A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 33


In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the Christian practice of baptism, its importance and controversy, as well as its biblical foundation. You will explore different modes of baptism, including immersion, sprinkling, and pouring, and delve into various theological perspectives such as covenant theology, baptismal regeneration, and symbolic and testimonial views. Finally, you will learn about the role of baptism in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.


Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 33
Watching Now

TH104-33: A Guide to Christian Theology - Baptism

I. Introduction to Baptism

II. Baptism


A. Confessional or Covenantal

B. Command or Symbolic

III. Conclusion

  • In this lesson, explore the significance of systematic theology, blending academic insight with personal devotion. Learn to interpret biblical texts, understand how theology shapes beliefs, and fortify your faith against deception. This study fosters personal, biblical, and responsible theological growth, vital for spiritual development and discipleship.
  • Learn diverse ways to tackle theological questions, focusing on Holy Spirit baptism. Understand deductive, inductive, and retro-abductive methods. Acts 17:11 and Acts 15 show how community perspectives contribute to nuanced theological discussions, promoting unity amidst differing viewpoints.
  • This lesson provides insights into theological certainty levels, categorizing beliefs into "die for," "divide for," "debate for," and "decide for," highlighting essential doctrines, divisive issues, passionate debates, and less crucial matters, while underscoring the significance of understanding diverse perspectives and theological terms across different Christian tribes.
  • Explore general revelation through creation and conscience (Psalm 19, Romans 1). Responding leads to God, though not salvation alone. Special revelation possible. Diverse salvation views, favoring knowing Jesus. Seared consciences don't always void salvation.
  • Gain deep understanding of special revelation: history, divine acts, and communication revealing God's character and redemptive plan via Messiah. Lesson highlights Bible's key role, conveying God's nature, guidance, and transformative power, emphasizing ongoing divine-human communication.
  • This lesson delves into the concept of divine inspiration in Scripture, citing 2 Timothy 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1:16-21. It explains "God-breathed" as a term highlighting God's creative influence on words, rejecting mere concepts or dictation. Inspiration involves human authors, their personalities, and styles, conveying God's message to the entire church.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
  • In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp a deep understanding of God's character. His foremost quality is compassion, like a mother's love. He's gracious, patient, loving, faithful, and forgiving, extending favor even to the undeserving. Yet, He's just, not sparing the persistently rebellious. This lesson dispels misconceptions, urging contemplation of God's profound blend of love and justice.
  • This lesson delves into holiness via Isaiah 6, emphasizing dedication over separation from sin. It challenges misconceptions and calls for church reform.
  • This lesson delves into the fundamental characteristics of God, particularly the Trinity, emphasizing God's essential relational nature within Himself and its biblical implications, while also addressing theological controversies and highlighting the complexity of the Trinity.
  • This lesson explores different approaches to knowing God, inspired by Thomas Aquinas, discusses the doctrine of immutability, and highlights how God can change in his attitude and actions based on biblical evidence, emphasizing the value of in-depth Bible study and open dialogue in understanding God's nature.
  • This lesson covers key theological concepts: sovereignty, election, and free will. It explores differences between Calvinist and Wesleyan-Arminian views on God's sovereignty, impacting God's plan and human responsibility. Emphasis on defining terms to prevent disputes. Speaker is a "Calminian," blending Calvinism and Arminianism for a balanced perspective. Valuable insights into theological complexities and scripture interpretation.
  • Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
  • This lesson offers valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of providence and its profound implications for our comprehension of God's role in the world.
  • The lesson touches upon various types of suffering, categorizing them into six different types: moral evil (e.g., rape), natural evil (e.g., cancer), persecution, sharing the suffering of another, punishment for sin, and suffering caused by the devil.
  • Learn to discern God's will by cultivating a Christ-like character, living by moral principles, seeking counsel, embracing uniqueness, and praying. It's about aligning with your long-term happiness and godly desires, offering a balanced approach to life decisions.
  • Explore Jesus' nature and incarnation. Learn how He balanced divine and human attributes, challenging traditional views. Reflect on His mission and ours, empowered by the Holy Spirit, bridging divinity and humanity.
  • This lesson delves into the incarnation of Jesus, explaining his dual nature as both God and man during his earthly mission, supported by Old Testament, Gospel, and epistle references. It acknowledges the complexity of his divinity and humanity, even after his ascension.
  • This lesson explores Jesus' dual nature, divine and human, delving into emotions, knowledge, sin, and his role as the Second Adam, offering theological insights.
  • Learn about Jesus' life and mission, challenging traditional beliefs like the virgin birth. Explore his spiritual journey, resurrection, and more, fostering critical thinking and alternative perspectives.
  • This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
  • Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
  • Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
  • This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
  • Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
  • This lesson explores the Bible's view of humanity, emphasizing humans as God's unique creation, made from dust and breath, in His image. It delves into human origins, our role as covenant partners, and the interaction between spirit and body, supported by biblical passages, offering a holistic perspective on being human in God's eyes.
  • This lesson redefines humans as image-bearers of God, emphasizing the role of reflecting divine attributes in all work, gender equality, and growth in Christ-likeness. It promotes dignity for all, with potential for deeper reflection as faith matures.
  • In this lesson you will explore the origin of sin, rejecting dualism in favor of a Christian perspective where sin arises from the choices of morally responsible creatures. The lesson introduces the idea of a pre-creation rebellion by Satan, emphasizing that humans are called to engage in spiritual warfare by doing good and promoting Shalom in the world.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
  • This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
  • In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
  • You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
  • From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
  • By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
  • In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
  • This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
  • Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
  • Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
  • This lesson explores sacraments, focusing on baptism and diverse theological views. Baptism signifies a profound commitment to Christ within a believer community, emphasizing understanding and promptness post-conversion.
  • In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
  • From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
  • This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
  • Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
  • Learn about Christian views on heaven and hell. Hell is punishment for those who reject Jesus; heaven is eternal bliss with Him on a renewed Earth. Explore differing views respectfully.

Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
Lesson Transcript

We're ready for a new topic and that's the topic of... Well, the way I term it here from Luke 5, Jesus said, "I've come, not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." This whole topic here is what we call technically soteriology, the whole study of what happens in salvation, what happens from coming from being members of the dominion of darkness to members of the kingdom of his beloved son and what's involved in that, and there's...

Oh man, the debates that come up there. We don't even begin to touch a lot of them, but there are several that have significance for pastoral work and that's what I want to do since this, as I conceptualize, this is more for church leaders than it is for professional theologian want to fight about everything.

All right. So, handout, some things that we all agree on. This list of agreements actually came from a fight that I got involved to mediate. It was in a church in a town in Oregon that had a really effective gospel church in the town and they had a fellow come in who had a particular theological bent and he wanted to put everybody into his camp and get rid of all the people who are not a part of his theological camp. What it is, I took them through the first couple sessions I did with them and my thing was find what do we all agree on? So, the list you have in your handout is what I came up with that. It's been edited in since that particular consultation.

The first idea is the human condition and sin is desperate. We all agree on that. Apart from God's gracious initiative, is the way I've said it here. Apart from God's gracious initiative, people are wholly unable to save themself from sin and death. That's the thing, we can't repair the broken relationship with God from our side. It's got to start from God's side. Again, all agree on that. Everybody agrees that sinful humans still are image of God and have dignity and depravity. Dignity meaning we're still image of God and worthy of respect, depravity means that everything we do and are is tainted by sin. Again, these are points of agreement.

The initiative for salvation has to come from God. It can't be us bootstrapping our way up to God or something like that. A second point of dimension is that Christ's work on the cross is of infinite value. Christ's work on the cross is of infinite value. One of the sides in this tribe was big time into limited atonement. The other side of it was in the... It almost sounded like it was downplaying the work of Christ and you had to add on a whole level of soteriology for Christ's work to be completed. It's a big debate between them and what we could agree on is it's of infinite value, but we also agreed that there's a application that needs to be done of Christ's work on the cross. The fact that he died to grant forgiveness of sin by itself is not enough, we need to receive that forgiveness in a significant way, but Christ's work on the cross is of infinite value.

Another dimension, justification and regeneration are by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone at the time of conversion, with no basis in human works of merit on either side. So, justification is God's declaration that we're not guilty. So forgiveness, and I'm going to say, and God's acceptance that we're his children. I'm going to define this yet to come. Justification is God's forgiveness and God's acceptance as I see it. It's by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone with no works of merit whatsoever on my side.

God's regeneration, being born again, is also by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone with no human merit involved in it. That was actually been a point of fight over them. They didn't believe they agreed on that, but I got them to realize, "Hey, we do agree on that." Because one side said you had to act and receive the gift of salvation. I said, "No, you don't have to act, God does that." Justification, which is his forgiveness and acceptance, regeneration, which is new heart and indwelling Holy Spirit, as I define them, are by grace, so it's strictly a gift of God. It's through faith. It's in the work of Christ and there's no meritorious work we do whatsoever. Agreed.

Everybody would agree that the preached gospel is the means of salvation. Now, preaching doesn't mean you're standing in front of the congregation with an open Bible, preaching just mean proclaim. Somebody needs to tell you the good news about Jesus and that could come through a book or a gospel track. It wouldn't have to be a live person doing it, but usually it is. That was actually in response to what people were hearing the Calvinist say, "God doesn't need anything, he can just... and you're saved." No, no preached gospel is a part of the process, even for a hard Calvinist. The preached gospel is the means of salvation.

The mission of the church, why God has done his church, includes exaltation, evangelism and edification. They didn't initially agree on that but they realized they did because exaltation, or worship, is a mission of the church, evangelism, reaching out to lost sinners and bringing them into forgiveness of sin, is a mission of the church, and edification, building up the people of the church to measure the statue of the fullness of Christ, is a mission of the church. They would agree that far, they did not agree on a fourth dimension I would put in there, and that is to do good in the community. They couldn't agree on that as a mission of the church. I think it is a mission of the church. I couldn't get them to agree on it. Okay, we don't know what they're doing. I think the church is called to do good in the community. They said, "No, that's not the mission of the church."

Then, this one was the hardest thing to do. Security of the believer, because we had some hard Calvinists in the crowd that, once saved, always saved, period. If you're chosen by God, you're chosen by God and you couldn't get out if you wanted to. Now the point of this from a Calvinist's perspective is you won't want to, but we had some people on hard Arminian side that absolutely rejected security of the believer. No, God never forces anybody against their will and if somebody says, I want out, God will regretfully let you go.

So, they believe you can lose your salvation, and I mean this is loggerheads, and what I got them agree on, as long as somebody says, "I believe Jesus," and is a meaningful confession, they're secure. They couldn't agree that they were always secure because the Arminians said, "No, I could change my mind and want out." The Calvinists say that will never happen because God's got his hand on you. But they could agree on security of the believer, as long as I'm believing in my heart, confessing Jesus Christ is Lord, that I'm secure, at least at that moment.

That was a careful negotiation. What I'd like to suggest to you is these statements that I put them here are something that with some thought, all evangelicals can agree across a wide spectrum of tribes, Pentecostal, cessationist, Calvinist, Arminian, community versus. I mean all the different tribes can agree on these kinds of things, I think that's true.

I'm going to leave that at that spot. We could spend a lot of time digging into all of those. What I want to do is take some of these dimensions, some of these aspects, and look at it carefully in the dimensions. There's a whole nother debate that I'm going to skip at this point, and that's the order of the elements of salvation.

Does regeneration born again before or after conversion, and all that. I'm going to skip all of that. Take an advanced course from somebody else. I mean, I go through those things. I'm glad to go through them because again, it comes a lot of times to defining key terms. I want to go into a few dimensions in the salvation and focus on a couple that are really significant. One of those dimensions is the dimension of grace.

You've got your hand out here. When I think of grace... Oh, I've put it down here. Grace is undeserved, unconditional, free, freeing and wonderful. Grace is undeserved, unconditional, free, freeing and wonderful. Now, I don't quite believe all of those all the time, but I still think it's a good description because grace, when you talk about salvation by grace...

Okay, let's take a look at it. I mean there are lots of key passage. Look at Ephesians chapter two, it's key passage. Kind of everybody knows it if you've been around a little bit. It begins, "You are dead in your transgressions and sin." And it talks about your situation, it's really bad.

Since Bill's in the house here, NIV has been a great sin. It's a great sin. It's a terrible translation and I'll tell you why it's a terrible translations, verse four. Because all good translations of Ephesians 2:4 begin with, "But God." It just has to be there. 2:4 has to begin against the context of sin with, "But God." This godless NIV begins with, "Because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy." You've ruined the translation.

I'm obviously kidding, my friend. "Because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy." So, it's talking about love and mercy, what God made us alive with Christ, even where it dead and transgressions. It's a great passage. But keep reading down here a little bit down to verse eight, which is again, kind of everybody has memorized, "For it's by grace you have been saved, through faith, not of yourselves, gift of God, not by works, nobody can boast."

Some key elements, but you got to read verse 10 as well. You have to go on to verse 10. "For we are God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Here's how I'm going to emphasize, and we'll see a bit of it here, getting into God's family requires nothing, being in God's family requires a lot. Getting into God's family requires nothing from us except acceptance. Being in God's family increasingly requires a lot from us.

To say salvation is by grace alone, we mean actually not salvation is by grace alone, but justification, regeneration are by grace alone. When we get into sanctification, God is helping us, but we need to contribute our own effort to the process of sanctification.

It's by grace you've been saved, and grace is defined as a gift of God. Grace is undeserved because we begin as enemies. That's the thing that's so radical about the gospel of God is that help, and I'm going to define grace in one word as help rather than favor, but favor is more common so I'll use the term, but I'd prefer the term help.

It's God's help. And God's help, the shocking thing is, not that we get help, but he had gave it to undeserving people. That is absolutely unacceptable, especially in the ancient world, but I think it's unacceptable in our world too because when we give help to undeserving people, you just don't do that. Now you maybe do it manipulative, you do it for my advantage by appearing to help people and such, but this is absolutely ridiculously unaccepted, is the idea that God gives his favor, God gives his help, to enemies and sinners and dead folk. It comes against merit. That is just unbelievable.

My summary here, just as I'm being kind of silly about it... I said in a sermon, "God's goodness given to sinful people." because that is true. Rob Writerman came up to me and said, "Gary, you can do better than that." "Oh, help me Rob." He said, "You're a preacher, you got to alliterate." Between the two of us, we come up with a good alliteration, God's goodness given to grubby guys and gals. But see, the thing of it is, we're grubby, and undeserving, and enemies, and sinners and all those things, and God gives us his help.

Salvation's a gift of God and it's while we were yet sinners. This is true. It's not that we clean ourselves, "Okay, you're doing good. Let me give you some stuff to help you do more." That is absolutely radical. That is absolutely radical. Undeserved, goodness, unconditional, I don't have to meet any conditions. In fact, he gives it against condition. It's given free, it's freeing and it's wonderful.

Now, what I want to do here is talk about there's different dimensions of grace. John Barclay's done an incredible book, it's about 400 incredibly dense pages and I encourage you to take a look at Barclay. He's got a longer version, a shorter version, but it's just really a very, very powerful book. What he does is he takes what I'm doing a good bit further, and it comes back to the nature of a gift.

When we think of a gift, we think of gift as opposed to a purchase. If I give you a gift, it's absolutely without strings. Here in Ephesians, you've been saved through faith, not yourselves, it's the gift of God. We think of a gift and I think, okay, if I give you a gift, it's totally free, comes with no obligation whatsoever. Barclay says, and I agree with him, that is not the biblical idea of gift.

Now, we're in the unending election season in our country. "Wow, Election Day has so many days." No, it's Election Day today. The election cycle never stops. I keep thinking, "Okay, I'm waiting for Election Day. We can get rid of the political ads what I get so tired of." No, they'll be there the day after the election because the next election starts the day. It's ridiculous. Why is it that the law says that if I'm an elected representative, say a Congresswoman here in this particular area, why is it that I cannot go to this woman and give her a nice gift as the US representative from this district? Why can't I give her a gift? There's no strings associated. It's illegal to do that. Why is that?

Because everybody knows if she accepts a gift from me, it always comes with strings. Now it's not bribery. Even if I mean to give it without any strings whatsoever, she cannot accept it, legally, because you all know the corrupting impact of gifts. That's true everywhere. Every gift comes with an expectation of return. Does God's gift of salvation come with an expectation of return? I'm going to argue yes, it does.

It expectation is for loyalty and trust and participation in the family business. It is a gift. It's given without merit and without condition initially, but it's not without strings. When I accept God's gift, it is, I'm putting in some words here, it's his unmerited favor, or unmerited help, given to us through Christ leading to full membership, there's the word, membership, in the family of God. Then me being an academic, put in my stuff we say at graduation every year, with all the rights, privileges, responsibilities there unto appertaining.

When I first came to Western and first participated in my first commencement, the chairman of the board got up and said, "I concur upon you the degree indicated in the program with all the rights and privileges there unto appertaining." I had a conniption fit. I said, "You can't say that." "Well, I just did." "Yeah, but here's the thing, there are responsibilities that come with accepting that degree. You don't get away without responsibilities." "Oh, yeah," he said.

They change the sentence in every commencement since then. It's been some variation on, you join the family of God with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities there unto appertaining. Now, there unto appertaining has been replaced by more contemporary word, but I still like there unto appertaining.

I think that's true in the family of God. When we accept membership in the family, it comes with expectation. That's verse 10. "For we are God's handiwork created in Christ Jesus to do good works." You don't have to do good works to get into the family, but once you're in the family, you have to do good works. It's an expectation, it's a command, it's a responsibility and God's prepared in advance for us to do. I would say there's great joy and satisfaction in doing them.

When I think about grace, the first dimension of grace I'm going to focus on is that dimension of undeserved, unmerited, freely given, put in however you want there, help given to us so that we come into the family. That's grace, first dimension. Now, as you might expect, that's not the only dimension I have in mind.

When I ask people what's the definition of grace, they almost always say unmerited favor. I say, "Yeah, keep going." and they don't keep going. What they mean by that, typically, is unmerited acceptance. Unmerited acceptance into God's family and they put a period there. I'm going to suggest to you that is not adequate.

Let me give you an example of... Turn to 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians chapter 12. 2 Corinthians chapter 12. You know the story maybe. "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up into third heaven." He goes on. I am absolutely convinced this is Paul talking about his own visionary experience with God 12 years earlier. But he says, "I know a man," but then as he goes further, it's clear he is talking about himself.

"I will boast about a man like that. I'll not boast about myself except my weakness." I mean, it's a carefully crafted thing. He says, "Because he's reporting a great revelation. Then he says, "In order to keep me from being conceited," okay, gave it away, that's me, "I was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded the Lord to take it away from me." Now, here's the phrase. "He said to me," what's the first phrase, "my grace is sufficient for you." What's the parallelism? "My power is made perfect in weakness."

When Paul says here, "my grace is sufficient for you," is he saying my unmerited acceptance is sufficient for you? The answer is no. No, that's true, but it's not what he's saying here. What he's saying here in the parallel, my power, God's power, is made perfect in weakness. He's paralleling grace and power. See, that's why I'd rather have the term help than acceptance in my definition of grace because God gives his help, it includes acceptance, but it's more than that. It's more than that.

Let me give you another example. I'm just seeing which one I want to do. Let's look at Acts 4, that's not a common passage, because that's the prayer. That's the prayer. Peter and John have been released from prison, they come back and they have this incredible, shaking experience and out of that prayer for boldness to witness and God to do miracles, verse 33. Acts 4:33, "With great power, the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of Lord Jesus." And that's your grace, "And God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all." "God's grace was so powerfully at work in them all." Is that unmerited acceptance? The answer's no, that's power. It's not just acceptance, its power as well.

It goes on. If you skip down to Acts chapter six. This is a controversy in the church about Hellenistic Jews and Hebraic Jews. It's racism, really. "Choose seven men among you full of Holy Spirit and wisdom. We'll give them..." They do that. Who do they pick? They choose Stephen, a man full of faith in the Holy Spirit. Keep going. Down in verse eight, describing Stephen again. "Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power."

What does that mean in verse five and in verse eight? "Stephen is a man full of God's grace and power." Is he full of God's acceptance? No, he's full of powerful. He's the one who performs great wonders and signs among the people. Now, I've got a number of examples in there and what I'd like to suggest to you is grace is not only acceptance, but it's also empowerment. Grace is an empowering reality.

What I put here in the handout, God's initiation and assistance, I'm going to put in or help, that's the [inaudible] to the assistance. God's initiation and assistance to us through the Holy Spirit to empower us to live like Christ. So, grace is an empowering thing, not just an acceptance thing. It seemed we were responsible to respond to God's initiative, and this is related where unmerited favor, the initial grace, is related to justification, regeneration founded on the finished work of Christ. Unmerited favor, the initial grace, is founded on the finished work of Christ. What I'm talking about here, his empowerment is really the sanctification and the finishing work of Christ.

What I want to do is put into your thinking the idea that grace is not only acceptance, it is, but it's also empowerment. Now, this ended up being a fight back in the Reformation Era because the Roman Catholic Church in their sacramentalism, which is one of the big controversies, would say the only to receive God's help was through the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church distributed by a duly ordained priest. Luther said, "Nonsense. There's lots of ways to get God's help and I don't have to do with the Roman Catholic Church." It was a big fight.

But there was a fight also in the nature of grace. The church was saying, when you eat the Eucharistic meal, you consume God's grace and this meal gives you energy to do good works. Luther said, "Nonsense. It has nothing to do with energy and empowerment, it has everything to do with acceptance when you talk about grace." He rejected the power interpretation of grace because it was a rejection of Roman Catholic sacramentalism. I think he threw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

I think there is an empowerment, but you don't have to get it through the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church. I think Bible talks about an empowerment, and this empowerment is talking about cleansing, and even more talking about works of service. That's why grace is so directly connected with the gifts. So, charisma, grace, and charismata, the gifts, is basically the same word.

God's favor, God's help, is unconditional without merit, related to the finished work of Christ, but it's also God's initiation, God's assistance and God's power that gives us the possibility to live like Christ. This way the sanctification the finishing work of Christ.

Okay, one more question to mess you up. Is God's grace ever deserved? Everybody, everybody always says no. If it's deserved, it's not grace because grace is always given freely. Well, if all else fails, let's look at the Bible. Take a look, James chapter 4. You're right, I got something in mind. James, that troublemaker, this is part of the reason maybe that Luther didn't like him. In chapter 4, he is really ripping on him big time, ripping on us, I should say. But look at verse 6, James 4:6.

"He gives us more grace." Do some get more grace than others? Yep, here it is. "He gives us more grace." At least he adds to it. "This is why scripture says, 'God opposes the proud but shows grace to the humble.'" Now, why is it that every translation does not put grace the second time, it put favor, but it's charisma. "This is why scripture says, 'God opposes the proud, but shows grace to the humble.'" There is merited grace.

You can disqualify yourself from grace by being arrogant and proud, you can deserve God's grace by being humble. That's what it says. That's what it says. This is a case of merited grace. Now, that doesn't mean that God has to pay us off, it doesn't obligate God, but God will not give this grace. It specifically says he will not do it to the proud, he will do it to the humble, this particular dimension of grace. That's merited grace. That's merited grace.

One more, Genesis 6. Genesis 6. Starting verse 5, "God saw the great wickedness of the race had become, every inclination was evil. He regretted, 'I'll wipe them off.'" Look at verse eight. "Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." That's [foreign language], which would be translated as grace. God found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Why?

Next verse, "Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." Why does God give his grace to Noah? It's because he is righteous, blameless, and walks faithfully with God. Now there's a [inaudible] behind that. That's not Noah acting on his own, but this is saying that God saves Noah from the flood because he's righteous, blameless, and walks faithful with God.

I've listened to preachers, I could name them, you'd recognize their names, who said, "Yeah, this wasn't about Noah. This is, God gave his grace to the unmerited, violent, evil man, Noah." But it's not what it says. "Oh, well, among his generation he was a righteous guy, but it's a bad time so he's a sinner like everybody else, but maybe not quite as bad a sinner." No, it's what it says. God is giving his grace to a deserving person.

Now, the shocking thing is he gives his grace to undeserving people, but that's not exclusive. He gives his grace, his help, to his responsive, obedient, faithful children more so because it's there to empower us to do his good works.

Dimensions of grace, it is a gift, but not a gift without strings. It's given to the undeserving and it is unmerited initially, that's related to the finished work of Christ, which brings you into the community, but with the rights and privileges and responsibilities there unto appertaining. Then, there's a grace that is a help, or an empowerment, to do the good works that God's prepared for us to do and we have a responsibility to do them. God gives more help to deserving people, at least some of the time. Sometimes grace is given to the deserving person and not just to the undeserving. Okay, so there you go. Questions?

All right. So, on the topic of merited grace, what more would this merited grace bring beyond justification before God?

Well, it's more than justification, we're talking about sanctification here. See, I've talked about justification, that's coming into the family. That's not merited at all. Now, we're talking about sanctification, life in the family. That's where the merit comes in. See, what we do is we take justification unmerited and we expand it to salvation, which includes sanctification. That's the mistake.

I think we make a serious mistake when we say that Christianity is a performance free salvation. Christianity as you get into it, is absolutely about performance. He absolutely expects us to do good works. Absolutely expects us to do good works. They're prepared for us and we are to walk in them.

Is it the, "It's not a religion of performance." Well, in one sense, no, it's not performing externally, but it's absolutely being obedient, responsive children. That's where I disagree with so much evangelical preaching, the Christianity is not a matter of performance. Well, not initially, not justification, but you get in the family, it's absolutely expectation of that. That's where I would come.

But what happens if you walk less in the expectation than other people?

Then you may get spanked.

In hell?


To hell?

Not to hell. No, if you're a believer in Jesus, you don't go to hell, but you can certainly get loss of privilege, you can get time out and you can get spanked in the family of God. Yeah, stay tuned to this channel, we're going to get there in just a bit.

But see, again, this is a spot where we take justification, what's true about justification, and we expand it to the entire Christian life and that's a serious error, and it's done in a lot of evangelical preaching. We take what's true of justification, getting into the family, expand it out to life in the family, and it's a serious error. It's not a works free salvation, it's a works free justification, but sanctification absolutely involves our make every effort, too, and there's a whole bunch of things after that, and that it's just not being preached these days.

People are very confident in their sin and they should not be. Preachers are afraid to call out sin for fear that we'll be a performance-based Christianity. We've got a church full of sinners who are very comfortable in that spot and they shouldn't be. [inaudible] should be sure you can go legalistic the other direction, but we're so afraid of moralism that we won't call out people that do good works. But man, read the Bible. I feel strongly about this, as you can imagine. There are certain tribes that are worse about it than others. Yeah, I'll leave it at that.



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