Baptismal Rapprochement Between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ?

Just as Zurich (“Zwinglianism”) and Geneva (“Calvinianism”) found sacramental common ground in the Consensus Tigurinus, my paper at the 2009 Christian Scholar’s Conference explored whether such a rapprochement is possible between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ who, in many ways, are the credobaptistic heirs of Zurich and Geneva. Since there is presently a renewed discussion among Southern Baptists and British Baptists concerning baptismal “sacramentalism” and there is also a new openness among Churches of Christ toward a more historic Calvinian understanding of baptism as a means of grace, there is hope for some kind of “rapprochement” between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ in the United States. With historical perspective and theological reflection Churches of Christ and Southern Baptists are potentially on the verge of a Consensus Americanus.

Generally, the Consensus united the Protestant Swiss Cantons in their sacramental theology and offered a mediating position between Zwingli and Luther which was ultimately Calvin’s own position. In particular, the sacraments, according to the Consensus, offer (praestat) what the signs symbolize (Article VIII), the reality is not separated from the sign (Article IX), and the signs are themselves instruments of divine grace (Article XIII). The Consensus bridged a gap between Zwingli and Luther by stressing the instrumentality of the signs by the power of the Spirit. The signs effect nothing by themselves (Article XII) but “they are indeed instruments by which God acts efficaciously when he pleases” while at the same time “salvation” is “ascribed” to God “alone” (Article XIII) because “it is God who alone acts by his Spirit” (Article XII).

1812 was a significant year for both Churches of Christ and American Baptists. In that same year Alexander Campbell, Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice were immersed upon their profession of faith in Jesus and embraced credobaptism as biblical theology. Their heirs, however, engaged in hostile and sometimes bitter disputes over the design of baptism. Generally speaking, conservative Stone-Campbell adherents—particularly among 20th century Churches of Christ—moved away from Campbell’s own Calvinian understanding of baptism as a “means of grace” to a positivistic watershed line between heaven and hell and conservative Baptists—particularly Southern Baptists—embraced a Zwinglian understanding of sacramental theology. However, there are signs that there are converging interests and theology among leaders within Churches of Christ and Southern Baptists.

Since 1999 a large number of monographs and journal articles have appeared in British publications that have argued for baptismal sacramentalism, that is, baptism as the “evangelical sacrament” that is a normative part of the conversion narrative and a means of grace (cf. Anthony R. Cross, “The Evangelical Sacrament: Baptisma Semper Reformandum,” Evangelical Quarterly 80.3 [2008] 195-217 which is available at Jay Guin’s website–see also his posts on Baptist Sacramentalism and the work of Stan Fowler). This movement has embraced a Calvinian sacramental theology. Indeed, the Baptist World Alliance has come to some agreement with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches on the meaning of baptism.

There are a growing number of Southern Baptists who are moving in this direction as well though they are reticent about sacramental language. Their linguistic hesitation is rooted in some of the same qualms and perceived baggage that is also current among historic and contemporary Churches of Christ. Nevertheless, there is a recognition that Southern Baptist practice has de-emphasized baptism. The most significant evidence of this shift is Broadman & Holman’s 2006 Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright.

Churches of Christ are more open in recent years to moving back to Alexander Campbell’s own original Calvinian understanding of the instrumentality of baptism as a means of grace. Campbell’s baptismal theology articulated an instrumental understanding of baptismal grace but at the same time valued character more than ritual and mercy more than sacrifice. A living faith that exhibited a transformed character was more important than the full enjoyment of assurance in baptism. However, few in mid-twentieth century Churches of Christ believed that faith without baptism was transformative. Baptism was regarded more like a line in the sand or, to mix the metaphor, a watershed moment.

“Convergence” (Stan Fowler’s word) or “rapprochement” (Caneday’s word in Believer’s Baptism, p. 304) is possible within the paradigm shift currently evidenced among some leaders of Churches of Christ and some Southern Baptists. In a paper entitled Consensus Tigurinus and a Baptismal Rapprochement Between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ for the 2009 Christian Scholar’s Conference (which I have uploaded to my Academic page), I identified four points that are significant for this converging baptismal theology. I explored these in more detail in an earlier essay but in this new essay place them in the more specific context of discussion within the last decade. These four points are:

  1. Baptism is a normative part of the New Testament conversion narrative.
  2. Calvinian baptismal theology correctly identifies the soteriological significance of baptism as a means of grace.
  3. Baptism serves faith and is subordinate to faith’s soteriological function as baptism participates in the instrumentality of faith.
  4. Salvation, as a process of transformation into the image of Christ, gives baptism its theological importance and limits its soteriological significance.

As Southern Baptists move to recognize (1) & (2) and Churches of Christ are increasingly recognizing (3) & (4), convergence upon a biblical theology of baptismal grace is possible.  While significant differences still remain (especially as Reformed notions of regeneration and election lie in the background of some of this theological shift among Southern Baptists), I am convinced a new consensus is possible with the self-conscious adoption of something akin to a credobaptist Calvinian baptismal theology—which, in my estimation, is a biblical theology. Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ have an opportunity to live in harmony, practice a shared biblical theology of baptism and together promote the kingdom of God for the sake of the world.



55 Responses to “Baptismal Rapprochement Between Southern Baptists and Churches of Christ?”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    Recently I made this comment on another blog discussing the differences between the CoC and Baptists on baptism. Here was my comment:

    “If the Apostle Paul were listening to this conversation, I believe he would be very befuddled. On the one hand, he would be distraught due to the fact that some (i.e., my CoC heritage) have turned God’s gift of baptism (and specifically their understanding of baptism) into a legalistic mechanism by which God’s hands have been tied and are no longer free to redemptively bless those who seek after Jesus but for one reason or another have not shared in baptism exactly as God intended baptism to be experienced and understood. On the other hand, he would be distraught due to the fact that others (i.e., many modern evangelicals) have so divorced the soteriological importance of baptism to the point that when the gospel is preached/taught, baptism is no longer even mentioned (opting instead for a prayer).

    “Somewhere in between these two contemporary and extreme positions is the truth regarding baptism as it relates to salvation and this relation is equally related to discipleship. However, as long as these two extreme positions continue to exert themselves, they only accomplish two things…1) hardening each side in its own dogma, and 2) polarizing each other from each other rather than unifying the body of Christ.”

    Grace and peace,

    Rex

  2.   Chris Says:

    Interesting.

    I’m not sure I buy it on the Southern Baptist end of things, at least. Schreiner, Wright and the other contributors to Believer’s Baptism are actually heavily critical of the sacramentalists (they are dismissed in a footnote in the introduction) and A.B. Caneday, at least, doesn’t have too many nice things to say about Alexander Campbell for that matter. I don’t remember whether he calls him a heretic outright though. Rapprochement for him will come when the descendants of Campbell get back to the true faith (something approximating Caneday’s Baptist forebears of the 1820s and 1830s). The whole project, it appeared to me, was mired in internecine squabbles and a morass of scholasticism — not a vehicle for ecumenical consensus. Those are my impressions, though. I just didn’t come away from that book feeling the love.

    On the other hand, thanks for the link to the Fowler essay. If there is consensus to be had (an outcome devoutly to be wished), it would seem to be between the sacramental Baptists and Churches of Christ.

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      You are certainly correct that sacramental Baptists (of the British variety) are more appropriate partners for rapprochement. However, I am more optimistic about Caneday, for example, than you. The book, as you state, is filled with squabbles, fine distinctions, etc., and not intended for ecumenical consensus. And the dismissal of sacramentalists in the footnote is unfortunate and rooted in imprecision. Nevertheless, there is movement among Southern Baptists and American Baptists in general. Issues like regeneration will be problematic in the dialogue but the willingness to speak of “normative” patterns of conversion and means of grace is quite encouraging.

  3.   Anonymous Says:

    Churches of Christ are more open in recent years to moving back to Alexander Campbell’s own original Calvinian understanding of the instrumentality of baptism as a means of grace.

    Wrong, baptism is not God’s means of grace.

    Jesus is THE WAY Jesus is God’s means of grace!

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Jesus is certainly the way, truth and life. There is no other ground of grace.

      Faith, however, is a means of grace: we are saved by grace through (means, instrument) faith. It is in this sense–where baptism participates in the instrumentality of faith–that I would argue that baptism is a means of grace. Paul himself wrote that we are buried with Christ “through baptism,” for example. This does not displace or supplant Jesus as Savior but recognizes that humans experience that salvation through means in our own experience (e.g., faith…and also baptism).

  4.   Jared Cramer Says:

    Do you have a sense of what role the ecumenical document “Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry” has played in this slow reapprochment?

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      It has certainly played a part in the British context, but I don’t see evidence of its role in the American discussions. The BEM clearly recognizes baptism as a means of grace.

  5.   rich constant Says:

    what really bothers me is this issue is so fundamentally UN harmonious.
    are we so prone to accept that the reformed Luther and Calvin etc. didn’t miss a little something in the explanation of there root concept of grace through faith, which would skew the p.o.v. of others like zwinglianism.
    and i am sure john mark that you know where i am going with that.
    anyway john mark if the root concept of grace, faith and justification is skewed a little,our brain becomes like a spinning top that is out of balance and every one See’s the wobble but non can clearly balance the dang thing.because of the common root deviation from the act of balance.
    we all know that teachers are responsible to tend the sheep RIGHT.
    when i look at these precepts is see men out of balance as far as Paul is concerned in rom.14-15.7
    it seems to me the unity and not judging of the believers in the lord are not being brought together for the glory of god. what i am saying here is that that the whole pyridine of root grace root faith and the implication of the gospel be reevaluated.

    oh well my brothers just another p.o.v.

    blessings all rich

  6.   Anonymous Says:

    I have faith in Christ alone as the “means” the way to obtain God’s grace.

  7.   rich constant Says:

    and furthermore
    we all have a choice
    even those that want to hold to a faith only concept, which i consider a flawed conceptual dynamic.
    even when peter was called to preach the gospel to Cornelius.he obviously had acceptable faith in god.
    but the spirit came upon them before baptism…although
    they believed the gospel of god.that Jesus was raised the faithful one of god .at that point in time peter gave the command to finalize the command of the lord.
    and i am sure that peter said continue doing the good and acceptable works of god as a matter of giving glory to god for the blessing of god through his son of promise.
    to ignore this basic teaching will cause a loss of some kind to be sure.

    we are called to the obedience of faith ..the rema ???of god (sayings) and the doctrine of the lord and the scriptures that were written for our learning,to love and honor god and love each other and each other as the lord gave himself for us to the glory of the father
    done with my little triraid :-)
    blessings john mark.

    you better not be slacking on that read…
    :-)

  8.   Anonymous Says:

    even those who want to hold to a faith only concept, which i consider a flawed conceptual conceptual dynamic.

    Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    Ephesians 2:8-10 “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.”

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      I agree with Ephesians 2:8-10 as well. My point is that baptism, as means, participates in the instrumentality of faith as the parallel to Ephesians 2:8-9 in Colossians 2:11-12 suggests and consistent with Paul’s use of means language regarding baptism in Eph. 5:26, Romans 6:3-4 and Titus 3:5.

      It appears “Anonymous” that you are a convinced Zwinglian….and no one before Zwingli believed in the radical “faith alone” that denies baptism as a means of grace and even Zwingli’s contemporaries such as Luther and Calvin (more second generation Reformation than contemporary however) agreed with his exclusion of baptism from as a means of grace.

      Thanks for sharing your points.

  9.   Larry Short Says:

    My Baptist friends would make us C of C folk as pagan witch doctors, invoking god(s) by the magic baptism ritual. What I always ask them, and never get a good answer is Why was Jesus baptised?
    Yes salvation is by Christ, and He was baptised. As best as I can see as an example. Maybe we should follow His example.
    If baptism should be skipped, the best time would have been Cornellius. After all God baptised them in the Spirit, what could getting wet add? But Peter saw it as a sign to water baptise.
    My belief in sacrements is simple, if Jesus did it we probably should too. Jesus was baptised and began communion. Who is above the Lord to skip what he saw as important?

  10.   bondservant3 Says:

    I have never studied Zwingli. I study the Bible.

    Colossians 2:12 is speaking about baptism of the Holy Spirit made without hands, not water baptism. We are baptized into Christ with the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    Mark 1:7-8 “And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    1 Corinthians 12:13 “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.”

    Ephesians 5:26 is the washing of water by the word, not water baptism. Jesus is the word Jesus is our living water.

    Romans 6 shows symbolism a likeness or picture. When we are water baptized it symbolizes that we no longer want to live to sin but want to live for Jesus.

    Titus 3:5 is the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, not water baptism.

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      We are all influenced by historical movements, even those we have never studied. How we read the Bible is shaped by these historical figures even if they are unknown to us. This applies to me as well as everyone else. Locating ourselves historically is a helpful, I think. Whoever denies baptism is a means of grace asserts a novel idea in Christianity that arose with the work of Zwingli. That is my point.

      Jesus is the word but the text says “washing of water by the word.” The washing of water is a means by which the Word works.

      But I don’t want to get into an extended exegetical discussion. I only intended to indicate that baptism as a “means of grace” has historic roots as well as biblical roots. It seems to me that Romans 6 and Colossians 2 are talking about the same thing and both use means language in regard to baptism.

      Blessings in your walk of faith.

  11.   Anonymous Says:

    Larry, I never said water baptism should be skipped nor have I ever heard any one say that. Jesus was baptized we should follow His example.

  12.   rich constant Says:

    I WILL NOT WRITE OUT THE GREAT COMMISSION
    THEY WERE TO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF GOD… SEE ROM 15.8
    THE WORD CONFERMED WITH POWER
    AND THE LORD SAID TO BAPTISE IN THE NAME….
    SOMETHING SEEMS TO BE NOT RIGHT WHEN WE SHORT CUT THE WORD…

    PETER FOLLOWED THAT TO THE LETTER

    ACTS 2:38 ACTS 10
    AND THEN CAST OUT WORKS OF THE FLESH AND TAKE ON THE LIFE OF THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST WHICH IS AFTER GODLENESS AND GIVES GLORY TO GOD
    THE JOURNEY. ZELLOUS OF GOOD WORKS.

    SORRY FOR THE CAPS….

    BLESSINGS

  13.   rich constant Says:

    SIMPLY PUT GOD WAS GOING TO BAPTISE WITH THE SPIRIT.
    PETER PAUL WERE TOLD TO BAPTISE WITH WATER
    YOU MIGHT WANT TO LOOK AT THAT SIMPLE LITTLE CONTADICTION.
    WHEN PEOPLE SAY WATER IS NOT THE MEANS OF THE NEW BIRTH PAUL IS SPEAKING OF IN ROM 6…

    CAPS AGAIN DRAT
    BLESSINGS

  14.   bondservant3 Says:

    rich, you didn’t interpret what I wrote very good. Romans 6 shows symbolism Paul was speaking about water baptism in a symbolic sense. Water baptism symbolizes the new birth that already happened in us when we were baptized into Christ with the Holy Spirit.

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      “Water baptism symbolizes…” is not in the text, but “We were buried with Christ through baptism is. That is my main point about the means of grace.

      •   bondservant3 Says:

        1 Corinthians 11:24-25 “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

        Nowhere does the text tell us the cup we drink taking the Lord’s Supper is a symbol and we know it isn’t literally blood but a symbol of His blood.

        • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          You are quite correct–symbol does not appear there either. Rather, Jesus says “is” and Paul–I think–tells us this means that eating the bread is a communion (a real spiritual reality) with the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 10:16. So, it is not a mere symbol but a means of grace or a means of communion.

      •   bondservant3 Says:

        We are saved before we take the Lords Supper same as we are saved before we are water baptized (Acts 10:43-44). The Lord’s Supper is a tradition of our faith symbolizing God is already with us same as water baptism is a tradition of our faith symbolizing God is already with us.

        • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          And just as God does something through the Lord’s Supper, so God acts through baptism as well. I cannot read “through baptism” in Romans 6 any other way or the promise of Acts 22:16 or Acts 2:38 any differently. I suppose we will have to agree to disagree.

        •   bondservant3 Says:

          Acts 22:16 Paul was told to arise and be baptized not go down into the water and be baptized, the baptism Paul was baptized with was the baptism of the Holy Spirit not water.

          Acts 2:38 Repentance brought forgiveness of sins not water baptism. Peter knew it was repentance the brought forgiveness of sins.

          2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

          Acts 10:43-44 Cornelius and his house received the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation before they were water baptized.

          Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”

        • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

          Yes, we will have to agree to disagree as your reading of these texts is not mine. Blessings on your journey in faith.

  15.   rich constant Says:

    i was writing when you posted
    anyhow
    what i said was
    mat.28 Christ gives the apost the command to preach and make disciples baptising them that is clearly what they did through out acts, peter says 1pet 3.28 an explanation of what water through the command of Christ, that he has been teaching all along in his life accomplishes when the gospel is taught according to the spirit bring into there mind what Christ’s intent was…
    peter says that who was he to forbid the water to them that received the spirit the same way as them on the day of pentecost.

    Jesus said that god would send the spirit to them not many days hence and to tarry in jerusalem ,
    god baptised with the holy spirit on pentecost and Cornelia’s household.

    we are told that god will do the bap. of the h.s. and that we are to baptise with water.

    you have a contradiction or the record is wrong concerning Philip and the Eunice and Paul in acts 22.16..
    and many other places.
    that is just to put this simply.
    because the word of the lord is spirit and truth.
    Paul says the gospel is the power of god unto salvation.
    are salvation is found in the resurrected lord and he tell us the way through the apost teaching
    mat.28.18 is a very clear imperative.
    .unless you allow theology to skew by a tradition.
    we are called to do Christ’s command if we love him…

    •   bondservant3 Says:

      1 Corinthians 1:17 “For Christ did not send me to baptize, BUT TO PREACH THE GOSPEL, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”

      The gospel is about Jesus Christ about His death, burial, and resurrection, not water baptism. Paul knew Jesus is the way.

  16.   rich constant Says:

    to answer your question
    paul is an apost.
    you can call that a symble if you like but i do not think that h.s. is trying to symblize
    ist cent you heard and you did what was told you to do or you walked away

    to day you get your ears scratched…
    rich

  17.   rich constant Says:

    ALSO i might add that in first cor just the implication of baptism is showing the importance placed by the first cent cor,that Paul stayed and taught for a few YEARS clearly unity is the issue of Paul
    and just a we seem to differ on the premise of what Paul (holy spirit ) is saying through Paul the clarity of what is not being said is also important.
    ! every one of them were baptised and they knew
    importance of that act.
    Paul takes that issue as a given look to the 15Th chapter
    1st cor 15.12-30…. and Paul says if, if, if, if, john mark 10 or 11 BIG IFS, UNTIL VERSE 20.
    AND CLAMES THAT THE DEAD CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED
    THEN
    29 WHY WOULD YOU OR ANYONE ELSE BE BAPTISED FOR THE DEAD IF CHRIST IS NOT RISN.
    32
    AND THEN IF THE DEAD AREN’T RAISED HE SAYS LETS PARTY.

    (this is a letter to the faithful saints in cor.) and when he infuses baptism there the clear implication is that everyone knew what was being said about there baptism…AND WERE BAPTISED

    i think john mark that we fracture the letters so bad that contextual clarity is fogged.
    we all know unity is an INDICTIVE OF THE IMPARITIVE OF LOVE ACCORDING TO OUR LORD.

    SORRY ABOUT MOST OF THE CAPS

    blessings

    •   bondservant3 Says:

      You didn’t interpret verse 31.

      1 Corinthians 15:31 “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”

      We are being renewed in His Spirit as we die to self daily.

  18.   rich constant Says:

    and ps john mark don’t even get upset at my igorant head when i use my personal pronouns wrong. i am getting a little better. yes? :-)

    god continue to bless us all john mark…

    tooo much fun.
    :-)

  19.   Larry Short Says:

    Thanks for all the words. Maybe in pure Spirit (telephy?) the semmantics are clearer. I cry for living faith per James. Sadly the Luther & Calvin legacy is to divorce any action from “pure salvation”.
    The beauty of the patriachs, especially Abraham is quick mental acceptance of God’s will and soon after action.
    The people who fight the hardest to separate faith, grace, and salvation from action have the same faith as the deamons per James. We need living faith that compels one to preach, teach, baptise, commune, say grace, and immitate Our Lord. I don’t question the sincerity of others but wonder how they see a mental instead of a whole being gospel. Jesus’s parables focused on action (living grace) rather than a personal conversion prayer for obedience to God.
    Last item, this website’s writing on salvation past, present and future is excellent. Many need to understand that salvation was won for all men at the cross. That flavors the “just beleif” passages. But we should live by the will of God, which includes our actioning on acceptance of grace. I doubt that any OT or NT writer could understand the separation semmantics of our age.

    •   bondservant3 Says:

      Abraham was already saved before Isaac was born when he believed God.

      Romans 4:2-4 “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.”

  20.   Larry Short Says:

    Mt 18:23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

    28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

    30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

    32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

    35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart.” [TNIV ibs.org]

    Most questions of our life are not defining salvation, but how to live our life. Walking in the light is not earning salvation but we are grateful because He was Very Generous. The big picture is not the correct mindset or prayer to access salvation but good news: salvation has been paid for, and God calls you join his priesthood, walk in His light. Most of the NT teachings are how to live; what does God like? Sadly the same disconnect between salvation and living faith is the hypocrites of “white washed tombs” and the ungrateful servant.
    Read the verses before these. Peter only wanted to know, do I have to keep forgiving? I believe Jesus says that because you are pardoned from a debt you cannot pay, you should be forever grateful and live your life immitating that grace. Living faith compels right attitude that flows to righteous action.
    Note how great is God. The servant said just give me time, I’ll pay. That was a lie! No way he could pay. God can grant salvation to liars, who reach for him.
    The tagline in the scripture seems to say you can forfeit the pardon by a not living up to it. Again this is not earning, it was already freely given but gratitude for the gift. All this seems to fit living faith of James or walking in the light of John. This was the faith of Noah, Abraham, David, apostles, etc.

    •   bondservant3 Says:

      I agree, our goood works do not earn salvation but evidence that we are saved. I don’t believe God will condemn someone when they mess up.

      John 10:27-29 “My Sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

  21.   Larry Short Says:

    Thanks for your words, Bondservant. Please harmonize Jn 10:29 with Mt 18:32-5. I take it “no one able to snatch” similar to “gates of hades cannot prevail” meaning God has the ultimate protection plan. However, like Mt He can revoke it, if you (free will) walk away.
    The two illustrations I like are 1 Jn “walking in the light” with “if you sin” you can quickly repent, and the father son relationship of the saved and God. Would an earthly father disown his child at first problem? No. Can he give up on his son? Yes. The ungrateful servant could have said (ala David) “I have sinned. I’ll go get my fellow servant out now.” Sadly, that’s not how the parable ended.
    The way I read it external forces cannot tear us away from God, but we have free will to leave (reject the grace). Mt 18:35 seems to say God can condemn a mess up but other scripture shows He longs for the prodigal to return.
    We are probably like the OT prophets common illustration, an unfaithful spouse. My wife notes the least of my transgressions, but rejoices in my repentance and overall faithfulness.

    •   bondservant3 Says:

      I believe everyone has sinned sometime in their life they didn’t repent of.

      As for someone who walks away I don’t believe they had real saving faith to begin with to be able to walk away from God.

      Jesus said no one can snatch them out of His hand, not the person themself or another. God is greater than all.

  22.   Larry Short Says:

    Please bear with me. The Jn snatch apparently refers to outside forces, God can (but maybe will not) toss them out, and the one in can exercise free will to leave. In eternal time, they were not there but in our temporal plane they were & left. Was Saul in God’s grace? He prophesied and was blessed in early life, and turned away in which God allowed him to be tormented. It maybe true (but extra-scripturial) to say Saul wasn’t really with God. To the man on the street it seems like circular logic.
    In philosophy most believe in a balance universe; yen & yang, God & Satan, good & evil. This seems to the design of it all, however I have no revealed word on it. By this logic; if at anytime in life you can accept grace, then you can reject. The letters in revelation use language of accepting the will of God, then some leaving it. There isn’t any hint of “you weren’t really with it”.
    To balance this I see Jesus treating Judas & Peter differently. He seems to know that Judas will betray and never really come back, whereas Peter denies, but returns. Perhaps that’s the in grace & not ever there difference. I just see it as God sees all time, and can make ultimate decisions we cannot. Now back to you, perhaps the snached is from God’s perspective, He never loses anyone He ultimately will save. But from our living though time, one can come and leave grace.
    Perhaps the easiest example is the prodigal son. In our temporal logic, he was with his father, left & squanderred what he received, and returned. No “not really with us” wording. But in eternal time, the prodigal began and ended with the father, temporary displaced but never snatched. As a temporal being this still seems like circular logic, and I am getting dizzy.

    •   bondservant3 Says:

      The prodigal son made bad decisions and messed up, but the father never disowned him nor did the son disown his father he still loved his father and his father still loved his son.

  23.   Larry Short Says:

    Thanks for your reply. I guess there’s hope for legalistic CofCers, as the elder brother resented his father’s love of his brother, but still the good father said “all I have is yours”. Grace abounds for the messed up and the stay at home dislike mercy son. Wow! Maybe, I’ll make it to that eternal “never really with us” time plane yet.

    •   bondservant3 Says:

      The older son didn’t say his father shouldn’t still love the prodigal son, he didn’t think the father should show mercy with such happiness. When another falls some would rather kick them when their down, we shouldn’t do that. That’s what the father was trying to teach his older son.

  24.   rich constant Says:

    you guys might want to ask john mark about the traditional family life and accepted rules of the traditional sociological rules of father’s and sons right to inherientance their portion of the families wealth.
    this son was so dishonorable and reprobate that you might change your perspective on this parable.

    i am sure that what he did brought great shame on on his mother and father.
    the social ramifications go father than we imagine
    to say nothing of the father’s welcome back.

    yes?
    john mark
    :-)
    blessings
    rich

  25.   rich constant Says:

    p.s. which i suspect is the brothers problem.

  26. Profile photo of Royce Ogle  Royce Ogle Says:

    Let’s be clear… Jesus’ baptism had NOTHING to do with ridding him of sin. While it is acceptable and good to say that we should be baptised because Jesus was. What is dangerous is to imply that Jesus needed to repent or have sins “remitted”.

    He was “fulfilling all righteousness”. John’s baptism was a baptism unto repentance. The act itself was not repentance but it was “unto repentance”. It was because of repentance and publically idenditied the one being baptised with the people of God.

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      We might say that Jesus underwent a ritual designed for sinners in order to identify with sinners…just as the cross itself identified him with sinners.

      In any event, the baptism of Jesus–the first Christian baptism, I think–is filled with theological meaning for his disciples: anointed and empowered by the Spirit post-baptism, identification with sinners, public declaration of the Father’s love for his children, and a commitment to the way of the cross.

      While believers may haggle over various interpretations of baptismal meaning–and they will incessantly unfortunately, we can all agree that following Jesus into the water is an act of discipleship and followers of Jesus do follow him into the water.

  27. Profile photo of Royce Ogle  Royce Ogle Says:

    “identified” (sp)

  28.   Daniel Says:

    Hey John Mark!
    A friend & I are wrestling with and praying about a possible church plant in the near future, and I was curious as to what some of your thoughts were in regards to it? Our backgrounds are as follows: he grew up amongst (Southern) Baptists, and now labels himself as a 4.5 point Calvinist, and I grew up amongst Churches of Christ (HU grad), and would label myself an Arminian. I am sending you a more detailed e-mail that will fill in some of the gaps, but IN SHORT I was curious as to some of your thoughts, questions, or concerns. Here are some I thought would help me:

    1)Do you think we could (healthily) plant a church together, coming from our different backgrounds?

    2)What are some things you think we have to consider to proceed towards a church plant in the future?

    3)What are some difficulties you think would arise out of such a church plant?
    4)Do you have any thoughts as to what such a church like this could/would look like?

    I’ll send you an e-mail, with “CoC/Baptist Church Plant” in the subject line. When you have time in the future, please respond here or to the e-mail. Thank you very much :-)

    Daniel

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      I look forward to your email.

      At bottom, it seems to me that Reformed and Arminian can work together if we keep our focus on the “economy of redemption,” that is, the act of God in Jesus within history, our trust in what God has done, and the encouragement of persevering faith.

      I would love to see a situation or church context where Arminians and Reformed work harmoniously together for the sake of the kingdom of God. But it will take humility on both sides of the aisle and a focus on the transcending purposes that relativizes the distinction between Arminian and Reformed.

  29.   rich Says:

    on john’s baptism…
    was john a profet of god did all think that he was?
    jesus was under the law and old cov.rules of worship,
    jesus knew he was a profet of GOD and fell under the commandment of god law and the spirit of the words of the profets of god, to fulfill rightous faith jesus was called to be gods servant of righteous obediance to the law and the profets and they were his and the fathers wittness that he fulfiled ALL righteousness.
    that john mark is ALSO what i see in rom 3:20 BUT NOW THE righteous of god has been maninfested BEING WITNESSED BY THE LAW AND PROFETS. THROUGH FATHFULLNESS to the words of god concerning him and him being subject to the words of god through the profets as were all gods childern of faith in isreal….

    to me that conveys the idea of fulfilling ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS to gods’s word…
    and righteous faithful submission to gods word…
    the FAITHFULL SERVANT THE SON OF GOD.

    ANY WAY
    BLESSINGS

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      I understand your point, but I would not connect Matthew’s statement of “all righteousness” with Paul’s discussion of “righteousness.” “All righteousness” in Matthew is a function of discipleship and obedience whereas for Paul the “righteousness of God” in Romans 3 is about God’s saving act in Jesus.

      John Mark

  30.   rich constant Says:

    ok although
    some day we will talk about rom 3.19-21,rom.15.8
    and the ramifications of gal.4.4 on the son concerning the cross and the curse by law and no flesh being justified which brought about the fathers grace by the son submitting in the perfect trusting faithfulness as any true isrealite to the only one that is righteous(his words),THE Righteous father, he is the SEED of promise and the bringer of the quicking faith apart from law…
    some day
    blessings my friend
    :-)

  31.   rich constant Says:

    OK although
    some day we will talk about ROM 3.19-21,rom.15.8
    and the ramifications of gal.4.4 on the son concerning the cross and the curse by law and no flesh being justified which brought about the fathers grace by the son submitting in the perfect trusting faithfulness as any true israelite to the only one that is righteous(his words),THE Righteous father, he is the SEED of promise and the bringer of the quickening faith apart from law…
    some day
    blessings my friend
    :-)

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