Water Baptism: Idolatry?

By Ron Halbrook

On behalf of Christ, we must press the demands of the gospel in the hearts of lost sinners. He came to seek and to save the lost. “Without shedding of blood is no remission” of sins. When men are pricked in the heart by the story of God’s love, mercy, and grace, they will admit the sinfulness of their own deeds and gladly receive God’s gift of salvation from sin (Heb. 9:22; Eph. 2:1-9). On the first Pentecost after Christ arose, men “were pricked in their heart” by the gospel. Desiring remission of their sins in the blood of Christ, they cried out, “What shall we do?” They were told to “repent and be baptized,” even as Jesus had said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Acts 2:38; Mk. 16:16).

False teachers, while making great professions on “grace” and “faith,” are shutting up the kingdom of Christ to lost sinners. Sinners are being told that God justified “by faith only.” The Bible says God freely justified by faith on man’s part, but shows that faith justified only when it moves or acts to obey the gospel (Rom. 5:1; 6:4,17). “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas. 2:24). Salvation by grace through faith includes the necessity of water baptism. After Philip preached Jesus to the treasurer, “they went down both into the water . . . and, he baptized him” (Acts 8:26f). Paul told the jailer he would be saved if he would “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” so the man was saved by faith when he acted by faith “and was baptized” immediately (Acts 16:25ff).

Devotion to the man-made Protestant dogma of salvation by “faith only” led one Presbyterian preacher to charge, “to say water baptism is necessary to salvation is idolatry. ” If so, Jesus told His apostles to preach idolatry to the whole world (Jn. 3:5; Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:16). That makes Peter an idolater (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). Paul, too (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27). The Church of Christ preaches “the way which they call heresy” and idolatry, as Paul said (Acts 24:14). So, will some bold denominational preacher agree to stand before a large audience of “idolaters” and show us the truth of God from Scripture? We will affirm, “Water baptism is necessary to salvation,” and he can deny it. He can affirm, “To say water baptism is necessary to salvation is idolatry,” and we will deny it. Preachers in the major denominations of this city, county, and state do not have the courage or conviction to enter into a fair discussion of this subject before the public. What a disgrace!

The tactics of false teachers have not changed. The Pharisees and the Herodians differed among themselves but united to oppose what Christ taught (Matt. 22:15-16). The major denominations are divided over many matters such as sprinkling and church government, but they unite in opposing the doctrine of Christ on baptism. The truth puts false teachers to silence and they are not interested in debate (v. 46). Like Jesus, Paul engaged in public discussion of what he taught, but the idolaters of Acts 17 rejected debate and united in the loud repetition of their favorite manmade dogma: “Great is Diana! Great is Diana!” The divided tribes of denominationalism reject debate today and unite in the loud repetition of their favorite man-made dogma: “Faith only! Faith only! Baptism is not necessary!”

Let the reader decide. Who pleads for truth, for open study, and for public investigation? Is that the way of idolatry? Who uses the tactics of false teaching and idolatry by rejecting discussion and repeating traditional dogmas?

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 5, p. 131
March 5, 1987