A Woman is Preaching?

Do you know the Bible story of Huldah?

Many people have attended Sunday school and church for their entire lives, yet they have never even heard of her. Even those who went to a Christian grade school or college might be thinking, “Umm, in the Bible? Are you sure? Wasn’t that Hagar the Horrible’s wife’s name?” (Nope, that’s Helga). Many of you have spent thirty, forty, or eighty years in the church and still, you’ve never heard of Huldah. I have asked Christians who have all of the above credentials (and more) and generally, they have never heard her name or story.

She almost never shows up in children’s Bible story books. She does not appear in the majority of Sunday school curriculum. Huldah’s story is absent. I have attended church my whole life, all thirty-six years. I have listened to pastors preaching online, on the radio, in different churches, in different denominations, in this country, and overseas. And I have never once heard a pastor tell the story of Huldah or teach on the significance of her life.

And why not? She was arguably the most respected and influential prophet during the reign of King Josiah. Most of us know the story of King Josiah, a godly leader who was crowned as a young boy. So then, why have we not heard about Huldah, an important female prophet from the same period?

It is hard to say that her story is obscure, except that we have made it so by ignoring it. God used Huldah’s prophecy in a powerful way. Her work was followed by the most thorough religious renewal in the entire history of Judah. There were a few Southern kingdom monarchs who had turned away from idolatry in Judah’s history. But it was only under King Josiah in response to Huldah’s prophecy that every visible trace of idol worship was wiped out. Stone idols were even smashed and ground to powder so that no one could salvage a crumb and worship it. Of course, as soon as Josiah died, idolatry popped right up again. But under Josiah’s and Huldah’s leadership, it was completely forbidden.

So why is it that we have overlooked the story of Huldah—a story recorded twice in Scripture (2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34)? Why do most people not know her name? Why is she not remembered with other Bible women such as Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, and Esther?

Quite simply, Huldah’s story does not fit with the prevailing theology on women in ministry that is held by most evangelicals in America. There is really nothing to her story except that she preaches the word of God, quite authoritatively, to a group of men who happened to be the highest civic and religious leaders in the country. Even the high priest was there.

Imagining Huldah: this linoleum block and watercolor print was inspired by women depicted in ancient art from Egypt and the Aegean Sea people.

We cannot pull the focus of her story toward co-operative military leadership as we can with Deborah. We cannot put a magnifying glass over her childhood story, her musical talents, or her mistakes as we often do with Miriam. We cannot make her into a beauty contest winner as we can with Esther. Huldah really does only one thing. She preaches a sermon. And it was not sharing time at women’s ministry night. Her audience was men. In the Bible, that is really all that Huldah did. She held a respected position of spiritual leadership, and she clearly taught the word of God to men.

But you thought “ladies” weren’t supposed to do that! Huldah’s story raises difficult questions about why women today are not allowed to be spiritual leaders and religious teachers in the church.

In Jerusalem at the time of Huldah’s ministry, there were some very dark practices going on. There were prostitutes whose services were available right inside the temple of Yahweh. People thought that in order to keep the gods happy, the crops healthy, and the invading armies away, they needed to throw their children into the open jaws of the evil god, Molech. Their children were burned alive as human sacrifices. But all of that ended after King Josiah encountered the word of God. God spoke to the king in two ways, through the Book of the Law found in the temple (probably Deuteronomy) and through the preaching of a woman.

So, here’s my question today:

Would you like to see the church purified from its modern day idols? Would you like to see our “Molech” ground to dust?

Then let the women preach! Do not put up roadblocks of doubt and shame about what a woman can do for God’s people. Tell your daughters about Huldah. Encourage women who want to learn and teach God’s word. Invite them to share what God has taught them to women and men. In the humble footsteps of Josiah, seek out the wisdom of godly women in your church. Be prepared for God to speak in an unexpected way with an unexpected voice.

And remember:

“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days and they will prophesy.” (Acts 2:17-18)

[ this article is by Sara Ronnevik, October 14, 2015 ]

[ Read more about Huldah ]

Holy Spirit Theology 101

Here are my notes for the third session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

If we stop short of applying the truth to our lives, then we do not actually grasp that truth. Our belief determines action.

More important than what we know is how we act. For lack of understanding we grieve the Spirit.

Think about KGBC in light of the huddle analogy. How have you been running from the huddle to the bench?

God gave the Spirit so that we might change the world. How might we look if we all began running plays?

We study biblical truth, which makes us smarter and knowledgeable, but doesn’t affect our lives. We are educated far beyond our obedience.

So, the result of this study could be that we walk around with more knowledge of the Spirit, or we can know the Spirit.

  1. The Spirit is a person, rather than a force, an it, or a ghost. (Matthew 28:19, the trinity / Ephesians 4:30, emotions)
  2. The Spirit is God, not less than the Father or the Son. (Acts 5:3-4, the Spirit is called God)
  3. The Spirit has his own mind and will (Romans 8:27, 1 Corinthians 12:11) and enables & empowers us to fulfill our mission.
  4. The Spirit has emotions (Ephesians 4:30), grieving when there is disunity, or lack of love for others or God. Sin affects God.
  5. The Spirit is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable. (Zechariah 4:6, First Corinthians 2:10, Psalm 139:7-8).
    1. The point is not to completely understand God but to worship him. Allow him to lead you to value him more.
    2. Jesus left this earth and gave his followers an impossible task (Acts 1:8). He made it clear the Spirit’s power was needed.

What the Spirit does in and through us:

  1. He helps us when we are in precarious situations ((Mark 13:11, Luke 12:12).
  2. The Counselor teaches and reminds us of what we need to know, and remember what Jesus taught (John 14:26).
  3. The Spirit brings peace in the midst of turmoil (John 14:27, Romans 15:13).
  4. The Spirit works in the hearts of all people, convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:7-11, First Thessalonians 1:5).
  5. The Spirit seals us in Christ, and is a pledge of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14).
  6. The Spirit confirms in us that we belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).
  7. The Spirit is the revealer of truth that helps and guides us to understand and interpret God’s Word (John 16:13).
  8. The Spirit is our Helper, Counselor, Comforter, (Paraclete) (John 14:16).
  9. The Spirit convinces us of the deity of Christ (John 15:26).
  10. The Spirit is a gift-giver (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, Romans 12:6).
  11. The Spirit is a fruit producer (Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
  12. The Spirit is a witness empowerer, and equipper (Acts 1:8, Romans 8:26, Ephesians 3:16-19).
  13. The Spirit is a slave redeemer, he sets us free (Romans 8:2, 10-11, Second Corinthians 3:17).
  14. The Spirit is an adoption confirmer, being witness we are God’s children (Romans 8:15-16).
  15. The Spirit is a weakling strengthener (Romans 8:26-27).

Now that we know all this, we must ask, “What does the Holy Spirit want from me right now?” “How can I cooperate with him in his work?” Don’t just ask what he can hypothetically do, but ask what he can do in your life.

Ponder the amazing power of the Spirit…

Here are some quotes from the book:

  • What you do and how you live are absolutely vital. Without action and fruit, all the theology in the world has little meaning. But theology is still important—what you believe absolutely determines how you act.
  • The point is not to completely understand God but to worship Him. Let the very fact that you cannot know Him fully lead you to praise Him for His infiniteness and grandeur.
  • I have heard the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit described like the three parts of an egg: the shell, the white stuff, and the yolk. I have also heard people say that God is like a three-leaf clover: three “arms,” yet all are a part of the one clover stalk. Another popular comparison is to the three forms of H2O (water, ice, and steam). While these serve as cute metaphors for an unexplainable mystery, the fact is that God is not like an egg, a three-leaf clover, or the three forms of water. God is not like anything. He is incomprehensible, incomparable, and unlike any other being. He is outside our realm of existence and, thus, outside our ability to categorize Him. While analogies may be helpful in understanding certain aspects of Him, let’s be careful not to think that our analogies in any way encapsulate His nature.
  • Yet when the Holy Spirit descended and indwelt them, a radical change occurred. From that point on, none of these disciples was ever the same. The book of Acts is a testament to this fact. We read of Stephen, the first martyr. We see Peter, a changed, courageous man. We see Paul (formerly Saul) go from killing Christ followers to becoming one and showing many others how to do so too.
  • I believe that if we truly cared about the Holy Spirit’s grief, there would be fewer fights, divorces, and splits in our churches. Maybe it’s not due to a lack of belief but rather a lack of concern. I pray for the day when believers care more about the Spirit’s grief than their own.
  • In 1 Corinthians we read that the gifts of the Spirit are “empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (12:11). This is an important reminder of who is in control. Just as we don’t get to choose which gifts we are given, so also we don’t get to choose what God intends for us or for the church.

Who Needs the Spirit?

Here are my notes for the first session of The Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, which includes questions for my Poster-TheForgottenGodsmall group, quotes from the book, and other observations. Remember these are notes, and not a complete article on the topic. Please purchase the book to support the author.

Our western mindset: we tend to assume that God won’t work supernaturally in our lives. We read some crazy stuff in the book of Acts but we don’t expect the supernatural.

In John 14:16, Jesus promised “another” counselor to be with them. This is not another of a different kind, but another of the same kind! Jesus says the Spirit would be like him!

When we are honest, we would prefer a real and physical Jesus we can see and touch over an invisible Spirit… but Jesus said it is BETTER that he go away and his followers have the Holy Spirit.

We don’t value the Holy Spirit or his importance in the Christian’s life:

  • John 6:63
  • John 16:7
  • Romans 8:9
  • Romans 8:11

How have we missed this? How have we come to except our experience of the Christian life as normal?

In general, how did you learn your theology, that which you believe about Christianity? What process do you follow in forming your beliefs? MANY people get their knowledge of God and theology from people we know; pastors, teachers, friends, parents, rather than from our only source of faith and practice, the Bible. One problem with the American church is that we are full of believers who possess a second-hand faith who have never discovered on their own who God is or received personal inspiration from his Word. God help us develop a first-hand faith.

1. Take a moment and list your beliefs about the Holy Spirit?

2. Are these beliefs shaped more by Scripture or what you have come to see as the normal Christian life?

3. What the Holy Spirit does in a person’s life: Acts 1:4-8, Acts 2:1-13, Acts 4:31, Romans 8:1-17, Romans 8:26-27, Romans 15:13, 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Galatians 4:4-7, Galatians 5:16-25, Ephesians 1:13-14, Ephesians 3:14-16, 1 John 4:13.

(You may download my Holy Spirit Scriptures document HERE.) The bottom line, does the Holy Spirit make a difference in our lives?

4. What would you expect to observe as the Holy Spirit entered a person’s life? The fact is that when you get outside the church walls, you can’t tell believers from non-believers. When they see no difference, they question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God.

5. Why do you think that everyday life does not match these biblical descriptions?

6. According to Galatians 5:16-25, what does it look like to walk by the Spirit?

7. What would distinguish a Spirit-filled person from a non-Christian?

8. Every day, people try to live the Spirit-filled life without the Spirit. What good can we do in merely human effort?

9. How should supernatural results differ from what we can accomplish on our own?

10. It’s not about you. What practical ways can the Spirit work through you to bless people around you?

It is impossible for finite humans to fully know God, in fact, we don’t need more cerebral knowledge but experiential knowledge. We can never go back, only forward, seeking what it means to live faithfully in the time and culture where God has placed us.

Caterpillar Confusion: Life Transformation (a parable of our new life in Christ)…

Have you ever wondered what caterpillars think about? Just imagine what a caterpillar experiences. For all its life it crawls around on a small patch of dirt and up and down a few plants. Then one day it takes a nap. A long nap. Then, what in the world must go through its head when it wakes up to discover it can fly? What happened to its dirty, plump little worm body? What does it think when it sees its tiny new body with gorgeous wings?

Francis Chan quotes from The Forgotten God:

  • If you are still alive on this planet, it’s because He has something for you to do.
  • God calls us to pursue Him, not what He might do FOR us or even IN our midst.
  • When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own? – Karl Barth
  • Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Helper” or “Comforter.” Let me ask you a simple question: Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?
  • Our lack of intimacy (with God) often is due to our refusal to unplug and shut off communication from all others so we can be alone with Him.
  • A lot of people in churches have added Jesus to their lives. People who have, in a sense, asked Him to join them on their life journey, to follow them wherever they feel they should go, rather than following Him as we are commanded. The God of the universe is not something we can just add to our lives and keep on as we did before. The Spirit who raised Christ from the dead is not someone we can just call on when we want a little extra power in our lives. Jesus Christ did not die in order to follow us. He died and rose again so that we could forget everything else and follow Him to the cross, to true Life.
  • Some of you would like it if I said we were going to find a healthy balance between unhealthy extremes. That’s not what we’re going to do. When we are referring to God, balance is a huge mistake. God is not just one thing we add to the mix called life. He wants an invitation from us to permeate everything and every part of us.
  • And perhaps the core issue is really about our holding back from giving ourselves to God, rather than our getting “too much” of Him. Perhaps when a person says, “I’d just like a little God, thank you very much,” she or he is really saying, “I’d rather not give the parts of my life that I really care about over to God, so I’ll just hold on to this, that, oh, and that, too….” It doesn’t work that way. When I read Scripture, I see the truth and necessity of a life wholly surrendered to and dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
  • Most of us assume that what we believe is right but have never really studied for ourselves.
  • When those outside the church see no difference in our lives, they begin to question our integrity, our sanity, or even worse, our God.
  • Thousands of years later, I think most of us would also choose a physical Jesus over an invisible Spirit. But what do we do with the fact that Jesus says it is better for His followers to have the Holy Spirit? Do we believe Him? If so, do our lives reflect that belief?
  • I am tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people who do not have the Holy Spirit of God living in them. I want to consistently live with an awareness of His strength. I want to be different today from what I was yesterday as the fruit of the Spirit becomes more manifest in me.

Are you tired of living in a way that looks exactly like people without the Spirit? Let’s live in the awareness of his strength, and grow…

Pray for humility to be open to what the Spirit want to teach you, even if you have overlooked the obvious.

Six Problem Passages

Six Problem Passages for Water Baptism:

1. Mark 7:4 – “and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse [literally sprinkle] themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing [literally baptizing] of cups and pitchers and copper pots.)”

Western and Syrian manuscripts add “couches” at the end of the sentence (A.T. Robertson). For those who don’t immerse, they ask, “How would the Pharisees go about submerging “couches or beds” in their ceremonial washing? (Leviticus 15:20)” You would need a large body of water like a pool or river. So, this passage seems to permit a mode of baptism to be sprinkling or pouring. The Mishnah (the first part of the Talmud) devotes 30 chapters to the purification of vessels.

There is allowance to dismantle the beds in order to immerse and purify them. So, in Jesus’ day, these beds were constructed in a way to dismantle them when needed. Strong’s Systematic Theology is accurate when he says that every use of the word baptism in the Bible requires or allows the meaning “to immerse.”

2. Mark 16:16 – “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.

At first glance it appears that baptism is necessary for salvation, but notice it does not say, “he would does not believe and is not baptized will be condemned.” The issue is FAITH, not baptism. The thing that condemns a person is not the lack of baptism but the lack of faith.

Why does Mark tie baptism to salvation? He is stressing the importance of baptism, which is a part of the Great Commission. A church history professor once told me, “Baptism doesn’t save anyone, but how can you be saved without it?” When we are truly saved, we will WANT to follow Jesus is believer’s baptism. If we refuse, we should question that person’s conversion.

In the rest of the NT, baptism is clearly not a part of the gospel. Paul makes this very clear in 1 Corinthians 1:17. If baptism was necessary for salvation, Paul would have been more earnest in communicating that teaching. If it were necessary, 1 Corinthians 1:14 makes no sense.

Charles Ryrie states: “The original ending of Mark’s Gospel is the subject of much debate. It is doubtful that what we designate as Mark 16:16 was part of the genuine close of the Gospel. At best, it would be unwise to base any doctrine on the content of Mark 16:9–20. However, it is also possible that if Mark 16:16 is a part of the inspired text that the reference is to baptism of the Spirit. After all, the Lord would have spoken Mark 16:16 at almost the same time as He spoke Acts 1:5 concerning the imminent baptizing ministry of the Spirit.”

Norman Geisler states: “A basic principle of Bible interpretation is that difficult passages should be interpreted in light of the easy, clear verses. One should never build a theology on difficult passages. The clear verses indicate that one is saved by faith in Christ (e.g., John 3:16–17; Acts 16:31). In Mark 16:16 it is clear that it is unbelief that brings damnation, not a lack of being baptized: “he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” When a person rejects the gospel, refusing to believe it, that person is damned.”

3. John 3:5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

John 3:5 does not teach baptismal regeneration. In fact, it is not even referring to Baptism. The point is that you must be born again (John 3:3). Nicodemus asks how can a man enter his mother’s womb and be born again (John 3:4). Then comes the born of water and of the Spirit (John 3:5). Jesus is simply stating that a man must be born of water (born physically), and goes on to say that this second birth is spiritual in nature. The teaching here is not that water baptism is necessary, but that physical birth is necessary! People must be born before they can be born again. John 3:6 confirms this interpretation.

4. Acts 2:38Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Many claim that one must be baptized to receive remission of or forgiveness of sins, but this is easily refuted when we look at the original words of the New Testament. There is a little preposition “eis” that is translated “for” has the casual force and should be translated, “on the basis of” or “because of.” That makes a big difference.

Casual force in English is like, “He was arrested for stealing,” is better understood as, “He was arrested on the basis of stealing.” He was arrested “in order that” he might steal, makes no sense. If someone is commended for bravery, it is on the basis of his bravery, not in order to make him brave.

Eis” does not promote purpose or result, that forgiveness of sin is the purpose or goal of baptism, but based upon the previously received remission of sins, we would engage in this outward testimony of this inward experience. Other NT examples of “eis” are: Matthew 12:41 and Luke 11:32.

Charles Ryrie states: “Baptismal regenerationists understand this verse to teach that repentance and baptism lead to the forgiveness of sins. Unquestionably baptism was a clear proof in New Testament times of conversion, whether it be conversion to Judaism, to John the Baptist’s message, or to Christianity. To refuse to be baptized raised a legitimate doubt as to the sincerity of the profession. Therefore, when the Jewish crowd asked Peter what they must do, he quite naturally said to repent (change their minds about Jesus of Nazareth) and be baptized (give clear proof of that change).

Though it is true that exegetically the text may be understood to say that baptism is unto (eis) the forgiveness of sins, it is equally true that it may say that baptism is not for the purpose of the forgiveness of sins but because of forgiveness (that had already taken place at repentance). Eis is clearly used with this meaning in Matthew 12:41—they repented at (on the basis of, or because of) the preaching of Jonah. It certainly cannot mean in that verse that they repented with a view to [or for the purpose of] the preaching of Jonah. So Acts 2:38 may be understood that the people should repent and then be baptized because their sins were forgiven.

5. Acts 22:16Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.’

Paul is recounting his conversion experience, and some declare that a person is saved through the waters of baptism (sins being washed away).

Charles Ryrie states: “The verse contains four segments: (a) arise (which is a participle, arising); (b) be baptized (an imperative); (c) wash away your sins (another imperative); and (d) calling on the name of the Lord (another participle). To make the verse teach baptism as necessary for salvation necessitates connecting parts b and c, be baptized and wash away. But rather than being connected to each other, each of those two commands is actually connected with a participle. Arising is necessary before baptism, and calling before sins can be washed away. Thus the verse should be read this way: arising, be baptized; wash away your sins, calling on the Lord. The verse correctly understood does not teach baptismal regeneration.”

“Be baptized” is in the aorist middle imperative, which denotes urgency, while the middle voice places the responsibility to obey this command squarely on Paul. He immediately obeyed three days after his conversion, but when were his sins washed away, at his baptism or his conversion?

6. 1 Peter 3:21Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

John MacArthur states: “First Peter 3:18–22 stands as one of the most difficult NT texts to translate and then interpret. For example, does “Spirit” in 3:18 refer to the Holy Spirit, or to Christ’s Spirit? Did Christ preach through Noah before the Flood, or did He preach Himself after the crucifixion (3:19)? Was the audience to this preaching composed of the humans in Noah’s day, or demons in the abyss (3:19)? Does 3:20, 21 teach baptismal regeneration (salvation), or salvation by faith alone in Christ?

First, every time we see the word “save” in the NT, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is referring to our deliverance from the wrath of God and the punishment of a Christless eternity in hell (Romans 5:9-10). This passage actually says that baptism is an opportunity to be rescued from a dirty conscience. Peter is clear that he is not speaking of a dirty body (its purpose is not a bath that removes filth from the body) but it is an appeal to God for a good [clean] conscience.

A person with a clear conscience knows that no one can point a finger at him and say, “You’ve offended me, and you have never asked for forgiveness.” Baptism is an opportunity to publically set things straight. We need a conscience without offense toward God and men (Acts 24:16). Without a clear conscience, our witness is diminished (1 Peter 3:15-16) and some suffer shipwreck with regards to their faith (1 Timothy 1:19).

The point is, use your baptism as an opportunity to invite lost friends and family. Invite those you have offended in the past. Explain that God has forgiven you of your past sins and you desire their forgiveness as well.

In his commentary on 1 Perter 3:21, MacArthur writes:

an antitype which now saves us. In the NT, an antitype is an earthly expression of a spiritual reality. It indicates a symbol, picture, or pattern of some spiritual truth. Peter is teaching that the fact that 8 people were in an ark and went through the whole judgment, and yet were unharmed, is analogous to the Christian’s experience in salvation by being in Christ, the ark of one’s salvation.

baptism … through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter is not at all referring to water baptism here, but rather a figurative immersion into union with Christ as an ark of safety from the judgment of God. The resurrection of Christ demonstrates God’s acceptance of Christ’s substitutionary death for the sins of those who believe (Acts 2:30-31; Romans 1:4). Judgment fell on Christ just as the judgment of the flood waters fell on the ark. The believer who is in Christ is thus in the ark of safety that will sail over the waters of judgment into eternal glory (cf. Romans 6:1–4).

not the removal of the filth of the flesh. To be sure he is not misunderstood, Peter clearly says he is not speaking of water baptism. In Noah’s flood, they were kept out of the water while those who went into the water were destroyed. Being in the ark and thus saved from God’s judgment on the world prefigures being in Christ and thus saved from eternal damnation.

the answer of a good conscience toward God. The word for “answer” has the idea of a pledge, agreeing to certain conditions of a covenant (the New Covenant) with God. What saves a person plagued by sin and a guilty conscience is not some external rite, but the agreement with God to get in the ark of safety, the Lord Jesus, by faith in His death and resurrection (cf. Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 9:14; 10:22).

The Believer’s Bible Comentary explains: First let us see what it may mean, and then what it cannot mean.

Actually, there is a baptism which saves us—not our baptism in water, but a baptism which took place at Calvary almost 2000 years ago. Christ’s death was a baptism. He was baptized in the waters of judgment. This is what He meant when He said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished!” (Luke 12:50). The psalmist described this baptism in the words, “Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and billows have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). In His death, Christ was baptized in the waves and billows of God’s wrath, and it is this baptism that is the basis for our salvation.

But we must accept His death for ourselves. Just as Noah and his family had to enter the ark to be saved, so we must commit ourselves to the Lord as our only Savior. When we do this, we become identified with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. In a very real sense, we then have been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20), we have been buried with Him (Romans 6:4), and we have been brought from death to life with Him (Romans 6:4).

All this is pictured in the believer’s baptism. The ceremony is an outward sign of what has taken place spiritually; we have been baptized into Christ’s death. As we go under the water, we acknowledge that we have been buried with Him. As we come up out of the water, we show that we have risen with Him and want to walk in newness of life.

An antitype which now saves us—baptism refers to Christ’s baptism unto death on the cross and our identification with Him in it, which water baptism represents.

The verse cannot mean that we are saved by ritual baptism in water for the following reasons:

  1. That would make water the savior, instead of the Lord Jesus. But He said, “I am the way” (John 14:6).
  2. It would imply that Christ died in vain. If people can be saved by water, then why did the Lord Jesus have to die?
  3. It simply doesn’t work. Many who have been baptized have proved by their subsequent lives that they were never truly born again.

Neither can this verse mean that we are saved by faith plus baptism.

  1. This would mean that the Savior’s work on the cross was not sufficient. When He cried, “It is finished,” it wasn’t really so, according to this view, because baptism must be added to that work for salvation.
  2. If baptism is necessary for salvation, it is strange that the Lord did not personally baptize anyone. John 4:1-2 states that Jesus did not do the actual baptizing of His followers; this was done by His disciples.
  3. The Apostle Paul thanked God that he baptized very few of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:14–16). This would be strange thanksgiving for an evangelist if baptism were essential for salvation! Paul did baptize some shows that he taught believer’s baptism, but the fact that he baptized only a few shows that he did not consider it a requirement for salvation.
  4. The penitent thief on the cross was not baptized, yet he was assured of being in Paradise with Christ (Luke 23:43).
  5. The Gentiles who were saved in Caesarea received the Holy Spirit when they believed (Acts 10:44), showing that they then belonged to Christ (Romans 8:9b). After receiving the Holy Spirit, that is, after being saved, they were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). Therefore, baptism was not necessary for their salvation. They were saved first, then they were baptized in water.
  6. In the NT, baptism is always connected with death and not with spiritual birth.
  7. There are about 150 passages in the NT which teach that salvation is by faith alone. These cannot be contradicted by two or three verses that seem to teach that baptism is necessary for salvation.

Therefore, when we read in 1 Peter 3:21, Baptism … which now saves us, it does not mean our baptism in literal water, but Christ’s baptism unto death and our identification with Him in it.

Not the removal of the filth of the flesh. The ceremonial worship of the OT, with which Peter’s Jewish-Christian readers were familiar, provided a sort of external cleansing. But it was not able to give the priests or the people a clear conscience with regard to sin. The baptism of which Peter is speaking is not a question of physical or even of ritual cleansing from defilement. Water does have the effect of removing dirt from the body, but it cannot provide a good conscience toward God. Only personal association with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection can do that.

But the answer of a good conscience toward God. The question inevitably arises, “How can I have a righteous standing before God? How can I have a clear conscience before Him?” The answer is found in the baptism of which Peter has been speaking—Christ’s baptism unto death at Calvary and one’s personal acceptance of that work. By Christ’s death the sin question was settled once for all.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How do I know that God is satisfied? I know because He raised Christ from the dead. A clear conscience is inseparably linked with the resurrection of Jesus Christ; they stand or fall together. The resurrection tells me that God is fully satisfied with the redemptive work of His Son. If Christ had not risen, we could never be sure that our sins had been put away. He would have died like any other man. But the risen Christ is our absolute assurance that the claims of God against our sins have been fully met.

My only claim for a good conscience is based on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The order is as follows:

  1. Christ was baptized unto death for me at Calvary.
  2. When I trust Him as Lord and Savior, I am spiritually united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.
  3. Through the knowledge that He has risen, my request for a clear conscience is answered.
  4. In water baptism, I give visible expression to the spiritual deliverance I have experienced.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Meaning of “Son of God”

There are a number of terms that are used throughout the gospels, which can be a bit confusing if we are unfamiliar with them. The most basic question is, “Who is Jesus?” Well, Jesus is the Savior, Lord, Messiah, Christ, Deliverer, Son of David, God, Son of God, Son of Man. Did Jesus claim to be God? Is the divinity of Jesus biblical?

Significance of the term, “Son of God”

  • The Son is separate from the Father.
  • The Son is the heir and not the servant of the Father.
  • The Son has the same nature as the Father.

In Regard to Deity

  1. The Jews recognized absolute deity in the phrase, John 5:17-18, 10:33 (Matthew 26:63-66, Luke 22:66-71).
  2. The Son is ascribed deity in Hebrews 1:8-9.
  3. Son of God vs. Son of Man: two designations in the NT, but emphasized his two natures, human and divine.
  4. Jesus claims unity with the Father, John 10:30.
  5. The Son claims equal authority with the Father, John 5:19-21, 25-26, doing the same things (raising the dead, life in themselves).
  6. The Son claims equal honor with the Father, John 5:23.
  7. The Son is also the Creator, Hebrews 1:2.
  8. The Son is the exact representation and image of the Father, his likeness, Hebrews 1:3.
  9. The “only begotten” Son indicates his unique divine nature, John 3:16, 18, 1 John 4:9.
  10. In contrast, believers are begotten of God (John 1:13, 1 John 3:9, 4:7, 5:1, 4, 18) and sons of God (Romans 8:14, Galatians 3:26).
  11. Doubting Thomas saw undeniable evidence of Jesus’ resurrection (John 20:24-29) and declared “My Lord and my God.”

SUMMARY on the two top titles for Jesus:

The description “Son of Man” was a Messianic title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom. When Jesus used this phrase, He was assigning the Son of Man prophecy to Himself (Daniel 7:13-14). The Jews of that era would have been familiar with the phrase and to whom it referred. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as the Messiah.

Concerning the use of “Son of God,” Jewish leaders clearly understood what Jesus meant by using the phrase “Son of God.” To be the Son of God is to be of the same nature as God. The Son of God is “of God” and declares himself to be equal with God.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]