Witherington on 1 Corinthians 1 and Baptism

I was very disappointed with *Ben Witherington’s comments on 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 in his commentary A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1st and 2nd Corinthians. His comments are the best example of the problems with theology (specifically systematic theology). He seems to ignore the context in favor of his theology.

Systematic Theology is, basically, a reference to various systems of doctrine. I find it interesting that in the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms by Donald McKim, the definition for Systematic Theology says, “it MAY be based on scripture…” (emphasis mine). To boil it down, systematic theology is when you take your doctrines and beliefs and make a pair of glasses and then sit down and read the Bible through those glasses.

Back to Dr. Witherington – he says that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17, is saying that baptism is obviously not that important (obviously I am summarizing). To argue that Paul is saying baptism is not important is to ignore completely the context. The Corinthians were attaching themselves to various teachers. It would make sense for some to attach themselves to the one who baptized them. Paul is saying that he is glad that he, that is Paul, did not baptize many of them himself (i.e. Paul did not dunk them in water). He is NOT saying that he is glad they were not baptized. David Garland’s commentary on 1 Corinthians understands this point! Garland says that Paul talks like he cannot remember if he baptized certain ones in order to make a point – it doesn’t matter if Paul baptized them or if Joe Schmoe baptized them.

If Dr. Witherington would like to argue against the necessity of baptism, he should really choose another passage from which to make his point, but I would find problems with those arguments as well.

I chose “In the context” as the name of this blog for a reason – a word or statement finds its correct meaning in the context. You can prove any doctrine you want when you ignore the context!

* Dr. Witherington has written some great material. His emphasis on Rhetoric, especially in Paul’s epistles, has shed some great light on New Testament studies. I have read and own many of Dr. Witherington’s books and commentaries. His commentary on Acts is magnificent. We are simply light-years apart on what we think the Bible teaches about certain subjects (especially baptism). My main problem is the manner in which he seems to ignore the context.


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“Aren’t you glad we’re not under that anymore.”

In my daily Bible reading schedule I have just finished Romans and Galatians. Both epistles deal with the subject of “works of the Law (of Moses)” and “salvation by grace through faith.” On Wednesday nights we are going through the Law of Moses in our Adult Bible class at church. As we go through some of the various laws and requirements commanded of the Israelites you can’t help but be overwhelmed. There is a lot of stuff in the Book of Leviticus. How did they keep it all straight? Why did God make all of these laws? Who could remember all of this?

People often say something along the lines of “I am so glad we don’t have to worry about all that anymore.” I am too. But I want to make two simple points:

  1. Christianity is not a checklist style religion in which we can go home when everything has been marked off. Jews, under the Law of Moses, were quick to leave God at the Tabernacle. And this is why, in the Prophets, God says things like “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors” – Malachi 1:10. These people performed their “check list” duties but did not allow it to affect their heart. As a New Testament Christian, there is no check list, I am a servant of God everywhere I go – not just at church or with other Christians. I can’t leave God at the building. Yes, the Israelites had a lot to “do” but let’s not think that our lives should be free of service to God outside of church.
  2. God forbid the only thing we take away from a study of the Old Testament or the Law of Moses be “Aren’t you glad we don’t have to do all of that”! There is so much to learn from a study of the Old Testament, particularly the Law of Moses. How many times does God say in Leviticus “Be holy for I am holy.” God was instructing these people to do specific things because these specific things were in harmony with the character of God. Don’t plant two kinds of seed in one field – why would God care? Because He was trying to teach His people about purity! Of course I am glad that I am not an Israelite serving at the Tabernacle under the Law of Moses, but I should be able to learn something from those who did!
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Posted by on September 2, 2010 in Bible Study, Law of Moses, Old Testament


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When was the Philippian Jailor saved?

“Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’ And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.” – Acts 16:30-34 

Let me say up front that I believe baptism is absolutely essential to the salvation of an individual. There is too much discussion of baptism in the New Testament to ignore its role in conversion. On the day of Pentecost – baptism. When Philip preached to the Samaritans – baptism. When Philip preached to the Ethiopian Eunuch – baptism. Saul’s conversion – baptism. The conversion of Cornelius – baptism. The conversion of Lydia – baptism. And with the conversion of the Philippian jailor – baptism. 

I am fully aware of the passages that say individuals are saved by faith, and I believe that with all my heart. The question is, “What does it mean to have faith?” 

The Philippian Jailor asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Whatever the jailor meant by that, Paul took the opportunity to preach the Gospel – “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” The problem is that there is not enough information in those few words to convert someone! Paul, Silas, and the jailor knew this to be true because in Acts 16:32 (the very next verse) we read that Paul continued to teach. Well, what did he teach? 

In Acts 8:5, we read that Philip preached Christ to the Samaritans. This had to be something similar to what Paul was teaching the jailor. So what does it mean to preach Christ? Acts 8:12 tells us that the people believed what Philip preached about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ. We can infer that Philip preached about three things – the Kingdom of God, the name of Jesus Christ (the text states both of these), and baptism (how else would the people know to do it?). 

Baptism was always a part of the Gospel message. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved…” – Mark 16:16. “Repent and be baptized…” – Acts 2:38. “Why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins…” – Acts 22:16. “Baptism saves you…” – 1 Peter 3:21. 

The simple fact is that baptism is a part of belief in Christ Jesus. When one is baptized, he or she emulates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We die to sin, we are buried in water, and we rise to walk a new life. Ananias told Saul that baptism washes away sins. Side note: baptism is not a work that earns you salvation! I know of no one who argues or believes that. Baptism is simply an act obedience that brings one into contact with the blood of Jesus Christ which washes our sins away! 

So, back to our main question – When was the Philippian Jailor saved? Paul said that he would be saved when he believed in the Lord Jesus. Read the passage again – Paul teaches the Gospel, the jailor washes Paul and Silas’s wounds (probably an act of repentance – cf. Acts 2:38), and the jailor is baptized. After all of this, the jailor rejoices because he had believed in God! Without baptism, he had not yet believed in God. This is the main idea behind James 2:14-26. How can you say you believe in God when you have not done what God has commanded? Jesus said quite simply, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” – John 14:15 

Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” When was the Philippian Jailor saved? When his belief in the gospel led him to be baptized and his sins were washed away! 

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Posted by on August 27, 2010 in Acts, Baptism, New Testament


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“things which are hard to understand”

“And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.” – 2 Peter 3:15-16 

In my daily Bible reading, I am reading Romans. I am convinced that the Letter to the Romans is what Peter had in mind when he said, “There are some things in them that are hard to understand.” 

I have so much trouble keeping all of the arguments straight as I read through the book. Paul just unloads quote after quote, allusion after allusion, and, seemingly, runs from one thing to another. Every time I come to the book of Romans I sit down and think to myself, “Ok, I am going to focus and ‘get it’ this time!” – but I always walk away with more questions than answers. 

So, in good OCD fashion, I am going to chart the book out. I use desk calendars to schedule everything and the back of each month provides a great place to write large lists or to play around with charts, scales, and paths. I know exactly what the back of August 2010 is going to be used for. And I have also grabbed Reading Romans by Robert F Turner. I have heard good things about it and hopefully it can help me out. 

What is interesting about Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3 is that Peter tells his audience in vv 17ff that they need to be careful lest they be carried away. In other words, “Even though it is difficult, you need to figure it out!” 

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Posted by on August 26, 2010 in Bible Study, Romans


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A True Gem

I preach and talk often about the benefits of a daily Bible reading program. I have been so encouraged by the number of brethren at our congregation who are following our schedule this year. One of the many benefits to following a schedule is stumbling on to the occasional gem.

One of our three sections today was from Proverbs. We read just a few everyday . I was getting ready to wrap up my reading when I read Proverbs 11:26 (ESV) – “The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.” My mind automatically jumped to Luke 12:13-21 – the Parable of the Rich Fool.

You know the story…he had a great crop one year and did not know what to do with it all. So he tore down his barns and built bigger barns. God’s response was less than favorable and the man died that night. The lesson is obviously one of greed and priorities. In discussing this parable, people often outline what was wrong with the man’s actions. Aside from the obvious answers, some have suggested that the man was going to hold onto to his grain until he could get a better price for it, thus increasing his already plentiful crop. Now think about the proverb again, “The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.”

If the man put his large amount of grain into the market, this would have created a buyer’s market. People could have bought grain at a cheaper rate. By withholding his grain, the man could wait for a shortage in the market, increase his prices, and make more money.

With lower prices, the man would not make as much per unit of grain sold but, because of his plentiful crop, he would have been able to sell more units. This man had a chance to help those around him by selling lots of grain at lower prices, yet he acted selfishly, without thought for man (and even worse) God!

I am so glad I read Proverbs 11:26 today!

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Posted by on August 20, 2010 in Bible Study, New Testament


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I’m Back!!!

I realize I have not posted in six months and I apologize. However, during that six months I was working on finishing my MBA. I turned in my last assignment this past Monday morning and I received my grade for my final class – an A!

Those of you who know me know that I will not be out of school too long. I hope to begin another Master’s program next fall in Biblical studies. This desire means that I have to relearn my Greek, finish a major honey-do list, and find a way to pay for the program – easy enough.

I want to thank those of you who encouraged me to keep going through this MBA program. There were many times I wanted to throw it all out the window, but some of you just wouldn’t let me – Thank you! The biggest “thanks” goes to Jim and Gail Morrow (Tiffany’s grandparents) for providing the opportunity to go back to school for my MBA – thank you!

With all of that said, I hope to begin posting regularly now. I will keep my focus on the scriptures (of course), you will probably have to bear through some posts on Koine Greek as I relearn the language, and I am still doing a lot of reading so there will be the occasional book review.

Let me catch you up on what has been going on over the past year. In August 2009, Tiffany, James, and I moved to Alabama. Alabama is home for me. In fact we moved to the same house I lived in in high school (and no, my parents are not still in it!). I am working with the Russellville church of Christ in Russellville, AL. Over the past year, the church has experienced great growth (through baptisms and people moving in) and the congregation continues to grow spiritually. I am blessed to be surrounded by such great Christians. It is also a great blessing to be so close to my family. Dad preaches in Muscle Shoals, which is just north of Russellville. James loves being with Mimi and Grandpa-Grant. As I said I just finished my MBA. James just turned two. And last, but certainly not least, we are expecting our second child. Lillian Gail is due January 4!

To our Yuma friends, we miss you and think of you regularly. I hope all is well!

It’s good to be back!

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Posted by on August 18, 2010 in Uncategorized


Book Review: “Hard Core” by Jason Hardin

As most of you know I, periodically, do book reviews for DeWard Publishing. While at lectures last week, I was able to pick up a few of their newer releases. The most recently published is a book by Jason Hardin (who also wrote Boot Camp) entitled Hard Core: Defeating Sexual Temptation with a Superior Satisfaction.

I think this book is a timely book. The amount of pornography on the internet is unbelievable. Furthermore, sexual immorality is creeping into television shows a little more every week. Addiction to pornography is now as much a problem as alcoholism and drug abuse. And just like those addictions, pornography will destroy the relationships you have with others.

What I like most about this book is its focus on changing your desire. Hardin does not spend a great deal of time explaining how watching pornography is a sin. There is no need to explain that. If you are reading the book, you already know that and are probably looking for help not condemnation.

He does take some time to talk about the consequences. Chapter 10 is entitled “Counting the Cost” and Hardin lists two pages worth of his personal consequences should he let his like be consumed with such sinful activity.

Most people enjoy stats and this book does not disappoint. Chapter 4 goes through the various stats associated with the pornography industry. These stats range from income for the companies to the percentages of people who are actively looking for porn. The numbers on Christians and pornography may surprise you.

He encourages those who struggle with this to emulate the behavior of Joseph, to learn from David’s sin, and to follow Samuel’s example in “hacking [sin] to pieces.” This book is not just what Hardin thinks should be said about addiction to pornography, but an explanation and organization of what the Bible says about purity, righteousness, and a desire to serve God above all other things. He turns to Psalms 51 and 32 for their practical advice in dealing with sin, repentance, and forgiveness.

The main focus of the book is learning to crave God the same way we crave sexual satisfaction (or any other addiction).

One of the greatest tools in this book is the poem included on page 89 entitled, “There’s A Hole in My Sidewalk” by Portia Nelson. It is a great wake-up call!

The scriptures that are used in this short, but useful book  are in the text making this a more convenient read. This book can be read in about an hour or two, but it can help for a life time.

I highly suggest this book to anyone who is tempted to watch, addicted to watching, or knows anyone who is fighting this battle. This book can help. You can purchase the book for $7.99 here or here.

I also wanted to share two short stories about this book. This first is simply hysterical. After I bought this book, I walked outside and ran into a preacher that I have a great deal of respect for – Floyd Chappelear. As we are talking he says, “I see you bought that hard core porn book…all these preachers running around with porn books!” Classic!

This second story is a little more serious and I hope you give glory to God for it. When I purchased my books from DeWard, somehow I ended up with two copies of Hard Core. The next morning I went to take it back and Dan DeGarmo (the De of DeWard) told me to hold on to it and give it to someone else. The following Sunday I called a friend of mine who has wrestled with this subject and told him I wanted to give him a book. He came and picked it up and not 15 minutes later I received a text message from him – “God is awesome. I have been noticing certain thought patterns and temptations to start watching again. And literally 30 minutes ago, I prayed that God would help me. You called to give me the book about ten minutes later.” God is, indeed, Awesome!


Posted by on February 12, 2010 in Book Review


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