[forthright] Is Baptism Essential to Salvation? (Part 1)/Is There Mercy?

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2004 10:53:51 -0500
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross

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Today's Prayer: Be with me, Lord
http://forthright.antville.org/stories/853729/

Is Baptism Essential to Salvation? (Part 1) by Barry Newton
Is There Mercy? by Stan Mitchell
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COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

Is Baptism Essential to Salvation? (Part 1)
by Barry Newton

Sitting on a large branch seven feet in the air, a
small boy looked down at his father's raised arms.
Calmly his father said, "Have faith in me."  For
the lad to have faith in his dad, he would need to
lower himself into his dad's waiting arms.

An excited teenager proudly held up her new
driver's license for all to see. Smiling, she
looked at her dad and said, "have faith in me." To
possess faith in his daughter demanded dropping
the keys into her hand.

God commanded Noah to build an ark because He was
sending a flood. For Noah to have faith in God, he
would need to cut down trees and build that ark.

At the age of seventy-five, Abram was told by God
to leave his country and his father's house to go
to a land God would show him. For Abram to exhibit
faith, he would need to pack his bags and start
walking down the road.

Although he was elderly and had no son of his own,
God promised Abram that his descendants would be
like the stars of the heavens. For Abram to have
faith in God, he was required to believe God's
promise.

When a vast enemy army began advancing against
Judah and her king Jehoshaphat, God's message to
His people was to march out against them. They
were instructed to have faith in God because the
battle belonged to God. For Judah to possess faith
in God, they would have to march out to see God's
victory.

Key Observations

1) How faith is expressed differs from one context
to another.

2) How people have been called to exhibit faith in
God changes from one situation to another.

3) Whether someone possesses faith in someone or
something is determined by how that situation
calls for a person to respond.

4) In order to have faith in an unconditional
promise, a person only has to believe. To possess
faith in someone who issues a command or in a
situation where activity is demanded, faith
requires obedient action.

Having died for our sins and then raised to life,
Jesus cries out through the gospel, "have faith in
me." How are we called to trust in Jesus that we
might be saved and become members of God's family?
Do we only need to accept Jesus into our heart? Is
it necessary for us to trust in Jesus by being
baptized?

The biblical answer is determined by hearing the
story, not by what I think it means to have faith
in Jesus. Whether through the genre of letter,
narrative (Acts) or Gospel, the New Testament
message is consistent.

"For you are all sons of God through faith in
Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were immersed
into Christ have been clothed with Christ"
(Galatians 3:26-27).

"But when they believed Philip preaching the good
news about the kingdom of God and the name of
Jesus Christ, they were being immersed, men and
women alike" (Acts 8:12).

"So then, those who had received his word were
immersed; and there were added that day about
three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41).

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the
nations, immersing them in the name of the Father
and the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19).

"...preach the gospel to all creation. He who has
believed and has been immersed shall be saved;
..." (Mark 16:15,16).

Whether someone has faith in Jesus is determined
by the story, not by what that individual might
think it means to have faith in Jesus. Whether
baptism is essential for salvation is determined
by whether the gospel calls us to trust in Jesus
by being baptized. It does. It is.

Next article: "The Framework of Covenant &
Baptism"

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Read this article online, tell us what you think,
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COLUMN: Reality Check

Is There Mercy?
by Stan Mitchell

I have just reread Alan Paton's classic, "Cry the
Beloved Country." In his lovely, heartbreaking
tale of South Africa, Paton tells of a young black
man named Absolom who breaks into a house in
white, suburban Johannesburg. He and his
accomplices, however, are discovered, and in the
ensuing fight the man of the house is murdered. It
turns out that the fathers of both killer and
victim are neighbors - living amongst the
beautiful hills of Kwazulu-Natal. The bereaved
father is a commercial farmer named Jarvis, and
the murderer's father a Zulu minister.

Absolom is arrested for killing Jarvis' son, and
sentenced to death. The elderly minister appeals
for his life, and awaits word of the appeal's
success. By chance, when the letter comes, he and
Jarvis are caught in a terrific thunderstorm and
take refuge in the little village church building.
Paton writes:

"It was nearly over when Jarvis rose and stood in
the aisle near Kumalo. Without looking at the old
man he said, 'Is there mercy?'"

There was no mercy. Absolom would be executed, and
both fathers would suffer their own unique grief.
Of course in earthly courts, justice must prevail;
a young man who takes another's life must suffer
the consequences. But Kumalo, a man of great
dignity, finds to his surprise that rather than
seek revenge, Jarvis offers to rebuild the little
church building and build a dam to provide water
for the valley of Umzimkulu.

Rather than be overcome by vengeance, their
suffering brought these two men together, the
taciturn white farmer and the simple preacher.
And, one wonders, could their South Africa one day
also be united?

But Christians already know that suffering and
loss bring people together, for the sacrifice of
Christ reconciles us (or ought to) to each other.
How could we, who needed Christ's mercy, look down
on another mercy-given child of God? How could we
who have been forgiven, refuse to forgive?

Jesus brought us together in his dying: "to
reconcile both of them (Jew and Gentile) through
the cross, by which he put to death their
hostility" (Ephesians 2:16, NIV).

South Africa - and our sad old earth - is a pretty
tough place. But yes - apparently there is mercy.

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