Saturday, May 27, 2006
We have a lot going on right now; my Dad in particular. So if you could please remember him in your prayers; that our God would guide him and give him strength to carry on, would grace him with wisdom and bless him with rest, we would be more than grateful.
He, my Mom, and Little Man (a.k.a. William) are leaving town tomorrow evening for California, so if you could also pray for traveling mercies and for our sanity while they are away, we would appreciate that as well.
Friday, May 19, 2006
In reply to Jessica's comment on my previous post, I have posted an article on baptism written by Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Sorry it is so long, I read it over and over and tried to decide which part I could cut to make it shorter, but it was all so good and it flowed so well that I decided to keep it all. :)
Baptism: Its Meaning and PurposeBy Dr. Greg L. Bahnsen
In compliance with Christ’s command (Matt. 28:19), Christians have always practiced baptism with water into the Triune name of God, marking the incorporation of the person baptized into the church as Christ’s Body (I Cor. -13).
At the other extreme, there are those who say that baptism does nothing more than symbolize a person’s own profession of faith in God’s cleansing grace.The former views see divine power inherent in baptism – yet place it at the disposal of the church. The latter view shifts orientation to man’s action and sees God performing nothing through baptism itself.
The Reformed faith disagrees with each of these lines of thought, holding that the perspective of God’s inspired word on baptism is not only contrary to them, but also much clearer than debates over baptism sometimes pretend. So let us ask, what is the meaning of baptism? And what purpose does it serve?
A Hint from Historical Precedent
Many aspects of new Covenant teaching cannot be properly understood apart from their historical background in the Old Covenant. The comment that Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” or the fact that the temple veil was torn in two when Jesus died upon the cross are examples. Likewise, the Lord’s Supper celebrated in the New Covenant is to be seen in the light of the Old Covenant’s passover celebration (Luke 21:15-20; I Cor. 5:7-8; 10:16-17; 11:20-29). What Old Covenant precedent might there be for baptism?
Paul answers our question and helps us understand the theological meaning of baptism by pointing us to its historical precedent in
Christians have been circumcised spiritually (not done with hands), and this circumcision has been accomplished by Jesus Christ himself. What is this circumcision? Paul explains immediately: “having been buried with Him in baptism.” Figuratively speaking, Christian baptism is the circumcision performed by Christ. Accordingly, by examining the religious rite of circumcision practiced in the Old Covenant, we can understand the meaning and purpose of baptism in the New Covenant.
1. Like Circumcision, Baptism Shows that We Belong to God as His People.
Circumcision was the mark that someone belonged covenantally to God. It distinguished a person from the unbelieving, Gentile world: “when a stranger sojourns with you and would keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land – for no uncircumcised person shall eat of it” (Ex. 12:48).
Likewise, baptism is the sign which distinguishes God’s people from the rebellious world today. The words of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) require Christ’s disciples to be differentiated from the world by baptism. It is the mark of conversion to Christianity. Those who “received his word” were baptized and added to the church (Acts ). Setting us apart from a world dead in sin, baptism summons us to walk in “newness of life” (
Man’s sinful condition is called “the uncircumcision of your flesh” by Paul (Col. 2:13). Circumcision symbolized a cutting back and removal of that sinful nature. Thus circumcision was figuratively applied to the lips (Ex. , 30) and especially the heart (Jer. 4:4). The ancient external rite was literally applied to the male genital organ as an indication that everyone comes into this world at birth as sinfully unclean and unacceptable in God’s sight. There can be no “natural” hope for man’s salvation. He must rely solely on the supernatural, gracious work of God in his behalf.
Likewise, baptism points to the need for the “remission of sins” (Acts ). It assumes our spiritually dirty condition before God. Thus Ananias said to Paul after his conversion, “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling upon His name” (Acts ). Baptism teaches us that, as filthy in the sight of God, our only hope is in His cleansing grace (cf. I
3. Accordingly, Like Circumcision, Baptism Points to Righteousness Imputed by Faith.Paul tells us in
This is also the divine testimony in baptism. Those who wish to be justified in the sight of God must “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins”; those who do so are believers in God’s promise (Acts -44). “Having believed in God” for promised salvation, the Philippian jailer “was baptized” (Acts -34). Like Abraham’s circumcision, the jailer’s baptism was a divine sign of justification (righteousness, salvation) by faith.
We must note well that the signs of the covenant, whether circumcision or baptism, – being God’s signs and ordained by Him – are God’s testimony to God’s gracious work of salvation. They declare the objective truth that justification comes only by faith in God’s promise. Circumcision and baptism are not an individual’s personal, subjective testimony to having saving faith for himself. God Himself commanded that circumcision be applied to those whom He perfectly well knew would not have saving faith in Him (e.g., Ishmael in Gen. 17:18-27).
Likewise, in plenty of instances hypocrites who are not true believers have been baptized (cf. Heb. 6:2-6; e.g., Simon Magus in
4. Most Comprehensively then, Like Circumcision, Baptism Signifies Covenantal
God said to Abraham “This is My covenant between Me and you . . . every male among you shall be circumcised” (Gen. 17:10), and the substance of God’s covenant promise to Abraham was “to be a God unto you and unto your seed after you” (v. 7). Circumcision placed Abraham and his children in a covenantal relation with God that the unbelieving world did not enjoy. It marked them out as enjoying God’s saving promise in this world – as those about whom God could say “you alone have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2). Because of this gracious covenant, Abraham’s children had communion with God. They assembled in the very presence of God. (Ex. 26:22; 29:42-43).
Similarly, Paul says that those who receive the sign of baptism have been “baptized into Christ Jesus” and are “united with Him” (Rom. 6:3, 5). They enjoy covenantal communion with the Savior as His people (e.g., Rev. 3:20), being “by one spirit baptized into one Body” (I Cor. ) – a relationship which cannot be claimed by those in the unbelieving world. God’s people today assemble together in the very presence of God, His angels, and Jesus the mediator of the New Covenant (Heb. -24).
Here we must take note again of a common misunderstanding of circumcision and baptism, one which arises from a more fundamental, underlying misconception of what it means to have covenantal, underlying misconception of what it means to have covenantal union and communion with the Lord. To be covenantally united with God, although intended by God to bring favor and blessing to His chosen people, carries as well the threat of judgment and curse. God’s covenants involve blessing and cursing, depending upon whether one is a covenant-keeper or a covenant-breaker.
We see this two-sided character of the covenant in both the Old Covenant (e.g., Deut. 27-28; Josh. ) as well as the New (e.g., I Cor. -32; Heb. 6:4-8). It was just because
To be in covenant with God does not automatically imply eternal salvation – certainly not for covenant-breakers. Thus “they are not all Israel who are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6), and even in the New Covenant not all who publicly profess Jesus as “Lord” are savingly known by Him (Matt. 7:21-23). So then, the signs of circumcision and baptism definitely bring their recipients into covenant with God (and what they signify is intended as blessing), but they are not thereby personal guarantees of salvation, except for covenant-keepers. The covenant signs can also bring their recipients under God’s dreadful judgment.
5. Like Circumcision, Baptism is Designed to be Applied to Believers and Their Households.
It is evident from
Since baptism is the New Covenant equivalent of circumcision, and since circumcision taught that the children of believers are included under God’s covenant, and since our covenant-keeping God does not change His principles (Ps. 89:34; Matt. 4:4; 5:18; Rom. 15:4; Jas. 1:17), we would fully expect that baptism should be applied – as was circumcision – to believers and their seed or households. This theological inference is inescapable. Further, it is precisely what we find taught in the New Covenant scriptures themselves.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached the risen Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and covenants. Declaring God’s good news to the Jews – whose self-conception for centuries had been in terms of the Abrahamic covenant (cf.
The children of believers are to be baptized, then, and addressed as members of the covenant community, the church(e.g., Eph. 1;1; 6:1); Jesus said, “to such [infants] belongs the
The Mode of Baptism Reflects Its Theological Meaning
Our preceding discussion has illustrated how the meaning of Christian baptism corresponds to that of Old Covenant circumcision. Baptism is, for believers and their households, a sign of being in covenantal communion with God as His people (distinguished from the world), an objective divine testimony to the fact that sinners need cleansing from defilement and can be justified only by faith in God’s gracious promise and work. The Biblical mode of baptism – sprinkling or pouring – symbolically fits this message.
In the Old Testament God foreshadowed the redemptive work of Christ through various rites involving the sprinkling of blood. Accordingly,
The New Covenant speaks of our salvation as the “sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:2; cf. Heb. ). And this redemptive work is aligned with our Christian baptism: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and having our body washed with pure water” (Heb. ).
Moreover, in the Old Covenant scriptures God promised the coming of the regenerating Holy Spirit in terms of pouring and sprinkling: “I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh” (Joel 2:28-29). “I will sprinkle clean water on you . . . I will give you a new heart . . . I will put My Spirit within you to walk in My statutes” (Ezek. 36:25-28).
Accordingly the New Testament speaks of our salvation in terms of the “pouring out” of the Holy spirit: “Being therefore exalted to the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you see and hear” (Acts 2:33; cf. 10: 44-45; 11:15-16). And this redemptive act is clearly called baptism by Jesus: “John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days hence” (Acts 1:5; cf. Matt. ;
Baptism by sprinkling or pouring, then, points to God’s covenant wherein helpless, polluted sinners are sprinkled clean by the redemptive blood of Jesus Christ and renewed by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. In harmony with what we have seen previously, baptism is a testimony to salvation by God’s initiative and promise, anticipated in the Old Covenant and accomplished through the New Covenant work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Efficacy of the Sacraments
Baptists take a minimalist, subjective view of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, seeing them merely as “ordinances” (not “sacraments”) which are nothing more than a memorial to the work of Christ, a testimony to the gospel truth and visible sign of a person’s (subjective) faith in it. By contrast the word of God presents the sacraments as a true “means of grace” which, through the efficacious work of the Holy spirit, convey a blessing to believing recipients – those who keep God’s covenant. Notice how Paul speaks of the sacrament: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” (I Cor. 10:160. The sacrament actually does something in this case blessing covenant-keepers; but Paul also realized that the sacrament carries a corresponding threat of curse for unworthy partakers (I Cor. 11:29).
Far from being superfluous, then, the sacraments intend to convey a distinct blessing beyond that provided by the word alone. In addition to being a sign of the covenant of grace, they also function as a confirmatory seal of it. Notice what Paul says: “And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised” (Rom. ).
The sacrament confirms or authenticates (“seals”) that which it points to (“signifies”). It is God’s reassurance to us that sinners are acceptable to Him by means of faith in His promise – parallel to the oath which God added to His word of promise to Abraham (cf. Heb. 6:13-19). This reassurance is provided, of course, only for those who truly keep God’s covenant in faith.
At the other extreme from Baptistic conceptions, there are maximalist views of the sacraments. Roman Catholicism sees the sacraments as necessary – not simply by God’s precept and as conveying the distinct blessing of sealing God’s promise, but as the very means of salvation. The elements of the sacraments are thought to be inherently efficacious in virtue of the church being the depository and dispensary of God’s grace. Thus baptism works automatically to wash away previous sins and will bring its recipient salvation (provided such is not “blocked by mortal sin”). Lutheranism says that, when they are properly applied, the sacraments are in themselves efficacious to those who are susceptible to their blessing: this susceptibility amounts to faith in adults, but simple nonresistance in infants. Accordingly, baptism automatically regenerates infants.
Quite opposite of these ideas, the word of God teaches us that the saving grace signified by the sacraments exists prior to them and is not produced by them. That is, the saving benefit of the sacraments is available apart from them – thus they are not necessary for salvation. Moreover, the efficacy of the sacraments resides in the presence and work of the Holy Spirit (not in the church or the elements or their proper administration). It is through His discriminating, divine agency that the sacraments accomplish their work (either blessing or cursing). Accordingly, they do not bless unworthy recipients.
When Peter speaks of baptism saving us, he immediately explains: “not the washing away of bodily pollution [external surface dirt], but the appeal made to God by a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter ). Without a good conscience through Christ'’ saving work, the external rite brings no saving blessing.
The sacrament brings blessing (rather than curse) when an inward, spiritual condition matches the symbolism of the outward act. As Paul said: “neither is that circumcision which is outward, in the flesh. But . . . circumcision is that of the heart, by the Spirit, not the letter – whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom. -29).
Conclusion: Baptism’s Testimony and Assurance
Given an understanding of the Biblical meaning and purpose of baptism, we can draw of few significant conclusions, things that should come to mind at the celebration of baptism (whether our own or that of others).
1. Baptism issues an evangelistic call. Like circumcision, it testifies that we are all born in sin and, as such, are unclean and unacceptable in the sight of God. Baptism also points to the mercy of God which washes sinners of their pollution and makes them graciously acceptable to Him through the sprinkling of Christ’s blood and regenerating outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Our only hope is in God’s gracious promise of redemption, received by faith. So baptism summons unbelievers to trust in the Savior.
2. Baptism issues a sanctifying call. Those who are baptized need to demonstrate that they are covenant-keepers, those who have living faith in the Savior and seek to serve Him with their lives. As with circumcision, this is true of adults just as much as with children! Baptism conveys blessing only to the faithful, whenever and wherever their baptism was administered. It must not be viewed as a magical rite by which to manipulate God. It only works to bring saving blessing when the recipient of the baptism responds to God’s claim upon his/her life with covenant-keeping faith and obedience.
4. Baptism powerfully communicates comfort to the faithful. Whether baptized as an adult convert or as a helpless child, the rite of baptism offers reassurance (whether at the time of administration or later) that God is a forgiving God and will indeed prove true to His promises to those who keep His covenant. There is in baptism not only a visual reinforcement of the gospel message, but more importantly a confirming (sealing) inward work of the Holy Spirit which strengthens our hearts in the condemning presence of sin, authenticating the unfailing promise of salvation from our covenant Lord. It is thereby truly a means of grace for us.
 Water baptism is but the outward sign of spirit baptism. It is, of course, the inward reality of the Spirit’s work (not its external symbol of water) that effects the regeneration and union with Christ spoken of in this passage (buried, raised, and made alive “together with Him”) – cf. Rom. 8:9; Eph. 3:16-17; I John 4:13.
 Some might object that, while God knowingly applied a sign of the Old Covenant to unbelievers (Like Ishmael or Esau), this would be inappropriate in the New Covenant. They say new Covenant signs are only for those we have reason to think are believers (by their profession of faith). Such reasoning is well meaning, but nonetheless unbiblical. God the Son knowingly applied a sign of even the New Covenant to the unbelieving "son of perdition," Judas Iscariot (Luke -21; Matt. 26:23-29).
 It is sometimes considered an argument against infant baptism that its supporting premises would lead to the baptism of believers’ spouses as well. From I Cor. we see that such an inference is, indeed, quite Biblical. An unbelieving spouse of a believer should, unless resistant, undergo baptism since he/she is covenantally “set apart” by being in the believer’s household.
 It is reading something into the text in these cases to say that members of the households were baptized on the basis of a personal profession of faith. Scripturally and strictly speaking, individuals were baptized in virtue of being in the household. The belief of household members is not left implicit in the Bible (cf. Acts 10:2, 44:48; ; -34).
 Contrary to a mistaken but often heard claim, the Greek word “baptizo” does not necessarily (and at times cannot) mean to immerse. See the Septuagint (Greek translation) of Lev. 14:6, 51; Joshua 3:13, 15; Ruth 2:14; Dan. 4:33. Also see the New Testament at Luke 11:38; mark 7:3-5. It is highly unlikely that there was enough spare (non-drinking) water within the city of Jerusalem to immerse three thousand people on one day (cf. Acts 2:41). The use of the Greek word translated “into’ in baptism accounts like Acts 8:38-39 cannot prove immersion (the word can legitimately be translated “to,” “unto,” “toward”) – unless it proves that the eunuch as well as Philip were immersed, since “they both went down into the water”! That baptism symbolizes being buried and raised with Christ (Rom. 6:4) does not require a visual picture for the mode of baptism – immersion down into water and emergence up from it; after all, Jesus Himself was not buried in a grave dug out down in the ground, but on a shelf in a cave. Furthermore, the immersionist “picture” does not also take account of our being “crucified with Him” – which is equally part of the passage (ve. 6).
Monday, May 15, 2006
Since she was not as sick as we expected, Mom, William and I drove up to Arlington on Thursday afternoon to bring products up to the convention and be with the rest of the family. While at the convention, I was able to visit with old friends, and also get to know a family I had met last fall at our family camp. During those two days, I learned how to play chess (thanks to some new friends) and today I beat Caleb three times. I've tried not to let it get to my head, but.....
Mom, William, Melissa and I were supposed to leave early on Saturday to get the house ready for the family coming home, and to prepare for church the next day, but things didn't work out as planned. We stayed for most of tear down as we were trying to gather miscellaneous items that we couldn't seem to find. Our friends from the family camp were so kind in staying to help us tear down, pack up and load our trailer. Our team left just as they were finishing with the last one or two loads. My dad called us as we turned off of I-30 onto I-45 and told us he was on the road and thirty minutes behind us. We suggested meeting up at a coffee shop somewhere, but he didn't really want to stop. We pulled off in Ennis to get coffee, dinner and gas. I was ordering the food and when I turned around, my dad and the van crew were right across the street. So, Mom grabbed her computer so she could do some work on the way home, I ordered the rest of the family some dinner, and we started our journey once more, with Dad leading the way.
We arrived home around eleven o'clock or so, and once every suitcase was in, we all crashed into our own sweet, comfy beds, with our own warm blankets and fluffy pillows and comfort objects...okay, well not of us. It was so wonderful to worship with our church family on Sunday. The congregation swelled with praises and sang with great gusto for every hymn and Psalm.
Ahhh...there really is nothing like home. Today we cleaned house, washed, dried and folded laundry, and put our house back into some bit of order. Then, Melissa, Jessica and I went out to play some volleyball. We had a nice dinner, and a big salad with "real" lettuce, fresh herbs and such, and right now I am making pudding with some of the raw milk we picked up in Illinois. Tomorrow I'm going to use it for banana pudding, that is, if I don't eat it all before it even makes to the refrigerator...
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Our flight wasn't all that bad. William was almost a perfect little angel. He ate crackers, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and cheese. He only slept the last thirty minutes of the flight, though. We hit a bunch of turbulence all the way down to Houston, but the sun was shining right into my window, so I was quite warm. When we landed, the friend that picked us up was telling us about a nasty storm that blew through Dallas, including a tornado and hail. We were glad we didn't know about it while we were in the air.
When we arrived at home, Mrs. H. (the lady who picked us up) and I went to H-E-B (pronounced H-E-B, not HEB). Upon arriving home, I put the groceries away and washed my own dishes. Now I don't know about you, but after spending three and half weeks on the road letting other people cook my food, clean my mess and so on so forth, I kind of start to feel like a lazy bum. So yes, sweeping the floors, letting William make a complete mess of himself with banana's, doing dishes and what-not, I really did enjoy myself.
I had to run down to our store to send a package off to my dad in Dallas, when I realized UPS had already picked up. So, we had to race down to Office Depot where UPS also picks up. When I walked out of the building, the UPS truck was pulling up. We grabbed dinner and Pei Wei's (pronounced pay-way's) a Chinese cuisine and a division of P.F. Changs. Now, I am sitting here in my love-a-lee living room, squished in between the cushions on my favorite couch, looking out the window at the strange color of the sky. It is a yellow/orange kind of color, rather eerie. I think I'm going to check the weather again.
My Mom has an appointment down town at seven in the morning. We don't really know what to expect, so please continue to keep her in your prayers. My Dad, Christa, Jessica, Melissa, Abigail, Grace, Emma and Caleb will exhibit for us at the Arlington book fair, so please do keep them in prayer as well.
Monday, May 08, 2006
We arrived in IL yesterday late afternoon and we are currently staying with the Erber family. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of knowing the Erbers, they are a wonderful family, very hospitable, godly and so encouraging to be with. We've played about ten games of volley ball since we arrived and I know another game will be in session very soon. :)
I still haven't downloaded pictures onto my computer, but I've been so busy, so you can't blame me, ey? Our currents plans are to stay here until Wednesday. Mom and I will fly out to Houston that morning, and the rest of the family will drive down to Arlington for that conference and come home for Mother's Day. We are not looking forward to leaving such sweet fellowship here, but we are looking forward to seeing our church family on Sunday. Ahhhh...there's no place like home!
Saturday, May 06, 2006
Over the past few days, the same foot has been hurting her, and the same place has developed an infection again. She called her doctor back home who transferred her medication to a pharmacy up here, which we picked up last night. She had a fever all night and at this time, she still does. We had planned to go to Illinois tonight, but we will be taking her to a hospital as soon as possible and hopefully leave tomorrow morning to make it there for church.
Your prayers are greatly appreciated.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
"Citizenship?" The officer questioned as he looked over passports.
"What were you doing over there?"
"We were just passing through from Massachusetts on our way to Michigan."
"What did you do over there?"
"Stopped to see Niagara, the Great Lakes, buy some gifty-things and such."
"And cookies!!" My mom piped.
"Ohhhh...wow." He replied sarcastically. "Here you go." He passed the passports back and we were free!
Whew! Talk about a tough time getting back to the states...
Oh! Before we left Canada, we stopped at a beautiful cathedral for a tour (I'll post pictures as soon as I download them). Right off the front doors there is a veranda, which was originally designed to be a crypt for the bishops, but the health department wouldn't allow them to be buried there as it wasn't healthy...so they are buried in a cemetery down the road. We drove over to see it, and while we were there, we noticed a DHL delivery truck in the cemetery...we didn't ask any questions.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
It really is amazing how much you can do in so short a time. Tomorrow will mark our official two weeks away from home. Only two more to go.
Yesterday we drove out to
The weather was nice all day – sunny, breezy and just gorgeous. After walking around town, getting lunch and “John Harvard,” we dropped by Aunt Michelle’s place to decide where to go next. After hanging around and chatting with the neighbors, we decided to get some dinner at “The Barking Crab,” a restaurant located right on the
Right now, we are driving through
Hooray! We made it through the Canadian border with nary a problem, ey? ;-) We hadn’t realized we were going to go through
“Eleven. Nine children, my wife and myself.”
“Oh? And where are you headed?”
“Oh? And what do you have in that trailer?”
“Luggage and books and educational products we take to the conventions.”“Do you have birth certificates for the children?”
“No, we didn’t know we were going to come through this way, so we didn’t bring them.”“Hmmm.” All this time he’s jotting down notes…rather eerie.
“Okay. Take this paper up to that building on the left and they can help you there.”
So, we pull up to the building on the left, whereupon Dad goes in to talk to the officers. After a few minutes, he comes back out.
“Alright, everybody out!”
“But William is sleeping!” Mom protested.
“Sorry, but we all have to go inside.”So, we all piled out and filed into the building on the left, went down the hall and into a small office where another man waited for us. He asked us similar questions, a little more nosey, asked to see all the photo ID’s we had, and then told us that when going into a foreign country, we should always have birth certificates.
“Well, I trust you are all American citizens."
He stamped a yellow piece of paper, and told us to take it back to the group of officers outside the office. One of them took the paper, and they all watched us as we went back outside and climbed back into the van. We grabbed some dinner, and found our hotel, went to bed, and here we are again…waiting to see what today will bring, ey?