Recently, I gave a listen to 2 podcasts dealing with “baptism-related issues”. I have studied through and challenged myself regarding baptism quite a bit and am always willing to hear the convictions of others (even if I might be in disagreement). I say that to demonstrate that I am no stranger to the conversation about baptism, especially as it pertains to the doctrine held by many in the Church of Christ wherein water baptism is seen as the moment of salvation, as long as it is understood in said fashion (meaning you believe that the moment you are going under is the moment God is forgiving you of your sins against Him). I have professed my disagreement with that belief a few times now, noting that the baptism of importance is the Lord’s sovereign work in a Believer’s heart and mind, Spiritually changing their direction in life, and through that said reformation enabling a Believer to confess Christ and bear fruit for His glory.
Daniel Rogers, preacher at Hickory Street Church of Christ, recently put together a video challenging the notion, “Is baptism essential for salvation”. He highlighted that not all who are in heaven were water baptized for salvation (alluding to the Old Testament saints), however all that are in heaven are “born from above”. That would mean that water baptism is not necessarily the only way men can be saved and given an inheritance of eternal life. Daniel highlighted the importance of water baptism as identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (citing Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4), correlating to circumcision in the Old Covenant (cf. Colossians 2:11) yet giving more weight to the conscience of the Believer not the physical act (cf. 1 Peter 3:21).
Furthermore, in defense of his convictions, Daniel went into what I would refer to as emotional arguments regarding those who have not heard the message of the Gospel, or have been given a bad presentation of it, and sought to excuse them from the wrath of God. In the same manner, Daniel charged that it would be unfair of God to punish those who have desired to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, yet have not properly been compelled to be baptized in water for the remission of sins.
You can watch that video at the following link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPiZTB2_ifA&t=1792s
Holger Neubauer, preacher at Lakeshore Church of Christ, responded disagreeably to Daniel’s video, in a fair and friendly manner. You can watch his review at the following link, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY1asgLURQg
From the outset Holger highlighted that while he has a friendship with Daniel (among many others) his effort at seeking truth is what holds primacy. He expressed frustration with the lack of essentials being highlighted in the church. He asserted that some have given up on baptism, the Lord’s supper, Scriptural application, and even gathering as the church and this has led to the stalling of the message of fulfillment progressing in and through Christ’s Church. Listening to Holger you would think that the Church of Christ has continued to hold to a firm concrete view on water baptism and the need for those with erroneous views to be re-immersed, which isn’t necessarily the case. Dallas Burdette had put together this rather compelling studying showing “ The early reformers were not immersed with a consciousness of “remission of sins” flashing like neon lights at the time of their baptisms. The pioneers set forth their objections to the practice of rebaptizing individuals who were baptized upon the confession of their faith that Jesus is the Son of God” and should assist many Christians to exercise more toleration toward those who have not arrived at the same conclusions as themselves. Every prayer to God should call upon God to help all believers to understand that the overriding factor in baptism is one’s desire to obey God. The Scriptures teach that anyone baptized into the name of Jesus is a part of God’s kingdom. One’s longing to submit to God is the dominant principle for legitimacy in any baptism.” You can read that study at the following link, http://www.freedominchrist.net/Sermons/Baptism/Rebaptism%20in%20the%20Stone-Campbell%20Movement.htm?fbclid=IwAR0i9USf-7yIjCMozkEzN2yj5m6wt_oHHcRVCjbaXslrEBVy8rFDFjX-QSk
In his video, Holger explained that the “anointing” in 1 John 2:7 corresponds to the “seal” of 1 Corinthians 1:21-22, as the means by which one came into the “covenant faith”. Referring to what he asserts as the “immediacy of baptism”, Holger would highlight water baptism as that anointing and seal (and would show you how immediately after hearing the gospel many were “baptized” (cf. Acts 2, 8, 10, 16, 19, and 22). Therefore, Holger asserts water baptism for the remission of sins, as the identify marker of one’s being in “the faith” (which he explains as God speaks, man hears, and man obeys).
I have continued to view Holger as a great teacher and preacher of God’s truths, especially as it pertains to the “hope of Israel”, despite this area of disagreement. I tend to disagree with his view on baptism, and rather than water being the mode of identification in baptism, I would understand the Believer’s identifying and thus salvific baptism as one’s being immersed and absolved in Christ by confession, possession, and increase in Christ (cf. Romans 10:8-17; 2 Peter 1:3-11). This allows for me to see Holger’s passion and interpretation as a bit misguided, whereas he must see me as unsaved. A strange view for a follower of Him who rebuked those who have outward identifying features as prominent and as a means of being “clean”, rather than the inner identifying features (cf. Matthew 7: 15 – 29; 23:25-26). Take note of how many have professed Christ, gone to altar calls, and have even been water baptized, only to be inwardly, increasingly wicked.
All of that said, I have admitted my continued study and seeking of conviction in this area. Holger desires a response for the immediacy of baptism in the book of Acts and a lack of regard today. In a brief “car conversation” I enjoyed with Dr. William Bell after last year’s, Preterist Pilgrim Weekend, he challenged me to give a response regarding why the Ethiopian Eunuch was water baptized in Acts chapter 8. I therefore encourage all to continue to study, seek His face in prayer, and find and defend your convictions on the matter keeping in mind what reformer Martin Luther said, “…to go against conscience is neither right nor safe”.
While believing the Gospel to be the “instrument of God’s judgement” (which I agree with), both Holger and Daniel hold to an “age of accountability” and an absence of accountability for those who had/have not heard it. This rings strange to me. I would much more assert that the Gospel is designed to bring life and life to the full to God’s elect, those whom God has designed for it to edify and bring into covenant with Him, His Church and those who have yet to find and know life. This puts us at interesting odds with each other’s views regarding our urgency for the Gospel, yet, I believe we can and should work together for the glory of God.
So what’s the way forward? Well, I enjoy the challenge to mark out essentials, as have increasingly been provoked by many preachers within the Church of Christ. I appreciate and agree with the high regard for God’s work in and through His church and the necessity of having a concise message and method of explain and promoting salvation in and through Christ Jesus. Scripture asserts that we must have faith believing that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (cf. Hebrews 11:1-6). Therefore as affirming myself and others in the faith I will stand upon the goal of the faith, which is “love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith”, (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5). With that goal in mind, I will challenge each man/woman I do ministry work with, those I lead to and in Christ, even the stranger on the street. Those whose lives demonstrate the reality of that goal, who confess and their lives profess Christ Jesus in a good and honest effort in that, I believe can say are good soil to work with (cf. Luke 8:15-17). That’s focusing on the one baptism that matters.