This post is directed only to those who are interested in topics which are relevant to those who believe in Jesus. If you are not interested in such subjects, this post is not intended for you.
Among those who claim to believe in Jesus, there are two divergent views of the activities associated with this belief.
Consider the rod which Moses extended towards the red sea before the waters parted. There is one set of religious beliefs that think of the religious activities which they do as being as if the rod which Moses used was similar to Harry Potter's wand. They believe that God places power (commonly called efficacy) within the religious activity. For example, the belief in "holy water" is the belief that God has endued that water with power. This kind of belief is sometimes called "sacramentalism".
There is another viewpoint that believes that there is no power within a religious activity. This is the view to which I hold.
I do not believe that the brass serpent which Moses erected in the wilderness had antivenin power given to it by God.
One of the passages that has convinced me of this view (although it may not convince anyone else) is Acts 15:12
The way that I perceive the context of this verse is:
There were some individuals among the Jerusalem congregation who thought that the only way that Gentiles could be converted would be if they lived a kosher lifestyle including the circumcision of the males. Peter reminds those who came together to discuss this question that sometime ago, God had commanded him to go preach to uncircumcised Gentiles and that while he was preaching the Holy Spirit came upon these uncircumcised people. Paul and Barnabas then get up and tell examples of how when they were preaching and baptizing uncircumcised people that God showed his approval of what they were doing by causing signs (aka miracles) to occur. James then quotes a few Old Testament passages and uses a method of logic that is quite common in the New Testament text to show that it had been prophecied that the uncircumcised would be received into God's fellowship.
(Side Note: If you want to understand what kind of logic, James used look at the first eleven verses or so of Exodus 2. The Bible never states how old Moses's sister was nor does it ever say that she was older than Moses. Was she older then him? If so, how do you know that? You use the same kind of logic which James used in Acts 15 to draw that conclusion. It is the only reasonable conclusion based on what is written in Exodus 2.)
Now if the people who were listening to Paul and Barnabas believed that God has bestowed upon them the power to perform signs, then the argument that these 2 make in Acts 15:12 is irrelevant. But if those who were listening to Paul and Barnabas believed that God performed the signs and not Paul and Barnabas then their argument shows that circumcision is not necessary.
When discussing this subject with people I refer to two prepositions which in English are "of" and "through". It is my view that when the text refers to something being "of grace" it means that the power comes directly from God. The Bible never refers to something as being "of faith" except for a person's access to Grace.
When a hurricane threatens coastal islands, the residents cross bridges to get to safety. There is no safety on the bridge, the safety is beyond the bridge. When Paul says in Romans 5:2 that by faith we have access to Grace, he is comparing faith to an entrance or a bridge or a tunnel through which one passes to get to Grace.
The power is not in faith. The power is not in any activity which is motivated by faith. The power is directly from God.
Faith (and anything like prayer which is motivated by faith) is a petition to God that He will act on behalf of those who trust His power.
As an example, Noah's ark, did not have the ability to preserve him from shipwreck. In fact, those people who make pictures of a ship or a boat or of anything possessing a keel are actually denying the helplessness of Noah. Noah was shut up inside a wooden box and could not see where he was going. Both as the waters were rising and when the box grounded in the mountains, its structural integrity could easily have been compromised. The only reason that Noah's family came safely through the flood was because the power of God preserved them. Noah's faith did not preserve them. The 120 years he spent building that box did not preserve them. The power of God kept that box from breaking apart and kept its bottom from spring a leak during the months in which it was sitting on the mountain before the waters finished receding.
Likewise, in my view, nothing which Christians do causes anything. The power of God causes things and Christians demonstrtate their trust in God's word and their helpless reliance on His power.
This is one of the reasons that I believe that the spiritual identity of the person who baptizes another is irrelevant. In Acts 17, Paul did not rebaptize 12 people because of who it was that had first baptized them but rather because of the reason in the minds of the 12 for which the 12 had first been baptized. They had not been baptized in order to enter the death of Jesus because they did not know who the Messiah is at the time that they were first baptized. When a person seeks to be baptized he does so in order to make a petition unto the Father in the name of Jesus. This is why Paul's prayer to God before his baptism was insufficient. God sent a man to say to Paul "What are you waiting for, get up and be immersed and wash away your sins invoking the name of the Lord."
Annanias wasn't suggesting that the water removed Paul's sins. The power was not in the water. Paul needed to petition the Father through baptism in the name of Jesus.