I have heard people say “show me where I am wrong and I will change. Changing is easy for me.” Due to personal experience, I have difficulty believing that statement, because I have changed when I learned I was wrong, it was not easy. In some cases I wrestled for days and long nights before I could turn from what I had believed to be true. The more important I believed the thing to be in God’s scheme of things the more difficult the struggle within. I have comforted myself by reading or hearing of the difficulties others have had. One such is the Apostle Paul, who had seen and conversed with Jesus Himself, yet required three days of “fasting with prayer” before he was ready for Ananias to approach him with the requirements from the Lord. Baptism is a subject that many honest souls have difficulty accepting. To some the Lord’s will is exceedingly plain, so much so that we are not always as patient as we should be with truth seekers. Rejecting life-long teaching from friends, family, preachers and writings is rather difficult in the best of circumstances, but, when those we love work against receiving the truth revealed about baptism the road to acceptance is harder than ever. In this paper once more the subject is broached with the hope your thinking process is touched. I now continue with false theories advanced erroneously about Baptism:
BAPTISM IS A PHYSICAL ACT AND PHYSICAL ACTS
HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SAVING THE SOUL
That Baptism is a physical act is conceded. It does not matter where or when a person decides that baptism must be submitted to, it is not an act acceptable to God unless and until one is physically baptized in water. The contention of the statement in this caption is apparent. The confusion comes about due to the New Testament teaching the failure of the flesh (construed to be physical), and the function of the spirit (the inner man). The Gospel of Christ addressed to the inner man is accepted within the heart (Rom. 6:17-18). However, that does NOT negate what must be done physically or with the body for the Lord to forgive us. The body is the instrument that must be used by the mind through physical acts to render obedience to God. Without the physical act we are left in a hopeless state. When Jesus issued the conditions necessary to enter the kingdom of God, He demanded that one be born of water (a physical element), and of the Spirit. There is no other element that has to do with water except baptism. Therefore, the physical act of baptism is a requirement to admittance into the kingdom of God. After resurrecting Jesus commissioned His disciples with the command to preach the Gospel to everyone stipulating what the hearers were to do to obtain the remission of their sins. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, said He (Mk. 16:16). The physical act—baptism—is named in clear and certain terms as one of the requirements to be saved. The mental act of believing cannot be left out, and the physical act of baptism must not be discarded without terrible consequence. Since the Lord said we are to be baptized who are we to say, “because it is physical it is not necessary?” Fact of the matter is, without the physical act there is no way our faith is valid. Hear James on the matter, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (Js. 2:17). It appears to me that we have rose to a position of authority that is not ours to have. Perhaps, by looking at the importance of the physical in another ordinance of the Lord we can see that the physical is an absolute and actually enhances rather than detracts from the ordinance itself. I speak of the Lord’s Supper. When the Lord set forth this spiritual feast He used and asks us to use physical items. Without these it is impossible to remember the Lord as we do when physically eating. The Lord taking bread soon gave it to the disciples saying, “Take, eat.” Later the cup of fruit of the vine was given them and “they all drank of (out of) it.” (Mk. 14:22-23). In Paul’s account we are instructed to “do this”, in remembrance of Christ. (I Cor. 11:23-24). Assembling with fellow Christians when we eat our hearts are carried back to the time of our Savior’s suffering and death in our behalf. There may be a time when we hear a preacher so wonderfully speak of the Cross that our minds are anguished to the point that we feel as though we are present the very hour the Savor expired, yet, this is not eating the Lord’s Supper. It is not and cannot be observed when separated from the physically eating and drinking of those things that represent the Savior’s body and blood that sanctioned the New Covenant. It must be said that the physical act of eating and drinking connects us with the spiritual working of the mind that allows us to remember. The spiritual in this way is dependent upon the physical to the extent that one cannot please God spiritually without the physical acts. Baptism is the same in principle. The heart is cleansed in the physical act. “baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 3:21). The conscience or the spiritual man is purified when the physical man is baptized. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “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. 6:4). The inner spiritual man submits to baptism allowing the physical man to be covered with water. When the physical man is raised from the water it is the spiritual man that is changed and begins a new way of living. The idea that baptism is a physical act and physical acts have nothing to do with saving the soul is not true. Baptism is more than a mere physical act.
BAPTISM HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
A preacher of a prominent denomination made the above statement to me that give emphasis to Baptism in the name of the institution. I had always thought that baptism was the requirement of that church to become a member of it. The preacher assured me that to become a member of that church one had to be voted in after which baptism was to be administered as an ordinance. Do the scriptures have anything to say about baptism as related to church membership? Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about church membership, “For as the body is one, and hath, many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body so also is Christ.” (I Cor. 12:12). The one body of Christ contains many members, yet the body remains one. All the members of the one body become members in the same way. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (Vs. 13). We know that the “body” is the church. Speaking of what the Father “wrought in Christ” we are told that He “hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church. Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:20, 22-23). An elementary student can understand that statement, “the church which is his body.” The church is the body of Christ. We could transpose the statement and with the same result, “his body is the church.” Since baptism put the Corinthians into the one body, it means they were became members of the church in one way, and that one way is by being baptized. Allow me to add: when one becomes a member of the church that is the point at which he is saved, “Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body.” (Eph. 5:23). It is incorrect to say, “the church saves one,” it is Christ that saves, but the question is—whom does He save? The answer—the body of which He is head and that body is the church. How does one get into the church or obtain membership? It is by baptism. Who can miss the truth that baptism between church membership and salvation? Furthermore, this truth is given emphasis in the first Gospel sermon preached after Jesus resurrected. The sermon as recorded in Acts the second chapter reveals that Peter stood up with the eleven declaring Jesus whom they had crucified to be “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). At that juncture we are informed, “when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Vs. 37). Their question was immediately answer by Peter, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Vs. 38). Did they understand what they were to do? Apparently they did, as we read, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” (Vs. 41). Those “gladly receiving” the word of God were baptized. They did not argue about whether baptism was a command or necessary, they were interested in having the remission of their sins, and since baptism was commanded they obeyed. We are told that some three thousand were added that day. ADDED TO WHAT? The answer is supplied by the inspired writer; “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” No unsaved person was added to the church, only those who “gladly received the word” by being baptized were “added to the church.” Baptism is the door to salvation and the door to church membership, at the same time. The doctrine that baptism has nothing to do with church membership is false.
While you are thinking about “being baptized into the church, it seems to be a good time to notice some other things the Bible says we are baptized into. These show us the importance of baptism as the means of obtaining or securing a place or relationship before God. For instance, we are told that we are “baptized into Christ.” “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:27). From this it is clear that all who have put on Christ did it by being baptized into Him. We know it is in Christ that forgiveness is attained, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:7). Since forgiveness of sins is in Christ and we are baptized into Christ, baptism is necessary to being forgiven of our sins. Who can dispute it? In addition, we are reminded that we are baptized into the death of Christ, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6:3). It was in His death that Christ shed His blood, “one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” (Jn. 19:34). It is that blood that was shed for the remission of our sins, as Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” (Mt. 26:28). The conclusion of these scriptures is inescapable. We are baptized in water to contact the blood of Christ when we are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ. At that time we receive the remission of our sins. Failure to be baptized into the death of Jesus Christ means we remain in our sins. We are also commanded to be baptized into the name of Christ. Jesus gave this command to the Apostles when He commissioned them to preach the Gospel to all nations. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Mt. 28:19). It is only in the name of Christ that one can have salvation”
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Since the Apostles were commanded to teach all nations and to baptize all those taught in the name of the Son of God in whom salvation is offered, then the blessing of salvation is obtained when one is baptized, not before nor at a later time. The question that all of us must face and grapple with is “can I be saved or have the remission of my past sins without the name of Jesus Christ and all that His name represents?” The correct answer to that query permits us to see the need as well as the purpose God has assigned to baptism. Baptism has an important purpose in God’s scheme of redemption.
Casting our heart back to the day of Pentecost once more demonstrates the power (authority) of the name of Christ as connected with baptism. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 2:38). If this were the only passage in the New Testament on the purpose of baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ” it would be clear enough for all to understand. Every one hearing the words of Peter were to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. Whatever “repentance” was for, baptism was for. Is repentance in the name of Jesus Christ necessary for the remission of sins? If the answer is yes then baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is necessary for the remission of sins, for the same reason. We are told “And whatsoever ye do in word (teaching) or deed (practice), do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” (Col. 3:17). If we obey this command we will teach what the Apostles taught “in the name of Christ,” that baptism is necessary to be saved. If we practice what the Apostles practiced we will baptize people “in the name of Christ” for the remission of past sins. When preachers teach that baptism is not necessary to be saved, and baptize others for any purpose other than the remission of sins they are preaching and practicing it in some name instead of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism has a purpose—the question is—what is that purpose? If you know a preacher or someone else that can benefit from this series, send their name and address and we will be happy to send copies to them.
Barney Owens 1512
It now cost more to amuse a child than it did to educate his grandfather