Now apply this dynamic/dialectical thinking to the Sacraments. On the one hand Baptism brings one into Covenant, they're dead and alive, identified with Christ…outwardly they are now part of the Body. They are saved. Baptism saves.
On the other hand, in the eternal, we know that the Holy Spirit regenerates the elect. This is a principle, not a practice. We can't see the heart. In the case of an adult convert the church must make a judgment, but it is not above fault. We can't make the call, and we don't have to.
So if a Roman Catholic tells me they are saved by Baptism, I’m going to say, "What? You are trusting in the water? The water is nothing. It's just a sign. It doesn't matter. What matters is the heart!"
But at the same time if I'm talking to Baptist, who denigrates Baptism, relegating it to a meaningless hollow and empty ritual, some kind of first step of obedience….hardly the Biblical language! At that point I'm going to say, "Baptism is necessary for salvation. It's the waters of life. It washes away our sins."
Doesn't Peter say as much? I realize he says it's not the mere washing of water…..but that doesn't take away from the fact that he says IT SAVES. It is the washing of regeneration.
The common division between spirit and water baptism is generally not Biblical. The Bible doesn't speak that way. If it is said in a context meant to distinguish the sign from the thing it signifies…for the sake of discussion, fine. But that's not what people usually mean. They treat them separately, two separate events. The Scriptures don't do that. We can pick up the doctrine weigh it, look at the two sides or halves, but then it must be put back together, for that's how the Scriptures treat these things.
Baptism saves. Of course baptism doesn't save.
Circumcision was nothing……….and yet when Moses neglected it for his son, what happened? If it was nothing why did Abraham do it? Obviously he was reckoned righteous prior to, so why would he need the sign? He needed the sign, because the covenant has to be administered in space and time through signs and seals. Paul is arguing against the hyper-visibilism of the Jews who focused only on the signs/forms and missed the substance. It doesn't negate the validity of the visible order. The covenant has to be administered. No wonder evangelicals have such a low view of the church. No wonder many ending up being quasi-mystics…feeling rather than knowing.
They can't grasp a visible order. All their thinking is in the realm of the invisible…where frankly they don't know what they're talking about. I think Paul dealt with a bit as well in the epistles.
That's just baptism……I'll save the discussion on the supper but again this is an outward Covenantal ordinance. Think first in terms of the invisible. We already know about election. The Lord's Supper is not meant to be interpreted through the lens of election.
What about Sanctification? In Christ, eternally we are definitively Sanctified. It's done. But we're not there yet. So in that sense we are being sanctified….progressively.
Don't read Sanctification through the lens of a Monergistically defined Justification. Many (not all) in the Redemptive-Historical camp do this and end up on a practical level with no doctrine of Sanctification at all. In their zeal to avoid works and due to the battles over Norman Shepherd, they are imposing a system on the Scriptures that won't allow for the Means to have any meaning.
The Arminian view of losing one's salvation is all based on the visible side. Visibly speaking…remember in that system the form and the substance are the same thing. You are indeed either in or indeed out. There's no nuance there. It's consistent, but fails to take into account the eternal side of the question.
Once saved always saved argues exclusively from the invisible side. Election, period. But again….we don't know who is elect!
So, the Biblical doctrine is rightly called Perseverance of the Saints. This incorporates both sides. Most Calvinists equate Perseverance of the Saints with Eternal Security. They are not the same thing at all.
The New Testament is replete with conditionals.
If you continue in the faith grounded and settled and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. (Col. 1.23)
Hebrews, one of my absolute favourite books is also full of conditionals. Are these warnings real or just empty threats? How do you make sense of the warnings it it's a letter written to the invisible church? Are these false Christians in the Invisible Church? Or are they just empty threats and not warnings at all? I smile listening to the hermeneutical gymnastics one-sided thinkers have to engage in when dealing with that book. 1 John must give them indigestion! The dialectic is in constant play there!
We are here in space and time. Because of our sinfulness we can deceive ourselves.
Salvation must not be viewed as something we did on July 2, 1982. It's TODAY, if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts. Every day we must repent and believe.
This also applies to our children. We don't have to evangelize them any more than we must evangelize OURSELVES every day.
We must persevere. Make our calling and election sure…work out our own salvation with fear trembling. We labour not to save ourselves…..but because we are alive. There's the fruit. It's not points. It's evidence of life. And as we climb those massive spiritual hills, the Christian doesn't look back and say, "I did it!"…he looks back and says, "Praise be to God. He OBVIOUSLY did it, because I cannot do it.
If it were up to me, I would have run the other way...on purpose...cursing"
We are comforted by election. We who manifest the fruits of the Holy Spirit…repenting and believing… we live in HOPE, not presumption….HOPE. Keep on!