Thursday, June 11, 2009

Heart to Heart on the One Baptism for Body of Christ

If, in the consideration of any doctrine in the Bible, the Christian should be a true Berean,
searching the Scriptures to see whether these things be true, he certainly should be in the
consideration of the doctrine of water baptism. In this connection I want to quote several
statements from the writings of outstanding men of God. First, from the pen of Dr. H. A.
“A brother who believes quite differently to me on baptism may have far more fervent
love for the Lord Jesus than I. Together with we can enjoy sweetest fellowship, while respecting
each other’s conscience as to a question that has provoked much strife in the Church.”
Note again these statements in the “Moody” pamphlet concerning God’s religious
program during the years covered by the Book of Acts:
“Is it the Spirit of God or Satan, who attempts to revive the sign gifts that were divinely
retired after having fulfilled their purpose? Every widespread attempt to revive them has, without
exception, resulted in confusion, divisions, injury and disgrace.”
“Is it the Spirit of God or Satan, who turns the eyes of sincere Christians back to
Pentecost and away from the goal placed before them in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians?”
From these true statements we learn that the sign-gifts, found in the early Christian
Church, served their purpose and then God retired them. Religious men, who try to revive them,
are responsible for much of the confusion, divisions, injury and disgrace among God’s people.
The Spirit of God never turns a Christian back to Peter and Pentecost for God’s spiritual program
in this age and dispensation of grace. This is true concerning the sale of property and the
surrender of the proceeds, as recorded in Acts 2:44 to 46, the supernatural miracles of that day,
with tongues and wonders; and it is also true concerning the message and significance of water
baptism as preached and practiced in Acts 2:38; “repent and be baptized every one of you in the
name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Looking away from the Pentecost to the Christian’s goal, in Paul’s last Epistles, as
suggested by Dr. Scofield in the “Moody” pamphlet, we most a assuredly find no such message
and program as we find on the day of Pentecost. We find quite a difference between the sign
gifts of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11 and the gifts of Ephesians 4:7 to 13. We find quite a difference
between the two baptisms on the day of Pentecost and the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5. As the
sign-gifts were operative only during the “Acts” period, so also were some of the baptisms of
that period.
Yes, water baptism has created much strife in the Church. Every attempt to revive the
sign-gifts found in the early Church has resulted in confusion, divisions, injury and disgrace.
What spiritual, obedient child of God wants to create strife, or confusion, or divisions, or injury
or disgrace among Christians? Perhaps Mr. Darby was thinking of this when he replied to a
Christian’s question, “what do you hold concerning water baptism”? “I hold my tongue.” Can we
clear up the confusion by holding our tongues?
Water baptism has created more confusion, divisions, injury and strife among evangelical
Christians than all other doctrines combined.
Speaking of strife, some weeks ago a well known Lutheran preacher, with a nation-wide
hook-up, broadcast a message, heard by perhaps several million listeners. He is a faithful, loyal
servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and wants to obey Christ’s commands. In the broadcast of
God’s Word that I heard this Lutheran preacher quoted Mark 16:16, to prove that both faith and
water baptism are essential to salvation, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” He
then remarked, “baptism alone will not save” . . . “it is faith and baptism” . . . “faith alone will
not save” . . . “it is faith and baptism.” Was not this man true to God’s Word? Did not God say,
concerning Christ, “this is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him?” Did not
the Almighty, Divine Christ, in resurrection say to eleven apostles, “he that believeth and is
baptized shall be saved?” He certainly did not say “he that believeth and is saved shall be
baptized.” Christ said certain signs would follow believers.
Within a few days after this message, Mark 16:16, was broadcast by this faithful
Lutheran preacher, a Baptist preacher spoke in the pulpit of the largest Fundamental church in
this country. He referred to the message of the Lutheran preacher and said his teaching
concerning water baptism was heresy; but added the preacher, “I am no Bullingerite.” This critic
of the Lutheran preacher did not do what the Lutheran preacher did do; he did not give any
Scripture to prove his theory concerning water baptism. He also forgot the words of another, that
a Christian may disagree with him on water baptism and love the Lord Jesus more fervently and
together they can enjoy the sweetest fellowship together. This is a nice religious platitude, if
there is such a thing, but it just doesn’t work. Most religious Christians will not enjoy sweet
fellowship with other Christians who disagree with their water baptism theories. The theories of
the Lutheran Christians and the Baptist Christians are as far apart as the two poles.
Trying to revive the sign-gifts of the early Church has created confusion, divisions,
disgrace and injury. Nothing has been used more successfully by Satan to create discord and
hatred among Christians than water baptism. And no one does any more hating than do the
zealous immersionists who teach, from Romans 6:1 to 6, that the water ceremony is a witness to
the world that the old man of the believer is dead and buried. It must be the old man that hates,
not the new man. Of course, if the baptism in Romans 6:3 to 6 is water baptism, then the
Lutheran preacher preached the truth when he preached “water regeneration,” for the baptism of
the sixth chapter of Romans is certainly efficacious and meritorious and makes a new creature
out of the believing sinner. Unless and until Christians get together on the one baptism of
Ephesians 4:5, the confusion, divisions, injury and disgrace will continue.
Before we consider Mark 16:14 to 18, let us carefully study Hebrews 9:10 and John 1:31.
From these Scriptures we learn that in Israel’s old testament religious program baptisms had a
very prominent place. The words translated “washings,” in Hebrews 9:10, is “baptismos.” Then
we learn, in John 1:31, that John the Baptist came baptizing with water that Christ might be
made manifest to Israel. If Christians are to practice water baptism today, in this age and
dispensation of grace, they know that it is not because it is one of Israel’s divers baptism and it is
not to manifest Christ to Israel. It is also true that ninety-nine percent of Christians do not know
why they were baptized or why they believe that water baptism has a place in this age and
dispensation of grace. There are about fifteen different theories, and they are very different. One
baptism is a requirement for Christian unity. (Ephesians 4:1 to 7).
Here are several most important truths that every Christian should know in connection
with the question, “to be or not to be baptized with water.” These truths are copied from the
writings of one of the outstanding evangelical Christians and able Bible teachers of this
generation, Dr. H. A. Ironside:
“Let the reader not fall into a mistake very commonly made today. The kingdom is not
the Church (Body).”
“That water baptism is not, properly speaking, a Church ordinance, I also admit and
teach, because, unlike the Lord’s Supper, water baptism had a place before the Church began,
and will have one after it (the Church) has been taken to heaven.”
Then this man of God adds, that the message of Peter on the day of Pentecost, “repent
and be baptized for the remission of sins,” was never preached by Paul to the Gentiles. This is
sound teaching. He also wrote that the water baptism, which Jesus Christ received from John the
Baptist, was not Christian baptism, but was a shadow of Christ’s baptism on the cross. Hear the
words of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the shadow of the cross, “I have a baptism to be baptized with,
and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” (Luke 12:49 to 52). Let us keep in mind this
all-important fact; that when Jesus Christ died on the cross He was baptized; that was His
baptism. That baptism is the believer’s baptism. (Galatians 2:20). In Romans 6:3 we learn that
Christians have been baptized into the death of Christ. Every intelligent, Spirit-taught Christian
knows that no man can baptize his fellow-man into the death of Christ; that such a baptism must
be like the circumcision of Colossians 2:11, “not made with hands.” If the circumcision of
Colossians 2:11 is “‘made without hands,” the baptism of Colossians 2:12 is “made without
hands.” This is the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5. Christ’s “death” baptism is the believer’s
baptism by grace.
Whether or not it is Satan, or ignorant leaders, who cause Christians to turn back to
Pentecost instead of toward the goal for the Christian in Ephesians and Colossians, two of Paul’s
prison Epistles written after the close of the “Acts” period, we should not be caught in the trap;
but should know the difference between the one Divine baptism in Ephesians 4:5 and Colossians
2:12 and the water baptism for the remission of sins as taught and practiced by John the Baptist
and by Peter at Pentecost, also the outpouring of the Spirit, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy on
that Jewish feast day, in the second of Acts, when Peter preached concerning all the house of
Israel. (Acts 2:36). To Peter, Christ gave “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 16:16
to 19). To Paul, Christ gave “the dispensation of the grace of God for Gentiles.” (Ephesians 3:1
to 8). A great difference.
It is certainly sound doctrine to teach that water baptism had a place in Israel’s kingdom
program before the historical beginning of the Church, Which is Christ’s Body, and will have a
place in the coming kingdom age and program, after the Church has been raptured. It is also a
fact that the twelve apostles did not receive Christian baptism. If water baptism has any place in
this present age and economy of grace, it certainly has not the same significance and meaning
that it had when Peter and the Eleven were baptized with John’s baptism, when the Twelve were
preaching to Israel before and after the dead: of Christ, or that it will have after the Church is
taken to glory. When Paul was baptized, as Saul of Tarsus, that water baptism was kingdom
baptism: “Arise and be baptized washing away your sin.” (Acts 22:16). This is not the
significance of water baptism in this present age of grace. John the Baptist said, “I am come
baptizing with water, that Christ might be made manifest to Israel.” (John 1:31). This certainly is
not why one member of the Body of Christ baptizes another member with water. Every
intelligent, Spirit taught member of the Body of Christ today teaches that no one should be
baptized in or with water until that one too has become a member of the Body of Christ. They
are all agreed that water baptism is not essential for salvation, for membership in the true Bible
Church, or for entrance into heaven. The one who is to be baptized with water must first be a
saved member of the Body of Christ. But then they add their religious traditions and say that
baptism is necessary for something else, although they are not agreed as to what that something
else is, and they offer no Scripture proof for the requirement. They only contribute to the
confusion, the divisions, the injury and the disgrace. And they are much disagreed as to what is
the one baptism of Ephesians 4:5, whether it is man’s work or God’s. But surely they should all
agree that “one” does not mean “two.” Just think of the stupidity of any supposed-to-be spiritual
Christian reading the work of man into Ephesians 4:5.
The Presbyterians and some of the members of the Reformed and Christian Reformed
churches teach that water baptism is the seal of the new covenant, as circumcision was the seal
of the old covenant: and therefore, water baptism, by sprinkling, takes the place of circumcision
One of their experts on this subject, Dr. Albatross Pieters, acknowledges that no one can find a
positive statement in Scriptures that little children, not old enough to exercise intelligent faith in
Christ, should be baptized. But says he, “it is taught by implication.” Other Christians do not like
this implication. Then these “sprinkling” Christians do not like the implication that Romans 6:3
to 6 teaches that a believer should be buried in water to witness to the world that the believer’s
old man has been crucified and buried. Then the Christians, with this burial ceremony, do not
like the implication that the children of Christians should be immersed, because it is stated in I
Corinthians 10:1 to 4 that the children of Israel were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the
Red Sea. Christians bring on that confusion and disgrace, mentioned in the “Moody” pamphlet,
by trying to prove something by implication.
Water baptism is not the seal of the believer’s salvation. The Holy Spirit is. (Ephesians
1:13 and 14). If water baptism takes the place of circumcision, then little girls should not be
baptized, for they were not circumcised. According to Galatians 3:8, Romans 4:7 to 9, and
Galatians 2:7, if water baptism takes the place of circumcision, then Gentile believers should not
be baptized, only Jews; for Abram was called and justified in uncircumcision, that he might be
the father of the uncircumcised Gentiles. The true circumcision are believers described in
Philippians 3:3. During the ten years from Mark 1:1 to Acts 10:28 no man received water
baptism who had not first received circumcision.
We shall presently refer to Romans 6:3 to 6, but as to the Israelites, who, with their little
ones, were baptized unto Moses by the two great miracles which God performed by the hand of
Moses, as we read the thirteenth to the fifteenth chapters of Exodus we learn that it was the
ungodly Egyptians who were baptized into death in that sea, but all of the Israelites crossed on
dry land. Therefore, if members of the Body of Christ are to have a baptistery in their religious
buildings because of I Corinthians 10:1 to 3, they should not have any water in it. Here we have
more of man’s theories and traditions to confuse the Christians and here we see why all
Christians should be true Bereans and search the Scriptures to see whether these things be so.
Many of us know of the unpleasant controversies among the brethren divided into “believers’
baptism” camp and “household baptism” camp.
The Presbyterian president of a leading Bible Institute teaches that a believer can be
buried with several drops of water as well as in a tank or a river, and therefore a sprinkled
believer is a buried believer.
But the zealous immersionists have a controversy with that brother. They will not accept
such a theory for one moment. But no Christians have any more controversies than do the
immersionists among themselves. If you know of the long-standing feud between the Disciples
(the Christians) and the Baptists, you know real confusion and disgrace. The Disciples believe
and teach that water baptism by immersion is absolutely necessary for salvation, to get into
heaven, while the Baptists call this, “heresy.” The Baptists demand immersion for membership
in the local, visible church organization. Others say, it also is a witness to the world. But offer
not one Scripture. You see what is meant by confusion, divisions, injury and disgrace.
The one baptism of Ephesians 4:5 is for unity.
There are in this country about five million church-members, including Lutherans,
Disciples (Church of Christ) (Christians), and several other denominations, who believe and
teach “water regeneration that water baptism is essential for salvation. There are many more than
this number in the Catholic denomination, who have been taught that christening with holy water
removes original sin. The Lutherans and Disciples cannot fellowship together, because he
Disciples insist that water baptism must be by immersion and that no one can be saved by
“sprinkling” baptism. So saved Lutherans and saved Disciples, all in the same one Body, are
divided by water.
But virtually all Christians, who teach water regeneration, are opposed to the teaching,
“once saved always saved,” that is, the eternal security of believers. They teach that after a
person is saved by faith and water baptism, that person can lose his or her salvation. According
to their water theory, the person helped to obtain salvation by submitting to water baptism. Then
of course he or she must hold on to that salvation by doing something as they continue to
believe. If the person once saved loses his or her salvation because of the lack of good works or
religious doings, then surely that person is unsaved again. What must that person do the second,
or third or fourth time? The answer is Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be
saved.” So of course the person who loses his salvation should be baptized again with or in the
water, and he should he re-baptized every time he loses his salvation. The only way for one to be
sure that he is eternally secure in such a doctrine is to live in a submerged submarine. Who is to
be the judge as to just how many good deeds the believer must do, or how many evil deeds he
must refrain from doing, to be sure that he is holding on to salvation? Then the Disciples ask the
Lutherans, if faith and water are both required for salvation, and a person cannot be saved by one
without the other, how can a little baby become a Lutheran Christian by water baptism, without
Of course, all of this teaching of both denominations is contrary to the “grace” message
in Romans 4:4 and 5 and II Timothy 1:9 and Titus 3:5 to 8 and Ephesians 2:8 to 10. In all of
these salvation messages we learn that the believer’s salvation does not depend upon any merit,
good works or religious deeds, but is altogether, wholly, by God’s grace; that the believer does
not, and cannot earn salvation or pay for it, either before he is saved or after he is saved. This
proves that it is more than important to recognize the development of grace in the principle of
progressive revelation. Remember the question in the Moody pamphlet, “is it the Spirit of God
or Satan who turns the believer back to Pentecost away from the goal in Ephesians and
Only as we move from John 1:31, John’s water baptism, to Luke 12:49 to 52, Christ’s
death baptism, to Acts 8:5 to 15 where Philip preached Christ and baptized with water and then
Peter and John came later to impose hands for the Holy Spirit baptism, then to I Corinthians
1:17, Paul’s statement, “Christ sent me not to baptize,” and then to Ephesians 4:5, the one
baptism, will we be delivered from the awful “baptism” confusion and disgrace that has existed
for many years and which today is creating more hatred and lying and name-calling among
Fundamentalists than any other one thing. As we eliminate the “transitional period” signgifts by
the principle of progressive revelation, so also “sign” water baptism.
The intelligent, Spirit-led Christian will neither join in the slogan, “back to Pentecost,” or
“let’s follow the program of Jesus with a red-lettered testament,” but will say, “on to perfection.”
(Hebrews 6:1 to 3) (Ephesians 4:12 to 14). What is the Christian’s goal, according to the
“Moody” pamphlet and according to sound Bible doctrine?
The prison Epistles of Paul. Only as we study and apply and interpret all other Scriptures
concerning water baptism and all other doctrines in the light of Paul’s prison Epistles, will we be
workmen who need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth. Think of intelligent
Christians remarking that they followed Christ in baptism!
In this message we have referred to an able, outstanding, gifted Bible teacher. Something
has happened to him. We would put to him the same question Paul put to the Galatians, “ye did
run well, who did hinder you?” That man, in four of his splendid written messages, held the
prison Epistles of Paul before Christians as their goal. But now he is doing what that unfortunate
California football player did a few years ago. You know what he did in his dazed condition. He
grabbed the fumbled ball and ran in the wrong direction, toward the wrong goal. His team-mates
and almost all of the spectators in the stands yelled and yelled to stop him; but he stopped too
late. This illustrates what our brother is now doing. He is running back to Pentecost, in his later
written messages, away from the Christian’s goal, in Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Not
only is he running toward the wrong goal, but backwards. But most of his teammates are not
trying to stop him. They are cheering and encouraging him and with him, they too are running
backwards, away from the goal. In his excellent books he wrote truthfully that the dispensation
of the mystery did not begin until Israel had been given every opportunity to receive or reject
Christ in resurrection. And to the Epistles of Paul alone must we turn for this truth. You cannot
reach a goal running in the opposite direction. Our brother is one of the outstanding ball-carriers
for the Baptist Fundamentalists and they are surely running interference and doing some real
blocking for him and ‘‘together they are interfering with the recovery of God’s truth for this age.
He now writes that “the dispensation of the grace of God,” mentioned in Ephesians 3:1 to 4, and
“the dispensation of the mystery (Ephesians 3:9), revealed to the apostle Paul by the risen Christ,
began on the day of Pentecost. He says that the Pentecost Church was the Church of purity and
power and faith. If that is so, and Pentecost is our goal, then let us join those who call themselves
Pentecostalists and commend them for their stand against all tradition, as they cry, “back to
Pentecost” and “the full gospel,” including baptismal regeneration, miracles, healing, tongues
and visions. But even the Pentecostalists balk when it comes to the sale of property, and putting
the money in a common treasury. (Acts 2:42 to 45) (Acts 4:32 to 35). This brings us to the
consideration of the so-called great commission.

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