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Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 16:16 Conundrum

It's been a while since I fried a few brain cells on theology and doctrine so let's jump in on it and see if I can generate some responses. I'm going to delve into something here that seems to raise a few hackles when addressed and if I'm wrong  please please please correct me!

Are we saved by faith all by itself? Then why does the Bible appear to say that we are we saved by both faith and works?
28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. 29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,  30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one. (Romans 3:28-30)
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, (Philippians 3:9)
So it's abundantly clear that Paul is relaying to us via the Holy Spirit is that we are saved not by works but by faith. But look - he doesn't say "works" he constantly states "works of the Law" meaning following the rules set down in the Abrahamic covenant. Can I therefore infer by omission that there are some works, not of Judaic law, that can save me? What does Jesus have to say about this?


It appears that Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior himself just might be the Catch 22, the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench:
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. (Mark 16:16)
Wait, what? Ok, this isn't good. God Himself has said through His son Jesus Christ has that you must be baptized as well as believe to be saved. Since baptism is an action so therefore it is a "work". But it isn't a part of ancient Jewish Law, baptism came later. Can I say "You must do this 'work' (be baptized) to be saved and it's not a work of the Law so Paul's assertions are still true"? or can I say "You don't need to be baptized to be saved" proving Jesus wrong? Talk about a conundrum! Is this finally the fabled Biblical Contradiction mentioned in atheist myths and legends, often referred to but never seen? 

Or are we just missing something. Lets go down this rabbit hole and see what we find

Looking at those verses from Romans, Galatians, and Philippians we can clearly see that salvation is not from works but by faith. But in Mark Jesus said "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved" - being baptized is doing something, therefore it's a work, so obviously someone is wrong and there's no way I'm going to say it was Jesus.

You can't take a single verse and set a doctrine from that (it's a very cultish thing to do) so we look through the bible for other references and compare what the Bible tells us to that original verse. Here's several passages in the bible that refer to baptism;
Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38)
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21)
Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (John 3:5)
'Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.' (Acts 22:16)
So yes, baptism is clearly, biblically important. And again here's at least one verse (John 3:5) that says you must be baptized (born of the water) to enter the kingdom of God

If you study the published arguments on this conundrum you'll see many very good, very valid points. Nowhere in the bible does it say if you are not baptized you are damned and if you go back to the bible the "works of the law" rule is not universal. Ephesians drops it right here:
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
People much more knowledgeable about God's word than me remind us over and over that with any verse you need to take it in context and discern what it teaches through careful consideration of the language, of the next verse, and what the Bible as a whole teaches on the subject. Looking at the verse in a more scholarly way we can see that that there is no problem with the translation here in the NASB. And most surprising of all, even The Message has it right. As for context within the local verses, there's nothing to say that verse 16 is anything but part of a set of instructions that Jesus gave his disciples.

Many of the arguments against mandatory baptism of Mark 16:16 run effectively like this: if you believe and get baptized you will be saved is the same as saying "If you drive down Interstate 70 and drink coffee you will get to Denver." Yes, driving along Interstate 70 will get you to Denver. Drinking coffee while driving down Interstate 70 helps the trip, but the coffee doesn't really have anything to do with getting to Denver. 

I'm kinda buying that and kinda not buying that. I look at this whole baptism conundrum like this (and here's where I want to hear some responses):

The word Baptism in the original Greek is baptiz┼Ź which means 
1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one's self, bathe
3. to overwhelm
Definition #2 is what we most commonly think of when we talk about Baptism, from light sprinkling to full dunking, our practice of Baptism involves washing the body with water. Definition #1 also alludes to being immersed, dipped, or submerged like a sunken ship. Definition #3 is metaphorical - to be completely overwhelmed. 

My thought is "why can't baptism be definition #3?" Several times Jesus spoke of water but he didn't mean H2O, he meant the Holy Spirit 
10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)
37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)
Could Jesus have been talking about being overwhelmed (baptized) by the Living Water - the Holy Spirit? To me, at least, this falls more in line with Jesus' message than being dunked in a creek. I was baptized as an infant, but my 'accepted' baptism was a half century later when I was baptized in the ocean. But to me my real baptism was a year before my ocean dunking when Jesus adopted me as his brother and I swore fealty to Him, my Lord.

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