Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 13, 1961
NUMBER 10, PAGE 6,10c

The Church Versus Denominationalism

W. Curtis Porter

(Editor's note: Exactly one year has passed since W. Curtis Porter was called home., We have a considerable volume of his writings which have previously appeared in church bulletins or in journals of limited circulation. From time to time we hope to bring some of these writings to our readers.)

The Bible was given to us as a guide in religion. It tells us all we need to know in our journey from this world to the next, but men have sought other sources for information that can be found only in the Bible.

And not having found the truth in other books, they have gone on without the truth. As a result we have many religious bodies in the world today that are not even hinted at in a commendatory way within the Bible.

The Bible authorizes the existence of but one church. Jesus said: "Upon this rock I will build my church." (Matt. 16:18) It has been referred to as "the church of God;" (Acts 20:28) a number of congregations are called "churches of Christ." (Rom. 16:16) If a number of them are so styled, of course one of them would be a "church of Christ."

All this the Bible endorses, but where can you read of the denominational bodies of the present day? Can you find any mention of the Baptist Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Seventh Day Adventist Church, etc.?

All these exist without divine sanction and must be put over against the one mentioned in the Bible. Not only is that true as far as the name is concerned, but it is also true with respect to doctrine. I wish therefore to draw some contrasts between the things in the scriptures and the things taught by denominational churches.

On Justification By Faith Only

It is a cardinal doctrine of nearly all the denominations that a sinner is justified by faith alone. They say that he is saved at the very moment he believes in the Lord, and, of course, that there is nothing more for him to do.

Too much space would be required if I were to give you statements from all who so teach, but the following I take from the Methodist Discipline: "That we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." (Article 9)

Similar statements have been made in the creeds of other denominations. But faithful Christians do not believe nor teach that doctrine. We do not believe it because it is not taught in the Bible. We take the Bible as our only rule of faith and practice and must abide by its teaching. We do believe that men are justified by faith; but we do not believe salvation is by faith only. To find the teaching of the New Testament on this subject read James 2:24: "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."

This statement made by James is in direct conflict with that made in the Methodist Discipline. The Methodist Church accepts what the Discipline says; the church of Christ accepts what the Bible says.

The Proper Subjects Of Baptism

Not all denominations are agreed as to what it takes to make one a proper subject of baptism, but there are many denominations in Christendom today that declare that baptism should be administered to infants.

If space permitted, quotations from a number of creeds might be given, but I shall have to be content with one taken from the Presbyterian Confession of Faith. It reads as follows: "Not only those that do actually profess faith in, and obedience unto Christ, but also infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized." (Chapter 28; Section 4)

In contrast with this, however, members of the Lord's Church do not believe in baptizing infants of any kind of parents, whether believers or unbelievers. We insist that an infant is not a proper subject of baptism; that no one can be truly baptized' till he has believed.

In every case of baptism on divine record the persons baptized both believed and repented before being baptized. We read in Acts 18:8 the following statement. "Many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." Also in Acts 8:12 we have this language: "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."

Lutherans must accept their creed; Methodists must accept their Discipline; Catholics must accept their Catechism, and Presbyterians must accept their Confession of Faith; but simple Christians accept the Bible!

Discord On The Form Of Baptism

The denominations who practice infant baptism also teach that it should, or at least may, be performed by sprinkling or pouring water on the person to be baptized. Another quotation from the Presbyterian Confession of Faith is in point here: "Dipping of the person into the water is not necessary; but baptism is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person." (Chapter 28; Section 3)

With this agree the statements of the creeds of the Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and other churches which practice sprinkling. But the teaching of the scripture is in abrupt discord with such a doctrine. Not one time does the Sacred volume ever record baptism by either sprinkling or pouring. Every time there is any suggestion or indication at all as to the form of baptism immersion is clearly indicated or stated.

Paul declares in Eph. 4:5 that there is one baptism, and tells us in Romans 6:4 how that one baptism is performed: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Also in Col. 2:12 he writes: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are raised with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." We know that in sprinkling and pouring there is not a burial, neither is there a resurrection; therefore, such cannot be the baptism of the New Testament.

Christians follow the New Testament; denominational bodies follow their various creeds.

Contrast On The Design Of Baptism

With but few exceptions present day denominations teach that baptism is not a condition of salvation; they teach that it is not necessary to submit to it to reach heaven; that men are saved first and then baptized, and that therefore baptism is "an outward sign of an inward grace." Let me cite some quotations from the Baptist Manual. On page 76 we have this: "Baptism also expresses, in emblem, the believer's death to sin, and resurrection to newness of life."

And on page 77 we read this: "Baptism is likewise a symbol of purification....Then baptism is the outward symbol of an inward washing."

But the New Testament writers always place salvation after baptism, and make baptism a condition of that salvation. Read your New Testament. In Mark 16:16 Jesus said: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Peter said in Acts 2:38: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." (Acts 22:16) And Peter wrote after this manner: "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." (1 Pet 3:21)

Baptists must accept their Manual, and other denominations their creeds, confessions of faith, and disciplines; but the church of Christ accepts only the teaching of the Bible. Which do you think is the safe ground?