Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Church is the Body is the Ark: Visible and Tangible

This post is actually a response to a couple of comments made about my quotation of Cyprian on Facebook. Cyprian said that there is no salvation outside the Church. And I have heard that Calvin agreed with this and said that there was as much hope for those outside the Church as there was for those outside the ark. The comments made about this were similar and yet had different conclusions. The first comment was approving the quote. It was saying that the Church was the elect and so of course there is not salvation outside of that. Basically, that the Church was not a meeting place but rather the elect. The second comment was seperating salvation from "entrance" into the ark/Church. That comment said that salvation takes place and then you enter the Church... so salvation is essentially "outside" the Church. So, this person had some problems with the way that the words sounded. So, this was my response to these two comments. Please forgive me if it sounds a bit choppy... I copied and pasted.

First of the Church is able to be seen. It is not "invisible" as commonly understood. There is an invisible aspect of the Church and that would be those who have gone before us. But the Body of Christ can be seen and it does "meet." It has its sacraments and other physical aspects. So when I say the Church I mean just that. Even as Paul addressed the Church in his letters. These were people that he could name and shake hands with. These were people that he could find and which included all those who gathered to hear his letters.
Secondly, you cannot seperate the Body of Christ from the Church. If you are in the Church you are in the Body. So when we say that there is no salvation outside the Church we are saying there is no salvation outside the Body. When you are baptized you are baptized into the Body of Christ and without any distinction into the Church. You cannot be part of Christ and not be part of His body which is the Church. Thus, salvation is in the Church and absolutely nowhere else. It is wrong to divide Church and Body. And to be part of the Body is to be in Christ. Your heart cannot be part of your body and not part of you. So for it to be in your body is to be in YOU. The ark was salvation and Christ is salvation. That is why Peter says that baptism is an antitype and that it now saves. Because to be baptized is to enter into the true Ark. And just as entrance into the ark saved so now does entrance into The ARK.


Micah David said...

The normative path of salvation is found within the church. Just as the normative pattern of love is within marriage. The church is the body of Christ, which is to say that she is in a sense an incarnation of Christ in the here and now. But then again, Clay, while I agree with you, one should perhaps flesh out what, or who, the church is. I think I'll take a stab at it on my blog.

Patti Hobbs said...

Clayton, would you please clarify: Do you believe that salvation is given through baptism to those that are baptised within the organizational structure of a physical church?

And do you believe that the I Peter verse means that the act of baptism itself saves a person?

Patti Hobbs said...

I mean the act of water baptism...

Clayton said...

Well, let me say this. I do not think that we can maked distinctions between the organizational/physical church and the Church the Body of Christ. I think that they are one and the same. We do not see those distinctions in the Scripture though there are many reformed people who do make such distinctions.

I also do not think we can make distinctions between water baptism and Spirit baptism because I do not think we can find that in Scripture either. I believe they are referring to one and the same as Paul says "one baptism."

Now as concerning salvation. I do believe that something very real/supernatural takes place at baptism. I believe that when we are baptized we are baptized into the body of Christ... the vine. We then partake in the vine. So, once someone is baptized I think that we can and must refer to them as Christians in the body of Christ. Paul even addresses whole congregations as the elect and beloved of God. Congregations much like the ones we see all about us full of all types. So, though we may not know the final ending of all who are baptized we must deal with the material we have and let God take care of the invisible. So, when we meet people that are baptized we must refer to them as such. Though the keys of the kingdom have been given to those in authority over the church and they can bind and loose and trust that those things will also be done in heaven. Excommunication then is a type of losing salvation as is apostasy. And Christ says that in the end there will be those who partook in the vine that will be cut off, bound, and burned. And then of course this is dealt with to some extent in Hebrews 6. And so I must say that there will be those who were truly in the Body of Christ who will be finally cut off.

This is a short answer to a huge question. I hope that it contains some clarity but I do realize ahead of time that it probably won't convince you so I will be happy if it at least gives food for thought.

Patti Hobbs said...

I don't think that you've said anything that I haven't heard before (as far as the food for though part goes). I have studied others' positions quite a bit although it's been a long time. And yes, I am not convinced because I do think that there are distinctions made in Scripture that are pretty clear. I have thoroughly read the New Testament particularly looking for passages that would deal with this. Even the one in Peter that you've mentioned says that it's not the washing, but an appeal of a clear conscience.(I do think this one is the least clear though since it says specifically washing of the body and one could argue the case that it's the washing of something else even though I would say that the alternative is given and we don't have to insert something else) I could go through and give chapters and verses, but again, like you, I don't see it convincing you.

It's hard for me not to say anything when these kinds of topics come up because I do think that the people believing in infant baptism, particularly those who believe that the baptism puts the person into the covenant, are misusing Scripture. I understand that you don't see it that way, but to me, one has to have the notion already in his head that it means something that is not readily evident without having read the other (extra-Biblical) sources.

I have spent many, many posts, emails, and hours studying and discussing this with other paedobaptist people and I know that I can't change your mind, but I always hope that people who question the issue themselves can see that there are other people who have studied the issue and found the position wanting. I would like to take more time to bring proof texts to bear and argue opposition to the points brought forth by paedobaptists (and your church's more extreme stripe of that group), but I also just don't have the time.

Patti Hobbs said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that initially when I did start to study this issue we were in a church which believed in paedobaptism and I did very much WANT to believe it. So I don't think that I initially had a bias. I only became militant against the position after I had thoroughly studied it.

blakeandpeggy said...

Mrs Hobbs, What is that bit about a good conscience toward God? It seems to me that the only way to get that is by union with Christ. This seems to fit with the context because, for Peter's exhortations to work, his hearers need to see themselves in the position of the righteous, and connected with Christ who suffered and is now raised. I think that he is saying that they are in that position because of their baptism. I don't think that I would be misusing this passage if I were to one day exhort my daughter to faithfulness because she is baptized and belongs to Christ who has saved her. That being said I don't think that Peter was encouraging them to have faith in the water, and I won't be going around like Nacho and baptizing my friends when they're not looking.

Clayton said...

Blake I believe you said it well. My response was going to say that the baptism is NOT the washing of filth but THE appeal for a clean conscience. It seems clear.
My only other thought is that the reason that paedobaptist have the thought in their head is because of their understanding of the cohesion of the Scriptures unlike those who understand Old and New as two seperate books.
Old and New agree, they sing one beautiful song together. To seperate is destroy one or the other. The Jews cling to the old and so are to this day God haters. Our brothers cling to the New and so become confused in their understanding. But the truth is that they harmonize with each other creating a beautiful song out of foreshadowing and fulfilment, types and antitypes and all that to the glory of our Triune God.

Patti Hobbs said...

"Our brothers cling to the New and so become confused in their understanding. But the truth is that they harmonize with each other creating a beautiful song out of foreshadowing and fulfilment, types and antitypes and all that to the glory of our Triune God."

Why do you think that, Clayton?

I'm going to read between the lines a bit and assume it's because of what I said about reading the New Testament thoroughly. I didn't mention that I had read the OT also (I just didn't read it all the way I did the NT). I went through each of the covenants (Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic), reading their terms closely. What were the conditions? To whom were the conditions laid? And what were the signs of those covenants. That's when I discovered to my surprise that the sign of the Mosaic covenant was actually the Sabbath, not circumcision.

I would say that it's absolutely not true that "brethren" such as myself don't take into account all the anti-types, foreshadowing, and fulfillments. We just don't connect the dots in the same way. :-)

I'll probably have to wait until tomorrow to respond to Blake's post.

I would still like to know, Clayton, how you harmonize people becoming Christians through individual witness with your statements ala Cyprian that salvation is only through the church.

Micah, how do you make the comparison that you have with salvation/church and love/marriage saying that they are the normative patterns? Isn't love so much bigger than marriage? Isn't marriage done away with in eternity. "There is no giving of marriage." I hope that love is bigger than that as I hope that provision for salvation is larger than only through the church.

Clayton said...

The reason I say that our brothers cling to the n.t. without harmonizing both is because you had said that we must have these things in our head before we come to the scriptures. Which is not the case but rather we have these ideas about what baptism is because the tracks were laid aforehand.
As for the people becoming Christians through individual witness. They become part of the Body of Christ through baptism which takes place in the Church. And if we want to broaden it a bit we might even say that we are the Church sent out. Either way it is within the Church and I believe it is better to think of someone becoming a Christian at baptism since that is when they are baptized into Christ. Though there may be exceptions like those who die before they recieve baptism.
And in regards to marriage. The giving and being given to marriage ceases in heaven but marriage does not cease. In fact it is fulfilled in an eternal marriage between Husband and Wife... Christ and His Bride. Love is not bigger than marriage. Marriage was and is the goal of creation. And in like pattern Salvation is not bigger than the Church. The Church was and is the goal of creation. The Marriage is the end of God's redemptive work as The Church is the end of all of God's redemptive work. We were created to give to Christ a Bride.

Micah David said...

I'll be a little more specific. In scripture the normative patter of love between a man and a wife (including, but not limited to, romantic intimacy, sexual relations, covenantal bond between just one man and just one woman) in the here and now, is limited to marriage. There are exceptions. Like all those poor people we keep talking about on desert islands. But those are rare. That is why it is a normative pattern, or the normal way it is supposed to happen.

In a similar way, I believe we find in Scripture that the normative pattern of salvation happens within the bounds, under the sanctions of, and in union with the Church.

My point is, just as there is a normative pattern for one, there is for the other. It doesn't matter which one is bigger or smaller, or more important, or the vehicle for whatever. There is a Biblical pattern.

The Gospel, from Adam to the eschaton, is about a race of worshipers. A people who are mystically tied to Christ and one another, but really truly connected. The Gospel is a social Gospels, it calls us together, to dwell in unity. We are a relational people, because we are image bearers of the triune God. He created us to join with one another in worship to Him. When we worship we are united as one body, the Body of Christ, and we rise to heavenly places to fellowship with God. When we go out, that doesn't leave us. We are still tied to one another. We are still in covenant. We still bear the mark of baptism, which ties us to Christ, but also to the church. We are part of the church, and she is part of us.