Friday, February 20, 2009

The Means of Grace & Understanding the Baptism of Christ

The following is a response to someone who challenged my belief that baptism is an important and integral part of the Christian's life and not just something we do to "follow Christ's example." To read the posting that inspired this post click here and read the comment section attached to the bottom. Please bear in mind that I post this here on my blog only to hope to spark discussion that leads to further understanding of Christ's baptism and the means of His grace.

Sarah, I am failing to see what parts of my post that you disagreed with. The very basis of your argument is one that eliminates grace. You are placing the burden of salvation on YOUR belief, not GOD'S election (see Colossians 1:1, "apostles by the will of God.") You cannot make a decision for Christ, God draws you through His word (faith comes by hearing the word of God). Most good Calvinists have a firm grip on the election by God so I don't assume to need to dwell on that point.
I will dwell on the means of grace though. I am sorry but your argument based on two scriptures taken out of context is quite the dangerous position and one that shows only an understanding of the word grace, not the means of grace. Firstly, you state that "I was baptized after being saved, and I did it because Christ did it and I was following his example." I'm sorry, but Christ did not come to this Earth to leave an example; rather he came to die on the cross to pay the debt for mankind, all of whom are wretched sinners born at war with God (assuming you beleieve in original sin).
Perhaps before you go any further you need to ask yourself why was Christ baptized by John the Baptist as we find in Mark 1? Remember, John's baptism was one for the remission of sins: did Christ have sin? Of course not. Jesus' baptism let the whole world know what it did not know before, that there was now a substitute for us because we are incapable of saving ourselves through "religion." It is the groundwork on the road to the cross, not some "example." Jesus came to a man who was unworthy to baptize Him in order to be treated like a sinner (just like someone crucified), and stand in waters with sinners who found John's preaching of repentance so appealing. Jesus, just like in his descent from heaven, came down to mankind's wretched level and was gladly baptized in the waters filled with sin. Jesus became the sinner in His baptism and we become saints through ours. Jesus' baptism made the act of baptsm matter and become a cleansing act to which many Holy promises are attached. It is a gift of Jesus bearing our humanity and wretchedness when we are convicted by the gosepl to see our depravity and are made to humble ourselves as sinners in need of a substitiute - a Savior - because we are unable to save ourselves.
Jesus said he was baptized in order to "fulfill all righteousness." Righteousness = the state of being right with God. We are baptized in order to become right in the sight of God. How could you possibly see Christ's baptism as "an example" when it was so beautifully so much more. Therefore I can denounce your claim that "One isn't baptized to be saved or to 'receive the Holy Spirit, becoming a pare of the kingdom of God...'" because I have scriptural basis to prove such. (Feel free to prove me wrong with scripture) Just as Christ received the Holy Spirit at his baptism, so did I; just as Christ was proclaimed as a child of God at his baptism, so am I; just as Christ's building of his kingdom began at that moment, so was I added to it at the moment of my baptism. These are not my ideas, but scriptural facts.
I know I am going on but I find this very important: you mentioned grace so feverishly but again, do you understand the means of grace or in other words how we as wretched men and women can access God's promises. Through Calvinist theology, the idea of grace has become very acceptable and people have no problem believing that all you must do is believe or say you believe and you are then considered righteous. Of course we would like that because it is pleasing to us and very easily obtianed.
Let's just take Joy's story above and what has dragged us down this corridor. My very comment to Joy that you took exception with was pointing out the elemental means of Christ's grace. There is another phrase for this and it is "visible word." Yes, the word of God does save us but Christ also used the visible word to extend even greater gifts. Could Christ not have saved the man's soul without restoring his sight, yes, by His word alone but Jesus chose to give this man even greater gifts (think about the gospel in context here and the promises attached to baptism). How did Christ go about doing that, not by his word alone but by the visible word. You can see the visible word today in doctrine that believes in the sacramental elements such as bread, fruit of the vine, and even water. Christ gave this man the gifts that only He could give through his visible word (the mud, the spit, the washing in the pool) and then if you continue reading in John 9, the man went out and endured persecution in the name of Christ and proclaimed Christ as his redeemer. It was only after this did Jesus come back and seek the man out (again, not the man seeking Jesus) and Jesus then sought his confession of faith and revealed himself to the man.
I'm sorry Sarah but I fear you missed my point completly. Just to back it up further, do you believe that Christ's blood is what saved us? If so, then you believe in the visible word. The blood that was poured out of Christ was real, an earthly element that probably could be assigned a blood type today. The sweat that he poured was real sweat produced from real human glands. All of these things are the visible word of God. Could God not just speak us into his favor? Of course he could but he has chosen a different course, one that asks that we not only believe in Him, but in the power of his visible word.
I would ask that you reevaluate your questions about baptism that you put in your comment as they are running over with law and sound an awful lot like something the Pharisees would ask. You said that baptism takes away the simplicity of the gift. I ask where in scripture are we ever promised a simple road to righteousness? Did the man's life in John 9 become simpler after receiving the gifts of Christ, yeah, he could see, but he underwent tremendous persecution. What about Paul or Peter? Were their lives simpler after becoming disciples? No, but they enjoyed an inner peace that only came through the receiving of Christ's promises attached to His word as well as His visible word. Yes, Christ's yoke is easy but only if we are willing to truly follow Him and live out his great commission every day.
I hope you don't see my tone as argumentative but I felt the need to clear up what I said because you obviously misunderstood my point. My hope is that none of this takes away from the beauty and sincerity in which Joy has written her original point, a point I feel I should point out that also detracts from any doctrine of simplicity.

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