Tuesday, September 05, 2006

grace, baptism, and scripture

I have recently been having a conversation/debate with Danny who is a fellow blogger and a Catholic. We have covered much ground in our discussions, but the primary focus has been soteriology even though the specific issues have been some of the statements that came out of the Reformation: “sola fide” (faith alone), “sola gratia” (grace alone), and “sola scriptura” (Scripture alone). The most recent discussion area has been surrounding baptism and how we are to view it. Is it a prerequisite for salvation or is it something that relates to the obedience of an already saved individual? Below is a statement that Danny made regarding baptism:

“Even Paul, who was converted by Christ Himself, had to be baptized! It wasn't enough for him to just believe in Jesus (which he surely did after Christ appeared to him), he still needed baptism!(cf. Acts 22)

The thief on the Cross received a Baptism by intent. Because he believed and testified to who Christ was, he desired to become a Christian. If he had been rescued from the Cross, the Apostles would have immediately baptized him as they did with all new Christians (cf. Act 10).”1

To say that water baptism is necessary for salvation and then to go onto say that if someone really believes and some situation does not allow them to be baptized that this will be okay, it seems a little contrived. Especially when there is no baptism by intent spoken of in the Bible. Baptism (the act of being immersed in the water – the Greek word for baptize (baptizw) means to immerse) is only a symbol of the work that Christ has completed on the cross. Also, the theif would not have been immediately baptized by the apostles when he came down – the only apostle present was John, the others had diserted Christ. Peter not only had deserted Christ but he had cursed Him publically (Matthew 26:69-74). The theif didn’t need to be baptized for salvation because it had been granted to him when he placed his faith in Christ while dying next to Him. In fact it is the very mark of a truly regenerated person, when after being made aware of Christ’s command to be baptized, that they earnestly seek to obey their Lord. The fact that they are obedient shows that they have been made new, but it does not add to or take-away from the salvation of an individual. I think that a strong case can be made that sanctification (growing in holiness) can be greatly stagnated by a refusal or a delay in obeying Christ in the explicit command for believers to be baptized, but salvation is withdrawn or withheld. Finally, if Christ were to require the act of baptism so that one would be saved, why then in John 6:40 did He say, “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

Also concerning Baptism, Peter himself says, “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you--not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience--through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” (2 Peter 3:21) The key is that it is not the effect of the water that saves, but it is the effect of the Spirit’s working that saves. And it wasn’t even the immersion (baptizw) in water that is the key, but it is the immersion in Christ and His atoning work that saves. Peter was primarily referencing the story of Noah. They were not immersed in water in the sense of a holy ceremony; they were immersed in the flood of God’s wrath and they were saved by their faith in God that was shown by their obedience to Him (works) in building the ark. In this way, Noah foreshadowed what Christ would endure for us. The full wrath of God would be poured out on Christ, and only by placing faith in Christ can we survive God’s perfect wrath at our own sinfulness.

So baptism is necessary for salvation, just not water baptism (immersion or sprinkling for that matter). That is why I originally answered Danny’s question by saying, “Water baptism is not necessary for salvation. We are saved by God’s grace alone. (Mark 16:16; Luke 23:40-43; Eph 2:8,9).”2 One’s baptism into Christ’s death (which is spiritual, not physical) is the only means by which we are able to be granted eternal life.

Just as Abraham was justified by his faith (Genesis 15:6) and his faith was perfected (shown to be true in that he was willing to sacrifice his son) as we see in James 2:22, we are to be justified by our faith. Then our actions testify to the world about the very Lord that we have placed our trust in. The fact is that Abraham was already saved (justified and effectively declared “not guilty” in the court room of God) and that he had the ability to believe that God would raise his son from the dead after he killed him showed just how much he believed in God.

“I asked you to show me anywhere in the Bible where it says that we are saved by ‘Faith Alone.’”3

Does the phrase “faith alone” or “only faith” appear in scripture referencing the requirements for salvation? Nope. But neither does the word Trinity. Orthodox Trinitarian theology is taken from the whole of Scripture in what it has to say about God, not just a few passages that, if seen alone, may lead to some incorrect conclusions. Nevertheless, the important thing is that we have come up with a way to express how the Bible describes God – He is a Triune God and thus we have the word Trinity. In the same way we confess that man can be saved only by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone because it is only by this way that God alone gets all of the glory because He does everything to save wretched sinners who can do nothing to save themselves.

Not only does Scripture not say “faith alone” in reference to salvation, it also says nothing about the bodily assumption or immaculate conception of Mary (or other Marian doctrines), praying to her or to other saints, of the office of Cardinals, the Pope or the Papacy, forced celibacy of clergy, or many other Roman doctrines. This is why the Roman system must always reject the primacy of the Scriptures and the understanding that they are the only source of revealed and inspired truth. That is also why keeping the Scriptures from the people (and much of the clergy too) was one of Satan’s greatest weapons against mankind which allowed the Catholic church to grow relatively unchecked (on human standard) for centuries leaving only remnants of true believers throughout the ages that were systematically persecuted.

Concerning Ezekiel 36:24-27:

“And in Ezekiel, the water mentioned does in fact refer to real water. Ezekiel fortells Christ. The passage you referred to, prefigures Christ's institution of the sacrament of Baptism.”4


This passage does talk about the washing and regeneration of the Spirit prior to the coming of Christ. But this shows that the emphasis is on the inner change of the heart of the person (and ultimately the stance before God) and the cleansing from spiritual filthiness and idolatry. Just as circumcision did nothing to save Abraham, baptism does nothing in to save you or me.

In an earlier part of our ongoing discussion, Danny wrote, “And we are not given salvation. We are given the grace to achieve that salvation by obeying Christ and perservering to the end. Once saved, always saved is a false doctrine. By virtue of our free will we can resist the Grace of God that was purchased for us by Christ's death on the Cross. If we disobey we will not receive our reward:”5 (he then quoted Matthew 7:21-27). I want to look at this for a bit. The apostle John lays out a good picture of what salvation for an individual looks like. We see that God draws some people, gives those people to Christ, and Christ holds onto them all. No one comes to Christ unless drawn by the Father, and all who are drawn by the Father come to Christ (John 6: 37-39, 44). Not only does Christ say that He will keep us in that text, but he also says that nothing at all can take us out of God’s hand (John 10:27-30) and Paul reiterates the same thing in Romans 8:38,39 (I wrote about this same issue in “kept by God”). The longest of John’s epistles, 1st John, has the theme, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13) We can know that we are saved, we don’t have to worry. God has given us His word so that we can “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5a)

The issue of works in the believer’s life is hammered on from both ends of the spectrum. Proponents of “easy believism” call it legalism to say that any works accompany salvation whereas Catholics say that the works contribute to people attaining salvation. The view that is most consistent with Scripture is that works are the fruit of being saved by Grace. They do not contribute to our salvation (justification) but they do serve as benchmarks for others to judge our profession of faith by, as well as the good works further the cause of the gospel on the earth. You can read more about this issue (dealing with it against the attack of the “easy believism” side) by reading “Repentance and Faith: two necessary sides of the same saving coin” and “Is Turning from Sin Legalism?

My Catholic friends, my goal is not that you become baptist or to have you become a member of a specific denomination. My goal is that you encounter Christ, as all true believers have, as a wretched, naked, and dead sinner who can do nothing to add to the completed work of Christ which He extends as a free gift of God to all who believe (see Romans 6:23). Then and only then can you experience the unfailing, limitless, and unfathomable love and grace of Christ and you can know that you are saved.


1 http://irishanddangerous.blogspot.com/2006/09/saved-by-faith-alone-still-not-found.html

2 http://contendersbiblestudy.blogspot.com/2006/09/grace-alone.html (emphasis added)

3 http://irishanddangerous.blogspot.com/2006/09/saved-by-faith-alone-still-not-found.html

4 Ibid.

5 http://irishanddangerous.blogspot.com/2006/09/so-long-sola-fide.html

8 comments:

Danny Garland Jr. said...

Really quickly I wanted to touch on one misconception and I will respond to the rest when I have more time. You said:

"Catholics say that the works contribute to people attaining salvation."

That is not what Catholics believe at all. Works cannot get you into Heaven. It is by God's grace that we attain salvation. Once we receive God's grace through Baptism, the works we do are not our own, provided we cooperate with God's grace. They are the works of Christ working in us. (Once again see Romans) Works cannot gain us salvation, but they can cost us our salvation. That is what the Catholics believe and that is what the Bible teaches. Read every passage where Jesus talks about judgment and the sole criteria will be on whether you performed good works or not!

Blessings In Christ,
Danny

P.s. It is important to fully understand the Catholic view before criticizing it, instead of critizing something you think we believe, which we really don't. This is one of the reasons I have linked to the Catechism of the Catholic Church in my previous posts. I would invite you to look at it again, especially at the sections on Baptism, salvation, justification, grace, and merit. It will help you make an argument based on fact, rather than false belief.

Once again,
Peace and Blessings

EJ said...

I understand that I may not fully understand Catholic doctrines as complex as some of the ones that we are discussing, so I thank you for some help with clarification. However, the idea that more work needs to be done, even though they are considered Christ working in us, to achieve salvation (which is not a free gift in Catholic theology as you have articulated) flies in the face of the biblical teaching on salvation. (see Romans 6:23 for example). Any works that I have a part in where it impacts my salvation is works righteousness, and that didn’t work for the Jews and it won’t work for Christians. I agree that we are sanctified by Christ working through us, but not justified.

The issue, perhaps, has more to do with the ideas of imputed rather than infused righteousness.

On a humorous note:

Man do you blog/comment fast! I barely had time to blink before you left your most recent comment. Blog junkie? There should be a 12 step program to help with this sort of thing.

4HisChurch said...

"My goal is that you encounter Christ, as all true believers have, as a wretched, naked, and dead sinner who can do nothing to add to the completed work of Christ which He extends as a free gift of God to all who believe (see Romans 6:23)."

I may be misinterpreting what you are saying here, but how do you know that we haven't encountered Christ? Are you responding to something specific about a particular Catholic, or is this an assumption about all Catholics in general?

Danny Garland Jr. said...

Eric,
Due to my studies I don't have the time to continue going back and forth and answering all the misconceptions you have brought up about the Catholic Church. I have very much enjoyed this discussion though. I invite you to read this article which probably will help you understand it better than I can:
http://www.chnetwork.org/journals/justification/justify_8.htm

If you have any questions about the article then email me and I will try to respond when I can.

A couple of things, however, about your comment:

"Not only does Scripture not say “faith alone” in reference to salvation, it also says nothing about the bodily assumption or immaculate conception of Mary (or other Marian doctrines), praying to her or to other saints, of the office of Cardinals, the Pope or the Papacy, forced celibacy of clergy, or many other Roman doctrines. This is why the Roman system must always reject the primacy of the Scriptures and the understanding that they are the only source of revealed and inspired truth. That is also why keeping the Scriptures from the people (and much of the clergy too) was one of Satan’s greatest weapons against mankind which allowed the Catholic church to grow relatively unchecked (on human standard) for centuries leaving only remnants of true believers throughout the ages that were systematically persecuted."

First of all, the Trinity, and all Catholic doctrines are either implicitly or explicitly found in the Bible. However, the idea of salvation solely by the basis of faith alone is not found anyway in the Bible. You have to really ignore many things to make it say that. As a Christian you need to read the Bible in its entire context. (However even taking verses out of context as you have done, still do not support your position.)

As far as you false claim that the Church has kept the Bible from the people, here are some quote's from Pope John Paul II’s address Commemorating the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of Dei Verbum:

“It proclaimed that ‘easy access to the Sacred Scriptures’ must be ‘available to the Christian faithful,’ for truly, ‘in the sacred Books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children and speaks with them; so great is the force and power of God’s Word that it remains the sustaining life-force of the Church, the strength of faith for her children, the nourishment for the soul, and the pure and lasting source of spiritual life.’ Thus all Christians are urged to read, study, and meditate on the Sacred Scriptures so as to nourish their life of faith and charity.”

As well as:

“The prophetic message of peace, reconciliation, and friendship is destined for all peoples. That is why Sacred Scripture inspires a universal veneration. It also explains why there should be no obstacle to the outspread of Sacred Scripture throughout the entire world.”

What you doesn’t realize is that the Catholic Church doesn’t need to keep Sacred Scripture from people! Encouraging everyone to read and properly interpret Scripture is what the Church wants, because there is nothing in the Catholic Church’s teachings that contradict Scripture and vice-versa. The Catholic Church does not fear the Truth! It is vindicated by it. And even if one of the faithful couldn’t read Scripture for themselves, all they had to do was go to the Mass and they would be immersed in Scripture! In fact, in Pope Benedict XV’s encyclical Spiritus Paraclitus (which I posted about just recently under the title "Catholics Immersed in Scripture"), St. Jerome encouraged everyone to read and learn Scripture and said that, “Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ!” If only you and the rest of our Protestant brethren would go back and explore the Fathers and the early history of the Church! For as John Henry Newman said, “to be a student of history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

I hope this helps and I commend you to continue studying the Bible and searching for Truth. Don't be influenced by misconceptions of the Catholic Church that others have told you. Find out the Truth for yourself. Read the Church Fathers. Study the early Church. Study the early Liturgy.

As always I will be here to answer any questions you have.

Blessings my friend and may Christ be with you always,
Danny

EJ said...

re 4HisChurch: That is a very fair question to an intentionally worded phrase. Let me start off by saying this. I do not hold a line of thought where only certain denominations of Protestants are saved or that there are no saved people who consider themselves Catholics. Not all people who name the name of Christ are Christians. The problem in protestant circles is that some (actually it’s probably a majority of “evangelicals”, unfortunately) people believe that if you pray a prayer, walk an aisle, or sign a card at an evangelistic meeting that the person is saved. It is the heresy that permeates so much of modern evangelical culture and doctrine. The modern presentation of the gospel in so many poor venues minimizes man’s sin and makes no call for repentance (turning from sin), and therefore so many people believe that I can be saved and live like the devil. In a similar way, yet at the other end of the spectrum, the fact that Catholic theology requires obedience to actions prior to salvation (baptism) is heresy as well. The emphasis put on good works in Catholic teaching is in the wrong place – good works come from being saved by grace, they don’t work with grace to achieve salvation.

That being said, anyone who holds a theology of distorted grace (grace without repentance) or one of the necessity of additional contemporary works to achieve salvation (baptism or any other “work” to get or keep salvation) does not understand the gospel of Christ, and have embraced a gospel and a Christ that is not of the Bible. So, I desire my catholic friends to repent of the works righteous system and receive the free gift of God that was purchased by Christ on the cross, and I also desire my “carnal” Christian friends to understand the weight of their sin, repent of it, and receive Christ and He will work through them in sanctification.

The theology of salvation is so crucial because it includes our understanding of Christ, sin, man, and many other things. Do I believe that the majority of Catholics are saved? No, I do not. I also don’t believe that the majority of people who claim to be evangelical Protestants (at least in the U.S.) are saved either. The reason is the same, and that is because both parties have bought into a false gospel. The true gospel is that Christ offers salvation for free and the life of someone who is truly saved will show the fruit of salvation (repentance and good works).

Re Danny: I never had any dream that our little discussion would finally put to rest the ancient debates that swirl around so many of the issues that we have so briefly touched on. However, you accused me of taking scripture out of context, and that is most offensive and (to the best of my knowledge and attempts) untrue. And I do not know how you can say that my claim that the Catholic church has tried to keep the bible out of the hands of ordinary people when the first effort to mass produce it and distribute it was done by the reformers who, after reading the Bible, renounced the heresies of indulgences and other warped doctrines of demons.

Finally, if all doctrines of the Catholic church are “implicitly or explicitly found in the Bible” (source) then one simply needs to study the scriptures and God will be faithful to open our eyes to His truth. I agree that the scriptures contain all things pertaining to life and godliness, but I disagree that the Roman system of interpretation is the right one.

Salvation is only by grace because it is a free gift. I know that my Catholic friends do not, and probably will not, agree with this biblical truth…and that is very sad. I only hope that God will do a mighty work in the hearts of all “Christians” who believe that good works done today help us achieve salvation.

may God be glorified

Danny Garland Jr. said...

"The true gospel is that Christ offers salvation for free and the life of someone who is truly saved will show the fruit of salvation (repentance and good works)."

I say Amen! Catholics believe and affirm this 100%. Christ offers salvation for free and man has to respond to it.

As for the mass distribution of the Bible, the printing press wasn't even invented until 1436. Before then, if you wanted to make a copy, you had to do it by hand. You can probably guess what mass distribution of the Bible that was copied by hand would look like. The fact is that prior to Luther's Bible being published in German, there had been over 20 versions of the whole Bible translated into the various German dialects by Catholics.

I seriously recommend studying history, before believing false and base lies about the Catholic Church.

In Christ,
Danny

4HisChurch said...

Thanks for replying, EJ. I don't think Baptism *is* a "work". It is something that Jesus commanded us to do in Scripture (as is Holy Communion.)

"the life of someone who is truly saved will show the fruit of salvation (repentance and good works)."

Amen!! I totally agree there! Salvation is not some magic formula, either the "pray a prayer" type, or the "go to Mass and you're automatically ok" type. Just as you said, "the life of someone who is truly saved will show the fruit of salvation (repentance and good works)."

St. Michael the Archangel said...

EJ: Your most disturbing comment was as follows "Not only does Scripture not say “faith alone” in reference to salvation, it also says nothing about the bodily assumption or immaculate conception of Mary (or other Marian doctrines), praying to her or to other saints, of the office of Cardinals, the Pope or the Papacy, forced celibacy of clergy, or many other Roman doctrines. This is why the Roman system must always reject the primacy of the Scriptures and the understanding that they are the only source of revealed and inspired truth. That is also why keeping the Scriptures from the people (and much of the clergy too) was one of Satan’s greatest weapons against mankind which allowed the Catholic church to grow relatively unchecked (on human standard) for centuries leaving only remnants of true believers throughout the ages that were systematically persecuted.

I cannot believe... well actually I can in a sad way, that you believe this, that you have the nerve to say it, and that you dare to even write it. I am saddened to say that you have fallen into the mousetrap that most protestants get caught in. You were raised on beliefs that the evil Catholic church persecuted good christians for thousands of years until Martin Luther came to free them, you also believe that the evil catholic demonized church hid the bible from people and kept them illiterate in order to somehow rip them off on salvation. You then say that the church was a work of Satan... WHAT?! I have one thing to say to you on that last sentence... look this up if you have too "VADE RETRO SATANA, IPSE VENENA BIBAS"!

You have in a way become the thing that you hate about the Catholics... you are spouting off things that you have no real clue about except from local legend taught to you be your childhood church and family that the Catholic Church is the devil.

Do you know what Satans greatest weapon was? Luther and his misconceptions and hunger for power. I have no doubt in my mind that in the end.. that man was possessed. Look at what happened... there are now over 78,000 Protestant denominations all claiming that they hold the one true truth of Christ.... He split up the unity of Christ, he split christ... now you tell me which denomination has held true to its teachings? Which denomination can trace its roots back over 2000 years? Can your independent church do that? When you got ordained or whatever you call it, did a Bishop in the lineage of the apostles lay his blessed hands on your head and give you the power of the holy spirit? Is your ordination even valid? In the old Testament, the Jews had a lineage of Priests and the Priesthood... do protestants share that line? Why do protestants not have priests??? Remember in the bible it talks about presbyters (priests) and bishops... it does talk about the papacy, Christ hands the key to Peter.. I know you have your own answer for this no matter how many times you have to look at the bible verse, you have your own way of twisting it. The trinity, it is biblical heck go back to genesis and when God created the world... he said "lets make man in OUR image.. he didn't say my image... he said "our"... who was he referring to??? there was already a trinity, the 3 persons in one God, the father son and holy Ghost. Go and look when John the Baptist was baptising Jesus, the clouds opened and the spirit in the form of a dove descended "this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased" So that is the 3rd person of the trinity. Go and research on the topic creation ex nihilo, there you too again will find the trinity.

On the assumption of Mary:

Check out Revelation in your bible and read this: (Rev. 11:19). "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; . . . she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron" (Rev. 12:1,5.

Also look here:
Both Enoch and Elijah were assumed into heaven (Heb. 11:5, 2 Kgs. 2:11). Also, in Matthew 27:52-53 one can read about saints whose bodies left the grave after the Resurrection of Christ. If God did that for two of his prophets, don't you think he would also do it for his own mother?

If you doubt that the mother of God was assumped into heaven... one day you will have an interesting shock when you find out the truth.. but then it may be too late for you to change how you run your life.

Also on Forced Celibacy... take a look and see what the divorce rate is for married ministers? its about 70%, that is a high rate. Why juggle a family and God, remember God said that he is a jealous God, if you are his minister, don't you think he would want you to focus on him 100% instead of being disctraced by family? Jesus himself didn't mary, some of his apostles didn't either, in fact the ones that were married when Jesus called them, left their wives and family to follow Christ and they probably never saw them again.

As for the Baptism thing and the water:

John 3:5: "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

Also look here: St. Paul says - you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified" (1 Cor. 6:11)

Water is neccessary, you can't just say you want to believe and be saved... you need to go through the neccessary steps set down by God. As for the theif on the cross, he asked God to forgive him, he said that what he was getting was well deserved, he was in confession, and God forgave him all his sins, and said "today you shall be in paradise with me" I will post more later, I am tired and need to hit the sack...

Pax Christi,

Michael

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