The Faith – Commitment To God’s Grace!
Has the response of faith added anything to the merits of the cross? Not at all, for man has only come back down the same road along which he departed from God. He left God mentally and emotionally, and now he seeks the God who can restore him to his right mind and right inner being. But, in Paul’s analysis of sin in Romans 1:24ff, we noted that man had also been alienated from God in another way—physically.
The Response of Faith Adds Nothing To the Merits Of The Cross
But here is where we reach a tremendous barrier in our thinking. We do not think of the physical as having much of anything to do with a person’s spirituality. The whole person’s needs are frequently short-handed down to only emotional and mental needs. William Barrett was certainly right when he identified this strange mind-set:
Protestant man had thrown off the husk of his body. He was a creature of
spirit and inwardness, but no longer the man of flesh and belly, bones and blood, that we find in the Bible. Irrational Man, pp. 75-76.
An amazing return to Neoplatonic ideas of the body seems to have occurred since the Seventeenth Century. Is this a Scriptural view of man? Can faith be valid apart from the necessary return of physical man to God?
Our problem with sinfulness is not limited to our intellect and inner man. We are neck and shoulders deep in sinning with our bodies also. God has come in Christ (a physical incarnation) to deal with the sin of the whole person. Christ died on the cross (a physical death) to redeem the whole person. Jesus was raised from the dead (a physical resurrection) for our future welfare as whole persons. God gives His Holy Spirit to indwell our physical bodies (1 Corinthians 6), and intends to raise us bodily and give us a physical existence in a resurrection body (1 Corinthians 15:42ff). God does not despise bodies!
Christ did not despise a physical response to our needs. He actually because involved with sinful persons on every level of existence. Christ was intellectually, emotionally, and physically committed to our salvation. We must make a faith-commitment to God’s grace with this same totality of experience.
Baptism Is Not Something Added To Faith, It Is Faith
Baptism is the point at which faith in Christ makes a physical response to the cross and open tomb (Romans 6:3-6). Baptism is not something added to faith, it is faith. As James Denney, in his classic The Death of Christ, indicates in his discussion of Paul’s argument for the new life in Christ in terms of the encounter of baptism:
He is able to use [baptism] in his argument in the way he does because baptism and faith are but the outside and inside of the same thing…
“Baptism,” as Albert Schweitzer wisely remarked, “is not a staircase, but an elevator.” It is not a human work of righteousness, but a work of God Himself, a creative encounter from which the new man in Christ receives his faith-form. The Bible affirms this quite strongly:
Buried with Him in the act of baptism, in whom you were raised together through faith in the activity of God who raised Him from the dead…(Colossians ).
We had faith; God worked. We added nothing to the cross; we surrendered to it as whole persons. God does the work in our baptismal surrender out of which comes a new life in the Spirit (John 3:5; 1 Corinthians -13).
When baptism is seen as a response wholly appropriate to our need as sinners its meaning as “for the remission of sins” is clearly comprehended. J.R. Mantey, the great Baptist scholar, says it with profound insight:
When one considers in Ac. repentance as self-renunciation and
baptism as a public expression of self-surrender and self-dedication to Christ,
which significance it certainly had in the first century, the expression ‘eis aphesin
ton hamartion humon’ may mean ‘for the purpose of the remission of sins’. But if
one stresses baptism, without its early Christian import, as a ceremonial means of
salvation, he does violence to Christianity as a whole, for one of its striking
distinctions from Judaism and Paganism is that it is a religion of salvation by
faith while all others teach salvation by works. (Quoted in H.E. Dana and Julius
R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 104.)
Baptism Is Important Because Christ Is Important
Dr. Mantey is certainly correct. Baptism from a New Testament perspective is a faith surrender to God’s grace. Baptism is important because Christ is important.
Baptism is so intimately connected with faith in the New Testament that to administer it apart from faith is to destroy its meaning entirely. Faith is a comprehensive response and all of its components are directed toward Jesus Christ.
For all are God’s sons through faith in Christ Jesus, for those who were
baptized into Christ became clothed with Christ (Galatians ,27).
Faith Is A Comprehensive Response—None Of Its Components Should Be Exalted Over Another
The Scripture upholds a view of faith which calls upon the whole person to come to Christ. Mankind is asked to respond to God’s grace with all his being. One component of faith should not be exalted over another. They are all important, because without all, faith is incomplete.
A radio may be spoken of as consisting of several components. Most radios have a signal detection stage, a tuning stage, and an amplification stage. Now if someone asked: “Which stage is the real radio?” We could not answer “the detection stage” or “the amplification stage” for each on its own is not a radio. But, when all the stages are working together it is still only one radio. So with faith in the New Testament. Even though it is a response to God’s grace which includes an intellectual, emotional, and physical aspect, it is still only faith.
Such is the nature of God’s grace. When it is appreciated and seen in its multi-varied form, it is a magnificent call for the salvation of our entire being. We must express our faith to this grace in a total response. God’s grace calls for nothing less than this.
All translations are the author’s own.