Vol. 7, No. 12
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It is important to emphasize biblical fundamentals, especially when they differ from contemporary religion. The churches of Christ belong to Jesus Christ, and consequently, they are obligated to conduct themselves according to what Jesus authorizes (Romans 16:16; Colossians 3:17). People living in the Gospel Age must heed the words of Jesus Christ rather than Moses or the Old Testament prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; John 12:48). Jesus Christ is the Lawgiver and Mediator of the New Testament, to which people living today must turn for religious instruction (James 4:12; Hebrews 9:15). Jesus Christ condemns alteration of the Gospel with "the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9), and the apostle Paul condemned false Gospels and the human will when substituted for the divine will (Galatians 1:6-9; Colossians 2:23). One must turn exclusively to the New Testament to learn what God has authorized respecting Christianity.
The churches of Christ are obligated to emphasize exactly what the New Testament teaches. The churches of Christ are obligated to adhere to what the New Testament teaches regarding every divine doctrine. Consequently, the churches of Christ teach what the New Testament teaches about Christian worship. The churches of Christ teach what the New Testament teaches about Christian living. The churches of Christ teach what the New Testament teaches about Christian service. Therefore, the churches of Christ teach what the New Testament teaches about salvation.
The New Testament consistently teaches that baptism is the point at which one's sins are removed. Jesus taught the faith and baptism results in salvation (Mark 16:16). The apostle Peter taught that through repentance and baptism one's sins are remitted (Acts 2:38). The apostle Paul observed regarding his own salvation that his sins were washed away in baptism (Acts 22:16). The apostle Peter wrote that baptism saves (1 Peter 3:21).
Of course, though baptism is the point at which one's sins are taken away, other things also affect one's salvation. God's grace and mercy toward obedient souls affect salvation (Ephesians 2:8; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 5:8-9). The blood of Jesus makes salvation possible (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Revelation 1:5). Preceding baptism, a person must have Bible faith, repent of sins and acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God (Hebrews 11:6; Luke 13:3; Acts 8:37).
Part of emphasizing baptism has to do with identifying biblically what it is, as well as showing what it is not. The world around us has taken upon itself the redefinition of baptism. Some denominations dispense with baptism altogether. Some denominations relegate baptism to an optional activity, except that something called baptism may be required to join some denominations. Many religious people have decided that any of a number of different actions constitute baptism (e.g., sprinkling or pouring water or being immersed in water).
However, the churches of Christ are obligated to define baptism the way in which the New Testament defines baptism. Not only does Bible baptism save one's soul (1 Peter 3:21), the Greek words for baptism and baptize mean to dip, immerse or plunge (any Greek lexicon [dictionary] will so indicate). Biblically, baptism is called a burial or a planting (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12). Consequently, biblical baptism involves going down into and coming up out of a water source (Acts 8:38-39), hardly something that corresponds to pouring or sprinkling water. Therefore, when John the Baptist baptized in the Jordan River, he did so at a location where there was "much water" (John 3:23).
In conclusion, the churches of Christ emphasize baptism because the New Testament emphasizes baptism. The churches of Christ emphasize baptism because the New Testament teaches that baptism is the point at which (after faith, repentance and acknowledging Jesus Christ) that one's sins are taken away. The churches of Christ emphasize that Bible baptism is immersion because many denominations either have dispensed with baptism or changed it into sprinkling or pouring water over a person. The churches of Christ emphasize baptism because rather than being an optional activity or the way one joins a denomination, Bible baptism is the point at which one's sins are taken away.
The churches of Christ realize that they are duty bound to preach and teach the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Baptism of penitent souls is merely a part of the whole counsel of God (Mark 16:16). Erring Christians must repent and pray (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). "And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of [by the authority of] the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Colossians 3:17). "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 3:21).