All posts by Jon Mitchell

The Baptism of Infants — Stephen Hughes

At the time that this will be published, my wife will have just given birth to our first child. It is a very emotional time for both of us, and it is one that I look forward to with great anticipation. There is, however, some trepidation involved in this undertaking. We now have the task of raising this little girl in a Christian household with Christian values. I pray every day that we are up to this task. I also pray that she will grow up to be an amazing Christian woman so that she will be with the Lord in eternity some day. The weight of bringing a soul into the world that may one day end up in hell motivates me to be the best Christian father I can be.

It is the common practice among many, including Roman Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians, to baptize infants. If my wife and I were members of these denominations, then we would have already scheduled a baptismal service for our baby girl in a few months. This practice of infant baptism, also known as paedobaptism, runs counter to the teachings of Scripture as this article will prove.

Throughout the New Testament, there are only accounts of adults who were baptized. Each candidate for baptism had the capability to believe in Jesus and repent of his or her sins—infants cannot do either. Despite these facts the proponents for infant baptism will bring up certain passages of Scripture to defend their practice. This article will examine the most widely used of those passages to see whether or not this practice is authorized by Christ in His Word.

Jesus And The Little Children

The first passage under consideration is recorded in three of the four gospel accounts. Matthew’s reads, “Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matt. 19:13-14). The problem is that baptism is not mentioned at all in this passage. Luke does record that infants were involved, but this is hardly conclusive concerning baptism (Luke 18:15-17).

This passage teaches something much more profound. Jesus says in Mark’s account that, “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:15). It is not possible for someone to enter into the kingdom of God unless he receives it as a little child would, with sincerity and trust. One should not be gullible when he hears something of a religious nature, but when it comes to Scripture, he ought to be humble, trust it, and obey it as a little child would. This passage has nothing to do with the baptism of infants.

Whole Households

One of the most widely used argument for infant baptism is the fact that whole households in apostolic times were baptized. Some even argue that surely there were infants in these households. There are five instances in the New Testament where whole households were baptized: Cornelius (Acts 10:2; 11:14), Lydia (Acts 16:15), the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:34), Crispus (Acts 18:8), and Stephanas (1 Cor. 1:16). J. W. McGarvey commented on this very issue, saying that “There is positive proof that in three of these [households] there was not an infant. In that of Cornelius there was none, for they all spoke in tongues and believed [Acts 10:46; 15:9]; none in that of the jailer, for they all believed and rejoiced in the Lord [Acts 16:34]; and none in that of Stephanas, for ‘they set themselves to minister to the saints’ [1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15]” (McGarvey 94). McGarvey leaves out Crispus in his analysis, but Luke records that his whole household believed. His point is that in none of these three cases do we see infants, for infants cannot believe, speak, let alone speak in tongues, or become ministers, yet Luke records that all the members of these respective households did these things.

Luke’s account of the conversion of Lydia, however, does not mention the faith of Lydia or her household. It says, “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized …” (Acts 16:14-15a). While the faith of Lydia is not explicitly mentioned, it is implied, just as the faith of her household is implied. Even many paedobaptists of McGarvey’s day admitted that there is no evidence one way or the other whether or not Lydia had infants in her home. He quotes Dean Plumptre who said, “… there is no evidence that she had children, or even that she was married. The household may well have consisted of female slaves and freed-women whom she employed, and who made up her familia” (McGarvey 95).

Baptism Unites With Christ

The question the paedobaptist will ask is why anyone would wish to exclude infants from the blessings found in Christ.  The person who is baptized is baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Sin, however, is what separates someone from God (Is. 59:2).  An infant has not sinned and is therefore not separated from God.  The guilt of sin is not passed down through the generations (Ezek. 18:20), but one does often bear the earthly consequences of the sins of his predecessors (Rom. 5:12; Ex. 20:5).

Paul described himself as a child then as an adult, saying, “I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (Rom. 7:9). Similarly, when one is born, he is alive spiritually. When he becomes an adult, he begins to understand what God requires of him, and the commandment has come. Then only after he breaks the commandment does he die being separated from God. An act to bring reconciliation to God is not necessary for an infant who has not yet been separated from Him.

Typically the paedobaptist will resort to tradition when it comes to the practice under consideration. Some do attempt to use the Bible, but their reasoning falls flat. There is no record within Scripture of an infant being baptized.

As I consider these arguments with the birth of my daughter, I cannot help but desire the best for her and for her to be in heaven one day. Baptizing her as an infant, however, will not increase her devotion nor will it alter what my wife and I teach her. Most importantly, the Bible does not require it nor teach it. I do pray that one day she will be baptized, but it will be after she has heard and understood the gospel, believed it, repented of her sins, and confessed the beautiful name of Christ. Only then can she have her sins washed away with the blood of Christ in baptism. That will be a glorious and beautiful day—not only for my wife and me, but for the angels in glory as well. 

Stephen and his family worship at the Walterboro Church of Christ in Walterboro, SC.

 

 

Baptism: Are We Saved By Works? — Jon Mitchell

The Scriptures clearly teach that baptism is something one must do in order to be saved and have sins forgiven (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Yet many disagree with this for several reasons.  One such objection stems from a very understandable line of thought, mainly this.  The Bible says we are not saved by works in Ephesians 2:8-9.  Baptism is a work.  Therefore, baptism is not necessary for salvation.

Certainly baptism is something one does, and therefore is a “work.”  However, is it a work of merit (by which one earns salvation)…or is it a work of faith (by which one receives salvation)?  Furthermore, who is the one doing the work?  Is it the man or woman who submits to being immersed…or is it God who forgives and regenerates them through the blood of Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit?

In answering these legitimate questions, it must first be pointed out that there are different kinds of works.  There are works of merit which are done to earn something.  Those who have done such works believe they deserve something; they believe they will be saved because they did good deeds and went to church, or read their Bibles, or something to that effect.  Yet all the good we might do cannot outweigh even one sin (James 2:10).  That’s why we need God’s grace and our faith in order to be saved (Rom. 3:27-28; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:4-5).

There are also works of faith which are done to receive something.  Those who do works of faith believe that they deserve nothing because they understand that their obedience does not earn or merit their salvation.  They know their salvation rests upon God’s grace and mercy, not because God owes them anything.

This is why works of faith could also be called works of God.  In fact, Jesus calls faith exactly that (John 6:28-29).  Other works of faith which God commands are repentance (Acts 17:30) and confession (Rom. 10:9-10).  Jesus Himself will specifically state on the day of judgment that those who enter Heaven do so because of the benevolent deeds done by them in their lives, while those condemned to hell are in that terrible state because of the lack of benevolent deeds done in their lives (Matt. 25:31-46).

To those who say one does not have to be baptized in order to be saved because baptism is a work, I ask this.  Does one have to have faith in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (John 3:16; Mark 16:16).  Does faith require works, something done by you?  Yes (James 2:14-26).  Does one have to repent of sins in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  Is repentance a work, a deed done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to confess their faith in Christ before men in order to be saved?  Jesus said so (Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10).  Is confession a work, an action done by you?  Yes.  Does one have to do good to all men at every opportunity in order to go to heaven?  Jesus thinks so (Matt. 25:31-46; Gal. 6:10).  Are benevolent deeds works, deeds done by you?  Yes.

So what’s the difference between obeying God’s commands to have faith, repent of sins, confess one’s faith before men, and do good to all men at every opportunity in order to be saved…and obeying God’s command to be baptized in order to be saved?  To ask is to answer.  Would one say that one does not have to have faith, repent of sins, confess faith, and do good to others in order to go to heaven?  Such notions blatantly contradict what the Bible teaches.  Yet if faith, repentance, confession, and doing good are required of us in order to be saved…why not baptism also, since it also is commanded by God?

What’s hard for some to understand is that even though works such as faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds are commanded by God, they are not meritorious works; we do not earn salvation through them (Luke 17:10).  Instead, they are works God has ordained we do in order to receive His salvation.  When all is said and done, salvation is still by God’s grace and mercy.

Baptism, therefore, is a work of faith.  It requires faith (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:36-37), and is an act of faith by which one receives (not earns) forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Through it one receives (not earns) union with Christ in His death and is raised with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27).  The fact that baptism is not a work of merit is emphasized by Paul when he wrote that God saves us “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:4-5).  This alludes to baptism, especially when we compare this phrase to John 3:5, 23 and Acts 8:36-39 and 10:47-48.  Yet Paul still says that baptism does not save us by “works of righteousness” (i.e., works of merit).  God does not owe us salvation because we were baptized.

Baptism, like faith, repentance, confession and benevolent deeds, is simply an act of faith by which we receive salvation.  This is so because baptism involves the working of God (Col. 2:11-13).  God does the work, not us!  It’s God who makes us alive through baptism, praise His name!

 

Being Saved Like The Thief On The Cross — Byran Hatcher

There is a sense in which everyone is saved just like the thief on the cross. Every person that will stand justified and reign with the Savior is saved the same way the thief was as he hung nailed on a Roman cross next to the Lord. Paul wrote, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). From Adam until the Lord returns, every person is saved by God’s grace (His part in man’s salvation) and man’s faith (man’s part in salvation).

Every human being that has lived or will live can have peace with the God of peace and reside in the Heavenly realm for eternity. Such is the love of the Father. He desires that all men everywhere are saved from sin so that Heaven can be their eternal abode (2 Pet. 3:9).

Because the God of all Creation longs for His special creation to be with Him, He has revealed the plan, or eternal scheme, of how man can lay hold of eternal life. The Bible reveals God’s thoughts, plans, and Divine execution concerning the salvation of mankind.

The central figure of salvation is His Son, Jesus the Christ. God did not send His Son immediately into the world at the dawn of creation when sin first enslaved mortal man. “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). He chose instead to make salvation a process.

In that process man came to realize: 1. He was eternally lost in sin; 2. He desperately needed to find a way back to God; 3. He was powerless to reach God again, and so required help; 4. Nothing in the physical realm would help him attain heaven; 5. Without an adequate sacrifice, any law that God gave would just serve to remind man of his sinful condition.

When rightly divided (2 Tim. 2:15), the Bible student finds three distinct laws, or periods of a particular kind of law. In these three periods of time — the Patriarchal Era, the Mosaic Era, and the Christian Era — there were commandments given that might only pertain to one person for a short period of time. There were laws that only affected a specific group of people for a long period of time. How does the student of God’s Word determine which is which? Context. The context of the commandment is to be studied as well as the command. A sincere contextual study will lead the reader to understand if the commandment being studied is for him to obey.

An example of this is Abraham. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee” (Gen. 12:1). Does the Bible student read this passage and come to the immediate conclusion that it is necessary to leave their native land and become a pilgrim in some foreign place? It never would enter the mind. It is very clear that this commandment given by God (“The Lord said” is a commandment!) was to a specific person at a specific time and did not need to be obeyed by anyone else.

Now the Bible student comes to this passage:  And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

After reading this passage, many have concluded that merely saying “Lord save me” results in salvation. Is merely an acknowledgment enough for salvation today? It was not enough then, and it is not enough now. The Bible student must apply the same reasoning to this passage as to the one concerning Abraham: keep it in its context.

It must be kept in mind that other than these few spoken phrases and the fact that he is a thief being executed beside the Lord, there is no knowledge of his past. However, the things he does say exposes some things that he knows and believes.

“Dost Thou Not Fear God?”

This man believed in God. The question was uttered as a response to the other thief as he mocked Jesus and said, “If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us” (Luke 23:38). The conclusion the faithful thief made was that he and the other man were being punished, not by Rome or circumstance, but by the providence of God (Rom. 13:3). He also knew the Law. This demonstrates further to the reader that knowing the Law does not equate to obedience in every area.

“Due Reward Of Our Deeds”

He displayed godly sorrow.  Godly sorrow leads to repentance and repentance leads to salvation (2 Cor. 7:10).  This man knew that when one did right God was pleased, but when one did evil punishment was a just reward.  Every man sins (Rom. 3:23), and this man was no exception.  Even though the consequence of his sin on earth was death, it did not have to be his eternal consequence.

The mocking thief was only sorry he got caught.  He demonstrated worldly sorrow.  His sorrow not only led him to physical death, but also to eternal punishment.  The Lord only said to the one, “Today, shalt thou be with me in Paradise.”

“This Man Hath Done Nothing Amiss”

Jesus was innocent! Even the men that were condemned to die with Him knew that He had done nothing to deserve death. The faithful thief knew the character and works of the Lord. Jesus was very popular because of His miraculous works and His doctrine (Luke 9:11). It was this very popularity coupled with His leadership that caused the Jewish council and chief priests to hate Him so fiercely. Their lawless hands raised Him on that cross, and all the people knew it.

“Remember Me In Thy Kingdom”

Such a phrase could not have been expressed unless it was heard and explained. This man was exposed to the teaching of John the Baptist, the disciples of the Lord, and Jesus the Christ. John taught the people, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2). The disciples were told to preach, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 10:7). The Lord said, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

The thief must also have known something of the spiritual nature of the kingdom. He recognized the fact that he and the Lord were about to die. Yet, he still requested that he be a part of the kingdom – when the Lord comes into it. What great faith! Perhaps he heard the Lord say, “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” (Matt. 7:21).

Taking all of this evidence of what the faithful thief said, is it reasonable that he heard about baptism as well? Spoken of John the baptizer, “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). So, if the faithful thief heard John, then he heard about baptism.

Perhaps the thief was not in the Jordan valley. “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized” (John 3:22). When John the baptizer, the disciples, and the Lord preached repentance and the kingdom, they also baptized. Since the thief repented and spoke of the kingdom it is reasonable to conclude at the very least he heard of baptism, if not was even baptized.

To say that the thief was not baptized is like saying he had no wife and children.  There is no way to know if he did or did not because those facts are not revealed.

The New Testament Was Not In Effect

Assuming that this faithful thief was not baptized, does that extend to salvation today? The Hebrews writer records, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:16,17). Jesus spoke to the thief that he should be in Paradise, signifying that He was still alive and that His New Covenant was not yet in effect. Since this is the case, Jesus could save anyone He so desired in any fashion that He desired. Salvation is His power to give and to withhold.

Now that He has died and is at the right hand of God, His will is in full effect. That will commands, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). From Acts 2 forward, there is not one example of anyone being saved that was not baptized.

What is the main reason for desiring to be “saved like the thief on the cross”?  A desire to be saved without water baptism.  In essence, the masses crave a cheap salvation.

Conclusion

Salvation today comes like the faithful thief on the cross. From his very words, there is revealed a process of salvation. He heard the Word; He believed that Word; He demonstrated Godly sorrow and repented; He proclaimed his belief before men that Jesus was going to His kingdom and that he desired to be a part of that kingdom. Jesus granted that request. Jesus gave His grace and mercy to that man just before his legs were broken, and he gasped his last painful breath.

That man turned to Jesus as the source of his salvation.  Today all sinners that desire salvation must submit to that process in His revealed will and call on His name (Acts 22:16).

bulldband24@gmail.com

Byran is the preacher for the Cape Fear Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC.  He does mission work in Southeast Asia, is a part-time instructor of Fishers of Men, and is an instructor at Central Carolina School of Preaching.  He is married to Jennifer and they have two children in college.

 

 

The Necessity of Baptism For Salvation — Hugh Fulford

Baptism is an old and much discussed topic by gospel preachers.  It has long been a theological battleground, the subject of much discussion and many debates.  Preachers who want to be true to the word of God must continue to set forth what the Bible says about this subject.

Nearly every church as an “official position” on baptism.  However, the churches of Christ have no humanly determined “official position” on baptism or any other subject.  We strive to occupy the Bible position on this as well as every other spiritual matter.  The Bible alone is our “creed book,” “catechism,” and “church manual.”  It is the height of denominational thinking to talk about “Church of Christ belief, doctrine and practice.”  What we believe, teach and practice must always be that which God’s Word authorizes — nothing more, less, or else!

Three areas of disagreement exist where baptism is concerned.  The first is the subject or candidate for baptism.  Is baptism for infants or is it only for repentant believers?  The second concerns the action of baptism.  May baptism be performed by sprinkling, pouring, and/or immersion?  The third concerns the purpose of baptism.  Is baptism just a ritual that unites one with a particular religious fellowship or denomination after one has been saved, or is it a condition of salvation from sin and thus ultimately of eternal salvation in heaven?  It is on this last area that this article will address.

It should first be said that baptism stands between the sinner and salvation (Mark 16:15-16).  “But,” it is claimed, “one is not condemned for a lack of baptism, only for a lack of belief.  Therefore, belief is really the only thing necessary for salvation.”  No, lack of belief is the only thing necessary for condemnation because “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  Christ clearly included both belief and baptism as essential for salvation.  However, baptism is not essential to salvation if one has no interest in doing what Christ said!

We must also note that baptism stands between the sinner and remission of sins (Acts 2:38).  “For” is eis in the Greek, and means “in order to,” never “because of.”  It is the same word used in Matthew 26:28 where Christ declared that He was to shed His blood “for the remission of sins,” obviously meaning that He did not shed His blood because the sins of mankind had already been remitted!  No reputable translation of Acts 2:38 renders it “because of.”  If one can be saved without receiving the remission of sins, one can be saved without baptism.

It must also be pointed out that baptism stands between the sinner and his sins being washed away (Acts 22:16).  Again, if one can be saved without having his sins washed away, one can be saved without baptism!

Consider also that baptism stands between the sinner and the benefits of the death of Christ (Rom. 6:3).  If one can be saved without the benefits of Christ’s death, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Baptism also stands between the sinner and the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4-6).  If one can be saved without experiencing the new life in Christ, baptism is not essential for salvation.

Note that baptism also stands between the sinner and them being able to legitimately wear the name of Christ (1 Cor. 1:12-13).  The inspired apostle Peter declared, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Yet if one can be saved without wearing the name of Christ, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Baptism also stands between the sinner and being in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).  The body of Christ is the church (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18).  One is added to the church when he is saved from sin (Acts 2:47).  However, baptism is not essential to salvation if one can be saved outside of the body or church of Christ.

Consider that baptism also stands between the sinner and being in Christ where all spiritual blessings are found (Gal. 3:27; Eph. 1:3).  One of these blessings is salvation (2 Tim. 2:10).  So if one can be saved without being in Christ and receiving His spiritual blessings, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

We must point out that baptism also stands between the sinner and the benefits of the spiritual circumcision which Christ performs (Col. 2:11-12).  However, if one can be saved without undergoing this spiritual circumcision in which the body of the sins of the flesh are cut off, then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Finally, consider that baptism stands between the sinner and being saved and having a good conscience before God (1 Pet. 3:21).  Yet, if being saved and having a good conscience toward God is not necessary then baptism is not essential to salvation.

Brother J.D. Tant held eight debates with Ben M. Bogard, a famous Baptist preacher and debater.  The last one was conducted in 1937 in the Lone Start community about eight miles east of Greenwood, AR.  When brother Tant introduced 1 Peter 3:21 into the discussion as evidence of the necessity of baptism for salvation, Mr. Bogard responded, “Why yes, baptism is just a figure — a picture — of the salvation we receive at the moment we believe.”  He kept stressing that baptism was only a “picture” of salvation, but not a condition of salvation.

Brother Tant replied, “Well, it’s a pity Peter did not know that on Pentecost; otherwise, he would have said: ‘Repent, and get your picture taken for the remission of sins!”

Our study began with Christ’s statement in Mark 16:16 and ended with Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 3:21.  These statements serve as fitting summaries of all that the New Testament says with reference to baptism’s purpose.  Both of them declare baptism to be essential to salvation.  All of the other passages are but different ways of saying the same thing.

Have you been baptized — not because you believed you were already saved — but in order to be saved and enter into Christ?

huford@comcast.net

Hugh has been preaching the gospel of Christ for many years.  He lives in Gallatin, TN.

 

 

An Immersion of Forgiveness — Gantt Carter

Sin…humanity’s most common and deadly problem ever.  Every mentally competent person has committed rebellion against the God who created everything from nothing. The apostle Paul declares that “all have sinned and continue to fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). If we are among that accountable group of people, then we have acted in ways that are contrary to the standard of right and wrong: God’s perfect nature.

Why did God create us in the beginning? Notice the way God sets forth our purpose at the very outset of creation:  “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.  And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  And God blessed them.  And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:26-28).

God created us as Divine image bearers; to exist like mirrors set up at 45-degree angles to reflect the glory of our Creator to the universe and to spread His reign. Sin is whenever we focus on and reflect a different “glory” (cf. Rom. 1:18-32; etc.)

We exist for His pleasure (Rev. 4:9-11). One well might sing, “For Yahweh takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with salvation” (Ps. 149:4). When we sin, we depart from our created purpose, and we ultimately sacrifice our right to life (cf. Rom. 6:23a).

Throughout history God has worked to provide forgiveness for lost humanity. From the time of the first sin, God promised a coming Savior to deliver from sin and death (Gen. 3:15). God made several covenants with different individuals and groups, often connected to forgiveness of sins and restoring communion between God and mankind.

Due to the nature of sin and its fruit, the shedding of blood was always associated with forgiveness and reconciliation. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev. 17:11). “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).

God has made two major covenants with humanity, and they are often called “the Old Covenant” and “the New Covenant.” Both covenants were ratified with blood (cf. Heb. 9). However, the first one was made and operated on the basis of animal blood which cannot actually remove sins (cf. Heb. 10:1-4). The New Covenant was created by the power of the blood of Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate (cf. Heb. 9:11-28; etc.)

One enters the New Covenant by being washed in the blood of Jesus, by being spiritually circumcised by God’s power. For example, Paul told a group of Christians to be careful about being captivated by the philosophies of men, and to remember the fully Divine nature of the Messiah (Col. 2:8-9). He reminds them that they were filled in Jesus, “who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col. 2:10). He then writes:  “In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of the Messiah, having been buried with Him in immersion, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling out the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands.  This He set aside, nailing it to the cross.  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him” (Col. 2:11-15).

The spiritual circumcision which allows us entrance into the covenant is set forth as immersion or what is often called baptism. When someone submits to being immersed, then they are putting off their ways of living in sin, and they are initially forgiven of their rebellion against God. Ephesians 2:1-10, a parallel text to this section of the letter to the Colossians, also teaches this.

Some argue that immersion is a work of man to earn salvation from God. But the inspired apostle tells us that immersion, when done per God’s teachings, is not a human work but rather a work of God. If we have obeyed the teaching of immersion, then we were “raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God.”

The Greek term which most English versions of the Bible translate as “baptism” means immersion.  Thayer states that this word is “properly, to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge” (Thayer, Joseph H.  Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody Hendrickson, 2007, p. 94).  Practices such as pouring or sprinkling in the place of actual immersion in water contradict the plain teachings of God.

Not only does the Greek term refer to immersion, but the text also describes immersion as being buried with Jesus, and then resurrected with Him to be in His covenant. The very idea of a burial eliminates any practice other than a complete immersion in a watery grave.

Jesus shed His precious life blood in His death upon the cross, and we are reenacting that His death, burial, and resurrection in our submission to immersion (cf. Rom. 6). If we have obeyed in that way, then we are washed in His blood from the filth of sin (Rev. 1:5). The washing away of sins by Jesus’ blood is what Paul calls the “washing of regeneration” (Tit. 3:5) and the “washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). We are united with Jesus, our Savior and King, by being immersed into His death (Rom. 6:3-6). If we continue to live for Him, then we are continually cleansed from all sin by His blood (Rom. 6:1-2, 11-15; 1 John 1:5-10).

When Peter preaches the first full gospel sermon as recorded by Luke in the second chapter of Acts, He proclaimed that God has made Jesus both Master and Messiah (Acts 2:36). Those who heard his words about Jesus inquire as to their proper response. Peter replied, “Repent and be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

Is repentance essential for obtaining forgiveness of our sins? It should not surprise us that Peter says that repentance and immersion are both “for the forgiveness of your sins.” According to this inspired apostle, if immersion is not necessary for entering the covenant, then neither is repentance. The words of Peter are perfectly consistent with the rest of the preaching and conversions recorded for us in the book of Acts. Compare these commands and examples with Jesus’ very own words of commission to the apostles prior to His ascension to the throne in heaven (cf. Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:44-53; Matt. 28:18-20).

The phrase “for the forgiveness of your sins” in Acts 2:38 is almost identical to what Jesus Himself expressed about His blood. When teaching about communion, He says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin (Matt. 26:28, emphasis added). Jesus shed His blood for our forgiveness, and we obtain that forgiveness by being in His covenant. We enter the covenant by being immersed into Him.

Prior to his conversion, Paul had been praying what one might label a “sinner’s prayer” for three days (Acts 9:1-9), but he was still in his sins and had not yet called on the name of the Master.  God sent a man named Ananias to Paul with this message: “And now why do you wait? Rise and be immersed and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16). Please notice that immersion is an appeal to Jesus’ authority to wash away our sins by the power of His blood.

Immersion is for the forgiveness of sins because it is what the Word of God teaches.  Immersion in water is how we contact the saving blood of the Lamb to enter a covenant with God where we are constantly forgiven of our sins (1 John 1:5-10). Have you made that appeal to God (1 Pet. 3:18-21) to be saved through immersion by the resurrection of Jesus? As a Christian, are you living the covenant lifestyle set forth in the writings of the New Covenant?

koinewords@gmail.com 

Gantt currently resides with his wife and two children in Elk City, OK.  He has been preaching in some form since 2007, and is currently the preaching minister for the 2nd & Adams congregation in Elk City.

 

Is Baptism Immersion? — Dale Barger

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Those words of our Lord have sparked many religious debate, caused many to turn away in anger and unbelief, and many to simply do what that passage says. Yet, sadly many who have attempted to turn to the Lord in baptism have still not met His requirements. The reason they have failed in this attempt is a misunderstanding of what Jesus means when He commands to be baptized. This misunderstanding is a result of following man-made religions. Various religions have polluted not only the meaning of baptism but also the method acceptable to God. This study will not focus on the many false ideas surrounding the essential nature of baptism, but rather it will focus on what method of baptism is scriptural. Just what did Jesus mean when He commanded to be baptized? Did He teach that a person may be saved by being sprinkled? Will having water poured onto one’s head washes away sin? Or was Jesus speaking of immersion in water to receive forgiveness of sins?

Various denominations practice various methods to baptize a candidate. One denominational website states, “Our church has always offered to people being baptized and to the parents of infants the choice of sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Sprinkling is a common practice, but the person being baptized (or their sponsors) can choose the method most meaningful to them.”1 This claim, made by the United Methodist Church, clearly identifies a major problem: the baptismal candidate can choose based on what is most “meaningful to them.” In this particular article by UMC, symbolism for the acts of sprinkling and pouring, as well as immersion are identified as they teach them. Whatever symbolism the candidate wants to experience is what they are free to choose. The attitude of man that we can choose based on what we desire is dangerous attitude when it comes to serving God. One doesn’t have to look very far in Scripture to find examples that our desires are not what pleases God! Consider just a few: Cain (Gen. 4:3-7), Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-2), and Saul (1 Sam. 15:13-15). If one is attempting to obey God by being baptized, why does what they desire outweigh that which God commands? Why do they feel that the symbolism that is most meaningful to them is acceptable to God? How arrogant to tell God how you will obey Him! This is where religion driven by emotion has taken many worshippers: to think that they are accepted by God because it feels right to them.

A careful study of baptism in the New Testament will identify that immersion is what was practiced as well as commanded. Considering the terms themselves, baptism or baptisma is defined by Vine as “consisting of the process of immersion, submersion and emergence.”The term baptize or baptizo  means “to dip, was used among the Greeks to signify the dyeing of a garment, or drawing of water by dipping a vessel into another.” In consideration of the usage by those who spoke the language in the first century it becomes clear that total immersion would be the common understanding of the terms.

Consider also the baptism of John. The gospel records speak of John and his commission of God to prepare for the coming Messiah (cf. Matt 3; Mark 1; Luke 3 and John 1). The record of Luke teaches that John was “preaching baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:3). Other gospel records speak of a reason that John was located in such an area was the abundance of water (John 3:23). If the forerunner of Christ was baptizing by means of sprinkling and pouring, it seems that it would not be necessary to locate oneself near “much water.” However, if total immersion of the subject is needed it makes perfect sense! When Jesus was baptized by John there is further evidence that it was by immersion. Matthew as well as Mark make reference to Jesus coming up out of the water (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:10). Again, if the acceptable method of baptism were sprinkling or pouring, why would Jesus need to come up out of the water? It seems that He went into the water to be immersed by John.

Baptism commanded by Jesus and practiced by the apostles was clearly immersion of one submitting to the gospel. The apostle Paul illustrates this by his words in the sixth chapter of Romans. While building an argument that Christians should totally put away sin he states, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  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” (Rom. 6:3-4). In this passage, Paul teaches that one buries the old man of sin that has been put to death; becoming a new creature by emerging from the watery grave of baptism. We understand that one is completely covered if they have been buried. Other passages written by Paul also mention that baptism is burial (cf. Col. 2:14). The conversion of the Ethiopian nobleman is another prime example of baptism in the Bible. The historian records that both Phillip and the eunuch went into the water and came up out of it in order for him to be baptized (Acts 8:38-39). If sprinkling or pouring water onto one’s head were sufficient methods or the practiced methods in these examples there would be no need for enter and exiting the water.

If one seeks to submit to the command of baptism, why would they desire to do anything other than what those of the New Testament did? Why would they feel that some other symbolic form of such a sacred ritual would be acceptable to God? Dear friend, when God’s Word speaks of baptism it clearly speaks of immersion. There is no other way for the sinner to wash away sin so they might be saved.

dalebarger@hotmail.com

Dale is a 2009 graduate of the Tri-Cities School of Preaching in Elizabethton, TN.  He preaches for the Wheeler Hill Church of Christ in Pikeville, TN.  Dale and his wife Lydia have two daughters, Kenzie and Kasidy, and one daughter due to be born in February, 2017.

Footnotes

1 http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/is-sprinkling-the-only-way-that-united-methodists-baptize  accessed 12/16/16

2  W.E., Vine. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson 1997 pg88-89

 

 

Editorial: Lessons on Encouragement from 1-2 Corinthians (January/February, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

One of the most important charges given to preachers and Christians in general is found in 2 Timothy 4:2:  “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.”  There is obviously an ever-present need to preach nothing more than the truth of God’s Word, and most preachers recognize the great need to always be ready to preach that Word both when it is well received and even when it is not.  Yet, a struggle exists within many preachers and teachers of the Bible to accurate apply the last part of 2 Timothy 4:2 to their heralding of God’s Word to others.  Many known false teachers both within the brotherhood and in the denominational world infamously shy away from any sort of preaching that would scripturally reprove or rebuke in any fashion.  Consequently, it is easy for sound Christians and gospel preachers and teachers to give more reproofs and rebukes than exhortation and encouragement in their sermons, classes, articles, blog posts, social media comments, and one-on-one conversations, all in an effort to “pick up the slack” and give the world the scriptural correction they need and won’t receive anywhere else.  It is also easy to do this without the longsuffering and patience God inspired Paul to command Timothy to have.

We must remember that there is just as much value and need for exhortation and encouragement as there is for reproof and rebuke (Ga. 6:2; 1 Th. 5:11, 14; 1 Ti. 5:1; He. 3:12-13; 10:24-25).  Spiritually building up and edifying fellow Christians to help them become closer to God and overcome sin in their life requires more than telling them what they need to work on.  It equally requires open acknowledgment and appreciation of what we are doing right, and encouragement to keep it up.  For every (hopefully scriptural and constructive) critical sermon, lesson, article or comment made, there needs to be another which openly acknowledges the good done by Christians and thanks them for it.  Yes, the sermons, articles, and comments which bring out what we need to do better are more times than not correct and they are sure to get numerous “likes” and comments like “Amen!” and “Preach it, brother!”  However, after a while of being regularly saturated with lessons and articles which repeatedly say, “We have this problem,” “We’re not doing what we need to do in this area,” and “We could do better here,” a lot of us will get discouraged and begin to wonder if we can do anything right in the sight of God (or the Christian or church leader who regularly shows us our errors.)  There is a place for reproof and rebuke, but there’s also a place for exhortation.  As Jesus said, “These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Mt. 23:23).

This is why I believe 1-2 Corinthians are books which every Christian needs to read at least once a quarter.  We typically think of Paul as a no-nonsense, “let ’em have it with both barrels” kind of preacher, especially in his letters to the Corinthian church.  This perhaps is due to our human tendency to give more focus on the negative than the positive, which is a big reason why we might be unbalanced with the emphasis on “reproving and rebuking” rather than “exhortation, encouragement, and patience.”

In reality, it is interesting to see how God inspired Paul to both encourage and rebuke the church at Corinth in a balanced way.  He would acknowledge and show appreciation for the good the Corinthians were doing and continually state and affirm the great love he and God have for them and the love they have for each other…all while also repeatedly bringing up their shortcomings in very blunt and sometimes sarcastic ways while admonishing them to repent.

Consider the following examples from both of Paul’s inspired letters to Corinth, a church which had so many faults that it makes some of our worst days in our own congregations look like a picnic in comparison!

Beginning in 1 Corinthians, notice how before rebuking them for division (1:10-13) Paul called them God’s church, sanctified, saints, and wished upon them grace and peace (1:2-3).  Notice how he told them he thanked God for them, openly acknowledged their strong points, and told them they were in fellowship with God (1:4-9).  Brethren, how often do we openly wish God’s grace and peace upon others, even while we “let them have it”?  How often do we openly tell our fellow Christians, especially those who have easily perceived faults, that we thank God for them and bring up the good things about them?

Let’s keep reading.  After calling them spiritual infants due to their worldliness (3:1-4), Paul then called them God’s field and building (3:9), God’s holy temple (3:17), and told them all things were theirs and they were Christ’s (3:21).

After sarcastically mocking their “high and mighty” attitude (4:3-8), he stressed that his goal was not to shame them (4:14) and told them he considered them to be like his children (4:15).  Do we do this when we correct others?

After rebuking them for tolerating fornication amongst them and going to court against each other over trivial matters (5:1-6:8), he reminded them of how they had overcome many grievous sins and were washed, sanctified, and justified (6:9-11).  What a great example of balance!  How needed are the reminders that all is not lost, that those whom we correct have still done some good and are still in Christ!

Right before rebuking them for their abuse of the Lord’s Supper (11:17-34), he commends them for their obedience to apostolic traditions (11:2).  This reminds me of how I’ve yet to find any Christian in need of correction who was not obeying any of God’s commandments.

While rebuking them for their misplaced priorities concerning spiritual gifts (12-14), he reminds them of how they are the body of Christ and each one of them is needed (12:12-27).  It’s very easy for some Christians, especially some who have unrepentant sin in their lives and need rebuking, to think they have nothing to offer to the kingdom.  There was a time in my life that I felt that way when sin reigned in my life.  Nothing could be further from the truth, and when Christians realize this it can be great motivation for them to repent of their sins.

After rebuking them for their error concerning the resurrection (15:1-49), he builds them up by painting them a glorious picture of that wonderful Judgment Day and then reminds them of how their work is not in vain (15:50-58).  All of us need reminding of this.

He then ends his first letter to them by sending them “hearty greetings” from brethren elsewhere (16:19-20) before wishing God’s grace upon them and expressing his love for them once more (16:23-24).  What a stark contrast from some discussions I’ve seen in which scriptural correction was given!

2 Corinthians is no different.  He starts the letter by openly wishing upon them grace and peace from God and Christ (1:2).  He then gives them a very uplifting message about comfort (1:3-5), before informing them that they are the reason he and his fellow apostles suffer (1:6) and his hope in them is unshaken (1:7), all before requesting their prayers (1:11).  What a stark contrast from sermons, articles, and comments made by myself and others in the past which simply say to Christians, “Shape up!” without also comforting them and telling them, “I care so much about you, and here’s what I’m willing to do to show it.  I hope in you.  I believe in you, so much that I’m asking you to pray for me.”

Paul then speaks bluntly to them about their need to forgive the penitent among them (1:23-2:11).  Yet, even while doing so he goes out of his way to tell them that he didn’t think he was better than them (1:24a), acknowledge that they stand firm in their faith (1:24b), and inform them of how it tore him up to have to rebuke them (2:4a), all before making sure they knew that he didn’t want to hurt them because he loved them very much (2:4b).  How much we can learn from this!   Rebuking people requires more than telling them to repent while specifying their errors.  It also requires telling them that you love them while acknowledging what they are doing right.

Even while defending himself and his companions from the accusation of being “peddlers of God’s Word” (2:12-3:1), he tells the Corinthians that their walk with Christ is such that he could use them as a “letter of recommendation” (3:2-3).  What a great example for us, friends!

Instead of complaining about it, Paul then speaks positively about the terrible ordeals he and his companions went through (4:8-11) before informing the Corinthians of how he willingly went through these trials for their sake (4:12-15).  Brethren, let’s be honest.  We tend to complain to each other about the problems brought upon us in this life, problems quite small when compared to Paul’s (see 11:23-27).  Why not speak of how God upholds us even in the midst of our sufferings as Paul did, before informing our brethren that we would go through it all over again if it would help just one soul in that congregation get closer to God?

Notice how Paul says to the church, “We IMPLORE you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God”  (5:20b) and “we APPEAL to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (6:1).  Let’s try IMPLORING brethren to repent and APPEALING to them rather than beating them up over the head about it.  Pleading rather than lecturing might produce better results.

Before admonishing them to be different from unbelievers rather than unequally yoking themselves to them (6:14-7:1), notice how Paul went out of his way to tell these Christians that his heart was wide open for them while encouraging them to widen their hearts also (6:11-13).  Notice also that while he ends his admonishment for them to cleanse themselves, he calls them “beloved” (7:1) and urges them again, “Make room in your hearts for us” (7:2a).  Our brethren need to know how much we care for them and love them while we rebuke them.

Paul then acknowledged that his previous letter brought them grief which led them to repent (7:8-10) before going out of his way to let them know that they were doing a great job repenting (7:11) and that their repentance and subsequent encouraging of Titus comforted Paul (7:13).  Notice how Paul told them that he had been boasting about them, and that their actions proved his boasts to be well-founded (7:14).  See how he told them that Titus’ affection for them was growing and that Titus remembered how obedient they were (7:15).  Paul then told them about his joy over them and that he had “perfect confidence” in them (7:16).  This is Corinth, remember…and yet look how Paul is speaking positively of them here.  The church in America overall has a lot of problems, but she has a lot of good in her too.  We must acknowledge that.  It might just help our brethren to become better.

While talking up the Macedonians, Paul told Corinth (of all people!) that they “excel in everything” while encouraging them to excel in their giving also (8:7).  He then acknowledged that they had already excelled in their benevolence before urging them to keep it up (8:10-11) and thus prove that Paul’s boasts about them were right (8:24).  He talks of their readiness to be benevolent and again informed them of his boasts about them to others, who in turn were inspired by them (9:2), all before exhorting them to give more and in the right way (9:3-11).  He then told them of how others were glorifying God because of their generosity (9:12-15).  What a great example for us in how to stir up brethren to get more involved in church work!

Take note of how Paul, even while defending himself against his detractors at Corinth, again “entreated” and “begged” them to repent (10:1-2).  Notice also how even in the midst of his sarcastic rebuke of them (10-12), he talks of his hope that their faith would increase (10:15), his fear that Satan would lead them astray (11:3), his love for them (11:11), and his anxiety for them and all other churches (11:28).  This is before he tells them that he would “most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (12:15a), that it was “all for your upbuilding, beloved” (12:19b), that he was praying for them (13:7, 9), and that they were more important than him (13:9).  He then ended his letter to them in a very positive note (13:11-14).

What a great example of balance that shows us how to rebuke with love and encourage even while admonishing!  We can definitely learn from this, friends.  Proclaiming God’s truth is a blessing, and those of us who share it with others have a high privilege.  Let’s always “speak the truth in love” (Ep. 4:15)!            — Jon