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by Al Maxey

Issue #765 ------- February 11, 2019
Few things are harder to put up with
than the annoyance of a good example.

Mark Twain [1835-1910]

Making Salvation Operational
Reflective Study of Philippians 2:12-16

The English have an old saying: "The example of good men is visible philosophy." Along the same lines, Pliny the Younger (61-112 A.D.), a noted lawyer, author, and magistrate in ancient Rome, wrote: "Example is the surest method of instruction." Aesop (6th century B.C.) said, "Example is the best precept." The apostle Paul told the brethren in Corinth that their lives were "a letter of Christ, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts ... known and read by all men" (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). The apostle Peter informed godly women that one of the most powerful ways in which they could influence their husbands to embrace Christ Jesus was by the strength of their example; specifically: righteous examples visible through the various attitudes and actions of their day-to-day lives; examples visible to all without the need for words (1 Peter 3:1-2).

What many disciples of Christ Jesus fail to perceive, and this has always been true, is that our walk with the Lord is not about religious rites and rigid regulations, but about the powerful reality of an intimate relationship with our Father through His Son, made all the more powerful by the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit within us! We are called to be guiding lights of the Saving Light. We are chosen and called to shine brightly in the darkness of this world. It is hard to truly shine, however, when we cloister ourselves within the walls of our physical structures and within the traditional parameters of our sects. Christianity is relational, NOT institutional; relationships that are both vertical as well as horizontal: loving God and loving others! In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenged us to let our lights "shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). This cannot be done when we hide our light under a basket (vs. 15). The "church" (the universal Body of Christ Jesus) must never be hidden away within a building, nor fenced in by the tedious trappings of traditionalism and institutionalism. The Faith is to be seen, not screened. The beauty of this Faith is that it is designed to be shown forth by our attitudes and actions in our daily lives. Our salvation is a reality that is to be reflected in our works. As we journey through this world we become those "lights on a hill" to those stumbling about in the darkness. We light the way to Jesus, so that others may journey with us in this glorious Light.

The apostle Paul speaks of this often in his epistles, but nowhere quite as powerfully as in these words delivered to the saints in the city of Philippi. "Prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life" (Philippians 2:15-16a). These are godly challenges to disciples of Christ that simply cannot be effectively addressed by warming a pew; they can only be met when each of us live this light in the view of those around us who are in need of seeing this Light from above! Because you and I are the visible representatives of the Redeeming Light, it is imperative that we be "blameless" and "innocent" and "above reproach" in the "midst of a crooked and perverse generation." We must be seen by others as radically different from those who are dwelling in darkness. We are saved to shine!! We are redeemed to reflect the beauty of Jesus that abides within us, and which motivates us to show forth not only our salvation, but also our Savior! And this we do in our daily journey through life by our good works (Ephesians 2:10) and our godly demeanor. As Paul so eloquently states: God the Father is at work within His children, "both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (vs. 13). God works in this world through us, and it pleases Him when we are willing participants in that work and in that walk with Him. The aged apostle John wrote, "It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us" (2 John 4). Joy abounds in heaven, and among the redeemed, when the children of God are seen boldly walking and working with their Father to push back the darkness by being visible lights reflecting His glory.

Because of this great responsibility (and privilege), we are urged by Paul to be "blameless" and "innocent" and "above reproach" (Philippians 2:15). These are three different words in the Greek, although they each suggest the idea of practical purity. The emphasis of each word, however, is somewhat different, and to fully grasp Paul's intent in this passage, we must grasp the significance of each term. Prior to that more focused examination, however, it should also be pointed out that Paul contrasts this blamelessness with a couple of our less than noble tendencies: "grumbling" and "disputing" (vs. 14). It is hard to be lights to the world when we are too frequently reflecting the darkness in our attitudes and actions instead. "There is a strong tendency in some persons to enter into contention and raise a strife. The smallest points of difference are seized. This disputatious spirit has been rife in all ages. The theological controversies, sectarian battlings, the schismatic strifes of the church, have been her disgrace and her bane" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20 - Philippians, p. 100]. To murmur, complain, argue, dispute with one another, and also with God, are not compatible with being shining lights for our Lord. Rather, it reflects far more darkness than light. These same words used by Paul in this place are also those that commonly are used in the Greek OT (the Septuagint) "of the murmurings of the Israelites during their wanderings" [ibid, p. 62]. Speaking of the ancient Israelites, Moses said of them, "They have acted corruptly toward Him, to their shame they are no longer His children, but a warped and crooked generation" (Deuteronomy 32:5).

When we murmur and complain against one another, disputes and contention are never far behind. Secret whisperings will inevitably lead to open schism. Paul warns these brethren against this danger, and this was a very real danger in Philippi, for he wrote, "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women" (Philippians 4:2-3). Because of these ungodly wranglings, the light was not shining as brightly in that city as it could have been. These words "refer to that undertone of murmuring which one sometimes hears in the lobbies of our present day churches where certain cliques are 'having it out,' so to speak, among themselves" [Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, p. 75]. Because of this threat to their Christian walk and witness, he wrote, "Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27). In other words, stop dipping into the darkness and return to shining like the heavenly stars you have been called to be! "The apostle exhorts them in these verses to adorn their Christian profession by a suitable temper and behavior" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. In short, Paul is giving practical exhortation and strong caution against "the danger to their faith in being disunited" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 3, p. 41]. "With what aim? ... that they might present an unbroken front in their conflict for the Faith" [ibid, p. 40]. Wherever and whenever lack of unity and harmony in the Body of Christ is being displayed, the Light is being diminished. Paul cautions them against this very damaging behavior, and, by way of contrast, urges them to be blameless, innocent and above reproach. "Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life" (Philippians 2:14-16a). Notice each of these positive terms in verse 15:

  1. BLAMELESS -- This is the Greek word "amemptos," which means "free from censure" [Dr. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT, e-Sword] ... "unblamed, blameless, faultless" [W.E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 130] ... "blameless, deserving no censure, free from fault or defect" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2. p. 76]. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) noted that this word challenges disciples of Christ to "give no occasion for others to accuse them of having done wrong" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. This word refers to the perception of our fellow human beings (whether saved or lost). As Dr. John Gill (1690-1771) noted, "This respects not their being blameless in the sight of God, which the saints are not in themselves, being not without sin, though they are, as considered in Christ, clothed with His righteousness and washed in His blood; but their being blameless before men" [Exposition of the Entire Bible, e-Sword]. This, obviously, is a goal to which we should all aspire, although realistically we know that no matter how we may try, some will always seek to find fault with us, just as they did with Jesus and His apostles.

  2. INNOCENT -- This is the Greek word "akeraios," which means "unmixed, unadulterated" [Dr. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT, e-Sword] ... "unmixed, with absence of foreign mixture, pure; the Greeks used it of wine unmixed with water, and of unalloyed metal; used metaphorically in the NT of that which is guileless, sincere; innocent, harmless" [W.E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 196]. Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest states, "They were not harmless when there were such divisions among them" [Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, e-Sword]. This term suggests, in contrast with the above term, that their blamelessness must also stand up under the discerning gaze of the Lord, who searches the heart. We may fool others with our outward acts, but God knows whether our acts are sincere and pure, or whether they are mixed with ungodly intent and motivation. The apostle Peter wrote, "By obedience to the truth, having purified yourselves for sincere love of the brothers, love one another earnestly from a pure heart" (1 Peter 1:22). Paul stated the same, although more succinctly: "Let love be without hypocrisy" (Romans 12:9).

  3. ABOVE REPROACH -- This is the Greek word "amomos," which means "without spot; unblemished in reputation and in reality" [Dr. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT, e-Sword] ... "unblemished" [W.E. Vine, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 130] ... "without rebuke; it has the idea of: without blemish, faultless" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2. p. 76]. This word gets down to the actual reality, not just how others see you (#1) or how God sees you (#2); this word indicates whether you are in fact "spotted" or "tainted" by the world. The reality is that we're all blemished, for none of us are without sin. Yet, the goal for which we strive, aided by the indwelling Spirit, is to be less and less "spotted" by the world as we mature to become more and more like Him.

Our mission, for which we each are called, is to hold fast and hold forth the divine message of life: that we are reconciled to the Father by grace, fully accomplished by the atoning offering of the Son, and acquired by faith, and then to show forth the reality of our salvation by our daily actions and attitudes as we walk with Him in the light. In short, we must be what we profess: individual and collective embodiments of HIS nature; shining lights of divine love, mercy, compassion, and grace to those dwelling in darkness. We must do more than just profess His Word; we must live His Word. David Lipscomb (1831-1917) rightly observed, "While the word and message of life is to be owned, professed, and proclaimed, yet the embodiment of it in the Christian is the main point here, the character being formed and the practice determined by the word believed" [A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 4, p. 189].


There is a phrase at the beginning of this passage in Paul's epistle to the Philippian brethren, however, that has long troubled many disciples of Christ. This is especially true for those who are grace/faith focused, as they have come under fire from the law/works crowd, who like to use this phrase, lifted from its context, as a "proof-text" for salvation by some level of human effort. The phrase in question is found in Philippians 2:12 - "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Some have regarded this as proof positive that you and I must achieve some level of obedience to law and command so as to be "fit for" salvation. David Lipscomb, for example, taught that this phrase meant one must "so live in accordance with God's word that he will be fitted to be saved. The thing for man to do is to fit himself for salvation, then God will save him" [A Commentary on the NT Epistles, vol. 4, p. 186]. He then goes on to say that one can ONLY be fitted for salvation "by complying with law" [ibid]. James Burton Coffman, a well-known preacher and author in my own faith-heritage, even went so far as to declare that "this verse gives the lie to the heresy of being saved by faith alone" [Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, p. 286]. In other words, our response to God's grace must be faith + works (to include obedience to some list of commands). If we perform well enough, THEN, as Lipscomb says, "God will save him." Brethren, this is the "lie" and the "heresy." Coffman, in that same source, defines "the Gospel" as the sum total of all the laws and commands of both Christ and the apostles as contained in the pages of the NT writings! [ibid, p. 287]. This is an absurdity on several levels, not the least of which is the fact that this charge by Paul was given to those who were already saved!!

One of the most vital aspects of sound biblical interpretation is attention to context, both immediate and remote. Paul has addressed this particular epistle "to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons" (Philippians 1:1). Paul is speaking in this letter to all of his beloved brethren in this location, not to a specific individual (as he did in certain other epistles). This is important to note, as all the personal references and admonitions are stated in the plural. Thus, he is talking to the church in Philippi in 2:12-13, and not to a lone disciple. "So then, my beloved (plural), just as you (plural) have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your (plural) salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you (plural), both to will and to work for His good pleasure." In the Greek text there is actually one more plural included that is not reflected in the above English translation. Literally, the phrase in vs. 12 reads, "You (plural) work out the salvation of yourselves (plural)."

As one can plainly see, this "working out" of salvation is to be done by the group. It is not an admonition directed at individuals, but at the entire body of believers in the city of Philippi. In a scholarly paper titled "Trembling and Fear," Tony Warren captured the essence of this use of the plural in the following observation, "Philippians 2:12 cannot be a command to an individual church member telling him that he must work to escape hell." Warren then points out the same plurals in the text as I have noted above. He goes on: "Thus, Paul is not giving a command to an individual, but is giving a command, a corporate command, to all the Philippian Christians about the safety or preservation or rescue of the entire church at Philippi. He is commanding them as a group to do something -- to watch closely their public behavior as a group." He concludes by noting, "Since Christ has worked out the salvation from hell, Christians need to work together to give as good a witness as possible to a lost world." "The biblical concept of salvation needs to be understood in order to comprehend Paul's intent here. Salvation has many aspects, including a present one. Hence, working out salvation does not mean 'working for' salvation, but making salvation operational" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 128]. It is, in short, "the outworking of our Christian faith in daily life ... as light-givers in the world" [ibid, p. 129].

The Greek scholar, Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, agreed: "Let us be clear first of all as to what this exhortation does not mean. It does not mean to work for one's salvation, and for two reasons: first, Paul was writing to those who were already saved, and second, salvation is not a work of man for God, but a work of God for man, a work that was accomplished at the cross. ... The Philippians are exhorted to carry their salvation to its ultimate conclusion, namely, Christlikeness" [Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, p. 73]. Thus, Paul is not suggesting that our eternal salvation is earned by works or acts of obedience. Rather, he is urging those already saved to "feel the responsibility of their salvation" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 2, p. 304]. In other words: BE what you profess: living, shining examples of HIM in a world perishing in darkness. In this way, we do indeed "work out," by our actions, the reality of our salvation, thereby making its worth visible to others in need of being rescued from the darkness.

We should also note that one of the primary concerns of Paul in this context is his own absence from them. Although he is no longer there to help mature them in their faith, and encourage them in their walk, and equip them for their work, he is nevertheless confident that the Lord will continue to be "at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). Indeed, Paul writes, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6). Paul, in the next verse, defends his right to feel this way by stating he has them all in his heart and that they are his fellow "partakers of grace." Paul knows that in his absence (he was imprisoned in the city of Rome) they must labor for the Lord without him. Nevertheless, they are not alone, for the Lord is with them! "The use of 'me' ('not') is governed by the imperative 'katergazesthe' ('continue to work out'), rather than the indicative 'hupekousate' ('you obeyed'); hence, the intervening phrases regarding Paul's presence and absence must be construed with the exhortation to 'work out' rather than with the reference to their previous obedience" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 130].

Paul is calling the group of believers to continue the walk of faith; to continue the "good fight," not to become weary and give up, so that they might achieve the victor's crown in the end ("Remain faithful until/unto death, and I will give you the crown of life" -- Revelation 2:10). Paul was not present to struggle alongside them, so they must face the struggle together, relying upon one another in his absence. In many ways it is a plea for unity with one another, as well as with the Lord, so that their witness and work might be effective. Dr. A.T. Robertson, in his Word Pictures of the New Testament, said, "Paul has no sympathy with a cold and dead orthodoxy or formalism that knows nothing of struggle and growth" [e-Sword]. In Paul's absence he doesn't want them falling into the trap of apathetic, ritualistic religion, but rather to allow the Spirit to continue working in and through them. John Calvin (1509-1564) stated, "Now, therefore, when their monitor is at a distance from them, there is need that they should stir up themselves."

As already noted, the Greek word translated "work out" in this passage is "katergazomai." This word conveys the idea: "bring out as a result; realize in practice" [The Analytical Greek Lexicon of the NT, p. 223]. This particular word appears 24 times in the pages of the NT writings (21 of which come from the pen of Paul). Time and again the notion of something being realized or evidenced or demonstrated is conveyed by the use of this term. Paul wants the church in Philippi to experience in daily living, and to demonstrate in daily living, the reality of their salvation. This not only will be a blessing to them as a people, but will be a tremendous testimony to the world about them as the lost see salvation realized and practiced in daily living. Without Paul there to motivate them to this, he urges them to increasingly take on that responsibility themselves, and to know that the Lord, who works in and through them, will be with them in his own absence! Jesus prayed that we might all be one, "that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me" (John 17:21). The daily demonstrating of the reality of our salvation, and of the One Body that results from it, is the epitome of evangelistic outreach of the saved.

Let me close with the insightful renderings of this phrase from a few translations: "Be careful to do the good things that result from being saved" [The Living Bible] ... "Be energetic in your life of salvation" [The Message] ... "Keep on working to show you have been saved" [New Life Version] ... "Work hard to show the results of your salvation" [New Living Translation] ... "You must continue to live in a way that gives meaning to your salvation" [Easy-to-Read Version]. The message of Paul is: "The lives of Christians ought to be a transcript of the Word of life, manifesting its beauty to the world" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 20 - Philippians, p. 75]. In so many ways we are the continuing "epistles of Christ," known and read by those around us (2 Corinthians 3:2-3), which powerfully point, by the daily manifestations of our salvation, to that priceless redemption we have from our Lord and Savior. Dear Father, may Your children, united as one, shine brightly in the darkness, like the stars of heaven, through all the evidentiary workings of our salvation that You have prepared beforehand for us to accomplish. And may we do it all to Your glory and honor! Amen!


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Readers' Reflections

From an Author/Publisher in Nevada:

Al, I have an interesting thought after reading your last two articles: "Questioning a Pentecost Query: Rethinking the Spiritual Significance of the Question Posed to Peter in Acts 2:37" (Reflections #763) and "Questions from Querists: Readers React to Reflections #763" (Reflections #764) -- Could it be that the "perverse generation" of which Peter spoke in Acts 2:40 referred not to these 3000 "devout" persons who responded to Peter's message (after all, as you pointed out, the Greek word translated "devout" in Acts 2:5 is a word used, without exception, to point to saved persons), but to the Jews in general? The strict Pharisees of Matthew 23, for example? Certainly excluded from the "perverse generation" would be Joseph and Mary, Simeon in the temple, Anna, Nicodemus, etc. What sayest thou?

From a Psychotherapist in Texas:

My heart sank when you reported that a "servant of God" had said that even if a person had believed, repented, and confessed Christ as Lord, and was standing in the water of the baptistery, but died suddenly before being immersed in that water, and before his "nose broke the surface" of that water, then that person was NOT saved. I thought of all the poor people who will come in contact with that person's ministry! And I thought of your heart as well, and how your heart must sink when you hear of such teaching by others! I'm sure you too must feel sadness, grief, and even anger. Al, you've put yourself on the front lines in this battle for souls, and you are thus in a position to hear the sad stories of people being mistreated, and are often subjected to abuse yourself, as well. So, I am praying for a strong "warrior spirit" within you, so that you may bear up under these attacks and continue with your mission of writing your Reflections.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Hey brother, you are definitely going to be "marked" because of your last couple of Reflections, so I thought I had better hurry up and write to you before they carry you off to tar and feather you! I had not heard the views you expressed in those articles before, but what you wrote does make sense! Good job, brother. I think you're on to something! In fact, I think you make the most convincing argument (in those articles) for salvation by grace through faith I've ever heard! To ascribe to God a merciless act of eternal damnation for those souls who have placed their trust and faith in Jesus as Lord of their lives, but who have some unforeseeable event happen prior to coming up out of the water, is contrary to the love He showed to us by sending Jesus while we were yet sinners! Thanks, Al, for all that you do! Okay, gotta run ... I can smell the tar now!!

From an Elder in North Carolina:

Al, I would like to say this to my brothers and sisters who attend congregations of Churches of Christ (THE "one true church"): I attended those congregations for 70+ years. I spent my life until age 27 in Abilene and Lubbock, Texas (ACC, LCC and Sunset School of Preaching). I was baptized in Abilene at age 12 by Otis Gatewood (a missionary to Germany) in 1949. My preachers back then were college professors of Bible and preaching such as Paul Southern and others. I listened to Bill Hatcher from Sunset School of Preaching for another 10 years in West Palm Beach, Florida. Five of my uncles were elders, three were deacons (as was I), one cousin was a missionary to various parts of the United States, and he was also one of the founding members of the Sunset congregation in Lubbock. Besides these, my great-grandfather was an elder, as were some of his sons, in North Texas and Oklahoma. I say all of this to say: I was very well indoctrinated in Church of Christ teaching! Sorry if this sounds like bragging, but it is true. I wanted to give that background so I could say this: Anyone who claims (as some do) that they have not heard the words, "You are not saved, and cannot be saved, until you come up out of the watery grave," has either been asleep in the pew or not listening (perhaps playing on their cell phones?). Or, maybe things really have changed in the last ten years that I have been "apostate" in an instrumental Christian Church, but I doubt that it has. As I write those words, it strikes me as how sad that "instrumental" and "non-instrumental" are words that define us. I remember listening to Paul Southern when I was 16 or 17 and thinking how weak an argument he had for forbidding instruments in the assembly. I still love acappella singing, and the longer I am away from it, the more I appreciate how hard the Churches of Christ have worked to achieve good music. But, it is still no reason for dividing the Lord's kingdom, and I wish they would think about how much good they could do if they were willing to teach others what they know. Believe me, I have tried to get some to do just that, and they have refused.

From a Reader in Alabama:

Al, so many things will change as us old folks, who were brought up in the rigid teaching of Churches of Christ, die off. It has always been interesting to me that a lot of what "we" do, and what "we" did, is and was based simply on not doing what the "denominations" do or did. What you have written about baptism surely "sounds Baptist," which is precisely why most of those indoctrinated by Churches of Christ will quickly reject it without ever bothering to consider it.

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, I want to take a moment to thank you so much for your work, and for the inspiration which you give to me and to thousands of others throughout the world through your email ministry!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Greetings, Al. Have you written concerning who can take Communion? Some of the folks in our Bible class have asked what the requirements are for participation. I have always been told that only those who have been baptized could take Communion. I have not found chapter and verse concerning this, however. Please direct me to your writings that cover this. Thank you!

From a Reader in Colorado:

Al, I know there is much I don't understand when I read the Bible. I was raised in a very legalistic Church of Christ. I never ever questioned the things I was taught. No one I ever heard preach taught beyond "our" traditions. I'm pretty sure they were also teaching without questioning the understandings passed down to them. I am so grateful that I somehow stumbled onto your web site. I now actually think for myself, and I also question the many things that were embedded into my mind. I finally had to leave the local Church of Christ after feeling sick in my heart. For example: there were frequent lessons from the pulpit on how we need to strive to "convert" the local "denominational" folks in town; lessons on how we cannot give to the local community benevolent food pantry that is supported by many local denominational churches, because to do so would be to "bid them Godspeed" (which we can't do because they are all "false teachers"). My heart told me for so long that I needed to leave that group. When I finally did, I was basically "unfriended" by many of them. Al, thank you for leading me in a way that encouraged me to read Scripture with an open mind and heart! I feel like walls have been removed from my heart. The Holy Spirit leads me as I continue to seek God's will. Now I know that I am not saved by "correct doctrine," but by my faith in my Lord and Savior, and by His grace that covers me! Thank you for your latest lessons "Questioning a Pentecost Query" and "Questions from Querists." May God continue to bless you!

From an Elder in Ottawa, Canada:

Dr. A.T. Robertson asked, "Does this act of being baptized in water merely symbolize or represent in a visible way the reality of this change already accomplished by grace through faith?" Answer: For me, baptism in water represents to others what God has already done in me when I repented and committed to coming under His kingdom rule. If I have made a total commitment in my heart to come completely under God's kingship rule in my life, then I have died to self, and I realize that I have been bought and paid for by the blood of His beloved son Jesus. Does baptism in water save us? No. It really is "all of God, none of us."

From a Minister in New Zealand:

Al, let me tell you exactly where I am in my thinking: It was Gal. 3:26-27 coupled with Romans 6:1ff that got me on another course of thinking. If we are sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, can we then be MORE of a son of God by being baptized in water?! Galatians 3:27 (which you have written on in Reflections #362) is simply further explanation of vs. 26. It is a spiritual immersion of heart and mind into Jesus Christ, not a physical action. Our problem is firstly a failure to see Christianity developing in the midst of contemporary and cultural change (cf. Acts 17). Secondly, because of humanistic and unspiritual thinking, we are always prone to a physical performance of some kind; we want to feel secure in what we have done (and herein lies the problem). It is unfortunate to some degree that we have tried to align immersion in water (an action, not an act) with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. I don't believe it is baptism in water that is Paul's intention in Romans 6. Thank you again for your painstaking work on behalf of many, and for the glory of God. You are truly a "Berean!" God bless you!

From a Reader in Ottawa, Canada:

Once again I find myself greatly grateful for the sober and nuanced reflections that make their way from the Spirit of God down through your pen (or perhaps keyboard, but that has a less romantic feel). Also, many thanks for your Reflections Archives which are a perennial source of instruction!

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