Sending A Clear Message: Courage in Action on Baptism

 
A number of years ago F. LaGard Smith published a book entitled, "Baptism, the Believer's Wedding Ceremony." It is well written, and deals effectively with some of those "thorny" issues regarding the topic of baptism. But in my estimation brother LaGard renders the totality of his work null and void in the closing two chapters of his book. Inevitably when one deals with such a controversial subject (such as baptism) he is going to be asked if his position makes any difference. To be more specific, will someone be lost who DOES NOT hold that position? In this case the question would be whether or not one has to believe in the essentiality of baptism in order to be "joined" to Christ. Brother LaGard anticipates the question, and under a section entitled, "Why Make Judgment Necessary," he has this comment: "Are unbaptized believers destined to hell? Are those who have received only infant baptism in eternal jeopardy? Only God knows... Nevertheless I would hope that God might apply the 'common law marriage' approach for those who have lived a lifetime of service in His name without having participated in the wedding ceremony of baptism" (page 206). But IS it true that "God only knows"? According to 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 God has made known to us His mind. And included among those things that God has revealed to us is His position with regard to the essentiality of baptism. "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven" (John 3:5). "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). "Repent and be baptized...for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27). Baptism is the door that gives us access into Christ, into His death, into His body. Since it is the case that God has spoken on this vital issue is it not reasonable to assume that He intended to communicate to us His divine will on the matter? Of course it is. Brother LaGard has fallen victim to our modern age of pluralism wherein it is advocated that truth is not absolute or attainable. We will not judge the motives of our brother in Christ, but we simply must disagree with him that "God only knows" who and who shall not be saved in heaven.

I have another book in my library entitled "The Gospel Plan Of Salvation," by T.W. Brents. Brother Brents lived during the later half of the nineteenth century. He was what we might call one of the pioneer preachers, and an early restorationist of New Testament Christianity. His book has no such "uncertain sounds" as those manifested by some of our present day authors within the church. Listen to one of his comments: "While we continue to believe and practice the genuine doctrine taught in the Bible, we are orthodox; but when we forsake these truths, in order to get the world to call us orthodox, we give evidence that we love the praise of men more than the approbation of God. 'Tis better to show that we have a valid claim to the title, by believing the truth, than to seek to make our faith look like error to induce the world to call us orthodox" (page 144). One of the reasons the church of the preceding generation grew as it did was because of its unwavering stand upon the truth. If the Bible taught the essentiality of baptism, there was no room for a "common law marriage" with the Lord! Since Jesus said, "EXCEPT a man be born of water and the spirit," then there is NO OTHER WAY! And God's preachers and teachers are not being judgmental when we preach and teach HIS word! This attitude that we can somehow skirt around the truth in order to avoid persecution is dangerous. Such handling of the word of God manifests an ever encroaching menace that plagues the Lord's church, and that is the unwillingness to say, "THIS IS TRUTH, AND THIS IS ERROR, AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET!" It seems that more and more we are turning out preachers who want to get along with the world, avoid controversy, and maintain a sense of respectability among the false teachers who ravage the souls of men without mercy or concern for where their false doctrine might lead. As God is my witness I do not get any pleasure out of controversy. But brethren, be assured, I had far rather be at odds with men, than to seek friendship with the world and make myself an enemy of God. May God give us the courage to be faithful soldiers of the cross, wielding the sword of the Spirit with great boldness, and giving no ground to Satan and his allies!

by Tom Wacaster

Is The Church of Christ A Sect?

by Tom Wacaster
  
The word "sect" is used nine times in the New Testament.  It is translated four times with the English word "sect," and five times with the word "heresies."   W.E. Vine tells us that the word means "a predilection either for a particular truth, or for a perversion of one, generally with the expectation of personal advantage; hence, a division and the formation of a party or sect in contrast to the uniting power of 'the truth,' held in toto; a sect is a division developed and brought to an issue."   When Paul arrived in Rome those who were "the chief of the Jews" met with him and said, "We neither received letters from Judaea concerning thee, nor did any of the brethren come hither and report or speak any harm to thee. But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against" (Acts 28:21-22).  It is important to note that Paul did not regard the church as a sect.  When he stood before Felix, having been charged by the Jews as a trouble maker, Paul said, "But this I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they call a sect, so serve I the God of our fathers" (Acts 24:14). 

The change agents among us would have us believe that the church is a sect, nothing more than a heretical, pompous group of dogmatic knuckleheads incapable of understanding God's love and mercy.   One brother has written, "We are crusading against the tyranny of ecclesiastical professionals within the Christian commonwealth, for we believe the system they espouse is cancerous to the one body of believers."  Another has written, "'Church' is not found in the oldest of Greek manuscripts.  Why did the translators fail to delete 'church'?  Because it became the clergy's sacred cow. This sacred cow gave birth to many calves, some of which are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Luthern. History confirms that subsequent deliveries were named Church of Christ [emphasis mine, TW], Church of God, and Assembly of God."  Still another writes, "It is true that Churches of Christ, like other sects, have reduced the Christian system to mere proffessional employment and sectarian ecclesiasticalism."   It is manifest by their writings that these brethren "went out from us....that they might be made manifest that they are not of us" (1 John 2:19).   

One of the charges laid at the feet of those who seek a "thus saith the Lord" is the accusation that churches of Christ have been too judgmental in their refusal to fellowship denominations.  This, according to some, makes us 'sectarian.'   Loyalty to the truth of God's word does not make someone sectarian.  If the Bible forbids fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11), then compliance to that God-given command is not heretical, nor is it a manifestation of a "sectarian spirit," as some are claiming.  Another charge laid at our feet is that the churches of Christ are too arrogant in their claims of being the the one true church.   If the Bible plainly says there is one body (and it does, Ephesians 4:4-5), am I sectarian because I preach that message?  If the Bible plainly says that all spiritual blessings are in that one body (and it does, Ephesians 1:3), am I sectarian because I practice and teach that truth?  If the Bible plainly says that one must be baptized in order to enter into that one body (and it does, 1 Corinthians 12:13), am I sectarian because I obey and preach that truth?     May I go on record:  If it is "sectarian" to believe there is one body and that the body is the church, that one must conform to God's will in order to be pleasing in His sight, that God authorizes only singing in worship music, and that men and women who promote denominationalism will be lost, then I plead guilty as charged. 

But before one frown on this self-admitted declaration, let him examine the scriptures and see that the Holy Spirit has clearly revealed that each of the afore mentioned "sectarian" beliefs are in compliance with God's will.  Sectarianism is the result of departure from those things, not compliance to them.  Hence, those who maintain loyalty to the truth are not sectarian.   Brother Darrell Conley wrote, "The church for which Jesus died is not a sect. It is the original. Is the whole of God's saved people. Simply because men have invented counterfeit churches, does not make the church of Christ a counterfeit.  The counterfeits are the sects."   The present push by some of our once faithful brethren to align the church with the "Christian community" at large is a tragic mistake.  In the final analysis it will actually turn the church into the very thing which some or our accusers now say we are - a sect.