Baptism Now Saves Us: An Assured Conscience

So what is the status of a baptized person in the Roman Catholic Church? His sins have been removed, but “concupiscence” remains. In Roman Catholicism, concupiscence is a moral weakness, a tendency toward sin, which is itself not sin and which can be resisted by grace (grace that God gives to everyone through the sacraments and through the good works of piety of a faithful church member). But the Bible teaches that all sinners (even believers) have a sinful flesh, a totally depraved and corrupted nature, which is not only inclined to all evil, but is itself evil, and which can do nothing good. This sinful nature exists in all sinners, although in believers it has been dethroned. Nevertheless, even in believers the flesh is still very active and produces in us all kinds of evil. Without a biblical understanding of sin, the Roman Catholic will lack a proper understanding of salvation: neither water baptism nor the power of free will (even when coupled with God’s grace) can deliver us from the “filth of the flesh.”

Why then does the Bible speak this way, linking the reality of salvation to the sign of baptism? Reformed theologians speak of the sacramental union, for in the Bible there is a close connection between the sign (baptism) and the thing signified (the washing away of sin in the blood of Christ). The Heidelberg Catechism asks about this sacramental union, “Why then doth the Holy Ghost call baptism ‘the washing of regeneration,’ and the ‘washing away of sins’? God speaks thus not without great cause, to wit, not only thereby to teach us that, as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and Spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really as we are externally washed with water” (Q&A 73).

The relationship between the sign (baptism) and the thing signified (salvation) is not one of identity. They are not the same, nor does the sign become the reality. A sign cannot be the reality; otherwise, it is not a sign. A sign cannot become the reality, otherwise it ceases to be a sign. Nevertheless, sometimes the Bible gives the name of the thing signified to the sign itself, because God would have us associate the reality with the sign.

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TODAY! Radio Interview on 'Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt' with Rev. Martyn McGeown


TODAY from 4-6pm EST, Rev. Martyn McGeown will be interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio program Iron Sharpens Iron.

The subject will be Rev. McGeown's recent book, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt

Visit www.ironsharpensironradio.com and click on the livestream box to tune in and listen from any device. The program can also be listened to by phone at (563)999-9206; press #3 for Christian Radio when prompted.

Be sure to tune in later today!

 

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Baptism Now Saves Us: A Spiritual Cleansing

There are therefore, two figures in 1 Peter 3:21: the flood, which is an Old Testament type of baptism; and water baptism, which is the New Testament picture (or the sign and seal) of salvation in the blood and Holy Spirit of Christ. The reality is salvation in Jesus Christ.

The Heidelberg Catechism elucidates: “Is then the external baptism with water the washing away of sin itself? Not at all; for the blood of Jesus Christ only, and the Holy Ghost, cleanse us from all sin” (Q&A 72). Water baptism, and its type, the flood, point to one great reality: the washing away of our sins by the blood and in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Peter teaches this when he writes: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (v. 21). Peter connects salvation not to water baptism, but to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and therefore also to the cross. There is no resurrection without the cross, for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is his bodily resurrection from the grave three days after his death.

Peter has already explained the death of Christ in verse 18: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Christ’s death was a substitutionary death, an atoning sacrifice to satisfy God’s justice. We are unjust or unrighteous, and Christ, the just one, paid for our sins. Thus Christ died both for our benefit and in our place, and by his resurrection God proves that he is perfectly satisfied with his Son’s work of atonement.

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Radio Interview on 'Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt' with Rev. Martyn McGeown


 

NEXT WEEK Friday, December 7, Rev. Martyn McGeown will be interviewed by Chris Arnzen on his radio program Iron Sharpens Iron from 4:00-6:00 pm EST. 

The subject will be Rev. McGeown's recent book, Grace and Assurance: The Message of the Canons of Dordt

Be sure to tune in next week Friday!

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Baptism Now Saves Us

The apostle Peter writes certain words about baptism that are strange to our ears and that we might be reluctant to say. Some quote these words in defense of their doctrine of baptism, for they believe that baptism saves. The Reformed must not be shy about this text, for, it too, is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable—when properly understood, of course! Peter writes, “Baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21). Salvation in baptism! By carefully studying the text, we ward off wrong notions, but we also derive the meaning that the Holy Spirit would give.

And in so doing we shall have a better understanding of baptism and appreciation for baptism.

In 1 Peter 3 the apostle makes a comparison between the flood of Noah and baptism: “the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us” (v. 21). The antecedent of “whereunto” is the water of the flood in verse 20. The flood, therefore, was a type for the word “figure” in verse 21 is the Greek word “antitype.” Since the flood was the type, there is also an antitype or corresponding reality, for an antitype is the New Testament fulfillment of an Old Testament type. Already we should see that a bald reading of the text, “Baptism saves us,” will lead us astray. To understand the Spirit’s meaning here, we need to examine the relationship between the type and the antitype.

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Author interview with Martyn McGeown

New author interview!

Rev. McGeown talks about his new book, Micah: Proclaiming the Incomparable God, published earlier this month. 

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The Grammatical Gymnastics of an Advocate for Divorce and Remarriage: Active Voice

We have seen that the use of the passive (or middle) voice in the Greek of Matthew 5:32, 19:9 and Mark 10:11, 12 (even if we accept the translation in the passive or middle, which we do not) does not justify remarriage after divorce (at most it increases the guilt of the man who divorces his wife, but it does not permit the divorced woman to remarry). Luke records the teaching of Jesus on divorce in a different context, and in the active voice.

Since in Luke 16:18 Christ uses the active voice (and moicheuoo instead of moichaoo), a different argument is required to justify remarriage after divorce. In Luke 16:18 our advocate for remarriage clings to the present tense of the participles and the verbs: “Everyone putting away…and marrying…commits adultery.” This supposedly refers to the Pharisees who “were continually divorcing and continually marrying…The actions of divorcing and marrying resulted in continual adultery, actively destroying the very institution of marriage.”

Perhaps, to capture the fullness of the present tense, we could render it thus, although it would be an over-translation: “Everyone (who keeps) putting away his wife and (who keeps) marrying another (keeps on) committing adultery and the one (who keeps) marrying her who has been put away from (her) husband (keeps on) committing adultery.”

Nevertheless, I do not see how an appeal to the present tense helps the case of our remarriage advocate. In Matthew 5:32a the same phrase appears: “Everyone (who keeps) putting away his wife…” The point of the present tense is that when remarriage occurs the relationship that results (the second or subsequent marriage) involves the remarried persons (both of them!) in continuous, ongoing adultery. This is true whether the remarrying person is a Pharisee on his second or seventeenth relationship or whether he or she is a modern Westerner (even a church member or officebearer) on his or her second or third marriage. If the original spouse still lives, any subsequent relationship (second, third, fourth marriage) is adultery.

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The Grammatical Gymnastics of an Advocate for Divorce and Remarriage: Passive Voice

The first argument concerns the “voice” of the verbs in Matthew 5:32, 19:9, and Mark 10:11–12. In grammar the voice of a verb describes the relationship of the action of the verb to the subject of the verb. For example, “John eats an apple” is in the active voice, for John performs the activity of eating (John is the “subject” of the verb “to eat”). On the other hand, “The apple is eaten by John” is in the passive voice, for the subject of the verb (the apple) does not perform the activity of eating. Instead, the activity happens to the subject, for the apple is eaten.  

Our advocate for remarriage writes,

The verbs in Matthew 5 translated “to commit adultery” are passive. The woman put away and the man who marries her are passive. The original husband is the only active agent in the adultery. He commits adultery against them… To say that the woman commits adultery is as false as can be.

If we attempted to translate Matthew 5:32 with passive verbs, it would read something like this: “Everyone putting away his wife [active]…makes her to have adultery committed against her [passive] and if anyone marries [active] the divorced woman he has adultery committed against him [passive].” This would make the remarried woman (32a) and the man who marries her (32b) the victims (rather than the culprits) of adultery. Our advocate for remarriage writes:

God is principally protecting the innocent. The wife who is put away for any reason other than fornication is wronged. God protects those. Adultery is committed against them wrongfully in that the dismissed woman and the man who marries her are made to appear as adulterers.

We should notice that in the mind of our remarriage advocate, the remarrying people (the divorced woman and her second husband) are not adulterers; they only appear so in the eyes of others. Only the divorced woman’s first husband actively commits adultery. If this were true, it would mean that the guilty party in the divorce is an adulterer and it would forbid him from remarrying. It would not forbid, so the argument goes, remarriage to the innocent parties. Sadly, few advocates for remarriage limit remarriage to the innocent party; they allow remarriage for the guilty and the innocent party.

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Micah has arrived in house!

Rev. McGeown's book Micah: Proclaiming the Incomparable God has arrived! And our packers are busy at it this morning getting out the books to our book club members. 

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Jehovah’s Good Requirements

Sneak Peak of Chapter 13: Jehovah’s Good Requirements in Micah: Proclaiming the Incomparable God
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6. Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old?
7. Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8. He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:6–8)


In chapter 6, Micah, in the name of Jehovah, announces Jeho­vah’s controversy with his people. In that controversy Jehovah cries out to his people: “O my people, what have I done unto thee?” (v. 3). Jehovah even declares: “Testify against me!” (v. 3). In so doing, Jehovah strongly protests his righteousness and the people’s treachery. Then Jehovah proves from history that he has always been faithful to Judah. He brings as “Exhibit A” his deliverance of his people from Egypt, his sending them Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, and his protection of them in the wilderness. Jehovah’s “Exhibit A” to us is the cross of Jesus Christ. Surely, then, neither they nor we have any excuse for ingratitude toward God.

The text contains a kind of dialogue between the prosecu­tion and the defense in Jehovah’s controversy or lawsuit. Judah responds to Jehovah in verses 6–7. She shows in her response that she recognizes the majesty and holiness of God, for she speaks of him as “the high God” (v. 6) and she confesses sin: “my transgres­sion…the sin of my soul” (v. 7). But her response to Jehovah is false: she does not know (or claims not to know) how she should approach God. Micah, in Jehovah’s name, responds to Judah’s question (whether it is a sincere question or not, or whether it is a question designed to escape blame or not). “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee” (v. 8).

JEHOVAH’S GOOD AND CLEAR REQUIREMENTS

Before we look at the three requirements, we need to ask and answer some questions. The first question is: what are these requirements generally? The text says two things about them: they are good, and they are clear.

First, they are good. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good” (v. 8). We are not interested here in what seems good to us, or even in what seems good to society. We are interested in what is good to Jehovah. Good in the Bible is defined by what is pleas­ing to God, not what is pleasing to us, and not what is pleasing to the greatest number of people. Because God is the good God, what is good and pleasing to him will also be good for us: it will be good for us spiritually and will bring us blessedness.

12. And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
13. To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his stat­utes, which I command thee this day for thy good? (Deut. 10:12–13)

Second, they are clear. “He hath shewed thee, O man” (Mic. 6:8). Jehovah is not a God who is impossible to serve because we do not know what he requires. He has shown us (each of us) what is good and what he requires. Jehovah has declared that to all of his people, not just to a select few. One does not require great insights, learning, or degrees in theology to know it. Jeho­vah’s requirements are clearly recorded for us in scripture that we might know them. Our calling is to do these things in thankful­ness to him.

The second question we need to ask is: for whom are these requirements, or from whom does God require them? The text explains that these are what God requires from us, his people. “He hath shewed thee…what doth the Lord require of thee… thy God” (v. 8). This text is not directed to the Philistines, the Moabites, or the Babylonians. It is directed to the people of God: “my people” (vv. 3, 5).

This text is therefore not directed to the modern society in which we live, for God does not call all the inhabitants of the world in general to live the Micah 6:8 life. That would be impos­sible. God calls the church (believers, Christians) to live this way. For one thing, how can unbelievers walk humbly with their God? The calling of an unbeliever is not Micah 6:8 but repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Only then will you be able to live accord­ing to these requirements.
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