Is Baptism Part of Salvation?

I have heard it argued that people take the third chapter of John’s Gospel, the story with Nicodemus, and use it as a claim for baptism being necessary for salvation. The claim is that water birth in the chapter is actually baptism. However, a simple and logical look at the passage will show us that this is not the case at all. Let’s take a look at John 3:1-6


Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.


John 3:1–6, ESV

Verse 1: We are introduced to Nicodemus and that sets the stage for the conversation he is about to have with Christ.

Verse 2: Nicodemus is searching for truth and tells Christ he knows that He is of God.

Verse 3: Jesus said you cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless you are born again.

Now, we need to stop for a minute because this is key. Born again. Born a second time in some way. Nicodemus understood that Christ meant a second birth but he does not understand how this is possible which brings us forward.

Verse 4: Nicodemus, confused by the born again, asks if we are somehow to reenter the womb.

Verse 5: Jesus answers saying that you must be born of water and spirit.

Now, the spirit is the second birth, the water is clearly the first birth. That is the logical progression Jesus is following. Yes, Nicodemus, you were born the first time of water (womb) but this new birth, the born again, is a spiritual, not physical, birth.

Verse 6 further confirms this interpretation by saying flesh is born of flesh and spirit is born of spirit. Water is interchanged with flesh but spirit remains. Why? Because water is talking about physical birth, not baptism.

That is the full context and proper interpretation of this passage. It has nothing to do with baptism and baptism certainly is not required for salvation.

A Response To: “Be Careful Using The Bible”

An article titled “Be Careful Using The Bible” was published this week on the United Methodist news site. The article is troublesome as it shows a clear lack of exegetical and hermeneutical understanding that is so rampant in liberal circles. Moreover, it shows how an improper understanding of the Bible and improper Biblical interpretation can lead to justifying sinful actions.

The article was written by Rev. James R. McCormick who is a retired United Methodist pastor from Cumming, Georgia. His abuse of Scripture in the commentary is deplorable and this article is a response to the misuse and apparent misunderstanding of Scripture.

The premise of the article is this:


In studying the Bible, it is necessary to realize that often God is cited as supporting whatever values are normative at that time in history. Those are “timely” standards — standards valued for a time — but not necessarily “timeless” standards that are applicable for all time and all circumstances.

This, of course, is true for some things found in Scripture such as the civil laws given to Israel to govern Israel. That was for a specific time and specific people. However, this principle is not true for the moral standards that we find in Scripture. Moral standards are timeless.

We see the error of this thinking in the examples that are given. The first being Abraham and Hagar.


Remember that the Bible affirms Abraham having sexual relations with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, in order to produce his first son, Ishmael. Only later did Sarah produce Isaac, through whom Jews trace their ancestry.

I must ask Rev. McCormick, where in Scripture does it affirm Abraham having relations with Hagar? Where does it state that this is ok? It does not say anything of the sort. This was Sarah’s idea, not the Lord’s plan. In fact, we see in Scripture the opposite of affirmation for this act, we see the consequences of the sin as it tears the family apart and causes division. In no way was this a moral standard for that time to take multiple wives. In fact, this actually affirms the moral standard we see throughout Scripture that marriage is for one man and one woman.

Rev. McCormick tries the same tactic with the 1,000 wives of Solomon. Again I must ask, where is this affirmed in Scripture? Where is this sanctioned? It is not.

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Does Inerrancy Matter?

This is a question that comes up over and over again. The simple answer is, yes, inerrancy matters. But why? This post will not go into the intricate details of inerrancy. This is not the proper format for such an undertaking. The purpose here is to look at some logic regarding the truth of Scripture and the issue of inerrancy.

The Bible is to be the guiding light for Christians. The Bible gives us the truth on every facet of life that you can imagine. Now, it doesn’t give us guidance on whether or not we should wear a purple shirt or a green shirt today, that is not what we mean when we say every facet of life. But what we mean is that every situation you encounter has principles in Scripture that will help you work out a right attitude and response to that situation. And this is where inerrancy comes into play.

First, we need to define inerrancy as it relates to Scripture. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines inerrancy as follows:

Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching…

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 1980

Scripture is without any error in everything that it teaches. That means it is without fault in its historical statements, theological statements, scientific statements, and any other statement the Bible makes. This, of course, refers to the original manuscripts and not any specific translation of Scripture.

So what? Why does this matter? Let’s think about it this way, if you can take any part of the Bible, let’s say Genesis, and says that it contains error, then you call the rest of Scripture into question. Scripture builds on itself. Yes, it is a collection of 66 different works but those works (books) give one unifying message and they stand on each other.

If you can call into question the account in Genesis, you can call into question the accounts of Jesus Christ. At that point, you call into question the exclusivity of Salvation for Christians and Christians alone. After that, you can throw out any part of the Bible that does not agree with modern thought.

It is a dangerous slope. You either take all of Scripture or you throw it all out. Inerrancy is one of the most fundamental beliefs that impact the Gospel today.

How To Study The Bible

I am often asked, how do you study the Bible? How do you know that your interpretation is correct? Are there rules to follow? Are there tools to use? Where do I begin? All of these are very good questions, and all of these questions have good answers that follow them. This post is not meant to be an exhaustive look at how to conduct Bible Study. This is simply a brief overview of the topic.

The Bible was written in three primary languages, Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. It was also written to various people groups in various cultures spanning over 1,000 years and none of those were cultures and people that are still present today. This is known as the gap of Biblical Interpretation. In order to arrive at a proper interpretation, we must close this gap and find the original meaning of any passage in Scripture that we wish to study. So how do we accomplish this?

First, you must become familiar with your passage in your native tongue. To do this, you must read the passage in several English translations. Preferably, a few translations that are essentially literal and one that is dynamic equivalent. Dynamic equivalent translations, such as the New International Version, do not necessarily follow the literal translation of a passage and add in commentary-like supplements in phrasing and word usage to help the reader understand the meaning. Essentially literal translations are just that, translations that are as literal as possible compared to the original. Translations that I recommend are the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, and the, Christian Standard Bible.

The second step is to look at the original languages. You need to find words, using a concordance and lexicon combination or Bible software such as Logos Bible Software, that are key to the passage. Then you need to look up the corresponding Greek or Hebrew word to find out what the author meant by using that particular word.

The third step is to understand any historical and cultural contexts that may be applicable when looking at interpreting a passage. Where was this written? When was this written? To whom was this written? Were there any significant events going on at that time that might be alluded to in the passage? Were there any geographical features that need to be taken into account? These types of questions help give insight to things that are not plain in the text itself.

When you look at these steps, the next thing to do is to figure out, what did this mean to the original audience? How would they have understood this passage?

When following these rules, you are well on your way to framing proper interpretations of Scripture. We can know what Scripture says with confidence. Remember, there is only one possible interpretation but an unlimited number of possible applications.

Christ Did Not Die For All Sins: A Look At Limited Atonement

One of the things we hear most in Christianity is the idea that Christ died for every sin that was ever committed. But is that accurate? Did Christ truly die for all sins or did he only die for the sins of those who would believe in Him?

The question comes down to what you believe about the atonement. Was the atonement limited or was it universal? Limited Atonement, of course, is one of the five points of a theological viewpoint called Calvinism. Some people refer to this doctrine as definite atonement since limited can be misleading.

The controversy comes when people misunderstand definite atonement. They tend to believe that this means Christ’s sacrifice was not good enough to save everyone. On the contrary, it was sufficient for all, but not meant for all.

You run into a major problem if Christ died for the sin of every man. Some will not be saved, we know this from many passages of Scripture. If some are not saved then Christ’s atonement was not good enough. Some of Christ’s atonement was wasted. He was powerless over them. You also run into the issue of double jeopardy which causes God to be unjust.

People try to overcome this last point by saying, but salvation is a gift that must be accepted. That is not how justice works. Imagine this, you are convicted of a crime and are ordered to pay a penalty. If the penalty is paid for you, it does not matter if you wanted to accept it or not. The price has been paid. You are free to go. You would not be punished for a crime that has already had the punishment fulfilled.

So the plain fact is that Christ did not die for every sin that has ever been committed. No, He died only for the sins of those who would believe in Him.

What Changed? Homosexuality No Longer A Sin?

As we look forward to next month’s Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church regarding human sexuality, I have one simple question, what changed? If the current doctrine of the church, which should be based on Scripture and Scripture alone, says that homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity, then what changed?

What in Scripture has changed to make this debate come to the floor? What Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic term changed its definition so that the interpretation of thousands of years is suddenly incorrect? What has changed that has made the church realize that all of a sudden LGBTQ is compatible with Christianity?

Of course, the answer is that nothing has changed. If the church allows LGBTQ pastors and marriages it is not because something has changed with God’s view on the matter. It is not because Scripture was wrongly interpreted. It is not because Scripture has changed. It is not because the Holy Spirit is leading that way.

If the United Methodist Church embraces the LGBTQ lifestyle it is because they have departed from God’s Word. It is as simple as that. The church would no longer be following God. The church would no longer be pointed toward Christ Jesus. Instead, it would be pointed and aligned toward Satan and the work of fallen mankind.

The only thing the church can do next month is to adopt the Traditional Plan. There is no other option that is compatible with God’s Word. Not the One Church Plan, not the Connectional Conference Plan. Only the Traditional Plan upholds the biblical view on the matter.

Is Evolution Compatible With Genesis?

One of the things we have heard time and time again is that the Genesis account does not agree with science. But what you may not know is that there are groups that state evolution is completely compatible with the Genesis account. Both of these positions are false.

First, the idea that the Genesis account does not agree with science suggests that science actually disagrees with Genesis. Nothing has proved the theories of Darwinian Evolution. Evolution is illogical and there is no evidence to support it despite what you hear in classrooms and in the media. Most of the support for evolution is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Second, the idea that evolution is somehow compatible with Genesis is equally absurd. The two positions are complete polar opposites. You cannot have different organisms developing over the course of millions of years when Genesis says that it was made in one week. It does not and cannot mesh.

Rather than trying to synthesize man’s theories (not science) with the Bible, we should go back to the drawing board and see how science, true science, actually aligns with Scripture. You either believe Scripture, or you do not. There is no in between.

The Importance of Scripture Memorization

One of the things that many churches seem to have lost in today’s culture is the discipline of Scripture Memory. Growing up, Scripture memory was a huge emphasis at our church through programs like AWANA. I remember being on the Bible Quiz team for our church competing against other churches. I remember those verses and definitions that I learned decades ago and I am thankful for it.

But is there any indication from Scripture that memorizing God’s Word is important? The answer is an overwhelming yes!

We see verses like Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee.” (KJV) While this verse is not a command, it is a clear principle. Hiding God’s Word in our hearts gives us the tools we need to resist temptation.

Jesus was the perfect model of this in the New Testament when He went under temptation by Satan in the wilderness. This passage is found in Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus goes into the wilderness and is tempted three times by Satan.

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I Must Not Have Enough Faith: I got the flu…

Prosperity preachers would have you believe that if bad things happen to you then you are not living a life of faith. Or perhaps you are not giving enough money to their ministries. Something in your spiritual life must be wrong. Of course, there is no way it has anything to do with the fact that we live in a fallen world.

Last week, I suffered greatly with the flu. It was a long week with lots of soup and medicine and a lot of sleep. But I have almost recovered. However, I don’t believe for one second that my flu was the result of a lack of faith. It is the result of living in a fallen world where death and sickness abound.

We do not have a glorified body in this life. We will get sick, no matter how much faith we have, and we will die. That’s the nature of the curse.

Earlier this year I wrote about going into trials. It is part of the human experience, especially for a Christian. Jesus told us that these things would happen. It is not due to a lack of faith necessarily.

A Way Forward: The Traditional Plan

Out of the three possible plans for a way forward, there is one that the Council of Bishops do not want to see pass, The Traditional Plan. The Traditional plan would almost guarantee a split in the United Methodist Church. Namely, churches that want to support the sin of the LGBTQ lifestyle will leave.  Of course, some, myself included, would see this as a purification process for the church.

Simply put, the Traditional Plan (TP) would keep the current position of the United Methodist Church stating that homosexuality is not compatible with Christianity and that there is to be no LGBTQ clergy or weddings within the church. The TP would go further to add strict enforcement to the doctrine as well. Every annual conference will have to certify that they will uphold the doctrine or else they will be removed from the United Methodist Church. This includes clergy and bishops as well.

The TP upholds biblical standards with regard to homosexuality and LGBTQ positions. They are sinful and, as such, are not compatible with the Christian life or the Church. Romans 1 makes very clear how God views the LGBTQ lifestyle:


For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.


Romans 1:26-27 ESV

The passions of the LGBTQ movement are dishonorable. They are unnatural. They are against God’s created order and they are sin.

Because of this truth, the Traditional Plan is the only biblical plan that is on the table for the 2019 Special General Conference and is the plan that I endorse.