Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A good Biblical explanation of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 against Baptismal Regeneration

A Biblical explanation of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 by Stephen C. Halbrook (see brief bio at bottom; and for more, under "about" at his blog.)  Note:  Some of the videos and links that he links to are no longer there.

I had linked to this blog article before, but after reading it again, I noticed afresh that the explanation of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 is excellent and thorough and probably the best I have ever read.  

The article covers other verses that other groups use to defend baptismal regeneration, but I wanted to just focus on John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 here.  

These two verses are the last 2 verses analyzed, after he works through Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16 and a combined analysis of Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27 and Colossians 2:11-14. (I was surprised that I have not seen 1 Peter 3:21 in his list.) 


V. John 3:5 and Titus 3:5
Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:5)
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5)
1. Right off the bat, we most note that neither of these passages mention baptism in connection with “water” (in John 3:5) or “washing” (in Titus 3:5). Thus right away we must question the insistence of baptismal regenerationists that these texts are even about water baptism.
To insist that “water,” “washing,” and any related words must refer to physical water is arbitrary and absurd. Can we honestly say that the following texts refer to physical water?:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
(1 Corinthians 3:6)
“These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.”
(2 Peter 2:17)
“and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9)
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Regarding John 3:5 in particular, when one insists “water” self-evidently must refer to physical water, one faces a serious problem in the very next chapter:
“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
Also consider another nearby chapter:
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’” (John 7:37-38)
Now, to consistently maintain his argument that the word “water” self-evidently refers to physical water, will one who holds to baptismal regeneration really argue that Jesus is saying salvation depends on drinking physical water, which will literally become a physical spring within one’s insides “welling up to eternal life,” or will literally become physical rivers flowing from one’s heart?
No, to avoid appearing foolish a baptismal regenerationist must equivocate and say, “well, the meaning of water must depend on the context.” Once he does this, he surrenders any hope that the context of John 3:5 demands a baptismal regeneration reading.
2. Let us focus specifically on Titus 3:5. Again, it reads:
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5)
Again, the only hope for a baptismal regenerationist reading is that “washing” refers to physical water—but nothing in the context demands this to be the case. Now here are two reasons within the text itself why a baptismal regeneration reading is impossible:
A. It says, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness ….”
The Bible considers water baptism a work, since:
(1) Romans 4:1-12 considers circumcision a work. If circumcision is a work, so is water baptism, since both are external marks of the church, with water baptism replacing circumcision in the New Covenant era.
(2) Consider also Matt. 3:14, 15:
John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.”
Jesus considered His water baptism as part of fulfilling all righteousness. Is not fulfilling all righteousness works? Compare “fulfill all righteousness” with he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,” in
Titus 3:5.
Thus, Titus 3:5 denies water baptism’s role in salvation even before the verse gets to “the washing of regeneration.”
B. Now, as far as “the washing of regeneration” is concerned, consider the following from Gordon Clark:
“if [water] baptism caused, or was, regeneration, the phrase would have been ‘the regeneration of washing.’ The actual phrase ‘the washing of regeneration’ indicates that regeneration washes, not that washing regenerates.” (Gordon Clark, Commentary on Titus,http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/192a-FalseShepherd.pdf )
In short, Titus 3:5 does not teach that external washing (from water baptism) causes regeneration, but that regeneration causes an internal washing: One is saved by “the [spiritual] washing of regeneration”—not by “the regeneration of washing [by water baptism].”  Gordon Clark writes, “The washing effected by regeneration is the renewal, that is, the renewing the Spirit does to us” (Ibid.).
3. Now we move on to John 3:5, which reads:
“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”
We have already demonstrated the absurdity of insisting this passage must speak of water baptism simply because it mentions “water.” We only need to go to the very next chapter (John 4:14) to show this.
There are several proposed interpretations of this text, and since the Bible uses the word “water” with more than one meaning, we have already cast in doubt the interpretation that says water baptism saves.
Moreover, it should be enough that from front to back the Bible teaches salvation by grace through faith and not by works (cf. Romans 4:1-12 and Ephesians 2:8, 9), so unless we want to say the Bible contradicts itself, we must rule out immediately any salvation by water baptism interpretation.
But beyond this, all we need to do is examine the surrounding context of John 3:5 to rule out such an interpretation.
A. Just three verses after John 3:5, we read:
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8).
On this passage Robert L. Reymond writes:
From the analogy which he drew between the wind’s natural operation and the Spirit’s regenerating work (John 3:8), Jesus taught, in addition to the facticity (“The wind blows”) and the efficacy (“and you hear the sound of it”) of the latter, both the sovereignty (“The wind blows wherever it pleases”) and the inscrutable mysteriousness (“you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes”) of the Spirit’s regenerating work. (Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p. 720).
This makes clear man cannot be born again because of his water baptism. He cannot have water sprinkled or poured upon himself, or immerse himself into water, and expect the Holy Spirit to save him as a consequence. The new birth is a sovereign act of God, on God’s timetable; the new birth cannot be programmed by water baptism.
Otherwise, instead of saying “The wind blows where it wishes,” it would say, “The wind blows where man wishes” (i.e., the Holy Spirit must save man out of compliance with man’s wish to be water-baptized). And, instead of saying “but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes,” it would say, “but you do know where it comes from or where it goes” (since in this scenario man would know exactly when he is regenerated: right after his water baptism).
B. Verses 6-8 rule out water baptism by emphasizing only the Holy Spirit. Sam Storms writes (this is not an endorsement of Storms himself, as we disagree with some of his theology).
Just as v. 5 is explanatory of v. 3, vv. 6-8 further develop the idea set forth in v. 5. But note: in vv. 6-8 “water” is conspicuously absent; there is mention only of the Spirit. Note again in v. 6 and v. 8b – why just “born of the Spirit” and not “born of water and the Spirit”? The answer is that “Spirit” is fundamental and “water”, whatever it means, must be subsumed under or defined as an elemental part of the operative work of the Spirit in regeneration. Had our Lord regarded “water” as an independent agency in regeneration and important in itself (i.e., as distinct from the agency of the Spirit), he surely would have mentioned it again and given it more prominence. Instead, he describes the birth “from above” as effected by the Spirit alone and wholly outside the sphere of the “flesh” (v. 6).
http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/john-35-part-i/
This is consistent with John 1, which likewise describes regeneration as an act solely by God, outside the realm of man and man’s works:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were bornnot of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12, 13)
Here we have it: there is nothing man can do to cause the new birth. Hence he can neither “will” himself to be born again by getting water baptized, nor “will” himself to cause others to be born again by baptizing them in water.  Contrast the denial of man’s will in causing the new birth in John 1: 12, 13, with the affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s will in causing the new birth in John 3:8.
Moreover, John (the author) regularly describes the new birth as an act solely of God. Storms writes,
“John typically describes regeneration not in terms of repetition but as a divine birth, something that finds its source or origin in God. It is of God, being heavenly; not of man, who is earthly (cf. John 1:13; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18).”
http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/john-35-part-i/
C. One cannot make an inseparable relationship between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism in John 3:5. Consider this: The only two possible water baptisms John 3:5 can refer to (if it does at all) are Christian baptism or John’s baptism. However,
1. It cannot refer to Christian baptism, since it wasn’t instituted until the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Sam Storms writes, “Would Jesus have rebuked Nicodemus for ignorance of an ordinance about which nothing had yet been said?” (John 3:10).http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/john-35-part-i/
2. It cannot refer to John’s baptism, since, as Sam Storms writes, “the text clearly coordinates water and Spirit whereas John uniformly contrasts his baptism, which is in water, with the baptism of the Messiah, which is in Spirit (cf. Mt. 3:11)” (Storms, Ibid.)
On the unitary nature of “water and Spirit” in John 3:5, Storms also writes:
The “begetting” or regeneration of which Jesus speaks is unitary, that is to say, there are not two births experienced, each with its respective agency, one by water and another by the Spirit, but one birth “by water and Spirit” in which the Spirit is the dominant factor. The text does not say “born of water and of Spirit” but “born of water and Spirit.” One preposition (ek) governs both nouns. It is a single “water and Spirit” birth.[2] Hence “water” is to be understood as coordinate with the “Spirit” rather than independent of or contrasted with it. (Storms, Ibid.)
And one cannot argue that those who received John’s baptism would in time inevitably receive Holy Spirit baptism. Prior to Holy Spirit baptism which commenced at Pentecost, it was believers—not those baptized by John—who were promised Holy Spirit baptism:
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
D. The Jesus in John 3:5 is the same Jesus who saved people without requiring them to be baptized in water. Consider the following:
“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’”(Matthew 9:2)
“ ‘Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” (Luke 7:47-50)
“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:8-10)
And so the question is, if Jesus teaches salvation by water baptism in John 3:5, is this a different Jesus in the passages above, since he saves these people without water baptism? Of course not. Jesus saves without water baptism, as the passages clearly indicate. And by implication, the passages rule out the view that John 3:5 teaches salvation by water baptism.
We must note how the Luke 19 passage above mentions, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus did not baptize Zacchaeus in water. And yet Jesus saved him.
In light of this consider that John 4:2 says, (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), …” One would think that if water baptism is necessary for salvation, then Jesus would have baptized those He saved during His earthly ministry.
But the way Jesus sought and saved men during his earthly ministry (as well as today) is through the internal cleansing of the word, not external cleansing of water baptism. Jesus says in John 15:3: Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you”—He does not say, “Already you are clean because of water baptism.”
When we miss this important distinction between internal and external cleansing, we are no better than blind Pharisees. As Jesus scolded the Pharisees of His day:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind PhariseeFirst clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Matthew 23:25, 26)

This post is a work in progress

21 comments:

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

As one who relaltively speaking has been convinced of baptismal regeneration, I may not be the most abled person to respond...but

1) To insist that “water,” “washing,” and any related words must refer to physical water is arbitrary and absurd.

To my knowledge, those who hold to BR do not teach that "water, etc" must refer to baptism in every case. At the very least, I do not. Context would dictate the meaning. You see BR intrepreting "water" as water baptism too much and we say you intrepret it too little. Simply because Jesus and uses water to refer to something other than baptism, of course does not negate the fact that He does use water to positively refer to baptism.

Figure we can take it in steps, so would you agree that one could hold to BR and not think "water" "must" refer to baptism in every case?

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Also...lest I forget,

No, to avoid appearing foolish a baptismal regenerationist must equivocate and say, “well, the meaning of water must depend on the context.” Once he does this, he surrenders any hope that the context of John 3:5 demands a baptismal regeneration reading.

Well, I disagree of course that relying on context "surrenders any hope" since the context can demand a BR reading...just like it could demand it not be BR. Dont we use context to determine meaning?

Baptism could be demanded, not soley because "water" is used, but in fact because the context demands it.

in Him,

Joe

Ken said...

Hi Joe,

" . . . so would you agree that one could hold to BR and not think "water" "must" refer to baptism in every case?

yes, you could see clearly that John 7:37-39 and 4:14 does not refer to baptism, yet still hold that John 3:5 does refer to baptism. I understand that.

Well, I disagree of course that relying on context "surrenders any hope" since the context can demand a BR reading...just like it could demand it not be BR. Dont we use context to determine meaning?

I agree that "surrenders any hope" is probably too strong, but overall, he made an excellent case for understanding John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 in a non-baptismal regeneration way.

Baptismal regeneration (and infant baptism) is very hard to understand for me for Lutherans, because it seems to go so strongly against the principle of Sola Fide.

How does the context of John 3 point to baptism? If Jesus is hinting at John the Baptist and his baptism in chapter 1, He seems to be saying that water baptism is not enough; the Spirit must also come and bring regeneration. External ritual does not regenerate. That "if" is a big "if". Most point to Jesus' rebuke of Nicodemus and his lack of understanding what Jesus is saying, because of the teaching in Ezekiel 36:26-27. (John 3:10)

The context of John 3 has a lot of emphasis on faith also - John 3:12, 15, 16, 18.

And an infant cannot understand sin, nor repent nor have faith in Christ.

Ken said...

Also, many others take "water and spirit" as physical birth by water and spiritual birth by the internal working of the Holy Spirit at the point (right before) of repentance of faith.

The context of verse 6 could point to that. "that which is born of flesh is flesh" (physical birth) and "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (Spiritual birth)

The whole context of Nicodemus asking, "how can a man enter into the womb of his mother and be born again?" (verse 4) points to physical birth.

That was the view I was taught for years, but I think the view of internal cleansing and seeing it from Ezekiel 36:26-27 is the best view of John 3:5. Carson makes that point in Exegetical Fallacies ( I remember this in seminary); and the author of this article makes that excellent point also. The quotes from Reformed thinkers such as Robert Reymond and Gordon Clark were insightful and sharp.

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

Good to hear that you disagree with his first point.

I was planning on just going through the article, but I have a moment here to quickly respond to your last posts.

Baptismal regeneration (and infant baptism) is very hard to understand for me for Lutherans, because it seems to go so strongly against the principle of Sola Fide.

Experientially, I totally get it. Raised Lutheran - went to Nondenom - in college heard and fell in love with Sproul as he and John Murray basically convinced me of IB and hence became Reformed - was convinced of the Lutheran view of the sacraments - and now Lutheran.

But of course, currently do not remotely see any contradiction with sola fide with either IB or BR. I probably never did with IB, but did for a period with BR.

I see both as a really beautiful picture of grace/faith/christ alone. Were passive in baptism...it is God working through water and Word...and consequently not without faith.

How does the context of John 3 point to baptism?

John the Baptist ministry of course was continually characterized by water baptism. This would have been naturally on everyone's mind. Its apparent that the Jewish leaders, Nicodemus being one of them, assume the the Christ would baptize...since they asked John why he was since he was not the Christ/Prophet/Elijah. Jesus is baptized with water and Spirit comes. Prior to Jesus/Nicodemus exchange John proclaims that he baptizes with water and the Christ will baptize with Spirit. Then we have the exchange with Nicodemus in question, with Jesus using "water and spirit" as to how one is born again specifically (not born the first time) with immediately following Jesus and his disciples went to baptize...and John continuing to immediately baptize because there was plenty of water all in the same chapter.

So yes, IMHO, the context screams that water in 3:5 is baptism...at least I have no idea how Nicodemus could have thought anything else, especially amniotic fluid!

If Jesus is hinting at John the Baptist and his baptism in chapter 1, He seems to be saying that water baptism is not enough; the Spirit must also come and bring regeneration. External ritual does not regenerate. That "if" is a big "if". Most point to Jesus' rebuke of Nicodemus and his lack of understanding what Jesus is saying, because of the teaching in Ezekiel 36:26-27. (John 3:10)

Right, external rites alone do not regenerate. Water is just water, but added to His Word/Spirit...it becomes regeneration. Rites/sacraments can certainly do such amazing things if that is God's intent. Spitting in one's eye would not normally heal, but add Jesus' saliva with Jesus words and intent...He of course can use any mode He desires to accomplish his purpose. And in baptism, those that hold to BR see it as God's ordinary way to accomplish something much more than a symbolic gesture. Just like hearing the Word that brings faith...it is not like we have special ears or the preacher has a special voice, but when the particular mode is brought with the Spirit...then things happen.

The context of John 3 has a lot of emphasis on faith also - John 3:12, 15, 16, 18.

Right, we do not pit faith against baptism in the slightest...just the opposite.

And an infant cannot understand sin, nor repent nor have faith in Christ

I do not know the ins and outs of what an infant can understand to be sure...but I would deny that they cannot have "faith in Christ" or faith in God. I know we disagree here as we went down this road once before and PBJ had a very long discussion on it. But since we are talking about the Baptist anyhow, he certainly expressed some type of infantile faith while still in the womb. But I do not intend to discuss that since that will take us further away from this article.

Okay...I am late, sorry. Will try to contribute some additional thoughts after dinner tonight.

I sincerely appreciate the discussion.

in Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

Also, many others take "water and spirit" as physical birth by water and spiritual birth by the internal working of the Holy Spirit at the point (right before) of repentance of faith. The context of verse 6 could point to that. "that which is born of flesh is flesh"...The whole context of Nicodemus asking, "how can a man enter into the womb of his mother and be born again?" (verse 4) points to physical birth.

Yea, I do see some merit to this understanding, as I held to it at a point prior...but given the context in which we place Nicodemus (and Jesus of course), as briefly mentioned above, I think a much more natural (and compelling really) interpretation would point to water as baptism opposed to water as the first birth (since he was asking about the second birth).

That was the view I was taught for years, but I think the view of internal cleansing and seeing it from Ezekiel 36:26-27 is the best view of John 3:5. Carson makes that point in Exegetical Fallacies ( I remember this in seminary); and the author of this article makes that excellent point also. The quotes from Reformed thinkers such as Robert Reymond and Gordon Clark were insightful and sharp.

I would agree of course that there is an internal cleansing involved with John 3:5...but BR would claim that God uses baptism in the process of the actual cleansing.

As far as Reymond and Clark, I certainly hope to continue my remarks on the article as a whole. With Paris on Friday and this past Sunday our new Pastor installation, the weekend was a whirlwind.

in Him,

Joe

Cary Driscoll said...

In as much as Jesus emphatically states that nobody can be saved without being born again, it seems pretty clear that His words must be true for all who have ever been saved. Therefore, baptism can't be intended in John 3:5 given all those who have been saved without it.

Joe said...

Hi Cary.

We can speak of God ordinarily working through means (ie Sacraments), and that we are bound to His ordinary means, but that He is not bound by them.

My Lutheran tradition would say that baptism is necessary but not essential (Christ atoning work for ex) to salvation. That it is necessary, but not absolutely necessary.

So likewise, when Paul says "if one does not work, he should not eat"... we do not take that to mean that those who are mentally/physically unable to work are to be starved to death. No, of course, this is not an absolute mandate.

So, yes, there are plenty that are saved without baptism...but that does not falsify the norm of what the NT declares in several places what baptism does in fact do.

The context would certainly lead Nicodemus to believe that Jesus was referring to water baptism, as explained above. Water meaning baptism is the most natural and obvious meaning of the word in this context and...

Quoting Charles Krauth (Holy Baptism), "John in his gospel and epistles, uses the phrase "to be born of" fifteen times. In fourteen of them, it is not pretended that any of the terms used to designate the cause of the birth is symbolical. The fifteen instance is the one before us. The phrase to "be born of" is never connected elsewhere in the NT with terms indicative of the means or cause of birth, which are symbolical in their character. The whole NT usage is in conflict with the suppostion, that it is here linked with a symbolical term."

In Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

Getting back to the article:

2. Let us focus specifically on Titus 3:5. Again, it reads:
“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5) Again, the only hope for a baptismal regenerationist reading is that “washing” refers to physical water—but nothing in the context demands this to be the case. Now here are two reasons within the text itself why a baptismal regeneration reading is impossible:


Just curious if you agree that BR is an impossible reading of these texts?

The Bible considers water baptism a work, since:

Romans 4:1-12 considers circumcision a work. If circumcision is a work, so is water baptism, since both are external marks of the church, with water baptism replacing circumcision in the New Covenant era.


First, we do not consider baptism a human work but God’s work. Quoting Luther’s Large Catechism:

"For to be baptized in the name of God is to be baptized not by men, but by God Himself. Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God's own work...

But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God's. God's works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended...

Thus you see plainly that there is here no work done by us, but a treasure which He gives us, and which faith apprehends; just as the Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross is not a work, but a treasure comprehended in the Word, and offered to us and received by faith."


Second, Romans 4 speaks of circumcism and the law, not about baptism. Sure there are important similarities (that lead me to accept infant baptism) between the two, but they of course have major differences as well. The NT does not speak of baptism as a meritorious work of the individual.

Third, not that I have totally thought this one through, but circumcism and the law are somewhat inseparable…so in that vain, yes, the works of the law are in Paul’s mind when discussing circumcism, and therefore he could initially discuss circumcism alone as a human work, since it is representative of the entire law.

in Him,
Joe

Joe said...

(2) Consider also Matt. 3:14, 15:

“John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.”
Jesus considered His water baptism as part of fulfilling all righteousness. Is not fulfilling all righteousness works? Compare “fulfill all righteousness” with “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,” in
Titus 3:5.

Thus, Titus 3:5 denies water baptism’s role in salvation even before the verse gets to “the washing of regeneration.”


Either I am missing something, or this seems like a very odd point. This is Jesus’ baptism, not ours. Titus would not be trying to say that we are not saved by Jesus’ baptism, or any works that Jesus did. That would be most strange. Titus is saying that we are not saved by our own works - so even if it could be shown that baptism was a human meritorious work…it would not conflict with Matt 3:14, since this would be Jesus’ work, not ours.

This line of reasoning, to have any potential action (whether God's or ours) be considered a meritorious human work to be included in Titus is going out of the scope of its context. I would say even dangerously. This mode of argument would imply that belief/faith was a meritorious "work" since Jesus speaks of faith as a type of "work".

We are saved by Jesus, and His righteousness…. We are saved by Jesus’ birth, baptism, life, death, resurrection, ascension and His continual high priestly functions. In sum, we are saved by Jesus' works...and uses means to apply His works...ie just like He uses and works in preachers to bring forth the Word to save and bring faith, we see Him also using and working in baptism as well.

in Him,

Joe

Ken said...

Just curious if you agree that BR is an impossible reading of these texts?

yes

I know that some groups do; but if the person has a right grasp of the issue of the internal (Spirit reality) vs. external (ritual, form, work, action) makes it impossible.

Ken said...

The problem is that human beings are naturally externally oriented and look at externals, and sub-consciously and unconsciously even attribute external actions as actually causing something spiritual to happen. That is the problem.

Ken said...

Therefore, although it is performed by human hands, it is nevertheless truly God's own work...

Spirit baptism is God's work, and it is mysterious and happens at the time of repentance and faith in Christ. Baptism is an external human action/work that symbolizes what takes place on the inside.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12

But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what, then, becomes of faith? Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God's. God's works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended...

Baptism in water is a ritual / ordinance of the church that is external and is meant to be applied after a person expresses repentance and faith in Christ. Again Spirit baptism is God's work, baptism in water is something humans do with hands in water. I think that is why Paul separated water baptism from the gospel in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17.

However, if a person says, "Ok, I have repented of my sins and hate my sinfulness and turn to Christ and trust Him and His atonement to save me", etc. and then says, "But I refuse to be baptized" (or join a good local church), there is something wrong and I think we can say that that person has not really put his/her faith in Christ. The result (not cause) of true faith is baptism.

A person who claims to believe in Christ should naturally want to be baptized and join a good Biblical local church, because they are new creatures and they will want what God wants and honors in the Scriptures. Spirit baptism is the reality in conversion, water baptism is the natural result that testifies and symbolizes that internal baptism in the Spirit.

Ken said...

Either I am missing something, or this seems like a very odd point. This is Jesus’ baptism, not ours. Titus would not be trying to say that we are not saved by Jesus’ baptism, or any works that Jesus did.

The point he is making is not that we are saved by Jesus' baptism, but that that baptism in water is called "righteousness" and Titus 3:5 says "not by righteousness".

Jesus did not need to be baptized, because He had no sin, and no need for repentance. But it seems that He went through the ritual of water baptism to show that the external ritual is important and a command that we should obey, albeit after true repentance and true faith in Christ. "fulfilling all righteousness" show Jesus obeying the commands of the New Covenant - "be baptized".

Ken said...

Reading this again, I felt it needed some clarification.

Just curious if you agree that BR is an impossible reading of these texts?

yes

I know that some groups do believe it means baptismal regeneration; but if the person has a right grasp of the issue of the internal (Spirit reality) vs. external (ritual, form, work, action) makes it impossible to view it as meaning baptismal regeneration = causing regeneration..

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

yes...I know that some groups do; but if the person has a right grasp of the issue of the internal (Spirit reality) vs. external (ritual, form, work, action) makes it impossible.

The problem is that human beings are naturally externally oriented and look at externals, and sub-consciously and unconsciously even attribute external actions as actually causing something spiritual to happen. That is the problem.


Right, I know that BR is not your view, but just wondering what part of these 2 texts would indicate an impossible BR reading…where the simple and natural, and I would say explicit meaning of the baptismal texts (all of them, not just John/Titus) would show that something external does cause something internal to happen. Even without the issue of baptism, you believe the external preaching of the Word brings internal faith…so I am just curious as to why this would be impossible here with baptism. What in these texts would indicate an impossibility.

Plus, as a related but probably side issue for this article, I do not see humans being externally oriented an inherent problem. God commands all of the place to do externals, of course, not at the negation of internals. It is how we are wired, how we learn, how God distributes His gifts, etc...

in Him,

Joe

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

Spirit baptism is God's work, and it is mysterious and happens at the time of repentance and faith in Christ. Baptism is an external human action/work that symbolizes what takes place on the inside.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. Colossians 2:11-12


Right, baptism is God's work. That is Luther's point. So the charge that it violates sola fide, falls flat. But, IMHO, it seems very gnostic to pit water baptism or anything physical/eternal as a necessary evil... From the beginning of scripture in Gen 1, to the end in Revelation...we see the Spirit with the water. Given the multitude of biblical texts stressing what baptism does, and what the sign of the covenant did do for the Jews... I do not see how the first christians would have so sharply separated the inner/outer working of baptism. And of course, they did not, and held to BR.

I would say using "hands" to baptize is no more of a "work" as the article explains, than a minister preaching the Word to bring faith...

Again Spirit baptism is God's work, baptism in water is something humans do with hands in water. I think that is why Paul separated water baptism from the gospel in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17.

Yea, I think "hands in water" being some kind of work really misses the point. Not sure how it would be different than the minister preaching as said earlier. As far as 1 Corinthians....I think Jordan Cooper has some good comments on that:

Second, if anything is to be inferred from this text, it seems that Paul‟s writing necessitates something beyond a purely symbolic approach. Paul is assuming that those who baptized the individual in the congregation would be so identified with the one receiving the sacrament that those receiving baptism would attribute their Christian life to the hands of the baptizer. It is apparent that Paul assumes a saving efficacy in the baptismal act because he states that those who were baptized would view their baptizer as a savior. If one were baptized by Paul, he fears that the baptized might place in Christ‟s own role as instrumental in one‟s salvation. This is apparently the reason why Paul negated baptizing in Corinth. Paul demonstrates this misunderstanding of the Corinthian church by rhetorically asking, "was Paul crucified for you?" Apparently some in the congregation were claiming to be followers of the one who performed the sacramental act, negating Christ‟s role in one‟s conversion. It is highly unlikely that a practice considered a symbol or sign without soteriological efficacy would cause such division allowing one to be so identified with the baptizer so as to neglect Christ's role in salvation.

If baptism was a purely symbolic act, demonstrating one‟s faith, there would have been no purpose in baptizing on behalf of the dead. If  baptism brings one into the covenant community of the church apart from regeneration as in Calvin‟s approach, baptizing for the dead is also logically incoherent. However, if the Corinthians viewed baptism as a means of salvation, the reason for baptizing the dead is apparent. Seemingly the Corinthians assumed that baptism on behalf of either an unbeliever or Christian who had not received baptism would assure their resurrection. This is the only context in which Paul‟s rhetoric is sensible in arguing that the concept of baptism for the dead presupposes a doctrine of resurrection.


in Him,

Joe

Ken said...

Even without the issue of baptism, you believe the external preaching of the Word brings internal faith . . .

No, not automatically - only when the Spirit comes with the preached word - only when God the Holy Spirit comes mysteriously with the external word does He bring about the opening of the heart in order to believe.

Acts 16:14 - "the Lord opened Lydia's heart to respond to what Paul was preaching."

A lot of preaching sometimes does not bring faith. It all depends of God and the Spirit "blowing where He wants to blow" - John 3:8

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Joe: "My Lutheran tradition would say that baptism is necessary but not essential (Christ atoning work for ex) to salvation. That it is necessary, but not absolutely necessary.

...

So, yes, there are plenty that are saved without baptism."


If you agree that plenty of folks who are saved without baptism, then how can you even claim or argue that baptism is necessary, let alone absolutely necessary?

FWIW, this necessary and absolutely necessary seems to be an artificial distinction without a difference.

Joe said...

Hi Ken.

No, not automatically - only when the Spirit comes with the preached word - only when God the Holy Spirit comes mysteriously with the external word does He bring about the opening of the heart in order to believe.

Acts 16:14 - "the Lord opened Lydia's heart to respond to what Paul was preaching."

A lot of preaching sometimes does not bring faith. It all depends of God and the Spirit "blowing where He wants to blow" - John 3:8


Right, but that does resolve the double standard of claiming that water baptism is a “work”…since the preachers mouth (compared to baptizing with “hands”) “works” in the case of those whom the Spirit does come and convert with the Word.

Of course, I do not see preacher as a “work”, nor do I see baptism as a “work” that the NT excludes from salvation - that this current article attempts to deem. (and related, Lutherans confessionally reject the Roman concept of ex opere operato)

Concerning the spirit blows where it wishes, I have not be able yet to continue my remarks on the article, and I believe that point was coming up. Sorry for my slowness – CFP exams, church budget, family – crazy time of the year for me.

But I think your interpretation of “where the Spirit blow” just proves too much… It seems like we would have to ignore when God informs us in His Word as to where He will be and where He is. For ex, where two are more or gathered, there He is…but the meaning you assign to “blowing where He wants to blow”, would seemingly not allow for God being in the midst of 2 or more since the Spirit only comes mysteriously when He wants.

Those who hold to BR, believe that it is His will to be in and present with water Baptism. That He blows there because He wills to blow there, since He says as much about baptism in the NT (similarly, that He is present in the Supper). I just don’t see “blowing where He wants to blow” negating when He speaks of where He will actually be.

In Him,
Joe

Joe said...

Hi TLAD.

If you agree that plenty of folks who are saved without baptism, then how can you even claim or argue that baptism is necessary, let alone absolutely necessary?

FWIW, this necessary and absolutely necessary seems to be an artificial distinction without a difference.


We do NOT claim that it is "absolutely" necessary. I disagree that it is a distinction without a difference. In my example above, I used Paul's mandate that if we do not work, we should not eat. Do you interpret that to mean that Paul thinks those who are physically/mentally unable to work should also not eat? I assume not. If not, then we see a mandate, something necessary, but not absolutely so.

Hope that clarifies.

in Him,
Joe