03 January, 2010

Protestant doctrine of "Faith Alone" discussed with "Firefly"

(Firefly) what about the Old Testament saints who died in the faith and the expectation of the Messiah who were not baptized in water, yet they were saved?
Romans 4:3,says, "And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." Paul refers to Abraham to say that his faith was reckoned as righteousness. Since only the saved are righteous in God’s site, Abraham’s salvation (though ultimately future as it waited for the sacrifice of Christ) was received by faith – before any rituals were instituted, including the ritual of circumcision.

Two verses later in Romans 4:5, Paul speaks to us today by saying, "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.” Notice that the same phrases used: Faith is reckoned as righteousness. Again in Rom. 5:1, he says "therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."

(Cristoiglesia) Yes, this is correct but it is not as simple as you suppose. It is good that you use this as an example however because this needs to be understood in context. One might say that this is an example of “faith alone” if the context is ignored and that would be a great error.

The Abrahamic Covenant is unique in that it is an everlasting covenant with humanity and not for the Jews only as were the other covenants made with Israel.

Romans 4(KJV)
9-Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.

10-How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.

11-And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

Gal 3 (KJV)
6-Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

7-Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

8-And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

9-So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Rom 4 (KJV)
11-And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:

12-And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.

The timing of God was intentional so that God’s appointment, promise and justification would not be just to Abraham but to all mankind. It was not to be an exclusive covenant for the Jews like the Mosaic covenant with Israel. Later the Scriptures tell us that Abraham was circumcised so that He could extend His covenant to the Jews. This made him not only the father of the Gentiles but of the Jews as well. The circumcision was significantly important because this sealed the covenant and made it irrevocable which means that the Abrahamic covenant did not end with Christ’s statement upon the cross, “It is finished” which meant the end of the Mosaic covenant only.

To the people of the new covenant the circumcision or seal of our familial relationship is Baptism rather than circumcision as in the Abrahamic covenant. This seal of Baptism means that an irrevocable seal has been placed on our soul. So Baptism is the completion of our faith through God’s grace just as circumcision was the completion of the covenant with Abraham. Baptism is the completion of our faith in Christ. That is why the Bible speaks of one Baptism. We come to faith and are made righteous and are justified through Baptism. Without the seal of Baptism our righteousness is revocable but with Baptism it is eternal and only we can lose it through sin but God will not take it away but will reconcile us to Him 70 times 70. So clearly your example is the antithesis of “faith alone”. Baptism is no more of a "work" than having an emotional assention to faith, responding to an altar call and saying a sinners prayer. Without Baptism we are not cleansed, filled with the Holy Spirit or sealed as one of God's own in the New Covenant.

(Firefly) there are no verses that say we are condemned if we don't get baptized, but we do see scripture that says we are condemned if we don't believe.
Mark 16:16 says "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
John 3:18 says, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already.”
If baptism is necessary for salvation then we should find verses that say “and he who is not baptized will be condemned.” But no such verse exists.

(Cristoiglesia) The following verse would certainly fit the description as a verse that does not exist:

John 3:5 (KJV) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Next we see that it is not “faith alone” that is necessary but also the completion of that faith with Baptism.

Acts 16 (KJV)

30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

32And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.

33And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway.

The next verse clearly says that Baptism does save us along with our faith

1Peter 3

21-The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:

See also Mark 16:16, Matthew 28:19, Acts 2:38, Acts 16:15

Now the Church recognizes that there is more than a Baptism by water but also a baptism by desire and a Baptism by blood as explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."[62] Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"[63] allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

Thank you for the inspiration and opportunity to contend for the faith delivered once for all. God bless!

In Christ
Fr. Joseph

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