By Jarrod Jacobs
This article is a review of the debate that took place on March 12-13 at the Gainesboro Missionary Baptist Mission between Mr. Roger Holland and me. Our propositions were: Friday night — “RESOLVED: The Scriptures teach that one is saved by grace through faith alone, before and without water baptism.” Mr. Holland affirmed, I denied. Saturday night — “RESOLVED: The Scriptures teach that baptism, to the penitent believer, is for (in order to obtain) the remission of sins.” I affirmed, Mr. Holland denied.
Overall, there are some things that became apparent as we met this second time. Mr. Holland made many of the same arguments as before. Both nights, pleas were made for him to deal with specific passages and specific arguments, and he refused. He chose to ignore those pleas and preach what he wanted. Now, let us consider some specific points about this debate.
Once again, the debate was held in a very courteous manner. Mr. Holland and this author talked with one another both before and after the sessions. The people of Gainesboro, as well as others who came, saw that people can debate and still maintain courtesy toward one another. This author referred to Mr. Holland as “Mister Holland,” “Sir,” or similar respectful terms. He referred to the author in a similar manner. Often, he called me “brother,” but this author did not call Mr. Holland “brother” because he is not a brother (Matt. 12:48-50; 2 John 9-11). Courtesy prevailed not only from the disputants, but also by the audience. There were no outbursts, and nothing demeaning was spoken to either man. This says something good! It is possible to disagree on matters of doctrine, be blunt and courageous in defending the truth, and still show common courtesy.
Mr. Holland made several arguments from the book of Romans. He tried to affirm “faith only” from such places as Romans 3:21, 26-28; 4; 5:1; and chapter 11. He maintained that we could be “saved like Abraham.” He also read 2 Timothy 3:16-17, and declared that since the Old Testament was inspired, that we could “take it all” and indeed needed to in order to please God. Unlike the first debate, Mr. Holland began by asking this author five specific questions, per our agreement. A major part of his first speech was taken up in trying to prove that Cornelius was saved when he was baptized of the Holy Spirit, before baptism. He attempted to use Acts 15:7-11 to bolster this point. Mr. Holland spent a little time in Ephesians 2:8-9, claiming this verse excluded baptism, as well as “any works of exertion.”
Mr. Holland shocked this author when he said that he did not agree with his own proposition! He was reminded that no one forced him to sign that particular proposition. He also said that the “18 Articles” (Baptist creed) said that they ought not say we are saved by “faith alone.” He was reminded of two things. First, that his proposition begins with “The Scriptures teach . . .” not, “The 18 Articles.” Also, his proposition used the phrase “faith alone,” and he had signed it. By signing his proposition, he was saying he agreed with that statement; yet he said before this group that he didn’t believe it!
Saturday night, this author began by using 1 Corinthians 1:11-13 to show that we must be baptized to be “of (or belong to) Christ.” Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21 were also used to show in no uncertain terms that the Bible says that baptism saves. Mr. Holland was asked by the author to tell us whether “baptism doth also NOW save us,” or “baptism doth also NOT save us.” He never told us directly, though of course, his proposition said it.
We went into great detail with 1 Peter 3:21, showing that Peter was definitely teaching that baptism saves. Not only this, we brought out many translations that consistently showed this truth. The final blow, was in using a Baptist Bible, called the “Common English Version.” It was put out by the American Bible Union in 1864-65. This Bible states plainly, “which in an antitype, immersion, now saves us also (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the requirement of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Mr. Holland was shown that the Baptist scholars who translated this Bible from the original Greek were those who would not compromise their scholarship for their theology! The author also asked Mr. Holland five questions. They were the same five that were presented at Dickson. Also, we asked Mr. Holland what baptism was “for”? Since he claimed baptism was not “for the remission of sins” in contradiction to Acts 2:38 says, then what was it “for”? In four speeches, Mr. Holland never told us.
One argument made that this author believes helped to show people the meaning behind Mark 16:16 was the following. After reading Mark 16:16, this author said, “He that believeth and sticketh his arm out, shall receive $20.00.” With this, the author waved a $20.00 bill in the air and said it again, putting the bill close to Mr. Holland. He refused to take it, and with that, it was declared, “At least Mr. Holland is consistent, he doesn’t believe Jesus, either!” Another thing that drove the point home was that brother Loren Stephens from Cookeville, Tennessee stuck his arm out, and received the $20.00! Those present got the point, and could see the parallel, including Mr. Holland.
For those unfamiliar with this term, a quibble is “a use of ambiguous, prevaricating, or irrelevant language or arguments to evade a point at issue” (Webster’s). Certainly, Mr. Holland tried to evade the issue of baptism on several occasions. A few quibbles he made are below.
1. Mr. Holland made the statement, “Faith has no ‘I’ in it.” His point being that we do not earn this, and we cannot in some way boast about faith. (Of course, implying that baptism was such a work!) He was then asked, since faith has no “I,” then who does the believing — us or God? Our Primitive Baptist friends teach that man is so depraved that he cannot even believe, but God must do it all. Therefore, the author asked Mr. Holland if he was taking that position, and that God must do it all for us, including give us faith?
2. Another quibble Mr. Holland made was about a show he saw. He said he watched some news show where our government is working to send people to Mars for about two years. One of the comments he heard was that Mars has a very small amount of water on that planet. Upon explaining this, Mr. Holland said, “I just thought, well, I guess since there is so little water on that planet, that when they leave earth to go to Mars, salvation will be far away for them.” This author replied by showing him that baptism is required to be a Baptist, so therefore, they’ll be far away from the Baptist Church when the people are on Mars, too!
3. Mr. Holland also made the same quibble that he had made in Dickson, Tennessee. He tried to compare Mark
16:16 with the following statement: “He that getteth on the train and sitteth down shall arrive at his destination.” He was making faith equal to getting on a train, sitting down equal to baptism, and arriving at the destination equal with salvation. He said, “You must get on the train, but you’ll get to the destination whether you sit down or not!” This was answered by showing that according to Mr. Holland’s doctrine, a man is saved the moment he believes; therefore in his supposed parallel, the minute a man gets on the train, he’s already at his destination and doesn’t have time to sit down! A second point shown was that a person can get to his destination without taking a train, so that would cut out faith as easy as he cuts out baptism!
4. Mr. Holland said that he had been married to his wife for 24 years. He said when they met, he fell in love with her, and died to the other girls he had dated in the past. He said he died to them, then loved, and trusted his wife completely. His parallel was to try to say you die to this world of sin, then put your love, and trust in Christ, and that alone saves before and without baptism.
This author responded by asking that when he died to those other girls, and loved, and trusted his wife, was he married, yet? You see, marriage changes the relationship from boyfriend/girlfriend to husband and wife. In like manner, baptism is what changes the relationship from being outside to “in Christ” (Gal. 3:27). Mr. Holland had the last speech Saturday night, and responded to my argument by saying “marriage didn’t change anything”! Dear reader, read Hebrews 13:4 for yourself and see whether or not a marriage changes the relationship of a man and woman.
5. Mr. Holland also made the false claim that there was no difference between the Old Law and the New Law. He read 2 Timothy 3:16-17, noted the phrase “All Scripture. . .” and ridiculed the idea of there being different dispensations in the Bible. He was shown that there has been a “change of the law” (Heb. 7:12). This author also suggested several things Mr. Holland needs to do if the Old Law is still in force! Of course, it would be impossible to keep both Old and New Laws today, which was the point!
What will be the results of this debate? Only God knows that answer! We know that his word will not return to him void (Isa. 55:11), and that he gives the increase when men plant and water the seed (1 Cor. 3:6)! Let us strive to have more debates with false teachers and denominational folks. When people are allowed the opportunity to study the Scriptures, and see them laid out side-by-side with error, good will come!
Victory does not come by truce. God’s terms are unconditional surrender. We are in a fight for the truth and the cannon-fire cannot cease until the enemies of the church stack arms.
The church grew when the fight was waged and the battles raged. When the let-up came in the fight, the let-down came in the church. It is said that the denominations do not fight any more. That is because the church has quit fighting and they have nothing to fight. If gospel preachers will fight now as gospel preachers fought then, the denominations will fight now as they fought then — and truth will triumph now as it triumphed then. Shall we yield to the line of least resistance, or shall we challenge error in its strongholds and citadels? (Quotes from The Gospel For Today, by Foy E. Wallace, Jr.)
The words of brother Wallace ought to mean something to us. It is not enough to say we know the differences be- tween the church and denominations. Let us stand strong and fight for the truth every day! Souls are at stake. “Who is on the Lord’s side?”