I’m slowly working through these chapter reviews/summaries. It is good to be able to look back and see some of our thoughts and it helps me to process each chapter just a little more. I learn about things by writing about them. Our group is on chapter 8 now, but here is my take on chapter 5! Here’s the link to my thoughts on the previous chapters!
Chapter 5: The Divide of the Cross.
In the first half of this chapter, Watchman Nee discusses baptism. He says that baptism should be limited to believers and it is only an outward sign of genuine repentance. I disagree in that I think baptism is more than that . He compares baptism to being buried with Christ and says that of course only the dead in Christ quailfy for that burial. I don’t think it is that straight-forward. There is always a spectrum. On one end you have “baptism does nothing it is only an outward sign of belief”. It is just a something you do after you have chosen to believe already. On the other you have “baptism saves you”.
“Alas, some have been taught to look on burial [he means baptism] as a means to death; they try to die by getting themselves buried!”
This is where his comparison falls apart for me. Because I do believe that baptism is a means of grace. I don’t call it a means of salvation. Baptism alone won’t save you. But I wouldn’t deny its saving power entirely. I believe that baptism has more and less power than we think it does. Mostly because we have less power than we think we do.
We cannot assume that Christians who aren’t baptized aren’t saved, nor that Christians who are baptized are saved. We cannot orchestrate what God does. Or limit how He does it. It is completely out of our hands. Only he can see our hearts and actions.
During a class a few years ago, my pastor drew a picture of a pendulum and he put one extreme on each end of the arc of its swing. And he said that somewhere in the middle is usually where you have to look for the answer.
So for me the middle ground is the idea that baptism is a mystery of God. We don’t understand it entirely. Nor do we control it. It is a means of grace. A way in which God does and can work according to His will. It doesn’t save you, but it isn’t entirely devoid of power.
The second half of the chapter tells a story about grafting as an example of what it means to have new life in Christ even though we feel we are basically the same sinful beings.
Grafting is the process of taking a productive part of one tree (in this story the whole top half of the tree is grafted) and putting onto the base of another tree so that the tree produces desirable fruit instead of smaller or less desirable fruit.
” How can one tree bear the fruit of another? How can a poor tree bear good fruit? Only by grafting. Only by implanting into in the life of a good tree. But if a man can graft a branch of one tree into another, cannot God take of the life of his Son and , so to speak, graft it into us?”
We cannot tell how God has done his work in us, but it is done. We can do nothing and need do nothing to bring it about, for bu the resurrection God has already done it.
God has done everything, there is only one fruitful life in the world and that has been grafted into millions of other lives.
We call this the “new birth.” New birth is the reception of a life which
I did not possess before. It is not that my natural life has been changed at all it is that another life, a life altogether new, altogether divine, has become my life.
God has cut off the old creation by the cross of his
Son in order to bring in a new creation in Christ by resurrection. He has shut the door to that old kingdom of darkness and translated me into the kingdom of his dear Son.