|Vol. 13 No. 3 March 2011||
Donald R. Fox
The year was 1967 when I purchased a book titled “Sermons Delivered in Louisville, Kentucky, by J.W. McGarvey.” One sermon was simply titled “Baptism,” and it was preached on the evening of July 2, 1893 by brother McGarvey. As I started to read the introduction to the sermon, a few remarks caught my eye such as, “Why another sermon on that old hackneyed theme?” McGarvey then proceeded with an interesting suggestion. He stated, “If you want to investigate any question without bias of mind, it is a good thing to throw out of your mind by an effort of the imagination, all you know or ever have heard about it… I propose then, that before we begin reading we shall each one imagine that we have never heard the word ‘baptism’ pronounced in our lives.” What an interesting approach to a study!
Brother McGarvey wanted all to see what the Bible said about this strange and unknown word “baptism.” His sermon continued, “Now we begin at the first chapter of Matthew, and after reading that long list of names, and that account of the birth of the Lord, and his childhood, in the third chapter, the writer introduces John the Baptist; and in verses five and six we read thus: ‘Then went out unto Jerusalem and all Judea, and the region round about the Jordan, and they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.’ Why, there is a word I never saw before; I never heard of it. I wonder what it means – that these people were baptized by that man in the river Jordan.”
From that point on, brother McGarvey went through the New Testament, stopping each time the words “baptism,” “baptized,” etc. was used. Thus, gleaning more and more information as to the meaning of this word, allowing the Word of God to interpret and explaining the usage of “baptism,” “baptized,” etc.
Upon conclusion of this plain sermon, all learned in part: (1) That much water was needed, (2) That people were immersed, buried in the water, (3) That sinners responded after preaching, desiring to be immersed, baptized (Acts 2:14-41), (4) That sinners required belief in our Savior (Acts 8:12), (5) Those sinners repented of their sins (Acts 2:37-38), (6) They confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 8:37), (7) All upon these straightforward acts of obedience were baptized (Acts 2:38-41) and (8) Upon baptism, the Word taught that they were then saved; their ‘sins washed away,’ and they were added to the church (Acts 2:38-47; 22:16).
In a few closing remarks brother McGarvey said, “Can there possibly arise in the heart of any human being, when these things are considered, any repugnance to the ordinance? Any feeling of disrespect toward it? Any other feeling than a most profound reverence for it, and for the God and Saviour who appointed it? I am sure there cannot.”
I had never read or heard of a more simplified and honest way to learn about a subject that has been beat up and debated throughout the centuries. How could anyone deny, reject this approach to the subject of baptism? I cannot think of a legitimate reason, can you?
D. Gene West
From time to time one will see an advertisement on TV in which a certain religious body will offer to give you a free copy of the King James Version of the Bible, and in this advert they proclaim their allegiance to Jesus Christ and family virtues. However, those who pay for these advertisements do not believe in the Christ of the Scriptures. As a matter of fact, a man who is called an “apostle” by this group of people made this statement, “And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ.” What this man means by “millions of apostate Christendom” is every person in the world who believes in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but does not believe in the Christ these folk accept.
These people believe and teach that all human beings lived prior to this life in what is called “the preexistence.” The same “apostle,” from whom we quoted above, teaches that Jesus attained the status of a god in the preexistence. His exact words are these, “He [Jesus] is the Firstborn of the Father. By obedience and devotion to the truth he attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, as the Lord Omnipotent, while yet in his pre-existent state… Inasmuch, however, as Christ attained Godhood while yet in pre-existence, he too stood as a God to other spirits.” Notice the words “a God,” which implies along with another group of people who deny that Christ and the Father are one, that Jesus is only one of many gods. Any way you look at this view, it is polytheism!
Regarding the Savior, these do not believe that He is the eternal God of whom we read in the Bible, but a person conceived by Mary when she cohabited with God the Father. Notice these words, “The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father.” The writer goes on, “Thus, God the Father became the literal father of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal father.” You will notice that the above writer made a particular point of mentioning that Jesus was neither the son of Joseph nor of the Holy Spirit. This does not at all align with the statement made by the inspired Luke who quoted an angel as saying directly to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God”(Luke 1:35 NKJV). We never cease to marvel at how people who teach that which is false will use the very words of Scripture to deny the teaching of Scripture. An angel told Mary she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, meaning the Spirit would miraculously cause her to conceive, but the above writer said that Mary and God cohabited and she conceived by him.
Another of the great leaders of this cult said, “The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of a natural action. He partook of flesh and blood – was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers.” Another great leader among these people said, “I will say that I was naturally begotten; so was my father, and also my Saviour Jesus Christ. According to the Scriptures, he is the first begotten of his father in the flesh, and there was nothing unnatural about it.” If there was nothing unnatural about the birth of Christ, there was no miracle involved. If there was no miracle involved, He was, indeed, an illegitimate child as His detractors claim. If He were just some illegitimate child, conceived and born like the men who wrote these statements, then their Jesus is not mine, nor is their Jesus the divine Son of God. These people disgrace and dishonor Jesus Christ by claiming that he had a natural birth just like theirs, when the Bible plainly says he was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:22-23), to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14.