Baptism (Cliff-note Version)

Two weeks ago, I posted my essay from a recent seminary research course here. Some dear friends commented that it was a bit heady, and difficult to digest (sorry!), so I wanted to do a quick “cliff-note” version here.

Well, what is baptism? It’s Jesus, at work in His church.

baptism is gospel It’s the Word of God, doing it’s work through a physical medium, or “means.” This is why you may hear some Christians call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “means of grace.” These are the two sacraments, or ordinances, by which Jesus works His saving grace in the church.

Now, these are not the only means of grace. Whenever and however God’s holy Word is communicated, it is a means of grace.

Be it by sound waves coming from vocal chords, striking your ear drums.

Be it by reading.

Be it by braille.

The Word of God is powerful because it is His Word by which He has promised to do His works of grace.

Baptism is the place where God’s Word is present and applied by means of water. The water itself does nothing, but only when it is combined with the Word of God (gospel promise), and faith, that then saving grace is imparted. In this sense, God can and does use baptism as a means of birthing, strengthening, and/or preserving saving faith.

About my seminary paper: my argument was that Baptists have an historical track record of fighting with anyone who comes from a paedobaptist denomination (and for good reason, I’m a Baptist too!) But my argument is that we Baptists have overreacted to Roman Catholicism as an institution, and have therefore also overreacted to Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed denominations (confessions) because of their infant baptism practices.

My argument was, therefore, that we ought to re-examine the Scriptures in light of the faithful, gospel-centered confessions of the Lutherans and Reformed churches, for if they have maintained both the gospel of the apostles AND infant baptism over 500 years, then we ought to recognize Jesus has not removed their lampstand in spite of an irregular administration of baptismal rites (to infants). Does that make sense? Babies should not be baptized, but once they are, we ought to recognize that God works through our mistakes, so long as we are not denying the gospel and twisting His Word to the point of heresy.

And so… I would argue that Baptists

1) Need to re-examine the delivery of saving grace in and through baptism (even though we administer baptism properly after a profession of faith – there is a mystery here working outside of time).

2) Need to recognize baptism as valid, though irregular when it has been done to an infant. Problems do arise when churches baptize infants, but even these issues are “fixable” when once the true, apostolic gospel is preached in those churches. (In other words, Baptists need to stop re-baptizing people, for in reality these second baptisms are not a baptism at all, but rather a traditional, ceremonial mimicking of baptism).

3) and finally, Baptists need to do some soul searching concerning our reactionary stances in a number of areas. This is difficult work, because we want to preserve our apostolic, first-century doctrines and practices that the other Reformation churches are missing out on, but on the other hand, we unnecessarily separate from fellow believers too readily.

This all calls for prayer, humility, and a deep trust in the Word of God to inform our hearts and minds… even if that calls for occasionally repenting of a bad practice or two.

In love for the church,

Adam Kane

Romans 8 if we could Really Lose our Salvation

Will God allow His children, born from His own Spirit, adopted into His family in Christ, and indwelt by His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)… to apostatize and lose their justified, beloved place in His sight?

Understand what is at stake: Many who love Christ, His Word, His promises, and His gospel nonetheless teach that the regeneration unto eternal life is revocable upon crossing certain boundary markers. Put another way, they teach us that Christ has no sure hold on His people – any one of us could apostatize, lose our justified standing before the Father, who disowns us, the Holy Spirit leaves us, and we are once again headed for hell.

This is detrimental to the Christian understanding of salvation.

What would Romans 8 (Paul’s magnum opus on Christian security in Christ) look like if God actually let His children lose their faith and die under His wrath? It would be ugly – check it out:

Continue reading

Receive God’s Sabbath or You will Never Find Rest

A family friend of ours is dying of cancer, and she is a lifelong Roman Catholic. Will she “Rest in Peace” if she dies trusting in the Roman Catholic teachings?

Hill Cumorah

Near to where I live, each July thousands of people stream into Palmyra, New York to see the Hill Cumorah pageant put on by the Mormon church. The festival goers are being drawn into the promise of eternal godhood – the possession of a planet and the peace of the celestial kingdom. Will these fine people find their rest in the doctrines of the prophet Joseph Smith and his scriptures?

Recently my wife and I had a married couple of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to our house for a discussion about the Bible.

JW tract

They smilingly shared with us of how Jehovah God is creating a paradise earth for all who will obey him and keep fellowship with their religion only. Will these sincere people eternally harvest corn, fruit, and soybeans on the new earth?

I’ve known scads of professing evangelicals who are relying on their own sincerity and obedience to God in hoping they can pull it off – hoping they might be good enough Christians (stay away from bad movies, respect your elders, and don’t drink alcohol) to please God and be found faithful on the last day… Continue reading

A Brief Reflection on the Goodness of the Law and the Betterness of the Christ

The law(s) of the Lord is(are) pure, perfect, and holy, and we are not. Therefore the law is at enmity with us when we are dead in sins and trespasses, but in Christ by grace through faith, we are counted as being lawkeepers… AND… we have the law written in our new, circumcised hearts where the Holy Spirit produces new obedience! (Ezekiel nails it in 36:25-27).

So for the Christian, the law is kept by faith (and faith alone) in Christ, and the ethic of our life is now found in Christlikeness – by the outline of His nature and what love looks like as expressed throughout the New Testament imperatives. We don’t have to keep the commandments of God – but in Christ, we get to. We have the privilege of obeying Him to make Him known. Anyone who practices unrepentant sin does not know Him (1 John 3), for to know Jesus and to face Him in faith is to turn our backs on sin, selfishness, and Satan.

Jesus is our new Master, and the law is only seen correctly through His perfect life given to us by grace alone, through faith alone… to the glory of the beautiful God alone (Gal. 3:24-25).

Thank the Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Binding the Christian with Law does not Produce Freedom

From part 4 of my friend Ed Trefzger’s series “Completed by the Spirit“, this is for the Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian brethren out there. Speaking about the use of the Law in the life of the Christian, Trefzger notes

Despite Paul’s warnings that the law arouses sin, many will point to the law as a prime mover in sanctification,  essen­tial to con­vict­ing us about our remain­ing sin and mea­sur­ing our growth in holi­ness. In doing so, they will attempt to draw a dis­tinc­tion between being “under the law” and fol­low­ing the law…

Yet for the Christian,

It is the Spirit that sanc­ti­fies, not the law in a fleshly exer­cise of behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion. Des­per­a­tion and more sin­ful­ness are the results of a focus on law for sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion instead of avail­ing one’s self of the Holy Spirit and behold­ing with awe the per­son and work of Jesus Christ.

And commenting on Joel Beeke’s focus on law-based sanctification, Trefzger (before the Lance Armstrong scandal ruined him), puts it starkly:

Beeke [argues] that bind­ing users under the law actu­ally pro­duces free­dom. Per­haps an anal­ogy would be that keep­ing train­ing wheels on bicy­cles actu­ally pro­duces Lance Armstrong.

Ed Trefzger

Ed Trefzger is an elder at the Evangelical Church of Fairport, NY

Can you tell he has a passionate stance on this issue? I do too. Sanctification is summarized by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 when he declares triumphantly

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Christian, you are free to be sanctified in freedom from legalism, for you are not under law, but under grace. Look to, gaze upon, and feast on the glorious Christ for all that is needed in this life…

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

David Sings the Preservation of the Saints

J-O-Y

I will be writing on the doctrines of grace as much as possible in coming days and months. This post will deal with the Perseverance of the Saints, as it is known in Reformed theology. This post is simply one facet of this glorious doctrine, I am not trying here to speak comprehensively of all the Bible says about it.

Salvation is of Yahweh (Jonah 2:9)

If salvation is something you can attain or earn, then it is definitely something you can lose and fall away from.

But if it is not your salvation in the first place, then it is an entirely different situation. Consider the Christian doctrine of the Preservation of the saints, seen through the eyes of an Old Testament sinner.

Sung to the Key of Grace

King David raped Uriah’s wife and then had him murdered to cover it up when she was pregnant. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David was broken for his terrible sins, and sought repentance. Among other wonderful lines in Psalm 51, he prayed like this:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (NKJV)

Whose salvation did David have? The salvation of the God of Israel. Elsewhere, David praises God like this:

Psalm 65

Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.

Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.

Here we see a prophecy of the cross-work of Jesus (v. 3), a vocalization given to divine election (v. 4a), and the resultant preservation of the saints in fellowship with God (v. 4b).

And in another place, David rejoices in the nature of God’s forgiveness when he sings

Psalm 32

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity

Notice the “Blessed”s like in Psalm 65 above? Connect the dots of grace here. Blessed people are chosen, atoned for, transgressions forgiven, sin covered, and their iniquity is not counted (imputed) to them! God removes all of the enmity between Him and us in order to bring us to Himself.

Do you really think He would then leave the perseverance up to us after all He has done to make us His children?

He Keeps us SO THAT We Remain in Him

God’s work in saving people from the penalty of their sins is God’s work. The worker in salvation gets the glory, and the preserver in salvation gets the glory. It’s all of Him!

Often the question from Christians is “can I lose my salvation,” or, “can those who are truly born again fall away and end up in hell?” I’ve asked the question, and so have you if you are a believer.

My Lutheran brothers and sisters maintain that a truly regenerated believer in Christ can lose his salvation if he stops believing in Christ.

Similarly (but not the same doctrine as the Lutherans), many Arminians of all denominations teach that a Christian can lose their salvation, but with the added pressure of having to make the decision to be born again in the first place.

Not So, Friends

For the sake of brevity, I just want to say this: the eternal covenant of God to save His elect, the atoning work of Christ to purchase those the Father had given Him, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption are bonds of love and power that only one Being is strong enough to break, and you ain’t Him.

I’ll leave off today with the reassuring words of Jesus concerning us, His people.

John 6

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

I praise You, Jesus my Lord.

Christ and sheep

Thanks for reading,

-Justin