It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again: Keister Refutes Moon

Ever had a déjà vu experience?

Ever had a déjà vu experience?

Ever had a déjà vu experience?

Ever had a déjà vu experience?

This is the experience I’ve been having watching the discussion concerning the Federal Vision in the PCA Siouxlands Presbytery. I’ve been having a  déjà vu experience because we’ve been through this all before. If we didn’t know that there have been numerous reports by sessions, presbytery committees, synodical/GA committees, articles, books, pamphlets, talks, not to mention GA and synodical decisions, judging by the rhetoric coming the supporters of Pastor (PCA Teaching Elder) Greg Lawrence, one might think we were starting from  scratch. Well, we aren’t. Here’s a resource page on the FV/NPP controversy.

Recently, however, in his defense of Lawrence, PCA Pastor Greg Moon sought to enlist a small army of classic and modern Reformed writers in support of Lawrence’s doctrine of baptism benefits. I gave a summary response here but PCA Pastor Lane Keister has given an extensive formal response to the Siouxlands Presbytery demonstrating that Moon’s appeal to the various classic and modern Reformed writers is ill founded in the sources themselves. Further, he refutes Moon’s appeal to several biblical texts.

It is remarkable that we’re still having this conversation. Either 1) people who should know better haven’t been paying attention for the lat eight years or 2) people who should know better are seeking some formal pretense for tolerating a gross error in doctrine. In either case more than a few teaching and ruling elders are morally culpable. This culpability is manifest in the ease with which Keister dispatches Moon’s spurious appeals to the Reformed tradition and to Scripture itself. Just the slightest bit of context and even momentary attention to the texts themselves demonstrates that the writers and texts to which Moon appeals are not at all saying what Moon wants us to think. This is why I offered only a summary response because it seemed to me that Moon’s own paper was self-refuting. One had only to look at the quotations Moon himself supplied to see that either his appeal to them was quite unfounded and that he completely misunderstood them. To give just one example that occurred (but which I failed to mention): Moon appeals to Sinclair Ferguson’s work in John Owen. First, anyone who knows the least bit about Owen knows how silly such an appeal is. Second, and I found this amusing, Sinclair Ferguson was one of the first people to speak up in print about the very error Lawrence and Moon are seeking to perpetuate. Ferguson published a review of Norman Shepherd in 1977 responding to a earlier version of what we know today as the FV doctrine of baptismal union with Christ. That review has been online for some time. I noted it in my refutation of the FV doctrine of baptismal benefits several years ago. A Google search using the terms Sinclair+Ferguson+Baptism+Union+with+Christ brings up this Banner of Truth essay in the first page of results. Thus, we should not be surprised to find, as Lane shows, that Moon has abused quotations from Bavinck, Hodge, the Belgic Confession and many others. This has been the pattern of the FV appeal to the tradition.

Nevertheless, we should be thankful to Lane for taking the time to demonstrate, point by point, that neither Scripture nor the Reformed confessions, nor the Reformed  tradition teaches the same doctrine of baptismal benefits taught by Lawrence or by the Federal Vision. Baptism is a sign. A sign testifies to something else. It isn’t the thing to which it testifies. Baptism is a seal. A seal is a promise that something is true but the promise of baptism is conditioned upon faith. Just as circumcision did not create union with Christ, or else Esau—who was reprobated from all eternity—was united to Christ—and such a notion is utterly foreign to Scripture and to Reformed theology—so also baptism is a sign and a seal. It does not create union with Christ. Nowhere does Scripture teach that the Spirit creates union with Christ through baptism.

At the same time Scripture teaches and we confess that everyone who is participates in the administration of the one covenant of grace is really in the covenant. Reprobates and unbelievers are in the covenant of grace only outwardly, but they do participate in its administration. There are not two covenants of grace. It is possible to be a member of the covenant community, to participate in the administration of the covenant of grace, and not receive the benefits of Christ. Only the elect receive those benefits by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

There is no such thing as and Reformed theology knows nothing about a temporary, conditional, union with Christ, justification, adoption, or election and certainly not any of these given in baptism and retained by cooperation with grace. Anyone who teaches such things is teaching nothing less than a version of Arminianism thinly veiled by the adjective “covenantal.”

We are neither sacerdotalists (Romish) nor sacramentarians (Zwinglians). Sacraments do not work ex opere operato (by the working it is worked). They are not magic. They always remain signs and seals. Nevertheless, against those who would empty the sacraments of any but psychological or emotional or subjective significance, we affirm that they are signs and seals of the covenant of grace. They always point to the reality and to the benefits of Christ received sola gratia, sola fide. Thus, the sacraments are always seals, i.e., they promise to believers that the benefits to which the sacraments point really and truly are theirs in Christ sola gratia, sola fide. Anyone who trusts in, leans, rests, receives Christ also receives all the benefits of Christ.

Heidelberg Catechism:

65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, from where comes this faith?

The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the Holy Sacraments.

69. How is it signified and sealed to you in Holy Baptism, that you have part in the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross?

Thus: that Christ instituted this outward washing with water and joined therewith this promise: that I am washed with His blood and Spirit from the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as certainly as I am washed outwardly with water, whereby commonly the filthiness of the body is taken away.

72. Is then the outward washing with water itself the washing away of sins?

No, for only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sin.

73. Why then does the Holy Spirit call Baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?

God speaks thus not without great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby that like as the filthiness of the body is taken away by water, so our sins are taken away by the blood and Spirit of Christ; but much more, that by this divine pledge and token He may assure us, that we are as really washed from our sins spiritually as our bodies are washed with water.

It’s that simple. it’s that easy.

It’s that simple. it’s that easy.

It’s that simple. it’s that easy.

It’s that simple. it’s that easy.

 

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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37 comments

  1. It’s so disheartening to see supposedly Reformed people twist doctrine. It’s a depressing truth: we are all so depraved. But I am thankful for full subscription that is required for service in the conservative Reformed churches. I think that helps to reduce the theological in-fighting in the churches. But again, sin always finds itself in the camp.

  2. “It’s remarkable we’re still having this conversation.”

    And also quite disconcerting. I had great hopes that following Wilkins departure God would bless the PCA with a measure of peace, some agreeing to disagree, and some peaceful decisions to move on, in time resulting in those of FV convictions conscious free to exercise these in a denomination that affirms them.

    I must admit to be taken aback by the amount of boiling going on in a number of our presbyteries right now. I know all the intellectual explanations of why this may be going on. I’m rapidly losing the ability to affirm the possibilty of any that give me much hope for less trouble.

  3. Thanks, Scott, for your kind words. That a professor of historical theology should commend my historical and exegetical paper does indeed mean something to me.

  4. “It is possible to be a member of the covenant community, to participate in the administration of the covenant of grace, and not receive the benefits of Christ. Only the elect receive those benefits by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.”

    I don’t think FVists really deny this. Remember, it’s all about objectivism in FV-land. They’re saying because Christians can’t KNOW who’s really in or out, cannot have insight into the decree — all Christians must be treated objectively, covenantally. Hence, all are elect until they are excommunicated.

    I know it doesn’t make sense from the standpoint of Reformed theology, but if you grant their reductionist starting point, it does make some sense. It’s a high price to pay for objectivism, though.

      • I don’t think they deny it theologically (decretally). They deny it practically. Everybody thinks FVists are on a theological tear, but in fact they are only really interested in ecclesiology, i.e, the sociology of the church. On their own principles the distinction between elect and non-elect is objectively meaningless in this life.

        • They posit a two-track system, a decretal system AND a “covenantal” system. These two tracks. however, as I show in the Confessional Presbyterian essay, don’t remain parallel. They converge and when they do, the conditional, historical covenantal system overwhelms the decree.

          In other words, they use the covenant to leverage the decree whereas orthodoxy sees the covenant as the outworking of the decree.

          • That’s interesting. Do you have a link to the essay? My understanding of FV is that a two-track system exists for theological purposes, but that for practical purposes (objectivism and all that) Christians — more importantly the church — can only deal with the covenantal system.

            I agree with you that “the conditional, historical covenantal system overwhelms the decree.” That’s why I’ve said before –based upon how it was used at the Tyler church in the 80s — that FVism results in ecclesiastical tyranny. And for the very reason you’ve provided, i.e., the covenantal system overwhelms the decree.

        • BTW, that Ferguson paper on Shepherd is very good. I remember in the early 80s, the Tyler church tried to program our evangelism after Shepherd’s views, going door to door, and all that, but I don’t recall that we had any real success with it. In other words, it was a flop. IMO, pastors need to study successful churches if they want to grow their own churches, not rely on apriori, untested methodologies.

            • Yes, or as the Texas Presbytery called it the “Westminster church” — which is a put down if you understand Presbyterianism.

              And yes, Ray Sutton (and Anglican minister now), Jim Jordan, and Gary North were all infected with FVism.

            • Thanks Vern for the info. This is pre-1990ish then wrt Westminster, Tyler, TX. Mr. Sutton, now styled a bemitred Bishop of a most garish and gaudy sort, was a DTS grad working on a ThD from some school, Central School of Theology (?). I don’t think he had much of a Reformed background “at all” between DTS and Westminster, other than TULIP and his days at Westminster Presbyterian. Vern, this was helpful. I knew he was down there with Jordan and North. He was not reared on the Westminster standards and it’s not “in his blood.” He was a Kentucky Baptist dispensationalist boy by early rearing. He came out of Believers’ Chapel in Dallas Seminary. Can’t say for sure and would love to know more. He went to Reformed Episcopal Seminary (RES) in/on/around 1990-1991-ish as the School’s President with paedocommunionism and was a chief facilitator in moving the REC towards neo-Tractarian toleration (that’s documented btw). I don’t think he had much going for him by way of an “Anglican background or education” either at that time when he went to RES. Senior Presbyter, Bishop, Roy Grote made Sutton swear off and abjure, as it were, theonomy. Made him go back and clean up some internet postings on theonomy. Sutton did that. Later, he’d go to Oxford. He and other REC cohorts sacked the Reformational context of the XXXIX Articles with certifiably Newmanian read, ala Tract XC. Long story there, but not a good one. Theological position of the day? Which day? Which year? All over the place. If he once “confessed” allegiance to the WCF while at Westminster Presybyterian, Tyler, TX, you won’t find him defending those standards in his new haunts. BTW, efforts to clear these matters up and get the facts right…the mail doesn’t get answered.

          • Vern, most helpful.
            1) By 2001, Sutton was leading the charge with the REC leaders to merge with a Anglo-Romanizing group called APA, Anglican Province in America. Saint-invocation, seven sacraments, Mary-invocation, auricular confession, purgatory, baptismal regeneration (contra the C o E Gorham ruling, 1850, that is commendably Westminsterian), genuflecting, crossings, bowings, yada, yada. In contrast to Sutton, the historic REC going back to 1873 was described by some as…Presbyterians in black Genevan gowns, bishops (primus inter pares with Presbyters), and old Prayer Books. None of the Romeward trappings. When I was ordained with them, I gave answers to ordination questions from the Westminster standards. When the PCA fleeted up about 1973-ish, they invited the REC to join them, but–righly and consistently–they were old school, evangelical Anglicans. While kindly affectioned towards the PCA and fraternal in spirit and theology, they declined. Van Til and Clark lectured there (in different semesters). Ergo, Sutton by 2001-ish was “way out there” and was working insinuatively. This stuff is flatly un-Reformational.
            2) Now as to FV, if Sutton was in that game at Westminster Pres, Tyler, TX, dual tracking with Shepherdite thinking, with stress on the objectivity of the sacrament of baptism (not sure what his views on the Table are other than paedocommunion but thinking in terms of Luther v. Cranmer/Calvin), and talking about conditional union with Christ, conditional election, justification, etc., it’s not a long leap to ease with Rome-wardizing; in this case, with the APA. Dr. Clark called FV “Arminianism” with a thinly veiled use of the word “covenant.” It may be worse than that.
            3) This viewpoint in #2 was/is held by three former RES professors, each with credible, earned doctorates. And those men grieve the direction that Sutton and cohorts led the REC That is, the connection between FV and the Romewardizing. It’s at least this; it’s neo-Tractarian toleration of a non-Reformed reading of the XXXIX Articles. And those boys rammed it down everyone’s throats too. I came back from sea and this was what I found after years at sea and overseas.

            • This is all very interesting. Let me tie it back into the Presbytery of the Siouxlands.

              In 2001, I went to Mid-America Reformed Seminary being pro-Norman Shepherd. Everybody at Seminary basically said I was nuts, so I decided to leave the URC and go REC where I could practice paedocommunion and believe in apostasy of the saints.

              At that time, I looked into the Churches connected with the REC. I studied the APA. I found out that they were in league with another “denomination” that had a Church in Merrillville, IN or thereabouts.

              In February 2003, I visited that Church. I saw them burning incenses to crucifixes, making a rather absurd claim of the apostolic succession of their bishops, having statues of Mary, and praying to the saints.

              Suddenly, I realized what the Reformation was all about. The Lord used that Anglo-Catholic Church to put things together for me (though not in a way they would like). It was about the fact that Rome had replaced Christ with ceremonies and externalism. I also realized that the FV was not Reformation. I virtually immediately repented. I remember how surprised my classmates were to hear me speaking against FV, Rome, and everything that goes with it that very same semester.

              By October 2004, I was called to the Presbytery of the Siouxlands to serve a PCA in Spearfish, SD. Now, I am in a Presbytery where there are two Federal Vision Churches, Good Shepherd PCA and Christ Church PCA in Mankato.

              Of course, they are really glad that I’m here. I’ll have to tell them at the next Presbytery meeting that, in a way, they have Ray Sutton to thank for bringing me here.

            • Wes:

              Somehow, this is “above” your post but is in response to that “below.” (I think.)

              Sutton, indeed, led the charge towards the APA. You can count Riches, Grote and others as well in this push towards Romewardizing. These men pushed for a “merger” that finally–later–was eclipsed in light of the ACNA formation. The matter is still on the table and will be adjudicated at their REC General Convention in 2011.

              I can tell you–also–this was NOT the REC heritage for 130 years.

              Also, where and when did Mid-America Seminary turn against Shepherdism? I read a strong Confessional critique of Shepherd.

              The best rule of thumb re: REC and Anglicanism in the West? Romans 16.17, “Avoid them…” And I say that without apologizing or dumping my BCP.

              An Anglican orphan without a Reformed Anglican church or denomination. But still standing though lonely.

  5. Scott:

    You said:

    “There is no such thing as and Reformed theology knows nothing about a temporary, conditional, union with Christ, justification, adoption, or election and certainly not any of these given in baptism and retained by cooperation with grace. Anyone who teaches such things is teaching nothing less than a version of Arminianism thinly veiled by the adjective “covenantal.”

    Deja vu is exactly right.

    What you posted is “exactly” how I understood Shepherd in 79-81 in the east. Yet, there were no public, presbyterial, consistorial, or denominational voices on the “trail.”

    “Arminianism” is exactly how this scribe “historically saw” and currently sees many of their statements, while at other times saying things that sound Reformed.

    Thanks.

  6. R.C. Sproul’s “Renewing Your Mind” radio show for today touched on something that speaks against the whole justification framework of the F.V. It wasn’t directly aimed at this topic, it was about assurance. Only grace–pure grace produces acceptable “works”–law / gospel produces gratitude. And, they’re not really works in the equivical sense that the F.V. demands at all. Also, the program today spoke about the necessity of knowing, not just hoping that heaven is one’s home. Assurance produces steadfastness which strengthens assurance…which I have personally come to know so I agree with R.C.

    Anyway, I spent time reading at GreenBaggins, and Biblical Horizons and now here and see that this is not going to go away anytime soon. Principled people make distinctions, and we [Reformed] are principled people. At the B.H. blog, there was a posting by James Jordan that gave me some insight as to the importance that F.V’ers are putting on works justification. I was really suprised that anyone calling themselves Reformed could speak this way. I’ve never interacted with Jordan before, heard of him and never even read anything from him, but he came off as a real loose cannon with his post at B.H. called “Rome? Why Bother”

  7. Brad,

    Jordan is the Father of the Federal Vision. Guys like Jordan want to be novel in almost everything. He supposedly sees things in Scripture that no one else has seen, no matter how bizarre. Either you believe Jordan is a genius or a bit off his rocker. Leithart is similar. He sees things no one else has seen, and people are amazed at his great insights.

    I am not saying FV is a cult, but if you trace cults back to their roots it always begins with a charismatic leader in the church who sees things no one else sees in Scripture, or how Scripture speaks to current events. It wouldn’t be so bad if their “new insights” were about incidentals, but their novelty strikes at the heart of the gospel and Christian living. Some have come to see that the emperor has no clothes, but others still remain dazzled by the impressive attire. I posted a review of Leithart’s Kings commentary below, and though we might have some theological differences with the reviewer, he sees the problem well.

    1 & 2 Kings
    By Peter Leithart
    Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, Brazos, Grand Rapids, 2006.
    304pp. $29.99. ISBN 978-1-58743-125-8.

    This commentary on the books of Kings by Peter Leithart is part of the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible. The aim of this series is to produce commentaries that interpret the Bible using the Nicene tradition as the “proper basis for the interpretation of the Bible as Christian Scripture” (p. 10). Commentators are chosen for “their expertise in using the Christian doctrinal tradition,” not for “historical or philological expertise” (p. 10). Commentators use whatever translation of the Bible and method of interpretation suits them. The only unifying element of this series is the premise that “doctrine provides structure and cogency to scriptural interpretation.” (p. 12).

    Leithart’s method is rather eclectic. He draws here and there from historical and literary criticism, but typological analysis is clearly his preferred method of interpretation. Typology may have served the early church well, but we are not the early church. Is it really possible to do typology today without the philosophical and hermeneutical underpinnings that dominated the early centuries of Christianity? For Leithart, every use of the number “three” becomes an allusion to resurrection, every body of water a reference to baptism, and every anointing is messianic. The most tenuous of similarities lead to typological comparisons: David/Jacob; Adonijah/Adam; Solomon/Joshua, Solomon/New Adam, Solomon/Christ; Jehu/Christ; sacrificial animals/Israel, ritually clean wild animals/Gentile “God-fearers”; Saul/Ahab; Jesus/Judah; Elijah/Jesus; Elisha/Jesus; Elisha/Joseph; and judgment against Ahab’s house/eschatological judgment of the world/judgment passed against all nations in the cross of Jesus. No quotation better sums up his approach than “Moses is Elijah is John; Joshua is Elisha is Jesus. Yet also, Moses is Elijah is Jesus, and Joshua is Elisha is the church” (p. 172). I was amused to discover that Elisha’s floating ax is a sign of Christ’s resurrection (pp. 200, 203) and that “the inclusion of Gentiles into the new Covenant is signaled symbolically by many of the apostles being [Jewish!] fishermen” (p. 73).

    In addition to spurious typologies, Leithart often uses the biblical text to leap into contemporary discussions that defy any logical connection to the book of Kings, e.g., a discussion of church/state/secularity/Locke with the notice that Solomon built other buildings (1 Kgs 7:1–12); modern and Christian views of the self and the condemnation of Solomon (1 Kgs 11:1–43); public/state/church relations and the Queen of Sheba’s visit (1 Kgs 10:1–29); Pope John Paul II’s speech on the culture of death and the Elisha stories (2 Kgs 4:1–44); and rationalists’ views of Jesus and Jehu’s rebellion (2 Kgs 9:1—10:36).

    Other problems with this book include: misrepresenting his sources (e.g., Walsh, p. 43; Nelson, p. 69; Blenkinsopp, p. 227); the anachronistic use of the term “Gentile(s)” throughout the book; a superficial discussion of violence and God; an odd discussion of idolatry, chiasms with no point, a frightening view of God as an “equal opportunity trapper” (p. 180), the nature of God and evil; God as trickster, and vengeance against the wicked as “dear to Yahweh’s heart” (p. 223). Space prevents me from elaborating further. I have gained a much greater appreciation of the historical-critical method and of the literal sense of the text from reading this commentary. The literal sense is, after all, what God inspired the author to actually say and it contains enough theological depth that I do not have to imaginatively reconstruct the “hidden meaning” or make artificial connection where none exist. I am also now more firmly convinced that commentaries on the Bible should be left to biblical scholars.

    Pauline A. Viviano
    Loyola University
    Chicago, Illinois

      • I hope it says a lot that a female professor at a Jesuit institution is saying a professedly Reformed man and an ordained PCA minister is doing random allegorization of the Scriptures rather than focusing on the literal meaning.

        When Protestants try to use Romanist methods, they’ve earned rebukes like this.

        I can respect a conservative Roman Catholic. I am Italian, after all, and I know the Roman Catholic Church and its culture rather well. A conservative Roman Catholic may very well be intellectually honest and sincerely believe in the doctrinal standards of his church — although the modern Jesuits are usually something quite different.

        A Protestant who uses the same methods is fundamentally dishonest and needs to either enter Anglicanism or Eastern Orthodoxy (if he can’t accept Papal authority) or follow Cardinal Newman all the way to Rome if he can accept Papal authority. The problem with that is intellectual dishonesty and honest Romanism both end up in a very hot place.

  8. “Nowhere does Scripture teach that the Spirit creates union with Christ through baptism.”

    Romans 6:3-5
    “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”

    Dr. Clark, please do correct me if I’m wrong, but this seems to be in tension with your statement above. Can you help me understand?

    • Hi Rebekah,

      I’ve dealt with in a couple of places, in the pamphlet Baptism, Election, and the Covenant of Grace. There’s a link above and to left. I also deal with this question in the essay Baptism and the Benefits of Christ.

      I hope you’ll read these treatments.

      A short response is to note that Paul does not say that the Spirit creates union with Christ via baptism. That view has to be read into or out of the text. If one does not assume that Spirit creates union via baptism it just isn’t there, not on the face of the text.

      Rom 6:5 says “if we have been united with him in a death like this…” It doesn’t say that “baptism creates” or that “the Spirit creates union through baptism….”

      Yes, we’ve been baptized “into Christ” but we cannot assume that means either “united with Christ” or “baptism creates union with Christ.”

      Consider this: if Paul is saying “baptism creates union with Christ” then did circumcision create union with Christ? Was Esau united to Christ? Did Esau fall away? No! Esau was never united to Christ.

      The same apostle who taught that we are baptized into Christ also taught that not everyone who is outwardly in the covenant people is united to Christ (Rom 2:28). Ergo neither circumcision nor baptism creates union with Christ.

      Baptism and circumcision are ritual identifications with Christ’s death. On this see this post:

      http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/circumcision-and-baptism/

      In Rom 6, if Paul is appealing to water baptism (a point disputed by NT scholars) he is doing so only in the way that the Heidelberg Catechism appeals to water baptism:

      65. Since then we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, from where comes this faith?
      The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the Holy Sacraments.
      69. How is it signified and sealed to you in Holy Baptism, that you have part in the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross?
      Thus: that Christ instituted this outward washing with water and joined therewith this promise: that I am washed with His blood and Spirit from the pollution of my soul, that is, from all my sins, as certainly as I am washed outwardly with water, whereby commonly the filthiness of the body is taken away.
      72. Is then the outward washing with water itself the washing away of sins?
      No, for only the blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sin.
      73. Why then does the Holy Spirit call Baptism the washing of regeneration and the washing away of sins?
      God speaks thus not without great cause, namely, not only to teach us thereby that like as the filthiness of the body is taken away by water, so our sins are taken away by the blood and Spirit of Christ; but much more, that by this divine pledge and token He may assure us, that we are as really washed from our sins spiritually as our bodies are washed with water.

      If Paul is appealing to water baptism, it’s a sacramental union. The sign is spoken of as if it were the thing signified with the understand that the sign is not the thing signified (union with Christ).

      Union with Christ is offered in the gospel preached and in the gospel made visible in the sacraments, but unless we are sacerdotalists (Roman Catholic) we cannot say that the sign necessarily gives the thing signified. I was reminded this morning that Olevianus always say “offers” not “gives.”

      No, the Spirit creates union with Christ, in the sense discussed here, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Of that union baptism and the supper are wonderful signs and seals but no more than that.

      On this see this post:

      http://heidelblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/keister-refutes-moon/

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