By Irvin Himmel
Baptism is a command of the gospel. Jesus said to the apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:15, 16).
On Pentecost, the hearers of the gospel asked Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37, 38).
Paul preached the gospel at Corinth. Later he wrote, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel. .” (1 Cor. 1:17). It is useless to baptize people unless they understand the gospel and the meaning of baptism. Paul’s preaching at Corinth resulted in many of the Corinthians hearing, believing, and being baptized (Acts 18:8).
After mentioning that in Noah’s time eight souls were saved by water, Peter wrote, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21). The New American Standard Bible translates this verse: “And corresponding to that, baptism now saves you-not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Today, when I preach that baptism saves through the resurrection of Jesus, therefore one must be baptized “for the remission of sins,” a somewhat common reaction is, “I cannot accept what you teach about baptism, because that would condemn my mother and father.” Perhaps the individual’s parents are deceased and he knows that they never were baptized in order to have forgiveness of sins. He is unwilling to obey the Lord in baptism because he feels that his obedience would be a testimony against his own mother and father.
Let us change the situation a little and apply the- same line of reasoning. I preach to a Jew that he must believe in Jesus as the Christ in order to be saved. Jesus said, “For if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). I point out, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). My Jewish hearer responds, “But I cannot accept what you preach about believing in Jesus, for it would condemn my mother and father who did not believe.”
Suppose I preach to a man from a backward African or Asian country that one must believe in God. After all, the Bible says, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). This man replies, “I cannot accept what you preach about believing in God, for my doing so would condemn my parents who knew nothing of the God you preach.”
In each of these three parallel cases, the rejection of Bible truth is on the same ground: Condemnation of one’s parents. If the rejection in the first case has any validity, so do the other two.
An examination of this line of reasoning for not doing right, whether in relation to baptism, belief in Jesus, or belief in. God, prompts the following observations:
1. Our actions will not change the destiny of deceased parents. If our departed parents are rejected in the day of judgment, it will be their fault. When death overtakes anyone he has either prepared, or failed to prepare, for judgment and eternity. No one’s acceptance of the truth will alter the destiny of anybody whose life on this earth is already completed.
2. Our actions may help to save living parents. If our mother and father are still living and have not obeyed the gospel, we may be able to help them by our own example. We should think in terms of saving them rather than condemning them.
3. Each one must give account for his own life. Whether one’s mother and father are saved or condemned, or possibly one is saved and the other is condemned, every person is individually responsible before God. It is absolutely foolish to refuse to believe in God, or refuse to believe in Jesus who is the Son of God, or refuse to be baptized .into Christ,. on the ground that one’s parents did not do it. “So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).
4. Refusal to believe and obey the truth will condemn one’s own soul. Instead of saying, “I cannot accept what you preach, because it would condemn my mother and father,” one should realize that if the truth is being preached, the reaction should be, “If I do not accept this, I will condemn myself.”
5. God must come before our parents. Jesus said, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. . .” (Matt. 10:37). Some by their attitudes show more reverence for their parents than they show for God. The thoughts of the earthly father carry more weight with them than the thoughts of the heavenly Father. To please the Lord, we must to love Him more than we love father. and mother or brother and sister. This is the root of the problem in the hearts of some who do not obey God.
Truth Magazine XIX: 45, pp. 715-716
September 25, 1975