Foundation For Life Lesson 9
Salvation: Your Decision
We are continuing our study on salvation and as I pointed out last time we run into a problem today because of the poor vocabulary that many people have, especially when it comes to the Bible.
When you talk to people and use words such as regeneration, redemption, imputation, propitiation or justification they don't know what you are talking about. I pointed out the other night that when teaching a survey class at the College of Biblical Studies here in Houston I have asked members of the class about their familiarity with what most of us would consider basic doctrines and they have never heard these words. Recently when I had lunch with Dr. Mike Stallard, who as professor at Bible Baptist Seminary up in Pennsylvania, his time at Dallas Seminary overlapped mine, I asked him about the differences he has seen in the students coming into the seminary over the course of time he has been a professor at seminary level. One of the things he commented on is that many of the students that come in have never heard the word justification.
Think about that, they have never heard the word justification. It used to be in our society that even if you weren't a Christian and even if you had only spent a little time in a Christian environment at least, if you had studied western civilization and world history in high school, you would have touched on the Protestant Reformation and heard something about Martin Luther and his stand for justification by faith alone so that the word would not be something totally foreign to you.
But we live in a world today in which biblical terminology is not found in our culture. In fact if you talk to school teachers you will find if somebody asks why do we celebrate Christmas and the name Jesus is mentioned, there are many students who say, who is Jesus?
If you are a sharp school teacher you will do is try to find out in the first part of your fall semester who the Christian kids in are in your classroom. And somewhere along the line, as Christmas approaches, you use those kids to give the gospel. When somebody asks a question you say, Well Bill, what is Christmas all about? You have already identified Bill as someone who is Christian and understands the gospel and then Bill can give the gospel to the whole class. And it doesn't come from your mouth as a teacher. So you just circumvent all these things, you just have to learn how to do end runs, and be a little crafty and think about what you are doing.
Well, we live in an age in which people do not know basic terms of Christianity, not only outside the church, which is understandable, but also within the church. There are young men and women going to seminary who have never heard the word justification. We are not talking about somebody from the middle of the rainforest down in Africa or South America or somewhere, we are talking about twenty or thirty some things who have been in church for awhile and believe they have been given the gift of Pastor Teacher who want to be a missionary or they want advanced bible training and they don't know basic biblical terminology. How can you read Romans and understand any of it if you don't have this terminology?
As we have studied, the cornerstone issue in this basic series is the issue of truth. Jesus said, I am the way the truth and the life, no man can come to the Father except through Me. I focused on the fact that Jesus makes this claim of exclusivity which sounds awfully arrogant to the unbeliever, to many people in our culture, even to many people who claim to be Christians.
They think that this is somehow just awful, this is arrogant: you think that you have THE truth. The way the world keeps shaping this is to make it sound like, how can you be so arrogant and say that you know the truth, how can you claim to know the truth? It puts you on the defensive. I have been teaching that if you really want to understand the exclusivity of the gospel, why there can only be one way to God, you have to know who God is, for He is the One who determines how things are going to run, He is the One who made the world and the universe the way it is, and made man the way he is and so He determines how things work, the rules.
In His righteousness He has an absolute standard for those rules so He always does the right thing. God is perfect in His character, so whatever He does is right.
In His justice He equally applies that perfect standard to every one of us. Nobody gets a little favoritism; everybody has the same standard applied to them.
In His immutability He is consistent so that He consistently, faithfully applies that standard to everyone throughout the ages.
And because He is absolute truth we know that there is integrity in what He says. He gives the truth and the truth is something that can be known because he designed the world in such a way that He can communicate to us and we can understand that communication.
And then He is love and this is what moved Him to provide a perfect salvation for us. From eternity past He knew that man would fail so He designed creation in such a way that all of its intricacies and all of its interdependencies and all of its different manifestations, so that all its systems work together in such a way that He could provide a perfect salvation. In His love He designed a plan that He would send His Son, the eternal second Person of the Trinity to become a human being and die on the cross for our sins. Scripture says He desires all men to be saved, so He provides a salvation that all people can learn about, understand, and believe in.
In His omniscience He knows everyone who has ever lived and He provided salvation that is available to all but is dependent in some sense on the volition of everyone to respond. Scripture says that our righteousness is as filthy rags and this is the starting point, no one is worthy of being saved, not one of us, none of us deserve salvation. If we got what we deserved we would all be going to the Lake of Fire. Romans 3:23 says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We have violated that standard so it is necessary for God to provide a solution.
As we have seen in our study, there is a barrier between God and man and this barrier is comprised of sin and the scriptures break it down into different aspects.
The foundational block in the sin barrier is sin itself and that is resolved on the cross by the doctrine of unlimited atonement, and we saw how that has a foundation in the Old Testament. It is developed in the Old Testament through the Mosaic Law, especially in the Day of Atonement in the Jewish ritual calendar. Atonement pays the price for all the sins of all humanity.
The second problem in the sin barrier is the penalty of sin. There was a judicial penalty assigned for violating God's righteous standard. This is resolved through what the bible calls redemption.
1 Peter 1:18 because you know you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver and gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. This is a verse that focuses on the His death on the cross as our substitute, He paid the price in full. The penalty of sin was resolved by His redemption, He paid the penalty as a substitute for us.
The third problem is the problem of the character of God. The issue isn't, as some people say, a problem with God's love, how can a loving God cast His creatures into the Lake of Fire, how can a loving God be so cruel? The real issue is how can a righteous God let sinners into heaven? Because God is righteous He cannot have fellowship with anyone who is less than righteous, less than perfect. Scripture is designed to show that we cannot live up to that standard. God's character had to be satisfied, His righteousness had to be satisfied, and this came through the doctrine of propitiation. A key word to remember when you hear the word propitiation is satisfaction. It is that aspect of the saving work of God through the substitutionary spiritual death of Jesus Christ on the cross whereby the justice and righteousness of God are satisfied concerning the sins of all mankind.
1John 2:2 tells us that propitiation was for all of the world, and goes back to the concept again illustrated in the Mosaic Law with the mercy seat. The mercy seat covered the box of the ark of the covenant and inside were the symbols of Israel's sin and the cherubs, who are associated with the holiness and righteousness of God, would look down on that mercy seat. When the high priest on the day of atonement brought the blood from the sacrificial lamb without spot or blemish and placed it on the mercy seat, it was a picture of how God's justice and righteousness was satisfied. This was played out in reality on the cross.
Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. And 1 John 2:2 says He is the propitiation for our sin, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
We saw these first three bricks in the barrier all dealt with solutions that apply to everyone: unlimited atonement, the sins of every human being were paid for by Christ on the cross. Redemption paid the price for everyone, it was universal. Propitiation satisfied God's character.
But this is not enough to get us saved because there are other issues, these relate to the foundational issues.
There are three other problems which are more subjective in nature. One of them is spiritual death. We are all born spiritually dead. There is something about us that was lost in the Fall. When Adam sinned he died spiritually. He lost the capacity to have a relationship with God, to understand divine things and to be able to have ongoing fellowship with God. The capacity that allowed his soul to understand the things of God and to be able to relate to God is called the human spirit. Loss of the human spirit is spiritual death and recovery is being made spiritually alive.
At the same time we are minus R, we lack righteousness, we are in
Adam and that problem has to be solved. An individual, even though his sins are paid for, still has to have a solution to spiritual death, he has to have a solution for the fact that he lacks righteousness, and he has to have a solution to the fact that he is in Adam.
The solution to these three things can only come as a result of the application of the first three, which lay the foundation for salvation. But it is up to the individual to put his faith in Jesus Christ before these other solutions are applied, and that is what we will look at this evening.
Spiritual death is resolved by what is called regeneration. Regeneration also means to be born again. Regeneration focuses on the fact that we are spiritually dead. Ephesians 2:1 says, and you who were dead in trespasses and sin. This references the fact that we are all born spiritually dead; we are physically alive, but separated from God.
Romans 5:12 tells us, Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
We are all under that condemnation of spiritual death because of Adam's original sin. Romans 5:14 goes on to say, Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come, and then in verse 20, as sin reigned in death, even so grace may reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Death reigns throughout human history because of Adam's original sin. We are born spiritually dead, we are born physically alive. What has to happen so we can have a relationship with God?
Theologically this term is called regeneration and it has to do with the recovery of something known as the human spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:14 tells us that the natural man does not receive the things of the spirit of God. The word natural refers to a soulish man, that is a recognition that man is comprised of three components, body, soul and spirit. The natural man does not understand the things of the spirit of God for they are foolishness to him nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned.
As we look at this verse there is an important connection between these two words, soulish or psuchikos, and spiritual which is pneumatikos. There is an indication that there is a component missing.
You are born with a soul which is comprised of self consciousness, you know who you are, you look in the mirror, wake up in the morning and on a good day you recognize yourself. But even on a good day your dog does not recognize himself, he does not have self consciousness. A cat looks in the mirror and sees another cat, you may think your cat is bright, but he is not that bright. You have self consciousness, you know who you are, your personal identity, you are created in the image and likeness of God. You have mentality, you are able to think, and reason. You have a conscience, you have norms and standards, you know the difference between right and wrong, and you make decisions, you are responsible for your life. That is the soul.
When Adam was originally created his soul had the capacity to relate to God, so that in his self consciousness he understood who he was in the image of God. In his mentality he could think correctly according to God's revelation. In his consciousness he had a perfect set of absolutes because he was perfectly righteous. He chose to do the right thing, to obey God up until the point when he ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At that instant he died spiritually. He lost the capacity to relate to God so he no longer understood who he was as an image bearer of God. And what is the first thing he tried to do? He tried to hide from God, to cover up his nakedness by creating clothes out of fig leaves. He is no longer aware of who he is as the representative of God. His thinking is now distorted and warped by sin. He thinks he can solve his problems on his own. His value system has now been distorted because he has disobeyed God. His volition continues to lead him in the direction of disobedience to God.
Only through a rebirth, a reacquisition of that human spirit can man go forward. When Adam sinned he lost the human spirit that interconnected the elements of the soul in a way that he could understand God. At the instant of salvation we recover that human spirit, it is born again and that is regeneration.
Regeneration comes from two phrases in the Greek, and the first is palingenesias, which is used only 2 times in scripture. In Titus 3:5 which states "Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saves us by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." Notice the phrase there, the washing of regeneration. Interesting we are talking about being born again but there is a washing, a cleansing that takes place. The washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit they are connected together in the Greek, those are two different ways of talking about the same thing.
The other phrase that is used by Our Lord in John 3:3 and following when He is talking to Nicodemus and He said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." So Jesus established this as a condition for being able to enter into the kingdom, to have eternal life. Now we will come back to that in a minute, but I want to make sure we understand what we are talking about before we look at some scriptures.
Regeneration is a term for spiritual birth, something is born. I remember talking to someone who was disputing this issue, what does it , the human spirit, I am not sure I understand this. So I boiled it down and I said what happens is that at salvation you acquire something, something is given birth to by the very use of the terminology regeneration and born again. There is something that is there the instant after you trust Christ as your savior that wasn't there before. There is something Adam lost when he disobeyed God that caused a breach in his ability to understand God and obey God that he reacquires at faith. The term we use for that is human spirit.
Now just a little aside: you have to be careful with this word spirit. Don't think that every time you see the word spirit it either refers to the Holy Spirit or the human spirit. The word spirit is used a number of different ways in scripture. Sometimes the word spirit refers to the whole immaterial part of man. Scripture talks about the spirit of Pharaoh, now that doesn't mean that Pharaoh was a believer, it is talking about his thinking. Sometimes the word soul is used to stand for the spirit. So you have to look at each passage on its own.
What we mean by spiritual birth or being born again is the moment a person expresses faith alone in Christ alone. When you believe the gospel, God, in His omniscience, knows when that happens. You don't have to pray a prayer, walk an aisle, raise your hand. You don't have to say anything. The instant you trust, recognize the truth of the gospel and you are thinking I trust in Christ, at that instant you are regenerate. You are saved at that instant. God the Holy Spirit creates a human spirit and God the Father simultaneously imputes eternal life and righteousness to the human spirit, and the believer passes from spiritual death to spiritual life. That is regeneration. The problem of spiritual death is resolved by regeneration.
The key passage to understand this is in John 3. I want you to turn in your bibles to John 3 and we will quickly go through this conversation that Jesus had with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews. He was probably the best bible teacher in Israel at the time. His proper name was probably not Nicodemus, which means ruler of the Jews. He was probably a top Pharisee and bible teacher, and he has heard about the miracles that Jesus has performed and that people are saying that He is the Messiah. Also, some of the miracles He is performing fit the prophecies in Isaiah and other passages in the Old Testament that would indicate that someone was the Messiah.
He comes to Jesus at night, and I believe he comes at night because he is busy during the day. For a long time I thought he came at night because he did not want anyone to see him, but Nicodemus, as the ruler of the Jews, has tremendous responsibilities and he probably came at night because that was when he could come. And he came to Jesus and he said to Him "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God;" Notice, he is not sure what to ask, and he says: "for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." He really doesn't know what to ask, and folks, a lot of times when you are witnessing you are talking to someone about spiritual things, they don't know anything, they are just dumber than dirt when it comes to spiritual things, and they are going to say some things that are just screwy. Keep the focus on where you are headed and don't worry about what they are talking about.
That is how Nicodemus is, just trying to get somewhere and he doesn't know where he is going. So he just starts off and Jesus, in His omniscience knows what the issue is, so in verse 3 He says: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a person is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." and here we have that phrase that we looked at a while ago, gennete anothen. Jesus uses that word anothen which can also mean 'from above'. This is typical in John's writings, using words with double meanings, because he wants you to focus on one thing but think about another dimension of the meaning at the same time. It is clear from the context that Jesus is talking about being born a second time, but that birth comes from above.
Nicodemus is all confused over this and he says, "How can a man be born when he is old? According to Arnold Fruchtenbaum there are six different ways in the Rabbinic law that a person can be born again. When a gentile converted to Judaism he was said to be born again. But Nicodemus was already a Jew. When a person was crowned king they were said to be born again. But Nicodemus is not of the tribe of Judah so he cannot be crowned king. At age thirteen, when a Jewish boy is bar mitzvah'd and becomes a man it is said that he is born again. When a Jew married he was said to be born again. But Nicodemus was already married. When a Jew is ordained a rabbi he is said to be born again. But Nicodemus is already a rabbi. And when a rabbi became the head of a rabbinical school he was said to be born again. Nicodemus is a teacher in Israel so that is already true of him.
So you see, in all the six ways a rabbi taught about being born again, Nicodemus had already qualified, and he is saying, what do you mean, I have already done that. But Jesus is talking about something very different. So Nicodemus is stymied. He asks, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" And Jesus says to him, no "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
Now what did Jesus mean when He said to be born of water and of the Spirit? The background for this, and I don't have time to go to it tonight, but I will just point it out to you, is in Ezekiel 36:25-26. In that passage, the only clear passage in the Old Testament that connected cleansing and water to something in the future, it was a picture of the future regeneration of the nation. But water in that passage is a picture of washing. By the New Testament times the rabbis only knew of cleansing of someone entering into Judaism, a gentile being converted. So either a newborn at circumcision or a gentile at conversion was washed. And when a newborn male or a gentile male was circumcised the ritual was followed by an intense washing to try to scrub away the sin. Somewhere at home I have a bar of soap that says on there, for scrubbing away sin. But at that point the person was said to be a new creature entering into Judaism, and this is confirmed by several passages in the Mishnah. The point that I am making is that regeneration and this understanding of being born again and Judaism was directly connected to the concept of being cleansed from sin.
When we think of regeneration we often think of just being born again, but in Titus 3:5 Paul says it is the washing of regeneration. So what happens at regeneration, at the instant you have faith alone in Christ alone is not only acquisition of a human spirit but you are cleansed of sin at the same time. A purification from all pre salvation sins takes place, and it is at that point that the person who believes is cleansed by regeneration and they become a new creature in Christ. So there is a connection here between regeneration and what happens in what we will study in a minute, positional truth, or being identified with Jesus Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. All these things interconnect.
Logically, if we think these things through, there is an order. First you believe in Christ, faith alone in Christ alone. That is followed by cleansing. There is a cleansing from sin. That is followed by regeneration, then imputation. When I use the word follow I am using it in a logical sense, not chronological because these things happen simultaneously, instantly as the work of God. It is not like 1, 2, 3, 4, and you don't have days or minutes, or even seconds between these things, they all happen simultaneously. There is logical progression that takes place, cleansing, regeneration and then we come to the next issue which is imputation of righteousness.
The fifth problem we have to address in terms of man's salvation is not that we are born spiritually dead, which is resolved at regeneration, but when he is reborn he lacks perfect righteousness. A creature cannot have an eternal relationship with God unless he has perfect righteousness. So there is something called imputation that takes place.
Imputation is the assignment of perfect righteousness to the believer. It is an accounting term, a financial term. As a matter of fact, it is interesting how many of these terms have to do with finances. Picture the cancelling of a debt or reconciling, we talk about reconciliation of a bank statement. There is redemption, expiation, imputation, all terms related to finances. And just as you would credit something to someone's bank account, so your bank account, spiritually, is empty. In fact, it has a negative balance. But the perfect balance of Jesus Christ's righteousness is assigned to you at the instant of salvation. And because of His righteousness, God looks at you and says, you are righteous, you are justified. I declare you legally to be justified. That is what justification is, it is not just as if you've never sinned. It doesn't change you morally, you are still a sinner. You still have the constitutional defect of a sin nature. But what is does is cover over your sin with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.
So you have the perfect righteousness and justice of God that have to be dealt with in terms of salvation. And here we are, down here in our bodies and we have sin, -R, no matter how good we are we just cannot meet the standard of God. Isaiah 64:6 says, All our righteous deed are like filthy rags. No matter how good they are, no matter how wonderful your righteous deeds are, in God's eyes your righteousness, your morality, all your goodness is garbage. At the cross , our unrighteousness, our sins, are assigned to Christ, imputed to Him. Jesus Christ was perfect righteousness, He was without sin.
Scripture says He, God the Father, made Him, Jesus Christ, who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. What this means is, our sin is assigned judiciously to Jesus Christ, that is what took place between 12 noon and 3pm that day on the cross, in the darkness covering Golgotha. Our sin is assigned to Him. He receives the legal imputation of that sin and He pays the penalty for it on the cross.
When we trust Christ as our Savior, at the instant we do that, along with being cleansed and regenerate, God the Father imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ. It is not our righteousness, it is His righteousness. Now we are clothed, as it were, with His righteousness. Underneath that robe is our own unrighteousness. But what God is looking at is not our sin, not our corruption, but the perfect righteousness of Christ. It is never dependent on what we do or who we are. At that instant of salvation His righteousness and justice declares us to be righteous. He looks at you and He says, you are righteous, or you are justified.
This is what the doctrine of justification means, we are justified by faith alone and not by works. As a result of that God's justice is able to bless us. It is blessing the perfect righteousness of Christ which we posses, not because of anything we do. This is the doctrine of justification. You cannot talk about imputation without talking about justification. Imputation assigns righteousness to us and at that instant God's righteousness and justice declares us to be justified. We can then have a relationship with Him.
This is true all through the Old Testament; the classic Old Testament example is Abraham. Abraham had believed in the Lord and He had already reckoned it or imputed it to him as righteousness. So Old Testament and New Testament, the basis is the same. You trust in the promise of God for salvation. In the Old Testament they looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, now we look back, we put our faith in Christ and at that time of faith alone in Christ alone we receive the imputation of righteousness and we are declared just.
There is a great Old Testament picture of this, and for those of you who teach in prep school this is a great illustration for you to communicate to kids. It takes place in Zechariah 3:1 and Zechariah is speaking and says, He, that is God the Father, showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan standing at His right hand to oppose him.
You have these personages, they are standing in a courtroom scene, and you have Joshua the High Priest of Israel standing there and he is being defended by the angel of the Lord who is the pre incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. Standing at his right hand, accusing Joshua of not being worthy of being High Priest, is Satan saying, who do you think you are, God, this guy is a lousy sinner, how can he represent the nation Israel. Satan is accusing Joshua and that is what Satan means, it is a legal term that means accuser. He is accusing Joshua. In verse 2 we read, "and the Lord said to Satan, the Lord rebuke you." It is
the Lord, who is God the Son, who said, this to Satan, the Lord, God the Father rebuke you Satan, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you, is this not a brand plucked from the fire.
And this is all of us, we are a brand plucked from the fire. Our destiny was the lake of fire, but grace saves us. In Zechariah 3 we read, and Joshua was clothed in filthy garments and was standing before the angel, and in verse 4, then he answered and spoke to those who stood before Him saying, this is God the Father in the supreme court of heaven saying, on take away the filthy garments from him, and to him he said, see, I have removed your iniquity from you and I will clothe you with rich robes. And I said let them put a clean turban on his head. So they put a clean turban on his head and clean clothes him and the angel of the Lord stood by.
This is a picture of the imputation of righteousness and its relation to the cleansing that takes place at regeneration. All these things happen instantly in salvation, but first we have to trust Christ as savior.
We have seen a solution to spiritual death in regeneration and a solution to our lack of righteousness in imputation and justification.
The last brick in the barrier, the last problem, is our position in Adam. What does that mean, our position in Adam? The problem is, as clearly stated in the first part of 1Corinthians 15:23, for as in Adam all die.
God constructed reality so that Adam was not only the physical biological head of the entire human race, he was also the representative head. God structured things in such a way that Adams decisions would affect all his progeny. He stood as both the physical and biological head and as the representative, so that his decisions stood as decisions for the entire human race.
Now a lot of folks come along and they say, how just is this, that one man six thousand years ago makes a bad decision and I am born spiritually dead. That doesn't seem very fair, does it? We have to understand why God structures things as He does. Because He structures the human race with this integral unity, one man can stand for the whole of humanity and cause the fall of all humanity, but on the positive side, one man can stand for the whole of humanity and save all of humanity. By having this integral unity of all human beings, Jesus Christ can be the second Adam and die on the cross for us so that He could pay the penalty for everyone.
We are born in Adam, we are identified with him in his sin. At the instant of our birth we receive the imputation of Adams original sin so that we are condemned, not for our personal dins, you are not condemned for your person sins according to Romans 5, but you are condemned for Adams sin. You commit personal sins because you are born a sinner, not because you have volition.
There is an old saying we used to twist people up with in seminary: Do you sin because you are a sinner or are you a sinner because you sin? You see, you sin because you are a sinner, you were born that way, you are born fallen, you are born with a sin nature. You are born with a constitutional defect. You are born evil. You don't like that, most people don't want to deal with that, but we are all born evil. The heart is deceitful and wicked above things Jeremiah says, who can know it? We are born evil. We are born fallen. We are born, as it were, shaking our fists at God, saying, I am going to make it work, no one else has managed to make it work, but I am going to do it. And that is the cast and orientation of our life, that is what theologians refer to as total depravity. We are not all as bad as we could be, but every aspect of our nature, the totality of our being has been affected by sin.
Our position is in Adam, but at salvation we are going to be identified with Christ rather that Adam. Paul says in 1Corinthians 15:23, 24: "as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."
Now how are we identified with Christ? The best passage on this is in Romans 6:2&3. There Paul raises the question rhetorically, if we got grace because we sinned, let's sin some more so we get some more grace. You have probably thought that along the way and Paul said, no, you cannot go that way, that is an illegitimate conclusion. How shall we who died to sin still live in it? In other words, we died to sin, we are not still in our sin, living in sin, we are dead positionally. Verse 3, Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His
Now, a lot of folks think of baptism as getting wet, getting immersed. The idea of baptism has to do with the immersion of something. There are wet baptisms and there are dry baptisms. But the key idea in a baptism is identification with something. It was sort of an initiation rite in the ancient world. For example, you would have new recruits in the army go through boot camp and they would have an initiation rite when they graduated and they would dip or immerse their spear into a bucket of pig's blood. That was a sign that they were identifying themselves with violence, and identifying their weapons with violence.
The key idea is identification. When you had water baptism when John the Baptist came along and he is out by the Jordan and he is taking Jews and he is immersing them in the Jordan, he is identifying them with his kingdom message that you had to be cleansed to get into the kingdom of heaven. We saw a similar idea in John 3.
The believer's baptism presents a similar thing related to the cleansing that takes place in relationship to our position in Christ. If we paraphrase this a little bit and say, do you not know that all of us who have been identified into Christ have been identified into His death, we get the main idea, that at the instant of salvation we are identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection, and the phrase that is used to describe that in the New Testament is baptism by means of the Holy Spirit. It is God the Holy Spirit who identifies us positionally with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. That is what John said in Matthew 4:11 I baptize you by means of water but the One who comes after me will baptize you by means of the Spirit and by means of fire.
The baptism by fire comes at the end of the Tribulation period and relates to judgment. But the baptism by means of the Spirit was yet future during the life of Christ and was still future just before He ascended and in Acts 1:5 He says to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came and part of what happened on Pentecost was that He not only indwelt believers but this was the first time there was a baptism by means of God the Holy Spirit. Believers were identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. This creates and begins the body of Christ.
Every one of you was baptized by the Holy Spirit at the instant of salvation. It is non experiential, you did not know it happened, you did not feel anything. if you spoke in tongues or had a religious experience it had nothing to do with baptism of the Holy Spirit. Baptism by means of the Holy Spirit is a forensic activity of God the Holy Spirit whereby He cleanses the believer, there is that washing metaphor, places him in the body of Christ. There are interconnections here between regeneration which is called the washing of regeneration in Titus 3:5 and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, being placed in Christ. In that we see the imputation of Christ's righteousness and there is the declaration that we are righteous.
So what have I said here? As we go through the barrier we realize that those first three elements, the fact of sin, the penalty of sin, and the character of God are resolved by aspects of Christ's work that solved that problem for everybody, and that is the foundation of salvation. But we still have other things that are unresolved. They are only resolved when you as an individual choose to trust Christ as your savior. God provides the solution but it is up to us to acquire the solution. It is up to us to make the decision to believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross as our substitute. At the instant we do that the rest of the problems are resolved. We are regenerated, we receive the imputation of Christ's righteousness, we are declared justified and we are placed into Christ. And those things happen instantly and simultaneously when we trust in Jesus Christ as our savior. We don't do anything to earn it. We don't do anything to deserve it and we can't do anything afterwards to merit it. It is all based on God's love and His care for us. This is why there can only be one way of salvation, because of the dimensions of the problem and the magnificence of God's solution.