Faith. That’s it. Nothing Else.

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Ephesians 2:4-10…

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Pretty clear, I’d say. And really, I don’t know how anyone with any sort of theological integrity could say otherwise. Yet, we have people amongst us who believe a gospel different to the one taught in the Bible (ie. Faith + something (most likely – works)).

A friend of mine attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (a very sound institution).  At the time, he seemed to be very grounded in his theology, with regards to the gospel (Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, etc.). Several years later, after we had parted ways for quite some time, I discovered that he had left the Baptist denomination, which isn’t necessarily bad, and had become a Lutheran. When I eventually got back in touch with him and we discussed theological stances, I learned that he had come to believe that salvation was not by faith alone through grace alone. Rather, salvation was by grace through faith, plus baptism and holy communion.

Whoa! Now that is a different gospel altogether. That is a gospel which is nowhere to be found in the Word of God. Salvation is and has ALWAYS been by faith through grace alone. There is no other way of salvation.

You may ask, “What about Old Testament saints? Were they also saved by grace through faith alone? I thought that they had to keep the law in order to merit divine esteem and salvation?”

A fantastic question. The answer is quite simple – Old Testament saints were saved exactly the same way as New Testament saints – by faith.

Romans 4:1-12…

What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. David Celebrates the Same Truth But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.”Abraham Justified Before Circumcision Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

Pretty clear, again.

I have another group of friends that hold to the theory that salvation in the OT was by faith and works. It is incredibly frustrating when I discuss this topic with them (I don’t do it often), because the Bible is SO CLEAR on the matter. Not only is salvation by faith alone, but there is nothing we can do, apart from God, to merit divine esteem. Nothing. God is not impressed with our good works. All of our righteousness is as filthy rags.

The OT saints did not have to keep the law in order to be saved. Rather, they kept the law BECAUSE they were saved. Just like NT saints… We are not saved by going to church, reading the Bible, living a “Godly” life and telling others about Jesus. Rather, we do those things BECAUSE we are saved. The object of our faith is the same, regardless of when we were born in history. The object of our faith was God and the Messiah, Christ Jesus.

But back to baptism and communion. What benefit is holy communion or baptism? For the purposes of salvation – nothing. It’s bread. It’s juice. It’s water. However, people that hold to the teaching that these actions do save will usually cite Scripture as their basis. Let’s look at a couple of them.

Holy Communion

John 6:53-58…

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed,and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven—not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”

At first glance, this passage would seem to indicate that Jesus is saying that a person must literally eat His flesh and drink His blood. But, we must be good Bereans (Acts17) and study the Bible out. When people who teach communion for the remission of sins come to this passage, they fail to go to the end of the chapter. In verse 63, Jesus says that the words He speaks are spirit. When looking into the Greek rendering, you learn that the word “spirit” simply means “figurative” or “analogy.”

In John 6, Jesus compared Himself to the manna that Israel ate in the wilderness. If not for the manna that came down from heaven, Israel would have surely died. They required the manna for sustenance. We are absolutely no different. Jesus is that bread from heaven. If not for He, then we would perish. He is our bread. He is that which sustains. We must live off of Him by reading His word, praying to Him, and loving Him. THAT is what Jesus meant when He said that you must eat His flesh and drink His blood. We must desire so much to have him in our lives, and that He is so important for us, He is like the very food we eat.

When we partake of communion, it does not turn into the literally body and blood of Christ. This is found nowhere in Scripture. Communion is simply a reminder of what Jesus did for us on the cross. His body broke, therefore we eat the bread. His blood was shed, therefore we drink the juice. Communion is for remembrance and nothing more. It does not save. But praise be to God for communion. I love partaking and having that physical reminder of what my Savior did for me on the cross.

Baptism

John 3:5-8

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

There are a few interpretations of this passage.

  • Some believe that Jesus is speaking of a literal water baptism. “You must be baptized if you wish to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • Some believe that Jesus is speaking of a literal birth, and that is the water reference. When a woman goes into labor, her “water will break.” And some would say that this is the reference. Jesus is speaking of a literal birth and then a spiritual birth.
  • Others would believe, and this is where I tend to fall, that Jesus is referencing a spiritual washing of the old man, such as what is mentioned in Ezekiel 36:24-28

For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

The only part of my opinion on this where I am dogmatic is the fact that Jesus is not referencing baptism as a condition of salvation. He is absolutely not saying that. Salvation has always been the same, from Adam up to now. God does not change (Hebrews 3:18). Also, baptism was instituted in the 1st century. Therefore, if a person must be baptized for salvation, what did all the people do previous to the 1st century? As well, what about the people that died before having the opportunity to be baptized, such as the thief on the cross? There are some pretty large holes in the theory of baptismal regeneration.

Apart from the first point, if you feel that you are more in line with point number 2 verses point number 3, then fair enough.  A lot of my friends certainly would fall under the umbrella of believing the 2nd point. Neither point 2 nor point 3 change the gospel.

Conclusion

Salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. I pray that you’re trusting in Christ alone for your salvation. If you are not, I beg you to consider what the Word of God has to say about salvation. Alternatively, you may message me. I’d love to discuss this topic with you further.

Every one who would obtain the righteousness of Christ must renounce his own.

~ John Calvin

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10 comments

  1. Hi, and welcome to WordPress. You have some interesting things to say here and I think I’d enjoy dialoguing with you.

    So — you call yourself Reformed. Presumably you mean that you are Calvinist. But you have Martin Luther as your wallpaper. You should be aware that Luther would have disagreed with many of your points here.

    Luther, for example, believed wholeheartedly in baptismal regeneration, and the necessity of Baptism for salvation. Does that mean that Baptism is a “work” that is somehow added to “faith”? No, absolutely not. For Luther — just as Christians before him had always believed — Baptism was the act of faith, and the means of grace. It is only later Reformers, especially in the Calvinist and evangelical traditions, who took such a stance that “works” meant “doing something” (anything at all). Luther also believed that Jesus was really and substantially present in the Eucharist, contrary to your view.

    Your readings of Scripture may be “so clear” to you — but only because you are reading them according to the tradition by which you have been taught. Other Christians from different traditions take away quite different understandings of them. You should not be frustrated with them for not seeing it your way: it would serve you very well to try to understand their readings, and how they can come to a different understanding that you.

    That “spirit” in John 6:63 means “figurative” or “analogical” is an interpretation I’ve never heard before — and not something conveyed by the Greek rendering at all. “Spirit,” πνεῦμα in Greek, means “spirit” or “breath.” Where do you find that “spirit” means that “figurative”? Jesus means here by “spirit” and “life” exactly what He says: “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; [but] the words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” Jesus’s language here is quite literal and visceral — he stresses not once for four or five times that “the bread which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

    Yes, Baptism was instituted in the first century — by Jesus Himself, not a dozen verses from the passage you quote: “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized” (John 3:22). Jesus Himself tells us that Baptism is necessary for salvation, not just here, but also in Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” What did people do prior to the first century? In the sense we understand it as Christians, there was no “salvation” in the Old Testament — in the sense of enjoying eternal life with the Father in Heaven. Only Jesus, through His death and Resurrection, opened the way to eternal life. The righteous dead before Christ went to the “limbo of the fathers” or the “bosom of Abraham” (cf. Luke 16:22); following His death, Jesus preached to those souls to offer them the long-awaited salvation (1 Peter 4:6).

    Salvation is by grace through faith. But the idea that salvation comes with no action on our parts is unscriptural. And I would be glad to discuss this with you further also.

  2. Hello Joseph. Thank you for reading and replying.

    I do call myself reformed, simply because my conviction is the “reformed faith.” I suppose you could use the word “Calvinist” if you like, but I honestly do not like that word.

    Regarding Luther – I am fully aware that Luther would disagree with me somewhat on my latest post. I have read the catechisms he wrote in 1529. However, I like a lot of what Luther had to say (chew up the meat and spit out the bones, so to speak). Plus, it’s a nice picture I have in my background.

    If I may quote you…

    “Your readings of Scripture may be “so clear” to you — but only because you are reading them according to the tradition by which you have been taught.”

    This is just a side note, but you may be assuming a bit much. I did not grow up in the reformed faith, nor was I ever taught the reformed faith. I came across the reformed faith, for myself, about 5 years ago. It was through my own reading and investigation, and after much prayer, that I felt that this is where God had lead me. So, I wouldn’t actually say that I have been “taught” anything. I came to my convictions on my own. Now, since I have come to these convictions, I have used multiple resources to help me grow in this area, but that is after the fact.

    I have friends from different avenues of faith. Some reformed, some not, some Roman Catholic, etc. I’ve had dialogue with many.

    Regarding the word “Spirit” in John 6, you have given the correct Greek word, and you have discerned rightly. However, words have multiple meanings. In this context, it means “an analogy or a figurative statement, in the SPIRITUAL sense.” Most Greek resources should render this.

    One of the main problems that I have with transubstantiation (or consubstantiation, as Luther believed) is that it doesn’t appear in the Bible. If I stretch, I can see what you mean by John 6 as Jesus saying that He is literal bread. However, where does the Word state that when you take of the Eucharist, it actually turns into the body and blood of Christ? I have not read it in the Word.

    As well as that, John mentions several other statements that Jesus made regarding Himself. Jesus said, “I am the door”; “I am the light of the world”; “I am the true vine.”

    Does this mean that Jesus is actually a door? Is he made of wood, have 3 hinges and a handle?

    And the light of the world? Does this mean that he is an incandescent light bulb that requires someone to pull a string that he may light up the room?

    And the vine? Is Jesus literally a root growing out of the ground, and are we literal branches (ie. We’re made of wood and spring forth from the vine)?

    Of course not. That’s silly. Jesus was very obviously speaking in a figurative sense.

    With regards to baptism – we must discern properly. Jesus is, again, making reference to an analogy. Baptism, in the Biblical sense and historical sense, was a person being completely immersed in water. It represented the death, burial and resurrection of (1) Christ, and (2) a person’s life after they had been redeemed by grace through faith. When Jesus says that a person must be baptized, He is making reference to them mortifying their old selves and raising to walk in the newness of the life given to him by Christ.

    I can see that you’re Roman Catholic. You must admit – if you wish to quote Scripture with regards to baptism and it being necessary for salvation, then you must do it as the Word of God states. Firstly, it must be credo in nature. And secondly, a person must be completely immersed in water. The Bible knows nothing of paedobaptism. It is simply not there. To say that it is would be a very deep reach, and wouldn’t hold much water in a cross-examination. Credobaptism, on the other hand, is the Biblical view that is taught throughout Scripture. The word for baptism (βαπτιζω) even means – to immerse, submerge; to make whelmed (i.e. fully wet). Therefore, if you’re preaching baptism for the remission of sins, and you’re doing it incorrectly, surely it is damnable.

    Again, there is only one way into heaven – Christ Jesus. OT saints have to enter through the same door (see what I did there?). God never changes. Salvation has always been the same. “For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Salvation is to every generation.

    You say that someone is saved by faith alone. You also say baptism and communion aren’t works but are acts of grace. But then, you say that if a person does not get baptized and take communion, then they are not saved. It is contradictory. Ephesians 2:8-10 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

    We must put our faith in Jesus Christ and He alone. We must not trust faith in Christ + baptism, or faith + bread, or faith + church membership… we must trust in Jesus Christ and He alone.

    In the words of Martin Luther…

    “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”

    1. Hi again. In reply:

      “Teaching” can be absorbed more than one way. Whether you were taught formally, or you taught yourself, you have learned Calvinistic readings of Scripture — and you even repeat the common Protestant arguments against the points I am raising.

      And I realize many Calvinists do not like the word “Calvinist,” but I apply it descriptively and not disparagingly. You are following (at least somewhat) in the traditions and teachings of Calvin. “Reformed,” although it has been largely appropriately by Calvinists, is not very descriptive — especially for somebody who appeals to both Luther and Calvin. 😉 I appeal only to the Word of God and the Church which has always upheld it.

      The Eucharist

      You say that “words have multiple meanings,” but no Greek lexicon I have at my disposal — and I have half a dozen here in front of me, including the BDAG, the most scholarly and authoritative one for New Testament research — gives any indication that the word πνεῦμα by itself means that a passage should be interpreted in “the spiritual sense.” Again, as I have shown above, Jesus’s context is clear: that His words here are spirit and life, not “to be understood in the spiritual sense.”

      The Real Presence of Christ does not appear in Scripture? You must be stretching really hard not to see it. 😉 As I said above, Jesus makes painfully clear his literal intentions in John 6:

      “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)
      “I am the bread of life. … This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.” (John 6:48–50)
      “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)

      When the Jews hear this, naturally, they are alarmed and confused — is this man suggesting we become cannibals? “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:52). Obviously, they are misunderstanding Him, right? Surely He didn’t mean for them to take this literally, right? So you would think He would correct them.

      But He doesn’t. He does just the opposite.

      The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Consequently [Greek οὖν, so, therefore, consequently, accordingly] Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:52–53)

      A lot rests on that οὖν: It connects Jesus’s repeated admonition that the people must eat His flesh and drink His blood as a direct response and consequence of the crowd’s supposed “misunderstanding”: Rather than saying, “No, you’ve got it wrong; I’m only being ‘spiritual,'” he tells them, “Yes, I’m bloody serious.”

      “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:54)
      “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55) (The word here translated “true,” ἀληθής, can alternately be translated real, genuine, actual, not imaginary.)
      “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56) (He even uses a different, much more visceral, if not vulgar, word for “eat” here: τρώγω, the word for animals feeding or munching.)
      “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.” (John 6:57)

      Jesus says, not once, not twice, but some dozen times altogether, not only that “He is the bread of life,” but that “this bread is actually My flesh” and “this drink is actually My blood” and “you must eat Me and drink Me” to have eternal life. He uses explicit words that cannot be mistaken for “spiritual” terms, even using several different words in the discourse to make Himself clear. When the crowd questions, in disgust, whether He is serious, He makes no effort to correct them, but instead affirms using even stronger language that what He is saying is the literal truth. And in the end, as a direct result of this discourse, “many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (John 6:66), muttering that “this is a hard saying” (John 6:60), because they did take His words literally. And yet Jesus made no attempt to clarify Himself if they were mistaken, but instead reaffirmed again and again his literal meaning. He could not have been more explicit if He tried — for in fact He did try.

      And then, as if this weren’t enough — but he then gives His Apostles the actual occasion to eat His flesh and drink His blood:

      Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26)
      And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” (Mark 14:22)
      And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
      And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)

      If any one of these four authors had meant to imply that this giving of His Body and Blood were meant to be mere symbols, one would think they would have used less explicit and more figurative language.

      Regarding your rejoinder that Jesus also said He “is the Door,” “the Vine,” the “Way,” etc. — yes, this is the common Protestant response. But allow me to oint out a couple of things:

      1. When Jesus applies these metaphors, they are directly related to the verbs he applies to them, which are to be taken literally:

      Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
      I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
      Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)
      Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
      I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

      We are literally supposed to follow Jesus, enter into eternal life by Him, believe in Him, come to the Father by Him, and abide in Him. This rhetorical device applies in every case in which Jesus says I AM something.

      2. But in John 6, Jesus says, using several different verbs:

      I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)
      “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:54)
      “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:56)

      Et cetera. So, for these times, following the other times Jesus said I AM something, are we not also supposed to literally eat and drink Him? In all these cases, though Jesus is speaking metaphorically, He is also speaking quite literally — and this case is no different.

      What is more, your position supposes that every Christian from the Apostles to the sixteenth century — who certainly read Jesus’s discourse literally and believed Jesus was really and substantially present in the Eucharist — was mistaken in their interpretation and “silly.” Even John Calvin believed fully that Jesus was really present in the elements in a spiritual sense and read John 6 literally. Perhaps you will consider that great man’s words:

      [7] I am not satisfied with the view of those who, while acknowledging that we have some kind of communion with Christ, only make us partakers of the Spirit, omitting all mention of flesh and blood. As if it were said to no purpose at all, that his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed; that we have no life unless we eat that flesh and drink that blood; and so forth. … [8] The very flesh in which he resides he makes vivifying to us, that by partaking of it we may feed for immortality. “I,” says he, “am that bread of life;” “I am the living bread which came down from heaven;” “And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world,” (John 6:48, 51.) By these words he declares, not only that he is life, inasmuch as he is the eternal Word of God who came down to us from heaven, but, by coming down, gave vigour to the flesh which he assumed, that a communication of life to us might thence emanate. Hence, too, he adds, that his flesh is meat indeed, and that his blood is drink indeed: by this food believers are reared to eternal life. The pious, therefore, have admirable comfort in this, that they now find life in their own flesh.

      [10] The sum is, that the flesh and blood of Christ feed our souls just as bread and wine maintain and support our corporeal life. For there would be no aptitude in the sign, did not our souls find their nourishment in Christ. This could not be, did not Christ truly form one with us, and refresh us by the eating of his flesh, and the drinking of his blood. But though it seems an incredible thing that the flesh of Christ, while at such a distance from us in respect of place, should be food to us, let us remember how far the secret virtue of the Holy Spirit surpasses all our conceptions, and how foolish it is to wish to measure its immensity by our feeble capacity. Therefore, what our mind does not comprehend let faith conceive, viz., that the Spirit truly unites things separated by space.

      That sacred communion of flesh and blood by which Christ transfuses his life into us, just as if it penetrated our bones and marrow, he testifies and seals in the Supper, and that not by presenting a vain or empty sign, but by there exerting an efficacy of the Spirit by which he fulfils what he promises. And truly the thing there signified he exhibits and offers to all who sit down at that spiritual feast, although it is beneficially received by believers only who receive this great benefit with true faith and heartfelt gratitude. For this reason the apostle said, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor. 10:16.)

      There is no ground to object that the expression is figurative, and gives the sign the name of the thing signified. I admit, indeed, that the breaking of bread is a symbol, not the reality. But this being admitted, we duly infer from the exhibition of the symbol that the thing itself is exhibited. For unless we would charge God with deceit, we will never presume to say that he holds forth an empty symbol. Therefore, if by the breaking of bread the Lord truly represents the partaking of his body, there ought to be no doubt whatever that he truly exhibits and performs it.

      (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge [Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845], Book IV, Chapter XVII, §§, 8, 10)

      Baptism

      Scripture is explicit that Baptism accomplishes what it symbolizes. Nowhere in Scripture is it indicated that Baptism is merely an “analogy” or “figurative”: Every time the intention of Baptism is stated in Scripture, it is indicated that Baptism is for the remission of sins:

      And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
      [Ananias to Paul] “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22:16)

      Or for death to sin and resurrection in Christ:

      Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3–4)

      We were buried with him … so that we too might walk — not “this symbolizes that we were buried with Him.”

      Or for incorporation into His Body and Covenant:

      >In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11–12)

      For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12–13)

      There is no indication anywhere in Scripture that any of this language is meant to be understood figuratively. Again, from the very earliest Christian writers, from the first century to the sixteenth, all Christians held a belief in baptismal regeneration and none questioned this until the time of the Protestant Reformation. I have been devoting a series of posts recently to a scriptural study of Baptism, if you would be interested.

      There is no indication in Scripture either that Baptism was only by immersion; in fact, there are quite a few episodes, such as the Baptism of 3,000 in one day on Pentecost (Acts 2), or the Baptism of believers in their own homes (cf. Acts 9:18, 10:48, 16:33, etc.), in which Baptism by immersion would have been impractical if not impossible. Arguments regarding the etymology of the word βαπτιζω are inconclusive and insubstantial; the meanings of words change with usage. We know from the earliest extrascriptural Christian writings (cf. Didache §7, ca. A.D. 70) that Baptism by effusion (pouring) was an apostolic practice in times of necessity. Further, there is no indication from Scripture that the earliest Christians did not baptize infants: there are several indications that whole households were baptized with their heads, including children (cf. Acts 16:15, 16:33, 1 Corinthians 1:16, etc.). The earliest explicit mentions we find in Christian literature of the Baptism of infants are approving of the longstanding tradition, not condemnatory (cf. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, II.XXII.4). In any case, these are side issues, irrelevant to the question of whether or not Baptism is regenerative.

      Final Notes

      But then, you say that if a person does not get baptized and take communion, then they are not saved. It is contradictory.

      No, I don’t say that.

      The Catholic Church, believes, as it always has, in the words of Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). This is what Jesus Himself says we must do to be saved; so we do those things, and bring the lost to do those things. But as the Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms, “God has bound salvation to [the Sacraments], but he himself is not bound by his Sacraments” (CCC 1257). God saves whom He will by His grace and mercy. It is never our place to say who is not saved.

      We must put our faith in Jesus Christ and He alone. We must not trust faith in Christ + baptism, or faith + bread, or faith + church membership… we must trust in Jesus Christ and He alone.

      So you think that putting trust in Jesus to do the things He said He would do, through the things He told us to do, is to trust in something other than Jesus?

      “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils…”

      I am convinced of these truths by Scripture and plain reason, which popes and councils of the Church teach and uphold.

      1. Mercy. That’s quite a response. I pray you, be patient with me. I am out of town and will return on Saturday, at which time I will be more than happy to respond properly.

      2. My sincerest apologies for my very delayed response.

        “’Teaching’ can be absorbed more than one way. Whether you were taught formally, or you taught yourself, you have learned Calvinistic readings of Scripture — and you even repeat the common Protestant arguments against the points I am raising.”

        Noted. For the record, I’ve not read any sort of protestant apologetics and, subsequently, am just regurgitating what may be considered cookie cutter retorts. These are simply me thinking out-loud and engaging you on topics that are of great concern to me.

        Regarding the eucharist…

        Please do not take this in any way other than just plain words… I am not satisfied with your answer(s). It is suggested that Jesus is referring to his literal flesh and blood, and that we must eat of his literal flesh and blood. You (and others) point to the emphatic language mentioned in John 6. All noted. However, I’d like to revisit the other I AM statements.

        I AM the Light of the World – You suggest that we MUST follow him. Understand, that if we’re to take this literally (just as we do the Bread of Life statement), then what you’re suggesting is impossible. Jesus is no longer physically on this earth. I am not able to literally follow him (ie. as my son does when we walk around the store). My following is spiritual in nature. Meaning – my life is to resemble his. I am to apply the Word of God to my life and hide its words in my heart.

        I AM the Door – Again, I cannot literally enter anything through Jesus. He is not a door. He is God. This passage also talks about go out to pasture, which is of course absurd. I am not an animal and I do not belong in a literal pasture. The application is completely spiritual in nature.

        I AM the True Vine – And the last, I am unable to literally abide in him. He is not a root. I am not a branch. It is impossible for me to be literally grafted onto a vine. The application is spiritual in nature.

        All of the I AM statements carry with them a spiritual application and never a literal/physical one. An area where we must be careful is over-spiritualizing portions of Scripture. To be sure, Jesus did say on several occasions that he was bread, his flesh was bread and his blood was drink, etc. But, is this statement anymore true then the “I AM the Door” statement, just because he said it a few more times? Absolutely not. Jesus never lied. If he said something once, it is no different than if he had said it a dozen times.

        “The flesh profiteth nothing…”

        I’d also like to point out that I realize where Luther and others stood on this issue. I realize where the “church” has historically always stood on this issue. But, history and tradition do not interpret Scripture. Scripture interprets Scripture.

        Also also… Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is sufficient. That’s all we need. I quote the Word of God…

        Hebrews 7:26-27 – “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.”

        Hebrews 9:28 – “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.”

        Hebrews 10:10-12 – “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,”

        1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,”

        Romans 5:1 – “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

        Regarding baptism…

        Again, Jesus says time and time again, whosoever believes on him shall be saved. The one verse in Mark 16 is a controversy in and of itself, because many people (myself included) believe that it isn’t canonical, and therefore should not really be in scripture. But regardless, there it is in many of our translations. (Another topic for another time.)

        Of course, the thief on the cross is a glaring example of salvation by faith through grace alone, for he did not have the opportunity to receive such graces, as you (and others) put them.

        Regarding the passages about an entire household being saved and baptized… again, it would be an assumption that there are children/infants in those households. The Bible does not say anything on the matter of infant baptism, nor does it teach that baptism is a requirement of salvation. Faith. Faith. Faith. There is NOTHING we can do to merit divine esteem from God. To teach so is to create a man-centered theology (ie. legalism), whereby our good works somehow satisfies the wrath of God. I would argue that Christ is our all in all. His life and his sacrifice are sufficient for salvation. We cannot add anything to the work of Christ. To do so is damnable. And by saying that we must do “abc” or “xyz” is to say that Christ’s redeeming work isn’t enough. To say that we must take holy communion or be baptized is to limit the work of Christ on the cross.

        You may be able to tell, but I am very tired. My words became very sloppy toward the middle/end. I may respond again later when I have more of a clear mind. But hopefully, for now, this will suffice.

  3. I see you’ve been introduced to Joseph–welcome to WordPress! He can be long winded (and he knows I say that with love), so don’t be discouraged! We’ve had many good conversations about Roman Catholics and Lutherans, and hopefully deepened each other’s understanding of the other.

    There’s not too much I can add to this discussion, but I’ll be interested to see what else you write!

    1. Aye. He seems a passionate fellow. My favorite kind, really.

      And thank you for the welcome. I really am just getting started with this whole thing. Not sure what I am doing, as of yet. Hope that will change. We’ll see. Either way, good to hear from you, and thank you for commenting. I’m sure that we’ll also be reading one anothers’ thoughts in the future.

      1. I am sorry to hit you like a whirlwind. 😉 I do tend to get excited (especially when I’m avoiding other work). Please take your time on replying.

  4. My sincerest apologies for my very delayed response.

    As I said, take your time. This stuff isn’t going anywhere.

    Please do not take this in any way other than just plain words… I am not satisfied with your answer(s). It is suggested that Jesus is referring to his literal flesh and blood, and that we must eat of his literal flesh and blood. You (and others) point to the emphatic language mentioned in John 6. All noted. However, I’d like to revisit the other I AM statements.

    You are misunderstanding what I am saying. Perhaps I am not being clear. Literal does not mean literalistic or physical. When I say literal (from Latin littera, “letters”), I mean not figurative — the words have a plain meaning, and mean what they say they mean. But perhaps “literal” is not a good word to have used. Words have more than one meaning. When you tell someone that you are a “follower of Jesus,” no one presumes that you are actually following him the way you would follow your son around the store. When you follow your pastor, or follow the news, or follow someone on Twitter, that means to be engaged with them, to keep up with them, to listen to what they say. This is a common usage of the word “follow.” When Jesus says “I am the Light; follow me,” He does not mean that we are supposed to follow Him in the exact same way we would follow a light — but we are supposed to follow him in a real sense, not figuratively, metaphorically, symbolically. Likewise when Jesus says “I am the Gate; enter into me,” that does not mean that we are to literally enter into a hole in His body — but there is a real sense by which Jesus is the Way by which we come to the Father. In these cases, he really means “follow me” and “enter into me” — he doesn’t mean something else. He really means “abide in me” — by participating in His life and holding firm in it. But then, when he says “eat me” — emphatically, insistently, in clear, plain language — you suppose he means something different than the words he says. Why is that? Because it seems to be impossible? Because it is repulsive to the senses? These reactions are no different than His followers who turned away then, thinking it a “hard saying.”

    An area where we must be careful is over-spiritualizing portions of Scripture. To be sure, Jesus did say on several occasions that he was bread, his flesh was bread and his blood was drink, etc. But, is this statement anymore true then the “I AM the Door” statement, just because he said it a few more times? Absolutely not. Jesus never lied. If he said something once, it is no different than if he had said it a dozen times.

    Are you not “over-spiritualizing” this portion of Scripture? You acknowledge here that His sayings that His flesh is true bread, His blood is true drink, and we are to eat and drink Him, are true statements. In what “true” sense are you understanding them?

    I’d also like to point out that I realize where Luther and others stood on this issue.

    You proclaim yourself to be a “Reformed disciple,” a follower of Luther and Calvin. And yet you deny (so far) pretty much every thing they ever taught. How does that make you a “Reformed disciple” at all? — unless you are following in the Protestant idea that your private interpretation of Scripture is the only one that matters? Do you not think Luther or Calvin had any important insight into Scripture? What “disciple” rejects his teachers?

    But, history and tradition do not interpret Scripture. Scripture interprets Scripture.

    What does that even mean? How does “Scripture interpret Scripture”?

    Also also… Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is sufficient. That’s all we need.

    “Sufficient” … for what? “All we need” … for what? These ambiguous statements are essentially meaningless, and can be applied in any number of ways, and so you can claim any number of Scriptures as supporting them. But what exactly do you mean? “All we need,” period? “All we need” for salvation? Then why do we need Scripture? Or preachers? Or repentance? Why do we need to accept Christ as our Savior? Why do we need to follow Him or enter into Him or abide in Him? Why do we need to be Christians at all, if His sacrifice is “all we need”? Why didn’t the world end right there, and spare the human race 2,000 years of struggle, if that was all that was sufficient, “all we need”? If there was nothing else that had to be done?

    I quote the Word of God…

    Yes, I can read Scripture, too. The verses from Hebrews make quite clear that Jesus’s one sacrifice on the cross is the only sacrifice we ever need, the perfect, once-and-for-all sacrifice to end all sacrifices. But that in no way implies that this is “all we need,” that there is no obligation on our parts to accept or to participate in His salvation.

    1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

    Wait, what? I thought that was “all we need.” Now there’s an “if”? Now we have to confess our sins?

    Romans 5:1 – “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    Yes, but how are we “justified by faith”?

    Again, Jesus says time and time again, whosoever believes on him shall be saved.

    Jesus actually said this exactly once — in Mark 16:16, the very verse you are here trying to reject. And what He actually said was, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” In John 6 — the other passage from which you are trying to distance yourself — He also said, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. … He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. … Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.

    Jesus also said there were other things we must do:

    “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

    “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

    “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

    If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)

    “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)

    “You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13) (Luke 21:19: “By your endurance you will gain your lives.“)

    Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” (Luke 13:24)

    “So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33)

    Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

    “He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. … If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. … This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:6, 10, 12)

    Among many other things I could quote. Do you mean to take one or two verses out of context about “believing” and suppose that’s all we have to do? I particularly like the part about striving (Greek ἀγωνίζομαι [agonizomai] — to engage in an agonizing struggle). But, I thought there was nothing we have to do?

    The one verse in Mark 16 is a controversy in and of itself, because many people (myself included) believe that it isn’t canonical, and therefore should not really be in scripture. But regardless, there it is in many of our translations. (Another topic for another time.)

    No, this is interesting. Yes, it’s well-known that the “longer ending” of Mark was not present in the oldest manuscripts. But now you’re outright rejecting it as not canonical? You want to cut out part of Scripture? Perhaps you are following the tradition of the Reformers. 😉 The fact is that the “longer ending” was accepted by the Early Church as canonical Scripture, as completely orthodox and inspired and true, whether it was written by Mark in the first place or not. The longer ending’s canonicity is testified to as early as Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 160), Tatian (ca. A.D. 172), and Irenaeus (ca. A.D. 180), and by many other orthodox Church Fathers and teachers over the ages. There is, as you say, considerable controversy among modern textual critics of the Bible about what to do, there was never any doubt in the Church until recent times. Both Luther and Calvin accepted the validity of the longer ending, as have most Christians, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, ever.

    Of course, the thief on the cross is a glaring example of salvation by faith through grace alone, for he did not have the opportunity to receive such graces, as you (and others) put them.

    The thief on the cross is a glaring exception to the otherwise complete scriptural rule of repentance, belief, and baptism. And certainly if there were ever an exception, it would be for the person who most literally suffered with Jesus, who repented and believed in Christ’s physical presence, and was “given graces” to his face by Our Lord Himself — certainly that is an “opportunity” no one else ever had. One case, when every other case shows something different, is not very strong evidence for your position.

    Regarding the passages about an entire household being saved and baptized… again, it would be an assumption that there are children/infants in those households.

    It is, but not an unreasonable one, that one of out of all those households contained children.

    The Bible does not say anything on the matter of infant baptism…

    You are correct — it says nothing, either for it or against it. It does say that baptism is the “circumcision of Christ,” which incorporates us into the Body of Christ, His Church, and into His Covenant and new life — gifts that would have been entirely fitting and necessary to give to one’s children, especially given Jesus’s love for children. “Now they were bringing even infants [βρέφη, literally fetuses or newborns!] to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 18:15–16) The kingdom of God belongs to newborn babes — and you would deny them entrance into it?

    nor does it teach that baptism is a requirement of salvation.

    Only if one rejects the clear testimony of Scripture (Mark 16:16, John 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21).

    Faith. Faith. Faith. There is NOTHING we can do to merit divine esteem from God. To teach so is to create a man-centered theology (ie. legalism), whereby our good works somehow satisfies the wrath of God.

    Wait, who said anything about “meriting divine esteem”? Not me. I am only proposing that we have to do what Jesus commanded us to do. I would agree completely that there is nothing we can do apart from His grace to attain unto salvation. I don’t know where you heard that Catholics believe that “our good works somehow satisfy the wrath of God” — but that’s not what Catholics believe.

    I would argue that Christ is our all in all. His life and his sacrifice are sufficient for salvation.

    Okay, this is a somewhat clearer statement than above. Yes, absolutely, His life and His sacrifice are our everything, more than sufficient to redeem all of humanity ever, to forgive our every sin, break our every bond, heal our every wound. On this we agree.

    We cannot add anything to the work of Christ. To do so is damnable. And by saying that we must do “abc” or “xyz” is to say that Christ’s redeeming work isn’t enough. To say that we must take holy communion or be baptized is to limit the work of Christ on the cross.

    Now, this is where you are misunderstanding what I am saying, what Scripture teaches, and what the Church has always believed. We cannot add anything to the work of Christ — and that is not what I am saying. Yes, Jesus purchased our salvation in full, redeemed us from sin and death, and there is nothing we can add to that. But how do you get from that to there is nothing we have to do, when Christ Himself gives us many commands in Scripture and says we have to do them? And so does Peter (“For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith. … Be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall.] to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace,” 2 Peter 1:5,10). And so does Paul (“My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain,” 1 Corinthians 15:58). And so does John (“Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward. Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God,” 2 John 8–9). And so does James (“Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead,” James 2:17).

    Do you think any of these people were suggesting that “Christ’s sacrifice was not enough”? No, of course not. I think Paul said it best: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision [i.e. the law] nor uncircumcision [i.e. faith] is of any avail, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). We are called to work out (bring about, effect, achieve, accomplish) our own salvation — not because it is our work that will get us there, but because God is working in us, both to will — to have the will to do good — and to work — to carry it out.

  5. […] with Calvinism. I don’t know; maybe there will be more. I thought I would nudge a couple of Reformed friends in case they might be interested in my […]

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