[Editor's note: Sometimes internet correspondence has a broader than just personal appeal. Following are two letters and answers concerning salvation.]
I have, over the past two days, read many of your articles posted on your church's web site. It is actually ironic how I came across it. I was searching for stuff on Max Lucado (please do not quit reading this now) and your site was the first one I looked at.
I don't say all this to waste your time; I realize you are probably extremely busy. I am just curious to learn more about your beliefs. I understand that your first reaction is to say, "If you want to know about our beliefs just pick up your Bible and read it." I guess more specifically I am interested in why you stated in one of your pieces (sorry, I don't remember the title) that the Baptists' gospel is not true.
I realize that you must believe that Baptists have distorted a specific passage or doctrine in the Bible and I am just curious what part is erroneous. Is it that baptism is not necessary for the forgiveness of sins? Or that, plus a whole lot more?
I guess the cat's out of the bag as to what the name on the outside of the building where I worship says. I don't expect a lengthy answer or anything, but I would appreciate a response.
By the way, I am only a 19 year old college student, please remember that before you rip my head off. Thanks for taking time to read this and don't hold it against me for originally searching for stuff about that guy who probably makes you cringe every time you hear his name.
Sincerely (one who had to stop and think about the fact that Christmas and Easter are not Biblical),
Please be at ease. I do not make it a practice of ripping people's heads off. Occasionally, I will take issue with a false teacher or oppose fairly forcefully someone who misrepresents both us and the Scriptures (as per the Melton series).
To answer your inquiry let's begin with Galatians 1:8-9. Paul is writing this letter because the Judaizing teachers had been teaching that the Law of Moses was still valid, along with circumcision. Paul calls this another gospel, which is not another. Their teaching was not authorized by God, and all who taught this "gospel" were accursed.
We don't know anyone teaching that particular false gospel today. But there are other false gospels. In fact, everything is a false gospel--if it does not agree with the one gospel taught in the Scriptures.
What is that one gospel? Baptists (and they certainly are not alone) teach that people are saved by grace through faith. So do we. The problem is that they stick the word "only" after the word faith, and the Scriptures do not do that. In fact, "faith only" appears only one time in the New Testament--James 2:24, which states that we are not justified by "faith only."
Are we saved by faith? Absolutely. Are we saved by faith only? Absolutely not. Even just giving Hebrews 11 and James 2 a mild consideration should convince a seeker of truth that faith cannot be defined apart from an expression of obedience. Yet Calvinist doctrine has a person saved at the point He realizes that Jesus is the Son of God. Then he is taught to say, "Jesus come into my heart." Exactly what Scripture teaches this idea?
Jesus said, "Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5). This seems fairly straightforward. There's no symbolism or metaphor here. But "faith only" conflicts with what the Lord said here. Furthermore, Peter wrote, "Baptism does also now save us" (1 Peter 3:21). That too conflicts with "faith only." In 2 Thessalonians 2:10 Paul also said that love of the truth is necessary for salvation.
In other words, "faith only" has a person saved without repenting of his sins, without being baptized for their forgiveness, or even having a love of the truth, by which he could be made free (John 8:31-32). Any doctrine which clashes with so many other Scriptures cannot be the true gospel.
Second, Baptist doctrine sets at nought New Testament teaching on baptism being for the remission of sins. Since "faith only" must exclude all else, baptism must be minimized or made optional. Attempts to eliminate it have proven embarrassing, since Jesus connected faith and baptism together with the conjunction and in Mark 16:16.
Notice that Baptist doctrine says, "He who believes is saved and should then be baptized" (as an outward sign of an inward grace--where is that found in the Scriptures?). The Bible says, "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved." You may only be 19, but I'm betting you can see the difference between these two statements.
Of course, on the day of Pentecost when the church began, and people wanted to know what they should do, they were told, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of your sins..." (Acts 2:38).
Notice Acts 8:35-39. Philip preached Jesus. How did the eunuch respond? He wanted to be baptized. Does anyone ever ask this question when Baptists preach Jesus?
When was Saul of Tarsus saved? Just think about that one, and answer the question if you wish. You may discover a discrepancy between Baptist doctrine and the Scriptures if you study Acts 9 and 22.
3. Calvinistic theology sets up a false dichotomy. To them the choice is clear: one is either saved by grace or works. So if you don't choose "faith only," then you must believe that you can merit salvation. These are not the only two choices. We do not believe we can do anything to earn salvation. Anyone who does is foolish. Let's use an example to explain how this works.
Naaman was told that, in order to cleanse his leprosy (2 Kings 5), he must dip in the Jordan River seven times. He finally did so, and the leprosy was gone. Did it disappear by the grace of God or did Naaman merit his cleansing? Of course it was by the grace of God. And although Naaman did not merit his cleansing, still he was required to obey God as to the means of its removal (dipping in the Jordan 7 times).
Likewise, we do not merit salvation. But there are requirements of obedience necessary--repentance and baptism. These acts do not earn salvation; they merely comply with God's terms of acceptance. Furthermore, including them as part of the process of salvation eliminates the contradictions posed by "faith only," which leaves no room for the other elements of salvation that the Scriptures require.
There is much more that could be said, but hopefully these observations will prove helpful to you in clarifying your own thoughts. Let me know if I may be of further service, and thank you for reading our Web page.
I read your scathing "Spiritual Perspectives" article dealing with Max Lucado. As a Christian I find it quite disturbing. IF (and I say IF) in fact one MUST be baptized to be forgiven of sin, explain two things to me please:
1) Luke 23:40-43......Did they take the thief off of the cross, baptize him and put him back on the cross? Surely not, he was forgiven by Faith and GRACE not ACTION or DEEDS!!!
2) Luke 7:50.....Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
This seems to me to be in direct conflict with what you are teaching. Are you arguing against what our Saviour Himself taught? An explanation would be welcomed but based on your other teachings I don't believe it's necessary. Thanks and God bless!
P.S. One could also point to John 8:1-11. Did Christ tell her to go and be baptized? Keep in mind I believe baptism is important just not REQUIRED to be forgiven of sin.
Thanks for your inquiry, but you indicate you might not be greatly interested in my response. But here it is anyway. I hope you will give it serious consideration.
1. All three people you cited as examples lived and died under the Law of Moses, as did Jesus. He was teaching principles that would be part of his kingdom, the church, once He died, was buried, and rose again. But they did not take effect until then.
Consider this text closely: "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth" (Hebrews 9:16-17).
In the three examples you cited Jesus was not teaching what people they should do to be saved under His system. His pronouncements had nothing to do with baptism, but they did stress repentance.
However, after Jesus arose from the dead and commissioned His apostles, He told them to preach the gospel to every creature. Now notice: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Jesus not only included baptism; He links it to faith, and both precede salvation. If you would change that verse to "He that believeth shall be saved," you are the one tampering with the Scriptures. Are you arguing with what the Lord taught?
Furthermore, the apostles preached the same message on the day of Pentecost when the church began. When the convicted crowd asked what they should do, Peter did not say, "Do? Why, nothing; it's all grace." Instead he said, "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).
Jesus was not two-faced nor self-contradictory; He taught different behavior for those under the Law than for those under the gospel system because the Christian system is different than the Law of Moses. Surely you must have noticed this in a study of the books of Galatians or Hebrews. "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4). "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second" (Heb. 8:6-7).
Perhaps there is some confusion over the two covenants in your mind (I don't mean to be unkind in saying so; it is the case with many people). Please give the matter some consideration, and let me know if I may be of further help.
Notice that Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, linked repentance and baptism together; he made both of them occur before salvation.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "INTERNET CORRESPONDENCE: LUCADO & BAPTISM (2/15/98)."