Key Concepts and Definitions
Baptism - began as a ritual cleansing of the body and soul so that an individual would be pure before God. Originally a Jewish rite. John the Baptist popularized the rite, though his baptism was actually considered to be different from a baptism by the Holy Spirit. Baptism eventually became the symbol of a person's acceptance in and of Christianity. The validity of newborn baptism has been much disputed since the founding of the early church because of the infant's inability to understand the significance of the ritual.
Faith Alone - is a concept originated by the Apostle Paul. It is the idea that salvation and God's favor is based only on whether one has faith in Jesus and God. Contrast with works.
Gentile - is a person who is not a Jew or of the Jewish faith. Christians in the early church were both Jew and Gentile. Paul was a Jew as were most of the early church leaders, including Peter, James, John and Barnabas. However, Luke and others who were recruited by Paul were Gentiles. Paul believed that Judaism was not a separate religion, but a moral law or code by which people lived. One could be both a Jew and a Christian, as one might be a Stoic as well as a Christian.
New Covenant - An agreement between God and all mankind freely entered into by both parties. This contract was embodied in the message and promise of Jesus.
Old Covenant - The agreement God had with Abraham and Moses that he would favor the Jewish people if they would keep his laws.
Pharisee - A person who was of a sect of the Jewish religion that rigidly adhered to the Law of Moses. Paul was a Pharisee. He lived by the law of Moses his entire life and did not consider it to be in conflict with his Christian beliefs. However, he seemed to be constantly at odds with the Jewish faction within the Christian Church that wanted to impose the Mosaic Law upon the Gentiles in order for them also to be Christians. His position was that a Pharisee could also be a Christian, but one need not be a Pharisee to be a Christian.
Saved by Works - The idea that it is an individual's actions that are primary when God determines and disposes his favor. This concept is supported primarily in the Epistle of James in the New Testament and is buttressed by Old Testament teaching. The conflict between "works" and "faith" has raged for two millenia. Nevertheless, both concepts can be joined. One who has faith will do good works and one who does good works strengthens their faith.