Answering baptism objections 34

To my knowledge there are four basic objections to baptism by sprinkling, so, as promised, let’s deal with them.

  1. Immersion is a symbol of our burial. This is the one that was mentioned most frequently in the comments to the last baptism post, and it’s based on two primary passages.

    We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:2-4)

    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.

    When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. (Colossians 2:11-13)

    The argument is that immersion properly symbolizes our death and resurrection by putting us under water (burial in the ground) and then raising us out of the water again (resurrection out of the ground).

    There are a few problems with analogizing immersion to Jesus’ death and resurrection.

    1. Jesus wasn’t buried under the ground.
    2. Jesus wasn’t submerged in water when he died.
    3. Jesus didn’t come out of the ground. Far from coming out of some physical medium with it falling or dripping off him, he didn’t even disturb his burial clothes.
    4. No-one saw Jesus rise from the dead.
    5. Neither passage mentions water.

    These two passages explain the purpose of baptism, not its mode (though there is a connection between purpose and mode). Baptism unites us to Christ, who through his atoning work on the cross gives us power to overcome the deadly effects of sin.

    The question Paul is answering in Romans 6 is “Should we continue to sin?”, not “How do we get baptized?”

    If we are to treat Romans and Colossians as instructive on the issue of mode, why not also throw in Galatians 3:27?

    All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

    By what means do you use Romans and Colossians as relevant for mode, yet exclude this? Immersion can’t realistically be analogous to clothing. We wear clothes around and on us, and we don’t expect them to fall off or dry up as soon as we’ve put them on.

    All three passages explain the purpose of baptism, not its mode.

  2. Noah and Moses symbolize baptism by immersion. Here are the passages that are associated with this argument:

    Our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:1-3)

    In [the ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. (I Peter 3:20-21)

    This argument does show us some water, but not in a way that would support immersion. The point of both is that the people whom God saved were NOT immersed. It was the Egyptians and the sinners who were fatally immersed in both cases. In fact, the Children of Israel didn’t even get wet, so the passage can’t even be used to support sprinkling.

    If we interpret the purpose of baptism as being union with Christ, we see what’s happening with Moses. Through their experiences together (the cloud) and their miraculous salvation (the sea), they are united to Moses.

  3. Jesus came out of the water. This argument says that there are several passages that describe immersion because we see participants coming up out of the water.

    As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. (Matthew 3:16)

    As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. (Acts 8:36-39)

    These passages do show a connection between water and baptism, though not immersion. First, they certainly don’t exclude sprinkling. If all the parties had stood at the edge of a river or pond (who knows if Philip’s wasn’t just a puddle?), they might accurately be described as coming out of the water when they were finished.

    Second, the point of Matthew’s account is not to show the method of baptism but the sequence of events. Note the emphasis on chronology: “as soon as,” followed by “at that moment.” This is a passage about when, not where.

    Third, if baptism by immersion is a symbol of death, burial and resurrection, Matthew seems to have jumped the gun in his description. He says, “As soon as Jesus was baptized…” Surely Jesus would have to have come back out of the water to complete the resurrection step. After the baptism is complete, then we have Matthew tell us about coming up out of the water. If this is intended to show Jesus in the act of emerging from immersion, you need to explain how he comes out of the water twice, yet only goes in once.

    Fourth, for Acts to describe baptism by immersion, Philip would have had to have baptized himself, in violation of the one-baptism rule (and common sense). Note that “both” Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, then “they” came out of it. In terms of their spatial relationship with the water, what happened to one happened to the other. If the point is that the eunuch is immersed here, so is Philip.

  4. The Greek word for baptism means immersion. This argument looks at the etymology of baptizo and finds that, according to Strongs, it has three possible meanings:
    1. to dip repeatedly, to immerse, to submerge (of vessels sunk)
    2. to cleanse by dipping or submerging, to wash, to make clean with water, to wash one’s self, bathe
    3. to overwhelm

    Given that we don’t see any unambiguous descriptions of baptism by immersion in the Bible, this is perhaps the strongest of all the objections. Baptizo can describe immersion, though it doesn’t exclude baptism by sprinkling or pouring. The problem with the etymological argument is that it requires us to take an ambiguous term (immersion or pouring) and read its cultural definitions into Scripture.

    Assuming that God knew what he was doing when he wrote his Word, wouldn’t it be wiser and safer to let God interpret his own terms? Outside the context of Scripture, baptizo certainly can describe immersion, but within Scripture it doesn’t match anything else God tells us about the mode of baptism. Through the Old and New Testaments, we see repeated and consistent descriptions of sprinkling. Unless we can see a clear change in direction in the New Testament (and I can’t), we need to read God’s definition into the term.

One more point. If baptism is a picture of God’s grace to us when we were dead in sins, which mode would best picture that?

One in which we actively step into a passive pool of water that’s just sitting there waiting for us?

Or one in which water is actively poured over our stationary bodies?

34 thoughts on “Answering baptism objections

  1. Seth Nov 23, 2009 2:18 pm

    Duncan,
    Good post. But, Galations 3:27 and what you had to say about it-

    “By what means do you use Romans and Colossians as relevant for mode, yet exclude this? Immersion can’t realistically be analogous to clothing. We wear clothes around and on us, and we don’t expect them to fall off or dry up as soon as we’ve put them on.”

    I can proive and answer as to what it does, and answer your questions that you asked at the end of the post-
    God’s grace completely covers us correct? So what better picture of God’s totalt grace than complete immersion into water. Sprinkling doesn’t convey complete cover b/c you aren’t covering you whole body with it. Galations is a good example of this, clothes cover most of your body, and when you are baptized by immersion, you cover your entire body just like God’s grace covers your entire body, soul, mind, all of it.

    Also, yes, God did write his own Words, actually, he originally wrote the whole baptized thing in greek. So, while they may have choosen a singlar word to cover its meanings throughout scripture, using the greek to determine what a word means I feel is truely getting back to the root of scripure, not adding to it.

    And to answer your last questions, I would say immersion would, because we have to ask to be saved, and most importantly, his grace covers everthing, which mode is best used to illustrate that point? The full immersion into a pool of water or being sprinkled on the head?

  2. Seth Nov 23, 2009 2:24 pm

    One more thing I think should be noted-
    While Jesus wasn’t buried into the ground in a hole like we are today, he was completelysurrounded on all sides but dirt and rock and for the culture and time period considered buried. So, which mode of baptism best shows that? sprinkling or immersion? Again, words are important, burial to me does not invoke the thought of sprinkling but the though of complete coverage since your whole body is covered when you are buried. (its not like they leave a leg or arm sticking up out of the group). Immersion to me just fits the symbolism God is conveying to us.

  3. Tommy F Nov 23, 2009 3:05 pm

    JDuncan

    Good post. I find myself drawing two different conclusions, and am curious to know if you have a preference. We’ll call your view option A (sprinkle).

    As I read your post though, your main contention seems to point not to sprinkling, but rather against immersion. In fact, the basic premise of the bulk of your post seems to minimize water, and certainly minimizes a pool or lake of it. Option B: So, how opposed are you to skipping water baptism entirely, and just sticking with Romans 6 language regarding union with Christ? Surely baptism must be in the same ballpark as circumcision as far as importance goes. So, let’s just remove the requirement.

    Option C: because it is immensely difficult to find 1 view of baptism in churches (immersion, aspersion, sprinkling), how opposed are you to ignoring mode altogether. In other words, how about being in favor of baptism, regardless of mode?

    I know you prefer Option A. But, beyond that … B or C (or some other option D)?

  4. James Duncan Nov 23, 2009 5:13 pm

    Tommy,

    You noticed that the post was against immersion. Guilty as charged. The previous posts made a positive case for sprinkling, and this was intended to bury or sink (heh) the pro-immersion objections.

    I don’t agree with option B, and your option C is a little tricky in the way you word it. I’m in favor of baptism, though that doesn’t mean that we should just do it however we like.

    All believers are baptized when they’re saved—they couldn’t be saved without being cleansed and united to Christ–, and most also participate in the sacramental representation of that spiritual reality. Just as believers are to take the Eucharist seriously and do it correctly, there’s spiritual value in doing baptism correctly. Even so, I’d say that believers who were immersed and those who were sprinkled are baptized.

    I was baptized by immersion, which I consider to be my one and only baptism.

    Seth,

    You’re asking me to defend an argument that I didn’t make. I’m saying that the mode of baptism is not necessarily analogous to burial, so I’m not going to be able to show you how sprinkling is like burial. My argument is twofold: baptism is not supposed to look like burial, and, even if it was, immersion is not a good symbol of burial.

    A few questions: If the water in immersion is a symbol of God’s grace, why do pastors so quickly pull us up out of it?

    How does water in immersion touch my soul? It doesn’t even touch my kidneys.

    How does a dead man ask to be saved?

    Using your tomb example, why don’t we just blow a big bubble around us, or perhaps walk though one of those big aquarium underwater tunnels? That would be more authentically tomb-like than getting dunked in a pool.

  5. James Duncan Nov 23, 2009 9:18 pm

    Tommy,

    I was thinking about your option C this evening. Isn’t it interesting that “sprinklers” seem much more likely to go for this position than immersionists?

    How many times do you see sprinkling churches insist that someone who was immersed be sprinkled?

    How many times do immersionist churches insist that people who have been sprinkled do it over again and get it right?

    In my experience, immersionists are much more likely to dismiss sprinkling as unacceptable baptism than the other way around.

  6. Jeff Nov 24, 2009 8:01 am

    First things first: You can’t do it. You can’t prove either immersion or sprinkling or pouring. It can’t be done. History has proven that already. The closest examination of scripture will only find water, but no specific direction of ‘method’. No one, from Church Fathers (whoever they were), through Luther to Spurgeon to the modern day, ever produced a totally convincing argument for any ‘method’. Ever. So..

    Do as your conscience permits, and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you.

    In our gathering where I am from, we would not consider any other method than immersion, not because tradition holds us, or dogma has handcuffed us. We go by immersion, because it just fits the picture better. Your arguments against the different passages seem forced to me. You did the best you could, but I am unmoved by them. If one has to ‘force’ a view on a passage, it is best to look for a simpler meaning:

    1. Romans 6: Burial – best done completely under, out of sight, to a dead person. We never bury the living, hopefully, which should point to the error of baptismal regeneration. Also, they don’t need to stay under the water for 3 days, if you are thinking it would be closer to what happened to Jesus.

    2. Colossians 2:12: The key here is…faith, which must reside in the person being baptized, which points to the need of the person to be of an age to understand what is happening, and want it!

    3. “Jesus wasn’t buried under the ground…” Huh? See Matt 12:40. Is ‘heart of the earth’ close enough for you? 🙂

    4. “Jesus wasn’t submerged in water” – Again, huh? No, but the use of water is the easiest way to picture our joining with Him. Dirt and rock is so much harder to move around from place to place for our meetings. 🙂

    5. “Jesus didn’t come out of the ground” – Want to tell the rest of us what 1 Cor 15:4 means when it uses the word “raised”? Brought back to life? Sure, anything else?

    6. “No one saw Jesus rise from the dead”. So…? The angels did, and they told the people. That good enough? I know you believe that He was raised from the dead. Right?

    7. “Neither passage mentions water” – you totally got me there. Except that “baptizma” (from “bapto” – to dip) should bring some form of liquid to mind, right?

    I wonder if anyone would come and ask to be sprinkled, if we would do it. I think not, because we would feel there was an incompleteness to it. To us, baptism just seems to bring a person to the first step in a life of walking with the Lord. Would we ‘insist’? No. But, how can I say I was buried with Him (other than spiritually), if I have only had a little water poured on me? It would be tough, for me.

    Still, I don’t fault you for believing in sprinkling. Go ahead. Neither of us will change the other’s mind. It is up to the Lord to change us.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  7. Tommy F Nov 24, 2009 8:47 am

    On the whole, I agree with Jeff.

    JDuncan, your post seems like it minimizes water, because it thus helps your argument. Something like: they didn’t use large amounts of water then, so why should we now?

    My point about option A, B, or C was to generate some further discussion. I’m curious if this topic is as divisive online as it is in the church. Because I don’t see a mode preferred, mandated, or made explicit in scripture, I am completely comfortable choosing option C. I find the “argument” for sprinkling resting on tradition even more so than immersion.

    The points you raise in Objections 1 & 2 don’t seem helpful either in proving your case or knocking down others’ views, which is why I asked about whether water is necessary.

    And you have a set of straw-men questions for Seth. Admittedly, he opened himself up by some of the statements he made. But still…. You asked Seth: “If the water in immersion is a symbol of God’s grace, why do pastors so quickly pull us up out of it?” Well, baptism is meant to convey burial … not induce it. Of course water does not equal burial. It simply looks like burial and conveys the point best, compared with say … dumping dirt on someone for three days, or sprinkling 1/3 of an ounce of water on them.

    Did the early church sprinkle, pour, or immerse? We can’t be certain of what they did. So, I’d like to keep it open to the possibilities. The essential for me is baptism, not how much water.

    • James Duncan Nov 24, 2009 10:47 am

      Tommy,

      You’ve apparently read an argument that I didn’t make, and I know how much it bugs you when people do that to you. I’m not characterizing the amounts of water in Matthew or Acts as large or small.

      I’m not minimizing water; I’m just saying that there’s no indication of the quantity or depth of the water, besides the fact that John and Jesus were at the Jordan River. Immersionists need to maximize the water–at least to the depth necessary for full physical immersion–in these two cases to have those passages support that particular mode.

      I don’t know whether the water was two inches or two fathoms. The Bible seems unconcerned about that detail, as am I. What matters is that there was water, and we all agree on that.

      My argument is that there’s not enough in Matthew or Acts to prove immersion, because you have the impossible (it seems to me) task of establishing a minimum depth of the water. You’re inferring that both are describing immersion, though you have to let others infer sprinkling from the same thing. So, in terms of establishing one mode or another, perhaps we could say it’s a wash.

      That leaves burial as a fallback to establish the necessity of immersion as a symbol that matches the meaning. There certainly are enough references to baptism and burial to make this a reasonable position, though it’s such a huge change from the OT meaning of baptism (washing and unity). I don’t see any contradiction in the washing and unity meaning of baptism in any NT reference that makes me think there’s something missing from the meaning. Our unity with Christ through baptism is the thing that unites us to his burial and resurrection. I don’t need something new to symbolize burial.

      The medium used in baptism by sprinkling represents the blood that Jesus shed in his death, which was–crucially–followed by his death and resurrection. The medium used in baptism by immersion represents what? The dirt?

      Re. Seth. Yes, my questions are absurd and unanswerable. I got the sense that, for Seth, the mode was the main thing. He drew so many burial applications from the physical qualities of immersion that I wanted to see how far he’d take his analogy.

      Probably not as far as I’m inviting him to, though.

  8. Tommy F Nov 24, 2009 2:13 pm

    JDuncan

    I’m confident I haven’t misread your argument. I was trying to see if you’d take your points 1 & 2 to their rightful conclusion. There’s no mention of water, as you say. So, let’s skip it. You say “no.” Fine. You say it doesn’t symbolize burial. Fine. When read through the lens of water baptism, Romans 6 is quite a picture, though.

    You wrote: “There certainly are enough references to baptism and burial to make this a reasonable position, though it’s such a huge change from the OT meaning of baptism (washing and unity).” Read Romans 6. I think he makes it pretty clear how one could and might likely view baptism and consider Jesus’ death and resurrection, rather than considering it to be his shed blood (denoted by sprinkling).

    I certainly understand your view (in this post and others) enough to disagree. Here’s why: the claim about immersion rests on 2 points, that must be taken together. If you don’t like either, then you won’t be convinced. But, as I’ve said earlier, I truly don’t care. This is more explanation than persuasion.

    1. The whole idea of Jesus’ baptism and what Paul says elsewhere (ground you’ve covered), but especially Romans 6.2-4. Take Paul’s comments and Jesus’ baptism, and you have some credibility to the immersion argument. Not a certainty, but it’s a reasonable conclusion, but still an inference (granted). Why are they sprinkling in a River? It’s much more likely and certainly more satisfying image-wise to use the River for it’s vast amounts of water. They could have gone literally anywhere with a cup of water. Inference? Yes.

    2. Theologically, immersionists (the ones I’ve talked to), view sprinkling as essentially synonymous with infant baptism. It’s not always the case, but it’s highly probable. You’ve – so far – avoided that, but it’s the most logical next step. Immersionists hold to the basic NT chronology: faith followed by baptism. And Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized.” Sprinkling is much more common with those who tend to reverse this chronology. And I’ve yet to meet an infant who expressed faith in Jesus or repented of sins. The chronology is not iron-clad, but it adds a bit of weight to the anti-infant baptism argument, which again is often linked to sprinkling.

    I’d say the argument is both what scripture says about actual baptisms and the image Paul uses about being baptized into Christ, death, etc, and the notion that infants shouldn’t be getting wet before expressing and confirming their faith.

    I’d say one further thing: the appropriate candidate for baptism is the more likely battlefront on this debate, and mode unwittingly and unnoticeable gets lumped in with one side or the other (not here, so far). I think the candidate issue is the real issue, not the mode. But, far too often these two points are conflated and no one notices. They argue for or against a mode, when what drives their theology is the issue of candidacy.

    Am I worried that you are not convinced? No. Inference is used by both sides. The theological meaning is what points me away from sprinkling, especially infants. I think the only logical reason to baptize an infant is for original sin (the Catholic view). Without that theology, it makes very little sense to me. And since I’m not convinced baptism cleans anything off – other than a day’s worth of dandruff – I’ve not baptized my children.

  9. James Duncan Nov 24, 2009 5:40 pm

    Tommy,

    You’re not worried that I don’t agree with you? I’m hurt. (This little tiff between us might be making a few cautious commentators hang back. If they jump in and disagree with me, they’ll have to take your side. Is it worth it to them? And for all the people who thought we were the same person, today must be giving them headaches.)

    As you say, inferences on the mode used in the NT are made on both sides. I think the cleansing and unity (sprinkling) purpose has more going for it than the burial (immersion) purpose, but I will say that the burial metaphor is so much better than the go-public-for-Jesus rationale that we’ve seen elsewhere.

    You are correct in your observation that issues of candidacy usually predetermine conclusions about mode and meaning. I think there’s a fear that accepting sprinkling means you have to accept infant baptism (it’s part of why I rejected sprinkling without even trying to understand it for many years). We know there’s a very strong historical link between those positions, but I think you can still engage a debate on meaning and mode without having to come to a position on that.

    Candidacy is an important part of the issue, but I’ve tried to go through these steps without starting there, precisely because it’s such a game-over issue for many.

  10. Josh Nov 25, 2009 10:26 am

    I wish I had time to spend some time on a detailed response, but since I don’t right now, I’d just point out that your number 1 (Baptism is a symbol of our burial) doesn’t accurately reflect what most immersions believe about the symbolism of baptism. Baptism is symbolic of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, by which we are saved if we put our trust in Him. As Jeff said, it’s also not accurate to dismiss this analogy by saying Jesus wasn’t buried under the ground since Jesus said:

    For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40

    Obviously Jesus is talking about something besides the physical burial of His body because even if He was “six feet under,” that’s not the heart of the earth. So what’s the heart of the earth? Well, we know that “all the prophets bear witness” to Jesus Christ and Jonah is no exception. In Jonah 2, Jonah says this:

    2And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.

    3For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.

    4Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.

    5The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head.

    6I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.

    7When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.

    8They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

    9But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD

    Now, Jonah is talking about two different things. Verse 5 is literally talking about being in the belly of the great fish. But verse 2 is about being in hell, and verse six talks about going to the bottom of the mountains. As awful as his time in the whale was, Jonah never went literally to the bottom of the mountains with the earth around him forever. These verses are talking about the suffering of Jesus Christ in hell. The heart of the earth is hell where Jesus suffered during the three days of His death.

    Interestingly enough, since Jesus compares his death, burial and resurrection to Jonah and since Jonah 2 is clearly referring to both Jesus and Jonah, verse three – “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me” — and verse 5, in part, — “The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about …” — seem much more in line with baptism by immersion than by sprinkling.

    I certainly don’t think Jonah 2 and Matthew 12 are the definitive answer to the question of the mode of baptism, but to the extent we view baptism as symbolic of the work of Christ by which we are saved, it definitely supports the mode of immersion.

  11. Jeff Nov 25, 2009 11:54 am

    Josh,

    Whoa! I followed you as far as your comment that “Jesus suffered in hell”. Oops. This is very important. I’d say critical to our understanding of justification and the cross. When He said, on the cross, “It is finished”, He meant that the penalty for our sin was paid. Done. Totally.

    It is a, I think, pretty recent mistake to say He suffered in hell. Recent error. Maybe it dates to some heretic in the early days, I have no idea. What I do know is, it is totally false. It is an idea used by some who want to remove the force of the cross in the penalty for sin.

    He NEVER suffered in hell. He was NOT tormented! There is not ONE single verse anywhere that maintains that junk theology. It is only used by those who do not believe in the atonement done on the cross.

    We are justified by His blood, not by some torment suffered in hell.

    Better check that out.

  12. Josh Nov 25, 2009 1:38 pm

    Jeff,

    Really? I guess Peter was wrong then when he was preaching at Pentecost:

    25For David speaketh concerning him, I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved:

    26Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:

    27Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

    28Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance.

    29Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

    30Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;

    31He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.

    32This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Acts 2:25-32

    David was never in hell, and his body DID see corruption, which is why Peter points out that David’s grave was still around.

    I’m curious how you interpret Jonah 2:6: “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O LORD my God.”

    Jonah wasn’t down to the bottoms of the mountains. The “earth” with her bars wasn’t about him for ever. He was in the belly of a great fish. Nor was Jonah in hell as it says in verse 2:2. Why do you think Jesus compared his coming death, burial and resurrection to Jonah?

    You call it junk theology, but I noticed you didn’t cite any verses supporting your claim that Jesus never suffered in hell. Curious what you’re basing your claim on.

  13. Josh Nov 25, 2009 1:49 pm

    Jeff,

    One other thing. Since I assume you’re basing your position the Jesus didn’t suffer in hell on John 19:30 where Christ said “It is finished” while on the cross, I wonder if you believe the resurrection was necessary for our atonement. If Jesus work was “finished” at that time and our atonement was complete, it seems like the resurrection is only a trivial footnote, not a necessity for our salvation. That position would be clearly at odds with 1 Cor. 15:17: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

    Also, to be technical about it, when he was speaking those words, he was (obviously) not even dead yet, so was it necessary that his body physically expire at all, or would it have been good enough to be very close to death?

    In other words, if you believe that when Jesus said “It is finished” in John 19:30 that the atonement was complete, you have a host of theological problems to deal with. Maybe he meant that his bodily suffering was finished, but it seems clear that He wasn’t saying God’s plan for deliverance had been completed.

  14. Tommy F Nov 25, 2009 3:12 pm

    Jeff,

    Josh is completely correct. You should think through what “It is finished” means, and doesn’t mean. I’ll take it a step further. Let’s say “It is finished” means what you wrote: “When He said, on the cross, “It is finished”, He meant that the penalty for our sin was paid. Done. Totally.” Then, according to your theology: Jesus should have immediately said to the onlookers: “Can one of you help me down? My work is done.”

  15. Jeff Nov 25, 2009 5:09 pm

    Josh and Tommy,

    Wonderful to have you challenge this most important point. Really gets the brain cells connecting:

    Joh 19:30 When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.

    It was the last thing He said on earth while still in His flesh. He spoke here of the accomplishment of everything necessary for our salvation. He fulfilled the Law. Redemption is completed. We are justified by His blood (Romans 5). The sufferings, toil, agony of the garden, beatings at the hands of sinners, persecutions and mockeries are all over!

    I repeat, for those who might still need to hear: thinking that He needed to suffer ANYTHING after the cross in order to accomplish our salvation is false theology. I really believe it to be heresy, if it is taught.

    Josh asked for verses to back up His lack of suffering in hell. I can’t produce what doesn’t exist. I can tell you the hint we are given by Peter:

    1Pe 3:19 in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,

    This is not the sound of someone being tormented. It carries with it the sound of total victory over sin, death and hell.

    As for Jonah 2:6 – It is poetic of Jonah’s condition, and might be based somewhat on prophesy, but it is not a prophesy of the Lord Jesus in and of itself.

    Tommy, it would be unthinkable to get down from the cross, since His sacrifice as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world needed to be carried out. When we speak of His blood being shed, we are not referring to a simple paper cut, but we mean His death. Is it necessary to have to explain that?? In Hebrews it says (Heb 12:4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; ) the shedding of blood is the same as our death – so is the shedding of blood on the cross.

    Hope this clarifies the point.

  16. Josh Nov 25, 2009 11:07 pm

    Surprisingly, when the bible conflicts with “Jeff from the internet,” I take my cue from the bible.

    You extrapolate an awful lot from John 19:30 and as both Tommy and I have pointed out, your conclusion that atonement was complete seconds before Jesus physically died is totally inconsistent with the rest of the bible. You ignored what we both pointed out — that the resurrection is essential — to argue that Christ’s blood is the atonement. You said, “We are justified by His blood, not by some torment suffered in hell.” But then you “clarify” that by blood you don’t mean just the shedding of blood, but the death of Christ. This is true, but by your own bizarre standard, claiming that anything beyond the “blood” as being necessary for atonement is heresy. Is the resurrection necessary or not?

    The fact that you can’t find any scriptural support for your position that Christ didn’t suffer in hell doesn’t mean the bible is silent on the point. You ignored Jesus’ references to Jonah, and Jonah’s prophecy which I pointed out. You ignore that fact that Jesus said He would spend three days in the “heart” of the earth and the fact that a rock work tomb could hardly be called the “heart” of the earth. You ignore Acts 2:31 where Peter specifically says: “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption,” showing that Jesus’ soul was in hell, but was not left there.

    Since you correctly point out that it isn’t just the shedding of blood (which occurred much earlier when Christ was beaten with a cat of nine tails), but His death that served as our atonement. But just as sinful man suffers both the physical death of our flesh and the second death of our souls in hell, Christ also suffered likewise. How else could He serve as a substitutionary sacrifice for those who believe? If the mere physical death of the sinless Christ was sufficient payment for the sins of all who believe, why isn’t the physical death of unbelievers sufficient payment for their sins? If physical death alone is the wages of sin, what’s the purpose of hell? In order for God to be both just and justifier of those who believe, the penalty had to be paid.

    If you’re going to continue to argue your position, please address the scripture that has been pointed out to you. I have no interest in discussing theological issues with anyone who simply ignores the scriptures.

  17. Jeff Nov 26, 2009 10:40 am

    Josh,

    You are mixing and confusing the purpose of the death on the cross and the resurrection. This really goes back to the true subject of baptism here as seen in Romans 6. You should not mix death and resurrection in the purpose and work of the Lord. It is like there are two things being accomplished in baptism. Very important!

    First – it is our identification with His death, and the body of sin being done away with.
    Second – it is our identification with His resurrection, so that we may walk in newness of life.

    (I can see where sprinkling might picture the first part, but it seems to lose something in the second)

    Your version of atonement contains elements of the word-faith error. E.W. Kenyon popularized it in the 1950’s in his book “What Happened from the cross to the throne”. It was picked up by the later word-faith people we are all familiar with. You may not agree with them in everything, but you are taken in by them if you hold that Jesus had to be tormented in hell. That is pure word-faith. It minimizes the cross. It is wrong. Why do you think they teach that? They found it in the Word? No! They have to teach that so that the true price for sin is hidden. They are enemies of the cross.

    Certainly, resurrection takes place three days after His death. But the atonement was done before the resurrection, by the shedding of blood. That is the payment. It is the blood that cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7), not the resurrection.

    Resurrection is new life, made possible by the atonement. Next to atonement, resurrection, as seen through the use of immersion, is the victory over the law of sin and death, and the way into the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

  18. rw Nov 27, 2009 10:07 am

    You guys keep discussing theology and which is the correct form of baptisim while the rest of the world is out here going to hell. I’m not a very smart guy but if baptisim by so called dunking was good enough for Jesus well it’s good enough for me. Come on guys get your priorities straight.

  19. Josh Nov 27, 2009 11:05 am

    Jeff,

    Still haven’t answered why Jesus said He’d be three days in the heart of the earth;
    Why Paul says that without the resurrection our faith is in vain (since you claim the atonement was fully made at the moment of Christ’s physical death, three days before the resurrection);
    Why Peter said that Jesus was not LEFT in hell.

    I guess those things, and anything contrary to your biblically unsubstantiated theology, are just “poetic,” as well. Here is some more scripture for you to ignore: 7But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) Eph. 4:7-10

    I guess this is poetic, too? Or is being physically buried in an above ground rock tomb the same is descending “into the lower parts of the earth”?

    As for your your bizarre contention that the teaching that Christ descended into hell is a recent word-faith creation, you might interested to know that Christ’s descension into hell is part of the Apostle’s Creed, which predates by around 1500 years. Good try with the guilt by association, though, since you (by your own admission) have no scriptural support for your position.

    RW,

    I wonder why you took the time to read and respond on here since you evidently spend ALL your time sharing the gospel with all those lost people. I’m sure you haven’t watched any television or movies lately, either, since your priorities are apparently straight! Or is watching the latest Hollywood offering of greater value than debating theology?

  20. rw Nov 27, 2009 1:47 pm

    Jeff,
    Let me say that I stumbled upon this site. I don’t read every word that you guys write. I simply don’t have time. Thats just being honest. I just have a problem with a you guys debating baptisim. I just want to know why? Why debate something that does not matter and noone will never know who’s right on this topic. I simply said if Jesus got dunked and it’s good enough for him, why the debate? And no I don’t spend every hour of every day witnessing and spreading the word like I should, but it is something that I’m really working on. But I don’t sit behind a computor all day and be critical of other pastors, beliefs. And for you guys to dislike some of the people and churches that are mentioned on this site you sure do follow them very close. Take that time that you follow their every tweet, every blog, every sermon and apply it somewhere else where it’s not tearing down someone. I’m not trying to get into this debate because I know you guys are alot smarter than me but I do know that when you accept Christ into your life you should strive to be like him. And never once have I read where he condemned anyone.

  21. James Duncan Nov 27, 2009 2:13 pm

    RW,

    I applaud your post for its likely effect of producing a strong display of unity from all involved in this discussion.

    So, you’re upset that we criticize other pastors? If that’s true, shouldn’t you love these kinds of posts? Perhaps you can show us how this is attacking a pastor or condemning a church.

    If we don’t know what we’re preaching, what’s the point of evangelizing? You seem to have learned from someone the proper mode of baptism (dunking, as you so carefully put it), so why is it unacceptable for us to try to learn the same thing to our intellectual and spiritual satisfaction?

    Before chastising us again, you might review the Great Commission. From my spotty recollection, I think that baptism might be mentioned somewhere in it. Shouldn’t we make sure we get it right?

  22. Jeff Nov 27, 2009 2:42 pm

    Josh,

    For some reason you are missing my point completely. I never said He did not descend to hell. It is His PURPOSE in being there where I find your stand to be untenable.

    1. Peter said He went there to preach/proclaim. (1 Peter 3:19)

    2. Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be in “paradise” with Him that very day. There was absolutely no thought, implication, or direct reference to being tormented there.

    3. There is a parable in Luke 16 that proves not everyone who went to Hades was tormented.

    Please consider for a moment the damage the “tortured in hell” theology does to the atonement. As for resurrection, I thought I explained that. Baptism pictures very prominently the idea of both death and resurrection, for those who immerse. The sprinklers will need other passages to hold on to. There is no torment hiding in either version of baptism, immersion or sprinkling.

    Fine, if you think I know nothing. You might be right. 🙂 However, check with the host of credible biblical commentaries written over the last 500 years. You won’t find many orthodox, main stream writers who hold that twisted doctrine.

    BTW, I am not trying to belittle or insult you, like you are me. It is bad theology that troubles me the most. Stop making this personal, there is no need for that.

  23. Tommy F Nov 27, 2009 3:31 pm

    Jeff,

    You wrote: “It was the last thing He said on earth while still in His flesh. He spoke here of the accomplishment of everything necessary for our salvation. He fulfilled the Law. Redemption is completed. We are justified by His blood (Romans 5). The sufferings, toil, agony of the garden, beatings at the hands of sinners, persecutions and mockeries are all over!”

    Are you sure you want to stick to these comments? You seem to be collapsing many different points (Atonement, blood, sacrifice, punishment, torment, etc) into one. I think you should be careful about slotting these into different slices of the Friday-Sunday events for Jesus. Plus, I’m intrigued how you know that this all ceased at the moment he stated “It is finished” as if the sufferings, toil, and agony were what he meant.

    It is finished is an interesting phrase but you are making it carry much more than is necessary.

    RW,
    Hi Rick. I think it’s interesting that this blog gets bashed when it attacks specific people, and some demand theological posts, and then when that is done (rather well, I’d say), the blog gets bashed for lack of evangelism.

    My advice: unplug your computer from the wall, lose the self-righteousness, and go next door and start sharing.

  24. Jeff Nov 28, 2009 8:28 am

    Tommy,

    That is a great question. In short: Yes! I’ll stick with what I have said.

    The words “It is finished” are actually only one single word in greek. He used that word also in Luke 12:50, John 19:28, and here in John 19:30. All those references are about the purpose being accomplished by His death on the cross, nothing about anything following in hell.

    I do not have the literary skills to expand on the depths found in that last word from the cross. Oh, the depths! Incredible! I can tell you that as soon as Jesus died, the veil of the temple, said to be 4 inches think, was torn in two from top to bottom. NOTHING else was necessary to open the Holy of Holies to us, our access to the throne of grace. No torture remained to be experienced by Jesus. The Lamb was slain, and the blood was presented by our High Priest, and propitiation was made on our behalf. Then, and only then, could the veil have been torn.

    When Paul spoke to the Corinthians, he brought Christ, and Him crucified. His message carried the power of God, because it is the cross that is the power of God, not the cross and any supposed punishment in hell. The Cross, and the cross alone.

    Yes, Christ went to hell, but NOT to be punished. He went to hell in total VICTORY!

    Resurrection is a completely different message. It is a message of new life, after death.

    Which is why immersers have so much fun with baptism, and sprinklers have more to explain. 🙂

  25. Josh Nov 28, 2009 10:44 am

    Jeff,

    I’m not sure why you feel like you’ve been personally attacked. You’re pretty self-righteous, especially since anyone who doesn’t take your extrapolations from John 19:30 as gospel truth, has junk theology, lol. You might have noticed that most folks on this site, though we disagree on a lot of things, generally argue our positions based on scripture, which is our ultimate authority. The problem with you theory is that it is based on one verse…the one you keep referencing…and you interpretation of that verse is in conflict with numerous other passages pointed out by both me and others. Instead of harmonizing these passages, you keep referencing the same verse and claim that anything in conflict must be poetic. It’s a very dangerous position to take that any scripture that conflicts with your pre-conceived notion of truth must be taken non-literally.

    I’m tired of relating the many problems with your theory, especially since I have no reason to think you’ll make any attempt to harmonize the rest of the bible with you contention since you haven’t so far. Suffice it to say that you apparently believe:

    1. The resurrection was NOT necessary for us to be saved since atonement was completed the moment (or a moment before) Jesus died in the flesh. This is absolutely in conflict with 1 Cor. 15:17 that says without the resurrection, our faith is futile. Why do you think the Acts believers began meeting on Sundays rather than on Wednesday evening (their Thursday) when Jesus died on the cross?

    2. That Jesus went and preached to damned people in hell. Do you believe it’s possible for the damned to be saved? That’s an interesting position.

    3. That Jesus isn’t omnipresent, since you apparently believe He cannot simultaneuosly be in paradise with the thief on the cross and in hell at the same time.

    4. That Jesus was apparently in hell for three days gloating over someone.

    5. Jesus paid the penalty for our sins simply by dying a physical death, even though the penalty for our sins is both a physical and spiritual death in hell.

    I don’t want to misstate your beliefs, so please let me know if any of the above are inaccurate.

  26. Jeff Nov 28, 2009 11:17 am

    Josh,

    All 5 of those statements are distortions. That would make them all classic “strawmen fallacies”.

    1. Atonement was indeed completed on the cross.
    2. 1 Peter 3:19 uses the word “preached” in KJV, “proclamation” in NASB, “proclaimed” in ESV, “proclaimed” even in the idiotic Message. I stand on what Peter said, that is all I can do. I go no further, or draw no other conclusions.
    3. Huh?
    4. Huh?
    5. Ah! Another clue to your real beliefs. The old “Jesus died spiritually” heresy. Now I see where this is coming from. I thought it was a simple matter. But what you are profiling for us is classic word-faith heresy.

    Which theologians do you plumb the depths with? Hagen? Copeland? Hinn? Watch a lot of TBN, do you?

  27. Josh Nov 28, 2009 11:58 am

    lol. Again, rather than support your contentions (or even clarifying where I have “misconstrued” them), you simply claim everyone else is a heretic. Nicely done.

    BTW, prison and hell aren’t the same thing.

  28. Jeff Nov 28, 2009 3:28 pm

    Josh,

    It’s so important to understand where our beliefs come from. I have explained that “Jesus was tormented in hell” actually came from EW Kenyon. He also popularized the “Jesus died spiritually” error. Both are terrible errors. Neither is scriptural. Neither is supportable by 500 years of solid biblical interpretation.

    So, here is the real problem: You either know exactly what I am talking about and are covering it up by throwing insults at me, or you are deeply deceived, being unaware of the source of your beliefs. Either way, you are in serious spiritual trouble.

  29. Josh Nov 28, 2009 4:56 pm

    Yep, another post with NO scriptural citation. No surprise there. You’re pretty dogmatic about something you can’t prove from the bible.

    True or false: if not for the resurrection of Christ, our faith is futile. Can you give a straight answer to that at least?

  30. Tommy F Nov 28, 2009 8:58 pm

    Jeff,

    In the same post (on Nov 25, at 5:09pm), you state two very interesting points. As far as I can tell you contradict yourself, and I’d like you to explain which position accurately reflects your beliefs.

    1. “It was the last thing He said on earth while still in His flesh. He spoke here of the accomplishment of everything necessary for our salvation. He fulfilled the Law. Redemption is completed. We are justified by His blood (Romans 5).”

    2. “Tommy, it would be unthinkable to get down from the cross, since His sacrifice as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world needed to be carried out. When we speak of His blood being shed, we are not referring to a simple paper cut, but we mean His death. Is it necessary to have to explain that??”

    Both quotes mention blood. But you seem confused to what blood refers to: suffering, fulfilling the law, death, sacrifice? Regarding #1: If redemption is “complete” at the point of “It is finished” then why did he die?
    Regarding #2: If redemption was not complete, and thus he needed to die, then haven’t you overstated the importance of “It is finished”?

    Really looking forward to answers, not “guilt by association” evasions. Josh is right. Using the Bible to defend your views is a much simpler plan than citing EW Kenyon. I’ll be glad to stand by my own errors in my theology. The question is where do yours come from? You haven’t cleared up any of the problems with your views.

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