief you hold.

    wow. I’ll just say 1) I think probably by now you know I hold Scripture in the highest regard as inerrant and authoritative and desire it to be the basis for what I believe is true. How about you? 2) for a few guys who don’t want to commit to say there can be absolute-sure-certainty about Jesus’s resurrection, you don’t seem to have any problem with absolute certainty about a specific matter about which faithful men disagree. Hope that is a fair statement.

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  46. Zrim, it’s true, there’s nothing salvifically efficacious about the Supper, either. Alas, Reformed are so Rome-ish when it comes to mystical ideas about sacramental things….

    DGH, yes, appeals to bad exegesis aren’t influential with me. But, I’m glad that TKNY is so obviously in your head. I hope he makes you THINK.

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  47. Zrim, lots to commend about Anabaptists, to be sure. No specific complaints from me. But correct, good to go further with reforms, that’s for sure.

    DGH, I’ve thought lots about paedobaptism, and on my scales it’s been deemed not sufficiently biblically compelling. I’m fine with the TGC and eeee-free latitudinarian view on it, however.

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  48. Petros, then maybe the better moniker is modernist? Only modernity could produce a booster for both the Protestant and Radical Reformations (and yet such an antagonist for the Counter-Reformation).

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  49. McMark: So, Jeff, does this one baptism always save or only sometimes save? As long as you teach in such a way as to bring water into every “baptism” , you need to be clear about if you are saying–perhaps Baptism” will save?

    This question is exactly parallel to, and has the same answer as “Does proclamation of the Gospel always save or only sometimes save?”

    If considered literally, proclamation of the gospel *never* saves, for it is the Spirit who creates faith, and faith receives justification. Of itself, speaking words does not save. Yet Paul tells Timothy that by closely watching his doctrine, he will save both himself and his hearers. In this, he is using a metonymy: he is substituting “watching your doctrine will save” for “correct doctrine, when received by faith, will save.”

    In like manner, baptism never saves of itself. It only proclaims the promise of God. Of itself, washing with water does not save. Yet in several places in Scripture, the power of cleansing from sin is attributed to baptism. Regardless of what we may think about it, the *words* are used there:

    And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’ (more on MacArthur’s argument below).

    And then of course 1 Peter 3, Gal 3, etc.

    So logically speaking, this leaves us with only a few options:

    * The act of water baptism saves, plus or minus the faith of the recipient. This option, the sacedotal option, we have agreed to reject. I would consider Leithart’s position that you quoted above to be in this camp.
    * The act of some other kind of baptism saves. The particular other kind of baptism could be baptism by the Spirit, or it could be imputation (a view that I’ve never encountered before), but the salient point in this view is that the baptism that saves is not water baptism.
    * The attribution of salvation to baptism is a metonymy.

    I argue that the latter, while most difficult to understand of the three options, is linguistically and systematically the most sound.

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  50. Petros: But, fwiw, to the ears of credo’s, when George uses the language of “their infant baptism had worked on them”, it sure sounds like the rite itself has some sort of mystical efficacy.

    I understand, having once been a credo and having had a similar reaction. Infant baptisms felt really weird to me.

    At some point, I realized that the only ones who were saying that Reformed folk believe in the power of the rite were the credos. At that point, I realized I’d been listening with funny ears.

    Today’s situation is different, since Leithart et al do actually proclaim the power of the rite. But while Leithart was acquitted by NWP (and I must respect that decision), still his view does not represent mainstream Presbyterian thought. I would recommend Murray’s Christian Baptism for the mainstream position.

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  51. MacArthur, via Ali: “Wash away thy sins…doing what?…calling on the name of the Lord.” The thing that modifies wash away thy sins is the phrase calling on the name of the Lord. Do you know how to get saved? Get baptized? No, do what? Call on the name of the name of the Lord. That’s the message Paul got. Look at it, Romans 10:13. “For ‘whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be…what?…saved.’” Now, do you see what message Paul got that day? He got that message. He didn’t get the message, “Get baptized and get your sins washed away.” He got the message, “You’ll be saved when you call on the name of the Lord.” That’s the modifier. That’s the way to interpret the verse. The New Testament never teaches that a man can be saved by water. Teaches that a man is saved by grace through faith, that confessing Jesus Christ is Lord, believing in his heart means salvation.

    This gets a poor score on two counts.

    (1) MacArthur’s grammar here is tendentious. Consider:

    “Go, eat, and drink, being thankful to God.”

    Would anyone seriously argue that the recipient of this command is supposed to drink being thankful, but not go or eat being thankful?

    Of course not. The participle modifies the compound predicate “Go, eat, and drink”

    Likewise here “ἀναστὰς βάπτισαι καὶ ἀπόλουσαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου ἐπικαλεσάμενος τὸ ὄνομα [f]αὐτοῦ.”

    “Arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”

    The calling on the name of the Lord modifies arise, be baptized, and wash away your sins.

    (2) MacArthur overlooks the fact that baptizing is of itself a literal washing. To fail to connect that fact with the “washing away of sins” borders on being willfully obtuse.

    Which is NOT to say that the act of baptizing is what washes away sins (see above, response to Mark). But it is to say that Ananias was deliberate in saying “be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”

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  52. sdb: condemnation of heretical views because of a subjective belief you hold.

    wow. I’ll just say 1) I think probably by now you know I hold Scripture in the highest regard as inerrant and authoritative and desire it to be the basis for what I believe is true. How about you? 2) for a few guys who don’t want to commit to say there can be absolute-sure-certainty about Jesus’s resurrection, you don’t seem to have any problem with absolute certainty about a specific matter about which faithful men disagree. Hope that is a fair statement.

    Like I said, I could be misreading you (or perhaps you misspoke?), but your statement indicated that you believe we should be very careful adhering to the Belgic Confession’s summary of what the Bible teaches about baptism (namely the condemnation of the error of the anabaptists) because you believe Jesus is pleased with what you did. Am I misreading what you wrote, is that what you meant to communicate, or am I interpreting you correctly? Perhaps you just saw the all-caps and thought that was the commenter’s own words? I dunno – just asking.

    regarding “1” – I find the way you use scripture sometimes problematic as I’ve noted to you before, but I do not doubt you believe scripture to be inerrant, authoritative, and seek to conform your beliefs to what it teaches. I think we disagree on hermeneutics and the role of authority and community in determining how scripture should be interpreted – I place the bar for disagreeing with the confessions very, very high (no they are not infallible). Cafeteria Calvinism inevitably leads to apostasy of denominations and pastor centric independent churches rarely survive the transition (part of the reason the role of Keller is so concerning).

    regarding “2” – You did not correctly describe my views. If by “absolute-sure-certainty” you mean a psychological state in which you have no doubt about the truth of a proposition, sure I think you can have that about any number of things (what you had for breakfast, who your mom is, the birthday of your firstborn, where you left your car keys, the truth of the resurrection, etc…). But that psychological state does not mean that you could not be wrong – people have absolute-sure-certainty about all kinds of things that are wrong. The question is whether that belief is a necessary truth – you can’t have a square circle for example – that can’t be wrong. Some truths are demonstrable you know the chair is there because you can sit in it, and while it is possible that it could be an illusion, you rule it out because the likelihood that this is the case is vanishingly small. Regarding the resurrection, Thomas saw Jesus die and then got to put his hand on Jesus’s wounds and thus he accepted the resurrection – he had demonstrable proof we don’t have. We have to trust the witnesses (i.e., have faith and hope). Of course there will come a day when faith and hope will no longer be necessary!

    There is a meta-question about one’s certainty about what the words mean. Does the Bible claim the necessity of the resurrection or not. One’s certainty about what Paul claims about the resurrection is different from one’s certainty about one’s belief in the resurrection itself. A non-believer may look at the demythologizers with contempt for the violence they do to the text (consider Hitchen’s disdain for liberal Christians). So one could have a very firm belief in what the Bible teaches about baptism even while rejecting the truth of that teaching. I have on doubt whatsoever about the truth of the resurrection. I recognize that it is possible I could be wrong (I’m not infallible) and that the truth of the resurrection is not demonstrable. But I do not doubt its truth myself. I am convinced I hold this belief as a matter of grace and that apart from the Holy Spirit’s work in my life I could easy come to reject this truth. I wouldn’t say the same thing about my eyelids (to borrow from someone’s analogy).

    Regarding the “absolutely certainty” I “seem” to have about baptism, I can only say that I am convinced that the reformed confessions are faithful summaries of what scripture teaches about this sacrament. I could be wrong, but I have looked at enough of the debates to conclude that it is highly unlikely that I will come across new information that will change my mind. Though I my confidence in the truth of what they teach about baptism is not as strong as my belief in the resurrection. I don’t see why this is relevant to surprise at your response to the Belgic confession – namely that this foundational document of reformed thought does not faze your conscience because you believe Jesus is happy with your decision. I can understand one coming to a place where they disagree with the weight of the majority of reformed thought on some topic (they aren’t infallible after all), but I would think that deviating from what they taught would at least give us pause and create some humility about what we believe (i.e., faze one’s conscience). I can also see one concluding that their view contradicts scripture, but again I would think that one would want to tread lightly rather than warn the reformers for their teaching based on what you’ve concluded about the result of your belief. But like I said, I could simply misunderstand what you meant by saying that the Belgic Confession does not faze your conscience because you believe Jesus is happy with you, you could have misspoke when you write that so that wasn’t what you meant, or perhaps it is what you meant and I shouldn’t be surprised. Whatever the case, I was surprised at the statement, but if I misunderstood, I’m happy to stand corrected.

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  53. anyway brothers, Jeff and sdb, pretty sure still we have unity – agreeing we are neither ‘heretics’ nor ‘detested’ by God, but rather children of God (though probably each thinking we are His favorite 🙂 ) saved by His great mercy and grace -sins covered; life transformed ……

    19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit)). 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10

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  54. Jeff–the same answer as “Does proclamation of the Gospel always save or only sometimes save?

    mcmark—Do you have to be the child of one parent who professes to believe the gospel in order to hear the proclamation of the gospel and its promise? If not, if the promise of the gospel is for as many as believe, even if they don’t have a parent who professes to believe the gospel, why do you need one parent who professes to believe the gospel in order to be given the water that possibly saves? ( a “metonymy” if you are less on the Lutheran side of things)

    Jeff—The particular other kind of baptism could be baptism by the Spirit, or it could be imputation (a view that I’ve never encountered before), but the salient point in this view is that the baptism that saves is not water baptism.

    mcmark—This is more an exercise in not reading of paying attention to what I wrote. There is no such thing in the Bible as “baptism by the Spirit”. John baptized with water, but the Lord Jesus baptized with the Holy Spirit. I am not asking you, Jeff, to comment on John’s baptism but rather to notice that the Lord Jesus gives the Spirit. When you read Romans 6, do you not only assume water where water is not mentioned but also assume the Holy Spirit where the Spirit is not mentioned? Have you ever noticed that the text says “baptized into the death” and not “baptized by the Spirit”?

    On page 322, Fesko concludes that Holy Spirit baptism is NOT God’s imputation of the elect into Christ’s death. . Fesko then explains that the Westminster Confession teaches us that Spirit baptism is the Spirit giving us Christ by uniting us to Christ by faith. Does this mean that the elect are over time “more and more united to Christ?”

    Alastair Roberts –For Baptists the grace signified in water baptism is typically understood to be grace already received: For Baptists, water baptism is predominantly retrospective, looking back to a salvation largely completed.

    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/infant-baptism-and-the-when-of-baptismal-grace.php#sthash.SNY6T0Ud.dpuf

    mark—If you have no problem with the Lutheran notion of being justified every day AGAIN, why would you have a problem with the idea of “drowning the old man in your water regeneration every day” AGAIN?

    Roberts argues that there is a “not yet aspect to justification” not only for infants but for all of us, because Roberts agrees with the Lutherans that God’s justification happens again every day, and the “old man” has to pass from death to life over and over again, and that what causes this is the continuing “efficacy of water baptism”. So what’s the difference between daily re-justification and Gaffin’s “one justification with not yet aspects”? But why bother about what Lutherans or Silva or Ferguson or Gaffin says about “more and future” aspects when instead you can mock sectarians who would rather die than not repent of Roman water?

    Roberts—“The force of the grace of adoption summons thee adopted to live out of that grace and not to turn their backs on it. Adoption is never only a completed event of the past, but is an enduring reality enjoyed by those who continue to receive it…..The magisterial Reformers presented a higher and more efficacious doctrine of water baptism than their Roman Catholic interlocutors.The Canons of Trent reveal that, the grace of water baptism being easily forfeited by sinners who failed to persevere in it, it was necessary to supplement its grace with that of another sacrament–penance. The result was the diminishment of water baptismal grace within the sacramental economy.”

    mark—According to Roberts, the Reformed are not merely looking for the water to wipe out original sin, but believing that the water will continue to have “efficacy”. But this “efficacy” of water will be conditioned on the sinner, not so much on the sinner not sinning, but on the sinner continuing to meet the conditions of ” covenant adoption”. But it is not yet quite politically correct in some Presbyterian denominations to talk about “being justified every day” or the “not yet aspect of justification”….

    Roberts—“Martin Luther resisted the ‘linear model’ of the Christian life, with an one time conversion followed by progress beyond that point. Luther maintained that we never move beyond the point of water baptism. Conversion is an ongoing reality in the Christian life, a continual act of going back again and again to water baptism as the beginning.”

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  55. JRC: [There are three logical possibilities … including that the kind of baptism that saves is not water baptism] The particular other kind of baptism could be baptism by the Spirit, or it could be imputation (a view that I’ve never encountered before), but the salient point in this view is that the baptism that saves is not water baptism.

    McMark: This is more an exercise in not reading of paying attention to what I wrote.

    I wasn’t describing what you wrote, but rather the range of possible views. Granted that you do not believe “baptism by the Spirit” is in the Bible — but many do. I was talking about them.

    We’re going to need to be patient with one another and assume good faith here, since it is clear that we do not fully understand one another’s views.

    For example, you ask why do you need one parent who professes to believe the gospel in order to be given the water that possibly saves? ( a “metonymy” if you are less on the Lutheran side of things)

    And this is a fundamental misunderstanding. The water never saves; what is promised by the water does.

    So, can we agree to patiently repeat what needs repeating, rather than assume a lack of interaction or paying attention?

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  56. I asked—why do you need one parent who professes to believe the gospel in order to be given the water that possibly saves?

    Jeff answers—The water never saves; what is promised by the water does.

    mcmark—I very much agree that neither of us has written all that we think about water, and I have no problem with us adding new stuff, and not simply reviewing the past (you said this, and said it this way etc)

    But 1. I can’t help paying attention to the fact that you don’t answer my question about the need for one professing parent in order to water baptism but not for preaching. You shift back to the question of “how baptism saves” but you most recent comment was pushing the analogy between preaching and water, and I was responding to that comment by asking about the contrast—no professing parent needed for preaching.

    2. Earlier I had asked questions about which “one baptism” and I asked you to notice the biblical contrast between John’s water baptism and Christ’s baptism with the Spirit, and then asked you to pay attention to the fact that Romans 6 is not about the Spirit or water. Sure, many people believe in “baptism by the Spirit”, but what do you think about the agency, Jeff? Why do the texts all say that Jesus baptizes with the Spirit? Should the texts be understood (even if they don’t say) that “John baptizes with water, but Jesus baptizes with both water and the Spirit, and (also) the Holy Spirit is the one who baptizes when Jesus baptizes? So when Jesus baptizes with the Spirit, it’s economically the Holy Spirit who baptizes with the Holy Spirit?

    That is why I asked–Have you ever noticed that the text says “baptized into the death” and not “baptized by the Spirit”?

    3. I was also responding to the accusation that credobaptists are into doing the same baptism more than once—AGAIN AND AGAIN. As we know, the anabaptists repented of the water they got from Rome, unlike the magisterial Reformers. But the accusation is that credobaptists don’t stop there with that protest against Rome, but tend to add more attempts at the “one baptism” later on. Jeff, do you have a problem with the Lutheran idea of “drowning the old man in your baptism” again and again every day? Does the “old man” need to pass from death to life over and over again? Is it the continuing “efficacy of water baptism” which instrumentally causes this AGAIN AND AGAIN passing from death to life?

    mark—According to Roberts, the Reformed are not merely looking for the water to wipe out original sin, but believing that the water will continue to have “efficacy”….But it is not yet quite politically correct in some Reformed denominations to talk about “being justified every day” or the “not yet aspect of justification”….

    O course I agree that water does not save anyone. That’s one reason I am arguing that I Peter 3 and Colossians 2 and Romans 6 and Galatians do not involve water.

    Scott Clark—“The ideas of death and deliverance through death has been lurking in the background surface, as it were. Remember the analogy with the ark. The church went into the ark. They were saved through the flood waters not by them. … The waters did not save anyone! The waters killed everyone but Noah and family. God saved his people by means of the Ark, not by means of the water. …The flood waters were a death. They were an ordeal. They were a literal death for those outside the ark. They are a metaphorical death for those inside the ark. Those inside the ark were as good as dead, except they weren’t dead. http://heidelblog.net/2014/06/does-baptism-save-2/

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  57. Jeff, is the visible necessary for the invisible, so that it makes no sense to preach law or gospel to those outside the church, or is the invisible (Imputation into Christ’s death resulting in FAITH) necessary for the visible? Or is it unimportant to say which has priority?

    If we can presume their invisible salvation, why can’t we participate with them in the visible Lord’s Supper?

    I do hope you know I am not only asking questions, but trying to think about what you think. As evidence of my paying attention….

    green baggins— in Romans 9:6-10, which plainly indicates an external, conditional, and legal relationship with God (physical descent) that is not equivalent to the internal, unconditional, intimate union (true believers) that the invisible church enjoys.

    Jeff Cagle commented– I would agree with John Murray that there is one church, two aspects (visible/invisible) rather than two separate churches. With (visible) church members: we should presume their salvation in our dealings with them, unless compelling evidence presents to the contrary. It is out of this view, a very “one church” view, that I offered up the criticism of the FV, in that it explicitly denies that the visible church is approximate…..Clearly, our ecclesiology drives our understanding of baptism. As a one-church guy, I’m much more sympathetic to Kuyper’s “presumptive regeneration” than to Thornwell’s “presumptive Esauism.”

    Jeff—I say this just to reassure that criticizing FV ecclesiology does not require us to move to a two-church position.
    I would argue that 1 Cor 12.13 is precisely the kind of passage that works well with a one church / two views thesis.
    It is indeed baptism — effectual baptism THROUGH FAITH — that unites us to Christ. “Invisible aspect” is clearly in view here in 1 Cor 12.13. And that unity with Christ then drives our visible fellowship in the Church, which is what 1 Cor 12 is clearly about. After all, we imagine the futility of trying to apply 1 Cor 12 – 13 solely to the invisible church, honoring only those who are genuinely saved or loving only those who are genuinely saved. Who could ever function like that? It’s self-evident that the visible church is in view.So Paul in 1 Cor 12 appears to be speaking to both visible and invisible aspects of the church all at once. BUT It’s also evident from the larger context in Corinthians that the visible church is not head-for-head saved. Thus we have the language of 1 Cor 5.11 — have nothing to do with a “so-called” brother

    https://greenbaggins.wordpress.com/2010/02/03/an-answer-to-te-rayburn-part-6/?iframe=true&preview=true/feed/

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  58. McMark: [What] about the need for one professing parent in order to water baptism but not for preaching?

    It’s a fair and interesting question. The parallel between baptism and preaching is helpful for explaining efficacy, but is not helpful in answering the basic question “Why baptize covenant children?” Your question illuminates that fact.

    The reason to proclaim the gospel to all is that God commands it. One could argue — indeed, certain hyper-Calvinists do argue — that there’s no need for missionary work, since God’s election will stand. In response, we say that we know that God wants the church to preach to all nations because Jesus said so.

    Likewise, the reason to baptize children is that God commands it. That’s less obvious than the Great Commission. However, if one is convinced (and I am) that Rom 4 and Gal 3 mean what they says — that all who are in Christ are children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise — it follows that we are brought into the covenant that God made with Abraham, yet suited for the new age. The sign of our inclusion is baptism; we apply it to our children because, mutatis mutandis, that’s the appropriate response to God’s command in Gen 17. One could rebut — and baptists of all flavors do rebut — that giving infants the sign of righteousness by faith is improper, since they do not yet possess that righteousness by faith. Yet this argument fails because it would indict the original command to circumcise. Circumcision was the sign of righteousness by faith, yet God saw fit to command that it be applied to children. So the baptist rebuttal must be in error at some point.

    I know already that you are uncomfortable with that line of reasoning, and I don’t think we have to relitigate the question. BUT, I would like for you to see the basic structure of the argument. We baptize because of the command, not because of a theory of efficacy. The theory of efficacy comes later to help clarify, as Peter does, that “baptism saves you — not the washing with water, but the pledge of a clean conscience.” (A pledge from whom to whom?). Likewise, we baptize because of the command, not because we can absolutely prove that there were infant baptisms in Acts.

    McMark: Earlier I had asked questions about which “one baptism” and I asked you to notice the biblical contrast between John’s water baptism and Christ’s baptism with the Spirit…

    Contrast duly noted. I attribute the rebaptizing in Acts (“We were baptized with John’s baptism” “now you need to be baptized in Jesus’ name”) to a transition between the former age and the latter age. In Acts, you really do have people who believe, yet have not yet received the Spirit (in full measure). The apostles in Acts 2 are but one example of many.

    But by the time Romans is written, Paul can confidently say “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

    So while we can see a contrast between John’s baptism for repentance and Christ’s baptism with the Spirit, it would be a mistake to think that John’s baptism is parallel to water baptism today. John’s baptism was not a Christian baptism. How could it be, since Jesus himself received it? Rather, John’s baptism belonged to an earlier age.

    McMark: and then asked you to pay attention to the fact that Romans 6 is not about the Spirit or water.

    I don’t see that as a fact. It is certainly true that in Romans 6, Paul says that in being baptized into Christ, we were baptized into His death, and that no mention of the Spirit is made in that sentence.

    But from that, it is not safe to infer that Romans 6 is “not about the Spirit.” In fact, Romans 6 is about the implication of being united to Christ in His death — which implication is that we are freed from slavery to sin. Now as Paul’s discussion develops in ch 7 – 8, we learn more fully what he has in mind: That being united to Christ in His death means being freed from the Law by dying to the Law (ch 7), and that being united to Christ in His death also means being set free by the Spirit of life: But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

    Romans 6 – 8, then, is about being set from from slavery to sin by being united with Christ in His death, which necessary entails receiving His Spirit.

    McMark: Why do the texts all say that Jesus baptizes with the Spirit? Should the texts be understood (even if they don’t say) that “John baptizes with water, but Jesus baptizes with both water and the Spirit, and (also) the Holy Spirit is the one who baptizes when Jesus baptizes? So when Jesus baptizes with the Spirit, it’s economically the Holy Spirit who baptizes with the Holy Spirit?

    Nothing that fancy. I would say that Jesus baptizes “in the Spirit.” The use of “by” was simply a (potentially sloppy) reference to Matt 3.11 et al.

    Here’s a key point, however: I would also say that, except for the situation in Acts seen above, it is not possible to receive Christ without receiving His Spirit. So if we want to make Paul in Romans 6 be saying baptism-as-imputation without the attendant baptism in the Spirit, then I dissent.

    McMark: Jeff, do you have a problem with the Lutheran idea of “drowning the old man in your baptism” again and again every day? Does the “old man” need to pass from death to life over and over again?

    I’m not sure I understand the Lutheran idea. It is unlikely that Lutherans who speak this way literally mean that we pass from death to life, from unjustified to justified, every day. If that is the intended meaning, then yes, I have a big problem with it, since justification is once-for-all (pace RCC lurkers).

    It is more likely, however, that Lutherans who speak this way are speaking of our experience of sanctification as grounded in our justification, that we daily experience the mortification of the flesh, and that we do so by being grounded in our justification.

    Does that answer your questions? I hope so. I’m done for the night.

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  59. Jeff—it is not safe to infer that Romans 6 is “not about the Spirit.” In fact, Romans 6 is about the implication of being united to Christ in His death — which implication is that we are freed from slavery to sin. Now as Paul’s discussion develops in ch 7 – 8, we learn more fully what he has in mind:

    mcmark—you flee to Romans 8 to explain what comes before in Romans 6, where you should understand Romans 6 in terms of Romans 5, and legal solidarity with the two Adams. You flee from “in Christ’s death” (Romans 6) to the word “union” and then from there to “Christ in you” and “the Spirit in you” (Romans 8). I am in no way denying Christ in you or Spirit in you, but I am denying that you should understand “in Christ” by conflating it with “Christ in you” or “Spirit in you”. The order in Romans matters, and those who assume that Romans 6 is no longer talking about “justification from the power of guilt” are not understanding Romans 6. In Romans 8, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. We are not placed into Christ by the Spirit or because of the Spirit. We are given the Spirit because of having been placed into Christ’s death and therefore being no longer under the condemnation of the law.

    This concern of mine with defining “baptism” in Romans 6 is no way about me saying that there is ever such a thing as a justified person who does not yet have the Holy Spirit, because there is no such thing as a justified person who does not believe the gospel. Those who do not believe the gospel yet are not justified yet, and should not be presumed to be justified.

    Colossians 2:12: “. . . having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him THROUGH FAITH

    Galatians 3:26-27: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, THROUGH FAITH. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ

    My concern is that we not go the way of Osiander. We should not take the word “in” and change it into the word “union” and then rush to Christ and the Spirit indwelling and not focus on the need for faith of the good news of legal solidarity with Christ’s death. Yes, the Lord’s Supper is about Christ’s death, but that does not mean that the “baptism” in Romans 6 is not about Christ’s death (once for all time).

    Romans 6 is about Christ the public representative of the elect first being under condemnation, being under sin and death. Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

    Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ’s elect, after their legal identification with Christ’s death, are no longer under law. The death of the justified elect is the SAME legal death that Christ died. In Romans 6, the “we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection” of those who are now justified is the result of being set apart with Christ (and His death) from being under law.

    Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin was by being under the imputed guilt of sin. Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with His death, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. Romans 6:7: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

    Yes, Jeff, I think that those who confound the “in Christ’ with “Christ in us” tend to give the final priority to the “Christ in us” so that they assume justification was in Romans chapter five and that Romans six must be about something “more real” if it’s to be answer the question “why not sin?”. But Romans 6 locates the cause of “sin not reigning” to “not being under the law” . Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.

    Romans 7: 4 you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, in order to belong to another—to Him who was raised from the dead—in order to bear fruit for God… But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, in order to serve in the new way of the Spirit

    I Peter 3—-God patiently waited in the days of Noah while an ark was being prepared. In the ark a few—that is, eight people—were saved through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (NOT the removal of the filth of the flesh)

    The water does not save anybody in I Peter 3, but the baptism does save in I Peter 3 , which means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water. And this means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water and the Spirit, because water does not save anybody. . And this means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not in the Spirit, but by context in reference to death (water judgment, ark, Noah)

    Abraham had two sons. God commanded Abraham to circumcise both sons. This does not mean that both sons were promised grace. And it certainly does not mean that all those in the Abrahamic covenant were (at least for a while) in the new covenant. Nor does it mean that there is no difference between being in the Abrahamic covenant and being in the new covenant.

    Nobody needs to be promised grace in ordered to be commanded to obey the law or to believe the gospel. It is not a waste of time to preach law and gospel to those outside of Christendom. A promise of grace is not necessary for the commands of God’s law to be declared. And a promise of presumptive election and inclusion in the new covenant is not necessary to promising salvation to all who believe the gospel.

    https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/a-critique-of-r-scott-clarks-covenant-theology/

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  60. @ Mark:

    As expected, we are both multiplying topics rapidly! Not necessarily a bad thing, but it leads to more questions than can be answered, more points than can be responded to, and more dialog than can be followed.

    Perhaps we can pause for a minute and agree to agree on several points.

    (1) We agree that one cannot have Christ without the Spirit. In particular, whatever “baptism” in Romans 6 means, it does not mean justification without attendant sanctification.

    (2) We agree that the act of baptism does not save.

    (3) We agree that Osianderism is to be rejected. More specifically, there are two points that Calvin [1] is careful to refute:

    (a) Osiander argued that justification cannot occur unless Christ unites us to, infuses us with His divine nature (similar to theosis [2] Calvin rebuts that justification is forensic, and that Osiander’s version of union robs Christ’s human nature of its significance by attributing justification to the divine.

    (b) Osiander argued that a purely forensic justification is impossible, that justification must mean “making just”, so that it requires a change of nature by definition (Hello, Cletus!). Calvin rebuts that Osiander fails to perceive the distinction between justification and sanctification, so that while the two are forever inseparable, they are nonetheless distinguishable.

    So you and I agree with Calvin over against Osiander on both points. In particular, we agree that the forensic benefit of justification precedes and is the logical ground for our sanctification.

    [1] Calvin, Inst 3.11
    [2] Theosis in EO theology is an ontological union of the believer with God which appears to be very similar or identical to Osiander’s notion of union. Hence Archimandrite George, Theosis, The True Purpose of Human Life:

    What is this purpose? Theosis – for man to be united with God, not in an external or a sentimental manner but ontologically, in a real way. Man is placed so high in Orthodox anthropology that if we compare that with the anthropologies of all the philosophies or social and psychological systems we will very easily find out how poor these are, how little they correspond to man’s great yearning for something very great and true in his life. Since man is “called to be a god” (i.e. was created to become a god), as long as he does not find himself on the path of Theosis he feels an emptiness within himself…

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  61. Jeff– We agree that the act of baptism does not save.

    mcmark—No, from the beginning I have argued that we cannot assume water in every act of baptism. But there is a baptism which saves.

    The water does not save anybody in I Peter 3, but the baptism does save in I Peter 3 , which means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water. And this means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water and the Spirit, because water does not save anybody. . And this means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not in the Spirit, but by context in reference to death (water judgment, ark, Noah)

    Jeff– We agree that Osianderism is to be rejected. More specifically, there are two points that Calvin [1] is careful to refute:

    (a) Osiander argued that justification cannot occur unless Christ unites us to, infuses us with His divine nature (similar to theosis [2] Calvin rebuts that justification is forensic, and that Osiander’s version of union robs Christ’s human nature of its significance by attributing justification to the divine.

    mcmark—–The “placed into his death” of Romans 6 cannot be confused with the “Christ in you” and “the Spirit in you” by use of the word “union”. It is one thing to say that every justified person is a regenerate person. We agree about that (although I do not use “sanctified” as a synonym for “regenerate”). But it is another thing to say that regeneration has legal or temporal priority to God’s placing the elect into Christ’s death.

    jeff–(b) Osiander argued that a purely forensic justification is impossible, that justification must mean “making just”, so that it requires a change of nature by definition (Hello, Cletus!). Calvin rebuts that Osiander fails to perceive the distinction between justification and sanctification, so that while the two are forever inseparable, they are nonetheless distinguishable.

    mcmark—being something of a “deconstructionist” myself, I tend to mistrust organic “difference” where definitions are missing. Most people who say that “justification is not sanctification” don’t define “sanctification” in the various ways the Bible defines that word. Most of them think they have defined something by saying “and sanctification is not justification”.

    But by all means, Jeff, I agree that we profit from reading Calvin against Osiander. Even though I agree with Bruce McCormack that Calvin is not consistently opposing Osiander, for purposes of our discussion I would focus on Calvin’s comments about the forensic AGENCY OF THE FATHER. Instead of the Holy Spirit giving us Christ, it is God the Father who places the elect into Christ’s death.

    Calvin—-Osiander holds in regard to the mode of receiving Christ,that by the ministry of the external word the internal word is received; that he may thus lead us away from the priesthood of Christ, and his office of Mediator, to his eternal divinity…..It would be incongruous to say that that which existed naturally from eternity was made ours. But granting that God was made unto us righteousness, what are we to make of Paul’s interposed statement, that he was so made by God? This certainly is peculiar to the office of MEDIATOR, for although Christ contains in himself the divine nature, yet Christ receives his own proper title, that Christ may be distinguished from the Father and the Spirit. Jehovah, when made of the seed of David, was indeed to be the righteousness of believers, but in what sense Isaiah declares, “By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,” (Isaiah 53: 11.) Let us observe that it is the Father who speaks.

    Jeff, I would commend to you in particular the Edward Boehl’s The Reformed Doctrine of Justification . That book continues the fight against Osiander. Even though it has not been that influential, Boehl’s book has been a great incentive for me to continue to ask for definitions whenever theologians use the word “union” in slippery ways.

    p 110, “What’s At Stake in Current Debates Over Justification?”,

    Bruce McCormac—“Nowadays, we are suffering from ‘creeping perichoresis’, that is, the overly expansive use of terms which have their homes in purely spiritual relations between humans who do NOT participate in a common ‘substance’ and who therefore remain distinct individuals. This surely has to be the relation of the human believer to the human Jesus as well.

    McCormack—“The early church thought of an ontological union of a ‘person” in whom being is mixed with non-being (that’s us) with a ‘person’ in whom being is pure from non-being (Jesus). Where that occurs, the life communicated from the vine to the branches flows organically…But the difference between the relation between a vine and a branch and the relation between Christ and the believer is that the first relation is impersonal and the second is personal. The flow of nutrients from the vine to the branches take place automatically. But in the case of Christ and the individual believer,the ‘bearing of fruit’ takes place on the foundation of justification.”

    McCormack—That Paul in Romans 11 would preface his use of the horticultural image with the affirmation that the adoption belonged to the Israelites before the Gentiles suggests that the image of ‘ingrafting’ is used as a synonym for adoption. The horticultural image is subordinated to the legal.”

    In sum, Jeff, I fear that more people still read Romans 6 the way Gaffin does than those who read it in context of Romans 5. And I would agree that it’s not our views of water or baptism which determine this reading. But I would also argue that if we were to read Romans 6 (and Colossians 2 and Galatains 3) less traditionally, we would likely have more to think about when it comes to water and baptism.

    Gaffin: “Typically in the Reformation tradition the hope of salvation is expressed in terms of Christ’s righteousness, especially as imputed to the believer…however, I have to wonder if ‘Christ in you’ is not more prominent as an expression of evangelical hope…”

    Gaffin—”Despite the exegesis of some Reformed commentators, this death to sin is almost certainly not to the guilt that sin incurs and justification. In view, rather, is a definitive deliverance from sin’s over-mastering power to being enslaved instead to God and righteousness. That Spirit-worked (7:6) deliverance, NOT JUSTIFICATION, grounds and provides the dynamic for the believer’s beginning to “walk in newness of life” (6:4), their being enslaved in their conduct to God and righteousness….This is the crucial soteriological truth that in the inception of the application of redemption, at the moment sinners are united to Christ by faith, they are delivered from sin’s enslaving power, from bondage to sin as master

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=140

    David Garner—“ The vital and intimate union between the sons and the Son remains unyieldingly robust….In Christ the forensic and the transformative are ONE. Justification, sanctification, and glorification are ONE. Declaratory, transformatory and consummatory COALESCE in this resurrection.”

    Even Moo has now gone over to Gaffin’s “future stage of justification” side.

    Moo, “Justification in Galatians”, p 172, (essay in the Carson f , Understanding the Times)—”Nor is there any need to set Paul’s “juridicial” and “participationist” categories in opposition to one another (see Gaffin, By Faith Not By Sight). The problem of positing a union with Christ that precedes the erasure of our legal condemnation before God CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and second our actual justification=stemming from our union with Christ.”

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  62. McMark: The water does not save anybody in I Peter 3, but the baptism does save in I Peter 3 , which means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water. And this means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water and the Spirit, because water does not save anybody. .

    I can’t agree to that, because it is illogical. There is a second possibility, which is that baptism in I Peter 3 consists of more than one part: the outward sign of water, which does not save, and the pledge of a clean conscience, which does.

    This would be analogous to saying “Your salvation makes you righteous in God’s eyes; not your sanctification, but your justification.” Here, it would be obviously fallacious to argue “This means that salvation is not sanctification.”

    The fallacy consists in considering only two of three possible options (baptism is water; baptism is imputation; baptism is sign + promise), rejecting one, and then arguing therefore the second.

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  63. Mark: I would commend to you in particular the Edward Boehl’s The Reformed Doctrine of Justification

    I might be able to read that this summer. I’ll let you know if I do.

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  64. The intent of (2) is not to be controversial. Perhaps it can be rephrased:

    (2) The act of baptism with water performed by a person does not save.

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  65. Jeff—-There is a second possibility, which is that baptism in I Peter 3 consists of more than one part: the outward sign of water, which does not save, and the pledge of a clean conscience, which does.

    mcmark—It seems to me that you are saying, that because baptism is sometimes with water, that water must always be part of any “baptism”. While you (perhaps) agree that “being baptized into the death” involves God’s legal imputation of Christ’s death to the elect, you think it unlikely that this baptism will not always be also with water and with the Spirit, even though the text does not say so.

    Jeff–The fallacy consists in considering only two of three possible options (baptism is water; baptism is imputation; baptism is sign + promise), rejecting one, and then arguing therefore the second.

    mcmark–Why not all three “options” in every case? For example, John’s baptism was with water, but why limit it to water, since we know other places in Scripture where baptism is with Spirit. Why? Because the texts contrast water baptism with Spirit baptism. But your reasoning on any other baptism in the New Testament (besides John’s) seems to assume there must be also water.

    Jeff— the outward sign of water, which does not save, and the pledge of a clean conscience, which does.

    mcmark –I think you need to notice not only how many factors you can add into (every?) NT baptism, but notice the cases of baptism in the NT where there is antithesis. NOT with hands. NOT the removal of the filth of the flesh. . Yes, you notice the “through faith”. You even say that the the pledge of a clean conscience is what saves. And then you use the visible/ invisible distinction not only to say that the efficacy of baptism results in the inward pledge at a different time than visible water with hands but also to say that the grace promised with visible water in many cases is not effectual grace which ever results in clean conscience or justification before God.

    I Peter 3: 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (NOT the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a clean conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    Galatians 3:26-27: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, THROUGH FAITH. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ

    Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision MADE WITHOUT HANDS , by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him THROUGH FAITH in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses….

    Actions with water involve the use of hands. The circumcision of Christ is not the regeneration of Christ nor is it Christ’s regeneration. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is not “the circumcision of Christ”. To be circumcised with the circumcision of Christ is to be placed into the bloody death of Christ. The context of Colossians 2 is not the new birth but the forgiveness of sins.

    Colossians 2 is about God legally identifying the elect one by one with Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, NOT some other death done IN us. Even though God used human hands in the state murder of Christ, imputation by God into Christ’s death is made without hands. Even though these sinners come to faith in Christ’s death, it is not even their faith that places them into Christ’s death. God is the one who imputed the sins of the elect to Christ and God is the one who now imputes the death of Christ to these elect. This imputation is something you can’t see. But that legal “having been buried with him in baptism” is the basis for God’s forgiveness of the sins of the elect.

    Those who profane the death of Christ tell us that the glory of Christ involves dying for many sinners who will never be glorified. They dishonor Christ by telling us that Christ died also for those who are not and who will never be children of God. When we baptize with water, we baptize with hands and we cannot know for sure if the subjects know the Lord. But this does not prove that the new covenant is conditional. Baptism with hands and water is NOT about putting folks into a conditional covenant.

    Circumcision in Colossians 2 is not a reference to “Christ indwelling you” or “the Spirit in you” or to what is sometimes called “vital union”. We should not assume that Colossians 2 circumcision is the same circumcision found Romans 2, Colossians 2 is about the justified elect being legally identified with Christ’s death, and thus cut off from Adam’s body, from Adam’s guilt. It begs the question to say that the word “circumcision” always involves both inward and outward factors.

    All of Abraham’s children were commanded to be circumcised. All who believe the gospel are Abraham’s children. It does not follow that all children of those who believe the gospel are to be circumcised.

    Water is done by hands, so water cannot be the anti- type of the circumcision done with hands. Water does not replace physical circumcision in Colossians 2. That’s an assumption read into the text. Many commentaries (Bruce, Dunn, Garland, O’Brien) understand the “circumcision of Christ” as metaphor for Christ’s death by crucifixion. Two different circumcisions doesn’t work in the context of Colossians 2. It’s the same circumcision, both for Christ and for the elect, Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, not some other death done in us. It’s not Christ died and then we died. It’s we died when Christ died (by means of imputation) . Two different deaths don’t work in Romans 6. It’s one death. Being legally placed IN Christ’s death results in regeneration, faith, and justification. https://contrast2.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/mixing-types-and-antitypes-in-the-blender/

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  66. McMark: It seems to me that you are saying, that because baptism is sometimes with water, that water must always be part of any “baptism”.

    No, I’m not saying that. Rather, I am saying that your argument

    McM: The water does not save anybody in I Peter 3, but the baptism does save in I Peter 3 , which means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water. And this means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water and the Spirit, because water does not save anybody. .

    lacks persuasive force because it is fallacious. That’s all. The intent is to pass the argument back over to you and let you refine it.

    To be precise: You have argued in this form

    (1) “A saves you, not B but C” (given from 1 Pet)
    (2) Therefore A is not B but C

    This is a fallacy because it is also possible that A consists of both B and C, and that Peter is saying that the C component is what saves.

    I’m not saying at this time that Peter is definitely saying this (though I believe that to be so). I am also not saying that all instances of “baptism” in the NT must definitely refer to both water and promise; for example, the contrast between John’s baptism with water and Jesus’ baptism with Spirit and fire is clearly contrasting external rite with internal change.

    All that I am saying is that you need to modify the argument quoted above, because it is incorrect. I’m proceeding in little bits and pieces.

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  67. McM—It seems to me that you are saying, that because baptism is sometimes with water, that water must always be part of any “baptism”.
    McM: The water does not save anybody in I Peter 3, but the baptism does save in I Peter 3 , which means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water. And this means that baptism in I Peter 3 is not water and the Spirit, because water does not save anybody. .

    Jeff—I am saying that your argument lacks persuasive force because it is fallacious….You have argued in this form(1) “A saves you, not B but C” (2) Therefore A is not B but C This is a fallacy because it is also possible that A consists of both B and C, and that Peter is saying that the C component is what saves. I’m not saying at this time that Peter is definitely saying this (though I believe that to be so). I am also not saying that all instances of “baptism” in the NT must definitely refer to both water and promise;

    mark–Thanks, Jeff, for persevering with the process. I think I understand your argument—I have not proven that “baptism” is inclusive of non-saving factors. So “it is also POSSIBLE” that water is included even in the baptisms in question (I Peter 3, Galatians 3, Colossians 2, Romans 6)

    A–baptism

    B–water

    C–God placing an individual sinner legally in Christ’s death (the circumcision of Christ)

    (1) “A saves you, not B but C” (given from 1 Pet)

    (2) Therefore A is not B but C

    thus your argument—even if it’s agreed that the legal placing is what saves, that doe not prove that “baptism” is not also water. Water is a possibility, even if the text does not say “water”

    mark– but notice the cases of “baptism” in the NT where there is antithesis. NOT with hands. NOT the removal of the filth of the flesh.

    your argument-even if it’s agreed that God’s legal placing is what save, that does not prove that ‘baptism” is not also with hands? Even if legal placing (into Christ’s death, not into the Holy Spirit) is what saves, this does not prove that “baptism” is not also the removal of the filth of the flesh?

    am i tracking with your argument? You seem to be saying that there’s an “outward” factor to these “baptisms” which does not save. so what’s your reading of “not with hands”?

    https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/clinging-to-externals-weak-faith-and-the-power-of-the-sacraments/

    Philip Cary—-“To require faith that you are predestined for salvation before admission to the sacrament is… to make faith into a work. Catholics don’t worry about whether they have saving faith but whether they are in a state of mortal sin—so they go to confession. Reformed Protestants don’t worry about mortal sin but about whether they have true saving faith—so they seek conversion. Luther points here to the words “for YOU,” and insists that they include ME When faith takes hold of the Gospel of Christ, it especially takes hold of these words, “for YOU,” and rejoices that Christ did indeed died for ME.”

    mark—If “we” are in Christ and Christ is in “us” means that “we” are “united to Christ”, does “we” in the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit in “us” mean that “we” are united to the Holy Spirit? If “in Christ” is not the same reality as “Christ in us”, is life “in the Holy Spirit” the same reality as “Holy Spirit in us”?

    Water is done by hands, so water cannot be the anti- type of the circumcision done with hands. Water does not replace physical circumcision in Colossians 2.

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  68. @Jeff, do you have thoughts on, to what extent, Christian baptism should be understood in the context of the Jewish Mikveh practice of ritual cleansing/washing?

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  69. McMark: Water is done by hands, so water cannot be the anti- type of the circumcision done with[out?] hands. Water does not replace physical circumcision in Colossians 2. That’s an assumption read into the text. Many commentaries (Bruce, Dunn, Garland, O’Brien) understand the “circumcision of Christ” as metaphor for Christ’s death by crucifixion.

    I understand you to be saying that the circumcision in view here is purely a non-outward affair, and that structural parallelism requires that we understand baptism in the same way. It’s a fair point, and I agree.

    For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh

    Here, Paul places emphasis that the Colossians were circumcised by Christ while yet uncircumcised in flesh. I read this to refer to exactly the same thing as Romans 2:

    A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.

    Would you agree that these two passages should be understood together?

    Would you further agree that in Col 2, that the “being circumcised” and “being baptized” are two different ways of expressing the one spiritual action? That is, that Paul appears to be using them as synonyms.

    So now the question is raised: Given that there is a circumcision not done by hands, and likewise a baptism not done by hands, both of which we agree (at minimum) refers to uniting the believer with Christ’s death (to use the language of Rom 6) — then why does Paul use the words “baptism” and “circumcision” to describe that uniting? He certainly has the language to describe the uniting, language he employs in Rom 4 – 5: Being reckoned as righteous, being justified, being forgiven of sins.

    Yet he deliberately chooses to use the words “baptism” and “circumcision” here in Col 2 to describe that uniting. What is he saying?

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  70. @ Petros: I’m sketchy on that. My understanding is that 1st century Mikveh is strong evidence that some, most, or all baptisms were performed by immersion. Since I have no objection to baptism by immersion, that doesn’t really affect my view.

    However, I would push back against the idea that the Mikvehs prove that all baptisms were performed by immersion, since the Didache (a better source for 1st cent Christian practice) clearly indicates that some were not.

    What is your view?

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  71. jeff— Paul places emphasis that the Colossians were circumcised by Christ while yet uncircumcised in flesh. I read this to refer to exactly the same thing as Romans 2:A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.Would you agree that these two passages should be understood together?

    mark–I already anticipated this. I will copy my above comment below this. Colossians 2 baptism is to be understood in terms of the baptism of Romans 6, not in terms of Romans 2, because Romans 2 circumcision ( not merely only outward but also outward) ) is the new birth in the heart by the Holy Spirit but “the circumcision of Christ” in Colossians 2 is not the new birth but Christ’s death as the basis for forgiveness. Christ did not die again and again, Christ died once for all time, one and done. And unlike the Lutheran rhetoric, justified sinners have been imputed one time only with Christ’s death, and are NOT again and again being “placed into the death”.

    markmcculley says:
    June 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm
    Colossians 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision MADE WITHOUT HANDS , by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him THROUGH FAITH in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.

    “Actions with water involve the use of hands. The circumcision of Christ is not the regeneration of Christ nor is it Christ’s regeneration. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit is not “the circumcision of Christ”. To be circumcised with the circumcision of Christ is to be placed into the bloody death of Christ. The context of Colossians 2 is not the new birth but the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 2 is about God legally identifying the elect one by one with Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, NOT some other death done IN us. Even though God used human hands in the physical death of Christ, imputation by God into Christ’s death is made without hands. Even though these sinners come to faith in Christ’s death, it is not even their faith that places them into Christ’s death. God is the one who imputed the sins of the elect to Christ and God is the one who now imputes the death of Christ to these elect. This imputation is something you can’t see. But that legal “having been buried with him in baptism” is the basis for God’s forgiveness of the sins of elect sinners. ”

    So my comment answered my opinion/ inference. Sure, every text in the Bible needs to be considered with every other texts, and certainly every text with the word “circumcision” needs to be considered with other texts with the word “circumcision’, and every text with the word “baptism” . But this is what I was doing with the comment above. Not only considering the contrast between baptism with water and baptism with Spirit, not only considering the contrast between physical circumcision and spiritual circumcision, but also considering the contrast between “circumcision” as the death of Christ in the flesh and “circumcision” as the new birth.

    Jeff—Would you further agree that in Col 2, that the “being circumcised” and “being baptized” are two different ways of expressing the one spiritual action? That is, that Paul appears to be using them as synonyms.

    mark: No, I don’t agree that the circumcision of Romans 2 is the same as the circumcision of Colossians 2. Thus my quoted comment. So, Jeff, if you really want to go “bit by bit”, you need to stop and notice that I have answered you question, and then notice that we don’t agree on the answer. And at that point, you can stop and make an argument for your answer. But you can’t just continue merrily on your way to the “possibility” that water is the “outward non-saving part” of the baptism that saves. You yourselves need to answer some questions.

    Colossians 2 and Romans 6 are parallels. Why does Paul use the “baptized into the DEATH” language in Romans 6 instead of talking about “inward circumcision of the heart” as Paul did in Romans 2? You can say, well Paul in Romans 6 didn’t use the word “imputed”. But Romans 6:7 does say “justified from sin” even though the people who want to read inward regeneration by the Holy Spirit into Romans 6 are so convinced that Paul has “moved on” from justification that they insist that 6:7 should read “freed from sin” and that it JUST HAS TO BE MORE than justification, because THEY JUST KNOW THAT THE POWER OF SIN IS MORE THAN GUILT, and they just know that the answer to “why not sin” CAN’T MERELY BE “NOT UNDER THE LAW”.

    I am not saying, Jeff, that you are in this “just know” category on Romans 6: 7. I really don’t know what you think about the exegesis of 6:7. But as long as you are saying “possibly” Romans 6 is about being in the Spirit and not about Christ’s death ALONE, as long as you are saying “possibly” Romans 6 is also “possibly” about water with hands so that “baptism” in Romans 6 is possibly not about Christ’s death ALONE but also possibly about the new birth which gives faith, then you can say well “possibly” since infants were physically circumcised then “possibly” physical circumcision is the outward part of “saving circumcision” which means that “possibly” water baptism done with hands is the anti-type which fulfills physical circumcision even though the water is not the part that saves…

    But the Colossians text does not say any of that which you think “possible”, and none of it is a logical inference from what Colossians 2 does say. It’s the same question I asked about Romans 6. Why doesn’t Paul use the inward/outward language of Romans 2 in Colossians 2

    markmcculley says:
    June 23, 2016 at 11:10 pm
    Water does not replace physical circumcision in Colossians 2. That’s an assumption read into the text. Many commentaries (Bruce, Dunn, Garland, O’Brien) understand the “circumcision of Christ” as metaphor for Christ’s death by crucifixion. Two different circumcisions doesn’t work in the context of Colossians 2. It’s the same circumcision, both for Christ and for the elect, Christ’s one death. Our death is His death, not some other death done in us. It’s not Christ died and then we died. It’s we died when Christ died (by means of imputation) . Two different deaths don’t work in Romans 6. It’s one death. Being legally placed IN Christ’s death results in regeneration, faith, and justification.

    Stephen Walton—Romans 6:7 reads “For one who has died has been set free from sin”. The verb translated “set free” is the perfect passive of dikaioo, which everywhere else in Paul is translated “justify”. Almost all the English translations that I have been able to check translate it as some variation upon “set free” in Romans 6:7 This is because Protestant commentators have traditionally seen a shift from justification in chapters 1-5 to “sanctification” in chapters 6-8; from release from the penalty of sin in 1-5 to release from the power of sin in 6-8.

    I argue here that this translation is misleading, that the Vulgate and Tyndale were on the right lines in translating dedikaiotai as “iustificatus est” and “is justified”, and that the best translation is “has been justified from sin”. Although somewhat unusual amongst Protestant commentators, this interpretation is powerfully argued by Robert Haldane in his 1839 commentary, and by John Murray and John Stott. It has recently been defended by Peter Jensen….

    In his Romans commentary, Thomas Schreiner argued that dedikaiotai “is not merely forensic in v7… The use of the verb in this context, however, suggests that righteousness is more than forensic for Paul”. Instead he believed that here the word also referred to sanctification. However, in Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, Schreiner changes his mind and argues for the interpretation given here.

    I believe that the evidence against the traditional view (found in Calvin for instance) and for the Haldane-Murray-Stott-Jensen reading is overwhelming. For a start, in every other case where Paul uses the verb dikaioo, it is normally translated “justify”, in the sense of “declare righteous”. This creates an extremely strong presumption in favour of translating it to mean “declare righteous” in Romans 6:7. We would need very strong lexical and contextual evidence to translate it otherwise, and such evidence is not forthcoming.

    Secondly, a few verses later when Paul wishes to speak of having been set free from slavery to sin, he uses the verb eleutheroo in v18…. Third, the lexical evidence is against “set free” as part of the semantic range of dikaioo. Liddell & Scott do not list it as a possible meaning, and Louw-Nida lists Romans 6:7 as the only place in the New Testament where it has this meaning[39]. BAGD (1957) lists Acts 13:38 as a possible example where dikaioo is followed by apo plus a genitive noun, as in Romans 6:7. However, in this case a forensic reading seems to make equally good sense, if not better.

    Therefore, to translate dedikaiotai in Romans 6:7 as “having been set free” is completely arbitrary. The only possible reason for it would be if “having been justified” made no sense in context, and “having been set free” made very good sense. .. However, the forensic interpretation makes very good sense in context, and enables us to see how being freed from the penalty of sin also releases us from the power of sin.

    If the traditional interpretation of v7 is correct, it simply restates v6 in rather confusing and unclear terms However, if the interpretation of v7 that I have offered is correct, it gives the grounds of Paul’s statement in v6: the believer who has been crucified with Christ has been freed from the power of sin because a person who has died (with Christ) has been justified from sin – that is, freed from its penalty.

    This reading is confirmed by 2 Corinthians 5:14-21. Here Paul speaks in substitutionary terms of Christ dying on behalf of the all (huper panton, v15, and of reconciliation between God and believers being effected by the “great exchange” that took place on the cross, resulting in righteousness for Christians (v 21). But first v14 he writes that “one has died for all, therefore all have died”. The result of Christ’s act of dying as a substitute for all believers is that the beneficiaries of his death are considered to have died. Here dying with Christ is surely seen in forensic terms… The assurance of salvation that comes from Christ’s death and the free gift of justification, far from encouraging complacency, encourages the believer to live a life that is not selfish, but centered on someone else: God. On this basis, Paul can exhort his readers to live as people who have been freed from sin (Romans 6:18-23).

    http://www.theologian.org.uk/doctrine/penalsubsocialtrans.html

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  72. McMark: I will copy my above comment below this. Colossians 2 baptism is to be understood in terms of the baptism of Romans 6, not in terms of Romans 2, because Romans 2 circumcision ( not merely only outward but also outward) ) is the new birth in the heart by the Holy Spirit but “the circumcision of Christ” in Colossians 2 is not the new birth but Christ’s death as the basis for forgiveness.

    (btw — I hope that “McMark” is understood as affectionate, not flippant or demeaning. I can call you whatever you want to be called.)

    You’re correct that I missed this point in your earlier comments. I’m open to considering this case, but I am not yet persuaded. It seems to me that you are multiplying meanings of circumcision in the same way that you multiplied meanings of baptism: There’s circumcision-as-outward-sign. Then there’s circumcision–as-imputation. Then there’s circumcision-as-new-birth. In your view, all of these are distinct actions, and it is theologically important not to confuse one with the other. I believe I understand the systematic impulse that drives these distinctions — that is, the desire to protect justification against any dependence upon sanctification. I agree with that goal.

    However, I would feel much more on solid ground if there were textual, Biblical reasons that directly backed up your distinction.

    Here are some counterpoints:

    (1) As it stands, I read Romans 2 as the prelude to Rom 3 – 4 and the discussion of circumcision therein. So it seems natural to me to understand Rom 2.29 in forensic terms (since the circumcision there marks one in God’s eyes as a Jew) and in terms of justification as developed in 3-4. It would seem to me to be substantially out of place to put a purely sanctifying work of the Spirit in the middle of a discussion of justification. In other words, the exegesis seems to stand in opposition to your analysis.

    (2) I don’t find any Scriptural evidence of a three-fold distinction between types of circumcision and again between types of baptism. There is certainly in Scripture a distinction between the circumcision done by hands and the circumcision done by the Spirit. But beyond that, I am pressed to think of a passage that teaches a distinction between circumcision-as-imputation from circumcision-as-new-birth.

    In circumstances like that where direct Scriptural teaching of “X” is not to be found, one must always be open to the possibility that the logic train that led us to conclude “X” (which in this case is distinctions between circumcisions and distinctions between baptisms) might be in some way overstated or otherwise incorrect.

    I’m just raising that possibility.

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  73. JRC: Would you further agree that in Col 2, that the “being circumcised” and “being baptized” are two different ways of expressing the one spiritual action? That is, that Paul appears to be using them as synonyms.

    mark: No, I don’t agree that the circumcision of Romans 2 is the same as the circumcision of Colossians 2…

    I was asking a different question. It possibly got confusing because of the way we are both trying to coordinate different passages.

    Rephrased, my question was, “Would you agree that the being circumcised in Col 2 and the being baptized in Col 2 are being used synonymously in Col 2?”

    In other words, Rom 2 is not in view in this question.

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  74. A question that may have gotten lost in the scrum:

    JRC: Given that there is a circumcision not done by hands, and likewise a baptism not done by hands, both of which we agree (at minimum) refers to uniting the believer with Christ’s death (to use the language of Rom 6) — then why does Paul use the words “baptism” and “circumcision” to describe that uniting? He certainly has the language to describe the uniting, language he employs in Rom 4 – 5: Being reckoned as righteous, being justified, being forgiven of sins.

    Yet he deliberately chooses to use the words “baptism” and “circumcision” here in Col 2 to describe that uniting. What is he saying?

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  75. @Jeff, wrt to the Mikveh connection. I think seeing Christian baptism in the context of Mikveh lends support to immersion, to be sure, but more generally to a credo view of the rite. Eg, when a convert to Judaism went through Mikveh, part of the significance was the public renunciation of false gods and his prior godless life, something only a real believer would do. And, as the mikvaot washings were required prior to entering the Temple, it was emblematic of the need to be “clean” prior to entering into worship with God. Again, something that would only apply to a true believer. All in, it’s just that I see Christian baptism with a stronger connection to Mikveh, than seeing a tie-in of baptism to paedo circumcision.

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  76. “mcmark” is fine–thanks for talking to me, jeff, not ignoring me

    Jeff-it seems natural to me to understand Rom 2.29 in forensic terms (since the circumcision there marks one in God’s eyes as a Jew).

    mcmark—I would be fine with that theologically, indeed would prefer it, but I have not read any exegesis going that direction—have you, Jeff? I certainly like the idea of two kinds of circumcision, forensic circumcision as opposed to some other category. And I tend to make the choice for forensic every time I think the context justifies it . For example, even Ephesians 2: 5 (made us alive with the Messiah, I read as passing from death in guilt to “not come into judgment” — forensic “eternal life”–, and “raised and seated” I read as not regeneration but position –both legal and holy–both justification and sanctification. But on Romans 2:29 ( a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart—by the Spirit), I can’t make that move, not only because of the inward vs outward, but because of the “by the Spirit”. But I certainly would be interested in hearing your argument—Jew as a forensic “set apart” category?

    Jeff: There is certainly in Scripture a distinction between the circumcision done by hands and the circumcision done by the Spirit. But beyond that, I am pressed to think of a passage that teaches a distinction between circumcision-as-imputation from circumcision-as-new-birth.

    mcmark–I am perplexed that you get some of what I am saying but not what seems to be more obvious. Not that you disagree, but that you don’t get my comments above about “Christ’s circumcision” being not by the Spirit but His death. Thus the identification or “union” of elect sinners is not by the Spirit, because “the circumcision of Christ” is His death and God’s “baptism” places us into Christ’s death. That was the Osiander discussion above, the likeness to the judgment by death in the ark etc—-I don’t have the time or patience now to rehearse all that, but if you agree to two kinds of circumcision, one forensic—-you need to stop assuming that baptism by the Spirit of with the Spirit is on view in Colossians 2. What perplexes me is that you suggest above that it’s not on view in Romans 2:29 but seem to assume it in Colossians 2.

    Jeff—one must always be open to the possibility that the logic train that led us to conclude “X” (which in this case is distinctions between circumcisions and distinctions between baptisms) might be in some way overstated or otherwise incorrect. I’m just raising that possibility.

    Mcmark— Speaking of overstated possibilities from silence, let’s try these:

    Galatians does NOT say

    circumcision was both law and gospel

    and has been fulfilled both as law and promise

    as gospel , it has not been fulfilled by the righteousness of Christ’s death but rather by the regeneration and mysterious indwelling of the Holy Spirit

    as law, circumcision with hands has been fulfilled by water baptism with hands

    so don’t do circumcision with hands anymore, do water with hands

    water is a conditional promise to every infant with a professing parent that they will receive regeneration , if only they believe

    Jeff, as you know, I reject all these “possibilities” and keep asking questions:

    Is baby water law or gospel? or is the water like the cat we don’t know if it’s dead yet?

    Mike Horton— God promises his saving grace in Christ to each person in baptism, whether they embrace this promise or not. Yet they must embrace the promise in faith. Otherwise, they fall under the covenant curse without Christ as their mediator….”

    Is the gospel conditioned on the faith of the sinner? Does the gospel sometimes curse a sinner? Is the gospel which curses a sinner still grace? Do we have to “drown the old Adam in our baptism” again and again every day?

    Is it a waste of time to teach the law to those who are not considered Christians? is it a waste of time to teach the gospel to those not (externally) in “the covenant of grace” Does infant “baptism” (the non-water saving part of it anyway) need efficacy AGAIN AND AGAIN so that those “in the covenant” are “more and more united” to Christ and so that they are not ultimately “cursed by the new covenant?

    In “the covenant of grace” God takes at least one believer and their infant into His care, promising them His favor. Abraham believed the gospel BUT Abraham circumcised his infant sons (was this law or gospel?) according to God’s command (again, law or promise?). Both of Abraham’s sons were heirs of “the covenant of grace”, but was the promise to Ishmael gospel? Did the sanction of the gospel become the promise of the law?

    Romans 9:7 “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his children.”

    Are these warnings law or gospel? Are they warnings to Ishmael that he many not have ever “really internally” been part of the covenant but only “externally” related to “the covenant”? Is it a possibility that many who enter the covenant are not promised they will be kept in the covenant?

    Although the signs have changed, we are still in the same “the covenant” and therefore it’s possible that the law or gospel questions have not changed.

    As law, Jeff, circumcision with hands has been fulfilled by water baptism with hands?

    So Jeff, don’t do circumcision with hands anymore, do water with hands?

    Like law, water baptism is done by human hands is not our decision but God’s command and claim on Ishmael and Esau. So you know that, even if you don’t know yet if it’s law or gospel? So there’s no need now to find out if God’s oath is about law or gospel? And as long as still live, we can’t ever find out if we are Isaac or Ishmael? Both were heirs of the covenant. Both received the promises of the conditional covenant.

    In God’s act of water baptism, as in the preaching of the universal “offer”, God pledges His commitment to us who are “in the covenant”. But is that commitment law or gospel? Is that commitment the same for each and every person “in the covenant”? Even if it turns out that little Esau is never justified, it certainly feels good to think that Esau has been promised the same grace as Abraham has. Of course, if that means of grace turns out to be ineffectual in the face of human failure to meet conditions, then some of us begin to wonder about the nature of the grace promised.

    Do we regard our babies as born under the law or do we assure them they are already not under the law? Do we cling to God’s promise to work by His Spirit to keep Esau in “the covenant” in which he began, or do we have to fall back on some desperate notion of forensic imputation (with resulting conversion) in which every person begins life under condemnation and outside the new covenant? Even though we want to maintain God’s freedom in election (perhaps God will maintain that freedom for Himself), and we do not deny election. we see no need to mention election when we could be emphasizing “the conditional covenant” instead.

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  77. @ Petros:

    It’s an interesting angle, and I see the appeal: mikveh was a washing representing cleansing; baptism is a washing representing cleansing; so there’s a good likelihood that the former is the prototype for the latter.

    Not being an expert, I can’t comment one way or the other. But here are the research questions I would ask myself if pursuing this topic.

    (1) Are there any clear instances in Qumran or other 1st cent. texts that use the Greek baptismos to translate mikveh? If so, that greatly strengthens your case; if not, well, the case isn’t lost, but it has much less force.

    (2) Likewise, are there early Christian texts that look back to mikveh as the forerunner of baptism?

    (3) The Jewish mikveh appears to be repeated on every instance of uncleanness. Christian baptism was not. What implications does this have? That is, IF mikveh was the forerunner of baptism, then how much changed when mikveh was co-opted by Christians?

    (4) Did Jewish converts who received mikveh also get circumcised?

    (5) Was mikveh in the OT law, or was it a tradition added on to the law? As you know, Jesus had a tendency to reject traditions of men that were added on to the law.

    Finally, beware of pseudo-evidence, empirically true facts that seem to prove a case but are actually irrelevant. For example, if I claim that “standing on your head cures a cold”, and as evidence, I cite the fact that every single time I have a cold, I have stood on my head, and the cold has gone away — that’s pseudo-evidence.

    To test whether standing on the head makes a difference, I must actually compare colds with AND without standing on the head, and see whether the duration of the colds is statistically shorter with standing on the head.

    Likewise here: You observe that Jewish converts were “mikveh”ed. You say, probably correctly, that when a convert to Judaism went through Mikveh, part of the significance was the public renunciation of false gods and his prior godless life, something only a real believer would do.

    So, if we grant for sake of argument that mikveh was the forerunner of baptism, then it would follow that a Christian convert would also publicly renounce prior godless life and give a credible testimony of belief.

    All very fine — but pseudo-evidence, for one simple reason: Credos and Paedos both ask an adult Christian convert to publicly renounce prior godless life and give a credible testimony of belief, and baptize the previously unbaptized convert. Any number of adult baptisms are no evidence at all that every baptism was an adult baptism.

    The evidence comes in considering what happens to the kids. Were the children mikvehed or not? Circumcised or not? In the Christian context, baptized or not?

    Those are my thoughts.

    Grace and peace,
    JRC

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  78. @ McMark:

    I can’t keep up, my friend. 24 different questions in this post, and I’m already backlogged from previous posts. How should we proceed?

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  79. @Jeff, you’re outstanding at breaking things down into the relevant component parts/issues. Thanks for your thoughts. I’ll certainly keep your questions in mind in my studies on the topic, which have been only cursory, so far.

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  80. D A Carson assumes water in “baptism” —Baptism in the NT can stand by metonymy for conversion. “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Gal 3:27), Paul writes, and this does not speak to the efficacy of baptism but to its closest association with conversion. Ask someone in the first century when they were converted, and they might well reply, “Oh, I was baptized in Corinth in 57” (though that would not have been their calendar).

    Carson—Paul can of course distinguish preaching the gospel from baptism (1 Cor 1:17), which shows that in Paul’s thought baptism does not have the same logical status as, say, faith. (It is impossible to imagine Paul saying that he did not come to urge faith but to preach the gospel.)

    Carson—-Nevertheless, such biblical texts show that baptism and conversion are co-extensive in their referents. Those who (so far as can be ascertained) are converted are also baptized. Baptism can stand by metonymy for conversion.

    Carson—The close connection between turning to Christ and being baptized with water in the NT does not require that those who make profession of faith be baptized with water within ten minutes of their profession. . The close theological connection between conversion and baptism forbids an open-ended delay, and it also forbids a kind of two-step mentality, with water baptism associated with a second step in grace or maturity, but it does not forbid a delay until the next baptismal service, or until some elementary Bible teaching has taken place.

    http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/editorial-why-the-local-church-is-more-important-than-tgc-white-horse

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