By Forrest D. Moyer
Dear Mr. Bakker:
Yours and your wife’s names have been headlines in the newspapers and on television for the past two weeks. The publicity has not been complimentary due to the fact of admitted sin and also concerning the huge financial empire that you have headed. Many different men have made varied pleas and challenges to you. Perhaps none has been made in the way that I want to make one. I want to plead with you to forsake all sin and become just a Christian after the New Testament order. When Agrippa said, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian,” Paul responded by saying, “I would to God that not only you but all who heard me this day were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds” (Acts 26:28-29). Paul was a Christian. No other descriptive terms were used. He was not “fundamentalist,” “charismatic,” “pentecostal,” “Baptist,” or any other kind of a Christian. Will you not consider my simple plea in the same spirit of love in which it is given?
When we read our New Testaments we see what people did to become Christians. They had to hear the word of truth, the gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13; Rom. 10:17). They had to believe that Jesus was the Son of God (Mark 16:16; Acts 8:37). They were taught to repent – turn from every sin and turn to the Lord in His appointed way (Acts 17:30). You have sinned. I know this not because of your confession of sin, but because God says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). 1 believe that you have not only sinned morally, but even religiously. Please let me tell you why I would make such a seemingly harsh statement. Jesus teaches that to go to Heaven, we must do the will of our Father who is in Heaven (Matt. 7:21). This involves doing our every religious act by the authority of God which is revealed in His word (1 Cor. 2:9-13; Eph. 3:35; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Unless I can turn to the Bible and read of a practice therein, then I dare not engage in that practice lest my worship should be in vain (Matt. 15:9). Throughout the denominations of our day, there are numerous practices that we read nothing about in the New Testament (please allow me to discuss some of these points a little later).
But the fact is that we have sinned and must turn from every sin of every kind. Our Lord Jesus also has prescribed a necessary action in order for us to have our sins forgiven. He says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved-, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). In language as plain as could every be uttered, Jesus requires us to be baptized in order to be saved. This is His consistent teaching throughout His word. When the people in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost cried out, “What shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). We can also read such Scriptures as Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-6; Colossians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 3:21. The Scriptures are consistent: one must be baptized (immersed in water) in order to have his sins forgiven. Yes, we are saved by God’s grace, but it is not by grace only. Yes, we are saved by our faith, but not by faith only. Our faith takes God at His word (Gal. 5:6; James 2:17-26). It is a lack of faith to reject anything that He requires of us and the purpose for which it is required. Baptism is required for the remission of our sins. It is not “because we are saved.” It is not just an outward sign of an inward cleansing. May I plead with you to be baptized for the remission of your sins? And please don’t reason by saying, “Well., I have been baptized.” Both you and I know that the teaching of your denomination is that salvation (the remission of sins) precedes baptism. You cannot be baptized for the remission of sins if you believe that your sins have already been forgiven.
When you are baptized, not only is every sin forgiven you, but God Himself adds you to His church (Acts 2:47). This is not a denomination. It is simply His called out body. Those thus saved associate themselves together in a local congregation – a group of saved people who follow the Bible. We never read of any kind of organization larger or smaller than the local church. There were no denominations, no combine of churches, no earthly headquarters. There were just local churches totally autonomous under qualified overseers called elders, bishops or pastors (1 Tim. 3:1ff; Tit. 1:5ff; Phil. 1:1). Evangelists were simply preachers of the word. There was no “one man pastor system” in the New Testament churches. These early Christians met each “first day of the week” to partake of the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). They prayed together, taught and studied together (Acts 2:42). They sang together (without any instrumental accompaniment). They loved God, they loved each other, and they loved the souls of fellow men. There was no pomp or pageantry. They worked to save the souls of people and to edify one another. Shouldn’t churches now strive to be just like that? But alas! People have added so much to what the Bible teaches. They have gotten farther and farther away from His simple plan. Thus, religious error has entered in and religion is not what God intended. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:20-21; 1 Cor. 1:10). Religious leaders have promoted division. Instead of one body (Eph. 4:4-5) we see many bodies teaching and practicing adverse doctrines. My plea to you is to forsake all these human practices and become just a Christian as we read in the New Testament. Not only will your sins be forgiven you, but you will find thousands of like-minded disciples striving to follow the Bible. Your potential in preaching the pure, simple gospel is great. Brethren will follow the divine injunction to forgive, comfort, and love (2 Cor. 2:6-8). You can serve the Lord Jesus Christ for the rest of your life as a Christian. It doesn’t promise you wealth, but it promises a home in Heaven. It doesn’t promise you popularity, but it promises that He “will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Dear friend, will you please consider this simple plea from a Christian who loves you and wants to see you serve in the greatest relationship there is – the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would delight in furthering this correspondence. May I hear from you?
In brotherly love,
Forrest D. Moyer
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 10, pp. 302-303
May 21, 1987