Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peter, Paul, Baptism and Calling Upon the Name of the Lord

A unique phrase in Scripture is that of “calling upon the name of the Lord.” It is always synonymous with mans seeking salvation from God. Man began to seek God very early on as we read in Gen. 4:26. Later the phrase takes on an additional meaning, the looking forward to the time when salvation would be more powerful, more available and more clearly understood. The most famous quotation is that from Joel 2:32 [other similar passages are found in Zech. 13:9 and Zeph. 3:9 et. al.], a Scripture that Peter and the other apostles quoted in the Pentecostian sermon in Acts 2:21. The Joelian prophesy was for the Jews exclusively and did not, at the time of Pentecost 30 a.d., include the Gentiles. We know this for Joel makes this contextually clear in:
2:15 – “Blow the trumpet in Zion…”
2:18 – “…the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.”
2:23 – “…Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God…”
2:27 - “…You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel…”
The context of this passage is clearly for the Jew only. In vs. 28fl, we hear that “His spirit is to be poured out on all flesh and YOUR sons and YOUR daughters will prophesy, YOUR old men will dream dreams and YOUR young men will see visions.” Who, then, is “YOUR?” It is Zion, it is His people, it is Israel. It is NOT the Gentiles… at least not in THIS passage and not at this time. Jesus clearly though makes it clear that others beside the Jews were to be recipients of salvation. He makes this abundantly manifest in passages such as John 10:16 where He states:
“...I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
The church of Christ is built upon the rock, which is Christ [I Cor. 10:4] and the confession of that very fact [Matt. 16:18 and John 11:27]. The church of Christ was not build upon Peter but, rather, on Peter’s confession. If we were to look at this as we would a new building, Christ and confession in Him, is the bedrock or the “chief cornerstone [Eph. 2:20]” upon which the foundation sits which then holds up the rest of the structure. The foundation, sitting upon the ROCK that is Christ and confession in Him, transitions that strength to the rest of the structure… the church. The foundation is the “apostles and prophets [“inspired speakers” – Strong’s].” In fact, the early church rested upon this foundation as we learn in Acts 2:42 as they “continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine.”

Peter was given [Matthew 16:19] the “keys to the Kingdom.” He was given to “bind and loose” that which was already bound and loosed in Heaven. When did he exercise this authority? He did it both where and when Jesus instructed the apostles in Acts 1:8,
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
He did it on 3 occasions concurrent with the 3 stages of the message of salvation as we see below:
Pentecostians / Acts 2 / Jerusalem and Judaea

Samaritans / Acts 8 / Samaria

Gentiles / Acts 10 / Uttermost parts of the world
Peter turned the keys of the kingdom 3 times, first in Jerusalem, second in Samaria and thirdly in Caesarea. Each time is was consistent with the time, the place and the people that Christ had planned. Within 10 years, the “gospel was for all!” Each time he turned the keys, the kingdom of God expanded to more people until, finally, it expanded to our Gentile ancestors. All the doors that Peter opened are still open today.

As to the so-called rivalry between Peter and Paul… it did not exist though they did have a brief confrontation as Paul describes in the book of Galatians. Peter turned the keys of the kingdom at Caesarea but did not proceed through that door beyond the household of Cornelius. Why? Because God had decreed that it would be Paul, not Peter, who would enter the house of the Gentiles with the gospel [Acts 9:15-16]. It was God’s will that the gospel be first preached to the Jews, then to the Samaritans and lastly, to the Gentiles. It was Paul’s custom, true to God’s form and fashion, to first go to the Jews in the Synagogue before going to the Gentiles with the gospel as we learn in Act 17:10 and other passages. Peter and Paul were on the same team. There was no competition, no disputing over territory and no self serving agendas.

Finally, what was Peter’s message on the 3 occasions that he turned the keys of the kingdom? It is both simple and profound… they were all to be baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins in order to receive salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12-16, Acts 10:48] The Holy Spirit fell on those present on all 3 occasions, not for salvation, but as a sign from Heaven that Peter was exercising his “key” ministry. How does one "call upon the name of the Lord?" One "calls upon the name of the Lord" only, exclusively and singularly in, by and with water baptism [Acts 22:16]. The Pentecostians "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism. The Samaritans "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism. The household of Cornelius "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism. Peter preached the same message, the people heard the same message and all the people obeyed the same message... they "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism for the remission of their sins and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. A little history to finish up our thoughts.

In perhaps the greatest irony in history, both Dark Age Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism came to the same, and yet very wrong, conclusion. They BOTH concluded that man is not responsible for his actions! Catholicism taught a nearly total works only system while Protestaantim taught an equally nearly total faith only system. The Catholic was taught that regardless of the number or seriousness of the sin, said sin could be "forgiven" by the priest by "working acts of pennance" that were characterized by all forms of asceticism, religious pilgramages and the sale of indulgences. People were taught that they could deny the flesh, travel to various places where they could "invest" in religious relics and even purchase the forgiveness of sins past, present or future. One could even purchase the forgiveness of sins of others who had died and were languishing in Purgatory. It was said that, "when a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs." Forgiveness of sin became nothing more that a business, a function of the marketplace that favored the rich and the powerful. One wound up in heaven or hell based solely upon works of piety, available to the highest bidder. Reacting to such corruption and falsehood came those who protested all of this. They were thus called "Protestants." They wanted to "reform" the Roman Catholic Church and became known as "reformers." These "reformed protestants" wheeled around 180 degress, rejected works religion and embraced salvation by grace or faith "alone." One could never do one single solitary thing to "earn" their salvation. "Works" were rejected in totality. "Faith alone in Christ alone" became a slogan. Reformed Protestantism taught that once saved, a person could live any kind of life whatsoever and still inherit eternal life. This kind of radical hypocricy culmanated in the totally corrupt life of King Henry VIII of England who established the Church of England simply because he wanted a divorce. Like a coin, one side is found the "works only" of Roman Catholicism and the other side is found the "faith only" of Reformed Protestantism.

What does all this history have to do with the present discusssion? Simply this, Reformed Protestantism teaches that baptism is NOT necessary for salvation for it is a work of man, an attempt of man to "earn" his salvation. Is baptism a "work" of man? Baptism is a work! However, it is NOT a work of man... it is a work of God! In fact, we are told in Colossians 2:12 that, like circumcission, God operates, custs off and removes our sin in the waters of baptism. There IS work in baptism but it is GOD who does the working, not man!

When a person "calls upon the name of the Lord," that person does so in water baptism, a place and time God has chosen to do His saving work. It is the only time and place that God does so. Should a person attempt to "call upon the name of the Lord" without water baptism, he or she does so in absolute and complete futility.

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