"What Is Scriptural Baptism?"

(A Review)

James W. Boyd
Waukesha, Wis.

In the March issue of TRUTH, there appeared an article by Bro. Roy Key setting forth his view of "What Is Scriptural Baptism?" The reader is urged to read that article again before reading this review.

Basis of This Review

It should be our purpose, of course, to agree with a brother in Christ as much as is scripturally possible. There is no merit in differing with another just for the sake of differing. Also when we take issue with another person, especially a brother in Christ, we should in make sure that there is a real difference involved and that the difference is of such a vital nature that it warrants a discussion of the difference. To quibble about mere words is beneath the dignity of the Christian, and could serve no purpose in, the quest for truth. (See II Tim. 2:23.) But when a significant discrepancy does arise, then the child of God must, not only allow the question to be weighed in the crucible of truth, but also contend for that which is in harmony with the Word of God. It is the, writer's conviction that Bro. Key's article reveals several departures from New Testament teaching in his thinking and that these departures culminate in an erroneous, rather than a scriptural, view of baptism.

Points to Be Considered

First, it must be pointed out that some thoughts in Bro. Key's article can be commended. It IS possible for us to miss the full significance of baptism by failing to realize its direction to a "newness of life." The scripturally baptized person, does become a new creature in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), and his body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). He has a new fellowship with the Father and the Son (I John 1:3), and this fellowship results in a new power in his life (Eph. 1:19). These thoughts, of course, need to be understood and appreciated.

But while this is true, we feel that Bro. Key has entirely overdrawn and overstated the case and has actually misapplied several scriptures in the process. His reasoning is of such a nature that it leads to a view of baptism approaching that which is held by various sectarian groups. Bro. Key's emphasis throughout the article is on the gift of the Holy Spirit which is received at baptism. And his overzealous attempt to develop this thought has channeled his thinking into several errors. At this time we shall notice his misuse of Matt. 3:11 and John 3:5.

Misuse of Matt. 3:11

In paragraph six under the heading of John's baptism, Bro. Key writes, "Therefore, John pointed people away from himself to the coming Christ, away from his baptism to that which Christ would administer (Matt. 3:11)." From this statement and from his subsequent development of the subject, it is obvious that he applies Matt. 3:11 to the baptism which is a part of every person's obedience to the gospel, ond that he seeks to identify the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Matt. 3:11 with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38. If this is not true, then why was this scripture incorporated into the body of his reasoning without explaining its true meaning. In his use of this scripture, Bro. Key is guilty of the old sectarian error of making baptism in the Holy Spirit applicable to all who become Christians.

But Matt. 3:11 does not apply to the baptism which Christ commissioned his disciples to administer. This scripture states, "I indeed baptize you in water unto repentance: but he that cometh af ter me is mightier than 1, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you in the Holy Spirit and in fire." The promise of the baptism of the Holy Spirit applied specifically to the apostles and was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 1:4,5 Jesus told the apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, "which, said he, ye heard from me: for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit not many days hence." The first Gentile converts, the household of Cornelius, also received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In giving an account of this incident, Peter said "And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them i even as on us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit." (Acts 11:15,16). However, these two are the only recorded incidents of anyone receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit; and from Peter's statement, it is evident that there were no others. He stated that the Holy Spirit fell on them as on us at the beginning. Peter had to go back to the day of Pentecost to f ind a parallel to the case of those in the house of Cornelius. To apply the promise of Holy Spirit baptism to every Christian is to ignore these facts and pervert the scripture.

There is another fact about that which happened to the household of Corn,elius which shows that Holy Spirit baptism could not be the gift which Peter mentions in Acts 2:38. The Holy Spirit fell on those in Cornelius' household while Peter was yet speaking unto them. (Acts 10:44). They were baptized in the Holy Spirit before they believed in Christ and before they were baptized in the name of Christ. It was afterward that Peter "commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ." (Acts 10:48). Yet, Peter preached on the day of Pentecost that the gift of the Holy Spirit was to follow baptism for the remission of sins. How, then, could anyone infer that the baptism promised in Matt. 3:11 was equivalen,t to the gift of the Holy Spirit which accompanies obedience to the gospel!

Misuse of John 3:5

In the article which we are reviewing, the same mistake is made concerning John 3:5. In this passage Jesus said, "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." After referring to this passage, Bro. Key states, "Here baptism becomes complete and entire." He then says, "To sins removed comes Spirit received, and to forgiveness there is added Fellowship." We are here objecting principally to Bro. Key's misuse of this passage. He applies the phrase "and the Spirit" to the receiving of the Spirit at baptism. This is what we would expect from a sectarian preacher, but it is somewhat shocking coming from one who purports to preach New Testament Christianity. The error in such reasoning is evident.

Born of water and the Spirit is the way that Jesus explained the new birth. He was speaking of the Spirit's influence in, conversion and not the gift of the Holy Spirit given to the Christian.

From a f urther study of the Scriptures, we learn what the Spirit's part in the new birth is. In the 16th chapter of John, Jesus told his apostles that he would send them the Comforter and that he would convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of Judgment. (verse 8). Jesus then told them that when the Spirit of truth was come, "he shall guide you into all the truth." (verse 13). The Spirit was to convict the world of sin by the revelation of truth, which truth was to be preached and recorded by the apostles. The Spirit's part in the new birth was the manifestation, of truth whereby the world would be convicted and convinced and subsequently be led to an obedient and new life in Christ. To be born of water and the spirit conditions one to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, but "born of the Spirit" is not "Spirit received and Fellowship added" as Bro. Key intimates.

In setting forth the teaching of the New Testament on baptism, we must constantly strive to present the entire picture. We must not allow this command of the Lord to degenerate into a mere formalism. We must realize that in baptism we receive the remission of our sins and that from baptism we must arise to walk in newness of life. But at the same time, we must stand opposed to any effort to compromise the Lord's teaching and to the misapplication of scriptures which in,,ariably leads to erroneous conclusions. This is the error that Bro. Key has made.

Truth Magazine I:7, pp. 10-11, 24
April 1957