What the Early Christians Believed About Salvation

I’ve previously written several articles on this site about salvation. It’s the subject I’m most passionate about because it’s the single most important topic “under the sun.”

As Jesus so perfectly taught, what does it profit us if we gain the entire world and lose our soul?

I don’t want any soul to be lost.

Unfortunately, there are many different views among believers today about what a person must do to be saved.

Have you ever wondered what the early Christians believed, practiced and taught about what one must do to be saved?

I’m talking about the Christians who were personally taught by the apostles and by those who knew the apostles.

Who better to teach us about the New Testament Scriptures than those who knew the men who penned the words.

Thankfully, a number of their writings have been preserved, so we can know for ourselves. And I have good news—really good news: they all believed the same thing on this most important issue.

But first, a warning and a request: Your present understanding may be different than these men.

Don’t allow any differences to cause you to stop reading.

Read the entire article.

Check the sources for yourself.

Compare these views with the Scriptures.

But ask yourself: If my views are different than the early Christians, what are the possible reasons? Is it possible that I could be mistaken or misled?

Sources

Let me begin by informing you about the sources I’m using.

The quotes below from the early Christians (in general, those living between 100-325 A.D., with an emphasis on the first 2 centuries) are taken from Philip Schaff’s ten-volume series The Ante-Nicene Fathers.

I quote frequently from David W. Bercot‘s Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up and A Dictionary Of Early Christian Beliefs.

Bercot has studied these writings since 1985 and is extremely knowledgeable about them. He, too, uses Schaff’s The Ante-Nicene Fathers for his sourcing.

The citations following each quote below in the format of “1.13” indicate volume 1, page 13 of The Ante-Nicene Fathers

You can also access the contents of The Ante-Nicene Fathers here.

Introduction

I’ll be brief here, but I owe this article an introduction.

In 2009, I began an in-depth personal Bible study of the first century church—when they met, where they met, why they met, what they did together, how they lived.

Through that study I realized that the Bible says relatively little about the details of early church meetings, leaving the door open for significant flexibility of Christians. However, I still had a hunger to know more about these initial questions, so I began reading these post-New Testament writings.

Unlike Scripture, these writings were not divinely inspired, and the difference between their writings and Scripture is obvious, adding weight to the inspiration—the GOD-breathed-ness—of the Bible.

As of this writing, I have read Schaff’s entire first volume, and significant portions of other writings, but have by no means read them all. That work continues. But I feel a sense of urgency to post this now.

Every day, I read where other believers promote doctrine that is different than what the Scriptures teach about salvation, which is in reality a different gospel (Gal. 1:6-10).

It breaks my heart that many of these people will refuse to accept any amount of evidence that shows their view is inaccurate.

At the same time, there are also true seekers out there who are looking for truth and evidence, whose intent is to find eternal life—which is to know Jesus, and that’s why I want everyone to have this information. I pray you are a true seeker, because if so, Jesus has promised that you will find.

What The Early Christians Believed About Salvation

As Bercot introduced this chapter in Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, he said:

“When I first began studying the early Christian writings, I was surprised by what I read. In fact, after a few days of reading, I put their writings back on the shelf and decided to scrap my research altogether. After analyzing the situation, I realized the problem was that their writings contradicted many of my own theological views. . . . On the other hand, they frequently labeled some of my beliefs as heretical. The same would probably be true of many of your beliefs.” 
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, p. 56.

Bercot was faced with the same reality that many people face as they examine these writings.

I also have had certain beliefs challenged by the writings of these early Christians. Some things I have changed my mind on because of their logic and understanding of Scripture; others I’m convinced they misunderstood.

But on the most important of issues: salvation, I completely agree with their conclusions, because their conclusions are in harmony with Scripture.

Salvation is Found in Jesus Alone

The early Christians were laser focused on Jesus—on following and becoming like Him. They well understood that salvation only comes through the Messiah.

A man cannot otherwise enter into the kingdom of God than by the name of His beloved Son. Hermas (c. 150), 2.48.

But there is no other [way] than this: to become acquainted with this Christ. . . Justin Martyr (c. 160), 1.217.

It is impossible to reach the Father except by His Son Jesus Christ. Cyprian (c. 250), 5.508.

(I am including a tiny subset of what these men wrote about these topics. I figure that most people reading this article believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father.)

The Role of Grace and Faith in Salvation

These writers knew very well the essential nature of faith in pleasing GOD, and the truth that none of us could stand without GOD’s grace.

All of these persons, therefore, were highly honored, and were made great. This was not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves. Nor are we justified by our own wisdom, understanding, godliness, or works that we have done in holiness of heart. Rather, we are justified by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men. Clement of Rome (c. 96), 1.13.

Therefore, let us not be ungrateful for His kindness. For if He were to regard us according to our works, we would cease to be. Ignatius (c. 105), 1.63.

Into this joy, many persons desire to enter. They know that “by grace you are saved, not of works,” but by the will of God through Jesus Christ. . . . Polycarp (c. 135), 1.33.

No one, indeed, while placed out of reach of the Lord’s benefits, has power to procure for himself the means of salvation. So the more we receive His grace, the more we should love Him. Irenaeus (c. 180), 1.478.

Faith is power for salvation and strength to eternal life. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195), 2.360.

It is the office of Christ’s Gospel to call men from the Law to grace. Tertullian (c. 207) 3.432.

Are We Saved By Faith Alone?

“The early Christians universally believed that works or obedience play an essential role in our salvation.” 
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, p. 57.

Consider these quotes from early Christians: 

The way of light, then, is as follows. If anyone desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. . . . He who keeps them will be glorified in the kingdom of God. However, he who chooses other things will be destroyed with his works. Barnabas (c. 70-130), 1.148, 149.

We are justified by our works and not our words. Clement of Rome (c. 96), 1.13.

. . . that He may both hear you, and perceive by your works that you are indeed the members of His Son. . . . Faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. . . . The tree is made manifest by its fruit. So those who profess themselves to be Christians will be recognized by their conduct. . . . It is better for a man to be silent and be [a Christian], than to talk and not be one. Ignatius (c. 105), 1.51-55.

Therefore, brethren, by doing the will of the Father, and keeping the flesh holy, and observing the commandments of the Lord, we will obtain eternal life. Second Clement (c. 150), 7.519.

Only those who fear the Lord and keep His commandments have life with God; but as for those who do not keep His commandments, there is no life in them. Hermas (c. 150), 2.25.

We . . . hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that those who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him, and loved to abide with Him where there is no sin to cause disturbance, can obtain these things. . . . Each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions. Justin Martyr (c. 160), 1.165, 166.

We will give account to God not only of deeds (as slaves), but even of words and thoughts (as being those who have truly received the power of liberty). For under liberty, a man is more severely tested as to whether he will reverence, fear, and love the Lord. . . . God desires obedience, which renders [His worshippers] secure—rather than sacrifices and burnt-offerings, which avail men nothing toward righteousness. Irenaeus (c. 180), 1.482.

When we hear, “Your faith has saved you,” we do not understand Him to say absolutely that those who have believed in any way whatsoever will be saved. For works must also follow. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195), 2.505.

And there are many, many more writings about this.

As Bercot observed, the early Christian writers consistently understood the Scriptures to teach that our actions play a role in our salvation, and this cannot be ignored.

To the early Christians, faith, grace and obedience weren’t mutually exclusive, but rather worked hand-in-hand, producing the righteousness GOD desires.

And lest you incorrectly conclude that these early Christians didn’t know the Scriptures very well, let me assure you they did.

In fact, I’m embarrassed when I compare the knowledge and ability to recall GOD’s word these brethren possessed without the tools that we have today.

In fact, in Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up (p. 63), Bercot cites the following quote from Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict:

J. Harold Greenlee says that the quotations of the Scripture in the works of the early Christian writers “are so extensive that the N.T. [New Testament] could virtually be reconstructed from them without the use of New Testament manuscripts.” . . .

Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-212). 2,400 of his quotes are from all but three books of the New Testament.

Tertullian (A.D. 160-220) was a presbyter of the Church in Carthage and quotes the New Testament more than 7,000 times, of which 3,800 are from the Gospels….

Geisler and Nix rightly conclude that “a brief inventory at this point will reveal that there were some 32,000 citations of the New Testament prior to the time of the Council of Nicea (325).”

So please don’t accuse the early Christians of not reading their Bibles.

What Baptism Meant To The Early Christians

I highly recommend that you read Bercot’s chapter on baptism in Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up.

Were it practical, I would quote the entire chapter here, because it says exactly what needs to be said.

Bercot points out that it was, in fact, the Gnostics who first taught the concepts of total depravity of the flesh and salvation by grace alone, and they were universally labeled as heretics (“deceivers and antichrists”) by the early church.

. . . it took the wind out of my sails when I discovered that the early Christians universally understood Jesus’ words [in John 3:5] to refer to water baptism.

And once again, it was the Gnostics who taught differently than the church—saying that humans can’t be reborn or regenerated through water baptism. Irenaeus wrote about them: “This class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God.”
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, p. 77.

I’ll let the early Christian writers speak for themselves on this matter:

Blessed are they who, placing their trust in the cross, have gone down into the water. . . . We indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement. However, we come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and the trust of Jesus in our spirit. Barnabas (c. 70-130), 1.144.

I heard, sir, some teachers maintain that there is no other repentance than that which takes place, when we descended into the water and receive remission of our former sins. . . . Before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he lays aside his deadness and obtains life. The seal, then, is the water. They descend into the water dead, and they arise alive. Hermas (c. 150), 2.22, 49.

At our birth, we were born without our own knowledge or choice, but by our parents coming together. . . . In order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe. . . . And in the name of Jesus Christ . . . and in the name of the Holy Spirit. Justin Martyr (c. 160), 1.183.

This washing of repentance and knowledge of God has been ordained on account of the transgression of God’s people, as Isaiah cries. Accordingly, we have believed and testify that the very baptism which he announced is alone able to purify those who have repented. And this is the water of life. . . . For what is the use of that baptism which cleanses only the flesh and body? Baptize the soul from wrath and from covetousness, from envy, and from hatred. Justin Martyr (c. 160), 1.201.

There are some of them [Gnostics] who assert that it is unnecessary to bring persons to the water. Rather, they mix oil and water together, and they place this mixture on the head of those who are to be initiated. . . . This they maintain to be the redemption. . . . Other [heretics], however, reject all of these practices, and maintain that the mystery of the unspeakable and invisible power should not to be performed by visible and corruptible creatures. . . . These claim that the knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness is itself perfect redemption. Irenaeus (c. 180), 1.346.

Being baptized, we are illuminated. Illuminated, we become sons. . . . This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. Washing, by which we cleanse away our sins. Grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted. Illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195), 2.215.

Now, the teaching is laid down that “without baptism, salvation is attainable by no one.” This is based primarily on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, “Unless one is born of water he has not life.” However, when this is laid down, there immediately arise scrupulous (or rather, audacious) doubts on the part of some. Tertullian (c. 198), 3.674, 675.

Matthew alone adds the words, “to repentance,” teaching us that the benefit of baptism is connected with the intention of the baptized person. To him who repents, it is saving. However, to him who comes to it without repentance, it will produce greater condemnation. Origen (c. 228), 9.367.

In baptism, the coarse garment of your birth is washed. . . . You have once been washed. Commodianus (c. 240), 4.412.

He who has been sanctified, his sins being put away in baptism, and has been spiritually reformed into a new man, has become fitted for receiving the Holy Spirit. Cyprian (c. 250), 5.387.

Can A Saved Person Lose Their Salvation?

Since the early Christians believed that our continued faith and obedience are necessary for salvation, it naturally follows that they believed that a “saved” person could still end up being lost.
—David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up, p. 65. 

Here’s some of what the early Christians wrote about losing one’s salvation:

We ought therefore, brethren, carefully to inquire concerning our salvation. Otherwise, the wicked one, having made his entrance by deceit, may hurl us forth from our life. . . . The whole past time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger. . . . Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are the called, we fall asleep in our sins. For then, the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, will thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord. . . . And you should pay attention to this all the more, my brothers, when you reflect on and see that even after such great signs and wonders had been performed in Israel, they were still abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found to be, as it is written, the “many who are called,” but not the “few who are chosen.” Barnabas (c. 70-130), 1.138, 139.

[Written to Christians:] Since all things are seen and heard [by God], let us fear Him and forsake those wicked works that proceed from evil desires. By doing that, through His mercy, we may be protected from the judgments to come. For where can any of us flee from His mighty hand? Clement of Rome (c. 96), 1.12.

The apostates and traitors of the church have blasphemed the Lord in their sins. Moreover, they have been ashamed of the name of the Lord by which they were called. These persons, therefore, at the end were lost unto God. Hermas (c. 150), 2.41.

I hold further, that those of you who have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back for some reason to the legal dispensation [i.e., the Mosaic Law], and have denied that this man is Christ, and have not repented before death—you will by no means be saved. Justin Martyr (c. 160), 1.218.

Knowing that what preserves his life, namely, obedience to God, is good, he may diligently keep it with all earnestness. . . . Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons. Irenaeus (c. 180), 1.522, 525.

He who hopes for everlasting rest knows also that the entrance to it is toilsome and narrow. So let him who has once received the Gospel not turn back, like Lot’s wife, as is said—even in the very hour in which he has come to the knowledge of salvation. And let him not go back either to his former life (which adheres to the things of sense) or to heresies. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195), 2.550.

God gives forgiveness of past sins. However, as to future sins, each one procures this for himself. He does this by repenting, by condemning the past deeds, and by begging the Father to blot them out. For only the Father is the one who is able to undo what is done. . . . So even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in his life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him. For at the climax of the drama, he has given up his part. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195), 2.602.

No one is a Christian but he who perseveres even to the end. Tertullian (c. 197), 3.244.

The world returned to sin . . . and so it is destined to fire. So is the man who after baptism renews his sins. Tertullian (c. 198), 3.673.

Some think that God is under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy what He has promised [to give]. So they turn His liberality into His slavery. . . . For do not many afterward fall out of [grace]? Is not the gift taken away from many? These, no doubt, are they who, . . . after approaching to the faith of repentance, build on the sands a house doomed to ruin. Tertullian (c. 203), 3.661.

A man may possess an acquired righteousness, from which it is possible for him to fall away. Origen (c. 225), 4.266.

It is clear that the devil is driven out in baptism by the faith of the believer. But he returns if the faith should afterwards fail. Cyprian (c. 250), 5.402.

Conclusion

The early Christians universally believed:

  • Salvation is to be found in Jesus alone.
  • We are saved by grace through faith.
  • Works matter—faith without works is dead. However, we do not earn our salvation through our deeds.
  • Our sins are forgiven when the believer is immersed in water.
  • After baptism, we must remain faithful to GOD or, by returning to a life of sin, we will lose our salvation. 

Related articles: 

Comments

10 responses to “What the Early Christians Believed About Salvation”

  1. Tomm Avatar
    Tomm

    One has to wonder how the burden of fear is lifted by Faith in Christ with the concepts presented here.
    Not diminishing the importance of walking in newness of life, this however seems to add a burden to the Christian and I see no easy yoke.

    Exactly when will one’s work be acceptable to,the Lord and one’s rejected? Where is the line?
    I only say this because even as a faithful follower do I still ,not fall under condemnation should the Lord count my transgression?

    How my work will justify me brings hopelessness to my soul

    Not trying to justify sin but trying to find rest from my works
    I find this article brings hopelessness to all just as the law brought condemnation
    This also does bring condemnation

    1. Julie Avatar
      Julie

      Not trying to provide an answer, I just wanted to say I agree with you… Everything is just so confusing. Basically, we must not keep the Mosaic Law, but we have to believe in Christ + have baptism by full immersion + try to be perfect somehow and not sin (therefore not transgress the law/the 10 commandements I guess) + do good deeds + repent all the time for every mistake, but we must not try to gain salvation by works because we can’t but if we don’t do good deeds it’s still not enough and so we will lose our salvation and if we got baptized but sinned afterwards then we lose our salvation as well and are also even more condemned… What are we supposed to do then ? I wish I knew.

    2. Tim Harris Avatar

      In response to Tomm and Julie’s comments:

      Friends,

      I acknowledge that these things can sometimes seem complicated. But I gently and lovingly submit to you that it’s actually pretty straight-forward.

      As you know, we place our faith in Jesus. We trust that we are heirs because of His performance, not ours.

      Because we love GOD, we desire to please Him and to become like Jesus. Therefore, we try our best to obey His will and to imitate Jesus. We obey, not trying to earn His favor, but to say thank you for what He’s done for us.

      Thankfully, GOD knows our flesh is weak and, although we desire to live sinlessly, we still sin sometimes. When we do, we confess our sins and Jesus forgives us of them.

      In this way, we balance biblical faith—sincere belief that prompts our action; grace—GOD’s giving us the forgiveness we don’t deserve; and works—a non-guilt-driven lifestyle of trying to do good and avoid sinning.

      I live with peace and great joy, daily, in this understanding.

      Blessings,

      Tim

      1. Devin Avatar
        Devin

        It doesn’t matter if some or all of the early Christians taught water baptism is necessary for salvation. They are NOT the ultimate authority – GOD’S Word is authority.

        The INSPIRED scriptures are clear that “if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” “

        Water baptism is important for each Christian and an act of obedience. But if you think that the dirty water on earth will wash away your sins and is on par with the blood of Christ, you believe a false Gospel. The real heretic is the one who rejects the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work on the cross and adds unto that. All unbaptized OT saints, the thief on the cross and every NT believer who died before getting a chance to be baptized is in Hell according to you. Do you realize that? Jesus preached to Nicodemus about being born of water BEFORE He talked to the thief on the cross, and He told him that he would be in paradise with him. Do you think Christ was lying to the man? But be consistent with your theology – this man was not a believer until death, was not water baptized, and yet is WITH CHRIST. Let God be true and every man a liar.

        Also, be very afraid, because if you have ANY unconfessed sin when you die, God will cast you into Hell for that. Remember, according to your belief, sinning after baptism causes you to lose your salvation (and if it’s a certain amount of sin, please give a specific number…this always becomes confusing as to where the line is drawn)…and the early church writers believed that according to your quotes above. One sin or a million, it matters not, because if not confessed, it’s not forgiven. So I hope you have a perfect memory and don’t let anything slip, because it seems that Jesus is powerful to save you ONLY if you are perfect enough after your baptism.

        Don’t set your hopes in fallible church “fathers”. Paul warns you against continuing in the flesh after what was begun in the spirit. Were you saved when you first believed? Or now do you have to add to Christ’s blood…circumcision, or water for baptism, or following the 613 commandments, or being morally perfect? I’m a bit perplexed why faith in Christ is not good enough for you and others unto salvation. The Bible has hundreds of verses to support that it is FAITH in God/Christ that saves.

        Sanctification is NOT salvation, but is what EVERY born again believer goes through. God punishes everyone He accepts as a son. Jesus will lose none of those the Father gives Him. Jesus knows those who are His. The Spirit GUARANTEES our inheritance. Know the parable of the sower – that is key to understanding all the parables, and will help understand those who apostate. But the LORD KNOWS HIS OWN.

        What you are espousing is a very lopsided teaching that does not accurately represent the FULL teaching of the BIBLE. If your obedience is what saves you, then you must be PERFECTLY obedient. If you fail at one point, then you are a lawbreaker and no longer saved and must regain your salvation again and again. This is the logical conclusion of your gospel. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either the Son has set you free or you are a Yo-yo going back and forth between Heaven and hell every time you sin. I hope those reading this article understand the logical conclusion of this teaching. You will work for your salvation, and EVEN if you tell yourself “salvation is only from Jesus” you will in the back of your mind only ever be worried that you might mess it all up eventually and die and go to hell. You will have a spirit of fear, which does NOT come from God. And maybe you are not worried, but it’s guaranteed that the people who listen to you or read your gospel will be.

        I’m thankful God has already prepared works for me to do, as the Bible says, and that I don’t have to manufacture my own in a false hope of impressing Jesus enough to scrape my way in to Heaven. But if you prefer to rely on your own merit, works, and water to get into Heaven, enjoy thanking Jesus for providing 50% of the salvation while you maintained the other half with your perfect obedience and baptism.

        For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

        1. Tim Harris Avatar

          Okay, Devin, I’m finally getting an opportunity to carefully read your comments and respond.

          In September 2023, I moved chasingalion.com to a new website installation. When I did, I lost all the historical comments that were attached to the articles. I have addressed these points repeatedly. I’ve pulled together a PDF of the comments out of the admin backend of my previous site’s comments section. For anyone who would like to review those comments, you can do so here.

          Devin, the purpose of the article was to explain, using their own words, what the early Christians understood about the topic of salvation from the Scriptures. These were men taught either by the apostles or by those who knew the apostles.

          The men I am citing are not mere “church fathers” who lived 300 or 400 years after Jesus, but disciples only one or two generations removed from the Lord’s direct teachings.

          I’m not suggesting blindly following these men or any other uninspired humans. I’m giving this as evidence for our consideration.

          What’s interesting is that, unlike today, on all the critical subjects, these early Christian men actually agreed. They spoke the same thing.

          But you—solely based on what I know now [and I mean no disrespect as you are probably a nice person, I am drawing a contrast by reputation of these ancient men’s proximity to the apostles], appeared as merely some “random” person on the internet, two thousand years removed from Jesus, bringing no immediately obvious additional credibility—say that these men incorrectly understand the Scriptures.

          Your introductory argument was, essentially, “Don’t listen to these ‘church fathers’; listen to the Scriptures.” But if you took the time to read the writings of the men whom you are criticizing, you would know that they completely agree with you: listen to the Scriptures! In fact, it is largely from the harmony of the writings of these early Christians that the authenticity of the writings of the New Testament were confirmed.

          You claim the inspired Scriptures for salvation. Good! Have you noticed that the section you quoted, Romans 10:9-13, is not Paul speaking to the Christians in Rome directly, but him quoting Old Testament passages to them as a reminder? Romans 10:9 (“if you confess with your mouth”) was quoted in the context of Moses’ instruction to the Israelites (Deuteronomy 30:14). Romans 10:11 (“Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame”) was quoting Isaiah 28:16. Romans 10:13 (“whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”) quoted Joel 3:5.

          These ancient prophets focused on the strategic direction of GOD’s eternal purpose, not on the prescriptive plan for individual first century (and beyond) would-be Christian disciples—a concept not yet even introduced to them—to receive forgiveness of sins. It is a misuse of Scripture to quote a reference to an Old Testament prophecy and pretend as though this text were intended as detailed prescriptive guidance to the original recipients. That was not Paul’s point in Romans 10. He was contrasting salvation by the Law versus in Christ.

          In your third paragraph you cite pre-crucifixion saints, the thief on the cross, and Nicodemus as examples of forgiveness of sins apart from water immersion. Then you accused me of being inconsistent with theology.

          First, Jesus is GOD and He can forgive whomever He chooses. However, we know that GOD’s character will only allow Him to do that which is consistent with His nature and His Word, however, for GOD will not, and cannot lie, and all sin must be punished.

          Second, Nicodemus and the thief on the cross lived under the old covenant, governed by the Law of Moses. They were both sons of Abraham and heirs of the promise, assuming they were in good standing with GOD, meaning that He had not rejected them for an outcast offense as prescribed in the Law.

          Devin, what exactly provides the forgiveness of the sins of those pre-crucifixion saints, the thief on the cross and Nicodemus (assuming he found it; I make no judgments)? The blood of Jesus! When was the blood of Jesus shed? On the cross. When was the blood-payment complete? When Jesus surrendered His Spirit.

          What greater example of poor theology is there than failing to recognize that the blood-payment had to be offered first before Jesus’ blood could cleanse these people’s sins.

          When did Jesus command His disciples to go baptize disciples in all the world, Devin? Just before His ascension (i.e., after the crucifixion). Jesus hadn’t commanded baptism yet. So this thief-on-the-cross/Nicodemus “no baptism” argument isn’t fully thought-through.

          Perhaps I’ll be surprised, but something tells me you’re not really looking for truth here, but an argument.

          Just in case, and especially for the other readers who might be sincerely seeking:

          Here is one way you can know without question that water immersion is what Jesus intends for you and me to do in order to have our sins washed clean:

          In Acts 9, Saul of Tarsus meets Jesus on the road to Damascus.

          He is blinded. He confesses Jesus as Lord (“confess with your mouth and you will be saved” right?!?).

          4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

          5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
          (Acts: 9:4-5 NIV)

          Jesus told Saul to go into the city and wait and there it would be told what he should do.

          Saul obeyed. He waited, fasting and praying, for three days.

          Ananias, a Christian, went to Saul and told Saul what he needed to do. It is here that we learn that Saul was still in his sinful condition. By his own retelling of the events, he needed something else: water immersion, to contact Jesus’ blood to cleanse his sins:

          16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’
          (Acts 22:16 NIV)

          This man, of course, was Paul the apostle.

          He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

          Blessings.

  2. Jeff Rogers Avatar
    Jeff Rogers

    Tim, Good stuff. Thank you. I am curious, though, just how you imagine following Jesus being like chasing a lion? I love the metaphor, I just wonder how you see it in relation to the biblical life of a believer. Thanks again.

    1. Tim Harris Avatar

      Hey Jeff, great question! I should write a post on this. I started the site in 2010, so it’s somewhat difficult to immediately whisk my mind back to those days and recall everything that went into the decision. Off the top of my head sitting here reflecting, it was the convergence of the following themes:

      • Firstly, I needed a memorable but short domain name. “Dot com’s” were still the main players then, and it was hard to find something that was available.
      • Secondly, the throne scene of Revelation 4-5 was a particularly-meaningful passage to me at the time. I was inspired by how Jesus conquered through submission.
      • Thirdly, in the years preceding the site’s creation, John Eldredge’s book, Wild at Heart, was meaningful to me. I appreciated how John pointed out, accurately, GOD’s untamed nature and how He created man in this likeness. Lions are the perfect example of an untamed creature, the so-called (and arguably incorrectly-tagged) king of the jungle.
      • Fourthly, the Jesus figure seen in the Aslan lion of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, which had been re-popularized around the time by the recent movie series. My children grew up enjoying those movies as a family and I look back fondly on the period. We would often watch them between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
      • Lastly, and most importantly, I was passionate—and continue to be passionate today—about the tenacious pursuit of Jesus, using the metaphor of the greatest Lion who is on a mission, the Lion who fights on our side and on our behalf, and we have a role to play and an opportunity to participate in HIS-story. We get to choose how much or how little of this Lion and His great adventure that we want to experience. I want to experience abundant life, victory, and learning. And yet, in this metaphor I also embed my own acknowledgment that I am weak and fearful and needy, that without Him I can do nothing, and that I need Him even for the weakest and smallest of battles.

      I hope that helps explain some of the thinking. It was, and is, a multidimensional name and meaning, one that is special to me and has become, for this season at least, my calling in this life.

      Blessings.

  3. Devin Avatar
    Devin

    Why did you not post my comment?

    1. Tim Harris Avatar

      Because I was traveling outside the country and didn’t have access to my computer. There were over 15 comments pending review, including your two.

      1. Devin Avatar
        Devin

        Thank you

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