By Larry Ray Hafley
From Indiana: “Must all who renounce errors of the Independent Christian Churches be re-baptized? Many of these congregations that I am familiar with do teach the credo on the gospel plan of salvation. Do you think to scriptural baptism depends upon the administrator?”
These two questions are related. If they are not brothers, they are first cousins. Sectarian, denominational concepts of the design of the gospel and the nature of the church serve only to confuse the issues raised by these queries. The essential point is scriptural_ baptism. What constitutes true obedience to the gospel?
Whenever one is obedient to the faith, he is added to the church (Acts 2:47). Or, to say the same thing in a different manner, whenever one is baptized scripturally, he is baptized into one body, the church of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13, 20; Col. 1:18). This divine relationship is the sphere of salvation, the realm and room of the redeemed (Eph. 2:11-22; 5:23). The way one is saved is the way one becomes a member of the body of Christ (Acts 2:38, -47; 18:8; 1 Cor. 12:13). To be baptized into one body is to be baptized into Christ (Cal. 3:26, 27; Col. 2:12; 1 Cor. 12:13; 6:11; Acts 2:38; 22:16). This is true because the church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:24). If a germ enters into me, he must come into my body. If one enters into Christ, he must come into His body, the church (Eph. 1:22, 23).
After obeying the gospel, one may be espoused to a religious society, like the Christian Church, which is unknown to the New Testament. However, this does not detract from the fact that that one did purify his soul in obeying the truth. A Christian Church preacher could reason with a Jew from Isaiah 53 as Philip did with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26ff.). He could show that Jesus is the Christ of Old Testament promise and prophecy. Ile could tell that Jew what Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). That Jew, if obedient, would be saved, added to the church, as the treasurer was in Acts 8. If he goes and joins a Christian Church in Ethiopia and begins to worship with mechanical instruments of music, does that “undo” his obedience? No, his errors in these areas do not nullify his obedience.
Each case must be viewed or judged on its own merits. “Christian Church baptism” is not the issue. It is no more valid than is “Church of Christ baptism.” The core of the controversy is baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38). Not every one who says he was “baptized for the remission of sins in the Christian Church” has been scripturally baptized. A true and. scriptural baptism can only be determined by the Scriptures.
The answer to the inquiry relative to the one who performs the baptism is inferred above. An atheist, a Baptist, a drunkard, a Catholic priest, or a Christian could immerse one. What would their spiritual status have to do with the scripturalness of the baptism? Nothing at all, but if it does, how can one be sure that the Christian who baptizes him is not secretly a hypocrite? Perhaps the one who baptizes me is a true Christian, so I relax in that comforting knowledge, but what about the one who baptized the one who baptized the one who is baptizing me? If the one who is baptizing me was not baptized by a “”proper” administrator, then his baptizing me is worthless. What about the one who baptized the one who baptized the one who is baptizing me … ? You see the absurdity of making baptism depend upon the administrator.
A parallel situation may be found in the preaching of the gospel. “Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife . . . (and some) proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives” (Phil. 1:15-17–NASB). The hypocrisy of the preachers did not adversely affect the fruit of the gospel. Paul rejoiced that Christ was being preached, “whether in pretense or in truth.” ‘The preacher is parallel to the administrator of baptism. “Those converted and baptized by the contentious, insincere proclaimers were just as saved as though Paul himself had done the preaching and baptizing. If not, why did Paul say, “I rejoice?”
Truth Magazine, XX:24, p. 2
June 10, 1976