Is Something Missing?

The Gospel.  The belief that Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior sent to sacrifice himself so we could be saved from our death penalty for sin.  It’s the foundation that Jesus built his church on and it is how we gain access to him today.  Hear, believe, confess, repent, and be baptized.  The five steps to obey the gospel.  It’s all biblical of course (Rom. 10:14, Heb. 11:6, Rom. 10:10, Acts 17:30, Acts 2:38), but I can’t help thinking that we might be missing something.

blankThese 5 steps carry equal weight in the saving of one’s soul, but there’s one more step, I believe, that is supported by scripture and essential to successfully bringing people to Christ.  The missing step is unity.  All of the other steps are required of the one receiving the message of Jesus.  Unity is required of those who are delivering the gospel.  And while it may be true that each individual must make their own choice regarding belief in Christ, the unity of the church helps to make or break that decision.  In John 17 Jesus prays,

“My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.  I in them and you in me.  May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

(John 17:20-23)

After praying for his disciples, Jesus prays for the church at large.  And what does he ask?  That we remain unified and show love to one another.  Of all the things that Jesus could have asked for, bravery for his followers, boldness to spread the gospel, or even wisdom to understand his teachings, he prays for our unity.  And he does so for a very important reason.  In order for people to believe in him, they must see our unity.  The lost may hear the message of Christ and believe with that evidence alone.  But Jesus says that their belief will be strengthened when they see our love.

This unity is something that is sorely missing in the church today.  In a world of denominational differences and arguments over worship practices, it’s hard for the world to witness unity in the church.  “There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (John 4:4-6).  So while we should maintain belief in the one true gospel, according to the word of God, our unity is a vital part of that gospel.

Let those who are a part of the church that belongs to Christ be sure to live up to our calling.   “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).  Our message of salvation through Jesus will be much easier to receive if we do so.

-Joe

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5 thoughts on “Is Something Missing?

  1. 5 conditions for salvation? Biblical orthodox Christianity has always affirmed faith alone as the only access to eternal life… Darn, I had so much hope in you.

    There are good explanations for the verses you listed that don’t condone heresy… but consider Paul and Silas’ answer to the Philippians Jailer to the question “What must I do to be saved?”. They replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and all your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)

    The Gospel of John is likewise filled with statements of faith alone as the only mechanism of obtaining eternal life through the cross… The simplest of which lies in John 6:47, “Most assuredly, I as to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

    Are we to believe Paul and Jesus gave a incomplete and misleading (if not condemning) gospel when they left out confession, repentance, and baptism??

    -Travis out

    1. Joe Butler

      Jesus most definitely included baptism when he commanded us in Matthew 28:18-20 that we are to baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Philippian jailer and his family were all baptized in Acts 16:33. While the examples you listed teach that it is by grace through faith that we are saved, a complete look at the conversion experiences of countless people in the New Testament show that they had to not only believe but make a concerted effort to repent and move away from their previous lifestyle and be baptized as an act of obedience to the gospel message.

      1. I don’t think you understand the concept of grace at all… It is a free gift… and gifts are ONLY gifts if they have no conditions from the receiver.

        Baptism is certainly an act of obedience, but no passage says that obedience confers justification. There is no measure of obedience that we can exert that will achieve salvation. That’s works salvation. Grace, by definition, is devoid of all work on our part or it ceases to be grace at all (Rom. 11:6). Likewise, faith is the very absence of work (Rom. 4:5). Grace through faith is, at its very nature, incompatible with our fallen attempts at obedience.

        Jesus did commanded us to baptize people in the Great Commission, but never says that is a part of what saves us. The act of “making disciples” goes beyond making converts. You are confusing the event of justification with the process of growing spiritually mature through sanctification.

        The jailer and his family did get baptized, but again the passage never says that was a condition for their salvation. Rather, baptism was the expression of the faith he already had.

        1 Corinthians 1:17 says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect.”

        That’s the strongest Biblical evidence I can find against baptism for salvation. Paul viewed baptism as something different from and outside of the gospel. Logically, if only the gospel saves us and baptism is not apart of the gospel, then baptism cannot save us.

        But you dodged the original question… John 6:47 and it’s context, Jesus does not mention baptism, confession, or an effort to “move away from a previous lifestyle”. Instead, He only mentions belief in Him as equating to everlasting life. Several other example passages in John I could cite where eternal life is only given by faith alone (3:16, 5:24, 11:25-26, 12:47)… Since Jesus didn’t include your extra steps in many passages, we can only conclude Jesus deliberately misled people by omitting key information and thereby presenting a false incomplete gospel… Alternatively, we can safely deduce that water baptism is not a step in accessing eternal life.

  2. Joe Butler

    Thank you for your reply. In fairness to your previous comment I can obviously conclude that you care very much about the word of God and its impact on our lives. I too pray daily for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in understanding the path to salvation. When I read verses such as Acts 2:38 (spoken by Peter filled with the Holy Spirit) and Mark 16:16 (a command given directly by Jesus) or Acts 22:16 (Paul teaching that baptism must wash away our sins) I can come to the only conclusion that baptism is a requirement of obedience unto salvation. Grace is a free gift as you so rightly said. But the way in which we receive that grace through obedience is also important. I know you are familiar with this verse but I will quote it in its entirety. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also- not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience before God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:18-21).

    1. Well I obviously disagree with you on each your interpretation of each of those verses. I wrote my own post on baptism recently. I didn’t intent for it to be an apologetic piece, but it may up being so… I’ll keep you in my prayers!

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