Be aware. When someone opposes the words of Christ, they oppose Christ, and so it is with opposition to Jesus’ command to be baptized and saved. Jesus confronted the Pharisees about accepting John’s baptism of repentance. Jesus asked the chief priests and elders, “The baptism of John — where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:25). For which, the chief priests and elders said that they did not know, and these had neglected John’s baptism. Christ said, “One who believes and is baptized will be saved; but one who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Self-proclaimed “progressives” among the churches of Christ have joined with other spiritual leaders to oppose baptism as the moment of salvation. This is not the first time that the errors of progressives have been addressed here. See their words in these articles: New Winskin’s Confusion Over Christ’s Patterns and New Wineskin’s Confusion over Christ’s Music for Worship. These quotes stand out among even the confusion displayed in the past articles.
I plead with these men and those of like opinions to reconsider. Such writers are seriously confused misleading their readers into a mess of contradictions. Such men take aim at the churches of Christ for whatever personal offenses and promote a position distant from Christ. They major on disputing minor subjects while opposing the guidance of Christ’s Spirit in the New Testament Scriptures.
Why doubt that water baptism in Jesus’ name is the moment of salvation? At the core of these errors is the lack of accepting the authority of Jesus Christ throughout the New Testament scriptures. Christ’s words given through His Apostles and prophets in Scripture are clear that baptism is when sins are released and washed away (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, cf. The Exact Moment of Salvation). Romans 6 is excellent in showing that freedom from sin is in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the Gospel by which believers are saved (1 Cor. 15:1-4, cf. Rom. 1:16). No one can be resurrected by Christ without dying to their sins and being buried by baptism into Christ’s death (Eph. 2:4-6, Col. 2:12-13). To be resurrected one must first die. Necessary to this is to approach this saving Gospel by faith and confession of that faith (Rom. 10:9-10) and then repentance and baptism (Rom. 6:3-7). This is not the work of man. The Gospel is the work of God in Christ. No one can boast of saving oneself when they saved by Christ through the Gospel. The perception of Jesus’ authority, His words, and the New Testament Scriptures is at the core of false teaching that baptism is not the moment of salvation. One such person fabricates,
“Remember that the Bible had not been collected and the canon was a long way from being finalized. That would make it understandable that a variety of baptism practices would arise in Christendom…and they did” (Mead, Patrick. about spirits and baptism. Tentpegs Feb. 8, 2011).
Yet, the Christian Scriptures were collected under the oversight of the Apostles in the 1st century (cf. Apostolic Canon). Men will use other lies to reject the Truth. Christ’s Spirit said through the Apostle Paul, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6). Where are these primary sources for a variety of baptism practices in the first 4 centuries? There are none.
The following quotes from the editors and writers of New Wineskins Magazine and from their other writings. Look at their contradictions. Edward Fudge admits,
“I personally conclude that water baptism itself, done most meaningfully, involves full immersion in water. Evidence pointing to this conclusion is of many types: historical (first-century Jews practiced such ritual washings and proselyte baptism), archaeological (the land of Israel is dotted with ruins of stone baptisteries known as mikvas), narrative (immersion most naturally fits biblical stories of actual baptisms recorded in John 3:23 and in Acts 8:38), linguistic (total dunking displays the undisputed original meaning of the Greek word baptizo), as well as theological, psychological and cultural (immersion embodies New Testament imagery of rebirth, washing and resurrection). Immersion is also an ecumenical practice; although Christians disagree regarding the propriety of other methods, they all regard immersion as an appropriate mode” (Fudge, Edward. Baptism’s Many Modes. Edward Fudge Ministries EdwardFudge.com).
“No. I am not hinting that water baptism has nothing much to do with salvation. It has very much ‘to do with’ salvation, although it is no part of the work which sets us right with God” (Fudge, Edward. Baptism’s Many Modes. Edward Fudge Ministries).
Yet, this person also says,
“Let me answer directly, carefully and specifically. No, I do not ‘believe in’ baptism. If I did, my faith would rest on flimsy grounds indeed, for baptism has no inherent power to do anything except perhaps relieve my body of an outermost coating of dust” (Fudge, Edward. Believe in Baptism? Edward Fudge Ministries).
“If the record in Acts makes anything clear, it is that the exact sequence varies from time to time in receiving water baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit and receiving forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 8:14-17; 10:43-48). Acts also reflects a variety of evidences of the Spirit’s reception, and we ought not either to preclude or to necessarily expect any particular experience in every conversion today” (Fudge, Edward. What about Baptism? Edward Fudge Ministries).
These “exceptions” are only in reference to Acts 10. Yet, Acts 10 does present the sequence of salvation in Jesus’ name saying, “through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43b) and “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:47a). In Acts 10, Cornelius and his household were born in the water and the Spirit just like all Christians were and must be today (cf. John 3:5, Titus 3:5). Fudge also wrote,
“I always instruct new believers to express their repentance and faith by being baptized, in obedience to Jesus Christ himself (Matt. 28:18-20). And, based on my personal study of the Greek language, of early Christian history, and of New Testament teaching concerning baptism’s meaning and significance, I always baptize by immersion. That said, I must also respect the individual conscience of others who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and who follow him, even though they reach conclusions about these matters that are different from mine” (Fudge, Edward. Baptism and Christian Fellowship. Edward Fudge Ministries. EdwardFudge.com).
Respect and love the person? Yes. Respect their erring from Christ for the sake of consoling and justifying their conscience? Never. Saying that baptism is for salvation is not judging. Christ has already judged this. If we declare that those who practice sin are condemned (1 Cor. 6:10-11. Gal. 5:19-21, 1 John 2:3-6) or that all without Christ are condemned (Rom. 5:12), are we judging their salvation? No. God has already judged these things being written in Scripture. If we see their sin and correct them as we are commanded (Gal. 6:1, Jam. 5:19-20), are we judging their salvation? No. If we know by witnesses that someone is practicing a sin and thus know that they would be condemned, are we judging their salvation? No. We are not judging one’s salvation by speaking the words of Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Jesus placed belief and baptism before salvation. Yet despite Jesus’ words in Mark 16:16, some have been saying,
“We should note carefully that Jesus commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and to baptize those who believe (Mark 16:15-16). Jesus did not command us to go preach ‘that baptism is essential.’” (Fudge, Edward. Evangelicals and Water Baptism. Edward Fudge Ministries).
What?! Another false teacher writes,
“I do not believe that we can dogmatically affirm that one’s baptism is the precise point in time when God imparts eternal salvation to a believing, penitent disciple of Christ, although I DO firmly believe that God has ordained water baptism as a visible manifestation and proclamation of one’s faith, and thus He expects us to submit to His expectation in this matter. It is my conviction that genuine faith WILL evidence itself in baptism, as well as in repentance, confession, loving others, observing the Lord’s Supper, etc.” (Maxey, Al. Is Baptism a Sacrament? Reflections Jan. 6, 2011).
While, this person also wrote,
“Are there actual blessings associated with both of these symbolic representations in which we, as true believers, participate? Absolutely! They each imprint upon our hearts and minds, far better than mere words, the powerful realities of our Lord’s atoning work. As one is buried in the ‘watery grave,’ and then is ‘resurrected’ from that tomb, one cannot help but be personally impacted for life by the experience; it is one that the participant will never forget, nor will those who witness this powerful declaration of faith, hope and love” (Maxey, Al. Is Baptism a Sacrament? Reflections Jan. 6, 2011).
According to Al Maxey, you are not saved from baptism, but then he contradicts himself confessing that one is saved when raised from baptism into Christ’s resurrection. Yet, Jay Guin affirmed,
“As I argued in Born of Water, it could be that, as a rule, salvation and the Spirit are received at baptism, but that God won’t deny salvation and the Spirit to someone with faith because of a misunderstanding regarding baptism. That approach has the advantage of being fully respectful of both the faith + baptism verses and the faith-only verses. It makes sense. But we aren’t nearly finished” (Guin, Jay. Baptism, An Exploration: Preliminary Theories and Conclusions. One in Jesus Jan. 17, 2011).
“Whether God makes exceptions is particularly significant when we consider the Christian dispensation, of course. It is undoubtedly true that the Epistles and the Gospels suggest that baptism is not only normative, but also essential. But Acts has several examples where baptism is either not mentioned as part of the salvation of a person or where a person was clearly saved without baptism” (Guin, Jay. Born of Water Pg. 58).
“I do not believe that we can dogmatically affirm that one’s baptism is the precise point in time when God imparts eternal salvation to a believing, penitent disciple of Christ, although I DO firmly believe that God has ordained water baptism as a visible manifestation and proclamation of one’s faith, and thus He expects us to submit to His expectation in this matter” (Guin, Jay. Is Baptism a Sacrament. One in Jesus Jan. 6, 2011).
“As a result, many Bible students conclude quite naturally that ‘justification’ always refers to our initial salvation at baptism. It’s not true. The conservatives therefore read ‘justified by faith’ to refer to what happens at our baptism. And they genuinely believe that our initial salvation is by grace through faith” (Guin, Jay. The Fork in the Road: When Am I Justified?, One in Jesus Jan. 25, 2010).
“It could be that baptism is just as essential to our salvation as faith and that salvation therefore doesn’t occur until we are baptized in faith. Unbaptized believers would be damned under this theory. This would suit both the Lutheran and the Church of Christ understanding. We could defend baptism against Galatians (which insists that we are justified by faith, not works) by pointing out that baptism is no work of the Torah” (Guin, Jay. Baptism, An Exploration: Preliminary Theories and Conclusions. One in Jesus Jan. 17, 2011).
“Now I readily admit that the true rite of baptism is to be determined by reference to the original scriptures, as written in First Century Greek, but I really have a problem imagining God damning a soul to hell because he was given a bad definition of ‘baptism’ by a standard English or Bible dictionary” (Guin, Jay. Born of Water Pg. 48).
Why would a believer seeking Christ not find Christ’s definition of baptism? Jesus said, Seek and you will find” (Matt. 7:7). Why would anyone base their faith on anything other than Christ’s words and those words that He gave to His Apostles (John 6:63, 14:26, 15:20, 16:12-13, etc.)? Those who love the Truth will know it (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
“* Will God save someone who dies after coming to faith but before baptism? Answer: Of course. (All those revival sermons claiming to the contrary preached a false, graceless God to manipulate people into the baptistry through fear. It was wrong to do.)
* Should we treat as saved someone baptized imperfectly — by the wrong mode or as an infant — but who otherwise evidences the work of the Spirit in his heart? Answer: Of course. (The scriptures are very clear that the ultimate test of salvation is receipt of the Spirit.)” (Guin, Jay. Baptism, An Exploration: When Does God Save? One in Jesus Feb. 9, 2011).
How could God justly save by grace those who are not raised with Christ? Believers are saved by grace when they have been raised with Christ (Eph. 2:4-6). In a world of confusion and available copies of Christ’s words, this generation will stand before God whether choosing to follow men or Christ.
Beware, there are many spiritual leaders teaching differing doctrines about baptism. Most in the churches of Christ not aware that many are teaching these things, and yet they listen to them and support their work. Let them take note of their words.