How long will you falter between two opinions?
"And Elijah came to all the people, and said, 'How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.' But the people answered him not a word" (1 Kings 18:21).
Also in our time some are faltering between conflicting opinions. Some even advocate a faltering approach!
A prominent preacher from Tennessee presented a lecture in Germany. After drawing a circle on the blackboard, he said some people think of the church as a circle and that one is either inside the circle or outside the circle, but that he prefers to think of the church as an amoeba with hazy edges and with Christ as the nucleus!
His 'preference' is refuted in Revelation 21:12 where Zion is described as a city with "a great and high wall." And whether one is inside or outside is eternally significant! Is it not blasphemous to compare the precious body of our Lord Jesus Christ with a slimy creature that serves as a symbol of formlessness?
When a brother in Western Canada started preaching for a certain congregation, he told them that as a rancher he had mended a lot of fences and that as a preacher he did not want to be in the fence-mending business. Strange that he understood why fences are needed for cattle, but not why they are need for the flock of God!
A sister in Europe asked a preacher if he would talk to a another sister who had started attending a denomination. He said she should not worry about it. If the sister was happy in the other church, she should not bother her.
Such a faltering, amoebic approach to the church is only possible for those who also falter between conflicting views with regard to the purpose and nature of baptism.
New Testament teaching on baptism is clear. Jesus said: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16). Peter said: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) and "There is also an antitype which now saves us, namely baptism" (1 Peter 3:21). Ananias said to Paul: "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Paul asks: "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (Romans 6:3). He explains further: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Corinthians 12:13), "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27).
For various reasons, all this clear teaching is stoutly rejected by Protestantism. Overreacting to the false Catholic doctrine of salvation by meritorious works, Martin Luther wrote "faith only" in the margin of his Bible, and many have failed to notice that the word of God says exactly the opposite: "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only" (James 2:24).
Starting with this false doctrine that salvation is by faith only, evangelicals reject the clear teaching of Scripture regarding baptism. They fail to comprehend that baptism itself is a gift of God, a washing of regeneration by which His grace is extended to us: "But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:4-7).
Evangelical baptism, by their own doctrine and admission, has absolutely nothing to do with salvation. It is therefore not the baptism commanded by Christ and His Apostles. This means that those who have only had evangelical baptism are still lost. By their own admission, they have not been baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). As a consequence, they have not been saved (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Their sins have not been washed away (Acts 22:16). They have not been baptized into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6:3-11). They have not been baptized into the one body, the church (1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:22,23). They have not been baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27).
Now this teaching does not make evangelicals happy, of course, because they are very proud of their imagined salvation without baptism by Martin Luther's "faith only." Because we have clearly and without compromise preached what the Scriptures say about baptism, churches of Christ have not been very 'popular' in the religious world.
Some brethren -- embarrassed by our lack of popularity -- have been trying to compromise on this point in one way or another.
One man told me that by first accepting evangelicals as brothers he would then have an opportunity to eventually teach them the truth on baptism. If you cannot see the fallacy of this without my explaining it, you probably would not understand it if I did! This man is deceiving himself. Evangelicals understand that these two positions mutually exclude each other, and they do not hesitate to exclude us, although they like to condemn us for excluding them!
Another man told me that God is merciful and will let people be saved even though they are not baptized in accordance with the Scriptures. Another man, a lawyer, claims that God may make exceptions to His word on the day of judgement. I will just accept the word of Christ: "And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:47,48). The judgement of the Lord will be based on His revealed word.
These compromisers have been hoodwinked by the devil, the master compromiser.
Jesus spoke the truth and the religious community murdered Him. If we want to follow Him and speak the truth as He did, we must be willing to accept some 'lack of popularity' in the religious world.
The truth irritates people, but only by such irritation is there hope for their salvation! A brother told me he was studying the Bible with an evangelical couple in their home. As they read passages on baptism, he noticed that the wife was becoming more angry by the minute. Suddenly she stood up, slammed her Bible on the table, and stormed out of the room. (For a moment he thought she was going to throw the Bible at him!) But after a while she came back and said she wanted to be baptized into Christ!
Let us not be ashamed of the gospel. It is God's power of salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
It is bad news when the good news is compromised. As Paul wrote to the Galatians: "I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10). Harsh words from the pen of a man whose heart was filled with love for the lost, and who knew that a perverted gospel prevents men from being saved.
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive