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

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But Can’t we Still Fall Away from Christ?

Am I Really His?

I have seen this question consume people, and I’ll bet you have too. Am I really saved? Do I believe enough in the Lord Jesus Christ, or is my belief just an illusion? Why is there still sin in my life if I am a Christian? Does my baptism really count if I walk away from the church? How much repentance do I have to have to know I’ve really repented? Am I really an adopted, regenerated, justified child of God, or am I a deluded enemy of Christ, being fattened for the slaughter? The Word of God has answers for you and me – we do not have to live in fear. Let’s dive into this question with confidence.

Blind Eyes in a Sunny Field

Picture the Christian life as a literal walk through a big field. The goal of reaching the presence of Jesus is on the far end of the field, and we begin many miles from it.sunny field Only now imagine if our eyes did not work, and yet we were to be led by the shining of the sun (Son) out in front of us. This is the walk of faith – it is our walk through this life, this world of shadows. We do not yet see Him – our eyes are closed! Yet He calls us to walk towards Him in repentance. As baby Christians we begin to totter and feel our way through the field, eyes closed but smiling – we know our Lord and best friend is shining on us from the other end of the field. We feel the warmth of the sun on our faces as we are facing Him, walking towards Him in repentant faith.

Yummy Remembrances of the Death we are Escaping

Sin is a lot like a distraction in this analogy. We are sidetracked by the smell of something tasty off to our left or right, so we deviate from the path that Christ calls us to walk. We sniff our way over into the bushes and begin to eat poison berries because they just taste so good. We know they are poison, but we figure we’ll have some anyways, because we’re hungry. While we’re in the berry bush, we fall asleep under the effects of the poison, and lie down in the shrubs and grass. What happens when we awaken? We’re disoriented, we feel around in the grass, and we immediately think of the sun – where is He? He is yet still in the same place He was when we went off course – shining down His warmth and love on us, but in our nap time we lost track of which direction we were going. Sin disorients us, and messes with our faith in Christ. Yet we get back up by His grace, feel the heat of the sun, and begin walking toward Him again. Many Christians begin to doubt they are in the field (the church) at this point. “How could I be so blind as to eat the berries?” How could I truly be facing the correct end of the field if I’m off the path eating poison? In His love for us, our Father allows us to make our sinful mistakes, to taste the bitterness when we have not trusted Him – and to feel the disorientation of being off of His path. All of the consequences of sin are used by the Father to discipline His children (Heb. 12:5-11), and to keep us from ultimate, eternal destruction. His promises given to us in our baptism are extended forever – there is nothing but grace for those who are His (Rom. 8:28-39)

We Cannot be Lost if we Are in His Field

This is the bottom line of the Christian gospel given to us in Christ Jesus. This is the sure foundation underneath all of our experience – that we receive warnings such as Hebrews 3:12-13 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” as a part of the means that God uses to confirm His elect people in their salvation, as the next verse assures us “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (Heb. 3:14 NKJV). May we not force a rationalistic reading of these texts wherein we negate the clear promises of God to preserve infallibly each of His regenerate, justified people. Allow the tension to stand: God gives dire warnings to His people who cannot be lost that they ought to hold fast to Christ so as not to be lost. Thank You, Father, for Your wisdom and love for us.

So Abide in Him

We’re in His field, walking toward the sun. We’re His beloved, chosen people. And right there in Hebrews 3:14, we see the completion of our analogy: We have truly begun walking toward the sun/Son if we continue walking toward Him. By converse, if one does not continue holding fast the confidence in Christ, he has not begun to trust Christ in the first place. So then, abide in Him my dear friends.

The Field of Salvation is a Globe

It turns out that from God’s perspective (in our analogy) – no matter what direction we are walking in His field, the sun will shine on our faces, drawing us to His warmth and love. The blessed mystery of the faith is that our Father in heaven has set us in a path which cannot but lead to eternal life. All of our stumbling and unbelief will have been part of the gracious means God uses to preserve His people, for Jesus promises “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out (John 6:37). By. No. Means. All who fall from grace, therefore, are falling away from a relationship to Christ that was never true, never really begun in the first place, though it would appear so to us (think wheat and tares). So as you walk, dear Christian, through this world of sorrows and darkness, know you are in a field that is a globe. You may walk 10,000 miles in a direction that is not perfect, but you have only circled the world of Christ’s keeping power – He is still right there in front of you. You cannot be lost. Meditate on this – Jesus will not lose even one of His weakest sheep. This is the joy-producing, love-emboldening, endurance-creating, and selflessness-promoting grace of God in Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection for you. He has set you in a broad path, one from which you cannot be lost and destroyed. Believe it, and rest assured in Him. Thanks for reading, -Adam

The Law was a Candle, Christ is the Sun – John Chrysostom

Pastor John Chrysostom (b. 347 – d. 407) is one of Christianity’s greatest ancient preachers. He lived during a time of great turmoil in Church history, as the Arians had taken control of Christendom for decades around when he was born and raised. His “golden mouth” (Greek “Chrysostom”)

Johnchrysostom

gave forth glorious exposition of the Scriptures as He lifted up Jesus for all to see and love.

I’ve recently been creating posts to reflect the newness of the New Covenant of Christ Jesus, not to disparage the Law of God, but to show its true role for the people of God. The New Testament could hardly be clearer in expressing the place of Law for Christians: we are not under Law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14-15).

We are to exult in the Law of God as the revelation of His holy and good nature, but regarding the ethic of the Christian, we are to look to Christ Jesus Himself as the standard. He is the sun in comparison to a candle – He is God’s highest revelation of His moral nature, and of how we ought to live. All that Christ said and did fulfilled the Law, but also surpassed the strict letter of it.

Jesus gave us the new obedience, the new law-keeping in Him, by faith in Him and love of Him (e.g. Gal. 6:2). Here John Chrysostom lifts our eyes to a higher standard and norm than the law, as he makes exposition of Galatians 3:25-26 Continue reading

The Difference Between Christianity and Everything Else

This blog exists to usher people into human liberty, which is only available to those who embrace Christian theology. The difference between true, pure Christianity and all other religious/philosophical truth claims is grace.

Christianity is the sufficient, absolute, totally gracious gift of God through His Son Jesus Christ. Forgiveness for free. Eternal life based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection alone.

That’s right. There is nothing of ourselves in our acceptance with God; there is no merit, no obedience, no sincerity, no sacrament, no church membership, no Bible reading that secures our forgiveness: NOTHING adds to the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us by grace alone through faith alone in His gospel alone.

Sincerity in worshiping and obeying God is a gift of His grace, not our own meritorious offering to Him. There is nothing of us that He looks at to count us righteous. Nothing.

And we receive our justification, sanctification, and glorification by grace alone through faith alone. Look here at the classic standard of confessional Reformed theology.

Heidelberg Catechism Question 21

Here it is, captured in its essence (with Scriptures):

What is true faith?

A. True faith is not only a certain knowledge, whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word, (a)

but also an assured confidence, (b)

which the Holy Ghost (c)

works by the gospel in my heart; (d)

that not only to others, but to me also, remission of sin, everlasting righteousness and salvation, (e)

are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits. (f)

(a) James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

(b) 2 Cor.4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

Eph.2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Eph.2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Eph.3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

Gal.2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Heb.11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb.11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Heb.11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. Heb.11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: Heb.11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Heb.4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

James 1:6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

Matt.16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Philip.1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Rom.4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.

Rom.4:21 And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.

Rom.5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Rom.10:10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Rom.10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Rom.4:16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, Rom.4:18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. Rom.4:19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: Rom.4:20 He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;

Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Rom.3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

(c) Gal.5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

Matt.16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

2 Cor.4:13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Philip.1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

(d) Rom.1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Rom.10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

1 Cor.1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

Acts 10:44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.

Acts 16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

(e) Rom.1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Gal.3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Heb.10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Heb.10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Gal.2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

(f) Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Rom.3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Rom.5:19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Luke 1:77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Luke 1:78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us…

Why did the Word Appear in (Nasty) Human Flesh? Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

(The Greek mindset of the ancient world thought it impossible that God would ever do something so disgusting as taking on human flesh. They had a corresponding protest against the resurrection of the dead. You could see they might have had some difficulty swallowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ!)

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Don’t you think it was kind of… unworthy of the Word of God to become a lowly, gross human man? Why not something greater, like the sun, moon, or stars?

Well,

The answer is this. The Lord did not come to make a display. He came to heal and to teach suffering men. For one who wanted to make a display the thing would have been just to appear and dazzle the beholders. But for Him Who came to heal and to teach the way was not merely to dwell here, but to put Himself at the disposal of those who needed Him, and to be manifested according as they could bear it, not [reducing] the value of the Divine appearing by exceeding their capacity to receive it.

Moreover, nothing in creation had erred from the path of God’s purpose for it, save only man. Sun, moon, heaven, stars, water, air, none of these had swerved from their order, but, knowing the Word as their Maker and their King, remained as they were made.

Men alone having rejected what is good, have invented nothings instead of the truth, and have ascribed the honor due to God and the knowledge concerning Him to demons and men in the form of stones. Obviously the Divine goodness could not overlook so grave a matter as this. But men could not recognize Him as ordering and ruling creation as a whole. So what does He do? He takes to Himself for instrument a part of the whole, namely a human body, and enters into that. Thus He ensured that men should recognize Him in the part who could not do so in the whole, and that those who could not lift their eyes to His unseen power might recognize and behold Him in the likeness of themselves.

For, being men, they would naturally learn to know His Father more quickly and directly by means of a body that corresponded to their own and by the Divine works done through it; for by comparing His works with their own they would judge His to be not human but Divine. And if, as they say, it were unsuitable for the Word to reveal Himself through bodily acts, it would be equally so for Him to do so through the works of the universe. His being in creation does not mean that He shares its nature; on the contrary, all created things partake of His power.

Similarly, though He used the body as His instrument, He shared nothing of its defect, but rather sanctified it by His indwelling. Does not even Plato, of whom the Greeks think so much, say that the Author of the Universe, seeing it storm-tossed and in danger of sinking into the state of dissolution, takes his seat at the helm of the Life-force of the universe, and comes to the rescue and puts everything right? What, then, is there incredible in our saying that, mankind having gone astray, the Word descended upon it and was manifest as man, so that by His intrinsic goodness and His steersmanship He might save it from the storm?

That was Greco-Roman wrestling right there, and our Uncle just pinned Plato for the count.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

 

 

 

Grace Active: Valley of Vision Prayer

Sometimes I have trouble praying as I ought – but often I turn to the Valley of Vision for help in getting my engine started. One of Christianity’s greatest books from the past 2,000 years, VoV would be my second book choice if stranded on a desert island, right after the Bible, and right before The Existence and Attributes of God by Stephen Charnock. Oh, those Puritans.

Pretty ValleyI provide these prayers most Sundays for those of us who are weak in prayer, and who need help in devotion. Today’s prayer is a simple, childlike request for more grace for all the tricky parts of the Christian life. Please pray this with me.

Lord Jesus, great high priest, Thou hast opened a new and living way by which a fallen creature can approach Thee with acceptance.

Help me to contemplate the dignity of Thy Person, the perfectness of Thy sacrifice, the effectiveness of Thy intercession.

O what blessedness accompanies devotion, when under all the trials that weary me, the cares that corrode me, the fears that disturb me, the infirmities that oppress me, I can come to Thee in my need and feel peace beyond understanding!

The grace that restores is necessary to preserve, lead, guard, supply, help me.  And here Thy saints encourage my hope; they were once poor and are now rich, bound and are now free, tried and now are victorious.

Every new duty calls for more grace than I now possess, but not more than is found in Thee, the divine treasury in whom all fullness dwells.  To Thee I repair for grace upon grace, until every void made by sin be replenished and I am filled with all Thy fullness.

May my desires be enlarged and my hopes emboldened, that I may honour Thee by my entire dependency and the greatness of my expectation.

Do Thou be with me, and prepare me for all the smiles of prosperity, the frowns of adversity, the losses of substance, the death of friends, the days of darkness, the changes of life, and the last great change of all. May I find thy grace sufficient for all my needs.

Amen.

Thanks for praying with me,

-Justin

Jesus’ Arms Outstretched: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius 5, Heretics 0

Athanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far. Please check out the past posts – they really are awesome to get into.

Uncle Ath?

Yes kids?

Do you see any significance in the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross as He died?

Well…

…If any honest Christian wants to know why He suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He “become a curse” otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written “Cursed is every one that hangs on tree.”

Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it “the middle wall of partition” is broken down and the call of the Gentiles comes about.

How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? Here, again, we see the fitness of His death and of those outstretched arms: it was that He might draw His ancient people with the one and the Gentiles with the other, and join both together in Himself.

My favorite uncle.

A little allegorical, yes, but wow – think of the image painted there. The Word of God made flesh, a perfect Man – perfect in love, grace, and purity – being murdered ruthlessly and with mockery. He was suffering not only the incredible pains of torture, but also the shame of nakedness and disfigurement before His nation… and in the midst of this, His arms pinned to the wood, He was calling His Jewish family to Him with one bleeding hand, and His Gentile flock with the other, carrying each of us down into His death with Him so that we might rise again with Him in His resurrection.

Meditate, my friends. Before you go off to the next thing, meditate.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 4, sec. 25, http://www.ccel.org.