Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 12, 1956
NUMBER 48, PAGE 8-9a

Common Ground

Tommy McClure, Paragould, Arkansas

All thoughtful children of God are painfully aware of the fact that the religious world is in a state of turmoil, It is divided into more than 250 different religious bodies, and such division weakens Christianity, prevents the conversion of many sinners and promotes infidelity. Many articles have been written and many sermons have been preached on matters of difference, however, the purpose of this article is to emphasize some points of agreement, to point the readers to common ground — ground upon which unity can be attained. It is the hope of this writer that such a course of study will cause many religious people to return to and take their stand upon that ground.

Rule Of Faith And Practice

There is a rule of faith and practice on which nearly all who claim to respect the Christian religion are agreed. In the Discipline of the Methodist Church, 1952, page 26, the following statement is made regarding the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures: "The Holy Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." Look at a similar statement in The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches, by Hiscox, page 58. "We believe that the Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired, and is a perfect treasure of heavenly instruction; that it has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth without any mixture of error for its matter; that it reveals the principles by which God will judge us; and therefore is, and shall remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and opinions should be tried." The same statement, word for word, is contained in McConnell's Manual For Baptist Churches, also Pendleton's. In the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, page 13, is the statement: "The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men." Similar statements could be adopted from manuals of other churches, and these statements are in harmony with 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Paul said, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."

Here, then, is common ground — a rule of faith on which there is general agreement. This is the ground of unity, but the introduction and maintenance of uninspired standards of religious faith and practice in the form of human creeds, confessions of faith, disciplines, etc., is the ground of confusion, division and strife! Furthermore, those who introduce such are responsible for the division! They are the ones who occupy the ground on which the battle rages! On the other hand, those who stick to and contend for the Bible, and the Bible only, as the infallible and sufficient rule, occupy the only ground on which unity is possible.

Proper Subjects For Baptism

Despite the fact that the religious world is divided over this question, there is common ground. That a penitent believer is a proper subject for baptism no one of any note denies. That this is in harmony with Bible teaching there is no doubt. In Mark 16:16 Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Acts 8:12 says, "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." The eunuch said, "See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." (Acts 8:36-37.) In Acts 2:38, Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized ..." If, through the years, only penitent believers had been introduced as proper subjects for baptism, controversy and division on this matter would have been unknown, for this is common ground. All the strife, confusion, debates and divisions have arisen because some departed from common ground, from scriptural teaching! They presented for baptism those with no faith, those who knew nothing of repentance, nor even the existence of God. Those who introduced infant baptism did so without the slightest trace of scriptural authority and contended that because the Bible does not expressly forbid it, those who opposed it should hold their peace. They, like many others who have advanced unscriptural practices, chose to ignore the law of exclusion and show no respect for the silence of God Be it ever remembered that their ground is the ground of contention, their work the work of strife. But the practice of baptizing penitent believers is according to scriptural teaching and about it there is no dispute.

Designations For God's People

A quick glance at the names on the church buildings of our city will reveal that the religious world is divided on this issue, yet on this, as on other issues just mentioned, there is common ground. In Acts 11:26 we are told, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." Peter said, "For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evildoer, or a meddler in other men's matters: but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God in this name." (1 Peter 4:15-16; ASV) It matters not how many human names men wear religiously, nor how strenuously they defend them, at heart they have much more regard for scriptural designations. One may tell a man that he is not a Baptist, and despite the fact that he claims to be one, he is not offended, his feelings are not hurt. But if the man is told that he is not a Christian, the very opposite is true. If one tells a Methodist that he is a Baptist, and calls a Baptist a Methodist, both will object. Neither Methodist nor Baptist, however, will object to being called a Christian. Therefore, the name Christian is common ground, ground of unity. The same is true of such scriptural designations as "disciples," "saints," "brethren," "sons of God," "children of God," etc. If we are what the first followers of Christ were, nothing more and nothing less, these designations will be sufficient, as much so now as then. About these scriptural terms there has never been any question. The use of these terms has never caused any strife, because they are generally accepted by all who claim fellowship with God and Christ. The division and strife result from the use of unscriptural, human designations, and those who introduce, wear and defend them are responsible for the condition which prevails!


Through the years there has been much controversy about sprinkling and pouring, but on immersion there has been, and there is, almost complete agreement. Immersion, then, is common ground. All will agree that immersion is scriptural, for in Romans 6:4 Paul said, "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death . . ." In Colossians 2:12 the same writer said, "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." The scholarship of the world agrees that the word "baptizo" conveyed, in the time of the apostles, the idea of immersion. The Roman Catholic Church, together with her daughters and grand-daughters, will admit that immersion was the original practice and that sprinkling and pouring are substitutes. They contend that the substitutes are just as good as the original, and right there is where the strife begins. All the strife, all the division, and all the battles are about the substitutes, not about the original practice of immersion! Those who advocate sprinkling and pouring are the ones who occupy the ground of contention; those who stick to immersion, the original and scriptural practice, occupy the ground of unity! Friend, upon which ground have you taken your stand?

NOTE: The writer is indebted to Benjamin Franklin, one of the pioneer preachers, for the main points and even some of the expressions contained in this article. See Gospel Preacher, Volume 2.