The Biblical Teaching on Baptism, Part 4

Posted By on September 21, 2009

In this post, we’ll look at the problematic language in parts of the Westminster Confession.

Westminster Confession of Faith

CHAP. XI. – Of Justification

1. Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: (Rom. 8:30, Rom. 3:24) not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, (Rom. 4:5–8, 2 Cor. 5:19,21, Rom. 3:22,24–25,27–28, Tit. 3:5,7, Eph. 1:7, Jer. 23:6, 1 Cor. 1:30–31, Rom. 5:17–19) they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. (Acts 10:44, Gal. 2:16, Phil. 3:9, Acts 13:38–39, Eph. 2:7–8)

This is a very clear statement on the exclusive nature of justification, apart from any human act.

2. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:

Faith “alone” is the instrument of justification. Good.

(John 1:12, Rom. 3:28, Rom. 5:1) yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. (James 2:17,22,26, Gal. 5:6)

Hmmm. One wonders what is meant by “other saving graces”- especially since baptism is viewed as a “sacrament”  - that is, having *some* connection to grace.

3. Christ, by His obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to His Father’s justice in their behalf. (Rom. 5:8–10,19, 1 Tim. 2:5–6, Heb. 10:10,14, Dan. 9:24,26, Isa. 53:4–6,10–12) Yet, in as much as He was given by the Father for them; (Rom. 8:32) and His obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead; (2 Cor. 5:21, Matt. 3:17, Eph. 5:2) and both, freely, not for any thing in them; their justification is only of free grace; (Rom. 3:24, Eph. 1:7) that both the exact justice, and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners. (Rom. 3:26, Eph. 2:7).

Again, justification is only “of free grace” – but what of the “other saving graces” in the previous section. No clarification on the language is given.

4. God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, (Gal. 3:8, 1 Pet. 1:2,19–20, Rom. 8:30) and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise for their justification: (Gal. 4:4, 1 Tim. 2:6, Rom. 4:25) nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them. (Col. 1:21–22, Gal. 2:16, Tit. 3:4–7)

5. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; (Matt. 6:12, 1 John 1:7,9, 1 John 2:1–2) and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, (Luke 22:32, John 10:28, Heb. 10:14) yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance. (Ps. 89:31–33, Ps. 51:7–12, Ps. 32:5, Matt. 26:75, 1 Cor. 11:30,32, Luke 1:20)

6. The justification of believers under the old testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the new testament. (Gal. 3:9,13–14, Rom. 4:22–24, Heb. 13:8)

Justification worked the same way under the OT as the NT. This is VERY important — and I’ll come back to it in my criticisms if the baptism language.

CHAP. XXVII. – Of the Sacraments

1. Sacraments are holy signs and seals of the covenant of grace, (Rom. 4:11, Gen. 17:7,10)

Just a side note: neither of these two passages cited speak of a covenant of grace. This idea is central to covenant theology, but it is contrived. The Westminster Confession is notorious in this regard (proof-texting). That is not to say, of course, that God didn’t act in grace in the OT.  It is to say that, unlike the Abrahamic covenant, the Sinai, Noahic, and New covenants, there is no actual covenant language in Scripture that points to the institution of an over-arching covenant of grace under which all biblical covenants are subsumed. This notion is an important part of the traditional justification for infant baptism, but I will argue that it is unnecessary to forming a biblical view of infant baptism.

immediately instituted by God, (Matt. 28:19, 1 Cor. 11:23) to represent Christ and His benefits; and to confirm our interest in Him: (1 Cor. 10:16, 1 Cor. 11:25–26, Gal. 3:27, Gal. 3:17) as also, to put a visible difference between those that belong unto the Church and the rest of the world; (Rom. 15:8, Exod. 12:48, Gen. 34:14) and solemnly to engage them to the service of God in Christ, according to His Word. (Rom. 6:3–4, 1 Cor. 10:16,21)

2. There is, in every sacrament, a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified: whence it comes to pass, that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other. (Gen. 17:10, Matt. 26:27–28, Tit. 3:5)

Think about what this just said: “the names and EFFECTS” of the one are attributed to another.” So, in some way, the grace that is signified by the sign is present in the sign — the thing signified (grace) is “attributed” to the sign. WHY do we need language like this? It’s simply because of a contrived mystical view of the signs — the idea that *something spiritual and unseen* is happening when the sacrament is given or performed. Really? Do we have a single OT verse that says something mystical was happening with circumcision?  That grace was somehow imparted or “triggered” at circumcision? Poor girls. There is simply nothing like this in the text. It is contrived and inserted into these narratives. In fact, we are never even told that the members of Abraham’s household who were circumcised believed anything at all — and yet in what follows this household circumcision will be used to justify a mystical view of baptism. WHERE IS THE BIBLE FOR THIS? Okay, end of rant. Frankly, all of this is unnecessary if one wants to practice infant baptism. There is a better and more scriptural way to argue for it, though that doctrinal idea is not self evident (i.e., passages must be read in certain ways and certain conclusions drawn about the meaning of certain passages).

3. The grace which is exhibited in or by the sacraments rightly used, is not conferred by any power in them

This is better (sort of). There is nothing IN the sacrament itself that makes it efficacious. Thank goodness!

; neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it: (Rom. 2:28–29, 1 Pet. 3:21)

also a relief.

but upon the work of the Spirit, (Matt. 3:11, 1 Cor. 12:13) and the word of institution, which contains, together with a precept authorizing the use thereof, a promise of benefit to worthy receivers. (Matt. 26:27–28, Matt. 28:19–20)

So the Spirit gets credit for the efficacy of the sacrament. Well and good. But that still means grace is conferred or “exhibited” in the sacraments (and one wonders what “exhibited” means – just “shown” – when above the Confession had the thing signified [grace] being “attributed” to the sign). This is like reading the fine print of a credit card application, where the language goes back and forth, saying and not saying X.

4. There be only two sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord: neither of which may be dispensed by any, but by a minister of the Word lawfully ordained. (Matt. 28:19, 1 Cor. 11:20,23, 1 Cor. 4:1, Heb. 5:4)

I wonder why it would matter who performs baptism? Is there a NT verse that says only elders/bishops should baptize or serve communion? This sounds very “mediatorial” to me, as though grace is being dispensed through a priestly figure.

5. The sacraments of the old testament in regard of the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new. (1 Cor. 10:1–4).

Here again we have the idea of “sameness” between the sacraments of the OT and NT — the notion that they are firmly theologically linked and mutually interchangeable or transferable.

CHAP. XXVIII. – Of Baptism

1. Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, (Matt. 28:19) not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; (1 Cor. 12:13) but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, (Rom. 4:11, Col. 2:11–12) of his ingrafting into Christ, (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 6:5) of regeneration, (Tit. 3:5) of remission of sins, (Mark 1:4) and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:3–4) Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world. (Matt. 28:19–20)

Here we learn that baptism is “a sign and seal” of certain things TO THE RECIPIENT: the covenant of grace, regeneration, remission of sins, and “giving up to God to walk in newness of life.” Now here’s my question. Can any of the readership produce a clear Scripture verse that has circumcision being a sign of regeneration and remission of sins? Without this biblical evidence, what the confession says is in error. Circumcision was of course the sign of a covenant (the Abrahamic) — but NOT the covenant of grace, so this equation fails here as well. I guess one could cogently argue that the circumcised were pledging to follow the true God, so the fourth item seems sound.

2. The outward element to be used in this sacrament is water, wherewith the party is to be baptized, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, by a minister of the Gospel, lawfully called thereunto. (Matt. 3:11, John 1:33, Matt. 28:19–20)

Why a minister? (Answer: because PRIESTS performed circumcision).

3. Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but Baptism is rightly administered by pouring, or sprinkling water upon the person. (Heb. 9:10,19–22, Acts 2:41, Acts 16:33, Mark 7:4)

4. Not only those that do actually profess faith in and obedience unto Christ, (Mark 16:15–16, Acts 8:37–38) but also the infants of one, or both, believing parents, are to be baptized. (Gen. 17:7–8, Gal. 3:9,14, Col. 2:11–12, Acts 2:38–39, Rom. 4:11–12, 1 Cor. 7:14, Matt. 28:19, Mark 10:13–16, Luke 18:15)

This language is very interesting, since it DISTINGUISHES those who profess faith from infants who receive baptism. I’d agree — infants are not believing anything when they get baptized. We’re all grateful that an infant is able to recognize where mommy’s milk comes from, much less put the burden of understanding the gospel on them. Ah, but the ELECT infant can believe, or is supernaturally enabled to believe by virtue of his/her election. Nice. Now you’ve linked infant baptism to election, and so we’re back to the problem of non-perseverance for many who are baptized (even of believing parents). Why isn’t the covenant of grace working here? I’d say because it’s an artificial construct that helps create these conundrums and ought to be dispensed with. But that’s me.

5. Although it be a great sin to condemn or neglect his ordinance, (Luke 7:30, Exod. 4:24–26) yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it

Interesting – grace and salvation are not “so” inseparably annexed to it . . . does that suggest that grace and salvation really are *just a tiny bit* connected to baptism? For sure grace is, since the Confession has already told us that the thing signified (grace) is “attributed” to the sign (the sacrament). But salvation?  Yikes.

, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: (Rom. 4:11, Acts 10:2,4,22,31,45,47) or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated. (Acts 8:13,23)

Let’s thank the writers of the Confession for affirming the obvious here. But let’s take that thanks away when we realize they do nothing to explain how this all works both ways with election, perseverance, and apostasy.  And then there are the bigger questions: please produce Scripture showing how circumcision was part of regeneration and remission of sins. Why would the OT (and Paul of course) distinguish between a circumcision of the heart vs. circumcision of the flesh? And one cannot say the circumcision of the flesh affected the heart, since the Scripture is clear that the circumcision of the heart was not brought about by human hands (cf. Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Rom. 2:29).

6. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; (John 3:5,8) yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost,

This is crystal clear – grace is conferred at baptism to the recipient. Where does this come from? Where do we see the Bible affirm this about circumcision?  And, going back to the clear statement of the Confession on justification — about how no human act brings justification or faith, what are we to think? Baptism isn’t a human act? Okay, if we allow that odd parsing of the situation, then we have the Spirit “alone” conferring saving grace to the infant who is baptized. Huh? How is this really different from baptismal regeneration in catholicism? Is it only a matter of wording? And so why doesn’t it “work” for every recipient? And don’t isolate it to the elect (see above and other posts for that dead end). What a confused, garbled piece of doctrine.

to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in His appointed time. (Gal. 3:27, Tit. 3:5, Eph. 5:25–26, Acts 2:38,41)

Oops. I guess they DID link it to election — back to the endless loop.

7. The sacrament of Baptism is but once to be administered unto any person. (Tit. 3:5)

Next up … modern theologians on the same issue.

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23 Responses to “The Biblical Teaching on Baptism, Part 4”

  1. cwmyers007 says:

    You said: “This is crystal clear – grace is conferred at baptism to the recipient. Where does this come from?”

    The grace that the ancients were speaking of was not the grace of salvation unto regeneration, justification, etc. The fathers of the confessions used “grace” more liberally than we do today. The “grace” they speak of is the grace of the child having that promise of Christ–their baptism acts as an engagement ring if you would. The grace of being marked off from the world as “set apart” (I Cor 7:14). The grace of a clear and blood offer of the gospel. These graces are baby “saving graces.” Just listen to a testimony of someone brought up “in the church,” and you will hear these elements and more “saving graces” from infancy onward which have contributed to the Christian that they are.

    As long as you continue to ignore this language of the confessions and evaluate them on your modern mind-set then the more that your responses to it will be “confused and garbled.”

  2. cwmyers007 says:

    You say: “Can any of the readership produce a clear Scripture verse that has circumcision being a sign of regeneration and remission of sins?”

    Yes, I am working right now (I get paid to read The Naked Bible…lol) and all that research I have done is at the house. So I will answer your question to the best of my ability when I get home.

    Look for it :)

  3. cwmyers007 says:

    Now I answer your question: “Can any of the readership produce a clear Scripture verse that has circumcision being a sign of regeneration and remission of sins?”

    I produce this: As for a renewing or regeneration in connection with circumcision, various texts connect circumcision with such (remember in a sign and seal way so often the spiritual realities are being discussed, not in an efficacious way so that we must return to Rome). I think of Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses says that the Lord your God will circumcise your hearts to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. This language is comparable to the new covenant language of Jeremiah 31:31-34 or Ezekiel 36:25-38. It is the Old Testament language for what the New Testament calls regeneration and points toward the renewal of the heart necessary for faith and obedience. Likewise, arguing from what the Bible says uncircumcision is: the uncircumcised heart in the OT is not clean, but polluted with sin. Lev. 26:41 speaks of an uncircumcised heart becoming humble, so that the person makes amends for iniquity. Here too is the idea of a change of heart and purification. Isaiah 52:1 associates the uncircumcised with the unclean: “For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer come into you.” Then Paul builds on all of this in Colossians 2:11, Paul says that the believing Colossians have themselves circumcised in a spiritual way, in a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Clearly we have cleansing (the removal of the body of Christ)…just as cleansing and baptism are tied so closely together as in Acts 22:16. If you look at the Greek of Colossians 2 you will see that verses 9-12 are intimately connected. Verse 12 is a series of participial phrases all related to the main verb in 11, namely, “you were circumcised.” The point is this: Yes, it is true that Paul is not talking here directly of the PHYSICAL rites; instead he is using the PHYSICAL rites of BOTH baptism and circumcision to signify and seal the spiritual realities (regeneration, sanctification, justification) wrought by Christ and His Spirit. He is NOT saying that baptism and circumcision actually PRODUCE regeneration, new life, etc, instead he IS saying that baptism and circumcision are a sign and a seal of the work of Christ and His Spirit, namely, regeneration, new life, etc. Do you not see it in Paul’s words:

    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, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities2 and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

    Yes he is talking about spiritual realities here, but he uses the physical rites to show what is happening AND he uses both baptism and circumcision for the same exact new life–that is regeneration!

    Again the aspect of the “seal” IS NOT testifying to what is done or performed in an individual. Sealing is testifying to what the SEALER PROMISES to do to all who have faith–even this person who receives this seal of God. The fact that baptism is a seal is like the King who stamps his ring on a document of promise. The document says, “I will save those believing, being a God to them and their children.” The document is sealed showing forth the guarantee of the promise. but by far not enacting or performing the promise on the document! Believers and their children are SUPPOSE to be the reflection of the living active Word of God…this is accomplished in part by the sealing of baptism. We are the living paper of God where the gospel is immersed, sprinkled, or poured all over us. Baptism does NOT testify to OUR faith! RATHER, it testifies to GOD’S Faithfulness.

  4. DJR says:

    First of all, I have a splitting headache after reading that one. Sheesh.

    My only comment would apply to the first couple of paragraphs dealing with what seems to be the preaching of OSAS or Eternal Security in the Westminster Confession. In my humble opinion and with the Holy Spirit as my teacher, the scriptures plainly teach that one can be every bit as enlightened, converted, saved as Paul huimself, and yet still wind up in hell through willful disobedience. Sorry Westminster, you lost me at:

    5. God doth continue to forgive the sins of those that are justified; (Matt. 6:12, 1 John 1:7,9, 1 John 2:1–2) and, although they can never fall from the state of justification, (Luke 22:32, John 10:28, Heb. 10:14) yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of His countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance. (Ps. 89:31–33, Ps. 51:7–12, Ps. 32:5, Matt. 26:75, 1 Cor. 11:30,32, Luke 1:20)

    The scriptures happen to teach a much more sobering (fearful and trembling) reality about salvation than this, and I believe this teaching does a great disservice to new believers right out of the gate.

  5. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: I don’t really care where the language comes from Chris, and neither should you. The point is “where in Scripture do I find grace [ of any variety] conferred at baptism or circumcision.” THAT is the issue.

  6. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: you’d get spanked by Paul for teaching that circumcision of the flesh contributed to salvation. That’s a serious error.

  7. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: circumcision of the heart and circumcision of the flesh are two SEPARATE issues. Having the latter without the former leads to death … (curiously) having the former WITHOUT having the latter (as in Gentiles) still leads to salvation. Can you explain why fleshly circumcision is dispensible? And you still haven’t produced a verse that says what YOU say. You have a habit of doing that.

  8. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: still waiting for verses that have grace conferred through baptism and circumcision. Any available? You *know* I’m not talking about spiritual circumcision in my criticisms, and so I think it’s disingenuous on your part to try and rebut what I’m saying along those lines.

  9. MSH says:

    @DJR: I wouldn’t take the position you do in the first paragraph, but I follow your concern. I think the only *possible* “lost your salvation” scenario is where the “believer” turns to unbelief. No one is in heaven who doesn’t believe in Christ. That said, the real tough part of this is whether the one who believed and turned to unbelief really believed in the first place. Hence the wrangling over certain passages in the book of Hebrews.

  10. Taliesen says:


    I’ve emailed you a couple of times about various things. I’m a Reformed Baptist pastor and I recently published a book on baptism. I take a rather unique approach. I use a covenantal argument, linking baptism in the NT to its baptism sign types and sacramental baptismal equivalent in the OT. In other words, I argue that baptism comes from baptism, and that unless the NT changes the rite (which it does in certain places) we don’t have the right to change the rite.

    The sacramental counterpart to Jesus’ baptism is the baptism of the priest in Exodus 29:1-9 (see vs. 4) where they rachats in water at age thirty to begin their ministry. To make a long story short, with the mikveh and Solomon’s temple “Sea,” I believe we have good reason to view this baptism as an immersion. It was also never given to infants. It is related to the covenant of grace via the priestly/Levitical covenant that Nehemiah, Malachi, and Jeremiah all talk about. This was their ordination sign into legal temple service. I view Christian baptism in much the same way. Our baptism is primarily our legal ordination into the priesthood of the believer where we serve God’s NT temple (the church and our bodies via our mystical union with Christ the True Temple) by offering living sacrifices and other priestly duties. I have no idea if you are interested in such an argument, but I’ll keep watching here to see if you respond.

    I really appreciate your work. I’ve learned a lot from you.

    Doug Van Dorn
    Reformed Baptist Church of Northern Colorado

  11. cwmyers007 says:

    Come on Mike! If you want to separate “physical” circumcision from “spiritual” circumcision–then you must also separate the “spirit” of Christ from the “body” of Christ. I am not saying that the physical circumcision performs the spiritual reality, rather I am saying that there is no such thing as a physically uncircumcised Jew, just as there is no such thing as a physically unbaptized Christian. Baptism enters one into the physical manifestation of the church. I know of no evangelical church that would admit someone to their membership unbaptized. This truth alone shows how you deserve to be rebutted for not accepting clearly what Scripture says about circumcision via its spiritual manifestation BECAUSE the physical is SUPPOSE to be the sign and seal of the promise that embodies the spiritual realities.

  12. cwmyers007 says:

    And I would say that fleshy circumcision is not dispensable…your circumcision is your baptism…circumcision and baptism are signs and seals of the same spiritual realities…you should know that by looking at how Paul interchanges them in Col. 2

  13. DJR says:

    Hi Mike,

    I see warnings about losing salvation all throughout Paul’s letters as well as Hebrews. This debate can get really sticky, as ‘belief’ needs to be defined in all it’s aspects and as not being simply an intellectual awareness, like the belief that demons have in Christ. I think protestants have dropped the ball when it comes to the performance part of salvation in their zeal to separate themselves from catholic doctrine on salvation (and for whatever other reasons). This is especially apparent in James, which if I remember correctly Luther (protestantisms daddy) claimed was a ‘straw epistle’. But as I stated above, apart from Luther we have the whole context of Paul’s letters with repeated admonitions about maintaining faithfulness to Christ, with the severest of consequences (eternal separation from God) being implied if one turns away. It seems to me, whether OT or New, salvation has always been conditional upon performance and Paul himself said that he had not considered himself to have attained until he finished the race. And if he bowed out he believed that after all his preaching he could also be a castaway.

  14. cwmyers007 says:

    I would not get spanked from Paul to say that circumcision of the flesh contributed to salvation IF salvation encompasses God’s keeping his sheep in the fold so that their faith perseveres to the end. You cannot tell me that circumcision was not one of God’s means to remind his people of the covenant and his promises–this is a tool of sanctification. Circumcision of the flesh had nothing to do with justification–it has much to do with sanctification. No, you are right, circumcision today does not profit us anything, but baptism does. And in the Old covenant, circumcision definitely profited for SOMETHING….just ask Zipporah…it saved her son’s life.

  15. DJR says:

    Sorry about that I meant to say in the fifth sentence:

    “But as I stated above, apart from JAMES…”

  16. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: you can’t produce a single text that has circumcision contributing to salvation — it carried no saving grace with it. Ditto for baptism.

  17. MSH says:

    @DJR: Right on Luther and James. This is a tough one. I can’t help wondering if believers can surrender the faith (choose to not believe any more). Belief is not in the list of things Paul enumerates that cannot separate us from the love of God. I don’t believe we can sin away salvation (cf. Paul’s list), but no one gets to heaven if they don’t believe — and if you look at the Hebrews warnings, they are about unbelief. Perhaps God let’s us reject grace. This is tough, though, because nothing I just said really solves the issue of defining “belief” or how it works. It also does not address concepts like the Spirit’s sealing of believers unto the day of redemption, or Paul’s comment that “he which began a good work in you will complete it…” I really haven’t felt comfortable with the options and can’t help suspecting something is being missed — or that we need to look at the issue from a different angle. For me, it’s been a back-burner issue, and I haven’t devoted as much thought to it as other things. I can’t say I have a firm position right now, though I am “firm” that one must believe to be saved. That much is clear to me.

  18. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: If physical circumcision is not dispensible, then you make it a NECESSARY part of salvation. That’s really the first thing I’ve ever heard you argue for that *sounds* heretical since it changes the gospel. I can’t believe you really think salvation = grace/faith + circumcision or grace/faith + baptism, though.

  19. MSH says:

    @Taliesen: Your first paragraph is confusing – can you look it over again? I’ll be posting my position in the next post, so please tell me then how close it is to yours.


  20. cwmyers007 says:

    I hope that you know that I am not trying to make circumcision (or baptism) “necessary” for salvation. I am struggling to articulate how circumcision/baptism has always been the “norm” for God to use as a tool for sanctification.

    As an example, John Piper says that “preaching” is a “saving grace” (according to 1 Peter). He was not trying to add to the list of sola fide to what is necessary for salvation. Instead, he was saying that God uses–as a tool–the preaching of the Word in the Spirit by man to keep his elect’s faith secure unto the end (persevering faith is part of the big term “salvation,” right?)…it is one of the main components of God’s perseverance of our faith unto the end. I am trying to say the same thing–only with application to baptism. A major component of our sanctification is assurance (among other things) and baptism is designed to strengthen faith through such avenues.

    Please remit the heretic label from me…LOL

  21. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: consider it removed! I think part of the problem for you (not to single you out) is the whole “election” idea. Here you have an elect nation that becomes overwhelmingly apostate. Maybe we need to rethink what election means.

  22. cwmyers007 says:

    I know this post is getting old. But you brought up a good point and I wanted to lay out my “idea on election”. I make an important distinction that I do not think I have stated though I assume it naturally. Israel’s national election does not equal our personal election. Our personal election equals the personal election in the OT (i.e. Jacob personally elected and not Esau). However, the national election of Israel was a picture–a foreshadowing–of the corporate election of the invisible church in Christ. The national election of Israel is a perfect picture of how God will always work with his people. On this earth, there will always be an invisible Israel within national Israel just as there is an invisible church within the visible church.

  23. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: I agree with the separation you make here (national Israel / personal election) but therein lies an important issue: to what degree does the Bible connect the two? I think it’s quite fair to say that systematic theologians have not thought very deeply about that (the incongruence of the two — favoring basing their view of election on OT statements about Israel – especially teh covenantalists).

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