Free Grace 14

Nothing in man doth precede or prevent the grace of God. The light and beams of grace do dispel the clouds of our sins. Not for our sakes, but for his Name’s sake he covereth our sins. It is God’s prerogative to free us from sin by grace, and to remove them far from us. “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.” {Ps.103:12} He only can remove sin against whom it is committed. He only can cast sin into the depths of the sea, who hath an ocean of grace in himself, in which he swalloweth them up. John Simpson {Perfection of Justification, 1648} Obtained from Supralapsarian.com

Acts 2:36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ– this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” 40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

It is easy for people to get tripped up by this passage since it says that a person is to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and one then one receives the Holy Spirit. This passage is interpreted to say that one is to turn from his sin and be baptized so that he will be forgiven and so that he will receive the Holy Spirit. This can be looked at a couple of ways from the text, but it can also be looked at in light of theology and free grace. If one is baptized and on that basis forgiven for sins, then salvation is contingent on baptism rather than free (uncaused) grace. If one is given the Holy Spirit because one is baptized, then one does not receive the Holy Spirit as a gift of free grace but as a result of being baptized.

One can also look at the text itself in a few ways. One, the KJV puts it this way: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” This translation puts a comma after repent and as such repent and believe are considered the same thing, and so one is baptized after repentance and faith. Two, when one looks at the word “for” in its context, it is no stretch to use the phrase “on account of.” This would give the idea that people are baptized on account of the forgiveness of sin. People can argue about when a person received the Holy Spirit as a gift and when one receives the Holy Spirit now. The point is that the text itself does not demand that one believe that baptism leads to the forgiveness of sin.

What would be the theological issues if we are baptized in order to be forgiven? It would utterly overthrow the teaching of Scripture that God shows mercy to whom He will show mercy and is gracious to whom He will be gracious. Instead of the sovereignty of God in showing free grace to sinners quite apart from anything they are and anything they can do, this text could then be used to show that something does precede grace. However, when a text does not command a meaning, we should interpret it in light of the clear and obvious teachings of the rest of Scripture. Romans 3:24 (being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus) is quite clear that there are no acts and no works that a man can do that precede grace. This gift of grace points to the fact that nothing can come as a cause of His grace but Christ. The justification of sinners is not moved by the baptism of sinners, but it is moved by the love of God from eternity past and is given to them completely through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

We must be absolutely clear on this point. The promises of verse 38 are not because sinners decide of their own will to be baptized, but the promises of God come to those He draws to Himself. God does not promise the benefits of the Gospel to those who are willing to be baptized, but He promises His grace to those He draws to Himself by grace. It is only when God shows grace to those He draws to Himself that the Gospel is by grace alone. It is only when God shows grace to those He draws to Himself that the Gospel is by Christ alone. Romans 4:16 tells us that faith receives grace, but it does not tell us that faith earns grace or makes it more conducive for a person to receive grace. Faith is also not expressed in baptism and as such our sins are forgiven by baptism or by faith, but instead our sins are forgiven by the grace of God alone. Baptism does not precede grace because nothing precedes grace. As in the context, God draws sinners to Himself and grants them the promises. They do not bring themselves. It is free grace along that brings them.

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