Vol.XVI No.VI Pg.7
August 1979

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Should we accept for membership one who was baptized by another body, but for scriptural reasons? He feels he is right in God's sight. CT


I assume "body" refers to "church" but scriptural baptism is not done by a "church" — it is not a "church ordinance." This is a hangover from the Catholic concept of church as a society or institution that authorizes and validates certain sacraments. The Lord commands baptism, and a thousand churches couldn't change or cancel what our King said about it. A baptism is neither right because one church did it, nor wrong because some other church did it. Baptism is the response of an individual, out of a pure heart and good conscience, motivated by genuine trust or faith in Jesus Christ, and directed by understanding the message of the King.

Scriptural baptism is performed by immersion. That is the meaning of the original Greek word; and apart from that, "we are buried with Him" (Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:12). But the mere act of burial does not make scriptural baptism. Certain ones at Ephesus who had been immersed "unto John's baptism" had to be more fully taught and then "baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 19:3-5). Nor is this a matter of the words uttered by the baptizer. "In the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 2:38), and "in the name of the Lord" (10:48), makes three different wordings, none of them the same as those of Matt. 28:19— "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." And it is ridiculous to argue that the words "for the remission of sins" must be uttered, when scriptures are not uniform on any particular word formula. In truth, these passages tell what must be done not what must be said.

The idea that valid baptism must be performed by "authorized" administrators is related to the Judaistic concept of priesthood — putting "holy" things in the hands of the "clergy." For a people who have put such stress upon baptism, it is amazing how many false notions prevail. Saints are the product of good seed, in good soil.

Christ taught baptism "for remission of sins" (Jn 16:13; Acts 2:38) so one is not saved until his faith is sufficient to lead him to obey. Baptism is not a church- administered ordinance, to the already saved, to put them into some denomination or local church (Gal. 3:26-29). Most denominations are in error on these points. If one learns saving truth in such circumstances it is despite and not because of the teaching received there. An individual could learn the truth through private Bible study but it is unlikely that a denomination would baptize him, and they certainly would not sanction his conclusions.

We are not arguing that "doctrinal purity" is God's power unto salvation, but we are saying that the faith that saves must be gendered by an understanding of God's proclaimed message (Rom. 10:13-17). In the final analysis, we can not read another's heart. We can only present plain sound teaching on Baptism and hope this will prick honest hearts and move them to Christ.