Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

In his discussion of the Nicene creed’s statement “one baptism for the remission of sins,” T. F. Torrance explains what it means to be baptized into Christ:

“In baptism we are united to Christ through the Holy Spirit in such a way that we partake of the whole substance of the gospel, for all grace and truth are embodied in him. We may recall the point made by Irenaeus in this connection, when he claimed that the incarnate Son is called and actually is, ‘Salvation, Savior, and Saving Activity‘ and that thus he is ‘salvation made flesh.’ In other words saving grace is not something detached from Christ which can be dispensed at will, but is identical with Christ in the unity of his Person, Word, and Act. It is through the one baptism which we have in common with Christ, or rather which he has in common with us, that we share in all that God has in store for us. Because baptism is one (the baptism with which Christ was baptised for our sakes, and the baptism in which we are given to share in all that he was, is, and will be) to be baptised is much more than to be initiated into the sphere where forgiveness is proclaimed and dispensed in the Church. It is to to be ‘delivered out of the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.’ It is to have our frail, transient existence taken up into Christ himself in such a way, that without any loss to our creaturely reality but rather with its perfecting through his Spirit, it is united to God and established in union with his eternal reality.” (The Trinitarian Faith, p. 297)

So. Jesus is Salvation made flesh [all life is in Him and apart from Him there is no salvation; grace and forgiveness are found in Him alone]. The Spirit unites us to Jesus through baptism, uniting us with His body, the Church, which is the kingdom, house and family of God, the community of faith, the assembly of the saints, outside of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. So when Peter says, “baptism now saves us” he is saying “Jesus saves us.” By baptism the Spirit of Jesus unites us to the Church. The Church is the body of Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus is Salvation made flesh.

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Scott McKnight

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What is Regeneration?

The word “regeneration” for most of us today refers to that one-time, unseen, inner moment when the Holy Spirit flips the switch and brings us from death to life. We’ve heard time and again, “Regeneration precedes faith. Regeneration precedes faith. Regeneration precedes faith.” And therefore if anyone should start using the word “regeneration” and “baptism” in the same sentence, he would quickly find himself in hot water.

But where does this modern definition of “regeneration” come from? How has the Church and her scholars traditionally used this term?

John Calvin seems to have a pretty broad definition for the word –

In Institutes III.3.9, he says “I interpret repentance as regeneration whose sole end is to restore in us the image of God… [then he lists a number of verses we normally associate with sanctification – 2 Cor. 3:18, Eph 4:23, Col 3:10]… this restoration does not take place in one moment or one day or one year; but through continual and sometimes even slow advances.”

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“No hope without it.”

Reformed people are familiar with J. Gresham Machen’s quote from his telegram to Dr. John Murray, “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.” We surely must be thankful for Jesus’ “active” obedience, but it is equally true (as Machen well understood) that this alone brings no hope. Unless our sinless Savior had voluntarily laid down His life on the cross, we would all be without hope. But if we stop at the cross, we still have no hope. What about the resurrection? Apart from it, our Savior’s life and death would be worthless to us. “Thank God for the resurrection of Christ. No hope without it.” Yes, but what about having the benefits of His work applied to us? Apart from faith, we cannot partake of the blessings of Jesus’ work. Ok, then, “Thank God for faith. No hope without it!” True indeed, but, one can’t believe without also repenting, so, “Thank God for repentance. No hope without it!” And we’re just beginning. Think of all the other things Jesus tells us are necessary for us to enter the kingdom or to see life. Here are a few more things without which, according to Jesus, we have no hope (and note: I’ve put them in slogan format, which apparently is the way to communicate effectively nowadays):

“Righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, no hope without it!” (Matt. 5:20)

“Plucking out the right eye and cutting off the right hand, no hope without it!” (Matt. 5:29-30)

“Forgiving other men their trespasses, no hope without it!” (Matt. 6:14-15)

“Doing the will of the Father, no hope without it!” (Matt. 7:21-23)

“Refusing to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, no hope without it!” (Matt. 12:31-32)

“Losing your life for Jesus’ sake, no hope without it!” (Matt. 16:24-25)

“Becoming like little children, no hope without it!” (Matt. 18:2-3)

“Serving your brothers, even the least of them, no hope without it!” (Matt. 25:44-46)

“Eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking His blood, no hope without it!” (John 6:53)

and there are many more . . . . . . .

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In The Christian Faith, Henri de Lubac makes this comment regarding the Patristic view of conversion:

“Becoming a Christian did not mean merely giving up erroneous beliefs in order to embrace the true teaching offered by the Church; it meant, essentially, renouncing Satan in order to adhere to Christ, or, as St. Justin put it, turning from idols in order to consecrate oneself through Christ to the unbegotten God. It meant, as Hermas said in his vivid language, apostatizing from the angel of evil in order to follow the angel of justice and to live for God.” (pp. 143-144).

de Lubac goes on to show that to the early Fathers, faith was a whole-person commitment to follow Jesus and live, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. Faith of course involves believing that which has been revealed, but it is more than this. Faith means entrusting oneself to God; pledging the whole being to the Savior who has given Himself to us first. Thus, de Lubac notes, faith “calls to mind the reciprocal gift of spouses.” The bridegroom offers himself and all that he is to the bride promising never to leave or forsake her and the bride responds by giving herself to him without reservation “til death do us part.” (more…)

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