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It is one of the oldest and perhaps most fiercely debated topics in church history; does the Bible teach that God predestines some to salvation, or can man choose to follow God with what is known as his “free will.” But for all the debate, the answer is actually given quite plainly and clearly within the text of Scripture, and the answer is yes, the Bible does teach predestination; that God Himself chooses to save some from their just punishment of Hell, in a great act of mercy.
This article will by using scripture, prove that the doctrine of predestination is truly what the Bible teaches, but first it will address with scripture the fact that man is totally incapable of choosing God on his own; for without the doctrine of total depravity, predestination is utterly worthless and accomplishes nothing of value.
The doctrine of total depravity/inability, teaches that man is so completely fallen, such a slave to his sinful nature, that he not only will not, but cannot choose God on his own; he is in fact, completely incapable of doing anything other than rejecting God. Scripture backs this up in multiple places; for example, in Romans 3:10 where it says:
“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
This verse by itself should put to rest the entire notion of free will in the realm of salvation; Paul is clear that even after the death of Jesus, there is no one who understands God, nor is there anyone who even seeks after God on their own. They have become worthless and cannot search for God by their own volition, for there isn’t even one who can do good in the eyes of God.
Paul continues on this subject in his first letter to the Corinthian church where speaking of the natural and sinful man, he says:
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor. 2:14)
Paul is once again explicitly clear on the issue; the natural and unsaved man according to the Apostle does not accept what is of God, because he sees them as foolishness. An unsaved man left to his own devices categorically does not accept God. Paul goes further and says that not only does the natural man not accept them, he doesn’t even understand them. It is contradictory to think that man can freely choose to follow a God that he does not accept or understand.
When the Pharisee Nicodemus, came to Jesus and questioned Him, Christ told him something very interesting:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3)
What Jesus is telling us in this verse is that unless we are already born again, unless God has already done a work within us, we can’t even see the kingdom of God! How can it be that one could make the free choice to follow someone whose kingdom they cannot see? Biblically speaking, they cannot, and this is where the free will argument fails in light of God’s word.
But in the book of Ephesians, Chapter 2; Paul goes even deeper, explaining why the natural man cannot search for God, why he rejects Him so:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (1-4)
Paul, as per his style, again does not mince his words here; he tells us that we are dead in our trespasses and sins, not sick, not dying, but dead. Our being dead in our sins according to Paul means that we are children of wrath, we are the damned. This also leads to the question: “How could someone who is dead, choose to be made alive?”
Imagine for one moment you walked into a cemetery filled with tombs, and as you gazed out upon the landscape you yell to the graves “Attention everyone; I have good news! I have a way to make you all alive again, to save you from death, and I have even better news than that; all you have to do to receive this offer is to choose to accept it!” What do you think would happen? Of course the answer is nothing, because your target audience is dead! They say that dead men tell no tales, but the Bible stipulates that dead men make no choices.
It should be understood that the picture of salvation in the Bible is not that of Peter sinking beneath the waves, crying out for the Lord to save him, and grabbing Christ’s saving hand; it is more clearly seen in the story of Christ and Lazarus. In this story, Jesus comes to the tomb of his friend Lazarus, and raises him from the dead. Now Lazarus had been dead for four days, and the Bible says that he “Stinketh”, he was fully dead, no question about it. But what happened? Did Christ say “Lazarus, please come out of the tomb, I want you to come out but it’s up to you friend,” Of course not; Jesus said to His dead friend: “Lazarus, come out.” And Lazarus, because of his savior’s call, was made alive and came out. He was raised from death and made alive, not because of anything he did, not because of any choice he made, but because Jesus called him and made him alive. Ephesians 2:4-9 says it best, proclaiming:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…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.”
God, through His loving and merciful grace made us alive through and with Christ. But notice what these verses say about the gracious faith that saved us; Paul tells us that the faith that we are saved by is not a faith that comes from us, but rather that this faith is a gift from God, so that we may not boast in ourselves, saying “Look what I did, I chose God.” God makes it clear in scripture that we are dead in sin, and we despise God, we cannot see, comprehend or accept Him of our own volition, what hope is there then of receiving God’s gift of salvation? Romans chapters one and eleven provide even more insight into man’s inability to choose. Fortunately, this is where predestination come in, giving an answer to that question.
Does the Bible really talk about predestination? Absolutely; in fact, as it does with many other subjects, Scripture not only speaks of it directly in the New Testament, but it also foreshadows it in the Old Testament as well; and that is where we will start in proving the truth of this wonderful doctrine.
The pretty obvious example of God choosing or predestining us is God referring to Israel as His “chosen people”, but besides this example the Old Testament provides an excellent foreshadowing of predestination in the book of Numbers, chapter sixteen verse five:
“…and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him.”
This is a clear reference of God choosing (or predestining) people and calling them to Himself; when the Bible wants to emphasize something, it repeats it often, and both the term predestined, and the choosing of man by God are subjects the Bible speaks about often enough to warrant belief.
Furthermore in Psalms 65:4, the Psalmist writes to the Lord his God:
“Blessed is the one you choose and bring near, to dwell in your courts!”
Once again, the Bible clearly references in the Old Testament that God chooses and draws near to Him certain individuals so that they may dwell in his presence; what’s more, is that the persons that God chooses to dwell in His courts and presence are called blessed by the author. To be chosen of God is a blessing and is something that God should be praised for, not looked at with contempt.
But the Israel issue must be revisited; some would ask: “What about Israel, they are God’s chosen people and yet obviously not all were saved; you see it in the Bible and you see it today…so what about Israel then, doesn’t that prove predestination false?” Fortunately, the Apostle Paul answers this question directly in Romans 9:6-13, which is also a perfect transition into the New Testament’s handling of predestination:
“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
There is so much to be gleaned from this section of scripture, it his perhaps one of the most “meat filled” areas of the New Testament, if not scripture itself. The first nugget of information that Paul gives us in answer to the Israel question is that not all of descendants of natural Israel are actually Israel; rather, true Israel are the children of the promise, those who like Abraham, have faith and believe in [Christ] are part of true Israel no matter what tongue, tribe, people, or nation he or she comes from.
The second nugget of truth to come out of this verse is Paul’s statement of God’s choosing and election of individuals. Paul, in order to portray a truth about those people whom God chooses, draws upon the historical example of Jacob and Esau. Paul tells us that in order for God’s purpose of [divine] election to continue, before they were even born or had done anything good or bad, God chose one brother over the other. He chose Jacob over Esau, not because of anything they had done, but because of His will only; before their time on earth had even begun, God loved Jacob, but hated his brother Esau.
This is the Bible’s teaching on predestination at its finest, but it doesn’t stop there; some may look at that passage and say that God isn’t just, and by doing such a thing, he is being unfair. But Paul once again addresses this in Romans 9:14-18, which happens to be the very next verse:
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
Paul says there is no injustice on God’s part because as God, He has the right to have mercy on whomever He wills, and He also has the right to harden whomever He wills. Paul will address more on this later, but in this section he makes one more great point; the Apostle tells us plainly that salvation depends “not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy…” Paul’s intention cannot be mistaken, as he says that salvation does not depend on human will or effort, rather it is all a result of God and His mercy; so much for the free will of man to choose.
Some are still not satisfied with this answer and wonder why God would still find fault in humans, who cannot choose God, because God did not choose them; and once again, Paul answers this in the very next passage (Romans 9:19-23):
“You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist His will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience, vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory…”
Paul’s answer to the question of blame is that it is not up to man to question God’s will, nor His plans. The creation does not have the right to question the creator as to why He was made that way; it is God’s right to make “out of the same lump” some people for good use, and others for bad use; some to be saved, and others for destruction, so that God can show His wrath, power, and glory among all the earth. The Christian who finds fault with God over this action of predestination are withholding admiration and glory from God that is rightfully His.
Paul revisits the issue of Israel and election in Romans eleven, seven, where he tells the Roman church that:
“What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened…”
This is another clear example of Paul not only speaking of the Israel question, but also showing that God has His elect that will obtain belief, and that those who are not His elect (the rest) will be and were hardened. The phrase “were hardened” is also interesting, because it seems to teach that some outside force (such as God or their sin nature) hardened them, and that they had no real choice in the matter.
Paul also preaches predestination in Romans 8:29-30, where he tells us:
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”
Paul says that those whom God foreknew he predestined, but predestined to what? According to Paul, those God foreknew have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ, which is what happens when we are saved, justified and glorified (as Paul mentioned those who are predestined become).
Some would argue that this verse is saying that God “looked down the corridors of time” and saw who would choose Him and who would not, and so He decided to predestine us based on the choice we were going to make with our “free will.” However, this is completely illogical on its face, and contradictory to the God of the Bible; if God were to do this, it would make Him a reactionary God, one who sees and then reacts to what His creation does. This is not at all the all powerful and sovereign God of the Bible; the biblical God is not controlled, nor does He react to the actions of His creation. On top of this, if God were to look into the future and see that someone was going to be saved, it means that that person would have to be saved, no ifs, ands’, or buts’; which means that their salvation has still been predetermined, even if it wasn’t by God. Therefore there would still be no free will choice; but if God is not the “predestiner”, that means there is something out there that is stronger than Him, for it is able to predestine salvation. Once again, this is in no way the God of the Bible, and Christians should reject this flawed argument.
It is also interesting to note that the word foreknowledge in this verse is the Greek word “proginosko”, which according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, means: “to know beforehand – foreknow (ordain), know (before).” In other words, God foreknowing those He predestined does not only mean He knew about them, but that he personally ordained their salvation. Ordain coming from the Greek “kathistemi” which means: “to designate…appoint [or] set.” Those who wish to say that the English translation must be flawed or misinterpreted will have to contend with the Greek, which says the exact same thing.
Paul continues to champion the doctrine of predestination in Ephesians chapter one, where the Apostle greets the church with:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…” (Eph. 1:3-6, 11)
This is another passage of scripture that is full of great information; it tells us that before the world was even created, God chose us in Him. He chose us so that we would be holy and blameless in His sight, and predestined us to be adopted as sons of God; and the best part? He did it in love! Those who do not view predestination as an act of love do not properly understand the scripture in terms of this subject. Finally this passage also tells us that not only is predestination an act of love, but also that it is done according to God’s purpose, according to His will.
But Paul is not through touting the election of man by God, in his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells them without hesitation:
“For we know, brethren beloved by God, that He has chosen you; for our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction” (1 Thess. 1:4-5).
The Apostle John also had a lot to say about God’s choice of man:
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
John followed the consistent and repeated theological path the Bible lays out, showing us that God gave the right of salvation to those who don’t come to Him by their own will, but by the will of God alone. But John does not stop there, he continues on in chapter fifteen, verse sixteen quoting Christ:
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”
And John continues this line of reasoning in verse nineteen of the same chapter, where he quotes Jesus once again:
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
Jesus Christ Himself teaches the doctrine of predestination in this chapter, telling believers plainly and clearly that we have not chosen Him, but rather He has chosen us out of the world; this is why the world hates us, and this is why we must bear fruit, because it was He who chose us, and designated a duty to us. John also speaks of the names of the elect being written in the book of life before the foundation of the world in the book of Revelation (13: 7-8, 17:8); couple this with Paul’s teaching of us being predestined before the foundation of the world, the evidence is undeniable.
Jesus’ choosing of His disciples is another excellent and practical example of predestination; these men are off doing their own thing, some are fishermen, one is a tax collector, all of them have lives of their own, and at least some (if not all) had families. Along comes Jesus, who most of them probably have not heard of, or at least did not recognize, and He says to them something along the lines of: “Drop what you are doing, give everything up, and follow me.” Now unless the 12 disciples were clinically insane, and there is no proof that they were, they are not going to decide to follow this guy of their own volition; it would be by all rationale thought, foolish to do so, and yet they did. Why? They followed Christ into the unknown, because God had predestined them to follow Him, and when He called, they came (Judas is the one exception, as he was destined not to actually follow, but to show that not all those who claim to be followers of Christ actually are).
Jesus also spoke of Predestination/Election when He was brought up before Pilate in John 18:37:
“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
We must understand that “listens” is not just speaking of the act of hearing a literal voice; Christ is speaking of not only hearing, but understanding and believing His words. Jesus tells Pilate (and us) that there are a certain kind of people who listen to His voice, and those are people who are of the truth; a condition that has already been placed on them. They do not become the people of the truth after they listen to Christ, rather, they only listen to Christ if they are people of the truth already; predestination in a nutshell.
The book of Matthew teaches us that “many are called, but few are chosen”; and in Second Timothy one, verse nine it says:
“Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began…”
This verse continues in the vein of Ephesians, telling believers that we have been saved by God, who called us according to His graceful purpose before the world had even begun, not according to our works or anything we have done. It must again be reminded that when the Bible wants to stress an issue as important, it repeats itself often, as is seen with these verses. There are two more verses that drive this point home, the first being in Philippians, and the second in the book of Acts. Philippians says:
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for his sake.” (Phil. 1:29)
This verse is very explicit in telling us that our belief in Christ is something granted to us by God, not achieved through the supposed free choice of our will; and in Acts thirteen, forty-eight, scripture once again talks of salvation being out of our hands, and in the hands of God:
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
There is nothing ambiguous about this language in Acts; when the Bible says that all those who believed were specifically appointed unto eternal life, there is no room for a free will choice for salvation to be included in the text. If someone were to try and look for a caveat in this verse, they will not be able to find it without reading something into the verse that simply isn’t there.
Before closing, there are two verses in particular that must be addressed, as they are (wrongly) used to try and disprove predestination. The first is 2 Peter 3:9, which says in part that God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance…”; but what is the context of this verse? The context is that Peter is speaking about a time where scoffers will come (verses 1-10) and mock believers that Christ hasn’t come back yet. The passage goes on to say that we must remember time passes differently for God, and He is not slow to fulfill His promises, and that He is being patient towards us. That is something that must be understood, as this verse is not talking about salvation of the unbeliever; this verse is talking to believers ABOUT believers. Notice the language that Peter uses;
“This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved…that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles…”
This is clearly a statement to believers, as he calls them beloved and reminds them of what the Lord and Savior has commanded. But we know that 2 Peter 3:1-10 is written about believers as well, for Peter says in verse eight:
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. “
This is not a verse about salvation, but rather, a verse that is speaking of perseverance of the saints and repentance. Peter tells the beloved that God is being patient with us, wishing that none should perish; in other words, Peter is writing to the church, about the church, saying that God is wishing that none in the church shall spiritually perish (and by not perishing, persevere) in order that they may reach repentance (possibly for believing the scoffers for a time).
The second verse that must be addressed is 1 Timothy 2:4 which says that we should pray for all people because God is a savior: “who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Once again context, and in this case, grammar is essential to understanding this verse. Verses 1-4 instruct us:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Consider the grammar used at the beginning of the passage, where it says that prayers should be made for all people, and the words immediately following this are “ for kings, and all who are in high positions.” So when this verse says to pray for all people, and that God desires all people to be saved, it is not talking about every person to ever live, rather, it is speaking of all KINDS of people. God wants every kind of person; King or pauper, President or the common son of a plumber to come to a saving knowledge of Him, our earthly status does nothing to influence our salvation. The grammatical structure of this verse is key in understanding what it is talking about, for without it, we are led to believe that it is saying something that it is not. Now we should pray for all people as well, as it is the loving thing to do, but we must also understand that this verse is dealing with kinds of people, not amount of people.
Famed Theologian Charles Spurgeon once said of the doctrine of predestination:
“I believe that nothing happens apart from divine determination and decree. We shall never be able to escape from the doctrine of divine predestination – the doctrine that God has foreordained certain people unto eternal life.”
Spurgeon was absolutely right in his opinion; as has been shown extensively in this work, the Bible provides no fewer than thirteen verses showing that God chooses and predestines us unto salvation and adoption, as well as at least seven verses which show the total inability of man to choose God on his own. As Ecclesiastes 6:10-11 says: “Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man?”
Those who preach the dogma of man’s free will choice in salvation are sadly pushing an ideology that is more focused on man than on God; on the creation instead of the Creator. Free will takes away God’s glory and gives it to a fallen man, in direct contradiction to the Bible’s teaching. Predestination on the other hand is not only what the Bible directly teaches, but it is also a doctrine that takes the glory away from undeserving man, and gives it fully to it’s one rightful recipient: God.
NOTE: **This is a response to my friend Matthew in a conversation regarding Water Baptism, and Salvation. Everything in CAPS in for emphasis, not anger, and I do not intend to offend. I understand this response is LONG but I encourage you to read all of it.**
Hey Matt, this whole discussion has been really bothering me, not because I’ve been convicted or anything, but because, although you haven’t reached it yet, you are very, very near heresy because you are perverting the gospel. I will get into that in a minute, but first, you are right Matt, we must put aside the doctrines of man and look at what the Bible says, HOWEVER, this is not what you are doing; you are looking at specific verses and making judgments about them without first looking at their CONTEXT. What you are doing is akin to looking at Psalm 91:4 where it says “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge…” and then saying, “See what the Bible says, God has wings and feathers, he must be a Chicken!” We must look at the context of the verses to know what they are talking about. Again I will get to this in a minute, but first let me address some of your arguments toward me:
Firstly you challenged me to find a verse that talks about spiritual baptism (of the heart) and you said that I probably couldn’t find one, but I’d like to point out to you that I ALREADY DID bring forth a verse about Holy Spirit Baptism. If you remember, I used the verse where John the Baptist (talking about Jesus) said “I baptize you with water…but he will BAPTIZE you with the HOLY SPIRIT, and with fire.” Right there is a verse that clearly is speaking about Holy Spirit baptism, and I’d like to point out that John the Baptist is saying in this verse that Jesus who was greater than John, baptized with the Holy Spirit and Fire, NOT water (water baptism is commanded, but not for this purpose). Now as to your “proof verses”: You challenged me to find verses on Holy Spirit Baptism, which is funny, because some of the verses you provided are about Holy Spirit Baptism:
Romans 6:3-7- Contextually speaking, let’s start at Romans 6:1-2, where it says “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!” The beginning of the chapter tells us specifically what verses 1-14 are about: CONTINUING to live in sin AFTER being saved. I’d like to point out that these verses never mention needing Water Baptism to complete salvation, nor do they mention it being part of salvation. I’d also like to point out that you said all verses about baptism talk about “coming up (or out) of the water” however these very verses that you just used (Rom. 6:3-7) NEVER mentions coming up/out nor does it ever mention water baptism AT ALL. Even verse seven says: “we should no longer be slaves of sin.” These verses are talking about living in sin after salvation, they are not talking about salvation or Water Baptism being needed for Salvation.
1 Pet. 3:18-21 – This made me smile, because when you quoted this verse, you capitalized the part that shows that it is not water baptism being talked about: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, NOT AS A REMOVAL OF DIRT FROM THE BODY but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” Did you catch that? Not as a removal of dirt from the body. This verse is talking about spiritual baptism, not water baptism. Peter even goes out of his way to make sure that he says, while baptism saves you, it is not baptism as in washing dirt from the body (water baptism), and if it’s not water baptism, it is spiritual. Now this verse also talks about Noah, why is that? Well if we look at it, it also proves that this is not talking about water Baptism. What does it say: “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought SAFELY THROUGH WATER. 21Baptism, which CORRESPONDS TO THIS, now saves you…” This part is talking about how Noah and his family were brought safely through the flood via the ark, and it says that them being kept safe and dry in the ark during the flood corresponds to baptism, and not baptism that has to deal with water and the flesh. So our ark in this case is Christ, we are brought safely via the blood of Christ, not by water. Please don’t try and make the argument that this verse is talking about literal washing dirt of the body (as in a bath) because no one in the history of Christianity has ever believed that you were saved by washing literal dirt off of you.
Finally we come to a verse you did not use, but which is probably the biggest proof text for spiritual baptism that there is: 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27. This passage is speaking of the body of Christ. Now Matt, I think you and I can both agree that the body of Christ refers to saved believers…that being said, let’s see what this passage has to say:
12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For in one SPIRIT we were all BAPTIZED into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one SPIRIT.14For the body does not consist of one member but of many… 27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
I don’t know how much clearer it can be; in fact it is abundantly clear. What this passage is saying is: Believers are the body of Christ (Those who are saved), and then it says how we become part of the body of Christ. The bible says we become part of the body of Christ by BAPTISM OF THE SPIRIT, NOT by water, but by the SPIRIT. “13For in one SPIRIT we were all BAPTIZED into one body Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one SPIRIT.” It doesn’t get any clearer than that!
Now let’s look at some problems with a few more of your verses:
Matt. 28:19 – You have this labeled under “it is commanded”….this is absolutely true, however there is no way you can possibly correlate this verse to salvation. If we look at the context of the verse, it says to go and make disciples out of all nations (Verse 19). This is a verse about discipleship, not salvation, there is nowhere in this verse that talks about salvation and Christ himself by saying “make disciples” tells us what he is talking about in this passage. It is also important to note that this command is for Christians TO Baptize people they disciple; It is a Christian’s responsibility to baptize, that’s what this verse was saying, and that’s what Jesus was commanding the apostles to do.
Acts 10:48 – Again, CONTEXT is KEY. What is the context here? Let’s start with verse 44:
“While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 ”Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”
Look at what is happening in this verse: Peter is preaching, the Holy Spirit comes upon the gentiles and is received by them as it had been by the believing Jews. And when this happened, the believing Jews were quote “amazed” that the Holy Spirit was given to even gentiles. Now, AFTER the Holy Spirit was already on the gentiles, Peter says: “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” This is key, baptism by water only happened after the Holy Spirit came upon them. It wasn’t that they believed, were baptized and then the Holy Spirit came on them, completing salvation. The gentiles believed and had the Holy Spirit come upon them (Spiritual baptism) and then were baptized because they were now equal to the believing Jews. This passage does not teach that water Baptism is essential to salvation, but shows that they were water baptized after being saved, to show identification with Christ and his followers.
Luke 3:3 – This is another verse that you have taken out of context, let’s read from verse 1:
“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
It should be pointed out here: Firstly, this was John the Baptist in this verse, and because of this, we must be reminded of what I posted earlier from John the Baptist, where he said: “I baptize you with water, but one who is greater than me is coming, and he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and Fire.” This passage never talks about Water Baptism being needed as a final step in salvation, and the person who this verse is about even tells us that Jesus baptizes not with water, but with the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 3:27 – I hate to keep pointing this out but CONTEXT! Verse 23-29:
“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Interesting to note that this verse also never talks about water baptism, it says through faith in Christ Jesus we have become sons of God, and everyone who has been baptized into Christ, have put Christ on. What makes you think this is talking about water baptism and not Holy Spirit baptism? It says all who have been baptized into Christ have put Him on, where does it specifically mention water baptism as the final act for salvation? Answer: never.
Now I wasn’t going to do this yet, I was going to wait to respond to your responses after I looked at the verses in your note, but because it applies, I am going to take a couple comments you made to Nathan, and address them here. You said:
“The “Law” in Galatians 3 is not rules imposed by authority but the law of Moses. The Law, as you know, was done away with by Jesus.” This is HIGHLY disturbing, it is hard to debate you Matt because you need to get your facts straight! Jesus did not do away with the Law! The Law is perfect, and is there to show us how bad of sinners we really are, even JESUS HIMSELF said in Matthew 5:17-19:
7 ”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have NOT come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Hold on a minute, Jesus himself said not only that He did NOT come to abolish the Law of Moses, but to FULFILL IT! Not only that, but not one dot will pass from the Law until heaven and earth pass away, and all is accomplished. Now here is the thing, if the Law has not been abolished, as we have just seen, anything that is required by God is the Law; now you say that if One is not Baptized after belief, he cannot be truly saved, for by your own words: “It’s clear from the verses that we are not saved before baptism”…Now that quote being duly reminded to us, let’s look at the second part of that passage; “19 Therefore whoever relaxes ONE of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called LEAST IN THE KINGDOM of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Notice what it says about those who relax one of these commandments, they will be called least is the Kingdom of Heaven, it does not say that they will be damned, but that they will still go to heaven, just be called the least. And as we determined, since the law is still intact, and something required is part of the law, your entire premise that one is not saved before baptism, falls apart. Besides, if the Law has been abolished then we need not follow the 10 Commandments, and it would not be sin to break them.
Speaking of Galatians Chapter 3, let’s look at what it says from verses 1-9:
1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being PERFECTED BY THE FLESH? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— JUST AS ABRAHAM “BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS COUNTED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS? KNOW THEN that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would JUSTIFY the Gentiles by FAITH, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ”In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
Paul says here that it is all faith and nothing by flesh that justifies us, this once again disproves your idea that one can’t be saved before being baptized by water, because Paul says it is all faith and by nothing we do in the flesh. Now, back to your verses:
Col. 1:14 – Lets actually start at verse 9:
“9And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. 11May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, (through His blood) the forgiveness of sins.”
Tell me Matt, where in that passage does it mention baptism of any kind? Not only that, where does it mention that Baptism is a symbol of his blood? This verse is literally talking about how Christ’s blood is for forgiveness of sin and redemption, to use this as a proof for water baptism being essential for salvation is absolutely ridiculous, as you are reading something into the verse that just isn’t there!
All your verses from James about faith without works being dead, you never truly answered by question, so I’ll ask it again: Do you believe that these verses in James are talking about Salvation? Yes or No?
And finally: Mark 16:16- “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, he who does not believe shall be condemned”
Once again I thank you for supplying this verse, because it once again goes against what you are saying, because this in no way proves that one will not be saved if they are not baptized. Your contention Matt is that to be saved, one must accept Christ and then be baptized, and if they do not believe, or believe and are not baptized (assuming they live a time after their conversion) they will not be saved and will therefore go to hell; but this is not what this verse says. In order to understand this verse, we must look at the grammatical structure of the verse. When the Bible wants to stress something as important, it repeats it…often. That doesn’t even happen in this verse. When it talks about those who will be saved, it says: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Ok Simple enough, but what does it say after that? “He who does not believe shall be condemned.” See that, the condition for condemnation is not “he who believes but is not baptized, and he who does not believe shall be condemned” According to SCRIPTURE the ONLY people who are condemned are people who DO NOT BELIEVE. You making that claim that we are not saved before baptism is directly contrary to this verse! The grammatical structure here is important, because it shows us that not being baptized is not something that will condemn us to hell. Is being baptized by water a commandment? Yes, but it is not a commandment because it is the final step in our salvation. The only way to believe that Mark 16:16 tells us that we will not go to heaven if we are not baptized is if you also believe in purgatory or limbo, which I don’t think you do, and the bible does not teach.
Now on to your claims:
“Let’s look at Colossians 2:11 – 13, “In Him you were circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, BURIED with Him in baptism in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the WORKING of GOD, who raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made ALIVE together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” These obviously imply that we are not saved before baptism and it’s obvious that baptism is an act, not something inward.”
I am SO glad you brought this verse up, notice how it mentions circumcision: Note how it says ‘circumcision made WITHOUT HANDS.” Back to that in a second, but where in this passage does it mention that it is water baptism that is needed? As you so kindly capitalized, it is a work of GOD. Why is this verse not talking about Holy Spirit Baptism? This passage doesn’t even mention what you say all verses about baptism does: coming out or up from water. This passage is talking about both circumcision and baptism that are not literal (or earthly). Now back to circumcision: I am glad you brought this up, because I was instantly reminded of the Judaizers in Acts 15:5-11:
“But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, ”It is NECESSARY to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”
6The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8And God, WHO KNOWS THE HEART, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9and he made NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN US AND THEM, HAVING CLENSED THEIR HEARTS BY FAITH. 10Now, therefore, WHY are you putting God to the TEST by placing a YOKE ON THE NECK OF THE DISCIPLES that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
No offense Matthew, but you are sounding like a Judaizer. You are doing the exact thing that those believing Jews did, except that you are replacing Circumcision with Water Baptism. You look at verses out of context (as I have shown) and then say that Water Baptism is essential to salvation, just as the Judaizers claimed that circumcision was necessary for salvation, and Peter utterly rebuked the thinking that ANYTHING besides Christ’s death and the belief in Him was needed, as it was a yoke on the neck of the disciples.
Now to your answer about the Old Testament and salvation prior to Christ’s death:
“Okay, now for prior-Jesus death. You stated the thief on the cross and OT people not being baptized. You have to remember that the church was established AFTER Jesus death and that is what we are part of…POST-Jesus death we are told to be baptized for the remissions of our sins. “We are buried with Him”… Baptism before Jesus. Go to your concordance and look up “baptism”. See it before NT. Nope! That’s because it didn’t….exist. Try telling David to be buried with Jesus. You have to remember that Hebrews was written after Jesus died. He has been from the beginning of time. He has always BEEN. As you said, the Law has been done away with. God’s people were under the Mosaic Law not what we have now. Faith! absolutely!!! Abraham = faith, Moses = faith, Joseph = faith, Joshua = faith, David = faith. Through faith we now are baptized. We MUST have faith! Just our way to salvation hasn’t always been the same. Israelites must follow the Mosaic Law in faith. We must follow Jesus’ commandments through faith.”
Okay, major problems with this both Biblically and Logically. I would like to point out that technically the Church has been around since Adam and Eve, for all who believe are part of the Church, but I do realize that you are talking about the New Testament Church, so let’s deal with this: Firstly, you claim that process of Salvation changed and is different in the old testament than it is in the New testament. Hebrews 13:8 says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Keeping that in mind, it makes no sense and is absolutely contradictory to scripture to believe that a God who never changes and is the same yesterday, today, and forever would decide to change the process of salvation. Another reason this makes no sense is because, why would God make it HARDER to be saved once his son died? According to you, Before Christ’s death, all you had to do to be saved was believe, but after Jesus’ death you had to believe AND be baptized to be saved. It makes no sense, that God would make it harder for people to be saved after Christ died, if anything, He would have made it easier, however as we see in Hebrews, God does not change, and because God does not change, neither does His process of salvation. Not to mention that Galatians 3:1-9 says: “JUST AS ABRAHAM “BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS COUNTED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS… KNOW THEN that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.” This verse in Galatians is telling us that the process of salvation is the same as it has always been, because just as Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness, all who have faith are sons of Abraham.
But even though this is all very clear, let’s assume for a moment that you are right, and that the NT Church started teaching that baptism is essential to Salvation. Let’s look at what Jesus said in Luke 7:47-50:
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48And he said to her, ”Your sins are forgiven.” 49Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ”Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50And he said to the woman, ”Your FAITH has SAVED you; go in peace.”
In JESUS’ OWN WORDS, your FAITH has saved you. He NEVER mentions Baptism as being needed. Now, if the NT Church really did start preaching that Water Baptism was essential to salvation, then they would be teaching something CONTRARY and CONTRADICTORY to what JESUS HIMSELF TAUGHT, and in that case, they would be HERITICS, and we should discount everything they say on this issue. You cannot possibly believe that the Gospel and Process that JESUS taught changed after he died. Again Baptism is commanded, and not to be Baptized would be disobedience, however it is not commanded for Salvation, and Jesus never taught that it was.
Okay, so now that we have dealt with all your verses and contentions, let’s look at why the Bible says water baptism is not essential to salvation.
1 John 1-3: “1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
This passage is very clear; everyone who BELIEVES that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (Born Again). It does NOT say that they who believe and are baptized by water are born of God. Furthermore it tells us that When we love God, we will obey his commandments, so we don’t get baptized to complete salvation, we get baptized because we love God and want to keep his commandments. It also says that some people will overcome, and who is it that will overcome the world? ONLY those who BELIEVE, that’s it, all you have to do to overcome is believe, no more, no less.
John 1:12-13 speaks in the same vein about being born again: “12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Once again in John (after Jesus died) we are told: to all who receive Him and BELIEVE in His name, he gave the right to become children of God. Once again, this talks specifically about Belief and NOT once does it mention that baptism is needed.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (post death) summarizes the Gospel when it says: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Notice how this passage about the gospel tells us what Jesus did to save us, and never says anything about water baptism nor it being required to be saved or essential to salvation.
In Romans 1:16 (Post Death) Paul gives even more evidence that salvation requires only BELIEF in Christ “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that BELIVETH; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Once again, the gospel of Christ is the power of salvation to all who believe, this verse says nothing about Baptism or it being needed as the final step in salvation. Note that believing (faith) is all that is required. In Acts 10:24-48 we find the example of Cornelius and his associates. They had the Holy Ghost fall on them and received the gift of the Holy Ghost before they were baptized.
In Acts 11:16-17 (again after death) Peter adds more to what this means when he recalls the apostles experience (Acts 1:5-8, 2:1-4; John 20:22).
16And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ’John baptized with water, but you will be BAPTIZED with the HOLY SPIRIT.’ 17If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”
John 20:30-32 tells us the purpose of the book: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that BY BELIEVING you may have LIFE in his name.” By believing you may have life in his name, not by belief and baptism.
Perhaps one of the most telling verses in the Bible on this issue is Romans 10:8-11, where Paul says: “8But what does it say?”The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9because, if you CONFESS with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and BELIEVE in your heart that God raised him from the dead, YOU WILL BE SAVED. 10For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is SAVED. 11For the Scripture says, ”Everyone who BELIEVES in him will NOT be put to shame.”
Once again the scripture says that ALL it takes is BELIEF to be saved, not belief and baptism, and it even says everyone who believes will NOT be put to shame.
John 3:16,18, and 36 make it even clearer when talking about salvation (as if it needs to be): (16)”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever BELIEVES in him should NOT PERISH but have eternal life.(18) Whoever BELIEVES in him is NOT condemned, but whoever DOES NOT believe IS condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (36) Whoever BELIEVES in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
There is so much in those three verses, as they all say very specifically, all who believe will be saved. They do not say believe and are baptized, but simply believe. It even says specifically, that he who believes in Him is not condemned; Are we to ignore the many, many verses that are very clear that heartfelt faith in Jesus Christ is all that is needed for our eternal salvation? So much for you can’t be saved until you have been baptized.
Finally let’s look at what Paul said specifically about Baptism in 1 Corinthians 1:14-17: “I thank God that I BAPTIZED NONE of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ DID NOT send me to BAPTIZE but to PREACH THE GOSPEL, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be EMPTIED of its power.”
Paul, one of the biggest Christian figures in history THANKED GOD that he DIDN’T baptize more than a few people. If Baptism was so important, Paul would not be saying such things. Now Paul’s reason for being thankful about this is because he did not want people to start making a big deal about baptism and who baptized them. He didn’t want baptism to be seen to be bigger than it is. He also said that Christ DID NOT send him to baptize, but to preach. But if baptism is so essential to salvation, then wouldn’t Paul (one of the greatest evangelists, preachers, followers of God of all time) have been sent to both preach AND baptize, if not preach baptism?
One of my Favorite Pastors; Mark Driscoll (A man who is tutored by great theologians such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and J.I. Packer) points out: “Salvation is solely a gift given to people whose faith rests in the grace of God to forgive their sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus. For example, when the Philippian jailer asked what was required of him to be saved, Paul did not mention baptism but simply said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” This is yet another biblical example where Paul says that all that is needed is belief.
Now I ask you to please watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5BWFSS9JzI&feature=player_embedded
This video is good as a whole, but he really explains it well at the end.
I think the most striking thing he says in this video is: “To require the cross plus baptism would mean Jesus’ words “it is finished” were not enough.” This is SO true.
You see Matt, besides a majority of your verses being out of context, and all these other verses being absolutely against your position. The simple fact of the matter is that your position is one big contradiction. Let me quote two things that you said…First: “Baptism does not save us. It is God’s grace.” And Second: “we are not saved before baptism.” That’s a contradiction Matt, which one is it? You cannot say that baptism doesn’t save but we are not saved before baptism. It’s one or the other, it cannot be both. Logic dictates that if we are not saved before water baptism, then water baptism saves. You cannot hold both positions. Even if you say that salvation is a combination of God’s grace and water baptism, you would still be mistaking because that doesn’t line up with scripture either. The simple fact of the matter is that God’s grace saves, and baptism has nothing to do with it, we should be baptized yes, but as a sign of our fellowship, commitment, and faith to God, and as a sign of obedience. Baptism is not a part of our salvation, Jesus Christ and our faith in Him, already did all that was needed for this.
Revelation ends with these words: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall ADD unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.”
Matt, you have a certain view about baptism and you are trying to work scripture that does not apply into that view, and I know you don’t mean to, but you are adding something to the scriptures that isn’t there and thus doing are very close to being guilty of heresy. And since I don’t want you to commit heresy, I have showed you these things. Just remember this; by adding anything to salvation (in this case Water Baptism being essential to it) you are taking away from the power of Christ’s death, making it insufficient for salvation.