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Three Great Blessings of our Peace with God (Acts 10:1-11:18)
Sermon Notes
Sunday, 20 January 2013 00:00

We were blessed with Linda's baptism last Sunday. In light of that happy event, I wanted to address some of the passages in the Bible that are often misunderstood to teach doctrines like "baptismal regeneration." So we have embarked upon a short series focusing on some potentially confusing passages regarding salvation and baptism in the book of Acts.

There has often been confusion in understanding issues of salvation and water baptism in the book of Acts. In this short series, our goal is to understand the passages in Acts which are often confused regarding salvation and baptism. The vast majority of those who are confused about what the book of Acts has to say about the doctrine of salvation as it relates to baptism do not distinguish three things adequately.

We want to distinguish these three things here: (1) the free gift of eternal life, (2) the ongoing experience of forgiveness of sins, and (3) the baptism by the Holy Spirit of a believer into the Body of Christ, the Church.

(1) Eternal life is ours through regeneration, a new birth that brings us the gift of eternal life. The flip-side of the coin of regeneration is justification, which is a judicial clearing of the believer from the penalty of his sin. There is nothing for the believer to go into court for. Such a one will not ever come into judgment (John 5:24) to determine whether or not he’s saved. He has already been cleared by the heavenly court, declared righteous by God in His sight. At the moment of faith in Christ, that believer is justified, is regenerated, and has eternal life. Eternal life is the believer’s present and permanent possession. The quality of the eternal life we possess will vary depending upon our growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If I abide in His Word, I will enjoy an abundance of life both now and on into the future kingdom that is greater than if I fail to trust and obey Him in my present experience of life.

(2) Forgiveness. The experience of forgiveness ends our estrangement from God – the barrier that sin creates between man and God in terms of man having an experience of a harmonious personal relationship (fellowship) with God. **  The solution to many perceived problems in Acts, as they relate to the doctrine of salvation, revolve around a single word, and that word is forgiveness.
Zane Hodges has pointed out that these two key statements about forgiveness are essential:
(1) Forgiveness is not a judicial issue between man and God, but it is a personal issue between God and man.
(2) Forgiveness is not the removal of a penalty, but it is the removal of estrangement between God and man.
If you understand the bearing of those two statements on our understanding of forgiveness, you are on the way to a much clearer understanding of salvation and baptism in the book of Acts!

(3) The baptism of the Spirit inducts us into the Body of Christ. Recall that the idea of baptism is identification. When the Holy Spirit baptizes the believer into the Body of Christ, that believer has a new identity as a new member of the Body of Christ, the Church. Water baptism is for believers and is a picture of the unseen reality (the Holy Spirit baptized the believer into the Body of Christ) that took place spiritually at the moment we believed in Jesus for eternal life. This was the experience of Cornelius and it is our experience today in the Church age, but as we learn in the book of Acts, such was not always the experience of every believer in the Church age.

It is possible for a person to be regenerated and not have the Holy Spirit residing within. While that is not possible now, in the church age (1 Corinthians 12:13), such was the case in the Old Testament as well as during Christ’s first advent, right up until the day of Pentecost (John 7:39). So regeneration and the baptism of the Spirit into the Body of Christ are two different things. We have to keep that in mind. And forgiveness is a third different thing. Remember the two key statements above! When we mix all these things in our mind inappropriately, then we will find some of the material in the book of Acts confusing, but it need not be so.

** There is, of course, a sense of forgiveness which is a positional, or “in Christ” forgiveness. This is ours at the moment we believe. It is ours through Spirit baptism into the Body of Christ.





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