Divergent Doctrines – Part 2
By Pete Garcia
We started with theological issues that have in large part, divided the church over the millennia. I began with the Rapture of the Church and will continue this week to the Trinity and the Ordinances.
So those who argue that the ‘Rapture’ isn’t biblical because the word is not found in Scripture, must then by that same standard, and deny the ‘Trinity’…because that word is also not found in the Scriptures. (See how illogical that argument is?) The sad truth is, is that there are so-called “Christian” congregations out there who are now denying the divine triune nature of the God-head. Oneness Pentecostals and Hebrew Roots being the two most predominant. Pseudo-Christian Cults like the Christian Science, Unitarian Church, Mormon, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have long denied the Trinity.
They will argue that the concept of the Trinity is not biblical, because ‘God is one’. (See Deut. 6:4 use of God three times) Furthermore, they’ll say that the ‘Trinity’ was something that Emperor Constantine concocted (as well as adding Sunday worship, Christmas and Easter holidays, etc.) to corrupt the early Christian church.
Tertullian (160-225AD) was the first to coin the phrase ‘Trinitas’, which was over 100 years before Constantine was even born. But the concept of the Trinity is found in both the Old and New Testaments. Our God is One, but He is One Being expressed in three distinct Persons. Because in our Scripture, you have several occasions in which all three are represented at the same time, yet they are all distinct. (Example; Christ’s baptism) You have in the first chapter of the first book, God refers to Himself in the plural as ‘Us’ or ‘Our’ in Genesis 1. You also have all three speaking and have distinctly different roles to play in this great human drama we know as life.
So clearly, God is able to exist in a way, that we finite humans have a hard time comprehending. In this regard, we see that from the beginning, God is beginning to reveal Himself to mankind (particularly the nation of Israel) and is progressively showing His nature and characteristics to us which finds its culmination (albeit limited because of our finiteness) in the New Testament as being expressed in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are not three separate Gods (1+1+1=3), but rather One God in three separate Persons (1x1x1=1).
The Father, who is spirit, is the central figure, from which we come by the sacrificial payment made by the Son, by way of the Holy Spirit’s drawing, and sealing. We (being created in God’s image) reflect that Triune nature of God in our own beings, in that we ourselves are tri-partite in nature; body (corporal), soul (non corporal), and spirit (non corporal). In Greek, the body is ‘soma’, the soul is ‘psyche’, and the spirit is ‘pneuma’…all three exist within us.
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thess. 5:23
The last area I wanted to spend most of my time with you on is the ordinances of Christ. The first is the Lord’s Supper, and the second is water baptism. Whereas the Rapture and the Trinity (the concepts thereof) I take literally. The Ordinances I take symbolically. The reason is we are instructed by Christ to take these as such, and to do them until He returns. These are both representative of something only Christ Himself could do.
The Lord’s Supper
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” – Matt. 26:26-29
Now, when Jesus did this with His disciples, was He literally giving them His flesh and His blood? No. He used unleavened bread and wine. He instituted this symbolically from the very beginning, because it would represent His impending sacrifice on the Cross. The Apostle Paul explains it as such:
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” – 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Some argue that when you partake of the Lord’s Supper, you end up consuming the actual flesh and blood of Christ Himself. This is the ‘sacrament’ in the Roman Catholic mass known as Transubstantiation. You can see the immense power this would give the Roman Catholic Clergy over the laity, in that if the RCC ever excommunicated you, you could not partake of the Lord’s Supper at Mass, thus you would be literally and eternally cut off from salvation (since they also deny eternal security of the believer). This concept in a sense, re-crucifies Christ over and over, denying that by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14)
Most Protestant organizations, on the other hand, have a less extreme understanding of this in that recognize the symbolic reference to the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. His body was broken for us, and His blood was shed on our behalf. Nevertheless, there are still some divergent opinions on this.
1. Consubstantiation (Lutheran view). This view holds that while the elements themselves do not change, Jesus is present at the communion when it is performed (con- meaning “with”)
2. Memorial (Baptist and Non-denominational view). This view is particularly associated with Swiss reformer Zwingli and is held in some form by many. Just as Jesus stated that He is the “bread of life,” (John 6:35), “the door” (John 10:7), and “the vine” (John 15:5), Zwingli insisted that Jesus’ statement that the bread “is” his body and the wine “is” his blood should be taken figuratively and not literally. Differentiating itself from Consubstantiation, although Christ is always present with his people, he is not more present at the Supper than He is at any other point because He is with us always.
3. Spiritual Presence (largely Reformed view). This position stems from John Calvin and seems to split the difference between the Consubstantiation view and the Memorial view, attributing the word “is” to mean a presence spiritually at the communion between Christ and the Church.
Now seeing that the Lord’s Supper is meant to be taken symbolically, and to take it literally puts you in the same camp as the Roman Catholic understanding of a continual sacrifice, why then do certain Protestant churches make water baptism a requirement for salvation?
There are two types of baptism listed in the Bible, the first is water baptism, and the second is baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ. The first as demonstrated by John the Baptist;
“Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” – Matthew 3:4-6
But even he understood that his baptism (water), could not compare to the baptism which was to come, that being baptism by the Holy Spirit.
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Matt. 3:11-12
The first baptism, (water) was a baptism of repentance. In Judaism, this was called the ‘mikvah’ and was a purification rite that one underwent at various points in one’s life; before feasts, temple events, prior to marriage, etc. For the Jews, the mikvah was not a one-time event, but something you did numerous times. Jesus underwent baptism by John, not because He needed to repent, but because it was required by Scripture before His ministry began. (Isaiah 40:3) And since John was the ‘voice of one crying in the wilderness to make straight the way’, Jesus was baptized by him to identify and confirm John’s message and fulfill prophecy.
So the argument goes, that water baptism in and of itself cannot save you, but it is the final step a believer takes [hear, believe, confess, repent, and be baptized] in order for salvation to take effect. I’ve also heard that you ‘put on Christ’ in baptism. Or that baptism is necessary to ‘wash’ away your sins. Now seeing that there are two types of baptism, which do you, think is more apropos? Baptism in the water or baptism by the Holy Spirit into the body of Christ? The Bible does not contradict itself, so let’s compare scripture with scripture and see which is clearer:
The water; Acts 2:38 (See also Acts 3:19); 1 Peter 3:21 (See also Romans 5:1); Acts 22:16 (See also Acts 22:12-15–for a little context)
Or the Spirit; John 3:16, 18, 36; 1 Cor. 12:13 (Corresponds with Eph. 4:4-5); Eph. 1:13- 14 (See also Acts 10:44-48); Titus 3:4-6
Considering that every passage that deals with salvation, concerns itself first with belief in Jesus Christ, and belief is where the Holy Spirit comes in and seals you, how could the Holy Spirit then only be tied to the act of being placed in water? The truth is, if our salvation depended on anything or anyone other than God, than it’s not God who is ultimately saving you. One cannot be a ‘little bit’ pregnant; either you are or you aren’t. Likewise, you can’t be a ‘little bit’ saved…either you are saved at the moment of belief, or you aren’t. Don’t take my word for it, let’s go to the scriptures and see what they have to say:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” – John 3:16
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:18
“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” – John 3:36
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” – Ephesians 1:13-14
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:1
“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” – Gal 2:16
So the Scriptures can be taken out of context in various places to make baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or some other work, deed, or act seem necessary, but when you place those passages against the clear teaching of Scripture, it will fall apart, because Scripture can’t contradict itself.
“If we are saved by faith, then we are saved by faith when we believe and not when we get baptized, otherwise, we are not saved by faith. Furthermore, if baptism is necessary for salvation, then anyone who receives Christ on his deathbed in a hospital and who also believes Jesus is God in the flesh, who died and rose from the dead for his sins, etc., would go to hell if he doesn’t get baptized before he died. This would mean that we were not justified by faith because if we were, then the person would be saved. Also, if baptism is necessary for salvation, then all babies who die go to hell since they weren’t baptized. Remember, when someone says that baptism is necessary, there can be no exceptions–otherwise it isn’t necessary.”