By Mike Willis
Despite his vociferous cries against the evils of legalism, even Carl Ketcherside is legalistic. When Brother Ketcherside begins to tell what is required for sonship and, therefore for fellowship, he becomes very legalistic. Here is Brother Ketcherside’s position:
“In God’s plan there is only one fact which must be believed and one act which must be performed, to bring one into that glorious fellowship of the redeemed. The fact is that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and the Anointed One, and that act is immersion into the relationship expressed by the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mission Messenger, Vol. 34, No. 8, P. 115).
In this statement, Ketcherside becomes extremely legalistic—-even to the point of excluding every person who does not accept the fundamentalists’ concept of the deity of Jesus. Even among those who do accept the deity of Jesus, Ketcherside excluded from fellowship everyone who has not been immersed. Is he not in this appealing to a unity in doctrine instead of a unity in diversity?
Whether Brother Ketcherside is willing to admit it or not, he has become legalistic in his concept. Perhaps, he has even become too legalistic for F.L. Lemley, who writes occasionally for the Mission Messenger. Here are Lemley’s comments:
“Why make such an issue of being sure the subject knows that baptism is for the remission of sins and being sure that every hand, foot and lock of hair is immersed? … Do the commands involved in conversion fall within the sphere of God’s grace or must one make a grade of 100 percent on all of them in order to reach the sphere of grace?” (“Heart Circumcision,” Mission Messenger. Vol. 34, No. 5, p. 73).
“A legalistic view of baptism has led to an exclusive position that only those immersed with the knowledge of its being ‘for the remission of sins’ are Christians (“Fact or Fiction,” Mission Messenger. Vol. 34, No. 10, p. 150).
Brother Lemley has backed off the “legalistic” position regarding the purpose of baptism. Now, Brother Lemley is only 2/3 legalistic with regard to baptism. He now legalistically believes that a person must be immersed -have the right action- and that the person must be the proper candidate for baptism-a penitent believer. Now Brother Lemley, you should not legalistically exclude a penitent believer just because he was sprinkled instead of immersed in water. Must a person make 100 percent on the subject of the action of baptism before he receives the blessings of God’s grace?
One of Brother Ketcherside’s favorite expressions is “All truths are equally true but all truths are not equally important.” Now, we are told that the knowledge of the purpose of baptism is one of those truths, which is not really that important. Why? Because Brother Lemley said so. And surely, Brother Lemley could not be wrong! Brother Lemley, why be legalistic in saying that a man must believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Why be legalistic in saying that a man must repent? Why be legalistic in saying that a man must be immersed?
Yes, the writers of Mission Messenger are as “legalistic” as I am, but they have just chosen to draw the line in a different place. I am not quite sure they even know where they draw the line, but that they draw lines is obvious. “You therefore who teach another, do you not teach yourself?” You who preach that one should not be legalistic, are you legalistic?
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 19, p. 9
March 15, 1973