Sanctification

In a discussion with someone who is a believer in infant baptism, he had the same responses which I’ve read time and time again. Basically, that Baptism is today’s Circumcision. That Circumcision was applied liberally to all who were genetic descendants of Abraham, and therefore we, as Christians, should apply Baptism to all of our genetic descendants. So, this was my response:

Here’s three things to note:

1) The baptisms of John performed before the start of Jesus’ ministry are not the same thing as a Christian baptism. It was a ceremonial rite for those in the Jewish faith to “prepare” them to enter into the sanctuary. It was a ritual cleansing, but did not symbolize Jesus’ sacrificial death and rebirth on our behalf. Those who were baptized into John’s baptism were not baptized into the family of Christ.

2) Read through the new testament. I mean the whole thing. Numerous times. Every time the “Circumcision” is brought up, it’s to refer to the “old ways”. Circumcision is a term that Paul uses to refer to the Jewish ways which were hung on legalistic following of the Mosaic law. Could they keep it? NO! The law was never intended to be kept, but to be used as a sign that pointed us to God as our savior. Men-only, in the old covenant, were circumcised to show that they were in the people of Israel. But what does Paul say?

Romans 2:29 – But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Circumcision as a rite is of little overall value, but it points to a generalized fact that you are related to those in the chosen people of God. Nothing more. Now, in Rom 3, Paul asks “what is the value of circumcision”, again referring to belonging to the “chosen people of God” and not the actual rite, because if it did, then it wouldn’t include the women, would it? And, he says “much in every way”. They were taught the laws of God, they were brought up in the fear and admonition of the Lord, etc. But did their circumcision guarantee salvation? No.

Romans 4:9–10 – Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised.

3) What is the value of baptism on your infant children? This is where it gets tricky. In the middle ages, children didn’t live that long, so they were baptized as a “salve” and the parents were told that their children would be in heaven with them, or at least purgatory, and wouldn’t be lost to Limbo (which the RCC in the last 10 years finally did away with) or cast into hell. It was used as a method to control people with fear. Moreover, as men and women were allowed to read the text of scripture on their own during and after the reformation, they started to see the same themes repeated in scripture – that unlike circumcision, which was an outward sign on men to remind them that they belong to the “people” of God, and is applied to them whether they know it and follow after the faith of Abraham or not, baptism is a ritual that links us with Christ in his death and resurrection on our behalf, and is only conferred upon his believers.

There was a lot of confusion about this in the past, and given that Jews (those of the “circumcision party”) were the first believers, they tended to carry over their old ways with them. But what does Jesus say about this?

Matthew 9:17 – Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”

This is a new thing and with it come new rites.

So, I ask you. What is conferred upon the infant in their baptism? Is it that you’re marking them for God for conversion? If you believe that, then you’re as bad as my wife’s grandmother who condemns herself to this day that she only baptized 2 of her three children, and the one she didn’t is an outright atheist, unlike her other two children, which seem to worship at the altar of therapeutic moralistic deism (which itself is not Christian, though they think it is).

Infant baptism merely gets babies wet, which they are perfectly content to do on their own anyway. It’s a salve for the parents to think that their children are “in the family of God” and to presume that their children will follow after Christian principles. But you can’t expect a non-Christian to act like a Christian as an adult, nor as a child, and if you merely teach them to live that way because they’re “little Christians” then you’re teaching them moralism, not Christianity. Christianity isn’t based on rules, or moral commands, but on Christ who died in our place. His salvation is purchased for his elect and we cannot control who his elect will be. If God saves me, my wife, and both of my kids, then God is to be praised in this, not me for baptizing them, and not me for training them properly, and not me for keeping them saved. God is the one who does this, not me, and it’s not on me to keep them there.

Your salvation must be your own. That’s what’s meant by Paul in Philippians 2:12 – that we must “work out” our own salvation – we must do the work of believing, and acting in faith upon that belief, on our own. We are not catholics, who believe that you may be a son of the devil, but if you were baptized as an infant, and after you died, your holier aunt or uncle can make a payment or perform some penance and get you sprung into heaven.

To that end, your baptism must also be your own. Read throughout the new testament. Baptism is performed on believers. What about those in the Cornelius’ “household” (Acts 10)? “Household” must also include infants, right? If it did, it was wrong. More than likely, it meant those who were in the house at the time whom Cornelius had brought together (Acts 10:24) to hear the word of God. Those whom, God placed outward signs
of this revelation on them so that these Jewish Christian could see that God had given to them the same thing that he had done with others (Acts 10:44-45). Now, it’s also likely that if there were infants there, that those same infants would have had manifested the outward signs of the Holy Spirit. So, I ask, would you wait for an outward sign of the Holy Spirit’s manifestation on those infants, as Paul did in withholding baptism from those in the “household” of Cornelius until they also had this same manifestation (Acts 10:47-48)?

As you can see, the process is simple. We are to repent and believe, then we are to be baptized. There is no different formula based on age or size. Scripture is clear.

be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 

Ephesians 4:23-24 (ESV)

“Be” is a verb. It is the essence of “being” or a continual state of action. We, as Christians, are to live in the constant state of being renewed – purging the old self and its ways – our old manner of life and thoughts. We are also to put on, embrace, the new self. The life of a Christian is one who rejects his previous ways, mindset, and views, and who embraces that which is outside of himself – that which is in Christ.

A Christian rejects his previous state of being – the state which is derived from a self-worship and self-gratification. The convert to Christ will understand that his old ways and futility of his previous life in incapable to save them – is incapable of producing a new person in them. There is no good day for an unrepentant man upon whom the Holy spirit has impressed the sinfulness of their lives, thoughts, and actions. They only see their sin as it really is until they finally repent and believe; surrendering the control and direction of their lives to the God who died in their place to save them. It is that person who lives their life in a constant state of renewal – converting their thoughts into God’s thoughts, and replacing their desires with God’s desires. It is in this recreated heart and mind where we are able to join with Jesus and pray “in His name” – praying the thoughts of God back to him, asking for his intentions to be fulfilled in out lives and in the world, and preparing our lives to pursue his glory rather than our own.

This is what it means to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and is the practical application of “putting on” this new self. Our old self is dead. Wholly worthless, and nailed to the Cross of Christ. But our new self – that will last us forever. Created for God’s purposes to his glory, and for our sanctification until our eventual glorification with him in Heaven.

Let us “be” in our God and King, preparing ourselves for our full and eternal purposes in the Kingdom of our Creator, to his glory alone. Amen.

Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Eph 4:24

The Christian walk is one of constant renewal.

We are first renewed in our hearts when the Holy Spirit infiltrates our self-focused and self-worshipping lives and replaces our stone hearts that cannot care about the things of God – and puts a heart of flesh in its place. Once this transformation takes place, we begin to see our sin as it is, and we are ashamed of it. God then starts to infiltrate our thinking with His truth in whatever method he chooses to insert it – pastors, preachers, evangelists, past Christian experiences, lay Christian interactions – however he brings it upon us, he converts our minds with these things. Our minds, now renewed, begin to ruminate on the truths of God – first in anger, then with open minds, then in obedience. Finally, our speech is renewed as we confess with our mouths that Jesus the Lord is the Christ of God, and that his salvation is both sufficient to cover the full breadth and depth of our sin debt before our creator, and also efficient in that it is applied to our lives and that we now walk in light of this change in our being.

That mass of renewals is merely the first step of our walk in Christ. That’s our first external understanding that our lives have been converted to Christ for his glory and not our own. The next set of renewals begin to change our interactions with the world. Our old habits and old thoughts begin to bother us. The Holy Spirit, finished with the replacement of our hearts, now reignites our consciences that have been seared from years of neglect and abuse. This God-fueled conscience now begins to whittle away at our idols and prompting us to abandon them for the sake of Christ. They are different for all people , but all have the same focus – to take our eyes off of Christ and to fall back into the old patterns that we are comfortable with. For some people it comes quickly – this abandoning of our old ways, but for most it takes time. We begin to learn about who God really is, in contrast to what we think he is. We start to desire to know God more intently, and seek him out in both good teaching, and in study of his word.

In this new understanding of who God is we learn that he is not on our side, but God is on his own side. God was not created for our good pleasure, but we were created for his. Our lives are not created for pursuit of our own desires, but to serve him in all that we do. Whatever we do, wherever it is done, is to the glory of God and Jesus his Christ. Our salvation was purchased so that we would be purchased back from our slavery to our own desires, and instead to glorify God in truth.

This is the “new self”. The “old self” was that which we were before, but that “self” is dead. It rots in the coffin of our salvation – forever dead and gone. Any time we try to revert back to our old ways, we bear the stench of that rotting corpse and it burdens us until we forsake it again in repentance and rush to wear again the “new self”.

This “new self” is free from the burdens of our old self. It no longer desires the things that we loved in the past. The “new self” is created much like Adam was – free from the hard-wired desire for self pleasure, and free to worship and serve God as he is. As Adam was created “in the likeness of God”, so we are created in same likeness – in true righteousness and in holiness.

“If righteousness be taken as a general term for uprightness, holiness will be something higher, or that purity which lies in being devoted to the service of God. I am rather inclined to consider holiness as referring to the first table, and righteousness to the second table, of the law, as in the song of Zacharias, “That we may serve him in holiness and righteousness, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74, 75.) Plato lays down the distinction correctly, that holiness (ὁσιότης) lies in the worship of God, and that the other part, righteousness, (δικαιοσύνη,) bears a reference to men. The genitive, of truth, (τῆς αληθείας,) is put in the place of an adjective, and refers to both terms; so that, while it literally runs, in righteousness and holiness of truth, the meaning is, in true righteousness and holiness. He warns us that both ought to be sincere; because we have to do with God, whom it is impossible to deceive.1

1 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 296). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.”

So that old “self”, being dead to us, is also dead to the world – therefore we only live in the “new self”. We now live our lives, reborn through the work of Christ, initiated by the work of the Holy Spirit, and saved to the glory of God the Father. These lives are revealed in our holiness from the world to God, and in lives bathed in the righteousness of God, revealing our new self to the world.

As Jesus says in John 15:14, we are his friends when we do what he commands of us, then in the next verses he explains that it’s not we that hold ourselves to him, because it’s God that chose us for salvation, and that he is the one who binds us to him, so we, living our new lives that are borne in us through his sacrifice on our behalf, and the renewal of our lives to his praise and glory. So we are his friends; we are brothers and sisters with him in glory, not “IF” we do what he commands us, but since we do it. He will bring us to himself, and birth the obedience in our lives, to his glory in the world. This is the life that is found in the “new self”.

So, with Paul, I agree and say that we should, in our rejection of old ways and our old lives, put on the new self – the self that’s created for worship of our God and King. Separating ourselves from our lives in the past, rejecting the snares and temptations of the world, and replacing everything with that which is in the pursuit of God’s intentions and that which glorifies him who died for us. May we all walk in this pursuit, forsaking all else, and bring glory to our Creator.

I saw this statement on a Facebook group where I participate, and it made me wonder why he wouldn’t want to pursue rebaptism. Anyway, here’s my response.

Reformed Baptist church I attend Sunday mornings has a statement that lists criteria they ask for before partaking…the one we don’t meet is being baptized after conversion…me and my wife were both baptized as babies…my dad also is a pastor at a non-denomination church…there its usually taken the first Sunday of the month

What role do you see baptism playing in scripture? Was it administered before or after conversion?

Follow up question, in the great commission, given by our Lord Jesus, what is the pattern that we see there?

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 have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~ Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)

The baptisms we see in scripture taking place before the conversions of the people (baptisms of John, for instance) are Jewish ceremonial washings which were common in that day. The baptism of a Christian is an uncommon baptism. Instead of it “cleansing you” of your past sins, it is a commanded act that we must engage in – one that aligns us with our King in his death (when we are placed under the waters of death) and raised anew in our new life in Christ. Also, the public act of our baptism stands witness against us, declaring our standing before God to all. This is why baptisms are public affairs for the whole church to participate in, because it is they who will watch over you, helping you on your path to sanctification, and they will lean on you as well for the same purpose. It openly declares that you are of the same family as those in the congregation, and that, as another of God’s children, you are under the same authority and expectations (that you’d seek to live a holy life, that you are bound to the Christ of scripture, that you are a sheep among sheep, and not a goat or wolf, etc).

When you were an infant, did you understand the role of Christ in salvation, who Jesus is, what his sacrifice on your behalf meant, or the full sin debt you owed to your creator? Did you understand that it was an unwritten contract with the body of believers that you were baptized into, where you hold Christ as your savior alone and that you’d seek to honor the commitment that comes with a public confession of faith in Christ? If not, then was it really a baptism of a believer into the kingdom of God or a baby getting wet to satisfy the fears of your parents, that somehow it may prophylactically apply some measure of God’s grace upon you, outside of the means we see in scripture, by their works upon you? That God would somehow break his own standard by which he holds men accountable, namely by faith, and that he would instead impart salvation (or the “seeds of salvation”) upon a child who cannot even speak or act under its own will, simply because the parents of that child got it sprinkled or dunked?

You’d just as well say that it has no part in the life of a believer at all.

But given that this is not what we see in scripture, that it is something that carries substance both publicly (in the eyes of those in your Christ-community (church), and commanded by our King after conversion, then why would you not follow in this example after your conversion?

(I’ll update this post if there are any further posts)

In follow up to the last question I was asked the following:

Now please enlighten me concerning the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and how whether it happens automatically after being saved or what.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in some way or another, starts way before you are ready to repent. We are born with a sinful heart that hardens to our sin as we continue to battle against our God-given conscience and sin. By doing so it becomes easier and easier to continue in our sin, but it also makes it harder and harder to understand the message of freedom in Christ that is the Gospel. Therefore, in order to repent you must first have your heart reborn so that it can accept this news (not “accept Jesus” – he is the one who accepts us, not the other way around). So God elects us from the throngs who love their sin and want to stay in it, he forcibly replaces our hearts with those that are soft to his message, and he places the holy spirit in our lives to begin to work on us by leading us to ask questions that violate our sinful souls’ desires, but that begin reshaping our minds and wills to conform to that of God our King. Eventually God leads you to a place mentally and emotionally where you can do nothing but cry out to God in fear and thanksgiving as you repent of all of your former works in sinfulness, and trust in him alone as your salvation.

This is typically where the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit is seen, but as you can see, we’ve had him working in our lives up to this point.

The Holy Spirit is the protector of our souls and our seal against the evil one (and even our own wills) (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). He also is our interpreter between us and God the Father in our prayers, both interpreting what we say so that it’s presentable before our God and King, and also interpreting that which we mean to say, but cannot. (Rom 8:26). The Holy Spirit works always in our lives, commending us to righteous acts, conditioning our hearts to see that which brings God glory and leading us to his praise and worship.

The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a term used by the 2nd and 3rd wave charismatics to give credence to their supernatural powers which they used to attempt to create a second level of Christianity where their brand Christianity allows them to reach a higher plane of Christian understanding. I went to these churches (and was a member of one) for about 7 years. Basically it works by telling you that while you may be a Jesus-trusting, God-honoring, sin-hating Christian, you won’t be a /real/ Christian until you get the ability to speak in “tongues”. Now, “tongues” as a biblical term, merely meant to be able to speak in other languages that you weren’t trained in, but that were understandable to other cultures for the purpose of spreading the Gospel. A neat article on the sign gifts (including tongues) can be found here:

Berean Bible Society – When did the Gift of Tongues Cease

That said, as we mature in Christ, we lose the “puppy love” sentimentality of our initial conversion – often filled with emotion and “feelings” of oneness with Christ, and that develops into a firm trust in God alone. In my own marriage I saw this as the initial wave of emotional affection I had for my wife which carried me through our first years and marriage developed into a firm bond that I share with her. I cannot see where she ends and I begin, and neither can she. This is the same with our relationship with Christ. We become so tightly bound to him that we cannot see ourselves as anything separate from him. It is no longer a “does he accept me as I am” but a “I am forever grateful to be in his family, and I know that my sins and struggles will either fade away on this side of the veil of death, or will be forever removed upon my entrance into glory, and for all of this I stand before him in praise and worship.”.

I was asked by a friend today if love is a work or not. By that he means, is it something we must do as a Christian to maintain or obtain our salvation, or if it’s something else.

Christian love is a mixture of philia and agape love in that we are firmly bound to those who are in four categories:

1) Christ – We are bound to Jesus by his outpouring of affection in agape love toward us, in that he died in our place while were still his enemies, and adopted us into the family of God to share in the kingdom of glory.

2) Our Spouse – This is a combination of the Eros (which can be God-centered in a committed relationship, most clearly defined in a Christian marriage where both parties love Jesus more than themselves or their spouse), philia, and agape – in that we are bound tightly together to each other, and to Christ separately, and he binds us to all of us together. One supporting, caring for, and encouraging one another. Not that Jesus needs our support, care, or encouragement, but that he facilitates all of it between all parties.

3) Other Christians – Just as in a marriage, our joint focus on Christ will breed and support the philia and agape love for other Christians which is the brotherly-love that we all share for one another as well as our self-sacrificing love where we will put ourselves in even harm’s way to assist and defend those who are other Christians in our community (in-person or online). We gladly give of whatever we have with an open hand to help those whom are in need in the Christian union. This is what’s meant by Jesus:

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ~ John 13:35 (ESV)

4) Non-Christians – Our philia love for other Christians and the agape love we share with Christ and our community, pours into our treatment of others who are not in our faith. This allows us treat people who are not Christian and who treat us poorly with respect and understanding. Now, they don’t understand that it’s because we are able to love other because we were first loved by Jesus when we were his enemies, so that is why we endure hardship, indifference, spite, and hatred from those outside the community of Christ. We take care of all others because we were cared for. We endure because Jesus endured on our behalf. When we are wronged we don’t respond in anger or retaliation, but with understanding because we, too, were ignorant and offensive toward that which we didn’t understand at first as well.

All of this to say that our love, in its many forms, defines who we are and is the heart and soul of what we embody, but it’s most certainly not a “work” by which we obtain or maintain our salvation. It pours freely from a heart of worship to our God and King. The closer we are to God, the more deeply we understand our own sin and failures, the more intimately we are attuned to our need for Christ on a daily or minute-by-minute basis, the more the love which is born in this Christian communion flows into all aspects of our life and into our dealings in every relationship we have.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV)

This is something that has come up a few times on Facebook and it seems to keep coming up so I figured I’d write about it here for easy access.

The term “peccability” is from the Latin term, “peccō”, which means “to sin”, or in this case, the capability of sinning. This is where we get the term that Martin Luther used, “Simul justus et peccator”, which describes the state of man in the “already and not yet” of our sanctification – we are “simultaneously justified, yet a sinner”. The peccability, or impeccability of Christ as it’s commonly stated, is where we have this discussion. The impeccabilty stance simply stated declares that Jesus is God and therefore incapable of sinning as it would violate his nature. Therefore Jesus is merely totally incapable of committing sin and any other view is negated. I think that this is a little naive. Don’t get me wrong – Jesus IS God. As God he cannot violate his own nature and, as that nature is the one which embodies perfect justice, and as the law giver for all of his creation, it would clearly violate that nature if he committed sin. My point is that his ability to sin is necessary to our salvation. Let me explain…

Jesus contained the moral breadth to sin and the physical capability to sin but chose not to at every moment of every day. As Adam’s selfish sin (to be like God) led him to sin, breaking his ability to choose not to sin (as the only person who could do that outside of Christ), we all are lost by his sin in the inheritance of our sin nature. Jesus, born without an earthly father, is the last man in this chain who could make that decision on his own, and as God he had the moral capability to keep from sinning. This is why not only Jesus’ death on the cross matters, but also why his perfect life does as well. It’s not merely enough for Jesus, as a robot who is incapable of sinning to merely exist, but his day by day, moment by moment choice not to sin is what grants his perfect life credence. Jesus’ life of perfect obedience on my behalf is transferred to me on the cross and my life of perfect disobedience is transferred to him. So Jesus had to have the capability to sin, but because he is God and therefore of a perfect moral character, he could choose at every moment to do that which honored God the most in each situation – in exactly the way that I can’t. Therefore, the peccabilty of Jesus is what makes my salvation possible, because he is the perfect lamb, the last Adam, and the end of my striving whose sacrifice on my behalf makes it possible for God to save a man like me.

To quote Charles Hodge:

The Mediator between God and man must be sinless. Under the law the victim offered on the altar must be without blemish. Christ, who was to offer Himself unto God as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, must be Himself free from sin. The High Priest, therefore, who becomes us, He whom our necessities demand, must be holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. (Hebrews 7:26.) He was, therefore, “without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22.) A sinful Saviour from sin is an impossibility. He could not have access to God. He could not be a sacrifice for sins; and He could not be the source of holiness and eternal life to his people. This sinlessness of our Lord, however, does not amount to absolute impeccability. It was not a non potest peccare. If He was a true man He must have been capable of sinning. That He did not sin under the greatest provocation; that when He was reviled He blessed; when He suffered He threatened not; that He was dumb, as a sheep before its shearers, is held up to us as an example. Temptation implies the possibility of sin. If from the constitution of his person it was impossible for Christ to sin, then his temptation was unreal and without effect, and He cannot sympathize with his people.

Hodge, C. (1997). Systematic theology (Vol. 2, p. 457). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc

I’m not saying that Jesus would ever have sinned, nor that his nature would have allowed it, but just that it was possible from the sense that he made conscious decisions to only ever honor God first in all that he thought, said, and did. The implication here is that, as I mentioned before, his actions were real actions and not some pre-scripted process which would eliminate the depth of his compassion for mankind or his ability to relate to us in our struggles. Jesus’ active obedience hinges on his ability to disobey, and because he never sinned at all, we can reap the benefit of this, whereas in our own lives, we try to do our best and fail at every turn.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)