AT THE CROSSROADS
A. Ralph Johnson
I highly recommend this study by our brother and prolific scholar Ralph Johnson. It deals primarily with some recent denominational incursions in doctrine and practice among us, notably concerning baptism. Each incursion is compared with scripture, and objections are analyzed. Brother Ralph is doing what elders and evangelists should do, in guarding the flock. Titus 1:9-13; Acts 20:28-31. This study should be must reading, and we ignore its warning at our peril and very survival.
When the children of Israel had almost completed their forty years wandering they left the Wilderness of Sin, after being refused passage through Edom, and traveled South until they reached the shores of the Red Sea on the Gulf of Akaba. At that point the caravan routes from Arabia turned north around Edom to Palestine or East, past Sinai, to Egypt. There they stood at the crossroads, the final point of decision—back to Egypt, or north through Ammon to Jordan.
The way had been hard. They were weary of the journey. They had long complained of only having “this manna” to eat day after day. Most of the older generation had died. They had murmured and complained, sometimes demanding return to Egypt, but Moses faithfully followed the leading of God. For them, the lessons of those long years had been learned. They turned their backs on Egypt and followed Moses to the Promised Land.
I vividly recall some forty-five years ago, the struggle to free ourselves from the liberal ism of the Disciples Of Christ denomination. The purpose and necessity of baptism was fundamental. Now, I find us heading right back where we came from, increasingly involved in denominational activities and playing down the scriptural purposes, and even the necessity, of baptism. Have we so soon forgotten, and are we, like those of the times of Jeremiah, doomed to again return to “Egypt?”
I was just a young pup listening to Melvin Traxler, Archie Word, Donald Hunt, Burton Barber, James McMorrow and others, fighting to free us from the “mess” the Disciples leadership had led us into. I visited congregations in the Midwest and first-hand, saw “Churches of Christ” and “Christian Churches” that had lost their purpose and given up their mission in the swamps of interdenominationalism. I sat in the courtroom as churches battled for independence. I still have newspaper clippings of knock-down-drag-out fights as the Society tried to take over.
My first ministry was a church that at the time was about half “faith only” tongues babblers. A “faith only” man was an elder. A “holy roller” was a deacon. A Methodist lady taught the adult class. When the preacher got up to speak they walked out en mass.
Those churches had begun with great promise and enthusiasm. However, the leaders of the Disciples pushed interdenominational meetings under the profession that we must have “unity.” Scriptural conviction was surrendered. The importance of the purpose of baptism was discounted. Churches began to practice “open membership” in which the un-baptized were taken into fellowship. Eventually, even the authority and inspiration of scripture was discounted.
A couple of Pentecostal women preachers came to Abingdon to hold a meeting. They won a lot of followers. Later the group split. Part of them went to another town and continued with their “Holy Rolling” while others were accepted at the Church of Christ.
The tongues-speaking faith-only element began to gain power and had driven out several preachers before I came. I concentrated on preaching the word, including a short scriptural address before Communion service. I called on all of the old people who remembered the teaching before the interdenominational intrusion. It was quite a struggle but the faith-only-tongues- babbling people could not hold out against the word of God. We stood solidly and within a year, the whole bunch had cleared out. I make no apologies. To this day that church still remains faithful.
The major battles for survival have now abated. Our churches have spread across the country and around the world. Instead of the dingy little buildings and no money we have now reached a sort of middle class milestone. We have nice and sometimes large churches. We have gained a measure of recognition and respect among the non-instrumental and Christian Churches.
However, the generation that took that stand is dying off and a new one is rising that no longer remembers where we came from and the battles we fought. Like untended fire alarms the old batteries are going dead and warnings against false teaching and playing “footsie” with the denominations is no longer being sounded. Like Israel with the nations around them, with affluence and respectability, has come admiration and emulation of their ways.
I am one of that passing generation. Autumn has come. Snow is showing on the mountaintops among those that still remain. Decline is setting in. Hardly has the dirt settled on the graves of many of the old heads and suddenly we are again debating the very issues over which we left. Which will it be? Will we heed the warnings of the past, or will we turn back to the leeks, garlics and onions of Egypt?
My first concern is the increasing slippage into denominational influence. It seems that every time the denominations sneeze, we catch pneumonia.
We used to look forward to gatherings to hear our speakers on many subjects. Not so any more. It seems that nothing we have is important and the old faithful preachers are excluded. The Bible is not enough. More and more faith-only denominational speakers are brought in while fewer faithful preachers are being heard. Like Israel’s coveting the things of the nations around them, denominational programs are increasingly pushed as the models for our lives and faith. The emphasis is on church growth--at any price, with communion being replaced by “seeker’s services” and baptism viewed as nothing but an empty form.
The response you are hearing confirms what I say. Whenever some Johnny-come-lately denominational fad comes along we begin getting the “softening up” treatment. They start attacking what we have done or are doing and our love for God and others. They bad-mouth our people as “un-evangelistic,” “legalistic,” “against unity,” “only preaching doctrine,” "boring" and “unloving.”
We were told that if we did not join “Revival Fires” we were against evangelism. If we did not join the Boston Movement program, we were unevangelistic. We had to start Christian schools or we were against Christian education. If we did not start a “bus ministry” we did not care about church growth. We needed to get our people involved in the Billy Graham crusades. We must take our young people to Basic Youth Conflicts etc.
Some of these things are good. However, the years are also littered with failures, lost finances, vain efforts and people infected by errors. I am concerned about the methods used to intimidate and impugn the motives of honest brethren and disregard of spiritual dangers that are placing numbers above soundness of faith.
I am not ashamed of what we have done. We have grown and flourished, despite our enemies without, and the nay-sayers and critics within. Many thousands of souls have been brought to Christ. There have been some problems we have had to resolve but we are not a bunch of un-evangelistic failures. I refuse to be bullied, brow-beaten or bamboozled away from teaching what God said.
I have been involved in starting several congregations, besides many other efforts to further the kingdom of God. I have been open to new ideas and efforts. I resent being put down as an obstructer of evangelism because I do not jump at the latest fad or join the latest denominational scheme. Others have sometimes accomplished more but I am not ashamed of the gospel or the efforts we, as a people, have put forth. I will not sell out the gospel for numbers to boost my image. It is foolish to swing with the pendulum from one extreme to another.
The problem is that it has again become fashionable to seek the tables of outsiders and hobnob with the bigwigs of the denominational world. Playing the numbers game and measuring success by counting noses is more glamorous than standing firm on the Scriptures but that is not true scriptural growth for Christ. For those who insist on thrashing us as being a bunch of obstructionist failures, I respectfully suggest that they hit the road and join those with whom they are having such a sweet love affair. It is outrageous that they will exploit the sacrifices and works we have labored so much to accomplish and divert our efforts to their own ends.
A major slippage began with involvement in the Billy Graham crusades. Some of our people tried to be a part of their counseling teams but as soon as they discovered we were teaching baptism for the remission of sins they shut us out. Later our people became involved with Bill Gothard’s Basic Youth Conflicts Seminars. At the time, in “The Pattern,” published by Charles Dailey, I warned against encouraging participation by the congregation in general. It is foolish for the shepherd of God to lead the lambs into places where they are exposed to poisoned food or wolves in sheep’s clothing.
It was rationalized that there is “so much good” and “we can warn of their failure to teach the plan of salvation.” Rat poison is 98 percent good corn meal! Unfortunately, faith-only was not the only error, and some of the young bucks bought the store. So began the drift into interdenominational activities.
One example of this is “Promise Keepers.” They advocate some good things. People need to keep their promises—to God, to each other, and to their wives. I am glad for the good influence as opposed to the irresponsibility we so commonly see. I do not wish to attack good. However, it is a very personally interactive fellowship started and controlled by the Vineyard charismatic tongues-babbling faith-only denomination with all of its “Holy Laughter,” “slain in the Spirit” and false miracles. The mass nature of these gatherings produces a powerful influence to view all of these people, including the un-baptized, as “brothers.”
However, the Spirit manifesting gifts (1Cor. 12) have ceased (1Cor. 13). Those who today claim to prophesy are false-prophet. Jesus clearly warned us against “many” who call Jesus “Lord, Lord”(Mat. 7:22) but do not do the will of God. They claim to prophesy by his name, and by his name to cast out demons, and by his name to do many mighty works. As accountable shepherds, we have no business taking the flock of God to be taught by false-prophets (Matt. 7:13-29).
While they stress some Biblical commitments they oppose others. They promote a “sinner’s prayer” plan of salvation in their meetings. Many of the leaders of Promise Keepers teach, infant baptism and substitute sprinkling or pouring. Are we to regard them as “brothers”?
Jesus said that if people love him they will keep his word (John 14:21, 23-24). Promise #6 calls for removal of “denominational barriers.” They are opposed to the “barrier” that rejects their claims of miraculous spiritual gifts. They are not going to permit the “barrier” of the necessity to be immersed into Christ to be taught in their activities. They are opposed to the “barrier” of requiring that in order to be saved people must arise and be immersed and wash away their sins (Ac.22:16) or teaching that except one is born of both water and Spirit they cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).
Some of our leading preachers are now advocating ecumenicalism – the very thing their fathers struggled so hard to get free from.
Jesus did not advocate unity at any price. He said,
Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division. (Lk.12:51)
In this, we would do well to heed the wisdom of Nehemiah:
Neh. 6:2. Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. 3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
When they wanted him to have an ecumenical meeting on the plains of Ono, he replied, “Oh NO.” Why must we take the lambs of god to false-teachers to be taught? Do we not have Bibles that are able to thoroughly furnish us unto every good work? (2Tim 3:16-17) Can we not read? Do we have no worthwhile speakers to advocate commitment? Long ago I committed myself to keeping my promises. I have never quit. Why must we jump on every denominational bandwagon?
I am concerned that so much value is being placed on the talents of false-teachers (I Cor. 1:14--2:5). Let no one be deceived. The truth will not be upheld. It will be more like, “Compromise Keepers” or perhaps, “Breakers of God’s Promises.” Historically, the people of God have not come out well in such situations. Have no illusions that it will be different this time. Indeed, already it seems that the most important thing is a large church and to be accepted by the denominational world.
There was a young lady from Niger,
Who smiled as she rode on a tiger.
They came back from the ride,
With the lady inside,
And the smile on the face of the tiger.
Or, if you will, there is an old story about a preacher who went hunting. He met up with a bear. The bear asked him if he would listen to a suggestion before he shot him. The preacher agreed and the bear said, “Now let’s look at this logically. You want a fur coat and I want a good meal. If we handle this thing right, both of us can have what we want.” So they compromised. The bear ate him and got a good meal -- and the preacher got a fur coat!
We will rationalize that it is “not all bad.” We will squelch our convictions to have “unity.” To avoid controversy and keep peace we will compromise—if not us, then our children. The lines will gradually blur. We will "blend in." One by one our guns will fall silent as we yield one issue after another and little by little we will absorb their errors and they will absorb our people.
Don’t tell me it won’t happen. It did in the Bible when they compromised with the nations around them. It did historically in the Restoration movement. Church after church has gone down that path. Some have gone completely into the charismatic movement.
This thing got so bad that a few years ago a number of old, well known Christian Church preachers called me to a meeting to discuss what could be done to turn the tide. We held some retreats and conferences but, unfortunately, most of them were tired --and retired. They gave up under the pressure and shortly the effort was dropped. I never thought I would see the day among our own churches but much of the field is already yielded and some are eagerly giving way to more --right down to denying you have to be baptized to be a Christian!
When I question, I am given the excuse that “At Promise Keepers they sometimes say good things about baptism.” That is double talk. Do they say what the Bible says about baptism? Do they teach that we are baptized "into Christ"? Do they teach that unless one is born of water and Spirit they can not enter the kingdom of God—and mean what the Bible intended?
Some point to the “good” they are doing. Fine, but the false-prophets of whom Jesus spoke had "sheep's clothing" and called Jesus “Lord.” We are warned to beware lest we be deceived. The devil uses good tasting stuff to get people to swallow error. Garbage cans often hold some good food but why go there to get fed when the scriptures have everything to thoroughly furnish us unto every good work? (2Tim. 3:16-17)
We are told how “dedicated they are to family life.” Well, so are the Mormons. We are told that they must be Christians because they teach “love,” which is one of the fruits of the Spirit. Well, publicans and sinners also “love” (Matt. 5:6).
“Fruit” includes hearing and obeying the word of Jesus (Matt 7:24-28; Luke 6:46). Beware of judging what is a sheep on the basis of the wool coat it wears (Matt. 7:15). Pretty flowers in the spring do not necessarily indicate good fruit in the fall, and certainly the ungodly behavior manifested by many charismatic leaders has not been “good fruit.” Even the guy who started Promise Keepers was being unfaithful to his wife while teaching that other men keep their promises.
Nourishment, not the external appearance, or even pleasant taste, is the true test of the fruit. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Mat. 7:21)
Failure to obey is failure to love (Jn. 14:15; 23, 24; I Jn. 5:2). We know whether we know him by whether we obey (I Jn. 1:3-6; 3:10,24; 4:6). After discussing the purpose of baptism, Romans 6:17 tells us we are made free from sin by obeying that form of teaching which was delivered to us.
On the one hand their sympathizers extol their virtues to us, while on the other, they bad-mouth our fellowship (cf. Neh. 6:19). God’s people have never been popular with the compromiser crowd. The devil is the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10; Jn. 8:44).
Jeremiah 20:7 O Jehovah, thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded; thou art stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am become a laughing-stock all the day, every one mocketh me. 8 For as often as I speak, I cry out; I cry, Violence and destruction! because the word of Jehovah is made a reproach unto me, and a derision, all the day. 9 And if I say, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name, then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with forbearing, and I cannot (contain). 10 For I have heard the defaming of many, terror on every side. Denounce, and we will denounce him, (say) all my familiar friends, they that watch for my fall; peradventure he will be persuaded.”
My primary job is to please God, not people (Gal 1:10). It is to search the scriptures and teach what God said, even if it puts me in an uncomfortable situation in the eyes of others. I can not let people exploit my friendship to manipulate me into compromising the gospel.
We must enter in by the “narrow way” not the broad easy one the many follow (Matt. 7:14).
“Not every one who says, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he that does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). “He that hears these words of mine and does them is like a man who built his house upon a rock” (Matt. 7:24,25).
The test of spirituality is not how much we go along with those who are blown about by every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:14-15) but whether Jesus is our Lord. “Lord” means obedience to what Jesus says (Luke 6:46). It is the word of God that will judge us in the last day (John. 12:48).
OBJECTION: Did not Jesus pray for unity among Christians?
He prayed for unity of his people—on the basis of the truth—His word (Jn. 17:17-21), --not unity with those who follow the false teachings of the Devil.
OBJECTION: Are all of those in denominationalism lost?
I hope not but that is no reason for me to not teach the truth or to join in their error. There are many people among the denominations who read their Bibles and have been baptized for remission of sins. All who obey the truth are a part of the body of Christ (Heb. 5:9; Ac. 5:32). False teaching can be forgiven but I have no right to compromise what God said.
OBJECTION: Are there not Christians in the denominations?
Perhaps so, at least in prospect, but God said “come out” (Rev. 18:4). We are not to join and partake of their ways.
Did not Paul thank God that the gospel was preached even if it was in envy and strife (Ph’p 1:18,19)?
Yes but only if it is the uncorrupted Gospel (Gal 1:7). Furthermore, envy and strife are still sin and those who practice them will be held accountable.
Did not Jesus warn against pulling up the tares in the kingdom lest the wheat should be harmed (Matt. 13:29)?
The field is not the kingdom. The field is the world (Matt. 13:38). Christians are not to destroy the wicked but that does not prevent us from warning against their evil. Nor must we participate with those who do it. In any case, in the end of the world God will bind and cast them into the fire (Matt. 13:30).
In the church the Elders and Evangelists are strictly charged to protect the flock of God from predators (Acts 20:27-31). That requires distinguishing wolves in sheep’s’ clothing from the true sheep (Matt. 7:15,21-23). They are to be marked and removed (Mark 16:17; I Tim. 1:20; Mat. 18:17; 1Cor. 5:1-7).
We are told not to forbid those who are doing good things in the name of Jesus. Those who are not against Jesus, are for him (Mark 9:38-41)?
We forbid no one to do good in the name of Jesus. It is the BAD that we oppose. I am in favor of many of the activities of Promise Keepers but I oppose taking the lambs of God’s flock into places where they are endangered by bad food or false prophets in sheep’s clothing.
By the way, it also says that those who are not for Him are against Him (Lk. 11:23). Those that pervert the Gospel are not for him.
Gal 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
OBJECTION: Do you think all are lost who do not agree with you?
No, but those who reject the teachings of God’s word are taking a serious risk. However, God owns the bank of grace. He can give to whomever He chooses. I am just a “teller.” My job is to tell it like He said.
God’s word informs us of His will. He can make allowances or exceptions as He sees fit. He says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Ex. 33:19). His choice was to overlook the trespass of David and his men in eating the shewbread (Matt. 12:4). However, no one else had the right to make that exception grounds for everyone to eat. Exceptions do not void God’s rules.
God can do as He wishes, whether or not we like it. He took the life of Uzza who sought to keep the ark from falling in spite of the fact that it made David angry (I Chron. 13:10, 11). God has the right to make one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor (Rom. 9:21). On the other hand, if He chooses to “count uncircumcision for circumcision (Rom. 2:26), that is His privilege. He could save people who were not circumcised, but when Moses ignored circumcision of his son, it almost cost his life (Ex. 4:24,25).
I wish only good towards those in the denominational world. I do not wish them to be lost. Like Paul concerning the Jews (Rom 10:1) it is my prayer that multitudes will be saved. However, I can not assume that because God sometimes made exceptions, that I can ignore or change the standards on my own. “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12). That is why we have sprinkling, infant baptism and countless other false doctrines. Our judgments and desires must not take precedence over the commands of God (Prov. 3:5).
I am not impressed by the numbers or activities of the denominational world. The 450 prophets of Baal may have been more numerous, more popular and more enthusiastic but Elijah, who stood alone, was who God answered (1 Kings 18). The Scribes and Pharisees scoured land and sea to make one proselyte but Jesus said they were the children of hell (Matt. 23:15). Paul conceded that the Judaizers had zeal but it was not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2).
No majority can outvote God. “Yea, let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). God destroyed a whole world and saved only eight people “through water” (I Pet. 3:20, 21). It is the “many” who go through the wide gate to destruction (Mat 7:13-14). One thing is certain, these guys on their numbers kick could never have been a Noah, an Elijah, a Jeremiah or a Daniel. They would consider themselves failures and join the other side.
I am concerned about the growing effort to discount the need to know the purpose of baptism. There are few things more clearly stated than that baptism is “for remission of sins.” That is not really a difficult concept except for those who want to find a way around it.
Few things could make the devil happier than to take the focus off the fact that we are baptized into the death of Christ. He hates anything that has to do with the blood of Christ. Both baptism and the Lord’s supper hold that relationship (Rom. 6:3; Ac. 2:38; Mat. 26:28; 1Cor. 11:25-27; 1Jn. 5:8; Ac. 22:16) and I think it no coincidence that those two areas have been under the greatest attack among the denominations. Many years of experience has shown that there is nothing in the Bible that can not, and has not been rationalized away by the ingenuity of men. This thing is just another gimmick to get around the “offense the cross” (Gal.5:11).
Paul warns those who in their wisdom know not God (I Cor. 1:21). Like Adam and Eve, the desire to be “wise” makes them otherwise. Beware of the “wisdom of words” (I Cor. 1:17-30). Putting trust in the wisdom of men is carnal and dangerous (I Cor. 3:1-3). We must beware of placing our values on excellency of speech (I Cor. 2:1). It is not mere coincidence that the teachings that circumvent baptism are primarily the darlings of those who place the greatest emphasis on numbers.
It is claimed that all who believe in Christ and baptized are Christians, whether or not they believe that we are baptized into Christ--even if they repudiate the scriptural teaching concerning the relationship of baptism to remission of sins. It is argued that “repentance is man’s part while remission of sins is God’s part. Man only needs to do his part. He does not need to know God’s part.”
Like car insurance, this is sort of “No Fault Baptism,” or, perhaps a, “Baptism of Ignorance.” Calvinists have the doctrine of “Irresistible Grace.” This looks like “Irresistible Baptism.” In the past we have been accused of teaching salvation by works. I can think of nothing that could be closer to verifying that accusation than teaching that one is saved even if he rejects the scriptural teaching on the purpose of baptism. This appears perilously close to being a sacrament in which grace is released by a mere act of obedience, --like pulling the lever on a pop machine.
I have answered those who accused us of salvation by works by pointing out that we place more importance on faith than they do. We teach not only who Jesus is but that you must believe what He says. Those who come to God must not only believe that He is but that he is “a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). For this reason we do not baptize Infants. Baptism must be obeyed “from the heart” (Rom. 6:17).
The crowd that teaches “Irresistible Baptism” views it as necessary, so technically this is not “faith only.” However, since it accepts as brothers in Christ all who are baptized it provides a rationalization to fellowship the whole “faith only” camp. The result is to squelch convictions and dilute the importance of baptism and it is almost inevitable that is where they and those who follow them will end up. Some have concluded it is not necessary to be immersed and many are joining with the un-immersed and even the charismatic tongues-babbling false-prophets as “brothers” in wholesale fellowship.
Acceptance of what God says is necessary. Jesus is not Lord of those who will not believe him. Throughout the New Testament, candidates were told the purpose (or result, if you will) of baptism. Nothing could be plainer. There is no more excuse for ignorance on this than denial of the resurrection or that Jesus is the Christ. This is “God’s part” but it was clearly intended to be believed. It is not my job to invent some way around the Word to get people in who will not accept what God says.
It is argued that different passages on baptism give different purposes. Therefore, it must not have been necessary to know that baptism is for remission of sins.
The fact that purpose, in one form or another, is consistently included in instructions to those being baptized indicates the need to know. If there was no need to know, why the emphasis?
Furthermore, it is false to assume that what is recorded in an account is all that was said on that occasion. The scriptures undoubtedly record only a kernel of what was said. While any one occasion may not contain all that was taught, the whole truth can never be less than the sum of all that the Scriptures teach on the subject. Sound Bible students recognize that while one conversion mentions faith, another repentance, another confession and another baptism, that does not mean that there are different plans of salvation or that any of it is dispensable. The emphasis on each occasion was upon the need at the time. When I was on the farm, if the cows were getting out, we focused attention on fixing that part of the fence.
Faith itself is not totally defined in every text. In one place it just says to believe on the Lord (Acts 16:31). In another it says “he that comes to God must believe that he is and that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). Another says that we must believe that Jesus is the Christ, (the Messiah) (John 8:24; 20:31). In another it says that we must believe that he died and rose again (1Cor 15:1-4). We cannot dispense with any of these concepts because different passages emphasize different features.
The claim that there are “more than thirty-some different reasons for being baptized” is misleading. A fair examination of the passages reveals that, though the statements vary, the substance of each is the same. “Saved,” “crucified,” “died,” “washed,” “remission of sins,” “born again,” “into Christ,” “in the name of Christ,” “put on Christ,” “children of Abraham,” and “new life,” are in nature representing the same concepts, and often more than one are included in the same context. Even “receive the Holy Spirit,” would be hard pressed to separate from the basic idea of becoming a child of God (Mat. 28:19; Eph. 1:13-14; 1Cor. 12:13-14; Acts 2:38; 1Jn 5:8, John 3:5, etc.). From a practical scriptural standpoint, it would be most difficult to avoid teaching a summary of them all.
Nor is the fact that some get unnecessarily re-baptized, a reason for not baptizing those who never were baptized for the right reason. I want to be sure that those who are baptized know what they are doing, but I certainly do not believe that God would have any objection to a person making sure he had done all that was expected. Why the objection? Re-baptism is certainly scriptural. The twelve men at Ephesus (Ac. 19) had been baptized because they wanted to obey God. However, since it had not been done for the right reason, they were baptized again.
It is true that some people, especially the mentally retarded, repeatedly want to be baptized as a reassurance due to failure of memory or because they feel they have sinned again and need washed to get clean. I do not find this much of a problem. These things are easily solved without accepting baptism in ignorance or denial of the need to know the scriptural purposes,
I simply ask whether the person has been baptized into Christ, perhaps citing some of the other scriptural statements. If they begin telling me that baptism has nothing to do with forgiveness I know they have been mis-taught and the way is open for correction. If they say they have been baptized into Christ, I accept their word. Outside of the theological deniers, there is little misunderstanding what is meant by the phrase, “baptized into Christ.”
If they are unsure about their baptism I teach them and let them make the decision as to what they want to do. If they later come back to be re-baptized, I question why they did so in the first place. If their answer indicates it was to become a Christian, to be saved or such like, I suggest that is all that is required. If they are still not satisfied I try to make sure they understand fully and then go ahead and baptize them. Surely God would not be angry at one who was re-baptized because he wanted to be sure. If it appears they may later again have questions, I would have them write down their reasons for doing so, give them a copy and keep one for any future reminder. Re-baptism is a personal decision and should be refused only on the clearest basis of having fulfilled all the scripture requires. We can not play God.
It is argued that “remission of sins is God’s part and we need only do our part.”
FAITH INCLUDES BELIEVING GOD’S PART IN SALVATION
The assumption that we need not know any of God’s part is false. The nature of faith requires that we accept God’s promises. In fact, almost everything we do depends upon purpose.
Hebrews 11:6 says that “He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” Romans 10:9-10 speaks of confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God has raised him from the dead. It is the faith that God looks at. Actions alone are dead works.
OUR WORSHIP MUST BE IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH
John 4:24. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
WE MUST KNOW CHRIST’S PART IN PARTAKING OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Consider the same principle in the Communion. Purpose is essential when eating the Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11:27-29). Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me.” Paul says that those who eat without discerning the body bring damnation on themselves. For this reason many of them were sick and asleep. Indeed, Paul indicated that without the right purpose, their eating would be their own supper rather than the Lord’s.
WE MUST KNOW GOD’S PART WHEN WE PRAY
The right purpose is essential in prayer (James 1:5-7). James said that if we are to receive anything of the Lord we must “ask in faith, nothing doubting.” Just because there are many reasons for prayer was not a justification for omitting belief in God’s part. God does not accept vain repetitions (Mat 6:7). Praying only because God said to is not enough. Upon what basis is it enough in baptism?
WE MUST SING WITH THE SPIRIT AND UNDERSTANDING
Eph 5:19 and Col. 3:16 indicate the purpose of our singing must be correct. It must be with “understanding.” Empty words are not enough, however true they may be.
Eph. 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
GIVING MUST HAVE THE RIGHT PURPOSE TO BE ACCEPTABLE
Giving to be seen of men is not acceptable, even if it is because God said to give. (Mat. 5:5) Giving without love, is empty before God (1Cor. 13:1-3).
THE PURPOSE EVEN MADE A DIFFERENCE IN CIRCUMCISION
Paul circumcised Timothy but refused to circumcise Titus. The difference was intent. In Gal. 4:2-4 Paul warned that those who are circumcised for the purpose of being justified by the Law, Christ profits them nothing.
Doing a thing because the Bible says to do it is not the same as doing it for the reason God said. Baptism because God said to do it is not the same as Baptism for (or unto) remission of sins.
If it does not make any difference why we are baptized the next logical conclusion is that it makes no difference how we are baptized. Next, it makes no difference when we are baptized (infants or adults). Ultimately it makes no difference whether we are baptized. Many in the Restoration Movement fell into that error and only those already drifting into advanced stages of spiritual denial will doubt that it can and will happen again unless we wake up, draw a line, and stand firm against this trend.
The fact is that it is impossible to prove their claim that it is unnecessary to know the purpose of baptism. Where in the Bible can it be shown that anyone became a Christian without knowing the purpose? Where does it ever teach that knowing the purpose was unimportant? “What saith the scriptures?”
The Eunuch has been cited as having only confessed that “Jesus Christ is the son of God.”
Construing this to mean that he needed to believe nothing else is a serious misunderstanding of the facts. May we [erroneously] conclude that he did not believe that Jesus died, was buried and raised – the Gospel “by which we are saved”? (1Cor. 15:1-4).
Philip surely had taught many things not stated in his confession. Indeed, the very fact that the Eunuch asked to be baptized indicates this. Upon what basis should we conclude that he was not told the purpose of obeying the gospel or the results?
Acts 19:1-5 They were baptized into the name of Christ.
1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples: 2 and he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they (said) unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was (given). 3 And he said, Into [#1519 “eis”] what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into [“eis”] John’s baptism. 4 And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on [“eis”] him that should come after him, that is, on [“eis”] Jesus. 5 And when they heard this, they were baptized into [“eis”] the name of the Lord Jesus.(ASV)
“Into the Name” is an intellectual function involving acceptance of the authority of Jesus. “Baptizing” is a physical action to accomplish this. “Into” (Greek: eis) is the preposition that, with transitive verbs, indicates change of position or state to another.
These were twelve “disciples.” They had been baptized with John’s baptism. John’s baptism was from God (Matt. 21:25; Mark 1:4) but was only “unto (#1519 “eis”) repentance.” The action performed was correct and it was certainly to obey God. John preached repentance and the kingdom, and certainly the coming of the Messiah. However, that was not enough. They needed to do it for the right purpose.
Paul asked whether they had received the Holy Spirit since they were baptized, undoubtedly having reference to the outpouring (Ac. 19:6; 8:16) that provided “manifestations,” (1Cor 12:7), or “signs” (Mk. 16:17, 20; Heb. 2:4) of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This was, given through the laying on of the hands of the apostles (Ac. 19:6; Ac. 8:14, 17, 19; 2Tim. 1:6). When they responded that they did not know that the Holy Spirit was given (cf. Matt. 28:19-20), Paul knew something was wrong with their baptism and questioned what they were baptized “into (“eis”). Anyone baptized into Christ should know they were to receive the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38; 1Cor 12:13; John 3:5; 1John 5:8; Mat 28:19, Tit 3:5)
It is clear that “Into what were you baptized?” has to do with purpose. It twice specifies that they were to “believe on (“eis”) Christ,” which certainly indicates purpose. Use of the same construction, “baptized into (“eis”) the name,” is surely purpose. This is much like Gal. 3:26-27 where baptism “into Christ” was explanatory of becoming “children of God by faith.”
Matthew 28:19. “Baptizing them into the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
The passage clearly indicates that in baptism the person is to accept the authority of Jesus. Baptism into the name of some denominational church doesn’t cut it.
“Baptized into Christ” may be either the actual transition or an intellectual function. “In Christ” is the resulting condition. “If any man is in Christ he is a new creature” (II Cor. 5:17). He has “now no condemnation” (Rom. 8:1).
“Into the name” is clearly the person’s purpose in baptism.
Acts 2:38. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for [#1519 “eis”] the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.”
It says they were to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” The Greek literally says, “upon [epi] the name.” This is one of the variations of this phrase which also is given as “in [en] the name,” and “into [eis] the name. Baptism was to invoke or call “upon” the name (Ac. 2:21; 22:16; Rom. 10:13; I Peter 3:21). “There is no condemnation to those who are IN Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). “In the name” indicates mental recognition or purpose of the result.
The purpose is “for remission of your sins.” There is absolutely no basis for the claim that “remission” need not be understood. The very purpose for telling them was to inform and motivate.
When they believed Peter, it certainly became their purpose. If the apostle, inspired by the Holy Spirit, considered this to be needed, upon what basis may we, 2000 years later, assume it was not? If it was included in the scriptures “for our learning,” by what right may anyone claim that knowledge was unnecessary?
“And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.”
This clearly shows that salvation was being taught as the result of faith and obedience. God wanted them to know that. It then says, “Those who gladly received the word were baptized.” They were baptized on condition that they “gladly received” what was said. It takes a mighty imagination to see people here being baptized without knowing it was for remission of sin.
It is further enlightening to compare the statement, “baptized for the remission of sins” with Matt. 26:28 which says Jesus’ blood was poured out “for the remission of sins.” Both have identical constructions. The purpose of Jesus shedding his blood was to accomplish remission of sins. Likewise, the purpose of being baptized is to receive remission of sins. If not, why not?
Acts 8:12, 16. The Samaritans were baptized into the name of Jesus. 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized into [“eis”] the name of the Lord Jesus.)
“Kingdom” calls to mind the teaching of Jesus, “Except one is born of water and spirit he can not enter the kingdom of God” (cf. Jn. 3:5).
Again, “Baptized into the name,” refers back to The Great Commission (Matt. 28:19). Were they to be baptized in ignorance of the fact that they were baptized into the authority of Jesus?
The claim that understanding that “Jesus as Lord” is the only essential purpose of baptism, is unfounded. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Mat 7:21).
If Jesus is truly Lord, the person will obey all he says—whether belief or action. “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins” (Ac. 2:38), is a command of God. “Be baptized, calling on the name of the Lord” (Ac. 22:16) is also part of obedience. “Baptizing them into the name” (Mat. 28:19), likewise is a command.
I Peter 3:20-21. Appealing in baptism to God for a clear conscience is clearly necessary.
20…when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” RSV
How could it be stated any plainer? Without the appeal to God for a clear conscience, baptism becomes nothing but an empty form.
“Appeal,” is a noun which Strong gives as “#1906 eperotema; an inquiry: KJV—answer.” That is the purpose. How can one have a clear conscience who does not appeal? A clear conscience comes through forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
The Greek word appears only once in the New Testament but it comes from the verb (#1905 “eperotao”) which is rendered in the King James as, “ask” 53 times, “demand” 2, “desire” 1, “ask a question” 1, “question” 1, and “ask after” 1 = 59 total.
Acts 22:16. In baptism we are to be calling on the name of the Lord. Paul said, “what must I do Lord?” (Ac. 22:10). He was told to go into Damascus and there it would told him what he must do (Acts 9:6). He went there and waited three days, neither eating nor drinking (Ac. 9:9), praying to God (Ac. 9:11). He saw a vision of Ananias coming to him (Ac. 9:12). Ananias came, laid his hands upon him, and he was healed (Ac. 9:17-18). Yet, he still had his sins. Ananias said, 16 “And now, why do you wait? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sin, calling on His name.” (Ac. 22:16)
What does “calling on His name,” mean? Romans 10:13 indicates it is invoking the name. Peter calls it an “appeal to God for a clear conscience” (I Pet. 3:21). It is through the name of Jesus (Ac. 10:43, 48) that we receive remission.
“Calling on His name” is to receive remission of sins. In other passages it speaks of being “baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” but that does not help the “lordship only” claim because the purpose is to get into His name—become a Christian. We accept baptism for that purpose but “faith only” teachers deny it.
Most passages on baptism indicate they came into Christ, or were saved at baptism. It is impossible to prove in any case that knowledge of baptism’s purpose in some form was absent and unnecessary.
Those who insist on no-purpose baptism often argue that it never says that if a person does not understand the purpose of baptism, they will be lost. What they miss is that God does not have to tell us just how much we can deviate from what he says to be lost. He just tells us what to do to be saved and if we obey, we are safe. When we start trying to see how much we can disregard and still get by, our heart is not really right.
Insisting on us proving a negative is invalid. To insist on a premise that is impossible to disprove is to require something that cannot be proven. Because there is no way to test it, that which can not be shown false can not be shown to be true. It does not follow that if God does not say people who reject something he says are damned, that they are necessarily saved. When God tells us how to get into Christ, that is the only way we can recognize who is in Christ.
One basic error of no purpose baptism is that it depends upon an assumption that can never be proven. The purpose of baptism, --“forgiveness,” to get “into Christ,” “to be saved,” to “receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” etc., when taught before baptism, necessarily becomes part of the purpose of the person baptized. The arbitrary assumption that if it is the result, it cannot be the purpose, is seriously flawed. That, in effect, makes it impossible for any statement to be the purpose because when the purpose is fulfilled it always becomes a result.
On the other hand, if we accept that what people were told before baptism was necessary the problem is resolved. They were told what they needed to know to be baptized. This became their purpose and upon being baptized the purpose became the results. Where is the problem? It is only in refusal to believe what we are told. To that extent it is a limitation upon the lordship of Christ.
How can we maintain that knowledge of what was to take place was unnecessary when all candidates for baptism were told these things in advance—not as instruction following baptism? There were no modern preachers denying that baptism was for remission of sins. Would the apostles have baptized them if they had refused to accept what they were taught? Upon what basis may we assume that those who reject the purpose of baptism will receive it anyway?
Col. 2:12. “having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.
In baptism, we are raised with him “through faith in the working of God” (cf. Heb. 11:6). What work is God doing in baptism? --Forgiveness of sin. We must have faith that God is forgiving sin. We are being buried and raised to a new life. If not, why not? What other work is God doing in baptism? The idea that we will receive this while in ignorance--and even in rejection of this truth, is against the fundamental principal that in the New Testament what we are told to do requires faith (Heb. 8:9-12). In the Old Testament they circumcised their children and later taught them to know the Lord (Heb. 8). Under the new, everything is a mater of the heart. Our “circumcision” is that of the heart (Col. 2:11; 2Cor. 3:3).
Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
Some attempt to construe, “Know you not” (Rom. 6:3), as meaning “You do not need to know that you are baptized into Christ.” This just shows how desperate they are to find something to make favor their position. On the contrary, it indicates they were expected to know they had been baptized into Christ. He is not teaching the purpose of baptism but using what they should have known to show that they must not continue in sin. “Knowing this,” indicates what they must know.
Should we also conclude that they did not need to know about repentance before baptism? Verse seventeen of Rom 6, says that they, obeyed this teaching from the heart. The “teaching” contextually has to do with the fact that we are baptized into Christ and into His death. We are buried with him and rise to walk a new life. The old man is crucified with him.
Must we then be fully grounded before being baptized?
Some claim that before baptism one must be extensively “discipled.” This opposite extreme is just as false as the claim that one needs to know nothing about the meaning of baptism.
Mat. 28:19-20. Jesus said to make disciples, baptizing and teaching them all things. Making disciples certainly involves teaching in preparation for baptism but the major teaching of “all things” follows baptism. So, how much initial teaching constitutes “making disciples”?
Acts 2:38-41. Three thousand on Pentecost were taught and baptized the same day.
Acts 16:30-33. The pagan jailor and his household were baptized the same hour of the night.
Acts 10:44-48. Cornelius, a Gentile, and his household were baptized the same day.
Acts 16:14-15. Lydia and her household were baptized the same day after which she invited them into her house.
Acts 9:18; 22:16. Paul, at Damascus, after only a few words of instruction as to what he must do (Acts 9:6; 22:10), was baptized immediately.
Acts 19:4-5. The twelve men of Ephesus were baptized after only a brief teaching.
Those who wish to make baptism inclusive, regardless of what one believes about it, often try to make it appear that we are making baptism a work to earn salvation.
Here is an interesting quote from Luther that expresses the case well.
“But if they say, as they are accustomed: Still Baptism is itself a work, and you say works are of no avail for salvation; what then, becomes of faith?
Answer: Yes, our works, indeed, avail nothing for salvation; Baptism, however, is not our work, but God’s (for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper’s baptism). God’s works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God’s command and ordinance, and besides in God’s name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it.
--(for, as was stated, you must put Christ-baptism far away from a bath-keeper’s baptism). God’s works, however, are saving and necessary for salvation, and do not exclude, but demand, faith; for without faith they could not be apprehended. For by suffering the water to be poured upon you, you have not yet received Baptism in such a manner that it benefits you anything; but it becomes beneficial to you if you have yourself baptized with the thought that this is according to God’s command and ordinance, and besides in God’s name, in order that you may receive in the water the promised salvation. Now, this the fist cannot do, nor the body; but the heart must believe it. The Larger Catechism, Part Fourth –of Baptism. (Ages Digital Library p. 115)
HANDLING THE PROBLEM OF LACK OF UNDERSTANDING
How much must be known about the purpose of baptism by the person who wants to join the fellowship is not a major problem. That is easily handled on an individual basis. Show them what the Bible says in Romans 6 and ask if they have been baptized into Christ. If Jesus is their Lord, they will accept and obey what the word of God says. If they will not then we have no basis to accept them as being in Christ. I am not God. I cannot know their heart. I can only know them by their fruits. One fruit is acceptance of Jesus as Lord. Lordship requires acceptance of what he says and obedience to it.
We need not be intimidated by people’s rejection of what God says. They have not rejected our word, but God’s. Desire for acceptance and fear of rejection can levy a powerful influence. Being accused that “You think you are the only ones right” is a most effective tool of the devil. However, that is a false motive. Paul said he was not ashamed of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). Neither should we.
Jesus warned, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you (John 15:20).”
Again, in Mat. 5:11-12, he said,
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”
That is the price of having Jesus as our Lord. Instead of trying to dilute the message to make it more acceptable we need to stand firm for what He says.
The “Bible” of this fad is a book by a non-instrumental brother, Jimmy Allen, “RE-BAPTISM, What One Must Know To Be Born Again.” (Howard Publishing Co. 1991) Jimmy is the most recent Guru to champion this falsehood. He maintains that it is not necessary to know that baptism is for remission of sin—and even if they deny it, the person becomes a Christian when baptized.
He seems a bit touchy about his book being critically reviewed; but anyone who publishes such a controversial claim, must expect critical examination.
Chapter 2, “WHY WRITE THIS BOOK?” is especially revealing. He cites 13 reasons, not one of which is based on scriptural authority.
He first cites the re-baptism craze of the Boston Movement.
I could not care less had he cited the Mormons. One extreme does not justify another. We are told in scripture not to turn to the right hand or to the left. The ditch on one side is just as deep as the other. Jimmy is in over his head.
1. He cites “remission of sins” as something “God does,” and throughout the book he keeps repeating the erroneous assumption that if it is something God does it is not something we must believe.
“..when the Lord commands people to obey a command, whose purpose he fulfills, they must do only the former and not the latter.”
If that were so we would not have to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Heb. 11:6 plainly says we must not only believe that God is but that he “rewards those who diligently seek him.” In Acts. 2:37-41 Peter told them what God would do because they needed to know it. Upon what basis does Jimmy contend otherwise?
Jimmy then cites the parallel between the purpose of baptism in Acts 2:38 and the purpose of the Lord’s Supper in 1Cor. 11:29 where it teaches that it is necessary to discern the body and blood of the Lord. He misses the point that the sacrifice of Christ is the means of forgiveness of sins in both cases. Indeed, we even have parallel statements in comparing “for the remission of sins” in Acts 2:38 and Matt. 26:28. In both cases “remission” is God’s part which the participant is to believe. The same is true of prayer in James 1:5-7.
2. He cites the Philippian jailer as not being able to know all the reasons for baptism in one hour. That sounds like the nonsense argued for sprinkling that it was “not possible on Pentecost to baptize three thousand people in one day.” I could easily read what was told to every convert in Acts in a half-hour.
3. Another “reason” Allen offers is that a Christian learns more about immersion after being baptized.
ANSWER: The issue is not whether he learned something after baptism, but do we need to know why we are to be baptized? The person being baptized does not have to memorize all of the statements in the Bible to accept the substance. We learn additional things about faith after becoming a Christian. Does that mean that we do not need to know that Christ died for us? Is that not “God’s part?”
He then makes an outrageous statement that, “If so, there are not any Christians living today. Furthermore, there never have been any.” He has constructed a straw man requiring comprehension of everything on the subject and then declares it impossible to achieve. That is his construction, not ours. Don’t hang your absurdities on us. It is unfair. It is illogical. It is misrepresentation. And it is un-Christian.
4. Another “reason” Allen offers is his study of American Restoration History revealed that many of those leaders did not believe it was necessary to understand it was for remission.
First, many others believed otherwise. Some of the citations he gives refer to earlier beliefs that later were changed. The fact that many who just left the Presbyterians and Baptists made conflicting statements is no authority. They were shaking free from the errors of the past. The longer they were out of denominationalism and studied the scriptures the more they learned.
Furthermore, that is nothing new. In fact, Alexander Campbell himself insisted that people were Christians who had never been immersed.
In the Millennial Harbinger of 1837, p.411-414 (quoted in “Christians Only” by Murch, p.118?) he said,
“But he that thence infers that none are Christians but the immersed, as greatly errs as he who affirms that none are alive but those of clear and full vision.”
In any case, I am not a “Campbellite.” The Restoration Movement is not my standard. No man is my authority. People make mistakes. The word of God is my only authority (Mk 7:5-7).
5. Another “reason” Allen gives is “Because of our plea.”
ANSWER: Jimmy cites the plea as, “Let us no more be Baptist Christians, Methodist Christians, or any other kind of Christians, but Christians only.” He then goes on to argue that there must be some Christians among the denominations.
My first question is, must we also, “because of our plea,” recognize that those who are sprinkled are Christians? Does he accept Methodist, Presbyterian or Catholic “baptism”?
Secondly, I am unaware of any preacher who denies that there are some people among the denominations who have been scripturally immersed. However, we do not recognize as Christians those who have not been scripturally baptized. I respectfully submit that if our plea recognizes those not scripturally baptized as Christians, our plea, not the Bible, is wrong.
6. Another “reason” Allen gives is “Because of talks with older brethren.”
ANSWER: The traditions of the elders is not my standard. Jesus had a lot of problems with that sort of thinking (Mark 7:5-9).
7. Another “reason” Allen gives is “Because of little incidents in life.”
ANSWER: I find those incidents have little relationship to the issue and no scriptural value.
8. Another “reason” he gives is: Because it became virtually impossible for him to believe that the non- instrumental music congregations, are the only ones on the face of the earth who have entered the kingdom of God.
It is also virtually impossible for me to believe that but how far are we willing to carry such Logic? –how about the millions of Catholics who pour water on babies? It does not follow that I must recognize as Christians, those who are not baptized for remission of sins. My Bible says, “Except a man is born of the water and Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” On judgment day the standard will not be what either Jimmy or I choose to believe but what the word of God has revealed (Jn. 12:48). Rom. 3:4 Let God be true, but every man a liar.
9. Another “reason” Allen gives is because he saw that the administrator of baptism is unimportant.
ANSWER: So do I. So what? --Another erroneous issue injected to appeal to prejudice.
10. Another “reason” Allen gives is because of an unwillingness to accept the conclusion that Thomas Campbell and others of the Restoration movement never experienced the new birth.
Yes Jimmy, “this kind of thinking is dangerous. Regardless of what men have done, the Bible is right. We must be extremely cautious lest we wrest the Word of God to justify men.”
Not only is this unsound thinking but it is redundant (see #4 above).
11. Another “reason” Allen gives is because of the realization that some of his preaching colleagues are unwittingly teaching error on baptism. He thinks they are being arbitrary.
Nothing is more arbitrary than claiming that the candidate needs not know what God has told him about the results of baptism. He has not cited one statement of scripture that would substantiate the claim.
It is also very arbitrary to disregard the fact that getting into Christ, being clothed with Christ, being in union with Christ etc. are all teaching a change or relationship at baptism produced by forgiveness of sin. I will accept any scriptural statement on baptism but I refuse to accept those who do not recognize what the God’s word says.
12. Another “reason” Allen gives is because of the desire to be undenominational.
Perhaps we should dispense with baptism altogether—plus the Lord’s Supper. Both are “barriers to our fellowship with the denominations.” The desire to be undenominational can not be used to open where God has not opened. Shall we join the ecumenical movement? Jesus wants unity but He specified that it should be through being sanctified in the truth (Jn. 17:17).
All true Christians are in one body but only those who meet God’s standards are true Christians (1Cor. 12:13).
13. Another “reason” Allen gives is because of a desire to promote the unity for which Jesus prayed (John 17:20-22).
ANSWER: Jesus prayed that they might be “sanctified in the truth—thy word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). No one has the right to promote unity by disregarding the truth for which He prayed (John 17:17, 19).
In Allen’s book, much of his time was spent trying to impress us with the fact that many Restoration leaders at one time or another held that knowing the purpose of baptism was unnecessary. As we have already pointed out, many of them took a long time getting out of errors and on some things some of them never did. That proves nothing. Even those conclusions seem to be confused (p.63-67). They were trying to find their way out. I am not going back in.
It is folly to think that by recognizing those who reject baptism into Christ as Christians that we will be able to convince them that in baptism we receive remission of sins. To them, recognition of them as Christians has yielded the case. How can an act, performed without the purpose result in being saved by faith? That is pure salvation by works, just as they charge.
Yielding that case goes no farther towards solving the problem. You still have the same arguments to deal with, and they will be still just as determined to show that you teach salvation by works.
Jimmy repeatedly recites the error that “if it is a reward for obedience to the command, it cannot be a part of the command” (p.100). “The forgiveness is the act of God, and man cannot obey or do God’s part in any work.” (p.101)
On p.146 he cites the argument of Harvey Floyd that, “God can work even when we are ignorant.”
God can do anything He pleases but that does not give us the right to disregard what he teaches. The exception does not void the rule. God CAN from stones raise up children to Abraham from (Mt. 3:9), but we have no right to teach that people should have children that way.
I am particularly annoyed by some things in the book that appear to be outright misrepresentation. For example, on p.151 he says, “If [remission of sins ..is part of the command to be baptized]..the Lord has commanded men to remit their own sins..”
Such a statement of the case is misrepresentation, untrue, illogical and outrageous. No one claims that it means we must remit our own sins. We have the responsibility of believing and obeying but God is the one who remits sin. Col. 2:12 indicates this is while we are baptized, calling on His name for forgiveness (Acts 22:16; 2:38; 1Pet 3:21). Fortunately, in the New Testament, Christians did not have any “Faith Only” theologians telling them that baptism was a work having nothing to do with salvation.
After reading Jimmy Allen’s book, my conclusion is that his scriptural analysis is sloppy, his logic flawed, and his handling of the truth is loose.
Most of us have those in our congregations who regularly attend because they appreciate the loving Bible-centered nature of our activities but decline to be scripturally baptized. They may be in transition, or just very set in their thinking. This is so not only regarding the purpose of baptism, but as to the method of baptism, (i.e., immersion, versus sprinkling or pouring) --or even whether baptism as an infant is sufficient. We do not escape difficulty by denying the need to know or do something.
The answer is to teach them “both publicly and from house to house” (Ac. 20:20). In time they may obey the Lord. Other than membership and leadership in the corporate body, there should be no problem, if they do not push their error.
How do I view those who choose not to accept? With caring and prayer for their welfare. I desire that they come to the truth but I recognize their right to make that a personal decision and to progress at their own rate.
As Paul did concerning the Jews (Rom 10:1), I pray with all my heart that His overwhelming grace will flow out and cover the sincerely un-baptized, and, for that matter, even those who never heard the gospel. Perhaps that will be the case but I have no right to in any way weaken what God has said.
I can not recognize people as Christians who God has not recognized. I can recognize them as sincerely trying to follow God. Does God help those who have not yet obeyed everything? Certainly. Did He not listen to the Israelites in Egypt before they were “baptized into Moses in the Cloud and in the sea” (1Cor. 10:1-4; Ex. 14:30)? Did not God hear the Centurion’s prayer before he was baptized? (Ac. 10:31)
I am greatly concerned about the direction of some of the new generation. I have already seen this movie. It is “a-bad-un.” It ended in tragedy for the greatest indigenous movement on this continent. “Be not deceived, evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1Cor.15:33). It is like the fabled experiment on frogs where, if the temperature is gradually raised it will eventually be cooked without ever realizing what is taking place and jumping to safety. However, that choice rests with them--and the outcome will rest with them also. I do not mean to be abusive. I am just warning of a trend that in the past has been a disaster.
On the other hand I see much hope. Many have recognized the danger. Others are open to hear. All they need is an opportunity to see the issues and dangers and time to think them through. It may even take some testing for them to see the truth of what is said.
In any case, it is important that we deal with this matter with patience and care. Fear often turns to anger. However, getting into a war will not resolve the problem. It will only polarize and shut down dialogue. Hostility and bitterness turns people off and undermines rather than furthering our efforts--especially among our children and the weak.
What we need is open and respectful discussion. People need to be informed--not attacked. We must not sit and do nothing but neither must we turn it into a mortal struggle. Let’s not reject each other. Let us communicate. Honest people who love God will more likely come to a scriptural conclusion than shouting insults. We must speak the truth, but it must be “in love” (Eph. 4:15).
Eph. 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
We stand at the crossroads. We can go back where we came from or we can go on unto perfection (Heb 6:1).
The “Church of The Itching Ears” is always just around the corner.
2 Tim. 4:1-4:
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (KJV)