By Bob Felkner
I am presenting this material in response to a book by Joe T. Odle, entitled, Why I Am A Baptist. The book contains sermons, testimonies, and articles by “Representative Baptists.”
The fact is, I used to be a Baptist. I grew up in an area which was predominately Baptist. I was born in Waco, Texas, the home of a large Baptist University. My mother and father are Baptists; my brothers are Baptists; my sister is a Baptist; their spouses and children are Baptists; my grandmother and grandfather were Baptists; my aunts, uncles, and cousins are Baptists; many of my closest friends are Baptists, and I want to tell you plainly, that I love those Baptists. In fact, that is the reason I am so motivated to expose the error of Baptist doctrine.
Historically, Baptists have been at odds with Christians, During the last century, there were many heated controversies between members of the Baptist Church and members of the church of Christ. Various remarks in Odle’s book show that Baptists still have strong feelings against the things we teach. An unfortunate practice among Baptists is to resort to prejudicial name-calling. This is done on page twenty-one of the book where the term “Campbellite” is employed. I used to think that the “Camelites” had something to do with camels. I certainly agree with the statement on page sixty, which says, “we must go . . . beyond Alexander Campbell . . . . ” Since the sermon on page fifty-three mentions the Church of Christ, I feel an even stronger obligation to review Baptist doctrine and expose its falsehood. Members of the church of Christ believe that there is only one church, and that is the one which Jesus promised to build (Matt. 16:18), Just any old church will not suffice. If we are going to be saved, we must be members of the true church that Jesus purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28). We cannot assume that “one church is as good as another.” A church that practices false doctrine is not as good as a church that practices the doctrine of Christ. Sincerity is not enough to save your soul. Listen to one of the Baptists: “I cannot accept the theory that it makes no difference what one believes, just so he is sincere, or that one church is as good as another. I can think of no other realm in which we would take that position” (Odle, p. 60).
Although Baptists claim they find their doctrine in the New Testament, I disagree. When they practice Baptist doctrine, they are rejecting the doctrine of Christ. “To the Baptists the New Testament and the New Testament alone, must be the one and final authority for all they do and preach” (Odle, p. 94). However, when we compare Baptist doctrine to the New Testament, we find no support for the Baptists. That is why I am not a Baptist.
I want to provide a few specific examples that will show the difference between being a Baptist and being a Christian. I want to show you why I am not a Baptist.
I am not a Baptist because Baptists are wrong when they say a person can be saved outside the New Testament church. “Dr. Buell Kazee says, ‘Baptists believe that all who repent toward God and put their faith in the Lord Jesus are saved, anywhere, everywhere, under any condition, without church membership, without baptism, in any church or denomination, or with any kind of baptism'” (Odle, p. 99). In essence, Baptists teach that a man can be saved without church membership. I will expose this error by showing that church membership is required.
On the day of Pentecost, those who received the word and were baptized were added to the church, for the church consisted of the saved. Those who remained outside the church were not Christians, and they did not have the benefits of Christ’s blood. Remember, He purchased the church with His blood, and that is why we must be members of it (Acts 20:28). Without church membership, we are without the blood of Christ. From the scriptures we learn that there is only one body and we are baptized into that body (Eph. 4:4; 1 Cor. 12:13). That one body is the spiritual body of Christ, and we must be in that body to be saved. It is true that we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, but we are not saved by “faith only.” Take a good look at Galatians 3:26-27: “For ye are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ.” This passage teaches that those who had an active faith were baptized into the spiritual body of Christ. Romans 6:3 says: “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Baptism puts us into the body of Christ and into the benefits of His death. When we are baptized into Christ, we become new creatures who are free from sin (2 Cor. 5: 17).
When we are baptized into the one body, which is the body of Christ, we are then members of His church. A little logic will clarify this truth:
The church is the spiritual body of Christ – Col. 1:18.
We must be in the spiritual body of Christ to be saved.
Therefore, we must be in the church to be saved.
The one body is the church – Eph. 4:4; Col. 1:18.
Christ is the savior of the body – Eph. 5:23.
Therefore, He is the savior of the church.
From the scriptures we see that one must be a member of the New Testament church in order to be saved. Baptists teach that a man can be saved “without church membership,” and that is why I am not a Baptist.
Another reason I am not a Baptist is because Baptists are wrong when they say that baptism is not essential for salvation. Let us again compare Baptist doctrine with the doctrine of Christ. “Baptism, to the Baptist, has nothing to do with making a person a Christian, but when a person is baptized it is to proclaim to the world that he is a Christian” (Odle, p. 105). Our Lord speaks to us today through His inspired word, which says, “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21). There are many things which save us. We are saved by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8); we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1); we are saved by the blood of Christ (Rev. 1:5), and we are saved by baptism (1 Pet. 3:21). But in an attempt to defend their false doctrine, Baptists will explain that baptism is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet. 3:21). Evidently, they think we have never noticed the rest of that passage; but we have, and we know that the purpose of baptism is to take away the filth of the soul, and not “the filth of the flesh.” Baptists will also say that the purpose of baptism is to “have a good conscience toward God.” But if you understand the scriptures, you cannot “have a good conscience toward God” while you are still in your sins. That is why baptism is essential, because baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). When a person is baptized, he is indicating his desire to “have a good conscience.” When he is baptized scripturally, he becomes free from sin, and that is when his conscience is made clear. He can then go “on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:38-39). If a Baptist preacher had preached to the Eunuch, he would have had him rejoicing two or three weeks before his baptism.
Another good example is that of the jailor. He was baptized for the remission of his sins, and his conscience was clear. It was after his baptism that he “rejoiced greatly” (Acts 16:33-34). There is no doubt about it, “baptism doth also now save us.” Jesus expressed the same truth when He said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16). As they do with 1 Peter 3:21, Baptists like to ignore the first part of this passage and emphasize the latter part. This is done in an attempt to e-emphasize the essentiality of baptism. But the first part of the statement is clear enough to show that every man must believe in Christ and be baptized to receive the forgiveness that is in Christ. Certainly, there would be no need of baptizing an unbeliever. To be valid, belief must precede baptism. When Baptists begin losing the argument about the meaning of this verse, they will assert that it is a spurious text. Although two of the oldest and best manuscripts do not include Mark 16:920, it is imperative to observe the positive evidence. “In favor of Mark 16:9-20 there are a host of witnesses: the Alexandrian Manuscript, the Ephraern Manuscript, Codex Bezae, other early unicials, all late unicials and cursives, five old Latin authorities plus the Vulgate, the Old Syriac manuscript, the Syriac Peshitta version, and many other versions. Besides, there is a plain statement from Irenaeus (early Christian writer) which clearly shows the existence of Mark 16:9-20 in the second century and the belief that Mark was its author” (Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got The Bible, p. 38).
Baptists say: “Baptism has nothing to do with salvation” (Odle, p. 53). They contend that “baptism is not essential for salvation” (Odle, p. 107). However, the passages we have already cited disprove the Baptist position. In addition, Acts 2:38 declares: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Look at the obvious conflict between Baptist doctrine and the Bible. Baptists say, “baptism is not essential for salvation,” but the inspired writer of the New Testament says baptism is “for the remission of sins.” Now, which one should we believe? I chose to believe the inspired writer, and that is why I am not a Baptist.
Baptists say that baptism “identifies one with a movement. This is the exact reason Christ was baptized. Baptism, for him, was not to wash away his sin – he had committed no sin” (Odle, p. 53). Since Christ had committed no sin, we cannot compare our baptism with His. We have committed sin; therefore, we should be baptized for the same purpose as sinners during New Testament times. Saul (Paul) was a sinner who was told to be baptized. But what was the purpose of his baptism? Was it to identify him with a movement? Did Ananias tell Saul to “arise, and be baptized, and identify with a movement”? Certainly not! Then what did he say? What was the purpose of Saul’s baptism? Ananias told him to “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). In this statement, we see the purpose of baptism; it is to “wash away thy sins.” During all the years that I was a Baptist, I never heard a Baptist preacher quote that verse. I have never heard a Baptist say, “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins,” and that is another reason why I am not a Baptist.
Baptists claim: “Baptism is not an obligation, it is an opportunity” (Odle, p. 53). In contrast to Baptist doctrine, the Bible teaches that baptism is a command that must be obeyed. When Peter preached to the household of Cornelius, “he commanded them to be baptized” (Acts 10:48). Baptists say it “is not an obligation,” but the Bible says it is a command. You should readily see why I am not a Baptist. (Continued Next Issue)
Truth Magazine XX: 49, pp. 775-777
December 9, 1976