The Saare-Turner Debate

Part One

Proposition: “The New Testament Scriptures teach that, for the penitent believer, water baptism is for, unto, or in order to the remission of sins.” Allan Turner affirms; Keith Saare denies.

Turner’s Second Affirmative (posted 07/14/06): Two points here at the beginning. First, Keith makes it clear that he’s not going to address my arguments unless it “suits [his] purpose,” and he claims his purpose (he likes to call it a “mission”) “is to make a case against works as a means to obtaining salvation.” He is wrong about this. Being in the negative, Keith’s “mission” is to make an attempt to refute my arguments, and where he hasn’t, those arguments remain tellingly uncontested. Second, forcing me to deal now with the issues we have agreed to debate in propositions 2 and 3, as he has done, is not just out of order, but most unfair. Having said this, and ignoring many of the charges and recriminations proffered in his First Negative, I will simply “cut to the chase.”

Acts 10:43

Keith asserts the “everyone” or “whoever” of this passage “literally” includes those who have been baptized and those who have not. But asserting something and proving it are two different things. Actually, many of the commentators are agreed that the “whoever” of this passage refers back to verse 34 and the idea that, along with the Jews, Gentiles are to be included in the plan of salvation. Even so, Keith argues that the proposition I am defending stands in contradiction to the logic of Peter’s proclamation in this passage, in that my proposition prohibits the remission of sins for those who believe but are not baptized, while Peter’s remarks clearly include such people. I don’t think so, and I’ll explain why.

“Belief” And “Belief”

The Bible refers to “belief” in two senses: dead faith (cf. James 2:17,20,26) and saving faith (cf. Mark 16:16, Ephesians 2:8). An example of dead faith is demonstrated by the chief rulers mentioned in John 12:42 who “believed in Him” (incidentally, the Greek verb translated “believed” is pisteuo) but would not “confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Would Keith, with his faith alone doctrine, want us to believe that this verse is teaching that these Jews had actually been saved at the point of their belief? I don’t think so. Therefore, the Bible makes a distinction in how it uses the word pisteuo, and this distinction is important to properly understanding the meaning of Acts 10:43, for the faith under discussion in this verse, far from being the faith alone kind of which Keith is so fond, is the saving faith of Mark 16:16 and other passages.

Truth be told, I don’t have any problem with Keith’s definition of pisteuo, which he defines as, “...the act of believing, understanding in the heart, placing one’s confidence in, and trusting the Lord.” I believe this is an accurate description of pisteuo when this word is used in reference to saving faith, and I intend to hold him to it throughout the rest of this debate. But when it is not, like in John 12:42, it does not have the same meaning. Therefore, I believe that Acts 10:43 is teaching that whoever truly believes—that is, understands in his heart, placing one’s confidence in and trusting in the Lord—will receive the remission of sins.

Faith And Obedience

That this kind of “faith” (viz., saving faith) produces obedience to the gospel is, from a biblical standpoint, not even contestable, for the Bible pulls no punches when it says that Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). This means that all (and this would include believers of every sort) who, for whatever reason, will not obey Him cannot be saved. This, in turn, means that even for the believer there are conditions that must be met in order to be saved, and these include repentance (Acts 17:30), confession (Romans 10:17), and baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Paul makes it clear that all who hear the gospel, and this would have to include even some who believe, do not obey it (cf. Romans 10:16).

Therefore, it is safe to say that if one heard the gospel, believed it (in the same sense the chief rulers did), but would not obey it (in their case, they refused to “confess Him”), he could not be saved as long as he remained in that condition. Thus, in defending baptism, repentance, and confession, along with belief, as conditions to be met in order to receive the remission of sins, I am standing on the firm foundation of God’s word.

John 5:24

Although Keith writes that he does not mean to “skip ahead to our third proposition to debate eternal security,” he then goes right ahead and does so. This forces me to either ignore his arguments or use my limited space to deal with this argument now. I believe he thinks I will feel compelled to do the latter, and I am, so let me begin by saying I do not question Keith’s observations about the “present active indicative” found in John 5:24. Like him, I believe the eternal salvation mentioned here is something that is possessed by the believer (understanding, of course, that I do not think the believer mentioned here is exercising the “faith alone” kind of belief that Keith, as a Calvinist, is committed to).

I believe the Bible teaches that the exercise of saving faith puts one in possession of eternal salvation, which includes not just the remission of one’s sins, but the appreciation of that glorified state to be fully realized in the heavenly abode. As long as one continues to exercise such faith, there is a crown of righteousness laid up in heaven for him, which the Lord will give him on “that Day” (2 Timothy 4:8).

But does this mean that Paul—who Keith and I both recognize as a true believer—thought himself already to have “attained” all this? Certainly not, for in Philippians 3:12-14, he wrote:

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

That the context of these remarks includes Paul’s goal to “attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:11), which begins and stands for the glorified state, cannot be denied. But it must be remembered that this is Paul speaking, and he had already received “eternal life” when he exercised saving faith, had he not? Is the inspired apostle confused? Is there some contradiction here? No, Paul isn’t confused and there is no contradiction. What, then?

“Eternal Salvation” And “Eternal Salvation”

The Bible teaches there is a sense in which “eternal salvation” is possessed in both the present and future tense. Paul, who had obtained “eternal salvation” in the present sense had not yet “attained” it in its future sense. These are exactly the apostle Peter’s thoughts, as well, for he said, in 2 Peter 1:10-11:

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thus, there is a sense in which we are saved right now and a sense in which we will one day be saved in heaven. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

By exercising saving faith, we have been saved from our past and present sins, something the Bible refers to as being “born again” spiritually (cf. John 3:3,7; 1 Peter 1:23). As a result, we are on our way to a heavenly home with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Even so, our bodies, which will one day be glorified in heaven, continue to decay and will, if the Lord does not return during our lifetimes, eventually die (cf. Hebrews 9:27-28; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58). So, that the “salvation” in Hebrews 9:28 is the “eternal salvation” of John 5:24, but in its yet future sense, seems clear. If not, why not? In other words, it is Keith’s duty to spend some time explaining why these passages do not mean what I’ve said they mean.

Consequently, the Christian—although he knows there is a sense in which he has been eternally saved in the here and now—“groans” along with all creation, “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of [his] body” (cf. Romans 8:18-25), and the apostle makes this same point once again in 2 Corinthians 5:1-8. Unfortunately, Calvinism, with its “once saved, always saved,” “salvation is always the same in every sense” kind of thinking can cause one to believe that such an interpretation sets up some kind of contradiction in the Scriptures. Thus, Keith’s repeated accusation that I am wresting the Scriptures with some kind of heretical view. No, I am not wresting the Scriptures. Instead, I am exercising the grammatico-historical method of interpretation as it was intended to be exercised, and this despite Keith’s effort to paint me as some kind of “non-literalist” when it comes to the Scriptures. But to understand what the Bible says about “eternal salvation” in both the present and future senses, respects, in every sense, this time-honored and tested method of interpretation—a method, incidentally, that Keith claims I am either totally insensitive to or know absolutely nothing about.

Baptism According To Keith Saare

“Baptism,” Keith boldly asserts, “is not a part of the gospel.” Oh, really? On that first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, Peter and the rest of the apostles preached that the hearers of the gospel needed to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins (cf. Acts 2:38). But Keith says baptism is not a part of the gospel. The Ethiopian eunuch, having had the gospel preached to him by Phillip, said: “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36b). But Keith argues that baptism is not a part of the gospel. While being taught the gospel by Peter, Cornelius and his household were commanded to be baptized in water (Acts 10:48). But Keith asserts that baptism is not a part of the gospel. When Saul of Tarsus was taught the gospel by Ananias, he was told, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). But, alas, Keith alleges that baptism is not a part of the gospel. Therefore, it should be clear that what Keith Saare believes and teaches about baptism contradicts what the Bible says, and blatantly so.

1 Corinthians 1:17a

If Paul wasn’t arguing in 1 Corinthians 1:17a that baptism is not a part of the gospel, as Keith claims, then what? Simply this: Paul’s primary mission as an apostle was not to do the actual baptizing. Instead, his was the more important job of preaching the gospel. This verse, along with others of its type, is a prime example of the classical “not-but” construction (i.e., an elliptical), designed specifically to emphasize the latter at the expense of the former, while not totally negating it.

For example, in Luke’s recording of Peter’s statement that Ananias had “not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4), it is clear that Peter was not trying to say that Ananias had not lied to men, for the context teaches he certainly had. Instead, that which was more serious (namely, lying to God) was being emphasized at the expense of the lesser. Another example is found in John 12:44, where Jesus said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me.” How can anyone miss the Lord’s point here? He was not saying that one who believed in Him didn’t really believe in Him, which would be totally illogical and completely untrue at its core, but that those who believe in Him are actually demonstrating their faith in the Father who sent Him.

Thus, applying the grammatico-historical method of interpreting Scripture, it is safe to conclude that Paul was not excluding baptism from the gospel at all. He was, instead, emphasizing the more important role of preaching the gospel, for if the gospel wasn’t preached, people would know nothing about baptism in water for the remission of sins. Incidentally, I have preached and taught the gospel to many hundreds of people both here and abroad, but I have actually baptized very few, in that such was mostly done by others. Does this mean that I don’t believe baptism is a part of the gospel? Certainly not. And Paul’s preaching of the gospel, while not actually baptizing many people himself, coupled with his understanding that preaching, not baptizing, was his primary task, simply means that 1 Corinthians 1:17a does not prove what Keith claims it does.

“Eis Aphesin Hamartion, Part 1”

As it now stands, I will have but 1000 words in my Third Affirmative to respond to Keith’s yet to be completed arguments on eis aphesin hamartion (something I gather he’ll entitle, “Part II”), along with anything else he happens to see as his “mission” at that time. Again, this is somewhat less than fair, and I am disappointed he has elected to steer such a course in this debate.

Keith has two weeks to post his Second Negative. As soon as he does, a link to it will be posted here.

Saare’s Second Negative

Back To Saare’s First Negative

Back To Turner’s First Affirmative

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