By Dick Blackford
There must be a bunch of fellows who are preaching baptism and the church but are not preaching Christ. I would like to know who they are. I will accept a collect call from anyone who will tell me who did it and when and where it was done.
“Preach Christ, not baptism or the church” is the cry and feeling of those who are self-designated as “change agents” in the church, and their sympathizers. This comes from those who don’t want the church or gospel preachers to be militant and have grown soft and apologetic for the truth. It sounds noble”Preach The Man, Not The Plan.” How does any man who claims to be a preacher of the gospel go about preaching baptism or the church without preaching Christ?
“Preach Christ, Not Baptism”
Notice the implication. If you preach baptism you are not preaching Christ; If you preach Christ you do not preach baptism. It is “either/ or.” Is someone’s slip showing? To preach Christ is not merely to stand before an audience and shout the name of Christ. It is to preach what he did and said. The only place we can learn that is from the New Testament which is the sum total of God’s revelation of what Jesus did and said.
To preach Christ without preaching baptism is to leave off both ends of the story. Any man who preaches Christ will have baptism at both the beginning and end of his sermon. Beginning with Christ’s ministry the first public act he did was to be baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt.3:15-17). I could not even be-gin to preach Christ without talking about baptism. The last words re-corded from the lips of Jesus were in the Great Commission. In it he said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” and, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Mk.16:16; Matt.28:19). I could not introduce my subject or end my sermon. If I am going to preach Christ I will have baptism at both the beginning and the end!
Preaching Christ would involve telling of some incidents that occurred in his life. One of the most significant ones was when he was approached by a ruler of the Jews. He told Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (Jn.3:3-5). Scholars from varied denominational backgrounds have agreed that Jesus had reference to baptism. So, once begun, I would not be able to continue my sermon for long without talking about baptism.
Since baptism is an act of obedience that comes as a result of loving Christ (Jn.14:15; 15:14; 1 Jn.5:3), isn’t it important to preach what it means to love Christ? Demanding that we “preach Christ, not baptism” would be similar to saying “preach Christ, not obedience.” However, Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him” (Heb.5:9). Imagine not preaching that! Further, Christ is going to “render vengeance on those who obey not the gospel” (2 Thess. 1 :7-9). What will happen to the man whose preacher would not preach this message? And what will happen to the preacher? “Both (the leader and the follower) shall fall into the ditch” (Matt.15:14).
There is something about the gospel that requires obedience to keep from going to hell. To preach Christ without telling what he did and said about man’s salvation is to take the power out of the gospel (Rom.1:16). To preach Christ without preaching his plan of salvation is to refuse to tell a lost soul the very thing that will determine his eternal destiny. Why would anyone want to do that?
Do not misunderstand. Preaching Christ is not merely preaching on one thing he did or said. It involves preaching his love, grace, sacrificial death, resurrection, and ascension. It is preaching on heaven and hell. It includes teaching what he and his apostles taught about how to live. It means to proclaim the whole counsel of God. We should not be telling anyone not to preach anything taught by Christ and the apostles. Whenever we are preaching to lost people why should we not also preach baptism? It doesn’t make sense to tell people to “accept Christ,” but then not tell them what is involved in doing that.
Preach Christ, Not The Church
Some belittle the church by saying such things as, “the church doesn’t save you”; “you can be just as good a Christian out of the church as you can in it”; “you don’t have to go to church,” etc. Christ loved the church enough to die for her!! Be careful that you don’t insult him by what you say about his bride, the church!
Some are saying, “Tell us about the blood he shed but don’t tell us what he purchased with it” the church (Acts 20:28).
They are saying, “Preach Christ as Savior but don’t tell us what he is going to save” the church (Eph.1:22,23; 5:23).
They are saying, “Tell us about the bridegroom, but don’t tell us about his bride” the church (Eph.5:22-33).
They are saying, “Tell us about the king but don’t tell us about his kingdom over which he reigns” the church (Matt.16:18,19; Con :13; Mk.9:1). How does one do this?
They are saying, “Tell us about the Captain of our salvation” (Heb.2: 10) but don’t tell us about his army the church.
They are saying, “Tell us about his being the Head, never mind what he is Head of “ the church (Eph.1:22,23).
They are saying, “Tell us about his Father, but we don’t want to hear about his family” the church (Eph.3:15; 1 Tim.3: 15).
A Necessary Inference
When Philip “preached Jesus” to the eunuch, he asked to be baptized (Acts 8:35,36). What is there about “preaching Jesus” that would make him want to be baptized? He had been to Jerusalem to worship, but there was nothing in Judaism that would cause him to ask this question. He was reading from Isaiah 53, but there is nothing there about baptism. Are we to believe he randomly picked a question out of the air that had nothing to do with what Philip was preaching? Could it involve preaching what Jesus did and said about baptism? This is nothing short of a necessary implication in the Scriptures.
In the Philippian jailer’s case Paul “spake the word of the Lord unto him” (Acts 16:32). In the next verse he was baptized. Was there anything in his pagan background that would motivate him to do such a thing in the middle of the night or at all? No. We have to make another necessary inference. When we use the word “necessary” that means it could not have been any other way. Do you see why some who advocate “preach Jesus, not baptism or the church” also object to necessary inference as a means of ascertaining the meaning of Scripture?! They don’t like what it proves. Again, their slip is showing. It is hard not to say they have a motive. In fact, I am going to say it. These men have admitted they are “change agents” out to change the church. To preach Christ without preaching baptism or the church is to preach “another gospel” (Gal :6-9).
The reason we necessarily infer is because the Scriptures necessarily imply.
What would be the point and purpose of preaching Christ but omitting what Christ and the apostles taught about baptism and the church? Could the devil be any happier with such a message? It sounds like a sinister plot to overthrow the salvation of men (2 Tim.2:17,18). My friend, if you are one who has advocated this, or are practicing this, or has felt this is what we should do, then please, quickly, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray the Lord, if perhaps the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee” (Act 8:22).
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 21, p. 1
November 3, 1994