DILEMMA: WHOSE IS IT? (PART 2)

GARY W. SUMMERS

   

The Web site, , contains five initial questions about salvation, and the fifth of these is baptism. Until this point the Web site has represented our views accurately, but here it departs from a fair representation on this issue. The writer says:

First, may I say that it has been my experience that the Churches of Christ believe in what is often called "(water) baptismal regeneration"--as though it is through the ordinance of water baptism that makes righteous (or justifies) the fallen sinner.

Mr. D. J. DeVries (the name that appears at the close of the Web site after the copyright), has ascribed to us a phrase that is almost Scriptural (Paul writes of "the washing of regeneration" in Titus 3:5), but in what tracts, articles, or sermons of ours has he found us using the phrase baptismal regeneration?

Concerning baptism, we say what the Bible teaches: We merely repeat the words that the inspired apostle Peter used when the multitude on Pentecost asked him what they should do: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). We say to others, as Saul of Tarsus was told, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Did water baptism make the three thousand righteous? Did it make Saul righteous? Does this Web site really want to oppose the Scriptures? Thanks to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 and Romans 6:3-7, we know that baptism makes us righteous because it involves the blood of Christ (compare also Acts 22:16 with Revelation 1:5).

DeVries says that water baptism is an ordinance, as communion is. What Scripture calls either baptism or the Lord's Supper an "ordinance"? Incredibly, it is argued that water baptism is merely an ordinance for Christians to observe and that it "is an external symbol of the believer's real or actual Holy Spirit baptism." After defining these two types of baptism, he then goes to Ephesians 4:4-5 to announce that there is but one baptism! He argues for two and then quotes the Bible as saying there is only one valid baptism! Well, if there is only one, and that one is Holy Spirit baptism, then why would water baptism be necessary at all?

He quotes from Jay Adams' book, The Meaning and Mode of Baptism, in a vain effort to prove that the only valid baptism is that of the Holy Spirit. Apparently, Mr. Adams does not know the difference between a promise and a command. John promised Holy Spirit baptism, which was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, but baptism in water is a command, which must be obeyed.

Cited as proof are Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:4-5, Acts 2:2-4, and Acts 11:15-18. All of these mention Holy Spirit baptism, but not one of these verses says that all Christians will receive it. When John makes the promise, we do not know the details of its fulfillment. Jesus, in Acts 1, says it will occur not many days hence. Ten days later it does occur, but there is no evidence that it ever occurred again until the household of Cornelius in Acts 10-11. Peter had to go all the way back to the day of Pentecost to find anything similar to what happened with Cornelius. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit was not a common occurrence.

What is the baptism that relates to salvation? Is it Holy Spirit baptism? When the apostles were all filled (immersed) with the Holy Spirit, were they saved at that point? No, they already believed and been baptized in water. When they were filled with the Spirit, they spoke in the languages of those present from all over the world (Acts 2:1-11). Not one word is said that would connect Holy Spirit baptism with salvation.

Furthermore, on the day of Pentecost, when 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), was he advocating Holy Spirit baptism? Since they now believed that Jesus is the Son of God, Peter should have said (per this Web site), "There is nothing for you to do. Stand where you are and you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit forthwith. Then because you are saved, you should repent." When men design their own theology, they get into these absurd situations by refusing to teach what the Bible does.

When Jesus gave the great commission, was He telling the apostles to baptize people in the Holy Spirit or water? The apostles could only baptize in water. When Philip baptized the eunuch, they both went down into the WATER and came up out of it (Acts 8:35-39). What did Philip teach concerning Holy Spirit baptism? Nothing! When the Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household, it was not at the instigation of Peter. Instead, the apostle asked, "Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized?" (Acts 10:36-37). If there was only one baptism when Paul wrote the book of Ephesians (4:5), then it was water baptism, which is commanded--not the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which was only for a limited time and purpose.

The Web site even insists that 1 Peter 3:21 is Holy Spirit baptism, even though the type involves literal water--the flood! These text-defying interpretations only show the desperation of some to get baptism in water for the remission of sins removed from God's plan. They ought to be ashamed for twisting the Scriptures. DeVries says rather smugly:

May I also point out that if the apostles were only referring to natural water, then the wrong people in this passage were baptized. ...the only ones who had natural water applied to them were those who perished in the flood!

One would think that one person associated with this Web site would be scholarly enough to know how types and antitypes work. They are mirror images. The type used in printing a newspaper is backward from the print that appears on the page. The text says that eight souls were saved through water (1 Peter 3:20). Those under the water drowned; those in the ark above the water were saved. The mirror image is this: Those now who go under the water are saved, but those who refuse and stay above the water remain condemned and die.

Worship

Toward the end of this material the author, apparently J. D. DeVries, says that he has grown up in the traditional churches of Christ. If so, then he should know better than to misrepresent us, which we will show shortly. He recommends books and materials by Dr. D. J. Kennedy, Dr. R. C. Sproul, and J. Vernon McGee. Some one should have taught him that the Bible is our source of authority, not men. If he was taught the truth, men like these have convinced him that Calvinism is true, that man plays no part in his salvation, that water baptism is actually Holy Spirit baptism, and that pretty much anything we choose to do in worship is all right. How sad that he has departed from the Truth. One wonders if he is this naive--or there is something behind it. Has he been made to feel more comfortable, e.g., with some immorality in his life by means of this false doctrine?

Particularly telling is a section titled "Issues of Worship." Think very carefully about this sentence:

If righteousness is provided to the believer only through their cooperation and obedience to (the commands and laws of) the New Testament, then it becomes imperative that we use the correct methodology and procedure in order to be saved.

First, have we argued that righteousness is provided ONLY through our cooperation and obedience to the commands and laws of the New Testament? No, this wording makes it sound as though we are earning salvation, and the author of this statement ought to know better. Again, we are cleansed of our sin by the blood of Christ. Of all people, we certainly know that we do not perfectly obey the Word of God. In fact, does anyone claim that we do not stand in need of grace and can obey God perfectly all the time (please provide names and addresses)? To make this charge against anyone is dishonest. Never have we ever heard anyone preach that salvation depends entirely upon us.

The Bible does teach, however, that we are to devote ourselves to pleasing Him; we are required to walk in the light. We confess our sins to God, and the blood of Christ continues to cleanse us (1 John 1:7-9). We teach precisely what the Scriptures do on this subject.

Second, consider the last part of the sentence: "it becomes imperative that we use the correct methodology and procedure in order to be saved." What is the alternative? Is not the implication that we need not care a fig about correct methodology and procedure, yet we will still be saved? What kind of attitude is that? It is one that is reflected in the very newspaper ad which contains the Web site address: "Answering the New Testament pattern controversy...." Apparently, the author does not think that the New Testament has any pattern which needs to be followed.

For that reason he finds no fault with observing Christmas and Easter as religious holidays. He writes concerning those days:

For those outside the Church of Christ movement [a totally inaccurate description of us, gws], one cannot help to be curious over why the Churches of Christ tend to make such issues so emphatically important.

Did no one in his "traditional" upbringing ever teach Him about Divine authority (Col. 3:17)? Apparently, he has not read the Scriptures sufficiently on his own to find it. Has he never read what Jesus told those who were observing unauthorized practices in His day: "And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9)? What we do in religion is important. God has never told man, "Worship Me however you think best. Don't worry about My commandments and instructions; I just gave those because I was bored. Baptism is part of My plan for salvation, but just take it out if you don't like it. I hate divorce, too, but go ahead and do what you want. I'm giving you commandments, but they're not really important. See, I've changed. Oh, sure, in the Old Testament I authorized putting to death one who blasphemed or one who gathered sticks on the Sabbath day, but I was younger then. I've become much more enlightened now. When I give commands, I probably don't really mean them and certainly would not hold anyone accountable for keeping them. Hey! I'm trying to make this as easy as I can so I will have more followers--people who feel no compulsion to do anything I say. In fact, I may not even have a Day of Judgment."

BAH! While we do not believe our own righteousness and abilities will save us, we also do not believe one can hold the Word of God in contempt, either. The Bible does not teach that salvation is entirely by us or exclusively by God. The Bible teaches that God loves us, that Christ died for us, and that salvation is available. The decision is up to us. Anyone who has read the invitations issued (Matt. 11:28-30; Acts 2:37-41; Rev. 22:17) knows that we have free will.

Only Calvinists teach that God makes the decision for us. He decides whether we are saved or lost. In fact, He decided it before we were born. If this doctrine is true, there is absolutely no reason to read or study the Bible and no system of morality to which we need to conform. It has already been decided, and no one can add "one whit" to his salvation.

God has expectations for His followers. Achan was put to death as an example of the way God feels about sin. So were Ananias and Sapphira. While salvation does not depend upon our ability alone, it does in part depend upon our responsibility--in taking seriously God's will and obeying Him as best we can (Heb. 5:9).

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "DILEMMA: WHOSE IS IT? (PART 2) (03/17/02)."


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