Truth Mail Bag

Gordon J. Pennock

Mrs. G.A., Ill. "Dear Brother Pennock: Thank you for the gift of the March issue of Truth Magazine. I appreciate your sending it to me. After reading Brother Key's article in the magazine, I turned to yours, expecting sorne favorable comment. It is with deep regret that I read your article-regret because I perceive that no one informed you of the letter Brother Key wrote on February 9, 1956, with which he enclosed a revision of his "Law of Christ." For your information, I am enclosing both herewith, for I am sure that you will wish to publish these . . . I realize that Brother Key's letter has not met with the approval of some brethren. Would it not be following in the Master's steps, then, to meet with Brother Key in a spirit of love and help him word a letter that would be satisfactory?"

So far as I know I was not responsible for sending the March issue of Truth Magazine to our correspondent. We are nevertheless glad that the publication is being circulated by others, and sincerely pray that in some measure it will serve the cause of Christ. At any rate we are grateful for the letter; also for the enclosures, copies of which were already at hand. In fact, we had anticipated that brother Key would himself submit these for publication, but for some reason he did not do so.

The suggestion that I should meet and talk with brother Key concerning the things upon which we differ is commendable. But may I hasten to say that this very thing has been done. In fact, as well as having talked with him briefly upon several occasions, two other preachers and myself spent nearly a whole day in conference with him just a few months ago. Prayerfully and tearfully, we studied and discussed the situation. But we failed to solve our differences. While brother Key insists that he believes and teaches what the Bible has to say about baptism, he also believes and holds to his past pronouncements. How he can intelligently assume such a position is a conundrum; with us it is impossible. If words have any certain meaning, then brother Key's statements are in open conflict with the Bible.

Brother Key's letter, dated February 9, 1956, is claimed by some to be an indication of a change in his position regarding the matters in dispute. May I say that brother Key stated as late as May 6th, 1957, in the presence of a group of brethren, that he has not changed. He insists that he now teaches, as he has always taught, on the subject of baptism. The substance of the letter is, that some brethren have gotten "wrong impressicn.;" which have led to "misunderstandings," but "I have, from the time I began preaching, both believed and taught that baptism is in order to the remission of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit, to get into Christ, and for salvation." And, "that I intend to stand on the teachings of the New Testament on this matter of baptism, as I hope to do on all religious questions."

But in spite of these declarations, it should be noted that he has made no retraction or repudiaticn of anything that he has spoken or written in the past. And so, the obstacles to confidence and fellowship remain unmoved.

Let us now consider "the revision" of pages 35 and 36 of brother Key's booklet, "The Law of Christ", which has been submitted. Its significance upon the issue can best be determined by reading together the original statements and the revisions. Here they are:

Original, page 35

Q: "Do you preach their (baptism and the Lord's supper) 'essentiality?'

A: "I do not. I do not find the New Testament talking of 'essentiality.' I do not believe that every baptized person will be eternally lost. Jesus did not give Baptism to make it possible to condemn all those who do not receive it. He gave it to point men to Him, to His death for their sins, His burial, and His triumph over death in Resurrection. I firmly believe that when men see what God wants in Baptism, they will surrender themselves freely and trustingly to the Lord in it. If we would preach it as did the apostles and not present it as a legal step in a plan, we would give a less distorted picture of it and would find men converted to Christ, rather than to Baptism."

Revised answer to the question:

A: "That depends on how the term is defined. I have no messagc for lost souls other than that spoken by our Lord and His Apostles: 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;' 'Except one is born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdoin of God' (Mk. 16:16; John 3:5). If preaching the New Testament is preaching the "essentiality' of baptism, then I preach it. However, I do not find the explicit term in the New Testament, and I do not use it. Since it has been employed frequently to 'prove' that every unbaptized person will certainly be lost, and that not even God can extend mercy, regardless of circumstances, I avoid using a term which for many has wrapped up in it a judgment which we have no authority to hand down."

Supplementing the original material on this page is the following question and reply:

Q: "But since Jesus clearly commands baptism, will not every unbaptized person be lost?"

A: "God is Judge, not you nor I. Jesus did not give baptism to make it possible to condemn."

The next question is on page 35 and the answer runs over into page 36. We quote:

Q: "Do not the Scriptures clearly connect Baptism with salvation?"

A: "They do, and I preach 'baptism for the remission of sins' and 'the gift of the Holy Spirit' continuously, leading people, as best I can, to make their commitment in faith to Christ in their baptism. I regret that erroneous teaching causes many people to make it elsewhere, and they miss the fulness of the meaning of Christian baptism, but many of them still do, in fact, give their hearts and lives to Christ, and this is what Baptism was intended to help them accomplish."

The revision offered here is a supplement to brother Key's reply to the above question which reads as follows:

"However, when a man attempts to attain fall surrender to Christ while refusing or neglecting His plain commands, though they be outward forms, he fails. No one can try to circumvent God and get away with it. To look for short cuts is to shift one's gaze from God and center it on. the desires of self. There is a vast distance between the soul looking for a convenient way to obey God and one seeking with all that is in him and balking at nothing. There can be no comfort here for anyone who is trying a short cut to God."

The last revision offered is at the center of page 36. The original reads:

"Baptism as an arbitrary condition of salvation has no place in the Christian era of grace. The comparison, of two men whose hearts are equally committed to Christ, having no difference, except one has been baptized and the other not, and ascribing salvation to the one and condemation to the other is a speculative interest only to the legalistic mind."

The revision amounts only to the insertion of two phrases, which seem not to materially change the sense. It should now read:

"Baptism WHEN REGARDED as an arbitrary etc." And: "The comparison SOMETIMES GIVEN, etc."

After careful study of brother Key's "letter" and revisions, we are still persuaded that the strictures which we made upon his position in the March issue remain both justified and valid. Although we have given the matter more space than we deem it to deserve, it has been our desire and purpose to leave no semblance of unfairness. We fervently crave the unity of God's people for which Jesus prayed, but realize that such cannot be enjoyed at the expense of the truth. Thus, we leave the matter with you, our readers.

Truth Magazine I:9; pp. 3, 13
June 1957