What happens to people who never hear about Jesus?

Q. The Bible says no one can get to the Father except through the Son. Does this mean if someone living say in some remote place in the Himalayas, never met missionaries; dies they will be sent to hell?

The possibility you’re asking about—that someone who would have received Christ if they had heard the good news might be lost if they never heard—underscores the importance of making sure that everyone in the world is able to hear about Christ, in terms and language that they can understand. We need to make every effort towards that end.

But the possibility you’re asking about also raises questions about the character of God. Would it really be fair for God to condemn someone to hell simply because they did not get a chance to hear about Christ, if they would have accepted him if they had gotten the chance? Knowing what we do about the character God from the Bible, it is hard to believe that this would be the case. The Bible itself says, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” And the answer is, of course he will.

So while the Bible does not give us a direct answer to your question, my personal feeling is that in a case such as you describe, God would judge a person based on what they had done with the light they had. The apostle Paul writes in his epistle to the Romans that every person has at least two witnesses to the reality and goodness of God: nature and conscience. He says about nature, “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” And about conscience he says, “It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.”

This does not mean, however, that anyone could follow their conscience and the light of nature sufficiently to earn God’s approval and acceptance. Rather, nature and conscience would lead them to recognize that they could never be good enough to do that, and that they needed to trust in God ‘s love and forgiveness as the basis of their acceptance.

This also does not mean that they would be saved by any other means than the death of Jesus Christ for them on the cross. Never having heard the gospel, they would not realize in this life that this was the expression of God’s love and the basis for God’s forgiveness that saved them, but nevertheless it would be. And they would make the glorious discovery, once they did come into the presence of God, whom they had dimly but genuinely trusted for salvation, that God had sent his own Son to be their Savior and the sacrifice for their sin.

Let me say again that this is my own personal belief about something that the Bible does not spell out for us clearly. What the Bible does spell out clearly is the loving, forgiving, and just character of God, and I have tried to suggest something that would be consistent with that. Nevertheless, it would likely be difficult for someone to do even what I have tentatively described, and so, as I said earlier, we need to make every effort to reach everyone in the world with the good news about Jesus.

Can Christians kneel at an elder’s grave or celebrate Halloween?

1. According to Chinese tradition, if an elder dies, it is necessary to kneel at their grave to worship. As a Christian, is this inappropriate? Why is that?
2. Halloween has become such a part of the culture, is it okay to “Trick or Treat” on Halloween? Thank you very much.

Both of these questions strike me as very much like the issue of eating food offered to idols that Paul discusses in First Corinthians. That is, they are matters that Christians of good will, with equal commitments to the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, can legitimately disagree about. So the principles would be, “Each person should be fully convinced in their own mind,” and, “Do not cause anyone to stumble” (that is, do not do anything that would lead someone else to violate their own conscience).

Regarding kneeling at the grave of an elder who has died, one Christian might see that simply as a way of honoring the memory, legacy, and influence of a beloved family member. They would not really be worshiping, just following a meaningful tradition. They would know that the spirits of the ancestors aren’t really out there wanting to be appeased by worship and small gifts so that they will do favors for the family, and that no ancestral spirits could make bad things happen to the family if they weren’t appeased in that way. (As Paul says in his discussion of eating food offered to idols, “We know that an idol is really nothing in the world, and we know that there is only one God.”) But another Christian might recently have come out of ancestor worship, and so they might still feel that kneeling at the grave would be offering worship to a false god. If they saw you doing it, they might be led to do it as well, and then they would incur guilt for doing something that they believed to be wrong. So even if you felt free to do it as a meaningful traditional gesture, you could also choose not to do it if a person with a vulnerable conscience would be present at the graveside service or if they would find out about what you did.

Similarly for Halloween, if it’s just a matter of children having fun getting dressed up in costumes and visiting their neighbors and getting candy, that is harmless enough. I think Christians could have a lot of fun and get to know their neighbors better by giving out candy and by bringing their children around the neighborhood in costumes. But someone who was just getting free from occult practices might not be able to participate in Halloween in good conscience. They would take the association with witches and evil spirits seriously, and it would violate their conscience to participate. And certainly if someone said, “It’s Halloween, let’s have a seance” or “let’s watch a move about devil worship,” then Christians would need to say that they would not participate in those activities. Instead, they could suggest alternatives that everyone could do together and just have fun with.

So, as I said, for these activities and for similar ones, the principles are to become fully convinced in your own mind about what you could do innocently, without dishonoring God, but also to respect the convictions of others and not do anything that would lead them to violate their own conscience.

What does it mean to say that Jesus is the Messiah?

Q. What does Messiah mean? What does it mean to say that Jesus is the Messiah?

The word “Messiah” comes from a Hebrew term meaning “anointed.” The Greek equivalent, “Christ,” also means “anointed.”

In the Old Testament, a person was anointed, that is, someone would pour oil on their head, to show that God had chosen them to fulfill a special purpose. Aaron, for example, was anointed to show that God had chosen him to be the high priest. David was anointed to show that God had chosen him to be king.

So while Messiah or Christ literally means “anointed,” it really indicates “chosen.” When Christians call Jesus the Messiah, they mean that they believe God chose him to be the Savior of the world.

This title has a close connection to the figure in the Old Testament known as the Servant of the Lord. God says of that figure:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will bring justice to the nations.

So, briefly stated, the Messiah is the one God chose to be the Savior.

Where did John the Baptist get the idea of water baptism, and why was Jesus baptized?

Q. Where did John the Baptist get the idea of water baptism? I see it mentioned in the O.T. regarding leprosy, but don’t see in the O.T. water baptism for repentance. Also, why did Jesus agree to John’s baptism? Just to set an example? But that would make it seem that He too was in need of repentance, wouldn’t it? Which of course is not the case.

Biblical scholars generally agree that the roots of water baptism are in the requirement in the Law of Moses that people bathe with water to return to a state of ceremonial cleanness after some uncleanness infraction. This applied not only in the case of skin diseases such as leprosy, as you noted, but also in a wider variety of matters, such as eating certain kinds of unclean food and even taking the scapegoat out into the wilderness on the Day of Atonement. Since being ceremonially clean meant being able to participate in good standing in the worship of God, it was a natural development for John to apply the practice of washing to a more profound sense of being “clean,” that of being genuinely repentant for one’s sins.

As for why Jesus wanted to be baptized even though he had no sins to repent of, we need to realize that John’s baptism was not an end in itself. It was a means to an end. John’s message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” John didn’t want people to repent and be baptized just because they were sinful. He wanted them to do that because God was breaking into the world in a new way, and he wanted people to be able to join in what God was doing.

So, in effect, John was saying, “Anyone who wants to be part of what God is doing, come and be baptized.” The implicit assumption in the case of most people was that this would involve forsaking sins and having a new orientation in life. But for someone like Jesus, who already had the right orientation—he always wanted to be doing what his Heavenly Father was doing—and who had no sins to repent of, it was still appropriate for him to make the public gesture that John was calling for.

I think that is why Jesus told John to go ahead and baptize him “to fulfill all righteousness.” John was saying, “If you want to be part of the new thing that God is doing, come and be baptized.” By being baptized, Jesus was saying, “Yes, I want to be part of the new thing that God is doing!” He didn’t need to have sins to repent of in order to make that public declaration.

Did God cause or permit Absalom to have sexual relations with David’s concubines?

Q. Your answer to “Was Ahithophel speaking for God?” was very helpful. In relation to this, I wanted to ask how should we interpret 2 Samuel 12:11-12, where we read:

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

Should this be interpreted as God causing this to happen, or should this be interpreted as God permitting to happen? How can we know which way to interpret it? The wording seems to lean towards God causing this to happen. However, if it is interpreted as God causing this to happen, it seems to lead to several problems, such as God causing something immoral to happen, as well as going against Leviticus 18:8 ,where we read “Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.”

I am inclined to interpret it as God permitting to happen (not causing this to happen), which would avoid the above problems, but based on the wording in 2 Samuel 12:11-12, it seems harder to justify. How can we justify this interpretation?

I think the passage you are referring to is one in which God tells David what the consequences of his actions are going to be, rather than one in which God describes something that he is going to do actively in response to those actions. Throughout the Old Testament we see people experiencing what are often called “ironic judgments,” in which what they have done to others, or tried to do to others, happens to them.

There is another example of this in the Absalom story. One thing that Absalom did initially to try to win the hearts of the people so that he could eventually take the throne away from his father David was to cultivate a handsome popular image. This included growing his hair long. The Bible says, “In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom. From the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. Whenever he cut the hair of his head—he used to cut his hair once a year because it became too heavy for him—he would weigh it, and its weight was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.”

But the long hair that was such a prominent feature of Absalom’s campaign to become king ultimately cost him the kingship. The Bible tells us that in the battle between his followers and David’s loyalists, “Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.” So Absalom was trapped there, David’s men killed him, and that was the end of his palace coup. The long hair that was meant to take the throne away from his father took it away from him.

The Bible describes this principle of ironic judgment more generally in Proverbs: “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.” And since God set up the world in this way, so that people often get a “taste of their own medicine” when they plot evil, we could say in one sense that God is responsible for the consequences that people experience. But these “I will” divine pronouncements  of judgment can indicate that a person or nation is going to experience the consequences of their own actions, according to the way that God has set up the world.

For example, God says to the nation of Edom through the prophet Ezekiel, “Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, Mount Seir, you and all of Edom.” And these words did come true; Edom was destroyed and became desolate. But that happened when the Babylonians, an empire that the Edomites had tried to cultivate as an ally against the Israelites, turned against them and destroyed them. So an “I will” pronouncement of judgment actually forecast the ironic consequences of the Edomites trying to play the “power game.”

I think this is the proper way to understand the passage you are asking about. Otherwise, as you say, God would be the direct cause for the victimization of David’s concubines. I do not believe that was the case. I believe that God grieved deeply with those women when they suffered this abuse. Scheming and wicked men were actually responsible for it, as I explained in my previous post. I also do not believe, as you also pointed out, that God would cause or command anything that would violate his own law. Instead, I think it was with a very heavy heart that God announced to David what the consequences of his own wrong actions would be.

And I’m convinced that one of the most painful and heart-wrenching things for David himself about this announcement of consequences was the suffering that his own actions would cause for his innocent loved ones. But this world is such a tightly knit web of relationships that we cannot expect that our actions will not affect other people. Those actions will have the greatest effect on those who are closest to us. We can’t say to God, “I was the one who did this; why did you allow those others to suffer for it?” Our actions will inevitably involve others, especially our closest loved ones. So we should take responsibility for what we do, and be very careful not to do wrong, knowing how that may cause the ones we love most to suffer.

Was Ahithophel speaking for God?

Q. How should we understand the passage where King David’s former counselor Ahithophel advises David’s son Absalom, who has rebelled and seized the throne, to sleep with ten of David’s concubines to make a permanent break with his father so that his followers will fight desperately? The Bible says, “Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice.” So was Ahithophel actually speaking for God? If so, how can we justify his advice? Wouldn’t God have wanted to protect these concubines? And wasn’t this advice  explicitly contrary to the Law of Moses, which says, “Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.” What is going on here?

First, the statement that kings who consulted Ahithophel treated his advice like advice they would have gotten by inquiring of God does not mean that Ahithophel spoke for God. Rather, this expression means that kings had such confidence in his advice that they accepted it unquestioningly, as they would do if it came from God. The narrator, seemingly expecting that readers would find it hard to believe that Absalom actually did what Ahithophel advised on this occasion, apparently felt a need to add this explanation. That is, the narrator anticipated that readers would have the same questions about it and problems with it that you do, for the good reasons that you do.

So what is going on here? It seems that Ahithophel had a further motive besides giving Absalom what he thought would be the best advice for this situation. If we read more widely in the book of 2 Samuel, we learn that Ahithophel had a son named Eliam, and that a man named Eliam was the father of Bathsheba. Bathsheba was the married woman whom David had sexual relations with and, when he got her pregnant, whose husband he arranged to have killed to cover up his actions. If the two Eliams are the same person, which many interpreters agree is the case, then Ahithophel apparently wanted to get revenge against David for what he did to his granddaughter and her husband. This was his further motive.

In fact, as the story continues, the next thing Ahithophel says to Absalom is, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you.” So it does appear that Ahithophel had been waiting for a chance to take revenge against David, and he saw his opportunity here. His advice was not the counsel of God. It was the manipulative plan of a vengeful man who saw a way to get an inexperienced young would-be king to carry out some of his revenge.

David does bear some of the responsibility for what happened to his concubines, because it was his own actions that led Ahithophel to seek revenge against him. But David had every reason to believe that his concubines would be safe in Jerusalem when he left them there to look after the palace. They would have been protected by law, custom, and decency. And the concubines would indeed have been safe from Absalom if Ahithophel had not given this advice and if Absalom had not followed it unquestioningly. What Absalom did was an outrage. Ahithophel’s whole argument was that Absalom should commit such an outrage so that it would create a permanent break with David. So while David does bear some of the responsibility for the way these concubines were victimized, Ahithophel, in his desire for revenge, is the one who is primarily responsible. He was certainly not speaking for God.

Is Ezekiel’s parable of Oholah and Oholibah pornographic?

Q. How should we understand Ezekiel 23? Is it pornographic?

The parable that the prophet Ezekiel tells about two sisters named Oholah and Oholibah is not pornographic in itself. However, since it does use explicit sexual imagery, I would encourage people who struggle with pornography to be careful about reading it. I’ll discuss some options for them at the end of this post.

Pornography, by definition, is gratuitous. That is, it uses explicit sexual imagery only to excite sexual desires in readers or viewers. The imagery serves no higher purpose.

In Ezekiel’s parable, by contrast, all of the sexual imagery is used carefully to serve a higher purpose. Ezekiel wants the people of the southern kingdom of Judah to feel a proper sense of shame for their worship of idols instead of the true God. He also wants them to realize how foolish it is for them to worship idols when they have already seen God judge and punish the people of the northern kingdom of Judah for doing exactly the same thing.

The parable is essentially an extended metaphor: Idol worship is like infidelity in marriage. Because the people of Judah would have felt a sense of horror and shame about infidelity, Ezekiel describes it in explicit terms to try to make them feel the same thing about the way they have betrayed God by worshiping idols. All of the imagery, while graphic, is presented in a controlled and purposeful way. It is subordinated to the higher purpose of trying to call shamelessly disobedient people back to God before it is too late and they need to be judged and punished for their disobedience and disloyalty.

However, as I said, if someone struggles with pornography, then it may be difficult for them to read this passage without losing ground in that struggle. In that case, one possibility I would suggest is that they not read it. Even within a program to read through the Bible, such as many churches and other organizations sponsor, the understanding could be that in the interests of the highest goal of that program—a closer walk with God—participants would be free not to read this chapter if doing that might lead them to stumble.

Another possibility would be to read the chapter in a version of the Bible that translates it less explicitly. This might be a version translated at a simpler reading level whose intended audience includes children.

The final suggestion I would make is that if someone who struggles with pornography decides that they do need to read the chapter (in order to read all the way through the entire Bible, for example), they should not read it online or in any Bible app that appears on a screen. Instead, they should read it in a printed Bible. This will avoid reinforcing any connection between sexually explicit material and the greater visual stimulation of a glowing screen.

Was it necromancy when Moses and Eliljah appeared to Jesus in the Transfiguration?

Q. How would you respond to a non-Christian who says that when Moses and Elijah came and spoke with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, this incident would fall under necromancy, which is forbidden in Deuteronomy? I know that interpretation is wrong and that the Transfiguration was not necromancy, but I wasn’t sure how to explain this.

It is true that the Law of Moses says in Deuteronomy, “Let no one be found among you … who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.” But we need to understand what is being prohibited, and why.

This particular prohibition comes within a cluster of similar ones that forbid various kinds of practices by which people seek to call upon ghosts or evil spirits or other occult powers. The principle behind all these laws is that human beings need to respect their own finiteness and not try to draw upon other powers to get what they want. They need to respect the boundaries between life and death, good and evil, and humanity and the spirit world. Rather than seeking to get whatever information or results they want by calling on other powers, they need to live in fellowship with God and dependence on God, accepting that what God has for them is the best and that it is all they need.

But God is the Lord of life and death. The Transfiguration episode, in which Jesus is revealed in his heavenly glory on top of a mountain and Moses and Elijah come to speak to him, shows that when it suits God’s purposes, and when it is the best thing for humanity, God has the power and the right to send people who have already gone to live in his presence back to earth to fulfill a particular mission. (We don’t know how or in exactly what manner these two returned to earth; the Bible does not explain that.)

Luke says specifically that when Moses and Elijah appeared, they spoke with Jesus “about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” This means that they came to speak with him about how he would soon die as the Savior of the world. This was so important that God wanted to make sure that Jesus was prepared and informed beforehand, so God sent these two trusted servants of his to speak with Jesus about it.

That, by itself, is enough to show that this was not a violation of the command not to consult the dead, as people would do if they were trying to take matters into their own hands. Rather, God himself, the Lord of life and death, who gave that command to keep people in their proper sphere, exercised the authority of his own sphere and sent servants from the heavenly part of his realm to support and encourage a very special Servant who was then living in the earthly part of his realm.

But there is more. When Luke says “departure,” he uses the Greek term exodus. This is a hint that the appearance of Moses and Elijah also has symbolic significance. Moses, who let the Israelites out of Egypt in the Exodus, also wrote the first part of the Old Testament. Elijah represents the prophets, who composed or collected the next major part of the Old Testament. Later in the gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable in which Abraham tells someone who is concerned about his family members, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” He doesn’t mean listen to them literally; he means to read their writings in the Scriptures. (By “Moses and the Prophets,” he means all the Scriptures that had been written by that time.)

And significantly, in the Transfiguration episode, God says, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” So it seems that by sending Moses and Elijah, God was also signaling that Jesus would be the fulfillment of the Scriptures, certainly in his sacrificial death for the world, but also in his life and teaching. (People are to “listen to him” as they would “listen to” Moses and the Prophets, that is, the Scriptures.)

So there was both a practical reason and a symbolic significance for the special mission that God sent Moses and Elijah to accomplish. The fact that they did this by traveling temporarily from one part of God’s realm to another, on God’s instructions, does not mean that they violated God’s command for human beings to remain within their own realm and not try to call on other powers to get what they want. I hope this helps answer your question.

Can Christians engage in peaceful protest or non-violent civil disobedience?

Q. Today, Election Day, my daily Bible verse from BibleGateway.com was Romans 13:1, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” I am struggling with how to understand and accept this. Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong to actively work against the Nazi government? Was Martin Luther King, Jr. wrong to (peacefully) break the law in order to protest racial injustice? Is it wrong for citizens to (peacefully) protest government actions or passively resist going along with such policies?

We get the full counsel of God from the Bible about any given matter not from a single verse, but by putting the various things that the Bible says about it into conversation with one another. While the Bible does say in the book of Romans that believers should be subject to the authorities, it reports in the book of Acts how the apostles refused to obey the orders of their governing officials when they told them not to teach in the name of Jesus. The apostles insisted, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” And the book of Revelation was written to warn Christians living in western Asia Minor under the reign of Domitian that they needed to resist the emerging Roman government policy of emperor worship even at the cost of their lives. There was to be no submitting to the governing authorities on that matter.

So how do we sort this out? I think the context in Romans is quite clear about the basis on which followers of Jesus are being told to obey  government officials there: “They are God’s servants to punish those who do wrong.” So Christians are to support the government and cooperate with it in its role of maintaining the rule of law and punishing wrongdoers (even to the point of willingly paying taxes to support the government, Paul adds).

It is an entirely separate question what Christians should do when the government instead punishes those who do right, for example, those who teach in the name of Jesus, or those who refuse to worship a human being. Other parts of the Bible address that separate question, and the answer seems to be that Christians need to obey God, rather than people, when what people want conflicts with what God wants. Christians even need to be willing to suffer for doing right the kinds of punishments that the government would ordinarily inflict on a wrongdoer.

The examples you have given of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. represent Christian leaders who have followed this course in more recent years. (Regarding Bonhoeffer specifically, you may want to read this post.) And I would say that peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience are other examples of measures that Christians can take to help call the government back to doing right and punishing wrong. These are loyal measures, taken in the best interests of the government itself, not acts of defiance against the government.

However, I really should distinguish between peaceful protest and non-violent civil disobedience in one important sense. Peaceful protest is actually something that is encouraged and protected by law in free countries. So it should not be seen in any way as failing to submit to the government. Rather, it is doing exactly what the government says it hopes its citizens will do. Governments of free countries also hope that their citizens will exercise their rights to vote, assemble, and speak out. Christians should be doing all of these things, and none of them represent a failure to submit or obey, even when they represent working within the system to change existing policy.

There may be other circumstances in which Christians will need to obey God by disobeying laws and policies that are contrary to God’s ways. As I said earlier, when they do that, they need to be willing to suffer if necessary, trusting that God will ultimately use their obedience to him to bring about transformation in the society and culture.

I hope these thoughts are helpful. I also hope that you voted today! I did.

What is the Abrahamic covenant from Genesis?

Q. What is the Abrahamic covenant mentioned in Genesis 17:7, 17:13 and 17:19? What aspect of the Abrahamic covenant is everlasting? Why don’t Christians practice circumcision if the Abrahamic covenant is everlasting?

Here’s what I say about that passage in my study guide to Genesis. I believe these observations address your concerns. Basically, God is not making a new covenant with Abraham here. Rather, God is ratifying the covenant that he made with him earlier. (You can read or download the whole study guide for free at this link.)

—–

God speaks to Abram to renew and extend his covenant with him. God introduces himself by a new name, El Shaddai (“God Almighty”). This name expresses his strength and power to fulfill his promises.

God also gives Abram and Sarai new names. Abram means “exalted father.” God changes this to Abraham, “father of a multitude,” to express his purpose to make Abraham “very fruitful,” the “father of many nations.” And God changes the name Sarai to Sarah, a more recognizable form of the word meaning “princess,” since “kings of peoples will come from her.” Through these new names, God expresses and guarantees the purposes that he will fulfill in their lives. The names are, in effect, miniature covenant vows.

In addition to guaranteeing his covenant with new names, God also guarantees it with a sign, just as he gave the sign of the rainbow for his covenant with Noah. God uses the sign of circumcision to guarantee his covenant with Abraham, to symbolize how this covenant will not be just with Abraham, but also with his son and with all of their descendants, perpetually. [That is what “everlasting” means here.] The sign would be replicated in the bodies of all future generations: “My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”

Descendants of Abraham who practiced circumcision were showing that they belonged to the community that was created by God’s covenant with their ancestor. But a new kind of community has now been created by God’s covenant with Jesus. It has a new sign of its own. Baptism is the sign of belonging to the community of Jesus’ followers.

Baptism symbolizes God’s covenant obligations to us by illustrating his promise to raise us from the dead, both physically (when we die) and spiritually (as we experience new life in Christ). Baptism symbolizes our covenant obligations to God by illustrating the way followers of Jesus are supposed to die to sin and rise to a new life of faith and obedience.