Issue #609 -------
February 28, 2014
The Lord showed me, so that I did see clearly, that
He did not dwell in these temples which men had
commanded and set up, but in people's hearts; His
people were His temple, and He dwelt in them.
George Fox (1624-1691)
A reader in Mississippi sent me the following email the other day, "Al, thank you so much for your Reflections on 'Contacting the Blood of Christ.' May I ask a question on Titus 3:5? Is the 'washing' spoken of there a reference to the act of baptism in water, or is it referring to being baptized by the Holy Spirit into One Body, or something else entirely? The passage does not seem to me to indicate that this is something WE do, but then again in the Churches of Christ we have always been taught that this 'washing' means baptism in water. Yet the verse seems to be talking about what the Spirit does, not what we do. The passage seems almost contradictory if the 'washing' is a reference to baptism in water. Thank you again, Al, for all that you do to help so many people better understand the Word of God."
In the long litany of legalistic arguments, wranglings and proof-texts (most of which are shamelessly lifted from their context to form a pretext for the promotion of a sectarian, sacramental theology with respect to the rite of baptism), this one by the apostle Paul in his brief epistle to Titus on the isle of Crete is appealed to quite frequently. In our faith-heritage, many of us were indoctrinated to believe that whenever we encountered such words as "water" and "wash" in the NT writings, baptism "for the remission of sins and to be added to the church" was almost certainly, and almost always, in view (and if the passage didn't specifically state such, we were taught how to deduce, assume and infer it). We had developed a theology (the only "right" one), and we were comfortable with it, and, by George, we were determined to prove it, regardless of how self-deluded, dogmatic and divisive we became in doing so. It was a perfect mindset for establishing sectarian exclusivity based upon what we perceived to be "salvation issues." Disagree with us and you disagree with God; walk, work and worship with us, or be forever damned. Needless to say, "we" got a "reputation;" one that we have just recently begun to overcome, thanks to the willingness of many "among US" to actually read the text, rather than simply regurgitate a proof-text. It has opened some eyes and softened some hearts; our movement is maturing, and walls are coming down (erected by our arrogance) that separated brothers and sisters in Christ from one another. I am overjoyed to see this development in the Family of God, and thrilled that the Father has called me to be a part of it. Some much needed Holy Spirit remodeling and renovation is occurring within the hearts of His people (His dwelling place), and it is truly exciting to behold and experience.
In spite of the tremendous spiritual growth I'm witnessing in more and more of the leaders and members of my faith-heritage, there are still some who "hold to the old paths" of a very narrow, legalistic, patternistic interpretation of God's inspired written revelation, and these will likely fight to their dying breath to defend their dogma against the liberating spiritual maturity exploding all around them. For example, in his latest issue of "Hugh's News & Views" (mailed out on Tuesday, Feb. 25), Hugh Fulford, who reacts to almost every Reflections I mail out in his own publication, had this to say about the blood of Christ Jesus: "Are they (the 3000 souls baptized on Pentecost) saved 'on a hill called Calvary'? Yes, potentially." In other words, the shed blood of Christ might save them, BUT only if these 3000 did something to "contact the blood" shed that day on Calvary. And what was it they must DO? What act must they perform? That's right -- they had to get to the water! Thus, "saved by grace through faith" is a good theology, but it is incomplete (or so they teach). Until you insert water into the equation, no salvation occurs. Hugh concluded his article (titled "Grace," ironically) by saying, "And the day I did those very same things is the day I was saved by the grace of God through faith! The day you did those things (or will do those things) is the day you, too, were (or will be) saved by the grace of God through faith! Let no one deceive you into thinking otherwise." So, don't let Al Maxey tell you that Paul meant what he said when he wrote, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). What Paul meant to say is: "We are saved by grace through faith when we are baptized in water, and not a second before." Faith is insufficient to receive God's GIFT; we must DO something to obtain it, Hugh and those like him teach. What they don't realize, sadly, is that this teaching negates the very words of Paul in this passage, and is an affront to the grace of God and His free gift of salvation. We "are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood. ... justifying those who have faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:24-26). "We have been justified through faith, and we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand" (Rom. 5:1-2). "We have now been justified by His blood" (Rom. 5:9). Hold on, Paul; you're misleading people. Everything you said is true ONLY when those who have faith "contact the blood in the waters of the baptistery." Of course, Paul never even hinted at such a theology in any of those passages, but "that is beside the point," the legalists declare, "for that is undoubtedly what he meant to say." After all, Paul stated in Titus 3:5, "He saved us through the washing of rebirth." There you have it. Baptism in water. Case closed!
The baptismal regenerationists do indeed adore this passage ... or, I should say, that portion of it given above which they have lifted out of the surrounding context ... for, on the surface, these words do appear to substantiate their claim (just as a wresting of the phrase "baptism now saves you" in 1 Peter 3:21 appears to do -- please see my studies on this: Reflections #217 -- "Salvation by Immersion: A Reflective Analysis of 1 Peter 3:21" and Reflections #497 -- "Critical Question on 1 Peter 3:21: Pondering the True Meaning of the 'Pledge' of a Good Conscience as it Relates to Baptism"). They also focus on the word "washing," as that clearly implies, at least to their way of thinking, the necessity of water as the agent of washing, and then seek to link this term with Acts 22:16, which is yet another favorite proof-text for their sacramental theology (please see my refutation of this dogma in Reflections #507 -- "Wash Away Your Sins: A Reflective Study of Acts 22:16"). The problem here is, in part, with their hermeneutic (their interpretive process), for they approach the Scriptures with a preconceived theology and then "search the Scriptures" to substantiate what they have already determined to be true. Thus, when they come across such words as "wash," when used in conjunction with the concept of a spiritual renewal, it has only one possible meaning to them. The same with terms such as "baptism," which invariably will signify to them a "washing in water." Thus, they almost literally foam at the mouth when anyone dares to suggest these terms may have a different meaning and application (as per the use of "baptism" in 1 Cor. 12:13, which I believe one can easily demonstrate has nothing to do with baptism in water, but rather is an action of the Holy Spirit; see my study of this in Reflections #353 -- "Immersed By One Spirit: Reflecting on 1 Corinthians 12:13"). Is it just possible the term "washing," as used by Paul in Titus 3:5, may have a similar alternate meaning and application? Is it just possible that this may be an act of the Holy Spirit, rather than an act of man? Is it just possible "baptism in water" is NOT what Paul meant by "washing"? Some will become quite upset that these questions are even asked (as it challenges a favorite proof-text, and thus brings into question their theology), yet they are legitimate queries.
There is no question that many see "baptism in water" as the true significance of Paul's statement in Titus 3:5. Indeed, some regard this passage as "proof positive" that baptism in water is the literal "sacrament of salvation for sin-sick souls." In commenting on this text, Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a noted Lutheran theologian and writer, declared, "God uses a washing of water, Holy Baptism, as a means to transmit and seal to the believer the inestimable benefits of salvation. ... The water of baptism works a renewing of the heart and mind. ... Thus, the water of Baptism, in itself simple water, is endowed, by the power of God and the Holy Spirit, with such wonderful properties that it actually becomes the bearer of the salvation of God to the heart of man" [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 430]. Dr. Charles Ellicott (1819-1905), the Bishop of Gloucester and a distinguished English theologian, academic and churchman, concurs with this view, stating that what the apostle Paul had in view in Titus 3:5 was "the baptismal font," which was "the vessel consecrated to the use of that sacrament whereby the new life in Christ is conveyed" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 261]. This baptismal font (baptistery), which he called "the laver of regeneration," was the very "means whereby He saved us" [ibid]. "In St. Paul's mind it was no mere observance, but was a sacrament" [ibid]. Dr. William Robertson Nicoll (1851-1923), a minister with the Free Church of Scotland, wrote, "God saved us by Baptism: the ceremony itself which marks the actual moment in time of the new birth" [The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 4, p. 198]. Sadly, there are those today who hold to this same false teaching, and they admonish you, "Let no one deceive you into thinking otherwise."
It is true that Paul uses the Greek word "loutron," which some have translated "laver," which in the Old Testament writings referred to the brass laver filled with water which stood between the tabernacle and the altar of burnt offering (Exodus 40:7), which came to signify to later baptismal regenerationists that standing between the sacrifice of the Lamb and the tabernacle (the church) was the baptistery. Thus, the blood of the Lamb won't get you "into the church" until you "go through the water." The meaning of the term in NT times, however, and as used by Paul, is "bath, washing." The only other place this word appears in the NT writings is Eph. 5:26, where it "is used metaphorically of the Word of God, as the instrument of spiritual cleansing" [The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 1215]. Although some liked the idea of retaining the term "laver" (for it could easily be said to suggest a "baptismal font," and thus helped substantiate their view of being "saved in the water"), most scholars realize this is a hermeneutical stretch, and that the use of the term "laver lacks corroboration, except in patristic treatises, colored by the dogma of baptismal regeneration" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 445].
Yes, the apostle Paul, in Titus 3:5, is speaking of a "washing" (a bathing) that takes place in the life of believers, but is that "bath" accomplished in the baptistery? Or, is there some other "washing" (bathing, cleansing) in view here? "The word here does not mean 'laver,' or the vessel for washing in; this word cannot be properly applied to the baptismal font" [Dr. Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. If the act of being baptized in water is in view here, then Paul is speaking of something you and I must do in order to receive His gift of justification, salvation and sanctification. However, is that what the context suggests? Notice the first part of this passage (which is rarely quoted by the sacramentalists): "But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy" (Titus 3:4-5a). It is then that we read, "He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:5b-7). I like the way The Message phrases this: "God stepped in and saved us. It was all His doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit." The grammatical construction of this passage in the Greek makes it abundantly clear that the washing, renovation and renewing are all done by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, Paul stresses that our own acts, even though they may be righteous in nature, have nothing to do with this gift of grace. We are saved by HIS action, not by OURS. It is a transformation accomplished by the Spirit, and is ongoing in our daily lives as He indwells us and increasingly transforms our nature into the likeness of the Son (who is the very reflection of the Father). To suggest the "washing" is something WE do in a baptistery is to undermine the very teaching of Paul in this passage, and is an affront to the grace of God.
We are the dwelling place (the "naos" = the sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit of God, both individually (1 Cor. 6:19) and collectively (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16). His indwelling is transformational: He is daily renovating and renewing and remodeling this dwelling; cleaning it up; giving it a good washing. God purchased us for His own by the blood of His Son; we opened the door of our dwelling by faith to this gift of grace, and God moved in. Dwelling within us, He is not content to leave us as we were, but washes, renews and renovates us continually by the power of His indwelling Spirit. It is this of which Paul speaks in the passage from his epistle to Titus. Baptism in water has absolutely nothing to do with Paul's message here (indeed, to impose that practice upon this passage as its intended meaning would utterly destroy the truth Paul sought to convey). The other two key Greek words used by Paul in Titus 3:5, by the way, are "palingenesia" and "anakainoo." According to The New Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, the first word means "a spiritual renovation" [p. 1284] and the second signifies "to make new, not recent but different; to renew" [p. 944]. This refers to the daily renewal and renovation of the inward man, and "stresses the continual operation of the indwelling Spirit of God" [ibid]. Dr. Kenneth Wuest, in his Word Studies from the Greek New Testament [vol. 2, p. 199], states that these terms, as used in extra-biblical writings of the time, referred to people reclaiming, recovering, restoring a dwelling, which most certainly is what God has done with each of us who are now, by grace through faith, indwelt by His Spirit.
IF, however, the baptismal regenerationists are correct in their interpretation of this text, "then we have the questionable teaching of a material agency as the indispensable means for producing a spiritual result" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 445]. Obviously, such a view is false. Therefore, "we accept the 'washing' as a divine inner act, although the experience is symbolically pictured in Christian baptism. In the NT the inner experience is viewed as openly confessed before men in baptism, but the rite does not produce the inner experience of spiritual" renewal and renovation [ibid]. "This process of renewal in the believer is the work of the Holy Spirit. He alone can produce a new nature that finds active expression in an entirely new manner of life" [ibid, p. 446]. By making this text a "proof-text" for a human act, we promote a deadly theology. Dr. Albert Barnes emphatically declared, "On almost no point has so much injury been done in the church as by the application of the word 'regeneration' to baptism" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. By such teaching, we take the focus off the grace of God, and place it upon the works of man. "Salvation is God's gracious work, not a reward for man's worthwhile acts" [The Ryrie Study Bible, footnote]. "None of this occurs because we earned or deserved it; it is all God's gift. ... Based upon the redemptive work of His Son, the Father forgives and sends the Holy Spirit to wash away our sins and continually renew us" [The Life Application Bible, footnote]. The blessed reality of the child of God is that "inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). This is the same Greek word used in Titus 3:5, and points to a progressive sanctification which is the work of the Holy Spirit within us (the very point Paul sought to make in his epistle to Titus).
R. C. H. Lenski, in his commentary on Titus, observed, "In His act of saving us, God could not take, and did not in any way take, into consideration any works that had been done by us, for which we might in any way claim righteousness. ... His act of saving us was in toto an act of mercy" [p. 932]. Dr. A. T. Robertson, one of the leading NT Greek scholars of the past few centuries, in his comments on this passage, concedes that baptism in water "is the picture or the symbol" of what is here being discussed by Paul, "but not the means of securing it. ... The Holy Spirit does the renewing," and man then afterward "submits to baptism to picture it forth to men" [Word Pictures in the NT, e-Sword]. "This salvation, procured by the obedience and death of Christ, has its origin, not in works of righteousness done by man, as entitling him to it, but solely in Divine mercy. We are not saved by our own works, even though they should be done in obedience to a righteous law. If we were saved in this way, Christ would have died in vain. The condition of salvation is Divine mercy. It streams forth from the blood and righteousness of Christ. There is nothing in the passage to support the doctrine of baptismal regeneration" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21, Titus, p. 50]. Perhaps Adam Clarke sums it up best, saying, "Baptism is only a visible sign of the cleansing, purifying influences of the Holy Spirit. Baptism changes nothing; the grace signified by it cleanses and purifies. They who think baptism to be regeneration neither know the Scriptures nor the power of God, therefore they do greatly err" [Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 657].
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
You might already know this, but John Waddey died last week. He had recently been "marked and avoided" by the Contending for the Faith group for daring to refuse to bow to their demands for his "repentance." I sincerely doubt I would have agreed with John on very much, but I hate the way the "Contentious for the Faith" bunch treats people. By the way, I love your Reflections, Al. May God bless you.
Death of John Waddey -- As noted above, John Waddey passed away around the middle of February in Arizona, where he had been preaching for a number of years. According to the online obituary, he died suddenly, but I have no further details. He was 75 years of age. I think it safe to say that John was not a fan of my work! He had been a vocal critic of my ministry, and of me personally, for many years, and a great many of his articles in his publication Christianity: Then and Now were focused on attacking my teaching. He and I had corresponded a number of times, but I was never able to move him away from his strong theology of legalistic patternism. A number of my Reflections articles over the years dealt with our encounters. Although John and I did not see "eye to eye" on very many things, I nevertheless feel for his family, and hope you will all lift them up in prayer during this difficult time. -- Al Maxey
From a Minister in Germany:
It is still morning with you, but we are in the afternoon; beautiful Spring weather for Germany, in the high 40's. I'm leading a small congregation near Düsseldorf, and have heard of the congregation in Kaiserslautern where you preached in the 1980's (I hear good reports). I receive your Reflections and love them very much. They truly inspire and motivate me in my service to our church here. Keep up the good work.
From a Reader in Indiana:
Enclosed is my check for your new Adult Bible Class Study (the 2 CD set) titled Encounters With Jesus. Al, I have studied with the best, but your work is at the very top. May God continue to bless you, your family, and your work. Brother, you will never know just how many people you have helped until you get Home! Thank You!!
From a Professor at Lubbock Christian University:
Dear Al, Hope you are doing well. Please send me your new presentations on Encounters With Jesus. Enclosed you will find my check. May the Lord continue to bless you richly.
From a Reader in Kentucky:
Please send me the Encounters With Jesus two-CD set. My check for the amount is enclosed. Thank you, brother, for all your hard work on this series, as well as on your other projects.
From a Minister in Texas:
It's been some time since I've written, but I wanted you to know that our small group that meets Sunday evenings for Bible study will begin a study of "Patternism" this week. We are going to be using your Reflections articles on the subject. As always, Thank You for all the thoughtful studies you present in your Reflections each week. I just read your latest article on "Contacting the Blood of Christ." Thanks for taking on this expression. It has always been a pet peeve of mine that people so frequently use this expression to illustrate a spiritual act that cannot even be found in Scripture! I don't know how you find the time to prepare weekly sermons and classes, and thoroughly research subjects for your Reflections articles, then write them, in addition to your work as an Elder and a Hospital Chaplain, and all the other good works you do, but I just wanted you to know that a great many of us are so blessed by your work in the Kingdom. Please give our love to your family, and to all the Christ-followers at the Cuba Avenue congregation. Thanks again for all you do, and a special thanks for being a mentor to me in the short time that we had together in Alamogordo.
When I first moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico in June, 1998 (we came here from our previous work in Honolulu, Hawaii, where I was the Pulpit Minister for 6 years with the congregation on Keeaumoku St.), this dear brother was the Associate Minister here at Cuba Avenue, and he proved to be invaluable in our transition to this new work. He and his family also proved to be great friends and fellow workers in the vineyard. We had some good years together here, and I cherish those memories greatly. -- Al Maxey
From a Well-Known Church of Christ Leader:
Al, I just read your article on "Contacting the Blood of Christ." I can see that my own faith journey has often needed "trimming," and will always need those course corrections that come from years of "walking in the light" and the wise counsel of brothers like you who are biblical scholars. Your latest study, like so many of your other articles, has been very helpful to me. Some years ago, I know that I had a legalistic view of the Scriptures and of when and where we come into contact with the blood of Jesus. Thank you for helping me along my own journey of faith, Al. May God give you the strength and the vision to continue your ministry. I truly believe that you are changing many of our brethren whom you will never get the chance to meet this side of Heaven. You surely have helped me. I often think of you as that friend who helped my wife and me, and flew to the other islands with us, during a time of ministry when we were there in Hawaii. May God bless you.
From a Reader in Alabama:
Brother, you have done an outstanding job in Reflections #608 ("Contacting the Blood of Christ") of making clear the distinction between the roles of faith and baptism in our salvation. The religious clichés within churches today that promote heretical doctrines are staggering! God saves only by grace through faith, while baptism in water is simply a beautiful portrait of what He has done for us. Thank you again from all the way in Alabama for your awesome work, and for your obedience to God's Word! We need more men like you standing on immovable truths such as these.
From a Reader in Arkansas:
WOW!! Your latest article is a straight punch to the solar plexus of the legalists! This one will take their breath away! Good job, Al. You've given us yet another building block in the foundation of God's Grace.
From a Reader in Georgia:
Your article on the expression "contacting the blood" was Spot On, brother! Very courageous to speak the Truth this boldly. I'm gonna have to take out some insurance on you if you keep this Truth-telling up! (LOL) You just took on the #1 "Sacred Cow," right behind the Lord's Supper (another non-salvific command). Yes, baptism is a very special moment (so is our participation in the Lord's Supper). They connect us with Him in a way that nothing else can. BUT, to elevate these symbolic acts of association and connection to a level equal to what Jesus did for us on the cross is to make them idols, and to bestow upon these acts of men the power to effect our own salvation. That is indeed heresy! Either Jesus did it all, or His atoning sacrifice was insufficient. I, for one, just can't make myself utter those words. Thanks for your work, brother. My word to you for this week: DUCK!!
From a Christian Church Leader in Missouri:
Once again, your latest Reflections article ("Contacting the Blood of Christ") is an attack on Bible truth! What a shame that you don't want to do what Jesus said we MUST do in order to enter His Kingdom -- i.e., what He said to Nicodemus, and which John records for our edification, and what Luke reports Peter explained in clear words to his hearers on Pentecost who sought salvation in Jesus. You obviously do not believe that Paul was correct in writing Galatians 3:27, or that Jesus was correct in His Great Commission as recorded by Matthew. Baptism is just something Christians should do sometime, you assure us. How foolish that view is! How faithless that view is! But, it is excellent Baptist theology!!
From a Reader in Florida:
Welcome to your new church family, Al Maxey! You are now most certainly and certifiably a rank-and-file Baptist, joining your heretical friends Edward TULIP Fudge and Max BAPTIST Lucado. I am so glad that the publication "The Spiritual Sword" has eradicated you from the fellowship of the faithful.
From a Reader in [Unknown]:
Your latest Reflections ("Contacting the Blood of Christ") is surely one of the best you've ever written! It seems that the Church of Christ denomination latches on to certain phrases (such as: "water baptism is where/when you 'contact' the blood of Christ"), and then brings forth those phrases as though they encapsulate such truth as cannot possibly be reasoned against, thus seeking to substitute the phrase for any in-depth analysis of the issue involved. Your excellent article goes beyond the phrase to the issue. But, for the legalists and sacramental regenerationists, your study won't be sufficient, sadly, for them to trade in their use of this phrase for the Truth: we come "in contact" with the blood of Jesus when we accept by faith what that shed blood accomplished for us. It is not "in the water" that the blood of Christ appears with power -- this gets perilously close to the Roman Catholic concept of transubstantiation. The "wine into blood" of the Catholics and the "contacting the blood in water" of the Church of Christers may be more akin than many want to consider. The blood is applied to us by faith long before any baptismal water touches the new Christian. But, the truths you point out in your article won't penetrate into the hearts and minds of those who refuse to see. As is so often the case, the only barrier to perceiving Truth is the presumption one already has it (and if one has a "catch phrase" often preached and repeated, why think beyond it?!). Thank You, Al, for being willing to go beyond cherished phrases to get at Truth!
From a Minister in New Mexico:
"Contacting the Blood of Christ" was excellent, as usual for you! Peter's explanation in 1 Peter 3:21 is very much to this same point. Imagine a crowd of disciples convinced that sins are washed away in baptisteries (which reminds me of many in our own tradition who have needed a clearer understanding). Peter writes to correct their erroneous view by emphasizing: "not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience," and that salvation comes by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Baptism in water is beautifully symbolic of cleansing from sins, just as the analogy of Noah riding atop the flood waters while those who remained sinners drowned with their sin. Too often we forget Noah didn't get wet. We must understand we are saved by the resurrection of our Lord.
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
Dear Brother! Thank you so much for this much needed lesson! I have baptized, and seen baptisms, in many forms of water: rivers, ponds, the East China Sea, bathtubs, and even regular church baptisteries. Yet, I have never found one that contained blood (especially the blood of Christ). I believe it is faith in the Good News (what He has done for us) that saves, not what we do in water! While baptism is certainly important, as is the Lord's Supper, it is not a sacrament. Rather, it is an ordinance to be observed in order to show one's faith. By our constant preaching that it is baptism that saves us, we undermine the very Gospel we claim to believe!!
From a Reader in Alabama:
This phrase "contacting the blood" has long confused me! You have helped me to understand it a bit better by your article.
NOTE -- A Church of Christ blogger from Alabama by the name of Ned Heffington (not the reader above, by the way) notified me that he was resending my article to all of his readers and asking for their insights on what I had to say. He sent me a copy of what he wrote to them as he sent out my last Reflections: "Listers, I would like to hear from several of you on this subject. Included below is Al Maxey's weekly Reflections dated Feb. 21, 2014. I trust he won't mind my copying it here. Many of our churches (east of the Mississippi) emphatically insist on baptism as the contact point with the blood. Thanks for your time and comments." I thanked this brother for sharing my article, and I hope that he, in return, will share with me some of the comments he gets from his own readers. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
WOW!! Once again, after reading your latest issue ("Contacting the Blood of Christ"), I am reminded anew why I continue to subscribe to your Reflections. For my own benefit, I once researched commentaries and quotes from the Early Church Fathers and numerous representatives of various denominations for their views on the Greek word "eis." How could one little word create so much controversy?! Apparently, in Churches of Christ, this word is used to support a legalistic argument regarding baptism, rather than an action already taken by Christ (this latter, then, would make baptism our public witness to His work, as you have so clearly stated). Thank you again for your servant service!
I would refer the reader to: Reflections #515 -- "Peter's Problem Preposition: Reflecting on 'EIS' in Acts 2:38." -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in North Carolina:
I'm catching up on my reading of your Reflections articles, and I just wanted to write and say how much I enjoyed "Contacting the Blood of Christ." It has given me a lot to think about, and it has also given me a good measure of that blessed assurance in knowing that my wife and son are participants of that saving blood through their faith by the grace of God!
From a Minister in Arkansas:
I have always struggled with the teaching of "contacting the blood of Christ" in baptism, so I do see some problems with this theology. However, I still see a sense of necessity in the biblical teaching of baptism; it just seems that baptism is a very necessary part of the salvation process. I don't understand the argument about contacting the blood of Jesus in baptism; in fact, it doesn't make any sense. But, with all the Scriptural support for baptism, I just can't see it as a non-essential. Of course, I am open to further enlightenment on the topic because I find that I am nowhere close to having perfect understanding of God's great and holy Word.
I sent the following written response to this brother in Arkansas: "Like you, I firmly believe baptism in water is essential (it is commanded, after all). If the Lord commands us to do it, then we must comply. However, the question that begs to be asked and answered is: 'Essential to WHAT?!' I would question the salvation of anyone who obstinately refuses to obey this (or any) clearly stated command of our Lord. On the other hand, I believe disciples have turned this act into something it was never intended to be -- i.e., a salvific sacrament (and thus the very split-second in time) whereby God confers grace (His gift of forgiveness, redemption, salvation, etc.). Does the act of baptism save us (as some state emphatically), or is it a necessary and expected witness/testimony to our salvation? I firmly believe that baptism in water is a symbol; an evidentiary act of faith. To make it more than this, in my view, only serves to diminish the place and purpose of our Lord's act, and seeks to replace it with an act performed by mere men. Yes, the latter act may point to the reality of the former act, but it doesn't transcend it with respect to saving efficacy." A couple of days after sending the above response to this brother, he wrote me back saying, "Your response is right on with my thinking. I've always had a problem with this 'split-second in time' theology. It just makes no sense whatsoever. Thanks again!" For those who might like to explore this "split-second theology" further, I would refer them to 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 Indiana:
Al, thanks for your thoughts in your article "Contacting the Blood of Christ." I also believe the "means" of salvation is faith. Also, grace is the "basis" of our salvation. However, in my study, baptism seems to be the "time" of our salvation. I take it that, in your own study, you have concluded that we are justified and regenerated/saved without the act of baptism; or, in other words, the exact moment we transfer from a lost state to a saved state is at the moment of our faith in Christ Jesus.
As noted in my response to the previous reader, I tend to discount the validity of the whole "point in time" aspect of one's salvation (at least from God's perspective, although such Space-Time "markers" may have some relevance for men). I believe salvation is "by grace through faith," just as Paul declares. I also doubt any man has the ability to pinpoint at some precise point in time the actual split-second of God's acceptance (although some would declare it to be at the precise moment the nose breaks the surface of the water in the baptistery, and that a sudden death even one second prior to that point in time will result in eternal damnation). God judges hearts; He always has, He always will; He knows who are His, and doesn't sit on the edge of a baptistery awaiting the surfacing of a body part. Baptism, as I understand the teaching of Scripture on this topic, is an evidentiary act of faith in which we publicly testify to the efficacy and sufficiency of His gracious, loving gift. To make this evidentiary act of faith the precise point in time that God's grace is bestowed is to make that act itself sacramental in nature. I totally reject that theology. On the other hand, those who willfully and obstinately and knowingly REFUSE to evidence their faith via this commanded symbolic act, thereby display a godless and rebellious spirit, which is hardly demonstrative of the faith one must possess to receive that gift of grace (as James 2 suggests rather strongly). Thus, the symbol of immersion is critical to the evidencing of our faith, but it is NOT, in my view, a salvific act (in the sacramental sense). For those who might like to read of my own evolution of thought on this matter, I would suggest a reading of my 304 page book -- "Immersed By One Spirit: Rethinking the Purpose and Place of Baptism in NT Theology and Practice." These have been selling very well, by the way (as have my other two books), according to the publisher (who emailed me yesterday), in various online outlets (like amazon.com) and bookstores, and also on Kindle. I received a new shipment of all three books the other day, as I like to keep quite a few on hand for those who want signed copies. If you are interested in obtaining a signed copy, information on each of my books may be found at my Web Site. -- Al Maxey
From a Reader in Texas:
Thanks for your challenging article "Contacting the Blood of Christ." It is amazing how if a phrase is repeated often enough it eventually becomes accepted as true and "Scriptural." Yet, Dub McClish (and others like him) have to come to a personal "conclusion," rather than giving a direct quote from God's Word, to connect "contacting the blood of Christ" with the act of baptism. That's a lot of assumption and deduction, but not much Scripture! Well done, brother. Thank you!
From a Reader in Oklahoma:
It is interesting how things repeated so often can be assumed to be found in Scripture. And we tend to accept them without questioning. Yes, I have heard that phrase ("contact the blood"), but never really gave it much thought. Thanks for teaching me! Tomorrow I plan to ask someone where that phrase is found in the NT. (LOL)
From a Minister in California:
Just read your latest Reflections article on "Contacting the Blood of Christ." Very beautifully said, Al. You and I are on the same page. NOT the "faith + something I must do = salvation" page, but rather the "faith in what Jesus already did = salvation" page! Oh, what a relief it is! Thanks for this study, brother.
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