Baptism and Salvation, Again

By Connie W. Adams        

R.L Kilpatrick, the editor of Ensign responded in his July 1999 issue to my article in Truth Magazine of May 20, 1999 in which I reviewed his editorial from the March issue of Ensign on “Baptism For the Remission of Sins.” He thinks I missed the point of his article.

On the contrary, I understand very well where brother Kilpatrick is coming from. He holds the same view regarding salvation that many denominational people have held for many years. It is his conviction that salvation by grace through faith means that baptism is not essential for the sinner to become a child of God. As I pointed out in my first article, I am fully aware that salvation is by the grace of God and that it is predicated on faith. I raised the question “What kind of faith saves? Is it inactive or active? Is it obedient or disobedient?” He did not favor us with an answer.

He explained to us that what Peter “meant” in Acts 2:38 is “Repent and submit to the ordinance of baptism in view of the forgiveness of your sins, and when you repent you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Then he said, “Baptism is the attestation that repentance has taken place in the heart of the sinner and he is now inducted into the Lord’s army of saved people.” What have we here?

The word “for” (eis) has been variously translated “for,” “unto,” “in order to.” Eis looks forward to an objective (remission of sins) not backward to an accomplishment (remission already achieved). The only authority he cited for his conclusion on Acts 2:38 is the fact that he said it. The standard translations give him no aid. “In view” of the forgiveness of sins suggests that the sins are already forgiven and that baptism becomes “the attestation” that one has been forgiven and is now inducted into the Lord’s army of saved people. In other words, we do not baptize a sinner but a person already saved and in the Lord’s army of saved people. This is the old argument that baptism is an outward sign (attestation) of an inward grace (saved already). The Bible teaches nothing of the kind.

Editor Kilpatrick complains that I make the sinner’s salvation depend on another human being since he cannot baptize himself. No, I do not believe that the administrator of baptism can save anyone. Only God can forgive sin. Forgiveness takes place in the mind of God. But that raises a question. Since our friend believes that salvation is by grace through faith, just who is it that must have the faith, and by what means does he become aware of the grace of God extended toward him? Is it not the sinner who must develop faith? But how does he come to the point of faith? Paul said, “So then, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom.

10:14). Is faith miraculously bestowed or does it follow the process of teaching, learning, and accepting? If God uses other people in this process, then would our friend agree that the sinner’s salvation is dependent on another human being to teach so he can hear and learn? Would the presence of a teacher of the word deprive God of his divine right to save? Or would that be a part of his plan to do it?

The editor objects to saying that one is not scripturally baptized unless he understands the purpose for his action. But apply that to faith. Is faith in Christ misdirected if one professes to believe in him but is actually under the impression that Jesus was a good man and noble teacher but does not understand that he is the Christ, the Son of God? Jesus said, “Except you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Does correct understanding matter about faith? The Bible teaches the purpose of baptism. It is “for,” “in order to,” “unto” the remission of sins.

Then our friend charges that “our minds do not dictate the terms of forgiveness. This is God’s domain.” It certainly is! He says further, “Brethren it is time to stop dictating to God.” Amen, and amen! The question is how does finite man come to know the mind of God? Is it not by divine revelation? Paul wrote, “Which things we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, combining spiritual things with spiritual words.” Then “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:13, 16). The Holy Spirit guided these men into all truth. And the Spirit directed the words of Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27 and 1 Peter 3:21. Neither R.L. Kilpatrick nor Connie W. Adams had anything to do with writing those words. They came from the mind of God. Neither of us can set them aside, nor anything else the Lord inspired them to write. When my friend says “God will save him anyway” when he has not done what the mind of God revealed in his word, then who is it that is guilty of dictating to God?

The truth of the matter is that R.L. Kilpatrick believes that a sinner is saved before and without water baptism. He occupies the same ground in this that denominational preachers have long held and have debated numerous times with gospel preachers. The word of God plainly teaches that God’s grace is offered to those who respond to it with an active, obedient faith which leads them to do what God commands of the sinner including submitting to the act of baptism in water for the remission of sins. Gospel preachers are as ready to affirm that in honorable controversy as they have ever been. At least this one is. Baptism has long been a bone of contention with denominationlists of every kind because it draws a line between those whose sins are forgiven and those whose sins are not. Indeed Jesus said to the apostles: “Whose sins you remit, they are remitted and whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). “You mean I am not a Christian unless I am baptized for the remission of sins?” Read the passages which address this subject and you will see the answer. Is that offensive to many? To be sure. Are there brethren who squirm and writhe over this offense? Absolutely! What shall be done to remove this stigma of what editor Kilpatrick calls “our exclusiveness”? Why, ridicule those who teach exactly what the word of God says. Call them “legalists.”Accuse them of dictating to God. Belittle them. Insinuate that if they had a suitable amount of learning and mental acuity they would understand. Charge them with denying the grace of God. That ought to do it! Charge them with just looking for something about which to disagree. Yes, that’s it!

Now when all the dust settles, Acts 2:38 still says, “Re- pent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” R.L. Kilpatrick said it is “not necessary for us to quote since the verse is stamped on our foreheads.” It would help to get it deeply stamped in the hearts of those whose teaching denies what the passage says. R.L. Kilpatrick, thou art the man.