Friday, October 28, 2011

Dr. Jeffress, Mormonism and dialogue

A few weeks back,  Dr. Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas caused a stir by calling the Mormon religion a cult before the national media.  Was this the correct avenue to take?  I took a survey shortly after Jeffress statement with a group of men, and half said Jeffress did the right thing.  Being a pastor in the same denomination, I will have to disagree with Dr. Jeffress and the men in my survey.  I could never match the intelligence of pastor Jeffress, but believe he was mistaken by stirring the pot in this way before the national media.  I am not disagreeing with Dr. Jeffress theological assessment concerning  the differences between Mormonism and Orthodox Christianity, but feel his branding of Mormonism before the national media does nothing but kill all possible dialogue between Mormons and those who fall within the Orthodox beliefs of the Church.

The Apostle Paul when dialoguing with others was conscious of his audience and tailored his discussion so that dialogue could take place.  In Acts 17, while speaking to the Greek philosophers, Paul never once mentions Scripture, but instead addresses the people on their level.  In fact, Paul's knowledge of the Greek thinkers allowed him to connect with the people by quoting two poets that the philosophers would have known about.  Paul said nothing offensive to block dialogue, but went out of his way to present the gospel such that people could respond.  In dialoguing in this way Paul gave freedom to the Holy Spirit to convict the hearts of the Greek thinkers, and this is exactly what happened.

When engaged with others, it is my opinion that dialogue needs to be open and free.  Anytime, dialogue is hindered by personal blocks, it makes the spread of God's Good News that much more difficult.  Paul stated, "To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some (1 Cor. 9:22)."  For Paul, the truth of God would never be compromised, but at the same time he realized the importance of keeping the communication lines open so that people could come to know the Messiah.

Two weeks ago, some Mormon missionaries came to my door.  We had a wonderful conversation.  I was asking a lot of questions and am praying that we can further the discussions in the future.  I realize that my worldview and the Mormon worldview are worlds apart on many different levels.  I choose to dialogue with my Mormon friends, because I believe so strongly that they are not in line with God's truth.  Because of my belief, it is important to keep the dialogue lines open, and not shut them off in any way.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Die for a lie?

One of the arguments given for the Christian faith deals with the statement that individuals would not be willing to die for a lie.  In general this is true, but many recognize that this argument by itself is incomplete.  Besides, couldn't any religion make this claim as their own?  However, the not dying for a lie argument does have credibility when considering evidence that supports the statement.  In other words, dying for truth is a whole lot different than dying for what one thinks to be true.  There are three solid reasons that support the fact that disciples of Jesus did not die for a lie.

1.  Early source material

The writings of Jesus were produced early.  All of the New Testament documents were produced and circulated within the first century.  You simply don't find this early source material from other religious movement.  Not only were the stories told by his followers, but other secular writings exist to corroborate the stories of the followers.  Again, secular stories of Jesus appear early and often to verify that the followers of Jesus were not following invented stories.  Probably the best evidence of early source material comes from Paul's letter to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 15:3-7).  This early story is recognized by the majorly of scholars as being a very early story of the resurrection of Jesus.  Many would say that the story goes back to the resurrection event itself.  If this early story was true, then the disciples of Jesus did not die for any type of invented story or lie, but they died for something they knew to be true.  From the inception of Christianity, the early and numerous source material concerning Jesus only validates that the followers of Christ did not die for a lie.

2.  Evangelistic

When considering all religions around the world, none compares to the evangelistic outreach of Christianity.  Of all the religions, only Islam can match the fervor of Christianity in spreading its message.  However, the big difference in how the message is spread between Islam and Christianity is stark.  From the beginning Christianity was spread peacefully with a message of hope.  Jesus can never be accused of inciting the spread of his message by force.  Islam, on the other hand, was initially spread, in many cases, in a non-peaceful manner. 

Christianity's belief in the resurrected Jesus put people in the position of having a target on their back, but this did not deter their passion in spreading the news of Jesus as the resurrected Messiah.  The initial spread of Christianity was done without the taking up of arms.  The early followers of Jesus were willing to spread the Christian message, knowing they might forfeit their lives, because they were convinced that it was truth they would be dying for.

3.  Eyewitness accounts

No evidence is better attested to than the evidential truth of the eyewitness accounts.  Many in the first century could have debunked the resurrection story by explaining away the empty tomb.  To date, no sufficient evidence has explained otherwise.  Within the first century, many individuals witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  These were not hallucinations or invented stories.  People do not die for such visions.  The early followers of Jesus had first hand knowledge that they encountered the bodily resurrected Jesus.  Because of this encounter, their lives were never the same.

The difference between the eyewitness claims of the resurrected Jesus and other religious claims is enormous.  All religions outside of Christianity are based on statements of their leaders without anyway to know if the statements are valid or not.  In other words, all religions except Christianity offer possible truth claims, but you can never know for sure if they are in fact true.  Christianity rests on a historic story as told by eyewitness of the the person of Jesus. 

No other religion deals with reality like Christianity.  The eyewitnesses were willing to die, because they knew not only Jesus, but had encountered the bodily resurrected Christ.  This reality is what caused future believers to be willing to die.  The deaths of Christians throughout time has always been based upon reliable historical evidence as opposed to guessing if the religion is question deals with actual truth.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Apologetics in the church

Here is a great article from a former professor of mine.

An Apologist in Every Church

It is my heartfelt contention that every church in the world needs an apologist. Here’s why I say that. I have found that the average member of the average congregation is riddled with doubt. They hear The Da Vinci Code proclaim that the Council of Nicaea suppressed contrary gospels. They hear that James Cameron has discovered the Lost Tomb of Jesus. They hear from the Zeitgeist movie that Jesus is just a rehashing of a long line of pagan dying and rising gods. And so on and on.

The trouble is that these confused congregants often don’t know where to turn. Those who do seek advice will often go to their pastor whom they considered to be the wisest man they know. The problem with that is that the pastor is usually very busy! Not only is the pastor preparing Sunday’s sermon, he’s probably preparing the Wednesday night sermon too. Then there’s counseling to do, church administration, hospital visitation, meeting with his staff, etc. I used to be a pastor and I know from experience that most pastors are really busy. And, honestly, for most of them, reading The Da Vinci Code or watching the Zeitgeist movie (both were silly, by the way), can’t be that high on their list.

To finish the article click here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

L killers of Church

In a previous blog, I wrote concerning 10 reasons why the church is broken.  I'm sure many reasons exist that hinder God's people, but believe that three main reasons are wreaking havoc upon the Church of the West.


Liberalism can be viewed in many ways.  In fact, Christians are to be liberal in the giving of their time and means.  So, taking this definition of liberalism is a good thing, but how are we to see liberalism as a Church killer?  The liberalism that seems to be killing the Church today deals with individuals who don't hold God's word as inspired truth.  The postmodern push has crept into the Church today and many are questioning the truthfulness of God's word.  Renewed attacks are coming from within the Church upon orthodox beliefs.  Many, in fact, are claiming that God's word can not be seen as universal truth or an all-encompassing narrative.  What this means is that individuals or communities are deciding what is true for them and what is not.  The problem with this approach is the individuals or communities are the ones responsible for making universal ground rules, therefore contradicting that truth is not universal.

Liberalism is being twisted in the Western culture for the promotion of values that don't ring true with the message of the Bible.  One of the most glaring examples of this deals with many churches of the West acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.  This is an extremely sensitive subject, because as soon as one points out the contradictions of the homosexual lifestyle compared to God's Word they are almost immediately branded as intolerant.  The question that needs to be asked, that no one really does is, "Who is intolerant when the subject comes up?"  Many times the Church is guilty of being intolerant, but when the homosexual community demands that acceptance takes place over God's Word then it is the homosexual community that is intolerant.  Other cultural liberal issues that have been accepted by many in the Western Church includes: sex before marriage, acceptance of abortion, and many other issues that cut across biblical teachings.


Legalism has existed before the time Jesus appearance on earth.  Plain and simple, legalism is a man-made set of rules that one uses to justify themselves from.  It is law-keeping that misses the heart of God's message.  Many in the church fall prey to the web of legalism.  Jesus was constantly dealing with the Pharisees legalism (see Matthew 23) and little has changed today.  Too many legalist are driving people off, because in their mind they have it all figured out.  In other words, you must go to the legalist for answers, and not God's Word. One of the major reasons why young people are leaving churches or not even considering meeting with the church deals with the heavy load that legalists put on the backs of individuals.  The sad consequence of legalism is that the love of Jesus is suppressed for individual hoop jumping laws.  Legalists are interested in works as opposed to the heart of Christ's message.  For the legalist, Christ's sacrifice is disparaged simply for the sake of personal control.


Too many Christians are too comfortable on their spiritual lazy-boy chair.  For the lazy Christian, Christianity means nothing more than filling a pew on Sunday morning, if that.  Lazy Christians feel entitled, as if God owes them something simply because they mouthed the words, "I believe."  It's no wonder that the Church is exploding in non-Western countries while the Western Church relies too much on the comforts they have been blessed with.  If the Western Church would realize that location makes no difference in God's movement, it could recapture the culture that now sadly influences the Church more that the Church influences culture.  The Western Church seems content to mouth certain "special" words and show up at a building for a 2 hour stint and call itself Christian.  Maybe, the Western Church should read what Jesus has to say (Matt. 7:21-13, Rev. 3:16) before trying to justify their fat and lazy lifestyle.

The purpose of the blog is not to be negative toward the Church, but to point out real problems that hinder the Church in the West.  On many occasions I feel like Paul who said, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst (1 Tim. 1:15)."  No one has lived a perfect life, except Jesus, but the three L's defiantly are killers of the Church.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A personal note

Flatland Apologetics will soon be moving; moving to another state that is.  Flatland Apologetics is a personal ministry that was started in the high plains of Northwest Kansas.  My family and I will now be moving to the Northwest; Washington State to be exact. 

The name will remain the same, because I will be living in central Washington which is relatively flat.  I will be answering a call to pastor full time for a Southern Baptist Church.  Needless to say, my life is busy now and I have had little time to post.  I am looking forward to this new challenge and can't wait to settle in and get back to blogging on a more regular basis.  I also am looking forward to the apologetic opportunities in Washington.

My wife and I would appreciate prayers for our family as we transition.  This is Shelby Cade signing off until all the madness settles a bit.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The benefits of doubt

The apostle Thomas is most commonly known as "doubting Thomas."  Poor Thomas, is almost looked at in a negative light for that one incident of doubt.  Even though Thomas doubted, it was not a negative that impaired his entire life.  In fact, once Thomas encountered the risen Christ his life was never the same.  According to tradition, Thomas gave his life as a martyr in Northern India for the cause of Jesus.  Interestingly, Thomas is rarely given credit for recognizing the divinity of Jesus (John 20:28), shortly after his encounter with the risen Lord.

Is doubt only to be seen in a negative light?  Can doubt actually bring about benefits?  As a freshman in college  majoring in Geology, I came to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah.  Everything about Christianity was new to me.  At the same time, I was receiving a lot of information from my science professors that seemed to cast a negative light on the existence of God and the Christian faith.  I can honestly say that that the first year or two of my Christian walk was one of the most doubt filled times I had as a Christian.  However, even though I had many doubts at the time (and still they surface), I can look back at the benefits of doubt.  I would like to suggest 4 benefits to having doubts in your life.

1.   Doubts keep individuals honest.

One of the charges that atheists lay at the feet of the Christian is that you are only a Christian because of the culture you grew up in.  While this is true to a certain extent, many atheists, I feel, fall victim to the same charge.  Having honest doubts about anything is actually beneficial for one to think outside the box, and not just accept the cultural narrative.

2.   Doubts can cause individuals to research.

Honest doubts can compel individuals to research the evidence of the subject being doubted.  A little research never hurt anyone, in fact, research can only lead to finding out if your doubts are justified or not.

3.   Doubts can bolster an individual's position.

One of the greatest benefits of doubts is that it can strengthen your worldview position.  Many of the past doubts that I have addressed have only increase my faith in the Christian Worldview.  In fact, I enjoy dialoguing with individuals who have a different worldview than my own.  I have found out, over time, that dealing with doubts is minimized the more you are able to address them in an honest way.

4.   Doubts can lead individuals to the truth.

An honest person, that does their own research can be changed to follow the truth.  Many people, such as C.S. Lewis, have faced their doubts head on only to be reached by the truth.  In reality, truth can't be doubted, because truth stands alone.

Not all doubts should be seen in a negative light.  Having doubts can actually be beneficial to the honest person.  Don't doubt me on this!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is baptism necessary for salvation? - Closing statement

Thanks to both Jacob and James for their willingness to debate this issue.  I hope the arguments have been thought provoking from both sides.  I appreciate both opponents willingness to debate the issues in a respectful manner.  And now,  the closing statements.


Closing Statement

As our moderator has noted, closing statements are a time for summarizing our positions, not further rebuttal. It is my desire to honor that even though it may leave a few challenges yet unanswered. I believe the weight of Scripture has fallen clearly on the side that baptism, while important, is not necessary for salvation.

(A quick side note: I will not be answering the true/false questions provided by James in his last rebuttal because 1.) It goes outside the moderators stated desire for a succinct summary of our position in this closing statement and 2.) The line of questioning is unfair. Demanding a simple true or false answer to questions worded in just such a way is not legitimate because there are several case where regardless of how I answer “true” or “false” I am in a catch 22. So I refuse to get caught up in clever word games of one word answers to rigged questions.)

Time and again my opponent, James, has seemed bewildered by the notion that baptism could be important and a command of our Lord and yet not be necessary for salvation, yet I fail to see what is so bewildering about this. An apple tree is an apple tree even before it yields its first fruit, is it not? In the same way a person is a Christian when they trust/believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior and they bear fruit in keeping with repentance/faith when they are baptized, when they give to and serve the poor, when they read their Bibles and pray, when they share the name of Jesus. James constantly confuses the fruit of salvation with the notion of meriting it. The reason I stated that a person who refuses to get baptized may not be a believer is not because baptism saves them but because a believer would have a changed heart that would want to obey Christ!

I have listed numerous passages that have illustrated that justification comes by faith in Christ and not by any works (such as water baptism or any other). There is no need to rehash them here once again, please go back and read them (John 3:16; Romans 3-4; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9, etc.). James’ position insists that water baptism is necessary or justification and yet, as I have shown, people were filled with God’s Holy Spirit prior to water baptism (see Acts 10). If James is correct and a person cannot be saved/justified apart from water baptism then you have a case of God pouring out His holy Spirit, filling unbelievers! Now that is truly an untenable position!

It is true that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but not water baptism. It is the baptism of the Holy Spirit that John the Baptist prophesied Jesus would bring that is what applies the finished work of Christ to our soul. It is this baptism of the Spirit, brought about by faith in the message of the gospel, that seals us into our salvation. It is this baptism of the Spirit that Cornelius and those with him experienced by faith in the gospel when Peter preached to them in Acts 10 and Peter recounts this baptism of the Spirit in Acts 11. Such is truly the nail in the coffin for the view that water baptism is necessary for justification/salvation because it is the sealing of the Spirit by faith that saves us (Eph. 1:13-14) and the people at Joppa received the spirit prior to water baptism.

Much of James’ confusion about baptism seems to be a result of failing to recognize that the New Testament speaks of both water baptism and baptism of the Spirit. James constantly applies passages about baptism of the Spirit as if they were talking about water baptism which leads a person into serious error.

As I illustrated with 1 Corinthians, Paul makes a distinction between the gospel and baptism as a subsequent act. James scoffed at that but I believe that point stands alone pretty strong and I will leave you, the reader, to decide for yourself what Paul meant by “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel” because it seems pretty straight forward to me. But if I did not make this point strongly enough, how about this. If water baptism is necessary for salvation, and therefore a part of gospel proclamation, then why is it that any mention of water baptism is absent from 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and Revelation? Yes, 16 of 27 books of the New Testament never once even address the issue of water baptism…16! Clearly there are not 16 books of the New Testament that fail to speak of salvation in Christ and yet there are 16 that don’t even brush the subject of water baptism. But how then could that be if water baptism is a part of the gospel proclamation?

I have dealt with the subject Acts 2:38 and the Greek word “eis” and clearly explained that the word can mean “for” or “because of.” I cited A.T. Robertson, an eminent Greek New Testament scholar who demonstrated that this passage could legitimately read either way and, therefore, does not prove that water baptism is necessary for salvation. James obviously misunderstood Robertson because Robertson was not saying that there are only three cases where “eis” means “because of” but that there are three places where in the New Testament where “eis” cannot mean anything but “because of”. Many passages with the word “eis” clearly mean “for”, several clearly mean “because of” and some of the passages are ambiguous and could read either way and therefore the meaning depends on the context and teaching of Scripture. Acts 2:38 is an example of the ambiguous use “eis” and therefore does not prove my case nor James. It could mean either, so this passage is not the proving ground.

As I have argued, every time the New Testament speaks of a person being justified it points to faith/repentance as what applies salvation to the believer, never water baptism. Yes it is true that justification is linked to grace and the blood of Christ, but we should not confuse the means of our justification (what Christ did on the cross) and the reason that anyone will be justified (God’s grace) with the thing that applies justification to us personally, namely, faith.

The passage in James that speaks about justification by works gives Abraham as the example and yet speaks of his offering up his son Isaac. However it was Abraham’s faith in God’s promise to make him the father of many nations through his own descendants (e.g. Isaac) that made him already declared righteous long before he ever even had his son. So then James speaks not of justification for salvation by works, but the justification of ones faith by works. In other words, like I have been arguing all the while, if a person really believes and is justified, there works will justify/prove that they have faith.

Faith is the trigger by which justification occurs in our lives. It is faith alone that applies salvation to us through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Faith alone is how we receive salvation, but that is not to say that God isn’t busy in our lives beforehand preparing our hearts and minds, but none of the things we do in life applies Christ’s sacrifice to us, no work, just trusting in Jesus and what He has done. It happens by God’s grace at a moment in time when we believe the gospel.

Many will expose themselves as false believers because they will not follow Christ and seek to obey him. James (the epistle writer) made clear that there is a faith that saves and a faith that does not save. Faith that leads a person to live a life of obedience is saving faith, faith that merely acknowledges propositions about Jesus as true but does not trust him and live in light of who He is does not save. But biblical faith, that which gives way to good works is the faith that we have been speaking of when I have said “faith alone” saves. Surely there will be people in hell who believed propositional truth about Jesus, but those who believed him in the sense that they trusted in Him will not see Hell.
I encourage you all to carefully examine the exchange that has taken place here, go to the Scriptures and search diligently everywhere it speaks of how a person is saved and decide for yourself what the Scripture teach. I stand on God’s word and declare that no one will enter Heaven believing that they had to accomplish a task in order to be justified. It is by faith in Jesus that we receive His righteousness and are justified by His grace as a gift.



I am grateful that I had the opportunity to participate in this debate. I am thankful to my opponent Jacob for his willingness to present his position on the subject. I am thankful to Mr. Shelby Cade for arranging the debate and taking care of posting the writings each week on his website. I am also grateful for anyone reading this debate now or in the future. I encourage anyone reading through this debate to study God's word with the full intent to understand, know and obey God's will (Eph. 5:17; Matt. 7:21ff). If you are a preacher or teacher, remember you have the responsibility to teach the truth of God's word (2 Tim. 4:2; Jonah 3:2; Gal. 1:6-9). Truth has the power to set man free (John 8:32).

As I mentioned previously, there are issues with a written debate that can be overcome in an oral debate. So, I hope and pray Jacob will arrange for an oral debate at a place of his choosing. I will gladly travel to any reasonable place to debate this subject. Prior to that occasion, both sides would agree on terms, pass questions and agree on a moderator, etc.

Again, both sides cannot be correct. I firmly believe Jacob is incorrect in his understanding as evidenced by his eliminating passages, twisting words, and misusing of texts. He has clearly stated, “I am a Baptist” so he must be careful to hold true to the teaching of that denomination. A.T. Robertson, a Baptist, also sought to find a view consistent with his Baptist theology as he stated in his Historical Grammar (see my 2nd rebuttal). However, one must remember not one person in God's word was a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, etc. It is imperative that we allow truth to trump denominational creeds and thinking. We must go forward, back to the Bible. As one preacher often said, “if its new its not true; it has to be two thousand years old”.

I am going to divide this summary into two parts. In the first part, I am going to go through Jacob's 2nd rebuttal answering his disagreements and showing further why his position is incorrect. In the 2nd part, I will revisit my introduction and summarize the debate.

Part I – A Careful Refutation of Jacob's 2nd Rebuttal

As suspected Jacob was unable to produce a passage indicating one is saved by “faith only” or “faith alone”. He writes, “you are right, the Bible doesn't coin it in that exact phrase.” He suggests that his inability to find the words “faith alone” or “faith only” is similar to a man's inability to find the word “Trinity”. The word “Trinity” is not found but the concept of the “Trinity” is found studying various texts across the whole Bible. Similarly, one searches throughout the New Testament to understand salvation. In so doing, one discovers that God expects more than just faith in becoming a child of God. So, not only is the phrase “faith only” or “faith alone” not found in the pages of God's inerrant word but neither is the concept.

Jacob states one is not saved by works (Eph. 2:8) and concludes that baptism is the kind of work described in that passage. One would be silly to imagine that he could somehow erase his sins by his own meritorious deeds. Our meritorious works are like “filthy sanitary napkins/ tampons” to God (Is. 64:6). In Luke 17:10, Jesus exclaimed, So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”

Jacob has yet to prove that baptism is a work. In his introduction he wrote, “Baptism, which is something we must do willfully achieve, set out to get done, is a work.” Several times in this debate he has referred to straw-men, etc. However, I have yet to see a reference in God's word that says baptism is a work. I submit to you that baptism is not a meritorious work (i.e. to brag or boast) rather one who submits to it is trusting in the working of God (Col. 2:1112) who is able to remit sin. I have never known one person to brag or boast because he or she was immersed. Not one!

Jacob later ridicules my argument concerning Naaman (2 Kings 5:1); however, I was simply using his account to help show that baptism into Christ is not a work; its not a means
to braggadocio. Paul used Moses (1 Cor. 12:13) and Peter used Noah (1 Peter 3:21) to teach on the subject of baptism. The Apostle Paul taught that the Old Testament could be used for instruction (Rom. 15:4).

Naaman had a horrible, disfiguring disease called leprosy. He heard words from God's prophet Elisha. His leprosy was not removed by faith only, rather it was only removed when he submitted to God's will by being immersed in the Jordan River. The cleaner waters in his homeland and four times would not suffice. It had to coincide with God's will. Once he obeyed God, his leprosy was removed and his skin was like a child. I do not recall any bragging or boasting on his part. If Naaman had boasted it would have been in vain. Also, there was nothing magical in the water. God did all the work but first set out the stipulations for Naaman to obey.

Similarly, a sinner comes to God. His sin is actually worse than leprosy and removal of it required the torture and subsequent death of the Son of God (Is. 53; Acts 8:26ff). His powerful, perfect blood was shed so that sin could be removed and God could be both “Just and the Justifier (Rom. 3:26)”. Those in Acts 2:37 heard the message of Christ and Him Crucified and they were cut to the heart (or pricked). They asked the Apostle Peter who was recently immersed into the Holy Spirit and guided into all truth (John 16:13; Acts 2:1ff), “brothers what shall we do?”. Peter tells them what they must do, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Act 2:38 ESV).” With further words Peter exclaimed, “'Save yourselves from this crooked generation.' So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Those people were told to do something but it was not a work worthy of bragging, boasting, etc.

Again, as I stated in my 2nd rebuttal, Jacob grossly misuses 1 Corinthians 1:17 to try and prove that baptism is not part of salvation (or unnecessary). However, isn't it interesting that something not part of salvation and supposedly unnecessary found its way into the “summary” account of the first post-resurrection gospel sermon? Jacob wrote at the conclusion of his 1st rebuttal - “As Paul says so very plainly baptism is not part of the gospel message, it is subsequent to salvation”. The Holy Spirit, part of the “Trinity”, disagrees and places baptism right there on Pentecost Sunday during the 1st Gospel sermon.

Jacob says there is nothing you must do except have “faith only”. Those people in Acts 2 had incredible faith (2:47) and they still said, “Brothers what shall we do?” I am sure Jacob would reply, “well, they were baptized to obey God as just a declaration”. No, that does not fit the context of this passage. He has approached this passage believing in “faith only” just like A.T. Robertson (recall quote from my 2nd rebuttal) and just like many other people who believe and teach the same thing. Yet, it does not fit the context. Peter, a divinely inspired Apostle is commanding them to be immersed so that they might receive two specific blessings: the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (2:38; c.f. Eph. 1:13-14). You almost have to have help to misunderstand that.

There is something else here that has happened that has barely been mentioned in this debate. I mentioned it in my introduction only. In Acts 2, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ was established fulfilling the words of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:16-18). Three thousand souls heard the 1st post-resurrection Gospel sermon and they obeyed the Gospel and become God's people later known as Christians (Acts 11:26; 26:28). The church is the blood bought work of Almighty God (Acts 20:28). Sinners immersed were added to the church which is the Lord's body (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 12:13). It is interesting to note that upon immersion, the individual is cleansed by blood and added to the blood bought church at the
same time. Also, one cannot be saved unless he or she is in the church which is the kingdom (1 Cor. 15:24; Matt. 16:19). Yes, there is a Kingdom today and Jesus is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”. He was literally raised to reign! One day He will return to receive the Kingdom, the Church to Himself.

Jacob, it amazes me to hear you say “there is nothing you must do except have faith.” He also throws repentance in their suggesting it is the opposite side of a coin or something. Faith does not come by osmosis, otherwise everyone would be saved and Universalism would be true. Faith comes by hearing the truth of God's word (Rom. 10:17), accepting it and obeying it. Dr. Luke records, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7 ASV; c.f. Rom. 1:5 & 16:26). Not everyone who hears has faith. One must choose to believe. Some refused to believe (Acts 5:33, 7:54, 13:46, etc.) and individuals refusing to believe would never be immersed (Mark 16:15-16). Remember, believing and refusing to obey is actually disbelieving - “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36).”

According to the biographical information, Jacob did something in view of his own personal salvation. He provided the information, just as I did, to Mr. Cade who recorded, “Jacob called out to God”. So, Jacob had to do something in order to accept the saving grace of God. To argue against that is to promote the erroneous position of “Universalism”. Now, he will water it down suggesting it is of the mind, etc. He can water it down all he wants but the fact is he did something to accept or receive it. It is interesting that no one in the book of Acts (the book of conversions) did what Jacob did to accept the saving grace of God. Personally, that would bother me as I contemplated my own eternal well-being.

Jacob then makes up a phrase “baptism is necessary for salvation” and concludes since that phrase is not in the Bible then James' argument is unbiblical and illogical.” Jacob, God's word clearly states that baptism is part of God's plan for saving man (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts). Again, it is ironic that you say it is unnecessary but necessary. In fact, several times you have suggested that one's salvation may be in question if they refused immersion. It is essential for salvation because God CHOSE that in that moment sins would be remitted.

Jacob's position on “eis” in Acts 2:38 is false. He even admits if he is wrong in his understanding on “eis” then his position is incorrect. Isn't it amazing that Jacob's whole position could crumble in the dust if his position on Acts 2:38 is incorrect and he admits it. It seems that Jacob has placed his faith in Robertson and not the Holy Spirit. Robertson even admitted that his view was based on his theological position as a Baptist.

Speaking of Acts 2:38 and Jacob's misunderstanding of eis. It will be interesting to see what he does (if anything) with Mark 1:4 and Matt. 26:28. In my 2nd rebuttal, I showed that those 3 passages are identical in the New Testament Greek. Yet even the esteemed A.T. Robertson left them alone. He only changed the one that immediately conflicted with his Baptist doctrine. It boggles my mind that Jacob is willing to fall in line with an individual who supposedly found 3/1773 where eis is used to indicate “because of”. Jacob wrote, “According to A.T. Robertson, this usage 'occurs at least three times' where it cannot be purpose or aim, but rather the basis or ground.”

Also, note the following, Acts 2:38 says, "Repent AND be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ FOR the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (emp. mine).” Jacob says that repentance is basically faith - “Repentance and faith are like the opposite sides of the same coin and should not/cannot be separated from one another (2nd Rebuttal).” So, if he changes “eis” the meaning or the actual word from FOR to Because Of” he has some serious issues to overcome. Whatever he does to immersion he must also do to repentance. So, is he now suggesting that one REPENT and be BAPTIZED “because of” the forgiveness of sins? Is he willing to suggest that belief/faith occurs because one's sins have already been forgiven? If so, then Universalism is correct.

Jacob then writes the following concerning Galatians 3:27, “Now here James exposes a false assumption, namely, that this passage refers to water baptism. This passage actually does not refer to water baptism but to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Jacob says I am incorrect for assuming its water baptism but then turns and makes the assumption that it is actually Holy Spirit baptism. He then leaves the book and goes to Mark 1:8 and Eph. 1:13-14 suggesting that proves it.

Earlier, I wrote a few things concerning the blood purchased church (Acts 20:28) that began in Act 2 on the day of Pentecost. There were scores of people in Jerusalem, possibly millions, but only 3,000 people allowed the word of God to prick their heart to the point that they inquired, “brothers, what shall we do?”. Their faith moved them to action. Isn't that similar to the passage in Galatians 3:27?

The Apostle Paul wrote, Gal 3:25-29:

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, (The Faith vs. the Law of Moses) (26) for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through (dia:Strong A primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through ) faith. (27) For (gar – seeing then) as many of you as were baptized into Christ (Matt. 28:18-20) have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one (made up the churches in Galatia) in Christ Jesus. (29) And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

Jacob repeatedly makes reference to Eph. 1:13-14 so let's take a look at what is happening or rather what has happened in those verses and notice how similar it is to Acts 2:1-41. Paul wrote, “in whom ye also, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, - in whom, having also believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance, unto the redemption of God's own possession, unto the praise of his glory.”

  • The people in Ephesus “heard the word of the truth”  
  • The word of truth = the gospel of your salvation
  • “having believed” (synecdoche: part put for a whole)
  • “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”
  • praise of his glory
  • All Spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3ff): Holy, without blemish, forgiveness of sins, adoption, redemption through his blood, etc.
Those in Acts 2:1-41
  • The people in Jerusalem “heard the word of truth”
  • Gospel: death, burial, and resurrection
  • Believed (pricked, cut to the heart)
  • Inquired - “Brothers, what shall we do?”
  • “Repent and be immersed”
  • Blessings: Remission of sins and Gift of Holy Spirit
Jacob, based on his writing, believes that there is more than one baptism: Holy Spirit Baptism and Water baptism. Yet, Paul in the book of Ephesians says there is only one baptism (4:5). The baptism of the “Great Commission” is the baptism that will last till the end of the world (Matt. 28:20).  So, when Paul wrote the Ephesians from prision, he says clearly there is only one baptism. It is the baptism for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  It is also the baptism that places one into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41; 1 Cor. 12:13).

Jacob has spent a lot of time in this debate referring to the conversion of the first Gentiles, Cornelius and those with him. Jacob, based on his observation of Acts 10 & 11 believes that at the moment of one's saving faith, the individual also receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I am pretty sure he would conclude the same event happens to people today. An individual hears some words about Christ, chooses to believe them, and then he or she is immersed into the Holy Spirit where he receives remissions of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, etc. I disagree.

Jacob makes a distinction between “Holy Spirit Baptism” and “Water Baptism”. However, God's word says there is just “one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). It is that one baptism that will last to the end of the world (Matt. 28:18-20) – right? So, which baptism is it? Is it John's baptism, Holy Spirit Baptism, or the baptism in water that will last to the end of the world?

One needs to remember that it was always God's intention that the whole gospel would go to the whole world. Jesus indicated this in the “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16. However, this was simply not done at one time. Bias and prejudice existed among the followers of Jesus and hindered the Gospel from going to the Gentile world (Acts 11:1-3). A vision is given to Peter three times (10:9-16) to convince him that the Gentiles were eligible to hear and obey the Gospel of Christ. Subsequent to the vision, the Holy Spirit spoke to Peter saying, “Behold, three men are looking for you” (10:19)

After the vision he travels with six Jewish brethren (11:12) and entered the house of Cornelius in Caesarea. He preaches the message “Christ and Him Crucified” to all those made present by Cornelius. “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised (the 6 Jewish brethren who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles” (Acts 10:44-45).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was given to them was not for salvation, rather it was to further show that the Gentiles were eligible candidates for God's mercy and forgiveness. Notice the words of Peter as recorded in Acts 11:15-18:

As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning (i.e. Acts 2:1ff) (16) And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' (i.e. Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5) (17) If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God's way?" (18) When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."

Jacob inquires, “I ask you did God give the Holy Spirit to unsaved people?” Was Cornelius lost? The descriptions concerning him show that he was a God-fearing man, etc. God listened to his prayers and even interceded with an angel, etc. Read Acts 10 & 11 and notice all of the references to who Cornelius was as a man. It is ESSENTIAL that one realize that a very unique time period is being dealt with in that passage. There is a transition of Covenants underway. If Cornelius had died the day before, would he have been lost? He had an obligation to God but it was not the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ had not been taken to the Gentiles. He was under a different law as a Gentile in which very little information Is given. Under that Law he was a God-fearing man.

Jacob quotes Act 11:15-18 just as I did above. Did you notice the gem of truth in 11:18? It says - When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life." Jacob's position on Acts 2:38 has problems here. Here we see “repentance leads to life” not you have life so repent. Remember the conjunction AND in Acts 2:38 as discussed previously.

In reading through the remaining part of his rebuttal I see so many things that I would like to ask him questions to find out exactly what he means. It would be interesting to see his responses to some simple questions. I sent questions at the end of my 2nd rebuttal but I never received a response for them. I figured he would answer them in just a few minutes and send them back to me but he did not. If this turns into an oral debate, I would certainly have many questions for him to answer which would help greatly in this debate. His answers would help narrow down his position rather than jumping all over the place.

I could easily continue answering his questions about Apollos and his teaching, the Philippian Jailer, etc. However, I am already over 10 pages in this Summary and so I will stop for now. Again, I will gladly debate this subject at a reasonable time and place of Jacob's choosing.

Part II – Summarizing Things

Salvation is important to the “Trinity”; God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. That concept is taught from Bible cover to Bible cover. Many pages of Holy Writ are dedicated to showing God's great love and eternal purpose for man (John 3:16; Eph. 3:11, etc.). God supervised the divine plan through the Garden of Eden, the life of Abraham, the Law and life of Moses, through the sins and rebellion of men, etc. Satan himself could not thwart God's efforts to bring Jesus to the world. He tried but he failed miserably.

My sincere concern for souls was my motive for participating in this debate. I believe firmly that God's plan for saving man includes baptism (immersion) in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). God commanded baptism for the remission of sins (Lk. 3:2-3). Jesus observed and approved its practice while on Earth (Matt. 21:25; John 3:22, 4:5) and then commanded its practice prior to ascending to Heaven (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). The Holy Spirit guided the Apostles to preach it and write about it (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13; Acts 2:38, etc.). Everyone that has ever become a Christian has submitted to it. Those that have refused it, post-resurrection, or still in their sins and lost.

One must remember that it was Jesus who commanded the baptism of what has become known as the “Great Commission”. Following Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:4), He walked on Earth for 40 days allowing His resurrected body to be seen by the Apostles and scores of other people (1 Cor. 15:4-8).

It was during this time that Jesus further instructed the Apostles to further prepare them for the work that they were about to begin. He carefully instructed them that He was going to leave but in His place the Holy Spirit would be sent to teach them all things and bring to remembrance the things taught to them by Him (John 14:26).

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit would testify of Christ (John 15:26) and guide the Apostles into “all truth”. This occurred in Acts 2 in the city of Jerusalem as the Apostles were “filled with the Holy Spirit” (2:4). The Apostles were the first, but not the last, to receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” (1:4-5, cf. 11:15-16).

Prior to leaving Earth, Jesus gave the Apostles their final instructions, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, teaching them to observe all that I havecommanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mat 28:18-20). In addition, Luke 24:46-47 - "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

And this is exactly what the Apostles did. They observed the ascension of the Lord into the clouds and then they went to Jerusalem and waited for the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”. Approximately, ten days later on the day of Pentecost the Apostles received it. The miraculous occasion and the subsequent speaking in tongues created a stir and allowed the Apostles to stand and preach the first post-resurrection message.

The thrust of their message was Christ crucified. They were witnesses of the events and they proclaimed them making reference to the Old Testament again and again to build their case. In the end, 3,000 precious souls were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) and inquired “Brothers,what shall we do?” Peter simply told them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act 2:38).

Jesus will be preached in Jerusalem and Judea (Acts 1-7), in Samaria (8), and finally to the uttermost parts of the world (13-28). The theme of their preaching was Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 6:14). And each time baptism played an essential part in the redemption of man (Acts 3, 8, 9, 16, 18, 22, etc.).

I am glad that Jacob and I can agree on the following things:
  • The Godhead or Trinity  
  • The Inspired Word of God, the Bible
  • God's Desire to Save Us
  • We Are Not Saved By Meritorious Works (?)
  • Baptism is necessary (?)
  • The importance of faith (?)
  • The “sinner's prayer” as an invention of man
  • Justification by God  
  • The powerful work of the cross
These are problems I see in Jacob's Understanding on this subject:

  • When he sees faith he almost always sees “faith only” - many of the passages he references he uses in that fashion. Faith is used in several different ways, sometimes the one word is used to describe the whole process of describe the whole process of salvation.
  • He believes baptism is an outward sign, a declaration of one's faith ONLY – that concept is not taught anywhere in God's word. He believes it so every time he sees a baptism he concludes it is a declaration of faith to others.
  • His understanding of Acts 2:38 is flawed and based again on preconceived notions (i.e. Baptist theology). He even admits that if he is wrong on his understanding of “eis” then his position is false. His understanding of “eis” is based on one man and 3 supposed occurrences. I suspect, if Jacob changed his position on Acts 2:38 he would also change his understanding on faith, repentance, the outward declaration, etc.
  • He believes baptism is a meritorious work. It would then be something to brag or boast about. He has not produced one passage to prove baptism is a meritorious work.
  • A misuse of several texts that he believes solidifies his case: 1 Cor. 1:17 where he suggests baptism is not part of the Gospel and unimportant. Also, the account of Cornelius and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 10, 11, 16). God's word does not contradict itself.

In Conclusion, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this debate. I would like the opportunity to continue this study with Jacob in an oral debate at a reasonable time and place of his choosing. This written debate will help a lot in narrowing down the subject and therefore producing a quality debate where people can decide for themselves what the truth is on this very important matter.

Sincerely & Respectfully,
James Haynes Jr.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wishful thinking

In his article, Religion as a Black Market for Irrationality, Sam Harris lays out his case against religious belief. [1]  It must be noted that two other articles tie in to this one, which I hope to address in coming blogs.  These articles are offered by the author of the text book, About Philosophy, by Robert Paul Wolff, who describes himself as an atheist.  What exactly is Harris arguing for in the article?

It is the belief of Harris that religions believe as they do without rational grounds to do so.  Harris states, "This constraint upon our thinking has always been a problem for religion.  Being stocked stem to stern with incredible ideas, the world's religions have had to find some way to circumvent reason." [2]  According to Harris, the circumventing of reason comes by way of faith.  Faith in Harris' mind is always a blind faith, but is this how faith is defined in the Bible?  Are individuals within the Christian religion expected to blindly follow whatever their tradition dictates?

What is faith?  Does faith mean that individuals are deluded as wishful thinkers?  Faith properly understood can be viewed as belief based upon reality.  What Harris seems to confuse is the difference between proper faith and belief.  Belief does not necessary have a justifier, whereas true faith in anything must have a justifying  anchor.  In this case, faith is not blind, but can be justified as right belief.  When Harris insinuates that faith in religion is blind, he is constructing a straw man argument, while at the same time asking his audience to blindly accept his statements.

In order for faith to be real and true, evidence must exist to support it.  Faith in the Christian God comes through numerous avenues to support the religion's beliefs.  The apostle John makes a statement of faith by saying, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim (1 John 1:1)."  John makes a faith statement based on evidence.

In his article, Harris gives a six point plan on how one can be deluded to belief in God:
  1. First, you must want to believe in God.
  2. Next, understanding that believing in God in the absence of evidence is especially noble.
  3. Then, realize that the human ability to believe in God in the absence of evidence might itself constitute evidence for the existence of God.
  4. Now consider any need for further evidence (both in yourself and in others) to be a form of temptation, spiritually unhealthy, or a corruption of the intellect.
  5. Refer to steps 2-4 as acts of faith.
  6. Return to 2.
What Harris presents in his six point argument is nothing more than a bloated straw man.  Concerning point one, couldn't one say that, "You must want to believe in the non-existence of God."  Would that statement make Harris' argument valid?  It seems that wanting to not believe in God would settle everything from the get go, in Harris' mind.  But, where is the evidence in that statement, that Harris is so fond of?

Harris wants to have his cake and eat it too.  He is willing to disparage religion without himself offering any evidential proof to refute it.  In reality, Harris is the one who bases his belief on the blind faith of atheism, because he is unwilling to show how religion, particularly the Christian religion does not match with the evidence.  Harris concludes the article by saying that religion has a "diminished contact with reality."[3]  Really, Mr. Harris, is that true, or simply wishful thinking on your part?

[1]  Harris, Sam, Religion as a Black Market for Irrationality as  found in About Philosophy, p. 338
[2]  Ibid
[3]  Ibid

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Is baptism necessary for salvation? - 2nd rebuttal

Note:  In the second rebuttal by James, he posted true/false questions at the end of the paper. Being that this is the last rebuttal before the conclusion next week, I will let Jacob respond if he wishes.  These true/ false questions were never agreed upon prior to the start of the debate before concluding remarks were to be made.  The conclusion is meant to summarize your position, and not to keep answering questions from your opponent.  If James and Jacob would like to correspond with each other after the concluding remarks, that's great.  Also, if Jacob is compelled to answer the true/false question, that is up to him, though he is not required to do so as part of his conclusion.


This will be my 3rd entry in this debate.

I feared that a written debate would cause Jacob and I to talk past each other. Unfortunately, that is a weakness of this format. It is important for the reader to realize that Jacob and I have never spoken, passed questions, agreed on terms, etc. I hope eventually this written debate will evolve into an oral debate at a place of Jacob's choosing.

First, let me state that I am thankful that Jacob is willing to present his position on this very important subject. I appreciate the fact that he has a respect for God's word and sees it as the inerrant word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). I certainly agree with him on that matter for sure. Therefore, it is imperative that we both listen carefully and adhere completely to the will of God (Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46). Someone must change their position or choose to displease God. Again, both positions are not correct.

Jacob hates the practice of the “Sinner's Prayer” which I also hate. Why? Because its practice is foreign to the inerrant word of God. So, to proclaim it or practice it results in one doing something outside the will of God. No one in the New Testament ever received salvation by merely saying a prayer. In fact, arguments could be made to show that God does not listen to the prayers of the unredeemed.

I am also thankful to anyone who is carefully reading this debate. A carefully orchestrated debate is a means of Bible study. Each and everyone of us has the obligation to study the word of God and mine out its truths. Paul wrote, “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph 5:17 ESV).” Also, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Mat 7:21).”

Baptism is important because God made it part of His plan for saving man. Who is willing to argue or debate with God? Naaman argued with God's messenger about being baptized seven times in the dirty Jordan River. However, it was not until he complied with the will of God that he was set free from the horrible, disfiguring disease of leprosy.

God commanded John the Baptizer to go preach and baptize and that is exactly what he did (Luke 3:2-3). In the “Great Commission”, Jesus commanded the Apostles to go into all the world and preach it (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16); and that is exactly what they did.

In Acts 1:8, Jesus instructed the Apostles to begin in Jerusalem then go to Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world. They obeyed their Lord by taking the Gospel to those places. They took the Gospel to Jerusalem (Acts 2:38); Judea (3:19); Samaria (8:1ff); and the World (18:8). Later, the Apostle Paul indicated the Gospel had been preached throughout the world (Col. 1:23).

Baptism was part of the proclamation of the Gospel and it was an urgent matter. Urgent is defined as “requiring immediate action or attention”. Why is baptism urgent? Because prior to baptism the individual:
  • Had Not Received The Remission of Sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16)
  • Had Not Put On Christ (Gal. 3:27)  
  • Was Not “In Christ” (Rom. 6:23)  
  • Was Condemned (Rom. 8:1)
  •  Was Not A Child of God or Christian (Acts 11:26, 26:28)
  • Had Not Received The Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Eph. 1:13-14).
  • Had Not Received All Spiritual Blessings (Eph. 1:3ff).
  • Was not “in” or into the Godhead (Matt. 28:18-20)
Jacob Misuses 1 Corinthians 1:17
Jacob, like many others, has misused 1 Cor. 1:17 in an attempt to reduce the importance of baptism. It is ironic that he uses that passage to diminish baptism but throughout his rebuttal he states again and again that baptism must be done to obey God. Failure to do so is to disobey God. He even stated that one's failure to be immersed might call into question that individual's justification/salvation. He gave several illustrations (mechanic, dog, monk) and then wrote, “...we have good reason to question a person’s justification if they refuse to submit to the plain teaching of Christ and refuse to be baptized.” Why would the Apostle Paul create doubt in the minds of so many “divided” Christians? Jacob, are you suggesting even for a moment that Paul was diminishing “obedience to God”? You can't have it both ways.

Context is absolutely essential in understanding the meaning of a particular verse. First, Paul is addressing Christians and not the world - “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints...” (1 Cor. 1:2). He is addressing individuals that had already been immersed (Acts 18:8) and made up the local church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2).

The context reveals that there is division in the church (1:10) due to several issues which are dealt with throughout the 16-chapter epistle. There were individuals that were elevating themselves based on who they knew, etc (1:12). Paul is thankful that he only immersed a few because it may have caused some to “think more highly of themselves” (Rom. 12:3) and place themselves above others. Recall this sense of superiority is dealt with throughout the book of Corinthians.

Today, in foreign lands, missionaries will often allow the local people to immerse there own for this very reason. Otherwise someone might say, “I was immersed by an American” possibly suggesting his baptism or position was superior to his peers. I suspect this is also the reason Jesus did not physically immerse anyone (John 4:2). People today get excited and even braggadocio if they know someone who knows a famous actor like Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. Imagine, if someone could actually claim they had been immersed by Jesus himself?

Others will travel to the Jordan River thinking an immersion there is superior to any other body of water. The Bible places no emphasis on the body of water chosen or the individual doing the immersing. I emphasis that because many have falsely suggested that those in churches of Christ teach that one must be immersed in their buildings and by their preachers. That is simply not true and has been used to prejudice one against churches of Christ.

Paul himself was immersed (Rom. 6:4; Acts 9:18) Ananias told him, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name (Act 22:16).” Isn't it interesting that Paul recounts his conversion mentioning the fact that he was immersed? Why would he mention something that was supposedly unimportant and unnecessary? He is giving his defense for his life and he decides to talk about baptism. Why even mention baptism if it is unnecessary and unimportant according to your understanding of 1 Cor. 1:17?

In addition, Paul baptized other individuals. In 1 Cor. 1:14 he mentioned that he had immersed Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas. Paul also regularly wrote to Christians on the subject of baptism to express its importance and meaning (Rom. 6:1-18; Gal. 3:26-29; Col. 2:11-13 & 3:1; Eph. 4:5). Remember, in Paul's epistles he is addressing individuals who have already been immersed. I continue to be amazed at individuals who misuse 1 Cor. 1:17 in a very feeble attempt to disprove the necessity of baptism. A gross misuse of this passage indicates one's incredible bias in my estimation.

Jacob Misquotes Me...

In the third paragraph of Jacob's 1st rebuttal he states, “ But our disagreement is what brings about “justification”. James says very clearly that one is justified by water baptism”. That statement is a misquote or a misunderstanding. I have never stated that one is justified BY WATER BAPTISM. I do not teach or preach that there is something in the water or the water does something to the individual. The inerrant word of God states,”Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (Rom 5:9; c.f. Rom. 1:18).” Justification is from God and is made available through the perfect, precious blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20; Rev. 1:5, etc.). There is nothing magical in the water of the baptism of the “Great Commission” just like there was nothing magical in the water of Naaman's healing (2 Kings 5:1ff).

Jacob then quotes Romans 3:21-31 and then states, “Verse 26 says that God is the justifier of who? The person who gets baptized? NO. The person who has faith in Jesus.” This seems to be the major issue in Jacob's misunderstanding. Each time he sees the word “faith” his mind automatically thinks “faith only”. However, those words are not used EVER in reference to one's salvation. In my first rebuttal I challenged you to find reference to “faith only” in the Scriptures. It will be interesting to see if you have found one passage that teaches one is saved or justified by faith only or faith alone.

Also, please remember that if you conclude “faith only” you are negating everything else that God requires like repentance, confession, and love. Remember, while the inerrant word of God tells us other things one must do to be saved; there is no passage telling us that “faith alone” saves.

One of the key words in the book of Romans is righteousness and justification. It is the same word in the Koine Greek. Clearly, justification comes through faith but not “faith only”. In fact, notice several other times in Scripture where the word justification or justified is used:
  • Justified by His Grace & Made Heirs (Titus 3:7; Rom. 3:24)  
  • Justified by faith (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:8, 24)  
  • Justified by Christ (Gal. 2:17)
  • Justified by Blood (Rom. 5:9)
  •  Called, Justified and Glorified (Rom. 8:30)
  •  Justified from sin (Rom. 6:7)  
  • Washed, sanctified, justified (1 Cor. 6:11)
  • Heathen justified through faith (Gal. 3:8)
  • Justified by works (James 2:21)
Jacob, your position in this debate is that one is saved at the moment of his faith. The moment he believes in Jesus? What exactly does he have to believe in order to be saved? Does he need to believe in His virgin birth, His perfect life, or His qualified death? Are you suggesting that at the moment he believes facts about Jesus his sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus? Is it just mental assent (agreement) that causes one to make him justified?

You have continued to state that it is faith alone or as you concluded in your last rebuttal “faith alone in Christ alone”. Yet, you have yet to produce one single passage that says one is saved by “faith alone” or “faith only”. So, your position teaches that repentance and confession is unnecessary to one's salvation. Yet, God's word says that repentance and confession are necessary for one coming to Christ. Now, remember, you claimed that you believed in the word of God as inerrant – right? So is it “faith only” or is it faith + repentance + confession?

In John 8:31-32, the Holy Spirit wrote, “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The Greek word used for believed is pisteuo indicating they had confidence, trust in Him. Would you suggest that those Jews were saved? They had obviously indicated faith in Jesus. However, by the end of the chapter they have picked up stones to stone Him (8:59).

Similarly, in John 12:42, inspiration again writes, “Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42).” Again, the same Greek word pisteuo is used to describe the position of the rulers. According to your position “faith alone in Christ alone” they were right with God but they refused to confess the Lord. Recall the words of  Jesus in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

How about Nicodemus? He sheepishly came to the Lord at night. The Holy Spirit recorded, “This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, 'Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.'" Obviously Nicodemus was a believer – right? He had seen the incredible miracles of Jesus and recognized that He had come from God (John 20:30-31). Yet, despite his faith, Jesus who knew his heart (2:24-25) quickly exclaimed - “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3 ).”

Obviously, these individuals were not right with God. Remember John 1:12-13, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Jacob's Quotes

1. Jacob wrote - “Abraham, the biblical example, is counted righteous not on account of his deeds but because of his faith. He believed God’s promise and he was justified by faith.” Yet James, the half brother of the Lord, wrote, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:2124).”

2. Jacob wrote - “In fact the notion of baptism is not ever tied to the concept of justification ever, even once, in the New Testament.” That is a false statement. Justification is tied to blood (Rom. 5:9). Blood was shed for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28; Eph. 1:14; Col. 1:20; Rom. 1:5, etc). In Romans 6:7 in the very context of the one baptism, “for he that hath died is justified from sin”. The one who died had been cleared of sin. Hence baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) and is part of the justification of God.

3. Jacob wrote, “So the Bible is emphatic in stating that it is not what we do that brings about justification, not baptism or any other work, but justification is simply applied to us by faith.” It always boggles my mind when people say – “there is nothing you do” yet then turn around and say - “you have to have faith”. Does faith come by osmosis? Do you believe in Universal Salvation? The Scriptures teach that faith comes by hearing the word of God. Some instantly hear, inquire and obey (Acts 2:37-41); others may take time as they study (Acts 17:11). Do you realize belief is a work (John 6:28-29)? Repentance is required (Acts 2:38) and it too is a work (Jonah 3:10).

4. Jacob wrote, “The Churches of Christ are correct when they point out that eis can sometimes express aim or purpose. If Luke intended that usage, then this passage would teach that baptism is necessary to receive forgiveness of sins.” I would like to make several points about Jacob's assumption here and it is a huge assumption. In fact, I would suggest the only reason he takes this position is because he has to; otherwise, as he clearly states, his position would be incorrect and baptism would be necessary for salvation.
  • Jacob states that if EIS means FOR in Acts 2:38 then his position is false.
  • Jacob indicates that EIS can be used to indicate the basis or ground of something.  
  • Jacob suggests A.T. Robertson has found 3x in the NT
  • Jacob concludes - “Acts 2:38 can mean that one is baptized because his or her sins have already been forgiven. Acts 2:38 does not prove the necessity of water baptism for salvation.”
The word “EIS” is found over 1,700x in the Greek New Testament? Jacob turns to A.T. Robertson who claims he has found 3x in which the meaning might be the basis or ground of something? So, 3 out of 1,773 times convinces you that Acts 2:38 and Mark 1:4 also mean “the basis” or “ground of something”. Are you willing to risk your own soul and the souls of others based on 3/1773. Have you studied other scholars?
So, you are suggesting the following:
  • Mark 1:4 - “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” You say, it should be translated or mean - “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance because of forgiveness of sins.” So, they were immersed in water because they ALREADY had their sins forgiven. Does that even make sense?
  • Acts 2:38 - And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” You say it should be translated or mean -“And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ because of the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Does that even make sense?
I suspect most people reading this are not Greek students so let me point out the following by indicating the Strong Numbers. Please note that they are identical in the Koine Greek.
  • Mark 1:4 - John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for (eis, 1519) the remission (859) of sins (266).”

  • Acts 2:38 - “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for (eis, 1519) the remission (859) of sins (266).”
Jacob has concluded that the two verses above really mean “because of” and not simply for or unto. Yet, neither one make any sense in the context in which they are housed. How about this almost identical verse?
  • Matthew 26:28 - “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for (eis, 1519) the remission (859) of sins (266).”
Should that verses be translated “for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many because of the forgiveness of sins”? Are you suggesting that the blood of Christ was shed because sins had already been forgiven? It does not make sense.
In addition, you have serious issues messing around with Act 2:38. A lot of your problems will begin with the conjunction - AND. Repentance and baptism are tied together by it. So, are you suggesting that both repentance and baptism come after the remission of sins? Despite these very obvious problems you wrote that both meanings are legitimate. That is not legitimate at all.

I found it ironic in that you suggested one decide which meaning to use by considering “the greater context of the New Testaments teaching about salvation”. You will consider the greater context of the New Testament but will not consider the greater meaning of EIS as spread throughout the Bible (i.e. for = for). Out of the 1,773 times that the word is used I do not know of one time it is translated “because of”.

Wayne Jackson, in his excellent commentary on Acts, wrote, “A.T. Robertson, a Baptist – who had no difficulty in ascertaining that eis signified “purpose” in Matthew 26:28 – noted that the matter is one of 'endless controversy,' and so he sought to find a view consistent with his Baptist theology. He suggested that “because of” could be a meaning for eis. However, the great scholar revealed more than he intended when he, in his massive Historical Grammar, asserted (regarding eis in 2:38), that sometimes grammar must give way to theology (1919, 389).”1 It seems Jacob has done the exact same thing.

Again, in Jackson's commentary, he records that Thayer states it means “to obtain the forgiveness of sins” and Ardnt & Gingrich states that it means “so that sins might be forgiven. It is amazing what people will do to twist God's word to make it read like they want to read it.2 Again, as I stated earlier, some linguistic gymnastics will need to be performed on Acts 2:38 to make it fit.

Jacob then draws the conclusion that Mark 16:15-16 is not in the sacred text. That would be typical since he believes baptism is unnecessary in God's plan for salvation. Like “for” in Acts 2:38, it completely destroys his position of “faith only”.

He states that scholars universally believe its not there but in every copy of the New Testament I have seen; its there. Despite his unbelief in its reality, he shares his thoughts on the “false” passage stating that non-belief is the basis of condemnation. Again, the force of the Greek says otherwise. Also, note that an individual who does not believe will never be baptized. If I am a terrible, dishonest salesman then an individual's lack of faith in me will result in him not purchasing a car from me. I will not dwell on this passage since he concludes that it is non-existent. According to him, it is not part of the inerrant word of God.

Jacob goes on to suggest that baptism is a work. I have always wondered why an individual believes it is a work. Is it because a person physically gets up and is immersed? Is that why its called a work? The Bible describes at least 2 types of works. Belief is a work (John 6:28-29). I wonder why belief is not recognized as such especially since it often takes individuals time of study and research before choosing to become a child of God (Rom. 10:17; Acts 17:11). Also, repentance is a work (Jonah 3:10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Baptism is actually part of the “working of God” (Col. 2:11-12).

1 Jackson, Wayne. (2005), The Acts of the Apostles From Jerusalem to Rome (Stockton: Christian Courier Publications. Pg. 28
2 Jackson, Wayne. (2005), The Acts of the Apostles From Jerusalem to Rome (Stockton: Christian Courier Publications. Pg. 27.

Jacob, please answer these True/False (T/F) questions and send them through Mr. Cade before next Sunday. Thank you!

T/F God's word contradicts itself.
T/F The Apostles were guided into All Truth
T/F Today, there is only one baptism
T/F Baptism places one into the Lord's church.
T/F The 3,000 in Acts 2, were saved when they were “cut to the heart” or before.
T/F One must hear or read the word of God before being salvation is ever possible.
T/F Preaching Jesus also includes preaching baptism.
T/F Saul was saved prior to being baptized.
T/F The Philippian Jailer Was Saved Before Baptism.
T/F Acts 19 speaks of some disciples whose baptism was invalid.
T/F The baptism in Romans 6 is the baptism identified in Matt. 28:18-20.
T/F Upon rising from the baptism in Romans 6, one has newness of life.
T/F Must one obey the Gospel to be saved.
T/F One puts on Christ by Faith Only.
T/F Colossians 2:12 describes the one baptism (Eph. 4:5)
T/F Naaman had leprosy removed by faith only.
T/F Baptism places one into the Baptist church.
T/F Repentance from sin is unnecessary to be saved.
T/F The Galatians became Christians Through Faith Only (Gal. 3:26)
T/F One is baptized into the One body (1 Cor. 12:13)


Second Rebuttal: Jacob Allee

James starts off his first rebuttal challenging us to find a passage that uses the term “faith alone.” This however is a fallacious argument, especially coming from someone whom I would assume accepts the doctrine of the Trinity? Just because a specific word or phrase isn’t said “just so” in the Bible doesn’t meant that the Bible doesn’t clearly teach the concept itself. The Bible does of course constantly refrain that salvation is by faith and not by works (again, John 3:16; all of Romans 3 & 4 constantly and Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:8-9 just to name a drop in the bucket), but if you want it to say “faith alone”, then I guess you are right, the Bible doesn’t coin it in that exact phrase. The Bible also never says “baptism is necessary for salvation”. I challenge anyone to find that exact utterance in the Bible, and yet this is James’ position in the debate. So by his logic his own position is unbiblical because the exact wording is not found in the Bible. Obviously this is a bad argument, so let’s move past it.

James moves on to say that “Faith is the initial ingredient that leads one to do what God requires him to do.” So then faith is just the first step towards salvation in James’ model. He then refers to Naaman and his cleansing from leprosy by washing in the water, but this is irrelevant to our discussion because Naaman was washing to be physically healed. God may require someone to do something to be healed physically, a work of some sort, but he doesn’t ask us to do works for our salvation, so this is a red herring and a misuse of examples. He mentions again Acts 2:38, which I dealt with in my first rebuttal and I still stand by what was said there, I will have a bit more to say about that in a minute. Then James gives us a reference to Galatians 3 stating “Notice “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:26-27 ).” Does one “put on Christ” before or after baptism?

Now here James exposes a false assumption, namely, that this passage refers to water baptism. This passage actually does not refer to water baptism but to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Just as John the Baptist said “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit”(Mark 1:8). It is a mistake to come to a passage that has the word baptism and simply assume that it is referring to water baptism and it is interesting that John contrasts his baptism with water with the more important baptism of the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 1:13-14 the Scripture states “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.” So then we are sealed into salvation by the Holy Spirit when we believe the gospel message. Notice baptism with water is nowhere in view here.

1 Corinthians 12:12-13 strengthens this position that baptism is not always a reference to water baptism but at times it is a reference to the baptism of the Spirit of God. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” This Spirit baptism, that which unites us as one spiritual body of Christ, is not a baptism of water but it is the Spirit indwelling and sealing us into our salvation, uniting us with Christ by faith. This Spirit baptism is that application of Christ’s life, death and resurrection to our soul that saves us. Water baptism then is a work of obedience that is a symbolic expression of what Christ as already done for us. Water baptism is a public declaration of our faith in Jesus and an act of obedience to Christ our Lord and already Savior.

And if it is not clear enough already that baptism in the New Testament sometimes refers to the Baptism of the Holy Spirit rather than water baptism and that it is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which happens at the moment of faith which saves us, then everyone ought to find this truth irrefutable in Acts 10:34-48:

“34So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." 44While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.”

So then, I ask you, did God give the Holy Spirit to unsaved people? Would these who believed and were baptized by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus have been lost to eternal Hell if they had a heart attack on the way to the river? Certainly not! In Acts 11 Peter recounts this experience at the Jerusalem council explaining to everyone how God had extended salvation to the Gentiles stating:

15As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?" 18When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."

It is the receiving of the Holy Spirit, baptism of the Spirit, which occurs at the moment of faith that applies the finished work of Jesus to our lives. It is unthinkable to imagine God granting His Holy Spirit to someone who was not yet saved and yet, logically, this would have to be the case if James’ understanding of salvation by “water baptism” is correct. However when we realize that at times the New Testament is referring to water baptism, and at times it is referring to Spirit baptism, and we are clear on which is which, we see that baptism of the Spirit is the baptism that actually “seals” us into salvation (Eph. 1:13-14) and that is an experience that occurs apart from water baptism. The Spirit of God did not always manifest Himself through the gift of tongues at the moment of salvation as He did in Joppa, and we recognize that in some instances He manifests himself after water baptism in the book of Acts too, but in the case of Peter speaking to the Gentiles at Joppa God’s Spirit did indeed manifest Himself through the gift of tongues and this was prior to water baptism which means that salvation occurs apart from water baptism.

James continues on in his rebuttal stating “The fact that God expects other things in view of salvation negates a “faith only”position. Does God expect an individual to repent (metanoeo)?” Well, yes, God does expect people to repent. But then what is repentance and how is it used in the New Testament? The already stated Greek word “matanoeo” which we translate as “repent” literally means to change ones mind. People often use the word wrongly and think that repentance means “change of action” but this is not so. To repent is to change your mind about things, which inevitably will lead to a change of actions, but those actions are a result of repentance and not repentance itself, hence John the Baptist’s exhortation to “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Acts 3:8). A person who has truly repented (changed their mind) will act differently because their thinking has changed. In the New Testament repentance is used in conjunction with the idea of faith or belief because what the Lord Jesus and his apostles are urging people to do is “repent” or “change their mind about their sin” and believe in the Lord Jesus. So then is repentance a part of salvation? Yes, but only insofar as it is impossible to separate repentance and faith! In other words, in order to believe the gospel one has to change their mind about the life they are living and trust in Jesus. Repentance is a necessary part of what it means to believe then and coincides with salvation by faith. To make repentance and faith a separate concept is mistaken because they both necessarily entail the other.

Repentance and faith, however, are not works. They aren’t tasks to be accomplished like baptism or any other command that requires effort of will and action to obey, rather, these are mental responses and/or inward commitments that one makes when presented with the gospel of Jesus Christ. One simply hears the message of the gospel and either believes it (changing their mind about what they have believed previously) or rejects it, but these are nor works and they are inseparable from one another. Repentance and faith are like the  opposite sides of the same coin and should not/cannot be separated from one another. If a person repents it is because they believe, if they believe it necessarily entails repentance.

James’ also asks “is confession necessary”? Well, confession is something that will be a part of a true believers life and therefore will always be present among those who are saved, but it is not necessary as in it brings about justification. It is a fruit of justification. But here it might be helpful to note that the New Testament also clearly delineates between saving faith and non-saving faith. In other words, the words “faith” and/or “belief” can be used in more than one way. There are those who believe in the sense that they merely think something is factually true and then there are those who believe something to the point that it changes their action. This is the subject that James (the Lord’s half brother) deals with in his epistle. In James 2:19 He notes that “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” Obviously the demons are not expressing saving faith in God, they simply recognize God for who he is, but there is a major difference in believing something factually and believing something in the sense that you trust in it and it then changes how you behave. A person who believes/trust in Christ for salvation will indeed confess him as their Lord, but again confession is a fruit of saving faith not something that brings about salvation. Romans 10:10 is brought up which states “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” But see that it states clearly that when one believes they are justified. Are we to think that justification by faith and being saved by confession are different? Can a person be justified but not saved? That is a contradictory idea. Is it not better to understand that those who believe and are justified will confess and thereby identify themselves among the saved? I think this is more on course with the New Testaments teaching in general.

James (my debate opponent not the epistle writer) continues his rebuttal with the following:

He then quotes Ephesians 2:8-10. The passage quoted is a beautiful passage but it does not teach “faith only”. It is true that we have been saved by God's grace. God's grace is free and available to each and every person; however, an individual acquires it by passing through the channels of faith. It is interesting this passage is found in a letter to the church that had controversy concerning baptism in its origin. (Acts 19:1ff, c.f. 18:24ff). In fact, they had been taught incorrectly and baptized incorrectly. John's baptism was no longer valid (Eph. 4:5).

First of all I want to deal with the idea James presents stating that God’s grace is “free” and yet he also states “an individual acquires it by passing through the channels of faith”. How can it be both free and something we have to get for ourselves by doing works? I mean “passing through the channels of faith” is simply a coded way of saying “we have got to do things ourselves if we are going to be saved” is it not? And yet Paul specifically addresses such a notion in Romans 4:4-5 “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.” Grace, by definition, is the unmerited favor of God. It is God giving us something good that we don’t deserve. But by James’ view of salvation grace can hardly be said to be “unmerited” unless we change the definition of the word “merit” to exclude all of the works that James thinks we have to do to receive God’s grace!

James’ discussion of problems in the church at Ephesus is misguided and anachronistic. What I mean to say is the church that is being addressed in the epistle of Ephesians by Paul could hardly be said to have really been established when Apollos was preaching. Furthermore, no one had been taught incorrectly, but simply they lacked the whole of the teaching they needed. Just as only knowing how to solve the first part of a complex math problem doesn’t mean what you have been taught is wrong but only that you need more information to solve the entire problem. In fact the Bible actually says in Acts 18:24-25 “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.” So then the Scripture, in reality, praises Apollos and simply tells us that he didn’t know about Jesus’ baptism (Matthew 28:18-20). But he is said to have “taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.” But if James is right, again, Apollos was an unsaved man telling people accurately about Jesus? This doesn’t make much sense. Apollos needed to know some things he didn’t but he was a believer who was faithfully preaching the gospel.

James asks “Acquiring faith, is that something a person must do before they can receive the free gift of God?” But actually according to Ephesians 2:8-9 grace, faith and salvation are all a gift from God, so it is not something that we ourselves produce ourselves but something that God works in us.

James says “Prior to leaving Earth, Jesus commanded immersion” and then asks me “Are you going to deny that?” Well, no James I’m not. Why would I deny that? I am a “Baptist” after all. James seems to have difficulty with the idea that Baptism is a command of our Lord Jesus but not necessary for salvation. He says it “does not make any sense” to say it is command but not necessary for salvation. But the fact that Jesus commanded Baptism doesn’t mean it is a requirement for salvation. If we have to perfectly fulfill all of the commands of Jesus for salvation then we might as well resign to an eternity in Hell now because Jesus commanded "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). I don’t know about you, but I fail to always love God with all my heart, soul and strength and I definitely am not always loving my neighbor as myself. Or how about Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How are you doing on your perfection lately? I am a ways off from it myself.

So then the argument that because Jesus commands something it must then be obeyed without fail in order to bring about our salvation is actually quite untrue unless Jesus’ whole point in His coming was to make sure we all know that there is no chance anyone will ever be saved! But no, thank God, Jesus came to fulfill the law and commands of God on our behalf so that by faith in Him His righteousness might be imputed to us and we might be justified before God. I am so thankful that I am not burdened to accomplish all of this for myself but that Jesus, my Lord and Savior, accomplished these things for me. And now I join Paul in crying out “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

James brings up the passage in 1 Peter 3:18-22 and I would like to address it here. The passage in context reads:

18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, 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, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

And yet it is important to read this in light of Hebrews 11:7 which says “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” So then I ask you to decide for yourself, what saved Noah? Was it the water? Or was it the ark which Noah constructed in faith, believing that what God said was true and that there would be a flood? You see the water washed away the evil people in the world, cleansing the earth. But it was the faith of Noah which led him to build the ark which was the vessel that actually saved him and his family. So just as Noah was brought safely through the water which was a result of his faith, so we who believing in Christ submit to water baptism as an appeal to God for a good conscience, that is, when we obey God’s commands our consciences are clear and we know that we are in Him by faith. Salvation is by faith, but obedience is the fruit of the redeemed and we should be able to look at our lives and know we are truly saved because our life is bearing fruit keeping with faith/repentance.

Now, back to Acts 2:38, James says “Those against baptism at this point will want to do something to the words here to try and make it say what they want it to say. Yet they have been proved to be incorrect each and every time.” Well I encourage you to read my first rebuttal and the discussion of the Greek word “eis” because this is not just word twisting it is simply reality. The word can be understood to be the ground/reason for something or the cause of something and it depends on the context which translation of the word is appropriate. Acts 2:38 can legitimately be translated as “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” or “repent and be baptized because of the remission of sins.” I quoted A.T. Robertson who was one of the most respected Greek scholars of the last century, not some backwoods 1st year bible student. So, James, if you want to dismiss my point I suggest putting forth an actual argument rather than just making a claim that people who are “against baptism” (which is a straw man characterization of my view since I am actually for people being baptized), “do something to the words here to try and make it say what they want it to say. Perhaps you might demonstrate how people like myself have been proven wrong “each and every time”? The reality is that I am not twisting anything but that the Greek word “eis” can really mean either of the above and so we have to be good Bible students to determine what the author originally intended. And since the Scripture without fail points to faith as the trigger of our justification and never baptism I suggest that “eis” is better understood as “because of” and that Baptism is something we do because Christ has already forgiven our sins.

As far as the Ethiopian Eunuch is concerned, I am suggesting that he jumped at the opportunity to identify himself publicly as a follower of Jesus of Nazareth after he had trust in Christ for salvation. An often missed aspect of baptism these days is that in the first century water baptism was a very public way of identifying yourself as a follow of Jesus. Where there was a body of water there was usually other people and so getting baptized marked you as one of Jesus’ people and was a public testimony of your faith and salvation. So the Eunuch wasn’t in a hurry to get saved from being baptized in water, but he was in a hurry to publically proclaim his faith in Jesus in obedience to Christ’s command.

James mentions the Philippian jailer in Acts 16, but how ironic that he does for when the jailer asks "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" they respond "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Yes, indeed they do get baptized later on, but that is the fitting response of a person who has just been saved by faith. In fact we should expect to see true believers who are quick to obey the commands of Jesus.

In his opening statement and first rebuttal James seems to be suggesting (and I would love for him to correct me if I am misunderstanding him) that we have to keep all of Jesus’ command in order to attain salvation, something no one can actually do. Yet the Bible says, that Jesus perfectly obeyed God on our behalf so that we might be saved by His righteousness rather than our own.

In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says:

17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Pharisees were exceedingly good at keeping the letter of the law and yet Jesus says that their own righteousness by their works of obedience was insufficient. Our righteousness has to exceed theirs if we have any hope. But who could do better than the Pharisees who painstakingly obeyed God’s commands? Only Jesus who perfectly obeyed without ever failing once. So I will never attain a righteousness through my own deeds that will make me right before God, but by faith in Jesus His perfect obedience and fulfillment of the law is applied to me. Romans 3:22 says it all when it tells us that we can have “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” I need his righteousness, not my own. It is a free gift to me offered by God’s grace which I do not deserve that is accepted by the gift of faith given by God.

By Faith Alone in Christ Alone,

Jacob Allee