That Missing Minor Premise
There are men who try to cancel out, set aside, and get rid of one of the commands of the gospel of Christ by an argument that has become standard among them. It is amazing how often one hears this argument. It is made by quoting a text from the New Testament, "We reckon therefore that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law"; and then adding to that any number of other passages which teach that a man is not justified by the works of the law. This is the major premise of the argument; this is the thing that is emphasized and stressed. Nearly every denominational preacher in the land will make the argument sooner or later, for all of them continue to follow Martin Luther in his teaching of "salvation by faith only."
Once the major premise has been laid down (and it is a premise that I accept with all my heart), the average denominational preacher immediately comes forth with his conclusion: "Therefore, we are not justified by being baptized." Nearly all of us of any years have heard this over and over: A man is not justified by the works of the law; therefore a man is not justified by baptism. This is the conclusion of the syllogism. And the average argument jumps from major premise to conclusion with never a thought as to the minor premise. In fact, the way the argument is usually made, the minor premise is completely left out. It would have to be left out, for it would spoil the argument if it were included.
But take a look at the conclusion in the argument: A man is not justified by baptism. We know that the New Testament teaches the very opposite of that. In fact it says over and over, eight times at least, that man is justified, saved, sanctified, through baptism. The conclusion of the argument, therefore, is false. It is a manifest contradiction to the teaching of the scripture. But what is the matter? If the major premise ("man is not justified by the works of the law") is true, why does it not follow that man is not justified by baptism?
If any of you have ever studied logic, the answer is simple. The minor premise is missing. In the argument as it is usually made there simply is no minor premise at all; the conclusion is drawn only from the major premise. And that is why the whole teaching is false and untrue. But what is the minor premise in the argument? What would have to be the minor premise? If we are to correctly reach the conclusion that "man is not justified by baptism," what would have to be the minor premise?
Is it not clear that the argument would have to be: Major premise: Man is not justified by the works of the law.
Minor premise: Baptism is a work of the law. Conclusion: Therefore, man is not justified by baptism.
But everybody knows that baptism is NOT a work of the law. Even the denominational preacher, the one who makes the argument knows that that is not so. That's why he never includes that minor premise in any of his arguments, but jumps from major premise to conclusion without hitting ground even once. Baptism does not come under "the law" at all; it is a command of Christ, not something required by Moses.
I was engaged in a discussion with a man once at Rockdale, Texas, when he challenged me to show just one place where Jesus ever commanded anybody to be baptized. I knew what he wanted; he wanted me to go to the four gospels, somewhere before Christ died, and read a passage where Jesus told somebody to be baptized. He kept emphasizing the word "commanded." Well, I decided to follow the Bible teaching and answer that man according to the way the Bible says to answer such a man. So I ignored the four books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John completely, and went to Acts 10:48, "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." My opponent simply couldn't resist the temptation (I had figured he couldn't) to speak right out in the middle of my speech. "That was Peter," he said, "I asked for a place where Jesus ever gave any such command."
Well, I knew when he said that that he had lost his point. For I asked him, "Whose word was Peter speaking? His own, or the word of Christ?" The audience saw at once what had happened. Here was a man so desperate for an argument that he was actually on the point of denying the inspiration of the Apostle Peter! Imagine a mere man giving commands of his own authority that men should be baptized.
Bible teaching on the subject of baptism is too plain to be misunderstood. Baptism is a part of the gospel of Christ. No argument that men can make can remove it from the gospel. Christ put it there; men cannot take it away. Man is not justified by the works of the law; he is not justified by the law at all. He is justified by Christ. But that justification comes only when man obeys. It does not come before. Baptism is no part of the law of Moses; it is a commandment of Christ. And no man can hope for eternal salvation unless he is willing to obey fully the word of the Lord.