Born Again?

I want to challenge a commonly held view concerning baptism and salvation. I will use the Word of God and a few varying commentaries. Go to the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the necessity of baptism, and what its purpose is. Baptism is not a symbol, it is a miracle by which we enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ by faith.

“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3).

How is a man “born again?”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

We receive new birth from God and through the resurrection of Christ. Practically speaking, how do we enter into His death and resurrection?

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21).

Yes, baptism saves you. This is not a hard saying unless you hold fast to the tradition that baptism has nothing to do with salvation. If you understand that you are saved by Jesus Christ alone, and understand that there is always an action required when entering into a covenant (in this case, the New Covenant) then baptism makes perfect sense. It is not a work but a surrender. Jesus ratified the New Covenant with His own blood. You enter the New Covenant through His shed blood by entering into His death and resurrection when you are baptized. Jesus said you must enter through the narrow gate. Jesus is the gate. To enter through Jesus, we must enter into His death, and this, according to the apostle Peter, is accomplished through baptism.

“It [baptism] brings salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ’). Understood in this manner, baptism is clearly not the agent but the instrument of salvation (for example, NEB ‘water of baptism through which you are now brought to safety’), and the implicit agent of salvation is God (compare 1:3–5).”

Daniel C. Arichea and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the First Letter from Peter, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1980), 121.

What does baptism do? Why does it save us?

“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, in order that, just 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).

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

How are my sins removed by Christ?

“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

How am I clothed in the righteousness of Christ?

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

Did Jesus say we needed baptism to be saved?

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

“‘He who believes and is baptized’: the single definite article governing both participles joins the two verbs together in describing the man who will be saved; the clause could be translated, ‘the baptized believer.’”

Robert G. Bratcher and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Gospel of Mark, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1993), 511.

Paul thought baptism into Jesus Christ was important; important enough to baptize twelve men again. Paul uses baptism synonymously with belief; “when you believed,” “then into what were you baptized?”

“And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:2–6).

“The believers are willing, and so they permit themselves to be baptized. It is doubtful this is referred to as a rebaptism, since from the point of view of Luke these people were never really baptized in the Christian sense up to this time.”

Barclay Moon Newman and Eugene Albert Nida, A Handbook on the Acts of the Apostles, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1972), 363.

This story indicates that the apostles saw belief, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Spirit as the entire process for becoming a Christian; all are necessary.

“Does Paul’s first question about receiving the Holy Spirit indicate that he sees none of the Spirit’s fruit or giftings in their lives? The combination of questions certainly tells us that Paul assumes that saving faith, the reception of the Spirit and Christian baptism converge at conversion.”

William J. Larkin Jr., Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), Ac 18:23.

How did Paul remedy their lack of salvation?

“Paul’s corrective is to preach the gospel to the twelve by pointing out the preparatory and therefore partial nature of the baptism of repentance and of John’s message pointing to the Messiah who was to come. Though the Gospels never explicitly state that John called for faith in Christ, the status and role he gave to Jesus certainly imply it (Lk 3:16–17; Jn 1:27; 3:23–30). Paul makes the point that Jesus is this ‘coming one.’ To receive the gospel qualifies one to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, and this is what the twelve do (Acts 2:38–39). This is no ‘rebaptism,’ for after the triumph of Easter and the provision of full salvation blessings at Pentecost, a preparatory baptism of repentance is more than incomplete—it is obsolete (Lk 16:16; Eph 4:5).”

William J. Larkin Jr., Acts, vol. 5, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), Ac 18:23.

In the Great Commission does Jesus say for us to go into the nations and lead people to Him through prayer? He says make them disciples; this is accomplished by preaching the gospel; and when they respond in belief to baptize them. Through this baptism, they will receive remission of their sins, will enter into the death and resurrection of Christ and rise out of the water a new creation. They will also receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised by Christ.

What is the response of one who comes to believe in Christ? What must they do to enter the narrow gate?”

“So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).

“But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).

We know not what Philip told the eunuch, but we know his response,

“See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36).

“‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized” (Acts 9:17–18).

From Paul’s own testimony we see exactly what response is expected and correct according to the Word,

“And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name’” (Acts 22:14–16).

There are too many verses describing the importance and immediacy of baptism as the only response to list here. There is not one single case in which someone came to salvation by praying a prayer asking Jesus to enter their heart. There is only baptism into Christ Jesus while calling on His name as your Lord. Repent, be baptized for the remission of your sins, and you enter the long and difficult road to salvation receiving the Holy Spirit of Christ to empower you for the journey. As Jesus said,

“the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

The truth does not need to be harmonized, nor does it require you to ignore the rest of Scripture. Jesus said the Scriptures cannot be broken; meaning the Word does not contradict or nullify itself. Therefore, salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. We receive it by believing  in our hearts (not an intellectual belief), repenting and turning from sin toward God, being baptized so that our sins are removed through our entering into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, putting on Christ and becoming clothed in His righteousness. Then we receive the Holy Spirit, promised of God. The Holy Spirit fulfills the prophecy of God found in Jeremiah 31:33,

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”

and in Ezekiel 36:26-27,

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

Do not be deceived.

Test the word (teaching) and the Spirit Behind the word (teaching)

I have posted this for that person whom puts their trust into a man, to do all the work of understanding scripture for them. We are all to test every word, and to test the spirit in which the word is given, lest we be deceived. This is also a warning for teachers: if you must make an appeal, appeal to the truth. If your appeal is based in a lie, your truth becomes a lie.

It is my belief that the Word of God is infallible and un-contradictory, and it must be “rightly divided” or “rightly handled” (2 Tim 2:13, ESV). Hebrews tells us that the immature believer is one whom, “is unskilled in the word of righteousness,” (5:13) and a mature believer is one whom has, “their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (5:14). The warning in Revelation is not just for the apocalyptic letter of John, but is applicable to the entire revelation of Jesus Christ, of which all Scripture speaks, and, “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Tim 3:16). Lest I make similar mistakes to those that will be discussed, I acknowledge, at the time of writing, it is likely that Paul did not know he was penning Scripture, and that he applied the above statement to the books of the Old Testament. However, from the position in which I am sitting, the writings of Paul were given by the Holy Spirit and are recognized as Scripture. Therefore, his statement in 2 Timothy also applies to his own writings as well as the writing’s of the other apostles. Particular attention must be given to the sayings of Jesus, as He is the Word of God become flesh (John 1:14), “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3), and the Father, “in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:2).

In the past few weeks I had the opportunity to listen to a recorded sermon given at an organizations baptism ceremony. The sermon is rife with interpretive mistakes. The only Scripture sited is Matthew 28:19, in which the Lord says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” It is important, at this point, to give the Greek behind this translation in order to point out the various interpretive mistakes.

From the United Bible Societies, The Greek New Testament: Fifth Revised Edition:

πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος

From the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament: 28th Edition:

πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος

In the sermon, this particular pastor, with great conviction and vigor, declares,

We also know that the word baptism, when it says, and when Jesus commanded, ‘Go and make disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,’ the word baptism there, or baptized, is from the Greek word γινοσκω which means to ‘fully submerge.’ The words definition is ‘full submersion,’ and, so that means going fully under the water, which you will see happen today.

A cursory review of the Scripture quoted shows that γινώσκω does not appear in this passage, and a wider search for γινώσκω, accounting for all of its inflected forms, reveals that the word is used seven times in the book of Matthew, never as ”submerged.“ The best explanation I can provide for this is the Superior Knowledge Fallacy, which arises from “human ignorance rather than any fault in the text itself” (William Barrick). In this case, the speaker has chosen to emend the Scriptures because he has “insufficient knowledge to make sense of the text as it stands” (Barrick). Worse, he has spoken his own presuppositions into the message, likely sourced in doctrinal traditions, passed on by word-of-mouth, without properly he teachings no he received or the spirit beh8nd the teaching as commanded by the Word of God (1 John 4:1).

Additionally, the speaker is guilty of the Selective and prejudicial use of evidence fallacy, which is the “appeal to selective evidence that enables the interpreter to say what he or she wants to say, without really listening to what the Word of God says” (D.A. Carson). In this case, the evidence is false in two ways: 1) the word appealed to does not exist in the context, and 2) the meaning of the word is not “fully submerged.” This meaning is not even part of the potential semantic range of γινώσκω. The closest sense for γινώσκω in relation to baptism is, “to know (experientially).” With this sense, one might appeal to γινώσκω as the fulfillment of baptism in that a person has entered into the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom 6:3-4), and in so doing has become one with Him (Eph 4:4-5; John 17:11, 21-23).

To say, however, that γινώσκω is synonymous with βαπτίζω is entirely inaccurate, and inapplicable in the sited verse. To see these two words as synonymous falls under the category of Problems surrounding synonyms and componential analysis in that “the fallacy is the unwarranted belief that ‘synonyms’ are identical in more ways than the evidence allows.” (Carson). Of course, these words are not synonyms, but in the sermon the presenter treats them as such, literally replacing the word βαπτίζοντες with the word γινώσκω.

The argument this pastor lay forth in the rest of his sermon could have easily been based in the words found in the passage. It was unnecessary to appeal to a word that is not present. This kind of reckless handling of the Word demonstrates the reason why not all should be teachers; James warns, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). This statement of strict judgment merely validates what Christ said, ” I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). As Barrick so aptly prays and warns, I also pray, may we “dare not make the Word ‘lordless’ (ἀκυρόω) by making our human understanding the authoritative factor in interpretation” (Matt 15:6).

Unless stated otherwise, all Scripture comes from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016.

Aland, Barbara, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger, The Greek New Testament, 5th rev. ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014.

Aland, Kurt, Barbara Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce M. Metzger. Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012.

Barrick, William. “Exegetical Fallacies: Common Interpretive Mistakes Every Student Must Avoid.” The Master’s Seminary Journal, 19, no. 1 (Spring 2008).

Carson, D. A., Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996.

How Can we Take the Word of God Seriously?

How can we take the Word seriously when He says contradictory things?

The first thing to understand is that He says nothing that is contradictory, having declared “the Scriptures cannot be broken [λυθῆναι – destroyed by breaking into pieces]” (John 10:35). This is shown in Christ’s death on the cross. The Word cannot be divided and it does not break – “He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken” (Psalm 34:20), and “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water [the bride from His rib, the waters of baptism, in which are found the blood of the Lamb, which washes the inward parts]. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’ And again another Scripture says, ‘They will look on him whom they have pierced’” (John 19:33-37). The Word of God cannot be broken (λυθῆναι), He cannot be broken into pieces nor destroyed. Again, Christ says that the Word must be “rightly handled” or “rightly divided” ((2 Timothy 2:13).

How then do we understand the seemingly contradictory passages? We start with the foundation:

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Why can they only be discerned spiritually, or by the Holy Spirit? Because they are hidden.

“. . . which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).

In order to understand the Word, we must have the mind of the Author.

“. . . or ‘Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

When we are in this place, abiding in the mind of Christ, we can begin to understand. Jesus is perfect:

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Hebrews 2:10).

That which is perfect is unchanging, is steadfast, and is stable. That which is perfect is not carried by every wind of doctrine, but is rooted and grounded in love, planted with deep roots at the edge of living waters, established by the Father in a kingdom that is unshakeable.

A perfect mind has no questions, it only has understanding. If we want to understand we have to abide in the mind that understands. The only One Who understands fully, is the Author of Life.

The Scriptures direct the Jews to rest on the Sabbath. Jesus worked on the Sabbath and He said, “My Father is working until now, and so I am working” (John 5:17). How can this be? The Scriptures are the story of a King and His great Kingdom. All of Scripture points to that King and His kingdom. It’s teachings are both practical and spiritual; which to the follower of this King, are synonymous. The Israelite’s entered the Promised Land, but did not enter the “rest of God.” The Father promised another day in the future in which, those who believe may enter His rest. What is this Sabbath rest? When we understand what Hebrews says, “His works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3), and “God rested on the seventh day from all His works” (Hebrews 4:4) we can understand why it is not contradictory for Jesus to work on the Sabbath Day.

Jesus says the flesh counts for nothing, that this world is passing away, and He spent His resurrected time speaking about the kingdom of Heaven. His focus and understand are grounded, not in this world, in the shadows, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, the reality. Therefore, to Jesus, the true Sabbath, the rest of God, which all must honor, is not a worldly day (the shadow), but the eternal rest of the finished work. The rest is in relationship, in the will of the Father. For us, the rest is our position in Christ, where, by the Spirit, we can partake of the finished work. It is the place where we have “also rested from [our] works as God did from His” (Hebrews 4:10).

“. . . how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:14).

Here, again, stop work to start work. Rest, but work. Obedience to the will of the Father is rest! Abiding in Christ and listening to the direction of the Father and Son by the Holy Spirit is the eternal rest of God! It is the true Sabbath. How is work in service of God rest? God has already completed the work for us; our work is a tour of victory with Him, “LORD, You will establish peace for us, Since You have also performed for us all our works” (Isaiah 26:12).

These things seem foolish and contradictory to the carnal mind, but they make perfect and wonderful sense to those who abide in this blessed rest.

His Sheep Hear His Voice

The time continues to come and is now here. We need only believe in the power of the Word of God. This power and this Word are love, and this love destroys every work of the evil one. When we boldly declare this Word it crushes the head of the serpent. We need to understand and have confidence in the Word!

  • The Word is Jesus Christ
  • Jesus Christ, the Word, manifest Himself in the weakness of flesh, and in that weakness and humility before the Father, destroyed both sin and death.
  • The Word has been glorified once more and is seated in complete authority, and complete power at the right hand, and as the right hand of the Father. He is the Father’s right hand of mercy, and His strong arm of salvation.
  • The Word  abides in us through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit reminds us of all Christ has spoken, and continues to speak to us and through us all that He hears the Father and Son speak.
  • When you speak, by the Spirit, the things He tells you, you speak that which has come from the Father and the Son. As ambassadors, when we speak by the Spirit, we are the voice of the Son.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will 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 the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27-30).

Go and speak the life giving words of Christ to the whole creation. Those who are His will hear His voice and follow Him!

Chris Pratt

It brings some light tears to my eyes to see men stand and make a statement of faith; being a witness for Christ in their area of influence. I think Chris Pratt did very well in this speech, and, though he could have said the name Jesus, I am sure everyone knew exactly Who he was talking about. It was a bold move in such a dark place; and is light-years beyond a “God bless” statement. The “towns” and “villages” our time are the industries. I hope Chris Pratt can capture some of the hearts in the entertainment industry for Christ.

Freefall into the Battlefield

What am I seeking to achieve? It’s like transitioning operators from the range to the shoot-house. They are magnificent shots already, but the change in environment, from linear to asymmetric, brings a level of intimidation to bear. Suddenly, they are required to assess an open, 360 degree environment, discern what to shoot and not, while others move to their left and right and at least one moves ahead of them so that they must shoot past him. Now, the consequences of missing become very steep. They are also assessing the whole environment so that they can continue moving in order to keep momentum. When this transition occurs, things slow way down, sometimes coming to a stop. It is not that they do not know what they are doing, it is that they are not sure that they know what they are doing, and do not yet have confidence in that environment and in each other in that context. They need encouragement. As one man would stand, stutter stepping toward a danger area I would just say, “Chances are, what you are thinking is right, just do it.” As they begin to make decisions in the new environment, and act on those decisions, they begin to grow in confidence. Once they grasp it, there isn’t anything quite as beautiful as seeing four or five teams of warriors explosively breach a target site, at night, wearing night vision, and clear an unknown floor plan, with a mix of threat and unknown targets doing it with speed, precision, confidence, and ferocity. I cannot really describe it to you, it is a symphony of destruction. This is a bit crazy, but I am going to transition this into the Christian life.

When we come into Christ we are not born into boot camp, we are parachuted onto the battlefield. Many stand, looking back at their sin, “feeling” unequipped and ineffective. The wonderful things is that it is not about you, nor do your “feelings” matter. This is about Jesus Christ, and we must, not be about ourselves, but about Him. The good news is, that when I said it is not about you, that is only the perspective you must hold. For Christ, it is about you. He has not left you on that battlefield alone. He Himself poured His precious blood on you; He took the helmet of salvation, as you knelt before Him, and placed it on your head. It fits perfectly. He even strapped the chin strap for you. It is a strong wall, and your understanding that He saved you completely and for all time protects your mind. He gave you His breastplate of Righteousness identifying you with the Father and allowing you to come to Him as a son. Jesus wrapped the belt of Truth around your waste, sent of the Father, and that Truth is His Spirit which brings you into all truth – the wisdom of heaven and the Knowledge of God. He placed shoes on your feet; they are shoes “prepared” or “readied” in the gospel of peace. The gospel of Christ prepared you to go for Him. Your are wearing “prepared” on that part of you which carries you forward. You have taken up a shield, which is faith. This faith cannot fail, because where it is weak, His perfect faith is strong. And you have the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. It abides in you as the person of Christ, and sits on your tongue as the Words of Christ taken from the Scriptures, as prophecy, as words of knowledge. You strike down the enemy by the Word of God Who is Christ Jesus. You stand, not as “you”dressed in heavenly armor, but as a new creation, in which your spiritual person has become one with Jesus Christ! You are called and equipped by Him. If God is for you (and He is), Who can be against you? This identity is what satan seeks to destroy in every new believer. He is a liar, and you are a child of God, clothed by Christ and fully prepared to take His gospel to all. He has not given to you a spirit of timidity to fall back into fear, but a Spirit of love and power and a sound mind. Hold fast to the truth. Hold fast to the hope He has set before you. Walk in it.