What is the Israel of God?

What is the Israel of God?

“Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.” Gal 6:16

There has been much debate as to the meaning of the apostle Paul’s expression “the Israel of God” in his letter to the Galatians. Much of the debate has been caused by people holding to various eschatology theories of the nation of Israel and its relationship to the church. However, the apostle gives us a clue as to the meaning in the expression itself. If there is an Israel of God, there must be an Israel that is not of God. Who or what is this false Israel? In the book of Galatians and throughout his writings, the apostle tells us who makes up this wrong Israel. The false Israel is made up of fleshly Israel, including those who believe in Christ yet want to bind the law of Moses on all Christians[1]. In other words, they believe that a person is saved by faith in Christ plus the law of Moses or by becoming a Jew. This group of people are called Judaizers and have been present within the church since its earliest beginning. In the book of Acts, you can read about how they actually followed the apostle Paul around undermining his message of salvation through Christ alone and attempted to convert Paul’s disciple back to Judaism (Christ plus Judaism) bring them back into the bondage of religion.

Let’s look at what Paul and the New Testament says about fleshly or the physical descendants of  Abraham who made up the physical nation of Israel in the days of Paul and today. Our first text will be a metaphor given to us by Paul in Galatians Chapter 4:21-30).

“(21) Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? (22) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. (23) His son by the slave woman was born in an ordinary way, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.

(24) These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. (25) Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem because she is in slavery with her children. (26) But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. (27) For it is written:

 

“Be glad, O barren woman,

who bears no children;

break forth and cry aloud,

you who have no labor pains;

because more are the children of the desolate woman

than of her who has a husband.”

 

(28) Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. (29) At that time the son born in an ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. (30) But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son” (31). Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman” (Gal 4:21-31).

We can gather from Paul’s words that there are two Israel’s one is spiritual and one is fleshly or physical. Physical Israel is born through natural processes (physical birth) and is based on biology. On the other hand, spiritual Israel is based on a birth brought from above by the spirit of God (John 3:1-5).  Paul’s conclusion is stated in verse 30,  which is that the slave woman physical Israel will not receive the inheritance of eternal life unless they become spiritual children through faith in Jesus Christ. “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”  8, In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring (Rom 9:6-8).

Who are the children of the promise? It is clearly stated that they are believers in Jesus and those that have been baptized into Him. “26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal:26-29). We can gather from this that now a new humanity or nation made up of all men who are saved by faith in Jesus. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy (1 Peter 2:9-10). Who is Peter talking to? Is he not talking to the Israel of God?

The citizenship requirement in this new nation is a spiritual birth into it through water and spirit him (John 3:1-5).

For further study, I’d recommend  T Austin’s Sparks “The Israel of God.” You can get it free by coping into your browser the link below.[2]

 

[1] Phi 3:1-6, Gal 3:1-26

[2] http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/israel_of_god_the.html

 

 

Baptism, A Workbook

Basic Christian Doctrine

A Study In Holistic Theology

What The Bible Teaches about Baptism

 

Please pay close attention to the title of this article.  It does not say what the Roman Catholic Church teaches on baptism or what the Baptist church teaches on baptism or any other church.  It is an article on what the Bible says about it.

Moreover, it is not an article on what the Bible says on faith, repentance, or any other subject.  It is about what the Bible says about baptism.  I say this for the other day I was talking to a person about Christ, and the subject of baptism came up.  As we talked, I asked the individual I was speaking to what they thought the meaning and purpose of baptism where according to the Bible.

Their response was that they immediately went to passages of Scripture that talked about faith.  I interrupted and asked what does the Bible said about baptism and its’ relationship to salvation.  I pointed out it seems reasonable that if you’re studying a subject, you would look at the verses of Scripture, which spoke about that subject and not something else.  At that point, the discussion came to an end.

The best way to begin a study of the Bible is simply to read what the Bible has to say about a subject without reading into it any man’s opinion of what it says.  Our opinion of what it says and the opinion of the entire world will not change the facts of what the Bible says.  I may not be able to explain it or even understand it, but it still remains the eternal truth.  So with that in mind, what does the Bible say about water baptism.  I would also suggest that you get your own Bible out and read the passage in context.

Matt 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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Mark 1:4

4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

 

Mark 16:15-17

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe:

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Luke 24:45-49

45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

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I  have included this passage in Luke because of what it does not say about baptism.  What we see is typical of what you see everywhere in the Bible.  A subject is talked about in a holistic way, including all its parts though not all those parts are not stated  individually.  To know what the great commission was in its entirety you would have to read all the Gospels accounts and add up all the individual pieces. If you did, you would come up with something like this –  Jesus came to his disciples and said “all authority in heaven, and earth has been given to me. So I tell you go into all the world preach the gospel, of my death, burial, and resurrection and the forgiveness sin through believing in my name.  He that believes it and confesses it by being baptized into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will be saved.”   Note they did it in Acts 2:14-41

Acts 2:38-41

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

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Acts 8:30-39

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. 1 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

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Acts 18:25-26

25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

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Acts 19:1-5

19:1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 22:12-16

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

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Rom 6:1-7

6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

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Eph 4:4-6

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

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Gal 3:26-29

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

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Col 2:9-12

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

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1 Peter 3:18-4:1

18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

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Passage that seem to be pointing to Baptism

John 3:5-8

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

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Titus 3:3-8

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

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Eph 5:25-27

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless

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Now that you have studied the passages, read my comments on them.  Do not read my comments until you have studied the passages.

 

My thoughts on the passages

Matt 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

In this passage Jesus tells his disciples to go into all the world.  This was an expansion of his earlier commission to go to the lost sheep of Israel.  He then tells them to make disciples of all nations (not just Jews) by baptizing them into the name of The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The preposition in the Greek means in or into –  indicates they are to baptize people into the Godhead.  This ideal is reinforced by Rom. 6:3-4 and Gal. 3:26-27 which teaches that people are by faith baptized into Christ.

Mark 1:4

4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

In this passage, we see the close connection that baptism has with faith.  Baptism and faith are looked on in the Bible as the inside and outside of the same thing.  Note Gal. 3:26-27.  Baptism is faith, and faith is baptism.  The early Christian looked at baptism as an identification with a person or even a nation. So baptism was into Christ or an identification with Christ.  Every Christian was baptized, and every baptized person was a Christian if they had been baptized into Christ.  In the first century, there was no such thing as a non-baptized Christian.  People that were seeking Christ and were not baptized were called “God fearers”.  Note Acts 19:1-5 where people’s relationship with Christ was questioned because they were not baptized correctly.

Mark 16:15-17

15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe:

What Jesus says: ” Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Belief-baptism-saved

Roman Catholics say:  “Whoever is baptized and believes will be saved.” Baptism-faith-saved

Protestants say:  “Whoever believes and is saved should be baptized.” Belief-saved-baptism

Which one does the Bible Teach?

A childish quibble is often made that it does not say those not baptized will be lost.  Of course not, why would anyone be baptized if they did not believe?

Acts 2:38-41

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off-for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

In this passage, you see the same order of salvation “Repentance (belief), baptism then the forgiveness of sin.  Notice the similarities and the differences between John’s baptism and the baptism of Jesus.  Both were for the forgiveness of sin.  However, John’s baptism was unto Christ and the baptism of Jesus was into Christ.

Many Protestants distort the meaning of the passage by saying that these people’s sins were already forgiven.  In other words, Peter should have said “Repent and be baptized because your sins are already forgiven.”  This would be in keeping with the Protestant theology, but it is not what the Bible says.   Of course in one since their sins were forgiven when Christ died for the sins of the world, but here Peter is telling them how they accept that gift, which is by confessing their faith in baptism.

 

Acts 8:30-39

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 The eunuch was reading this passage of Scripture:

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.

The passage says that Philip told the eunuch the good news about Jesus and we see the eunuch responding by being baptized.  We gather that the good news that Philip shared with the eunuch included baptism for the man asked to be baptized.  Again keeping with the great commission we see a sense of immediacy.

 

 

 

Acts 19:1-5

19:1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

The above passage shows that the whole subject of baptism has been subverted by the Protestant movement.  This came out of an overreaction to the Catholic church’s teachings on baptism.  The passage above demonstrates the importance of baptism and places it squarely in the salvation question.  Note the questions of the apostles.  It is obvious that Paul acquainted faith and baptism with the coming of the holy spirit as Peter did in Acts 2:38.  Would most Protestants or evangelicals ask the question that Paul asked these disciples?

Acts 9:17-19

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Acts 22:12-16

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

In these passages, we see a disciple named Ananias coming to Saul, who became the apostle Paul and tells him to be baptized to wash away his sins.  Note he told him to be baptized to wash away his sins not because his sins were already forgiven on the road to Damascus.  Now remember Saul saw the resurrected Christ on the road three days before Ananias came to him in the city.  It looks like from the text that Saul believed in Christ and three days later had his sins washed away.  Some have tried to argue that Paul was already a Christian before Ananias came to him, and before he was baptized.  They base this on Ananias calling him brother Saul.  The more likely explanation is that both men were Jews and Jews often called each other brothers. Note Acts 3;17

 

Rom 6:1-7

6:1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

In this passage, Paul tells us that baptism put us into Christ.  Of course, his statement is based on a person having faith.  We could say that people were put into Christ by faith’s baptism.  Some have tried to skirt this passage by saying that it is not a reference to water baptism but rather Spirit baptism.  This interpretation has a number of problems.  First, it goes against the majority of scholars and the traditional interpretation of the Christian church for centuries.  It can easily be established that when the word baptism is used without a modifier it should be viewed as talking about water baptism, seeing that the word means to immerse in water.

Eph 4:4-6

5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

This an interesting passage for it says there is just one baptism.  Now this is in direct contrast to what many preachers teach.  We have men who teach that there is Holy Spirit baptism, baptism of suffering, baptism of fire and water baptism, and we have some that claiming we have different forms of water baptism. Why did Paul say in 63 A.D. that there was only one baptism?  The reason is that by the time of the writing of the Book of Ephesians,  the other baptisms either were fulfilled or no longer applied.  Of course to the astute person that understands language, the other forms of baptisms were metaphorical in nature in the first place.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled when Jesus poured out the Spirit on the new creation as recorded in Acts 2.  The baptism of the Spirit was a onetime immersion of the church or the corporate body of believers and received the Spirit.  Today when a man believes in Christ, they are added to the Spirit-filled body and share in the baptism of the Spirit.  The baptism of suffering was an immersion or baptism of the apostles in the suffering of Christ.  Today we share in that baptism when we identify with those men and the body of Christ.  The baptism of fire is a baptism of God’s judgment and was fulfilled when he destroyed Jerusalem.  It will also be experienced by the wicked on the last day.  It is a metaphor for God’s judgment.

Gal 3:26-29

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In this passage faith and baptism are linked together by the word for.  The word “for” is used to show the connection between the expression ” faith in Christ” and “being clothed with Christ”.

 

Col 2:9-12

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

In this passage, Paul relates baptism and the circumcision of the flesh done by Christ.  We know that water cannot remove the sin’s desire nor any ritual.  The circumcision of flesh is done by the Spirit of Christ which a person receives by being in Christ.  Remember what the Bible says about how to get into Christ – Rom.6:1-5 and Gal 3:26,27.  In view of this, one can see how baptism can be referred to as the circumcision of Christ, for it is the work of God that puts one into Christ where the spirit renews their mind.

1 Peter 3:18-4:1

18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

In verse 21 it is clear that Peter says that baptism saves.  However, the question is – How does it save you?  Does it save apart from faith?  No, it saves by faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and by a pledge of a good conscience toward God.  What does that all mean?  It simply means that when a person believes in the resurrection of Christ, the Spirit through a disciple, baptizes the believer into Christ for the remission of their sin, which remission comes from the new relationship with Christ.  They, therefore, are separated by the resurrection and their baptism from the old world order of things.

Note the Bible says that somehow baptism saves you.  Many preachers say it does not.  Who will you believe?

John 3:5-8

5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Titus 3:3-8

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

One point to ponder: prior to John Calvin 1508-1564 no major figure in Christianity believed that the passage in John 3 applied to anything but Christian baptism in water.  All other interpretations are of latter-day origin.  Can you trust any latter day origin of a doctrine? Note Jude 3

So what is Jesus saying?  In verse 5 of John 3 he seems to be saying that there is one birth into the kingdom of God, which is made up of two elements water and spirit.  In this, the spiritual birth into Christ is much like one’s fleshly birth, which is made up of God creating a physical body and then putting a spirit in the body he creates – two elements –  one person and one birth.  In a simpler way, the spiritual birth is a washing with water and giving of the Spirit.  Note the order is the same in both passages water then Spirit.

 

A Grave and Glaring Contrast

One way to judge a biblical interpretation is to compare it with the practices of those in the New Testament.

If people have the same beliefs, they should have the same actions or practices.  Here is the contrast. Today we see people teaching people about Jesus then those people being baptized months or even years after they believe in Jesus.  In the book of Acts, you see people be baptized immediately upon hearing and believing the message?  Why the difference?  Read the following examples of conversions from the Book of Acts.

Acts 2:36-39

Acts 8:9-13

Acts 8:26-40

Acts 9:1-19

Acts 16:29-34

Acts 16:13-15

Acts 19:1-8

The only way you can explain the difference in actions is that there is a difference in belief. In the examples in Acts, you see an emphasis on and an immediacy placed on being baptism.  Today, there is no sense of immediacy or emphasis placed on baptism.  Why is it different?  Could it be that the theology is different?  These examples may not prove anything, but they surely raise some questions.  Why the immediacy and why the emphasis on baptism in the Bible when it has nothing to do with salvation?  Why do preachers today tell people that ask what they need to do to be saved tell them to say the sinner’s prayer or to ask Jesus into their heart?  Is that what they told people in the Bible?  How about repent and be baptized?

The holistic theology Summer:  God sent his Son to die for our sin that we might believe in him and confess him in being baptized into Him for the remission of sin that we might become like him by receiving His Spirit in Him.

All the above ideas are in line with G. R. Beasley-Murray book on Baptism “Baptism In The New Testament” at the writing of the book, he was professor emeritus of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 

Questions and Answers

What about the thief on the cross?  He was saved without baptism.  Baptism is a necessity, but not an absolute.  God is always higher than his law and does make exceptions.  However, exceptions do not do away with the rule or change the rule.  Preaching exceptions to the rule is nothing but a form of relativism and disobedience to the word.

What the American church has done is to make the exception the rule and then they call the exception the Bible.  It seems that they are putting their tradition before the word of God.  I think much of this has come about because of their mass evangelism meetings and media programs were they try to mass produce Christians in large numbers. Water baptism does not lean itself well to that end.  All of which looks more like American culture than the Bible.

Does the Bible ask people to accept Jesus as their personal savior?  No that is the language of Babel. The Bible commands people to believe and be baptized (Acts 2:38).  My challenge to you is to find one verse in the Bible that tells anyone seeking salvation to accept Jesus into their heart, say the sinner prayer, or for that matter say any prayer, to be saved.  What about the passage in Revelation that says “I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, “I will come in and eat with that person”.  This passage has nothing to do with salvation and the Lord is speaking to Christians not non-Christians seeking salvation.

Is baptism a work of rightness done by a person to be saved? Baptism is a work of faith because it was commanded by the Lord (Rom 1:5).  It is not a work of rightness that we do to be saved.  In baptism we submit to Jesus and the Father and we are actually baptized by them through the Holy Spirit at work in the disciple that they use to baptize us. The expression “works of righteousness” is found in Eph 2:9-10 and most likely is a reference to the works of religion found in the law of Moses.  Paul was trying to show Jewish Christians that their former religion had nothing to do with their salvation.

Whether a thing would fall into the category of a “work of righteousness” would wholly depend on one’s attitude.  If you think anything you do would obligate God to save you, you in essence have turned that thing into a work of righteousness.  This would include faith.  The thing that takes faith out of that category is that it is the work of God even as baptism is the work of God.  Both faith and baptism are acts of trusting in God’s grace and power for salvation.  The only difference is one is external and the other is internal.  One is done with the mind and the other is done with the body.  Of course, Gnostic  Christians (American religion) deny the value of anything done in the body or that which is physical.  In their thinking the physical can have nothing to do with salvation. Yet, the apostle Paul says that God used the Physical body of Jesus to save us. “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-” (Col 1:21-23).

 

 

Revelation and Myth

Revelation and Myth[1]

The word revelation simply means an unveiling or the lifting of the veil.  We often use the word in a religious sense as an unveiling of the Uncreated One or the essence we call God, but the word God is a metaphor that points beyond itself to what is beyond and transcends human intelligence.  The word God itself is a revelation because it brings that mystical essence a step closer to our consciousness.  The word God to some degree enables us to communicate with each other about this mystical essence and our experiences of it[2].  We men have been analyzing and refining our knowledge of this Totally Other since the dawn of human consciousness.  Some have even pretended to be that consciousness when men had a corporal view of God.  It was the nation of Israel that first codified that God could not be imaged by the human mind, a revelation which could be traced back to Moses and his encounter with God on the sacred mountain.  The Uncreated One is not a creature that man has the right to name just as Adam named the animals brought before him.  Be careful about speaking of God.

It’s not hard to figure out how revelation worked.  In the past, men experienced the Totally Other in various ways[3].  When they talk to others about their experience there seems to be a thread that connected these experiences, a thread which basically said that there was something beyond the mere physical. Something so lofty that the human mind could not comprehend it.  It was this something that primitive man gave the title God.

This helps us to understand the ancient myths.  Myths mediated the presence of God to mankind through story and poetry.  It was through these forms of mediation that the ground and foundation of All Beings began to reveal himself to mankind.  This is why we see a thread, though sometimes thin, of the same themes in myth and story throughout the world[4].

You could say that the myths were the temples God used as a meeting places with men.  They were the bridge that spanned the chasm between the spiritual and the physical.  Myths are metaphors that come alive in story form.  In the New Testimony, Jesus became the living temple and bridge where man can meet God.  Unfortunately, some men are metaphorically disadvantaged because of their concrete thinking, which came about by a scientism that denies anything other than our sense experiences.

What about Jesus and revelation?  Well, Jesus is the image or revelation of God.  He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  The apostle Paul refers to him as “the image of the invisible God.”  Paul goes on to say that God packed into Jesus everything that humans could possibly know about God[5]. So in that sense Jesus is THE revelation of God.  Jesus became a living metaphor that pointed to God. That’s why John could say the word (revelation) became flesh and dwelled among us (John 1:14).  He goes to say, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:17-18)  The Word, The myths, The Forms and The Archetypes all took on a bodily form in Jesus.  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority (Col 2:9-10).

[1][1] Definition of Myth:1 a: a usually Definition of Myth:1 a: a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon creation myths b: PARABLE, ALLEGORY Moral responsibility is the motif of Plato’s myths.

[2] In his book “The Idea of The Holy: An Inquiry into The Non-Rational Factor in The Idea of The Divine and Its’ Relation to The Rational”, Rudolf Otto gives an excellent overview of these mystical experiences and encounters with the Totally Other.

[3] Hebrews 1:1-3 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe”.

[4] “The Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James. Also note the works of Joseph Campbell.

[5] “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col 1:18-20).

 

Natural Revelation and Biblical Revelation

Natural Revelation and Biblical Revelation

The Bible didn’t need to tell us about natural revelation because those things are a part of the human experience.  The Biblical writers simply codified or wrote them down.  Natural revelation is self-evident truth.  A self-evident truth is a truth that God has made known to all men who are in their right mind and whose intellect has not been hardened by rebellion or perverted by worldly philosophy and religion.

In contrast, to natural revelation, Biblical revelation are truths that are made known through the revelatory acts of God; the most obvious revelation is the sending of God’s son in the person of Jesus Christ.  In His life and work we see and learn things about God that go beyond natural revelation.  In this study we are mainly interested in natural revelation.  However, in the life of Christ we often see a confirmation of natural revelation.

The first natural revelation that I was aware of in my life was that there is a God.  That’s a self-evident truth that is programmed into everyone i.e. hardwired to believe when they come into the world. However, that self-evident knowledge can be destroyed by human pride and the demonic beliefs of the human heart.  Numerous atheists have told me that they became an atheist when they were in their early teens or younger.  This may be the case because the Scriptures say, “that foolishness resides in the heart of a child”. Moreover, I believe they told me this to impress me with their intellect.  They did not, for they were speaking from their imagination and bias, not their intellect.  A child’s mind is not capable of making an intellectual choice about the existence of the God, because the child’s mind cannot understand the concept of the true God.  Most likely the god they believed in and rejected was like Santa Claus.  However, even this rejection is even dubious.  The god they rejected was too small and sadly there are many adults who still have a similar small God.  They don’t believe in God, because their God is too small.

The lesson that there is a God is codified and taught in Genesis 1, “In the beginning God created.”  However, Genesis does not argue for the existence of God, it assumes his existence and also reveals something about his nature.  The first chapter reveals that He is a God that likes order and structure.  In that chapter, He separates order from the chaos.  He does it through his Word (information); in this act he reveals that He is a God of order, which is reflected in the physical and the moral order of things and in the very nature of man who was created in His likeness.

We see in the creation story a perfect balance between chaos and order.  In the universe He left just the right amount of room for free will and randomness.  God’s cosmos is perfectly balanced in all things, in light and darkness, in order and chaos.  Humans, that were later created in his image and likeness, were commanded to keep things in order on planet earth, which is His nursery for growing and training of the sons of God.  When we let our lives get filled with chaos and darkness we miss the mark of fulfilling our purpose and being truly human; then we find ourselves alienated from God, others and even our own selves.  In this regard, Genesis 1 is a call for humans to put and keep their lives in order and balance in a world of chaos.  In doing this, they reflect the image and likeness of God.

Yes, there is a God and from natural revelation I learned that I am not him.  How do I know that? I know it because I have limits and He does not.  In chapter 2 of Genesis, man is created in the image and likeness of God.  However, Adam and many of his descendents fail to recognize that just being in the image and likeness of God, does not make you God.  They failed to see their limits.  My shadow has somewhat of my likeness, but it’s not me.  In fact, it’s a very poor likeness of me.  Man in his present form is a blurred and distorted image of God.  The true image of God is seen in Jesus Christ.  In Christ, the image of God is, and will be, restored to man. When you are studying the Old Testament story of man, you are basically studying the shadow of God in which God is veiled.  Have you studied your shadow lately?  Remember that you only see your shadow when the sun is shining.  Your shadow is most visible when you are comparing yourself with Jesus, who is the light of the world.

The Apostle Paul says of the Resurrected Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.”(Col 1:15-19)  In saying this the Apostle Paul is pointing out that Christ is the true Adam.  He is the true likeness and image of the eternal God in bodily form.  In the resurrection when time is fulfilled God will restore to men who are in Christ, the image and likeness of God. That is why the Apostle John could say that, “when he comes we shall be like him.”

Let me share with you some reasons why I know  that I have limits and that I am not God.

I cannot do anything I want because when my wants conflict with some other  persons wants, they are my limits (people). Especially, if it’s a 250-pound man. I once heard a man say that you cannot stop the man with the plan. What if someone has a plan to stop that man with a plan?

I cannot have everything I want because my “want-to” appetite is too big and when my want to-appetite is too large, I have found the trouble and my limits. That is why so many people are overweight, and in debt up to their eye balls.  Their appetite, or will is too large.  They have not  completely learned the lesson of life; there is a God and they are not Him.  God gives children parents to demonstrate to the children what their limits are.  Good parents will place limits on their children.  If children are not taught limits when they’re young by their parents, other people (300-pound pound gorilla boss) with more power than them, will place limits on their will or want-to’s.  So place limits on your children early, and save them the pain of learning the hard way.

I cannot be anything I want to be.  I can identify as being rich but that doesn’t make me rich.  Many Americans live as though they’re rich.  Let me share with you some good advice; stop living as though you’re rich; most of you are not. Also, please stop identifying as the opposite sex.  Identifying as the opposite sex is not going to make you into that gender.  You can dress up and pretend to be, but that does not change your biology or your DNA.  Just like you can dress up to be a millionaire, but that doesn’t make you a millionaire.

I am limited by my IQ, which translates as; I am limited by nature.  Natural law teaches us that we have limits.  Learn this simple lesson from nature.  God gave us only two hands.  If you get your hands too full, you’re miserable.  This means that your if your hands are full you must put something down before you can pick something else up.  By all means test your limits but learn to accept the real ones.

I also learned through natural revelation that there is something in the world called the Trouble.  It’s like the air that we breathe.  It is in us, and all around us.  That is what Genesis, chapters 2 and 3, teach us as well.  Paul refers to the Trouble as sin and death.  He is not  talking about personal sin or morality, he is talking about the powers of sin and death who are the source of the Trouble.  We see the beginning of the Trouble in the conflict  of Adams will, with God’s will.  Then in chapter 3 of the book of Genesis, we see the Trouble entering human relationships in the story of Cain and Able.  When there are conflicting wills between man and God,  or man and other humans, there is the Trouble.

Both the Bible, and natural revelation teach us that we are limited by our conflicting desires or will, and that this conflict is this source of the Trouble.  In the book of James, we find this plainly stated, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” ( James 4:1-3).

It is a self-evident truth that conflicting wills and appetites are the source of the Trouble.  As stated before, this is not a biblical revelation, it is a natural revelation that is obvious to all men who are in their right minds.  The Bible simply codifies it and in so doing, amplifies it to help humans become more aware of the Trouble in their lives, and substantiation that we are not God.

In conclusion, we can say that if you reflect on nature and how we react to the human condition you can plainly see that biblical revelation and natural revelation teach the equivalent wisdom.  So, the book of nature and the book of God teach basically the same things about God, man’s behavior and the human condition.  There is a God, we are not him and there is the Trouble that depicts the whole of the human condition.