By Weldon E. Warnock
The apostle Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Terence McLean, preacher of Grace Bible Church, and proprietor of two religious bookstores in the Dayton area, wrote a tract, entitled “Acts 2:38,” repudiating what Peter said in the verse. Interestingly, McLean never tells us what Acts 2:38 teaches, but he arrays other Scriptures against the verse with all craftiness and subtlety. Let us notice the following perversions in the tract wherein he endeavors to evade the force and simplicity of what Peter commanded those to do on Pentecost.
McLean wrote: Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation because: “Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 1:17). And so the gospel which saves and water baptism are two different things.
Answer: Paul did not say that Christ sent me not to preach baptism, or that baptism is non-essential, but Christ sent me not to do the baptizing. Read the context. Why were the Corinthians baptized (Acts 18:8) if baptism has no place in the gospel? Did Paul disobey Jesus when he baptized some of those at Corinth (1 Cor. 1:14-16)? Was Paul under the Great Commission which includes baptism (Matt. 28:19; Mk. 16:16)?
McLean, do you baptize? If you do, why do you do it since “Christ sent you not to baptize”? Do you also throw out repentance with water baptism in Acts 2:38? If Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation, then repentance is not in the plan.
McLean wrote: Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation because: Salvation is to “him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly; his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). So your work of baptism does not justify.
Answer: On the back of his tract Mr. McLean teaches an alien sinner is to pray for salvation. He says, “Get the matter right with the Lord now! Tell him in prayer: ‘Dear God, I am sorry that I was not trusting only in the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and that I thought I had to be baptized to be saved from sin. Please forgive me and save me now.” Then McLean says, following his formulated prayer and self-devised plan of salvation, “If you prayed that prayer and meant it: you are saved.”
Obviously, prayer is a work, but the way McLean construes Romans 4:5, prayer could not be a condition of salvation because “faith is counted for righteousness.” If “faith” excludes baptism, then “faith” also excludes prayer. So, “your work of prayer does not justify.”
Certainly, no one is saved by meritorious works, that is, works of perfect law keeping. Man violates the law and becomes a sinner (Rom. 3:23). Hence, we must look to Jesus and his blood for forgiveness, but forgiveness is conditional. Baptism is one of those conditions (Acts 2:38).
McLean has strange reasoning. He teaches that if an alien sinner does what God says to do (be baptized), he is saved by meritorious works, but if an alien sinner does what God has not said to do (pray), he is saved by grace. You figure that one out!
McLean wrote: Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation because: Salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). And so the washing you need is by the Spirit not by water.
Answer: McLean even quotes the Scripture to suit his own purpose. He did not quote Titus 3:5 correctly. It says “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” The passage does not say we are washed by the Holy Ghost, but rather “renewed” by the Holy Ghost. Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, on “washing of regeneration,” states that it “distinctly refers to baptism.” So, McLean is wrong again. For some reason McLean is anti-water. He is against water. If he had been back there in the shoes of Elisha, he would have told Naaman to go wallow in the sand at Beersheba; just stay out of the water of Jordan. He would have called Elisha, “Watered-down Elisha,” as he did me, and would have said, “There is power, power, power in the tub. Blub, Blub,” as he said to me.
McLean wrote: Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation because: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8) and “grace” is not water baptism. “Not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:9) and baptism is a work you do, not God.
Answer: McLean says that “grace is not water baptism. ” Well, is it prayer? He also says, “Baptism is a work you do, not God.” I ask: Is prayer a work you do, and not God? If a man can pray to be saved (as McLean says), and not earn it, he can be baptized and not earn it. McLean would have us to believe that a humble, sincere soul who obeys the Lord in baptism is working to earn his salvation. Did Naaman earn his cure of leprosy when he dipped seven times in the Jordan River? Salvation is by grace, but we must accept it by obedience (Rom. 6:17-18; 2 Thess. 1:7-9; 1 Pet. 1:22). To cure our spiritual leprosy (sin) we have to get into the water (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
McLean wrote: Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation because: “For by one Spirit (not Pastor; Elder, Deacon, Bishop) are we all baptized (which means immersed or buried) into one body (1 Cor. 12:13) and that’s not a body of water but the body of the Lord Jesus Christ and his body of believers.”
Answer: Who said that a preacher, elder or deacon ever put anybody into the body of Christ? McLean wrote a prayer on the back of his tract for an allen sinner to pray in order to be saved. You suppose McLean could be guilty of trying to put somebody into the body, himself?
E.Y. Mullins, a Baptist scholar, wrote in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 1, p. 401) in reference to 1 Corinthians 12:13: “But here the reference is not to baptism of the Spirit, but rather to ism into the church which is the body of Christ.” “By one Spirit (agency) are we all baptized” (water baptism, the act that puts us into the one body).
If 1 Corinthians 12:13 is Holy Ghost baptism, then only alien sinners receive it because it is what puts one into the body. However, the disciples at Samaria obeyed the gospel, were saved, and did not receive the Holy Ghost until sometime later when the apostles came among them (Acts 8:14-17). They were baptized in water, like the Eunuch (Acts 8:12,13,38). 1 Corinthians 12:13 is water baptism.
McLean wrote: Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation because: “For as many of you as have been baptized (immersed by the Spirit) into Christ (not water) have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27) not self-righteous works. “There is neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28) but there is in your baptistry.
Answer: McLean makes Galatians 3:27 Holy Ghost baptism. Hence, an alien sinner, a child of the devil, must be baptized by the Holy Spirit to get into Christ. But the Samaritans were in Christ before they received the Holy Ghost (Acts 8:17), therefore the baptism of Galatians 3:27 could not be Holy Ghost baptism. McLean cannot afford to admit the baptism in Galatians 3:27 is water baptism, because he would have to begin teaching the truth on the matter as the verse teaches we are baptized into Christ.
His cohort, Cornell Howard, in a debate in February 1989, made the baptism of Galatians 3:27, “baptism of suffering.” McLean was there on the second row, backing Howard all the way. Now, boys, which is it: baptism of the Holy Ghost or baptism of suffering? Perhaps Howard and McLean need to debate.
McLean says there is “male and female in the baptistry, ” but on the back of his tract, he has a place for the name and address of one who has prayed for salvation, and he asks, “If you prayed that prayer and meant it: you are saved! Write me and let me know so that I may rejoice with you.” If one who writes you McLean is Nancy and another one is William, don’t you have male and female in your “Sinner’s prayer”?
McLean wrote: Acts 2:38 is not the plan of salvation because: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell when it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8), but in your baptistry you can tell who is there. The baptism you need is not water but the baptism of the Holy Spirit – into the Lord Jesus Christ!
Answer: Yes, we can see the human body in the baptistry, but we cannot see the soul. My Bible speaks of the conversion of the soul – not the body. I didn’t know John 3:8 was referring to the Spirit working on the fleshly body. McLean has given us a new revelation!
Wonder if we can see who is in McLean’s prayer fine or at his mourner’s bench, seeking and pleading, yea, working for salvation?
John 3:5-8 says nothing about Holy Ghost baptism. Every time McLean sees “Spirit,” or “Holy Ghost” in the Bible, he jumps to conclusions (in all directions) and hollers, “Holy Ghost baptism.” Read Acts 2 and observe how those on Pentecost were born of water and of the Spirit. It is quite different to McLean’s gospel.
We have thoroughly and completely answered McLean’s little tract on Acts 2:38. 1 believe it would be profitable if Mr. McLean would publicly debate his position on water baptism and what an alien sinner must do in order to be saved.
Several months ago he signed propositions to debate water baptism, but then went back on his word and “chickened” out for some reason or other. McLean likes to berate, belittle, misrepresent and malign the church of Christ from a distance, like behind a microphone at a radio station or from his pulpit, or from the printing press. But face to face, “No, no, never, not me, no way.”
Below is the first proposition which Terence McLean’s signed, a signature he did not honor. I am ready to discuss the Scriptures whenever he is.
“Resolved, the Scriptures teach that alien sinners are saved at the point of faith and without water baptism.”
Affirm: Terence McLean
Deny: Weldon Warnock
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 9, pp. 276-277
May 4, 1989