Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 13, 1951

A Mess Kit Baptism

Bill J. Humble, St. Petersburg, Florida

That a religious experience known as conversion is demanded by God, most people readily admit; but specifically what characterizes this experience, or in what it consists, few are willing to venture a positive statement. In religious practice this term conversion now covers multifarious forms, feelings and fancies; so that nearly anything which gives either peace of mind or a place in some denomination is hallowed as an experience with God. The Bible has been dethroned as the standard for determining what is and what is not genuine conversion and in its place the individual conscience, whether guided or misguided, seared or sincere, has been glorified as the standard by which one knows that he has been converted. Hence, reasons the religious world, regardless of the form conversion takes, when one feels he has been converted, presto—he is converted! And what does the Bible say about all this? "Who cares," they retort. "We are past the age of outmoded legalism; each man must find God for himself."

Every gospel preacher has heard many tales of "conversion" which make him sick at heart, sick because so many precious souls can miss the Bible standard so far, all the while believing that salvation with all its joys is theirs. Men announce that they have seen angels or heard the Lord, received the Spirit or felt joyous, all of which is equated with salvation, but how few have ever stopped to ponder the simple commands of the Savior. And how few have ever obeyed the gospel!

Occasionally some story of conversion is found which epitomizes the teaching that "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts, saith Jehovah. (Isa. 55:9) Such a story is that told recently in the St. Petersburg Times, the story of a former combat pilot in World War II who was being ordained in the Episcopal priesthood. Recounting his conversion, the new father (in the Episcopal Church, that is) told of his fears of judgment, then continued: "I went to the Chaplain. He made me kneel down and ask forgiveness. (Just like Ananias and Saul!) He said the words over me and I was crying. He prayed for me until I realized that he was not praying any longer and I was not crying. It was then the most wonderful experience came over me. I knew He had forgiven me. (Wonder how?) The experience was ineffable; words can't tell of it—it was the most joyous thing I had ever known. I was baptized from a mess kit." (St. Petersburg Times, July 25, 1951)

Unfortunately for the multitudes who have been taught to believe and accept such accounts of salvation, God's ways are not man's ways. Otherwise, our Bible would necessarily read quite differently in many important passages dealing with genuine New Testament conversion. Baptized from a mess kit! It should require neither a divine doctor nor an Episcopal priest to recognize that such a "mess kit baptism" does not constitute God's way; and after all, it is God who must be satisfied. Such, at least, would be the conclusion suggested by reading certain passages in the light of the Episcopal father's "conversion."

Consider, for example, the New Testament conversion recorded in Acts 8:26-39. The evangelist Philip was preaching to an interested listener, the Ethiopian eunuch.

His theme was Christ; his point of departure the prophecies of Isaiah from which the man had been reading. (Apparently the time had not yet come to command the man to pray for forgiveness. Or perhaps Philip could have learned something from our modern Chaplain.) The record continues: "And as they went on the way, they came unto a certain mess kit of water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is a mess kit of water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the mess kit of water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the mess kit of water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more, for he went on his way rejoicing."

And it must be evident to all that John baptized at Aenon near to Salim, because there were many mess kits there. (Jno. 3:23)

In view of such manifest absurdity and such open rebellion against the authority of the New Testament, many may inquire, "Why?" Why will learned men ignore Biblical examples to accept anything as a substitute for genuine conversion? When it is perfectly evident that New Testament baptism is immersion, a burial in water, why will educated and sincere men accept baptism from a mess kit, finger bowl or mud puddle? Perhaps the real answer is suggested by one apologist for sprinkling who wrote, "For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity baptism was usually conferred by immersion; but since the twelfth century the practice of baptizing by infusion has prevailed in the Catholic Church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than baptism by immersion." (Gibbons, The Faith of Our Fathers, p. 277) No doubt it is "less inconvenient" to have a few drops of water sprinkled on ones head rather than he immersed, but since when did convenience become the criterion for determining whether one would obey God or rebel against His will. No doubt, also, it is "less inconvenient" to confess ones sins to some priest than to live the Christian life and overcome temptation. But wait! Would it not be "less inconvenient" still just to renounce Christ and his church completely rather than take up our cross and follow him, rejoice when we suffer as a Christian and present ourselves a living sacrifice? Here is a patent medicine for all our religious ills! Always do the less inconvenient, and you will enjoy the primrose path to—torment!

But think, dear Christian, how "convenient" it will be in judgment, and how gloriously satisfying, to know that "his Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God."