The Value of Baptism (Part VI)

The Saving Power of Baptism

Over the course of this series, I have argued in various ways that baptism does not merely have symbolic value but that it actually does something significant. One of the critical things that baptism accomplishes according to the New Testament is salvation (Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:37-41.) Those who accept the Protestant doctrine of salvation through faith alone and not by any works find this difficult to accept. But as I explained in a previous post, if we understand faith to mean relational fidelity and enacted allegiance, as contemporary New Testament research suggests, then baptism is actually repositioned as integral to faith.

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The Value of Baptism (Part IV)

The Covenant of Baptism

In the previous post, I talked about the more neglected elements of the baptismal process in the New Testament. I talked about the confession of faith that started the initiation rite and the invocation of the Spirit by the laying of hands which concluded the rite. By focusing on these elements and their significance, I came to the perspective that baptism in the New Testament functioned as an enacted oath of allegiance where both parties exchanged pledges of fidelity to one another. Now in this post, instead of focusing on the different components of the process, I will be looking at baptism as a whole and the type of relationship it sets up. Continue reading “The Value of Baptism (Part IV)”

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)”

The State of Faith

In the last five years or so, there has been a huge shift in New Testament scholarship on the meaning of faith during that era. Researchers have begun to recognize that faith in the New Testament and the ancient world it was part of was not primarily about belief, that is “mental assent” to a set of propositions or even a personal “cognitive” or “psychological” state. While not denying that there is certainly an aspect of the inner state of mind, faith was primarily about relationships between people and manifest displays of trust and loyalty. In other words, when it came to faith, there was a great emphasis on external behaviour rather than just inner beliefs. Continue reading “The State of Faith”

Faith in the Roman World of the Early Church

Over the last couple of years, one of the most significant works I have come across in biblical scholarship is Matthew W. Bates Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of King Jesus, Baker Academic, 2017. I have referenced Dr Bates’ work multiple times on this platform. What I have neglected to mention is the seminal work Bates builds off, which is Teresa Morgan’s Roman Faith and Christian Faith: Pistis and Fides in the Early Roman Empire and Early Churches, Oxford University Press, 2015. Morgan writes in her article The Invention of Faith:

Modern understandings of faith depend heavily on Augustine of Hippo, who defines it (De trin.13.2.5) as fides quae and fides qua, belief in the body of Christian doctrine and the faith which takes place in the heart and mind of the believer. In 2015 I published Roman Faith and Christian Faith, which argues that the earliest Christians understood pistis/fides very differently. Faith was a relationship of trust and faithfulness between God and human beings, which also shaped relationships between human beings, the authority structure of churches, and the way Christians imagined the kingdom of heaven. Christians were unique in putting trust at the heart of their relationship with God and Christ, but their understanding and practice of pistis/fides were continuous with those of contemporary Greeks, Romans and Jews.

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