Vol.V No.II Pg.3
April 1968

Baptism And Conscience

Robert F. Turner

I have never had a fellow tell me this, but if one could honestly contend that to be baptized would violate his conscience toward God -- that he believed God would consider him a sinner for doing such a thing -- then I certainly would not insist that he be baptized. I would insist that he restudy God's word on the subject, for his conscience needs resetting.

It is possible that to be baptized would violate someone's conscience toward man. Parental ties and religious background may be such as to make one feel such action would be against his mother's wishes, etc. But Jesus warned that we must be prepared to "love him more" than parents. (see Matt. 10:34-39)

We need to understand that our conscience is a valuable moral governor; a bell that rings, a light that flashes, in keeping with our understanding of what is right and wrong. But it is not the thing that determines -- it is not the standard -- of truth. If we have an erroneous understanding of any matter, the "set" of our conscience on that subject will be inaccurate. We will be pricked, or the conscience will allow, uncoordinated with the truth of the matter.

In 1 Pet. 3:15 the NAS reads, "But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong."

Good behavior must be "in Christ." It is God's will that determines the right course, and a "good conscience" toward God, the real goal.

Now, in 1 Pet. 3:21 we read "And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you -- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience -- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,--" The act of baptism, per se, does not save. Christ is our Saviour! But Christ is Saviour of those who put their trust in Him -- who believe in Him so fully that they set their conscience, and act, in keeping with His will -- "unto all them that obey Him." (Heb. 5:9)

All who give serious consideration to Christ's will, know that He commands baptism. (Mk. 16:16; Acts 10:48) Knowing this, one can not have a good conscience toward God while refusing to do His bidding. It is that simple.

Then baptism is not a "church doctrine" -- it is not "for conscience toward the church" that men should be baptized. It is not a "church ordinance" as is so often asserted. It is a thing done in response to a divine mandate, and for those purposes which the Lord has determined. (Acts 2:38) It pictures death to sin, burial with Christ, resurrection to a new life. (Rom. 6:3-f) It is not so surprising that such a thing as this should mark one's becoming a Christian, and entrance into the kingdom. (Jn. 3:3, 5)