By Donald G. Bloesch
Necessities of Evangelical Theology, quantity 2: existence, Ministry, & wish
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Extra info for Essentials of Evangelical Theology, Volume 2: Life, Ministry, and Hope
They appeal to passages like 1 John. 3:9: "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God" (cf. I John. 5:18). While it is true that no one can sin in union with Christ, the irrefutable fact is that time and again we fall away from this union and thereby into sin. We have the power not to sin, but we inevitably, though not necessarily, succumb to the temptation to sin. John himself gives this word of warning: "Ifwe say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us" (I John: 1:10).
Graham now prefers to speak of public decisions as inquiries rather than conversions. It is not within man's power, nor even within the power of the church, to bring about the new birth. The church can only proclaim the Word and hope and pray that the Spirit of God, who alone can penetrate the hearts of sinners, will act in his own time and way. Baptism by water is the sacramental sign of the new birth, but baptism itself does not effect the new birth. Like the Word of God itself baptism can be an instrument of the Spirit's redemptive action, but it is not a precondition for this action.
The emphasis of the apologists was on the imitation of Christ as an example and on obedience to Christ as teacher. Christianity was distinguished from pagan religions by its superior standard of moral conduct. For Clement of Alexandria Jesus Christ was a tutor whose aim was to improve the souls of his charges and to train them for a virtuous life. " Harnack observed: "It is not Judaeo-Christianity that lies behind the ... doctrines ofthe Apologists, but Greek philosophy . . the Alexandrine-Jewish apologetics," and "the maxims of Jesus.