From a conviction by the words of Christ, I was compelled to write the North Jacksonville Baptist Church concerning their apparent incomplete faith. Considering that Jesus built His Church and bought His Church with His own blood, I hope this congregation and leaders will reconsider the Scriptures about baptism, the Scriptural instructions for elders to lead each congregation, and the weekly partaking of the Lord’s Supper on every Lord’s Day (Any Church?). I know that some people would say that there is no use trying to convince others, but I cannot help but to appeal to their sincere desire to be close to God and urge them to reconsider Christ’s words that they appear to have overlooked. I have edited typos from the original letter. Here is my letter to the North Jacksonville Baptist Church:
March 29, 2011
To the leaders of the North Jacksonville Baptist Church,
Because of your belief in Jesus Christ, I write to plead with to further consider the words of Jesus Christ. I hope we agree that the basis of our spiritual life must be Christ and His words. Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). By the words of Christ, I plead for unity between us in Him. We know that Jesus’ words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35), and that Jesus will be ashamed of those on judgment who are ashamed of His words (Luke 9:26). Christ’s words consist of more than the red print in our bibles. Jesus said that He gave these words to His Apostles (John 17:8), and would give all Truth to His Apostles through His Spirit (John 16:12-13). The Apostles affirmed that they did receive and taught these words (1 Cor. 2:13, Gal. 1:11-12, Eph. 3:3-5, 1 Thess. 2:13, 4:2, 2 Tim. 1:13). We must strive to base our faith upon the perfect and complete words of Christ.
The reason that I want to write you is to address the words spoken by Dr. Reavis in your assembly via your television program on March 20, 2011. Dr. Reavis said that baptism is important and commanded by Christ, and in this, he is right. Yet, he also said that baptism is a work. This is conjecture. There is not one reference to baptism being a work in scripture. There is no scripture of anyone baptizing oneself when grace is “not of yourselves” (Eph. 2:8). Only speculation would degrade baptism to a work of boasting (Eph. 2:9). Though we are justified by grace through faith, remember that obedience to God is still essential to salvation though not the point of justification (Matt. 7:21, Heb. 5:9, Jam. 2:24).
Dr. Reavis also placed salvation before baptism while Jesus placed salvation after faith and baptism saying, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Jesus was not referring to another spiritual baptism, but to the one baptism, which is in His name being established in the Great Commission. Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). This immersion in Jesus’ name is water baptism. Peter spoke before Cornelius’ house saying, “‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47-48). Peter said earlier, “whoever believes in Him will receive through His name forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43, also 1 Cor. 6:11). Peter said in Acts 2:38, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This baptism was “unto the remission of sins” just as Jesus referred to His blood using the exact same phrase eis aphesin hamartion, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many unto the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). Neither Jesus’ blood was shed because sins were already forgiven nor was baptism because sins were already forgiven.
To express the harm of diminishing baptism in the Gospel’s salvation, neglecting baptism’s role in salvation is to remove the burial of Christ from the Gospel. The Gospel saves us being the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-4). As I hope you know, we reenact the Gospel by dying to our sins, being buried by baptism into His death, and being resurrected into the new life (Rom. 6:1ff). We enter into Christ’s death by baptism and have new life when we rise from our baptism. How can we be resurrected when our faith will not submit to burying our body of sin? For Christ’s Spirit speaks of Christians being “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). Baptism is a willing submission to Christ and His Gospel. Baptism is the exact point that one is resurrected. “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death…For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection…Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him” (Rom. 6:4, 5, 8). Without a faithful submission to baptism, we are neither resurrected nor regenerated.
I write to you to consider these essential parts to baptism in Jesus’ name. According to Acts 2:38, baptism must be the water immersion of a repented believer, in Jesus’ name, unto the forgiveness of sins, and by which the Lord adds you to His Church. Anything short of this is short of Christ’s words. If you have not believed and confessed your faith in Jesus to be Lord, then you are not saved yet (Rom. 10:9-10). If you were baptized neither being immersed in Jesus’ name, unto the forgiveness of sins, nor being added by the Lord to the Church, then you did not obey Jesus and you are not saved yet. There is much more to baptism according to Christ’s words but I conclude until further discussion. “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Baptism is when our sins are washed away. Baptism is how we call on the name of the Lord being the exact moment of salvation.
I plead with you in Christ’s name to reconsider your beliefs, your teachings, and your baptism in light of Jesus’ words. Let us all listen to Jesus, who said, “observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20) and “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me” (John 14:23). I welcome your response. I am fully willing to honestly reconsider my position. I plan to present this as an open letter. You can contact me at […] or if you prefer by mail as sent by letter.
In Jesus Christ,
Scott Shifferd (minister at the Dean Road church of Christ)