Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 12, 1956

Questions About Baptism

J. W. McGarvey

On another page of this issue will be found part of an article by Brother E. S. Dudley, which has been in the office for a number of weeks, but has been crowded out of the paper by other communications. In it he propounds two questions which we take pleasure in answering. The first is expressed in the following terms:

"As regards baptism being the procuring cause of remission, I did not, nor do I yet know how to place you. You take the ground boldly of 'No baptism, no remission,' but as you now repudiate this, in so far as that baptism is not the procuring cause of remission, will you please to tell me what, in your estimation, is the procuring cause." x x

A procuring cause, as I understand it, is a cause which has in it power or merit to procure a certain effect.

For example, in the case of the woman with a bloody issue, it was her faith in Jesus, causing her to press her way through the crowd until she could touch his garment, which procured the blessing she sought. Primarily, the blood of Christ is the procuring cause of remission of sins, being shed for this specific purpose, as he himself declares in the words, "This is my blood of the new covenant, shed for many for the remission of sins." This blood had a merit in it of a nature so peculiar as to enable God on account of it, to extend pardon to believers. But in a secondary and quite a different sense, faith is the procuring cause of remission. It is such, not because of any merit in it, but because, like the faith of the unfortunate woman above mentioned, it has power to lead the sinner to Jesus, who forgives.

But baptism, unlike faith, has no power to lead the sinner; and, unlike the blood of Christ, it has no merit to effect the government of God. It is simply an act of faith in which remission of sins takes place, and is in no proper sense a cause of remission. The connection between the two is not that of cause and effect. It is like the connection between Naaman's dipping of himself in the Jordan and the healing of his leprosy. The connection is that which exists between an act and the condition of performing the act. In Naaman's case the act was that of healing his leprosy, an immediate act of God, and the condition the dipping which had been commanded by the prophet; and in the case of the sinner, the act is that of forgiving sin, an immediate act of God, and the condition, the action of baptism.

To express the same train of thought in a different way, the death of Christ procures pardon by enabling God to offer it on certain conditions; while faith procures it by leading the sinner into compliance with the conditions; but faith leads the sinner to be "baptized into the death of Christ" (Rom. iv:3), and baptism is therefore the act of faith which brings us within the reach of pardon. It is for this reason that we are commanded to be baptized for the remission of sins, and that we are said to be baptized into Christ. If these expressions of the scriptures can be fairly construed in harmony with any other view of the subject, we would be glad to see it done.

The second question which we are requested to answer is expressed as follows;

"As you seem not to assent to the principle of pardon and justification which I have laid down, will you please to give me what, in your judgment, is the Bible principle upon which pardon and justification are granted and received?"

The causes and conditions of pardon and justification have been sufficiently treated in answering the first question, and it remains now only, that I shall state what I consider the distinction between these two blessings. I regard them as but two aspects of the same divine transaction. The newly born Christian is said to be pardoned, because he is released from the penalty of his sins; and he is said to be justified, because he can no more be regarded, and dealt with as a transgressor. He is as if he had never sinned. Such is the distinction between the two; but there is also a connection between them. The man is justified in consequence of being forgiven, and the connection is that of antecedent and a necessary consequent. It is therefore impossible for a sinner to be pardoned without being justified.

The view which we have presented above is confirmed by the very passage which Brother Dudley quotes from Romans: "Being justified by faith we have peace with God," etc. He says correctly, that the peace here spoken of flows from pardon received. But let him ask the question, at what time Paul himself received this peace, and let Paul's own experience furnish the answer. He did not obtain peace when he first believed: for his faith was followed by three days and nights of unspeakable wretchedness. But the moment he was baptized, he broke his long continued fast, and took food, and was strengthened. It was when his faith led him to baptism, then, that he found peace with God, that he was justified by his faith; and it is for this very reason that Ananias said to him, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

I hope that after reading this, Brother Dudley will at least understand us better, whether he shall think more or less favorably of what we teach.