27. Law and Gospel

>> Click here to Listen to “Law and Gospel” episode! <<
Or listen in iTunes.

Andy and Wes discuss Law and Gospel.

0:30 – Law and Gospel Intro  Reconnect Episode 27

2:35 – What is God’s Law?

5:20 – What is the Gospel?

6:40 – When does a person need to hear Law?  When does a person need to hear the Gospel?

10:00 – Public preaching of God’s Word needs both Law and Gospel.

14:20 – Don’t weaken the Law of God.

18:30 – The Law found in the Sermon on the Mount

20:55 – Can we meet God’s standard in this life?

25:00 – God’s Law is written on all men’s hearts.

27:00 – Knowing that God’s Law is written on the hearts of men, most adherents of other religions are likely already in terror of God’s Law and need to hear the Gospel, not more Law.

31:20 – Christianity has both Law and Gospel.  Other religions just have the Law.

35:00 – What is the hermeneutical principle of distinguishing Law and Gospel in a Scriptural text?

52:00 – Closing words

Show Links:

Walther’s Law and Gospel

Law and Gospel posts at AndyWrasman.Com

23. Law and Gospel on Facebook

Reconnect Episode 23
>>Listen to Reconnect Episode 23 Now!<<

>>(Right click and “save as” to download)<<

Or listen on iTunes.

I (Andy) have recently noticed, on the Contradict Facebook page I administer and on other pages, that most posts on homosexuality speak just the Law of God ( i.e. his standards, commands, and expectations). The Gospel is typically missing.

I took a photo of a gay wedding cake and then added the text, “Jesus died for this sin too!” off to the side of the image. With this single statement the Gospel is proclaimed, and at the same time homosexuality is still shown to be sinful.

jesus died1

Jesus is the Savior of all adulterers. I am one of them. To clarify, in Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, he defines adultery as any lust. He defines murder as hating anyone. Jesus essentially shows us that we all have broken God’s Law, that we are all sinners in need of divine redemption. He provided that redemption through the shedding of his blood for our sins, through his life, death, burial, and resurrection.

“To share or not to share?”  That is the question.  In this episode George shares why he chooses to abstain from sharing religious posts on social media sites, while I share why I am in full support of such posts.  To close George shares four Facebook posts pertaining with homosexuality and wants to know if I’d share them or not.  Putting the Law and Gospel principle into action, I decide to share or not to share.

To learn more about Law and Gospel watch the videos with Law and Gospel in their titles in the following playlist I created on Youtube:


“You will die!” – One approach to Christian Apologetics

Dear readers, whoever you are.

This isn’t exactly what one usually would consider when they think of defending the Christian faith; the statement, “You will die.”  It’s not pretty.  It’s not nice.  We try not to think about it.  We try to push death out of our minds.  That’s why they call them casualties and not deaths!  That’s why they call them viruses, or the bird flu, or the swine flu, and not plagues! (Paraphrasing Henry Rollins) We don’t want to think about death!

To quote the Black Sabbath song, “After Forever,” “When you think about death do you keep your cool?”

Well to quote the song more, “I’ll be prepared when you’re lonely and scared at the end of our days.”  The answer in that song by Black Sabbath of course is “Jesus Christ is the only way to love.”

I know a pastor who sets up shop at university campuses.  He shares the good news of salvation with people.  However, if a person rejects the news.  If they are complacent, if they are ambivalent, he challenges them to consider the alternatives… what if there is no God, then you die and you are in the ground.  What if there is a God?  And you have rejected him? What if that God is Jesus?  What then?  Are you so sure… do you keep your cool when you think about death?

He told one student, “Well, just remember you are going to die.”  And the student left the conversation at that, but came back to him a month later and said, “Do you remember the last thing you said to me?”  The pastor did not.  The student said it had troubled him ever sense talking to him.  He finally came face to face with his own personal death, and was he so sure… was he so certain that he would be reincarnated as his faith taught.  The pastor shared, “Jesus will save you from that death. He paid for all of your sins.”

Part of apologetics is just properly explaining the Christian faith, and God’s Word can be divided into two camps, Law, and Gospel.  God’s Law shows us that we are sinners, that God’s wrath is upon us and that we justly deserve his eternal punishment.  God’s Gospel shows us our savior.  To learn more about Law and Gospel, click here.

So, you will die.  Worried?  Well, maybe you shouldn’t be complacent?  Don’t put off considering what lies beyond this life.  To be fair, I’ll say look to all religions, but I’d recommend looking to Christianity first, and I say this because it is objective, read 1 Corinthians 15 to know what I mean. That passage will show you the center of the Christian faith.  It will tell you where the Christian faith stands or falls.  It will show you that you are a sinner and that you will die for those sins, yet it also will show you the good news that Jesus died for sins, was buried, and on the third day rose from the grave as according to the Scriptures.

For more on sharing the Gospel on a college campus using a table-top evangelism style approach, listen to Reconnect Episode 6: Contradict – Campus Evangelism.

>>>Order Andy Wrasman’s book, Contradict- They Can’t All Be True.<<<

3 Types of Biblical Law Distinguished in Scripture in Response to Same Sex Love

I recently received the following comment on a Facebook post:

If we aren’t stoning women for being married when they are not virgins and we aren’t burning animals then why the hate on gays?

I actually receive variations of this question a lot!  I have found that the best reply is to share the three types of Law found in the Bible: Civil-political Law, Ceremonial Law, and Moral Law. 

Civil-political Laws found in the Bible are those that were given to ancient Israel under the theocracy of God.  The command to stone witches and men who lie with men as men lie with women, would fit into this category.  Since we no longer live under that government, it would be breaking the law of the government we are currently under if we were to drag out the palm readers from their shops and stone them to death, or to hurl rocks at the gay men on the floats at the gay pride rallies. 

Ceremonial Laws dealt with purity and ritual cleansing, the Jews being set apart from all other peoples on earth.  These involved dietary restrictions, circumcision, hygiene, specific dress, and of course animal and grain sacrifices and the many Jewish festivals.  These laws point to Christ, and in light of Christ and his fulfillment of these, we do not have to observe them any longer.  In certain situations it would be sinful for us to do so, such as with the animal sacrifices, that if we made would be a denial of the work of Christ’s sacrifice that was once for all.

Moral Laws are the laws that apply to all people throughout all time – laws of morality – what God desires of us to do and not to do.  All sexual sin, including homosexual activity, would fall into this category of sin found in the Bible, therefore, it would still be sinful for two men to have sexual relations as a man and a woman would have, just as it would be for a man and a woman to have sexual relations if they are not married to one another.  But, we don’t stone them anymore, just as we don’t stone the Wiccans or other fornicators!

[Check out my website: www.contradictmovement.org]

These arguments usually get a well received response, because the people hearing it are usually not Christians and this is all new information that they have never heard explained to them before.  In the case of this Facebook discussion, I received a unique reply because it was from a Christian who had heard who wasn’t foreign to this information:

“I feel like the Cival/Moral/Ceremonial distinction is pretty ad hoc. Rabbis recognize no such distinction in the law they are experts in.  Jesus made it pretty clear to the religious leaders of the time that the distinctions they imagines were in the text were in no way apparent. He then went on to make no such distinction between Moral/Cival/Ceremonial laws in the Torah, do you know who did? Other religious leaders, from a much later time, who had done much less study in the Hebrew bible than either the pharisees to whom Jesus was talking or the Talmudic rabbis upon whom modern Jewish scholarship is based. Is that supposed to be better? If it was really an obvious key to unlocking the OT why did it take until Augustine for anybody to figure it out?

Augustine who by the way was wrong about pretty much every other theological subject about which he spoke.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a better answer than any other answer I know of, and probably has some use in helping us to understand the OT. But that doesn’t change how unsatisfying ad hoc it is. We had a problem, scripture did not have an answer, so we made up this answer after the fact in order to make our problem go away. There is no reason to believe it is true except that it solves the problem and that’s what we think should truly happen…”

I really appreciate this question because it is asking for Scripture!  If there really are such distinctions of types of Law in the Bible, then Scripture should indicate it.

But based on the fact that Ceremonial Laws were fulfilled by Christ and no longer necessary to be observed, and in some cases would be sinful, and the fact that Jesus was pretty clear that his kingdom was not of this world so we wouldn’t be striving to set up a nation that follows the governmental laws of the Old Testament, I see no reason why Jewish Rabbis would be the experts in the Law on this matter as this Christian seems to propose.

I recognize that these divisions are tough to piece together in Scripture, especially since the words Civil-Political Law, Ceremonial Law, and Moral Law are not used in Scripture.  Despite the absence of these categorical labels in Scripture, it doesn’t mean the teaching of these divisions isn’t present, because many accepted words in Christian Systematic Theology are not in Scripture, such as the Bible, the Trinity, and Sacraments.  The following is my best shot to put together Scriptural support for the three types of Law distinguished in the Bible:

Acts 15 – The first Church council distinguished Ceremonial Law!

The need for the distinction is established in verses 1 and 5:

Vs 1 – “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved'”

Vs 5 – “But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.'”

James comes to the conclusion that circumcision isn’t necessary (vs. 19).  But he does command them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from meat that came from animals that had died by strangulation, and from blood.  The things that he commanded of them not to do were things that fell into the realm of weak and strong brother issues (except that of sexual immorality) which can be seen to be explained in Romans 14.  James essentially said, “Don’t be circumcised; you don’t have to observe that Law, but with these other ceremonial issues, please avoid them so as to not offend or cause problems with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are Jewish and still find such practices to be unclean!” At which point, I’d point you to Romans 14 for more clarity.

Paul and James on observance of the WHOLE Law. 

In his letter to the Galatians Paul addresses circumcision and how it is unnecessary:

5:3 – If you accept circumcision, then you must keep the whole law.

5:4 – Are you justified by law, or by grace?

5:6 – Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith through love.

5:11 – If I still preach circumcision, why am I being persecuted?

Through this chapter we see that Paul is placing circumcision into a different type of law, because clearly Paul still taught the law, just not certain parts of the law to be observed any longer.  He still commanded us to seek holiness and do the things of Christ (the Moral Law).  A good way to establish what is Moral Law vs. Ceremonial Law would be to ask what laws would fall in line with loving God and loving your neighbor.  Ceremonial Laws pertain to keeping one’s self and community ritually clean, where as Moral Laws focus on one’s relationship with God and neighbors through love.  The Moral Laws would be the Laws that Paul still preached!  He didn’t preach the need for circumcision, dietary laws, or any of the Jewish sacrifices, festivals, or days of observance.  He concludes chapter 5 in his letter to the Galatians by listing the works of the flesh that we SHOULD abstain: “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (vs. 19).  The things that we SHOULD have present in our lives in accordance to the works of the Spirit of God are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Moral Law stuff – these things still apply to all people as things to do and pursue and things not do and pursue.

James takes a similar approach as Paul to the observance of the whole of the Law of God.  Whereas Paul says if you accept circumcision you are obligated to keep the whole Law, James flips it and says if you have kept the whole of the law, but have stumbled in just one part of it, you are guilty of breaking all of it, for you are a lawbreaker (James 2:10)

The Book of Hebrews Demonstrates the Unnecessary Observance of Ceremonial Law

When I was first asked, where are the distinctions of types of the law in Scripture, I thought – THE WHOLE BOOK OF HEBREWS!  But here is a sprinkling of verses from the Book of Hebrews to demonstrate the distinction:

7:27 – We have no need for the high priests of the order of Aaron or for their sacrifices.

8:5 – What should we make of the Ceremonial Laws? “They serve a copy and a shadow of the heavenly things.”

9:8-10 – “By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).  According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

10:1 The Law [referring to all the ceremonial laws mentioned throughout the preceding chapters] is but a shadow of the good things to come!

10:28-29 – Don’t put away the blood of Christ by keeping the ceremonial, sacrificial system of the Law of Moses.

Civil-Political Recognized in Scripture

Romans 13 Paul provides instruction to submit to the governing authorities that were put in place by God, essentially to keep order in society by punishing the evildoer and rewarding the person of good works.  We must observe the laws of the land, essentially!  The theocracy of God that was established with certain laws for that nation in the Old Testament is no longer an established government, therefore we shouldn’t hold to them.

The Jews of Jesus’ day didn’t just go by those rules either.  This is evidenced by John 18:29-32.  The Jews wanted to kill Jesus, but they had to go to Pilate, because it was unlawful under Roman rule for them to execute anyone. This shows that the Jewish leaders were submitting to the law of the land, the law of Rome in this case.  This means the Civil-Political Laws of Israel in the Old Testament were essentially abolished at this point.  They were trying to observe them, but could only do so in as much as Rome allowed them to keep them.

In John 8, Jesus demonstrates this principle, or recognition of Civil-Political Law when handling the stoning of a woman caught in adultery.  I must note however that this passage of the Bible isn’t in our earliest manuscript copies however.  In this passage, Jesus says, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.”  They could have been sinning by stoning the lady caught in adultery, because they weren’t also stoning the man, who apparently they let off the hook.  Or… maybe Jesus was recognizing Civil-Political Law, knowing that they would be breaking Roman Law by executing her. 

Jesus further demonstrates this principle of Roman Law being the Law of the Land and not the Civil-Political Laws of the Old Testament by responding to a question about paying taxes by saying, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s” (Luke 22:19-26).  

As to Civil-Political Law, we should submit to the Law of the Land as Paul exhorts in Romans 13, but we should not do so at the expense of God’s Moral Law.

Daniel and his amigos demonstrate this in the Book of Daniel.  They still kept the Ceremonial Laws, because Christ had not yet come, but they also kept the Moral Law, praying to God and not bowing to worship the Babylonian king.  They faced due penalty for it too, however, God spared them from that penalty through supernatural intervention.

Peter addresses how to handle Civil-Political Laws of the Land that go against God’s Moral Law by stating, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Distinction in the Old Testament

So far, the distinctions of these laws have been drawn from the New Testament, which I think is the correct place to draw them since the Ceremonial Laws foreshadowed Christ and until his arrival and fulfillment, we wouldn’t have been able to fully understand their proper role.

But… I found looking at CARM’s website an article on these distinctions:“Leviticus18:22, 20:13, homosexuality, shellfish, mixed fabrics, and not being under Old Testament Law”

In the article, the author Matt Slick, notes that certain laws were given to “the Sons of Israel” whereas other laws were given to “the nations”.  And when you look at the laws given specifically to Israel, we see that they were Ceremonial Laws, and when they were given to all people, they were Moral Laws.  Check out the linked article above for more details.

[Check out a review of my book, Contradict – They Can’t All Be True]

There is plenty more that can be shared and written on how these types of the law are distinguished in Scripture, but this is a good start I believe.  What do you think?  What verses would you add?  Or do you think the verses I have shared don’t support a distinction in types of the Law?

What is a false conversion?

I have seen a recurring theme lately on social media sites… the false conversion!  These social media posts, videos, images, and websites are claiming that a false conversion is when people think they are Christians (or saved), but in reality, they are not.  Why wouldn’t they be saved?  It’s not because they don’t believe Jesus died for their sins, it’s because they aren’t doing the things Christians ought to do.  This means these false converts are somehow openly sinning in a way that  Christians should never do, they aren’t bearing the proper Christian fruit in their lives, or they think that a prayer that they said at some point means they are absolved of all their sins.  The other recurring theme I am seeing amongst these posts that talk about false converts is a question of “true repentance”.  They claim that a false convert hasn’t truly repented, or hasn’t really surrendered to God, or doesn’t actually desire a relationship with God, they’re just wanting “fire insurance”.

Here’s a recent example I saw:

An example of this false conversion talk.
An example of this false conversion talk.

This quote by itself leaves a lot of questions of what exactly does Paul Washer mean, but a guy named Michael on Facebook explained the above Paul Washer quote by saying:

He’s speaking about how people are very quick to get someone saved that they basically never tell the the gospel but rather spend five minutes and make them mouth a sinner’s prayer. Then we end up spending the next 50 years trying to get them to actually follow Christ as part of God’s flock.

In other words, people are being deceived into believing they’re saved just because they said a simple prayer, without ever actually understanding what the Gospel is, and so they’re unfortunately never brought to the place of actual conversion to truly follow Christ. And unfortunately many will indeed do as Jesus says, “Many will say unto me, Lord, Lord,” and believe they’re saved, but they never actually gave their lives to Christ.”

Another commentator agreed with Michael, saying:

What Michael said is correct. Our current society [I think he means church congregations] tries to do whatever they can to get a “decision” for Christ, with a Gospel void of repentance and faith. Then this “convert” doesn’t act like a Christian, so we spend years and years trying to “disciple” a non-believer into acting right, without realizing they were never saved to begin with.

There are even websites dedicated to warning people that they might not be true converts to the Christian faith.  At one site, you’ll find numerous confessions from former “pretenders” and you’ll be greeted with a load of questions that are designed to lead you to the realization that you are not a true believer, such as the following question:

What if I have not honestly been broken over my sins against God and completely surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus Christ?

The measure of your salvation in all of these “false convert” warnings lies with YOU and YOUR work, not in Christ and HIS WORK.  The work lies upon your degree of commitment or involvement.   Do you really believe, have you completely turned from your sins, do you actually hate ALL of your sins, are you truly following Christ?

Based on these types of questions and warnings, a person is left to turn inward to himself, and not outward to the cross of Christ and his empty tomb.

Do I really believe?  What does that mean?  Do I ever have doubts?  Do I ever question God’s calling in my life? Is my entire theological system 100% correct, free of all errors?  Are there miracles accompanying all my prayers?  Have I been bitten by a poisonous snake and not harmed at all?

Have I completely turned from my sins (often worded as truly repented)?  What does that mean?  Does it mean I hate every single one of my acts of sin?  Can I even enumerate all of my acts of sin?  God forbid, but what if I fall into some sort of horrible cycle of sin, such as what King David and Samson did?  Were they not truly repentant because of those nasty spills of temptation and failure to resist?  Is it even possible to completely turn from my sin in this life?  Won’t I always have sin in this life?  And since I know I will always have sin this life, how many sinful acts are too many for me to have completely turned from my sin?

Am I truly following Jesus?  Let’s see… Am I holy as he is holy?  Do I always pray for and love my enemies?  Do I ever have hatred in my heart, or lust?  Do I ever covet my neighbor’s house, or my boss’ salary?  Do I have one too many coats?  Do I always do the things that Jesus would want me to do, just as he was always doing what his Father wanted him to do during his time here on earth?  Do I ever go astray like the dumb sheep of Psalm 23?

Do you get my point?!!?  Are any of us really, truly, completely (fill in the blank) so that we are deserving of salvation because we have (fill in the blank)?  Are any of us even capable of properly making these judgments about ourselves?  And I know for certain no other man can know my heart!  So please, don’t get sucked into justifying yourself, or trembling that you aren’t doing enough to prove yourself a true convert.

So how does conversion take place?  A person hears the Gospel and believes.  It’s that simple.  Conversion occurs instantaneously, as does our justification.  Sanctification however is a process, in which we will become more and more like Christ, likely sin less, and grow in faith and love more and more, etc.  But that process will never be complete in this life… NEVER.  When we die and are raised at Christ’s return, we will then receive heavenly bodies – that are sinless.  As for now, we will always struggle between our new nature in Christ and our sinful nature that we inherited at our conception (Romans 7).  And our justification is not dependent upon how we are progressing in sanctification!  Our justification always comes by grace through faith in Christ.

Here is Paul Washer (to use him again in this blog post) explaining how a person is converted:

I absolutely love that Paul Washer explanation of how a person is converted and how we should lead a person to Christ! I hope you watched it. His explanation shows that conversion is not saying a prayer or making a decision. It’s simply faith coming to a person through hearing the Gospel message proclaimed, just as Paul says it does in Romans 10. After we have faith, we do pray, we do decide to follow Christ, etc.  Perfectly?  No. Never, not in this sinful body.  Should the quality of my obedience dictate my salvation?  No. Never. The perfection of Christ’s obedience dictates my good standing before the Lord, and Jesus was obedient unto death – even death on a cross!

And to close… since the focus of these “true conversion” tests is for a person to discern his works and see if they are in line with the Lord’s will (“acting like a Christian”), I offer the following passage, Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Do you note what happened here?  Not everyone who prophesies in Christ’s name and drives out demons and performs miracles will be saved.  Why?  I think it is because they were justifying themselves.  If Jesus ever said to me, you can’t enter heaven, I won’t respond with, “But Lord, did I not (blank), (blank), and (blank) in your name?”  No!  I will say, “But Lord, did you not take on flesh and humble yourself to live amongst us in order to fulfill all righteousness for me?  Did you not die as an atoning sacrifice for my sins? Did you not rise from the dead, conquering sin, death, and the devil?”  Do you see the difference?  The ones who did not know Jesus, pointed to themselves and the work they did in Christ, not recognizing that they are evil-doers.  The one who knows the Lord will point to Christ alone for his salvation.  The point is that we are all evil-doers.  We don’t deserve salvation.  We deserve hell.  So let’s not make salvation (or our conversions) about how well we are following Christ, how committed we are to the one True Lord, how much we hate our sins, or how much fruit we are bearing.  Let’s always beat our breast and proclaim how wretched we are and that we need Christ to justify us!

Does Baptism Save you?

Spiritual Baptism Proponent: Do you believe baptism saves?

[Asking because I’m a Lutheran Christian and has heard another Lutheran say that baptism saves]

Me: Yes, 1 Peter 3:20-21 says that the waters of Noah’s day symbolize the waters of baptism that now save you, and they save you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Baptism Proponent:  I’m not familiar with that passage.

Me:  You should read it.  It’s in 1 Peter 3.  The only time the word symbolism is ever used in the same sentence as baptism is that passage and the waters of baptism are not symbolic; it’s the waters of Noah’s day that are symbolic.  Those waters symbolize the death and resurrection that we are connected to in baptism.  Baptism saves, and it saves because of Christ’s death and resurrection.  We are always saved by Christ’s death and resurrection.  So this isn’t taking away from Christ’s work.

Spiritual Baptism Proponent: I’m not familiar with that.  I’d have to read that verse.

Me:  Yea, please do.  It’s in 1 Peter 3, near the end of the chapter.  But, there are numerous times in Scripture, not just from Peter, but also Paul in which we see that baptism unites us with Christ.  For instance, wait I have a Bible, Romans 6:1-5 says, “What shall we say, Then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!  We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”

Spiritual Baptism Propoenent: Yea, but that’s spiritual baptism.  We receive all of that when we receive the Holy Spirit and faith.

Me:  I would agree with you.  If a person hears the Gospel and receives the Gospel in faith, they are saved and have life and salvation.  We are always saved by grace through faith in Christ.  But how does that grace come to us?  And is there anywhere in Scripture were we see the term “spiritual baptism”?  I know we see “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” in Acts, which is something completely different.


The conversation spun off into addressing does everyone have to be baptized to be saved and if babies should be baptized, and etc.  I want to boil this all down to two questions:

#1 – Does baptism save?
#2 – Does everyone have to be baptized to be saved?

Let’s first define baptism – based on Matthew 28:19, baptism is washing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Unless there is a clarifying word before or after baptism, such as “baptism by fire”, or “baptism of the Holy Spirit”, or “baptism of repentance”, or “John’s baptism”, we should interpret baptism to be referring to the baptism instituted by Christ, especially if we see the additional descriptors of, “Jesus’ baptism,” or “baptism into Jesus’ name”.

Now, that baptism is defined, I want to introduce a term that may not be too common in many Christian circles: MEANS OF GRACE.  Understanding MEANS OF GRACE will help answer both of these questions.

The MEANS OF GRACE are the ways in which God has promised to work salvation in our lives, to deliver the Grace that comes through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection to us. Let me explain this term the best I can and use Scripture to do it:

According to Romans 10 how does a person come to be able to declare with his mouth and believe in his his heart? Vs. 14 asks how can they call on the one who can save them if they have not heard of him? The concluding answer is that they can’t until they have heard the Gospel (vs. 17). It is through the hearing of the Gospel that faith COMESFaith COMES to us instead of us COMING to faith.  Here is Paul’s language on that point found in vs. 17, “Consequently, faith COMES from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Flip all the way back to the beginning of the letter to the Romans and you will see that this is how Paul starts the letter – The Gospel is the power of salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16). The Gospel saves. We hear the Gospel and through the Gospel the Holy Spirit gives us faith (this is another point I’ll have to tackle in another post). This all fits into Ephesians 2:8 in which we are told that salvation is by grace through faith and this is not of ourselves but the gift of God. Grace is “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” By his life, death, and resurrection we have been forgiven, but all people are not instantly saved. That Grace must come to us somehow. The Gospel is one MEANS OF GRACE by which Grace comes to us, though we only receive the benefits of it through faith in the Gospel promises of God.

I think all Christians would agree that Grace comes to us via the Gospel and that unless one has faith in the Gospel, there is no eternal life for that individual that has rejected the Gospel upon hearing it.

NOW… is that the only MEANS OF GRACE, is the Gospel the only way we may receive the forgiveness of sins?

To Question #1, I would say YES – Baptism saves! God has promised to work forgiveness of sins through baptism. That means that Grace comes to us in baptism (water applied to a person in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit). To support that baptism saves, I point people to 1 Peter 3:20-21. Here the waters of Noah’s day are said to symbolize the waters of baptism that now SAVE YOU. How does it save? Look at verse 21 – “It saves you be the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is not symbolic here, the waters of Noah’s day are symbolic. Baptism saves by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Romans 6 clearly explains how in baptism we are buried and raised with Christ. It’s not just Peter that says this, but Paul too!

To Question #1, YES – Baptism saves! Baptism is not our work, but it is God’s work to save us! To illustrate this beyond the 1 Peter 3:20-21 example, I like to point people to Colossians 2:9-12. Again we see that in baptism we are buried with Christ and raised with Christ, but there is the additional detail that we aren’t doing ANYTHING in this process because Paul says that baptism is like circumcision. Instead of cutting of the flesh, it is cutting off the sinful nature (i.e washing us of our sins – oh, and so much more!). WE don’t cut off this sinful nature – JESUS DOES! Verse 11 – “not with circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by CHRIST!

TO Question #2 – NO – We don’t have to baptized to be saved! Grace comes to us through the MEANS OF GRACE – the Gospel and Baptism (and communion, but that’s another topic). If a person hears the Gospel and believes, faith and salvation has COME to him. He is saved. If that person is never baptized, he still has received grace through faith. If a person is baptized and believes, faith and salvation has COME to him.

So is everyone saved who is baptized? NO! Just as the benefits of hearing the Gospel are received through faith, so TOO the benefits of the promises of baptism are received through faith alone.

Technically, everyone receives the forgiveness of sins in baptism, just as everyone receives the forgiveness of sins through hearing the Gospel, YET, the benefits of God’s Grace are only received through faith in his promises. Hence it is so crucial to stick to Paul’s phrase, “by grace through faith”. Just grace and no faith – NO salvation. Just faith – NO salvation. It is when we have faith in a trustworthy object of salvation we are saved. The object in this case is a person and his work that for his sake, we have an all sufficient Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

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