Vol. 9, No. 3
~ Page 14 ~
I recently read a statement concerning the false teachers who had come down from Jerusalem teaching that one had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved. His purpose in making the statement seems to have been to prove that a person who was baptized believing false doctrine about the purpose and nature of baptism did not need to be baptized again. That is, if a person thought he was already saved and was baptized to testify to that idea, his baptism was still valid. I think the statement wrong, and perhaps dangerous, especially since it came from a source that is generally considered to be sound in the faith.
The statement was, "Men who were baptized by the apostles believed that unless one was circumcised and kept the law of Moses he could not be saved. Here were people who were in error on the matter of their salvation, and yet they were not required to be reimmersed." The man who made that statement was an outstanding Gospel preacher, but the statement is dangerous for two reasons.
First, it suggests that these false teachers who came down from Jerusalem were baptized by the apostles. One could not prove that to save his life. Second, it suggests that when those persons were baptized, they believed this false doctrine. Again, that could not be proven. When they actually formulated a belief or an opinion about who could or could not be saved is not stated in the Bible. Third, it is assumed that a failure to understand a truth before the revelation of that truth had been made clear and confirmed is in the same category as teaching the error as a Gospel fact after Peter, Paul and others had revealed it. Not having an understanding of some truth of God to which you have never been exposed is never to be classified as the same thing as denying a truth of God that has been revealed and stated in God's Word. Fourth, it is assumed that hearing, believing and obeying what Paul calls a perverted Gospel (which is not another Gospel) will gain a person remission of his sins just as surely as obeying the pure Gospel, just as long as he thinks it is in obedience to God.
The assumption that the false teachers did not have to be re-immersed has nothing whatever to do with the fact that they would be accursed if they continued to teach this false teaching. If they had obeyed the Gospel under the teaching of the apostles, of course they had obeyed the true Gospel, and were saved thereby. They did not have to understand what someone else might have to do to be saved, such as whether the ignorant barbarians in Africa could be saved in some unknown fashion, or a thousand other questions that might be raised. If they had done what they were told to do to be saved by the authority of Christ, then they never needed to be baptized again. They did need to repent and pray for forgiveness for teaching a lie if they later taught a lie. However, that does not answer the question: Did the persons who obeyed their false teaching do what they did by the authority of Christ, and receive salvation just the same as those who obeyed the truth on Pentecost? If so, why bother teaching the true Gospel? If not, where does one get the right to teach that the baptism of one who has obeyed a false Gospel will still save him?