Thesis: Baptism is connected to faith, not faith to baptism; baptism is a faith response to the gospel.
1. On Sunday nights this Fall we've been asking the controversial question, "WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?" < review ... >
a. Many in Churches of Christ believe they are the only Christians.
b. The KOG is reign of God in hearts/minds of his people (not the church!).
c. Some commands are "weightier" than others; what's in a person's heart does count for something with God.
d. Study of Acts: God's work in a person's life (conversion) is a mysterious thing; it is hard to understand, let alone try to package and franchise it! (cf. John 3:8).
2. Some parts of our study has been unsettling to some of us.
a. Historically, CsOC have placed great emphasis on baptism; some of the things we have said may have seemed to de-emphasize baptism.
b. How does baptism relate to the issue of "WHO IS A CHRISTIAN?"
c. That is the purpose of our study tonight.
I. THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING BAPTISM.
A. Two Extreme Views Regarding Baptism.
1. "Baptism is important but not essential."
a. Those who hold this view do not question essentiality of faith and repentance in the salvation process.
b. Insist baptism has no role in the process, despite the fact that the NT knows no such thing as an unbaptized Christian!
c. Concerned that a high view of baptism violates doctrine of salvation by grace through faith (cf. Eph. 2:8).
2. "Baptism is essential because faith is not enough."
a. Those who hold this view are trying to do justice to the many NT passages which link baptism to a person's conversion.
1) View often presented as a contract--God did his part, now man must do his to complete the deal.
2) Series of steps beginning with faith, culminating in a
crescendo of obedience--baptism. (faith nearly eclipsed).
b. Concerned that a high view of faith dismisses the need for obedience (cf. James 2:17).
3. Both views have some merit, but both are wrong!
a. This is the sort of thing heresies are made of.
b. Illust. "A heresy often starts as the vehement assertion of an authentic but partial aspect of revelation which, developed unilaterally, soon becomes deformed and compromises the balance of theology as a whole." Jean Danielou and Henri Marrou, The First Six Hundred Years, p. 250.)
B. Jesus: The First and Last Word on Baptism (Matt. 3:13-17).
1. Verse 13: If Jesus had no sin then why did he come to be baptized? Could it be that there is more to baptism than remission of sins?
2. Jesus baptism came at the outset of his ministry--signified Jesus acceptance of the mission God had given him to do!
3. "It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness."
a. It was the right thing to do!
b. QUESTION: Would a person's baptism be valid today if they were consciously accepting God's mission and they were
convinced that being baptized was the right thing to do?
II. THE RELATION OF BAPTISM AND FAITH (Mark 16:15-16).
A. Notice the close connection between faith & baptism.
1. It is faith that gives baptism its meaning (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21).
2. "Whoever does not believe [and is not baptized?] will be condemned." Not necessary to state it this way!
B. A person will either do both--believe and be baptized--or do neither, but not do one without the other. (Faith & baptism cannot be separated! cf. 2 heresies!)
1. Baptism is the initial expression of one's faith!
2. Cf. Acts--believers are routinely baptized immediately!
III. HOW MUCH DOES ONE HAVE TO KNOW?
A. Scripture, not man, provides the authoritative answer--FAITH!
1. Mark 16:16--Faith! Believe what? The good news about Jesus!
2. Acts 8:37--"If you believe with all your heart you may" Believe what? That Jesus is the Christ!
3. Faith in Christ--not act of baptism, the church, or what some church says or does not say about baptism!
B. What if a person's understanding of baptism is faulty.
1. Example: Think sins are forgiven at point of faith, prior to baptism.
2. Answer: They are wrong! But faulty understanding of baptism does not invalidate it!
a. Acts 2:37--"Repent & baptized = FOS and Gift of the HS.
b. My understanding of baptism was faulty! Still valid!
IV. THE RESTORATION PLEA AND BAPTIZED BELIEVERS.
A. Our religious movement began as an effort to unite Christians in the various denominations.
1. Alexander Campbell.
a. Baptized by a Baptist minister in 1812, became a Baptist; didn't realize baptism was for the ROS until the 1820s!
He was never "rebaptized."
b. Controversy with Dr. John Thomas in the 1830s in Virginia!
2. David Lipscomb.
a. Believed one could be a Baptist and a Christian; taught that baptism to obey God made one a Christian, not perfect knowledge of when one's sins were forgiven.