Infant Baptism? Infant Salvation? What does the Bible say?


Baby

In my theology class last week I had to answer a prompt regarding the practice of infant baptism and thus the question of infant salvation: if an infant dies before the “age of accountability” what is their destiny? Does the atoning work of Christ in someway apply to them?

I have posted my thoughts on the topic below (I was restrained by a word count, FYI) and want you to think about this topic during the week. I will say that my brief look a the topic is not at all complete and is something that I believe requires further study to understand at a deeper level. I will also say that I believe there are some things in life that we need to admit ignorance to and place completely in the hands of God.

I believe this is one of those areas, especially because God’s Word is silent on the matter regarding infant salvation.  All of that said, I challenge you to do independent study on this (this replaces the weekly memory verse for this week).

Scripture is quite clear, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NIV), and “all have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). Where Scripture is clear on the state of humans, it is also clear on the special place that children hold. This is especially seen in the time that Christ had on earth (Matt 19:13-14; Mark 10:14; Luke 10:21; Matt. 21:16; Matt 18:6)[1]. Although it is clear that God loves children, Scripture is also clear that “all” (literally “everyone”) has sinned and falls short of His Glory, deserving death (Rom 6:23). This author does not see (in the scope of this study) how children (also infants) can be exempt from this judgement and penalty.

Another area where this author believes Scripture is clear is on that of God’s sovereign choice. “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion'” (Romans 9:14). Is it possible that the atoning work of Christ on the cross could somehow be applied to infants without the infant making a volitional decision to put their faith in Christ for salvation? This author will submit that yes, it may be possible. But what, then, is to be made of the action required to believe and have eternal life (John 5:24)?

Based on this brief study the conclusion that unborn infants, or infants who die shortly after birth, are sinners and thus deserve full judgement (as we all do), are subject to the full punishment (as we all are). Apart from faith in Christ there is no hope for salvation. Paul’s question (already stated) is appropriate here: “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.'”

[1]Bromiley, G. W. “Baptism, Infant.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 132. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2001.

Death: What Happens to Unbelievers?


Editor’s note: I realize it may seem odd to you that we are exploring the topic of evil and Satan the same month we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Odd as it may be, it is actually quite relevant to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. He had to come into the world in order to defeat Satan (1 John 3:8). Without Christ’s death on the cross we would have no escape from the grip of Satan and would, because of our sinful state, spend eternity in hell. I mentioned this before, as Christians we are thankful that God has chosen us and has saved us. Amen! 

Death: What Happens to Unbelievers?

 

There are beliefs in the world which say there will be no eternal punishment for the wicked. There are even those who believe that all will receive the gift of salvation. But is this what the Bible says about life after death?

 
When it comes to the destiny of the unsaved there are three popular views. Eternal punishment holds that there is an “endless duration”[1] of punishment for “whoever rejects the Son” (John 3:36, NIV). Annihilationism believes that some or all of mankind will simply cease to exist after death. This may mean all of humankind, or only those who are not redeemed.[2] A third popular view is known as universalism, which states that “all men will eventually be reconciled to God”.[3]
While some may try to explain away what happens to our souls after death, there is no doubt that there is a place that our souls go after death. Upon death, all souls go to Sheol (Hebrew) or in the greek, Hades, which is an intermediate state, the grave. The wicked and righteous will be here after death (Gen. 37:35) but the righteous do not remain (Ps. 16:10; 49:15; 86:13). The ultimate destination of the wicked soul is Gehenna (Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:8). This is the “final and everlasting place of punishment for the wicked following the last judgment”.[4]
This author holds to the view of eternal punishment. The Bible is very clear sin will be

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punished (Dan. 12:2; Matt. 10:15; John 5:28-29; Rom. 5:12-21). It is also clear that those who do not “believe…Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31, ESV) their punishment is eternal (Matt. 25:46). In Matthew 25:46, Jesus states that the punishment of the wicked is eternal, as is the reward for the righteous. This word, “eternal,” conveys the idea of an “endless duration”[5] that is given to those who go into “punishment” and “life” (v. 46).
There are two common objections to the view that this author holds to. A universalist will use 1 Tim. 2:4 or 2 Pet. 3:9 to say that God wants all people to be saved. They will also use John 12:32 to say that Jesus’ death on the cross “will draw all people to [himself].” An annihilationist will use 1 Tim. 1:17 and 6:16 to say that only God has immortality, not man. 
To the universalist, this author would say it is important to understand that while God may “[desire] all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), and while the benefits of the death of Christ on the cross are available to all who will believe (John 1:12), God has said, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Rom. 9:15 cf. Ex. 33:19).
To the annihilationist: Scripture is clear that upon death God will “give” (Rom. 2:7b) either eternal punishment (Matt. 25:46; John 5:29) or eternal life (Matt. 25:46; Rom. 2:7; 5:21). In other words: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23, emphasis added).
Some may ask how a loving God can allow eternal punishment. The answer is simple: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life…Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16, 18). While God does choose to “[harden] whomever he wills” (Rom. 9:18; [John 6:65]) all have the choice to receive eternal life if they make the decision to believe. This is how it can be said that it is “fair” for God to allow people to suffer in hell. Just as Eve and Adam chose to disobey God in the garden (Gen. 3:6), so is all of mankind responsible for choosing whether or not to believe in Christ.
When it comes to evangelism, the view of hell as a real place of eternal punishment must be emphasized. People try to downplay the existence, or severity, of hell because no one wants to believe that God would allow eternal punishment to take place. The reality, as shown above, is that God does allow it but that he also offers a “free gift of…eternal life” (Rom. 6:23) to those who believe. While this should not be the only part of an evangelistic conversation, it must be a part.
Points to Remember 

     

  • Sheol is Hebrew, Hades is Greek, for grave.
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  • Gehenna is the ultimate destination of the wicked soul, the unbelieving.
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  • While God may desire all to be saved, this is not in his plan. Those who reject him will suffer.
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Questions to Promote Bible Study and Learning 

     

  • What are the three views concerning life after death? What do they believe? Of these three, which do you believe?
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  • Who is present in Hades?
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  • Is Gehenna eternal or temporary?
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  • Do you think it is “fair” for people to suffer eternally for rejecting Christ? Why or why not? What Scripture supports your view?
  •  

  • How does your view of hell and eternal punishment effect your evangelism?
  •  

 

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Satan: His Origin, Limited Power, and Eternal Position


Editor’s note: I realize it may seem odd to you that we are exploring the topic of evil and Satan the same month we look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Odd as it may be, it is actually quite relevant to the celebration of Jesus’ birth. He had to come into the world in order to defeat Satan (1 John 3:8). Without Christ’s death on the cross we would have no escape from the grip of Satan and would, because of our sinful state, spend eternity in hell (more on this next Friday). I mentioned this last week, as Christians we are thankful that God has chosen us and has saved us. Amen! 

Satan - His Origin, Limited Power, and Eternal Position

 

God and Satan are two beings that humans, believers and nonbelievers alike, are subject to in one form or another. Because of this, it is wise for the individual to know exactly who these two are and what they can and cannot do, particularly Satan.

 
There is a belief that says there are two “[mutual]…forces or beings”.[1] One has created, and is, good, and the other has created, and is, evil. This belief teaches that the universe is the “battleground for these opposing beings”[2] and is known as religious dualism.
This belief of God and Satan as mutual beings is quite contrary to what Scripture teaches. Scripture is very clear that one of the beings was before the other: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, ESV). Since God was before Satan, the two are not mutual, and since they are not mutual one will defeat the other (Gen. 3:15).
There are two other passages that clearly speak against this belief of eternal conflict between God and Satan. On the day that Lucifer was created, (Ezekiel 28:13) he was the “signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (v. 12). He was even blameless in his ways (v. 15). Because his “heart was proud” (v. 17), God cast him to the ground (vv. 16-17; Is. 14:12; Luke 10:18). The destiny of Satan is stated in Genesis 3:15, and is carried out through the death of Christ on the cross (John 12:31-33).

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A common objection to using Isaiah 14:12-17 and Ezekiel 28 as reference to Satan’s origin and destiny, is that they are not speaking to or are about Satan, but instead are about their respective earthly kings and kingdoms. This is simply not the case. As seen in Matthew 16:21-23 when Peter is rebuked by Jesus for being under control of Satan, Satan is able to use people to accomplish his goals. This being understood, the passages at hand speak to both Satan and those he is using as his earthly pawns.
It is easy to fall into the trap that God created evil through his creation of Lucifer. Again, it is observed that Lucifer was created (Ezekiel 28:15) by God (Gen. 1:1) as a blameless (Ezekiel 28:15) “guardian cherub” (v. 14). He was also created with free will, as can be witnessed in verse 17: “you corrupted”. If he was created without a free will he would not have been able to alter the blameless state of which he was created.
It is beneficial to observe what Satan is not to further demonstrate that he is, as a created being, subservient to God. First, he is not omniscient. Satan believed that Job would curse God if he lost all that he had (Job 1:11). If Satan was omniscient he would have known what Job would or would not do. Second, Satan is not omnipotent. If he was, he would have been able to do two things. First, he would have been able to go against God’s command to not take the life of Job (2:6). Second, Satan would have been able to push Job to the point of cursing God. Finally, Satan is not omnipresent. Using Job as an example, Satan is seen to be wandering the face of the earth (1:7; 2:2). His presence does not fill the earth, but he is left to having the presence like that of a human being, which is limited.
God is all three things that Satan is not (Omniscient – Ps. 147:5; omnipotent – Matt. 19:26; omnipresent – Ps. 139:7-10). This alone makes Satan subservient to Him (because he is thus not equal with God). Also, it is obvious to note that Satan was not allowed to touch Job or his processions without permission from God to do so (Job 1:12; 2:6). 
If someone is tempted, they can place the blame on Satan who tempts them. It is when an individual yields to temptation and commits sin that they cannot blame Satan. Eve took the fruit with her own hands, and Adam with his (Gen. 3:6). The serpent did not force the fruit into their stomachs, they took and ate of their own will. It is the same for every human since the Fall (Rom. 3:23).
It is fitting to conclude with an encouragement. Although the tempter “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), those in Christ have One who is ready at their defense and who is greater than the one who tempts them, and if they call on Him (v. 7), He will deliver them (v. 10).
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Christians: Predestination is not an Excuse to be Comfortable and Lazy (and Two Things to be Thankful for)


Apostle Paul Preaching on the Ruins

Yesterday we, in the United Sates, celebrated Thanksgiving. It is traditionally a time of year to gather with family and friends over a large meal and create and share memories together. I usually describe it as a “warm” time of year. A time to think (hopefully) and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.

As believers we have a lot to be thankful for, in addition to all of the material comfort we have here in the States. I would like to take a few moments to reflect on two items in particular and leave you (and me) with a challenge.

1. Be Thankful That You are One of the Elect

Scripture is quite clear: “So then…[God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18). Prior to that, Paul writes in chapter 8: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 29-30). So, while God loved the world so much that he sent his Son (John 3:16), Christ’s mission was not to save the entire world from their sin. No, Christ’s mission was to redeem those whom he predestined to redeem through his death on the cross.

Those who are saved, those who have put their faith in Jesus and have accepted the gift of Salvation, are commonly referred to as the “Elect.” The elect are his Church, and his Church is who he died for (Eph. 5:25; John 10:15; 15:13; 11:52; Acts 20:28). I encourage you to be thankful for this. Be thankful that it is “not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16) that you are saved from eternal separation from him. If it were left up to you, no matter how good you think you are (righteousness based on works, see Rom. 9:30-33), you would ultimately fail, for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4, see also v. 9). It is by faith that you have been saved. Remember: those who he predestined he also called, and those he called he also justified (8:29). Take time today to reflect on this truth and pour your heart of thankfulness out to God because he saw fit choose you “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4).

2. Be Thankful for the Freedom of Religion Enjoyed in the U.S. (but beware of the challenge you face)

Here in the States we enjoy an extremely safe place to practice our faith. We are not persecuted openly for attending church, nor are we told that we cannot practice our faith. Christians in the U.S. ought to be thankful for this freedom of religion that we have. Although it was not the only reason for the early settlers to come to the New World, freedom from the Religion of the Crown in Great Britain was one of the reasons. They sought to settle in a land that was open to many different religions, a land where there was little to no persecution for one’s beliefs. While there are obvious downsides to this, it has allowed Christianity to spread from coast to coast in America and also in other places of the world. So while we recognize that accepting every religion may have consequences, we are thankful for the freedom we have to worship our Lord and God and to spread his Gospel to every person that we are able to without physical harm.

Do not take the above paragraph for granted. I implore you to not become comfortable and lazy in the freedom you have. Also, because of the doctrine of predestination and the Sovereignty of the Gospel spoken of in the section above, you are not allowed to ignore and disobey the command given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Yes, God has predestined a certain number of his creation to be justified by the blood of Jesus. He has also predestined that those he justified would also preach and evangelize. Take a moment and look with me at Romans 10:14, “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Divine sovereignty does not give an excuse to not be a faithful witness. “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” Understand the human responsibility in that. God’s predestination does not negate our responsibility. Please heed this warning and take your election seriously.

As Christians we are thankful for the justification we have through Christ and for the responsibility we are given to “make disciples of all nations…baptize…[and] teach” (Matt. 28:19-20).

How Can a Good God Exist and Allow Evil?


How Can a Good God Exist and Allow Evil - The Problem of Evil

A fact of life and of living in this world is that there is evil. Another fact, to a majority of individuals, is that there is also a God. Herein most people come to a wall and are not sure how to get to the other side. This is The Problem of Evil. How can God exist and allow evil?

The problem of evil has more to do with the existence of evil while in the existence of God. Questions like, “If God loves people why did he allow…” or “if God is a good God why does He allow bad things to happen” illustrate precisely what the problem of evil is.

Within the problem of evil are two distinct categories: the problem of moral evil and of natural evil. Moral evil is evil that is produced by someone who has the capacity to understand right from wrong (ex: it is right to pay for something, it is wrong to steal something). Natural evil is that which occurs through the “natural order”[1] (ex: a tornado that tears through a community killing anyone in its path).

Moral evil, sin among mankind, is a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the

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garden. God created both of them as sinless, but created them with free-will: the ability to make decisions. He gave them a command to obey (Genesis 2:16-17), and Satan tempted them to disobey this command (3:1-5). They had a choice, free will, in the matter, and chose to disobey God (3:6). This act of disobedience not only effected Adam and Eve and their entire race (mankind), but also the created world. Because of this disobedience, mankind is forever “incapable of not sinning”[2], and the world is in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21).

There are a number of theodicies that attempt to solve the problem of evil. Gottfried Leibniz explains that since God is all-good he cannot have willed a world that is less than best, that does not contain the “greatest number and variety of beings”[3], and that does not contain physical evil and good. While his theodicy may be internally consistent, it requires a “best possible world”[4], which does not exist any longer (not since the fall).

Another theodicy uses the free-will defense, which says that God could not have created mankind with free-will while always making them do good. While this is the case, it is difficult to see how God can use the evil acts that free-will produces for good.

A third theodicy is soul-building theodicy, which states that the God did not intend to create perfect creatures, but creatures that needed to be developed into Kingdom worthy material. This theodicy is also internally consistent but is weak when evil in the world actually turns people away from God instead of to God.

In paragraph six, this author shared his theodicy (based on free-will), how he explains and solves the problem of evil. This theodicy is internally consistent (which is important because “the intent in writing a theodicy is to avoid self-contradiction”[5]) in that it allows an all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful God to create a perfect world that contains evil. It recognizes that God created mankind with the ability to choose to obey or disobey his commandments. This theodicy demonstrates that God can and does take the evil that man produces and turns it into good and ultimately His victory (Gen. 3:15).

While God is able to use evil for good, there are ramifications for mankind. Any human that experiences sin personally will experience what Adam and Eve experienced after eating the fruit in the garden: separation from God (Gen. 3:8). Prior to eating the fruit they were in perfect harmony with God, but after disobeying Him they were separated from him. This same truth applies to all mankind today.

In writing a theodicy one may notice that they are bringing into question certain characteristics about God and his nature. To dispute (argue, debate) with the proper motives will reap knowledge and aid the individual in learning more about who God is. What one cannot do is begin to “attack” (take aggressive action against) God. It is a fine line, but one may dispute certain beliefs about God (with the goal of learning) without actually attacking God.

The problem of evil is a problem that has been around for centuries. It is a problem that will always lead people to question God, his love, and even his existence. But, as long as these questions are leading people to God is all that matters. From that point on they are in the best hands, God’s hands.

Points to Remember

  • The problem of evil is made up of two parts: moral evil and natural evil.
  • A theodicy is a way to explain God’s ways to man, and it will particularly resolve the problem of evil.
  • Any human that experiences sin (which is everyone, Rom. 3:23) will experience what Adam and Eve experienced: separation from God.

Questions to Promote Discussion and Personal Bible Study

  1. What is The Problem of Evil?
  2. What is the difference between moral evil and natural evil?
  3. What was effected by the disobedience of Adam and Eve? What Scripture supports your belief?
  4. Of the three theodicies presented in this paper (Gottfried Leibniz’s, free-will, or soul-building), which do you believe resolves the Problem of Evil? Why?
  5. In the process if writing a theodicy you will in time begin questioning certain characteristics of God and his nature. What are your thoughts on this? Is it right or wrong to question characteristics of God? To what extent is this acceptable?

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