The subject of baptism for the dead is, admittedly, one of those writings of Paul "in which are some things hard to be understood" (2 Peter 3:16). This being the case, it is essential that we do not over-ride those very clear and easy-to-understand scriptures, such as those which related to water baptism given above. As contrasted with the repetitive nature of those scriptures, there is only one which relates to baptism for the dead, 1 Corinthians 15:29: "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?"
In order to begin to understand this verse it is essential that you read the entire 15th chapter. The apostle Paul is dealing with some false teachers who were teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15:12). He gives a series of a dozen or so arguments (depending upon how you count) as to reasons that this teaching was false. It is a tremendously fascinating study, and if you have not studied it, we urge you to do so.
To understand verse 29 we must recognize that the apostle Paul was still adding to this argumentation. This argument is fairly self contained. There are several plausible explanations which fit the context. For example, some believe that the "baptism for the dead" is a baptism in suffering for the cause of Christ. This is consistent with the argumentation -- why would they do this if there was not a resurrection. Why would the apostles be suffering to the extent that they were? This fits with the next question: "And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?"
We believe that a much more plausible explanation is that the false teachers in Corinth were themselves practicing the false doctrine of baptism for the dead. This creates absolutely no need for twisting the obvious meanings of the words, and it presents a devastating argument which would completely destroy the influence of the false teachers (at least upon those who were honest). In effect, it worked one false doctrine against another. If you do not believe in the resurrection from the dead, why do you practice baptism for the dead?
While we do not believe it essential to know exactly the meaning of this verse, and would surely not be dogmatic about it, the following arguments support the view that the false teachers were, in fact, practicing the false doctrine of baptism for the dead:
1. Paul asks "Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead..." He does not include himself or the apostles in this practice. We know that "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). There is not one shred of evidence anywhere in the New or Old Testaments that there is anything that the living can do can have an influence over the fate of the dead. Just the opposite is taught (e.g., see Luke 16:19-31). Thus, baptism in behalf of the dead would be a complete contradiction to everything which the bible teaches with regard to our salvation.
2. "... if the dead rise not at all?" The people teaching this had to be the same as the ones practicing baptism for the dead or else the entire argument would be irrelevant. The false teachers could merely respond: we don't and they shouldn't because there is no resurrection. Clearly, the very same ones who taught that there was no resurrection were practicing baptism for the dead. This is certainly not a good authority upon which we should base any such practice (as some have).
3. "... why are they then baptized for the dead?" This argument is truly devastating. Paul saved it for almost the last argument that he presented. Here they were practicing baptism for the dead when they did not even believe that the dead would be raised.
4. "And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?" Note the switch. They practice baptism for the dead but do not stand in jeopardy. We do not practice baptism for the dead, but the very fact that we (the apostles) stand in jeopardy every hour is ample evidence that they knew that Jesus was resurrected and that Jesus taught that they too would be resurrected from the dead.
5. The fact that Paul cites a practice as part of an argument does not infer that he agrees with the practice. There are several examples which could be given; a good one is recorded in Romans 2:25: "For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision." Obviously Paul was not teaching the necessity for circumcision, but for purposes of argumentation he allowed for a moment that it would profit if we were able to keep the entire law flawlessly. It was not necessary for Paul to oppose a doctrine as absurd as baptism for the dead, and to do so would not have addressed the subject (i.e., the resurrection).
Again, we would not be dogmatic about this, but it seems to us to be the most logical explanation.
If we assume that baptism for the
dead was being practiced at all (even erroneously), it further confirms
the early Christians' belief that baptism was essential to salvation. Again,
however, there is absolutely no evidence that baptism for the dead was
in any way sanctioned by the apostles.
188.8.131.52 THE BAPTISM OF JOHN
The baptism John the baptist was authorized of God because John the baptist was sent of God. It was for the remission of sins, but it was not to put the subject into the body of Christ because the church had not been established prior to the day of Pentecost (the first recorded preaching of the gospel after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ). Thus, it was necessary for those baptized by John's authority (i.e., in his name) to be baptized again into the name of Christ. This is clear from a passage that begins in Acts 18:24 and ends in 19:7:
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, [and] mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto [them], and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, [and that] publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard [this], they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid [his] hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve.
We will not belabor a discussion of this passage since it has been discussed in Section 184.108.40.206. However, it is interesting that "they should believe on him [Jesus]" infers that they should be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus; for, when they heard the first, they were obedient to the second.
220.127.116.11 OTHER MENTIONS OF BAPTISM
The word baptism means immersion, and anywhere that we might find immersion we might find it translated (or transliterated) as baptism. In most cases its figurative use is intended to convey the meaning of an immersion in suffering. Consider Matthew 20:20-23:
Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping [him], and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but [it shall be given to them] for whom it is prepared of my Father.
The meaning is quite clear.
Similarly, in Luke 12:49-53: "I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled? But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished! Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law."
Uses of the word baptism in such
contexts do not relate to the major premise of this chapter. Those who
would invoke these scriptures in an attempt to place baptism in a secondary
role are merely trying to confuse the issues.
4.3 COMMON OBJECTIONS AGAINST BAPTISM
We anticipate that there will be
some arguments made on behalf of the myth that baptism is secondary. In
this section we anticipate those which we have heard in the past. We encourage
the study of these possible arguments since study motivated by a search
for the truth can only increase faith.
4.3.1 SALVATION IS NOT BY WORKS
The reasoning applied is given by the following syllogism:
1. Major premise: Salvation is not by works,
2. Minor premise: Baptism is a work; therefore
3. Conclusion: Baptism can have nothing to do with salvation.
Of course, this logic could be applied to obtain release from any and all of God's commands. Example: Hearing is a work. If not, why not? It certainly requires more effort than baptism. Are we to refrain from hearing the truth so that we will not be saved by works? Apparently those who avoid hearing the truth think so.
Those who apply the logic above usually believe in faith only, a myth which we covered in sufficient detail in Chapter 3. However to get the discussion going, consider the response that Jesus gave when he was asked what one needed to do to work the works of God (John 6:29): "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." Thus, Jesus considered faith to be a work. According to the logic given above, faith can have nothing to do with salvation. Clearly something is wrong.
What is wrong is that both the major premise and the minor premise are false. However, they are half true. Let's explore the half that is true and attempt to adjust them so that they can be of value to us.
Two passages are usually quoted to support the major premise: Titus 3:5 and Ephesians 2:8-9. Let us study what these passages actually teach and modify our major premise appropriately. Consider first Titus 3:4-7:
But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
There are several kinds of works: (1) works purely devised and executed by God, (2) works devised of God but executed by man, and (3) works purely devised and executed by man. Question: which one of these three is the apostle Paul talking about when he said "not by works" above. Let's consider them in turn:
1. A simple reading indicates that Paul could not possibly be talking about works which purely devised and executed by God: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done."
2. Those who believe in faith only
believe that Paul was talking about the second alternative which we have
proposed: works devised (and commanded) by God which are then executed
by men. However, if this is true and we are not saved by such works, then
either we are:
a) saved by works which are purely devised and executed by man (see alternative 3 below), or
b) we are saved by works purely devised and executed by God.
We know of no one who purports to believe the bible who accepts alternative "a" as being reasonable. However, the only other alternative is "b." This was the only conclusion that Calvin could come to, and it is the logical conclusion if it is sinful to be obedient to God. But how can anyone possibly believe such a thing -- every page of Gods word screams that this is erroneous.
3. The only other alternative is that the works which are condemned in Titus 3:4-7 are those which are devised and executed by man. This is obtained by the process of elimination detailed above. However, even without this reasoning, the plain reading of the passage in its context indicates this.
Before leaving this passage, let us continue to the very next verse (Titus 3:8): "[This is] a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." Why should we be careful to maintain good works if they have nothing to do with our salvation. "These things are good and profitable unto men" because they lead to our salvation. It is never counterproductive to obey God!
Calvin knew that we could not have it both ways. Either there are conditions to salvation or there are none. If there are any conditions of salvation at all, then we must observe all that God has set forth as conditions. Why do we recognize faith to be a condition of salvation without recognizing repentance. If we recognize repentance, why not confession? And if any of these, they why not baptism? Indeed, baptism is stated to be a condition of entry into Christ and His kingdom several times as often as these other conditions. At least Calvin was consistent when he renounced all conditions of salvation and declared that we are saved by the irresistible grace of God which is totally beyond our control.
The same reasoning applies to Ephesians 2:8-9: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Condemned are the works originated by man. The works of God which we do by faith are not of ourselves, they are of God. We cannot boast about keeping God's commandments and still keep them (this is an oxymoron). Again, when we read on we find that the very purpose of this admonition is to prompt us to walk in the works of God (Eph. 2:10): "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
Let us conclude by adjusting the syllogism with which we opened this section:
1. Major premise: Salvation is conditioned on commands which originated in the mind of God,
2. Minor premise: Scriptural baptism is a commanded operation of God which originated in the mind of God; therefore
3. Conclusion: Scriptural baptism
is essential to our salvation in that a failure to comply with this simple
act clearly demonstrates a lack of faith in His promises.
4.3.2 THE THIEF ON THE CROSS
The reasoning applied is given by the following syllogism:
1. Major premise: If one "exception to baptism" can be found, then baptism cannot possibly be essential to salvation,
2. Minor premise: The thief on the cross is an exception; therefore
3. Conclusion: Baptism cannot possibly be essential to salvation.
By "exception to baptism" we mean that someone is stated to be saved who has clearly not been baptized. While the above syllogism is logically correct, we will show that the minor premise is clearly false, and therefore the conclusion does not follow.
First, however, it does us well to examine the major premise. Those who make the argument based upon the thief on the cross do so in full recognition that they cannot identify one other individual in the New Testament who was stated to have been saved who had not allowed himself or herself to be subjected to scriptural baptism. This itself is very powerful evidence in favor of baptism being a condition of salvation, especially if the argument based upon the thief is not valid.
We also wish to state emphatically
that we recognize that ultimate judgment rests with God. If God wants to
make an exception, then in His infinite wisdom and mercy, He certainly
has the right to. Our intent is not to put God in a box -- it is to better
understand and teach what He has stated in the New Testament. Those who
teach others to stake their salvation on the thief on the cross need to
study this closely and determine if they are not going beyond the doctrine
of Christ (2 John 9: "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine
of Christ, hath not
God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.")
Let us begin our study by reviewing the scriptures which record the event of concern. It is given in Luke 23:39-43: "And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, Christ, save thyself and us. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, dost thou not fear God, seeing that thou are in the same condemnation? and we indeed justly, for we received 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."
Let us take this last sentence to mean that Jesus wanted both the penitent thief and us to know that the thief was saved. We feel that this is the most reasonable meaning of "today shalt thou be with me in paradise." Further, we agree that if the thief was baptized at all it would probably have been by the authority of John the baptist. Jesus' disciples baptized (see John 3:23-30, 4:1-2), but this was not the same as that commanded on Pentecost, because Jesus had not yet died on the cross.
This proves the point. If baptism were a requirement prior to the death of Jesus on the cross, then there is no evidence that the thief was not baptized by Jesus' disciples. But it was not a requirement. There is no evidence in the New Testament that anyone was "baptized into Christ" prior to the day of Pentecost (which is recorded in Acts 2). Those who lived prior to Jesus death on the cross lived under the Old Testament law, and baptism was not part of the Old Testament law. Thus, the specific terms of salvation of the thief on the cross is irrelevant to the terms of our salvation today.
If we are going to use figures who lived under the Old Testament law to make exceptions to those conditions of salvation which God has established for us today, then we could use Noah or Abraham. While, in general, God expects the same faithfulness of us as he does of them (God is no respecter of persons), yet we demonstrate this faithfulness in completely different ways. It would not be a demonstration of faith on my part today to build an arc or to offer my son as a sacrifice to God. Yet, if these men failed to do that they would not be listed in Hebrews 11 as men of faith.
It is easy to be sidetracked into simplistic explanations which support preconceived ideas. Let us restate the accurate syllogism that applies:
1. Major premise: If one "exception to baptism" can be found, then baptism cannot possibly be essential to salvation,
2. Minor premise: The thief on the cross is not an exception since he did not live under the New Testament and neither are there any exceptions after the day of pentecost which is recorded in Acts 2; therefore
3. Conclusion: Baptism is essential to salvation.
If this conclusion does not follow
then our entry into Christ is different from those in the first century,
as we saw in Section 4.2 above. If this were the case there would be something
in the New Testament to this effect. In the absence of it, we cannot go
beyond God's word in our teaching.
4.3.3 PAUL NOT SENT TO BAPTIZE
Endless bogus arguments can be made by taking verses out of context. A classic example of this is 1 Corinthians 1:17: "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect."
Was Paul stating that baptism was of secondary importance? ... that it was not a command? If so, this would be quite contradictory to the dozens of passages which were presented in Section 4.2. However, there is no contradiction. When we place this passage in its context we see exactly what Paul was trying to say, and it does not de-emphasize baptism in any way.
To show this, let us first consider the entire context (1 Corinthians 1:10-17):
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
This is a very informative and enlightening passage which has little to do with the doctrine of baptism. Let us analyze it in detail to see exactly what Paul was trying to communicate to the Corinthians:
1. First, the subject is not baptism, it is division. Clearly, the Corinthians were denominating -- they were dividing the church and calling these different groups by distinctly different names. It is interesting that calling a denomination after Paul was condemned even though Paul was an apostle and his inspired writings and speech had the full weight of the commandments of Christ (1 Cor. 14:37: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord"). But then, even those who claimed "I am of Christ" for the purpose of making distinctions within the Lord's church were condemned for this.
2. "Is Christ divided?" This rhetorical question would be answered in the affirmative by denominationalists. The obvious answer is no; Christ is not divided. The body of Christ is not divided. At some point when such divisions arise the organization so divided ceases to be the body of Christ.
3. "... was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" This begins to get at the context of the 17th verse which is at issue here. These rhetorical questions necessarily infer that the readers, the Corinthian Christians, were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and not in the name of Paul. Thus, they should only call themselves Christians (1 Peter 4:16) and not Paulites or any other name to distinguish themselves from one another. This does not diminish the importance of baptism in any way. In fact, the very mention of it in this context emphasizes its importance as the act which distinguishes Christians from those of the world.
4. "I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other." This is a statement of frustration on the part of Paul, since it is evident that the Corinthians were calling themselves and dividing themselves over those who had baptized them. Who baptizes you is not important. The important thing is that it is done in obedience to (in the name of) Jesus Christ. The fact that Paul cannot remember who he baptized further illustrates this point -- whether a person were baptized by Paul or some other Christian has no relevance to that person's salvation!
5. "For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel ..." The role of the apostle Paul was preach the new truth that was specifically given to him through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit -- the gospel of Christ. Any Christian could baptize, it did not take an apostle to do that. And there was always the danger of someone trying to exalt themselves by saying that they were baptized by the apostle Paul. (Perhaps this is the reason that Jesus did not baptize -- John 4:2.) Thus, there was probably an advantage to Paul avoiding the performance of baptisms.
6. "... not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." This does not relate to baptism. It introduces a contrast between the "word of the cross" and the "wisdom of words" which is another expression for the wisdom of man. This subject continues through the end of Chapter 4.
In summary, the context clearly
shows that the apostle Paul was not trying to de-emphasize baptism, he
was trying to de-emphasize the baptizer.
4.3.4 CONVERSIONS WHICH DO NOT MENTION BAPTISM
We stated that every detailed case of conversion included the specific mention of baptism as the culminating act which put the convert into Christ. There are a few conversions in which baptism is not explicitly mentioned. Let us consider these to determine if this creates authority for us to place baptism into the secondary role which it has assumed in the denominational world today. Since all of the cases of conversion are in the book of Acts, all we need to do is scour this book to find them.
The first such situation is given in Acts 11:19-21: "Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only. And some of them were men of Cyprus and Cyrene, which, when they were come to Antioch, spake unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord." This is certainly not a detailed case of conversion. "Believed" and "turned to the Lord" are general terms which infer that they (in the words of John the baptist -- Mat. 3:8) "brought forth fruits worthy of repentance." What does it mean, "believed" and they "turned to the Lord." The only way that we can tell is to examine others who believed and turned to the Lord and examine what they did. This is what we did when we examined the detailed cases of conversion given above.
Acts 13:12 presents another case: "Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord." Again, a living faith is one which motivates the convert to be obedient to God's will.
While the above two passages do not pose any great difficulty, the next occurrence does. We place it in its context (Acts 13:44-48):
And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, [saying], I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.
The last verse infers that because they were ordained to eternal life, they believed. However, this is not a necessary inference. It could equally be read: as many as believed were ordained to eternal life. Of course, there is a sense in which faith is a gift of God in that if God had not revealed His word to us, we would not have faith (Rom. 10:17). However, God has made this gift available to all people of all nations -- "whosoever will may come" (Rev. 22:17).
Again in Acts 14:1 we have a situation which is not detailed: "And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed." Recognize that there is no inference that these people did not hear, repent, confess or subject themselves to baptism. The fact that it says that they believed is not evidence that they were saved by faith only any more than a statements of cases of baptism infer that they were saved by baptism only. Since repentance, confession and baptism are motivated by faith, a statement that they believed infers that they performed these simple acts of faithful obedience. And, just a few verses (Acts 14:22) later Paul and Barnabas are said to be "Confirming the souls of the disciples, [and] exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." It is not enough to just "begin in the faith;" we must also "continue in the faith."
Another set of non-detailed cases of conversions is given in Acts 17:10-12: "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming [thither] went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few." Their faith, in this case, is attributable to their searching the scriptures to assure that the teachings of the apostle Paul were correct. No details with regard to these teachings are presented in this general case of conversion. The New Testament scriptures, however, adequately furnish with all of these teachings as well as all others that we need so that we can understand "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3).
Another case is given in Acts 17:32-34: "And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this [matter]. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which [was] Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them."
Another interesting case demonstrates that the impersonation of the miraculous allegedly in the name of Jesus is nothing new. It is also one of the most humorous stories in the New Testament (Acts 19:13-20):
Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of [one] Sceva, a Jew, [and] chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all [men]: and they counted the price of them, and found [it] fifty thousand [pieces] of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
Each case of conversion illustrates a different component of salvation. In this case the aspect emphasized is repentance, and it is illustrated by the way in which these people separated themselves from their past sins. This is not done to de-emphasize any other of God's commands. When we put all of the scriptures together we get the entire picture of what God wants us to do and be (Mt. 4:4).
One final example of baptism not being mentioned is quite enlightening. Consider Acts 26:24-29, which occurred after a rather lengthy sermon which Paul preached to Festus and King Agrippa:
And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.
King Agrippa believed; Paul said "I know that thou believest." He gave the reason: "For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner." But this was the same type of belief that James spoke of when he said: "the demons also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). It is a dead faith -- faith devoid of any actions to demonstrate that it exists.
This returns to the subject of Chapter 3. The statement that someone believes infers that that person is obedient to God. Denominational teachers would have us believe that it necessarily implies just the opposite. They would have us believe that because the above cases of conversion do not mention other acts of obedience that this necessarily implies that these acts of obedience are not required. Some (admittedly extremists) go so far as to teach that any performance of such acts are sinful and will preclude a person from salvation.
What should we teach? Should we
ignore all of the cases of conversion as well as the teachings of Jesus
and the apostles (many of which are documented in Section 4.2 above)? Are
we going to allow those cases where Luke recorded that people "believed"
to set all of these teaching aside? Or are we going to believe that the
bible is inconsistent? Consistency demands that the statement that certain
individuals believed infers that they were obedient to whatever commands
of God that they knew and understood. If there is any doubt at all about
this, reread Hebrews 11.
4.3.5 IF A PERSON GOT KILLED ON THE WAY TO HIS BAPTISM ...
One of the most persuasive arguments against the necessity of baptism has nothing to do with scriptural argumentation. It is launched with a single definitive emotional argument: "Do you mean that someone was on the way to their baptism and got killed that they would be lost."
Actually, I don't. But what I believe is of little consequence to anyone but me. It is what the bible teaches that counts. Since the bible does not deal with this exceptional circumstance, neither can we state anything definitively on it. The bible never gives an example of where a person believes and is on the way to render obedience to God in baptism and gets killed; thus, it does not specifically tell us God's judgment on such a case.
The problem, however, is not what opinions that we hold with regard to this hypothetical case. There are many such hypotheticals which the bible does not detail for us. For us to draw conclusions and base doctrine on these is clearly going beyond that which is written, and it is condemned (1 John 9). That is the problem. For an entire body of doctrine is based upon the following syllogism:
1. Major premise: If one circumstance which constitutes an "exception to baptism" can be found, then baptism cannot possibly be essential to salvation,
2. Minor premise: A person who is killed while on their way to being baptized is saved; therefore
3. Conclusion: Baptism is not essential to salvation.
Let us determine if this is sound reasoning.
First, consider the major premise. This is an assumption of legalism which those opposed to baptism would never espouse unless it served their own ends. In reality, God has the full right to make exceptions as He sees fit (which, in reality, would be both perfectly righteous and just). That is not the point. The point is that we have absolutely no right to make such exceptions and base doctrines upon them. Thus, there is no guarantee that the major premise is true. We might dream up any number of reasons that God might under some special circumstance not require baptism (such as the total absence of sufficient water). Admittedly such are far fetched, and we are not teaching that God does allow them as exceptions. We are only stating that the fact that He would does not mean that the rest of us who are not subject to these exceptions are free from those requirements that we can meet.
Consider as a real example given in Romans 10:9: "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." If a person does not have a voice, he cannot possibly be able to confess Jesus with his mouth. This person would not be lost. However, this does not in any way alter our responsibility to confess Jesus with the mouth. Can we refuse to confess Christ because those who are prevented from it are excused? Such logic is totally unreasonable when applied to confession. What makes it any more logical when applied to baptism?
Now let us turn to the minor premise: A person who is killed while on their way to being baptized is saved. There is no assurance that this is true. The fact that we believe it does not make it true. We saw that the bible teaches several steps prior to the act which puts the believer into Christ. Baptism must be preceded by hearing, belief, repentance and confession of belief that Jesus is the Son of God. It would be equally valid to apply this reasoning to any of these steps: A person who is killed while on his way to confessing, repentance, belief, hearing ... where do we draw the line?
Suppose a person is killed on their way to attending gospel preaching in which Jesus will be preached and they would render full obedience to the gospel and be saved. Is that person saved? If so, does this mean that there is no need to hear the gospel preached?
As the old wise man once said: "That's whittling on God's end of the stick." If God wishes to make exceptions, that is His business. I cannot teach such because the bible does not teach any. We believe in the perfect justice and the perfect grace of God. I do not need to get into the business of Gods judgment in order to preach the word of God. I just need to state what the bible has said with as much love as I can. This we have done as best we can by presenting the teachings of the New Testament in Section 4.2 above. The convoluted logic of this section does not set that aside. Rather, it is an attempt of those whose worldly interests are best served from such deceit.
Since neither the major nor the
minor premises can be determined to be true, the conclusion can certainly
not be inferred or proven in any way. The bible teaches that baptism is
essential to salvation and to teach otherwise constitutes the gravest disservice
that we can render our fellow man.
4.4 IS THIS IMPORTANT?
We hardly believe that you would have read to this point if you did not believe that this is important. However, it is not the misunderstanding of God's word that is the greatest enemy of the truth. It is the pure complacency that most people have for scriptural doctrine. They reason: "As long as I am a good person, isn't that enough? The bible, after all, is just common sense. I am a loving person and that is what God really wants."
This is not the reasoning of an evil person. But it is the reasoning of one who feels that he or she is justified by works. Being a good, loving person is not enough. We all need the blood of Christ for our justification. The terms and conditions for having that blood wash away our sins are set by God, not man. These are clearly presented in the scriptures referenced above. Those who think this is a skewed presentation should read the entire New Testament for themselves. Those who agree should also be skeptical and verify not only that truthful conclusions are being taught, but also that scriptures are being applied properly and truthfully.
Please review this chapter and as you do recognize that baptism is not the issue here! The issue is faith in God and His word. Do we believe what he said or don't we? Are we going to take Him at His word, or aren't we? Baptism is easy. It requires virtually no effort on our part. It is an arbitrary thing. Those who are going to associate with some church are going to be baptized at some time in some way and for some reason. Why not do it God's way and for God's reasons? If we cannot practice scriptural baptism in all of its simplicity, what can we practice? If we refuse to follow God's will on this simple thing, what is going to happen in those moral issues which require tremendous faith on our part? When we look at the collective morality of our country, we must ask: Is our slide into immorality caused by the same refusal to obey God that leads us to accept this myth of denominationalism instead of regarding baptism with the importance that God gave it?
In the next chapter we discuss another
myth that so often diverts attention away from God's word and toward subjective
self-direction: the idea that love is all you need.
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