Examining the Doctrine of the Church of Christ Denomination
Baptismal regeneration is simply a 50 cent term used to describe the belief that you are born again and receive your salvation at the moment of water baptism. There are certain verses that they use, out of context, that they feel substantiate their belief. But if you examine each of their verses in context, you will see that the verses clearly do not substantiate their claims. Not to mention the myriad of verses to which they must turn a blind eye, in order to continue believing their works oriented doctrine.
They use four main verses to try to establish their position:
1) Mark 16:16 2) Acts 2:38 3) I Peter 3:21 4) Act 22:16
Mark 16:16 says, "He who believes and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned." You notice that this verse does not say, "and he who has not been baptized shall be condemned," which is exactly what the Church of Christ denomination would like for you to believe. Jesus is simply making a natural assumption that all believers will be baptized. I would concur with that assumption. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that a believer should not get baptized, unless there is positively no water available, or in the case of a death bed conversion. In such cases the Church of Christ denomination shows absolutely no mercy. They will say that it was the individual's fault for waiting to the last minute. "Sorry, Bud, your prayers of repentance are falling on deaf ears 'cause you waited too long, there ain't no pool, river or baptistery for miles." Tell that to the thief on the cross! He didn't have the opportunity to be water baptized and yet because he cried out to Jesus for mercy, Jesus promised him that he would be in Paradise that very day with Him! Now the standard answer that the Church of Christ denomination member will pop out of his or her preprogrammed gray matter is that you can't use the thief on the cross as an example because Jesus made that promise to the thief while they were both still under the Old Covenant (which as we all know wasn't fulfilled until Jesus died). But you see, the key issue is not when Jesus made the promise to the thief. The key issue is, under which covenant did the thief die? We know for a fact that the thief died under the New Covenant. How do we know? Because the gospels tell us that when the soldiers came to break the three crucified victim's legs, they marveled that Jesus was already dead. They didn't marvel at the two thieves, because they were still alive. So if the New Covenant was ushered in at the death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, then anyone who died from that point on, died under the New Covenant. And that would include the thief on the cross!
Sometimes their rebuttal then switches to the sovereignty of Jesus. They'll say, "Well, that was Jesus forgiving the thief. Jesus is God so He can do whatever He want. He he wants to save an unbaptized thief, that's His prerogative." They are right. But that's still true today. He is still sovereign, and He will save anyone He wants to, baptized or not.
Next we take a look at Acts 2:38 in which the apostle Peter says to the remorseful crowd, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins." Now here is a verse they feel is stating that your sins are remitted at baptism. As we all know, if your sins are not forgiven, then you are not saved. But the question that needs to be asked here is: "Is it the baptism or the repentance that brings about the forgiveness?" Now we could get into the structuring of the sentence and try to argue our point from that perspective (the word "for" can be translated "because"), but usually a member of the Church of Christ denomination is not willing to accept that form of reasoning, so we go with a much more powerful position. If the forgiveness was brought through the baptism rather than the repentance, how do you explain the presentation that Peter gives in his very next sermon in Acts 3:19? He is speaking to a very similar group and says almost the same thing, but when he gives the plan of salvation, the topic of baptism is left out altogether! He said, "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away." So we see from this second sermon, that it wasn't the baptism that brought the forgiveness, it was the repentance. Then in Acts 10:43 Peter once again states, "To Him all the Prophets witness that, through His Name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sin." Most people reading these Scriptures see the pattern that is developing... it is faith in Jesus that wipes away our sin! Paul says in Eph 1:13-14, "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."
So were we sealed with the Holy Spirit at baptism or when we believed? Paul says you received the "deposit of your inheritance" (the Holy Spirit) WHEN YOU BELIEVED. Unfortunately, at this stage of the discussion some Church of Christ denomination members will take their pet doctrine of baptism from the extreme to the absurd. They actually will void the efficacy of someone's baptism, if the person didn't realize that their sins were remitted, at the moment of their baptism! I once asked a Church of Christ denomination preacher if he thought Billy Graham was saved, and his reply was, "Absolutely not!" When pressed for a reason for his conclusion he said, "Even though Billy Graham has been baptized, he doesn't preach baptism for the remission of sin, so he is not only not a true Christian, but he is also a false teacher!" So much for common sense.
We get e-mails daily from Church of Christ denomination members saying that unless you were "baptized for the remission of sins then your baptism won't save you." I asked a young Church of Christ denomination pastor (oops, I mean "preacher") once, "What if you didn't realize that the baptism remitted your sin...should you get rebaptized?" He said, "Yes!" I then asked him, "What if you did believe that the baptism remitted your sins, but you were thinking about something else while you were being baptized, like how cold the water was...etc. Should you get rebaptized?" He again said yes. He stated, "You must realize that at the moment of baptism, your sins are being remitted, or the baptism will be of no effect." So in other words, if your mind was not wrapped around the "remission of sin" issue like a steal trap the moment you went down into the water... you are lost and going to Hell. Now, THAT, my friend is LEGALISM!
Oddly, we could turn that verse right back on the CoC. The second part of Acts 2:38 says, "and you will recieve the Gift of the Holy Spirit." Since the CoC doen't have a clue who or what the Holy Spirit is, since they didn't realize that they received the "Gift of the Holy Spirit" at the moment of baptism, then their baptism is of no effect. Two can play the legalism game.
Jesus was baptized, and I guarantee you it wasn't for the remission of sin... for He was the perfect, sinless Lamb of God! When Jesus was baptized, He said He did it to "fulfill all righteousness." In otherwords, it's the right thing to do. The CHOCD says if you got baptized because, "it's the right thing to do" your baptism didn't count.
Next we turn to I Peter 3:20&21, which states, "...in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
What Peter is saying is that it is not the “ritual” of baptism that saves us, but the appeal to God for a good conscience. In Peter’s day, the Jews were obsessed with rituals. Some were from God, others were man-made. Jesus referred to one of those rituals in Matthew 15. The Jews were upset that His disciples did not wash their hands before they ate, which would have made them ritually “unclean.” Jesus set them straight by saying, "It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but that which comes out of him.” In other words, what a man thinks and says can make him unclean, not eating with unwashed hands. So washing the body with water (baptism) will not cleanse a man's heart.
So Peter is saying that the ritual of baptism does not save, but the appeal of a good conscience. Look closely at the analogy that he uses, the ark. Did the water save Noah? No, it almost drowned him. So what did the water do for Noah? It separated him from the world, just like water baptism is our declaration that we are separating ourselves from the world. We are dying to ourselves to live in Christ. This verse goes on to say that the water baptism doesn't actually cleanse our flesh, but it renders a good conscience toward God, because we were obedient to follow His command to be baptized.
So to be as correct as possible, it was the ark that saved Noah, not the water. The ark represented Noah's faith. So the order was: Noah built the ark by faith, then came the water. So you are saved by faith, then baptism is your first act of obedience.
When dealing with real estate, people always say, "Location. Location. Location." Meaning that the location of the property is as important as the property. When it comes to Scripture, it's, "Context. Context. Context." Why? If you look at this verse in context, it has a "qualifier" before and after the verse, to keep you from taking the verse to an extreme like the Church of Christ does. We've looked at most of those verses, but there's one last word that deserves our attention. The King James version traslates the beginning of the verse as, "The like figure whereunto." That's the Greek word "antitupo" which literally means "antitype." What is an antitype? A symbol or a picture. So the verse itself says that baptism is just a SYMBOL.
With Noah, the ark is what God used to save them from destruction. The ark was a man-made wooden object. Likewise, we are saved now in the same way, by a man-made wooden object, the Cross. What Jesus did on the Cross is what saves you. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin. Because the Church of Christ denomination puts so much emphasis on the water, they end up taking away from the blood. It’s all about Jesus, not water. Baptism is just a symbol or picture of the actual death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Lastly, we want to take a look at Acts 22:16, "And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Many in the CHOCD will say that the water "washed away" Paul's sin, but most of the rest of the Body of Christ says that it was Paul "calling on the name of the Lord," that saved him.
But is there a scriptural foundation for that belief? In Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13, all three verses say, "It shall come to pass that whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
Is baptism mentioned anywhere in those verses? Obviously not. So once again, the Scriptures clarify that your salvation is by Grace through Faith, calling on the Name of the Lord.
Here again we must reiterate that no true believer should continue in an unbaptized state. Whereas we can see that God expects us to obey Him in this sacrament, nowhere do we see Him judge those without mercy, who have accepted His Son as their Savior. Bottom line? If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior...get baptized. It's the right thing to do! The Church of Christ denomination somehow seems to think that they are the only ones who baptize their members. I have never attended a Church that did not baptize their members. It is a command that we simply should not, can not, and will not ignore. But we also cannot point to it (baptism) and say, "That is what saved me." If you are going to point... point to the Cross.
InColossians 2:11, the Apostle Paul correlates baptism in the New Testament with circumcision in the Old Testament. He says, "... in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ having been buried with Him in baptism in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead." Let's take a close look at this verse, to see what it says and what the ramifications are.
First of all, we see that Paul says that the "circumcision of Christ" is a removal of the flesh that is symbolized in baptism. In the Old Testament, the Jews would circumcise their boys as a part of fulfilling their covenant with God. It was a literal cutting away of the flesh. Baptism was a symbol of dying to the flesh, and rising to new life in Christ. You notice that Paul says "by the circumcision of Christ having been buried with Him in baptism." Paul is saying that baptism is the circumcision of Christ, "through faith." Now why would this distinction be important to understand? Because in Romans 4:10 Paul states emphatically that Abraham was considered righteous by faith, BEFORE he was circumcised! He then goes on to say in verse 11, "...and he (Abraham) received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had before he was circumcised ..." In other words, Abraham was counted as righteous before he was circumcised, and the circumcision was simply a "seal", or an outward sign, of the righteousness that he already had! Which is exactly the case with the "circumcision of Christ" (water baptism). It is an outward sign, or seal, of the righteousness you already possess through faith in Christ Jesus.
Another good analogy from the Old Testament regarding baptism and circumcision can be found in Joshua. In Joshua 5:2, we see that the first thing that the Israelites do after they entered the Promised Land was set up an altar and be circumcised. What a beautiful picture of baptism! First you get saved by faith (enter the Promised Land) then you get baptized (circumcised).
The point that the Church of Christ denomination seems to miss is that baptism is SYMBOLIC. They readily chastise the Catholic Church for believing in transubstantiation, yet when it comes to baptism, the Church of Christ denomination makes the same mistake as the Catholic church: taking something literally that was supposed to be symbolic. The Catholic church says that the bread and wine (during Communion) literally becomes the body and blood of Jesus. The Church of Christ denomination says that baptism actually remits your sins. They say that according to the book of Romans that you are literally buried with Christ through baptism. Noooo….baptism SYMBOLIZES Christ’s death. It SYMBOLIZES your death, burial and resurrection. You don’t come out of the water with dirt in your mouth from being buried, do you? Now, we realize that it can sometimes be hard to discern when something is to be taken literally as opposed to being a type or symbol. When it comes to baptism, though, there are simply too many Scriptures that give the plan of salvation...and leave the subject of baptism out altogether. If baptism was the actual point at which God washes away our sin and imputes to us the righteousness of Christ, why do so many members of the Church of Christ denomination fall away from the Lord? There is an atheist organization in Illinois called Skeptics Inc. whose entire board of directors are almost all EX-Church of Christ denomination preachers! Why? Legalism kills! As with all issues of faith, the letter of the Law brings death, but the Spirit brings life! (II Corinthians 3:6)
The Church of Christ denomination claims that they "have no creed but the Bible," but in reality many in the Church of Christ denomination have a book that they use as a "guideline" for church doctrine. It is called, "Why I am a Member of the Church of Christ," by Leroy Brownlow. Chapter 14 is entitled, "Because It Gives Scriptural Answers To the Question- What Must I Do To Be Saved." This chapter would be hilarious if it wasn't so sad to see to what extent the Church of Christ denomination will go to promote their position on baptism. In this chapter Brother Brownlow dissects the question, "What must I do to be saved?" He examines the question word by word. When he gets to the word "do", he says, "It is not what I must get, think, feel or believe. The word "do" suggests activity on the part of the man being saved. Salvation is not a matter of passiveness, but of activity. God saves; still man saves himself by obeying the gospel, God's power to save (Rom. 1:16, Acts 2:40). Take the word "do" out of Christianity and you destroy it. You never read of an inspired man telling a sinner that there is nothing for him to do to be saved." Now I don't know about you, but I would consider the Apostle Paul to be an "inspired man", and oddly enough he is the only man recorded in scripture to have ever been asked this question verbatim, "What must I do to be saved?" It was asked of him by the Philippian jailer in Acts 16:30. Keep in mind that Brother Brownlow's answer was "It is not what I believe" that saves me. Paul's answer, on the other hand, is just the opposite. When asked by the jailer, "What must I do to be saved?," the Apostle Paul answers, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved!" Mr. Brownlow's answer is a classic example of not being able to see the forest because of the trees!
Paul says in Ephesians 2:8&9 that "We are saved by GRACE through FAITH and not of ourselves, it is a GIFT of God, NOT as a result of WORKS, that no one should boast." If you ever stand before Christ Jesus and He asks you why should He let you into Heaven... you had better say, "Because of what You did for me on the cross," not, "Because I was baptized"!
Truth is always true. If you believe a certain doctrine, but through the study of God's Word, you find that your belief is not upheld scripturally (even if only once), then you need to seriously re-examine that belief. Regarding baptismal regeneration, a good case in point can be found in Acts 10:1-48. Here we find an example of a man named Cornelius, receiving the Holy Spirit, evidenced by " speaking in tongues and exalting God." And being amazed by the whole ordeal, the Apostle Peter (who had been preaching the gospel to the Cornelius household when the Holy Spirit fell upon all of them) stated in verse 47, "Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did..." Clearly we have in this example, a case where a person was obviously saved before he was water baptized. The Apostle Peter declares their salvation by saying that they had "received the Holy Spirit, just like we did!" The only way around this scenario is to deny that a person that is filled with the Holy Spirit (evidenced by speaking in tongues and glorifying God) is actually saved. And believe it or not, that is exactly what the Church of Christ denomination says! It never ceases to amaze me what some people are willing to swallow in order to protect what they feel is biblical, even if it denies the very Bible they seek to uphold.
It is really the Apostle Paul that puts the icing on the cake on the issue of baptism, by stating in I Cor. 1:17, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel!" Now if baptism is the point of salvation, this statement would be utterly blasphemous. But in reality, it simply confirms what the rest of the Bible already teaches... that we are saved by grace, not works of any kind! As human beings, it is in our nature to want to earn our salvation. There is nothing wrong with wanting to please God! The problem comes in when the way we want to please God conflicts with the way He wants it. If we look at Romans 10:9-10, we see God giving us the plan of salvation in a very simple and straightforward way. The Apostle Paul says that we are saved by confessing that Jesus is (our) Lord! Now that can't be true, can it? We don't get saved by simply believing and confessing that Jesus is Lord, do we? That is just too easy. There must be more to it than that, isn't there? Don't we have to do something to earn it? According to human wisdom, we have to deserve such a great gift. But in issues of life and salvation, sometimes we have to set aside our earthly "wisdom" and simply accept God at His Word. It's like the bumper sticker that says, "God said it; I believe it; and that settles it." Whether we understand God's Mercy and Grace or not, doesn't change His terms. He has made it simple so that anyone can be saved. But man comes along and tries to make it "better." But you cannot improve on perfection! God's ways are higher than our ways, and He says that salvation is a gift, that no one can earn. So my advice is to take God at his word and receive the greatest gift ever offered; Salvation by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ!
Many members of the Church of Christ denomination will then ask the question, "If you get saved by believing, then are the demons saved, because James 2:19 says, 'You believe that there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble."
Answer? The demons are a different species than humans. We don't know if there is a plan of salvation for demons (fallen Angels) any more than we do for dogs or cats. It's a typical Church of Christ denomination straw man argument. The question to ask them back is: "I don't know if the demons can get saved by grace through faith or not, but do you think baptism will save a demon?" They usually look at you like you just insulted their mother. Why? Because they realize what a foolish argument they just proposed. That's what happens though, when you are constantly grasping at straws...eventually one will break your camel's back.
Key verse to remember:
Hebrews 6:1-3, "Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so."