Why Do We Sin After Baptism? The Response of Methodius

Methodius is praised by many ancient Christian writers. He was bishop of Olympus and Patara. He removed to Phoenicia during the latest great persecutions of the Church and was martyred in Greece.

I happened upon his view of why we sin after baptism and thought it was worthy of sharing. It is found in the Latin original, “De Resurrectio” in Migne Patrologia Graeca or in the English translation, “The Resurrection,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers

So why do we sin after baptism if at baptism and the receiving of the Holy Spirit we are regenerated? Isn’t it at that time that we repent and become washed anew in Christ? Why do we still struggle with sin?

“For while the body still lives, before it has passed through death, sin must also live with it, as it has its roots concealed within us, even though it be externally checked by the wounds inflicted by corrections and warnings; since, otherwise, it would not happen that we do wrong after baptism, as we should be entirely and absolutely free from sin.” I.V.

Methodius argued that sin is rooted in our bodies. Until death, sin remains in our flesh. We struggle against it each day. As times goes on, sin becomes more and more lulled to sleep by our faith. That is if we restrain its sprouts and evil imaginations to choke out those roots of bitterness.

An example he gives is that of the potter in Jeremiah 18:2-4. The original pot was broken and refashioned into a new pot without blemish. This, Jeremiah wrote, is what God is doing with Israel. The pot that has blemishes must be broken in order that it may be restored to perfection.

Paul tells believers to consider themselves dead (Rom 6). It is by this means that we put to sleep the works of the flesh. By considering it dead, we put to death its deeds. Though sin will rear its ugly head, we march on in victory against it until the day of the final consummation of all believers: the day we are renewed and resurrected over it forever.

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When I Rise

When I rise, take me over
I have nothing else to do
My planners open
A few loose leafs too

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It’s Yours

To be in Your kingdom evermore
Please accept my life it’s Yours
Dedicated to be
A faithful, praising type of breed

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He Knows The Way

Don’t you worry, He knows the way
Don’t be afraid, He’s been here before
If we don’t rush, we’ll see the way
Don’t be afraid, He knows the way

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Fullness of Joy from Anselm

I was reading Helmut Thielicke’s, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians. Theilicke mentioned the medition and prayer of Anselm at the end of his, Proslogion: 

I pray, 0 God, to know you, to love you, that I may rejoice in you. And if I cannot attain to full joy in this life may I at least advance from day to day, until that joy shall come to the full. Let the knowledge of you advance in me here, and there be made full. Let the love of you increase, and there let it be full, that here my joy may be great in hope, and there full in truth. Lord, through your Son you do command, nay, you do counsel us to ask; and you do promise that we shall receive, that our joy may be full. I ask, O Lord, as you do counsel through our wonderful Counsellor. I will receive what you do promise by virtue of your truth, that my joy may be full. Faithful God, I ask. I will receive, that my joy may be full. Meanwhile, let my mind meditate upon it; let my tongue speak of it. Let my heart love it; let my mouth talk of it. Let my soul hunger for it; let my flesh thirst for it; let my whole being desire it, until I enter into your joy, O Lord, who are the Three and the One God, blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

*Translation taken from Fordham University, XXVI


Anselm’s prayer reminds me of the emphasis Pastor John Piper makes regarding our complete satisfaction as we are satisfied in Christ or Pastor Greg Boyd’s emphasis on satisfaction progressing in this life but truly reaching its fulfillment in the next.

The Lord not only invited us to come to Him, but also empowered us to do so; that our joy may be complete. We do not hunger to simply be hungry. We hunger that we may eat! To remain hungry is not a God-given design. If we then hunger and thirst for righteousness, we will eat and drink it in! He who has the full supply of righteousness is not reluctant to give it to us.

What then do we eat at a feast of righteousness?

He will grow our compassion for the poor and needy, to vindicate the afflicted, to deliver them from oppressors (Psalm 72). To give without expecting a return, to walk blamelessly, speak truthfully, stay committed to our oaths, and do no evil toward our neighbor (Psalm 15). We will become a father to those who have none and look into the case of strangers (Job 29:11-17). These are the attributes of the righteous because they have the righteousness of God. What loving acts of kindness are these! When we realize we are loved by Him, we become free to direct that same type of love outwardly. Like a child, one doesn’t know how to love without an example. One can’t love if one doesn’t know what love is. How can you love without being loved? So then we draw near to the God of love and His righteousness that we may become proper image-bearers of our creator.

I think if we take the type of perspective shown in Anselm’s writing and incorporate into our own walk of faith, we will realize those things we desire. That to know Him is the beginning and completion of all satisfaction.

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From Tattoos to Fruit

I’m fond of tattoos. I don’t have any, but I think that well-done ink is artistic. It can be a reflection of who we are, what we’re about, or our experiences. I was recently reminded of them because of an article about the discovery of women’s tattoos in ancient Egypt posted by Dr. Claude Mariottini. I thought of Leviticus 19:28:

“You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord” (ESV).

The prohibition against tattoos in this verse comes directly after the reference to making marks on the body “for the dead.” In the study of Scripture, an important thing to keep in mind is placement. Order does not always matter for direct interpretation, but it does for emphasis.

We know that in ancient Egypt, most of their rituals were not to communicate moral teaching but were intended to bring magical or spiritual protection. The Israelite prohibition was likely directed toward this type of practice of making marks on the body to ward off the dead. This was essentially then, an idolatrous practice.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he tells us that we are no better  or worse off if we eat or do not eat (1Cor 8:8). Food itself has no power to commend us to God. However, he warns not to let our freedom in Christ cause another to stumble. Just because we have that knowledge, it does not mean that others do. We need to manage perceptions.

So then, each must manage the dictates of his or her own heart. The Israelites were commanded to refrain because those who were doing this practice around them were doing it to worship idols.

That context makes a difference. Jesus said that the Law and the prophets all hang on this: to love the Lord God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mat 22:37; Mar 12:30; Luk 10:27). The rules or commands were given to keep Israel holy: giving their undivided attention to YHWH. If anything gets in the way of this, we are to refrain from it.

So whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord. And if you refrain, refrain as unto the Lord. Be respectful of the conclusions that others make in their honoring of the Lord.

What about fruit?

This refresher has led me to an inspiring observation on fruit. As I was looking at commentaries about this verse, I came across Dr. Ephraim Radner’s Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible: Leviticus. Prior to the verse on body markings, the 19th chapter of Leviticus builds a case for holiness as divine fruitfulness. The prohibition against eating the fruit of a tree during the first 3 years is the same Hebrew word for “uncircumcision.” The command was not to eat of the uncircumcised or forbidden fruit until it had become circumcised. Odd, but interesting. Radner makes the following connection:

“Holiness is the work of creation, the giving of life. By the same token, the works of creation-which are bound to the ordering of fluids and family, of mutual care and trust-are, in their derivation from God’s self-offering, sanctifying…Many of the more obvious laws enumerated here-obvious in the sense of their assumed moral substance-fall within this same current of divine sharing of life, which once embraced becomes a profound change in the character of the obedient follower of God” (pp. 210; 212)”

The partaking of the fruit before it had reached its 5th year was like serving the wine before its time, so-to-speak. If anyone has tried to start an apple tree, you know that the first fews years’ fruit should not be eaten. The fruit is too bitter. It’s not ready for consumption. So in terms of God’s community, the uncircumcised represent a potential threat to dividing our attention away from God. The point is not physical circumcision but spiritual: a circumcision of the heart. The act of waiting or circumcision was one of faith: separation. The very acts are sanctifying. When we take time out to wait upon the Lord, we are doing an act of sanctification.

The proper ordering of life can even begin with such mundane tasks. How the community of believers structures life has an impact on their very character. Starting with what we call “white lies” eventually leads to slander (Lev 19:15); a little unrestrained anger leads to disdain of neighbors (Lev 19:16) and so on.

Not every reason behind a prohibition in the Old Testament is easy to understand. Some simply require to be taken by faith. That faith leads to “profound change in the character of the obedient.” We may not always understand what comes our way in life, but through acting on faith we reap the perfect work that intends to shape our character and sanctify us.

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Hope Deferred

Hope fuels us. It is with hope that we look toward some future blessing or achievement. Ultimately, it is our hope in Christ that counts us among the faithful. Without hope, we lose momentum, motivation, desire, and our joy while we are distracted and pulled away. 

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a desire fulfilled is ia tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:12, ESV

But as we hold onto hope, it does not disappoint. It is with patience that endurance meets its fulfillment. Consider what Wardlaw says in his classic commentary on Proverbs:

“We have the case of Abraham in regard to God’s promise. O ! the timewas long! The delay looked strange. And, although his faith did not fail, yet at times his spirit seems to have felt the encroaching weariness of protracted waiting without any appearance of fulfillment…Whither, in all cases, under the pressure of “hope deferred,” shall we look? Whither but to our gracious God! He is the source, and He alone, of resignation and comfort, of patience and strength” (Ralph Wardlaw, The Book of Poverbs, 1861). 

When hope is defered, cling to He who has shown to be faithful. Be couragious. Do not be afraid. He who watches over you never slumbers. He is with us always, even to the end of the age.

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How Does Perfect Love Cast Out Fear?

*It would be helpful to read 1John 4 prior to this discussion. Quotes are from the ESV.

God is love. We are told in 1John 4:8. He showed His love in the sending of and through the life of Christ. We are also told in 1John 4:18, that perfect love casts out fear because fear has to do with punishment. We fear at times because we expect chastisement: a looming reckoning, so to speak. How do we then apply love in a way that casts out fear? This doesn’t seem to paint the same picture about our relationship to God as Jonothan Edward’s sermon, Sinners in the hands of an angry God.  

Fear is presented as a threat to love. As a tactic, it cannot produce love. No one can be scared into heaven. Genuine love is not accompanied by fear. When Jesus appeared to John on the island of Patmos, he fell at his feet as though “dead” (Rev 1:17). John was humiliated by his human condition. John thought more about punishment than he did of love. We know this because John didn’t fall at his feet due to reverence. We are told otherwise (Jesus responded, “Fear not”).

Love is perfected through belief in Christ. Through our belief in Christ we believe in the love that God has for us (1John 4:16)! We are even confident concerning the day of judgment! This isn’t presumption. It is because fear dissolves in the face of perfect love. Fear comes due to the idea of a looming punishment. The idea resembles Romans 1:18 a lot:

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

There is no condemnation to those who believe. This is the truth. That is why Jesus came! He died for our sins. A love that casts out fear is one that is placed wholly in Christ. We cannot say we believe and then not apply that belief. Disobedience produces fear and suppresses the truth. Once we disobey, we begin to walk out from that love. When that happens, we enter into the world of guilt and fear. God’s love is longsuffering. He is patient. He desires none to perish. When we return to that pefect love by repentance, fear is cast out. How do we then apply love in a way that casts out fear?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. When love is perfected our momentary lapses in righteous decision-making lose power and bring fear to a screaching halt.

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Imagine the Resurrection

I have been reading Scot McKnight’s, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited and, as a charismatic believer, have enjoyed his plea for a gospel story that includes the resurrection and ascension.

Recently, John Piper has tweeted a comment in recognition of this critical aspect to the gospel. Piper links to an article by David Mathis in which Mathis says, “The doctrine of the ascension is not a truth that the recent history of theology has been apt to emphasize.” Much of what we imagine when we speak of the gospel is oriented towards salvation. That means we tend to emphasize the saving and propitiary effect of the cross.

I believe this is a fair critique. My wife, Kate, and I have been talking about how the gospel shared needs to include the resurrection. Apostle Paul emphasized repeatedly in his presentation of the gospel in 1Corinthians 15 that Jesus rose according the Scripture and was seen by many people.

The importance of imagining the resurrection in what the gospel means for us cannot be overstated. The atonement for our sin is absolutely integral to the gospel, yes, but also the fact that our new life and hope is in the power of God who raised Jesus is as well! This empowers us for holy living and perseverance.

A good demonstration of this is 2 Corinthians 1:9, “Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” This truth allowed the early church to suffer at the hands of horrendous opposers such as Emperor Nero. This statement by Paul echoes his admonishment that we must consider ourselves dead (Rom 6:11). We are now living unto Christ. We are crucified on that cross. But that is not the end. Why? We overcome by the power of the resurrection of course; through the Spirit who is at work even now in the lives of believers. Our faith is in the promise of new life to come, made possible by the blood of Christ.

God fulfilled His promise toward His people in the sending of the Christ. Yet, don’t let the cross and the blood Jesus shed be the end of the gospel in your story. It’s not. God’s promise continues. Know that he who raised Jesus is at work in you also. He has prepared a place for you that he may take you to it (John 14:3).

My wife works in substance abuse recovery. This is an important message for those who’ve struggled with addictions. Jesus indeed paid for our deliverance but he also confirmed the promise that new life has come! That is good gospel.

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