Answering a Baptist Preacher's "Unanswerable Questions"
(Article Continued)
Larry Ray Hafley


11. The "Church of Christ" teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder. Where does the Bible teach that water baptism is required in order to have one's sins forgiven? Every time the phrase "for the remission of sins" occurs it is speaking of the fact that sins have been forgiven previously! The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ - never upon water baptism! (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; Acts 5:31; Acts 10:43; Acts 20:21; Romans 1:16; Romans 4:5; et.al.) Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism? When Christ made the statement in Matthew 26:28, "for the remission of sins," it had to be because they had been forgiven all through the Old Testament! Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to "take away" sins and to redeem us and pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood. How can one say that "for the remission of sins" means 'in order to obtain' in light of the fact that God never uses the phrase in that sense? In the Old Testament God forgave sin on the basis of a blood sacrifice (Heb. 9:22) - the Old Testament saints had their sins remitted (i.e., forgiven) but they were not redeemed until Christ came and shed His blood at Calvary. Their sins were covered (Romans 4:7; Psalm 32:1), but the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Exodus 34:7) until the Cross (Heb.10:4). Before Calvary, the sins of believers were pardoned, but they were not paid for (i.e., redeemed) until the crucifixion (see Romans 3:25 and Heb. 9:12-15). When Jesus said, "It is finished," (John 19:30), all sin - past, present and future - was paid for, and the plan of salvation was completed, so that 'whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins' (Acts 10:43). In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, "Father, forgive them,") and they received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Saviour and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this.

[Author's Note: A very similar question was answered in another article. Since it applies to most of the above.

No, neither the Bible nor the church of Christ "teaches that a sinner is forgiven of sin when he is baptized in water by a Campbellite elder." However, Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16:16). Not only does our friend misrepresent the church of the Lord, but he also misrepresents what Jesus taught.

He says, "Every time the phrase 'for the remission of sins' occurs it is speakingof the fact that sins have been forgiven previously!" (1) If that is so, why do the following Baptist translations of Acts 2:38 read as they do?

"You must repent--and as an expression of it, every one of you be baptized-that you may have your sins forgiven" (Williams).

"You must repent, and every one of you be baptized-in order to have your sins forgiven" (Goodspeed).

"Repent (that is undergo a change of mind and feeling) and be baptized each of you with a view to the remission of your sins" (Baylor University, a Baptist school).

"Repent and be baptized every one of you for (in order that you may receive) the forgiveness of your sins" (Short Baptist College, 1921).

(2) If the phrase, "for the remission of sins" "is speaking of the fact that sins have been previously forgiven," what does that do with repentance which is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38)? One is to "repent...for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). Are one's sins "previously forgiven," that is, are his sins forgiven before he repents? They must be, if "for the remission of sins" "is speaking of the fact that sins have been previously forgiven."

Now, if sins are forgiven before one repents, then one's sins are forgiven before he believes, for Baptists teach that one believes after he repents. Let our Baptist friend tell us if one's sins are forgiven before he believes. Acts 10:43 says that one who believes shall receive "the forgiveness of sins." Does that mean that one is forgiven before he believes?

The same preposition, "for," in "for the remission of sins" also appears in Romans 10: 10, where we are told that one believes "unto" salvation. Does one believe because of salvation that has been previously granted?

Next, we are told, "The Bible plainly teaches that the forgiveness of sins is conditioned upon repentance of sin and faith in Christ - never upon water baptism! (Matt. 3:11,Lk. 24:47, Acts 3:19, Acts 5:31, Acts 10:43, Acts 20:21, Rom. 1:16, Rom. 4:5, et al)."

Ignoring passages on baptism, as our Baptist friend does, will not make them go away (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Gal. 3:26, 27; 1 Pet. 3:21). We agree with every passage he has cited with respect to the essentiality of faith and repentance, but we dare not pretend that passages which prescribe baptism as a condition of salvation do not exist, as our friend has done.

We are asked, "Where does the Bible teach that forgiveness of sin is linked with water baptism?" To which we reply, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). One might cite the baptism of John. John's baptism was said to have been "for the remission of sins" (Mk. 1:4; Lk. 3:3). Further, as we have shown, Acts 2:38 connects the two. Peter proves the connection when we compare his statement in Acts 3:19 with that of Acts 2:38:

Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins-Acts 2:38

Repent and turn that your sins may be blotted out-Acts 3:19

From the comparison above we see that the expression "for the remission of sins" is equivalent to that of one's sins being "blotted out." Thus, we have shown that "forgiveness of sins is linked with water baptism." Again, we have answered Mr. Martin's questions with Scripture. Will he do the same?

Our friends twisting and torturing of Matthew 26:28 has him declaring that Jesus shed his blood "because" sins were previously forgiven. If that is true in the absolute, then Jesus need never have died and shed his blood.

Since 'without shedding of blood is no remission," Jesus had to shed his blood in order to provide the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:22). Yes, "Christ shed His blood because God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before the Son of God came to 'take away"'sins and to redeem us an pay the sin-debt with His own precious blood." Let it also be noted that "God forgave repentant and believing sinners for thousands of years before any man ever believed that God raised Christ from the dead," yet men today must believe that fact in order to be saved (Rom. 10:9). The fact that many were saved without believing that God raised Christ from the dead does not mean that we can be saved if we do not believe it (Rom. 10:9).

Our friend unties his whole argument when he says, "the sinner was not cleared of his guilt (Ex. 34:7) until the cross (Heb. 10:4)" In other words, Jesus shed his blood for (in order to) the remission of sins. Thayer's Lexicon says "for the remission of sins" means "to obtain the forgiveness of sins" (p. 94). Bauer's work, translated by Arndt and Gingrich says that the expression in Acts 2:38 means, "for the forgiveness of sins, so that sins might be forgiven" (p. 228). We shall let our friend argue with the scholarship of the world as to the meaning of the expression, "for the remission of sins."

Our friend says, "In Acts 2:38, the people were baptized because their sins were forgiven (at Calvary when Jesus said, "Father, forgive them,") and the received the blessing of forgiveness when they repented of their sin of rejecting Christ and accepted Him as their Savior and Lord. Friend, heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this."

Again, note that if those in Acts 2:38 were "baptized because their sins were forgiven," then they repented for the same reason, that is, "because their sins were forgiven," for Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized...for the remission of sins." So, if one is baptized because he is already forgiven, then he repents because he is already forgiven.

On the cross, Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them," but they were not forgiven at the time that prayer was uttered. If so, then they were forgiven without either faith or repentance, for they neither repented nor believed before Acts 2. Jesus' prayer for the Father to forgive those who slew him was answered in Acts 2 when about three thousand souls repented and were baptized "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38, 41).

We agree that "heaven or hell depends on what you believe about this."

12. If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and baptism is a work of "righteousness," then how can water baptism be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16) In the Bible, we are SAVED BY GRACE, and grace does not involve human effort or merit - grace is grace and work is work! (Just read Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 11:6.)

[Mr. Martin assumes what he must prove; namely, that baptism is included in the works of righteousness referred to in Titus 3:5. He assumes it; he asserts it, but he cannot prove it.

Let us ask Mr. Martin if believing in Jesus is a righteous act? Is it, Mr. Martin? Next, is it necessary for one to believe in Jesus before he can be saved? Yes, one must believe, and one's believing is an act of righteousness. It certainly is not an unrighteous action. So, if baptism is excluded because it is an act of righteousness which man must do, then faith is also excluded on the very same basis.

Further, must one have godly sorrow and repent of his sins? Is repentance of sin an act of righteousness or unrighteousness? It is an act of righteousness. Therefore, if Mr. Martin excludes baptism because it is an act of righteousness with which man must comply before he can be saved, then repentance is excluded on the very same grounds.

With these facts in mind (that faith and repentance are works of righteousness with which man must comply), let us construct a parallel to Mr. Martin's statement above:

"If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and faith is a work of "righteousness," then how can faith in Christ be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16)." When Mr. Martin answers that question, he will have answered his objection to baptism. But, again:

"If salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, and repentance is a work of "righteousness," then how can repentance of sins be a part of salvation? (Titus 3:5; Matt. 3:16)." When Mr. Martin answers that objection, he will have answered his own complaint against baptism.

No, salvation is not by the works of man's righteousness (Titus 3:5). However, one must work the righteousness of God. "Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34, 35). Again, we ask Mr. Martin if faith, repentance, and baptism are works of man or works of God? Are they works of man's own devising, or are they works of God (Jn. 6:28, 29)?

Mr. Martin says that "grace does not involve human effort or merit." While we might agree that grace does not rely on human merit, Mr. Martin has overstated his case by saying that "grace does not involve human effort or merit." If that be true, then faith is excluded, for one must believe in Christ. God will not believe for the sinner. The sinner must believe, "except ye believe," Jesus said, "ye shall die in your sins" (Jn. 8:24). Believing is a "work" (Jn. 6:29). So, if "human effort" nullifies grace, then Mr. Martin nullifies grace every time he tells someone to "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." If one's human effort in being baptized excludes baptism, it excludes faith for the very same reason.

The same is true with respect to repentance. If "grace does not involve human effort," then salvation is not by grace when Mr. Martin demands of an alien sinner that he repent. God will not repent for us. We must do it ourselves. Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3). Since Mr. Martin says that "grace does not involve human effort," and he thereby excludes baptism, he will have to do the same with repentance, for it, too, is something that one must do.

No, we are not saved by our own works, nor by the works of the law of Moses, as Scripture clearly teaches. However, we exert some "human effort" in hearing the word of his grace and in believing, in repenting of our sins, and being baptized into Christ (Acts 19:5; Eph. 1:13; 2:8, 9). This is what the Ephesians did when they heard, believed, and were baptized "in the name of the Lord" "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 19:5). Later, Paul said those Ephesians who had done so, those who had exerted the "human effort" to hear "the gospel of the grace of God" and who had believed and were baptized, were saved by grace through faith (Acts 19: 5; 20:24; Eph. 1:13; 2:8, 9). Finally, "confession" of Christ as Lord is made "with the mouth" "unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9, 10). Mr. Martin, is there any "human effort" required for one to confess with his mouth "unto salvation"? If so, does this "human effort" negate salvation by grace?

The same is true with respect to repentance. If "grace does not involve human effort," then salvation is not by grace when Mr. Martin demands of an alien sinner that he repent. God will not repent for us. We must do it ourselves. Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Lk. 13:3). Since Mr. Martin says that "grace does not involve human effort," and he thereby excludes baptism, he will have to do the same with repentance, for it, too, is something that one must do.

No, we are not saved by our own works, nor by the works of the law of Moses, as Scripture clearly teaches. However, we exert some "human effort" in hearing the word of his grace and in believing, in repenting of our sins, and being baptized into Christ (Acts 19:5; Eph. 1:13; 2:8, 9). This is what the Ephesians did when they heard, believed, and were baptized "in the name of the Lord" "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 19:5). Later, Paul said those Ephesians who had done so, those who had exerted the "human effort" to hear "the gospel of the grace of God" and who had believed and were baptized, were saved by grace through faith (Acts 19: 5; 20:24; Eph. 1:13; 2:8, 9). Finally, "confession" of Christ as Lord is made "with the mouth" "unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9, 10). Mr. Martin, is there any "human effort" required for one to confess with his mouth "unto salvation"? If so, does this "human effort" negate salvation by grace?]

13. The "Church of Christ" teaches that "obeying the Gospel" includes being baptized in water in order to be saved. If this is true, then how is it that the converts of Acts 10 were saved by faith before and without water baptism? The Bible says in Acts 5:32 that only those who obey God may receive the Holy Ghost - so what did those in Acts 10 do to obey and receive the Holy Ghost and be saved? In the light of Acts 10:34-48, Acts 11:14-18, and Acts 15:7-11, how can anyone honestly believe that water baptism is necessary to salvation? Simon Peter said their hearts were "purified by faith" (Acts 15:9) and that we are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were (Acts 15:11); that is, before and without water baptism! We know that unsaved people do not receive or have the Holy Spirit (John 14:17; Romans 8:9). We know that the Holy Spirit is given only to those who have believed on Christ (John 7:39). We know that the Holy Spirit seals the believing sinner the moment he puts his faith and trust in Christ as Savior, before he is ever baptized in water (Ephesians 1:12,13). How does the warped theolgy of Campbellism explain away these clear passages of Scripture without "muddying the waters" of truth and drowning its members in eternal damnation?

[In Acts 10, Cornelius and his household received Holy Spirit baptism. This reception of the Spirit was not to save them. They were saved by what hearing the words of the gospel, not by receiving the Spirit (Acts 11:15). Their hearts were "purified by faith," not by the reception of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 15:9). They were granted "repentance unto life;" they did not receive life by receiving the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues. They were baptized in water (Acts 10:47). Their baptism in water was "in the name of the Lord" (Acts 10:48). Baptism in the name of the Lord is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 10:48; 19:5). Thus, they received forgiveness when they heard, believed, repented, and were baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."

Mr. Martin is correct. We are saved "by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ like they were." Like them, we heard "words whereby" we can be saved (Acts 11:14). Like them, we believe on the Lord Jesus (Acts 10:43). Like them, we repent in order to have eternal life (Acts 11:18). Like them, we are baptized in water, in the name of the Lord, for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 10:48).

However, if the reception of the Spirit before they were baptized in water proves they were saved before they were baptized, Mr. Martin has a problem. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Those in Acts 10 were to hear words whereby they would be saved (Acts 11:14). Peter spoke to them that they might believe (Acts 15:7). However, the Spirit fell "as (Peter) began to speak" (Acts 11:15). So, before they heard words which would lead them to believe and be saved, the Holy Spirit fell on them. Now, if the reception of the Spirit before baptism proves they were saved before baptism, it also proves they were saved before faith, for they received the Spirit before they believed!

(For a more complete and thorough study of this same argument, see my book, The Christ, The Cross, And The Church, pages 136-138, 142-145.)]

It would be impossible to discuss all the false doctrines of the "Church of Christ" in this small article. If you have a particular question not dealt with here, or need clarification on the issues discussed, contact us via email or at the phone number or address listed. We will provide you with sane, sensible and scriptural answers to your Bible questions. www.biblebelievers.com

[Likewise, it would be impossible to discuss all the false doctrines of the "Baptist Church" in this article. If you have a particular question not dealt with here, or need further clarification of the issues discussed, contact me via e-mail (lrhafley@watchmanmag.com). Also, see our web site (www.Biblework.com). We will provide you with scriptural answers to your Bible questions. (There is no need to say that we will provide "sane, sensible" answers as Mr. Martin did, for scriptural answers, by their very nature, will be both sane and sensible.)

I shall be willing to meet Mr. Martin in a public discussion on the subject of what constitutes salvation by grace through faith. I do not believe he will agree to it, but let it be known that the opportunity is hereby extended to him. If he does not agree to a discussion, we shall know that he feels his questions have been answered.]


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