Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2
Thesis: Though an overt action does set certain things in motion in a cause/effect universe, the attitude of God is unaffected by any overt action.
Introduction: Last week we stepped out upon the "bridge" that Luke built in chapter seven between his "faith" material and his "love" material. We reviewed the "point" of chapter seven and were reminded that he is addressing the "how?" question of the final paragraph of Jesus' "Sermon on the Mountain": how does one go about building upon a foundation that will keep the house from falling down around our ears? Luke's answer is simple to summarize: one builds with wisdom by "loving" Jesus and "believing" His words. It's not so simple to apply to the daily issues of wisdom.
Last week we also pointed out that Luke put "the baptism of John" squarely between those Jesus would have called "wise" and those Jesus did call "fickle children". Because Luke did this, I felt constrained to raise a question or two about the entire issue of John's baptism of people in water. The question we considered last week was "Why did John baptize?". We gave one answer: John's baptism was a divinely mandated "action" in a cause/effect universe that automatically set certain "effects" in motion. Then we asked what the text tells us those "effects" were. We saw that Luke tied the issue of whether a person was baptized by John to the central issue of the entire chapter: How does one live wisely so as to build a house that will not collapse around us? Luke claims that those who were baptized by John had the discernment to recognize the legitimacy of God's actions in their setting. Luke also claims that those who rejected John's baptism continued to be foolish children. Thus, Luke told us that one of the "effects" of the "action" of submission to John's baptism was spiritual discernment.
This morning we are going to step further out onto the "bridge" by asking this question: given the fact that Luke ties John's baptism to the issue of "wise discernment", do we conclude that "baptism saves"? As with our question/answer last week, there is a short answer and a long answer. The short one is, "No". The long one is coming.
October 26, 2008
- I. Does Baptism "Save"?
- A. The first issue in the question.
- 1. Before questions can be answered, understanding must be clear.
- 2. The first issue that requires "clarity" is the meaning of "save".
- a. If, by "save", one means that a person will be spared certain "consequences", the answer will be one thing.
- 1) In a cause/effect universe every action has consequences and the abstaining from actions also has consequences.
- 2) Thus, if the question is, "does baptism introduce certain consequences?", the answer has to be "yes".
- b. But if, by "save", one means that the attitude God takes toward a person is affected by whether, or not, he/she is baptized, the answer will be another thing.
- 1) The question here is this: is God so affected by a person's submission to baptism that He will decide to "justify" that person because of that action?
- a) This is the all-important "attitude of God" issue.
- i. "Justification" is God's decision to ascribe His righteousness to a person so that the corollary of refusal to ascribe that person's sins to that person is also in the decision.
- ii. Since this is a "decision" on God's part, it is a description of His "attitude".
- b) This is the question of whether anyone's actions ever affect God's attitude toward those doing the actions.
- 2) The essence of this question, in light of the issue of whether baptism brings on "consequences", is this: is God's willingness to justify one of the "consequences" that baptism brings on?
- 3) The "no" answer to this question has a couple of fundamental facts at its root.
- a) The first such "fact" is that the Bible never ties "justification" to "water baptism".
- b) The second such fact is this: God's attitude toward a person is never affected by what a person does.
- i. This "fact" has this reality at its roots: God's attitude has already been determined before the action can ever take place.
- ii. God operates at an "all seeing" level (Hebrews 4:13).
- iii. God declares that He "justifies" according to whether God "sees" a "heart condition" called "faith" (Romans 10:10).
- iv. Thus, Jesus can say of the "publican" in Luke 18:14 that he went to his house "justified" with absolutely nothing being said about "baptism" or, for that matter, any other overt action.
- B. The second issue in the question: what does Luke's text tell us?
- a. The text tells us that there are two groups.
- 1. There are those whose response to John's message was baptism.
- 2. There are those whose response to John's message was refusal to be baptized by him.
- b. The text insists upon a clear understanding of the linkage between message and response.
- c. The text tells us two things about those who refused.
- 1. First, it tells us that they "rejected God's purpose for themselves".
- a) This is an action of the heart and mind, not an "overt" action that moves immediately into the realm of cause/effect.
- b) The nature of this action of the heart and mind is clearly described: they rejected God's intentional purpose in sending John.
- 2. Second, it tells us that they "refused the baptism of John".
- a) This was not "automatic" to their "heart/mind condition", but it was accurate.
- 1) There are those who will hypocritically submit to baptism.
- 2) But there are also those whose offense at the message and messenger is so great that they can hardly do anything other than be consistent in attitude/action.
- b) This refusal was "post-attitude".
- 1) They were not refused "justification" by God because they refused to be baptized by John.
- 2) They were refused "justification" by God because He had already seen the overweaning pride of their attitude toward the message of their own depravity and the only solution God would accept.
- II. What About the "Necessity"?
- A. "Must" a person be baptized, if not for "justification", for some other reason?
- B. What is involved?
- 1. First, "necessity" is only driven by one of two things.
- a. Necessity is sometimes driven by the necessity of self-preservation.
- b. Necessity is sometimes driven by the necessity of love.
- 2. Second, the two "drivers" are mutually exclusive (one cannot serve two masters).
- 3. Third, God clearly "sees" what the driver is.
- 4. Fourth, God does not reward selfishness.
- 5. Fifth, God is not blind to "extenuating circumstances" that might interpose between loving desire and actual actions taken.
- C. Conclusion: there is no excuse for the lack of love for God, nor is He blind to its absence.
- 1. It is impossible to "love God" and deliberately disobey Him.
- 2. Likewise it is impossible to always keep love for God at the level of purity (this is why He justifies at the point of faith in Christ).
- 3. Thus, "necessity" is relative to "love", not to "justification by faith".