By Larry Ray Hafley
A leading lament and a chronic complaint of those who criticize the church is that “we need more preaching about the grace of God and the cross of Christ. We need less preaching about the church and baptism.” (For a detailed study of what it means to preach the cross of Christ, see the author’s four part series, “The Preaching Of The Cross,” Guardian Of Truth, May 18 July 6, 1992.)
They do greatly err who would alienate and separate the grace of the cross from baptism and the church. The love and grace of God and the death of our Lord on the cross are related to baptism and the church as the root and branch are related to the bud and the fruit. The mercy and grace of God and the cross of Christ are tied to baptism and the church as cause is to effect. If anything, they are more tightly bound and intertwined than the examples cited (Rom. 4:25; 6:3,4; 2 Cor. 8:9). J.W. McGarvey, commenting on 1 Corinthians 2:2 said:
Paul here asserts that the subject-matter of his preaching was selected from choice, or fixed design. He does not mean to say that every sermon was a description of the crucifixion of our Lord, but that all his teaching and preaching related to the atonement wrought by Christ upon the cross. This atonement, through the sacrifice of our Lord, was recognized by Paul as the foundation of the Christian system, and he here means to say that he handled no doctrine or theme at Corinth without remembering and recognizing its relation to that foundation.
Sympathy for error pulls the teeth from truth. It renders it weak and makes it apologetic in nature. Those vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind offer excuses for their less enlightened brethren who would preach the whole counsel of God. They do this with disdain and disgust for their “Neanderthal” brethren who have a “gunslinger’s mentality, always wanting to fuss and fight.” N.B. Hardeman, speaking of the need to “fight the good fight of faith” and to expose error, said:
If Jesus had but preached the truth, he would have been living till this very hour, all other things being equal. Let me tell you the fact: because Jesus Christ condemned error and exposed the wrong, those very chief priests, and scribes and Pharisees whom he had denounced went to old Caiphas and said: “That man must be killed.” Jesus Christ suffered on the tree of the cross, not for preaching the truth, but for exposing and condemning error (Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. IV).
I am called upon to be a fellow-soldier, and the very word soldier carries with it the idea of fighting. Remember I am not only to put on the whole armor of God for self protection, but I am to carry the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God to enable me to fight the enemy. That soldier who goes on the battle field with an unloaded gun, or one who never shoots his gun, or one who is begging all not to shoot so as to hit the enemy is a disgrace to the army.
Yet I go to many places where many of my brethren claim to be soldiers, but they have not shot a gun at the enemy in ten years, and begin to plead with me as soon as I get there, and beg me to be careful not to shoot any gospel gun toward Baptists or Methodists, or “outsiders,” for if I do and a gospel shot hits one, they claim it will hurt his feelings and make him mad and he won’t come to church again. Many church members are more fearful of hurting the feelings of their sectarian neighbors, and regard their friendship and love far above that of God in whose army they claim to be fighting.
Brother, do you belong to this class? Then can you claim you are in fellowship with God, when you refuse to teach the gospel to those who are the Lord’s enemies, who are not only building on the sand, but are spending their time and talent in cultivating the human plants, or human churches that Christ states shall be rooted up? (J.D. Tant, The Gospel X-Ray, p. 159)
Afflicted with the spirit that desires worldly wisdom and reknown and covets acceptance from the wise of this world, compromise declares another fault and failing of “the Church of Christ as we know it.” (See chart on the next page)
1. Acts 8:5 (ChristGrace); 8:12 (ChurchBaptism): In Acts 8:5, Philip “preached Christ unto” the Samaritans. This is the only preaching that will save the souls of men! What did it include? What did Philip preach?
First, his preaching overthrew the people’s confidence in Simon the sorcerer as “the great power of God” (Acts 8:9-11). Critics of the church do not want preaching that “attacks” false teachers. They do not want the Pope or a well known Protestant preacher (Billy Graham, etc.) to be named and his doctrines rebuked and refuted. No, they are too sweet, too loving for such preaching. They say that “it drives people away.” Again, remember their problem; they do not want popular evangelical, denominational preachers exposed because they crave the limelight of the “doctors” of theology, and they feel comfortable with the loose philosophies and doctrines of men that allow participation in the evil and errors of the world. Some are misguided. Philip’s preaching destroyed confidence in Simon as a religious leader. Shall we have such preaching today? There are those in the church who say we should not have it, and if they have their way, we will not have it. What say ye?
Second, Philip preached “the kingdom of God” (Acts 8:12). He preached “the sovereign rule of God,” but in order to do this he had to preach Christ as “the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22). Christ has a kingdom over which he reigns as “Lord,” or “head” (Acts 2:36; Heb. 1:8). The redeemed are “translated into the kingdom of his dear Son” (Col. 1:13). One is baptized into the kingdom On. 3:3-5). One is baptized into the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:22,23). From Philip’s preaching, the Samaritans learned about the kingdom, the church, and they were baptized into it (Acts 8:12; Jn. 3:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:13). If we “preach Christ” as Philip did, we will preach “the kingdom of God” and tell people how they may “enter” it. In short, we will preach baptism and the church when we preach Christ. Those who say that such preaching “ignores” the “central items” of the gospel will have to take up their complaints with Philip and the Holy Spirit. We know what Philip preached. Shall we follow Philip’s ex-ample in our preaching, or shall we listen to our critics and “take away” preaching about baptism and the church (Rev. 22:18, 19)? What say ye?
Third, Philip preached “the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12). To preach the name of Jesus Christ is to preach the authority of Jesus Christ. When God raised Jesus from the dead, he gave him “a name which is above every name: (Why did God do this?) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil. 2:9-11). The bowing of the knee is the premier manifestation of the power of one over another; hence, “the name of Jesus Christ” is the power, the authority of Jesus Christ. Our text sights in on the sovereign rule of God when it refers to “the name of Jesus Christ.”
Do you want an explanation of the two paragraphs above? Here it is: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18-20). That is the grand theme of what Philip preached when he preached “the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ.” The Samaritans were exhorted to believe that Jesus now has “all power,” all authority. Expressing their belief, they wanted to know how to be brought under the name, rule and power of Prince Immanuel (cf. Acts 2:37; 8:36; 16:30). They were “commanded” to be baptized in water into the name, body and kingdom of the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus the Christ (Acts 10:48; 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:13).
In preaching Christ, Philip preached, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). If one does not preach faith, repentance and baptism, he is not preaching Christ as Philip did! Nothing is said about Philip’s preaching of the grace of God, the love of God or the blood of Christ. Should we say that men may preach Christ without those things? No; but they are not mentioned in Acts 8:5! Jesus said that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations” (Lk. 24:47). In preaching “the name of Jesus Christ,” did Philip preach “repentance and remission of sins” unto the Samaritans? Would any dare to say that he did not? Obviously, Philip preached “repentance and remission of sins” through the “name of Jesus Christ,” and when he did, he preached baptism, for baptism is “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38).
After Philip “preached Christ” in “the city of Samaria,” the record says “that Samaria had received the word of God” (Acts 8:14). What is the significance of this statement? What bearing does it have on what it means to “preach Christ”? First, Acts 2:41 says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.” The word they received included the command to “be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Did those in Acts 2 “receive” the same “word” as those in Acts 8? Did Peter and Philip preach two different, diverse messages? You know that they did not (1 Cor. 15:11)! Thus, the reception of the word in Samaria included the reception of the word regarding baptism.
Second, Acts 11:1 says “that the Gentiles. . . received the word of God. ” The word they “received” contained “words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). These “words” included the command to (A) believe, (B) repent, (C) and be baptized in water, “in the name of the Lord,” “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38; 10:43,47,48; 11:18). The Gentiles were purified “by faith”; they were saved through “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:7-11). Did the Gentiles receive the same word as did the Samaritans? Both “received the word of God” (Acts 8:14; 11:1). This “word” included faith, repentance and baptism. If one preaches Christ, he will preach these things. Shall we lower our emphasis on baptism and the church as we are advised to do? Or shall we preach as Peter and Philip did?
As we see from the example of Philip, it is impossible to preach Christ without preaching baptism and the church. Critics re-define, according to their own lusts, what it truly means to “preach Christ.” If we allow them to define the preaching of Christ, we will have to exclude the preaching of baptism and the church, but we are not willing to let them define the truth! Do not be deceived by their sentimental, superficial protestations of piety. Brethren, they will pervert the truth and change the church if we give in to them. If you own a white flag of surrender, burn it!
2. Acts 8:35 (ChristGrace); Acts 8:36-39 (ChurchBaptism): Hear J.W. McGarvey as he speaks to the point of modem critics and observe that brother McGarvey was hearing the same things one hundred years ago that we are hearing today. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.
I have had people say, “Brother McGarvey, I would like your preaching better if you would just preach Christ crucified and not of baptism so often.” Well, I like to gratify my friends, but I can’t get along that way. When Philip was preaching Christ to the man, it seems that baptism was part of the sermon. Indeed, it is impossible to preach Christ fully to a sinner and leave baptism out of the sermon (emphasis mine LRH). You have to mention baptism early in the story of Jesus…. It is a mutilated gospel that leaves baptism out of the sermons addressed to sinners (McGarvey’s Sermons).
Acts 8:35 says that Philip “preached . . . Jesus” unto the Ethiopian eunuch. Critics say that we need to do this, but that we should emphasize Christ more and baptism less. This concept does not square with Acts 8. What did the eunuch know after hearing “Jesus” preached? First, he knew Jesus was the object of Isaiah 53; he knew, therefore, of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and exaltation (vv. 7-12). From Isaiah 53, he heard the declaration of Christ’s incarnation and coronation (vv. 2, 3, 10-12). Second, he knew he should believe in Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 2:36; 8:37). Third, he knew about baptism. What did he know about it? He knew it was in “water.” He knew he should be baptized (Acts 8:36). How did he know all of this? He knew it from hearing “Jesus” “preached unto him” (Acts 8:35).
Popular, prominent Protestant preachers (like Billy Graham) claim that they proclaim and “preach Jesus.” They lie; they do not preach Jesus! Men today do not learn what the eunuch learned when they hear these men preach; hence, they are not preaching “Jesus” as Philip did. Shall we preach Jesus as Philip did, or shall we listen to our critics and delete baptism from our preaching of Jesus? Shall we diminish grace and the cross in the gospel story? God forbid! Philip did not (Isa. 53). Shall we lighten our emphasis on baptism? God forbid! Philip did not (Acts 8:12, 36-39).
3. Acts 16:30-32 (ChristGrace); Acts 16:33 (ChurchBaptism). “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And then he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:30-33). Though nothing is said about the grace and love of God or the blood of Christ in the text above, we know these things had been preached in Philippi (Phil. 2:5-11; 3:3-10), and so must they be preached today!
Critics of the Lord’s church say that we should preach “the word of the Lord” unto sinners and not preach so much on baptism and the church. However, from the text above we learn: (1) the sinner wanted to know what he must do to be saved. He was not told that there was nothing he could do to be saved (Acts 2:40). (2) He was told to “believe.” How can he “believe”? “Faith cometh by hearing” the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, (3) “they spake unto him the word of the Lord” so he could believe. (4) Evidently, the jailer repented, for he washed their wounds. (5) He was immediately “baptized.” How did he learn to be baptized? He had only heard “the word of the Lord,” so how did he know to be baptized? “The word of the Lord” includes baptism. If not, how did the jailer know, and why was he baptized at such an inconvenient hour?
Some in the church today say we should not stress baptism; they say we should preach the word of the Lord and not baptism. Shall we preach their concept of the word of the Lord, or shall we preach it as Paul preached it? Shall we preach baptism as a natural, integral part of the word of the Lord, as Paul did, or shall we set it aside as our critics advise? What say ye? Paul told the Philippians to “do” as he had done; he told them to follow his example (Phil. 3:17; 4:9). Paul preached baptism as the word of the Lord (Acts 16:32, 33). If we “do” as he did, we will not “diminish ought from it.”
Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). The jailer believed and was baptized. That is “the word of the Lord” that Paul preached. Though nothing is said about grace, the cross and blood of Christ in the account, we are not going to say that we should ignore or give less emphasis to those things. The “whole counsel of God” must be preached and that includes grace, Christ, baptism and the church (Phil. 1:1; 2:5-11; 3:3-10). (Chart #9 will be concluded in the next issue.)
Whats Wrong With The Church of Christ?
“Need more preaching about grace & Christ
Need less about Church & Baptism”
Christ Grace Church – Baptism
Acts 8:5 Acts 8:12
Acts 8:35 Acts 8:36-39
Acts 16:30-32 Acts 16:33
1 Cor. 2:2; 4:15; 15:1-4 Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:13; 12:13
Acts 20:24 Acts 20:21, 25, 28
Gal. 1:6 Gal. 3:26, 27
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 9, p. 9-12
May 5, 1994