Baptist Baptism Delayed 20 Years
(A good friend and brother in the Lord, Don Craven, wrote
concerning a Baptist preacher, James O. Newell, who was baptized
recently during a Baptist service. Several Baptists were
confused about the matter and thought their preacher was being saved.
One Baptist approached Don and asked what he thought about it.
Don wrote the Baptist preacher and asked for an explanation.
Below is the explanation from the Baptist preacher and my comments on it.)
Thank you for asking for the facts about the decision I shared at the
Spring Festival of Worship and Praise. My opening comment was "I
have a long story to tell, but we do not have time for a long story,
so I will make it short." Standing before the congregation
I announced my desire to publicly confess Jesus as my savior and Lord
and demonstrate my commitment to him through believer's baptism.
Most, if not all, concluded I was saying the Lord saved me then and
there, and in the context of Bro. Hill's message, that conclusion is understandable.
However, the issue I wanted to settle Sunday night was the matter of
obedience in baptism following my profession of faith made a number
of years ago, after a long struggle with doubt about my initial
profession of faith as a nine year old boy. On several
occasions as a teenager and young adult, I experienced times of doubt
as to whether my decision as a child was legitimate. In my late
twenties, I decided to settle the issue by asking for the Lord's
forgiveness for my sin as though I had never asked him before.
In essence, driving a spiritual stake in the ground to serve as a
definitive marker in my spiritual life. What I did not do
following that experience is follow through with a public profession
and baptism. So for nearly twenty years, I have lived under a
cloud of disobedience at the point of baptism. On Sunday night,
the Lord convicted me about this and I decided to wait no longer to
declare my faith in Christ by following him in baptism. I am sure, in
retrospect, I could have communicated my intention more clearly.
I hope my explanation is helpful to you. Please feel free to
call me if you have further questions. I appreciate your prayers for
me and JFBC (Jasper [Alabama] First Baptist ChurchLRH) as we
seek the Lord's will for the future.
Yours in Christ,
James was not a Baptist for twenty years, for one cannot be a Baptist
without baptism. James was not a member of a Baptist church for
the past twenty years. What of all those he baptized? Is
their baptism valid since they were not baptized by a Baptist preacher?
(If James says he was a Baptist, then every unbaptized believer in
the world would be a Baptist!)
He said, "I have lived under a cloud of disobedience at the
point of baptism." Since this fellow allegedly was saved
twenty years ago, if he had remained in disobedience with respect to
"a public profession and baptism," would he have been saved anyway?
If not, what becomes of the doctrine of perseverance, or "once
saved, always saved"? If he would have been saved without
ever being baptized, then one may die in disobedience to Christ and
still be saved. Here are some passages which address the issue:
When the Lord comes again, he will take vengeance on them "that
know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
The disobedient shall be "punished with everlasting
destruction" (2 Thess. 1:7-9).
Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that
obey him," not to those who disobey him (Heb. 5:8, 9).
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into
the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father
which is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). Since James was not
obeying him, Jesus was not his Savior.
"He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does
not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him"
(Jn. 3:36). Thus, if James had died in his
"disobedience," he would not have been saved.
However, Baptist doctrine says he would have been saved even if he
never had obeyed the Lord in baptism. How does that fit with
what the Lord said "He that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16:16)?
James said, "I decided to settle the issue by asking for the
Lord's forgiveness for my sin...."
So, for twenty years, by his own testimony, he was living in sin
because he had not been baptized. If James had died in sin,
before he asked "for the Lord's forgiveness for (his) sin,"
would he have been saved? If not, we again ask what becomes of
the doctrine of once saved, always saved? If he would have been
saved in his sin, he contradicts the plain statements of the Bible.
Jesus said that if we die in our sins, we cannot go and be with him
(Jn. 8:21, 24). Let James tell us his spiritual condition
before God as an unforgiven, unbaptized sinner. James, were you
saved during that time or not?
If James was saved all those years in disobedience, without being
baptized, he was saved before the Lord said he would be. As
noted above, Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized
shall be saved." Note other passages to the same effect. (a)
"Then Peter said unto them, 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" (Acts 2:38). (b)
"And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and
wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16).
As the passage just cited says, "And now why tarriest thou?"
Bible baptism was always immediate. (a) Those in Acts 2
who "gladly received the word" which told them to repent
and be baptized "for the remission of sins," were baptized
"that same day," not twenty days or twenty years later, but
"that same day" (Acts 2:38, 41). (b)
The Ethiopian treasurer was baptized the very moment he confessed his
faith in Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 8:35-39). There was no delay.
Philip did not tell him to wait until he could make a "public
profession" of faith and then be baptized. He did not wait
until he could give his testimony before a local church and see if
they would accept him. No, he was baptized right then. (c)
The same thing is true with respect to the jailer and his household
in Philippi (Acts 16:25-34). At the inconvenient hour of
midnight, he heard the word of the Lord and was baptized "the
same hour of the night." There was no delay. There
was no waiting until he could give his testimony before a local church. (d)
So, the question of Acts 22:16 meets us again and again, "And
now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away
thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
James asks for prayer for the Baptist Church of which he is a member.
Where does the Bible authorize a Baptist Church, let alone pray for one?
There were no Baptist Churches prior to 1600 A.D. There is no
reference to a Baptist Church or to Baptist Churches, in any
literature written before 1600 A.D. The Bible certainly never
mentions one. Men and women were members of the church, the
body of Christ in the New Testament, but no one was ever member of a
Baptist Church (Eph. 1:22, 23; 2:16; 3:6; 4:4; 5:30-32). So,
why should we pray for an institution about which the Bible says nothing?
James signs his letter, "Yours in Christ." One is not
"in Christ" until he is baptized, for we are "baptized into
Christ" (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27). So, for twenty years,
without being baptized, James was not in Christ. If James was
saved during the twenty years before he was baptized, he was saved
outside of Christ, but that cannot be true for salvation is "in
Christ" (2 Tim. 2:10).
Did James think himself to be saved "in Christ" before he
was baptized? Let him declare. If he says,
"yes," he contradicts the Scriptures which plainly show
that one is "baptized into Jesus Christ."
If he says, "no, I was not saved in Christ before I was
baptized," he denies his salvation prior to baptism! Let
him tell us which it was.