An Open Letter to the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida

This is a letter sent with kindness and respect to the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, FL concerning their inconsistent beliefs regarding salvation and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This letter was sent and meant to be posted here and read by all. May God bless every reader. Your kind and respectful comments and questions are welcome.

January 24, 2013

To the members and leaders of the First Baptist Church,

Seeing your confession of the deity of Christ and confession of the virgin birth is an encouragement of faith in a world of skepticism. Because of these convictions and your confession of the “Inerrancy and Completeness of Scripture”, I urge you that though one’s labors and works are good Christ may still have something against a church (Rev. 2-3). Let us all be aware. Therefore, I must encourage you to reconsider and look again at some of the words of Jesus Christ and those of His Apostles and prophets. You openly profess your belief that salvation comes by faith, trust, and receiving Jesus as one’s personal Savior before a believer is conformed to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I plead with you to rethink this teaching, and may your ministers give themselves wholly to reading, exhortation, and doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13-16). I write this letter by the Apostle Paul’s example of speaking to those, who are seeking God and His Christ.

Here is my plea. With your open confession that 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is true, you also confess that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the Gospel by which believers are saved. I assume that you also confess the Gospel to be the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16, 1 Cor. 1:18). Please, recognize that believers must conform to Christ’s death to be resurrected with Him (Phil. 3:10-11, Rom. 6:3-8). Why then do you not teach that one must die and be buried with Christ to be resurrected with Him? The Holy Spirit described the saved believer, who was, “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” (Col. 2:12). Without being resurrected with Christ, one cannot be brought to life with Christ and forgiven of all sins as Colossians 2:13 states, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” (Col. 2:13). Why do you not openly recognize that being raised with Christ in baptism is when one is forgiven of all sins? The Scriptures show that Jesus died in order that each believer must die to one’s sins, and that by being buried with Christ, that believer can be raised with Him and be forgiven of all of one’s sins. Why then do you believe that one is saved before dying, being buried, and resurrected with Christ? Why place baptism after salvation when Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16)?

This is a misleading belief to overlook that one is saved when raised with Jesus Christ. Instead of teaching a believer to be saved when one is resurrected with Christ, your words are clear from your tract, “Life’s Greatest Question”, that you believe that you are saved when you trusted in Christ before you have died, been buried, and resurrected with Him. In teaching others how to become a Christian, your tract comes short stating, “only through trusting in Christ’s payment can our sins be forgiven. That means from the moment we trust in Christ, God sees us not as sinners but justified (just as if we had never sinned)” (emp. added. <fbcjax.com> 22 January 2013). You are not clear and do not indicate that this trust is when one conforms to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Yet, you also provide a “Spiritual Birth Certificate”, which states for when one has “received Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord” rather than when one is raised with Christ from being buried with Him in baptism. When you confess that believer’s baptism is a conformation to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in your tract, why do you place baptism after salvation?

When are we truly saved by grace? Let us not misapply God’s grace. Being dead to sin, Christians are alive and their souls are hid in Jesus Christ (Col. 3:1-3). Those who have not died with Christ and have not yet been raised with Him are still dead and are not yet saved. Christ’s Spirit states, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (Eph. 2:5-6). God’s grace is when we are raised with Christ. Therefore, grace is “not of yourselves” (Eph. 2:8), but in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, we cannot boast (Eph. 2:9). Baptism is not a work invented by men, and no one baptizes oneself. If you so believed in grace through one’s conformation to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, would you not instruct immediate baptism upon confession of faith and repentance? Were not the converts of the Book of Acts all baptized immediately? Why baptize immediately if baptism can wait until another time? Should you not also instruct others, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16)? Should you not inform these believers saying, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38)?

You are right to confess belief in “The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the Grave” (22 January 2013). Yet, you are not confessing the resurrection of Jesus Christ through your baptism when you believe that you have already been saved by His grace implying that you have already been resurrected with Him? Do you not see that the scriptures teach that one is raised with Jesus after being buried with Him in baptism (Rom. 6:3-8)? Does not Colossians 2:12-13 teach clearly that when one is raised from the burial of baptism “through faith” that this person then has the forgiveness of all sins (Col. 2:12-13, cf. 3:1-11)?

By placing salvation before the believer’s death, burial, and resurrection with Christ, I find that you are twisting Jesus’ words about being born of the water and the Spirit to exclude the baptism that Jesus commanded after His resurrection (John 3:5, cf. 1 Cor. 6:11, Titus 3:5). Yet, rising from the waters of baptism is the moment when the believer is reborn and regenerated. Peter affirmed, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” (1 Pet. 1:3, cf. 1:22-23). How are believers begotten by God by the resurrection of Christ? Peter affirmed, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the request of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” (1 Pet. 3:21). This is my plea to you in short.

For good measure so that my plea does not come short, note that this baptism is water baptism in Jesus’ name. As you recognize the Scriptures, Jesus established baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit after His resurrection (Matt. 28:19). This baptism is the baptism in Jesus’ name taught on the Day of Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 2:38). The baptism in Jesus’ name is baptism in water (Acts 11:47-48). This is the one baptism by which Jesus washes His Church by water (Eph. 4:5, 5:26). This is the baptism taught in 1 Corinthians 12:13 when one is baptized into one body, the Church, by the one Spirit (cf. “body” in Eph. 5:23, Col. 1:18, 24). First Corinthians 1:11-13 show that this is the one baptism in Jesus’ name and 1 Corinthians 6:11 shows this baptism to be the moment when the believer is washed, sanctified, and justified in Jesus’ name. We also see that the Lord adds believers to His Church rather than men consenting to add others to a church (Acts 2:41, 47).

Therefore, I must remind you. Jesus said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21, cf. Heb. 5:9, Jas. 2:24). After the resurrection, Jesus commanded in Matthew 28:19, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”.

Please, consider the claimed Baptist founder, Thomas Helwys, who wrote repeatedly about salvation and baptism. Helwys wrote in his book, “The Mystery of Iniquity” (1612),

“And therefore please not yourselves so much in those things, although we acknowledge they are worthy of great commendations in you, and our souls are much affected to you for them. But if you follow not Christ in the regeneration, that is, if you be not ‘born again of water and of the Spirit, and so enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ all is nothing, as you see by the example of this ruler. And Cornelius (Acts 10), if he had not been baptized with the Holy Ghost and with water, for all his prayers and alms he had not, nor could not have entered into the kingdom of heaven.

Thus entered all the people of God of whose entrance the scriptures give testimony, either by rule or by example, and thereof if there be any other entrance found out, it is not, nor cannot be of God. This only is the door which Jesus Christ has set open for all to enter in at, that enter into his kingdom. (John 3:5) And the Lord sanctify all your hearts with grace that you may enter therein. For no other way of salvation has Christ appointed but that men first believe and be baptized. (Mark 16:16).

Therefore, listen also to the famous Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, who noted in his lesson, “Baptism – A Burial” (October 30, 1881),

Baptism sets forth the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and our participation therein. Its teaching is twofold. First, think of our representative union with Christ, so that when he died and was buried it was on our behalf, and we were thus buried with him. This will give you the teaching of baptism so far as it sets forth a creed. We declare in baptism that we believe in the death of Jesus, and desire to partake in all the merit of it. But there is a second equally important matter and that is our realized union with Christ which is set forth in baptism, not so much as a doctrine of our creed as a matter of our experience. There is a manner of dying, of being buried, of rising, and of living in Christ which must be displayed in each one of us if we are indeed members of the body of Christ. […]

We are buried with him in baptism unto death to show that we accept him as being for us dead and buried. […]

His death is the hinge of our confidence: we are not baptized into his example, or his life, but into his death. We hereby confess that all our salvation lies in the death of Jesus, which death we accept as having been incurred on our account.”

In conclusion of my plea, I urge you by the name of Christ to reconsider your beliefs and teachings concerning salvation, baptism, and the Gospel of Christ in the light of the inerrant and complete Scriptures. Remember “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:23). I welcome your response. I am willing to reconsider in all honesty. I plan to present this as an open letter. You can contact me at ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com or if you prefer by mail.

May God bless you all in the study of His Word,

Scott Shifferd Jr., minister, Dean Road church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL

First-Baptist-Church-Jax-FL

About Scott Shifferd Jr.

Minister, Dean Road church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of three. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
This entry was posted in Christian, Church of Christ and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

136 Responses to An Open Letter to the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida

  1. In recent discussion with the associate minister at the First Baptist Church, we have come to a point. He notes that baptism is certainly vital and that one is raised with Christ from being dying and being buried with Christ. These are good and positive notes among some other affirmation that he has made. Yet, he still finds that one is regenerated when one first comes to believe by the work of the Spirit rather than when one is raised with Christ in the completion of faith in the death, burial, and resurrection.

    Does anyone have any suggested verses that would clarify either way that one’s new life begins when one is raised with Christ and when one first believes (i.e. Eph. 2:5-6, Rom. 6:4)?

    • AD2014 says:

      Does anyone have any suggested verses that would clarify either way that one’s new life begins when one is raised with Christ and when one first believes??
      If twisted…but there is no scriptural precident of a believer needing to be baptised. We follow Christ into the obedience of baptism. But it does not save a person.
      I am sure the arguement will continue. But Christ said, “You will know them by their fruit.”
      and the fruit of the Spirit is…?
      No outward act can save anyone. The issues of life come from within…a wicked heart or a changed heart of Christ.

      • AD2014:

        There is no need to read this comment or article, or even reply if we are not willing to honestly reconsider to the point of forsaking all other teachings foreign to Jesus Christ and to make a stand for the Truth that is only in Him. Let us begin.

        Would not the fruit of the Spirit show in outward acts or otherwise how would we know as Jesus told us to look at the works? See, what separates this belief that baptism is not necessary to save the believer from the Gnostic belief that someone can live outwardly how they want as long as their heart is right? This is very much like the rejection of baptism that Jesus commanded in His resurrection. When you see that true faith is complete with repentance and true repentance of faith is fulfilled through baptism, then we can see that faith and repentance are completed in being buried with Christ in baptism to be raised with Him into the newness of life.

        No one is saying here that anyone is saved by works or earning their salvation, but that we are saved by grace when we are raised with Christ. When does that occur? Read Romans 6.1-7 comparing Ephesians 2.4-6 with Colossians 2.11-13, and then our open eyes to consider salvation through the resurrection in 1 Peter 1.3 and 1 Peter 3.21. Add to this that Jesus commanded baptism in His name after His death, burial, and resurrection (Mt 28.19, Mk 16.16). By definition of “precedent”, the whole of Acts sets the precedent for immediate baptism when someone believes (Ac 2,38, 8.36-38, 16, 19.1-7).

        Now, let us test the spirits (1 Jn 4.1). Does a teaching agree with the Apostles’ doctrine (1 Jn 4.6)?

        • AD2014 says:

          Since I do not desire to argue about our Lord’s teaching, I will keep it simple. I know you have been swayed and I will not try to convince you with the wisdom of this world but in Godly wisdom.
          You said…”Jesus commanded”…yes He commands many things that must be obeyed.

          What the key is that a new creation in Christ is now able to walk in the Spirit of God and THEN follow the words of Jesus. Matthew 7…

          So, no to not be baptized or not being able to be baptized would NOT cause someone to spend eternity in the lake of fire….BUT yes, Jesus commanded us to be baptised.

          So if you are His…obey Him in all manner…outwardly, because you have been born again “inwardly”. Much of 1 Corinth is because they were not doing what the Spirit of God would want them to do and doing what God would not want them to do. A wake up call, if you will, for those who think they can “have their faith and keep sin too”.

  2. Phil says:

    Regeneration has to do with the “transformation of mind” and “new understanding” that did not exist prior to regeneration (Rom. 12:2). Are you suggesting that only when you raised from water did this new understanding occur in your heart and mind? Please explain what you understood (post immersion) that you did not understand prior to immersion? Transformation of mind comes in the form of an epiphany and not a logical conclusion. It is God giving us understanding that we cannot produce from strictly using analytical and logical processes.

    Not sure you have a grip on the purpose of regeneration.

    • Good question. Does your relationship and mind transform after saying marriage vows? Does your commitment strengthen and your love is confirmed? Does that change anything or in the wedding vow useless?

      In like manner, when we are united with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:4-6), then our conformation to the death, burial, and resurrection is confirmed in our hearts. From here, Romans 6 and Colossians 3 makes the case that we set our mind. It is our decision to set our minds on the things above and on the Spirit of Christ (Col. 3:1-2, Rom. 8:5-6).

      • Phil says:

        “Does your relationship and mind transform after saying marriage vows?” NO! Not at all! The vows do not create the love that the vows express. Even w/o saying the vows my love for my wife already existed. There is nothing transforming in the vows. The vows are the effect and a reflection of the relationship that has already been established.

        Faith is transforming, immersion is not. Otherwise you would have new understanding and a regenerated mind “ONLY” after emerging from the waters. This simply is not the case. You’ve put the cart ahead of the horse.

        • So you were committed to your wife before she was wife for life? Were you committed to always be with her before your vows? Did you confirm your love to her as your spouse before she was your spouse? Were you one flesh before marriage? Would you really love her if you refuse to say those vows? Something is transforming about the vows because before them you were not married and you had not confessed to wed her before her and before God as witnesses.

          Immersion in Christ’s name is of faith and by faith (Gal. 3:26-27). We believe, and therefore we are baptized (Mark 16:16). From baptism, we are raised with Christ by grace (Col. 2:12-13, Eph. 2:4-6).

  3. Phil says:

    It is the love that caused us to be take our vows. Love is transforming, the vows are not. You seem to be mixing up the “inner” and “outer” aspects of relationship.

    I’m very concerned that you are placing the outer expression of something as that which causes transformation. You seem to have a problem with the placement of “cause” and “effect.”

    • Yes, I make no man-made separation between inner and outer expressions of love. My spirit and actions are one.

      • Phil says:

        But your actions do not prove your faith. Anyone can have proper actions w/o the presence of faith. You’re missing the point. You are justified at the point of faith and not by a physical act. Read Romans 4.

  4. Phil says:

    “So you were committed to your wife before she was wife for life?” ABSOLUTELY! “Were you committed to always be with her before your vows?” ABSOLUTELY! “Did you confirm your love to her as your spouse before she was your spouse?” ABSOLUTELY! Spiritually speaking .she was already my spouse. Nothing changed inwardly after the vows. “Were you one flesh before marriage?” ABSOLUTELY! “Would you really love her if you refuse to say those vows?” ABSOLUTELY!

    Scott, I am astounded that you are putting more emphasis on the outer superficial aspects of personal relationship. And yet I’m not surprised because of the value you place the outer practical aspects of Christianity. NT Christianity is based upon inner transformative values This is the very problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees. They were more concerned with the outer than the inner.

    • James Barron says:

      Well said Phil! So true. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Look not at the seen, but the unseen!”

      • James Barron says:

        Scott really does not see the unseen reality. He is so bound to the outward, physical act of water baptism that he is blind to the invisible reality of the baptism of the Spirit. As when Peter preached Jesus to Cornelius and his household, the baptism of the Spirit occurred BEFORE they were baptized in water. Water baptism is a picture of the real, it is not the real. Just like the Lord’s Supper is a picture of the real, it is not the real.

        • Wrong, we must be born of the water and the Spirit. Neither Peter nor Cornelius disregarded baptism in Jesus’ name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:43, 47-48). Be aware of your hard hearts.

          When you separate the Spirit from your actions in this world, you have made the Gospel useless and you disregard that Christ must have physically and outwardly have died, been buried, and raised to be victorious of the physical and spirit death that plagues man.

  5. Phil says:

    “When you separate the Spirit from your actions in this world, you have made the Gospel useless…”

    The Spirit does indeed produce action, but action does not prove faith or love. The action is an effect of faith, it is not the cause of faith. You are confused on the difference.

    Spiritual regeneration is caused by faith, not by immersion in water. Your reasoning would be the same as suggesting that the vows produce the love that a man and woman share. Spiritual regeneration happens at the level of faith and not at the level of physical water.

    Your hyper-focus on a couple of verses contaminates the essence of message of faith that is the foundation of NT Christianity. You are essentially putting action as that which saves and this is contrary to NT principles. You are assigning OT principles to NT teaching.

    • Jesus said, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Lk 6.45).

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