Thursday, November 26, 2009

Where Luther and Calvin are different

In one interchange - Brett, a dear Internet friend, quoted this passage from Galatians 3.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of
you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

When I was a Pentecostal, I was taught that "baptism" mentioned in v.27, was not water baptism but "Spirit baptism". By this they mean, when I gave my heart to Jesus, or when I got converted, made a decision etc. that was when I got baptized into Christ. Pentecostals, being baptistic, separate the HS from water baptism, because they do not believe water baptism does anything. Hence, they separate the HS from where He is found. This has impact when you are doubting your Christianity. Because by this, Pentecostalism makes you look at your sincere commitment, sincere decision etc. Thus, this makes you look at some mystical experience, yet even if you do and are able to point at one experience, you are not certain if that is the one that the Bible describes. You are uncertain still.

Another idea I see is this verse in Gal 2:

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but
Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith
in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me

I wondered, when did Paul die with Christ, how could he say this? I now answer my own question this way: at his Baptism.

Here is IssuesEtc feature on this.

Note what Luther says when attacked by the devil with doubts about his Christianity, he says to the devil: I am Baptized.

Luther pointed to the Means of Grace that happened to him.


Steve Martin said...

It pains me that so many Christian brothers and sisters refuse to see this.

Not wanting to place what Christ has done for us in the Sacraments (is yet doing), is to place one's self at the center, and to edge Christ over a bit.

And now, you are the star of the show.

What a tedious religious existance.

Mark Henderson said...

Just for the record, here's what Calvin says in his commentary, vv 27ff, because he doesn't really say much about v26:

"Since, then, by faith we have obtained adoption, by faith likewise we have obtained our freedom.

27. As many of you as have been baptized. The greater and loftier the privilege is of being the children of God, the farther is it removed from our senses, and the more difficult to obtain belief. He therefore explains, in a few words, what is implied in our being united, or rather, made one with the Son of God; so as to remove all doubt, that what belongs to him is communicated to us. He employs the metaphor of a garment, when he says that the Galatians have put on Christ; but he means that they are so closely united to him, that, in the presence of God, they bear the name and character of Christ, and are viewed in him rather than in themselves. This metaphor or similitude, taken from garments, occurs frequently, and has been treated by us in other places.

But the argument, that, because they have been baptized, they have put on Christ, appears weak; for how far is baptism from being efficacious in all? Is it reasonable that the grace of the Holy Spirit should be so closely linked to an external symbol? Does not the uniform doctrine of Scripture, as well as experience, appear to confute this statement? I answer, it is customary with Paul to treat of the sacraments in two points of view. When he is dealing with hypocrites, in whom the mere symbol awakens pride, he then proclaims loudly the emptiness and worthlessness of the outward symbol, and denounces, in strong terms, their foolish confidence. In such cases he contemplates not the ordinance of God, but the corruption of wicked men. When, on the other hand, he addresses believers, who make a proper use of the symbols, he then views them in connection with the truth — which they represent. In this case, he makes no boast of any false splendor as belonging to the sacraments, but calls our attention to the actual fact represented by the outward ceremony. Thus, agreeably to the Divine appointment, the truth comes to be associated with the symbols.

But perhaps some person will ask, Is it then possible that, through the fault of men, a sacrament shall cease to bear a figurative meaning? The reply is easy. Though wicked men may derive no advantage from the sacraments, they still retain undiminished their nature and force. The sacraments present, both to good and to bad men, the grace of God. No falsehood attaches to the promises which they exhibit of the grace of the Holy Spirit. Believers receive what is offered; and if wicked men, by rejecting it, render the offer unprofitable to themselves, their conduct cannot destroy the faithfulness of God, or the true meaning of the sacrament. With strict propriety, then, does Paul, in addressing believers, say, that when they were baptized, they “put on Christ;” just as, in the Epistle to the Romans, he says,

“that we have been planted together into his death,
so as to be also partakers of his resurrection.”
(Romans 6:5.)

In this way, the symbol and the Divine operation are kept distinct, and yet the meaning of the sacraments is manifest; so that they cannot be regarded as empty and trivial exhibitions; and we are reminded with what base ingratitude they are chargeable, who, by abusing the precious ordinances of God, not only render them unprofitable to themselves, but turn them to their own destruction!"

What think ye, brothers and sisters?

L P said...

The latter part seems to make sense, but the previous paragraphs before that are double talks. This is why Calvin is confusing, you do not really know where he will turn. I do not find him to speak plainly. He goes into some cart wheels and I think he is confused as to what his real stance is about the sacraments.

According to the interviewee - Dr. Cary, Calvin slipped down to deny the efficacy of the Sacraments in the end.


Brett Meyer said...

As is good and right the Lord often allows false teachers to skewer themselves on their own false doctrine and condemnation of what they see as being wicked. Calvin states, "and we are reminded with what base ingratitude they are chargeable, who, by abusing the precious ordinances of God, not only render them unprofitable to themselves, but turn them to their own destruction!""

The righteous judgement of God who's will and Word are perfect and eternal.

Steve Martin said...

Sure, we can walk away from our baptisms.

But does that render the promise made there null and void?


The promise is still good and valid. The work done by God in the Sacrament is His work.

Just how merciful will the Lord be to those who've abandoned their baptisms?

We do not know the answer to that question.

I am very thankful for what God has done for me in my baptism.

Along with His body and blood, it is the ONLY grounds of assurance that I can count on with regard to my salvation.

Otherwise, I am just putting faith faith. I prefer putting my faith in God, and what He has done...for me.

Thanks, friends.

L P said...

According to historians, Calvin learned JBFA from Luther. So the difference between us and Calvinists can be summed up like this.

Luther/Lutherans = JBFA w Sacraments.

Calvin/Calvinists = JBFA w/o Sacraments.

Since Calvin learned JBFA from Luther and yet denied eventually the Sacraments of Baptism and the Supper...

Conclusion, I think Calvin misunderstood Luther and misunderstood JBFA also. The whole of it is that Calvin/Calvinism is a like ship without a rudder when it comes to the Sacraments, they are a bit dysfunctional on this.

Tough to say but being an ex-Calvinists myself, this is true.


Mark Henderson said...


I would say:

Calvinism = JBFA + Sacraments; but only for the elect.

It is the latter part of the equation, I think, that is one of two reasons for Calvin's often equivocal language here and in may other places.

The second factor, I think, is his reluctance, based on philosophical presuppositions, to grant that material things can be vehicles for immaterial grace. In soem ways I suspect this goes back to Augustine's neo-Platonism, and there is a traceable line one can follow from Augustine to Calvin in this.

L P said...

Pr. M,

Agree, for Calvin it is that way as you said in your equation. But for Calvinists in general, it is JBFA - Sacraments, or that is the way in practice. Calvin's followers tend to levitate off orbit from Calvin himself. It is interesting how Presbyterians and Reformed Baptists could hold things in common between them, I mean unionism in conferences, conventions etc.

On neo-platonistic presuppositions, that is interesting info Pr. M.

Being Godelian (my picture) in my thinking, I follow Godel when it comes to abstract realities such as mathematics having a reality of their own. But I think it is a leap to interpret, say, the Supper passages platonistically. It is procedurally wrong, no? I mean it should be, sacred text first before hermeneutics.


L P said...


It hit me. I just now realize what you were saying...

Yeah, Calvin is guilty of his own pronouncements.

That is deep bro.


L P said...


You will find Calvinists equate circumicision with baptism, the two are not the same. Rather I think circumicision is a pointer to the real gift - baptism. Recall that big pile of comments when you posted the baptism of your grand daughter? The Babsticks there had this thing under the hood, thinking circumcision is just like baptism.

Thanks too bro.


jim cronfel said...

Dear Lito,

I was infant Baptised at a Greek Orthodox Church.

I was dunked as a adult in a Southern Baptist Church.

But I have had Communion at a MS Church.

The devil tells me I am going to prison in the future to stop my book and life.

Q: Does my baptism defeat the devil as did Luther's baptism?

In all seriousness please and thank Jesus that I am not going to prison! The devil really did tell me I am going to prison. I am not in any trouble with the police.

In Christ Jesus,
Jim Cronfel

L P said...


I was just wondering about you.

As per Luther your baptism as far as you believe there is a promise of Christ to you and in faith to that promise, faith overcomes the world, the devil and what nots.

Glad you were just joking about the prison stuff.