This article is a response to the article of “Pastor” David Martin of the Solid Rock Baptist Church entitled “Common Sense Questions a ‘Church of Christ’ Preacher Cannot Clearly Answer.” This article may be accessed by clicking here.
It is my hope that the reader will see that these questions can most assuredly be answered using the Word of God, and it is my prayer that this response is in harmony with 1 Peter 3:14-15:
But even if ye should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are ye: and fear not their fear, neither be troubled; but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear.
Before I begin with the questions that Mr. Martin (I will not call him a pastor, per the words of our Lord in Matthew 23:8-10) has asked, I would like to ask whether or not Mr. Martin is a Biblical “pastor,” an older man who serves with at least one other older man in a local congregation and who meets the qualifications seen in 1 Timothy 3:1-8? Or is he simply an evangelist? If we are about to discuss what the Bible teaches, should we not recognize what God has deemed our positions to be?
Mr. Martin introduces his article with a lengthy dogmatic statement condemning those in the “Church of Christ” to hell and using many derogatory terms for the group. Is this the attitude of a Christian, as evidenced by James 4:12 and 1 Peter 3:14-15? I will let the reader decide.
Regardless, let us examine the questions, followed individually with responses:
Question: According to the history of the “Church of Christ,” God used certain men to “restore” the New Testament Church in the early 1800’s. Where was the true New Testament church before then? Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). What happened to the church and where was the truth it was responsible for preaching before God restored it?
Response: I do not know exactly which “history of the ‘Church of Christ'” Mr. Martin is using, but I disagree with it. The Church of Christ was founded on the day of Pentecost with the first Gospel lessons (Acts 2:14-47). There have been many examples of Christians following the truth long before the Campbells (evidence for this may be seen here). The Church has existed since Pentecost, for the promise of Christ in Matthew 28:20 cannot be wrong.
I would further ask Mr. Martin where is the evidence for the Baptist faith, especially the tenets of eternal security, salvation by faith alone, and the “sinner’s prayer,” before the seventeenth century? If you are positing that you are the faith of the New Testament church, where is your evidence for these teachings?
Question: If a “Church of Christ” elder refuses to baptize me, will I be lost until I can find one who will? Do I need Jesus AND a Campbellite “preacher” in order to be saved? If I do, then Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) and the Holy Spirit is not the only Administrator (1 Cor. 12:13) of salvation – the “Church of Christ” preacher is necessary to salvation for he is performing a saving act on me when he baptizes me! Is this not blasphemy against Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost?
Response: First, let us examine 1 Corinthians 12:13:
For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit.
Where in this passage does Paul state that the Holy Spirit is the “only Administrator?” Paul simply says that all Christians are baptized into one body and into one Spirit. There are not many spirits, are there? By no means! This certainly does not negate the words of Paul in Romans 6:3-5:
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.
Further, Mr. Martin is alleging that we “add” a person to salvation when we “require” a baptizer. I find it highly interesting that the Bible only speaks of a baptizer once: John the Baptizer. Otherwise, the emphasis is always passive: one is baptized. The baptizer proper is irrelevant: baptism by eldership is not required, and neither is baptism by the evangelist. Generally, a Christian will baptize one into Christ, but the emphasis is always on the one who is being
immersed in the water for the remission of their sins. If this is “adding” someone to salvation, what will Mr. Martin do with Romans 10:17:
So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
The context of Romans 10 clearly demonstrates that Paul is speaking of the spoken word– one must hear the Gospel in order to believe, and one must have belief to have faith, etc. Does Paul mandate here that a preacher is “added” to salvation?
The difficulty that Mr. Martin has is in his lack of understanding of the Scriptures: salvation comes from God, surely, and salvation has come thanks to the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross for our sins. This salvation is offered to all, but it must be accepted by a person in order for them to be saved! The question is asked in the Scriptures about how one accepts this salvation, and the message is clear: one must believe, one must confess Christ, one must repent of sin, one must be baptized, and one must be continually faithful to Christ (Acts 16:31, Matthew 10:32, Romans 10:9-10, Acts 2:38, and Matthew 10:22, respectively). We hear about Christ from men, do we not? The message is delivered through man for man. This is no “addition” to Christ: Christ is the Savior, and He has determined to entrust His message to men. Who are we to disagree?
Question: If the water pipes broke and the baptistry was bone dry, would my salvation have to wait until the plumber showed up? If I were to die before then, would I go to hell? If obedience to water baptism is the means of forgiveness of sins, then I would.
Response: This is an example of argumentum ad absurdum, and does not deserve the effort of response. Therefore, I will ask an equally ridiculous question, recognizing that Mr. Martin is a Baptist: if you are preaching to a man, and he recognizes that Christ is Lord, but has a heart attack and dies just before he prayed the “sinner’s prayer,” is he going to hell?
We have been told the following in James 4:12:
One only is the lawgiver and judge, even he who is able to save and to destroy: but who art thou that judgest thy neighbor?
I am not the judge, nor is Mr. Martin: God is. God is just, and He will judge justly. He has told us in His Word that one must be baptized in order to be saved, and I will preach that one must be baptized in order to be saved. I will let God deal with any exceptions that may exist.
Question: If my past sins are forgiven when I am baptized in water, and it is possible for me to “lose my salvation” and go to hell after being baptized, then wouldn’t my best chance of going to heaven be to drown in the baptistry?!! – before I had a chance to sin so as to be lost again? If I wanted to be absolutely sure of heaven, isn’t that my best opportunity?
Response: I believe this question is beginning to betray the title of “common sense questions:” this question is far from having any form of common sense. If we are going to examine our life and our salvation from this prospect, why don’t we just all die as children, because then we must be saved (Matthew 18:1-6)?
God examines the heart: He wants those who wish to obey Him (1 John 3:1-5). Obedience is a life-long commitment, and while we will stumble, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us, as is seen in 1 John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We have the opportunity to be continually cleansed of our sins, and forgiveness is always only a prayer away. What, perhaps, would Mr. Martin do with the message of Romans 6:1-2? Is Mr. Martin attempting to use arguments of a
ridiculous nature to attempt to get around the Biblical truth that salvation is only granted to those that endure?
Question: If as a Christian I can sin so as to “lose my salvation,” just what sin or sins will place me in such danger? Is it possible to know at what point one has committed such a sin, and become lost again? Please be specific and give clear Bible references.
Response: Again, God is the Righteous Judge, and you will have to stand before Him. Regardless, we learn from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21 many of the sins that will cause condemnation if one does not repent of them:
Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
I find it interesting, however, that Paul even adds the caveat in Galatians 5:20 that there are more sins that would condemn: “and such like.” We are given, however, a list of those attitudes and mentalities that will not and can not condemn us in Galatians 5:22-24:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
We are to then focus on what we are supposed TO do, not upon what we must avoid. It is good to remember these things.
Question: If as a Christian I can fall and “lose my salvation,” is it possible to regain it? If so, how? If God “takes away” my salvation, doesn’t that make Him an “Indian giver”? How could I ever know for sure that I was saved or lost?
Response: This question demonstrates the mentality of Mr. Martin and further demonstrates his difficulties with being in harmony with the Word of God. He is “throwing around” the word “salvation” extremely freely when the word is much more specific in the Scriptures. “Salvation” is certainly present when we are Christians, but only conditionally: the Biblical authors often refer to it as the “hope” or the “great hope” of salvation (Romans 8:24, Romans 15:4, 2 Corinthians 1:10, 2 Corinthians 3:12, Galatians 5:5, Ephesians 1:18, Ephesians 4:4, Colossians 1:5, Colossians 1:23, Colossians 1:27, and many, many more). Salvation is only truly granted when we are judged by God on the Last Day (Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 20:11-15). This is made evident in the words of Christ in Matthew 10:22:
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.
Now, to answer the question directly: we may always have our sins forgiven if we confess them before God, as John has said in 1 John 1:9, quoted above. Since the Christian has the hope of salvation, God has not “taken away” anything and is most certainly not an “Indian Giver:” He does not owe us anything, but He has chosen willingly to redeem us through the death of His Son if we are counted faithful to Him.
Question: After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the “point of no return” so that I cannot regain salvation? What sin or sins will put me in such jeopardy, so that, after becoming a Christian, I would be doomed to hell without any recourse? Please be specific and give me clear Bible references.
Response: The only possible sin that requires a separation from God is a heart unwilling to admit error and refuses to repent– the “sin against the Holy Spirit” of Matthew 12:31. If one is willing to repent and admit one’s error, then he may be pardoned by the Father.
Question: If I committed some sin -whether in thought, word, or deed, one minute before a fatal car crash – would I go to hell if I did not have time to repent of it? And, please, don’t just say that it’s up to God without giving me a specific Bible reference.
Response: Unfortunately, your objection to “it’s up to God” is not proper: the only answer that any true Bible student will give you is that it is up to God, for He is the Judge, as explained in James 4:12 quoted above.
Question: Why does the “Church of Christ” insist that their name is scriptural when it cannot be found anywhere in the Bible? The church is referred to as the “church of God” eight (8) times in the Bible, but never is it called the “church of Christ.” The verse they use is Romans 16:16, but it doesn’t say “church of Christ.” Where does the Bible call the church the “church of Christ”?
Response: The problem with this question is its intrinsic assumption: the idea that the church has a “name.” I do not see anywhere in the Scriptures where the “church” is given a name. Those who follow Christ are given the name “Christian” as evidenced in Acts 11:26. Now, the church is described in the New Testament in many forms, and as you have admitted, the churches (local congregations) are described as being “of Christ” in Romans 16:16. “Church of God,” “The Way,” “Church of the Firstborn,” and other such descriptions that are found in the New Testament are also completely acceptable; most churches of Christ choose not to use them to avoid confusion with denominations that will often adopt some of those names and for other reasons.
I would ask Mr. Martin where the “church” is ever described or named “Baptist” in the Scriptures, and especially the idea of the “Solid Rock Baptist Church.”
Question: If the “Church of Christ” claims to worship God only as “authorized” by scripture because they sing only (and do not use instrumental music), then where do they get the “authority” to use hymnals, pitchpipes, pews, and indoor baptistries in their worship services? If the answer is that they are “aids to worship,” where does the Bible allow for that? Where is your required authorization? If a pitchpipe can be an “aid to worship” for the song service in the “Church of Christ,” then why can’t a piano be an “aid to worship” for Baptists who may need more help in singing?
Response: This question begs the need to understand specific versus generic authority. In any situation, we must first see what God has specifically commanded of us and then see perhaps what we have been commanded to do generically (i.e. a command given without necessarily a mode of fulfillment given). We have been commanded to sing in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. What shall we sing? Well, we are told to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Well, which such psalms, hymns, etc.? We are not told specifically; therefore, we may sing songs that fulfill the commandments to praise God and to instruct one another with songs of our own choosing. Further, we desire for our singing to be at the proper pitch. Therefore, many will elect to use pitch pipes before the song to understand the proper note to begin the song with. This pitch pipe is not used during the song and in no way or form is used in the worship or praise to God. Is the piano used during the song? Is it being used as a part of the praise to God or encouragement of one another? Such things are alterations from the commandments given to us in the New Testament.
Further, when it comes to pews and baptistries, we have been commanded to assemble in Hebrews 10:25 and to baptize in water in Acts 8:34-39. We have not been commanded specifically where to perform such actions in these verses, so we have the liberty of facilitating them, by having a building and pews for the former, and a baptistry for the latter.
Now, I would like to ask Mr. Martin for his Scriptures from the New Testament that are the commandments of God for us to use instrumental music in our praise to Him, an example of any church of the New Testament that used instruments for such purposes, or any form of evidence from the New Testament that would authorize the use of instrumental music during the assemblies.
Question: The “Church of Christ” teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one’s sins forgiven? Every time the phrase “for the remission of sins” occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ – never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, “for the remission of sins,” it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to “take away” sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that “for the remission of sins” means ‘in order to obtain’ in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) – the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, “It is finished,” (John 19:30), all sin – past, present and future – was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that ‘whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins’ (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, “Father, forgive them,”) and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.
Response: This is a long question, and I will attempt to break it down and answer every portion.
To begin, I would like to ask Mr. Martin where he learned that a “Campbellite elder” must baptize someone for the latter to be a Christian? First of all, I do not see any “Campbellite elders” in the Scriptures, and I further do not see them in churches of Christ: Mr. Martin, in his historical studies, has failed to recognize that the churches of Christ have no part of the Campbells, as they founded only the Disciples of Christ. The church of Christ predates them by far. Regardless, no church of Christ that I have attended teaches that an elder must baptize a person so that the latter may be saved. Baptism may be performed by any Christian.
Further, the Bible most certainly teaches that the remission of sin comes with baptism in water, as evidenced by Acts 2:38 and Romans 6:3-7:
And Peter said unto them, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin.
We see from these passages that sins are remitted at the point of baptism, and that baptism represents the “burial” that one goes through to put to death the “old man…the body of sin” and rises again in “newness of life.” If this is not “baptismal regeneration,” what could it possibly be?
Mr. Martin continues by alleging that God has forgiven sins even before Jesus Christ, and he uses Hebrews 9:22 as an example for this:
And according to the law, I may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.
But can Mr. Martin get away from the clear message of Hebrews 10:4-9?
For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, But a body didst thou prepare for me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure: Then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of me) To do thy will, O God.”
Saying above, “Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein”
(the which are offered according to the law), then hath he said, “Lo, I am come to do thy will.”
He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.
Did the Israelites receive the remission of sins through their sacrifices? The Hebrew author says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin! Therefore, we must conclude, with the Hebrew author, that the righteous Israelites required redemption through Christ’s blood as we must also. This is made clear by the Hebrew author in Hebrews 11:39-40:
And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Therefore, we must conclude that the death of Christ was the sacrifice given “once for all” for the remission of sin. If we follow the logic that Mr. Martin has provided, we must conclude then that all are saved since Christ died for the sins of all to be remitted. This is assuredly not the case, however, as is evidenced by 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9:
if so be that it is righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
Therefore, we must ask the question: how does one receive the remission of sins that has already been offered? And we must answer that one must desire to receive this remission and to perform the actions that we have been told to perform: to believe, to confess, to repent, to be baptized, and to be faithful. Disobedience to Christ is what leads to condemnation, as is clearly seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 quoted above. Does Mr. Martin have Scriptures to back up the “sinner’s prayer” or any such thing?
Question: If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of “righteousness,” then how can water baptism be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16) In the Bible, we are SAVED BY GRACE, and grace does not involve human effort or merit – grace is grace and work is work! (Just read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 11:6.)
Response: Let us read Ephesians 2:8-9:
for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory.
Students of grammar recognize that when Paul says “that not of yourselves,” he refers only to “grace,” which is the “gift of God.” Faith is not the gift under discussion; the origin of faith is clearly given to us by Paul in Romans 10: it comes through hearing of the word of God concerning Christ.
We are saved by grace through faith, as we are told in Ephesians 2:8-9. We read the following from James 2:14-17 and recognize that there is no such thing as faith without works:
What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself.
Faith must have works to exist: faith is not “passive,” but active! Assuredly we have no hope of Heaven through our works alone: we will never “deserve” Heaven. God’s grace is freely extended, most clearly and magnificently seen in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for our sins, the act which allows us to have remission of sin. God has by no means, however, declared that we cannot do anything to gain salvation: we must accept His grace and the death of His Son for us and we must be faithful to Him! If we accept Mr. Martin’s position that “nothing we can do will assist in salvation,” we are required to conclude that there is no need for faithfulness and no need for any form of acceptance of God because He has already done all the work for us. This is Calvinism’s unconditional election, and this idea nullifies the concept of faithfulness and the inevitable judgment spoken of in the Scriptures.
Question: The “Church of Christ” teaches that “obeying the Gospel” includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 that only those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost – so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were “purified by faith” (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without “muddying the waters” of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?
Response: I would like to ask Mr. Martin for the specific reference in Acts 10 that shows that the Gentiles of the house of Cornelius were saved by faith before the baptism in water! All I see in Acts 10 is that God gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles present to prove to Peter that the Gentiles were to be added to the fold– Peter’s answer to this event is most telling about the situation, seen in Acts 10:47:
Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?
Why would Peter insist on immediate baptism in water for those who received the Holy Spirit if they were already saved? What purpose would it serve?
Mr. Martin has also quoted Acts 5:32 to prove that the Holy Spirit only comes to those who obey God:
And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.
The Holy Spirit is given to those who obey God– does this require the previous redemption in order for them to be obedient? A multitude of men were obedient to God, received the Holy Spirit, and did not do so on account of obeying Christ, men like David and the prophets! We see in Acts 10:1-8 and 10:22-23 that Cornelius obeyed God in every way that he knew– he gave alms and was known as a “God-fearer,” understood to be a group of Gentiles who obeyed the Law of Moses as well as they could. Cornelius and his men obeyed God and then heard the message of God– this example still does not prove that salvation is granted before one is immersed in water for the remission of sin. The message of Romans 6:3-7 still stands: we can only walk in newness of life when we have been buried with Christ in the watery grave of baptism.