The reader is referred to the previous issue to re-read in order to have a complete grasp of this issue. If you do not have a copy of the last number then order one and it will immediately be sent to you. The address is on the last page. The church being God’s greatest design we continue to show the terms of becoming a member of the church. These demands in themselves show the design of God superior to anything man could have or does design. The final of the four things is taken up here. We have named and explained (somewhat) the three other requirements.
1st one must believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ.
2nd one that believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God sorrows for his sins repenting of them.
3rd the belief one holds in his heart must be stated or confessed before others.
4th, there must be submission to Christ in water baptism. God selecting baptism as the final and pivotal point in church membership and salvation demonstrates His purpose, plan and design for this greatest of all institutions. Water baptism is the simplest of acts, yet is universal and complex in its application and design. Water baptism is simple to comply with by all, whether in a desert county as in the case of Philip baptizing the eunuch (Acts 8), within the city limits of Philippi where the Jailer was immersed (Acts 16), or the fertile valley of the Jordan (Mt. 2).
Water baptism is a sure test of faith. How many stumble at this point who otherwise profess to please the Lord! When the hand of man touches water baptism it is turned, twisted and cast aside as though the Lord has not spoken and the Apostles had written nothing about its importance and necessity. Some say that a little water is as good as much thus sprinkle rather than immerse. Others allow one to chose which mode he desires, still others neglect it entirely.
Water baptism is administered to babies to take away original sin. Or it is withheld from all except those who have been saved already, making it a Christian ordinance. Others contend that it is an absolute for the sinner to be saved from past sins. Etc. What say you about the purpose of baptism? To the word and testimony where God reveals to us the truth about water baptism.
“For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (I Cor. 12:13). So, by the direction of the Holy Spirit who revealed the word of God we are baptized into the church (the body being the church, Eph. 1:22-23). “And John also was baptizing in AE’-non near Sa’-lim, because there was much water there” (Jn. 3:23). The necessity of much water is seen in the follow passage. “They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip…” (Acts 8:38-39). Baptism requires a “going down into the water” by the candidate and the one baptizing
where the baptism takes place, followed by a “coming up out of the water.” Such is not and can-
not be done by sprinkling or pouring a little water on an individual. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Two things are required to be saved—belief and baptism. There might be (and are) other things added, but we are not at liberty to subtract from this passage. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Once again two things are named to secure the remission of sins—repentance and baptism. Other things may be added from other scripture but these may not be removed without denying the name (authority) of Jesus Christ. “…be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16). To wash away sins one must be baptized. If that is left out where does that leave the sinner? Connect this with the statement in I Pet 3:21, “baptism doth also now saves us,” Allow me to emphasize further. We may find other things necessary for us to do to be saved, but this one cannot be discarded. With these passages before us God’s design for membership in the church is clear for all of us to see.
GOD DESIGNED THE PLAN OF SALVATION’S ORDER TO BE FOLLOWED
God’s order for the sinner to be saved is believing he must repent. Repenting he must make the good confession. Confessing Christ he must be baptized in water. Often the order is turned about as some preach that one must repent then believe. Others say one must be baptized as an infant then learn to believe and then repent of sins, as they are committed. However regarding or discarding these theories and/or others like them God’s plan is clear. Now, we may have all the components of salvation but if they are not in the proper order they do not accomplish the purpose God designed them to accomplish. For instance we may have the letters OGD. Arranging them as GOD points to the creator of all things, arranging them as DOG we have a brute far lower than man to say nothing of GOD. We must comply with God’s arrangement to become a member of the Church Jesus died to save in the order He has revealed them.
God is pleased to limit His power to save, as He has limited His power to create, to produce, or to rule what He created, to certain fixed and established arrangements. He does work His own ends but they are accomplished within those limits. In nature His laws are established and through these laws He governs the communication of motion, of heat, of light, etc. These are general laws and when a particular purpose is to be effected, it is not by making the wind bend and yield to the occasion, but it is using the apparatus corresponding with these laws, that His purpose is (sometimes at length) attained. God prescribes limits to His power that He may exhibit the demonstrations of His wisdom. Therefore, God does not govern the world except according to His established laws of governing, nor does He save the world except according to His established plan and method of saving. He has thus been pleased to limit His power to save to the means of operation and the instrumentality of truth. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation…” (Rom. 1:16). The important thing for us to remember is; how far God will go in affording salvation not how far He will not go. If there is no clear and well-known laws according to which saving influences are surely and invariably conveyed it is impossible for us to depend upon them in any undertaking. This means that we cannot exercise judgment and caution to their end and purpose, nor can we trace our failures to any negligence or un-skillfulness in ourselves. These laws and means bind and tie us to His fixed ways knowing that He will not influence us through any other means apart from His revealed truth. Our rule is to accept God’s rule allowing our will to blend and become one with His rule; therefore, it is not what God can do, but what He will do. Of this we can be certain: God will never act dishonoring the means of His own appointments, “it is impossible for God to lie,” meaning that we all “have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” (Heb. 6:18).
When those who think that they are wiser than God or make the false claim that a person can neglect or deny one or all of the four things set before us and still obtain the remission of past sins or be saved from them, our attitude must coincide with the Apostle Paul “let God be true and every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4). “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe…Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (I Cor. 1:21 & 25). The fact remains that to obtain membership in the Church of Christ one must Believe in Christ, Repent of his sins, Confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and be Baptized in water, “For by on Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” (I Cor. 12:13). The glory of God’s design to become a member of the church is indicative of the church itself being God’s greatest design.
BAPTISM BEING THE FINAL STEP IN SALVATION FROM PAST SINS AS WELL AS THE MOMENT WHEN ONE ENTERS THE CHURCH CAN BE OBEYED ANY TIME
All denominations have a method of receiving members into their particular church, methods, which differ according to the rules of that denomination. At stated times the “doors of the church are opened” to receive members. However, the doors of the church of Christ were opened on the day of Pentecost and have remained open every day since then, “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). Who decides whether one becomes a member of the church or what is the part of church members in deciding whether a person is a subject for church membership? If we accept people on their baptism, who does the accepting? Does the preacher or the one baptizing alone decide, or, does the congregation join him in the decision to accept a new member? If the congregation assumes a part in this is it done by a vote? The church is styled “the household (family) of God” (I Tim, 3:15), which we enter by a “new” spiritual birth (Jn. 3:3 & 5). Again the church is called “the body of Christ” (Col. 1:18) which we enter by a faith that is perfected in baptism putting us in the body of Christ (Gal. 3:26-27). These things being true we see that human beings have nothing to do with making Christians or deciding who and how people become members of the church. Our duty is to preach the gospel so that the unsaved can hear it, giving evidence for them to believe it, repent of their sins and upon confession of their faith baptize them (Mt. 28:18-20, Mk. 16:15-16, Lk. 24:46-470. At this point they are added to the company of the saved, are members of the church or citizens of the Kingdom of God.
Who is the subject of baptism? Any responsible person who is able to obey these commandments. Who is to decide whether a person is willing to repent and obey Christ? Each must decide for himself, speak to the preacher, the church, and the whole world his faith and then by the public act of baptism receive the remission of sins and from that point forward stand for the Lord and live a righteous life before all. But suppose there is a person that has come under the influence of Gospel preaching and understands full well what is to be done to become a member of the church, yet goes along his way without obedience and claims that he is saved and is as well off as anyone who is a church-member and perhaps gives all his energies to fighting against the requirements God has made to become a member of the church, what are we then to do about such a person? There is nothing we can do; we certainly cannot force anyone to be baptized as if the obedience does not proceed from the heart it lacks credibility with God. We can only teach what is to be done and when one—anyone accepts the condition in compliance he is saved—has remission of his sins—is a member of the church. This is God’s finest design. (More to come).
Barney Owens 1704
What you have lost cannot be regained. You will be able to find only a substitute