Christianity 201

March 13, 2018

Freedom from Sin through Death

by Russell Young

Paul has written that “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7 NIV) This, of course, makes sense. If a person is dead, he or she can no longer sin. It is an impossibility. The intent that Paul is trying to convey is not so simple, however. Prior to these words he had stated: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:34 NIV)

The thought of being baptized into Christ’s death should not be readily dismissed. Give it careful deliberation! Meditate on it. What does it mean to you? By choice the person who has been baptized has chosen to have died to this world making the claim to have died with Christ, to be whelmed by the death of Christ, and has identified himself or herself as being dead along with Christ. Being immersed in his death means that it has seeped into every pore of a person’s flesh. Nothing has been left untouched. The death is to be permanent and complete, one from which resuscitation is not allowed.

Although Christ physically died, we have not; however, we are to “count” (Rom 6:11), consider, or reckon that we have died. This may be more difficult than many would like to accept. By his or her will the person baptized into Christ’s death will not allow the flesh to command their attention; its interests can have no draw on the believer since it has been put to death.

It is easy to excuse earthly interests. The flesh demands pacification, the world’s interest is in the flesh, and the means for its appeasement is everywhere; however, to entertain fleshly interests can be flirting with destruction. (Gal 6:8; Phil 3:19) The Lord does not allow the freedom that many suppose. He requires that the misdeeds of the body be put to death (Rom 8:13), holiness (Heb 12:14), and commitment with all the believer’s heart, soul, and mind. (Mt 22:37) The believer in Christ cannot live passively but must be actively pursuing God’s will. Paul wrote: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5 NIV) If the flesh has not died, the confessor has not died. If he has not died, he has not died with or in Christ, or to the world. It should not be accepted that a mystical death has occurred…a death without dying. Accepting such a perspective will grant licence to live in the flesh, satisfying its desires, while entertaining the comfort that death has occurred.

Paul wrote of his crucifixion: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NIV) Faith is not only a possession, it is evidenced through the practice of obedience to Christ.

Is the Lord expecting too much from those who would claim to be believers? Is his call reasonable? Many would claim that the idea of personal death is more than Christ demands; however, the Lord has said that only a few would find the small gate and narrow road that lead to life (Mt 7:17), and that those on the faith journey must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. (Lk 9:23) The cross is an instrument of death and when earthly or bodily interests start to emerge, the believer is to crucify himself or herself again. If a single crucifixion had been sufficient, the cross would not have to be carried daily, nor would it have to be constantly available.

Paul wrote that the purpose of the believer’s crucifixion was so that he or she “could live a new life.” (Rom 6:4 NIV) Baptism is a pledge (1 Pet 3:21) to God and to others that the confessor has acknowledged his or her death, having all their past sins washed away. (Heb 9:15,) Consequently, the confessor has been provided with the Spirit (Gal 3:14) so a new life might be lived.

Paul wrote of baptism saying, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Rom 6:5 NIV) “If” is a conditional word. Accordingly, Paul has rested the hope of resurrection in a person’s willingness to be united with Christ in his death. The life of death to the world (Lk 17:33) and to its interests is lifelong (Mt 24:13) and is the life of faith.

Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6 NIV) and Paul has revealed that “Christ in you [is] your hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV) The “life” is his life in the believer and he is their hope of glory. Those seeking his eternal presence must be united with Christ in his death.

As Paul told the Romans, “In the same way [Christ’s death to sin] count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in [through] Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11 NIV) Freedom from sin is not an automatic state that is gifted to the believer; it must be a moment by moment commitment to deny the interests of the body that cause death. If the needed victory is to be gained a humble and obedient walk with Christ is needed. Such a walk is not an option that only “super” believers are to entertain. John has taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 26 NIV) The person who has died with Christ will also be resurrected with him. Even Paul professed that he “wanted to know Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead,” (Phil 3:1011 NIV) and he confessed that he had not already obtained all of this. Being alive, he still had the option to entertain the flesh and to sin.

There is much to appreciate about the need for death to self, however, only through the practice of death to the body and through obedience to Christ can sin be defeated and victory gained.

Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.


March 29, 2017

The Three ‘R’s of Baptism

NLT Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.[1] So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened[2] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

[1.] 3:15 Or for we must fulfill all righteousness.
[2.] 3:16 Some manuscripts read opened to him.

One of the ideals we’re committed to here is allowing what I call next generation voices to be heard. Katie calls her blog The Hipster Ginger, and I loved her take on what her denomination teaches about baptism. Click the title below to read the full article at source.

Renounce, Reject, Repent

I love baptisms. I love the stories, the memories that are made, and the amazing promises that happen at a baptism.

I am a United Methodist through and through. My experiences are pretty freaking Methodist, so this post will be mostly Methodist.

When we make our initial vow in front of the body of Christ when we are presented for Holy Baptism, to “renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin,” (Standard Book of Worship) we are not just renouncing the spiritual forces that we struggle with as individuals. We are also rejecting the evil powers that are loose in the world. Likewise, we are not just repenting of our sins as individuals.

We are also repenting of the sins of humankind as a whole.

Today we are going to have a VERY brief review of the three promises we make in baptism; renouncing, rejecting, and repenting.

To RENOUNCE is a fundamental act of treason. It is to break allegiance to a power or authority to which one had previously given allegiance and service. From the earliest examples of baptismal questions we have, renunciation of Satan or the devil (spiritual forces of wickedness, we say) always comes first. Because you cannot make new alliances until your old ones are broken.

This step follows biblical precedent. The very first story we hear of Jesus after his baptism in the wilderness is his renunciation of Satan. Jesus makes it clear where his allegiances lie, and he shows the way for all who would follow him. (Luke 4:1-13)

It also follows the pattern of centuries of practice when you seek citizenship in a new realm or country. You first breaks allegiance to the realm or sovereign of the people from which you have come from and only then you pledge allegiance to the new realm or sovereign.

To REJECT the evil powers of this world is a phrase that kinda makes me think I’m watching the exorcist. The English word “reject” comes from the Latin “reicere,” which means “to throw out”– and so translates the Greek verb “ekballein,” which is often used to describe what Jesus does to demons (to cast out, to throw out). When we pledge to reject evil, we are promising to do more than just not do evil things. We are promising to throw out, to cast out, to shut the door behind any evil powers that seek to control with us or use us in anyway. So we not only break allegiances, we also commit not to allow evil any sway in our lives. (Psalm 51:10) John Wesley’s first two simple rules cover this when he says “do good” and “do no harm.”

To REPENT of our sin (yeah, SIN. I did it on purpose) means more than feeling sorry or guilty for bad things we have done in the past. The Hebrew verb behind repent (shuv) means “to turn from.” The promise we make is not just to turn from “sins” (actions that bring harm) but “sin” itself.

The singular points less to individual actions and more toward whole patterns of life. So we here commit to turn and walk away from those patterns of life, habits, and behaviors that damage others and/or our relationships with God, with the earth, and with our neighbors. (Luke 5:31-32)

A few days later, Katie’s friend Melissa weighed in on a topic that often trips up Christians: Why should Jesus need to be baptized? We join that article in progress; click the title below to read it in full.

Jesus Got Dunked

…It is important to note that baptism is not exclusively a Christian ritual. Jesus and John were Jews, after all. Christianity gets the ritual from the Jewish cleansing rite, which symbolized a person’s changed nature – a new identification, new status, new creation.

People got baptized as a way to symbolize their repentance, or turning away from sin, and to be symbolically cleansed. So why did Jesus get baptized if John was only preparing the way for him?  Did Jesus need to repent and be cleansed from his sin?


My suspicion is that Jesus was not baptized because he needed to repent, but because he was eager to show his devotion to God through baptism. He also was affirming the truth that John was preaching: The Kingdom of God is near, and Jesus would be the one to establish that Kingdom on earth.

After Jesus was baptized, the sky ripped open, God the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove, and God the Father spoke, affirming Jesus as God the Son. This was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

Because Jesus was baptized, we get baptized today as a way of following him and to remind us that when we live in the kingdom of God. We have a new identity, and that identity is in Jesus Christ. It is through the water that we experience God’s grace and enter into the Body of Christ.

The beautiful thing about the Kingdom of God is that all are welcome to this new identity. Our identity in Christ defines us more than what we look like, smell like, dress like, or talk like. God uses people as wild-looking as John the Baptist–the dirty, matted, smelly man with a weird diet.

How will you remember your identity in Christ today? How will you celebrate God’s grace in your life, and how will you offer that grace to others, regardless of what they look like?

July 30, 2014

Repentance is not an Option

I know that many of you often use the internet to search out Biblical themes. Sometimes the answers you get are perplexing. You don’t know the source of the articles and unless you have extensive background in the faith, it’s easy to get sidetracked if your discernment filters aren’t turned up high!

One thing I sometimes do is to use the Yahoo or Google image searches. For example, yesterday’s piece was about repentance and I needed an image to go alongside the article. I found many that were interesting and that in turn led me to another article on the same topic that I want to share today. Alfred Shannon, Jr. is a member of the Church of Christ. He writes, “I preach, and teach the Gospel of Christ, and I adhere to the principle of speaking where the bible speaks, and remaining silent where the bible is silent.” That’s good advice!

His very popular website is called Biblical Proof. To read today’s article at source — always encouraged — click the title below:

Repentance is not an Option—It’s a Commandment of God!

repentance 2How often do preachers teach the gospel of Christ when someone desires to be baptized. This is a glorious occasion no doubt, but in our zeal to baptize, have we forgotten a missing step? Seriously, when was the last time you heard a preacher call for repentance before one is to be baptized into Christ? It’s something many preachers are taking for granted before one is to be baptized into Christ.

I actually heard a preacher say, “I never instruct any potential convert to repent. They can repent after they have been baptized.” Shocking doctrine coming from a gospel preacher. Shocking because without repentance, we have no remission of sins. Sins can’t be washed away if they haven’t first been repented of. Repentance: it’s not optional, but a requirement before our sins can be removed.

Though its elementary in the first principles of the oracles of God, let us reexamine this too often missing step of salvation.

What is Repentance?

Repentance fully defined is a change of will or mind. This change is preceded by godly sorrow, and followed by a transformation of life. Repentance has been called our proverbial U-Turn from sin to righteousness. We see this definition of the word taught in many instances in the Bible.

Repentance Illustrated

Jesus defined repentance for us as He said,

“A man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented himself, and went” (Matt. 21:28, 29).

The young man at first refused to go work in the vineyard in compliance with the command of his father, but later he repented and went. What did he do? He changed his mind about his will toward his father’s command. As a result of his change of mind, his action also changed, but the change of action was not the repentance, but it was the product of the changed will.

Why Refuse Repentance?

The Bible plainly teaches, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:15); and “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Why do so many refuse to be baptized for the remission of sins? I believe that the answer lies in their refusal to repent. A refusal to repent of their past and present practice of sin is a rejection of God’s simple counsel. The problem is not that the gospel is difficult to understand, but that they do not desire to repent (i.e. change) and live the life God has commanded.

A local musician was baptized long ago by my dad when I was only 13 years old. He was asked if he believed Jesus was the Christ, and upon his confession he was baptized. Six months later he was seen in a tavern drinking whiskey, and playing his music to a crowd filled with drunks and half naked women. When confronted the next Sunday about his actions he said with boldness, “I was never asked or commanded to repent of my sins. I was only asked if I believed Jesus was the Christ, and I said yes, and I was baptized. If I had been told I had to forsake my sins I would have never been baptized!”

Sadly, this is not uncommon, but more common than not. We have forgotten to teach repentance, and command such before we baptize anyone into Christ. The scriptures instruct us that remission of sins requires two things, and not just one, and that being repentance and baptism. Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19


Brethren, we need to preach, and teach repentance before one is baptized. To do less is not teaching the full gospel of Christ. Repentance is not something that can be assumed. If we don’t teach it, and command it, how can those hearing the gospel ever turn from their sins? Is it any wonder why so many are baptized, and continue in their sinful lifestyles.

If you are not a Christian, and you have faith in Jesus Christ, repentance for you will result in your being immersed for the remission of your sins. Christians who subsequently sin must likewise repent, and pray to God for His forgiveness. (Acts 2:37-38,41; 8:22; Rev. 2:10).

If you didn’t repent before you were baptized, who can proclaim scripturally that your baptism is right before God? There’s only two who actually know if you repented or not. God knows, and so do you. After-all, repentance is not an option, but a commandment of God.

I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Lk 13:3

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30

March 9, 2014

Put Off the Old, Put on the New

The Voice BibleYou may have noticed that occasionally I use The Voice Bible for quotations here. I do this partly to challenge myself with some different rendering of a familiar passage, but also to remind us all that over time, we need new translations. David Capes lives in Texas and is the Thomas Nelson Research Professor at Houston Baptist University.  He is the author of numerous publications and is one of the top scholars and writers for The Voice. He blogs at and this is one of a number of times we’ve covered his material here at C201, though I must add, that if you have a taste for the issues that translators wrestle with, this is a good blog to follow.

Some of the material in what follows may be beyond your Bible study experience, but take it in and absorb what you can; you may find it whets your appetite for more of this kind of discussion. Click the title to read

Putting Off and putting on: Modesty in Baptism

A new friend of mine—let’s call him Sherlock—is an accomplished legal mind and great Bible teacher.  Recently, he started using The Voice in some of his teaching.  He posed a question to another friend—let’s call him Holmes (another accomplished legal mind and amazing Bible teacher)—about how to read Ephesians 4:22-24.  Paul uses two aorist infinitives for “putting off” the old self and “putting on” the new self.  Most Bible commentaries describe the aorist as a one time act.  It is often called punctilliar aspect.  That’s probably telling you a lot more than you want to know.  But the idea would be that Paul is emphasizing how we decide once and for all to put off the old self and put on the new.  In other words it refers to a person’s point of salvation.  But Klyne Snodgrass, a distinguished professor at North Park Theological Seminary, has this to say: “The aorist tense is used for undefined action. Not necessarily ‘point action,’ as has been the traditional way of looking at the aorist tense!”

Now here is how we translated the passage in The Voice.

22 then you know to take off your former way of life, your crumpled old self—that dark blot of a soul corrupted by deceitful desire and lust— 23 to take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit. 24 Then you are ready to put on your new self, modeled after the very likeness of God: truthful, righteous, and holy.

You may notice words in both regular font and italic font.  The regular font is more of a straight line translation from the original Greek.  The italic is “explanatory paraphrase;” this expresses the idea of the Greek because often it takes more than one word in English to express the nuance and artistry of the original language.

Eventually Sherlock and Holmes kicked the question to me and here is what I said to them late Saturday night.

You are correct that Paul uses aorist infinitives for “putting off” (the old) and” putting on” (the new).  In between however, he employs a present infinitive to describe ongoing renewal by the Spirit which is to typify the Christian life.

There are times when the aorist points to a one-time event (punctilliar) and times when it is undefined.  After all Greek only has a few tenses to draw from. and it is probably unwise to pound the pulpit every time you see an aorist.  On this occasion, however, I think the punctilliar is warranted because most scholars are convinced that Paul is making use of baptismal language and liturgy when he talks about putting off and putting on.  Since baptism was supposed to be a one-time act, these aorist forms are appropriate.  Christian baptism–widely understood as initiation into the Christian life–was seen as the decisive turning point when a person denied the old nature once and for all and took on (intentionally) the new nature.  This language about Christian baptism was taken so literally in the first part of the second century AD that the baptismal candidates took off their old clothes, went down into the water naked, and came up from the water to put on a new set of clothes.  That was one reason why the church needed women deacons, to superintend the baptism of women candidates.

That said, however, I think Paul would also agree that we are to always be working out our baptismal vows.  That means we are continually in the process of renewal, which means setting aside/repenting of the old and appropriating the newness of the Spirit. This is why we translated the passage in The Voice the way we did.

Perhaps you’ve gone to a church and noticed a water font at the entrance to the sanctuary.  They are usually small and off to one side.  The purpose of the font is to remind you of your baptism.  You may see people dip their finger in the water and make the sign of the cross.  I don’t know about you but I need to be reminded regularly of the promises I made to God.  I need to renew those vows recognizing that ultimately it is God at work in us, making the renewal a reality.

November 3, 2010

On Friendship, Baptism and Repenting of Righteousness

“…spurring one another on towards love and good deeds.” (Heb. 10:24) 

Bizarrely, the closer some relationships are, the more permissive they can become; and our passion to do what is right is diluted. As we feel able to relax completely with trusted friends, we can abuse the sense of ease by letting our behavior slip. Gradually language that we would never use in public slips into the conversation and off-white humour that we know is inappropriate becomes part of the common currency of our friendship, because we feel able to let our hair down. The friendship has now become one that gives permission (where we give each other a license to compromise) rather than providing exhortation (where we encourage each other towards character and excellence).

~Jeff Lucas, writing in Lucas on Life, devotional reading for Jan 20, 2005.


Like birth, baptism means life. It is done once, yet it is for all of our life….we need to discover ways to communicate baptismal living. If I say, “I was married,” you will likely assume that my wife has died or I am divorced. But if I say, “I am married,” you will assume I have a wife and that on a certain date I was married and still am. Although it is true and essential to say I was baptized, it is also necessary to assert, “I am baptized.”

~Thomas H. Schattauer
“…What must we do, then to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness — the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope and trust in things other than God, and that in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of these things.”

~ Timothy Keller in The Prodigal God, 2008 Dutton; pp 77-8; see also Prov. 16:2