Truth Mail Bag

Gordon J. Pennock

Mrs. P. S., Illinois: "I certainly enjoy Truth magazine. It is a great help to me. I think every Christian should want it in their home.

"First of all my in-laws are Baptist. So we certainly do not agree on Bible facts. I cannot prove all things I believe which I should be able to do. So here are some of the questions. You can help me.

1. If you don't join the church, how do you know you are a member?

2. Do you believe the 3,000 souls were baptized by immersion the same day?

3. Have we added to God's word by using a blackboard?

4. What is 'the circumcision of Christ'?"

We shall deal with these questions according to the numbered order in which they are presented:

1. Joining the church is a term completely foreign to the terminology of the New Testament. When the gospel was preached in Jerusalem, as recorded in the second chapter of Acts, the inspired writer declared: "The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). Those to be saved are, of course, those who have obeyed the gospel and God knows who they are. Membership in the church is similar to membership in a human family. The church is God's "housebold"-His spiritual family (Eph. 2:19). Membership in a human family is the result of physical birth, but in God's spiritual family it is produced by a spiritual birth"of water and the spirit" (John 3:5). All will agree that it is unnecessary to join the family into which one has been born.

Paul expressed the evidence upon which we may know our relationship to God when he said: "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16). The Holy Spirit, through the word of God, instructs men in the facts to be believed, the commands to be obeyed, as well as the kind of life they are to live. When one knows the word of God, and also knows in his heart that he has accepted and complied with the obligations exacted, then he knows that he is a child of God, and therefore, a member of the church. Church membership has been offered men conditionally; when the conditions have been met, then one can rest assured upon the promises of God.

2. The statement of Acts 2:41 should be sufficient to answer this question. It reads: "They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls." Certainly the ones who were baptized were the ones who were "added unto them." The number was 3,000. And, the 3,000 were baptized and added "in that day." That they were immersed cannot be doubted when we understand that baptism as practiced in New Testament times was specifically and exclusively immersion. Paul declared it to be a burial and resurrection of the body (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). We wholly concur with this statement made by John Calvin: "It is evident that the term baptize means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive church" (Institutes, Vol. III. p. 344).

3. The use of a Blackboard does not in itself constitute an addition to the word of God anymore than would a printing press, magnetic tape or other mechanical device. The Blackboard merely brings into play the eye as well as the ear in presenting a lesson. To add to the word of God is to add to the sum total of its teaching. Obviously, this may be done with or without a blackboard.

4. 1 take it that this question is based upon Colossians 2:11, where Paul wrote: "In whom ye were, also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ." Circumcision, which involved a cutting of the flesh, was ordained of God and given to the Patriarchs and Israelites as a fleshly mark indicating their separation from the world and their consecration unto Jehovab. All that was designed for them through this rite is now accomplished in men through the gospel of Christ. The "circumcision of Christ is not fleshly but spiritual, not "outward in the flesh," but is "that of the heart," (Rom. 2:28, 29) and thus, "not made with hands." It is the means by which men are liberated from "the body of the sins of the flesh" (KJV). Verse 12 of Colossians,2nd chapter, is an explanation of verse 11. It reads: "Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead." In other words, "the circumcision of Christ," is effected in men by the ordinance of baptism. It is at this point that the alien sinner is washed from his sins (Acts 22:16), and enters into "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).

Truth Magazine I:10, pp. 3, 13
July 1957