The Sacramental Grace of Baptism

In my work of discipling fellow Baptists and evangelicals, I have the joy of often introducing them to the concept of sacramental grace. I am currently writing up a little lesson on baptism for some friends, and so I thought I would share it here. For further reading, see here and here.

baptism pool

Here are my notes:

Adam’s perspective on baptism:
  • The NT speaks of baptism as an event by which God gives a kind of grace where we are bound to Him.
  • – Acts 2:37-38 baptized for the remission of sins
  • – Matthew 28:18-20 baptism as entrance into the life of discipleship
  • – Romans 6:1-4 baptism as incorporation into the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ
  • – Colossians 2:11-14 baptism as circumcision (which was both a symbol and a reality of what it symbolized EVEN IF ADMINISTERED AFTER THE REALITY BEGAN – see Romans 4) & (notice how baptism and the gospel blend right into each other)
  • – Ephesians 4:5 one baptism
  • – Ephesians 5:26-27 washing of water with the word (cf. Titus 3:5)
  • – 1 Peter 3:21 baptism now saves you

Continue reading

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

Does God Work Grace in Baptism?

I’m a Baptist, but kinda barely! I believe baptism is only for those who are receiving it in faith, but the tradition of the Reformation churches persuades me to recognize the baptism of infants! (Not as the norm, but as an irregular expression of the sacrament)… So here’s my 6,700 word paper on why I think most Baptists see baptism as more of a law duty than as a gospel gift.

Check it out, thinkers! Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Baptist Identity and Sacramental Malformation

A Baptist identity is difficult to define and locate within broader church history, but in general there have always been those who practice credobaptism (believers only to be baptized).[1] It was through the Reformation and its subsequent centuries that Baptists articulated a confessional identity under the Protestant umbrella.[2] Among the branching family of Protestant denominations, church radicals (Baptists among them) are those who bore the malice of Rome from one side, and the scorn of the paedobaptist Reformation bodies from the other.[3] Through the sustained three-way tussles between Roman Catholicism (RC[C]), high-church State Protestantism, and the burgeoning free-churches (including Baptists), the sacramental theology (ST)[4] of the Baptists has never been developed and articulated apart from the conscious strain of these polemics.[5]

Perhaps in relation to this, the greater portion of Baptists have tended to exclude the sacraments as means of God’s effectual work of salvation. For the Baptist, sacramental grace is often rejected as having the whiff of Romanism; the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican churches (with their varied STs) may appear to the Baptist as compromised, or otherwise stuck in a sort of incomplete reformation.[6] Because Baptists tend to view the RCC as the arch villain of accretive doctrinal excess (a la “sacred tradition”), any given Baptist doctrine may take a reactionary skew and thus miss or distort key biblical data.[7] In spite of this visceral antipathy, the Baptist is ever a Christian under the authority of Scripture, and so he may be persuaded to re-visit traditional beliefs in the light of Scripture as it has been interpreted within the greater Reformation heritage.

So as to provide the historical and theological background against which Baptists react, I will note the vital connection in RC between ecclesiology and ST, this being near the heart of the Reformation protest. Over against this medieval RC juggernaut, the Lutheran and Calvinist confessional bodies found agreement in the gospel[8] even while confessing their differing expressions of sacramental grace. In this paper I will briefly demonstrate that sacramental grace is not necessarily RC, nor does it necessitate RC ecclesiology. In addition, I will make note of the growing Baptist voices who represent an openness to an embrace of sacramental grace within the outlines of otherwise traditional Baptist theology. Continue reading

Finney goes Viral and We All Get Sick

My final paper for my seminary course ending this month (Theology in the Modern Era). Enjoy, comment, pass on with proper credit given.

Grace to y’all

-Adam

—–

Not a fan.

Not a fan.

The Passing Down of Charles Finney’s Spiritual DNA

            Charles Grandison Finney stands among the most influential Christian leaders since the Reformation. He pushed hard throughout his career against all he perceived to be stultified, spending terrific energy on social justice problems and prodding the sleepy American church culture with a ministry of Revivalism.[1] The fires of revival that he lit burned with hot emotion, as per his philosophy: “unless the religious feelings are awakened and kept excited, counter worldly feeling and excitement will prevail, and men will not obey God.”[2] Continue reading

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

Scads of Gospel Power: Prophecy Fridays

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Red Pepper

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. Today I am going to recap the posts I’ve written in this series so far. I’m so entirely excited about Prophesy Fridays so far – it is some of my best writing I have done in over a year of blogging.

I could really use your words of feedback, support, or challenge if you disagree with something. I put a lot of work into this series, and have little indication if it is beneficial to anyone! So check them out…

Jesus Drops in on Samson’s Parents

Isaiah sees the Atonement 740 Years Out

The God of Israel will be Pierced

Poetic, Prophetic King David and Blind (Tour) Guides

Staycation in Babylon and Glimpsing the New Covenant

Maybe pick one of these and read it carefully – I hope the people of the Lord Jesus are fed and drawn to Him through these posts.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Thanks for reading,

-Adam

Staycation in Babylon and Glimpsing the New Covenant: Prophesy Fridays

I am pretty sure the internet is devoid of commentary on prophecy (that’s sarcasm, folks), so I’d better throw in a dash of red-hot, mind-blowing prophetic power to light up your life.

Red Peppers

Prophesy Friday is my attempt to counteract some of the atrocious sea of false prophecy and sensationalism out there. If these posts are a blessing to you, please consider sharing them with a friend.

…the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Rev. 19:10

Let’s strengthen our mutual faith together, brothers and sisters. Foresight and clarity of Bible prophecy is one of (if not the) greatest means of growing in our faith in the true God. This is going to be a heavy dose today, so strap on your thinking caps!

Today we’re going to visit with Ezekiel – a man who was carried off to Babylon in 597 BC when the Hebrew kingdom of Judah was dismantled by mighty Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon – Emperor of the Middle Eastern peoples. Ezekiel’s prophecy is graphic, gritty, and at some points difficult to interpret. Jewish men traditionally were not to read it until they turned 30 because of the horrific nature of some of the pictures, and because of the sexually explicit imagery used to describe the spiritual whoredom of Judah and Israel (ch. 23).

It is a prophecy of disorientation and devastation, and in the midst of the events of the book, word reaches Ezekiel that Jerusalem has been destroyed (586 BC). At that point, Ezekiel begins to receive a new type of prophetic word: reorientation and restoration for the descendants of the Babylonian exiles. On this turn in the narrative, Charles Dyer writes

During these final years Ezekiel was ministering in Babylon, predicting the coming collapse of Jerusalem. His message fell on deaf ears till word of the city’s destruction was received in Babylon. The fall of the city prompted a change in Ezekiel’s prophetic message. Before Jerusalem fell, Ezekiel’s message focused on Judah’s forthcoming destruction because of her sin. After Jerusalem’s fall, Ezekiel’s message centered on Judah’s future restoration. [1]

Ezekiel

I give you all that information in order to provide context for what I want to highlight today. As Ezekiel begins his staycation in Babylon, he is given a hopeful prophecy for the future restoration of his nation… yet the prophecy of the restored Israel would grow and expand into the inclusion of the Church of Jesus Christ (as is the nature of much Old Testament prophecy).

Through the destruction of old Jerusalem, Ezekiel becomes a prophet for the New Jerusalem – the New Covenant in Jesus Christ and the better promises given to all who are in Him. Want to see a glimpse of it? If you read carefully and follow my thinking, I know you will be blessed like I’ve been.

We only have space for a very small slice of Ezekiel’s prophecy, as it is dense and difficult, but a small slice is enough to get a ton of Christ.

Chapter 34, Verses Wow through Hallelujah

Written around 580 BC, keep in mind Ezekiel is writing what God is giving him to write – and he is writing to the generations of Jews who will suffer through exile in Babylon… but because they are the words of the all-knowing God who is outside of time, they are also words that foreshadow a greater restoration, one which will include the entire world!

After condemning the leaders of the Jewish nation for failing to shepherd the people according to the covenant, Yahweh declares Himself to be the true shepherd (Ez. 34:11-13 NKJV):

11 For thus says Yahweh God “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.”

What’s that? 600 years later, Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd” John 10:11, and also

And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).

Do you see the connection? Let’s look back at Ezekiel 34 –

12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.

That dark and cloudy day was first of all referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, but that dark day can also refer to the thousands of years where there was no hope for the Gentiles. They were born, lived, and died in spiritual darkness as the fallen sons and daughters of Adam. Jesus, as the Word of Yahweh in Ezekiel 34, claims He will seek out His people in every nation.

13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country.

When He finds us, He restores us – both Jews and Gentiles! We are all feeding on the goodness of the “land” of Israel, metaphorically speaking – we are all within the covenant blessings spoken to Abraham… because of and in Christ!

But wait, there’s more. You may not be convinced of the connection between Ezekiel’s prophecy and Jesus. Look further as Yahweh through Ezekiel reprimands the Hebrew people who have despised the good gifts of God… but with the appropriate New Covenant lens, we see it was actually Jesus they trampled. Read this and think of Jesus’ trial, mocking, and crucifixion (Ez. 34:17-19):

17 ‘And as for you, O My flock, thus says Yahweh God: “Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.

(Read about how Jesus claims that power in Matthew 25).

18 Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?

This is a picture of how Jesus was treaded down and trampled by His nation. Ezekiel’s contemporaries had similarly despised the good gift of God’s covenant and favor to them, but look then at this:

19 And as for My flock, they eat what you have trampled with your feet, and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.”

Oh my. Yahweh makes a difference here between His flock and the people of Ezekiel’s nation. In other words, the people of Ezekiel’s time are excluded from the flock of Yahweh – excluded and cursed by their breaking of the covenant. They have treaded and trampled God’s gift, but His flock will eat and drink from that very trampled gift.

Do you see the prophetic power here? He’s talking about you and me in the New Covenant – those in Jesus Christ which for Ezekiel would be another 600 years in the future!

Look carefully at it: what is it the Church eats and drinks? What else but the broken body and blood of the Lamb?Communion Our communion supper! Our Jesus, coming to us in the bread and the wine, offering His saving benefits to His flock!

Even More Clear

Ezekiel continues to speak the Word of Yahweh, and Jesus becomes crystal clear in the passage:

23 I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, Yahweh, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, Yahweh, have spoken.

Just so there is no confusion about who it is that is at the head of all these blessings. Just so we’re clear, oh Israel, who will be your King and benefactor. This is an echoing of Yahweh’s promises to David that his own offspring would sit on the throne of the covenant nation forever, from 2 Samuel 7:16.

But realize something about Ezekiel writing this Word from God in 580 BC: David had been dead and moldering for over 400 years, so when Yahweh declares that David will be His shepherd and servant to rule His people Israel, He is speaking of David’s descendant.

And here’s the last piece of the puzzle. In 70 AD when the Romans wrecked the temple and destroyed the Jewish nation (again), all of the family records of the Jews were lost. After that time, no one can say for certain which person belongs to which family or tribe. What Jew today can be crowned as the Son of David? Not one. There is no line from David to the present day Jew, and so that Shepherd and Prince who will be ruler over the New Covenant, restored nation… had to have lived and been revealed before 70 AD. And since there was no restored Davidic kingdom at that time, there is only one possibility left: that Shepherd, King, and servant of Yahweh did not stay dead, rose from the earth into heaven where He is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting to return again to earth and consummate His visible rule over all people. The great Shepherd of Israel and Son of David is alive and ready to be revealed in His majestic reign, just as promised.

For now, He is reigning until the Father places all His enemies under His feet. He is the King of Zion. He is the Son of David. He is the Lamb slain for His flock – and He is coming back to rule the earth in judgment and power. He is the fulfillment of these, and many other prophetic pictures in Ezekiel. Read it for yourself!

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

[1] Charles H. Dyer, Ezekiel, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures by Dallas Seminary Faculty: Old Testament, 1226.