December 3, 2020

Open Thread: Union with Christ/Real Presence of Christ

UPDATE: I’m still holding firm on the indulgence granted to those who want to convert me to their version of Christianity, but let me say two things: 1) The thread is a discussion of a question, not a discussion of my errant views of whatever you believe and 2) I can’t respond to all of these posts. I simply don’t have time. If I have misrepresented any of you personally, I will apologize. If you are upset that I don’t get your view of things, we’ll all just have to learn to live with it.

Here’s a key question in my own theological evolution. I’ll lift the usual moderation rule on seeking to convert others to your point of view if you will make a substantial contribution to the discussion.

All Christians are united with Christ by the sovereign, gracious work of God himself. All the benefits of salvation come to us because of union with Christ.

So how does union with Christ relate to your understanding of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper?

I won’t rehearse where the tension is for me, but if you tell me that Christ is “really present” in the eucharist at your church, I’d like you to distinguish how Christ’s person and benefits are available to you in the Eucharist in a way they are not available to me by virtue of union with Christ.


  1. Bror Erickson

    I think you have misunderstood my post on a number of fronts.

    I agree with you that false doctrine should not be tolerated and doctrinal division should not be glossed over. I agree that “those that are teaching things contrary to the word of God should be told as much, warned, marked, rebuked and avoided…”

    My point is that I am a member of Christ’s church. I believe, like the creeds, in the “holy catholic (universal) church.”

    When we disagree on secondary doctrinal matters, I say, let us agree to disagree, but as long as we both hold to a classic Christian faith as expressed in the creeds, you are welcome at my church and at my communion table. Because it is not my church, and not my Communion table, but Christ’s, and if he has accepted you into his family, then I call you brother and accept you into mine.

    It saddens me that I would not be welcomed into your church and allowed to participate in your communion in the same way I would welcome you into mine.

    You state that you would “rather be open about our differences and discuss them candidly. No one is served by anything less.” I am totally in agreement with that, as long as it is done with a spirit of gentleness and generosity. I have felt like that gentleness and generosity has been sadly lacking in many of the posts above.

  2. bob pinto says

    We brothers are going to need an eternity in heaven so we can argue.

  3. Bror Erickson says

    Michael Bell,
    Thats just it. I think if you agreed with me, then you wouldn’t see Lord’s Supper as a secondary issue. It’s not, not for Lutherans. It is the “New Testament” christ’s Last will and Testament, in his blood. How serious does it have to be before it is not a secondary doctrine? Your messing with God’s Testament here. For us Lutherans it is quite simply the gospel itself we are consuming.
    As I have said before it is at the heart of everything we believe, teach and confess. What you confess about the Lord’s Supper colors everything you confess about Christ and who he is.
    And for this reason I would not want to join you in what I can only see as a profanation of the Lord’s Supper. And for that reason I would ask that you wait until you are thoroughly instructed as to what us Lutheran’s believe teach and confess, before you make a common confession of faith with us at the Lord’s Table, so that you understand what it is you are recieving and why.
    It may be a secondary issue for you. But understand for us it isn’t, we ask that you respect that.

  4. I understand the LS as a weekly event in the early church, but that isn’t exactly what I’m trying to get at.

    How did the weekly ritual tbecome transformed into the focus of the getting together? In the Catholic church, isn’t Mass, with it’s high point being the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood through the invocation of the priest, The Way to worship? It goes beyond simply being one way/avenue to worship and draw close to God. The belief that actually partaking of the eucharist imparts a special grace that renews the believer spiritually….more than simply edifying them….seems like a leap from the brief mentions in Scripture.

    When did these beliefs become common in the life of the church?

  5. Larry KY says


    My sincere apologies, I totally misunderstood the lifting of the moderation rules in between catching kids, reading and writing. Now that I reread it I should have caught it and understood it the first time. Completely my fault, I didn’t intend to break them at all. I will certainly watch that next time!

    Your truly,


  6. Larry KY says

    I can relate this easier to my experience in baptism. Back when I so struggled in terror of the conscience over this I didn’t grasp the full weight of the Gospel in the Sacrament and fully had my baptistic categories firmly fixed, believed and understood. However, I was NEVER offended when a Lutheran presented Baptism as that doctrine does. Neither did Luther himself offend me EVEN though I just “couldn’t get it” and still disagreed with it without offense. Yet, I wondered at it.

    So, I see where and concur with Bror Erickson’s posts. Again, I relate it more easily to baptism (but am growing to grasp it in the Lord’s Supper). People have asked me why I hold so tenaciously to baptism this way and not my old way, why NO argument on earth can now pull me back. SO, I’ve tried and tried to explain that if you just would SEE the Gospel in it, you’d never go back and see why it is essential and not non-essential and why you can NEVER go back. To ask me to go back to ‘believers baptism’ would be in fact to ask me to deny the Gospel as it pertains to baptism. And at least in theory EVERY Christian would say one should never deny the Gospel. But I am convinced, as it was for me, that people’s fear against the sacraments as pure gift and pure Gospel is not a fear of law or works, but rather a hidden fear of true free grace. I really mean that. We all as good protestants say, “Yea team, free grace…” but I wonder if we REALLY mean that and carry that seriously through in the doctrines. Saying ‘it doesn’t matter because its not essential’ is a great strategic trick of the devil and is the Christian ecumenical “in-house” equivalent of the pagan, “all truths are truth”. Ergo believe what you will at the spiritual buffet or if you don’t like that make your own spiritual pizza. Now that’s COMPLETELY different than accusing one man of not being a Christian because he/she doesn’t understand or believe X doctrine. That’s not the case. It’s a sad matter of one being Gospel deprived due to a doctrine, malnourished and not understanding why on some things like the sacraments, but that is NOT to mean one is not truly a Christian.



  7. Michael,

    Sorry I reposted my reply to your reply. I probably should have just figured you didn’t have time to reply.



    Mt. Zizioulas thought that it was there from the beginning. I believe St. Irenaus of Antioch was very sacramental and he died in 110AD. It seems to me the real question is why did it cease to be so central. From my perspective, the Sacraments (particularly the Lord’s Supper) is alluded to very often in the Scripture, and when it is mentioned directly, outstanding claims are made about it. I suppose you would disagree, but before we ask “why have Catholics dparted from Scripture” we have to ask “have Catholics departed from Scripture.”

  8. Larry KY says

    Believe it or not I like simplicity. (incredulous laughter subsiding) Luther once and for all to ‘get to the point of it all’ said to ask the pastor (or by extension today, deacon or elder) what it is that he is putting in your mouth (or handing you) in that bread or wine. Here we reach a reality of what is actually there because we ultimately have to side with Luther or Zwingli/Calvin et. al. This hit me strongly the other day when our 2 and 3 year old asked us during the Supper “What is it you have there”. That flat out stunned and made me pause. I thought to myself, “Well there you go Larry, how do you answer that because a child of this age is simply asking an innocent question without ANY denominational/doctrinal front loading or agenda behind it”. Children have a way of teaching us adults and pointing out in bare nakedness our faithless weaknesses. I either had to give an answer in agreement to Zwingli/Calvin or Luther, but what I could not do was breach some half-way house.

    Of course we, my wife and I, believe, though we attend PCA in the real body and blood in, with and under the elements 100%. So my answer to them was the bread was the body and the wine was the blood of Christ ‘in, with and under’ the bread and wine given for our sins. My oldest 3 soon to be 4 EASILY believes and trusts that. I found that stunning that this was NO problem whatsoever for her to trust in and it takes the “well developed” rationalism and fallen reason of an adult to actually begin wrestling with it and against what Jesus so plainly said. The easiest thing for them to believe was the “under” that is hidden under the elements part, a child has absolutely no problem with that, God has the ability to do this and says He does this – its cut and dry faith for them and their blessedly underdeveloped fallen rationalizing.

    Which leads me to what a dear brother of mine once graciously patient with me advised, when I was wrestling with this. It’s a matter of asking the right questions like: What would Jesus have had to say to make it more plain? Or the similar joke that got me to laughing at my own wrestlings with the issue, “If Jesus would have only said ‘this is my body and blood’ then I’d believe Him”. What is actually given for your sins, mere bread and wine or Jesus body and blood? Is my issue REALLY with true doctrine or is my fallen reasoning trying to subdue the Word of God rather than vice versa? What is really put in your hand and mouth that is in fact GIVEN for your sins? Denominations aside, those are some honest questions to answer. And there is really no mitigating point on this, because it would be like some mitigating theistic atheist trying to bridge atheism and theism by saying, “Yes there is a god but he didn’t create ex nihilo but out that which already was”. Both the atheist and theist, though diametrically opposed, MUST mutually laugh at the folly of that. For at least a pure atheist is as internally consistent as is a pure theist on that issue.

    We are often miffed at a child’s blunt honesty because we are in reality ashamed of our own dishonesty and thus cover it up by the miffed attitude to answer their deadly honest questions. Like wise we do this in all areas of life. So, the kind of questions above regarding the Lord’s Supper are good to consider, they may or may not convince and that’s fine, but they will at least force thought in what one really thinks/believes/trusts independent or in spite of denominational moorings. At least they force up the same honesty that a simple child’s question forces.



  9. To Terri,
    Acts 2:42, seems to express the centrality to the early church of devotion to breaking of bread, the prayers, along with the teaching of the Apostles.

    To Brian and the “one true church”
    St.Paul started some of this mess with his own condemnations of “other Gospels” and “super apostles.” See Gal 1:9. He was a stickler for what he thought was right (Gal 2:11) until, of course, he was under pressure (Acts 21:20-26). Paul certainly believed in one Church and one Gospel. He excommunicated people. Hundreds of schisms occurred, with triumph of the “church,” occurred long before 1054: gnostics, Aryans and on and on. This idea of the true church is what established the NT Canon and developed the Creed.

    And I don’t think it is at all clear when Sunday worship became the norm

  10. Michael:

    “I would challenge anyone to produce a text that says the Holy Spirit limits or localizes this sacramentalism to one group of Christians.”

    Not me!

    I would like to hear more about your take on Zwingli’s view sometime (you mentioned in an earlier post that you are closer to his view than to Calvin’s.)

    BTW, are there any M&M’s left?

  11. Matthew,

    I haven’t said that Catholics have departed from Scripture. I am just wondering about the development of the theology surrounding the LS, so please don’t take my question as an implication that I have the right view, and others do not.

  12. Alvin Kimel says

    If you tell me that Christ is “really present” in the eucharist at your church, I’d like you to distinguish how Christ’s person and benefits are available to you in the Eucharist in a way they are not available to me by virtue of union with Christ.

    I agree with Fr Peter that a false dilemma is being posed by the question. It assumes that we may speak of union with Christ apart from baptism and Eucharist. On the contrary, I would suggest that all New Testament discourse on union with Christ is predicated upon the Church’s practice and experience of baptism and Eucharist. I know that I cannot prove this to anyone’s satisfaction who does not already hold a fully robust catholic sacramentology, but I believe it to be the case nonetheless.

    The New Testament writers and Church Fathers would never have asked the question Michael has posed to us. To be united to Christ simply is to be united to the Church, which is his body, and baptism is initiation into the Church. To be baptized into the Church is to be incorporated into that community that constitutes itself as the body of Christ by sharing in loaf and cup. “And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” There was no understanding that one could be united to Christ apart from the Church and thus apart from baptism. Hence the strong understanding held by the Church Fathers of the necessity of sacramental baptism. Precisely how this necessity is to be understood has been a matter of theological debate for 2,000 years, but the debate begins with the necessity and then proceeds to nuance and qualification. What can be said is that baptism is necessary to salvation precisely because the Church is necessary to salvation: extra Ecclesia nulla salus. In what ways the Church is necessary to salvation, we will want to discuss; but I do not believe that the New Testament is read rightly if one does not recognize this necessity. In the words of the risen Christ: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”

    The sacraments of the Church are precisely sacraments of the Church. They are essentially ecclesial, not only in the sense that they are celebrated by the Church but also because they realize the Church’s identity as the Church. As Aidan Kavanagh writes: “A eucharistic group that is neither baptized nor baptizing maybe be many things, but it is not the Church. A baptized and baptizing group that never celebrates its death and life in Christ around the Lord’s Table may be a sect of some vigor, but it is not the Church.”

    The ecclesiological understanding of the sacraments is expressed by Thomas Aquinas when he states that the res tantum of the Eucharist is “the unity of the mystical body, the Church, which this sacrament both signifies and causes.”

    Is it possible for an individual to be united to Christ apart from baptism and Eucharist? Yes. Christ is not restricted to the sacraments he has ordained. In the words of the Catholic Catechism: “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” But as soon as we start asking in what ways Christ’s person and benefits are available to us by the sacraments that are not available to us by virtue of union with Christ, then, I suggest, we have departed from the biblical understanding of Church, sacraments, and union with Christ.

  13. Larry KY says

    If you tell me that Christ is “really present” in the eucharist at your church, I’d like you to distinguish how Christ’s person and benefits are available to you in the Eucharist in a way they are not available to me by virtue of union with Christ.

    Probably the simplest way to answer this is:

    1. Christ’s person and benefits are available in both objectively.

    2. They are not available to one due to unbelief, not believing it to be so, not trusting it to be so, no confidence in it being so, and that is due to ‘a doctrine’.

    Simple borrowed example:

    Two men under a crisis of faith, a suffering and temptation from the flesh, world and/or the devil both have been baptized by any mode in the Trinities name:

    Man #1 says, “No devil I am baptized and with baptism I HAVE the promise of eternal life in body and soul”. Christ said He baptized me, Christ cannot lie, therefore I am baptized”. The sword of faith strikes back from the tangible Sword of Baptism.

    Man #2 says, “Well IF I have faith and figure that out without a shadow of a doubt, THEN I must be a Christian…if I know that some how, if some only some tangible thing could tell me this…woe is me I cannot know…” The devil’s dart hits a killing mark.

    Now both men actually objectively HAVE the WORD of God, His promise in Baptism and His name of which is partly “Jesus or Yaweh saves” – Christ’s person and benefits. Man number 1 has been taught the Christian truth and can draw this real objective tangible Sword of the Spirit to strike back at the attacking devil. He actually trust via the sacrament that it give Christ’s person and benefits and thus HAS it to HIMSELF, the Gospel TO THE MAN in particular. The second man has Christ’s person and benefits, the real objective tangible Sword of the Spirit (in baptism), but he does think, trust nor have confidence that he does and so the Sword of the Spirit stays sheathed with on lookers saying, “Why does he not draw his sword, a curious thing”. In short unbelief due to a false doctrine on the issue causes him to not know that he in fact has what he HAS.

    Now, expand that up from the individual level to a whole congregational level, like two armies of the Lord. One church, brigade in our analogy, have been informed (doctrine) and KNOWS they’ve been given weapons and uses them when the enemy attacks. The other church, brigade, having been lied to (false doctrine) have weapons but they might as well be flowers for all they’ve BEEN TOLD (false doctrine).

    Same with the supper. Perhaps that is helpful.



  14. Larry,
    I am missing what you are saying I think. The Sword of the Spirit as referenced in Scripture is the Word of God itself. It isn’t given to us in baptism or through baptism at all. It is available for use as the Sword of the Spirit for any believer.
    And I promise I am not trying to be obtuse, but the best way of dealing with Satan’s darts isn’t by wielding our sword; it is by using our shield of faith (Eph. 6:16 – In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.)

    Also, I want to apologize if I offended some earlier with the suggestion that the Lord’s Supper isn’t a central doctrine. What I was trying to communicate is that the only doctrine I consider central (of total necessity) is the doctrine of Salvation itself. Are there some here who believe that it is impossible to be saved (have eternal life) without the correct view(whichever one that is) of the Lord’s Supper?
    Jeff M

  15. Larry KY says


    Not at all, no offense here. Baptism is the Word of God (Gospel). That is what makes it not just ordinary water? The very Word of God IN it. Just as Christ, the incarnate Word of God, was put into the baptismal waters of the Jordan. Doest that help?

    Sword/shield: Here was my intended use, sorry for short cutting it too much. Yes, faith is the sheild against the darts, but the Sword of the Spirit is the offensive counter attack. I was using baptism as the Word in dual way. The attack was coming AT faith, baptism gives Christ and the Gospel TO THE MAN, the Promise of eternal life. THAT baptism ON YOU and that is God’s promise TO YOU, gives that shield of faith its being as it were. The Sword of the Spirit is simply the same Word of Gospel counter attacking. All the armor in the Eph 6 passage is based on the Word of God, the Gospel, the Gospel TO you and FOR you, and baptism PUTS it there TO you and ON YOU objectively.

    So that when Satan attacks, and he attacks our trusting nakedly and passively in Christ alone, Psalm 3 for example, “…how many say in vain for help he on his God relies…but You are my shield and glory Lord…you lifted up my head…”, he is attacking Christ FOR us, the Gospel, so we will not trust or have confidence in Him…that He some how has abandoned us. The objective Word in the baptismal water, what makes it more than mere water, gives that shield its shieldness and that same Word is an offensive blow back to Satan, “No Satan I am baptized” or the longer version, “No Satan, Jesus said I baptize you in the name of…, Jesus cannot lie (implied the accusing devil’s attack is in fact the lie), ergo I am baptized”. Is the offensive counter attack of God’s Word wielded through us against the devil’s word. What we have is what we’ve had from the beginning and throughout the whole of Scripture, a war of words, the devil’s and God’s, and all God’s Word are summed up in the incarnate Word.

    Hope that helps. Thanks for asking brother.



  16. Larry,
    Thanks for taking the time to clarify. I guess I don’t see the connection here to baptism. There is nothing in the mention of the armor of God regarding baptism. In fact, the one thing that is mentioned most often by Paul there is the neccessity of prayer. It sounds to me as though you are equating baptism with salvation, which I don’t quite agree with. Are you saying that because the second man doesn’t view baptism as sacramental, that it therefore has no effectiveness for him or leaves him deficient for spiritual warfare/living? I find that hard to believe as it runs counter to my own personal experience and the experience of many others I know. Which is more important to trust in this situation, a sacramental view of baptism or a solid belief in God’s Word as truth?
    You might see this as a false dichotomy, but I don’t. I have spent several years studying the sacramental views of theology and trying to square them against the Scriptures. I enjoy learning and will continue to study and question so that I can show myself approved someday before Our Father.
    Thanks again for your patience and time.

  17. Larry KY says

    No problem Jeff. Understanding real suffering will help bring this about with pondering what faith really is.

    One thing you may want to discern, and this one was confusing to me for a long time, not all sacramental views are SACRAMENTAL. I say that because if you are like me, coming from the outside in, you simply assume they are or very close. But very close scrutiny of them will reveal that not all are alike. The Lutherans, Reformed and Roman Catholics for example say they are “sacramental” but not all really are, OR they redefine what “sacramental” means so that they can now say “we” are sacramental. So, the advice I’d give there is to “get pass the term sacramental for now” (just like what does ‘reformed’ mean) and study the essence or principle of each. You will find no matter what the principle is termed, sacramental or otherwise, that each actually speak differently. And at length you will discover that the “sacramentalism’ of Rome is no different than the none sacramentalism or ordinance driven concept behind the baptist (this is why Luther saw the anabaptist as same as Rome and called both rebaptizers even though Rome didn’t actually rebaptize). The hardest hair to split will be the reformed with the lutheran, especially Calvin Vs. Luther, it is very close in the way the two speak. BUT again look at the principle and how it affects faith. You HAVE to ‘get behind the words’ and to the principles otherwise one will never see it. We can fight over the term “who is really sacramental” but what we cannot fight over unless we just admit rank stupidity is the principle and essential difference of the various ones. And I rope in here non-sacramental views as you will see THAT principle actually line up with other so called sacramental views when all the fat and monickers are boiled away.

    You don’t have to answer me but just ponder these simple questions:

    When the devil comes and tempts you that you ‘may not be saved’ how does he tempt you? Does activate you to do something, especially religious in nature, especially something in the Bible, even prayer itself? Thomas Hooker, a puritan had a great test for this to warn his folks of falling away from the REAL faith. The next time you are tempted due to something, sin or otherwise, when the devil comes in and activates the flesh into motion what do you do? Beware especially of good things otherwise that are religious by their very nature. Do you run to prayer? Do you DO something else religious? Hooker says then next time DON’T DO what you would normally do, he specifically points out some otherwise good things we do as Christians like prayer. THEN note well how your heart reacts to that! Does it itch as it were to do it and cannot rest until it does? Then you may note very well what it is you are really trusting in and it is NOT Christ crucified alone. That’s very different than saying, “No devil I am baptized”, which IS to say “Christ alone” point blank to him, because there is His name.

    Are you saved by Christ alone or Christ + faith?

    Is baptism a work of God or a work of man? Not secondary things, but baptism itself.

    If you remove the Word from the water in baptism what do you have?

    Have a great week,


  18. Alvin Kimel says

    And at length you will discover that the “sacramentalism’ of Rome is no different than the none sacramentalism or ordinance driven concept behind the baptist (this is why Luther saw the anabaptist as same as Rome and called both rebaptizers even though Rome didn’t actually rebaptize).

    I’m sorry but this is polemical baloney. Luther had many differences with the Catholic Church, but to suggest that he considered the Catholic understanding of sacrament on par with the anabaptists and Zwinglians) is nonsense. This is proven by his mild criticism of transubstantiation, which he deemed Aristotelian nonsense, as compared to his violent rejection of the views of Zwingli. Luther well knew that on the Real Presence, he and the Catholics stood together over against the sacramentarians. And he would have repudiated the eucharistic views of Calvin for much the same reasons that he repudiated the views of Zwingli, despite the fact that Calvin advanced a much higher understanding of the eucharistic presence (see Phillip Cary).

    And as far as Holy Baptism, this sacrament has never been a point of serious confessional conflict between Lutherans and Catholics. Both consider Baptism to be a work of God. What is perhaps “new” with Luther is the way he construes sacrament as embodied word of promise addressed to faith, but even here he is still working within the inherited sacramental tradition, even as he radicalizes it (see David Yeago, “The Catholic Luther.”

  19. Larry,
    Let me begin at the end of your questioning by asking a question in return. You asked about removing the Word from the water in baptism, let me ask you plainly. Is a person who is never baptized saved? Before you answer, let me ask a clarifying question. Is Abraham going to be with us in heaven in the family of God? I believe he will be based on Scripture. Look at what Christ said in John 8:56 – Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” Now add what Paul said about Abraham in Romans 4:23-25 – The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

    Abraham was not baptized and he never partook of the Lord’s Supper. And Paul also points out that he hadn’t even been circumcised at this point. The God we see in the Bible doesn’t change. He is consistent especially in His plan of Salvation. The question of a choice between Christ alone or Christ + faith for salvation is a non-issue. Without Christ, salvation is impossible, but if we refuse to believe in Him He will not forcibly save us. What do you think John 3:18 means when it says, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”?

    How do you receive a gift? Do you work for it? Would you consider unwrapping the gift work? Is baptism a work at all? Or is it a command from God that we must obey(1 John 2:3-6) because we love Him.

    To answer your first question about the devil’s attacks on my security and standing in Christ, I DO nothing. I rest in my Savior who is able to keep me from falling. My faith in Him and His promise quenches the attack before it can gain hold.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and questions. I had been pondering them for the last few hours when I had to get out of bed and come post this. May God richly bless you this week,
    Jeff M

  20. Bror Erickson says

    Abrahm never rejected circumcision either. You can be saved with out baptism, but if you reject baptism, you reject God’s grace, and no then you can’t be saved. So the mormon I have going through my adult information class is saved as far as I know having displayed his faith. If he got hit on the way home I’d give him a Christian Funeral. But if at the end of the class he turns down the offer to be baptized he shows thereby that he has no faith, and is not saved. Faith never refuses God’s grace.

  21. Larry KY says


    Sure, no problem, good questions. Is a person who is never baptized saved?

    First, yes Abraham will absolutely be in heaven with us. In fact Jesus already confirms this for us.

    What Bror said is the answer. Or one might say as I’ve heard it said, “It’s not the LACK of baptism that damns but the DESPISING of it?” It is in fact despising grace. It’s good to bring up Abraham and circumcision because the promise of God is linked intimately with that sacramental act. So much so that in the OT they are often spoken of interchangeably. What is notable about that is when Ishmael laughs at Isaiah for trusting in the promise of God (also captured in circumcision) even though Ishmael himself was circumcised Paul explicitly and directly calls that persecution. That laughter at those holding to the promise of God (His Word) and at that that Word that comes to the person in the Sacrament(s) is a scoffing of the that to which the believer (naked passive truster in Christ alone – passive received righteousness) and the root of all persecution hence Paul’s Ishmael’s laughter, in fact singles it out above all, as persecution. Just like for example in the third Psalm, “…O Lord how are my foes increased, against me many rise, how many say in vain for help he on his God relies…”. The enemies of Christ and Christ’s people primarily attack here, the war of words. This should give some pause when some cause those baptized as infants to think it is “invalid”. What they are really saying is that God’s Word is invalid to you, His promise is false. But you will only see that from the sacramental side of the issue, because I know they don’t mean to communicate that!

    The reason you are having difficulty with this is that you are pulling it back to your category. If you realize that Baptism is the wet Word as they say, or God’s Word in the water, then you should realize what the answer already is. But that’s the very thing you don’t believe, trust or have confidence in. I’m not accusing but trying to show WHY you don’t “see it” per se, because you openly reject it. As long as you do that, then, you will of course follow through that way. That goes ALL the way back to WHY some don’t have what others have in the sacraments. Not because Christ is not there objectively, but He’s denied there. Does that make sense?

    Look at your questions this way, there are two ways to ask them:

    Is a person who is never baptized (because he/she despises it) saved?

    Is a person who is never baptized (or just didn’t get to incidentally or similarly, that is non-despising of it) saved?

    Now we can look at them from the sacramental direction, I know you don’t believe that but suspend THAT for a moment and just take a pure observer position. Even if you don’t believe it, you can at least objectively see it. So, remove the “water” and look at your question again:

    Is a person who is never Gospelized (because he/she despises it) saved? That’s what your asking from the sacramental end. And to THAT, Gospel in naked Word or Gospel in water, then no. But that was not Abraham.

    But let me take Abraham a step further. He was in fact baptized, we just don’t see it right away. Christ’s crucifixion was THE circumcision to which all other circumcision was linked, a circumcision from life on the Cross, that’s what the Cross was. And Christ calls His crucifixion explicitly a baptism, the nexus of circumcision and baptism is at the Cross. As we are circumcised so was Abraham baptized both IN CHRIST.

    I think THIS might help, it did me: One must realize that the Bible does not disparage of baptism nearly as much as many do today. Why? Luther rightly grasped that the Anabaptist baptism was valid (due to the objective Word in the water). However, because they did not believe (trust), hold or teach that God’s Word was IN the water they were showing open contempt for the Word ITSELF. Then RE-ATTRIBUTING to the water (to baptism) something else that was not the Word but a special thing (a mode, faith, profession/confession of faith, fruit), therefore they re-baptized others and hence the real blaspheme. This is why it was not at all different from Rome’s ex opere operato. Hence, the common link between Rome and the Anabaptist on this sacrament (On the other sacrament, the sacrifice of the Mass not the how is He present issue was also the same thing and hence the commonality of the Roman Mass to the non-presence of Christ, Zwingli). Both of these rebaptism and ex opere operato are a recrucifixion of Christ BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY REMOVE, THE WORD OF GOD, AND WHAT THEY RE-ASSERT INTO THE REAL SACRAMENT. And, PLEASE, I’m speaking as to doctrine here NOT person to person or personal accusations. This is a doctrinal examination not “me” being right and “you” being wrong which would just be more law and me working MY way to heaven. We all have our pet anti-christic doctrines and ideas, our personal idols, hence the reason we so desperately need an alien Gospel. I thought that needed to be said lest that slip in to the discussion.

    Blessings and have a good restful night, yours,


  22. Dude, 121 comments?!

    I was listening to some GodJourney archives this weekend. The two with Bob Stamps are about communion, basically, and are really good listening. I thought about you ;]

  23. Larry,
    I don’t think we are as far apart as you may think. It sounds to me that some of this comes down to semantics(maybe not the right word but I couldn’t think of a better one). Bear with me for a minute. I would agree that someone who despises baptism is likely not saved/regenerated (pick your term) on the basis that they are being willfully disobedient to God. The only reason I leave the term at likely in that statement is because I am unable to judge the intentions of the heart.

    All of our life in Christ is about obedience to Him. But it isn’t about a slavish obedience to form or regulation. Do you remember what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 9 and 12? He is talking about obeying the intent of God’s Law (mercy) instead of simply complying with the letter of God’s Law (sacrifice). If you look at Paul’s criticism of the Corinthians and their abuse of the Lord’s Supper, you see a picture of a bunch of hungry folks scarfing up the meal and leaving people out. I think it applies to this conversation. It is totally possible to get so caught up in making sure we say and do all the right things about the Lord’s Supper or baptism and miss the real point, which is God Himself.

    I am not trying to point fingers or accuse, but it seems as though there is a human tendency to build up a system of honoring and worshipping God that eventually overtakes the simplicity of knowing Him. The Pharisees did it and looked good doing so. I may not be the best or the brightest, but I keep learning. And one thing I am less willing to do now than I ever was is to sit in judgement over the condition of someone’s relationship with Abba. I will explain what the Bible says about the Lord’s Supper to the best of my understanding, but when it comes time to take part I am not willing to exclude a person who says they wish to participate as a believer because I they might not be right about it. God is their Judge.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that we need an “alien” Gospel. It is my fear that the farther along we go in disputing these things that only serve to divide us; the more we will lose our opportunities to seek and save the lost and dying world at our doorsteps.

    Thank you brother for your words and may God continue to richly bless you.
    Jeff M

  24. Larry KY says


    We are in fact in this discussion speaking to the very ROOT of the Gospel. Now that does divide men, but that hardly will anymore or any less “prevent people from getting saved”. In fact it might be the first time many people actually hear the Gospel, the real Gospel other than some version of “follow Jesus” which is no different than “follow Buddha”. Jesus did not say, “I show you the way”, He said, “I AM the way…”. That is He is the WAY itself. Now I know you agree with that at least concerning the preached Word. But there’s always a backdoor to works. That gets to what faith actually is and do people hear in Word and Sacrament inside or outside of the church a truly alien message or basically a pagan religion with biblical terms and Jesus name attached to it.

    If only semantics were the real issue, but its not. The fact that my children are baptized and not by a particular mode and a Baptist’s children are not means it is not a matter of semantics upon which we agree in the end. The same applies to the Lord’s supper.

    Semantics: Take for example, “I love chicken”. That’s one statement and I think in modern American you and I could agree to what it ACTUALLY means. But let’s just examine the possibilities. As an indicative statement it could mean 1. “I am in love with chickens as a species” (weird but possible). 2. “I love chickens more relative to something else”. 3. “I love to EAT chicken.” 4. “I love the TASTE of chicken.”, and etc. In all these we see a different meaning derived from the one statement. YET, none of them are equal in essence and each mean something ENTIRELY different. So, a word or idea has a very definite finite narrow set of terms behind it (that’s why I say ‘get behind the words’). If “I love chicken” truly means “I love to EAT chicken”, then we have a semantics issue between the two statements & they do mean the same thing.

    So, take the term “faith”. Either faith is utterly devoid of works and is absolutely a passive receptive suffering trust and confidence in another REGARDLESS of what is observed by the eye, ear, hand or clean up of life (Theology of Cross). Or faith is something that ‘pulls in works’ somewhere, even under the disguise of fruit and obedience (Theology of Glory or fallen religion under any name even “Christian”). The first faith is the Christian faith, the later is the devil’s faith no matter what name it is given even if it is called “Christian” or “biblical”. When Luther stated that many men will talk much much about faith and good works and yet know absolutely NOTHING about either one, he was making a CRUCIAL theological point and not just some passing statement. He was making a distinction between how a theologian of glory (fallen man’s natural religion under ANY name) functions Vs. how a theologian of the Cross functions and not some doctrine to be affirmed or denied. Yet, both may use the same terms, just like our “I love chicken” example in which two people use the exact same syntax but have two ENTIRELY two different meanings. As the late Dr. Forde points out the theologian of glory cannot even comprehend that “God may suffer a man to do NO good works that he may at last be saved”. Faith does good works without even knowing they are good works. In fact as soon as you think you are doing a “good work”, you are already in deep sin and in danger of loosing the faith. You must realize as Luther points out, to find one’s self obligated to be obedient is to ALREADY have fallen deeply into sin, even before you act. Why? Because the spontaneity required by the Law is such that if you “realize you are obligated to do something out of obedience or ‘out of love’”, you’ve already violated the Law and LOVE of God or neighbor. Like a stone dropped from the bridge. It doesn’t realize, “I’m obligated to fall or be obedient”, it spontaneously falls. The Law IS Love and Love IS the Law, they are not two different things. This is to be UNDER the Law. It’s NOT a matter of outer ceremony Vs. heartfelt doing.

    Thus to say, “We are baptized out of obedience and love for God”, is to really say that one is baptized without faith at all. No, we are baptized out of the extension of the Incarnate Word to come not half way, not two thirds the way, not all the way but a millimeter, but the ENTIRE length of the Incarnation DOWN into the grave of fallen man. Faith is that utterly passive-receptive-suffering ‘means’ that comes INTO being by the Word of Gospel, faith is wrapped up IN the Gospel itself, both the naked Word and the Word in the Sacrament that says, “Forgiven for Christ’s sake”. The Gospel in Word or baptism finds absolutely no faith in, with or under the dead sinner – just like in the beginning out of nothing God calls into being. Faith arises up out of the tomb like Lazarus and comes into being as the reflexive or echo to the Word of Gospel wet or dry. Its first birth cry is, “So THAT is what God is like.” That’s why faith CAN comprehend that “God may suffer a man to do NO good works that he may at last be saved”, because faith fixes on Christ and never looks other wise. This faith NATURALLY does good works because CHRIST SAYS IT DOES not because it (faith) tries to do them (false faith). It is a new tree because God called it into being by saying, “You are IN FACT forgiven for Christ’s sake”, that is “not under the Law”, you are free to LOVE because you don’t have to LOVE – it does not become a new tree because it tries to be obedient (fallen religion) not even by the works of the Law (=Love). Faith generates, naturally and spontaneously, good works and all that it does great or imperceptible is a good work because it is a GLOWING bride that exudes from the love of its Husband given it freely.

    This is why the issue of the sacraments are different at an essential level and we do not mean the same thing at all. When Luther identified that the Word is removed from the baptismal waters artificially by the Anabaptist and Rome simultaneously, he was identifying not mere semantics but a deep deep deep theological reality about faith, the Gospel, the Cross and God.