Their faces are kind and time worn. Often beneath the aged brows eyes still sparkle. On this autumn day they have come to sit on leather padded chairs around scattered tables in a sitting room for another weekly Bible study in their retirement village.
Respresenting something of the landscape of Christendom, common agreement resonates from senior to senior regarding what is needed. Christ crucified provides us with hope. People need to repond to Jesus' death upon the cross by depending upon him for salvation. Clearly, these white-haired residents understand "the what" of the gospel. People need to trust in what Christ has done for them.
Unfortunately, they are ignorant about "how" the gospel calls us to trust in Jesus. Although scripture beckons us to rely upon Jesus through immersion, perhaps it was a family member or maybe a Sunday school teacher who years ago taught them that they could depend upon Jesus for salvation by inviting Jesus into their heart through a prayer. So, just how significant is it that we trust in Jesus as the Bible prescribes?
The answer to whether or not we need to conform to "how" the gospel calls us to rely upon Jesus lies not in our strongly held opinions, but in the cross. Through Christ crucified, God unilaterally offers us the promise of a new relationship with him. Through the new covenant of the cross, God has determined how we are to rely upon Jesus. Baptism involves trusting in Jesus' death to receive the promises of the new covenant including being in Christ.
A chorus responds, "But surely, baptism can't be required. After all, these nice elderly people are so loving. Many of their lives have been filled with good deeds in service to God - why must it matter how they relied upon Jesus?" The new covenant is offered by God. We are in no position to alter the conditions God has specified. Where is there any evidence that God allows us to determine how we can accept his covenant?
Since salvation comes through trusting in Jesus, we cannot argue that loving people are saved because of how good they are. Such wishful thinking simply exposes a works based view of salvation. It also betrays our shallow understanding of the nature of faith and our failure to appreciate the significance of salvation being embedded in the context of the new covenant. What makes us think we can somehow divorce how we trust in Christ's redeeming blood from the context of Jesus' death establishing the new covenant which prescribes how we are to trust in Christ crucified?
Each situation of faith has its own specified response. For example, consider Abraham. In one situation in order to have had faith Abram had to believe God's promise, instead of doing something. On another ocassion, just believing would not constitute faith, rather if he was going to trust in God the context required Abram to leave his country. Similarly, the context of the gospel calls us to rely upon Jesus by being baptized.
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19
"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." Galatians 3:26,27
Just how significant is it that we trust in Jesus as the Bible prescribes?