Previously, we have seen "Pastor" James L. Melton's attempts to sidestep Mark 16:16. He follows his specious evasions by quoting several Scriptures that emphasize faith. But he apparently does not recognize that faith is often highlighted in the Scriptures because it is the beginning of man's response to God. Melton treats it as though it is the end of man's response to the grace of God. [Of course, if it is the end, then he has not only eliminated baptism but repentance as well. Faith may also be used as a synecdoche.]
For faith to be the first and final step in man's response to the salvation he is offered, Melton needs passages (or at least one verse) that says man can be saved by faith only. All who profess to be Christians believe we are saved by faith, but some of us have noticed that faith prompts one to obey God (which is the point of much of the book of Hebrews). There is one verse in the Bible that uses the phrase faith only: James 2:24, which states: "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only."
Erroneously concluding that he has proved his case, Melton asks, "Now, who in their right mind would choose to IGNORE these plain and simple Salvation verses by charging to Mark 16:16 and trying to confuse matters?" Apparently, he forgot that Haun's tract is titled, "Must One Be Baptized to Go to Heaven?"--not "Must One Have Faith to Go to Heaven?" Only atheists dispute the necessity of faith (unless it would be those who sprinkle infants); but many, like Melton, want to eliminate baptism as part of God's process in saving mankind, although it is clearly taught in the Scriptures.
Lest anyone think the remark in the previous article about Jehoiakim's penknife was too harsh, consider these next few sentences:
In Mark 16:16 the water baptism FOLLOWS the individual's belief as a good testimony, just as taking a seat follows stepping onto a school bus. The key element in one's Salvation is his BELIEF ON CHRIST ALONE. Water baptism is important, and it should always FOLLOW Salvation as a picture of the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Christ, but it cannot save anyone.
Melton is correct when he says that "water baptism FOLLOWS" faith, but then he equates faith with salvation so that by the time he has finished, baptism "FOLLOWS Salvation." Look at the verse, and look at what he has done.
Mark 16:16: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved."
Melton 16:16: "He who believes is saved and should be baptized."
Anyone who cannot honestly see the difference in the two statements needs help. He took Jehoiakim's penknife and cut out baptism, which precedes salvation. Then, so that it would not entirely disappear, he pasted it on the other side of salvation. All of his misdirection about unbelief in the second part of the verse is just so much obfuscation. Of course, people will be lost for unbelief. But the first part of the verse promises salvation to those who believe AND are baptized.
After quoting the verse, Melton takes issue with Haun for citing authorities in the Greek language. Someone who wishes to criticize others ought to be careful about quoting them correctly. Following is the way in which Melton quoted Haun from page 7 of his tract:
"Peter said it is necessary for men in this age to be baptized to obtain pardon. The preposition 'of' means 'in order to' and is so rendered in some translations. (Living Oracles, Anderson, Macnight, Goodspeed) The English Revised and American Revised say 'unto.'"
The quotation contains three errors. In the first sentence the word living was omitted after the word men; Macknight's name was misspelled, and most importantly the preposition under discussion is for, not of. But his mishandling of the words of men is nothing compared to his treatment of the Word of God and his inability to discern what a Scripture means. Readers, sit down for this:
Notice how the church of Christ must refer to OTHER TRANSLATIONS in order to find support for their false teachings! This is a standard practice among the cults: ESTABLISH MORE THAN ONE AUTHORITY SO THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE THE ONE YOU PREFER AT ANY GIVEN TIME.
Ignorance thrives even in the age of computers. How did this man come to be a Baptist "pastor"? If he went to a school, did they condemn studying Greek? This is absolutely incredible! Apparently Melton considers it a waste of time to look up the definitions of Greek words in Kittel, Thayer, or Arndt and Gingrich, (those famous "cult leaders"). Then he professes to know that God uses the King James? Which King James, Mr. Melton? Does He use the one printed in 1611 (which most people today would have trouble reading), or one of the more modern editions of it?
And please tell us, What Book did God use for 1600 years? He falsely charged churches of Christ with teaching that the church didn't exist for seventeen centuries, but according to his logic, God's Book didn't exist for sixteen centuries! Can He actually be ignorant of the fact that the Bible was written in Greek and that Jerome's translation of it into Latin (the Vulgate) was the most common version for a thousand years?
Apparently "Pastor" Melton knows God far better than the rest of us, and God assured him that He uses the King James. Perhaps we should be relieved that the KJV is God's choice, since it is far better than the NIV, which most Baptists favor.
The accusation that those who are attempting to understand definitions of words and the meaning of Scriptures are a cult is fatuous. Cults, like Jehovah's Witnesses, do not recognize what anyone else has to say. Watchtower tells them what to read and what to think. Likewise Mormons are taught not to listen to anyone else that is not "enlightened" enough to recognize Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.
Members of the churches of Christ have never been told they could read only certain books or study specific materials produced by us. Certainly we don't have our own official Bible, as Jehovah's Witnesses do. We encourage word studies and are content to rely on the same scholars that Baptists use, and we seriously doubt that there are many Baptists who will agree with the outlandish statements that Melton makes--either about the false charge of our being a cult or that the King James is "the Book God uses."
Interestingly, Melton quit quoting from Haun's tract at the very point that would have disproved his "cult" theory. That information from page 7 is given below:
Charles B. Williams of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee says in his translation of Acts 2:38, "Let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, that you may have your sins forgiven." Where is there a recognized translation that says one is baptized because he has already been pardoned?
OUCH! No wonder Melton stopped quoting! Williams was not (so far as we know) a member of the church; he is just giving the best translation he could. A cult would only cite its own authorities. Furthermore, the question asked by Haun is one that Melton would prefer not to deal with because he knows that no honest scholar would translate that verse so incorrectly as to fit Melton's theology.
But if Melton to this point has been unkind and showing a few signs of suffering from megalomania, he next moves into the area of blasphemy.
First of all, the same Peter who is preaching in Acts 2:38 later learns a few things about Salvation that he did NOT know in Acts 2. We know this is true, because in Acts 15:11 Peter says something very different: ".... through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved..." In Acts 15:11 Peter says nothing about baptism. Why not? If it's so important, why didn't he mention it? Very simple. At the time of Acts 2:38, Peter didn't fully understand Salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9). God had to reveal this to Peter, and, by the time we reach Acts 15:11, Peter gives us God's Salvation plan for today. Why is it that we never hear the Church of Christ quoting Acts 15:11? If God didn't stop with ACTS 2:38, then why did the Church of Christ?
The Baptists who would support Melton in this heresy could probably have their annual convention in a phone booth. It should scarcely be necessary to refute this doctrine for any serious student of the Word.
On the night Jesus was crucified He told His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit who would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all things He had said to them (John 14:26). He also promised that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth and tell them things to come (John 16:13).
On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) all of the apostles were "filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). When a crowd gathered, Peter had the opportunity to preach to them. Inspired by the same Holy Spirit whom Jesus had promised and whom they had received, Peter proved to the multitude that Jesus was raised from the dead. He did so by demonstrating that it was foretold in the Scriptures and by assuring them that the apostles were all witnesses of the resurrection.
Then he boldly said, "Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When they asked, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter answered, "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).
Exactly at what point did Peter stop speaking by the Holy Spirit? And how could the Holy Spirit allow all those people to think that the solution to their problem involved baptism when it was just a matter of Peter's imperfect theology? Does Melton know how inspiration works? Has he ever read the words of the corrupt prophet Balaam, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more" (Num. 22:18)? Even though Balaam wanted the money (and eventually found a way to earn it), he spoke the Word of God when he prophesied: "The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak" (Num. 22:18).
Are we to believe that a corrupt and greedy prophet spoke the truth because God put the words in his mouth, but that the apostles who were filled with the Spirit on the day of Pentecost spoke what was untrue and incomplete? Melton has far surpassed any problem he has with churches of Christ by criticizing an inspired apostle. This attitude reveals just how desperate he is in his rejection of the truth. He will say anything to try and remove baptism from the plan of salvation. Indeed, he owes Peter, the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus, and the Father an apology for letting his emotions override his integrity.
He further claims that Acts "is a Book of PROGRESSIVE REVELATION." To argue this position is to say that the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost did not have the answer to their question; neither did anyone in Jerusalem have it, though the church grew and multiplied. Samaria didn't get it, and neither did the eunuch.
What about the claim that Peter said nothing about baptism in Acts 15:11 and that therefore he had learned more about salvation? First of all, Acts 15:11 is not a discussion of salvation, and Peter is not addressing the unsaved as he was on the day of Pentecost. The apostles were discussing the problem of the Judaizing teachers who were insisting that Gentiles be circumcised and keep various other matters of the Law of Moses (Acts 15:1). Peter's argument is that men are saved by grace, not the Law of Moses.
Second, notice that Peter not only omits baptism, but repentance and faith as well. Third, notice that there is room for all three, however, when he says "that through the grace of God we shall be saved in the same manner as they." How were the Jews saved? Peter told them to "repent and be baptized." If the Gentiles are to be saved in the same way, then they too would need to repent and be baptized. [Did you notice that Melton quit quoting Acts 15:11 (on the previous page) when he got to the part about "in the same manner as they"?]
God is not the author of confusion; the Scriptures do not contradict themselves. There is but one plan of salvation, and it includes water baptism for the forgiveness of sins. Salvation is not progressively revealed. Not everything can be taught at once, and the church learned more of the will of God as time went on, but salvation is crucial. Who, besides Melton, could imagine at the very outset of the Christian era, with people clamoring for salvation, that the Holy Spirit (through Peter) would only tell them part of the plan?
And how progressive is it to remove steps from the process? If Melton is right, how much simpler it would have been for Peter to answer, "Faith only." To insist upon baptism for salvation and then remove it is REgressive, not PROgressive. Anyway, Peter never dropped baptism as one of the elements of salvation. Long after the events of Acts 15 the apostle wrote in 1 Peter 3:21: "baptism doth also now save us." [This verse will be studied in more depth later.]
The New Testament consistently teaches that baptism comes before salvation and that it is "for" the remission of sins. The fact that Melton (or anyone else) doesn't like it doesn't change the truth one iota.
The man ought to be ashamed of his efforts to twist the Scriptures (something of which Peter wrote--2 Peter 3:16) to make them fit his theology. He has misquoted and misapplied the words of men and of God. He has rearranged Mark 16:16 to make it say what he wished it said. He has hurled accusations at us which are false even on their surface. Worst of all, he has impugned the Holy Spirit's ability to inspire the apostles. He has taught us that to say (if we disagree with some doctrine), "Later in the Scriptures there is fuller revelation on that subject." He has, furthermore, interrupted the quotation of a verse (Acts 15:11) to deliberately misrepresent it. These acts are reprehensible.
*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "MELTON'S SKEWED VIEWS OF SALVATION (PART 2) (11/30/97)."