Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Missional Reading of the Letter to Philadelphia

The city of Philadelphia sat just east of Sardis on a route that would take one on to Laodicea and then further east into Asia; hence the nickname “the gateway to the east.” Of the seven cities, Philadelphia was the most recently founded and had, from the outset, something of a missionary purpose. Ramsay writes, “The intention of its founding was to make it a centre of the Græco-Asiatic civilization and a means of spreading the Greek language and manners in the eastern parts of Lydia and in Phrygia. It was a missionary city from the beginning, founded to promote a certain unity of spirit, customs, and loyalty within the realm, the apostle of Hellenism in an Oriental land.”

Philadelphia was also a city that was plagued by frequent and sometimes violent earthquakes. The city was destroyed in AD17 by the earthquake that damaged many cities in the region. So devastating was this earthquake that the emperor remitted all taxes for five years and offered aid in rebuilding. And so frequent were the earthquakes that much of the population lived outside the city, away from structures that would become dangerous in the quakes.

The volcanic activity that made the region so unstable also made the ground highly suitable for vine growing, though less so for other crops such as grain. That the soil was unsuitable for other staple crops led to difficult times at the end of the first century. Hemer discusses the impact Domitian’s requirement (92AD) that farmers cut down half of their vines not to be replanted. The impetus behind this edict seems to have been twofold. First, it certainly would have helped the vine growers in Italy who faced competition from the Asian vine growers. Secondly, it aimed to reduce the impact of a famine that was afflicting Asia Minor hard during this time, forcing farmers to crow corn or grain instead of grapes.

Regardless the reason, the act was incredibly unpopular and was a source of tension in what was an otherwise very positive relationship between the city of Philadelphia and Rome. Domitian’s edict, when added to the stresses of constant earthquakes and the impact of the famine, made for a difficult economic situation in the city.

From the text of Revelation it is evident that there was an influential community of Jews present in the city. That there is no external evidence of Jewish community in Philadelphia during the first century leads one to surmise that the size of this community was likely smaller than in some of the other Asian cities. However, a letter from Ignatius of Antioch to the church at Philadelphia suggests that there was a Judaizing influence that was being felt in the church.

Jesus identifies himself as “the holy one, the true one”. In this letter the pattern of repeating an element of John’s vision from chapter one verbatim is set aside. This title, Beale asserts, is an expansion of the theme of Jesus being the “faithful witness”, here more strongly asserting Jesus’ deity. Again, where Jesus is said to hold the keys to Death and Hades in chapter one, here he holds the keys of David. John has combined elements of the vision from Revelation 1 with an allusion to Isaiah 22:22. Osborne explains, “In this context this describes Jesus as the Davidic Messiah who controls the entrance to God’s kingdom, the ‘New Jerusalem.’” Osborne suggests that the Christians had likely been excommunicated from the synagogue as was common (thus cutting them off from the support of this community in a time of dire economics), but Jesus reminds them he is the one who has the authority to open and shut, to admit them or cut them off from the kingdom. As in all the letters, Jesus affirms his direct and intimate knowledge of the church.

Two main options present themselves regarding the meaning of the “open door” Jesus sets before them. Many commentators take this as a reference to the missionary opportunity the church has, sitting as they do at the gateway to the east. Other commentators see this as a reference to the open door of the kingdom – Jesus is the one who has opened the kingdom to them, and though those who call themselves Jews have closed the door to the synagogue to the believer, they cannot bar entrance to Christ’s kingdom.

Here, as in the letter to the church at Smyrna, there is no rebuke. The church had remained faithful, though they have little power and face Satanic opposition. The church’s “little power” probably stems from her small numbers. Despite this, they have maintained their faithful witness, not denying the name of Jesus. They have understood and taken to heart their mission in the world. The parallel between the Smyrna church and the one in Philadelphia is close, and the description of the Jewish community in both furthers this connection. In both, those claiming to be Jews are actually said to be of the synagogue of Satan, an accusation proven by their rejection of Jesus the Messiah and their persecution of his body.

That the church will be vindicated in the sight of the Jewish community is clear; the nature of this vindication, however, is not. Some interpreters, including Beale, take Jesus promise to “make them come and bow down before your feet” as indicating the conversion of Jews. Because of the faithfulness of the church’s witness, the Jews will be converted. Beale argues, “Isaiah’s prophecies that the end-time salvation of Israel would spark off the salvation of the Gentiles has been fulfilled in an ironic manner.” While Osborne sees the attractiveness of this interpretation, he disagrees. Osborne contends, rightly, “The OT taught that the Gentiles would be forced to pay homage to the Jews at the eschaton, and now this promise is turned on its head: Jewish oppressors would be force to pay homage to Gentile believers…This is submission, not worship, and parallels 2:26-27, where the faithful saints are promised that they will participate in the judgment of their (and God’s) enemies.”

The faithfulness of the Philadelphian church will be rewarded with divine protection in the trials that are to befall the whole world. This trial is beyond what the local church is experiencing in the present, and points to a global trial preceding the parousia of Christ (as opposed to the local manifestation of persecution the church at Smyrna will face “for ten days”). The promise, rightly understood, is not to remove them from the trial but to protect them in the midst of it. It is not a promise that the church will be immune from persecution or martyrdom, but that they will not suffer the wrath of God that is soon coming upon the whole earth. Mounce summarizes, “The hour of trial is directed toward the entire non-Christian world, but the believer will be kept from it, not by some previous appearance of Christ to remove the church bodily from the world, but by the spiritual protection he provides against the forces of evil.” Christ does not promise physical protection from those who persecute the church, but divine exemption from wrath that will soon be poured out.

In the context of some of the other letters, Jesus’ words that he was “coming soon” would have been taken as a threat; here it is a wonderful consolation. In the meantime, the believers were to hold tightly to their faith so that no one might steal their crown. Alan Johnson writes, “Either Satan or men could rob them of their crown by diverting them from exclusive loyalty to Jesus.”

Thus far, the Philadelphian Christians had withstood the temptation to compromise with their ungodly culture and the pressure exerted upon them to reject Christ from the Jews. Their testimony was unstained; they were serving as faithful witnesses. Persevering as faithful witnesses would make them conquerors, and to the conqueror Jesus promises he will “make them a pillar in the temple of God.” These words would have been especially encouraging to the inhabitants of Philadelphia, for in a city that had so frequently been racked by earthquake pillars were a symbol of permanence and durability. When houses crumbled and walls cracked, the pillars stood. As Beale has pointed out, the whole of the new redeemed earth is a temple unto God. Hence, the promise is to give the overcomer a place of permanence in the new earth. In this new-earth-city-temple, they will never have to go out, fleeing from falling buildings or fires caused by quakes.

On this pillar Jesus will inscribe three names: the name of “my God,” the name of “the city of my God” (identified as the New Jerusalem), and “my own new name.” The inscribing of God’s name on his people speaks of possession and would also connote security: they bear his name, are his, and hence under his protection (see also Rev 7:3, 14:1 & 22:4). Bearing the name of city speaks of their citizenship in it. Finally, bearing Christ’s name conveys the same idea as the name of “my God”.

What Christ’s new name is here is unexplained, but has parallel in the later chapters of the Apocalypse (Rev 19:12. Additionally, bearing Christ’s name (or God’s name) is a way of speaking of his presence. In Deuteronomy 12:11 the Israelites are told that they will worship where God will “make his name dwell” in the land, referring to the future temple. Certainly this means more than just God’s name being on the doorposts to the temple, but is a synecdoche for God’s presence. Jesus promises to mark them as his people, under his protection, citizens in his kingdom and bless them with his abiding presence.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Missional Reading of the Letter to Sardis

Sardis was a city with a long history, dating back at least to the eighth century BC, and serving as the capital of the Lydian empire till it fell to Cyrus in 546BC. Later, after passing into Roman hands, it became the capital of the Lydian region.

Situated in the Hermus River Valley, Sardis at one time drew and refined large amounts of gold from the nearby stream beds, growing very wealthy as a result. Sardis, as all Roman cities, honored Caesar; however, the imperial cult does not seem to have been as influential in this Asian city as in others. The largest and most important temple was the temple of Artemis, though there is attestation to other existing temples as well.

Regarding the letter to Sardis, Keener observes, “That no mention of persecution against Christians is mentioned in such a city is significant; it probably reflects the secure position that the Jewish community, which rejected pagan worship, had attained, and suggests that the Christians shared this benefit of toleration.” Evidence points to a large and influential Jewish community at Sardis. More than eighty Jewish inscriptions have been unearthed in Sardis and Josephus mentions two documents detailing the privileges the Jews were given in the city. Supporting this is the discovery in Sardis of largest synagogue to ever be uncovered.

Jesus identifies himself in words similar to those used in the letter to the Ephesian church (Rev. 2:1). Jesus is the one “who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” If the seven stars are identified with the church’s representative angel, as 1:20 indicates, then Beale’s suggestion makes sense: the seven stars correspond to angels and represent the provision of heavenly aid that is at the churches disposal. The seven spirits are a representation of the Spirit of God (see Zech. 4:2,10) which burns on the lampstands (churches) empowering them in their light bearing, witnessing mission.

As with all the church, Jesus knows this church and her works. Sardis had a good reputation and may have even been respected, but was not well. She was spiritually dead. Beale contends that the issue in the Sardis was a lack of fervent witness in the midst of their pagan culture, just as it was in Ephesus. Several details support this conclusion. First, as noted above, the “works” that Jesus regards as incomplete are more than good works, but denote the overall manner of the church’s life. Unarguably, the life of the church – its care for its members, its purity of conduct and doctrine, its worship, etc. – is inextricably linked to her witness in the world. As this life has been found lacking by her Lord, her witness has certainly suffered.

In addition, the implied accusation that most of the church had “soiled their garments” (only a few had not) points to the church’s compromise with the unbelieving culture through participation in idol worship, eating meat sacrificed to idols, and/or immorality. Osborne, citing Moffat, notes similar references in ancient inscriptions detailing how “soiled clothes disqualified the worshipper and dishonored the god.” The church at Sardis, through compromise and sinful accommodation had dishonored Christ and tainted her witness. Only those who continue to continue in faithfulness will be found worthy of walking with Christ, clothed in white.

It is almost certain that faithfulness would prove costly to the remnant that refused to dull their witness and blend in to the surrounding culture, and there may be indications in this letter that some of the faithful would be martyred. In Revelation 7 the ones who are dressed in white are those “coming out of the great tribulation,” certainly suffering on account of their faith. Moreover, in Revelation 5 the Lamb is deemed worthy (ά̔ξιος, the same word used in 3:4) to open the scroll “for you were slain”. If the “walking in white” is meant to speak of a victory march or triumphal procession, it is again an ironic victory – being conquered by the world and put to death is the path to victory!

“Wake up” then is a call to take their missional calling to heart and recommit to the witnessing task of the church. This waking up would include a recommitment to holiness over against immorality and fidelity over against idolatrous compromise. This call to be alert would undoubtedly have hit home in Sardis, a city sacked twice because watchmen failed to watch diligently, allowing assailants to scale the “unclimbable” cliffs and gain easy access to a city caught unaware.

Those who conquer, likewise, receive white garments. That both those “who have not soiled their garments” and “the one who conquers” are clothed in white garments shows that the conquerors are those who remain unstained. In addition to their white garments, symbolic of holiness, they are enrolled eternally and irrevocably in the kingdoms roster of citizens. Jesus promises, “I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”

Lastly, Jesus promises “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” This confirms that the issue in the church was a lack of faithful, fervent witness. Those who compromised with the culture showed they were ashamed of Christ, and hence Christ would be ashamed of them in the coming judgment (see Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26).

Positively, those who remained unspoiled/uncompromised had acknowledged Christ before the world, even at great cost; consequently, Christ would acknowledge them before his Father and the angels in heaven (see Matt. 10:32, Luke 12:8).

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Baptism as an Effectual Means of Salvation


I know those words will create a visceral reaction in some. I'm sorry (not really).

Those words aren't my own...and I'm not pulling them from a Catholic Catechism. In fact, they show up in a Baptist Catechism (from 1677)!

Q. 98. How do Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation?
A. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in him that administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ and the working of His Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

This question/answer is pretty much the same as Q.91 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) and Q.161 of the Larger Catechism:
Q. 91. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.

Let me expand on these statements and offer some explanation. I sincerely believe that   baptism   is an effectual means of salvation in the the elect because God uses it to beckon faith in the baptized person.

Let me try a thought experiment - replace the underlined word in the above sentence with   the preaching of the gospel  .  Does that work better for you?  Of course, we'd want to emphasize that hearing the preaching of the gospel doesn't save someone by itself. The person hearing must respond in faith to the message they have heard. So preaching of the gospel doesn't work in a mechanical ex opere operato kind of way. But, the preaching of the gospel is a means of salvation in that God uses it to elicit faith in his elect (Romans 10:14-15). 

All that I said above applies, I believe, to baptism as well. Baptism is a visible gospel sermon. It is an instrument in the hands of God to beckon faith in the baptized person.  It isn't that the water saves or the rite of baptism saves, but that God uses it just as he uses preaching to call forth faith in the elect.

For a parent who baptizes their infant, their prayer is that God will use the child's baptism as a reminder of the great promises that are theirs if they believe. They bear the visible mark of the covenant in which God promises salvation to those who have faith.

But even in those who confess faith in Christ first and are then baptized, baptism is an effectual means of salvation because God continues to use it to beckon faith. We aren't required to believe and trust in Christ just once - way back when we said a prayer and 'came to faith'.  We are called to live by faith, to persevere in faith - without this no one will be saved. And God uses our baptism, again, to remind us of this - to remind us of the covenant and to seal all of God's promises to those who believe.

Baptism has no saving effect in the non-elect; in fact, it has a condemning effect in that they have been baptized into the covenant and covenant community wherein faith is a requirement. Since they don't have faith, they are subject to the cures of the covenant, which are severe indeed.

I'm harping on baptism a lot recently.  Why? I'm not entirely sure. Is it because I like being controversial? Maybe.  I know in part it's because it's been a front burner issue in two classes I taught this past month - union with Christ and eternal security. But, it's more than that - I have sensed in the evangelical church (broadly speaking) a minimization of the importance of baptism. Its as if we don't consider it very important - and many don't. It's an add on, and optional at that. God doesn't 'do anything' in baptism, we do - we profess, give testimony, etc.  This is a tragic trend and I pray it's one that gets reversed in the coming generations of believers.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Infant Baptism

I promised a post defending infant baptism, so here it is (notice I say defending it; not trying to push it upon anyone else who doesn't hold the same convictions I do). Interestingly, though I embrace infant baptism fully, none of my children were baptized as infants. There's several reasons for that, chief among them being that I was still in transition (ten years ago I was a Calvinist, but not really "Reformed" and had only the begun to explore 'covenant theology'). The other big reason is that I was on staff at a Baptist church when my first two children were born, and they just don't do that.


To begin, let me say that I believe an adult convert who has never been baptized should be. There is a misconception that those who advocating infant baptism wouldn't baptize adult converts. I would. I have. I will. Though, if they had been baptized as an infant I would discourage it.

The first reason that I've come to embrace infant baptism is really a hermeneutical one. I see the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament much more profoundly now than I used to. I used to see the discontinuity more prominently. Both continuity and discontinuity are there, it's a matter of priority. As I've studied the development of the covenants, I have come to appreciate the continuity between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, without discounting the discontinuity. Both the Old Covenant (Mosaic Covenant) and the New Covenant are administrations (or arrangements or dispensations) of the Covenant of Grace, a covenant the has been in operation since Adam's sin and Abraham's call.

Second, seeing the continuity between the Old Covenant and the New, I appreciate now the continuity between the Old Testament practice of circumcision and the New Testament practice of baptism (and the continuity between the Passover and the Lord's Supper). These sacraments were/are signs of the covenant that exists between God and his people. Colossians 2:11-12 make the connection between circumcision and baptism explicit. R. Scott Clark summarizes the connection, "For Paul, in the New covenant, our union with Christ is our circumcision. In baptism, we are identified with Christ's baptism/circumcision, as it were, on the cross. Neither baptism nor circumcision effects this union (ex opere operato), rather God the Spirit unites us to Christ, makes us alive and gives us faith. The point not to be missed is that, in Paul's mind, baptism and circumcision are both signs and seals of Christ's baptism/circumcision on the cross for us."

Beyond this, I believe it is likely that infants were among those 'households' that were baptized by the apostles (cf. Acts 16, Acts 18, 1 Cor 1:16). Moreover, Peter preaches that "the promise is for you and for your children" (Acts 2:39). In addition, because I believe the stress should be on the continuity between the Old and New Covenants, we should expect that the signs of the covenant would continue to be offered to children. It was offered to them in the Old as a sign of inclusion in the covenant community, it should be in the New also. If not, we would expect clear instruction to the contrary.

Let me clarify something here - being a part of the covenant community doesn't necessarily imply that the member will experience God's salvation. Many circumcised Jews did not. Many baptized Christians will not (even the faith of those baptized as adults may prove spurious). If it doesn't prove salvific, why do it? Again, it is a sign of their inclusion to the blessing of the covenant community. I believe, as a visible sermon, it is yet another tool in the hand of God that he uses to elicit faith. In the act of baptism God says, "You are mine." The child will one day need to respond, "Lord I am yours. I offer myself to you in faith and obedience."

Lastly, the testimony from church history is that the church practiced infant baptism at a very early stage in it's history. Origin was certainly baptized, according to the historical accounts, as an infant in 180AD, only 80 years after the last apostle had died. Was it controversial? There is no indication that infant baptism was controversial, appearing instead to have been the common, accepted practice in the church. As Schaeffer points out, "Those who would teach that the practice of the early Church was not infant baptism should be able to show in Church History when it started. There is no such break recorded." The assumption in some circles that infant baptism began in the Roman Catholic Church is clearly incorrect.

Those are some of the arguments that pushed me over the line. I understand the baptism debate can be divisive and love the position of ECC, leaving it to the conscience of the parents whether they will baptize or dedicate their children.

Here's a few of good links:
- ThirdMill Ministries Q&A about infant baptism.
- A Contemporary Reformed Defense of Infant Baptism, R. Scott Clark
- Why Does the OPC Baptize Infants, Larry Wilson
- Baptism, by Francis Schaeffer

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Baptism as Initiatory Rite into the New Covenant

So, what is baptism? Most evangelicals would say that it's a testimony to our faith or something along those lines. And it is that. But it's more.

John Calvin taught that baptism "is the initiatory sign by which we are admitted to the fellowship of the church, that being ingrafted into Christ we may be accounted children of God"

Before we can appreciate baptism as the initiatory rite into the church we need to understand that the church is more than a voluntary association like the Kiwanis Club. It is the community of the new covenant. To the church he gave the Supper, a new covenant meal (1 Cor 11:25). To the church the apostles as "minister of a new covenant" (2 Cor 3:6). The covenant comes with exceedingly great promises to the faithful and exceedingly stern punishment for the unfaithful (more on the double-sidedness of the new covenant in a later post).

But how does one become a member of this covenant community, of the church? Baptism (1 Cor 12:13). The new covenant is concrete and objective, not just internal and invisible. It has a people - the church, organization and leaders, ceremonies, meals, etc. And one is admitted into this concrete covenant and the covenant community through the rite of baptism, just as, in the old covenant, one was admitted to the covenant community through the rite of circumcision (Col 2:11).

Westminster Confession of Faith, 28.1: Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in the newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in His Church until the end of the world.

Heidelberg Catechsim Question 74: Are infants also to be baptized? Answer: Yes: for since they, as well as the adult, are included in the covenant and church of God; and since redemption from sin by the blood of Christ, and the Holy Ghost, the author of faith, is promised to them no less than to the adult; they must therefore by baptism, as a sign of the covenant, be also admitted into the Christian church; and be distinguished from the children of unbelievers as was done in the old covenant or testament by circumcision, instead of which baptism is instituted in the new covenant.

Belgic Confession:  Having abolished circumcision, which was done with blood, Christ established in its place the sacrament of baptism. By it we are received into God’s church and set apart from all other people and alien religions, that we may wholly belong to him whose mark and sign we bear. Baptism also witnesses to us that God, being our gracious Father, will be our God forever.

Ok, so next post will be on infant baptism. But the same truth holds for adult converts - its is baptism that marks them visibly as Christians. 

John Frame: "It is baptism that gives us the right to be recognized as Christians, unless or until we are excommunicated. Thus, it gives us the right to be part of the great work God is doing through his church" 

Edmond Clowney: "Baptism is recognized as the mark of membership in Christ's church by those outside it...in baptism we are numbered amongst the children of God, receiving the name of our Father, written, as it were, on our foreheads. To be sure, the washing of God's regenerating grace is accomplished by the water of the Spirit, no that of the font, but the outward sign  functions  precisely because it is outward; it is the Lord's visible seal of his invisible grace."

Coming soon, two posts - one defending infant baptism, another defending the claim that "baptism is an effectual means of salvation in the elect because God uses it to elicit faith in the baptized person."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Not all Christians will be Saved



The past few weeks I have had the privilege of being a part of some very good discussions in the Perspectives ACG on the topic of Eternal Security, Apostasy, etc. We've looked at several different ways the passages related to security (i.e. John 6:38-40; John 10:28-29; Romans 8:30; Philippians 1:6) and those which issue warnings against falling away (i.e.Romans 11:20-22; Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 10:26-29; 2 Peter 2:18-22) have been resolved. Oh, and don't forget all the conditional statements either (i.e. Revelation 2:11; Revelation 3:5; John 8:51; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2).

Two weeks ago I began outlining my understanding which is a covenantal/reformed understanding (as opposed to a simplistic, flat Calvinistic approach). Here are a few of the key points that I'll be blogging on this week. Other posts may be needed that connect this discussion to the importance of the visible church ('The visible Church…consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation'), infant baptism, and more.  But this is a start.
  1. Baptism is the initiatory rite into the New Covenant and the visible church.
  2. Those baptized, whether as adults or infants, are new covenant members and, therefore, Christians.
  3. "Christian" is not necessarily coterminous with "elect"; therefore, while it is true that all the elect will be saved, it is not true that all Christians will be saved
  4. To be in the covenant as a member means one is subject to the terms of the covenant, including blessings and rewards. In the new covenant, the blessings are great, if we will believe. However, in the new covenant the curses for unbelief are severe.
  5. A baptized person who is not living a life of faith and obedience is still a covenant member, but an unfaithful one, and should be admonished as one being unfaithful to their covenant vows.
  6. Apostasy is real. Christians (members of the new covenant) turn their back on their birthright all the time. Hence, warnings should be taught as real, genuine warnings to be heeded, not hypotheticals.
  7. Eternal security is based in the eternal (and unknowable) decrees of God. 'Saved' and 'unsaved' are categories we aren't privy too. (When those words, actually that word – only 'saved' shows up in the Bible – it's a verb, not a noun). The categories we are given are 'righteous' and 'wicked', or 'faithful' and 'unfaithful'. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Baptism: Water or Spirit

This past week I had a great discussion (yeah, we'll call it a discussion) about baptism in two separate ACGs (one on Union with Christ and one on Eternal Security).  I stated that baptism is the initiatory rite of the New Covenant. Those who are baptized into Christ are members of the New Covenant people of God, the church, and are Christians. That doesn't mean that they're necessarily the elect, that they'll come to faith or that they'll be saved in the end; instead, it means that they have [been] identified with the people of the new covenant, the church, associate themselves with the name of Christ, and bear the external mark of a Christian.

A fair bit of discussion revolved around the meaning of baptism in the NT - is it baptism in water or baptism in the Spirit that is referred to. So...here's the list of passages referring to baptism or baptize or baptized (though not washed or cleansed).  I've sorted them as best I could in the time I had. On the 'hinge' texts, I've included comments from scholars - both those I agree with and those I don't (basically, any I had access to in my office).  I've commented here or there, but I'll not that in red type.  Have fun!



John the Baptist baptized in water


Matthew 3:6-7; 3:13-16, 21:25

Mark 1:4-5, 9; 11:30

Luke 3:3, 7, 12, 21; 7:29

John 1:31, 10:40

Acts 1:22; 10:37; 13:24; 18:25;


Both water and spirit baptism mentioned


Matthew 3:11

Mark 1:8

Luke 3:16

John 1:33

Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16;


Water baptism clearly, unavoidably indicated


Matthew 28:19

John 3:22-23; 4:1-2

Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-16, 36-38; 9:18; 10:47-48; 16:15, 33; 18:18, 19:3-5; 22:16

1 Corinthians 1:13-17

1 Peter 3:21

1 Corinthians 15:29;


Water baptism indicated, but could be debated


Mark 16:16: since this is a part of the 'maybe it's original/maybe it's not' longer ending of Mark, I'll skip comment

Baptism in the Spirit:

1 Corinthians 12:13;


Other


Baptized into Moses (still water): 1 Corinthians 10:2

Into Christ's suffering (must be supplied, not explicit): Mark 10:38-39


Hinge texts


Romans 6:3-4

Galatians 3:27;

Ephesians 4:5

Colossians 2:12;


Romans 6:3-4

On this passage, Stott says, "baptism means water baptism unless in the context it is stated to the contrary. Some commentators have suggested that Paul here is referring to baptism with the Spirit as uniting us with Christ, and have quoted 1 Corinthians 12:13 as a parallel. But it is safe to say that whenever the terms 'baptism' and 'being baptized' occur, without mention of the element in which the baptism takes place, the reference is to water baptism."

Doug Moo, "Paul's reference is to the Roman Christians water baptism as their outward initiation in to Christian existence. To be sure, a few scholars have denied any reference to water baptism here, arguing that 'baptize' means 'immerse' in a metaphorical sense, or that Paul refers to 'baptism in the Spirit', or that he uses 'baptize' as a metaphor for incorporation into the body of Christ. But, without discounting the possibility of allusions to one or more of these ideas, a reference to water baptism is primary. By the date of Romans, 'baptize' had become almost a technical expression for the rite of Christian initiation by water, and this is surely the meaning the Roman Christians would have given the word."

FF Bruce takes it to be water baptism also, writing, "He took it for granted that the Roman Christians, who were not his converts, had been as certainly baptized as his own converts were...In apostolic times baptism appears to have followed immediately on confession of faith in Christ." He doesn't, at least here, speak to infant baptism as that is a different issue, but of convert baptism.

Everret Harris (Expositors Bible Commentary) goes in a slightly different direction, "It [Death to sin] was accomplished by being "baptized into Christ Jesus." What is being described is a spiritual reality of the deepest import—not a ceremony, not even a sacrament." As someone who interprets this passage to mean water baptism, I agree with Harris - it isn't simply the washing in the water (so 1 Peter 3:21). The rite of baptism unites us to the covenant, but not all the blessings of the covenant automatically. Faith is required, and when exercised, faith receives the blessings which the sacrament points to - namely union with Christ in his death and resurrection.

Galatians 3:27

Stott contends this does mean water baptism but argues, "Our baptism sets forth visibly this union with Christ. This cannot possibly mean that the act of baptism itself unites a person to Christ, that the mere administration of water makes him a child of God. We must give Paul credit for a consistent theology...Faith secures the union; baptism signifies it outwardly and visibly. Thus in Christ, by faith inwardly and baptism outwardly, we are all sons of God"

Ridderbos agrees that this refers to water baptism, "This close relationship which baptism establishes between Christ and the believers is also designated by the expression 'baptized into Christ'. The expression is not to be construed as mystical so much as corporative or federal. The baptized person is added to Christ as His own, is reckoned to His account, share in His benefits...We are not to take this in a magical or automatic sense...What happens at baptism is a confirmation and sealing, a visible manifestation of what is given to the church by faith. So much is true, however, that Paul wants to indicate by his objective-sacramental mode of expression, and by appealing especially to baptism for establishing sonship of the believers, that the reality of becoming one with Christ is nowhere so clearly revealed or so firmly founded in the Christian consciousness of faith, as precisely in this baptism."

Fung, "Baptism is here regarded as the rite of initiation into Christ, that is, into union with Christ, or what amounts to the same thing, of incorporation into Christ as the Head of the new humanity...The baptism in view in Gal 3:27 is almost certainly water baptism...raising the question of the relationship between the two [faith and baptism]...the logical relationship between faith and baptism is represented by the statement that 'St. Paul saw in baptism the normal but not necessary, the helpful but not indispensable sign and seal put upon the act of faith appropriating the gift of God in Christ'...Probably Paul mentions baptism here because he is about to emphasize the oneness of those who are in Christ: the visible sign of this oneness is not faith but baptism; the oneness with Christ that is symbolized in baptism is the basis for the oneness in Christ. There is an appeal in the presence of those who were in danger of forgetting spiritual facts, to the external sign which no one could forget."

Philip Ryken writes, "Here Paul is referring to the inward reality of spiritual cleansing by faith, and not simply to the outward sign of water baptism." On the surface this might seem to be a dissenting voice from the opinion I articulated on Sunday, and it may be, but not by much. He doesn't say "it's not water baptism." Instead, it's not 'simply' water baptism. In other words, it's not just water baptism that unites us vitally to Christ, but the inward reality to which water baptism points that must be received by faith. My gloss: It's not merely the outward sign of water baptism, but the internal reality that is summoned by it.

James Montgomery Boice, "This is not water baptism...Baptism signifies this transforming identification with Christ. So Paul refers to it here. Paul is not now contradicting all he has previously taught about the means of salvation, as if he were suggesting that baptism will now replace circumcision as a saving sacrament or ordinance. No one is saved by baptism. Indeed, Paul mentions baptism only once in the paragraph, but faith five times. Rather baptism is an outward sign of the union that already exists through faith. To be "clothed with Christ" means to become like Christ."


Ephesians 4:5

A. Skevington Wood comments (Expositors Bible Commentary), "'One baptism' is the external seal of incorporation into the body of Christ. Falling as it does in the second triad (related to Christ) and not in the first (related to the Spirit), it appears to indicate water baptism and not primarily the baptism with the Spirit of which water baptism is the sign. Baptism is regarded as the sacrament of unity. In the Christian church baptisms are not multiplied as with the Jews (Heb 6:2). There are not even two baptisms—one of John and one of Jesus. There is "one baptism" symbolizing identification with Christ in his death and resurrection, sealing with the Spirit, and incorporation into the body of Christ, so that all Christians become one person in Christ Jesus (Eph 1:13; 2:5, 6; 3:15). Baptism is one because it makes one. It provides the evidence that all Christians, without discrimination as to color, race, sex, age, or class, share the grace of Christ. If we ask why Paul does not at this point mention the other dominical sacrament, that of the Lord's Supper (cf. "one bread" in 1 Cor 10:17), the answer may be that he regards the Eucharist not as a prerequisite of unity but an expression of it."

Peter O'Brien, "there is only one baptism because there is one Lord Jesus Christ in whom believers are united, one body into which all Christians are incorporated...the apostle is not making distinctions as to whether it is water baptism or baptism in the Spirit that is in view. The one without the other was an anomaly."


Simpson, "Christ occupies the central place, and with Him are linked the inward and outward signs that bind His people to the Savior. Faith may signify the instrument of justification or carry the more objective sense of Christian doctrine. The initiatory rite of baptism seems selected to represent all external ordinances of worship, such as prayer, praise, preaching, the Lord's Supper and His Day, in the practice of which, broadly speaking, all branches of the church, despite its fissures, may be said to coincide."

Chapell, "by our baptism [water] we testify that we are cleansed of sin and united to him by his grace alone"

Foulkes, "The outward sign of this faith and the 'visible word' expressing the work of Christ was baptism. Instituted by the Lord himself, it was an experience that every Christian shared. All had passed through the same initiation. All had been 'baptized into Christ' not into a variety of leaders such as Paul, Peter or Apollos, nor into a plurality of churches...The sacrament is therefore a sacrament of unity."


Colossians 2:12

Curtis Vaughan, "Here Paul gives a further explanation of the spiritual circumcision he affirmed in the preceding verse. The context suggests that Christian baptism is the outward counterpart to that experience and as such is the means by which it is openly declared. The emphasis of the verse, however, is not on the analogy between circumcision and baptism but that of baptism as symbolizing the believer's participation in the burial and resurrection of Christ (cf. Rom 6:3ff.). Being "buried" and "raised" with Christ conveys the thought not simply of burying an old way of life and rising to a new kind of life but of sharing in the experience of Christ's own death and resurrection. That Paul did not think of baptism as actually effecting participation in that experience is made clear when he adds that the Colossians were raised through their "faith in the power of God." Baptism, then, is not a magic rite, but an act of obedience in which we confess our faith and symbolize the essence of our spiritual experience. Faith is the instrumental cause of that experience and, apart from real faith, baptism is an empty, meaningless ceremony."


NT Wright, "In becoming a Christian, he [Paul] transferred to the church the idea that the people of God was indeed a people - not now drawn from one race only, but made up from every family under heaven. This people [the people of God] is not merely an invisible family known to God alone, but is an actual company of people in space and time, the church in which Christ is confessed as Lord: outward and visible entry into this outward and visible family is accomplished through the rite of baptism. This explains Paul's frequent appeal that the church should become in fact what it is in theory, should put into detailed operation the life to which it has been committed in baptism. 1 Corinthians 10 shows that it is possible, in Paul's mind, for people to be baptized and yet to be in danger of losing all. This does not make baptism a mere empty ritual. The candidate, being placed into the family where Christ is loved and served, is in the best possible position to grow into mature Christian faith and life. If we find Paul's definite statements about the effects of baptism hard to understand, it is probably because we have lost his vision of the church as the loving and welcoming family of God, the people who, by support, example and teaching, enable one another to accept the gospel down to the depths of their being, and so to make real for themselves the rich statements of Col 2:12"


Eade, "the reference is plainly to the ordinance of baptism and to its spiritual meaning."

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Monday, February 09, 2015

Book Review: 'Reformed' is not Enough, by Doug Wilson

Wilson's Reformed Is Not Enough: Recovering the Objectivity of the Covenant is a book I really want to recommend, but a book that is hard to recommend for a couple of reasons.

I picked this book up recently because I've been teaching two Sunday classes, one on Union with Christ and the other on the Doctrine of Eternal Security.  The controversial subset of Reformed theology referred to as Federal Vision came up in the readings I was doing to prepare, so I decided I needed to know more and went to one of the sources - Doug Wilson.

Because this book is written to defend the proponents of Federal Vision theology against charges that they're teaching is out of step with the standards of the Presbyterian church, Wilson spends a good deal of time working through sections of the Westminster Confession of Faith, showing how his teaching is in keeping with this standard (and often where his opponents are out of line with it).  This is fine and good...for a Presbyterian, but it's one of the reasons I'm reluctant to recommend it to many of my church friends. It is, in many ways, an intramural affair. That's one of the weaknesses in my opinion, but, given the intent of the book, it was necessary (basically, I just wish he'd written a different book). So if you aren't completely turned off by the Westminster Confession (I really hope you're not), or by eavesdropping on a denominational squabble, or you can ignore it and get to the meat; then this book is worth the read.

Wilson begins the book with a bang, contending the "Judas was a Christian." Doug's point, which forms the central thesis of the book, is that the new covenant is an objective covenant, just like the old covenant. Those who are baptized are covenant members just as those who received the mark of circumcision were members of the old covenant. And, in that sense, they are Christians - they have come to be identified with the covenant people of God and the name of Christ, bear the mark of the covenant, and are to be regarded as members of the covenant community.

That does not mean that all covenant members are born of the Spirit, are justified, or will ultimately be saved.  Some, though in the covenant, will play the role of unfaithful covenant members and will reap wrath rather than reward. Both blessing and curse are aspects of the [old and new] covenant, as the book of Hebrews plays out.

In articulating this truth, that the covenant is a visible, objective 'thing', Wilson is helpful. Also helpful are the discussions on the visible/invisible church (hint: he doesn't care for that distinction), sacredotalism, baptism, the Supper and the church.

I found the second to last section on apostasy and assurance less helpful. I think Wilson is correct - apostasy is real and Christians can commit it by rejecting what their baptism signifies and spurning the grace given to them in the covenant (to their destruction).  It certainly makes Hebrews easier to handle. I wasn't as thrilled with the chapter on assurance. It left me wanting more, though I'm not sure more of what.

The final section makes good points, but is a little rambling. In fact, that may be a critique of the whole book. Sometime I read a paragraph and wondered how it connected to the preceding paragraph at all. Paragraph one makes point A, paragraph two makes point F.

Many will walk away thinking this a call to return to Catholicism. It isn't, but we're so far from the Reformers and the theology they endorsed that even those early Protestants sound Catholic. A move in that direction may not (no, let me be stronger - IS NOT) a bad thing!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Missional Reading of the Letter to Thyatira

The fourth letter is addressed to the church at Thyatira, a city of no great importance. Thyatira was not a political or religious center, nor was it of particular commercial importance. There were, of course, religious temples and Thyatira did participate in commerce, but neither marked Thyatira as in any way unique or of special importance in the region. And yet, to the “least known, least important, and least remarkable of cities” we have the longest letter. In this unremarkable city on element of social life does stand out as remarkable. Hemer comments, “The city’s most obvious peculiarity was then its unusually large number of influential trade-guilds. Associations of this kind were an ancient feature of community life…Their prominence at Thyatira, however, is quite exceptional.” Yamauchi mentions guilds for clothiers, bakers, tanners, potters, linen-workers, wool-merchants, slave-traders, copper-smiths and dyers. Virtually every craftsman or trader would have belonged to the appropriate guild in which participation would have required attendance at meetings. These meeting would include a meal dedicated to a patron god “and frequently ended in sheer debauchery and licentiousness.”

To the church in this city Jesus identifies himself as the one “who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.” The exact meaning of the word χαλκολιβάνω, sometimes translated “fine brass” or “burnished bronze”, remains elusive. However, the imagery is fairly clear, drawn from Daniel 10 (as well as from the first chapter of Revelation). Daniel 10:6 records a vision of “one like a son of man” (10:16) who has “eyes like flaming torches” and “arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze.” The “eyes like a flame of fire” speaks to Jesus “penetrating insight and judgment” ; nothing will escape his sight. The “burnished bronze” was likely used for military purposes in Thyatira (copper-smithing/bronze finishing was one of the prominent guilds in Thyatira); hence, this could speak of Jesus’ warrior like stance – he stands ready to wage war against false gods (like Apollo), false teaching, and false Christians. Beale draws one more connection with the book of Daniel. In this letter John refers to Jesus as “the Son of God” – the only time he will do so in his Apocalypse. This, in such close proximity with the mention of fire and bronze may be intended to draw the church’s mind to Daniel 3 and the story of Daniel’s three faithful friends who were thrown into the super-heated furnace. In Daniel 3 King Nebuchadnezzar sees four figures in the furnace – Daniel’s three friends and “one like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). Beale concludes, “Just as that ‘son of God’ protected them, even in the midst of persecution, so will Christ do the same spiritually for those who are faithful in Thyatira.”

Jesus knows the church’s works, as he did the works of the church in Ephesus. Here though, unlike in Ephesus, the church has not grown lax in doing the works they were initially engaged in; instead, their present works exceed their first. In addition, they are commended for their love, something lacking in Ephesus, and their faith and patient endurance. These characteristics emphasize the church’s commitment to maintaining their “persevering witness to the outside world.” In this they are ahead of the church at Ephesus. Yet, they have not been as diligent as the Ephesian church in rooting out false teaching.

This situation in Thyatira is similar to that in Pergamum. John likens the group of false teachers to the OT Jezebel. Contrary to Beale, who understands Jezebel to be representative of the heretical group as a whole, it seems likely here that the leader of the false group, a woman, is singled out. Aune raises the possibility “that ‘Jezebel’ was a patron or hostess of one of the house churches that made up the Christian community at Thyatira who found herself in conflict with other Christian patrons, probably over an attempt to accommodate Christian practices to the surrounding culture by justifying the eating of meat offered to idols.”

As in Pergamum, the question regarding the literalness of the sexual immorality the false teachers were encouraging is open. The Jezebel of the OT did lead Ahab into worshipping Baal. However, sexual immorality was not one of the charged levied against her (her “harlotry” was likely reference to spiritual idolatry). On the other hand, Osborne points out that the religion of Baal was often quite licentious. The parallel then between the woman Jezebel/the-cult-of-Baal and the guilds is very close. In essence, this is the same heresy as the Nicolaitans. The significant difference here seems to be the emphasis on prophecy. Jezebel, the leader of the this false faction, dubbed herself a prophetess and so disguised her false teaching as a direct word from the God.

Beale rightly connects the false prophetess in this letter with the larger theme of satanic deception throughout the book and its exposition of the false ministry of the beast and the false prophet. In fact, he points out that the John uses the same word (πλανάω) to describe the deceptive work of Jezebel, the false prophet (13:14, 19:20) and of Babylon (18:23). John intimates that the Jezebel party is aligned with Babylon and satanic forces representing a sort of “fifth column movement within the church.” This subversive movement posed an obvious threat to the mission of the church and could not be allowed to continue its existence – instead of being aligned with God and his mission of redemption, Jezebel and her children had allied themselves with anti-Christ forces and were seeking to derail the church, encouraging compromise and unfaithfulness.

Jesus, though he had given her warning and time to repent, would act decisively and soon. Jesus will come and exercise discipline, throwing Jezebel and those who commit immorality with her into a sickbed, striking her children dead. The irony is that those who were following Jezebel into compromise were likely doing so to escape the troubles of not being associated with the trade guilds. But their compromise brought the far great risk of being thrown into tribulation by Jesus himself, tribulation that would including death. Beasley-Murray explains further, “It is doubtful that we are intended to distinguish the persons mentioned, as though the ‘adulterers’ were somehow less culpable than the ‘children’. John employs typical prophetic language to denote that the entire group of Jezebel followers will be brought to an end, both those who participate in sins (commit adultery with her) and those who embrace her teaching (her children).”

The result of Jesus’ discipline would be that “all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.” These words are an echo of Jeremiah 17:10 where the prophet reminds Judah of the deceitfulness of the human heart and the Lord’s power to search heart and mind and repay “according to the fruit of his deeds.” Christ’s judgment upon Jezebel and her disciples would provide a warning for all the churches – do not allow yourself be deceived by false teachers, or you too will be thrown under the judgment of God. To the rest of Thyatira, the shepherd of the church adds no other burden, only to hold fast.

To those who conquer, “who keep my work until the end”, Jesus promises authority over the nations. Again, this promise reminds the readers that there is an appointed end – the mission of God and of the church will be accomplished. The church that has remained militant will become the church victorious and will share in Messiah’s rule over the nations, a rule that was anticipated in Psalm 2:7-9,“I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel’” (see also Rev. 11:18; 12:5; 19:15).

Commentators are evenly divided on the sense of the words ἑξουσίαν and ποιμανεῖ. While some argue that ἑξουσίαν should be taken to mean “authority to rule” and ποιμανεῖ to mean “rule”, the rest of the context indicates a stronger reading of these key words. It is preferable to read ἑξουσίαν as connoting “power” (even “power to destroy”) and adopt the secondary meaning of ποιμανεῖ, namely “destroy.” Osborne comments, “Those who interpret this as ‘rule’ are wrong. The violence connoted in the ‘rod of iron’ and the ‘shattering’ of the pottery is simply too strong for ‘rule’…the nations who oppose the saints will be destroyed by them…The imagery is that of total destruction. This depicts the absolute devastation of the hostile nations by the Messiah and his people.”

Meredith Kline gives keen insight into the soteriological elements of this judgment on the nations. He writes, “The final judgment is redemptive; it secures various soteric benefits for God’s people…Besides sealing their salvation from the wrath of God, the final judgment delivers them from the hostility of evil men.” God’s mission includes the total redemption of his fallen world, including a removal of all rival kingdoms, all threats to God’s people, all things that fall short of his glory. Those who overcome will take part in this climactic victory and in the glorious eschatological kingdom.

In addition, the overcomers are promised the morning star. Again, there is significant ambiguity in understanding the exact meaning of this reference. Some have taken it as a reference to Venus, the brightest luminary in the sky after the sun and moon and oft used symbol of victory and sovereignty, especially used by Roman generals. This would certainly fit the context and serve to reinforce the truth that believers who remain faithful will participate in Christ’s victory and rule. But, Jesus will identify himself as “the bright morning star” in Revelation 22:16. It is possible, then, that this is a way of Jesus promising to give himself, his presence, to those who overcome. If this is the case, the sequence is reminiscent of Exodus 33. In Exodus 33 YHWH indicates that he will give Israel victory over the nations that occupy the Promised Land; but, due to Israel’s “stiff-neckedness”, God says he will not go with the people. Moses intercedes on behalf of Israel, reminding God that his presence is what makes the nation of Israel unique and shows that the people have found favor with God. God listens to Moses’ plea and promises to give them victory and continue to bless Israel with his presence. If the “morning star” is a reference to Jesus, then Jesus is saying the overcomers will be granted victory over the nations and blessed with his abiding presence.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Days of Creation and the Sabbath

Last week I published a brief summary of Justin Taylor's post 'Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days were 24-Hour Periods'.  One of my friends raised the question/objection that if the days of Genesis 1 aren't literal 24-hr days, then the outline of the week ending in a Sabbath rest outlined in Exodus 20 makes no sense. Here's the text of Exodus 20:8-11:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 
I don't think this demands a literal 24 hr day reading of Genesis, and, in fact, I think we have good reason to see God's Sabbath extending far beyond a 24-hr period.

First, within the text, we don't see the Sabbath day ending as we do with the other days. Every other day ends with the refrain, "And there was evening and there was morning, the __  day".  Not so with God's Sabbath. Nor do we get any indication that God quit resting. Nothing like, "After this, God resumed his work..." The implication is that God's Sabbath is ongoing.

Someone is now saying, "Wait, are you saying God isn't working now, only resting."  No. He is working...and he is resting. If God had stopped working even for a moment, the universe fall back into nonexistence - for he hold's it all together. The rest isn't absolute, but involves the establishment of stability. Significantly, God rests in his temple (i.e. Psalm 132:7-8, 13-14).  God, having created a home for man and a temple for himself takes up his rest in his temple where he can govern and be worshiped.


Even more importantly, the work week ending in Sabbath is an earthly type of the heavenly reality. We are to work then rest just as God worked and rested. But, just as the earthly copy of God's home (the temple) of the heavenly home isn't meant to be taken overly literally, neither should we take the divine work week overly literally. None of would argue that heaven is only as big as Solomon's temple! 

But the pattern is important. God worked then rested. The first man was to work faithfully, fulfilling the mandate of the covenant (Genesis 1:28). Adam failed and broke covenant (Hosea 6:7). Had Adam been faithful he would have been confirmed in righteousness and entered the Sabbath rest of God. Having failed, mankind is given, by God's grace, a new, faithful covenant representative - a Second Adam. He does the work, is faithful to the covenant, and brings God's people into God's Sabbath Rest (Heb. 4:8-11; actually, all of Heb 3&4 are important on this point). This rest, like God's rest, is eternal, but not to be equated with total inactivity (it's not napping). It's rest, the work having been done, and now the rewards can be enjoyed (as when Israel would be given rest in the Promised Land, free from harassment to enjoy the benefits; as when the people of God rest weekly to enjoy the benefits of being God's people - worship, God's presence, etc).

One last point. I had assumed one important point stood but didn't necessarily need to be articulated. But, just to be clear, I'm not saying God needed more time to get the job done!  He could have accomplished the work of creation in seven literal days. He could have done it on his coffee break!  But, I don't think the text demands a literal 24-hr day or a young earth, and I don't think we should erect this artificial barrier to belief.