T. PIERCE BROWN
Recently I have heard a charge from two different persons that there were preachers in the Lord’s church who taught that a person had to be baptized by a “Church of Christ preacher” in a “Church of Christ building” in order to be scripturally baptized. There might be some radical crackpot who would teach something like that, but I have been listening to gospel preaching for more than 65 years that I can remember, and I never heard a gospel preacher teach that. Furthermore, I have read from everything I can find from the leaders of the Restoration movement down to the latest “brotherhood” publication, including radicals and crackpots, but I do not recall anyone either so radical, cracked or potty enough to teach that. I have, therefore, some reservations as to the accuracy of the accusation.
Trying to analyze the reason for the charge, it seems that there may a purpose behind such accusations. It is possible that some of those who make such charges are trying to erect a straw man, which, if they can demolish, they think it helps them to establish a point they are trying to make. The point seems to be, “Since it is so silly to think that the validity of one’s baptism depends on being baptized by a ‘Church of Christ preacher,’ then any member of any denomination that claims to love the Lord, believe on Jesus and do what he does in obedience to the Lord should be accepted as a brethren in Christ.” It would be interesting to have anyone who claims to be a logician try to put that in some syllogistic form. Although it seems almost too asinine to write about, perhaps some clarification of related points would be in order.
I believe that every sound gospel preacher known to me would take this position: We might go to some place inAfricaorIndiaand find a group of people who called themselves Methodists or Baptists and inquire of them, “How did you get to your present religious position?” They might respond, “Someone came by and left us a Bible, and we began to read and discovered this person called Jesus, who claimed to be the Son of God, died for our sins, was resurrected, and proven to be truthful by his miracles and those of his apostles. We believed that wonderful good news, found out that we were lost without obedience to Him, discovered what He and His apostles taught to do to be saved, so we were immersed in water in obedience to His commands and in submission to His authority. We realized how important baptism was as the dividing line between those who were saved and those who were not, so we called ourselves Baptists.” I know of no gospel preacher who would say to them, “You are not Christians. Your baptism is invalid, for the name you wear is not found in the yellow pages of the telephone directory, and you are going to hell if you do not immediately put the name, ‘ChurchofChrist’ on your meeting place.” We might talk to those who called themselves Methodists and discovered that they had done the same thing the Baptists had done, but felt that their doctrine and method by which they became Christians was so important that they should be called Methodists. I know of no sound gospel preacher who would claim they were not Christians or that they had to be re-baptized. Perhaps those in the Crossroads orBostonmovement would, but we have no inclination to deal with their false positions at this time.
What we would like to encourage is that every person study or re-study what one needs to know and do in order to become a Christian. There may be those who would say, “If he says that he believes Jesus is the Son of God this is all the Bible requires him to believe.” That is not so. If we had taught him what the Bible says about the nature of Jesus, and then he confessed that he believed that, we should accept his confession as genuine. However, it is quite possible that he can say with all sincerity, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God” and mean by that, “You and I are sons of God, and Jesus was an especially good son of God. He was willing to die for us, and did, but it is silly to believe in the bodily resurrection. However, he taught that those who believed in him and were baptized would be saved. Although I do not think it is necessary for a person to either believe in him OR be baptized to be saved, for then the good Jews or Hindus would be lost, I am willing to be baptized in obedience to him, for I would rather have fellowship in one of the Christian denominations.”
It may sound so strange as to seem impossible for you to believe, but there are those connected with the Lord’s church whose position is that such a person should be accepted as a brother in Christ, for he has done the only two thing necessary to be saved. He has confessed his faith in Jesus as the son of God, and been baptized claiming it was in obedience to Christ.
Let me summarize, then, what every converted person in the New Testament knew. We do need any “straw men” to demolish and then draw false conclusions. We only need to follow the pattern and teaching of the New Testament. They believed that Jesus was the Son of God about whom the prophets spoke, born of a virgin, unique and sinless. Thus, when he died for us, he did not die for us merely in the sense that a soldier dies for his country. He died for us in that he took upon himself our guilt. He was resurrected from the grave with all authority in heaven and on earth. As sinners, they must accept Him as Lord, with all authority, and, having repented of every sin, be baptized as an act of obedient, submissive faith in him. (To accept Him as Lord they did not have to be aware of all that might involve. For example, if later they were asked, “When you accepted Jesus as Lord, did you realize it might mean that you would have to go into a lion’s den because of your faith in him?” they might reply, “No, I did not think of that.” This would not invalidate their obedience, but it would invalidate their obedience if, before they were baptized you heard them say, “I do not intend to let Christ be the Lord of my life. I will be baptized in obedience to Him, but I am not required to do that, nor do I intend to let my life be guided by His will except when it coincides with my will.” The false philosophy or theology of the Crossroads andBoston”Lordship baptism” theory, where a person has to be re baptized each time he realizes more deeply what Lordship involves is not upheld here, nor under consideration).
When a person has done those things, he is a member of the Lord’s church. He did not have to be aware of that fact, or if it should be called a “churchofChrist,” nor of all the spiritual blessings that were his, nor of the theological significance of all that is involved in the words, “redemption,” “sanctification,” “justification,” “remission of sins,” “gift of the Holy Spirit,” or any number of other expressions. But in EVERY case, a converted person knew he was a sinner, lost without Christ, penitent for his sins, and willing to be baptized that he might be forgiven. In NO case did he say something like, “I am saved, and am willing to be baptized in obedience to Christ to show that I have already been saved.”
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600