Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.
In class this week we talked about Baptism and spent some time thinking about the whole salvation by works controversy. It is a slippery thing, being saved by grace through faith. The greek ‘through faith’ is a genitive of means, which means that, coded in the words of this verse is the notion that faith is what is operative here. The faith is key.. so how does baptism figure in then?
On the one hand I have heard it said that the faith is an obedient faith (James 2: 17) not one that is unwilling to act, however, equally important is that your ‘right practice’ will never result in ‘right standing’ before God. ‘You are accepted and so you obey’ not ‘you obey so that you are accepted’.
Never-the-less Baptism is such a rich experience; there is so much going on when you think about what Baptism represents and what the Bible says about it:
Baptism is a Cleansing From Sin: In Acts 2: 38 Peter says, “Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven.” Again Peter says, “Those flood waters were like baptism that now saves you. But baptism is more than just washing your body. It means turning to God with a clear conscience, because Jesus Christ was raised from death.” (1 Pet. 3: 21)
It is a New Birth: John makes it clear that it is a rebirth, from above (John 3: 5). Paul writes to Titus, “He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. God washed us by power of the Holy Spirit. He gave us new birth and a fresh beginning.” (Titus 3: 5)
Baptism is an Identification with Christ: When we are baptized we are baptized into Jesus death (Rom. 6: 3) We reenact the death burial and resurrection of Jesus. Just like he will be raised, we are raised. Just like we are raised out of the water we will be lifted out of the ground. (Col. 2: 12)
It is an Entry into the Body of Christ: 1 Cor. 12: 13 says that, “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” Again it is the Spirit of God that does the adding, not any action of our own (Acts 2: 47)
Baptism is also central to Receiving the Holy Spirit: As was mentioned in Acts 2: 38 the Holy Spirit is active in the process of being baptized. I don’t know what to make of Acts 19: 1-7 it is a very challenging text.
So Baptism is an active part of our passively receiving God’s gracious gift. So how do you capture this for people who are making this decision? One wonderful suggestion came out of our class last week.
What if you were to be baptized in a waterfall? Wouldn’t that capture the passive nature of this active response. You choose to allow yourself to be passed through (submerged) in a waterfall. You do not make, create, or sustain the waterfall. You did not take the cover off, heat up, prepare the waterfall. It’s just there waiting to be used. You step forward and receive it. What a tremendous image. Next Baptism I do I’m heading to Ball’s Falls.