Chapter # 7 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2
October 26, 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. Does Baptism "Save"?
- A. Our text tells us that there were two issues involved in the Pharisees' and lawyers' response to Jesus' comments about John.
- 1. The first issue was the "attitude" they took toward John's doctrine.
- 2. The second issue was the "action" they took toward John's instruction.
- B. When we ask about whether a person is "saved" by an "action", we cannot dismiss the prior issue of the "attitude" that drives it.
- 1. Throughout the Scriptures, God is presented as an all-seeing God Who is far more concerned with what drives our actions than what our actions are.
- a. This does not mean that "actions" are unimportant, but it certainly does mean that their importance is relative to the underlying causes.
- b. This means, then, that the all-seeing God responds to men in respect to their "attitudes" in such a way as to actually alter the impact of their actions.
- 1) If a man engages in an "action" that is specifically designed to further an ungodly, wicked agenda, he will find that God absolutely frustrates him at one level while actually permitting him to succeed at another.
- a) Agenda issues are always multi-level and multi-personal.
- i. By multi-level I mean that there is a graduated reality regarding "agenda" accomplishment. This is the stair-step issue of the pursuit of one "objective" only because it sets the stage for the pursuit of the next "objective" that exists in the chain of accomplishments that is almost always involved in the accomplishment of the "final" objective. By way of illustration: if a man sets "joy in his soul" as his ultimate objective, he must decide what "steps" he will have to take in order to reach that goal. If he decides that having an abundance of wealth will bring that joy to his soul, he has to decide what steps he must take in order to become wealthy. If he decides that being able to work in the wealth-production arena of his culture will enable him to become wealthy, he must then decide how he will approach the problem of "getting the job" he wants in that arena. If he decides that he must have a certain set of skills to land the job, he must decide how to acquire that set of skills. Etc., etc., to the "nth" degree. This is being "multi-level".
- ii. By multi-personal I mean that all men live in a "populated" creation in which it is fundamentally impossible to pursue an "agenda" that does not include some level of involvement by "others" who are outside of the "control" of the agenda-chaser. In God's creation, there are three "classes" of "personal" beings that will invariably be involved in the various "levels" of the agenda. God stands at the top of those "classes"; beneath Him stand the angelic hosts, but there are two groups of those beings -- those in harmony with God and those in competition with God; and beneath them stand the "human" host that is, likewise, made up of those who seek the will of God and those who seek to compete with it. This is being "multi-personal".
- b) God very often permits the "limited success" of those in competition with Him at certain, unspecified, points in the "multi-level" reality of their pursuits (He might "permit" a wealth-seeker to actually accomplish a good number of his "steps", up to, and including, becoming "wealthy"). But, the ultimate objective for the "wealth" will be absolutely frustrated by God since it is done in competition with Him.
- 2) Because God is "into" enforcing His own creation rules in harmony with His larger objective of the Kingdom of Righteousness, if He must turn the impact of a given "action" into the exact opposite of what that "action" was designed to accomplish, He will.
- c. This means, then, that it can never be said that an "action" carries any inherent "salvific" impact in itself.
- 2. Throughout the Scriptures, God is presented as fundamentally an attitude-evaluator. He is the "Judge" of the living and the dead.
- C. When we ask if an "action" has any contribution to "salvation", we cannot dismiss the absolute incapacity of any "action" to serve as a "compensator" in respect to the moral quality of any other "action". What I mean is this: if a person does an evil act, there is no good act that can erase either of the two realities attached to "action": the "attitude" that drove the evil act cannot be eliminated by a later change in "attitude"; nor can the impact of actions taken in a cause/effect universe be erased by that taking of another action later. James simply says that if we violate the Law at any point, we are guilty of violating the whole because the Law is an integrated whole that cannot be attacked at any one point without the whole being violated. And the worst part of this for sinners is a third fact: no "good" action is even considered "good" by God if it is motivated by any level of intent to "compensate". Intending to compensate is contrary to God's reality so that the intention is evil. Only God can heal the breach caused by evil action and the Gospel tells us that He did that by means of the actions of His Son, Jesus. Since He did it, any attempt by man to "do" it is a "flying in the face of" God's already accomplished action. Thus, "baptism" cannot "save". Salvation is a gift of God to be received at the "attitude" level; baptism is an action of man to be pursued only under divine instruction.
- 1. Since the Pharisees and lawyers rejected both John's doctrine of forgiveness at the attitude level and his consequent instruction at the action level, they are charged with rejecting the counsel of God for them.
- 2. They could have hypocritically submitted to John's baptism without acquiescing to his doctrine, but God does not save hypocrits.