Dialogue with Robert Prater: What Is “Faith”? Part 4 (Baptism vs. Faith)

Note to readers: I’m recaptioning the posts reflecting my interchange with Robert Prater, as we’ve gotten pretty far afield from the original theme.dialogue

When members of the Churches of Christ speak of the faith-only heresy, they generally aren’t referring to the idea that God doesn’t care about our obedience. Only a very few extreme Calvinists teach that. Nearly all denominations understand that God expects obedience. No, when we speak against faith-only, we almost always mean to our rejection of the idea that someone can be saved by faith without baptism — that is, we’re usually thinking about the Baptists.

Now, I’ve written a book on this very question. And so I tend to be reluctant to explain something this complex in a single post. But because the question keeps coming up, I’m going to try to give an introduction (and this is just an introduction). The key, as is so often the case, is asking the right question.

You see, the baptism verses are there and they are true and we understand them largely correctly — so don’t waste your time citing Acts 2:38 etc. to me. I know them and agree with them. But all those faith-only verses are there, too. We usually deal with them by reading the baptism verses second and saying the baptism verses explain them (away), while the Baptists are reading the faith-only verses and saying they explain (away) our baptism verses. Both arguments are illegitimate.

Now, consider this. Nearly every Christian denomination baptizes. The Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, and most Pentecostal denominations baptize for remission of sins. However, the Calvinist churches — the Baptists especially — insist that baptism is a mere ordinance, that is, just a command. But the Baptists are started to return to a somewhat sacramental view of baptism. And there have always been Baptists that baptize for remission of sins.

And some groups baptize only believers by immersion, such as some branches of the Church of God. We are not as alone or different as we sometimes like to think.

The key differences with most (not all) other denominations is that we reject infant baptism and we insist on immersion rather than sprinkling or pouring. And I think we’re right.

But consider the plight of someone who is raised outside the Churches of Christ. They look “baptism” up in the dictionary, and the dictionary includes pouring and sprinkling. And countless commentaries and study Bibles say the same thing. They read the arguments on infant baptism, and learn that many of the greatest scholars in church history favor infant baptism.

My point is that it’s entirely possible to be a much better student of the Bible than most and yet conclude that the New Testament approves infant baptism, sprinkling, or pouring. You’d be wrong, but not because of a hard or rebellious heart.

Thus, the question becomes: if someone approaches God with a genuine faith in Jesus, with a penitent heart, and a defective baptism, will God reject such a person? I think the scriptures say no, for several reasons.

First, as I argue in this post more fully and continue in this post, in every “dispensation,” we can find examples of people doing exactly that and finding salvation outside the stated covenant-means of forgiveness. As an example, when David was charged with adultery and murder in his dealing with Bathsheba and her husband, he wrote,

(Psa 51:16-17)  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

This is all quite contrary to the law of Moses, which was very much in effect. I cite other examples in the posts.

Some want to argue that God can’t violate his own rules, but he can and he does. Others argue we shouldn’t presume on God’s grace — and they are right. But if you really don’t know any better, you’re not presuming.

Second, as I argue more fully here, and as I have mentioned a couple of times recently, God doesn’t require the other “steps” in our salvation to be perfect. If we had to have perfect faith, we could move mountains. If we had to have perfect penitence, we’d be sinless. Why would God require a perfect baptism when these obviously weightier elements can be imperfect?

Third, as I argue in the same post, only the saved have the Spirit, and all with the Spirit are saved.

(Rom 8:9b,11) And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. … 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

And the scriptures are clear that the Spirit’s presence should be evident to people who know you. Here are a couple of verses to consider:

(1 Cor. 12:3) Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

(1 John 4:2-3a, 15) This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. … If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.

In each of these passages, the writer declares that faith in Jesus demonstrates the presence of the Spirit.

And there are other verses that suggest that Christians may be discerned by their behavior. For example,

(John 13:34-35) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Therefore, the presence of a genuine faith and a Christ-like love for fellow believers indicates the presence of the Spirit.

The Spirit gives spiritual gifts to all Christians “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). Moreover, the Spirit changes our hearts and thus our behavior —

(Gal. 5:16-25) So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. …

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

And so we see that the presence of the Spirit is supposed to have an ethical influence — much more than that — it’s supposed to change our hearts and thus our behavior. Now, undoubtedly, there are people who have never so much as heard of Jesus — idolaters even — who live very moral and upright lives. Mere good deeds do not prove the presence of the Spirit. But deeds done by a person of faith demonstrates a Spirit-filled heart. Isn’t that what the verses plainly say?

(I spend more words on this concept because so many in the Churches of Christ struggle to understand the passages dealing with the Spirit, even though the indwelling Spirit is a vital doctrine that permeates the New Testament.)

Fourth, as I argue in this post, the prophets and Jesus repeatedly declare that the state of our hearts is far more important than our adherence to God’s own rituals. Going back to Psalm 51, David declared by inspiration that God forgives because of a broken and contrite heart, not sacrifices, and yet sacrifices were the ritual by which Israelites received forgiveness (by the power of Jesus’ blood not yet shed). Of course, in the normal course God expects his rituals to be followed, and he would deal severely with those who refuse out of a rebellious heart. But he always accepts those who come with faith and penitence.

(Hosea 6:6)  For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

(Isa 58:6-11)  “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter– when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

(Micah 6:6-8)  With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Fifth, the character of God, as revealed in Jesus, shows that he will forgive beyond our expectations or what we deserve.

A very familiar story is told in Matthew:

(Matt. 9:1-8) Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”

Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . .”

Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

Jesus was asked to heal the paralyzed man, but he forgave him even though he wasn’t asked to do so! The men asked for less than Jesus was willing to give, and yet Jesus gave what was needed. This is the nature of our Savior. He does not give begrudgingly to those who approach him with faith.

(Eph 3:12) In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

(Heb 4:16) Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Why do we suppose that a Baptist who asks to join the church, the body of Christ, with a saving faith and penitent heart but ignorant of the true purpose of baptism, will be denied his greatest need by a loving, gracious Savior? Why imagine that a Savior anxious to forgive will fail to do so when a faithful man or woman fails to use enough water in the baptismal ceremony? This is the same Savior who forgives the faithful who don’t even ask for forgiveness!

Sixth, God keeps all his promises — every, single one. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. God meant for baptism to be properly administered to each convert. Jesus commanded it. And yet many converts — entirely new to their faith — are taught error on this point, despite their willingness to submit to God in whatever way he asks. The fault is in the teachers’, not the converts’.

When the New Testament was written, there was no disconnect between baptism and conversion. It all happened more or less at once. But the early church added infant baptism, sprinkling, and pouring, and Calvin separated baptism from salvation. And now the faith-only verses and the baptism + faith verses are difficult to reconcile. How can it be true that all who believe are saved (as the Bible says over and over) and yet salvation only occurs when someone is properly baptized? Both cannot be true. It cannnot be true that all with faith are saved when those with faith and a defective baptism are not. It’s that simple.

But God is quite clear: as I’ve argued elswhere more fully, he keeps all his promises. (Num. 23:19; Jos. 23:14; 2 Cor. 1:20; Titus 1:2; 2 Pet. 3:9).

In these times, we find God presented with a choice: He must either dishonor his promises that he will save all who have faith; or else he must create an exception from his requirement that salvation is only for those born of water and the Spirit.

Well, plainly, God is going to keep all his promises, and the only way he can do so is to save the penitent faithful who’ve been wrongly taught about baptism.

But while God can and does make exceptions, we are not God and we have no right to make exceptions for him. Therefore, if a penitent believer who has not been properly baptized enters our influence, we are obligated to teach him God’s will on the subject.

Baptism is a bigger issue than simple obedience. For example, notice Matthew’s version of the Great Commission:

(Matt. 28:19-20) “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Notice that Jesus tells his apostles to evangelize the world, to baptize their converts, and to teach them to obey his commandments. He distinguishes baptism from obedience to commandments. Baptism is thus not just another law to be obeyed. We are commanded to baptize our converts — and that is a matter of obedience.

Therefore, for those who wish to be a part of my congregation, I am compelled to teach baptism — even more so than other forms of obedience. As Beasley-Murray writes –

Finally we should observe that the authority of Christian Baptism is of the weightiest order. It rests on the command of the Risen Lord after his achieving redemption and receiving authority over the entire cosmos; it is integrated with the commission to preach the good news to the world, and it is enforced by his own example at the beginning of his messianic ministry. Such a charge is too imperious to be ignored or modified. It behooves us to adhere to it and conform to it as God gives grace.

G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament, p 92.

So let’s get back to the original question. Does the fact that “faith” includes the ideas of faithfulness or loyalty mean that baptism is essential? No. I can be faithful to someone and yet be imperfectly faithful. In fact, there is no other possibility this side of Judgment.

I have children — four sons. And they aren’t perfect. And sometimes they disobey. Sometimes they get angry with me. There have been times when they even wished they had a different father. But I’ve not yet disowned them. I’m patient — but nearly all parents all. Kids teach you patience.

My kids aren’t always perfectly faithful. They aren’t perfectly obedient. But I know their hearts and the direction of their lives, and they are going to be just fine. They’ll hit some bumps in the road, but they’ll do fine.

This is how I judge my children, and I think it’s very much how God judges us. Could my kids be so disobedient that I’d disown them? Yes. Are they anywhere close? No. Can I imagine these particular kids ever acting that way? No. But I know families where it really has happened, and for good reason. There are limits.

When the scriptures say we are to be “penient,” “obedient,” “faithful,” or “loyal” to God, the scriptures are quite serious, but we aren’t empowered to pick certain commands as essential and others as within grace. That’s not the test. The test is our hearts and the direction of our lives — it’s our loyalty, not our understanding. If we are trying to do right and misunderstand God’s will in some particular, we’ll be fine. God will see to it.

God condemns the rebellious. He saves those who are loyal — even if they misunderstand a detail here or there. But, of course, God’s loyal people really do try to understand his will so that they can please him.

This is grace. Grace does not contradict obedience. In fact, grace compels obedience. It’s just that grace allows the kind of obedience we’re actually capable of achieving — an imperfect, stumbling obedience that sometimes misunderstands what we are to do, but an obedience from a heart that loves and is loyal to Jesus.


35 Responses

  1. Jay, thanks for this excellent treatise which will surely help many people with this very troublesome subject. You show balance (slighting neither grace nor obedience), locate your subject in the ‘big picture’ (applying scriptural principles involving God’s workings from throughout the Bible) and do all this with a becoming humility and heart of love. The founders of our Restoration Movement taught people to be immersed, but regarded as fellow-Christians sincere believers who were not (see quotes at http://www.edwardfudge.com/gracemails/baptism_RM_pioneers.html). We in the Churches of Christ have more to learn ourselves about baptrism “for remission of sins,” both as the phrase is used in Scripture (http://www.edwardfudge.com/gracemails/remission_of_sins.html) and also how it came to occupy such a central position within our own historical movement (http://www.edwardfudge.com/gracemails/baptism_formula_origin.html).

  2. Jay,

    What a very thoughtful and refreshing post. No doubt, some will criticize you for using the OT and Jesus’ ministry experiences by saying that was “all before the cross” but they miss the point that both Jesus and the OT reveal the true character and heart of God (which is often neglected in the reading of the NT among many fundamentalist circles).

    Grace and peace,


  3. Brilliant post! It is encouraging and refreshing! Thanks so much for taking a great deal of time to study an enormous question, and to state your conclusions so clearly.

  4. Jay, I cannot joy others in calling your post “refreshing’, “brillant,” “excellent,” “encouraging, etc.” It grieves me to think that the views you are advocating are being so openly accepted and embraced in the Lord’s church today. without the slighlest possible challenge or consideration of what exactly you are saying and where will this kind of thinking take us?

    So, I think it will be no surprise to you or other readers of this blog, but I respectfully and soundly disagree with you adn what I believe are the false teachings you are promoting in such views. I’m sorry for writing so much in what follows, but I must respond some at length.

    First of all, let’s step outside this debate taking places within Churches of Christ. This debate about the mode and purpose of baptism is being hotly debated right now in many other religious groups as well. I’m sure you were aware back in 2007 of Wayne Grudem having revised the chapter on Baptism in his Systematic Theology. Dr. Grudem has apparently tightened his view regarding Paedobaptism and church membership, especially when it comes to Paedobaptists fellowshipping with Credobaptists. The new revision reveals that Grudem would not admit to membership any believer who had not received believer’s baptism. Interestingly, John Piper, a close friend and former colleague of Grudem, lamented the change. He recently wrote a response to Grudem’s change of heart.

    Grudem however, said in part,
    “In that case, I suppose a (hypothetical) Baptist church could say to someone, “We require baptism for church membership, unless you disagree with our view of baptism. For those who disagree with us, we do not require baptism for church membership. Whether we require it or not depends on what you think of baptism.” I suppose a church could say that. In such a church, they could allow an unbaptized person to be a member. If a godly, Bible-believing, born again Presbyterian (such as your examples of our friends Ligon Duncan or R. C. Sproul, or others) came and wanted to be a member, this (hypothetical) Baptist church could say to him, “We don’t believe you have been baptized, but you can become a member anyway because we allow unbaptized people like you to be members.” But I don’t think I could support such a practice in a church. I think the reason churches throughout history have required baptism for membership is that the New Testament so clearly makes baptism the public act that every believer undergoes at the outset of the Christian life. It is right there in the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). There is no such thing in the New Testament as an unbaptized person being an active member of any local church. So how could we say today that we should start allowing unbaptized persons to be members of our churches? But that (it seems to me) is what my earlier position, and your current position, would have to say. I do not think such a position is wise, or consistent with the New Testament, and I would not recommend any church to adopt it.”

    Jay, a preacher friend of mine recently referred me to a very interesting article on one Baptist’s preacher’s blog, entitled, “The Great Baptism and Church Membership Debate.” It is by Jim Somerville, pastor Richmond, VA, First Baptist Church

    He writes about the adapting the following new proposal at his church: “And then I proposed this change to our membership requirements: “What if we said that, while we will continue to make disciples as we always have, baptizing believers by immersion, we will also receive as full members Christians from other denominations who value their baptisms, have made a public profession of faith, and earnestly seek to follow Jesus?”

    Here were some comments he received:

    One said,
    “Thanks for sharing the discussion of the Deacon meeting regarding baptismal traditions at 1st Baptist. This discussion is especially meaningful to me, as I was baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran but recently joined 1st Baptist with my fiancé this past month under a “provisional” membership until the holy conversations have concluded. Baptism was a concern of mine… but not because of what I considered my baptism to be…but of what 1st Baptist considered my baptism to be.

    Another wrote,
    “Infant baptism…adult baptism…holy communion…confirmation…..dedication….these events don’t define my belief in Jesus…they don’t legitimize it…they don’t make me “more of a Christian” and they certainly don’t make me a better one.”

    Still another,
    “We all know the Baptist way to become a Christian and that it includes being baptized the Baptist way. Our current rules on full membership seem to be designed to make sure 100% of our full members have become Christians the Baptist way. But, we can still be a Baptist church, even if only most of our full members have become Christians the Baptist way. It just scares us to lose control over the percentage. Will it be 99%? Would it go down to only 70%. We don’t have to let our fear make this choice for us. We can let Jesus be in control of the percentage and trust that it is going to be OK.

    Another comment by a reader,
    “Yes, that is a good question, “What would Christ do?” I think I know the answer to that question. I think that Christ would say welcome all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Baptism does not save us, but by the grace of God we are saved. I have been there on the other side; though, I did submit myself to Baptism by immersion some 24 years after I was Baptized in the Methodist Church. I can see where others may not want to make that decision yet they would be a faithful addition to the body of believers, and a witness for Christ.”

    Now, from what I’m reading on this blog from you Jay and the comments from others, I think it won’t be much longer in the church before we begin to see and hear such teachings and even practices.

    Jay, you wrote, “Thus, the question becomes: if someone approaches God with a genuine faith in Jesus, with a penitent heart, and a defective baptism, will God reject such a person? I think the scriptures say no, for several reasons….” It takes you a while, but you seem to finally get around to your point of advocating that God will accept (and thus, I assume we should too??) “defective baptism” includes sprinkling/ pouring? Would that “defective baptism” also include infant sprinkling? You might say no because they have don’t “proper/genuine faith” in Jesus? Right? I personally think it won’t be much longer before some will say “Yes”, God will/can save those who were baptized (which can either be immersion or sprinkling right, God will accept either, right, as long as done sincerely) who believed when they were infants.

    Jay, you said, “in every “dispensation,” we can find examples of people doing exactly that and finding salvation outside the stated covenant-means of forgiveness.” Would you please point out the one found in the New Testament, that is, after Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension into heaven, where were you find such “exceptions.” I also find it just kind of funny, how you say there will be “exceptions” and Jesus said, “except a man is born again” (water and spirit) he cannot enter the kingdom of God. I think I’ll stick with Jesus.

    Again, I ask, “Where do the Scriptures say so” that God will accept someone’s “defective baptism?” My friend, the burden is on you to prove such. I can prove when and where the scriptures teaches that God “accepts” the one with a genuine faith, penitent heart demonstrated in baptism. Where can you?

    Now, I just think you say too much and go too far and are “overreaching” here. Those of us have recognize that baptism is part of God’s revealed way for accepting salvation need not insist that unbaptized person can be saved. Remember, We Speak Where the Bible Speaks and Are Silent Where the BIble is Silent. God is silent on this subject. And it may be very likely, this is intentional. God has clearly spoken on the matter of who He will save.

    Ashby Camp in his excellent review of Down in the River to Pray by Hicks and Taylor’s book, who make the same observances and basic conclusions as you do Jay, says: “F.D. Srygley, writing in the Gospel Advocate over a century ago, expressed his concern over treading in ignorance on the sovereignty of God and I think offers a much better perspective:

    “As I understand the N.T., the ‘pious unimmersed’ ought to be immersed. And in case they are not immersed, I know of no promise in the N.T. that they will be saved. But, as to whether God will make allowance for honest mistakes, and save those who think they are obeying him when in reality they are doing something he has not commanded in lieu of what he has commanded, is a question for God to settle, and I decline to take any part of it.” (“From the Papers”, Gospel Advocate 32, March 26, 1890) 193.

    Camp continues,
    “What human need conflicts with the proper observance of baptism so that one must alter observance of the ritual to meet the need? Certainly the need for divine mercy does not conflict with the observance of baptism, except in some extreme situation where it cannot be administered, as baptism is the very place where mercy is bestowed. The authors have jumped from the principle that meeting human need must take priority over ritual when the two are in conflict to the assertion that a refusal to observe a ritual because of a false belief will not exclude one from the blessings associated with the ritual.”

    Jay, it is almost virtually accepted by Biblical scholars, that the post-apostolic church universally practiced baptism by immersion. The only exceptions expressed in early church history were where there was not adequate water for immersion (Didache 7) or where the person was so ill that it was dangerous to take him to a place for immersion (Cyprian, Epistle 69).
    As Everett Ferguson remarks in The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today, 202-203:
    “Both circumstances were considered exceptional, and it was a long time before something other than immersion become command (and that only in the western branch of the church).”

    It is one thing to accept the possibility of salvation being extended by God to those who have not been immersed properly. It is another thing to teach and promote as you seem to be doing Jay, that this is what the Scriptures teach and the church needs to receive the unimmersed into its fellowship. If that is not what you are advocating, then please be specifically clear what you are advocating? Practically speaking. Should we accept into the fellowship of our congregations those who have not been immersed into Christ? (Sprinkled/poured by not immersed?) Should they be openly declared and welcomed and received as brothers/sisters in Christ? Yes or no. What are you saying/teaching??

    Jay, you said, “Why do we suppose that a Baptist who asks to join the church, the body of Christ, with a saving faith and penitent heart but ignorant of the true purpose of baptism, will be denied his greatest need by a loving, gracious Savior? Why imagine that a Savior anxious to forgive will fail to do so when a faithful man or woman fails to use enough water in the baptismal ceremony? This is the same Savior who forgives the faithful who don’t even ask for forgiveness!” So, Jay, you do deny or reject infant baptism but accept young child/adult sprinkling? Huh??

    You then say Jay, “But while God can and does make exceptions, we are not God and we have no right to make exceptions for him. Therefore, if a penitent believer who has not been properly baptized enters our influence, we are obligated to teach him God’s will on the subject…….therefore, for those who wish to be a part of my congregation, I am compelled to teach baptism.”

    But, if they are saved, forgiven by God, does it really matter in the end whether they come to be “baptized properly?” And really, in the end, baptized at all? What does God Way tell us to do??

    Jay, you cannot have it both ways. In the issue of baptism you cannot have it both ways; you cannot say that immersion is the Scriptural mode of Baptism, and still hold on to the doctrine of sprinkling as being acceptable form that God will accept and save who do it.

    If that is not what you are saying, then what exactly are you saying? That God gives His commandments and terms of conditions of pardon, but if a person comes along and sincerely misunderstands them or doesn’t obey them, God will save them as long as they are sincere in what they do? The fact or reality is that plainly, sincerity alone does not determine truth, scientifically, medically, legally, or religiously

    You speak of those who demonstrate the “Spirit” of Christ in their behavior as being evidence of Christian? Those who lets say devote their lives helping the poor, feeding the homeless, displaying love to those who have never known it, do so with deep sincerity. Indeed sincerity has no boundaries; it can produce both righteous or unrighteous acts. The Bible says that sincere faith is important, but only with a pure heart and good conscience. “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith…” (1 Tim. 1:5) — “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22) So, sincere, “believers” in Jesus, who have not been immersed, despite their apparent transformative life in the image of Christ, should not be considered true Christians.

    Anyone can be sincere, but at the same time they can be sincerely wrong in what they believe. Even though sincerity is important in one’s faith, it alone can do nothing to bring us forgiveness in the sight of God. We must go further than this. Sincerity is important, but sincerity alone cannot save us. This fact is established very well by examples of the Saul of Tarus, Apollos, the Rich Young Ruler, many of the Jews of Jesus day who believed, but would not openly confess him, Agrippa who believed in the prophets and the things Paul was teaching him, even the demons who believe but will not obey (James 2) I agree with Charles Hodge, he says, “No one is too good to go to hell.”

    Jay, it is contradictory to claim on the one hand that immersion/baptism is God’s transforming work and then on the other hand to claim that God will/can transform a person without proper immersion. The Scriptures teach that one cannot be born again until one is baptized (John 3:5). Baptism, like faith, stands squarely in the way of becoming a new creature. Saying that one can be transformed or forgiven without immersion is like saying that one can grow spiritually without faith or repentance.

    Please remember that what’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. Truth is truth. Error is error. If immersion is God’s will for baptism, then if a person has been sprinkled, or as an infant been baptized, then according to The Word of God (Matt. 15:7-9) it only accomplishing only man’s desire and not God’s will; furthermore, it gives an individual a false sense of hope. On the other hand, if you desire Baptism by immersion, then you are one hundred percent correct according to The Word of God.

    I still hold the New Testament that shows without question or doubt that actually baptism is immersion and only immersion. Even if immersed, it was not “Bible baptism”, unless accompanied by faith and repentance. People must obey the Word of the Lord. Though sincere, one is not necessarily right; we are right only when we do the Father’s will! (Mt 7:21-23). It is needful not only to be sincere, but to be honest and careful with the Word of God. The Bible must be studied carefully. All need to search the scriptures daily to be sure that their knowledge and actions are in accord with God’s will. (Acts 17:11)

    These individuals that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7:21-24, are sincere. They acknowledge the Lord, and claim to be doing many good works in His name. However, their lack of obedience to the Father’s will has resulted in them practicing lawlessness and being excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Notice, Jesus did not say, “but he who thinks he does the will of My Father in heaven.” We must do the will of the Father. Sincerity alone is not enough.

    Sprinkling for baptism was not instituted by Christ, nor practiced by His apostles, nor known in the New Testament churches, and has neither sanction nor recognition in the word of God. People must not place their faith in the traditions of men, or in the doctrines of some church; they must place their faith in Christ and His word, and obey it accordingly!

    The bottom line, when discussing conditions of salvation, some will argue, “It doesn’t matter what one believes or thinks, as long as he is sincere.” This idea comes from the assumption that God could never condemn a person who means well. The Bible reveals God’s will unto us. We are not to rest the fate of our eternal soul upon an assumption. And Jay, you are making one. I am not. Jesus said, in Mark 16;16 NAS “He who has believed (past tense—rp), and has been baptized (past tense—rp) shall be saved (future tense—rp).” Jesus did not say, “He who believes, and is not immersed, shall be saved.” He said what He meant very clearly. Faith, repentance and baptism are essential to salvation. If one isn’t required, and one can be saved without one, then none may be required, including faith in Jesus personally. And don’t think for more minute that isn’t being debated and argued for in many evangelical churches. That is, that God can/will save those through whatever faith religion route they choose, whether it be Christ or some other track.

    There is much being advocated today that is undermining the glorious uniqueness of Christ and the truth of the gospel.

    Once we argue and accept the reality and as you teach, that we find examples of “finding salvation outside the stated covenant-means of forgiveness…” If God can save a devoted, sincerely wrong “unimmersed pious” denomtional soul, can God then save a devoted Jew, Buddhist Muslim, etc.

    A recent poll study came out last year, that found that “Most American religious believers, including most Christians, say eternal life is not exclusively for those who accept Christ as their savior, a new survey finds. Of the 65% of people who held this open view of heaven’s gates, 80% named at least one non-Christian group — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists or people with no religion at all — who may also be saved, according to a new survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, calls the findings “a theological crisis for American evangelicals. They represent at best a misunderstanding of the Gospel and at worst a repudiation of the Gospel.”

    I fear we are in the beginning stages of this in churches of Christ. Phil and Greg’s concern they shared with you and Todd at your recent luncheon to discuss GraceConversation are not wild speculations coming out of “left field.” There is good evidence to think such. Some of your comments and those on this blog serve as such examples.

    It does matter what a man thinks and believes. No amount of sincerity can change wrong into right or error into truth. Because of this, it also matters what a man is taught. The sincerity of the teacher or the hearer will not change false doctrine into truth. Jesus admonished His followers to “take heed what you hear” (Mark 4:24). Jesus still said, “One blind person can’t lead another blind person, can he? Both will fall into a ditch, won’t they? (Luke 6:39)

    Robert Prater

  5. Robert said, “No amount of sincerity can change wrong into right or error into truth. Because of this, it also matters what a man is taught. The sincerity of the teacher or the hearer will not change false doctrine into truth.”

    I hope all of your doctrine is correct and certainly hope none of the teachers that have influence upon you have been wrong!

    No one is saying we should not strive to teach a biblical view of baptism to everyone we encounter so that they will accept the biblical view. I just find it refreshing that we are finally ceasing to use one small selective portion, in light of all the Bible teaches on salvation, faith, baptism, etc…, to stand on the judgment throne.

    Any ways… I have a quetion for you Robert. If a person comes to belief in Jesus, vows to live their life for Jesus (repentance), but is killed for being a believer before they are immersed, are they saved or lost?

    Is that a hypothetical question…perhaps but it is also has been a reality in many places where harsh persecution takes place upon Christians (both in history and currently). So before you answer the question, keep in mind a passage like Mk 8.35 because how that question is answered says a lot about whether our Lord’s words are true or just filled with a lot of hot air.

    Grace and peace,


  6. The real issue here is not about the essentiality of baptism but about the sufficiency of Jesus Christ. This is the message of Romans and Galatians (besides whatever else the “New Perspective” scholars have discerned). Sadly, it is a message which, traditionally, we in the Churches of Christ have almost entirely missed.

    God either justifies sinners (pronounces them righteous by judicial declaration) by grace (undeserved) or by merit (deserved). The whole Bible insists that It is by grace (undeserved). Our right standing before God is not partially by grace.It is not mostly by grace. It is totally by grace from first to last — whiich is simply to say that it is always completely undeserved.

    This undeserved right standing with God either rests on what God did for sinners in the perfect doing and perfect dying of Jesus Christ as our representative, or it rests on our own record of acceptable performance. In other words, we are either saved through faith or through works.

    We cannot be saved through our own works (obedience) because, having sinned, none of us has an obedient record. However, Jesus Christ did establish a life record of faultless, faithful, loving obedience to the Father — a life record established for the sake of sinners.

    The old hymn has it right when it says: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” so that “when he shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in him be found; dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne!”

    This is what it means that we are saved “through faith.” It is through trusting in what Jesus did that we receive, enjoy and experience God’s grace. We do not receive, enjoy or experience God’s grace through establishing our own record of acceptable performance. The performance, the work, the achivement that sets us right with God occurred OUTSIDE of us, but FOR us. It is the work of Jesus Christ our representative.

    Only when we know that our salvation is altogether God’s undeserved gift, and that we only experience that gift by trusting God for it based on what Jesus Christ did for us as our representative, are we ready to think about baptism. Baptism is part of the response to God’s grace which faith prompts in the believer.

    We do not trust in baptism, but in Christ. Our salvation does not rest on our baptism, but on Christ and his achievements. It is not ultimately grounded in our baptism, but in the grace of God.

  7. First of all, with all due respect Mr. Fudge, the real issue being discussed here is about the essentiality of baptism, and not about the “sufficiency of Jesus Christ.” The Bible affirms we are saved by “grace through faith.” (Eph. 2:8) Not grace alone; not faith alone. Grace (God’s part), faith (man’s part). You said, “Baptism is part of the response to God’s grace which faith prompts in the believer.” So, what if a person does not respond to God’s grace by being baptized into Christ?? Jesus said, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16)

    Rex, thanks for your question. And I think it speaks well to a very major flaw in your understanding and others who might ask such good, sincere questions. First of all, I do affirm without question that final judgment and destinies are left in the hands of an all wise and all powerful God who makes no mistakes. While I am unable to give any comfort to one who has not been “born again of the water and of the Spirit” since Jesus said such cannot “see,” nor “enter” into the kingdom of God, (John 3:3-5). I will just add this: If you are honest in your question and you are really concerned for “all of those lost folks,” you and I had better obey the Lord at your earliest opportunity, then get busy trying to reach and teach those lost folks the soul saving gospel of Christ (Mark 16:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 1:16-17; 10:6-17; 16:25-26).

    Rex, now, be careful, that sharp knifing question you ask, cuts and runs both ways. Don’t you teach as do I that faith in God and Christ are essentials and there are many who do not believe, are they lost? To be consistent with your argument would negate faith the same as it would baptism as being essential don’t you see? What if the honest man was on his way to hear about Christ and a stick fell on his head and killed him before he had a chance to hear and believe? Would this “example” demonstrate that faith is not essential to salvation? We should not determine the teaching of the Bible by “examples” conjured up within our imagination! Let us trust with all our hearts what the Lord said in his word about baptism and “lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).

    Rex, I’m afraid however, too many times I wonder why is this question is being asked, especially by people who clearly claim to know the truth concerning baptism. I think many times it is asked to stir up prejudice.

    Ultimately we must yield to God’s word on the matter! It is my personal opinion that surely one who had every intention and was indeed on His way to baptized, God would certainly provide them the time and opportunity to obey the gospel. Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find.”

    Rex, we don’t try to build an entire doctrine around the topic of salvation based on a hypothetical situation, while completely ignoring all the passages that plainly teach baptism is a part of God’s salvation plan, is utter and complete folly, besides just going against common sense.

    It is noted though, that from a human standpoint, this scenario is seemingly difficult. It is recognized that God “will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, (Romans 9:15) and God is the Judge and all His decisions are perfectly just and righteous. If God decides when looking at something, He wants to grant an “exception to the rule”, that is His place, not man’s. God can do whatever He wants. God will still be God. God has an infinitely better ability to make judgments than man. Yes, God is merciful, but it MUST be remembered there is NO scriptural support or promise for such a person being saved. God is under no scriptural obligation in such a case.

    Could God make an exception? Yes, He could. But does that mean He would? That is not a question any human being can answer with certainty. Only God, Himself, in His infinite wisdom and righteousness, can know the answer to this question.

    When God has gone to such inexpressible lengths to give us such a wonderful salvation, it would be wise not to ignore it and put ourselves in the place of God and tinker with His salvation plan, attempting to grant things that only God can grant. Remember, it is God who “makes the rules”, not man! Only a fool would trade something that is absolutely certain for something that is highly questionable.

    God expects from us what we are able to do, not what we are unable to do. Romans 10:9 teaches one part of God’s salvation plan. We know this verse is not exclusive of other verses, because Jesus also said unless we repent we will all perish (Luke 13:3-5). So Romans 10:9 cannot exclude repentance (or other components of God’s salvation plan, such as baptism). Looking at Romans 10:9, what would happen to the person who has a deformed tongue and cannot speak? Would God expect them to obey this verse? Obviously not. But just because God might make an “exception to the rule”, does not mean we throw out the rule and begin opening advocating and receiving and fellowship and calling those who haven’t been immersed into Christ, our brothers and sisters in the church and Biblically right before God.

    However, the issue is not whether the person of this scenario will go to heaven or hell, no, that is a judgment left to God–the issue always has been and always will be—What is God’s salvation plan as revealed in Scripture??

    Remember Rex, the Bible does not always spell out what we have to do to be lost. Instead, it tells us what we have to do to be saved and expects us to realize that, if we don’t obey it, we will be lost. If God gives us a plan, that when followed, will save us, why try and see how close to the line of being lost we can get?

    If you can follow God’s plan of salvation and know for certain that you will be saved, why would anyone want to NOT follow it and depend on being the “exception to the rule?” (For which there is no Scriptural basis)

    Baptism is part of the salvation plan. The Bible says: Follow it and be saved. As we have said, “God is a God of grace.” The important thing to remember, though, is that exceptions do not determine what any rule is. Our rule should be to accurately teach about baptism when we talk to people about responding to God’s grace.

    I pray that you and I and all others in the Lord’s church will continue to faithfully preach and teach and encourage every living soul we encounter to put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ and obey the plan of salvation God has revealed in the scriptures.

    In Christ,
    Robert Prater

  8. Robert,

    You have sucessfully turn a abnormal but very real question I asked into a very hypothetical question that misses the point I was trying to ascertain. You said: “No amount of sincerity can change wrong into right or error into truth. Because of this, it also matters what a man is taught. The sincerity of the teacher or the hearer will not change false doctrine into truth.” That is a very big statement that makes a claim about the heart and character of God, making God to be more mechanical/legalistic rather than a relationality rooted in redemptive love. I believe there is sufficient evidence in scripture (some of which Jay has cited in his post) that we can affirm the salvation of those who have faith in Jesus but whose baptismal theology/practice is less than perfect (believers like our Lutheran brethren, baptist brether, you and I, and so on) and do so with as much certainty as we do about the fate of those who denounce Christ.

    Grace and peace,


  9. Rex,

    I could not have possibly said it any better. As a former Southern Baptist, I am only grateful that my eldership welcomed me the way Lipscomb and Harding welcomed Christians of various denominations in their day.

    Hope to meet you at Pepperdine,

    Greg Smith

  10. You see my face pic, if you see me walking around Pepperdine then stop me and say hi.

    Grace and peace,


  11. Rex, you mention our “Lutheran brethren”, are you referring to Lutherans who have been immersed as believing adults or sprinkled as unbelieving infants?

    Are you saying that only those who have been experienced a “believer’s baptism”, that is, those baptized who personally confess faith in Jesus, therefore excluding infants and small children?

    Are they to be excluded from being considerd our “brethren” and received into the fellowhship of our congregations? If they aren’t excluded and we are to affirm “their salvation”, then of course, we must recognize as our ‘brethren”, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Nazarene, etc. Actually, wouldn’t that pretty much get most of the denominations?? Becasue just about eveyrone claims to have faith in Jesus and experienced some “less than perfect” baptismal experience, right?

    Just wanting a little clarification?

    Oh, by the way, I’m stilling waiting for the NT examples from Jay or you that show that we “affirm salvation f those who have faith in Jesus but whose baptismal theloogy/practice is less than perfect.”

    Also, is it your conviction then, that the sincerity of the teacher or hearer, can in fact change error into truth? False doctrine into sound doctrine? Could you give some specific examples from the NT which proof such a claim?


    Robert Prater

  12. Yes, God is merciful, but it MUST be remembered there is NO scriptural support or promise for such a person being saved.

    Mr. Robert Prater,

    Fast forward to about 7:20 in first video for a starting point. I post these videos just to illustrate a debate about baptism that isn’t exactly “clear” in the scriptures…..

  13. Robert,

    Please remember to complete the identifying information when you submit a comment.

  14. Robert,

    When I am refering to our Lutheran brethren, I am refering to either. I am saying they our saved in Christ despite their imperfect baptism with as much certainty as you and I can say we are in Christ depsite our imperfect baptism.

    What imperfect baptism? You and I, Robert, believe the verb “to baptize” means to immerse in water. Our understanding of that word rests upon the fact that we have certain historical knowledge regarding the practice of baptism in the early post-apostolic Christian period was immersion (rather than sprinkling, pouring, or any other possible form). You can cite passages about Jesus’ baptism, the baptism of the eunuch in Acts 8, which all support the conclusion that water baptism was immersion but without the historical evidence, there is no way to reasonably to show with reasonable certainty that water baptism in the Bible was immersion.

    Your argument, Robert, is that God’s grace will not extend to those who have not practiced the biblical form of baptism (immersion). So, was your baptism done with the correct form? One only needs to read the Didache (at late first century document) to know that at some point in the early history of the church that the form of baptism was not one immersion but a tri-partate immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit. It is thus very very likely that Matthew’s Gospel has a tri-partate baptism in mind in Matt 28.19-20.

    My purpose is not to suggest that we must begin the practice of a tri-partate baptism when we baptize people. My question is this…what will your plea be, Robert, if upon the day of judgment you learn that the form of baptism you received was not tri-partate and the biblical form of baptism was indeed tri-partate when all of your life you have argued that God’s grace will not extend to error, especially in form, no matter how sincere faith is?

    God: Robert, you have never been biblically baptized.
    Robert: Yes I have…I was immersed as a believer in Jesus for the remission of my sins…
    God: Yes but you were not immersed three times, once in the name of the Father, once in the name of the Son, and once in the name of the Spirit.
    Robert: But…but…
    God: No ‘buts” Robert, you have insisted that my grace hinges upon a correct understanding of baptism so much that you refused to extend fellowship to any who did not have practice a fully correct form of baptism. Now I am going to hold you to that standard.
    Robert: I am sorry…but I have lived a life in faith, serving you and trying to bear witness to your son.
    God: So have many other believers in my Son who misundertood my call to baptism. Yet you have said that such faith is meaningless, so why is your faith any different?
    Robert: Ah… …please.
    God: You are saved Robert but not because you or anyone else, like Rex, Jay, Matt, the Lutherans, Baptists, or any of the others who have confessed the name of my Son but because my grace is bigger than your follies.

    Now certainly my little narrative story there is not scripture but I hope it illustrates a point. Neither you or I are entirely right. Yet your assumptions regarding baptism hinge on having a certain amount of correct knowlege regarding baptism, its form, function, purpose, etc… The problem is that faith increasingly becomes more dependent upon our human intellect to correctly parse, exegete, and dilleniate scripture through thy myriad of 2,000 years of Christian history (some good and some bad) rather than our faith being dependent upon God and his grace in spite of our folliies.

    You and I believe that biblical baptism is immersion for those who are able to make a free-will confession of Jesus Christ and so that is what we both teach. I will do my best to lead those who believe in Jesus but whose baptism was not believer’s immersion. In fact, that is what I did yesterday as I pleaded with several who have joined our church and come from a Lutheran background. But I can also tell you from ministry experience in terriotry where the majority of confessing Christians have not been immersed as believer’s, to withhold fellowship from them and treat them as though they do not belong to the body of Christ will (and has) only push them away and close any window of ever teaching them and leading them to be immersed as a confessing believer.

    Grace and peace,


  15. rex, i hardly ever post – but your “God” to Robert dialogue was brilliant and easy for the “laymen” to understand

  16. Rex,

    Wait a minute. Let me get this straight from you now. So, you are saying that when a child is sprinkled as a infant, without FAITH, they are saved right then and there??? They are “in Christ,” and are our brother/sister in Christ?? Huh?? (Jay, I’d love your thoughts on this?) Please tell me you don’t believe and teach such?? You seem to not indicate such when you say, “You and I believe that biblical baptism is immersion for those who are able to make a free-will confession of Jesus Christ…” But, I asked you specifically if Lutherans (or any other group) who are sprinkled as infants are saved, despite the fact that they didn’t even believe at the time?? Won’t this basically mean that anybody who has experienced “any kind” of baptism are in fact our brethren, whom we should receive, welcome, accept into the fellowship of our congregations? Is that what you are saying and teaching??

    Actually, I’m getting the idea from where you are in your current theology, especially from your questions about a person “dying on their way to be baptized,” (a situation and circumstance which would be quite extreme and rare), but a much more realistic question and circumstance would be, what about all those people who have confess faith in Jesus, have asked “Christ to come into their hearts”, said the “sinner’s prayer”, but have never been baptized into Christ, are they saved/forgiven, and are they our brethren who should be welcomed and accepted as believing Christians in the local congregation?

    At guess I’m asking you, as a fellow minister, what exactly practically speaking do you teach? If a person comes to want to “join your congregation”, as you put it, but have either been sprinkled as a baby, were immersed believing they were saved (i.e., most Baptists—although I know your answer to that question), or have never been baptized at all? Do you study with them? Urge them to be baptized? If so, why? What do you tell them? That they need to do such in order to be saved? Or just to properly express their faith (i.e., saving faith or just a more completed saving faith, whatever that might means)?? What exactly do you do and teach in your local work?

    Again, I fear that you, if pressed, would agree that confessing and having faith in Jesus Christ is indeed sufficient and God will save such a person, whether they are been baptized or not? Is that accurate? I know you’ll say probably “I’ll leave the judging to God” (and I agree with that), but we live in the real world, with real people, in real situations, what do you say the BIBLE teaches about their condition and/or lack of proper faith? I’m really curious and interested.

    Now, I hardly know how to respond to your line: “You can cite passages about Jesus’ baptism, the baptism of the eunuch in Acts 8, which all support the conclusion that water baptism was immersion but without the historical evidence, there is no way to reasonably to show with reasonable certainty that water baptism in the Bible was immersion.” Huh? Say what? So, we can’t show from scripture, even though you admit examples “support the conclusion that water baptism was immersion,” we can’t have any “reasonable certainty that water baptism in the Bible was immersion.” I read that statement and tears almost came from my eyes. Especially because knowing you personally and having enjoyed our study time together at Harding. All the wonderful opportunities you’ve had to sit at the feet of such knowledgeable men at Harding (both Searcy and Memphis), and that’s where it has apparently taken you!!

    John Calvin said once concerning the word baptism:
    “Whether the person baptized is to be wholly immersed…or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water is not of the least consequence: churches should be at liberty to adopt either, according to the diversity of climates, although it is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church (Institutes, 1975, p. 524).

    Again, another quote, this time from the Lutheran Church showing how they teacher that any type of water application such as sprinkling, pouring, or immersion is acceptable. The official LCMS Website states:
    “Lutherans have therefore held that the manner of Baptism (that is, immersion, pouring, sprinkling, etc.) does not determine whether a Baptism is valid…” (“Method of Baptism,” 2004).

    In another section, the site reiterates its sentiments: “Lutherans have always regarded the mode of baptism (immersion, dipping, pouring, sprinkling, etc.) to be a matter of Christian freedom that has no effect on the validity of the baptism itself (the power of baptism comes from God’s Word and promise, not from the type or amount of water or the way in which it is applied)” (“Meaning of Baptize,” 2004).

    To argue for this particular point of view, the Lutheran Church declares that it is impossible to know from the biblical text whether the word baptize means to dip, wash, pour, or immerse.

    Now, granted, there is significant disagreement between the divisions of the Lutheran Church as to who is eligible for baptism. The Lutheran church teaches that babies and infants, as well as adults, are candidates for baptism (by which is meant sprinkling, immersion, or pouring). In their Articles of Faith, they claim to hold as accurate declarations of their faith, the following statement is made:

    “We maintain that we should baptize children because theyalso belong to the promised redemption that was brought about by Christ. The church ought to extend it to them” (Book of Concord, 2000, p. 320).

    In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the text under “Article IX: Baptism,” reads: “We confess that baptism is necessary for salvation, that children are to be baptized, and that baptism of children is not ineffective but necessary and efficacious for salvation” (Book of Concord, p. 183).

    Now, here’s where it gets interesting Rex: How does the Lutheran Church explain why it baptizes infants, even though infants cannot believe in God or the Gospel? The Lutheran Church teaches that when an infant is baptized, God “creates faith” in the heart of the infant.

    They say: “Although we do not claim to understand how this happens or how it is possible, we believe (because of what the Bible says about baptism) that when an infant is baptized God creates faith in the heart of that infant. This faith cannot yet, of course, be expressed or articulated, yet it is real and present allthe same (see e.g., Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5-6; Matt. 18:6; Luke 1:15; 2Tim. 3:15) (“Baptism and its Purpose”).

    Do you believe such? Is that false doctrine? Is it error which can condemn? Jay? Joe? Anybody? What say you? Should we reject it, partially accept it, what?? Have fellowship with it? Unite with it? Can we even know for certain?? Do we just “leave it all up to God?” to decide?

    Now, Rex, since you keep bringing up The Didache, you’re obviously very interested in it, let’s talk about it and if it proves anything. I do wonder and fear that you are taking away “too much” from it. This is of course a controversial instruction book and the date of writing of which has been much debated.

    The estimated date for the writing of the Didache seems to vary widely from the mid-1st to mid-2nd , and back again. The Didache attracted an avalanche of interest when it was first published in 1883. Some scholars thought it might date from as early as AD 50, while others were confident that it showed knowledge of Matthew’s Gospel, and so must be dated after AD 80, at the earliest.

    As work on the Didache has progressed, scholars have referred to its “chameleon-like ability” to appear both early and late continue to seem to create confusion. It seems like most present scholars are still divided over the date and significance of the Didache. However, over the past few years there has seen a steady movement in favour of the idea that the Didache contains some extremely ancient material.

    Almost all scholars agree that the Didache is a ‘composite’ document, in other words that it is made up of a patch-work of contributions. This is what has made it so hard to date the text. From what I can find, parts of The Didache can be dated back to the first century. It appears to me that some parts were added over the next two to three hundred years. It was never seriously considered part of the canon of scripture, though some say this was because of literary style rather than content.

    Now, for the most part it appears to agree with what we have in the Bible. In places it directly quotes scripture. The first part (which deals with how to live) appears very close to the Bible. The last part (dealing with the organization of the church) does appear to show the first century form, that is, before congregations stopped being autonomous. Bishops still mean elders, and not a head over a group of churches or elders.

    On the other hand, there is some evidence of later additions. Scholars of such things may point out different things. The one thing I most quickly notice about The Didache, as we have it, allows pouring in place of immersion under certain circumstances, where the clear teaching of the Bible is that baptism is immersion only. The understanding of the church for many years was that one is immersed for forgiveness of sins. This shows how quickly such things can enter the doctrine of the church. Satan works quickly when he has to.

    Now, what’s the point? Rex, what I take away from The Didache is that whenever people introduce an exception to a divine command/rule, it doesn’t take long for a “spirit of tolerance” to automatically build on the exception until the original form and manner of the practice is thought to have no authority. It seems that this ancient document (whatever the date is), shows how the early interpreters of apostiic teaching began drifting away from their teachings.

    My desire Rex is not to institute or propose man-made criteria of “genuine” conversion, or true “spirituality”, but only impose upon those who claim to profess faith in Jesus Christ what the New Testaments demands of them—faith, repentance and baptism.

    There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that “Triple immersion” was every taught, endorsed or practiced by the early church recorded in the pages of the New Testament. However, if The Didache is first century, it does show that some misunderstanding the meaning of Jesus command to the apostles to baptized “into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and presumed that he was commandeing three immersions. This presumption of course, is not found with divine revelation. The New Testament references both in English and Greek indicate that baptism was a singular act (Acts 8:38; 1 Cor. 1:14, etc., where only one person is baptized, but note that the word is in the plural when speaking of the immersion of several people, 1 Cor. 1:15)

    Rex, bottom line, I don’t have to guess or worry about “triple baptism”, because the New Testament does not teach such. Rex, whatever other ancient documents proposal or taught or “authorize,” they ultimately don’t have anything binding on my faith. Faith in Jesus comes from Divine revelation (Jesus Christ Himself and His Word) not early ancient documents.

    So as far as your nice, cleverly cute imaginary conversation between me and God, it simply proves nothing. Only is the imagination of your mind.

    God has clearly revealed and told us on what basis He will judge and save us. Jesus said, “the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48) And that “word” by the way, also includes and is an extension further of the “Words” of Jesus given and inspired by Holy Spirit to the apostles and which we will be judged by. Faith in Jesus Christ, demonstrated in obedience to the gospel in repentance, confess and immersion. And not only that, by striving to faithful “walk in the light” and continue to love Him by “keeping His commandments.” (1 John 1:7; 2:3-5)

    Do you remember when Peter told Cornelius that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35) Works of what? Righteousness. “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form (what did he say, Rex? “Form? I thought they really don’t matter in the end, only sincerity?) of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin (when did that happen, before they received the form of doctrine or after?) you became slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18)

    I could go on and on and show all the other “salvation” passages in the N.T. that show how saving faith is obedient faith and includes faith, repentance and baptism. You already know them all. But apparently, truly, when the “chips” are down, no longer believe them, or at least, just believe that God will somewhat make all kinds of “exceptions”, which He ihas given absolutely no indication or promise of any such notion, rather, very powerful, just the opposite. (Mt. 7:21-24; 2 Thess. 2:10, etc.)

    Of course, God is God and in the end, He’ll judge people’s souls eternally and He’ll get it right!! But, our job is to faithfully deliver the message and only the message He has given. Which is in part, “He who believes and is baptized, shall not be saved.” (Mark 16:16)

    Let’s speak and teach that and urge others to make certain that whatever “faith” experience they have come to have, that it always be in harmony and accordance to the truth of the New Testament faith.

    Robert Prater

  17. Opps…….very important correction needs to be made at the end, quoting Mark 16:16: “He has believes and is baptized, shall not be saved.” Isn’t that the position of the Atheist:)lol!!

    Robert Prater

  18. Robert,

    I am laughing as I read…the funny thing is that because I know you, as I read your reponse I can picture your animation. Settle down brother, you are reading way too much into what I said.

    First, I DID NOT say a sprinkled child was saved the minute they are baptized (sprinkled with water). I said that those who have come to faith in Christ (that means, they believe in Jesus and are striving to live as followers of Jesus) are saved IN SPITE OF their imperfect understanding and practice of baptism just as much as we (you and I) are saved IN SPITE OF our imperfect understanding and practice of baptism. However, I still strive to teach those who have not been immersed as a believer (as I believe scripture instructs regarding baptism) to be immersed in water.

    As far as my discussion regarding the Didache, tri-partate baptism, and the meaning of the word ‘baptizo’… My point was not to say I believe scripture absolutely teaches a tri-partate baptism. My point was to suggest it as a possibility BUT there is no way to prove that by “scripture alone” for to make any attempt would require reliance upon early Christian historical evidence. The same goes for the meaning of the word “baptizo’. You cannot prove from scripture alone that it means “to immerse”. To prove its biblical meaning you must incorporate early Christian historical evidence. As for the passages like Acts 8, there are circumstantial evidence that supports the immersion view but I do not believe someone who has been raised in a non-immersion baptismal tradition would come to the conclusion that biblical baptism is immersion soley based upon the internal evidence of the bible (and my opinion is supported by the fact that every book written on the practice of water baptism will make an appeal to early Christian history at some point to support its conclusion).

    As an Evangelist/Teacher of the Gospel…I teach people that to share in the blessings of God’s gift of salvation and become a member of the body of Christ they should respond by confessing their faith in Christ, turning away from sinful living (repentance), and allow God to baptize them into Christ. That is what I teach to those who seek God and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I do so in the same vein of our early restoration leaders who regarded all believers as Christians even if their baptism was not what I believe the bible to teach.

    As far as that little imaginary conversation goes… “So as far as your nice, cleverly cute imaginary conversation between me and God…” I thought you would like that 🙂 and I’m still lauging.

    Any ways…I have said all I can say on this issue for now. We are not going to agree with each other and we both have better things to do with our time than engage in this brotherly sparing contest over faith and baptism.

    We still be bretheren!

    Grace and peace,


  19. Eric,

    Thanks! It served its purpose.

    Grace and peace,


  20. Rex,

    I’ll go ahead and end as you put it, this ‘brotherly sparing contest.” I still don’t have much idea about what you teach or believe. You say, that those who were sprinkled as infants, are not saved, right? (Becasue they don’t have personal faith in Christ?) But, later on, when they come to be old enough to believe and have personal faith in Christ, that even though they were baptized/sprinkled earlier–which didn’t count, now they are saved?? Saved by faith alone? (i.e. faith without baptism)

    You see, you’ve got them “saved” before baptism, don’t you? If’ I’m wrong, then please correct me. Becasue then you argue that they are saved despite having an “imperfect understanding and practice of baptism.” Right?? So when you teach them later to be “immersed”, they are doing so not in order to be saved? (Because they are already saved, right), but to obey God’s command to be baptized, is that right?

    Rex, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot teach that a person is “In Christ” when they are baptized, and then turn around and say, yes, they are “In Christ” when the come to have personal faith in Christ, despite the fact that they really never have been truly baptized (immersed as believers). We’re not talking about Baptist baptism here, where you have a believer, but we’re talking about individuals who were sprinkled and didn’t have personal faith, but later on in their life, they come to have “personal faith” and you say that they are now saved “despite theri imperfect understanding and practice of baptism.” So, was their infant baptism acceptable or not?

    It just sounds like to me your wanting to have it both ways. That a person can be saved without being immersed. Becasue that is what you seem to be calling individuals later on who despite being sprinkled as infants, but now as adults have personal faith in Christ, therefore they are now saved. Not saved because faith, repentance, and baptism, but becasue personal faith (alone) in Christ.

    If that is not what you are saying, please just be clear. Or anyone else here on this blog, help me out.

    Are people who were sprinkled when they were babies and didn’t have personal faith in Christ, later on, when the get old enough and now can have personal faith in Christ, are they then now saved? And if they are, why isn’t that salvation by faith alone (i.e., without baptism).

    You say later on that you teach them to “share in the blessings of God’s gift of salvation and become a member of the body of Christ…..” (but, aren’t they already enjoying that gift of salvation, when they come to have personal faith in Christ, despite not having been immersed as believers). I guess my confusion is: they don’t get credit for the baptism they had when they were infants, becasue they didn’t belief, but they do later on get credit for that same baptism, when they come to have personal faith in Christ? Again, my confusion is because you say “despite their imperfect undersanding and baptism practice.” That has to be in reference to their “unbelieving (that is what babies are) sprinkling.” Right?

    It seems like its just hard to find out what you really believe. I’m found this to be the case with other more progressive minded brethren who think like you similiarly.

    Robert Prater

  21. Paul,

    Thanks for joining the discussion. Thanks for the youtube video debates on baptism. This is an important discussion.

    Some have been and are now suggesting in the church that: 1) that God may and in fact, can and will save those whose baptism isn’t “wasn’t perfect in understanding or practice” which includes believing one is saved before baptism (i.e., accidental salvation), 2) being baptized to join a denomination, 3) being sprinkled (even as an infant without faith, but later on somehow when they get old enough to have faith alone, they are saved, despite their infant baptism sprinkling or 4) actaully, not being baptized at.

    Now, concerning Acts 10 and the case of Cornelius, I hardly think it proves that this is an example of baptism “that isn’t exactly clear in the scritpures…”

    Let’s talk about it.

    It is true that Cornelius and his companions had the Holy Spirit descend upon them prior to their baptism has falsely lead many to think they were saved at that point. Not so. Why not? Because Cornelius was to be saved by the message he received from Peter (Acts 11:14) and not by a miraculous manifestation from heaven. Peter had not gotten a good start on delivering that message when the Holy Spirit fell on Cornelius for he says in Acts 11:15 “as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them.” (NAS) It was necessary for Peter to complete that message which included baptism.

    But, let’s, say, for the sake of argument, assume as some think and say that whatever followed Cornelius’ reception of the Spirit is unnecessary for salvation. If that is the case, not only is baptism eliminated from the plan of salvation, then so is faith. Peter said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them….” (Acts 11:15). According to the apostle, the Spirit came on the Gentiles at the beginning of his sermon. This was before he finished providing proofs that Jesus is Lord. This was before Cornelius and company came to believe in Jesus. Notice that Peter doesn’t mention belief in Jesus until the very end of the sermon: “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43).

    Now we must ask: Why was the Spirit given to Cornelius and the other Gentiles to enable them to miraculously speak in tongues? God’s purpose in this was to show the Jews who were present that He wanted Gentiles to be taught the same plan of salvation as they. First, God had to convince Peter in a vision to even have contact with the Gentiles (Acts 10:9-16,24-29; 11:4-10). As we noticed earlier, it was when Peter began to speak that the Spirit fell upon the Gentiles. This would have timed nicely with Peter’s beginning words as he realizes: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34-35).

    What a demonstration to the Jews! Those with Peter were “astonished…because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” (Acts 10:45). After his sermon and after contining to listen to these Gentiles “speak in tongues and magnify God,” Peter said to his Jewish brethren: “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47).

    Peter understood clearly what God wanted Him to do next: Command the Gentiles to be baptized (Acts 10:48). None of the Jews present who had witnessed these things dared dispute this conclusion. Peter knew he must do what God wanted and not “stand in God’s way” (Acts 11:17, NASB).

    When Peter later told about this event to other Jews, their immediate reaction was stunned silence, then praise. They rightly concluded: “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.” (Acts 11:18). So then, the purpose for pouring the Spirit on Cornelius and company was to convince the Jewish Chrisitans beyond doubt that Gentiles should be taught the same plan of salvation; and when the Gentiles obeyed, they would be saved and have life, too. Jews and Gentiles could now be equals in God’s kingdom.
    So this example and passage in Acts doesn’t teach that water baptism is unnecessary for salvation. It is actually very quite “clear” in that it teaches the very opposite. It clearly and loudly affirms the essentiality of baptism. Baptism is a command God wants both believing Jews and Gentiles to hear. “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:48). “…Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38).

    This view of Acts 10 is widely supported by many Bible scholars both inside and outside of churches of Christ.

    So, I believe my proposition still stands: God is merciful, but it MUST be remembered there is NO scriptural support in the New Testament, specifically now, the Book of Acts where God saves or promises to save those who haven’t been baptized into Christ. God is under no scriptural obligation in such a case.

    Robert Prater

  22. Robert,

    Acts 10:44-48
    “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days.”

    “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. It is clear they heard the word before they received the Holy Spirit.

    “And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”

    There is no mention that Peter had continued his sermon here, that is something you added to make it say what you want it to say. According to you God gave non-believer’s the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation and you also have Peter baptizing non-believer’s. Does the church you assemble at baptize non-believer’s?

  23. Anonymous,

    I’m sorry to have to disagree with you, but I believe you are mistaken here. I have “added” nothing to try to “make it say what I want it to say.”

    Yes, it says and I’m not arguing that they “heard” the word. But, “hearing” the word and “believing’ to have saving, obedient faith is another. Hearing is just indeed the first “step” in the plan of salvation.

    Cornelius was ready to hear the word of the Lord and he did hear the word of the Lord. However, it was not MERELY through hearing the word that they would be saved, for Peter says in Acts 10:43 “that through His name whosoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” In fact the Bible teaches in many other places that not only must we hear the gospel message, but also believe it; believing the gospel means so much more than just acknowledging it. Believing the gospel means that one is willing to submit to it in obedience. Hebrews 5:9 says that salvation is only for those who obey Jesus. In Romans 16:26, Paul writes that the gospel is made known for the purpose of people coming to obey it in faith. Without an obedient act of faith, salvation is not complete. Simply hearing the gospel was not enough.

    Again, it’s important to remember that the Spirit came upon Cornelius and his household in a most unusual way. This was reference to the Holy Spirit was not the usual promise of what we might call the ordinary, non-miraculous “gift of the Holy Spirit” given to all who are baptized (Acts 2:38). Cornelius and his household did not receive the Spirit through the laying on of the hands of the apostles the manner by which some baptized believers received power to work miracles and speak in tongues (Acts 8:.15–17 19:16) .

    On this occasion the Spirit fell on them indicating that it came directly from God. The Spirit had not come upon any like this since it came upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost (Acts 11:15). There was special significance in the coming of the Spirit upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, and there was special significance in the coming of the Spirit on this occasion, too.

    The reason the Holy Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household is made known by the reaction of the Jewish brethren who accompanied Peter on this occasion, by the things Peter said to these brethren after the Spirit had fallen on Cornelius and his household, and by the results recorded when Peter rehearsed the matter to Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-18). The Jews that accompanied Peter were astonished that the Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles (Acts 10:45).

    Until this event happened, these Jews still thought there was a difference between Jews and Gentiles and that the Jews were favored in God’s sight more than the Gentiles (Acts 10:45). Peter, who earlier had to be prepared to go to the Gentiles by a vision and by instruction from the Spirit (Acts 10:9-20), suggests that the pouring out of the Spirit on Cornelius and his household meant that Cornelius and his household should be baptized and that none could rightly deny that this was God’s will. It was Peter’s recounting of the outpouring of the Spirit on Cornelius and his household that convinced the Jews in Jerusalem that God had “granted the Gentiles repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).

    So when the Spirit fell on the apostles in the beginning on Pentecost (Acts 2:14), it was not a SIGN of anyone’s personal salvation, but rather a sign that salvation was now made available to any who would call on the name of the Lord. (Acts 2:17-21). Those who wished to be saved on that occasion had to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. The outpouring of the Spirit on Cornelius and his household did not confirm that they were already saved, but rather that salvation was now available to the Gentiles. To receive this salvation they would have to be baptized.

    The Spirit fell upon Cornelius while Peter was speaking to Cornelius and his household about Jesus (Acts 10:44); in fact, Peter had just begun to speak on this occasion when the phenomenon occurred (Acts 11:15). Which tells me that Peter’s rehearsal of these events later on is more chronological than is Luke’s original record (cf. 11:4), the Spirit fell upon Cornelius just as the apostle “began to speak” (11:15),

    Again, it is important to remember that Peter was to tell Cornelius words whereby he and his house could be saved (Acts 11:14), but Peter had not yet finished the things he wished to say when the Spirit came.

    Only after the Spirit fell upon Cornelius and his household did Peter finish speaking; Peter commanded that Cornelius and his household be baptized in the name of the Lord. Notice, Peter preached on this occasion what he had preached on other occasions-Jesus approved of God by His works, or miracles, His crucifixion and resurrection, and the command to be baptized in the name of the Lord (Acts 2:22-38; 10:35-48)

    Please think about it.

    Robert Prater

  24. You are picking and choosing what verse you say was the point in which Peter was at as he began to speak. I can tell someone that as I began speaking then something happened meaning I had spoken more than a few words as I began my speech. The Bible says they heard the word before they received the Holy Spirit and Peter spoke that word in his sermon and I believe it.

    You are saying Jesus was wrong to save the thief on the cross who had not been baptized who clearly rebuked Jesus as Matthew and Mark shows, and Luke shows the thief had a change of heart and repented as thief called Jesus Lord asking Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. A dead man does not remember you nor enter the kingdom, thus the thief believed Jesus would be alive.

    And to say the thief wasn’t under the new covenant as some have tried to say is a lie too. As John shows the soldier’s broke the thief’s legs because he was still alive but didn’t break Jesus’ legs’s because He was already dead and had cried out “It is finished!”

  25. Robert,

    If you get a chance sometime, pick up a copy of “Luke and the People of God” by Jacob Jervell. This was a book recommended to me by Dr. Rick Oster and Dr. Allan Black (who wrote his PhD disseration on the conversion narratives of Acts) at HUGSR. It has been several years since I read it (and it may be time for me to read it again) but it changed the way I understood the book of Luke/Acts, its purpose, and how the “conversion” narratives fit into the bigger picture.

    All of the conversion narratives are special rather than normal recounts of gospel conversion to show how the gospel itself went from Jerusalem to “all nations” (Lk 24.47) / “Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8). The pont of the conversion narrative is not to tell us how one gets saved or what is involved in getting saved, as our Restoration herritage has wrongfully insisted (do you recall those Bible tracts that boldly states the purpose of Acts was to teach us how one gets saved?). Now this does not mean preaching/teaching the gospel, faith, repentance, baptism, etc… is optional in relation to the saving gospel, for certainly there are plenty of other passages of scripture that substantiate the need for the trends we see developing in the converstion narrative. However, it does seem that when we continue to exegete (over exegete?) the conversion narratives for the singular purpose of parsing out exactly when, how, and in what manner God saves, we do so by forcing these passages well beyond their intended canonical and theological purpose and consequently we run the risk of forcing these passages to make sharper conclusions than God is trying to make.

    I say all that to say, repentance and baptism are all necessary. They are both commands from God and far be it from anyone claiming to be a disciple of Jesus and hear a command from God and reject that command (which would show them to not be a true disciple). But we are straining the knat and swallowing the camel by becoming overly worried whether God saved prior too, simultaniously, or afterwards in relation to repentance and baptism (especially in Acts 2, 10, & 19 where the Holy Spirit is received three different orders in relation to baptism) because the point of salvation received is not the point of either passage.

    The point of faith is that we will come to an unyeilding trust in God that results in an uncompromising obedience unto God (my definition of faith). Those who have/develop such faith will confess Jesus, learn to rennounce the ways of sin in their life (repentance, will submitt their lives to Jesus in baptism (assuming they are taught about believer’s baptism), and continue on striving to live as faithful witnesses of the redemptive gospel of Jesus (what the CoC sometimes called “remaining steadfaithful”). Why is it so important that WE cognitively know the precise moment when God saved us…to such an extent that it becomes our obsession? That is not faith in God, it is faith in our human ability to get it all figured out right (something that the Modern/Enlightment mind believed was possible). Why not just have faith in God by obeying God (repentance, baptism, steadfaithfulness, etc…), trusting that God has saved us in the cross of Jesus, is saving us as we place our faith in Jesus, and will save us when Jesus comes again? And however and in what time frame God wants to work that out is fine with God.

    I just do not understand how our movement ever let the perceived errors being taught in other Christian denominations and fellowship push us to such an extreme view of faith that one can make a strong case (though arguably) that our historic position (an extreme) has been just as much in error from the entire biblical narrative as the other extremes we sought to expose.

    Any ways, I am not trying to pick on you. I know you love God and only want to do what you believe God teaches and that is very commendable as well as an example for us all. But I find your reasoning, exegesis, and conclusions are problematic when compared against the totality of the biblical narrative and its redemptive goal.

    Grace and peace brother,


  26. Dear anonymous

    I ask you to once again, carefully note the actual sequence of events. Luke’s record gives attention to the sermon first, and then the Spirit coming upon the Gentiles – cf. Ac 10:34-44. But Luke also says that “while Peter was still speaking…the Holy Spirit fell.” From this we do not exactly when the Spirit fell. It could have been at the beginning, in the middle, toward the end, of his sermon. Peter, however, explained what happened “in order from the beginning” – Ac 11:4. He describes the events as they happened. He says “as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them” – Ac 11:15. So we learn from Peter that the Spirit actually came upon the Gentiles at the BEGINNING of the sermon! With the Spirit falling upon the Gentiles, they began speaking with tongues, which amazed Peter and his Jewish companions – Act 10:45-46; cf. Ac 2:4,6,8,11.

    Peter called this outpouring of the Spirit upon the Gentiles a baptism of the Spirit (Acts 11:16). Was Cornelius saved by Holy Spirit baptism? No, this baptism of the Spirit served an entirely different purpose. As a matter of fact, there are only two examples of Holy Spirit baptism recorded in all the New Testament. Peter had to go all the way back to Pentecost to find another example of it—“as upon us at the beginning,” according to Peter in Acts 11:15. Acts 11:18 shows why Cornelius and his household were baptized in the Holy Spirit: “When they heard these things [Peter’s explanation in vv. 15-17 of what had occurred] they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life'” (Acts 11:18). The purpose of this baptism in the Holy Spirit is found in this conviction produced in these six Jewish brethren. It was this conclusion that God had intended to produce by this baptism. So they were not saved by Holy Spirit baptism; they were saved by the WORDS of salvation preached by Peter. This is the way all men are saved, and Cornelius is no exception.

    I think you must come to terms with this issue of the purpoe of Holy Spirit baptism. I’m not just “making up” this idea. Many Bible scholars and commentaries who have no assoication with churches of Christ have argued the same thing as I do.

    For example, please consider the words by one of most widely respected Bible scholars of the 20th century, F.F. Bruce on this passage and Holy Spirit baptism:

    “When Peter, at a later date, opened a door of faith to the Gentiles by preaching to Cornelius and his household, his hearers received the Spirit while he was still speaking to them, and he took this as a sign that he had to baptize them in water ‘in the name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 10.44-48). The order of water-baptism and Spirit-baptism was reversed on this occasion —perhaps because Peter would never have commanded them to be baptized in water if God had
    not presented him with a fait accompli by sending the Spirit upon them. Peter recognized this act of God as conforming to the pattern of Pentecost; by his own account, he ‘remembers the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 11. 16). By giving orders for their baptism, Peter publicly welcomed
    them as fellow-members of the Spirit-baptized community, into which God Himself had
    manifestly admitted them.” (F.F. Bruce, “The Baptism of the Spirit,” The Witness, (July 1965): 247-249)

    So, the words preached by Peter produced faith (Acts 15:7) and repentance (Acts 11:18), and they included the command to be baptized (Acts 10:47-48). Cornelius and others in his household were saved as they heard, believed and obeyed these words. Can people be saved today by anything less? I believe not.

    It seems like much of your objection centers around whether baptism is essential to salvation. That is, is a person saved prior and before being baptized?

    You mention the classic argument of the thief on the cross has not having been baptized, yet Jesus tells him he will be with Him in Paradise. Does this prove baptism is not required to be saved? Before you decide read Matt 28:18 and Mark 2:5-12.

    First of all, it is also an assumption on your part that the thief on the cross had never been baptized. It is pure assump¬tion on the part of men that the thief wasn’t baptized. John did quite a bit of baptizing back there in the Jordan River, as a matter of fact, it said, “Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:5). So the he could have baptized the robber. The robber knew about the kingdom at least he had heard about it. Where did he get that information? Certainly he heard it preached back there. Then, couldn’t he have been baptized back there? Even if the thief on the cross had never been baptized, his salvation should not be an excuse to remove the divine mandate of baptism from us today.

    Secondly, it should always be noted that while Christ was here on earth, He had the power to forgive sins any way He choose (Matt. 9:2-7; Luke 7:47-50). God gave Him power to forgive sins as He was pleased. He even miraculously healed the paralytic just to prove His deity and power to forgive sins. He said, “But that you may know that the son of man has power on earth to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6, 8). So whether we’re talking about Jesus forgiving the paralytic or the woman who washed Jesus’ feet, Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus at his house or the criminal on the cross, the wonderful message we all need to hear breaks forth throughout this Gospel.(Luke 5:15, 7:48; 19:9-10; 23:43) Not only has Jesus come to seek the lost, he has the authority to save them by forgiving their sins. Jesus is eager to forgive. This is good news. The Gospel narratives teach us that we can rely upon Jesus for salvation.

    Third, this question raises the question about the purpose of those Gospel narrative accounts where Jesus forgives. Is the Gospel story teaching us how to be forgiven or that Jesus can forgive us? While the Gospel of Luke establishes the fact that Jesus can forgive sins, it closes with Jesus’ proclamation that beginning at Jerusalem, repentance and forgiveness in his name would be preached to all nations.(Luke 24:47) A new era would soon dawn based upon Jesus. His death and resurrection would make possible a new and wonderful message for all peoples.

    Starting in Jerusalem, Jesus was proclaimed as the crucified, risen and exalted Lord and Messiah. All peoples, even those who are far off, are to rely upon him for salvation by repenting and being baptized. Acts 2:38-39 For a valid exception to this message to exist, it needs to have occurred after this message rang out from Jerusalem. There are none.

    Lastly, the it can be noted that since Jesus He has died, and the New Testament has come into effect at His death, if we are saved today, it must be according to His will, or by complying with the conditions of salvation, as stipulated in the New Testament will. There is no way around it. So we had better come out from behind the thief on the cross and obey the Lord (cf. Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46).

    Friend, I don’t know what your “salvation story” is or what you have or have not done or been taught. Maybe you have faith… maybe you believed and have repented……maybe you have confessed………but you have not been baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.

    If you have not, I beg you… do the will of God and “save yourselves from this crooked and perverse generation” and be like those on the Day of Pentecost who “gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them……” and later one it says, they were “praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:41,47)

    If you simply just “disagree” with me and what I’m saying the Bible teaches concerning this subject, then may we both continue to study and search the scriptures on our own “daily to find out whether these things are so.” (cf. Acts 17:11)

    God Bless you!
    Robert Prater

  27. From this we do not exactly when the Spirit fell.

    “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word ” Peter had spoken the word to them in his sermon, it is clear the Spirit fell on all those who heard the word .

    The order of water-baptism and Spirit-baptism was reversed on this occasion —perhaps because Peter would never have commanded them to be baptized in water if God had not presented him with a fait accompli by sending the Spirit upon them.

    Gotta say that is the first time I heve ever heard someone try an argument like that. A tremendously weak argument at that.

    Where did he get that information? Certainly he heard it preached back there.

    You say the thief certainly had to have heard about Jesus at the Jordan River. I wouldn’t say that is the only place people heard about Jesus, I would say the thief could have heard about Jesus anywhere.

    Matthew 4:23-25
    “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him–from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

    Wonder why none of the apostles didn’t mention anything about the thief on the cross being baptized.

    Secondly, it should always be noted that while Christ was here on earth, He had the power to forgive sins any way He choose (Matt. 9:2-7; Luke 7:47-50). God gave Him power to forgive sins as He was pleased.

    Jesus died before the thief. The thief was saved under the new covenant, you know the covenant which you say Jesus can’t save anyone unless water is around.

  28. Robert,

    I wholeheartedly disagree with you. There are many people like you who stay in the comfort zone of the building in the community you live in who are blind to who Jesus is.

    Maybe this will help you remove the blinders from your eyes.

    According to you Jesus does not have the power to save any of these people:

    People on a death bed that can’t be moved. People in prison who will die in prison. People in an airplane that is about to crash. People in a car accident injured fatally about to die. A homeless person who is attacked on the steet injured fatally about to die. People who live in places in North Africa and other places where the rain is very seasonal and scarce on water where people die from lack of water.

  29. What do we know about the Apostles baptism?

  30. Anonymous,
    Would you mind becoming “unanonymous?” Tell your name. Background, etc. It might help the discussion.

    You say that I am a person who “stay in the comfort zone of the building in the community you live in who are blind to who Jesus is.” How do you know that about me? I think you are prejudging me and my ministry. I spend a great deal of time “in the community” with and among people. We have a rather large homeless number here in downtown Shawnee. Once a month we serve them a meal and offer any physical assistance and help we can and offer spiritual guidance, counseling or study of God’s Word for those interested. We have a food pantry. Coat, clothing and school supply give-away each year. The school supply we do on location of the school. We mailing a teaching paper called House to House/Heart to Heart every eight weeks into over 10,000 homes in Shawnee. We have many kinds of evangelistic and community driven programs and ministries from family, finance, divorce care, grieving, etc and many other works of service and ministry in our community. We support children’s homes, college ministries, domestic and foreign mission around the world. Don’t lecture to me about us “staying in the comfort zone” of or buildings.

    You say, “According to you Jesus does not have the power to save any of these people: People on a death bed that can’t be moved. People in prison who will die in prison. People in an airplane that is about to crash. People in a car accident injured fatally about to die. A homeless person who is attacked on the street injured fatally about to die. People who live in places in North Africa and other places where the rain is very seasonal and scarce on water where people die from lack of water.”

    I’ve never said such. Jesus has the power to save each and every one of such people, in the way that Jesus said He saves people. By faith, repentance and baptism. Don’t get upset with me. I’m only the messenger delivering the Master’s Message. Don’t “shoot the messenger.”

    Now, are you talking about in these
    hypothetical situations above that a person, who has finally come to believe, repent and is ready to be baptized, that at the last minute, they die on their way to be baptized? Or are you talking about God saving these people without faith and repentance, period?
    Let’s assume you’re talking about the person who want, knows, understands and desires to be baptized. You correct me if I’m wrong.

    So, we’re talking about the exceptions issue. Now, again, let’s remind ourselves of the words of Jesus: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16)

    But we love the exceptions, don’t we? We love to run to the hard case and define things by it. We ask, “what about the penitent thief on the cross?”

    Our Lord continues: “but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Condemnation is not caused by lack of baptism but by lack of faith. It is unbelief that condemns. Notice this, it is not “whoever believes will be saved.” Do not change Jesus words. He says “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” There is no reason to expect salvation apart from baptism. Baptism is essential. Jesus said so!

    Why are we always looking for the loophole, the extraordinary circumstance. This can only be overcome by the Word of God.

    Now, let me address I think your questions contain one very important flaw. There is one major presupposition that your hypnotically situations are based upon. Your question about these individuals in these final moments of their lives at death, assumes they have never had the opportunity before to hear the gospel. I don’t accept. That for many of these people, this is somehow their first and only opportunity they have ever had to hear and thus believe in Jesus. I don’t agree with that.

    Untold millions upon millions, even billions have had the opportunity to search, seek and find Christ and His will. Just the internet alone has given millions the privilege and chance to find Christ.

    No, I’m not saying everyone on the planet, even closely has had the opportunity to hear the gospel or even “best” opportunity to hear the “pure”, truth gospel message, and I’m in no way suggesting are work is done in attempting to evangelize the world. Such thought is absurd and false.

    But I’m saying millions, even billions have.

    Neither do I agree with your apparent assumption, unproven from Scripture, that God is obligated to “save at the last minute”, right before any person might die. That all a person in essence has to do if they know they are about to die is say to God “Lord, please save me,” and God is required to save them. Again, millions, even billions have indeed had numerous opportunities, chances and privileges to seek God, study God’s Word and find out the Lord’s will concerning salvation in Christ. It’s not just like a person was born and woke up on an island all by himself.

    Now, if you want to discuss the issue of whether or not God would be just or not just in condemning souls who “never had the opportunity to hear the gospel” story (i.e., natives in heathen, remote places in the world), then maybe we need to start there and work our way back to this question then.

    But, again, I don’t find anything even close to what you are advocating in scripture. I’m sorry. If you do, please show and tell. Especially now, from the New Testament.

    So I’m afraid we just disagree and I’m assuming unless you and I both want to take the time to honestly, opening and sincerely specifically study God’s word about this matter, we’re probably not going to get any further in our discussion.

    I do want to say that the fact and reality is that at some point, people will be exposed to the Gospel of Christ for the last time.

    A great number of people in our world, some whether they have realized it or not, have been exposed to the Gospel of the grace of God. At various times in their lives, they’ve maybe even been really concerned about their soul’s salvation. Perhaps many have even stood at the very “Door” of salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ; but at the last moment, they refused to take that step of faith, and be saved.

    At some point, the opportunity will “run out” on such people. Jesus even said so. (Read Matthew 24 and the Parables about being prepared for the Judgment, for the time and opportunity will eventually come to an end)

    At some point, people will reject the offer of salvation, for the last time. And so, yes, I believe Jesus does have power to save all those people you mentioned in like situations, but they must choose to accept Jesus. And they must do so on the terms and conditions that God/Christ has given.

    And if they don’t or haven’t yet, it’s not been God’s fault. Our God of love sends no one to hell. Hell contains only volunteer residents and, as C. S. Lewis said, the gates of hell are locked on the inside.
    Now, let me repeat what I posted in an earlier comment to Rex.

    I do affirm without question that final judgment and destinies are left in the hands of an all wise and all powerful God who makes no mistakes. Yes, God is merciful, but it MUST be remembered there is NO scriptural support or promise for such a person being saved. God is under no scriptural obligation in such a case.

    Could God make an exception? Yes, He could. But does that mean He would? That is not a question any human being can answer with certainty. Only God, Himself, in His infinite wisdom and righteousness, can know the answer to this question.

    I just come back to what Jesus said concerning who He will save. Most of the denominational world laughs at God’s word when it says that baptism is for the remission of one’s sins so he can be saved and go to Heaven. They are contradicting what the Lord says. Our Lord says in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” Now there are those who want to try to justify their disobedience by ignoring what Jesus said in the first half of the verse and only look at the latter half. They do this in an attempt to try to manufacture a loophole in what the Lord has said. They are not willing to accept that Jesus says we must believe and be baptized to be saved. Jesus could not make it any clearer what one has to do to be saved.

    The later half of the verse says, “But he who does not believe will be condemned.” They say in the second part Jesus does not say people are condemned because they are not baptized, but only because they didn’t believe. The truth is that it is impossible for any disbeliever to be scripturally baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38) so they can be saved (Mark 16:16). In Mark 16:16 we only have two choices: either we obey it and be saved or we do not obey and be eternally lost.

    A lack of belief is enough to condemn a person and damn his soul. A person who does not believe the Lord does not have to be told he/she will be condemned without baptism because they are already condemned because of a lack of faith in what the Lord says.

    People need to stop spending their time in trying to figure out a way to get around doing what the Lord said, but rather they need be willing to submit to the final authority of our Lord. All we have to go with is how the New Testament teaches people are forgiven the way that Jesus Christ has specified in the Bible. If people don’t obey what Jesus has said then according to Jesus, they will die in their sins and be forever lost and forever separated from God in eternal punishment.

    The Lord says in John 12:48, “The word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” We are not going to be judged by what man says or by what we think or feel, but by what our Lord says. This is going to be the standard for our judgment.

    Robert Prater

    PS, Isn’t nearly 2/3 of the planet covered with water? Of course, again, I’m trying to be a little funny! lol!!

  31. Robert said:
    I spend a great deal of time “in the community.”

    Reply: I meant it is too easy for so many peoples minset to stay in the comfort zone of the building and the community they live in.

    Robert I just wanted to see how you believe about Jesus’ compassion and mercy and who He was and still is.

    Now I know.

  32. If one must *perfectly* understand “remission of sins” to be connected with Baptism before it is a valid Baptism, would not this require we also understand the rest of Acts 2:38 ( ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit ) before Baptism is valid?

    How can we demand part of Acts 2:38 be perfectly understood yet do not apply the same logic to the latter part of Acts 2:38. Least, in my experience, I have never heard a church of Christ preacher demand one understand the gift of the Holy Spirit before his baptism be valid. Matter of fact, there is debate over the latter part of Acts 2:38 within the church of Christ. Some conclude this to be a reference to the Holy Spirit personally residing in the believer, others say it was for the Apostles, some just comb right over it without explanation.

  33. Hello Randy,

    Are you still stuck on that fence you have falsely claimed to have been on for years. How’s your idol Johnny Robertson doing, his agenda to harass people isn’t going so well these days, people aren’t paying attention to his quacky charades anymore. Randy you showed your deception plenty of times playing your part in Johnny Robertson’s games of deception. There’s no fruit showing when it comes to Johnny and you guys in his crew.

  34. I am not affiliated with Johnny in any shape or form. I have not seen Johnny in a couple of years, I am guessing. Not sure where you have received your information from, but it’s false.

    Take care friend and have a good weekend.

  35. Wow Bondservant! What a spirit-filled post.

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