This discussion is the result of a post I made on 1 Peter 3:21. The dates of our discussion correspond to the last of March and the early part of April 2016, on “Christian Discussions” on Facebook. You will note that the correspondence is direct in its tone; in my estimation, this is how it should be. I did not interpret anything that he said to me as uncharitable, disparaging, or unkind. I tried to respond in kind. I hope you find this discussion helpful in your own studies.
JG – If the Bible is the Word of God it cannot contradict itself. Therefore, salvation was always through Jesus’ substitutionary death, whether believers fully understood that or not in the Old Testament. God allowed them to have faith in the sacrifices, which were a figure of Christ, but they had to trust in a free salvation through the shed blood of a substitute. Salvation was always the same-free without works of any type.
If baptism is now required in the “new covenant” then there would be two ways of salvation, Old Testament and New Testament, which some do hold to. But a holy God cannot save anyone based on anything less than a perfect sacrifice, which is Christ. The thief on the cross, per the New Testament, died after Christ died, for they broke his legs so he would die before the sabbath. So the death of a testator inaugurates the testament/covenant (Hebrews).
The thief died under the New Covenant, which we are under. If Christ did not require baptism for him, then God can save without baptism. But God cannot save without Christ’s death for sins. Baptism signifies and testifies to our salvation. Yes the phrase in Peter is “baptism doth now save us”. But again, interpretation always depends on context. The Bible commentaries are trying to understand the phrase in the total context of the New Testament. Let’s look at John. The purpose of the Gospel of John was to help readers be saved. Now remember when the Bible was written it was not yet compiled into one book. So some Christians would only have the Gospel of John. In that book is what we need to be saved. No where does baptism appear as a part of salvation (John 3 “water” is not baptism. Nicodemus, a Jew, would not have taken Christ’s words to refer to this Christian rite. In context, then, how would Nicodemus take it? Either as physical birth: we must be born physically AND spiritually, born of the flesh and spirit, or he may have taken it to refer to the Word of God). In Bible days, if you meant business, you would be baptized. It was a given. It was always closely associated with salvation, though not the basis for it. Hence one might say, “I was saved and baptized last Tuesday” or “I was baptized and became saved last Tuesday” but not meaning the baptism saved. Only they would not mentally even consider a salvation that did not immediately involve baptism. Ephesians 2:8-9 notice we are saved “BY” grace, “THROUGH” faith. Faith does not give God the authority or ability to save us. It is only the means to receive the gift. The death of Christ (source of grace) gives God the authority and ability to save. The BASIS of our salvation is Christ’s work, not our faith, not our believing, not our works of any kind. God cannot save sinners if Christ did not die. God would sin Himself if He did. He cannot forgive sin. He forgives us only because the death of Christ met the law’s demands against us. He requires faith I suppose so we are not robots – so we will reach out and take the gift. But my faith is itself imperfect and sinful, and cannot be a BASIS for God to save me. Same for everything else I do.
RT – The perfect sacrifice is Jesus. The Lord’s requirement of baptism is not “two ways of salvation.” This is a failure to understand the comprehensive nature of what it means to be justified by faith. The thief on the cross was not saved under the New Covenant, as demonstrated in the piece that I wrote, because the New Covenant was not inaugurated until Acts 2, a number of weeks after the thief died. Yes, the death of the one who made the will inaugurates the new will, but not until the appointed time of that document being discharged. Jesus did not address baptism in any way at all with the thief, and the passage is a proof-text for faith only advocates. Yes, interpretation does depend on context, and the expositors understood well the context. The words “signifies” or “testifies” are not in the verse of 1 Peter 3:21, or John 3:3-5; it is inserted based on theology, not exegesis. Of course, we know that “water” is not water in John 3, but is some figurative word/expression of something else. Perhaps it means buttermilk! There is absolutely no reason to interpret “water” in any other way than in its normal meaning. The only reason this is not done is because faith only advocates stumble atf the obvious meaning of the passage. On what hermeneutical basis will you say it does not mean buttermilk? John wrote some time after Nicodemus was dead and gone, but for the sake of discussion, let me grant that Nicodemus would not have understood it in a Christian context, would Nicodemus not have known something of John’s baptism? Of course he would have (cf. Luke 7:29-30); he was not out of touch with what was going on, as indicative in John 1:19-28. There is no chance he would have taken that to mean physical birth, because the very nature of his follow up question to Jesus was asked incredulously (3:4). Thus, Jesus ruled out a physical birth. It is certain, there is NOTHING in John 3 to refer “water” to the “word of God.” One has to run to some other location in the New Testament to get away from the normal and ordinary meaning of the word water – all because of a theological predisposition. The basis of salvation is the Lord Jesus. The Lord told Nicodemus there are two components to salvation, and they are a “must.” Those two components are water and spirit. “Spirit” is generally interpreted to be the Holy Spirit, but there is no certain indication within the Greek New Testament to demand this. The Lord’s requirement of man was (and is) faith. This faith works exactly as Acts 18:8 illustrates. You might have been saved and baptized on Tuesday, but the New Testament does not recognize any such delineation. The word “works,” wherein a person is not justified by works, in a New Testament context is that act or thought that originates in the mind of man, used as a substitute to that which the Lord did (or said). There is no chance for you to be correct when you connect “works” to God’s commands. For by so doing you have relegated God’s commands as unnecessary, unimportant, not essential to one’s salvation, when 1 John 5:3 declares otherwise. The term “faith only” is not a term used in the New Testament in relation to one’s salvation, except in James 2:24.
JG – Therefore a man is not justified by the works of law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith and not by the works of law. For by the works of law shall no flesh be justified”. Galatians. Works of the law or “of law” refer to God’s laws and commands. We are not justified by works of any law that God has given. The law only condemns. Some say this refers only to the Law of Moses. But the Greek says “works of law” not necessarily works of THE law of Moses. Mosaic Law or Christian Law, we are not justified (saved) by works, but faith ONLY. This verse teaches clearly faith ALONE, whether it uses those words or not. The New Testament is clear.
RT – Completely false. You have to insert the word where the word does not exist. The context of Romans 3 demonstrate what law is in view, to say nothing of Galatians. I await your analysis of James 2. In the morning I hope to see it.
[The words within these brackets were not part of the original discussion. I include them because of the importance of the theme. ** The word “law” in Romans 3-4 and in Galatians pertains to the Law of Moses. The idea that “law” pertains to God’s commands are ludicrous. If God commanded something to be done, for man to come along and say that it is not essential puts him in a precarious situation (his resistance not withstanding). As I mentioned in a previous post, if a person wants to be justified by “works,” then that person has substituted something in place of the “mechanism” God employed whereby a man is actually justified. Man is justified by faith (Romans 1:17); this means that man is justified by his response to God’s gift (John 3:16). It does not mean, and never has, that man is justified by a mental assent apart from what the Lord said regarding other matters. Neither does it mean that man is justified when they trust in the Lord apart from that which the Lord Himself included in man’s salvation. For instance, the remark is often made that the other side of the coin identified as faith is repentance. The New Testament teaches nothing of the sort. There is no “coin” (or an equivalent word) where this is the case; it is strictly a man-made teaching. Some can very much believe, but a penitent heart follows not (John 12:42-43). The remark is made that God’s law only condemns. This is the case with regard to the Law of Moses, and the apostle Paul makes this plain (Acts 13:39). This not at all taught with what is known as the law of Christ (cf. James 1:25). It is either complete arrogance, or a lack of understanding, to say “law” refers to God’s laws and commands. Since the former might be interpreted as too harsh, then perhaps the latter is the case. Moreover, to say that baptism is a “work” of man is to demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of the dynamics Paul addresses when he speaks concerning the issue that man is not justified by the works of the law. I marvel every time I read one’s thoughts concerning this. The Holy Spirit made it abundantly clear than in baptism, one is placed into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27), in baptism one is joined to Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-7), in baptism one receives the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).]
JG – Romans speaks of the law of God simply put. One is written, to the Jew. One is in the heart – the Gentile. One is not saved by law or law-keeping. It is all God’s law, manifested through conscience and the Scriptures. God commanded His people to be circumcised , yet Paul made it clear to all who trusted in their circumcisn that it will not save. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law. For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Galatians 2:24. God commands His people to be baptized, but after salvation. It does not save. Salvation is by grace through faith. Eph 2:8-9 does not say “by grace through faith and baptism, or church membership, or tithing, or doing good” although all those are commanded for believers. Please be careful, trusting in baptism I believe will prevent you from being saved. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” Galatians 5:1-5. James does not contradict Paul. Read Romans 4. Abraham was NOT justified by works before God. James says he was justified by works. In the context James is stating how our works justify us before men who must see outward proof of conversion. God does not need that. So Paul says he was not so justified before God.
RT – Yes, it is true that Romans speaks of the law of God – it is the Law of Moses. Simply put. There is no codified law in Romans 1, though in Romans 2-5 the context makes clear, exclusively, the Law of Moses is in view. Though there is no codified law in Romans 1, it is clear the Lord held accountable those who lived before the time Moses was given the Law. With the Law of Moses being given to a particular people, it was then to the non-Hebrew people there was no codified law. What you call the “law of the heart” is not mentioned in Romans. Perhaps you can codify this “law of the heart” for our discussion.
To be saved by the “law” or “law-keeping” is not something that I have argued for, and if you think so, then you have misunderstood terribly what I have written. Your remark on circumcision is correct – if one trusted in the act, then no good it would have done for the one who submitted to it. If one trusted in it. On the other hand, if one did not obey, or did not obey in accordance with the directive God gave, then that is another matter. Tell me, Jeffery, if a man decided to circumcise male infant on the 9th day, 10th day or the 7th day – would that have pleased God? Under the Old Covenant, one was justified the same as they are today, by faith. It was not faith alone, but by faith. Under the Old Covenant, a male infant not circumcised on the 8th day was outside the covenant. Being outside the covenant, Jeffery, was to be outside God’s designed “ark of safety.” To not be circumcised on the 8th day, would that have been pleasing to God? If so, then how do you know? If not, then one is inside the covenant without faith (because an 8-day old infant can’t be justified by faith), but only by circumcision.
Your Galatians 2:24 remark is fine, but that only goes to demonstrate that if one wants to be justified by the law – the Law of Moses – then that one is not saved. You would know this if you paid attention to the remarks of Paul in the chapter. It is not “law” in general, but the Law of Moses specifically. God commands His people to be baptized, but after salvation? This is taught, just as you wrote it, where? Your Ephesians 2:8-9 does not teach it. I suppose, if I were to reason like you, that I could say that “repentance” is not required for salvation because Ephesians 2:8-9 speaks nothing of it. Or, perhaps, I could say it this way, “repentance is commanded, but it is only after one is saved by faith alone.” Certainly, you will argue this way, right? if I were to trust in baptism as you think, your remark/warning would be proper. I am not, however. Neither can you read anything that I have said to conclude that I am.
Yes, it is true James does not contradict Paul. Yes, let us read and compare Romans 4 with James 2.
“What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God” (Romans 4:1-2, KJV)
“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:20-24, KJV).
If you read the context of both chapters, you can easily see that in Romans 4, Paul speaks of circumcision, directly related to the Law of Moses. Moreover, the word “works” in that chapter is directly related to the same word in the previous chapter, the Law of Moses. In James, the Law of Moses might be in 2:1-12, but in 2:13-26 it is not under discussion at all. What is under discussion is how one is not justified by faith alone, exactly contrary to that which you believe and teach! James speaks nothing concerning justification before men. To whom does James 2:21 refer?
JG – Sir: The Gentiles in Romans had “The law written in their heart, their conscience the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another”. You say there is no law of the heart? It is stated so in Romans. God is speaking of the moral conscience all non-Jews had and have, without having the Scriptures. That is not the Mosaic law, but God’s universal moral law. We are not justified by works of any kind, whether works under the Mosaic Law, or works under God’s universal moral law, or works under the Christian dispensation. Was God pleased if the Jews did not keep their covenant (Mosaic Law)? Of course not. Is God pleased if a Christian chooses not to be baptized, or live by God’s moral precepts? Of course not. But the Jew of the Old Testament, and the Christian of the new, are not justified before God by anything more than faith in Christ. Justification cannot stand on other than a perfect standard, which is Christ’s work done for us. We are not justified by faith, baptism, works or anything we do. We are justified only on Christ’s finished work, as was the Jew of the Old Testament. We appropriate that through faith in Christ, then we obey because we are new creatures. Please continue your studies in the New Testament and also theology. This argument has been around since the dawn of the Christian church, and has been amply explained in many commentaries. The Church of Christ argues on the radio prolifically for baptismal regeneration, but Christians of all ages have already dealt with that view in depth. Your understanding of the New Testament is still limited. Remember, there always was, and always will be, one salvation for all mankind of all generations. The Old Testament Jew was not saved any differently than we are. He was not required to keep any commandments for salvation, only to live by the covenant God required of the Jew at that time. Circumcisn did not save the Jew, and baptism does not save the Christian. The thief on the cross did not need to be baptized because Jesus does not require baptism for salvation. It is irrelevant what dispensation he was under, although he was under the New. Did he know about Jesus’ death and resurrection for our sins? You say “no” but we don’t know that. Jesus taught prolifically on his death, resurrection, and substitutionary atonement while alive. This thief must have known that since Paul required that knowledge for salvation. But even if he did not understand fully, the Jew of the Old Testament did not necessarily understand the Messiah who was to come and shed his blood for his sins. But he put his faith in the truth that God would forgive him through the shed blood of an innocent sacrifice. He was saved the same as we are, and God based his salvation on Christ, but God allowed his limited understanding. “The times of ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent” Acts. You say Ephesians 2:8-9 don’t mention repentance and so in my view that would mean repentance is not necessary for salvation? Again you fail to understand the full meaning of the words. Ephesians says faith alone. That is all that is required. Then does that contradict verses that teach repentance? No, for that is included in faith. Faith and repentance are the same act, from different angles. When we turn from what we did trust in and from our life to Christ, that one act is a turning from and a turning to. You cannot turn to without turning from. When looked at as a turning from, it is repentance. when looked at as a turning to, it is faith. God can say faith is all we need, because when one has faith, he automatically has repentance. Once cannot have one without the other. The Church of Christ also makes repentance a different act than faith, and then make salvation a series of steps,like, ask, repent, believe, receive, etc. When one trust Christ, that act is a repentance, also a receiving, a trusting, a giving of oneself, an asking, etc. It’s not as complicated as some think.
RT – When Paul speaks about this “law” he speaks in the context of the Gentiles standing in judgment over the Jewish man because in his heart is a standard more faithfully followed than that which the Jewish man has codified (Romans 2:11-16). I am glad you pressed the point of the “moral law” and I concur that something did exist prior to the Law of Moses being given; it even ran concurrent with the Law of Moses until the time of Christ. Again, can you codify this “law of the heart” for us Jeffery?
Under the authority of the Law of Moses, Paul said that those who “do the law are justified” (2:6-13, NKJV). “Justification cannot stand on other than a perfect standard, which is Christ’s work done for us.” Justification stands because God declares it; there is no other basis upon which to measure it. Nevertheless, you will receive no contrary perspective from me on this remark. But, your next remark is flat wrong. “We are not justified by faith, baptism, works or anything we do.” The “works” you speak of wherein a person is not justified is that thinking and/or action that seeks justification apart from God. In a New Testament context: faith, baptism are not works of man at all – they are the works of God (John 6:29, Luke 7:29-30; Colossians 2:12). Moreover, the apostle said expressly that one is justified by faith (Romans 1:17) and baptism incorporates one INTO Christ (Romans 6:3-7). One is not a new creation when he is outside of Christ.
It is a lie to speak of the “Church of Christ” arguing for “baptismal regeneration.” Perhaps I can speak of man-made churches like the Baptist Church as being antinomians! Yes, I know this issue has been around a long time, thus, I am a strong proponent for public oral debates on the issue of “faith alone” and its disconnect from New Testament teaching. Neither have I argued that salvation is in any way different than justification by faith. I refuse, however, to subscribe to the false doctrine that salvation is by faith alone, something the New Testament does not affirm.
Again, you are flat wrong relative to your remark on commandments required to be kept by one who lived under the authority of the Old Covenant, as Romans 2:13 illustrates, to say nothing of Deuteronomy 30:15-19. Of course Jesus did not require baptism for salvation; He only said it in Mark 16:16 and John 3:5, again, to say nothing of what He authorized Paul and Peter to say!
It is NOT irrelevant what dispensation the thief was under – because the New Testament addresses it. Yes, I can say with certainty, far more than you can say otherwise, the thief on the cross could not believe in Jesus’ resurrection. Even the apostles had difficulty accepting the fact of it when Jesus spoke to them personally.
I do not fail to understand the point relative to Ephesians 2:8-9; I am only using your reasoning method and applying the tactic you attribute to me back to you. I knew well you would reject this and, moreover, I knew well what you would say (by and large). Find “faith alone” in Ephesians, anywhere in the epistle. “Repentance” and “faith” are two different words. They do not mean the same things. Whatever relationship might exist between the words – they are different in meanings. Go to Vine’s Dictionary or Mounce’s and transcribe where “faith and repentance are the same act.” It is not there! It is not me who fails to understand word meanings; “repentance” (metanoeō) literally means to perceive afterwards, hence to change one’s mind or purpose. The word “trust” is nowhere found in the meaning of this word. “Faith” (pistis) means a firm persuasion, a conviction based on hearing (Hebrews 11:6, 1). No, I am not the one mistaken in this matter. I await your authoritative references to sustain your point. Repentance has a keen relationship to faith, but they are different words with different meanings.
In a New Testament context when one is saved by faith, that one is saved as a result of Hebrews 5:8-9. In other words, when one hears the word of God, believes it, turns from sin and is baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins, that one is justified by faith (Acts 18:8). It is true, salvation is not complicated – but it becomes so when people assert a false doctrine like faith alone, when the New Testament teaches not a bit of it.
JG – For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. Eph 2:8-9. All that is needed is included in this verse. I cannot and will not argue the point further. Keep on studying and searching. We are saved by grace through faith. Repentance is not mentioned because it is assumed in the faith. One cannot have faith without repentance. Baptism is a work of man. It is an act we do beyond simple faith. We could say living right and doing good are works of God too. They are, but then the verse has no meaning. “To him that WORKETH NOT, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his FAITH is counted for righteousness (Romans). If you can’t see that’s faith alone, I cannot do more. I know you don’t accept that. I will leave you to the Holy Spirit to do as He sees fit. If your ardent study has not convinced you otherwise, there is probably nothing more I can do. It is up to God now.
RT – I will give you no substantive reply, since you want to go no further. I will reply in the word document I have made to keep track of the discussion, but unless you want to see that (which I assume you won’t), I will let it drop here.
[It is clear to me the substance of what I submitted last was more than could be handled. There is nothing in Ephesians 2:8-9 that warrants inserting the word “alone” in there like Jeffery does. Jeffery and those similar to him do the same as Satan did in the Garden when they insert a word not put there or even implied into the biblical text. One cannot have faith without repentance, we are told. Yet the demons believed and did not repent (James 2:19), the Pharisees believed but would not confess because they loved the praise of me more than of God (John 12:42-43). The people believed, but John refused to baptize them until fruits worthy of repentance was brought forth, and some feared being put out of the synagogue (Matthew 3:1-10; cf. John 9:22). Examples of faith without repentance. Of course, the reply to these examples will be, “But, that is different…they did not have a saving faith.” It is clear there is a difference between what one would call a saving faith and a faith that does not save; the point is sustained – one can have faith without repentance.
Also, the notion of God’s command as being works of man is ludicrous, unless man actually thought of God’s commands as his own personal work of righteousness. There is no chance, however, if a person seeks to obey God because of his love for Him, and God commanded a person to be baptized for (with a view to) the remission of sins, that person is seeking to be saved by works. A man who is “saved” by works is a man who seeks to substitutes what God put in place for his own way of thinking. As demonstrated in this discussion, the works mentioned are directly related to the Old Testament, in a system that was not designed by God to save at all (Acts 13:39; 15:10, 24). Could one be saved by God who refused to obey? No, one could not; that would be rebellion. Under the Old Covenant, one was saved as under the New Covenant today, by faith. It is not faith alone, but by faith.
It is a complete lie to say baptism is a work of man! I guess I could be charitable and say, when a comment like that is made relative to baptism, the one who so speaks, speaks from a lack of understanding. This is true, but the same one who so asserts bought into a lie fabricated before him. Baptism is nowhere called a work of man, to begin. Second, baptism is a command of God. Third, in baptism, one receives the forgiveness of sin and “puts on Christ” (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27). If that is a work of man (it is not), then one whale of a work it is! Moreover, to equate baptism as a work of man with “living right and doing good” is to fail in making a distinction as the New Testament does. God expressly said baptism saves (1 Peter 3:21)! In Ephesians 2:10 and Titus 3:4-8, the idea of good works is clearly set forth after one is saved by God.
As I bring this to a close, I marvel at the insistence some have in their effort to relegate a command of God as non-essential for salvation, when the Lord expressly made it essential. Though I marvel at this effort, I am saddened by the manipulation of the biblical text (or texts) toward a theological bent not taught in the New Testament, as they affirm it. The Scripture is very plain when it is expressly said that one is not saved by faith alone (James 2:24). For those who subscribe to a man-made doctrine like faith alone (cf. Matthew 15:1-14), it does not matter what the Lord said, it only matters what they want to believe.
Jeffery said that he will leave me in this discussion to the Holy Spirit as He sees fit. For that I am grateful, for it is only the Holy Spirit (or God) that I want to please. Consequently, a man-made doctrine like faith alone I reject.]