And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” – Mark 3:22-34

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East Lake at Brazos Bend State Park. Our photo club had an outing there during which we saw nearly a dozen alligators! The largest of them were far away. None are visible in this photo, taken January 21, 2017.

I had an interesting conversation today with a woman regarding her cousin and baptism. Seems she and her cousin were in quite a discussion about baptism, raising children, and doing what pleases God. Seems, also, that there is another party to this discussion who muddies the water because of her insistence upon her way of thinking as being the only true and right way. The three are at odds with each other through all of this! It is not a family-splitting conflict, but it is concerning because it has to do with the truth of God’s word.

In essence the question is whether baptism is a gift of God (cf. Romans 6:1-4), or a requirement for righteousness, or an un-needed option for one to be a child of God. I consider baptism to be a blessing and gift of God that is ordinarily necessary for salvation; not essential, but necessary. After all, Jesus did command that we baptize. And the only command given to the earliest converts to the Christian faith was to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). It is, at the same time, a gift – rich in grace and blessing from God.

Which gets then to the question: what is necessary for salvation? What does one have to do to be saved? And what if one misses that mark? We know that faith is not just necessary but essential for salvation. For “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). But what if someone fails to be baptized, or it is done improperly? Is this the unforgivable sin?

Thankfully Jesus clarifies all this for us: only one sin is unforgivable: the eternal sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: calling the good work of the Holy Spirit evil. That’s saying that being brought to faith, and motivated to mission is a bad thing. That is unbelief at its core.

At the core of Jesus’ promises is his grace and love for all who believe in him, who are his mother, brothers and sisters, living out their faith, and doing the will of God. And when we fail we thank God that we not only have a brother in Christ, but a Savior who forgives our sins – big and small, and has defeated Satan once and for all.

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