Which Is Right? Which Do You Believe?

By Tommy L. McClure

This lesson is, by its very nature, a lesson on contrasts. Statements which are diametrically opposed to each other will be presented along with the questions of the above title.

Genesis 2:16,17; 3:14

These passages tell us that God warned Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on the grounds that “thou shalt surely die. ” Of their eating of the very same tree, the serpent told Eve, “Ye shall not surely die. ” Note the statement of God versus the statement of the serpent.

God: “Thou shall surely die.”

Serpent: “Ye shall not surely die.”

Which statement is right? Which do you believe? Since the statements are diametrically opposed to each other, both cannot be right! Nor can one consistently accept both; to accept the former is to reject the latter. This writer does not hesitate to accept the statement of God and reject the statement of the serpent.

Mark 16:16

Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Some religionists tell us: Faith is necessary to salvation, but baptism is not necessary; baptism is a non-essential; it is merely an outward sign of an inward grace and has nothing whatsoever to do with our salvation. If language means anything at all, the “bottom line” of their teaching is: “He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved.” Look at the two statements together:

Jesus: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”

Men: “He that believeth and is not baptized shall be saved.”

Which statement is right? Which do you believe? To contend that baptism is not essential to salvation is to align yourself with the teaching of men; to do that is to reject the statement of the Son of God; those who reject His word will be judged (condemned) by it in the last day (Jn. 12:48).

After noting that eight souls were saved by water in the days of Noah, Peter said, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Men, however, tell us that baptism does not save, and has nothing to do with salvation. Note the contrast:

Peter: “Baptism doth also now save us.”

Men: “Baptism doth also not save us.”

Which is right? Which do you believe? The statement of the inspired apostle Peter or the teachings of un-inspired men who deny what Peter said? All of the smoke screens raised by denominational preachers who call this “water salvation,” “water religion,” and “salvation by works” do not remove what Peter said! After the smoke clears, the verse still says, “baptism doth also now save us. ” False teachers can deny it, ignore it, and misrepresent it, but they cannot get rid of it! It is there, and will be there to face them in the judgment! (Jn. 12:48)

James 2:24

“Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” However, the Methodist Discipline says, “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deserving. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort” (Doctrines And Discipline Of The Methodist Church, The Articles of Religion, Article IX, Par. 69, p. 28, 1952 Edition; emphasis mine. TLM). Look at the contrast:

James: “Man is not justified by faith only.”

Methodist Discipline: “Man is justified by faith only. “

Which is right? Which do you believe? One must choose one or the other-it cannot be both ways!

Denominational preachers (Methodists and others) will present passage after passage which predicate salvation on the condition of faith. I believe every one of them — I have no quarrel with any of them! Certainly, salvation is by faith, and salvation is promised to the believer (Jn. 3:15, 16, 18, 36; 5:24; 20:30, 31; Acts 10:42; 16:30,31). But, which faith saves? Dead faith or living faith? Remember that faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:17, 20, 26). And which believer is saved? The obedient believer or the disobedient believer? Abraham was an obedient believer-“By faith Abraham . . . obeyed . . .” (Heb. 11:8). So were the 3,000 on Pentecost (Acts 2:41), those of Samaria (Acts 8:12), the Corinthians (Acts 18:8), and the Jailor (Acts 16:30-34). The chief rulers who refused to confess Jesus (Jn. 12:42, 43), the devils (Jas. 2:19), and those who depend on faith only to save them, before and without further acts of obedience, are disobedient believers! If that amazes you, be it known that Hiscox’s Baptist Manual tacitly teaches that obedience is not essential to salvation! Note this statement: “Baptism is not essential to salvation … but it is essential to obedience, since Christ has commanded it” (The Standard Manual For Baptist Churches, Edward T. Hiscox, D.D., The American Baptist Publication Society, pp. 20,21, reprinted 1945). In a “one-two-three” fashion, we have:

1. Baptism is essential to obedience.

2. But baptism is not essential to salvation.

3. Therefore, obedience is not essential to salvation!

Can you beat it? According to that, Baptists will have to “junk” much of the New Testament (Matt. 7:21; Rom. 6:1618; 1 Pet. 4:17; 2 Thess. 1:7,8; 1 Jn. 2:3-5; Rev. 22:14; Heb. 5:8,9; etc.), or repudiate their doctrine! They cannot have it both ways.

Ezekiel 18:20

Ezekiel said, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezek. 18:20). Each individual is responsible for his own sins, and for his own sins only! One may suffer the consequences of another’s sins, but guilt is borne only by the sinner himself.

However, men tell us, “Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit . . . They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed, to a their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation” (The Confession ofFaith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, by the Publication Department of the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., 1945, pp. 34-36).

Who can fail to see the contrast between Ezekiel’s statement and this doctrine of men? Concisely stated, it is this:

Ezekiel: “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father.

Con. of Faith: “All mankind does bear the iniquity of Adam and Eve.”

Presbyterians and others who espouse the “original sin” doctrine must decide which way they will go. They cannot travel opposite directions at the same time!

Acts 2:38

“Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins As surely as the blood of Christ was shed “for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28), man is to repent and be baptized “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). The expressions are exactly the same in both passages, both in English and Greek!

However, men tell us, with respect to baptism, that “for” in Acts 2:38 means “because of” — that men are to be baptized “because of” remission, i.e., because their sins have been remitted already! We ask the proponents of this position, “If that is what men are to be baptized ‘for,’ what are they to repent ‘for’?” Strangely and suddenly the same “for” points in the opposite direction-repentance, they tell us, is unto remission! See the hole they are in? In “repent . . . for (unto) remission,” the word “for” Points forward; in “be baptized . . . for (because of, their definition) remission,” the word “for” points backward! There is only one “for” in Acts 2:38! In their devious efforts to avoid the truth of God’s Book, Baptist preachers make one word point in opposite directions in the same sentence and in the same verse! For one meeting himself coming back, a Baptist preacher has no peer when he comes to Acts 2:38.

Since the actions of repentance and baptism are connected by the copulative conjunction “and, ” whatever repentance is “for” baptism is “for”; the way “for” points with respect to repentance is the way “for” points with respect to baptism! There is not a reputable translation in the world which makes “for” point backward in Acts 2:38.

Consider the contrast between the Bible and men on this point, concisely stated:

Peter: Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

Baptist Preachers: Repent for the remission of sins, and be baptized because of remission of sins already received.

“Choose ye this day” which you will believe; it cannot be both ways!

Acts 22:16

Ananias said to Saul of Tarsus (a convicted, penitent, praying man): “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). This was three days after Saul had been stricken blind on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-18), the time when, according to some religionists, Saul was gloriously saved the very moment he believed on Jesus Christ. If they are correct, Saul was saved while yet in his sins-at least three days before they were washed away! Whatever may be said about what the washing was, the element of the washing, and how it was accomplished, the fact is clear that baptism stood between the sinner and that washing. The sinner had to “go through,” if you please, the act of baptism to reach the washing. Note this simple diagram:

Soul the Sinner ____________ Baptism ___________________ Washing

Thus, baptism is essential to the washing away of sins, a fact which cannot successfully be denied in the light of Acts 22:16.

However, men tell us that alien sinners are saved by praying for forgiveness at the “altar” (formerly the “mourner’s bench”), and that baptism is not essential to that forgiveness. Whereas Ananias instructed Saul to get up to obey, some modern preachers tell alien sinners to get down to pray for pardon. Baptism, according to them, comes after forgiveness. Note their idea in this diagram, and the contrast between this one and the one above:

Alien Sinner _______________Washing of Pardon_________________Baptism

The contrast between the Bible and men on this matter is plain:

Bible: “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Men: Get down and pray through to salvation, and be baptized later when convenient and if you so desire.

Which is right? Which do you believe?

2 Peter 2:20

Peter said, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Pet. 2:20). The following facts are evident concerning those here under consideration: (1) They escaped the pollutions of the world; (2) Their escape was effected through the knowledge of Christ; (3) After their escape, they are again entangled and overcome in worldly pollutions; (4) Their latter end is worse than the beginning; (5) Since they were condemned at the beginning, they are now more severely condemned! Thus, the possibility of apostasy on the part of saved people, children of God, is made clear; they can so sin as to be finally lost in hell!

However, the teaching of some preachers is quite different. A Baptist preacher, Sam Morris, said, “We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul . . . and all the sins he may commit from idolatry to murder will not make his soul in any more danger” (Do a Christian’s Sins Damn His Soul? pamphlet by Sam Morris, p. 1, quoted here from Porter-Bogard Debate, pp. 135,136).

Look at the contrast concisely stated:

Peter: The latter end of the one who has escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of Christ, but is again entangled therein and overcome, is worse than the beginning (2 Pet. 2:20).

Baptist Preachers: The latter end of such a person is not worse than the beginning. The child of God can commit every sin in the book-from idolatry to murder-and still go to heaven.

Believe Baptist Preachers if you are so determined; but, you cannot believe Peter and Baptist preachers at the same time, regardless of your determination!

Other contrasts, as clear-cut as these, could be presented if time and space allowed. It is hoped that this article will prompt the careful student to take this line of study further so as to include all false doctrines of men and that the contrast between them and the word of God will be clearly drawn and forcefully presented to the world. May the question: “Is it from heaven, or of men?” (See Matt. 21:23-27) never be forgotten, regardless of the subject with which we deal.

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 19, pp. 584-585, 596
October 3, 1985