Four tight couplings

Four related tight couplings in the New Testament:

1. Baptism and forgiveness. “I baptize you with water for repentance.” (Matthew 3:11) “[John was proclaiming a] baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4)

2. Forgiving others and being forgiven. “‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ … For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12, 14-15)

3. Being merciful and receiving mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

4. Not judging others and not being judged. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

The New Testament unpacks these and we learn:

We forgive others because he first forgave us. “Forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13)

– “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Being saved is not a result of works. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

We are acquitted and declared righteous by God by faith apart from works. “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

There is something more central to the gospel than baptism. “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 1:17)

Christians say: not a contradiction. In all four couplings, one ends up being a manifestation of the other. The coupling is of inevitable inseparability, but the foundation for it all is God’s grace and love.

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