Reviewing a Baptist Tract

Cecil Willis
Akron, Ohio

A brother in Georgia recently sent me a Baptist tract entitled "Campbellism and the Church of Christ" written by E. C. Routh and published by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The brother asked that I write a brief review of this tract.

The Church and Alexander Campbell

The first three pages of the tract are devoted to trying to prove that Alexander Campbell founded the Church of Christ. Routh, however, apparently knows better than to state this as a fact for fear that his proof would be demanded. He, therefore, writes so as to leave the insinuation that Campbell started the church, which insinuation absolutely is false.

Alexander Campbell was an outstanding gospel preacher of the 19th century, but he was nothing more than this. Campbell is no authority in religion (1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 4:11), nor is he held to be authoritative by members of the church. Fruitful efforts had been made in several parts of this country to plant New Testament churches before Alexander Campbell even began his effort. The works of restoration by Elias Smith and Abner Jones in New England, by James O'Kelly in North Carolina, and by Barton W. Stone in Kentucky all ante-date that of Campbell. Hence, even if one sought to name the earliest reformer in this country as the founder of the Church of Christ, it would be historically inaccurate to attribute this work to Alexander Campbell.

However, these reformers, including Campbell, sought to build no new church. They intended to restore the church about which one reads in the Bible. This we believe we can show has been done. We therefore, urge Mr. Routh or any other Baptist preacher to name one thing either taught or practiced by faithful Churches of Christ that originated with Alexander Campbell, or that was not taught and practiced in the New Testament days. When the gospel of the first century was preached in the 19th century, that gospel made nothing then that the same gospel did not make in the first century. By preaching only the gospel, one can make only New Testament Christians.

The Doctrine of Apostasy

Mr. Routh criticized us for teaching "that a saved person could be lost if he did not endure to the end." However, if we taught differently, we would have to deny the Bible in order to do so. Paul declared "'f so be that ye continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Col. 1:23), the promised blessings shall be ours. (See also Heb. 3:12; Gal. 5:4; 1 Cor. 9:27.) We teach, because the Bible teaches, that a Christian must be faithful till death to receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:10).

Baptists teach that one' once saved, can live like the Devil and still go to heaven. This is a strong charge, but the proof of this charge is in the following statement from a Baptist preacher, Sam Morris, then Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Stamford, Texas. The statement has been endorsed by Dr. Albert Garner, President of the Baptist Seminary at Henderson, Texas, and by other Baptist preachers. Logic forces every Baptist preacher to endorse Morris' statement. Now notice carefully what he said:

"We take the position that a Christian's sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what be says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul

"All the prayers a man may pray, all the Bible he may read, all the churches he may belong to, all the services he may attend, all the sermons he may practice, all the debts he may pay, all the ordinances he may observe, all the laws he may keep, all the benevolent acts he may perform will not make his soul one whit safer; and all the sins he may commit, from idolatry to murder, will not make his soul in any more danger.

"The way a man lives has nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul."Now this is Baptist doctrine as stated by a Baptist preacher! It is no wonder that few Baptist people will admit to believing it, though it is the official doctrine of the Baptist Church. Such demoralizing doctrine is not only contrary to scripture, but it also is repugnant to all morally upright people.


Mr. Routh strongly objects to the fact that we teach baptism is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). He tries to make a big point out of the fact that the "for" in Acts 2:38 (King James Version) is translated "unto" in the American Standard Version. But this fact does not help him any. Both are good translations, and if anything, the American Standard rendering is a little better. "Unto" means "in the direction of." One repents and is baptized "in the direction of," or "in order to" the remission of sins. "Unto" never points backward to some blessing already received.

Baptists teach that salvation precedes baptism. Therefore it bothers them no little for Peter to state that repentance and baptism are "for the remission of sins." If salvation precedes baptism, then salvation precedes repentance, according to this passage. The same expression in the Greek and in the English ("for the remission of sins") occurs in Matt. 26:28 where Jesus declares why his blood was shed. Remission of sins did not precede the shedding of his blood, just as remission of sins does not precede repentance and baptism.

Baptists would like to know just what to do with Acts 2.38. They make first one twist on the passage and then another. But until now they will neither teach the truth of Acts 2:38 nor believe it. If a Baptist preacher were to tell a sinner to "repent and be baptized... for the remission of sins," he would be expelled from the denomination.

In a further effort to avert the plain teaching of scripture, Mr. Routh asserts that the "water" of John 3:5 is figurative. Any verse not compatible with Baptist doctrine has to be "explained away." Jesus said "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." If he did not mean "water" when he said "water", I wonder what would he have said if he had meant water. His disciples understood what he said and knew that he meant what he said, for they baptized in "water"--literal water too! (Acts 8:36-38; Acts 10:47,48). Furthermore, figurative language means something. If "water" does not mean water, then let Mr. Routh tell us what "water" does mean. Whatever it means, it is necessary to salvation and to entrance into the kingdom.

Mr. Routh asserts that there are scriptural references in which baptism is not mentioned. This is true, but there also are scriptures relative to salvation in which faith and repentance are not mentioned (Lk. 24:46,47; Mk. 16:16; Acts 16:31; Acts 2:38--All of these omit either repentance or faith). The fact that not every condition is mentioned in every passage dealing with salvation does not prove that some conditions are unnecessary. One must study and accept all the passages to know the whole counsel of God. And several passages declare the essentiality of scriptural baptism (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).

But in his next assertion, Mr. Routh asserts too much. He says there are several passages in which baptism is subsequent to salvation. I would be glad to have Mr. Routh or any other Baptist preacher call any one of these alleged passages to my attention. It is significant that while Mr. Routh cited passages to substantiate his preceding assertion, he gave none to buttress this one. He gave none because he had none!

As if it were not bad enough to make an assertion without scriptural proof, Mr. Routh then proceeded to make an assertion in direct contradiction of scripture. He said " Baptism is a symbol of the burial and resurrection of our Lord, but baptism does not save." The apostle Peter, who likely knew a little more about what it takes to save than Mr. Routh, said: "baptism, cloth also now save us..." (1 Pet. 3:21). A more direct contradiction of scripture Mr. Routh could not have made.

Even if Mr. Routh were to prove that one can be saved without being baptized, which he cannot prove, he would only have proved that one could go to heaven without being a Baptist. One cannot get into the Baptist Church without being baptized. If Baptists practiced what Baptist preachers preach about the inessentiality of baptism the Baptist Church would die.

The Holy Spirit

The tract also objects to our position that the Holy Spirit operates through the Word. Peter said it was by his "mouth" that Gentiles believed (Acts 15: 7). Paul said faith comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17); Jesus said faith comes by the word of the apostles (Jno. 17:20, 21; 20:30, 31). The apostles taught that persons are begotten through the word (1 Cor. 4:15; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). Baptists believe that one is saved by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. But they belie their faith in their doctrine in that they publish tracts, send missionaries, conduct radio programs, "revivals", etc., for the purpose of converting people.

He objects to our claim that the sinner is active in his own salvation. But the Bible teaches us to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12), and to "save yourselves from this crooked generation" (Acts 2 :40). Man cannot save himself without the grace of God, but grace alone does not save. Man has to obey the will of God to be saved (Rom. 6:17; 1 Pet. 1:22). Hence, he is active in his own salvation. Even when one believes, he is performing a word of God (i.e., a work commanded by God -- Jno. 6: 29), which also shows that man has to be actively obedient to be saved.

The Nature of Faith

We are charged with believing that a mere "historical faith" will save. This is a misrepresentation, and Mr. Routh must have known it to be so. He just had criticized us for teaching that a man has to be "active" in his own salvation. An active faith is not a mere "historical faith." We believe that one is saved by faith when that faith leads him to obey all the commandments of God, one of which is the command to be baptized. Paul says that Christ is the author of salvation to all them that obey him (Heb. 5:9). Further, he declares that faith that works through love is necessary to salvation (Gal. 5:6). James teaches that one is saved by works, and not by faith only (Jas. 2:24). Abraham is depicted as an example of faith because he "obeyed" the commands of God without hesitation or question (Heb. 11:8). Baptists do not have this kind of faith because? Since they cannot see, from a human standpoint, what connection there is between immersion in water and remission of sins, they refuse to be immersed for the remission of their sins. If they had more faith, they unquestionably would obey the gospel. Theirs is not the kind of faith that will justify (Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:8-10; Gal. 5:6).

The Church and the Kingdom

Typical of premillennialists, Mr. Routh differentiates between the church and the kingdom. But Jesus uses these terms interchangeably (Matt. 16: 18, 19). Jesus states that the Lord's Supper will be observed in the kingdom (Mk. 14:25). Yet we learn that the Lord's Supper was observed in the church (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11). The words "church" and "kingdom" simply describe different aspects of the same spiritual body built by Christ and over which he rules.

The point which Mr. Routh seeks to establish by this circuitous and fallacious process is that the church was built before Pentecost. He would like to get the establishment of the church as near the time of John the "Baptist" as he can. You see, he struggles under the load of not being able to find the name of his church in the Bible, and thus somehow would like to hitch up with "the Baptist." But John was "the Baptist," not "a Baptist." Furthermore, John started no church, and was never even a member of Christ's church (Matt. 11: 11).

All the scriptures referring to the church before Pentecost point forward to its establishment (Matt. 6: 10; 16: 18; Mk. 1: 15; 9: 1; 15: 43; Acts 1: 6-8), and all the scriptures referring to the church after Pentecost point back to Pentecost as the time of its establishment (Acts 2:47; 5:11; 8:1; 11:15; 20:25; Col. 1:13, 18, 24). Even if Mr. Routh could prove a church was built before the resurrection of Christ, as he futilely attempts to prove, he would have a headless, remissionless and spiritless body, for Christ was made head of the body after his resurrection (Eph. 1: 19-23); remission was not available until his blood was shed (Heb. 9:22; Matt. 26:28); and his spirit was not bestowed until Pentecost (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:6-8; 2: 1-4).

Old and New Testaments?

Mr. Routh says: "Churches of Christ do not regard the Old and New Testament as of equally binding authority upon Christians." He is exactly right in this charge. The Old Testament declares that it was to be replaced (Jer. 31:31ff). The New Testament teaches that the old covenant was replaced by a new one (Heb. 8:7-13). Paul teaches that we are made "dead" to the law by the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4), and therefore are "discharged" from it (Rom. 7:6). This old law was abolished in Christ's flesh (Eph. 2:14-16) and was nailed to his cross (Col. 2:14-16. Two testaments (wills) cannot be binding at one time. Since the first covenant was not faultless (Heb. 8:7), it was superceded by a second, a perfect covenant (Gal. 3:19, 24, 25).

But neither do Baptists regard the Old and New Testaments as of "equally binding authority," If they did, they would worship on Saturday (the Sabbath of the old law), burn animal sacrifices, burn incense, recognize the Levitical and Aaronical priesthoods, tolerate polygamy, and dance in their worship, since all of these were a part of the Old Testament system. On all of these points they recognize a distinction between the old law and the new, but on other points they intermix the two laws. Paul teaches that one who intermixes the two laws has fallen from grace (Gal. 5:1-4).

The Law of Expediency

It is contended in this tract that the law of expediency authorizes organs in worship. Really, the Baptists, and others, intermix the old and new laws in an attempt to justify mechanical instrumental music in worship. Before a thing can be expedient, it must first be shown to be lawful (1 Cor. 6:12). A thing can be shown to be lawful only by presenting either general or specific authority for it. There certainly is no specific authority for an instrument in the New Testament. Sectarians, therefore, only can attempt to present general authority for the instrument, if any attempt to present authority at all is made. They think they have general authority for an instrument in the command to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). But playing on an instrument is not a way to "sing." Playing is an act in addition to singing, and thus is an act in religion done without scriptural authority. All acts done in worship are authorized either by human or divine authority. Until someone produces divine authority for instrumental music (and until now such authority has not been produced), we must conclude it exists only by human authority. All such presumptuousness in religion is sinful (1 Cor. 4:2; 2 John 9; Rev. 22: 18, 19).

Voting in Members

Baptists vote in their members. They attempt to use Acts 10:47 as a proof-text. Peter in Acts 10, 11, and 15 is showing that Jews have no right to attempt to prohibit Gentiles from entering the kingdom, since God had granted unto them repentance unto life. To attempt to hinder their entrance into the church would be to "withstand God" (Acts 11:17, 18). When anyone obeys the gospel, no other man has a right to pass judgment upon whether he shall or shall not be admitted to the church. This prerogative is the Lord's only. This lesson Peter is teaching the Jews. Isn't it strange how a Baptist preacher could learn 3ust the opposite from what Peter was teaching in these chapters?

In Acts 2:47, we are told that the Lord added to the church daily those that were being saved. He did not have to secure permission from any human beings as to whether he could add the saved or not. I wonder who voted in the Pentecostians, or who voted in the Eunuch (Acts 8). Voting in members is another imposition of man upon the divine arrangement of God.


Jesus said: "Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: They are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit" (Matt. 15:13, 14). The Baptist Church is one such religious plant which the heavenly Father planted not, and which is destined to be rooted up by him. Mr. Routh and every other Baptist had better get out of this humanly devised religious body destined to be uprooted, obey the gospel and be added by the Lord to his church while such opportunity is yet theirs.

Truth Magazine VII: 12, pp. 2-5
September 1963