By Roland Worth, Jr.
When people finally realize that baptism is essential to salvation, they often react with excuses to avoid acting on their new knowledge. The excuses are invalid but it is always useful to consider in detail what is wrong with them.
1. “If I accept that, then my parents went to hell when they died.” First of all, if they are dead nothing can be changed- for them-for either better or worse. There is no Purgatory. Their eternal fate is sealed. Secondly, if the fate of our parents were the deciding factor in everything religious, how could there ever be a change for the better? The Jews, in their idolatry, could have pleaded, “If we tear down our idols, that means God has condemned our parents!” Would we have left our idols intact if such an objection had been raised? Then consider the children of those Jews who-killed Christ. (Surely some were converted as the years went by.) Did not they feel upset about the fate of their parents? And we all know the fate of murderers! Should the children have sacrificed their own salvation because of the foolishness of their parents?
Thirdly, rejection of something that is true does not change the truthfulness of what is rejected. The earth is round no matter how much the Flat Earth Society of Britain insists otherwise. The earth revolves around the sun no matter how many Medieval theologians branded it heresy. Works that are commanded by God are still essential no matter how much radio ministers rant and rave against them (cf. James 2).
Fourthly, those who argue from the non-belief of their parents are horribly inconsistent. Do we wear the same type of clothes as our parents? Do we insist on the same means of transportation enjoyed by our parents and our parents’ parents? Do we ride horses (or walk) and reject the modern conveniences (cars, trains, planes)? Logically those who argue non-obedience from the inaction of their parents should be flocking to Pennsylvania to join the Amish, since that sect is about the only one left that consistently tries to implement this type of thinking in all its consequences!
We could mention yet other areas where we do not imitate our parents-indeed, would often vehemently react against them. May we suggest politics? May we suggest contemporary music? Is there a family left in our nation that has not been divided one generation against the other over one or both of these matters? Yet you have the gall to say that in regard to the one area of life that will decide your eternal destiny-your religion-that you will imitate your parents? Come on now, just who do you think you are kidding?
Fifthly, the scriptures teach that we stand before God independent of our parents. Every person who dies faces the judgment of God (Heb. 9:27). Our parents cannot take our place nor we theirs. We escape the Divine judgment that may be on our parents only if we ourselves do what is right in the sight of God (Ezek. 18:14-18).
Sixthly, if your parents went to punishment at their death-as you fear-the greatest hope they have for you at this very moment is that you do not make the fatal mistake they did. We read of a similar case in chapter 16 of Luke. A rich man died and went to punishment that could not be escaped (v. 26). He begged, “Send him (the dead Lazarus) to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place” (vs. 27-28). This plea was rejected, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (v. 29). The rich man repeated his plea and it was again rejected, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead” (v. 31). Yes, those in Punishment wish you would listen to the warnings you hear lest you join them. The voices from Hades cry out for you not to join them.
If your parents are there — and we sincerely hope they are not — then their voices join those of the anonymous rich man of old, begging you to heed the warnings, found in scripture, of Moses and the prophets. They loved you while in this life and their love for you in death warns you away from their destiny. Will you not listen to their cries?
2. “I don’t want to believe that.” Look at Peter. Peter did not want to believe that Jesus would die and he was confident that if He did he would be His companion to the bitter end (Matt. 26:30-35). His refusal to believe in his own human weakness resulted in disgrace when he denied his Master three times.
Look also at Pharaoh. He did not want to believe that Moses was a genuine spokesman for God. As a result, he lost the firstborn sons of all his citizens. What a price for refusing to believe the word of God!
Look at Jesus’ enemies. They did not want to believe that He was a King and they mocked Him for making the claim (Matt. 27:35-44). Because His claims were legitimate and were vindicated by the resurrection, they stood condemned as murderers and the apostles bluntly reminded them of that fact (Acts 2:29-36). What was the solution for their evil? They were told it was repentance and baptism (Acts 2:37-38). If baptism will save the souls of murderers, how much more will it save us, who are guilty of so much less! Baptism is like an open door leading to redemption and peace with God. If we will not walk through it the blame belongs on our shoulders, not on God’s. He has given the opportunity to be saved, but we have rejected it.
3. “What difference does it make if the scriptures teach it?” First, notice the apostles. They spoke by inspiration (John 16:12-15) and they taught that baptism was essential and will save us just as much as water saved Noah while at the same time condemning to death the rest of the world (1 Pet. 3:20-21). Dare we reject the testimony of inspiration? Dare we give our personal prejudices a higher value than the revelation of the Divine Oracles?
Secondly, notice the words of Jesus. Those words will judge us if we reject them (John 12:47-49). Jesus clearly taught the necessity of baptism (Mark 16:16). Hence, if we refuse baptism then Christ’s Words will stand in judgment on our eternal fate.
True love of Jesus means obedience (John 14:23). Men loudly cry, “I love Jesus” and then they have the audacity to look at His words in Mark 16:16 and insist, “baptism doesn’t matter!” Baptism is a test of true love. Baptism for the purpose Jesus set (forgiveness) is a test of true love. Obviously, most people do not have such a true love dwelling in their hearts though they loudly proclaim it with their lips!
4. “I’m a good moral person.”So was the apostle Paul. He was raised in the strict morality and restrictions of the Pharisees (Acts 26:4-5). What he did, he did sincerely, out of conviction (v. 9) and what he did was to persecute the church (vs. 10-11). In all of this evil he was acting out of a good conscience (Acts 23:1). A good conscience only proves how you feel not how you should feel!
Also a good moral man was the young person who wanted to become a disciple of Jesus. From his youth he had been extremely moral but his unwillingness to obey Jesus in other matters resulted in him deciding not to become a disciple (Mark 10:17-22). He would not give up his money; today good moral men will not give up their pride. Have times really improved? Morals are important and vital once a person is saved, but a person can be redeemed regardless of his past character. Titus 3:5 makes plain that even a person who performs “works of righteousness” cannot be saved unless he is baptized. Alone, good morals are insufficient.
5. “But I believe!” So do the devils (James 2:19)! So do most people-way over 90% of all Americans. When you merely believe in God what have you done more than others? Are all Americans going to heaven? (God forbid! How perverse a place they would make it!) God wants men to go beyond belief, to prove their faith by their conduct. As James writes of himself, “I by my works will show you my faith” (James 2:18b). When we have accepted baptism for the purpose prescribed by scripture we can begin to say the same.
Truth Magazine XXII: 15, pp. 251-252
April 13, 1978