WHAT ARE SACRAMENTS?

A gracEmail subscriber asks the meaning of the term "sacrament" and whether the notion is consistent with the New Testament and the gospel. *          *          * A "sacrament" is a physical act involving physical elements through which God regularly bestows spiritual grace. Protestants generally recognize two sacraments: baptism and the Lord's Supper. Roman Catholics include five more: … [Read more...]

HOW DOES BAPTISM WASH AWAY SINS?

"How," inquires a correspondent, "do you explain the command given to Saul of Tarsus to 'Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord' (Acts 22:16)?" * * * The context of this passage suggests that Saul experienced a cleansing subjectively in his own conscience. At the time these words were spoken to him, Saul of Tarsus was a man heavily weighted with guilt, … [Read more...]

UNUSUAL TEXTS ABOUT BAPTISM

A reader asks concerning three unusual passages involving baptism. What about baptism for the dead (I Cor. 15:29-30)? What of the Samaritans who believed and were baptized but did not receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5-24)? And what of the 12 disciples of John the Baptist whom Paul required to be rebaptized, who then spoke with tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:1-7)? * * * BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD. No … [Read more...]

BAPTISM — SIGN & SEAL

The minister of a large Church of Christ asks, upon reading Romans 4:10-11, whether baptism, like circumcision in this passage, is a "sign" and "seal" of righteousness which we have by faith even before we are baptized. * * * Some Jews in Paul's day valued circumcision so highly that they expected God to bless them merely because they had undergone this physical ordinance. Others expected God's … [Read more...]

APPEAL FOR A GOOD CONSCIENCE

A gracEmail subscriber asks what Peter means when he speaks of baptism as "the pledge of a good conscience toward God" (1 Pet. 3:21). *          *          * The Greek word translated "pledge" in this verse only appears here in the New Testament. Earlier in classical Greek and in the Greek Old Testament, the word meant an "inquiry," "question," or "demand." Later in secular Greek, it refers to … [Read more...]

GOOD REASON TO BE BAPTIZED

A gracEmail subscriber writes: "If we are saved by being believers, what is the use in being baptized?" * * * We are not saved by being believers, we are saved by God's grace -- and we can only trust him for that (Eph. 3:24). We don't merit any of God's kindness. It is not a 50/50 proposition -- as if half were deserved and half were a gift -- or even 99/1. God's favor and forgiveness are … [Read more...]

CONTACTING CHRIST’S BLOOD

"I have heard it said that we contact Christ's blood in baptism," someone writes, "because Jesus' shed his blood at his death and we are baptized into Christ's death (Rom. 6:3-4; John 19:33-34). What do you think?" * * * I think that the statement you quote affirms more than the Bible actually says. This is a good example of theological argument, which we sometimes mistakenly confuse with … [Read more...]

BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

A gracEmail reader asks whether we are baptized "in" the Holy Spirit or "by" the Holy Spirit, since the Greek preposition en used in 1 Corinthians 12:13 can mean either, and what difference it makes anyway. *          *          * Paul's comments in 1 Corinthians 12:13 stand in contrast to his remarks about Israel's "baptism" earlier in the same epistle (1 Cor. 10:1-3). There he pointed out that … [Read more...]

WHAT I AM REALLY SAYING . . . (ABOUT FAITH AND BAPTISM)

Someone asks, "You seem to give a mixed message about faith and baptism in relation to salvation. Will you tell us what you are really saying?" * * * I am saying that Acts 2:38 speaks of baptism "for the remission of sins" and that Acts 10:43 promises that whoever believes in Jesus "has remission of sins." I am saying that God saves all believers, and that Jesus commands all believers to be … [Read more...]

FAITH & BAPTISM — IMPORTANT BUT DIFFERENT (3)

A dear brother in the Northeast writes, "I found your comment 'Faith and baptism do not belong in a list of like-and-equal things' to be interesting in light of Ephesians 4:4-6 which speaks of 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism.' Baptism is found here on a list in the most impressive company. I would suggest you owe your readers a correction on this one. Had a modern evangelical been writing this … [Read more...]