In the Wacaster-Sparks Debate, which we have reviewed the past two weeks, we mentioned that Bobby Sparks presented his negative material while he was in the affirmative on the first night--and then repeated it in his closing speech on the final night of the debate. The following quotations are from his initial harangue. After each point we will include brother Tom Wacaster's response, which was given in his opening speech on the fourth night. Following his comments, we will present some additional thoughts of our own.
1. "If baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, that would make baptism the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost." Tom: "Bobby fails to understand the differences between the unpardonable sin and an unpardoned sin.... God has promised us that any sin that we repent of, He's willing to forgive us of that sin." Tom only had a short time to respond to these charges because he had so much other material to present. We do not mean to imply at all that he did not do an adequate job--only that he was severely restricted as to what he could say. We will take advantage of this medium to answer more fully.
Sparks' reasoning can easily be turned against him. Substitute "confessing the Deity of Christ" in place of "baptism" in the objection offered above, and it becomes immediately clear that his objection to what the Bible teaches about the essentiality of baptism is nothing more than an attempt to prejudice the audience. We could as well assume that failure to confess Jesus with the mouth (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32-33; 1 Tim. 6:12) is blasphemy.
In the context of the passage which mentions this blasphemy (Matt. 12:24-32), Jesus defines it as the one who rejects the evidence of His Deity. They had assigned to Satan the power by which the Lord did miracles. The one who rejects, as they did, the Holy Spirit's evidence which established Jesus' claims, can never be saved, while he persists in that position.
Sparks knows full well that refusing to be baptized is not the sin of which Jesus spoke. He is simply using "spin" to fortify a weak (actually, nonexistent) case. If a man fell overboard from a ship and were thrown a life preserver, whose fault would it be if he refused to take it and be rescued? Mankind is floundering in the ocean of sin, and God sent Jesus to rescue us. That salvation is available to all mankind through the atoning blood of Jesus, which He shed on the cross. In addition to faith, God says that we must repent of our sins, confess His Deity, and be baptized for the forgiveness of our sins; whose fault is it if we refuse to do so?
The fault lies not with the Father Who devised the plan. The fault rests not upon Jesus, Who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. The Holy Spirit is not blameworthy, for He inspired the facts of the matter to be recorded and preserved to this good hour. The one who has rejected God's plan of salvation will have only himself to blame for refusing to lay hold of the means of salvation.
What a simple, passive act baptism is: rejecting it is equivalent to fussing about the color or the texture of the life preserver--or the quality of the rope.
2. Secondly, I object to such a doctrine because, if it's true, it limits Christ's operation, and forced Him to take up His abode in the water, because, if one must be in Christ to be saved (before he is saved), and if baptism puts one into Christ, then Christ is in the water, and no sinner can come into contact with Christ on dry land. And according to this man's doctrine, Christ is not here. He cannot enter this building. He can only come into contact with Him in the water.... So if one has to go down into the water to get into Christ, then salvation, remission of sins, and eternal life are all in the water. And Christ's sphere of operation is limited to the pools, the ponds, the baptisteries, the creeks, and the rivers of our country. And according to my opponent, nobody can come into contact with Christ without enough water.Tom did not address this particular point; he skipped to the third objection. But what this entire tirade consists of is a protest against God's plan of redemption. We are reminded of Naaman who was told to dip in the Jordan River seven times in order to have his leprosy cleansed and went away in a rage befitting Sparks. He railed against the means that God established to have his leprosy cleansed--dipping in water seven times; then he complained that he could find cleaner rivers.
And our reply to Sparks would be, "If God had said to go do some great thing to have salvation, would you not do it? How much easier is it to be baptized so that one's sins can be washed away" (Acts 22:16)? Is there some problem with finding enough water to baptize someone? Water is probably only the most common and most abundant liquid on the earth. Why does he reject this simple act so vociferously?
With but little effort we can imagine him ranting in Naaman's stead: "If one has to dip in the Jordan River seven times, then cleansing is in the water, and God's sphere of operation is limited to the Jordan River." All of this moaning and irrational gnashing of teeth is irrelevant. The question is, "Are you willing to do what God said, or do you prefer to tell Him how he should have done things?" Humility characterizes the former attitude, arrogance the latter.
3. I object to this man's doctrine because, if you ever get the Savior into your church building, you've got to put Him into a tank, connect it to the water main, and then turn on the water. And just as soon as you turn off the water, swoosh, Jesus has just gone down the drain.... You couldn't lead a person to Jesus tonight in this building if your life depended on it. You'll have to go find a pool of water somewhere. Christ's not here. He's in the water.Jesus is the one who said that we must be born of the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). Paul is the one that referred to "the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). Peter is the one who affirmed that baptism is part of the process of salvation (Acts 2:38) and later said that "baptism doth now save us" (1 Peter 3:21). One wonders how the Holy Spirit appreciates being made fun of.
4. I object to this doctrine because it does not make Christians; it makes idolaters.... And then, because I believed it was an act of obedience, I followed the Lord in baptism. But I'm not saved; why? 'Cuz I wasn't trustin' in the water. I didn't believe that the water's gonna wash away my sins. I was believin' that Jesus is gonna do it.Since when have we ever sung: "There's power in the water"? We have always taught that sins are washed away by the blood of Christ. John says that Jesus washed us from our sins in His own blood (Rev. 1:5). But He does so WHEN we respond to the command to be baptized (Acts 22:16). Sparks does not remain lost in his sins because he is clever enough not to trust in water; he continues to be lost because he has rejected "the operation of God," which provides that Jesus will cleanse us at the point of baptism.
5. I object to the doctrine of baptismal salvation because it would make the salvation of multitudes impossible. On the desert, in the battle field, or 300 feet deep in a cave, and that's the case of Mr. Floyd Collins, trapped in a cave in Kentucky for three weeks, and finally died. If a Church of Christ preacher had been there, he couldn't have led him to the Lord to save his life 'cuz there wasn't enough water there.
Tom: Well, what about a man who's never heard the Truth? He's a Muslim, and now he wants to be saved, and he's never heard the gospel. He doesn't believe in Christ. And now he wants to make his life right. Well, you see, he's got a problem with that, too.
Why is so much time spent on special and extraordinary circumstances? Most Americans, at least, have access to the Bible most of their lives. If they are so foolish to put off salvation until the plane is on its way down, or the enemy is shooting at them on the battle field, or the heart attack has already begun, or the last trumpet sounds, that is not the Lord's fault. He taught us to always be prepared (Matt. 25:1-13; Luke 13:3).
6. I object to the doctrine that baptism saves because, if true, it would destroy the apostles and the New Testament writers in hell because not a one of them was baptized in order to obtain the remission of sins.Tom: "Bobby couldn't prove that if his life depended on it. They were baptized likely by John." Besides, Jesus also baptized. Perhaps one of the most overlooked passages of Scriptures is John 4:1-2:
Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples)....Consider this text carefully. John baptized his disciples; SO DID JESUS--although He did not personally do so. He authorized it, however. So, how did one become a disciple of Jesus? One was baptized. Furthermore, is it conceivable that Peter and the rest of the apostles would teach others to do what they had never themselves done? Would it be possible for Peter to write 1 Peter 3:21 and never say to himself, "Why, I've never done that"? It is a false assumption (and ludicrous) for someone to assert that the apostles were never baptized for the remission of sins.
7. I object to this doctrine because it makes no difference how anxious the sinner is to be saved and set free from sin. He has to wait for the preparation to be made.Similarly, Paul had to be led into the city of Damascus to hear what Ananias had to say to him. He too waited three days. Is it too much to ask that someone wait ten minutes in order to change clothes for the baptism? God has the power to preserve one who desires to obey Him.
8. If baptism is necessary, the Bible says in Psalm 34:18, David said: "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit." If the water plan was right, David was wrong because God is nigh unto them that are nearest the water.Besides, Sparks again forgets that David was speaking to those who were already God's people. The alien sinner who truly has a contrite heart will want to obey. Those on Pentecost, who gladly heard Peter's words ("Repent and be baptized...") were baptized. On that very same day 3,000 were added to the church (Acts 2:41, 47). Had Sparks been there, he would have excoriated the apostle for teaching such a doctrine.
9. I object to it because, if it's true, then the matter of salvation is not a matter between you and God, settling issues between you and God; it's between you and God and a third party, or a fourth, or fifth, or a sixth party, or more than that.... A "church of Christ" preacher...claims to have more power than the pope of Rome. He has the power to veto the person's salvation. And it's not just a matter between you and God and your relationship with God; it's a matter between you and God and the preacher. And in the case of, maybe Catholic children, whose parents won't let 'em be baptized, or Jewish children, whose parents won't let 'em be baptized, then other people have control over your salvation, and there's nothing you can do about it, and other people have the power within them to veto your salvation.The same parents who would object to their children being baptized might also object to their studying with a Missionary Baptist who will attempt to save them on the spot. Sparks has the same problem that we do. Those whose parents object to their being baptized usually are baptized regardless. Children often disobey parents for their own selfish reasons; it is not wrong to disobey parents in order to obey God.
10. I object to the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation because it makes leaving off baptism the very worst sin a human being can commit.This last objection is similar to the first one: baptism is not a sin. Baptism (when preceded by faith, repentance, and confession) is the answer to sin. Again, it is the means which God devised through which the blood of Christ is applied. Leaving off baptism is a rejection of the will of God. God will not save some one who is not humble enough to do that which God says is necessary for salvation.
None of these ten reasons contains any validity. Most of the criticism is directed to God and the Bible which teaches the necessity of baptism. It is amazing that so much resistance is directed at a command which God has given us with respect to salvation. Building faith in God may take some convincing; repentance is a difficult requirement; confession may bring persecution; but baptism is a simple, passive act. Why is there so much caterwauling against it? Bobby's bombast generated many "sparks" in the course of the debate--but no substantial fire.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "'TEN OBJECTIONS WHY I DON'T BELIEVE IN BAPTISMAL SALVATION' A REVIEW (12/30/01)."