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PADS HAVE OWNERS, AND DOGS MUST BARK
Recently one has had occasion to view once again, if in little detail, then in some force, the phenomenon of sacramentalism.
How does this relate to the pitter-patter of prophetic feet ? As the title signifies - and remember our Blue Heeler of the last chapter - the pads that go pitter-patter also belong, and in this case it is in the figure of our Blue Heeler. As is very clear, those dogs can bark, can indeed make a feature of it! Still, it has value. In the Bible, Isaiah calls some "dumb dogs, they cannot bark". This means a divorce between performance and function. A dumb dog is like a dry cow! It may have its seasons, but with dogs the fault it categorical. There must be warning when evil appears, when diversion from the doctrine of Christ appears, and is done in His name.
Of the futile watchmen of Jerusalem, Isaiah declared that they were 'blind' and likened them to dogs that are dumb. "Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber" was their most uncanine behaviour. Result of course is damage to the sheep, to the flock. Hence one must rebuke, exhort, from the word of God as Paul tells Timothy.
One warning then is this sacramentalism, in some of its worst forms nearly one millenium old, that of the mass; but it is also found in Protestant circles. One indeed recently asked: What must I do to be saved and have eternal life ? Since the terms of the questioner included reference to "our lord and saviour", it was clear that something abnormal was afoot. Someone unsaved is not very likely to use such language!
Hence a careful reply was given, pointing out that the NEED is personal, the GOSPEL is one, but the application is best done personally, and hence when as in this case, it is an individual matter, with interchange focussing the problem.
In fact, it may help some readers to realise the best approach in seeking help, on scriptural grounds, and hence something very like this is reproduced here.
salutation, then, the first response was largely as follows:
LETTER ONE IN SUBSTANCE
Dear ...--What is taught by you on how to receive salvation and eternal life with our
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord and only Saviour!
I was thinking of putting a name above, but find none. It is better to be personal since we, and God, are all personal. You need not give me a full name, but something which is both you and personal would be fine.
On the same line, if a patient came to, say, a urologist, and asked what did he do for prostate problems for aged men, he might in no uncertain terms, want to examine the patient, and before that, perhaps, know if the patient were from a journalistic work, an investigatory one, an interested fellow medical practitioner, indeed were a patient at all!
While the answers would have much in common, there is a seemliness about treating each on its merits, on its needs, in terms of urgency or otherwise. Before any aspect could be taken with more detail, one would need to know the case. It would be useless to try too much too soon in certain cases, and so on.
This does not alter the realities of the operation; but it does alter the mode of approach depending on the place where the patient is. If the patient needs an operation, emphasis at once changes.
Similarly here, a rich young ruler came running to Christ. It was at once apparent that he was rich, it seems, that he was privileged, that he was in earnest and felt a personal need. Christ proceeded with him rather differently than He did with the woman at the well... The same point arrives, but the placement of the person varies, so that the point of need varies and the method of approach, not the content in the end, varies.
For efficiency and personal propriety, then, it is far better to know the place from which the question proceeds. If this were a theology class, then someone asking how 'our Lord and Saviour' were to be found, would be one thing. It might be fairly clear that the need was propositional and procedural. In that case, there would be further interchange. Thus, whether a general overview were needed, short sharp answers as in Acts 2, or longer ones as with Nicodemus, whether in short the person were in need of repentance or of finding the door or whatever, the response would be apt and fitting in approach. Incidentally, have you ever read Pilgrim's Progress ? It is a treasure on this topic and what follows.
Such is the nature of sin and of man, that since he is personal and his problems may be diverse, though it is all in one FINAL category, it is best to be personal. Then one may seek to attend at once to the pith of the need.
If then you could let us know your name, or a name, and your situation, whether personally seeking to find "our lord and saviour" without having him, which seems a little 'different', perhaps being nominally Christian, or else simply seeking to share thoughts on the topic, then we could seek to be of the utmost service.
In the meantime, you will find address to the topic of how to gain eternal life as such, on our Home Page, with ETERNAL LIFE in large green letters. The second of the two initial sites given, is more summary, the first is more preparatory. You will also find many treatments, such as that in SMR pp. 520ff., under the heading SALVATION in the Index, both for SMR and for The Rest (both Indexes are to be found, also, on our Home Page and are clearly marked, so that they should not be hard to find). This 520 point takes scriptural foundations, always necessary, and indeed in that sense, one does not 'teach' anything about it, but relays what is written. This is the force of Galatians 1, which followed up with Galatians 3 and 5, Romans 3:23ff., 5:1-12, John 10, Ephesians 2, John 10:9, Luke 13:1-3 deals vigorously with the issue.
Re "creation" in this connection, you could consult SMR pp. 560ff..
It would be a pleasure to hear from you further if you have any need, so that a pointed, personal and direct presentation could be made to the point. The above references would be a good preparation. If you do not have need, so be it, it is need we are here to meet it as we seek to glorify God and magnify His word.
We leave it with you.
You are most welcome whether you are a Christian seeking fellowship in certain areas, a seeker looking for salvation or a creationist pondering it, having found some things and looking for the rest.
May the Lord bless you.
P.S. You may also, depending on your situation, care to look up SINNERS ONLY on the Home Page. This too is conspicuous in its print. As you will notice, I have for your convenience made direct hyperlinks to some of these references, and I hope that they work. If not, the Home Page has them as noted.
That then was the question. The above was the answer in preparation for the best aid.
The reply, however, in due course received, involved gratuitous accusation of heresy, without stating the reason; but it did indicate a peculiar sort of sacramentalism (ever new varieties on the old theme, Christ PLUS ... which tends rapidly to become SALVATION MINUS, for reasons to appear, and perhaps obvious to most readers). After all, as Simeon said, His eyes had seen the SALVATION of the Lord, Jesus the Christ. HE is IT! (Luke 2:29-31, Isaiah 49:6, 53:10-11). In HIM is justification, by His being delivered up for our offences and raised up for our justification (Romans 4:25), so that we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1). There is no plus.There is no ceremony but the Cross, no power but the resurrection power of God, no way but the salvation in Himself.
The misled view provided, however, appeared to be this: that one must take a baptism in order, through the water, to reach the blood. Thus would come remission! Here then is a symbol used for salvation; and a figure allied to a fact made the means - yes the very instrument - of salvation. This has been refuted in before, but the following could be consulted: The Kingdom of Heaven, Appendix and News 51 esp. *1 , with Questions and Answers Chs. 9 and 11. To this error we shall shortly return.
It is insidious, invidious and pretentious. Using what is NOT Christ to gain a salvation statedly by FAITH IN CHRIST, it ties the weak with the strong, the shadow with the substance and the gospel with works. No small wonder that Paul would not give place to those who tried to do just the same with the Old Testament ceremonial, circumcision: NOT FOR ONE HOUR (Galatians 2:4-5), would he give way to such error, allow such an intrusion, such a spying out of the liberty in Christ. Paul acted swiftly and emphatically, since such additives of the works of flesh (even though they were indeed a MISUSE of what had held its place as a symbol) would destroy the freedom in Christ. Such devices would in effect be putting fatih in Christ without any works (Romans 3:28) into the place of the visible means, away from the simple reality of an invisible faith which appropriates eternal life. You HAVE to do this and that. The principle is one.
In fact, however, when you have been saved by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone, then the rest follows. It does not lead. It illustrates the fact; it does not create it. It is the same with the Lord's Supper: it is done in memory, not in achievement. It signifies the cross by which He obtained eternal redemption, it does not substitute in part or in whole for it: it is a MEMORY. Memory is not a feat or a performance, but a reflection on what in this case, is. BY GRACE YOU ARE SAVED BY FAITH, and THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES, says Ephesians 2:8. It is "not of works lest anyone should boast." It matters not at all what the works are. Conformity to Christ is not salvation into Christ. It is the result of BEING IN Christ. Additives to birth are mere mutilations.
Baptism is a ceremony, neither grace nor faith. It is no part of salvation.
Let us then consider something
along the lines of the reply given to the mistaken accuser, who sought
to attack what was given, with no scripture, and no ground, but with a
fanciful idea about water and blood. The Gospel is not fancy, but fact,
and says Paul, if any man preach otherwise, yes and he included even himself,
let him be accursed. There is no scope for dreaming in the word of God,
and indeed it is precisely this which is robustly condemned by God in the
realm of false prophets (Jeremiah 23:25-29), where this is contrasted with
the word which breaks rock.
LETTER TWO IN MAJOR PART, slightly revised for general use
Thank you for your reply to a provision for viewing some of our multiple Web presentation on the topic of being saved, including numerous references. As you know our reply was statedly a PRELIMINARY to discussion in which you could present your NEED, if any, so that our answer could THEN be given to you. There is no evident sense of need however in what you write. As you present no NEED, there is little opportunity for you to FEED. That was our request, reply if in need. This was our offer: give detail for your situation, and then, as did Christ, in His name we could meet you. This did not occur. At the outset therefore you have been premature.
Important for thought here is John 9:38-41.
In fact, we find no evidence that you have even read all of these references given, or any. Nothing whatsoever is cited by you. How then can you declare heretical what you do not know !
If you have read all of them, have you shown error in any ! NOTHING is noted.
We did omit one reference which however, which was intended, and might help you in your apparent approach, namely Questions and Answers 2. Hence this hyperlink is here given.
As Peter put it,
"There is also an antitype which now saves us - baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…" - Peter 3:21.
This apostolic prescription for salvation, as distinct from fitting symbols, excludes water baptism as part of it. We follow him in that.
That, it is a ceremony, not a salvation. As God said of such things in Jeremiah 9:23, "I will punish all who are circumcised with the uncircumcised". Symbols relied on, do not help; but faith ministers salvation (Romans 3:23-25). It is blood not water which is required; and this symbolises His death (Colossians 1:22). It is through faith, not fiction, one is to be saved, let alone fiction in confrontation with the word of God. It is the body of His flesh through death that He saves, as it is written; not in the watery substitute of symbolism.
Misused symbolism merely confuses, misleads and gives something as a necessity, wholly at variance with Galatians 6:14, and hence it is in flat contradiction of that intensely Biblical emphasis. Where the word of God rules, this must go.
- It does not say, ‘You are reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, and oh! I almost forgot, by baptism too!’ We do not add to the word of God. What is our word to His, or anybody else’s ! That is no way for the deliverance of any!
The confusion of symbols with salvation is not new, and quite fatal. It is the sacramentalist scenario. That is how Christ could say, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven . If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever" (John 6:54). Relative to ‘eating’, it is the aorist signifying one action, similarly to John 4:14, where once drinking means never thirsting. It in turn was not physical eating, cannibalism (John 6:62-63) as Christ was very quick to point out. This ‘eating’ in fact reflected the Passover sacrifice, and as Paul states, we look to the work of Christ our Passover who was sacrificed for His people (I Cor. 5:7).
In so receiving Him (John 6:54), we are statedly saved; and that of course includes WHO He is and WHAT He has done, and REPENTANCE without which there is no heart to receive Him (as in Luke 13:1-3). NOTHING saves without that, as Christ indicates; but the cover is Christ crucified, not water. This is the stated ground basis and the absolute requirement. In this domain, water is apostolically EXCLUDED. Things out of place are like that. Put them where they do not belong and you merely run into an exclusion.
Thus, in John 6, concerning salvation, one does not notice in the bread, any baptism, or in the drinking any baptism, unless of the stomach; but one does notice in I Peter an exclusion on reliance in the symbolism and mistaking it for the substance, as in Hebrews 8-10, it is emphasised. Mass is another way of doing the same thing, and of course idolatry when worshipped and confusion in any case (John 6:60ff.). Sacramentalism is not spiritual bread, but symbolic substitute for salvation. It is exploded as error in Hebrews in great detail, especially Chs. 8-10.
Water is not an avenue to blood but a symbolic expression of its lustration. We do not rely on symbols but substance, on pictorial theories but on the word of God, on tradition but truth..
You also appear to be mistaking sufficient cause with necessary cause. What ministers to an end may include many things, but ONCE the Saviour indicates the end without some part of a statement, then we know that that part is merely procedural. Otherwise, He would be in error; but we call Him Lord, not for nothing. His word rules. . Thus the word of God ministers understanding.
Hence the thief on the cross needed no baptism. He could live as Christ, without any error, declared, just on the basis of faith in Him (as stated in John 6:47). He did not need any water to allow a peep-hole to the blood. It was there before him. It was as Paul put it, "placarded before" him! (Galatians 3:1).This, in effect, it was by simply ‘drinking’ (as in John 4:14) and so accepting His truth and sacrifice and Being and mission and in repentance, already apparent, finding the salvation in Christ. Hence Galatians 6:14 states this: "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." The cross is not wet with water, but with blood. It was a real place where real work was done, but not a washing place for flesh. Hebrews 7:1-10:14 explains it.
But as to Galatians 6:14: see what it prohibits. Not boast in what is wholly necessary ? Of course this is not the meaning. Baptism is no part of Christ and Him crucified. It is not in the least necessary to salvation, any more than any other work which, with the whole paraphernalia of invention and misuse, might be added.
Baptism is mere symbolism, like the Lord’s Supper. There is accordingly to be NO boasting in that. It is not even named, nor could be in such a setting, and indeed is with all the other additives, excluded. It is neither salvation nor part of it. On the contrary, it is by ONE SACRIFICE that God has sanctified for ever those who believe, we read in Hebrews 10:14. This is what is written. It is a sacrifice of sacrifices since its victim rose. It is not baptism or the Lord's Supper or penance or anything else, which becomes a mere contrivance, when it is injected where it does not belong. That ? It is like putting water in a cylinder, because it DOES have a place. It is however not there that it should be found!
No, it is BY ONE SACRIFICE that they are sanctified for ever; and by one that they have eternal redemption. Add at your own peril. We dare not and care not to add; and who COULD add to such an offering, received by FAITH as in Ephesians 2.
We will not vary from what IS written in terms of what is NOT. We will not add to the word of God for any man. We will not say it is by one sacrifice, as defined, PLUS …Proverbs 30:6 is decisive on such error. We will not ‘correct’ the author of Hebrews. Nor will we ‘correct’ Peter or Christ for anyone’s theories, who did not die, nor rise from the dead, nor come in incarnation from God. Christ has no other sacrifice, the word of God no other parallel, salvation has no other way.
This one sacrifice is not a baptism. A watery sacrifice does not remit (Hebrews 9:22). For this, there is no place in what is stated. The two are contradistinct. Baptism: That is a picture of something, a washing of the flesh. We are not saved by pictures, in part or in whole. They picture the salvation already received, as in John 6. It is not something less which is received. It needs no addition. We do not need secret avenues and pathways. Faith is the Biblically stated pathway (Romans 3:23-25) and Christ is the object of it. Add other materials, which then become misplaced, dross, and you attack the basis, polluting it.
Forms have their place; it is not in place of salvation however (Hebrews 10:1), or some part of the work of the ONE sacrifice ONCE made (9:28), and that in the past. THAT sacrifice purchased ETERNAL salvation (Hebrews 9:12). Again, we do not add. It is received ? By faith (Romans 3:22ff., Hebrews 10:19-22). By this there is boldness to enter (Hebrews 10:19). Since when was faith water !
Baptism into the body of Christ is by one Spirit ( I Cor. 12:13): that is a consequence of salvation, as ALL the Christians in Corinth had it ("for by one Spirit we are all baptised into one body"). Of what is the baptism here noted to be ? "By one Spirit." This indeed is the sure result of believing. It is once again, not a matter of placing reliance on symbols, but on Christ. Isaiah 1 devastatingly condemns the reliance on forms instead of reality, as does I Peter. Christ mocked it (in John 6:53,60ff.), with that therapeutic skill, in a way that might awaken. It does not change.
Your life is your own. Ours is under the control of all scripture and fears to contradict what is affirmed, add to what is given or rescind what is asserted. We do hope you will find the truth.
It is your words which we find. We however find sufficient, the word of God Himself, without the traditions of men; or their imaginations contrary to it, new, old or synthesised. As to those, they call only for rebuke.
Hence we regret that you have erred in this matter, continue to pray for you that the Lord may yet bless you ... We deal with reason for faith, and the Bible, not unevidenced attack, far less what contradicts what is written or adds to it, or both in the process.
Not Christ plus or faith plus, but Christ by faith: for there is no other mediator and no other message. Not another Christ filled with imaginary constructions; but this same Jesus. Not another Gospel; but this same Gospel and the Lord Himself. What follows is one thing; what saves is another (Romans 3:21-25). Beware then of the message in II Cor. 11, for there is good which must not be lost, and wisdom stops at the word… of God, and is apt to recall Matthew 21:44.
Beware in these Last Days:
for what FULFILS prediction also BEWITCHES MANY
Barking is of course not popular today, unless it is the sort required. You get dog-training for that. To what does some of it alas lead ? If you follow that, you bark at the Bible and add or subtract or replace or synthesise and in any case move from it, and then mislead others*1, and being misled, prepare for the coming and terminal day when misleading will be called leading, and the leader will be the prince of this world. It is near. False teaching is spoken of as a specialty in the last days (in II Peter 2:1ff. for example, in Matthew 24:24 as well), and we have a swag of it. The sects not only multiply, and not merely do old heresies as here, surface with new look, as do so many things, even cars, but they begin to demand they be accepted as part of the thing they claim, Christianity. That is just marvellous for the evil one.
The strategy is simple. MULTIPLY divisions, not based on the word of God, but artificial. AGGRAVATE this by having the State come with its own brand of false teaching (as in Lead Us Not into Temptation and That Magnificent Rock Ch. 8 , Beauty of Holiness Ch. 5 and Ch. 2 above ) , and then in the mêlée, bring order by teaching what the State wants, and let it make it a matter of harmony that all must believe this. That is what we have amply reviewed in past chapters and indeed in past volumes, in terms of the coming of the second beast of Revelation 13 and his various preliminaries and partners. It seeks to suppress, whether merely manipulated or on purpose, the liberty to oppose, and then with withering powers, to destroy the testimony of Jesus Christ, HIM ONLY for ONE SALVATION ONLY, by faith in HIM ...not changed by new philosophies, sacramental ornament, idolatrous adornment or unbelieving rewriting of His word, to create a new Christ, manipulable and able to be .... led.
This being predicted, this appearance of a new form of denunciation along old lines, a new attack on old truth, the sacramentalism together with the normal audacity for such diversion from the simple truth, is something to bark at.
The pitter-patter of our Blue Heeler has even a sort of multi-media additive: it barks!
ADDING dye does not clean
even if it be good dye
*1 ALL THE OCEANS COULD NOT WASH ... SIN
The basis of some of the chief confusions about baptism seems not least to be this: a failure to trust in the salvation of the Lord, a failure to trust in the Lord instead of shadows, signs and signals, and a failure to take all the word of God seriously, trying or acting as if to make an evolving or developing God, who does not really know in the past what He is to say in the future. All this God strenuously denies (Isaiah 46:10), and His words in history are always the same, effectual from millenia before or days before. It makes no difference to Him (I Peter 1:24, Acts 15:18, Isaiah 46:10).
In Psalm 78, we see that Israel pursued this fault of not trusting in the salvation of the Lord: "Because they did not believe in God, and did not trust in His salvation", He was wrath. HOW did this attest itself ? It was because DESPITE the evident testimonies of His power, His adequate provisions for Israel, brought in a symbolic form of redemption, out of Egypt itself, yes and from very literal slavery, they were still messing about, looking this way and that for something more. COULD GOD really do this and that ? (Psalm 78:20).
In Romans 1, Paul advises us that the GOSPEL is the power of God unto salvation (1:16), and it is this for EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES. In Romans 10:9, we are told that the one who SHALL BE SAVED is the person who confesses the Lord Jesus, Christ as Lord and Saviour, with His lips and believes in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead (in the sense of I Cor. 15, which is of course the removal of the thing buried to become the thing raised, as Machen pointed out, and in the sense of Luke 24, where Christ indicated that a spirit did not have flesh and bones, as He had, when resurrected). There is no talk of baptism. Looking about for something extra is a peril often not least because the real need is to find the fulness of Christ within (Col. 1:27), not in pictures or priests, pastors or proliferations of symbols.
Indeed, Paul in I Corinthians is giving thanks that he personally did not baptise numbers of them; it was not to be a fetish nor was he a spiritual factotum. What! he declares, "Was Paul crucified for you !" "For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Chart should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God" (from Romans 1:13, 17-18).
Thus we have two important keys.
- The GOSPEL is contradistinct from baptism. You can preach this and so be sent, and yet NOT proceed in baptism. This is not to say that baptism may not follow; it IS to say that baptism is NO PART of the Gospel; and it is to add that the GOSPEL IS the power of God to salvation. ANY concept of, or stress on this ceremony as PART of salvation, PART of the power of God to salvation is anti-scriptural. That is all there is to it.
- God is not essentially a God of signs, but of substance; not a God of pictures but of personal presentation. Signs are testimonies; but God is Saviour.
To be sure, He can USE pictures and signs, but woe betide those who pertinaciously persist in clamouring about SIGNS in the presence of SUBSTANCE, or pictures in the presence of POWER, and confusing the two. It is forbidden. Christianity is CHRIST, Christ crucified, resurrected, arisen and ascended, returning to rule, redeemer and blood donor to the bank of acceptance, pardoning through substitutionary atonement, personally by His Spirit living in the believer, covenantally connected (Matthew 26:28). The NEW COVENANT IS COVENANT. It fulfils the Old.
Thus the circumcisionists of Acts 15 were doubly wrong. Not merely did they cling to a former form, but they were caught clinging to ANY form as NECESSARY for salvation! They were pictorialists in an Age of the PERSON of Christ, "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:27). They were dealing with photographs when the person had come Himself. It was lèse-majesté, it was trivialising the truth. So it is with any other sign. As sign, it is precious ONLY to the extent that it signifies HIM (Galatians 6:14). There is nothing and no one else who saves, and there is NO OTHER NAME given to men (Acts 4:11-12). Paul is disdainful of this whole business of ceremonial stress. Indeed, he thanks God that he did not baptise for that was not his calling, he declares: instead, it was something else, namely to preach the Gospel which IS the power of God to salvation.
Two points here remain. First, this is by no means to decry the significance, while He tarries and before He returns (II Peter 3:9), while we preach the gospel as commission, to every creature, and await the King, of showing these things in many ways. ONE way is in baptism and another is in the Lord's Supper, which in I Cor. 11 is expressly set forth as showing His death UNTIL HE COME. The lamb of old WAS a sacrifice and it was eaten. The LAMB of this Testament IS the sacrifice, and it is past (John 6:60-63), NO MORE suffering, NO MORE blood without which there is no remission. So says Hebrews 9:25ff.. The eucharist picture is accordingly presented, like this. It is AS OFTEN AS YOU DO IT (not as some falsely claim, each time you meet on Sundays, for it is optional) for a reminder, and explicitly, it is in this manner: DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.
ALL obedience can be blessed. It is however not the same as salvation which is strenuously differentiated. It is EX WORKS 100% (Romans 3:23ff.).
So too baptism is a picture. Pictures do not save, and for those who KNOW the original and commune with Him, a picture, though useful, is NOTHING compared with the Person who IS the LORD. Christ in you and you pine about pictures! and promote salvation by imagery. Heaven forbid! The thing is ludicrous. No picture is to the point when salvation is about. It is however a fitting tribute.
Hence you should be baptised if the covenantal sign has not been applied to you. It is fitting. IF you are ashamed to be baptised, then that is woeful. If you want to do it twice, when it has validly been done, then this is like multiplying words, vain repetitions. It is NOTHING in itself. Its place is testimony. So for that matter is your mouth (Romans 10:9), but your mouth does not save you: IT DOES disclose the truth and as a testimony it must be used. You are not to be a coward; not cowardice but courage is apt for the Lord.
Nevertheless, you testify to a salvation, as we have just seen, ministered MINUS baptism. The baptism attests it, and you must not deny the Lord. You may waver as Peter did, but you will put it right, as did he. What you put right is the symbolic testimony to the fact. You do not create the fact. Birth is not a creation of yours, but your creation by God! So is the new birth.
What then ? IF you cling to the Lord's supper to save you as a mass, or to baptism to save you, or to either to be part of your salvation instead of the testimony in that area of it, then you are astray, and it could become fatal if, quite simply, you put your trust in the symbol with, as well as or in place of the salvation. In ANY of these cases, your entire trust is not in the Lord, and you are in danger of idolatrising the symbol, giving it a place explicitly denied to it in Peter as quoted earlier, and in Paul, as here.
God is not a God of pictorial salvation, but personal presentation. He is not a God of Shadows but the God who is a Spirit, and all are baptised by ONE SPIRIT into ONE BODY (I Cor. 12:13). THAT is the baptism the thief on the cross, quite adequately saved, doubtless had!
The baptism which saves is that of a good conscience through the RESURRECTION of Christ (I Peter 3:21) as is expressly apostolically stated; and it is not through application of water, as equally this is negated. Nor is it by some other mode, despite the clear teaching of Christ that the part can stand for the whole (John 13:10), and the normative practice of sprinkling throughout the Old Testament, whether of the book and people with Moses (Ex. 24) or the altar, or the leper (Leviticus 14:7) or in Ezekiel 36:21, where it is the covenantal signal for those who come to the Messiah (cf. Questions and Answers 11 It is wrong to to fuss about baptism. Imagine Paul calling himself the Baptist Apostle when he had just said that baptism was NOT what he was sent to do, but that INSTEAD, it was to preach the gospel.
Fetishes about the symbol are a poor and dangerous substitute for the substance. We are past the symbols having now the substance; and indeed, even before Christ came, His Spirit worked mightily, and you find David glorying in His presence (Psalm 27), and Moses communing in His sight. It is always GOD who counts; symbols are important only as they symbolise what is obtained direct from the Lord. They are no part of the Lord Himself of whom it is written,
Now all these things have been dealt with in detail before, but the present emphasis is simply this: DO NOT confuse baptism, in whole or part, any part or in any feature, with the contribution to you of salvation. We do not need a new thing, the baptist mass, or if you do not grasp the point, the baptism transubstantiation of salvation, or the effectual rite. That rite is wholly wrong. There is no right for a rite which is wrong. It is the LORD who from the first is our song and our salvation (Exodus 15). To dabble in symbols becomes an altar of ignominy for Him who is no mere symbol. The symbol is to signify what you have, not to get it! Like obedience, it follows; but salvation is EX WORKS of any and every kind: for it is by faith (cf. Romans 11:6 and Scoop of the Universe 51).
- "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
- Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
- Nor let the rich man glory in his riches,
- But let him who glories glory in this,
- That he understands and knows Me,
- That I am the LORD, exercising lovingkindess, judgment and righteousness in the earth,
- For in these I delight, says the LORD."
Thousands of sacrifices do not please Him, how much less thousands of baptisms and all kinds of extravanganzas and misplaced emphases. It is rather like trying to put right a marriage by placing the picture of the wife more prominently on the fireplace ledge (Micah 6:6-8).
But as to the covenant, God is not a God who changes. It is not He who takes an interest in the infants of the family, and demanded that they be signified as in a covenantal household for fun, or because He had not grown up enough to know, or because people had to be falsely taught His desire by wrong means ... He was as He is, interested in infants, and He made it clear it was a matter of days, ideally, for the implantation of the symbol which DID NOT SAVE (Jeremiah 9:26). ALL scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for instruction; not for misinstruction (II Timothy 3:16).
There was and is a time when it is most fitting to present the symbol which does not save. It is when the child comes into the world and is beginning to become vitally stable. It signifies in a household of God's personal power, a badge of trust. It does not mean that the child will go to heaven. It means that the Spirit of the God of heaven has come to the parent, or parents, and that the child is for Him, from Him and to Him. It does not annihilate the spirit of the child; it does not precondition the child to ensure salvation. It does attest whose is the child, as far as the parent is concerned, and on what basis precisely, that of the slain Lamb.
If God gives a parent faith concerning a child, so be it. The sacrament is not the envelope but the illustration.
The lamb for the people in the Old Testament is not thereby the saviour of the child any more than the circumcised child was supposedly God's forever. Faith brings salvation, not something less, and faith in Christ as object, the covenanted Saviour (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18-20).
It DID mean, when done in truth, that the parent was God's forever and that ALL that the parent had was the Lord's, and that when this included a PERSON such as a new child, then that child was presented to the Lord in terms of explicit covenant as a household member in a home where ALL things were of and for the Lord, and NOTHING would be in ANY way exempted or excepted, right down to pots and pans, as in Zechariah! Hence the child, being a person, had to have a badge, signal, symbol, which in the parental provision attested the place of that little person.
To omit it on purpose was an offence (Exodus 4:22ff.) and a failure in obligations to the Lord. To include it made the testimony to oneself, to the household, to the world, that THIS was not something else, some special prize of treasure of one's own, but a child for the Lord. It was of himself, not the child, that the challenge came to Moses. It was HIS responsibility, and the issue has not changed, merely the form (as in Colossians 2:12ff.).
NO OTHER WAY, no mere prayer, no mere offering (the only offering is Christ) was to the point. There was a covenantal connection for the vitally important part of the household, the next generation. It did not violate the integrity of the child, but it did violate the responsibility of the parent if it were omitted.
The symbol ? It was not to be cut down. It was not to be compromised or cancelled, nor was it to be trusted in, as though a parental signal and acknowledgement became a child's own faith. NONE of this was EVER in view, so that Esau was other than Jacob from the FIRST! (Romans 9).
This human tendency to do two things in error is sad and to be avoided. Thus, one must NOT use a symbol for the thing signified, as if to present the picture of salvation with a child in whom one seeks salvation with the Lord's help, and whose life and place in the household is thus depicted, IS salvation. One must not USE it as ANY PART of salvation. An engagement ring is NO part of the love and life of the two. It merely symbolises it.
Again, one must not ALTER its place. If God wants a household of those made in His image who can procreate, to signal things in this covenantal way, that is His business. To omit it when He has commanded it, indicated His desire, shown His will, the God who does not change (Malachi 3:6), and then to find in some abstruse way that He has really changed, and that He no longer wants the covenantal sign to be so presented, or that mankind is not what it was, He not what He was, this is magic; and it is near blasphemy.
Surely to omit it is an antidote to the folly of baptismal regeneration, a disease of the first order; but it is one with side-effects of disobedience to the clear teaching of the Lord. IF on the other hand, at ANY time early or late, it is in ANY way made a part of salvation, it is going back to the same sort of folly as baptismal regeneration, confusing symbol with substance, and ordinance with actuality. It is forbidden repeatedly in many ways, some of which we have here seen.
When therefore as seen in Questions and Answers 11, Scoop of the Universe 51, *1, God ALSO indicates in Colossians 2:11-12, that WHEN AND IF you have been baptised, you have been circumcised, then this merely makes explicit what was already implicit. So far from disowning His own former wisdom about children and covenant, God makes it clear that the new one incorporates the old; just as the old indicated what He wanted for the disposition of the symbol in view. Baptism has the essence of circumcision and circumcision has the essence of the will of God, an infant symbol placed for divine reasons on infant bodies to signify where they stood in the household, pending their own adventures and actions.
Circumcision COULD not be repeated. There is a point there. There is no call to baptise with the covenantal seal what has already received it. That is in danger of sacramentalist folly: IF the baptism was invalid, if for example neither parent believed, or one being adult, did not believe oneself, then that is a point. However, a valid baptism, like a valid circumcision, is one performed as prescribed. In the former case, there has to be a parental acceptance in faith and obedience of what is being done.
IT does not CHANGE the child into a saved person, but it DOES change the parent into a covenantally testifying person relative to the child. God does not condemn children for the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18), so that baptism is not life insurance. Failure to perform it on the young alas smacks more of being an insult to the Lord, if not intended, then alas from ignorance, or confusion. Yet imagining it will CONTRIBUTE something, when validly done already, is mere sacramentalism. It damages the faith, it assaults the gospel, it appears a dereliction to perform it and a failure in the arena of faith to have it, for such a reason.
Baptism as a symbolic representation of purification (John 3:25-26) is wrought as purification is wrought and as Ezekiel indicates with the great mass of Old Testament provisions, by sprinkling, and so it is found (Hebrews 10:22). Our hearts are SPRINKLED from an evil conscience, the blood so covering. What is the mode of symbolism noted by Hebrews in this sentence - sprinkling; what is the purpose ? Purification. What is said of the bodies in this sentence ? Our bodies are 'BAPTISED' with water. Is the symbolism then that the hearts are sprinkled and the bodies are immersed ? What novelty is this ? What additive is here ? What impurity luxuriates itself in the very presence of the symbolic mode employed!
Not only is the heart SPRINKLED in this double context of washing, where the word 'baptism' is used; but we find as we proceed down the list in the preceding chapter, in which Old Testament symbolism is in view, that the purification, the washing in symbol was sprinkling. No merely is baptism used in the context of sprinkling, in this very sentence but it proliferates as such in the preceding chapter's narrative. Sprinkling illustrates it repeatedly and dramatically; and then it invades the very sentence in which the term 'baptism' is used. But let us pursue the modes in the previous chapter, 9.
Thus in Hebrews 9:18 following, Moses ... "took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, 'This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.' Likewise he sprinkled with blood, both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry." This is the characteristic way, the way emphasised and applied by the author of Hebrews, prominent, dominant, the part for the whole as Christ explicitly taught in John 13.
What blood symbolically applied, would illustrate, water now does, since the blood that counts being shed, there is no more blood. The METHOD of application of what symbolises, however, this, so far from suddenly becoming an immersion, is in Hebrews strikingly if not stridently exhibited in the much repeated sprinkling. It is not a hygienic wash; it is not a symbolism of something which is internally effective like washing. It is not a source of confusion of symbolic extensions as if they were more spiritual. On the contrary, such immersions in unbiblical extrapolations are in danger of becoming mere symbolic fortification in the way Paul forbids!
Rather as Christ Himself said, in terms of the nature of symbolism (John 13:10), "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." The believer is already clean; as such, he does not need a bath, but an illustration and a signal. Confusion does not help. It is the blood, not the water which counts. In terms of salvation, water counts for nothing as a contributor, being NOT the GOSPEL which IS the power of God to salvation, NOT what Paul was called to do at all. It is only when the reality of salvation is divorced from the confusion of symbolism, sacramentalism, that it is sound, free of what does not hold, cannot hold, and is de-authorised.
WHEN that is done, the application of baptism to those who have not been baptised into the covenantal symbolism already, becomes a proper and fitting, indeed a due testimony, like the Lord's supper. Like circumcision, it neither needs repetition nor delay, in the Christian household. It is best to do what you are told, and not to invent things. Imagination is fine when one is moving where the Lord has not prescribed. Where His mind, concept, will and words are given, however, this is no place to imagine.
To a world without covenant, without Christ, into which the apostles were sent, to believe and be baptised is the order. Where there comes to be baptism by divine practice, in the next generation, the baptism being done already, we see the wisdom of the biblical omission of any arithmetic way of things. Both should be done; and when that is achieved, that is fine.
The one comes when it will; the other is the essential ingredient. Both are prescribed, that is all: one for salvation, the other for illustration. This is the procedure and this is the way of gospelling; but the actual effective ingredient as constantly affirmed, and apostolically insisted, is FAITH ONLY in the work of Christ, His person and His place (John 6, Romans 3:23ff., Romans 4:25-5:12, John 6:47, 4:14, 10:9,27-28, Galatians 3:1-5, 5:1ff.): not as reconstructed (Galatians1 , II Cor. 11), but as He is and is divinely presented; not as supplemented by this or that work or action.
THIS is the NECESSARY cause of salvation; with it many things are sufficient. Without it, nothing helps. Take a taxi and find this shop is sufficient; find the shop is necessary. To assume that because a taxi may be mentioned, it is necessary, when elsewhere from the employer, finding the shop is precisely specified as adequate and necessary, is mere confusion and can quickly become disobedience and stultification. To INSIST on it and so teach, is heresy; for the word of God specifies otherwise concerning necessity!
Slathering with symbols does not help; it merely tends to insult the reality of the godly use in the first place, when it is accepted, and to become a spectacular when the spiritual is the essence, the outcome and the point. Pageantry has a place at times; but it is not a place when the thing itself is in question. Nor is it to be invented when it is clearly presented for its purpose, nor imported from symbolism of another order (as in Romans 6 - Question and Answer 11, where the topic is sanctification, and the imagery, planting, crucifixion and burial, aspects alike of the process, none literal cf. Chapter 8 below).
God USES imagery but is not Himself imagery (Hosea 12:10). He can MULTIPLY imagery, but it is only a ministry. It is Himself who matters, and in Him only one must glory, and on His salvation in Christ, the person, that one must rest, not on pictures, however apt, and not on works, however disguised.