Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Response to comment on "TEN PRINCIPLES OF FORGIVENESS"

[Mr. Finnell, I do not wish to assume the position of instructing you personally.  I offer this response for your consideration only because your comments were placed under my article, so I had to assume you were referring to it.]

The purpose of my article is to focus on the discovery that Jesus who is called the Messiah (the Christ) is, in fact, God - the offended party in the matter of sin.  Therefore, the subject of the ordinance of baptism is irrelevant to it.  (Compare Acts 3:19 where, when giving the prerequisite for the wiping away of sins, Peter also offers no  mention of baptism.)

To respond to your comments regarding that ordinance, it would seem prudent to remind ourselves that belief, or trust in Jesus Christ as Messiah and Lord is the essential event, if you will, in becoming a Christian.  Paul makes it clear in Eph 1:13 what happens in the heart of every believer at the moment such faith occurs: “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation-- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.

Water baptism, then, is a subsequent event - an outward public affirmation of that regenerative transformation that has taken place in the life of the believer, namely the Holy Spirit having come in to take up residence in the heart.  Water baptism, therefore, is an act of obedience for believers and does not precede saving faith.

Interestingly, Paul clarifies his own priorities regarding water baptism in 1Cor 1:14-17:  I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, that no man should say you were baptized in my name.  Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other.  For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, that the cross of Christ should not be made void.”

To those legalistic Judaizers who followed Paul around to irritate him and make general nuisances of themselves regarding their presumed priority of the Jewish ordinance of circumcision, he responded sarcastically in Gal 5:12:  Would that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.”

I think we can safely project Paul’s feelings, were he here among us today, to the current misplaced overemphasis of the Christian ordinance of baptism over saving faith, and to those who can see nothing else but the doctrine of baptism and who attempt to make the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ equivalent to baptism, he might in similar fashion say something like:  Would that those who are troubling you would even drown themselves.”

Paul’s perspective on water baptism is well worth emulating.  It should behoove us to practice exegesis, not eisegesis, when approaching the Scriptures, and to attempt to discover what the Holy Spirit wishes to say to us.  Our goal should be to understand the WHOLE counsel of God, not to pervert it because we deem our own private interpretation as sacred.

I am quite familiar with your doctrine.  It is a high tower built upon straw - misunderstanding, ignorance, and prejudice.  Much like the ‘King James only folks’ – no amount of evidence will allow them to consider that they might be mistaken, even in the slightest degree.  And so the debate goes on and on as it has done for 20 centuries.

Nevertheless, I offer this in regard to your reference to Acts 2:38 and the definition of ‘for’ in the phrase ‘eivj a;fesin tw/n a`martiw/n u`mw/n’ (‘for the forgiveness of your sins’).  We should be reminded that there are ten major definitions of this English word and several sub-definitions of those ten; but one of those major definitions is ‘because of’.   So, some basic clarification is in order:  1. ‘For’ does not always mean ‘in order to obtain’ and 2. ‘for’ sometimes does mean ‘because of’.  However, the original Greek should be our major focus and there are several words which are translated ‘for’.  In this passage the Greek word translated ‘for’ is the preposition ‘eivj’, which has many shades of meaning, depending upon the context, and one major definition of this word is ‘because of’.  [Permit me to say at this point that I take no definitive position on how ‘eivj’ should be translated in this verse; I prefer to allow other Scriptures to clarify the meaning here.  But I do know, and honest theologians agree, that a person will often choose which definition he prefers here based upon the tenets of his own theology.]
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Following are some examples of passages in the NT where ‘eivj’ has clearly a shade of meaning other than ‘in order to obtain’:

In Mat 10:41, ‘eivj’ is translated ‘in’ in the KJV and the NAS but is translated ‘because of’ in the following versions:  NIV, ESV, NJB, NIB, NAB.  Clearly the meaning in context is ‘on the basis of’ or ‘because of’ being a prophet.

In Mat 12:41, ‘eivj’ is translated ‘at’ in most English versions because the context clearly indicates it was ‘because of’ the preaching of Jonah.

Other passages for your consideration:  Rom 4:20; Mat 3:11; Mrk 2:18; Rom 11:32; Tit 3:14.
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E. L. Cardwell
The original article, "Ten Principles of Forgiveness," is found here.

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