Water Does Not Put Anybody in Christ

What does it mean to be in Christ, and how is it different from Christ indwelling us? The second question: Does this indwelling in Christ have anything to do with being handed the sacrament? Certainly Calvin thought so.

We need to read Calvin on this, to see what he did and did not believe. Calvin only believed in an union with the humanity of Christ, and did not teach an union with God defined as creatures indwelling the Creator.
But Calvin’s anti-rational streak, which cannot explain and refuses to explain, becomes very mystical when it comes to “sacrament”. (See Bruce McCormack and Michael Horton essays in Tributes to Calvin).

Alberto, does the Bible teach that God effects “union with Christ” by means of water NO. I doubt that we will ever get away from that sacramental idea until we get away from equating “union with Christ” with “definitive sanctification” or “regeneration”.

1. We need to define what we mean by “regeneration”. Since the Bible word is “new birth”, we need to think about this new birth in terms of “effectual calling” by the power of the Holy Spirit with the word of the gospel. We need to get away from the idea that “regeneration” is a “change in substance or nature” and then a time gap between that and the hearing of the gospel.

2. We need to define “in Christ” in terms of justification. Although the Bible does teach that the sheep are always in Christ by election, Romans 16 teaches that some of the sheep are in Christ before other of the sheep. This change is not a first of all a change in our hearts (regeneration or new birth) but is legally a change of status before God. To be in Christ in this way is to be justified. Union with Christ is legal marriage to Christ the person AND His work and His benefits.

3. God justifies the ungodly. God does not justify because of faith. God does not justify because God knows that God is going to regenerate and change the person. God changes the person because God has justified the person. The change from a belief in the false gospel to the true gospel is evidence of justification, but it is never the reason for God justifying.

Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God, that you were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were called…”

Roman 6:20 “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?”

Romans 6 defines the “in Christ” in terms of being placed into the death of Christ. Instead of a “sacrament” which makes you a participant in Christ, our hope as the justified is that God has counted the death of Christ as our death.

Explore posts in the same categories: union with Christ

Tags: ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

11 Comments on “Water Does Not Put Anybody in Christ”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Bill Evans: Scott Clark is much closer to Barth on the question of soteriological solidarity than I am, and I critiqued Barth on precisely this point in the book (Imputation and Impartation, pp. 243-245)… Barth’s soteriology, despite his use of terms like “participation,” is (particularly in connection with justification) rather thoroughly extrinsic (see, e.g., Adam Neder, Participation in Christ, p. 12). In fact, some excellent contemporary Barth scholars have contended that precisely in his insistent emphasis on the extra nos of Christ “for us” Barth is the truly consistent Protestant.

    Evans: Thus Bruce McCormack takes Calvin to task for saying that justification flows from mystical union with Christ. This, according to McCormack “would seem to make justification and regeneration the effects of a logically prior ‘participation’ in Christ that has been effected by the uniting action of the Holy Spirit.” This, he says, is a problem from a truly Reformational standpoint in that “the work of God ‘in us’ is, once again (and now on the soil of the Reformation!) made to be the ground of the divine forgiveness of sins.” (Bruce McCormack, “What’s At Stake in the Current Debates over Justification,” in Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, ed. Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier [IVP, 2004], pp. 101-102, 113-117).

    Evans: It is this effort to protect the doctrine of forensic justification by means of an extrinsic soteriology that connects Barth with later federal theology of the sort that Clark espouses. The similarities are fairly obvious, and this, I think, may account for the interest that some contemporary Barthians are now showing in Reformed orthodoxy. It also helps to account for the use that Clark’s colleague Mike Horton is now making of McCormack’s Barthian theological ontology, though Horton does not endorse McCormack’s indictment of Calvin (see Michael Horton, Covenant and Salvation [WJK, 2007], pp. 200-204).

    For Scott Clark, the crux of the matter is his conviction that the doctrine of forensic justification demands the sort of extrinsic relationship between Christ and the Christian that he advocates.

    Scott Clark: On what basis does God accept us? Who earned that righteousness? How does a sinner come into possession of that righteousness? Where is that righteousness to be found relative to the sinner, within us or without? Evans may scoff at the doctrine of an “extrinsic” doctrine of justification but Paul himself asked these questions and historically the only alternative to extrinsic (alien) righteousness is a “proper” or “intrinsic” ground of divine acceptance and in that case we’re right back in the medieval soup or, to switch metaphors, moving in with Andreas Osiander.

    mark: on this point, Scott Clark has it right. If that makes him “Lutheran”, so be it.



    An “evangelical” gospel often confuses morality with being “Christian”.

    you got to get the water, then you got to live it

    “what you do, i could do that”

    Of course there are some “Reformed” folks who also teach “baptismal regeneration”, and who mean by “baptismal” the water as the means adminstered by mother kirk..

    In truth, the “baptism into the likeness of His death” (Romans 6) which results in regeneration is not by water but by God’s legal imputation.

  3. markmcculley Says:

    t in its baptism it was made a child of God, a member of Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, which has a tendency to take off all concern, in persons when grown up, about an inward work of grace, in regeneration and sanctification, as a meetness for heaven, and to encourage a presumption in them, notwithstanding their apparent want of grace, that they are members of Christ, and shall never perish; are children and heirs of God, and shall certainly inherit eternal life. Wherefore Dr. [John] Owen rightly observes “That the father of lies himself could not easily have devised a doctrine more pernicious, or what proposes a more present and effectual poison to the minds of sinners to be drank in by them.”

    John Gill, “Infant Baptism: a Part and Pillar of Popery,”

  4. markmcculley Says:

    o David
    53Two examples: [a] I believe many of the Scripture passages on which the Federal Visionists rely for their theology of baptism use the term (or its cognates) to denote not the rite but the spiritual reality signified by it (for instance, Romans 6:1ff; 1 Peter 3:21). The nineteenth-century Presbyterian James Wilkinson Dale’s five-volume study on baptizo persuades me that in many instances the original readers of the New Testament would not have taken baptize or baptism to denote the rite at all. See Dale, Christic and Patristic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of the Holy Scriptures and Patristic Writers (1874), Classic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of Classical Greek Writers (1867), Johannic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of the Holy Scriptures (1898), and Judaic Baptism: An Inquiry into the Meaning of the Word as Determined by the Usage of Jewish and Patristic Writers (1869) (all reprinted, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1995, 1989, 1993, and 1991, respectively)

    Peter Leithart, who is ordinarily much too good a theologian and exegete to make this mistake, simply begged the question when he wrote, “Paul wrote that Christians have all been united to Christ in His death and resurrection because they have all been baptized (Rom. 6). Many preachers cannot take Paul at his word. ‘Baptism’ doesn’t refer to the ‘sign’ of water but to the ‘thing’ that the water symbolizes. Paul wasn’t referring to the baptismal rite itself. He wasn’t telling the Romans that they were dead and risen with Christ by baptism, but by that to which baptism points. [para] Which raises three basic questions: First, if he didn’t mean baptism, why did he say baptism? Second, how do these commentators know that Paul wasn’t referring to baptism? Third, and most fundamentally, what kind of assumptions about the world drive this interpretation? Why would anyone doubt that Paul is talking about water?” (Peter Leithart, “Starting Before the Beginning,”Credenda/Agenda, 14/6 http://gregorysfields.blogspot.com/2007/07/chapter-1-starting-before-beginning.html
    Leithart’s case here depends on assuming that the rite is more fundamental in the term’s usage than the transforming experience or overwhelming influence that the rite signifies. But if Dale’s arguments are sound–and I am persuaded that they are–the opposite is true. To answer Leithart’s questions: First, Paul did mean baptism–and the term baptism did not mean, primarily, a ritual application of water. Second, commentators argue in two ways that in Romans 6:1ff baptism does not denote the rite: (a) consistent application of that sense in the immediate context (verses 1-10) would yield the conclusion (contrary to other passages of Scripture) that all, without exception, who undergo the rite are regenerate, converted, justified, sanctified, and finally glorified, and (b) Paul himself, who certainly views circumcision and baptism as type and antitype (Colossians 2:11-12), had already written in the same epistle that it was not the rite of circumcision but the spiritual reality designated by it that differentiated the true (inward) Jew from the false (outward) Jew (Romans 2:28-29)

    It stands to reason that he would affirm the same of baptism. The commentators do not, pace Leithart’s tacit implication, simply truck in their conclusion without reason. Third, the assumptions (if we may call them that) that drive that interpretation are founded on sober attention to Biblical teaching about the difference between rites (sacraments) and realities (things signified), per, e.g., Isaiah 1:10-19; 29:13; Ezekiel 33:31; Matthew 15:8-9.

    p 324 http://www.ecalvinbeisner.com/freearticles/AATConclusion.pdf


  5. markmcculley Says:

    Mark 1: 7 “John was preaching “I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

    Ephesians 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope at your calling— 5 one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM

    I Peter 3: 21 Baptism, which corresponds to being saved through water, now saves you through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    I wonder why Peter is talking about Jesus Christ and His resurrection, when everybody knows that “baptism” is what the Holy Spirit does. Everybody knows that Christ does not baptize with the Spirit. Everybody knows that it’s the Holy Spirit who baptizes the elect into Christ. No verses necessary for what everybody knows.

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Larry Ball–The efficacy of baptism is not tied to the time of the administration of baptism, but it is tied to the administration of baptism itself. No Christian parent should expect that grace be “conferred” (Confessional language) on their children apart from their children being recipients of the sacrament of covenant baptism. The same can be said of adult baptisms. The grace promised in the ordinance of baptism is actually conferred in God’s appointed time “by the right use of this ordinance” (Confessional language). Grace is conferred because the ordinance is used.

    Larry Ball– I am certainly not denying the doctrine of election. HOWEVER, the doctrine of election was never given to negate the hope of the promises that are given to Christian parents. The doctrine of election taught in Romans 9 to explain why there was unbelief among the covenant people of God. It was intended to be an explanation — not a qualification to the promises of God.
    Some preachers are haunted by what I call the “if clause.” For example, it is often said to Christians that the promises of God are for you “if you are saved” or “if you are a true believer.” The very promises that give hope to Christians often die a slow death by a thousand qualifications.

    Larry Ball–Covenant Baptism is not merely a symbol. If anyone is dedicating himself in covenant baptism, it is God who is dedicating himself to keep the promises he has made to Christian parents This is a high view of the efficacy of covenant baptism. It is simply the teaching of the Westminster Confession of Faith.http://theaquilareport.com/a-high-view-of-the-efficacy-of-baptism/

  7. markmcculley Says:

    the Book of Concord:
    “51] The Ninth Article has been approved, in which we confess that Baptism is necessary to salvation, and that children are to be baptized, and that the baptism of children is not in vain, but is necessary and effectual to salvation. 52] And since the Gospel is taught among us purely and diligently, by God’s favor we receive also from it this fruit, that in our Churches no Anabaptists have arisen [have not gained ground in our Churches], because the people have been fortified by God’s Word against the wicked and seditious faction of these robbers. And as we condemn quite a number of other errors of the Anabaptists, we condemn this also, that they dispute that the baptism of little children is profitable. For it is very certain that the promise of salvation pertains also to little children [that the divine promises of grace and of the Holy Ghost belong not alone to the old, but also to children]. It does not, however, pertain to those who are outside of Christ’s Church, where there is neither Word nor Sacraments, because the kingdom of Christ exists only with the Word and Sacraments. Therefore it is necessary to baptize little children, that the promise of salvation may be applied to them, according to Christ’s command, Matt. 28:19: Baptize all nations. Just as here salvation is offered to all, so Baptism is offered to all, to men, women, children, infants. It clearly follows, therefore, that infants are to be baptized, because with Baptism salvation [the universal grace and treasure of the Gospel] is offered. 53] Secondly, it is manifest that God approves of the baptism of little children. Therefore the Anabaptists, who condemn the baptism of little children, believe wickedly. That God, however, approves of the baptism of little children is shown by this, namely, that God gives the Holy Ghost to those thus baptized [to many who have been baptized in childhood]. For if this baptism would be in vain, the Holy Ghost would be given to none, none would be saved, and finally there would be no Church. [For there have been many holy men in the Church who have not been baptized otherwise.] This reason, even taken alone, can sufficiently establish good and godly minds against the godless and fanatical opinions of the Anabaptists” (Ap IX, 51)
    “23] In the second place, since we know now what Baptism is, and how it is to be regarded, we must also learn why and for what purpose it is instituted; that is, what it profits, gives, and works. And this also we cannot discern better than from the words of Christ above quoted: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. 24] Therefore state it most simply thus, that the power, work, profit, fruit, and end of Baptism is this, namely, to save. For no one is baptized in order that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare, that he be saved. 25] But to be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil, and to enter into the kingdom of Christ, and to live with Him forever.
    26] Here you see again how highly and precious we should esteem Baptism, because in it we obtain such an unspeakable treasure, which also indicates sufficiently that it cannot be ordinary mere water. For mere water could not do such a thing, but the Word does it, and (as said above) the fact that the name of God is comprehended therein. 27] But where the name of God is, there must be also life and salvation, that it may indeed be called a divine, blessed, fruitful, and gracious water; for by the Word such power is imparted to Baptism that it is a laver of regeneration, as St. Paul also calls it, Titus 3:5.
    28] But as our would-be wise, new spirits assert that faith alone saves, and that works and external things avail nothing, we answer: It is true, indeed, that nothing in us is of any avail but faith, as we shall hear still further. 29] But these blind guides are unwilling to see this, namely, that faith must have something which it believes, that is, of which it takes hold, and upon which it stands and rests. Thus faith clings to the water, and believes that it is Baptism, in which there is pure salvation and life; not through the water (as we have sufficiently stated), but through the fact that it is embodied in the Word and institution of God, and the name of God inheres in it. Now, if I believe this, what else is it than believing in God as in Him who has given and planted His Word into this ordinance, and proposes to us this external thing wherein we may apprehend such a treasure?
    30] Now, they are so mad as to separate faith, and that to which faith clings and is bound, though it be something external. Yea, it shall and must be something external, that it may be apprehended by the senses, and understood and thereby be brought into the heart, as indeed the entire Gospel is an external, verbal preaching. In short, what God does and works in us He proposes to work through such external ordinances. Wherever, therefore, He speaks, yea, in whichever direction or by whatever means He speaks, thither faith must look, and to that it must hold. 31] Now here we have the words: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. To what else do they refer than to Baptism, that is, to the water comprehended in God’s ordinance? Hence it follows that whoever rejects Baptism rejects the Word of God, faith, and Christ, who directs us thither and binds us to Baptism” (LC, Holy Baptism, 23-31

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: