The Value of Baptism (Part III)

In the early parts of this series, I argued based on contemporary biblical scholarship that baptism was not merely a symbolic act but had inherent value and actually accomplished something. I explained that baptism in the New Testament was actually integral to Christian faith. Therefore, contrary to Protestant beliefs that have also been adopted by Pentecostals, baptism does actually save, just as Jesus himself said (Mark 16:16, John 3:5.) Rather than discussing the general purpose of baptism, in this post we will look at the different elements the baptismal act is comprised of.

Now baptism was fundamentally an initiation rite. As with any ritual, it was an entire process so there was certainly more to it than just being immersed in water. New Testament scholar [1]Matthew Bates identifies the three basic parts of the baptismal process. First, there was the public declaration of Jesus’ lordship by the baptizand. Second, the actual act of immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus. And finally, there was the invocation of the Spirit on the baptizand. (Romans 10:9-10, Acts 2:38, 19:1-6). Continue reading “The Value of Baptism (Part III)”

Faith, Grace and Works (Part II)

A New Perspective on Faith

The fact that in the New Testament we will be judged according to works is a rather old objection to the Protestant teaching that human effort has no real merit before God. Now more recently, since the late 70s at least, there has been a sea change in New Testament scholarship which has seriously undermined the Protestant dichotomy between faith and grace on one hand and works on the other. The scholarly movement known as the New Perspective on Paul was the main catalyst for initiating this shift. By problematizing the old understanding of New Testament era Judaism as a works based religion, it opened new avenues for reexamining the meanings of faith and grace.

One of the arguments made by the New Perspective is that when Paul said negative things about “work”, he did not necessarily mean all human activity. In fact, an attentive reader of Scripture will notice that in context he is usually referring to the “works of the law” i.e. the Law of Moses. This is clearly not a wholesale rejection of the value of human effort (or even the law per se) (Romans 7:12.) Rather, what he is really teaching is that we cannot be justified and saved by the works of the law alone. (Romans 3:20-21, Galatians 2:16.) As I pointed earlier, Paul simultaneously teaches that we are saved by faith and that we will be judged by our works. This implies that our final salvation does not depend on just belief alone but on our actions as well (Romans 1:16, 2 Corinthians 5:10.) Continue reading “Faith, Grace and Works (Part II)”

Faith vs. Optimism

“You just lost your job. Rent is overdue. Utility bills are piling up. Your roommate just told you that she is moving out next month. Then you receive the notice that your tuition payment for next semester is due in three weeks. Enter your well-intentioned Christian friend, who offers the following words of consolation: “Everything is going to be all right—you just need to have faith,” or “God brings about these sort of events to test our faith—just believe in God and he will deliver you from this trial.” Continue reading “Faith vs. Optimism”

Explaining My Gospel Summary

In a previous post, I shared a summary of the gospel which I constructed based of another summary written by New Testament scholar Dr Matthew Bates, which you can find here as a well as a revision which you can also read here. The original summary was from his Dr Bates excellent 2017 book Salvation by Allegiance Alone which made a great impression on me. I was particularly impressed with the care and nuance he showed in outlining what the gospel precisely is according to the New Testament (NT.) The minor differences in my summary from his were inspired by his commitment to precision, which I followed to try and craft an even more finely tuned summary. In this post, I will explain some of the more significant differences between our summaries. Continue reading “Explaining My Gospel Summary”

The Good News in Summary

One of the most impactful pieces of biblical scholarship on my own thinking has to be Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works and the Gospel of King Jesus (Baker 2017) by Dr. Matthew Bates. As part of his goal to explain what “faith” is in the New Testament, he provides a wonderfully clear explanation and incisive summary of what the gospel actually is. Over the last couple of years re-examining my own understanding of the faith and trying to determine what are its core tenets, Bates’ summary of the gospel was exactly what I was looking for. It perfectly captured in a clear and concise manner what I had come to consider as the very centrepiece of the Bible and the foundational message of the faith. Now using his summary of the gospel as a template, which you can read here, I have attempted my own below. Continue reading “The Good News in Summary”