And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized … 24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,
What we were as sinners.
God came in his mercy. When we were dead in our trespasses God in his mercy made us alive in Christ.
Salvation is by grace through faith.
God’s prepared works to follow.
What we were as sinners.
God came in lovingkindness.
He saved us by his mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Thus justified by His grace.
Heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Good works to follow.
Received Christ as Lord.
What we were as sinners.
Circumcised spiritually by Christ when buried with Christ in baptism, and raised with Him through faith in the working of God.
God thus forgiving all sins,
nailing them to the cross.
Believed and were baptized.
Those who through grace had believed.
Not for the faint-hearted, this is a thorough examination of the subject – especially for the faith-only believers and those who have them as friends and neighbours. Nothing shallow here. Read it carefully, and learn. It’s long, but the time you put into studying it will profit you. Use it to benefit your own understanding, and share it with those who need it. I pray it finds seeking hearts, and that God and His truth are glorified.
Ephesians 2:1-9, Titus 3:1-8 and Colossians 2:2-15 are all talking about the same thing: the transition of the sinner from dead in sin to alive in Christ. Each of these three accounts uses language different to the others, and yet speaking of the same salvation.
In Ephesians, salvation is by grace through faith.
In Titus, salvation is by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
In Colossians, forgiveness comes through the circumcision of Christ, in baptism, by faith.
Adding Acts 18:8 and 27, we see that those who by grace had believed, had in fact believed and been baptized. The only conclusion one can make from this comparison, since God does not contradict Himself in His own word, is that salvation by grace through faith is equivalent to salvation by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, which is equivalent to the forgiveness of sins in the circumcision of Christ in baptism.
The washing of regeneration, sometimes translated as the bath of regeneration, is water baptism. What Titus says here is what Jesus meant by born again of water and the Spirit in John 3:5. “Washing” is “bath” and clearly a reference to water baptism. Compare “washing of water” in Ephesians 5:26, “body washed in pure water” in Hebrews 10:22, and “you were washed … in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Ephesians 2 does not mention either the Spirit or baptism, but it is clear from the Titus, Colossians and Acts passages that both the Spirit and baptism are as much a part of salvation as the grace and faith.
Ephesians 2’s omission of the Holy Spirit in salvation does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not an essential part of salvation, just as Ephesians 2’s omission of baptism in salvation does not mean that baptism is not an essential part of salvation.
Why do we read in Ephesians 4:5 of one Lord, one faith, one baptism? Because when the disciple confesses Jesus as Lord, their faith has prepared them for baptism. This is the significance of Romans 10:9-10 as well as 1 Peter 3:15-22. In both passages, acknowledging the Lordship of Christ is essential to salvation. Romans 10 does not mention baptism, but Romans 6 does, and 1 Peter 3 does! No one is ready for baptism and salvation who does not confess Jesus as Lord. When we are ready to submit to the Lordship of Christ, then we are ready to be baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Romans 10:9-10; Romans 6:3-7; Galatians 2:20; 6:14; 1 Peter 3:15-22.
Not one of those four passages of Scripture, in the opening table, mentions repentance, but who will deny that repentance is essential to salvation? See Luke 13:3 and 24:46-47
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38.
Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank … So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Then he rose and was baptized. Acts 9:8-9,17-18a; 22:16; 9:18b.
Notice here the importance of Colossians 2:8:
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” How much deception and human tradition has replaced the clear teaching of Scripture on the role of baptism in the conversion of the sinner? The only tradition that carries authority is the apostolic tradition found in the New Testament. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; Matthew 15:1-14.
Mark 16:16 says: He who believes and is baptized will be saved.
John 20:22-23 says: Receive the Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins are forgiven.
The Spirit works through Jesus, the word, the water and the heart in bringing forgiveness to the baptized believer, and thus access to God, and then the Spirit is given to the forgiven, baptized believer as a gift and down-payment of His inheritance. Acts 2:1-41;10:1-48; 11:11-18; John 3:5; 6:63; 16:13;20:21-23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 12:13; Galatians 3:26-4:7; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:16-22; 3:11-12; 4:4-6; 5:25-27; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:12-23; 1 Peter1:1-3,18-25; 3:18-22. But to understand this, you have to read and reflect upon the huge depth of God’s wisdom and grace in all those Scriptures. Acts 20:32. Remember God speaking in foreign languages to His people, because they would not listen?
You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them
water for their thirst … For many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Nehemiah 9:20,30
“To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little. For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people, to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backwards, and be broken, and snared, and taken.
Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 1 Corinthians 14:20-22
God has not revealed all things in one or two brief Scriptures, with always very simple thoughts. Much searching and thinking are often required. Acts 10:19; 2 Timothy 2:7,15. The word for ‘reflected’ or ‘considered’ in Acts 10:19 means ‘to think through and through’, ‘to ponder over.’ How often do we not give Scripture a second thought!
The Ephesians 2, Titus 3, Colossians 2 and Acts 18:8,27 parallel didn’t just pop out of some writer’s book; it came
to me after a lot of searching Scripture. The proof of the truth is all there if we’ll just search.
Another example is in the conversion of Cornelius, and understanding the place of the Spirit and the place of the word. Many fail to see that Cornelius was saved because he had come to hear everything commanded by God!! “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Acts 10:33. Then read verses 44-48. Peter was not saved by the Spirit touching his heart, but when he obeyed Peters’ command to be baptized in water, just as Jesus had commanded in Mark 16:15-16!! Just read the text and see for yourself. The Spirit had enabled Cornelius to speak in tongues, so that Jewish believers would finally realize God’s desire to save Gentiles without them first being circumcised!!! (Remember my comment earlier and the use of Nehemiah and Isaiah Scriptures??)
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. 10:44-46
Peter had earlier seen this light: But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 10:28. This is a reference back to what God had earlier revealed to him in a trance. 10:9-17
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” 10:34-35.
That was the Spirit’s role in the conversion of Cornelius and his household: the tongue-speaking. The only other thing the Holy Spirit does in this conversion is this: While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 10:19-20. It is also possible the Spirit was responsible for what Peter saw while in the trance, but the text simply has Peter speaking to the Lord in the trance. Of course, we know that the Lord is the Spirit!! 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.
Brethren and friends, you learn how to refute false teaching by searching the Scriptures to find the truth. Most false teaching is a failure to look at all the relevant Scriptures, or a misuse or distortion of the Scriptures. Many are deceived because they listen to shallow teaching based on a few prooftexts taken out of context. Two in particular: John 3:3 and John 3:16. Born again of the Spirit and believe in Jesus for eternal life. But these two Scriptures merely reveal the overriding agent in salvation – the Holy Spirit, and the overriding principal in salvation – being born again through faith, without giving all the details of how the Spirit and faith bring the new birth and salvation. John 1:11-13 is another. How one “receives” Jesus by believing is revealed in Colossians 2:6-14. Colossians 2:6 refers to receiving Christ as Lord; 2:11-14 shows how that happened.
Being born again involves obedience to the word taught – in baptism. Proof? See James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Peter 1:3,18-25; 3:18-22; Romans 6:3-4,16-18. You are “raised to walk in newness of life” because you have been born again into a new life when you obeyed in baptism!! In baptism, you die to your past life and are raised to a new life. Born again! When God causes us to be born again, He uses the Spirit, the word, teachers and preachers, faith, repentance, obedience and baptism! You find a simple, summary statement in one verse, but the details are almost always found in other verses, as these examples and this whole essay have shown. But when these false teachers deal with some of these “other verses”, they distort them instead of harmonizing. See 2 Peter 3:15-18. But we know better, don’t we??
Why do you think my essays are often filled with huge contexts of Scripture???
Why do you think I’ve started this essay with that table showing the comparison of those parallel Scriptures??
I never apologise for depth and context!! I conclude with a telling example:
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have
no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:53-69
Following Jesus and listening to “hard teaching” go together! John 8:30-47; Hebrews 5:11-14.
Dr. Robert Stein is Senior Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Stein has written papers in which he states that faith, repentance, confession, baptism and receiving the Spirit all go together as a salvation package in the New Testament. He didn’t learn this from the Baptist statement of beliefs (which denies this), but by a serious study of the New Testament! He knows what it takes. Anything Stein writes displays deep scholarship. The following is taken from his: Baptism and Becoming a Christian in the New Testament. This article was first presented at a session on Baptism for the Baptist General Conference.
Galatians 3:26-27 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” It should be noted that Paul uses “faith” and “baptism” interchangeably in this passage. The Gentile Christians are children of God by faith, a statement supported by the fact that they were baptized. This poses no problem if these two aspects of conversion occurred at the same time in the experience of the Galatian Christians, but if they were separated in time a problem immediately arises. Did the Galatians become Christians when they believed or when they were baptized? Paul envisioned no such problem arising in the thinking of the Galatians because faith and baptism generally occurred at the same time. No temporal gap was assumed between these two components of the conversion experience. The possibility that one could have faith but not be baptized was not even perceived as an option by Paul. In this passage Paul neither exalts faith at the expense of baptism nor baptism at the expense of faith. They are integrally related, and each assumes the other. This same pairing of faith and baptism appears in Colossians 2:11-12: “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Once again faith and baptism are integrally related. Faith is involved in the rite of baptism, for in the experience of baptism one is raised from the water “through faith.” Additional examples can be found in Acts 8:12, 16:31-33, and 18:8, as well as in Ephesians 5:26 and Acts 8:35-36, where the washing of baptism is associated with hearing the “word.”