Do you have to be baptized to be saved?

Why is it that we don’t talk about baptism in relation to conversion more? If you were to come to me and say, “Kyle, what must I do to be saved?” I might say to you, “Repent and Believe.” This answer, of course, would suffice. However, it is interesting that Peter says in Acts 2 to “repent and be baptized.” Why does he link repentance with baptism? Why does he link baptism with the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit? Well, the answer lies in history and a thorough reading of the New Testament. Today, we are often guilty of thinking in an individualistic mode.  However, in the New Testament, to be baptized was to join the community of God’s redeemed people. Baptism was the public ceremony that marked people out as those who had received the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit through the name of Jesus Christ. Baptism was the outward sign that they placed faith in Jesus Christ. 

It is important to notice that, with the exception of the thief on the cross who died after his conversion, there is no New Testament evidence to support the idea that people were converted in the first century and yet not baptized. In fact, baptism very often in the New Testament almost stands for conversion. I will attempt to share an illustration that a theologian named Don Carson has used before. In the late 1920’s and 30’s there was a converted baseball player named Billy Sunday, who went around the country preaching the gospel; he had great influence. He would travel and preach and set up this massive tent that would seat thousands of people. People would walk down the aisle to him during invitation and make a profession of faith. He discovered that if the tent had been pitched on dry ground, then when people would walk down, they would stir up a bunch of dust that led to people hacking and coughing. Alternatively, if the ground was wet, then they could potentially slip on the mud. So he put sawdust down in all of the aisles. 

Now, because of this sawdust move, people started using the phrase “to hit the sawdust trail.”  So if we were living in the 30’s, if you asked me when I was converted, I could say, “I hit the sawdust trail in Chicago in 1931,” and everyone would understand what I meant by that.  In addition, it became so common that even if you had never gone forward in a Billy Sunday tent, nevertheless when you got converted you could have said “I hit the sawdust trail,” and everyone knew what you meant, even though no one would truly say that you needed to walk on sawdust to become converted. Thus, “hitting the sawdust trail” was so tied up with conversion that it came to almost stand for conversion. 

Well, baptism functioned much like that in the New Testament.  It was so connected with conversion in the first century that you might say to someone in Corinth, “Oh, When did you become a Christian?”  and they might say, “I was baptized in AD 47.” A scholar named F.F. Bruce rightly states in his commentary on Acts, “The idea of an unbaptized Christian is simply not entertained in the New Testament.”   So we need to avoid two primary errors when it comes to our view of baptism.

The first is to treat baptism as though if saves—as if something in the water or the ritual itself confers regenerating grace to the recipient. The second error is to treat baptism as an optional add-on to the Christian life. At a conference I was at recently, a pastor stood up and said that his church had the goal of having 2,000 salvations and 1,000 baptisms in 3 years. When I heard that, in my head I was asking, “Why do you have 1,000 less baptisms as a goal?” That doesn’t make any sense to me because the New Testament closely links baptism with conversion. Perhaps the best analogy that I can think of is circumcision. Circumcision cannot make you a Jew—but all Jews are circumcised. Baptism cannot make you a Christian, but all Christians are baptized. Do you have to be baptized to be saved? No, the Bible makes clear that we are saved by grace through faith. However, it is important to recognize that in the New Testament, conversion and baptism are a package deal and we must not fall into the error of seeing baptism as an optional add on. We must see it as a necessary step of obedience after conversion. 

Kyle Hogg

Senior Pastor of CCR

The Way of Love

Have you ever taken the time to consider what 1 Corinthians 13 is sitting in the middle of? The whole chapter is such a beautiful treatise on love, and contains some of the most well-known verses of our time. But so often those verses are lifted out of their immediate surroundings to be applied to a wedding, or to raising children, or to treating others kindly. I think these can be fine applications, but without the context they fall a little short of the much deeper point Paul is making.

Looking to the context helps us realize that Paul is actually taking our temptation to overemphasize and falsely exalt some spiritual gifts over others to task. If we look at 1 Corinthians 12 we find Paul informing us about different types of spiritual gifts as well as painting a metaphorical picture of the church as one body in Christ, yet containing many members who perform varied and equally important tasks. He anticipates the problems we tend to have in the church concerning the more visible gifts–everyone wants them–and promises to show us “a still more excellent way” (1 Cor 12:31).

And from there we jump into chapter 13. Immediately Paul concludes in verses 1-3 that speaking in tongues, having prophetic powers and understanding of all mysteries and knowledge, vast faith and self-sacrificing generosity amount to absolutely nothing if they are not motivated and accompanied by love. Basically that everything he spent so much time outlining in the previous chapters are worth nothing to anyone in the church without love backing them up. In fact, they are worse than nothing, they are distracting. Paul compares speaking in tongues without love to being “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (v1). These gifts which God graciously gives us upon salvation are a tremendously rowdy distraction from the purposes of God without his love running through them.

And what is love? Queue the oft repeated, beautiful refrain here.

Love is:

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not envy
  • Does not boast
  • Is not arrogant
  • Is not rude
  • Does not insist on its own way
  • Is not irritable
  • Is not resentful
  • Does not rejoice in wrongdoing
  • Rejoices in the truth
  • Bears all things (literally: puts up with all things)
  • Believes all things
  • Hopes all things
  • Endures all things

I think it is good to stop here and try to unclothe ourselves of the ways we’ve heard this passage applied, and instead think of it within the context Paul has so carefully placed it.

–To be loving means that when I practice my gift of knowledge, I am patient with those to whom I share knowledge and that I am not rude while I teach them, or boastful of the knowledge I have received as a gift of the Spirit.

–To be loving means that when I give generously I do it with great kindness and without arrogance.

–To be loving means that even though I am full of faith, I am not irritable or resentful toward those who lack faith, but that I bear with them, and endure their unbelief, encouraging them to a better way.

–To be loving means that when I preach the Word of truth that I do not insist on my own way, but am careful to present God’s way, because I know love rejoices in the truth, and I want my people to know God’s truth as the only way to salvation.

I know we can apply this description of love in a lot of different ways, but first let’s apply it to the way we practice the good gifts God has given to us for the benefit and flourishing of His bride, the Church. Paul is giving us a heads up that in order to be an effective steward of the gift you’ve been given, you must be a good student of what is means to love others.

This brings us to the verses that immediately follow Paul’s description of love. Here Paul makes a comparison between the eternality of love and the temporality of the spiritual gifts. Love never ends, he says, but tongues, knowledge and prophecies will all pass away. The reason they pass away is because as humans we only have partial knowledge of that which we speak and read about. We do not share in God’s omniscience, so whatever we learn about our Father, his world and his ways will only ever be a small piece of a very large and humanly incomprehensible puzzle.

In addition, when the “perfect” comes, what need will we have for these gifts? We will be reunited bodily with Christ in heaven, and our need to minister to one another with these spiritual gifts will pass away in the presence of the author of all truth and wisdom. Paul says in verse 12, “For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” What a glorious day that will be! We will know fully those things which now we scratch our heads and wonder about, search commentaries for clues and pray earnestly for illumination about. But it is not for us to know all these things now, and no amount of study will give us total knowledge of them anyway. It would do us all good to remember that no theologian in history had complete understanding of the mysteries of God, and we should not presume to think that we do either. And so, as we diligently seek the truth, we must be patient with ourselves and with others until the time to know fully arrives.

In contrast, Paul says, “Love never ends” (v8). Now here is something we can grasp, know, and practice–perhaps not with the precision of perfection–but with the understanding that God has loved us first and in the greatest way: in giving up Jesus Christ’s life for those who were enemies with him. There is a simplicity to this concept of love that the smallest children understand and can practice: the laying down of one’s life for others. This kind of service will never end, it will never pass away. Indeed, it is the stuff of heaven, and we who practice it imperfectly today in anticipation of Christ’s return will get the pleasure of loving others rightly and well for eternity. To love is the better thing, Paul tells us, because it will never pass away. There will always be chances to practice love, now and for eternity.

So, even though these spiritual gifts will no longer be needed, love will always be needed, and required, because it is the very language of heaven, as well a characteristic of our most perfect Father, whom we are called to imitate.

We can be a very task oriented people, and so I can understand why it is so tempting to put on a ministry hat and do that task to the very best of our ability. The problem with this comes when we allow our love and passion for the task to outweigh our care and concern for God’s people. The spiritual gift is meant to serve the body, and not the other way around. If you cannot practice your gift without being demanding, insisting on your own way, being rude or impatient, or being envious, then it would be better for you to cease that ministry altogether than to continue being a noisy distraction to the body of Christ. And the truth is, when we practice our gifts with unloving attitudes, we are actually drawing people away from Christ and toward ourselves, because our obnoxious attitudes drown out the great symphony of God’s love which is on display when we rightly practice his given gifts within the Church.

Let us therefore be careful to practice our gifts with a heart full of the love of God, which is beautifully exemplified in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  And isn’t that just what a spiritual gift is for, to lay down our lives in faithful ministry for the benefit of those around us? That they would be drawn toward God who is able to give them mercy, forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven, where the tune of our Christ-unified hearts will be the great song of love.

Alise Grant

Women’s Ministry Director

Growing our Thankfulness for God: The 10,000 Reason Journal

In his famous worship song, “10,000 Reasons,” Matt Redman sings the following lyrics:

“For all Your goodness
I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons
For my heart to find.”

For Christians, these are powerful lyrics that are both appropriate for and expected of a Christian. Our God is a God of infinite wisdom, power, goodness, mercy, and love (and countless other characteristics), so to honor God with 10,000 praises should be a relatively simple task. Yet, practically, thinking of 10,000 reasons to praise God would be a difficult task for many, no matter how much time one is given. While Redman’s selection of 10,000 is ultimately arbitrary, Christians everywhere would nevertheless
benefit by attempting to reach Redman’s number. First, Christians are called to abound with thankfulness and offer our praises to God freely (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 34:1; Psalm 147:1). Secondly, offering praise to God in this life provides a glimpse of what the Christian can expect in Heaven, when believers of all generations will sing God’s praises for all of eternity (Revelation 19). Thirdly, we offer our praise to God because He is worthy of such praise (Revelation 4:11). How then can we incorporate thanksgiving and thankfulness towards God into our spiritual lives in such a way that doing so becomes a lifelong spiritual discipline?

Enter the 10,000 Reasons journal. The 10,000 Reasons Journal inspired by the above lyric in Redman’s song, the 10,000 Reasons journal is a journaling exercise in which Christians write a pre-established number of praises of God each day until they reach the number 10,000. While the pre-determined number may vary from Christian to Christian, each praise should beunique to that day. This activity benefits Christians in numerous ways. First, requiring ourselves to reflect upon our day in order to praise God helps us to see what the prophet Jeremiah saw in Lamentations 3 – that the faithfulness of God renews daily. Reflecting on our day in search of praises also better attunes our heart towards God’s steadfast love for us in both the big and small moments of our lives. Secondly, as the Christian continues in this discipline, the journal then functions as an extended testimony of God’s power and work in our lives. As Christians begin to fill their journals, each previous page becomes an encouragement in times of hardship, as we are able to read about how God has delivered us or blessed us in times past, thus renewing the hope that God will again do so in our futures.

Finally, this journal helps to refocus us to our original purpose – to praise and glorify God. The journal helps redirect our eyes from the frustrations and bitterness that accrue within our soul throughout the day towards the goodness of our God and Father. While praise is not inherently sanctifying, pouring our out gratitude to God can be cathartic, as we acknowledge God’s goodness amidst the turbulence and volatility of our earthly lives.
May this idea be a blessing to you in our pursuit to glorify God in our daily lives.

Young Adults director at CCR

Steven Barker

Should I be Baptized Again?

Careful reflection on the baptism of Apollos’ disciples (Acts 18-19) sheds some light on who should be rebaptized. New Testament baptism was only performed once on an individual!  All Christian churches were part of the universal body of Christ recognizing “one Lord, one faith, one baptism,” and therefore new members who had transferred from other congregations were not rebaptized. 

However, to be meaningful, baptism required that the candidate had personal faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized ‘in His name’. In the case of the disciples of Apollos, this was not so and they were rebaptized as a result.  

Some have suggested that rebaptism should occur if the candidate in question didn’t have a proper understanding of what baptism meant at the time. However, the applicability of baptism does not depend on the depth and accuracy of understanding, but whether it is associated with conversion.  

In my view, rebaptism should only be performed on one of two grounds.  Either the church that baptized them was not a true Christian church, or the candidate did not at the time of their baptism have true faith in Jesus.  

If you feel that you fit either of the two criteria’s mentioned above, then according to the Scriptures you should be rebaptized with the understanding that it would not be a rebaptism, but his or her first only true baptism as a Christian.   If you are struggling to understand if you fit either of the two criteria listed above, please talk to a Pastor at Crossover Church and Lord willing he can help you discern how you can be obedient to the Lord in this matter.  

Kyle Hogg

Senior Pastor at CCR

Coincidence or Providence?

Our women’s Bible study group just finished up the book of Ruth. Despite its small size, Ruth is packed to the brim with themes worthy to be studied.
But for the purposes of this short post, I wanted to focus on the Providence of God seen in Ruth. Without mentioning God’s direct involvement in the narrative save for two times (Ruth 1:6; 4:13), the narrator weaves throughout the story a sense of coincidence and slim chances.

  • Naomi suddenly decides to return to Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest. (Ruth 1:6)
  • Ruth just so happens to arrive in Boaz’s field to glean. (Ruth 2:3)
  • Shortly afterward, Boaz also just so happens to arrive at that field  and chances to have an abundantly favorable disposition towards her. (Ruth 2:4)
  • Against the odds, respectable Boaz is filled with tenderness and care for Ruth as she reveals herself to him at the threshing floor at midnight and promises to settle her situation in the morning. (Ruth 3:10-13)
  • When he goes to do so who should show up (as if on cue) but the nearer kinsmen-redeemer who has first rights to Naomi’s property and Ruth’s hand in marriage. (Ruth 4:1)

Why are all of these events so remarkable? I think it is because the narrator does not specifically mention the involvement of God within them. The events are presented as chance encounters or coincidental occurrences. This does not square with what we know to be true about the providence of God, which Jerry Bridges defines as: “His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.”

The narrator of Ruth forces the reader to grapple with the way he or she views the past, present, and future of their lives. So often we look at the circumstances we are in as mere chance, dumb luck or coincidental. The evolutionistic worldview in which we live declares that the universe came into being by a stroke of luck, and that human beings and the rest of creation are the results of a series of chance biological phenomenons bred into us over millions of years. Our existence and the course of our lives comes down to the roll of the dice.

But the book of Ruth declares a different worldview, one in which God is intimately and constantly concerned with the ordinary details of the lives of his children. Nothing escapes his notice and care. He is not only concerned but deeply involved: softening hearts, directing individuals to fields and giving life to the barren womb. He works within the actions of people to direct his good and glorious outcomes. We may roll the dice, but the numbers that appear and the circumstances they affect are from the Lord (Prov 16:33).

There are no coincidences within the Kingdom of God. Don’t be tempted to look upon something awful or something good and say that God has no good and lasting purpose for that event. When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem, widowed, destitute, and vulnerable, they did not know how completely God would take them from emptiness to fullness. So also we do not know how God will work out the tragedies and triumphs of our lives. But we do know that we can trust the good hand of God, which works all things out for the good of those who believe in him and are called according to his purpose (Rom 8:28). We may not see the sweet fruit until heaven, but that is a reward worth waiting for!  

Alise Grant

Co-Women’s director at CCR