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Imperfect Baptism pt. 2

  

“Second, as I argue more fully here, and as I have mentioned a couple of times recently, God doesn’t require the other “steps” in our salvation to be perfect. If we had to have perfect faith, we could move mountains. If we had to have perfect penitence, we’d be sinless. Why would God require a perfect baptism when these obviously weightier elements can be imperfect?”  Jay Guin. One in Jesus

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“This is simple enough. To be saved, we understand that our faith can be less than perfect. Indeed, Jesus said that if we had faith as a mustard seed, we could move mountains. And none of claims to have such faith! Moreover, neither is our penitence perfect. We all mess up far too often to make such a claim.

When we first came to Jesus, our faith was especially weak and or penitence was especially immature. And yet we felt perfectly forgiven when we arose from the baptistery. After all, we know that perfection is impossible in such things.

But when it comes to baptism — which is certainly much less important than our faith and penitence — we expect everyone to get it exactly right. After all, it seems entirely doable.

Hopefully, however, a moment’s reflection will correct that. We in the Churches of Christ take great pride in getting our baptisms just right, but I don’t think we really do.

For example, we typically ask our converts to repeat Peter’s Great Confession, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But how many of us had clue as to what that means when we were immersed? How many of us knew that “Christ” means “Messiah,” the king prophesied by the Old Testament prophets?

How many of us went under expecting to receive an effective, powerful indwelling by the Spirit?

How many of us confessed that Jesus is Lord, as Rom 10:9 requires?

(Rom 10:9) That if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

You see perfection is harder to come by than we like to believe. We pretend our baptisms are perfect because our theology demands perfection, but our theology is wrong. So is our delusion that our baptisms are perfect. I mean I have 500-page books on my shelves on nothing but the meaning of baptism. Who among us had that level of knowledge while being immersed?  

And if God will accept a puny, tiny faith, and a puny, tiny repentance, and our own imperfect baptisms, why not the imperfect baptisms of others? I mean he loves Baptists and Methodists, too. Doesn’t he?”   Jay Guin, One In Jesus

 

Is this an apples and oranges analogy?

Often when people are trying to prove their point, they will fall into the trap of comparing two unlike qualities. Is this the case with Jay?  Can we compare faith and repentance with baptism?  First, baptism is a one-time event; faith and repentance are not. Second, in baptism we are passive.  (Acts 2: 28)  Another person is acting upon us. We are active in faith and repentance. Third, faith and repentance have a life time duration; baptism requires only a few second.  Fourth, baptism is the test of repentance and faith. Baptism is given to us by God to show if our faith avails, is useful, is alive, is perfected, saves and is reckoned for righteousness

 

Does God require perfect faith and perfect repentance?

No, but He does require perfected faith (James 2: 22) and a perfected repentance. (Mark 1: 4) John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Similarly Peter instructs that we should repent and then let ourselves be baptized for the remission of sin.  (Acts 2: 38) God does not leave us clueless like those who would go down to the “mourners bench” hoping to “pray through” until God provided some kind of sign so they will know when their faith is acceptable to Him.  God tells us that faith is acceptable when it responds by obeying in baptism. Baptism is a sign of repentance.  Both our faith and repentance are acceptable and our faith will be reckoned for righteousness when we are baptized.  We remember that the eunuch asked “what prevents me from being baptized?”  He was told that he might, if he believed with all his heart. Baptism is God’ sign to the penitent believer that he is now a child of God.  Of course baptism is not the end-all, rather it is the beginning of a new life.  We must bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.  (Matthew 3: 18)  This we will do by the grace of God and the Spirit that now dwells within us.

 

Jay suggests that the baptisms of the Churches of Christ are imperfect if the person does not expect to receive an effective, powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit or if they are not aware that “Christ” means “Messiah” or if they have not crossed their “t’s” and dotted their “i’s” in some other way.

Jay is making an unsubstantiated accusation in my opinion.  The order is, make disciples, baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit and THEN teach them all things.  (Matthew 28: 19)  The order is to make disciples by baptizing, then to teach all things.  We are not told how much a person must know.  In the conversion of the eunuch the reception of the Holy Spirit is not mentioned.  In most baptisms, if not all, the penitent believer is asked if he believes in Christ.  God has not made baptism into a highly formalized ritual, why does Jay do so?

 

Can faith and repentance be faultless?

The Scripture indicate that commands such as faith and repentance can never be faultless because of the weakness of the flesh.  If that was the basis of our faith then we have distorted the gospel of Christ moving from a grace-faith system to a law-works system.  They are factors that operate throughout our lives, baptism on the other hand is a one-time act that can be understood and performed as God requires.  The comparison of the performance of baptism to the performance of faith and repentance is a regrettable red herring in my opinion.

 

“But when it comes to baptism — which is certainly much less important than our faith and penitence — we expect everyone to get it exactly right. After all, it seems entirely doable.”  Jay Guin. One in Jesus

Certainly it is true that some things are weightier than others.  Love is greater than faith; judgment, mercy and faith are greater than tithes of mint, anise and cumin but even these were not being left undone.  Is baptism in the category of tithing mint?  Jesus said unless we are born of water and the Spirit we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.  If being born of water refers to baptism, then baptism is fairly weighty.

Why does Jay feel the need to diminish baptism?   In the order of things, I too, would place faith on the upper end of the scale, but our time would be better served, it seems to me, to spend our time showing  how love, faith and obedience fit into the one picture rather than diminishing God’s counsel in any degree.

 

Conclusion:

There are several things, love and grace, in the Church of Christ that need greater emphasis.  Plain Talk believes we need to take another look at the Spirit.  But when the so-called “progressives” have a need to pick off baptism, we are in real trouble. When we feel a need to diminish one of God’s commandments to fulfill our agenda, then we need to rethink our agenda.

God bless

Arland  Pafford  

 

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Last Update   09/26/12