Thursday, August 30, 2012

May It Never Be!

I’m certain there must be more people who’ve had the same experiences, but I have the distinction of having been baptized twice, once as an infant and once as an adult. The infant baptism was a sprinkling; the adult baptism was a full immersion is the tank behind the pulpit platform. So whatever way is the “correct” way, I think I’m covered – infant, adult, sprinkled, dunked. (My wife was baptized in a river when she was a child, and still recalls the snake that swam nearby.)

For my adult baptism, I was given a Bible, the one used by the church we attended – and it was the New American Standard Version. Up to that point, I had grown up on the King James Version (the old, original KJV) and had read significant parts of The Living Bible. The NASB became my friend for the next five years, until we bought the New International Version.

The NASB had a phrase that I found enchanting and intriguing, and it was one found in Paul’s letters, particularly Romans. The phrase was “May it never be!” It sounded so odd, especially when I would say it aloud. I could easily envision it being one of the word frames in an old silent movie.

In the NIV, “May it never be!” was translated into the more prosaic and understandable “By no means.” The NASB must have left an impression because I still find myself thinking “By no means” sounds, well, boring when compared to “May it never be!”

The verse that is at the heart of Chapter 4 of The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, which Tim Challies has been the discussion for the past several weeks, includes this phrase:  “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:1-2).

The apostle Paul was refuting the notion that the gospel promotes irresponsible and sinful behavior – the more the sin, the more the grace, so keep on keeping on and watch grace grow!

Well, not exactly. Paul says we have died to sin, and Bridges makes three point about that death: the death occurred in the past; this death occurred even if the believer isn’t aware of it; and we’re dead to sin through our union with Christ.

One major thought struck me as I read Bridges explain what “union” meant – both a representative or federal and a vital or spiritual union. I had heard this explanation before. I had heard pastors expound on it and Sunday School teachers explain it. I had read about it.

But that was decades ago. I had not heard it since. It’s not exactly a popular topic. The concepts, though, are critically important, because they explain why Adam’s sin was everyone’s sin and why Christ’s atonement was atonement for all. As Bridges writes, “Adam was our federal representative in his sin; Jesus Christ was our federal representative in his earthly life and atoning death.”

But have we stopped teaching this critical Christian truth?

May it never be!

Tom Challies is leading the discussion of The Discipline of Grace over at Informing the Reforming. Please visit his site for additional thoughts and links.


Jerry said...

I'll add "Say it isn't so!" JB version...Jerry Barrett :)

Louise Gallagher said...

You make me think.

Anonymous said...

Teaching it is important but living it is essential
When the Gospel becomes primarily a social tool people don't take the cross seriously any longer

Megan Willome said...

I'm in your club, Glynn. I was sprinkled as in infant in the Episcopal church, then I got dunked at a Bible church as a teenager.