For example, in the account of Paul's conversion, he first had an encounter with the risen Christ: "suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice This dramatic event was followed by a process of formation over a period of time during which he was prayed for by Ananias v. Paul further described the process, mentioning his journey to Arabia, return to Damascus for three years, and his time spent in Jerusalem with Peter Gal One prominent effect of conversion is the urge to give testimony to others and consequently to evangelize, particularly in response to the Lord's command in the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" Mt During the post-resurrection period, when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin, their declaration was, "we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard" Acts ; cf.
Lk In the New Testament, several perspectives on conversion can be found as one looks at the Synoptic Gospels and the Johannine and Pauline writings. This theme occurs in a variety of contexts and with different emphases. Nevertheless, there are elements that are common to all of them, though not always highlighted in each one.
Generally, conversion entails being embraced by God's goodness, turning away from sin, and turning towards God. In the stories narrated by the New Testament authors, conversion occurs instantaneously or as an ongoing process. It can be a very dramatic event obvious to all spectators or a process of inner development that is largely hidden from the view of other people. For instance, the exchange between Jesus and the teacher of the law was a seemingly quiet event, resulting in Jesus noting the change in the man and declaring, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" Mk In the synoptic Gospels of Matthew and Mark, conversion is linked to repentance.
The definition of conversion as turning away from sin is rooted in these passages — "John the baptizer appeared proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" Mk ; see also Mt ; 8, 11 ; and also, Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming, "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news" Mk Later in Matthew repentance is described as changing one's mind towards obedience Mt The parables in Lk 15 the lost sheep, lost coin and prodigal son illustrate the notion of being embraced by God's goodness.
This is contained in two motifs also emphasized elsewhere by Luke: first being brought back by God — "So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him" v.
The repentance described in the lost sheep and coin parables emphasizes God's initiative, while the prodigal son's repentance demonstrates a more active human response. In all three parables there is a sense of restoration to community: being found, being carried home, being restored to the rest of the flock, being reinstated into the family. Other Lucan passages also reflect the drama between the divine initiative and the sinner's response in regard to repentance Acts ; ; Lk Lk "pay attention to how you listen" implies an active listening, being actively involved in something that is happening within oneself, or to oneself.
In Lk 19, Zaccheus experiences a conversion. He is restored to the fellowship of the community; the excluded one has been included by Jesus. This narrative is almost paradigmatic for many conversion stories in Luke-Acts: conversion is believing in the good news and allowing oneself to be embraced by God's love and to be restored to the community of God's people.
A historical-contextual analysis of the final-generation theology of M. L. Andreasen
In a more active sense, Luke speaks of conversion as turning towards God. When John the Baptist and others preach repentance, the typical Lucan question is "What then should we do? John's response to the question helps define what repentance means: share with those who do not have Lk , do not defraud people in business v. The Johannine perspective focuses more broadly on salvation, and not specifically on conversion.
Two metaphors that John does emphasize are those of receiving life and receiving light. Jn emphasizes the new birth as the work of God, although it does not take place apart from faith expressed by the person being born again. Here and elsewhere in John the emphasis is on Jesus coming so that this world and those who believe will have life — "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" ; cf.
The variety of "life" metaphors birth, living water, bread point to John's interest in Jesus giving or bringing life. The same emphasis applies when considering John's use of the metaphor of light: Jesus comes into this world, gives light, and people are to receive it and live in it — "I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" Jn ; cf. However, John also reports Jesus' invitation to the thirsty that they should take action: "come to me, and Paul offers us a unique insight into the theme of conversion, by giving us a profound theological interpretation of his own conversion experience.
While Acts 9 describes the conversion of Paul, Paul provides us with his personal understanding of it which sheds some light upon the mysterious interplay between the human and the divine Gal ; Phil Pauline writings reflect conversion as a radical, decisive event, expressed by a variety of descriptions. These include hearing and responding to the call — "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved'" Rom Paul also expresses the beginning of the Christian life either as a cry for help Rom , the experience of being called, or other depictions that illustrate the newness of the existence.
Most of these emphasize God's initiative, with the person entering into experiences such as repentance, death of the old nature, or becoming a new creation. The one passage referring to repentance Rom depicts it as an encounter with God's love and mercy. Other terms in Pauline writings that relate to conversion are used similarly: being purchased 1 Cor ; being liberated Rom ; having received grace Rom ; being justified Rom As in the Gospels, this newness of life, while personal, is not merely an individualistic experience but that of a believer being reconciled with God and restored to community.
It comprises a restoration to fellowship — "For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility.. This new community is as radically different from the one experienced before, as is the individual's inner transformation — "In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" Gal The Bible presents various perspectives on conversion, and not just one definition.
Catholics and Pentecostals find that they can agree on many characteristics of conversion found in Scripture. First, conversion involves establishing or re-establishing a personal relationship with God so that the sinner can cry out with confidence, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions" Ps It implies a mysterious interplay between the human and the divine, primarily the human response to divine initiative.
Though conversion is a personal experience, the biblical understanding is that it is always relational both vertical and horizontal. The biblical call to conversion is properly directed to whole communities as well as to individuals. Patristic Perspectives on Conversion. Some of the patristic writings which can speak eloquently to both Pentecostals and Catholics today are the joyful accounts by individuals of their own conversions.
In one such personal testimony, Justin Martyr c. But straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me" Dialogue with Trypho 8. But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of former years had been washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, had been infused into my reconciled heart.
Then, by the agency of the Spirit breathed from heaven, a second birth had restored me to a new man I was enabled to acknowledge that what had been previously living in the practice of sin, being born of the flesh, was of the earth and was earthly.
Cleansed and Abiding: A Proposed View of Christian Perfection
A contemporary of Cyprian, from the eastern part of the Mediterranean world, Gregory Thaumaturgus c. One of the most memorable patristic accounts of conversion is found in St. Augustine's autobiography, which he entitled The Confessions in order to acknowledge not only his own sins but also the great mercy and love of God toward him.
You gleamed and shined, and chased away my blindness. You breathed out upon me and I drew in my breath and do pant for You. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst. You touched me and I burned for Your peace" Confessions X, Such patristic witnesses have the power to inspire and encourage both Pentecostals and Catholics, since both of our communities treasure and retell the stories of marvelous conversion and transformation which God has worked in the lives of his saints.
Augustine's story includes some of the characteristics that both Catholics and Pentecostals recognize as part of the complex phenomenon of conversion. At times of crisis, a potential convert may seek order, meaning and purpose in life, leading to the search to encounter God. Augustine had moments of such encounter which were so vivid that he felt like St. Paul, who wrote of being " lifted up to the third heaven " cf.
But that this encounter should be more than simply a fleeting occurrence, Augustine chose to resume his participation in the catechumenate and to seek baptism Confessions VII, He believed that he could encounter Christ only as part of the community of believers Christ had founded. For Augustine, the way of entry into that community was through the rites of Christian Initiation, which provided access to a genuine encounter with God. The interaction of potential converts with the community and the development of their commitment formed a clear pattern in which instruction and ritual were woven closely together.
Augustine was influenced by the preaching of Ambrose Confessions V, The change at the root of conversion is nothing less than transformation of the person through the interaction of divine grace and human freedom. The patristic writers used a variety of images to describe this holistic change or transformation, such as sanctification, enlightenment, and even deification;  but the dominant metaphor, as in Romans 6, was death and rebirth.
The Fathers described the change in behavior that results from conversion in various ways. Origen observed that the word of teaching and instruction "taking hold of those who are most intemperate and savage if they follow her exhortation effects a transformation, so that the alteration and change for the better is most extensive" Origen, On First Principles III, 1,5 [c.
He adds that "the name of Jesus produces a marvellous meekness of spirit and a complete change of character" Origen, Against Celsus I, 67 [c. So dramatic was this change that it often surprised the non-Christian acquaintances of the newly converted: "Some persons wonder that those whom they had known to be unsteady, worthless, or wicked before they bore this name [of Christian] have suddenly been converted to virtuous courses" Tertullian, To the Nations 4 [c.
The Fathers generally spoke of conversion in the context of baptism as the beginning of the Christian life. They were attentive to the role of grace and to a person's free will in making a decision toward conversion. Origen noted that "no improvement ever takes place among men without divine help" Origen, Against Celsus I, 26 [c. Later the Council of Orange taught: "We must with God's help preach and believe the following: free will has been so distorted and weakened by the sin of the first parent, that thereafter no one could love God as was required, or believe in God, or perform for the sake of God what is good, unless first reached by the grace of divine mercy".
Some of the Fathers associated conversion with new birth and interpreted the new birth about which Jesus speaks in John as referring to baptism. This new birth was described by means of metaphors such as "seeing the light" and "marriage to the Holy Spirit": "When the soul embraces the faith, being renewed in its second birth by water and the power from above, then the veil of its former corruption is taken away.
And it sees the light in all its brightness. It is also taken up in its second birth by the Holy Spirit, just as in its first birth it is embraced by the unholy spirit. The flesh follows the soul now wedded to the Spirit, as a part of the bridal portion — no longer the servant of the soul, but of the Spirit" Tertullian, On the Soul 41 [c. Clement of Alexandria describes the transformation of the Christian in terms drawn from the creation of human beings at the dawn of time.
Pentecostals and Catholics sometimes differ in their interpretation of biblical texts upon which the Fathers expounded. For example, Pentecostals read John as referring more generally to conversion, and not explicitly to baptism, as Catholics would tend to read it. Nevertheless, the way patristic authors associate new birth with conversion and baptism speaks to both our communities, recalling something of the perennial qualities of Christian conversion which we both recognize and rejoice in and illustrating the diverse ways in which early writers attempted to describe what is essential to it.
How might the biblical and patristic material deepen agreement between the dialogue participants about conversion, and about becoming a Christian? Catholics and Pentecostals used their discussions concerning this material as a basis on which to consider current practices in both communities. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults RCIA , retrieved from biblical and patristic sources and adapted for use by the Catholic Church in , offers possibilities for an agreed expression of our theological understanding and practice.
It resulted from a revision of the rite of baptism in light of studies of liturgical history drawn from scriptural and patristic texts, especially that of the early centuries. As its name implies, this rite is for the full initiation of a person into the church. The previously existing Rite of Baptism , that came into effect in as a rite of baptism only, was an abbreviated version of the ancient rite for the initiation of adults and had been used for the most part in the modified form suitable for the baptism of infants.
The Rite of the Baptism of Infants , introduced in to answer the need of a rite suited to infants, follows the practice of the previous rite in being for baptism alone, rather than one of full initiation. The limited scope of this Rite brings into prominence, by way of contrast, the comprehensive nature of the RCIA. In the texts and rituals of the RCIA, the various elements of Christian conversion on which Pentecostals and Catholics are agreed can be readily discerned.
It may be noted too that though it is based on practice developed in the patristic era, the rite shares the perspective already outlined in the survey of biblical texts earlier in this section. The text uses language of hearing, following and answering to express a conviction that conversion comes about in response to God's initiative.
This reflects the agreement between Pentecostals and Catholics that conversion is understood as entrance into a covenant involving a mysterious interplay between the divine and human. The baptismal event itself, the culmination of the catechumens' journey, is presented in the rite as an immersion into and identification with the mystery of Christ's dying and rising cf.
Rm The rite is therefore radically Christocentric. It situates the act of personal commitment to Christ in the context of the liturgical assembly and through the ministry of various members of the community. Seen from this latter perspective, the conversion celebrated by the rite entails also an enrichment of the ecclesial reality. As a rite of initiation, RCIA consequently involves liturgical actions as well as spiritual event. While Pentecostals and Catholics both recognize that the Christian life in community is aptly expressed and enhanced in acts of worship, they differ on the relationship between the visible and invisible aspects of the rite of entry to the community.
Catholics believe that the rite is a visible sign of invisible grace, a sacrament. Among Pentecostals, views on baptism vary between considering it a public affirmation of faith in Christ to speaking of it as having a substantial effect, a strengthening of faith. In the Catholic understanding, the effects of the RCIA have a wider scope, in that baptism, confirmation and eucharist are all contained within it to complete the act of initiation. The initiation can be regarded as beginning and fostering a process of conversion in which there is remission of sin, regeneration, reception of the Spirit, and incorporation into Christ and his church, culminating in union with the crucified and risen Christ through the reception of his Body and Blood.
Catholic belief is that in the rite of initiation, the reality of being clothed with Christ is most profoundly effected and expressed. The RCIA may be prolonged over a period of a year or more and it assumes that conversion may develop gradually. This is indicated in the distinct ritual steps prescribed, in recognition that there are certain moments in the process when the conversion experience is deepened and demands a corresponding ritual expression. This implies that the conversion process may be quite diversified experientially.
These stages of growth have as their end a transformation of the whole person in the areas of cognitive development, affective growth and behavioral change. Pentecostals agree with Catholics on the necessity of this transformation but see it as an expression of discipleship following after conversion. Pentecostals and Catholics agree on the necessity of conversion as a key component of Christian Initiation, but continue to discuss the significance and relative normativity of both sacramental and non-sacramental approaches to initiation, including conversion.
The Pentecostal team resonates so well with the RCIA that they would encourage its adoption by Catholics on a much wider scale. Pentecostals identify more readily with such an approach, as opposed to one which begins with the baptism of infants and catechizing of children. Pentecostals perceive this latter approach to leave Catholic adults without the benefit of the strong teaching found in the RCIA, and think the RCIA could be an excellent resource for addressing pastoral problems related to the nominal practice of the faith and the ongoing need for evangelization.
The Catholic Church, however, proposes a model of initiation which recognizes a link between baptism, faith and conversion, but understands that link differently in relation to the baptism of adults or of infants. In both cases there must be growth in faith and conversion, but baptism itself creates an adoptive relationship as a child of God. Sacraments, including baptism, whether of an adult or of an infant, are not only subjective professions of faith but also objective realities, because they incorporate the recipient into Christ and into God's people.
At baptism a child begins to share divine life and becomes part of the communion of saints, and this has meaning for the child's spiritual development. Thus Catholics would find it inconceivable to deny this grace to an infant, and through the priority of grace see a fundamental identity between infant and adult baptism. In both cases Christ is the door, even though the lives of individual Christians follow differing paths and are realized in diverse moments.
The Rite of the Baptism of Infants also advises pastors to delay baptism in those cases where there is need for evangelization of the parents, and no reasonable expectation that an infant will be brought up in the practice of the faith without such evangelization.
Thus, while Catholics view the RCIA as the fullest articulation of the process of initiation, they would not allow that affirmation to discount the importance of infant baptism. For both Pentecostals and Catholics, baptism should be an ecclesial event, a faith experience for the worshipping community. In a mutually enriching exercise, teachers and catechists as well as parents must accept their mission to help children elicit acts of personal faith both in day-to-day living and at further stages of spiritual growth.
For Catholics, these opportunities include confirmation, first penance and first eucharist. Pentecostals, whether they practice the dedication or the baptism of infants and young children, likewise involve children and families in growth experiences through graded Sunday School and catechism programs, and gradual integration of children into the worship life of the community. Both Catholics and Pentecostals reject as inadequate a simply nominal adherence to the Christian life. Thus, the discussion surrounding the emergence of the RCIA included the question of whether the Rite offers a corrective to nominal practice of Christian life, or to a merely cultural Christianity.
On the one hand, Catholics would affirm the positive influence which a Catholic culture that is clearly influenced by the gospel can have, in supporting the continuing practice by Catholics of an authentic Christian life. They distinguished that, on the other hand, from what might be described as a merely "cultural Catholicism", on the part of those who might only superficially observe the Catholic faith. An example of the latter includes pastoral situations in which individuals with no discernible faith, virtually no connection to the church, and no commitment to active practice, approach the church requesting sacraments merely for extrinsic reasons.
While Catholics acknowledge the existence of such nominal practice both in previous centuries and the present day, they also wish to emphasize the concurrent presence of ongoing genuine conversion and vital Catholic life. In current Christian Initiation praxis they seek to avoid any divorce between faith and sacrament, committed discipleship and Catholic identity. Likewise Pentecostals recognize the problems associated with a small but growing nominal or cultural Pentecostalism, and both sides see the need for evangelization, pastoral discernment and the call to committed discipleship in such contexts.
With regard to Christian culture, Catholics and Pentecostals alike acknowledge the impact of a Gospel vision upon and transformation of pagan and secular society over the centuries, so that society itself has at times embodied a profoundly Christian worldview. In our current pluralistic society, both sides continue to strive to establish a Christian culture within the larger society and thus to be instruments in God's hands for the kingdom.
Contemporary experiences of conversion often follow the New Testament emphasis on repentance, embracing the good news, and receiving the goodness of God experienced in healing, deliverance or other forms of help. Stories or testimonies about conversion to Christ frequently involve elements of restoration to active participation in the Christian community, to the deeper experience of family and a sense of belonging, regardless of social, gender or ethnic differences cf. Gal Those who have been marginalized identify with the experience of being called and thus being known by God cf. Eph This transition from alienation to belonging is associated with an awareness of the restoration of one's dignity.
Hence, Catholics and Pentecostals tend to understand conversion and initiation, first of all, in terms of the kinds of testimonies reflected in the New Testament rather than in abstract concepts. For both groups conversion experiences are diverse, and all these experiences are something to be narrated and celebrated. Catholics and Pentecostals generally agree that conversion involves both event and process, and recognize the need for ongoing formation. Both hold to a diversity of ways in which one is converted. Conversions may express varying characteristics, some more affectively oriented than others, some more cognitive, dramatic or volitional.
Both recognize different levels of conversion, and conversion in stages i. Manifestations of conversions are also recognized in their diversity. One may give evidence of conversion through either word or service, depending upon gifts and calling. Catholics and Pentecostals also recognize diversity in the ways evangelization takes place. Catholics are evangelized for life-changing conversions in parish missions, through spiritual retreats and exercises, and through liturgical rites such as renewal of baptismal vows. At the same time, Catholics see the retrieved RCIA as an example of the church's growth in its understanding of initiation, evangelization and mission.
They see this as reflecting the pattern of Acts by including in one rite the process of conversion the catechumenate , baptism regeneration , confirmation the gift of the Holy Spirit and eucharistic communion Acts Pentecostals, likewise, take the Great Commission Mt seriously by calling people to a personal response to the Gospel, and incorporating them into the life of the community through opportunities for ongoing growth and discipleship. Thus Pentecostals and Catholics share in common a strong commitment to the proclamation of the Gospel, through various forms of witnessing and evangelism, including both missions and personal relationships.
Both Pentecostals and Catholics recognize conversion as the gift of God, although they may not always agree about what constitutes a valid experience of conversion. They join together in calling for the genuine conversion of people to Jesus Christ. Pentecostals and Catholics fully agree that becoming a Christian is not comprehensible apart from faith. The Letter to the Hebrews teaches that " Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" Heb In the Gospels, faith is depicted as trusting acceptance of God's revelation e.
Mary in Lk ,45 , accepting the Gospel as proclaimed by Jesus Mk , belief in the person of Jesus as the source of life Jn ; ; ; ; and trust in and initiative toward the healing power of Jesus Mk ; Faith is a gifted response to God's revelation, involving an opening of the heart, an assent of the mind and actions which express our trust.
While Jesus' call to saving faith is found in the synoptic gospels e. Jn ; The letter to the Ephesians makes clear that it is through faith, freely given by God, that we are saved: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not of works, so that no one may boast" Eph Again, Paul clearly links the necessity of faith with salvation: "'The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart' that is, the word of faith that we proclaim ; because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved" Rom Christian Initiation cannot be fully appreciated without reference to the practice of baptism within the Jewish community at the time of Jesus. Not only was a ritual bath administered to Gentile proselytes who wanted to become Jews, but also those who were already Jews could receive a 'baptism of repentance', such as that administered by John the Baptist in the Jordan river and received by Jesus at John's hands.
Scripture contrasts the baptism of John, who baptized "with water" with that of Jesus, who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" Mt ; cf. Mk ; Lk ; Jn ; Acts ; ; The mention of the baptism of John in the sermons of Peter and Paul Acts and and in other passages of the Acts of the Apostles and suggests how important it was in the memory of the early church. The accounts of John's baptism of Jesus Mt ; Mk ; Lk ; Jn include rich insights into the identity of Jesus as Messiah, servant and Son of the Father, and also provide clues to the meaning of discipleship for those who would later be baptized as Christians.
While the four gospels articulate the nature of Jesus' call to all who would become his disciples, the first actual accounts of people becoming Christians are contained in the Acts of the Apostles, beginning with the account in Acts 2, of those who first responded to the Apostles' message on the day of Pentecost. After the descent or outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter went out and preached about Jesus, crucified and risen Acts , who had been foretold by the prophets Acts , and who now had sent the Holy Spirit to empower him and the other disciples to witness boldly to God's saving action in Christ.
Those who heard the proclamation were "cut to the heart", and said to Peter and the other apostles, "What should we do? The sequence of events is: the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the preaching about Jesus Christ, the response of faith, conversion, baptism for the forgiveness of sins and the reception of the Holy Spirit. After noting that three thousand had accepted the message that day, Acts goes on to state that "they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers".
Their community was marked by signs and wonders, by the sharing of material goods and by regular gathering in the temple for prayer and in their homes for the breaking of bread cf. Thus the account of the conversion of these three thousand concludes with their integration into a koinonia , a community of faith personal adherence to Christ and to the truths asserted in the proclamation about Christ and in the subsequent teaching of the apostles and of celebration baptism and the breaking of the bread. The statement that the new community was devoted to the apostles' instruction cf. Acts suggests that the proclamation on Pentecost was followed by continuing formation, which would provide the believers with a more complete understanding of the faith and of the practice of discipleship.
Acts reports the conversion of Samaritans, which took place in two distinct moments with different persons ministering: "But when they believed Philip, who was proclaiming the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. The two men went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit". Here the pattern of initiation seems to be the preaching of the good news, faith, baptism, prayer for the reception of the Holy Spirit, the imposition of hands by apostles from Jerusalem and the reception of the Spirit. Catholics have seen the prayer for the Holy Spirit and the imposition of hands by the apostles as a basis for the sacrament of confirmation. Pentecostals see in the two moments of this account evidence that once one comes to personal faith and has been baptized, there is also a need for the coming of the Spirit upon an individual , often accompanied by the laying on of hands.
This is an example of how Catholics and Pentecostals view a text from different perspectives. Further on, in Acts , where we read of the Ethiopian eunuch who became a Christian, we find again a partially similar pattern: proclamation, personal profession of faith, and baptism. Paul's vision of Jesus, his conversion and call, baptism and reception of the Spirit are recorded in Acts 9. Following his experience on the way to Damascus and his subsequent three day stay in that city, Ananias arrives to lay hands upon Paul, that he might recover his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Paul's sight then returns and he is baptized Acts The elements of proclamation and personal faith are not explicit in this account nor when Paul retells it in Acts and , although the encounter with the living Jesus Himself could be seen as a singularly vivid proclamation that the Jesus who had been crucified is alive, and Paul's faith may be supposed since, without it, he would not have accepted baptism. The aspect of divine initiative, so clear in the process by which Paul became a Christian, is also dominant in the next account of Christian Initiation, that of Cornelius and of all the other Gentiles who were listening to Peter's message Acts As Peter preaches, the Holy Spirit rushes upon his listeners, who began to speak in tongues and to glorify God Acts Peter ordered that they be baptized, later explaining "If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?
This emphasis upon the divine initiative is also evident in the fact that Cornelius and his companions do not seem to have had the chance to profess their faith in response to Peter's message; before he finishes they begin to speak in tongues and to glorify God. Nor do they request baptism; Peter "ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ", after saying "Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?
There are clearly elements of proclamation and of a response of faith present in this account; at the same time, because of its importance for seeing God's design in the acceptance of Gentiles as part of the Christian community, the accent upon the powerful divine initiative is very strong. Acts 16 contains the account of Lydia, whose heart was opened by the Lord to heed what Paul said and who was baptized with her household Acts , and of the jailer who was converted after the earthquake which occurred as Paul and Silas were praying and singing in prison.
Human Nature of Christ
At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay" Acts Another account appears in Acts "Crispus, the official of the synagogue, became a believer in the Lord, together with all his household; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul became believers and were baptized". In all three of these accounts the elements of proclaiming the word, faith and baptism are present, while the Holy Spirit is not explicitly mentioned.
A striking peculiarity is the baptism of the household or the whole family. Given the cohesive nature of the family at that time, it is possible that the events recounted here included also the baptism of infants who were part of the family. On the other hand, the mention of faith could also suggest that only those who could understand and personally confess faith upon hearing Paul's message would have been baptized. The last account in Acts of people becoming Christians appears in , when Paul discovers some baptized disciples in Ephesus who had never heard of the Holy Spirit, having been baptized only with John's baptism.
On hearing Paul's explanation of how John was preparing the way for Jesus, "they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied — altogether there were about twelve of them" Acts Here the pattern seems quite close to that of the Samaritan converts in Acts 8: proclamation, faith, baptism, laying on of hands and the receiving of the Holy Spirit.
In several of Paul's letters we find reference to the time when his readers first became Christians e. He also recounts some of the activities of his initial evangelization of these communities e. In these records we typically see the proclamation of the Gospel, the 'calling' of the people by God through Paul and their attentive response in faith, sometimes with reference to their baptism 1 Cor ; Gal and receiving of the Spirit 1 Cor ; Gal In other New Testament letters, such as Hebrews Heb ; , et al. Thus, in addition to the foundational testimonies of the four gospels and the references in various New Testament letters, these nine accounts from Acts — the three thousand on Pentecost, the Samaritans, the Ethiopian eunuch, Paul, Cornelius and companions, Lydia and her household, the jailer and his family, Crispus along with his household and many Corinthians, and the twelve Ephesians — offer us insight into the way one became a Christian in New Testament times.
The pattern among these accounts is rather similar, but clearly not always the same, and the details are often sparse. Usually there is a proclamation of the message about Jesus Christ, its acceptance in faith, baptism, the laying on of hands, the gift of the Holy Spirit and entrance into the community. The community worships together with the distinctive practice of the breaking of bread Acts ,46; Catholics have traditionally seen this in eucharistic terms indicating that sharing in the eucharist is a sign of the full integration into the community.
While Acts does not tie the breaking of bread to initiation so strongly, further development toward a fuller eucharistic theology can be seen in Justin's First Apology 61, c. Pentecostals do see in the Last Supper and the "breaking of bread" Acts Jesus' institution of an ongoing rite and communal celebration that, in the fullest sense of the Greek work anamnesis , 'remembers' him and his death on the Cross and even an ordained means for God's communication of redemptive life, as reflected in the practice in many Pentecostal churches of praying for the sick during the celebration of the Lord's supper.
But they do not see these accounts as necessarily implying the more fully developed sacramental, eucharistic theology embraced by Catholics. In the Acts of the Apostles, becoming a Christian is described within the context of a church fervently engaged in the apostolic mission of proclaiming the gospel to those who do not yet know Christ.
Such a mission obviously could only be addressed to those old enough to understand the proclamation. Moreover, this earliest missionary stage seems not to have required a lengthy and detailed process of initiation prior to baptism. In fact there are several different approaches found in the Acts of the Apostles. It seems that persons and groups became Christian suddenly, with much of the further explanation of the requirements of faith and discipleship only following later. But sometimes teaching precedes conversion, as in Acts , where Peter and John were "teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead", or in , where the apostles "entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching".
Often, teaching seems to have followed initiation, as in Acts Clearly faith is central to Christian Initiation in the New Testament accounts here considered. The missionary, especially Peter and Paul in Acts, is the member of the church most engaged in introducing neophytes into the community's faith. But various texts suggest that the whole church was involved in supporting their mission, by encouragement Acts ; Phil 1,5 , or by prayer Acts ; or by offering financial support Acts ; Phil The whole church was also involved in discerning the solution to what was the most difficult challenge emerging from the initiation of new believers — the question about the observance of the law Acts , so crucial both for the meaning of the Gospel cf.
Gal and for the spread of the faith among the Gentiles. Acts reports that Priscilla and Aquila took aside the eloquent preacher Apollos and "explained the Way of God to him more accurately". All of this suggests that the task of initiation was not restricted to the missionary apostle but more widely shared by the whole community. Christian Initiation may also be seen in the many instances of teaching in the Acts of the Apostles, as well as the accounts of Jesus' earlier teaching in the Gospels. According to the Scriptures, becoming a mature Christian entails a process of growing in faith.
This requires teaching. Acts mentions the presence of "prophets and teachers" in the church at Antioch, reminding one that Paul's lists of ministries include "teachers" 1 Cor ; Rom ; Eph Various individuals are described by Acts as engaged in teaching: Peter and John , the apostles ,42 , Saul and Barnabas ; , Paul ; ; ; , Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos Acts also knows of the danger of being misled by false teachings.
In his moving farewell to the leaders of the church at Ephesus, called presbyteroi "presbyters" or "elders" in , and episkopoi "overseers" in , Paul warns of "fierce wolves" who will come after his departure, to draw disciples away from the admonitions which Paul taught for three years night and day with tears Acts Acts presents a teaching church in which the formation in faith which occurs after initiation may, in fact, be more extensive and more important than the seemingly short instruction which precedes baptism.
All of the New Testament books imply that the church was active not only in the initial proclamation of the Gospel but also in the ongoing formation of faith. While the individual books, except for Acts, do not tell the story of the initial mission of the church, they are all instructions in faith. Naturally the different groups of writings have distinctive emphases. Written to a group of believers who were tempted to turn back from their conversion to Christ, the letter to the Hebrews makes much of the need for Christians to receive further teaching following their initial response to the Gospel Heb The Johannine literature highlights the role of the Holy Spirit leading the church into all truth Jn ; and the fact that discipleship entails an intimate union with and love for Jesus Jn ; Much of the New Testament material about teaching shows that formation in faith was not reserved to baptismal candidates alone.
Paul suggests that maturing in faith is a long process 1 Cor ; which never completely outgrows that seeing " in a mirror, dimly" which is part of our earthly state 1 Cor The activity of the Christian community in welcoming new members and in helping them mature as faithful disciples clearly shows that faith and Christian Initiation are closely tied together. Additional insights can be gained by briefly looking at the place of faith within the New Testament's reflection about baptism.
The accounts in Acts, starting with Pentecost cf. Acts , make clear that, in order to become a Christian, one is called to be baptized. Furthermore, throughout the New Testament baptism is associated with a powerful and dynamic transformation of the believer. Baptism is tied to the forgiveness of sins Acts It is linked to salvation: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" Mk It is even said to "save" us "And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you.
In two extended sections of his letter to the Romans, Paul develops the themes that we are saved from the "penalty" of sins through faith in the blood of Jesus Rom , but are then delivered from the "power" of sin through inclusion in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the new indwelling life of the Spirit Rom This inclusion in the death and resurrection of Jesus frees us from "the body of sin". According to Paul, when persons are baptized they are not only giving public testimony to their faith in and allegiance toward Jesus and signifying the burial of an old life and entry into the new; they are participating in or entering into the death and resurrection of Jesus cf.
Rom ; Col Baptism means adoption as children of God: "For in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God, through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ" Gal Those who have believed and are baptized have been formed into the messianic people: "There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise" Gal Because of the profound link which the New Testament makes between faith and baptism, it is not surprising that some verses actually juxtapose the two realities cf. Mk ; Gal In the New Testament becoming a Christian entails a communal dimension. Baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into Christ's Body, the church. Christian Initiation establishes communion among all who are transformed in Christ: "For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" 1 Cor It should be noted that most Pentecostals understand Gal and 1 Cor as referring to a "spiritual" baptism into the Body of Christ, to which public witness is given through baptism in water.
Nevertheless, like other Christians they do believe that baptism in water carries a communal dimension. This link between Christ's death, baptism and the unity of the church helps to explain Paul's passion as he pleads with the Corinthian church to see and honor their oneness in the Lord: "Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? Clearly for Paul, a baptized person is now a member of the New Community and as such has the obligation to actively maintain its unity cf. In summary, the teaching of the New Testament and the several accounts in Acts of individuals or groups becoming Christians, clearly show that faith plays a critical and necessary role in Christian Initiation.
Faith is a gift of God without which one cannot become a Christian. Likewise, faith and baptism are linked. All who would become Christians are called to a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and a reception of the Holy Spirit Acts At the same time, Pentecostals and Catholics need to explore further the different perspectives they bring to the precise nature of Christian Initiation.
Catholics generally understand texts such as Jn about being born anew in water and the Spirit, Titus about the washing of regeneration, and Jn 6 about eating Jesus' body and blood in a sacramental way. In texts such as Rom , which speaks of being united with Christ in a death like his, that is, by baptism, or Col , being "buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead", Catholics see a real participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Pentecostals, on the other hand, see in the New Testament a primary emphasis on faith and confession, which also includes baptism, engendered by the received Word through the power of the Spirit. This public confession of faith and obedience is powerfully attended by God's Spirit, who also imparts the very realities signified by baptism. Regarding the timing of baptism, many of the accounts of baptism in the New Testament suggest that a personal, explicit profession of faith was a pre-requisite, an act which an infant would not seem capable of performing.
At the same time, the household baptisms recorded in Acts 16 and 18 allow for the possibility that infants were baptized. Of the nine accounts of baptism in Acts, only those of the Ethiopian eunuch and of Paul are reported as the baptism of a single individual; all of the others were administered to groups of persons. Furthermore, aside from the issue of infant baptism, a single pattern is not so easy to discern in the New Testament. Generally, it seems that a pattern such as proclamation of the message about Christ, faith and conversion, baptism, the laying on of hands and the gift of the Holy Spirit, evidenced in signs, seems to be the norm, with the presumption that the new Christians eventually shared in the "breaking of bread".
But there are instances which do not seem to fit the pattern, such as the delay of the coming of the Spirit until the Samaritans receive the laying on of hands by the apostles in Acts 8, or the Spirit coming upon Cornelius and his household prior to their baptism in Acts Also it is clear that the whole church was involved in the initial and continuing formation of its members. Yet while the entire community is active in the formation of disciples, in the end it cannot do for individuals what they must do themselves: each one is called to believe.
At the same time, the accounts of baptism in Acts of the Apostles show people being baptized immediately after having heard the proclamation about Jesus Christ for the very first time. Presumably they would have much more to hear about him and, to that extent their faith would need to grow with the passage of time through the grace of the Holy Spirit and with the help of instruction and encouragement by other members of the community.
In this sense, their faith could not and need not have been fully mature at the precise moment of initiation. There are also accounts in the New Testament involving physical healing, where the faith of the community is operative in a way that brings benefit to the one in need for example, Mk where Jesus responds to the faith of the four men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus, Acts where the faith of Peter and John in the name of Jesus made the paralyzed man well, or Acts where Tabitha is raised from the dead. It is on the basis of such accounts that Catholics can envision the community supplying faith in the baptism of an infant, until that infant can confess faith personally at a later time, a profession of faith which is sacramentally sealed at confirmation.
Patristic Perspectives on Faith and Christian Initiation. From the Second Century relatively few patristic texts have survived concerning the explicit theme of becoming a Christian. One of the oldest that did is the Didache prior to , which describes the 'two ways' of life available to human beings — the way of light and the way of darkness.
The author exhorts his readers to follow the Christian way of light , which entails living according to Jesus' twofold commandment of love, abiding by the golden rule and avoiding the major sins that offend the law of God. Then, in paragraph 7, the Didache speaks about the initiation rite involved in becoming a Christian: "Concerning baptism do as follows. Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,' in running water.
Even though these brief words do not explicitly mention a profession of faith or develop its doctrinal content, becoming a Christian naturally implied such, as suggested by the Trinitarian formula indicated in the text. Not long afterwards, Justin Martyr's Apology I, 61, 65 c. Another reference to the rite of initiation from this earliest century of the post-New Testament period is found in the Proof of the Apostolic Preaching , by Irenaeus of Lyon, who repeats the details of the Didache and Justin Martyr, but adds: " this baptism is the seal of eternal life and is rebirth unto God, that we be no more children of mortal men, but of the eternal and everlasting God".
Notice that verse 9 cannot be speaking of salvation unto eternal life since it requires an individual to confess particular sins on an ongoing basis. Recall that salvation is received on a once for all time act of faith alone in Christ alone as Savior. This results in an irreversible spiritual birth and an irrevocable promise of eternal life. There are no requirements of an individual other than a one time expression of faith in Christ and certainly no ongoing qualifiers built into God's plan of salvation, Eph ; ; Ro Examine especially the unfathomable gift of the life of the Son of God faithfully dying on the cross and rising from the dead for our sins as promised.
So much the more will God be faithful in forgiving His child of temporal sins. He may forgive us So the correct rendering should be:. This question is answered by the last part of verse The believer is then cleansed of temporal sins on the basis of what his Savior did for him on the cross. That believer, for the moment, is in fellowship with God, i.
According to His Word, all that God requires is that one acknowledge back to Him the sins that are brought to mind. This is to say that when one repents it is synonymous with one who is a believer acknowledging to God that he does continually fall short of the holiness of God, cp Ro Therefore the word which is translated "repent" in Scripture relative to salvation and temporal forgiveness of daily sins in ones life does not refer to feeling sorry for one's sins.
The word "repentance" is translated from the Greek word "metanoias" which means a turn about, a deliberate change of mind resulting in a change of direction in thought. To repent is to turn from one's sin with respect to acknowledging that it is a problem in ones life which one needs God to deal with.
Notice that when believers claim that they have not sinned; then God says that " we [who claim to have not sinned] make Him [God] out to be a liar and His Word has no place in our lives. So how important is studying and obeying God's Word relative to sin in a believer's life?
All important. Notice that the enablement not to sin in this passage in Psalms comes from God.
It is inexplicably both. God with His indescribably infinite power and man with his finite capacity at the same time. Ephesians verifies the principle of God's gracious working of sanctification in the believer through the Word - the study of Bible doctrine. Therefore, 1 Jn which we have already examined along side of verse 8 comes right after verse 9 which speaks of we believers admitting right back to God the sins that the Holy Spirit has reminded we believers of committing.
Thus we make God out to be a liar and we have obviously departed from obeying His Word. Those believers who resist the Holy Spirit's conviction of certain sins in their lives and will not change their mind about admitting that they do have sin in their life, those believers are in need of repenting of, i.
John also makes a statement about making God out to be a liar in chapter 5 relative to the salvation of a person. John stated that if a person refuses to believe that what God is saying about eternal life through His Son is true then that person is calling God a liar and that person condemns himself to hell:.
Anyone who does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. The point of drawing out this parallel is that fellowship for the believer and salvation for the unbeliever are both a matter of simply taking God at His Word. If God says that to the unbeliever that all he has to do is to accept what God says about His Son - that He died for his sins then that individual will be saved just like the frightened jailer in Phillippi was:.
And God says to the believer that all the believer has to do is to admit to God what God has already shown to His child what is sin in his life then He will purify his child from all unrighteousness bringing him back into fellowship with Himself. So for the time being, while a believer remains in his sin contaminated mortal body on earth, God has provided a temporal remedy for the acts committed by the inherent sin nature within the believer.
For those moments when a believer fixes his hope on Jesus Christ, i. V [1 Jn ]:. Notice that 1 John chapter 3 reiterates the reality of the believer that while he still lives in his mortal body - he still does sin! Eerdmans Publishing Co. In the OT as well as the NT, these two words are used frequently as synonyms cf. Pss ; ; Rom ; Heb In John's community, however, they were used apparently with different meanings.
This latter concept had its origin early in the teaching of the church Matt ; ; 1 Cor ; 2 Thess Apparently the false teachers and John agreed that 'lawlessness' was incompatible with being born of God. What they did not agree on was that sin, defined as transgression of the moral law, was 'lawlessness. Either they believed that they were by nature incapable of violating the law or that sinful deeds done in the flesh were of no concern to God, and they were therefore 'sinless' in His sight. John decries such a dichotomy. That his opponents hate their brothers shows that their claim to sinlessness is a lie, which along with their failure to love stems from one source, their lawlessness.
VI [1 Jn ]:. Author John now focuses in on the absolutely sinless perfection of our Lord Jesus Christ as contrasted with the devil who has continually sinned from the beginning. First, the purpose of our Lord's appearance in human form: "to take away sins", i. Second, His qualification to take away the sins of the whole world: "In Him there is not sin", i.
So, author John goes on to say that as a result of our Lord's sinless perfection and His perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, believers are given by God's grace the position of sinless perfection themselves when they go to be with the Lord in heaven and also experientially during their mortal lifetimes at those moments when they abide, i. In this light the thought in our verse is not only that Christ died for our sins but that His ultimate goal is our total freedom from sin forever.
In fact, the statements of verse have already referred implicitly to this climax. Our repudiation of sin, therefore, should be based not only on its iniquitous character, but also on the realization that the goal of our Savior Who redeemed us, is to completely remove it from our lives. Moreover His own personal purity, already referred to in verse , offers further incentive to reject sin in all its forms.
For He is entirely without it: in Him there is no sin.
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Thus Christ's sacrificial work for us, plus His own personal and absolute holiness, make sin utterly unsuitable for the born again believer. No matter what rationalizations the readers might have heard for sin, whether from the Revisionists or others, they should reject them categorically. VII [1 Jn ]:. Notice that John indicates here in these verses that when a believer keeps our Lord's commandments, [one especially important one being confession of known sins, 1 Jn ], then he is in a state of knowing Him in the sense of being in fellowship with Him.
On the other hand when the believer does not obey God's Word, he is demonstrating that he does not know the Lord. Notice that it is not a case of losing one's salvation, but of being out of fellowship with God - of not abiding in Christ as a result of disobedience to God's Word. On the other hand, , 10 indicate that no can claim to be without sin:. But notice that the confession of sin brings about God's purification from all unrighteousness, hence in God's viewpoint, for the moment, the confessed child of God is purified from all unrighteousness and in fellowship with Him. One popular way in recent times has been to appeal to the present tense used here in the phrase does not sin and to make the present tense mean, 'does not continue to sin'.
Another view is that John is speaking of an ideal which is not fully realized in present experience. All such explanations fly in the face of the context, especially the immediately preceding verse. The statement of verse 5 that 'in Him is no sin' is clearly absolute and cannot be qualified at all. But if this is so, one who abides in the Sinless One cannot be said to be only 'a little bit' sinful! If there can be 'no sin' in Christ at all, one cannot take even a little bit of sin into an experience which is specifically said to be in Him. The failure to recognize the logical connection between verses 5 and 6 is the reason that verse 6 has been so often misunderstood.
As a result, this misunderstanding carries over into verse 9. To be sure, no Christian can ever claim in this life to be experientially completely free from sin, as makes emphatically clear. But at the same time we can say that the experience of 'abiding in Him' is in and of itself a sinless experience. Thus it is not 'contaminated' by the presence of sin in other aspects of our experience. As we have seen, the 'abiding life' is marked by obedience to Christ's commands cf. The fact is that, if I obey the command to love my brother, that obedience is not tainted in God's sight by some different sort of failure in the life like unwatchfulness in prayer cf.
Ephesians It is also true that, when we are walking in fellowship with God and seeking to guard His commands, God is able to look past all our failures and sin and see this! Thus we walk in the light and do what He commands us, God sees us as people who are totally cleansed from whatever faults [in our experience] we may have and who live before God without any charge of unrighteousness [ in spite of the reality that there always is sin present]. Thus when we abide in Him , the positive obedience is what God takes account of and recognizes.
The sin which still remains in us is not in any sense sourced in the abiding life, and that sin is cleansed away in accordance with The experience of 'abiding' is therefore the equivalent of our experience of obedience. Obedience and sin are opposites. Thus, sin is no part of the abiding experience at all. In fact, sin reflects both ignorance and blindness toward God and Christ.
Once again the statements are absolute and should be taken at face value. They apply to " anyone at all " who Whoever commits sin. Most commentators have not been able to accept this conclusion, but it is unavoidable. The apostle is saying that sin, whenever and by whomever it is done, lies so completely outside of the 'abiding life' that the one who does it " has neither seen nor known Him ". Once again it is illegitimate to resort to the present tense of the verb sins , as though it meant 'continues to sin,' The flow of thought requires us to see an absolute antithesis between sin and Christ, and sin and abiding.
Every interpretative attempt to accommodate 'a little bit of sin' or 'an occasional sin' in John's statements completely nullifies the definitive contrasts the apostle is drawing. It should be noted that the statement that Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him employs Greek verbs for 'see' and 'know' that are here found in the Greek perfect tense heOraken and egnOken. More than any other Greek tense, the perfect tense is often very difficult to render precisely into English. In its normal function the tense suggests a present state or situation resulting from a past action or event.
In Galatians , for example, the KJV translation, 'I am crucified with Christ,' is the best English rendering, since it clearly suggests a state resulting from a past occurrence. By contrast, the rendering, 'I have been crucified' fails to do this! Thus the English present perfect, when passive, will often catch the nuance of the perfect tense in Greek.
In this verse, however, neither the verb for 'see' or 'know' is passive and the translation into English is more difficult. We must probably resort to paraphrase.
It is helpful to keep Louw's statement in mind, 'The perfect tense in Greek signifies a state of affairs. It is not concerned with the past occurrence of the event but with its reality, its existence. That is, the commission of sins shows that the sinner has been overtaken by blindness and ignorance of God.
The perfect tense here is not intended to categorize a person as either saved or unsaved, since even believers sin Instead, the statement is intended to stigmatize all sin as the product, not only of not abiding, but also of ignorance and blindness toward God.. Used in the negative as they are here cf. So I may say, 'I have not finished my homework,' implying the homework for that particular day. There is no implication that I have never at anytime completed my homework! I may in fact have completed it regularly on other days.
We should therefore not read has neither seen Him nor known Him as though these words implied a never. They do not. John simply means that when a person sins , at that point in time he has acted in blindness and ignorance of God. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, we must beware of 'the deceitfulness of sin' Hebrew Every sin in some way deceives us, and flows out of a darkening of the heart toward God. Not to recognize that John's statement is true of all sin is to miss his point completely.
If the Revisionists rationalized sin, or even promoted their own participation in it as somehow 'enlightened,' they were wrong. People do not sin when they fully face the truth. They sin only when in some way they are blind to, and ignorant of, the true and living God. Now begins the stark contrast between the utter sinfulness of the devil and the absolute purity and sinlessness of the Son of God. This contrast is brought to bear on the conscience of the believer in order to motivate him to abide in our Lord in his daily life.
VIII [1 Jn ]:. And the absolute contrast between God's holiness and the sinfulness of the devil and his world is stated in the next verse which compares the devil who has sinned from the beginning and who is sin personified to the One Who is born of the Seed of God, the Holy Spirit, Mt IX [1 Jn ]:. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. The Son of God's purpose therefore is to destroy sin. So He must be without sin Himself in order to qualify for this task as it states in verse Without Article.
Without the article pas may have distributive significance "each," "all" They will not sin habitually, 1 John is said to teach On the other hand, other translations suggest an absolute understanding - that the born of God person doesn't sin at all There are grave problems with this argument. For one thing, the present tense, unaided by qualifying words, does not mean what the habitual sin view suggests.
In Greek when the present tense occurs it can be understood in a number of ways, one of which is the habitual present. However, the habitual present refers to events which occur over and over again repeatedly. If John was saying this about believers sinning he would be saying that believers do not sin repeatedly. If believers sin daily - as all believers do cf. Howard Marshall commented concerning the tense argument]:. Another difficulty with this understanding is that one wonders why God would preserve believers from being dominated by sin and yet not from sinning altogether.
We must, therefore, wonder whether an important point of interpretation can be made to rest on what has been called a grammatical subtlety. The habitual sin is also ruled out by the context. In verse 5 John said that there is no sin in Christ. He clearly meant that there is absolutely no sin in Him.
Then in the very next sentence he said that those who abide in Christ do not sin. He could hardly have meant that Christ sins not at all and those who abide in Him sin but not a lot. John's point is clearly that sin is never an expression of abiding in Christ. When we abide we do not sin at all. In this view the verse should be read, 'Whoever has been born of God does not continue to sin ; for His seed remains in him; and he cannot continue to sin , because he has been born of God.
The meaning of this is supposed to be that prolonged continuation in sin does not occur if one is born again. But this raises more questions than it answers. Do not all Christians continue to sin until the day of their death? Furthermore, do not all Christians sin daily?
Isn't daily sin a continuation in doing it? What could the proposed translation possibly mean? Or, how can anyone claim not to be continuing to sin? Does the born again person come to some point at which he ceases to sin? The proposed translation solves nothing. There is no doubt that in an appropriate context the Greek present tense can have a present progressive force like 'he is sinning. For this purpose there were Greek words available which are actually used in the New Testament.
For example, diapantos occurs in Luke ' The Greek phrase eis to dienekes could have the same meaning cf. Hebrews ; The Greek present tense did not by itself convey such ideas As Louw has very acutely observed: ' That is to say, it simply states the action without any kind of elaboration or description. It is highly probable that if John had meant something similar to the NIV-type of translation of 1 John , he would have used the available Greek words to make his point.
No first century Greek reader or hearer was likely to get a meaning such as the one that the NIV imports into this text, without the necessary additional words. In addition , this appeal to the Greek tense, if used elsewhere in the epistle, would lead to havoc. For example, as C. Dodd pointed out, if we translate 1 John as 'if we say that we do not continually have sin, we deceive ourselves,' the result is a contradiction of translated the same way. If someone who is born of God does not continually sin , why should he not say, ' I do not continually have sin '?
But if he does say this, he 'deceives' himself according to Thus the proposed translation of will not work in If applied there it produces a contradiction with Furthermore, if one could attain sinless perfection or a nearly sinless state after trusting in Christ as Savior, then there would not be a need for most of God's Word - only passages which lead up to and include salvation. Thereafter, a Christian will be perfect, so all the passages encouraging believers to grow in the Word and emulate our Lord are of no value - for that is claimed to happen automatically.
And all the passages which admonish a child of God not to behave like the world, such as the one which follows in Romans chapter 6, would be misleading one to think that a true believer could practice sin. So all of these oft ignored passages must be expunged from God's Word. And then what follows is an admonishment to Christians to avoid behaving under the influence of the individual believer's still extant sin nature:.
And what of passages about rewards for faithful service to our Lord and passages about discipline and lack of rewards, 1 Cor , for unfaithfulness? Would not every believer lead a faithful life and all then be qualified for rewards in heaven? So Jesus Christ is so far the only man Who meets the description of being born of God in such a way as to be One Who "does not practice sin" and "cannot sin". Furthermore, Christians retain their sin natures, Ro , and are not therefore without sin, 1 Jn , So the evil one does touch the born of God believer at times when he is out of fellowship with God and in 'the flesh', Ro And this determination then leads to the content of the next two verses].