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Why should I let you into my heaven?

From Doug Wilson:

I was talking to a woman one time... and she told me sheepishly about her first reaction to that great grace question hypothetically presented at the pearly gates -- "why should I let you into heaven?" The right answer of course is a variant of "because of the blood of Jesus Christ, plus nothing." She told me that her first instinctive reaction was, "Gee, I hope I remember to say that."

See how faith can so easily be turned into a work?

If you are going to ask and answer this question, I think this is a much better response (from De Regno Christi)

[When I'm asked 'Why should I let you into my heaven?']  I’ll bow and be silent. Then I’ll hear a voice,
“Father, he’s mine.”

Do you see?  It's not your faith that saves.  It's Christ.

Here's Spurgeon (read the whole magnificent devotion here):

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee–it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee–it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument–it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.”

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33 thoughts on “Why should I let you into my heaven?

  1. theoldadam

    My pastor often asks that question, "do you have faith in faith...or faith in God?"

    "Are you trusting in your belief?"

    "Or, are you trusting in something that God has done for you? Promised you?"

    This is why us wacky Lutheran types put such emphasis on the 'external Word'.

  2. Holiday Longing

    I'm discovering that even my sense, my assurance that I know God and am His (now and for eternity) is a gift He gives, and one which He can take away for His good purposes.

    Not fun, though.

  3. Gav

    What about:

    Mark 16:16
    "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned"

    Isnt baptism "works"?

  4. Will

    It might depend whether we're talking about spirit baptism or water baptism. I'm convinced that Romans 6 is referring to spirit baptism only. Which do you mean Gav?

    Is "over here" Australia, or Kyabram?

  5. Gav

    OK

    Can I ask about the mechanics of baptism then? Do we have to follow the ritual of "dunking" to be baptized?

    Sorry to be a pain, the subject was brought up by a friend of mine who was saddened after being told he cant be baptized, again in our church, as he was when he was a baby. I was also told this years ago when I enquired.

    This conversation then evolved into....Can you enter the kingdom if you are not baptized? So then the questions are what, why, who, when and how.

  6. theoldadam

    Almost every single reference in the New Testament to baptism is referring to water baptism.

    That's what the word means...washing with water.

    1st Peter 3 :20,21 states it quite clearly.

    When Jesus commanded the disciples to go and baptize and teach (all peoples - no age requirement), He wasn't telling them to give and give people the Holy Spirit...He was telling them to baptize them, and then the Holy Spirit will be given to them in that baptism (Acts 2:38). And that promise is for our children also ( Acts 2:39).

    Since God is the One who baptizes, your friend's baptism as baby is quite valid. A second baptism would be saying to God that His 1st baptism wan't quite good enough (for whatever reason).

    No...one baptism will do just fine.

    All the Reformers were baptized as infants (and not re-baptized). God seemed to honor their baptisms just fine.

    He'll honor ours as well....if it was when we were 3 months old...or 80 years old.

    Age is no barrier to the Living God.

  7. Will

    I think it's often necessary to look at the context to tell whether it's water or spirit baptism in view. I think Matthew 28 is referring to water baptism but Acts 2:38 is referring to spirit baptism, for example. No time at the moment to back this up though!

    I think most would agree that a sprinkling is as "valid" as a dunking, even if they would make a dunking a requirement for their own denomination.

    Gav I was going to come by your way to say hello on my travels back to Canberra after exams. Maybe we could chat about it then? (Though I assume Glen is about to make the definitive pronouncement on the matter! :o) )

    Anyway are you at home in the week or so from 10 November?

    Will

  8. theoldadam

    Will,

    If Matthew 28 is referring to water baptism (which Jesus commands of us) then it would rightly follow that Jesus is Himself present in it.

    He never commanded us to do anything where He would not be there in it, for us.

    So, when we are baptized, the Triune God is in it (in whose name we are commanded to baptize), doing the baptizing, giving us His promises, giving us His name, adopting us as His children.

    Jesus was not into empty religious symbolism for the sake of ritual.

    I have always found it quite odd that many Evangelicals (maybe all) believe that Jesus can actually be present in their hearts...but yet deny that He can be present in a bowl of water accompanied by His Word.

  9. Gav

    Hey Will.

    Yep, I'll be around some place. I'll email you my mobile...I'll be working no doubt, but we will work something out.

    Question for all.......So if we are not baptised by water by someone who has already been baptised, but you believe; can you enter heavan?

    If not....even though God baptizes us, it still sounds a bit "worksy" because you have to rely on someone to do the job.

  10. theoldadam

    The someone we rely on to "do the job" is God.

    So it is never "worksy" (unless someone believes tht people need to DO something to add to what Jesus has done). Then that wrongheaded understanding might be considered 'works righteousness'.

    Since God is the One giving the promises...someone who has not even been baptized himself could perform a valid baptism on someone if he does it in the name of the Triune God and with a bit of water.

    I'll admit that would be quite a rare instance, but the baptism would indeed be valid.

    Also, God can surely save outside of baptism...but He can surely save using it, as well.

    And since He is the One who commanded it...we figure He had an awfully good reason to do so (like it really does something and really means something).

  11. Glen

    Hey Gav,

    Sorry not to get back to you. Remember the title of the post - "Why should I let you into my heaven?" No-one would dare to answer that question "Because I'm baptised!"

    Baptism don't get you into heaven!

    But... think about the *right* answer to that question from the post - "Jesus steps forward and says 'He's mine!'".

    At the end of the day that's the reason we get to heaven. And the focus here is neither on our works *or* our faith. Our focus is on Jesus who claims us as His own.

    And we know that Jesus will do that on the last day because He also does it throughout our lives. He does it by His word and by His sacraments.

    In His word He claims us for His own - He says 'I will be your God and you will be my people.'

    But also in the Lord's Supper He does it - He says this is my body, take and eat. This is my blood, drink this all of you.

    And also He does it in baptism. Sometimes I take people to 1 Corinthians 10 and show them how the Israelites were "baptised into Moses" (v2). Essentially the Israelites came up against the Red Sea and they couldn't cross it but they knew a guy who could. So they followed him, they threw their lot in with him, they said 'Your fate will be our fate, we're united to you.' If you read Romans 6 you'll see that baptism into Christ is the same. We can't get through death, but we know a Guy who can. And through baptism we are united to Him - His fate is our fate, etc, etc.

    In baptism we are claimed for Christ. Read these beautiful words from an old French reformed liturgy:

    "Little child, for you Jesus Christ has come, He has fought, He has suffered. For you He entered into the shadows of Gethsemane and the terror of Calvary; For you He uttered the cry “it is finished.” For you He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and there for you He intercedes.
    For you, even though you do not know it, little child,
    but in this way the Word of the Gospel is made true,
    “We love Him because He first loved us.”

    That's kind of what infant baptism is about. It's modelling the truth that God first loved us. Christ died for us before we ever had a thought for Him. So *first* He claims us, *then* we acknowledge Him.

    So I'd be against second baptisms. The real 'work' of baptism, as oldadam has said, is God's. And He did a good job the first time.

    Luther was really reassured by the fact he was baptised as a baby. He'd always remind himself that he was baptised - and baptised when he hadn't done anything to merit it. If he was loved at *that* point, then he was secure in God's love.

    If we make baptism into *our* proclamation of our faith (instead of God's proclamation of His work) then we've reversed what it's all about. And a second baptism will never be enough because... well... how 'on fire' do you need to be? You might think your 18 year old baptism was valid because then you knew Jesus. Well what about when you're 35 and you *really* know Jesus? Why not a third and a fourth baptism?

    If you make baptism about our proclamation to the world (I belong to Christ) then you open the door to many baptisms. But Christ makes baptism His proclamation to you (You belong to me). And so He does it, once and for all, when you're least deserving. It's pure grace.

    As for sprinkling or dunking - I don't think it matters at all. Get em wet and speak the promises over them in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

  12. Glen

    Well, assuming for now it should be in the bible (have a look at the footnote after v8), I take comfort from the fact that the condemnation half of the verse doesn't have anything to do with baptism.

    I think that throws the weight onto the believe/disbelieve contrast. That's what decides eternity. And baptism is mentioned as just a 'no-brainer' accompaniment to faith.

    'be baptised' is like 'receive the Spirit' or '*repent* and believe'. It's not another hoop you've got to jump through, it's just another way of describing how you receive the salvation on offer.

  13. theoldadam

    Baptism is surely important or the Lord would not have commanded that we baptize and 'be baptized'.

    He gives faith in baptism. He forgives sin in baptism. As Glen says, He makes us His own (first).

    When the light switch turns on for someone, then their baptism is complete. But the Lord is the one doing all that is needful along the way.

    When the devil was hounding Luther, Luther wrote on the wall, "I am Baptized".

    This was not some superstitious belief in the ritual itself (like a rabbit's foot)...but rather a trust in what God had done for him in his baptism. A trust that the promise made at the font 30, 40, 50 years ago (or whatever) is still good.

    It is the external Word that comes to us(from outside of ourselves) that gives us the assurance of our salvation, apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think.

    Can can and does save in baptism (1st Peter 3:20,21). God chooses to do this.

    As Louie Soprano would say...'You gotta problem wit dat!?'

    And yes, God can certainly save apart from baptism, we have to affirm that too. But the emphasis ought be on what Christ told us to do....baptize.

    In Romans 6, St. Paul does not use the word symbolizes (he knew that word).

    A real death occurs in water baptism accompanied by God's Name and His Word.

    And a real resurrection, also. We mysteriously share in Christ's death and resurrection. That's what Holy Baptism is!

    It is a real gift from God and we ought remind each other and others of this fact (and ourselves - as Luther did and as he exhorts us to return to our baptisms....daily)

    The promises made to us in baptism are our assurance that God's promises are true and valid for...you (us).

    I believe with all my heart that THIS is the reason that Jesus commanded baptism.

    Thanks!

  14. Will

    Hi Glen and OldAdam,

    I am starting to lose sleep over this issue again so perhaps I'd better leave it alone, but could I just ask two questions?

    i) What happened spiritually in the infant (water) baptism of someone who never went on to profess Christ , and who eventually died in unbelief?

    ii) What happens spiritually in the (water) baptism of a person who was never baptised as an infant, but who later puts their trust in Christ and then asks to be baptised?

    In the case of (i), surely the person was never born again, and in the case of (ii) surely he or she was born again at the point of conversion (1 John 1:5), and not at the point of the point of the water baptism (which might occur perhaps a week or more later?)

    I am trying to follow the apostle Paul's lead (in Romans 4) of being precise about when salvation occurs in relation to the recipient's response.

    Again, I don't have time to justify my own view, but I'd be interested if you could respectfully flesh out yours a little more, so I can think (and hopefully not stress) about it further.

    thanks!

    Will

  15. theoldadam

    Will,

    I'll take a stab at your questions.

    The infant who was baptized and never professes Christ may not utilize the promises given to him/her in their baptism. Possibly they were never taught about those promises, and the faith was not nurtured. But the promises given by God are still good and valid...even though those promises may never has been grasped, or utilized by the baptized. Or they may just reject those promises and walk away from them.

    But, God is faithful even though we are faithless. It is possible that God can welcome someone like that into the Kingdom? We really can't say. Only God knows the heart and we are not to judge anyone's salvation. (although we might speculate...we really ought not to)

    And we certainly would agree that someone can come to faith apart from baptism, by hearing the Word. Not a problem there at all.

    We believe that Baptism and Holy Communion are also Word of God. Visable Word. And that God chooses to act for us in these ways.

    God has chosen to work in the Word. The preached Word. The read Word. The water and Word of Baptism. And the bread and wine of Communion. And in the consolation of the brethren.

    I was baptized as an infant. I didn't go to church regularly as a child and was taught almost nothing about the Christian faith until I was nearing 40. In those growing years, I did feel a tug of God, but could never put my finger on it.

    In a Romans class when I was 40 ish, my 'light switch' was turned on. My pastor says that when that happened to me by the grace of God, that my baptism was complete.

    Some (that were baptized as infants) really never have an experience like I did. Some do. Does that mean that they don't have faith? Again, that is not something that we can say with any certainty.

    Christ Himself tells us that our faith doesn't even amount to that of the size of a mustard seed.

    I really believe that baptism is a real gift of God, and that we ought learn about it, teach others about it and realize that the real decision (that counts) is the decision that God makes for us. On the cross...and in our baptisms.

    For what it's worth.

    Thanks, Will.

  16. pgjackson

    Hope no-one minds me butting in. I like Westminster on this, I must admit:

    "I. 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."

    ...and later on...

    "VI. The efficacy of Baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongs unto, according to the counsel of God's own will, in His appointed time."

    So, baptism is efficacious to exhibit and confer the grace it is a sign and seal of. But the efficacy is not tied to the moment of administration (though of course, that doesn't mean it can't coincide, but just rather that it doesn't do so necessarily).

    On the question of the unbelieving baptised, I hold to something Calvin and other reformers held to, namely that there is an objectivity in baptism. God says something (the gospel) and offers his promises to the baptised in their baptism. This is ineffective without faith, just like the preaching of the gospel. But, just like the preaching of the gospel (and more so, since it engrafts people into the visible church), baptism brings with it an obligation to receive by faith what is promised, to believe what is said, and to live in faithful obedience as a response. In that sense, those who are baptised but don't ever believe are in a worse position than an unbaptised pagan - they've been given and offered grace in baptism, and indeed received some of its benefits (membership of the visible church for e.g.) and yet rejected it.

    Doug Wilson likes to use the analogy of marriage. Getting married does something to you whether you subjectively 'mean it' or not. For the unfaithful, what it does it put you under an obligation and thereby heighten the sinfulness of your unfaithfulness. A fornicator while engaged leaves the chapel an adulterer - he's entered into a covenant and broken it. Baptism is analogous to the wedding ceremony, in that it brings obligations, and means something whether or not the recipient is a believer in the message of baptism or not. Which is why Paul can use baptism to address the churches and call them by it to faithfulness - 'you're baptised, and baptised people shouldn't behave like that, they should trust Christ' as in Galatians and Romans 6.

  17. Stevon Virtue

    Hi Guys My name is Stevon and I go to the same church as Gav. I am the person that Gav is refeering to re Baptism.
    My understanding of the Bible is that believing in Christ for salvation and baptism are a marriage they are not seperate. Consider these verses: Acts 9: 18, 8: 26-39, 10: 47-48, Acts 16: 13-15, 16-34, Consider this (Acts 2:41) - 3,000 people were baptized after believing on the first day of the Christian church. Verses 38 and 39 make it clear that this is the way that it will always be done. That is, all people who accept Christ as their saviour will come to Him in this way. Other verses Gal 3: 26-27, Ephes 4: 4-6. The question is how were they baptised? To my understanding the only way is immersion as per John the Baptist. Where is the bible is there any refference as to sprinkling water over a persons head........And God appears to be silent when it comes to baptising babies...Why? becasue i believe that children are under the covering of God until such a time as they can understand how to be saved by accepting Jesus.
    My story is last year I was operated on for bowel cancer and was given a 50% survival with chemo and meds. about 3 weeks after the operation the calling in my heart to be baptised was so strong and urgent...so i did it out side of my church. The next morning when I awaoke I heard God's voice saying "You are now receiving my blessings in full" So from that point I was healed......and here I am 1 year later..no chemo, no meds, just my faith and love in my Saviour and Lord.
    Look at it this way.
    You are entering into a contract called salvation
    1. Water Baptism is your signature on the contract
    2. Baptism of the Spirit is God's signature signed by Jesus with His Blood.
    I have heaps more that I could tell you...but one thing is for sure, without the baptism ( immersion) I wouldn't be here today. So I encourage you all.........If you are not sure about your baptism.......meditate on psalm 139 and ask God. Grace and perfect peace to you all..in the name of Jesus Yeshu'a.

    Stevon

  18. theoldadam

    Stevon,

    Baptism is not a contract.

    It's a promise.

    It's an adoption.

    God does it. Not us.

    The water part of the equation is just water...until the Word is attached to it. The amount of water is meaningless. It could be a drop. If there were no water available (like out in a desert), sand could be used.

    It's the Word of promise in the Name of the Triune God.

    What does a little baby have to do with anything when it is adopted? Nothing. The new parents choose the child, papersare filled out, and that's it.

    In Baptism, God is adopting us. The age of the adoptee does not matter.

    Rationalism keeps us from believing this.

    Do we have a wimpy god that is dependent on what we decide?

    Or do we have a real God who acts and does His will...for sinners?

    Thanks!

    My God is the latter.

  19. pgjackson

    Stevon,

    I agree with you re. immersion in so far as I reckon that's the best/ most true-to-the-sign way. In fact, when our son was baptised earlier on this year he was fully immersed, which is ordinary practice in our church. I don't think it's the only valid way however, and in that sense I agree with theoldadam above.

    I obviously (given my comments elsewhere) don't agree re. baptism of confessors/ professors only, in so far as I understand it that the scriptures teach us to baptise the infants of believers way prior to their making any such public statement.

    Obviously, this is an age-old debate, and it's unlikely that in a series of exchanges on a blog that we'll get anywhere imho. If you're interested, then Glen has linked to my posts on the subject above (or follow the link in my name to my blog and look for the 'baptism' category). But even then, I'd recommend them as just a starting point for your own investigations. Even if you just want to understand why it is that some bible-believing christians differ with you on this.

    And all praise to God that you are well and here and able to testify to his grace.

  20. Stevon Virtue

    Hi Theoldadam
    Thanks for your comments re My Baptism.
    I agree with you what you said and i was only using the word contract as an example. Yes it is most definately God that does it and it is an adoption and promise.
    Yes the Word must be attached to the water by the action of Baptism. Re your comments of a wimpy God...I am not sure what you are suggesting.........I serve a God of Power, Love Hope, Grace, Mercy, and His Mercy said no to me re bowel cancer and called to my heart to be baptised (Full Imersion as per the bible). I received the Spirit of Truth, and the truth has set me free and healed me because of my faith to be obedient to God's Word...so it was my decision to be baptised according to the calling in my heart and God's Word. It is impossible to please God without faith and I know by my ministry and the fruit that I have done the correct thing and that I am blessed and now live a life of victory through His awesome Grace.
    I love Jesus and I know that He loves me.
    May His perfect Peace, Grace and Mercy be with you all.
    In the only name known to Heaven
    Jesus Yeshu'a the soon returning Son of Almighty God.
    Stevon

  21. Jeannie

    Sadly, Stevon succumbed to bowel cancer 22nd September, 2011. He was a man of great faith, and is surely now with his beloved Jesus. He had a great radio ministry and a personal ministry which blessed many people. He will be very sadly missed by all his many friends the world over.

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