Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 5 Study # 1
October 19, 2008
30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.
31 And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
32 They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.
33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
35 But wisdom is justified of all her children.
1901 ASV Translation
30 But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him.
31 Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation, and to what are they like?
32 They are like unto children that sit in the marketplace, and call one to another; who say, We piped unto you, and ye did not dance; we wailed, and ye did not weep.
33 For John the Baptist is come eating no bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a demon.
34 The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold, a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!
35 And wisdom is justified of all her children.
- I. The Refusal of Baptism.
- A. Where does baptism "fit" into the large picture?
- 1. Is it possible for a person to buy into a doctrinal perspective and not submit to the baptism attached?
- 2. The issue involved here is this: why would a person be baptized and why would a person refuse?
- a. Why did John (and Jesus [John 4:1]) "baptize" people?
- 1) What is there about "baptism" that is so important that it is required in the disciple-making process? (Matthew 28:19).
- a) It is an "act"; the "outworking" of "motivation" located in the "heart". As such, its absence tells more than its presence. A person can be baptized for any number of reasons, but that "number" is significantly reduced when the issue is a person's refusal to be baptized. Submission to baptism can be caused by inner motivations that are seriously erroneous as well as inner motivations that are legitimate, but there is only one reason for a person's refusal: resistance to the imperative. Admittedly, the resistance may have multiple roots (fear -- as in John 12:42; rejection of the doctrine represented by the baptizer; etc.), but the bottom line is a determinative commitment to refuse that is underwritten by a sense of "the lack of necessity".
- b) As an "act", it is an early aspect of the disciple-making process. It is as true as it can be that "actions" have no "merit" in terms of the "legal" sense of laying a foundation for a certain type of response from God, but it is just as true that "actions" (or the lack of them) are part and parcel of man's identity as a creature of "spirit". A man's "spirit" must depart from his "body" before activity by that body can cease. Man is, by virtue of his nature as a "spiritual" being, incapable of not taking action. Thus, the reality is that men are constantly "taking action" and that makes "action" fundamental to his being. Thus, since disciple-making is not about filling people's brains with facts about this or that, but is about producing people who "act" in certain ways, "actions" become the crucial follow-up to the facts that fill the brains. Thus, James' concept of "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20, 26) is a concept that pointedly declares that it is not "faith" that fails to bring to pass the act or actions that faith is specifically designed to produce.
- i. This raises this question: Must a person be baptized in order to be saved? The answer is found in a distinction that the Scripture makes between God's attitude toward a person and God's creation of His cause/effect universe. People are "saved" by the attitude God takes toward them, but there are certain "salvific" things that happen to a person who is physically baptised regardless of God's attitude.
- ii. The answer is complicated by the reality that baptism is a nonmeritorious action. It does nothing to "compensate" for prior evil done. It has no ability to "establish" a person in righteousness. It is, at its very best, an "action of faith" and, at its very worst, an "action of deceit". It is not an action that, in any sense, takes God by surprise. He sees clearly what drives the action. He makes His decisions on the basis of the presence/absence of a legitimate "love/faith" attitude, not on the basis of any action taken. Therefore, the answer rests upon the issue of what God sees as the prior attitude, not what a person actually does. But, this brings "baptism" into play as an action that has its divinely instigated roots not in any influence that actions may have upon God, but upon men. At this point, the issue of "baptism" as a pronounced necessity splits into two distinct tracks. On one of those tracks, baptism has an effect upon the observers, not the participant. On the other of those tracks, baptism has an effect upon the person being baptized, not upon the observers. God never commands an "action" that has no effect for good. But, neither is God satisfied with any "action" that is a result of HIs command that does not also have His intention for good at its roots. Thus, we can say that "baptism" of itself has no "salvific" impact as it relates to the issue of God's responses. He does not "justify" the "baptized" whose attitude is bereft of faith, nor does He refuse to justify the "unbaptized" whose attitude is "faithful". Since there is a plethora of circumstantial realities that can block the physical action of baptism, God does not withhold "salvation" from those who are "of faith". But if a person's lack of baptism is actually rooted in using circumstances as an excuse for refusal, do we think that God does not see that?
- c) As a divinely mandated action, it is a "faith-response" that makes its impact in the realm of man, not God. God commanded the physical action because it makes a real difference to both the individual and to those who are subject to that individual's influence (the "two tracks" mentioned above). This is firmly rooted in the reality of this cause/effect universe. Nothing is "done" in a cause/effect world that does not generate "response".
- i. Since the difference is real, we can unequivocally say that if a person is baptised, he/she will benefit according to the impact and if a person is not baptised, he/she will lose accordingly. So, what is the "benefit" to the person being baptized? First, and foremost, is Peter's stated "benefit" in 1 Peter 3:21 -- it allows for the existence of a "good conscience". At any time that a person refuses to obey God, his/her conscience is violated and the consequences that flow out of that begin to flow even to the degree of physical destruction. But, the alternative is equally significant: when a person is operating with a clear conscience, LIFE is his because he has an uninterrupted communion with the God of Life. In addition, baptism allows for the impact of "immersion in water in light of doctrine" to have its influence upon the immersed. There is a God-produced impact upon the person who, out of a legitimate love/faith submission to God's instruction, is baptised. This impact consists of a validation of the truth of the doctrine that is in view so that, by that validation, faith may increase. It is a fact that faith is always hindered by anything that is produced by unbelief. Things "done" affect the "doer" physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Blocks to faith "block" faith. And, similarly, faith is enlarged by "faithful" actions. Encouragements to faith "encourage" faith.
- ii. What about the "benefit" to those "other track" people? There is almost none if we are talking about the actual act of baptism. But the impact is immeasurable if we are talking about the influence of the baptized. There is an immeasurable impact upon people when an individual walks with a clear conscience before God and that impact is increased to the degree that faith is increased. This does not mean that the impact is necessarily "positive". The impact of faithfulness upon the hard of heart generates anger and hatred, not something "positive". In some ways it actually generates greater hardness of heart (Isaiah 6:9-10).