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Vol.  10  No. 9 September 2008  Page 5
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D. Gene West

Question on Baptism

By D. Gene West

We are in receipt of a very interesting question on the subject of baptism, which we will attempt to answer. “Dear Sir, Why does the Church of Christ place so much emphasis on baptism when other religious bodies do not?” Let us begin by saying that those of us who are members of churches of Christ really do not emphasize anything except that which is found in the Bible. Basing this answer on the assumption that the questioner refers to baptism in water for the remission of sins, we point out a couple of interesting points. (1) The word “baptize” and all its cognates are not English words, but anglicized Greek words. The translators of the many English Bibles, rather than translate the word with an English word, decided to remove the Greek ending and add an English ending. This caused the Greek word to be brought into our language without it ever being translated. (2) This word and its cognates, referring only to water baptism, are frequently found in our Bibles. The word “baptize” is found 9 times; “baptized” 61 times; “baptism” 22 times and “baptizing” is found 4 times. We can see from this that we are certainly dealing with a biblical subject. Since those of us in churches of Christ are very keen to teach that which is found in the Bible, it is only natural that a subject mentioned that frequently would be taught very thoroughly.

A second reason that we teach what the Bible teaches on this subject is because so many religious bodies in the world simply deny what the New Testament says regarding the subject, declaring, “baptism has nothing whatsoever to do with salvation,” “only the water dogs are concerned with baptism” and “churches of Christ believe in baptismal regeneration,” among the many other unkind and sometimes untrue things that are said about us and our teaching on the subject. To let our readers know that we are not putting up a smokescreen, let us quote from one who makes such accusations as are found above. Bob L. Ross, who is some kind of fundamentalist, independent Baptist, made the following remarks in his book Campbellism Its History and Heresies:Like a drowning man grasping for a straw, Campbellites will make a snatch at anything that is wet in an effort to bolster their water gospel” (116). In the same book he again said, “The fallacy of this argument, aside from the heresy of baptismal regeneration, is primarily in the Campbellite perversion of the statement, ‘saviour of the body’” (119). Mr. Ross further blasphemes and maligns us when he said, “Campbellites say, ‘Well, if baptism and the church are not necessary for salvation, why be baptized and join the church?’ This typical language from merit-mongers who think only in terms of salvation by works” (121). We think these will certainly demonstrate that we are not only hated by some in the religious world, but maligned and falsely accused as well. While there are many things in the above quotes we would like to notice, we wish to point out one glaring misrepresentation. We never talk about “joining the church.” We urge people to become Christians so that Christ himself can add the saved to the church. Be all this as it may, our readers can see from the quotes how some in the denominational world treat us and speak of us because we emphasize the very same thing our Lord emphasized when he said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16)

We think it is fair to say that baptism for remission of sins is important to us because we believe what the Bible teaches, and it teaches that very thing. The subject of baptism is a biblical subject, as we have shown from the number of times it is mentioned in the New Testament. Furthermore, like faith, repentance and confession, it is connected to salvation as we have just noted from one statement from our Lord. It is the final step in having our sins washed away (Acts 22:16) so as creatures having been cleansed by the blood of Christ, He may add us to His church of which He is the Savior. Paul said as much in Ephesians when he wrote, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). In this same book he identified the body when he wrote, “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:22‑23).

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