Baptism of the Heart

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.

Be thankful there is no illustration of circumcision in this blog.

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?


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in Baptism, Faith and Works, Grace, Salvation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Baptism of the Heart

  1. Jenny says:

    You definitely have a point there. I suppose one response might be that we’re commanded to be baptized and to baptize just like the ancient Israelites were commanded to be circumcised and to circumcise. Your position doesn’t provide a loophole for a believer to reject baptism, but it does make room for unbelievers – Jews, Muslims, heathens, atheists – who obey God’s law to receive salvation.

  2. Wayne Saylor says:

    Let’s Not Take Things Out Of Context: (Romans 2)

    God’s Righteous Judgment:
    2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

    5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath , when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

    12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

    The Jews and the Law:
    17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God; 18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

    25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker.

    28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

    Here’s My Thoughts:

    Although I respect you as a person who is, in my opinion striving to teach the truth, I feel that your reasoning of the scriptures regarding this topic is off course based on how you have applied it.

    The question the Jews asked Paul, is this: Is one breaking the Law if he is not circumcised? The Jews had a valid reason for asking this question, because circumcision involved the covenant agreement that God made between Himself, Abraham and Abraham’s descendents. And God said… “You will keep My covenant” (Genesis 17:9-14). “Circumcision was a sign of the Old Covenant.” This act identified the Israelites as God’s people.

    One problem is this: The Jews were trying to bind circumcision on the gentiles and this covenant is no longer in effect.

    So how does Paul handle this? First of all, Paul was not condemning their circumcision. In short, Paul is saying, whether you have been circumcised or not circumcised, if you have not surrendered your heart to God, your still lost.

    This brings us to the New Covenant agreement: In the New Testament, book of Acts — we’re told that God no longer had the intention of using circumcision as the “sign” of the covenant for Christians. Circumcision was, in fact, replaced by something else.
    In (Colossians 2:9-12) we’re told… “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In Him you were also Circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”

    In other words: According to Colossians, the mark or (sign) of the “New Covenant” was to be “baptism.” It was to replace “circumcision” because it better symbolized what God wanted His people to remember. That when they became Christians, they died, they were buried and they rose again from a watery grave to a new life.

    Now does this imply that baptism alone now saves you? Of course not. Because that would be taking the scriptures out of context. However, to imply that one can be saved without baptism is also false teaching because one cannot be in a “covenant relationship” with Christ without being baptized.
    Here’s the parallel: Although baptism does now save us, if our hearts are still far from God, then we are still lost. However, one can still be a devout religious man full of goods works and still be lost, if he is not baptized. Cornelius, a gentile is an example (Acts 10).

    • Hi Wayne,
      The Jewish Christians had not asked Paul any questions that Paul is responding to in the letter to the Romans. The context is a many-chaptered argument made up of several small arguments about how Paul thought believers came into relationship with God. In chapter two he states that the obedience of the heart is much more important than the sign of the covenant. That is the context. Other letters to other churches help us further understand Paul’s thinking on various topics, but it does not help us understand the context of this passage.

      This passage is definitely not about the relationship between the Hebrew scriptures and the new covenant of Jesus Christ, nor is it about the relationship of circumcision to the new covenant. Paul is merely taking the understood command from God in the Hebrew scriptures to every Jewish male to be circumcised, and then asking the rhetorical question: does such a circumcision trump obedience from the heart? If a non-Jew, who does not have the covenantal sign of circumcision, but who still keeps the Ten Commandments from the heart, won’t God view that non-Jew as if he had the sign of circumcision?

      My question was: Doesn’t the same logic apply to baptism? I am asking the rhetorical question: If an unbaptized person keeps the new covenant of grace, won’t they be regarded as if they have the covenantal sign of baptism?

      • Gary Cummings says:

        Yes, Mark.
        I do believe that people who keep the heart of the New Covenant in their heart will be counted as baptized in water.
        Any artificial “New Testament Blueprint” or “Pattern” is alien to the Bible. It is am imposed infrastructure on the Way of Jesus, and the way of Jesus is by faith, from first to last (Romans 1:16-17).
        The steps of salvation are cherry picked and lined up like nice little ducks in a row:
        Hear (Romans)
        Believe (Mark)
        Repent (Acts)
        Baptized (Acts)
        Be Faithful to Death (Revelation).

        Now that is a pretty neat blueprint, except for one or two flaws.
        1, First Major flaw. These books were written at different times to various audiences and in different contexts. No early church in the NT was aware of this blueprint or plan of salvation. Romans was written in the early Spring of 57 AD.
        Mark was written from early 50’s or sixties or right before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
        Acts was written in 63 AD shortly before the execution of Paul.
        Revelation was written during the Roman-Jewish War of 66-70 AD (early view) or 98 AD (the later view under the Domitian theory)
        These dates are tentative of course and open to honest discussion.
        The point is that no early church had any artificial blueprint for salvation, such as the COC has. It is a manmade template, which they place over the “New Testament” to force everything into their mold.
        Paul taught in Romans, which is a summary of his theology over his life as a follower of Jesus that “Salvation is by faith from first to last.”- Romans 1:16-17. More can be said, but this is sufficient to sink the Church of the Titanic, also known as the Churches of Christ.
        I will go with Jesus and Paul, over the Campbells, and Sommer and Lipscomb.

  3. Wayne Saylor says:

    My question was: Doesn’t the same logic apply to baptism? I am asking the rhetorical question: If an unbaptized person keeps the new covenant of grace, won’t they be regarded as if they have the covenantal sign of baptism?

    The answer to that question is this: There are many verses throughout the Bible that speaks about God’s grace and man’s heart. Are we saved by God’s grace? Most certainly! For if it were not for God’s grace, we would all die in our sins. However, does this mean we are to ignore the other commandments of God, as to how we are to obtain God’s free gift of grace? May it never be. To do so, would be taking away from God’s word.

    Consider the following Scriptures:

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8).

    But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…” (Romans 10:8-10).

    “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God…” (Romans (10:16-17).

    “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned…” (Mark 16:16).

    “Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call…” (Acts 2:38-39).

    “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…” (Acts 2:40:42).

    “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved…” (Acts 2:47).

    “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life… (Revelation 2:10).

    The above is God’s plan of Salvation, coupled with ‘Grace.” In order to obtain salvation wich is through the grace of God, we still must enter into a “covenant relationship” with God. To do this, we must…
    1. Hear the word of God.
    2. Believe (in our hearts)
    3. Confess Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God
    4. Repent of our sins
    5. Be baptized, for the remissions of our sins.
    6. Then remain faithful unto death.

    God’s grace is extended to all, however, it is my humble belief that to teach that one is saved by grace, solely on the basis of his heart being right with God, is false teaching. Cornelius is a perfect example of this. So is Lydia, the Philippian Jailer, Saul, the Ethiopian Eunich, the 3,000 mentioned in Acts and others. All of these had their heart right with God, and yet they were still baptized into Christ. And then by God’s grace…they were saved!

    • Hi Wayne,
      I notice you don’t really like what the Apostle Paul said about uncircumcised people being regarded by God as circumcised.

      • Wayne Saylor says:

        It isn’t that I don’t like what Paul said in (Rom. 2) about the subject in mention. I do like what he said, the same as I like what is said in every other verse in the bible. This is why I think you have to look at the whole picture on any subject matter, so that things will not be taking out of context. I respect your thoughts and sometimes it’s perhaps better to just agree to disagree and then move on. God bless…

    • garycummings says:

      Salvation is by Faith, from first to last. Romans 1:16-17.
      Faith, Faith, Faith.
      There will be sins, mistakes, holding back, but God will see to our salvation if we have true Faith. One step to be saved, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”-Paul.
      There is no 5 step plan of salvation or blueprint: just one – Faith in the person, atonement, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    • Gary Cummings says:

      That is exactly my point, their hearts were already right with God through faith, and THEN they were baptized. Salvation precedes baptism.

  4. Phil says:

    Wayne, there seems to be two methods of acceptance by God (as that which saves). One is about the individual attaining salvation through pro-active practices of personal action for the purpose of “attaining” salvation. You seem to be a strong proponent of this process with your 5 step plan of salvation.

    Yet the more humble process of surrender seems to be ignored by you and the coC. The “not-so-logical” principle of “life though the death of self” does not seem to be given any value by those in the coC. Yet we are taught in NT scriptures that there is strength in weakness, and that the first will be last and the last will be first. These are strong NT principles that do not jive with the idea that we can attain salvation through personal action using a five step plan.

    It’s interesting to note that the Galatians were Christians yet were addressed as not having Christ formed in them. Otherwise Paul would not have said, Galatians 4:19, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” ..So if the Galatians were Christians and yet not indwelt by Christ then they indeed had to use personal effort toward their goal of attaining salvation. However, when Christ is indeed formed in the heart of the Christian then it is Christ doing the work using the transformed person as the instrument toward obedience. As such, the Christian is now just an instrument and not a separate individual who is striving to please God by means of the flesh. This is not to say that we should not use effort, but human effort is of the flesh and is contaminated by the opposing forces of that nature, as described by Paul in Romans 7. Certainly we can’t live by the Spirit if Christ is not formed in us, so we have no choice but to live by written commands and laws.

    What you are describing is not necessarily wrong but is an admission that Christ is not yet formed in your consciousness. Otherwise you would not need to extol the virtues of using human effort toward your goal of the attainment of salvation.

    There is a place for personal will and human effort, but only in the mind that has not been transformed into the likeness of Christ. After regeneration has occurred then it is Christ who performs his work in the individual, and not the individual who is performing for Christ. Sadly, there is no distinction in the church of Christ theology.

  5. Tim says:

    At the beginning of the Gospels there are two baptisms, one of our physical (natural) body by water for remission of sins (John), presumably to replace animal sacrifice to the purifying of the flesh, and one of our spirit (spiritual body), by fire and the Holy Ghost (Jesus), through the laying on of hands, as a trial of our faith, and as our comforter. there is no reason in my opinion at the present time why the commandment to be baptized cannot only be by “washing of water by the (living) word”, Ephesians 5:26. Remember in Acts the gift of the Holy Ghost, the promise, the presence of God, the whole point of Christ to begin with, fell on people who had only heard the word, nothing else. Before this it seems that it had been only by the laying on of hands by Christ and then by succession, the apostles. In Ephesians 4:5 it says there is only one baptism at this point, hearing the word’s water and being gifted the Holy Ghost together perhaps, both at the same time in renewing of the mind by reading the word ourselves. Who on earth even has authority anymore to do any physical or spiritual baptism? Christ in body, who laid his hands on the apostles, is ascended. Presumably the apostles are too, in spirit at least. Unless there is a written record of all the people since the time of the apostles who have in succession laid hands on each other to pass down the gift, then in my mind the only possible conclusion is that baptism is of the inner man, offering up our broken heart in sacrifice, circumcision of our heart, our spirit by the Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, by reading and believing on the word. We will know if we have the gift. We feel cleansed and stronger, especially over time as our understanding increases. In the very least, it seems the Holy Ghost is granted just by hearing, believing, being repentant and continually sorry for our ways, and that physical baptism can come after.

  6. garycummings says:

    Albert Camus, the great philosopher, died on the way to be baptized. Will not his faith be counted as his baptism?

  7. Gary Cummings says:

    I disagree that baptism saves us. Faith saves us from first to last (Romans 1:16-17).
    Baptism is not the sign of the covenant. The sign is faith in the shed blood of Jesus and his bodily resurrection. Baptism is just a public proclamation that one has been saved (past tense) by faith in Jesus. In the Colossians passage it is “faith in the power of God” which is the saving factor, not water immersion. It is very typical once a COC member sees baptism in a sentence, they quit reading the rest of the sentence,. In fact, the whole context is forgotten, and the verse snippet containing the word “baptism” has been excised and put into the COC Pattern Theology Book.
    Also, please do not quote anything after verse 8 of Mark, chapter 16, as the long ending of Mark is not Scriptural, as the manuscript evidence is against it. Tongue speakers and snake handlers quote the long ending of Mark. So, if baptism is required for salvation because of the long ending of Mark, so is glossolalia and snake handling and poison drinking.

  8. Brent Bacon says:

    If you are able to be baptised and do not- I believe that the salvation lies thru you turning away from what God has told us to do- repent and be baptised. If you are unable physically to be baptised- leave that in Gods hands to decide. We are called to be baptised- I would head the call.

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