Issue #602 -------
December 19, 2013
The two great graces essential to a saint in
this life are faith and repentance. These are
the two wings by which he flies to heaven.
Thomas Watson (1620-1686)
As mortal, finite beings, the work of One who is immortal and infinite, we live within a physical realm created for us by our Creator who resides in an entirely different dimension, and yet who fully indwells our own. In this sense, therefore, the eternal intersects the temporal, the spiritual the physical, with the goal of the latter to one day partake more fully of the former. Until that glorious day, you and I exist at points along what has come to be known as a Space-Time Continuum. A physicist at Stanford University explained it this way: "In 1906, soon after Albert Einstein announced his special theory of relativity, his former college teacher in mathematics, Hermann Minkowski, developed a new scheme for thinking about space and time that emphasized its geometric qualities. In his famous quotation delivered at a public lecture on relativity, he announced that, 'The views of space and time which I wish to lay before you have sprung from the soil of experimental physics, and therein lies their strength. They are radical. Henceforth, space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality.' This new reality was that space and time, as physical constructs, have to be combined into a new mathematical/physical entity called 'space-time,' because the equations of relativity show that both the space and time coordinates of any event must get mixed together by the mathematics, in order to accurately describe what we see. Because space consists of 3 dimensions, and time is 1-dimensional, space-time must, therefore, be a 4-dimensional object. It is believed to be a 'continuum' because, so far as we know, there are no missing points in space or instants in time, and both can be subdivided without any apparent limit in size or duration. So, physicists now routinely consider our world to be embedded in this 4-dimensional Space-Time Continuum, and all events, places, moments in history, actions and so on are described in terms of their location in Space-Time."
Although this may all sound like "mumbo-jumbo" to many readers (few probably have a background in physics), there is an important point made that relates to our view of ultimate reality: as dwellers within and along this Space-Time Continuum, we place great value upon various significant (to us) events, marking their occurrence in ways that allow us to refer back to them. These "markers" are thus given historical, sociological, theological and certainly personal significance and worth, and are often remembered, and even honored, throughout our lives (and in the history of peoples and nations). Such "points in space and time" would have no real significance for those dwelling outside of this Space-Time Continuum, for their perspective would not be limited or restricted by these dimensions, for they would dwell in an entirely separate dimension. Indeed, God, who dwells in the eternal realm, perceives the entirety of our continuum as a single entity, seeing both beginning and end, and thus is not bound by the restraints that we experience. Therefore, while specific "markers" in space and time have great significance for US, they may be completely irrelevant to HIM (although He fully understands their significance for His creation). For example, God knows who are His from the foundation of the world, while you and I seek to pinpoint in time the precise split-second when God declares a person His child. Such a "marker" in space-time may have meaning for US, but for HIM it is truly irrelevant. Thus, while we worry about and war with one another over such matters as when one is saved -- is it before or after this or that event along this continuum -- God Himself is not limited by such pinpricks on a chart, for His only concern is our heart, which He has known intimately from the foundation of the world. Indeed, from His perspective, the Space-Time Continuum is viewed as a whole (beginning to end), a completed event; thus, no pinpoint along it (with the exception of when He placed Jesus within this continuum) is of such eternal significance that it should become the focus of the type of feuding and fussing and fragmenting of the Family that we too frequently witness. I am convinced that when we begin to view our journey along this continuum from the perspective of the Throne, rather than from our own narrow, partisan perspectives, our appreciation of who we are and where we are going will greatly improve, as will our reluctance to malign one another over our various religious "markers."
Dr. Minkowsky, quoted above by the Stanford physicist, made a point in his statement that triggers another important thought that has bearing on our understanding of spiritual realities. He stated, "Space by itself, and time by itself, are doomed to fade away into mere shadows, and only a kind of union of the two will preserve an independent reality." As I got to thinking about this statement, I realized it could just as easily be said of faith and repentance, for only in the union of these two do we truly find a significant spiritual reality. As Thomas Watson (1620-1686), a Puritan pastor and author from England who was one of the leading proponents of Monergism, declared, "The two great graces essential to a saint in this life are faith and repentance. These are the two wings by which he flies to heaven." None of us would deny the importance of these two, but how many of us truly grasp the significance of their union? Too frequently we separate the two, yet the more I study the matter the more I become convinced that faith and repentance are, in many ways, "two sides of the same coin" and should never be disconnected from one another. Therefore, such a question as, "Which comes first: faith or repentance?" (which question a preacher posed to me recently), is truly nonsensical. Once again we are trying to place our theological "markers" along our continuum, pinpointing pinpricks, and in so doing entirely missing the point. Faith and repentance walk hand-in-hand, side-by-side; thus, the ideas of "before" or "after" are irrelevant, and only lead to religious wrangling among sectarians over their various "markers" and where they are placed along the Space-Time Continuum. Again, as we come to appreciate the perspective of the Throne, we will begin to depreciate the value we place upon such "markers." It is the reality itself that is eternally significant, not the shadows or symbols of those realities upon which we tend to place a "marker" and then invest with some sacramental power. Sadly, the latter will continue to define our existence until we begin to perceive our journey through HIS eyes!
Salvation is a gift of God; a gift of His grace; a gift that was already a reality from the perspective of the Throne before He even created the heavens and the earth. Before anything was ever created, He already knew the names of those who were His. This may be difficult for finite creatures like us to grasp, but to the One who dwells outside of space and time, it is simply what is to Him Who is. To the "I AM," we ARE His beloved children, and always have been. Yes, you and I make our journey along this continuum, and we place our "markers" as we go along, but the reality, from HIS perspective, exists independently. So, is the eternal reality determined by our own puny pinpricks on a continuum, or are these "markers" for our benefit, as reminders and memorials of the greater reality that is ours by grace? I in no way diminish the importance to us of these events in our lives, but no single act on our part, no single point in time or space, is determinative of the eternal reality. Salvation is His gift to mankind, and that gift is received by faith -- which is non-substantive in nature (i.e., it can't be pinpointed in space-time; it is within us, and only God perceives the heart where that faith dwells). The same is true of repentance. It, like faith, is non-substantive; it is visible only to the One who sees into our hearts. To try and pinpoint the precise split-second of divine acceptance of this inner conviction (after all, even we ourselves may not be fully cognizant of that moment) is folly. We are saved by grace through faith. That is our reality. The visible "markers" of this reality then follow as we journey along this Space-Time Continuum, and those various "markers" are for OUR benefit, not for HIS. The eternal reality is not determined by these temporal "markers" -- rather, they are merely reflections of the reality.
Faith and repentance are united in the sense that they both are inner realities that require an outer or visible expression if others are to be aware of their existence. God, who searches hearts, knows whether genuine faith and repentance exist within us, but since He desires these inner realities to be known to those around us as a testimony to them of Him, these realities require a substantive expression. In other words, we must evidence or demonstrate (show) our faith and repentance. It is not the various visible demonstrations that save (as some seem to think), but rather these evidentiary acts serve as a witness to the genuineness of both faith and repentance, and are for the benefit, primarily, of others. This is why James insists that we must "show" our faith (James 2). Those who willfully and obstinately refuse to demonstrate their faith before others, display a heart that is closed to God's grace, and thus to His gift. Paul declared, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16). The good news is that we are saved by faith, as a gift of God's grace. WHY would anyone be ashamed to proclaim that truth? "Let the redeemed of the Lord say so" (Psalm 107:2). We are told that some of the Jewish leaders actually "believed in Him," they had faith, but they refused to confess Him because they feared being put out of the synagogue, "for they loved praise from men more than praise from God" (John 12:42-43). If we truly possess faith in Him, and if we have truly turned completely to Him in our hearts and minds, then He expects us to display this inner reality unashamedly in our daily lives.
As our hearts become increasingly convicted of Truth, our minds, at the same time, increasingly turn away from former pursuits and toward a growing relationship with God through His Son. This "turning away from and turning toward" is, by definition, "repentance," and it occurs along with faith; indeed, the two are inseparable. The two are also internal and invisible, evident to others only when we display them in our outward actions and attitudes. God sees the former, but He expects the latter as visible testimony ("markers," if you will) of the reality He perceives, but desires others to witness. Thus, we "show" our faith, as James instructs his readers in James 2, and we "bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance," as John the Baptist declares to his hearers in Matthew 3:8. Paul instructed those to whom he preached Jesus, that they should "repent, turning to God, proving their repentance by their deeds" (Acts 26:20). Faith and repentance, being inner realities, must be evidenced if they are to serve as effective and efficacious testimonies to others who dwell with us along this Space-Time Continuum. God knows our hearts, and blesses us based on that inner reality, but those around us do not have that ability to see within us. Thus, we must demonstrate who we are, and Whose we are, by our actions. These evidentiary acts then take on the nature of proclamations. In our baptism in water, for example, we proclaim the power of our Lord's sacrificial act of death and entombment, just as we proclaim the power of His resurrection to life by our own resurrection from the watery tomb. In the elements of the Lord's Supper we proclaim, once again, His sacrifice (that great eternal interaction within the temporal plane) until He comes again, bringing an end to this continuum, and merging us into the eternal realm. These, and other, visible manifestations of inner realities are not, in and of themselves, salvific (as the sacramentalists insist), rather they are simply the evidentiary acts of those inner realities and are for the benefit of ourselves and those around us, affirming and proclaiming those inner realities.
As we are believing, we are turning; as we are turning, we are believing. And as we do both, if both are genuine, we are showing forth these inner realities to those around us. They are witnessing the change within us, for it is visible in our actions and attitudes. As the Spirit, who indwells us and who merged (immersed) us into relationship with the Father through the Son, daily transforms us into His image, we daily evidence the reality of our "turning in faith" to the One who has redeemed us. The various visible acts performed by us (baptism in water, confession, compassion, loving others, acts of benevolence, acts of worship, and on and on) affirm and attest to our faith and new direction, but they themselves are not the substance of our salvation (either collectively or individually); they are simply the evidence of it and a testimony to it. We are saved by grace through faith. Period. Our lives are then spent demonstrating the reality of this "faith turning," a showing forth that will continue daily throughout our journey along this temporal Space-Time Continuum until that great day when we are raised and made fit to dwell forever in that eternal, timeless dimension with deity. May God hasten that day!!
From a Reader in Texas:
Wow! I just read your article "Aggressive Immersionism" (Reflections #601) and it was DEEP. Thank you, Al Maxey, for sharing your heart! I grew up in a conservative Church of Christ congregation, and I felt so jaded that I pretty much wanted nothing to do with Christianity, let alone the Church of Christ. Let me be clear: I love my fellow Christian brothers and sisters who attend Churches of Christ. In fact, I was led to faith in Christ at a Church of Christ congregation. I just got tired of all the rules and restrictions. It felt like I was in prison! Please note that this was my experience, and is surely not indicative of all Church of Christ congregations. I am a Christian, and I attend the --------- Church of Christ in Houston, and I love it here. Where I am now is FAMILY (something I had never experienced in previous Churches of Christ). I LOVE IT. If all congregations in the Church of Christ fellowship would preach more on Jesus (His death, burial and resurrection) and Grace, amazing things would happen in His name. Just saying!
From a Reader in North Carolina:
I know there are a number of people "finding fault" with your teaching and saying they are "troubled" by it. Quite frankly, I have found that the Church of Christ tends to find things wrong with everyone's teaching if it doesn't square with what is being taught in that person's very own building! Al, you are one of a small handful of Church of Christ leaders that I have ever seen who is willing to step away from their tradition and take an honest look at what the Bible actually says!! I don't attend a Church of Christ, by the way; this is just an observation from one seeing it all from the outside. I spoke to one preacher of a Church of Christ who told me that he would NOT worship with ANY congregation that had musical instruments. This is nothing but Legalism, and from this stems condemnation and division, which is just about all I have ever seen from the great majority of those in Churches of Christ. I have watched people nitpick Billy Graham to death for years (and they are now doing it to you). However, if people would spend as much time leading people to Jesus Christ as Billy Graham did, instead of fussing over every little issue, the world would be a better place, and the Churches of Christ would not be slowly dying in most places! Brother Al, please keep up the good work you are doing!!
From an Author in Texas:
Excellent post ("Aggressive Immersionism")!! Keep up the good work, Al. You realize, of course, that you are goading the very most "sacred cow" of the Church of Christ. I have been in a very lengthy written debate with Ray Downen about whether water baptism is essential to salvation, and he continues to dodge Ephesians 2:8-10 and Titus 3:5, the latter of which states that we are NOT saved by any works WE have done. Ray has not yet put forth the insane idea (although others have) that water baptism is NOT a "work of man." To me that is just a blatant attempt to cover up the fact that they are teaching "as doctrine the commandments of men."
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
I just shake my head, Al, when I read of how someone is "dressing you down" because they think they have the corner on "The Truth" and you aren't even on the same block! It reminds me of two of the finest men I have had the privilege to know: Leroy Garrett and my father: Bob Hoover. Leroy has written a plethora of great things over the years, as well we both know, but my favorite continues to be "The Principle of Available Light." Goodness, what a classic! And my dad had the best response to these brothers who seem to think they OWN "The Truth." They would say, "But, Bob, ______ (name of person) and/or _________ (name of denomination) are wrong!" And dad would respond, "Well, of course they are wrong. And WE are NOT?!" Classic! Carry on, good brother!
I too have long appreciated Dr. Leroy Garrett's thoughts on this subject matter. In fact, I referred to them in my own similar study titled: "Grace and the Caveman: Pondering the Parameters of Divine Acceptance of Human Response to Available Light" (Reflections #158). -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Alabama:
Brother, I'm in need of more help from you. First, thank you for always being willing to help this inquisitive soul with his questions. I have read your article "Grace and the Caveman" several times, and I agree with your conclusion, but I have a hard time working one thing out: how can I say that Jesus is the only way to heaven, yet believe that some who don't know about Him, or what He did for them, are still saved? I'm struggling with this, and I'm not quite sure how to make sense of it.
God chose to deal with the sin issue through the ultimate act of His Son on a cross. Jesus paid the price in full (one man for all men), thus sin was forever dealt with once and for all people everywhere. The eternal benefit of that powerful act of atonement will be bestowed upon ALL who seek and find the Creator, whether they know all the details of His loving, gracious GIFT or not. Such is the very foundational premise of the "available light" teaching of the Scriptures (as both Leroy and I point out in our studies). Salvation is not knowledge-based, but rather faith-based, and is bestowed as a gift of divine grace to those who believe in their Creator. Far too often we proclaim a salvation based on human knowledge and performance, instead of a salvation based upon divine grace, mercy and love. In the former we seek to deal with the sin problem via our own acts; in the latter, God has forever, once for all, dealt with the sin problem via HIS act. The gift of that "done deal" is for ALL who seek out and embrace their Creator in faith -- i.e., trusting in whatever level of Light has been made available to them (even those who, through no fault of their own, live in a place and time where the specifics and particulars of that great gift of grace are utterly unknown). Their lack of knowledge in no way diminishes the power of that divine act to save, for salvation is truly a gift of grace to those with hearts and minds intent upon perceiving their Creator according to whatever revelation has been made available to them. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Texas:
I was listening last night to one of your classes in 1st Peter (Encouragement for the End Times) in which you mentioned a man who kept on asking you in a Bible class how much one had to DO in order to be saved, and that he never could really grasp your responses to him that our redemption and salvation are the GIFT of God: that we don't merit or earn being forgiven and saved by God. I'm just wondering if perhaps, on a list of the top ten most difficult verses to understand in the New Testament, Eph. 2:8 might be somewhere near the top!
One would think that this passage would be the very epitome of simplicity: we are saved by grace through faith as a gift. However, when one has been steeped in legalism one's entire life, and brain-washed by this false doctrine decade after decade, the beauty of this truth is hard for them to grasp. They are so convinced that salvation is something THEY must accomplish in some way (or at least participate in to a large degree), that they simply can't fathom the Father's gracious gift. It is incomprehensible to them. Paul bemoaned this very mindset in his own countrymen in Romans 10:1-4. It is truly pitiful to behold. Thus, for them, one of the greatest verses has become one of their greatest curses, for they choke on it repeatedly. -- Al Maxey
From a Minister in California:
Al, do you agree that at some POINT one obtains remission of sins?
I believe we miss the point by focusing on "a point." God, who is outside of time, is not concerned with the calculation of split-seconds in our faith responses. He knows our hearts and He thus knows who are His. We are saved by grace through faith. Trying to pinpoint "a point" with respect to the development of faith is futile, and is folly. We may be able to pinpoint a point in time when we evidence our faith, thus testifying to its validity, but if salvation is truly by grace through faith, as Scripture asserts, then it is THIS that saves, not any particular evidentiary act which may occur at some point along the Space-Time Continuum. Yes, you and I, being residents of time and space, have our "markers" upon which we may "hang our religious robes and sectarian sweaters," but our union with the Lord is by faith, and that state of heart and mind can't be narrowed down to a pinpoint in time. To attempt to do so only leads to religious wrangling. I would urge the reader to please examine my study on this from six years ago: (Reflections #348) -- "The Split-Second of Salvation: Is it Imperative for Us to Perceive the Precise Moment of God's Acceptance?" -- Al Maxey
From an Elder in Florida:
I guessed who it was you had in mind in your last article as soon as I read your introduction to what he had to say, and that he said he knew what you believe better than you do yourself. Over the past two or three years I have had a number of exchanges with Ray Downen about Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 12:13. He persistently says I mean something I have not said, and also takes some of what I do say without considering the qualifications I put upon these statements. He interprets "Spirit" in this passage without regard to context, and then never responds when I point out that context. I've given him up as someone with whom I choose not to dialogue on this matter any more!
I have experienced the very same thing with this individual, and over the very same passage. He has been attacking my study of this passage for years (Reflections #353 -- "Immersed By One Spirit" ... which is also the title of my third book), and has even co-authored tracts on my "error" that he sends out everywhere. I still love Ray, as I noted in my last article, but his behavior can certainly be maddening! I choose to believe he means well, but that he is simply confused and misguided. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Louisiana:
I'm with you on what you wrote in your Reflections article: "Aggressive Immersionism." More than two years ago, Ray Downen raked me over the coals for the very same reason. Hang in there, Al.
From a Minister in Indiana:
You sure know how to stir things up, don't you?! (LOL) Al, your articles always make me think. Thanks for that. As we have discussed before, we might not see eye-to-eye on the "point of pardon" issue, but we are definitely on the same team, brother! I won't weigh in on Ray Downen's beef with you, however I do believe he misrepresents your position. I surely would love to be able to go to Tulsa in 2014, but am not sure at this point it is gonna happen. Blessings to you, bro.
From a Reader in Alabama:
In reading your most recent Reflections on "Aggressive Immersionism," I came to the part about Billy Graham's belief on baptism and why he didn't baptize at his crusades. He says, "because we feel this should be done by the local pastors." First of all, let me say I agree with your belief regarding baptism, and I also greatly admire Billy Graham and believe he is my brother-in-Christ, even if we don't agree on every issue. I also love doing Bible studies written by Beth Moore. At least once a year I attend her conferences and always come away from these with a revived spirit and renewed dedication to serving my Lord. Both of these people are wonderful teachers and speakers with huge followings. However, I am bothered by the fact that when an "invitation" (Church of Christ terminology) is offered, they never mention baptism. When asked about this, Beth Moore's response is very similar to Billy Graham's. I hope I am not sounding like a "legalist," because I am not. This is just something that bothers me about these wonderfully gifted teachers. Do you understand what I'm saying? It seems like it would bother them not giving "the full picture," but leaving it to others to teach them "the rest of the story," so to speak. I was just curious as to your thoughts regarding this. I love reading all of your Reflections, by the way. May God bless you!
It may help to understand this apparent disconnect by realizing that not all ministries have the same
purpose, although all work together to achieve one great goal: a saving relationship with the Father through the Son with an ever-increasing
transformation into the image of the latter by the power of the indwelling Spirit. All who serve the Lord by reaching out to those outside of this
saving relationship ultimately have this goal in mind. However, not all are gifted to perform the same service or engage in the same ministry.
Look at what Paul wrote in Eph. 4:11-13. There was a common goal, but various ministries, distinct from one another, yet working together to
achieve that goal. Paul, in looking at his own work and that of Apollos, noted that one was a planter of seed, while the other was called to water
and nourish it. God has arranged us within the One Body according to our various gifts, and we each serve as best we can according to our
abilities and opportunities. Some are feet, some are hands, some are eyes, some are ears. Together we form One Body, and each part was
designed and placed in the Body according to HIS will (1 Cor. 12:18). Paul sounds much like Billy Graham in this statement to the Corinthian
brethren, "I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. ...
For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:14-15, 17). Paul planted, but he left it to others to water and nourish.
This is a perfectly biblical "pattern" (if I may use that term).
Billy Graham is a very gifted servant of Christ Jesus, but his calling/gifting is not primarily as a "waterer" (although he
has done this at times), but rather as a "planter." He does a fabulous job in his crusades of informing people about who Jesus is
and what He has done for them, but the "after teaching" and the weeks, months and years of spiritual nourishment and encouragement that are
a vital part of discipling is left to others more intimately involved in the lives of those who hear his message of God's love and grace. Such work
is simply beyond the scope of this man or his ministry. This does not mean he is deficient in his ministry (any more than Paul was deficient when
he left the baptizing to others), rather he is faithful to the specific work entrusted to him. Graham's purpose (and this applies to Beth Moore also)
was not to describe and discuss all the many ways our faith can be and should be evidenced throughout our spiritual journey through life, but
rather to bring people to that initial faith in Him. Others, who are called to shoulder the responsibility for discipling these new believers, will then
deal with the day-to-day aspects of that lifelong walk (including the various evidentiary acts of one's faith). To expect those called to a "planting"
ministry to somehow incorporate all aspects of a "watering" ministry into their every presentation would be to diminish the effectiveness of what
they are called to accomplish. Let planters plant and waterers water; after all, it is God who ultimately is in control of the growth and harvest
(please read Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 3:5ff).
Billy Graham is a very gifted servant of Christ Jesus, but his calling/gifting is not primarily as a "waterer" (although he has done this at times), but rather as a "planter." He does a fabulous job in his crusades of informing people about who Jesus is and what He has done for them, but the "after teaching" and the weeks, months and years of spiritual nourishment and encouragement that are a vital part of discipling is left to others more intimately involved in the lives of those who hear his message of God's love and grace. Such work is simply beyond the scope of this man or his ministry. This does not mean he is deficient in his ministry (any more than Paul was deficient when he left the baptizing to others), rather he is faithful to the specific work entrusted to him. Graham's purpose (and this applies to Beth Moore also) was not to describe and discuss all the many ways our faith can be and should be evidenced throughout our spiritual journey through life, but rather to bring people to that initial faith in Him. Others, who are called to shoulder the responsibility for discipling these new believers, will then deal with the day-to-day aspects of that lifelong walk (including the various evidentiary acts of one's faith). To expect those called to a "planting" ministry to somehow incorporate all aspects of a "watering" ministry into their every presentation would be to diminish the effectiveness of what they are called to accomplish. Let planters plant and waterers water; after all, it is God who ultimately is in control of the growth and harvest (please read Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 3:5ff).-- Al Maxey
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
I guess I've been doing it all wrong, too. Like Billy Graham, I have told many people about Jesus, but I've never baptized any of them. But, then, I'm a woman. So what does Ray Downen think about women baptizing people? I really appreciate what you are trying to do, Al, but you will never get everyone on the same page! So, just keep preaching Truth to them. Sooner or later they will figure it out.
I can't say for certain how Ray Downen feels about women performing baptisms, but I can share with you my own views: Reflections #239 -- "Gender Regeneration: May Women Perform Baptisms?" -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Alaska:
Al, if you have never read this book by J. R. W. Stott -- "The Preacher's Portrait" -- it is worth your time! I have read it twice and find it refreshingly foundational, which you might enjoy given your propensity to dig deep into all things Scriptural (a very healthy trait, I might add). One of the author's gems, which I have borrowed more than once, is: "text without context is pretext" (though some have added "for proof-text" to this oft-used phrase). This practice, I have no doubt, is a phenomenon you have encountered more often than you'd care to count. Greek usage is often explored in Stott's book, just as you also do in your Reflections. It was written in 1961, when the author was still maturing. I truly wish I had encountered it earlier in my spiritual journey. I only happened upon it when going to hear a man who had worked with Stott, so I did some homework on what Stott taught, and was very pleasantly surprised. Blessings in your work, brother.
From a Minister in Alabama:
I'm not sure how you keep up your schedule of writing and responding to emails from readers, but I wanted to share with you what I read on the web site of the church where Edward Fudge attends (Bering Drive Church of Christ in Houston, Texas). Under the heading "Baptism" (in the section on what they believe) they wrote: "Jesus Himself was baptized, and He ordained that those who believe the gospel should also be baptized. Jesus' baptism publicly identified Him as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Our baptism publicly identifies us as believers in Jesus as God's Lamb who took away our sins. We teach and practice believer baptism by immersion, seeing it as most consistent with baptism's meaning and with apostolic example. Respecting individual consciences, we also receive believers who were baptized by another form." The way I read this it sounds like where Edward Fudge worships immersion is not required to be a member of the congregation.
That does indeed seem to be the implication of that last sentence, although in the previous sentence they indicate they teach and preach immersion as being "most consistent with baptism's meaning and with apostolic example." I guess what I perceive them to be saying here is that they will not make their own convictions on this matter binding upon those who have complied with the command to be baptized, but who may have a different understanding or tradition with respect to how that command is implemented. In other words, they don't intend to refuse fellowship over FORM, but will instead welcome all who have, in sincerity of faith, sought to obey the command as best they understood it. By so doing we could perhaps say that they have opted for "the spirit of the law," rather than "the letter of the law" (although, clearly, we are no longer under LAW). I also found it interesting that the third sentence in their statement seems to imply (though I may be reading more into it than they intended) that they believe baptism identifies us as believers already cleansed of our sins, rather than THE act which accomplishes that cleansing. If that is their meaning, then they would certainly be in agreement with Peter who said, with reference to Cornelius and his household, "God, who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as He did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8-9). Later, these people evidenced their faith/repentance by being baptized, but Peter stresses that their acceptance by God, as well as their cleansing/purification, was by faith. We dare not miss this important truth, for to do so is to fall into the trap of turning an evidentiary act into a sacramental act, which only serves to diminish our Lord's sacrificial and substitutionary act. -- Al Maxey
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