Giving the Reason

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect -- 1Pet.3:15

Most of my life my implicit focus was on the first part of Peter's advice: Jesus Christ is LORD of every part of my life, and he has that right because God raised him from the dead [Rom.10:9]. End of story. I guess some people are not satisfied with the short version, so today I advance to Part Two. Despite what a lot of people seem to think, "telling your story" is not a Biblically approved method for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, but rather (at least in Acts) it is what people do when they need to defend themselves judicially. Paul did it four times. Here is mine...

Long long ago, in a far-away place, I heard and believed the gospel, confessed and repented of my sins, was baptized under water and had my sins washed away, not necessarily in that order, but I don't know, it was a very long time ago. I'm a Php.3:13 kind of guy, so most of the past I do not remember at all, and in particular I do not remember any specifics from that point in my life, only -- and this is probably only an inference -- that it all happened. I doubt there is anybody still living today who was eyewitness to those events and could testify that they indeed happened properly, but I can deal with the "necessary inferences" built on what can be verified:

1. I heard the gospel. Paul defines the gospel at least twice. Here is one of them, which I have heard and read all my life:

Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve [and others] -- 1Cor.15:3-5

2. I believed the gospel. I have no recollection of ever not believing it. Perhaps at a very young age, but never as far back as I can remember thinking anything at all.

3. I confessed my sins. "All have sinned..." Yup, me too. There, I did it again, at least as good as anybody accepted into any church I have ever seen (including the current one).

4. I repented of my sins. Repentance is turning away from them. My whole life, as far back as I can remember, I reject sinful behavior. I fall down every once in a while (not often), but mostly I don't do that stuff, and more importantly, I don't do the same bad stuff. I repented.

5. I was baptized under water. I don't keep getting baptized, so the previous inferences are not applicable, but I do have a little piece of paper that said I went under the water and gives the date. I last looked at that piece of paper while throwing stuff away in preparation for moving, but it's currently packed away in some box, so it could take some time to find it. I don't think it specifies what words were spoken over me at the time, but I'm pretty sure it was "in the name of Jesus." That much I can infer.

In the Bible there are three distinct kinds of baptism:

(a) By the Jews, including pots and pans [Mark 7:4]

(b) By John the Baptist [Mark 1:4]

(c) In the name of Jesus (or Trinity [Matt.28:19]), distinguished from John's baptism at Ephesus [Acts 19:3-5]

I have known a couple Jewish people professionally, and one of them once invited me to his Passover Seder, but otherwise there has never been any religious contact with them that I know of. Besides, I don't think modern Jews baptize any more, the practice seems to have died with the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. So it obviously was not Jewish baptism. Not since the first century has anybody done John's baptism, so it wasn't that either. Therefore it must have been (c).

6. My sins were washed away. This one is more subtle, because I don't think anybody can see or take a picture of sins being washed away. Feelings come and go, so I wouldn't trust any passing feelings. The best I can hope for is John 20:31 and 1John 5:13-15 (pretty much the whole letter of 1John explains over and over how to know if you are in or out). Jesus said [Matt.7:18] "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit." I do not continually practice the stuff the Bible calls "sin" nor do I want to. The fruit of the Spirit seems to be there (sometimes especially the "longsuffering" part ;-) and there is no hypocrisy that I know of. I do not see any of the habits of my life listed among the sinners not admitted into Heaven in Rev.21:8. God does not hear the prayers of the wicked, yet I often pray and timely receive what I asked for. If the Bible is true -- and I have no reason to believe otherwise -- then that's what happened, and nobody has any basis to say otherwise.

There is a verse in the Bible that says "Baptism saves you," but the context suggests that its action might be figurative, like when Jesus said "this [bread] is my body." It's hard to tell what exactly Peter had in mind when he said that. Nothing there nor anywhere else in the Bible says "believing in Baptism saves you." Believing in Jesus Christ (and being baptized) saves you. Nothing anywhere says we must "Remember your own Baptism," but we are told to remember Christ's death. I do that -- every week when possible. If and to the extent that being dunked under water is a necessary part of my eternal salvation, then every Scripture I know of convinces me that it happened to me, even if I cannot tell you the details.

0. These are (mostly) timeless inferences, so I have no way of knowing what order they happened in, nor even if there was a specific sequence. Given that God knows the end from the beginning, I suspect He doesn't much care about the specific sequence either. At least I never saw anything in the Bible that said the sequence is important (and at least one instance where the sequence was different). Some things, the time matters (and God says so), but this doesn't seem to be one of them.

Anyway, that's good enough for me. Your mileage may vary.

Tom Pittman
2016 March 15, rev. Aug.30