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“Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their

trust in Him.”

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God

stands forever.”

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means

pass away.” (Proverbs 30:5, Isaiah 40:8, Matthew 16:18, NKJV)

If we can agree on a few fundamental axioms, then shouldn’t we

be able to agree on God’s will? We might write these axioms a bit

differently, but here is one that would go a long way: “the authority,

and the inerrancy, and the sufficiency of Scripture,” as affirmed by

J.D. Greear, during comments made in his farewell address to the

2021 Southern Baptist Convention.

If we can agree on that axiom, why all the division and variation in

faith and practice? While we put faith in God’s Word, it must still be

interpreted, understood, and applied. This is where hermeneutics

comes in; some have defined it as the science of interpretation (and

you can’t argue with science). But most of us have trouble with

the word—I have trouble spelling it! The computer always has to

correct me.

In any case, it is in this interpretation and application that so many

things diverge, even among those who hold what I call an axiom

above. I find this incredibly frustrating and discouraging, and I expect

some of you do, too. Let me give you an example. Regarding 1 Peter

3:21, the website GotQuestions provides the following statements:

“As with any single verse or passage, we

discern what it teaches by first filtering it

through what we know the Bible teaches on

the subject at hand. In the case of baptism

and salvation, the Bible is clear that salvation

is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not

by works of any kind, including baptism

(Ephesians 2:8-9). So, any interpretation which

comes to the conclusion that baptism, or any

other act, is necessary for salvation, is a faulty


Those who believe that baptism is required

for salvation are quick to use 1 Peter 3:21 as

a ‘proof text,’ because it states ‘baptism now

saves you.’


The article states, “We discern what it teaches by first filtering it through what we know the

Bible teaches on the subject at hand.” This is so close but so far away. How do we know what

the Bible teaches on a subject? By looking at the complete revelation on that subject, not by

using a filter based on what we already know or our beliefs. How, then, could we ever be

corrected? But look at their move: “The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace through faith,

not by works, including baptism.”

So “the Bible is clear,” 1 Peter 3:21 not part of the Bible? Yes, it is. It does say, “Baptism

now saves you,” doesn’t it? But it is not part of their theology of salvation. Theology or

(faith and practice) should look at all God has revealed about salvation, not just certain

portions of Scripture. But because only a part of God’s Word is considered, they mistake

baptism as being a work in the sense the word used in Ephesians 2:8; it simply isn’t.

Then, from there, they build in a defense against someone like me by invoking proof-

texting. If you disagree, you are a proof-tester; you don’t want to be a proof-texter, do you?

Oddly, they don’t question whether their use of Ephesians 2:8 is proof-texting.

I actually like the site There is a wealth of information there; much of it is

very useful, and I have benefited from it. I also am sure I make these same sorts of errors.

No one has full command of God’s Word. But how can we not get to common ground

on something as fundamental as baptism for the remission of sins? Seeing the Christian

world in such disarray over things like this is heartbreaking.

What do we do? We study the Scriptures and pray for God’s help. We learn, correct,

and learn more. We grow in grace and knowledge. And we maintain the unity of the

Spirit until we find a Biblical reason to break fellowship. We humbly work, study, learn,

pray, apply, live, and serve together, just as we see in Ephesians chapter 4. May God bless us as we serve Him.

By the way, if you would like to study and

learn hermeneutics in a more structured way,

a class or mid-week study, please let me know.

—John Ostic

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