The Apostle Paul, speaking to Jewish Christians in Rome at the time, appealed to their reason: Won’t non-Jews be accepted by God if they keep the Ten Commandments? If the Ten Commandments are written on their hearts, won’t they be accepted by God quicker than someone who is a Jew, but who does not keep the Ten Commandments? The obvious answer to these questions is: Yes, God would accept the non-Jew who kept the Ten Commandments as if they were written on his heart (Rom 2:26).
How did Paul know to say that? He said his argument was motivated by the good news of Jesus Christ. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit, but notice that he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to appeal to the reason of the Jewish Christians in Rome at the time. (Most early Christians were Jewish.)
So if we were to use the same reasoning as in Romans 2, applying Paul’s logic to today, we could say:
So then, if those who are not baptized keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were baptized? 27 The one who is not baptized physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and baptism, are a lawbreaker.
28 A person is not a Christian who is one only outwardly, nor is baptism merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Christian who is one inwardly; and baptism is baptism of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.
Similar logic applies to baptism as applied to circumcision. Circumcision was given to Abraham and his descendants as a sign of God’s covenant with them. They consecrated their seed with a blood sign to let themselves and God know they were dedicated to God. Baptism is similar in that we indicate to ourselves and God that we are buried with Christ and have risen to walk a new life. Jewish people of Paul’s day were tempted to say that they knew they were in relationship to God by relying on the covenantal sign of circumcision, rather than on obedience from the heart.
People in the hard line Churches of Christ have replied with the fact that Paul was inspired and we are not. I respond with: Paul was inspired to appeal to their logic. Does the Holy Spirit’s argument make sense? If so, can we use our logic to apply it to today? Or have we relegated all the logic to the first century? We are not allowed to make logical arguments today? Another counter argument made by people in the hard line Churches of Christ is that this argument of Paul’s takes place in the middle of his thesis that we are all lost. I agree! Paul said we are all saved from our disobedience only by God’s grace.
If you don’t agree with my argument, read the paragraph again. Does it make sense?