More Thoughts on Baptism

By Tom Wacaster

Winston Churchill is credited with this tongue-in-cheek observation:  “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”  I sometimes think that is precisely what denominational preachers do when it comes to this subject of baptism.   Of course such foolishness is not limited to preachers for there are multitudes that imbibe error who, when confronted with truth, do precisely the same thing.  When immediately confronted with passages that address the purpose of baptism and whether or not it is essential to  forgiveness of past sins, they stumble over it, pick themselves up, and then hurry off as if nothing ever happened.  An absence of love for the truth will open the door into one’s heart for a “strong delusion” that will cause a man to be lost.  What a tragedy that men will be eternally condemned simply because they did not possess a love for the truth.   God has communicated His will to us on this matter of baptism in terms so simple that it takes six years in a seminary to mess it up.   Those who have not a love for the truth can (and will) read a passage, and then conclude that it simply does not mean what it says.  They may do this intentionally, or they may do this because they have been deceived; but either way they delude themselves into believing a lie. 

In my debate with a denominational preacher almost a decade ago I presented a chart on which I had placed two columns.  The heading over the first column was, “When the Scripture says….”   The heading over the second column read, “What it really means is….”   I did this to contrast plain Bible teaching with the false doctrine of men.  In order to conserve space I will not draw the two columns, but present to you here the blaring contradiction between what the Bible says and what men think it says or means.   Are we to believe, for example, that when the Bible says “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” what it actually means is, “He that believeth and is saved should be baptized” (Mark 16:16).   Shall we conclude that when the Bible says that “all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” that what it actually means is, “All we who were baptized were already in Christ Jesus and were already in his death”? (Rom. 6:3)   When the Bible says that “we were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” that what it means is “we walk in newness of life before we are buried in baptism”?  (Rom. 6:4).   Are we to believe that when Ananias said to Paul, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name” that what Ananias actually meant was, “Arise and be baptized to show that you have already been saved”?  Finally, are we to conclude that when Peter wrote in 1 Peter 3:21, “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” that what Peter meant was, “Baptism has nothing to do with your salvation”?   Passages could be multiplied, but I think  you get the picture.   David Sain made this observation that is pertinent to this discussion:   “Someone may say, ‘I’ve been rethinking the matter on baptism.’   Well, one may rethink these and other matters and change his mind, but that will not change what the Bible actually teaches.  If I look at a microphone and call it a pencil, does that change what it is? Of course it does not.  I can say what I want about it, but it will still be a microphone.  And so it is with the truth. Man may say what he will about a Biblical matter, but what the Bible says about it remains the same” (Spiritual Sword Lectures 2005, Restoring the New Testament Church, page 224).  

Many years ago a preacher made this observation. I may not have the words exact, and I cannot remember where I first heard it, but I think you’ll appreciate the point: “If a man is sincere, and is in religious error, and is then confronted with the truth, he will either cease to be in error, or he will cease to be sincere.”   When it comes to baptism for remission of sins, it is simply a matter of believing what the Bible says, and then obeying it!   Anything else is but folly!

Baptism And The Law Of The Excluded Middle

By Tom Wacaster

A major point of contention between the Lord’s church and virtually every false system of religion that falls under the broad, man-made umbrella of “Christendom,” has to do with the role that baptism plays in God’s plan for man’s salvation.   I have had two debates with denominational preachers, and I can attest that the adamancy with which they attack such passages as Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, is a manifestation of their hatred for the truth and denial of one of simplest commands given to those desiring to become children of God.   It may seem harsh to accuse someone of hating the truth simply because he does not believe, teach, or practice the Biblical position on baptism, but when men ridicule the God given command, they hate the truth.   Or, to put it another way, “because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10). 

The “law of the excluded middle” is a law in logic that says a thing either is, or is not.  It exhausts the possibilities.  For example, were I to point to an object and say that the object is either wood or non-wood, I have exhausted the possibilities.  Both statements cannot be true, nor can both be false.  The value of using “the law of the excluded middle” is such that if you prove one side of the two-side equation to be false, you at the same time have proven the other to be true, and visa versa.   Prove that an object is wood, and it is not non-wood: it would not be plastic, steal, concrete, et al.   With that we are ready to apply the “law of the excluded middle” to the goal of learning the truth about the essentiality of baptism.   While there is sufficient scripture to prove the essentiality of baptism for remission of past sins, I will take a different approach and “go in through the back door” so to speak.  

The “law of the excluded middle” demands that baptism is either for remission of past sins, or it is not for remission of past sins.  That statement exhausts the possibilities, does it not?   Both positions cannot, at one and the same time, be true, nor can both statements, at one and the same time, be false.  Those who deny its essentiality have taken the later position, and thus it is their burden to prove their position.   They have, however, taken upon themselves an impossible task for the simple reason that their position leads to an absurdity and/or contradiction;  in fact it leads to several absurdities and/or contradictions.  Let’s pursue this a little further.

First, it leads to the absurdity that one can be in Christ and out of Christ at the same time.   It is obvious that all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3).  Forgiveness of past sins is a spiritual blessing.  Therefore, forgiveness of sins is located only in Christ, a spiritual state acquired prior to baptism as per the argument of those who advocate that baptism is not for remission of sins.   But it is also true that baptism puts one into Christ as per Romans 6:3-5.  Therefore, those who believe that baptism is not for remission of past sins must conclude that one is in Christ prior to baptism, but out of Christ at the same time because he has not yet been baptized into Christ.  

Second, it leads to the absurdity that one has been raised from spiritual death to walk in newness of life prior to having been raised to walk in newness of life.  In Romans 6:4 Paul wrote:  “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.”  The argument is same as above.   Those who believe, embrace and/or teach the doctrine that baptism is not for remission of sins must believe they have already been raised to newness of life prior to burial in the grave.  But since we are “buried...through baptism….so we also might walk in newness of life,” then accepting the doctrine that remission of sins comes prior to baptism place themselves in the unenviable position of believing an absurdity:  that they are, at one and the same time, walking in newness of life and are not walking in newness of life.

By the same line of reasoning we could show that those who believe that baptism is not for remission of sins imply that they have been saved while at the same time not being saved, they have been translated into the body of Christ while not being in the body of Christ, etc.  

Now, let us return to the use of the “law of the excluded middle” and show the force of our reasoning.   Since it is true that the “law of the excluded middle” does not allow something to have and at the same time not have the same qualities, we can only conclude that if someone believes he is in Christ while at the same time believing he is not in Christ, he has violated the “law of the excluded middle.”   If a person believes he is walking in newness of life and at the same time not walking in newness of life, he has violated “the law of the excluded middle.”   Cannot you not see the absurd position they place themselves in?   Is it not much easier to simply believe and obey the Lord’s words: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”?  Indeed it is! 

The American Family

By Tom Wacaster

Sociologists have been warning us for more than six decades now of the collapsing family structure in the western world, and especially the United States.   Those warnings seem to have either been discounted as nothing more than alarmists hollering doom and gloom for no legitimate reason, or the warnings were ignored altogether.   I have been preaching for a little more than four of those decades and even with my limited involvement in family counseling I can affirm that those warnings were not from a chicken-little, “sky is falling” mind set.  When I was living in Decatur, Texas in the mid 1980’s the divorce rate in America officially hit 50%, and a little research in the Wise County library confirmed that in that county for the year 1988 there were 2 divorces for every marriage.  That does not mean that the rate had reached 66%; it was more a reflection on the shrinking desire on the part of couples to wed for one reason or another.   When the United States Census Bureau released its figures for 1990 the number of people cohabitating had surpassed those actually getting married for the first time in American history.  I think that was also the first year the Census Bureau no longer had a box in their census form for someone to check “head of family.” 

Now let me back up five decades to May 22, 1964.   Six months earlier John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and Lyndon Johnson was now serving out the last year or so of Kennedy’s presidency.   In a commencement at the University of Michigan, President Johnson set forth a grandiose dream of a “Great Society.”  He had only four months earlier declared the “war on poverty” in his first State of the Union address, perhaps the first leg in his journey toward his dream of a utopian state where poverty, racial injustice, and equality for all would become a part of the American dream with the assistance of a growing and more powerful government.  In his own words, that “was just the beginning.”  Nicholas Eberstadt summed up Johnson’s dream of a Great Society in a recent  article in the Weekly Standard:

The Great Society proposed to bring about wholesale renewal of our cities, beautification of our natural surroundings, vitalization of our educational system.  All this, and much more—and the solutions to the many obstacles encountered in this great endeavor, we were told, would assuredly be found, since this undertaking would “assemble the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America” [quoting Johnson, TW].

Gradually America would turn more toward human wisdom and turn less to God’s word for their guidance in matters pertaining to morals and family responsibility.   It was not long before a steady stream soon developed out of which social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, poverty assistance, et al soon became the norm, and the entitlement mentality soon captured the imagination of this generation.  That trickle became a title wave with the introduction of a national health care program in the form of the Affordable Healthcare Act.   It seems that there is no end to the utopian state that our politicians now envision. 

I would be tempted to write several articles on the complete failure of such a mentality as seen in the past five decades, but I will refrain from that at least for now.  The declared “war on poverty” that cracked open the door for the Great Society concept has only made matters worse.   Percentage wise, and in a hard cold numbers  as well, there are more people living in poverty today than in 1966.   Other statistics in various areas demonstrate the complete and utter failure of this attempt, or any attempt, to build a utopia here on earth.   But nowhere is the damage of such thinking more evident than in the harm it has done to our families here in America.  I want to share some statistics with you from that same Weekly Standard issue.  Over the past couple of decades I have come across little bits of information as to what is happening to our families in America, but these figures are staggering.   In the 1950’s the norm for childbearing and child rearing was the married, two-parent household.  As late as 1963 more than 93% of American’ babies were from that two-parent arrangement.   During the last five decades, after the implementation of the Great Society, out of wedlock births have skyrocketed.  Divorce and separation soared, and the “single mom” and “single dad” family arrangement has become a way of life in many areas.  From 1965 to 1990 out of wedlock births jumped from 7.7% to 28%.  Among African Americans it stood at 40%, and in some areas of our country it was a staggering 60%.  But it would get worse.  From 1990 to 2012 the percentage of out of wedlock births among African Americans jumped to 72% - that’s 7 out of ten children born out of wedlock.  A 1990 Census Bureau study reported that only 57% of children were living with both of their biological parents—that’s almost half of all the children in the U.S.  Among Hispanics the rate of out of wedlock births now stands at more than 30%.    Among whites the rate hit an all time high in 2013 of 29% - that’s ten times the figures in the mid 1960’s when the Great Society was instituted. 

The last few years has seen a broad acceptance of homosexuality in America and around the world, and an increase in states legitimizing homosexual marriages.  This will only make matters worse.   Yesterday (Monday, May 12th) it was reported that Defense Secretary Hagel is now entertaining allowing transsexuals into our military, just another step toward the complete destruction of God’s desired arrangement for an orderly and godly society.  Indeed, the trickle gave way to a steady stream, then to a title wave of ungodliness.  We are now in a free fall into the abyss of absolute social chaos.

When we were doing mission work in Ukraine in the late 90’s we had the opportunity to travel to Odessa on the Black Sea.  A good sister in Christ had invited us to come visit her.   I asked her on that occasion why the Russian people were so open to the gospel.  Her response was:  “When you are flat on your back, there is no way to look but up.”   Perhaps it will take the complete collapse of our society before this generation will start looking “up” for the solution to their problems.   A better life will not be found in a Great Society, or any other kind of utopia on earth.   The only utopia God ever promised us is that which awaits those souls who are willing to submit to His divine will in this life.  Anything else is a pipe dream that will result in failure and disappointment.

Balance And God's Grace

By Tom Wacaster

The late Ira North was known for stressing the importance of balance in our lives.  Extremes are dangerous in any area of life, and extremes, more often than not, lead to abuses, which in turn are sinful in the sight of God.   A good example of this can be seen in Jude’s warning to the brethren:  For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).  I find it incredible that anyone could “turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness.”  We are not provided the details of exactly how these false teachers were abusing God’s grace,  but it seems obvious to this student that they must have been suggesting that because God’s grace is so abundant that when we participate in sin, whether willingly or because we have been “overtaken in a trespass” (Gal. 6:1), that God’s grace somehow automatically provides forgiveness, even while participating in the sin itself.  God’s grace had become an excuse to sin.  Paul warned of such thinking in Romans 5:20 thru 6:14.  In that epistle Paul had set forth the abundant grace of God, and concluded that “where sin abounded, grace did abound more exceedingly” (Rom. 5:20).  In order to prevent going to the extreme, Paul then asks, and answers, a question: “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  God forbid. We who have died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2).   The problem in Paul’s day, Jude’s day, and even in our day, is that impenitent men want to extoll God’s grace while excusing their participation in sin.  

Martin Luther rebelled against the Catholic Church when it introduced the sale of indulgences to finance a building project.  If one can put money into the coffer in advance of sin, and then participate in that sin as if it has been properly “paid for,” is that person not abusing God’s grace?  I came across this amusing story that addresses this very point.  There was a fellow who stole his neighbor’s car.  He went to the priest and confessed the sin and the priest absolved him and told him the price would be $10.  The man put $20 into the coffer and turned to go his way.  The priest told him had paid too much, and the man replied, “Just keep it—tonight I’m going out looking for another car.”   While we may laugh at the story (or weep at the abuse of God’s grace), the warning to us from Paul and Jude is quite clear.  God’s grace is not some kind of talisman that can rid us of the consequences of sin just because we think it to be so.  Here are some ways we might abuse God’s grace.

First, we abuse God’s grace when we think sin is a light thing.  Foolish is the hypocritical church goer who thinks that sin is “no big deal.”  If he thinks God’s grace will excuse him from his wilful rebellion, he will find himself in the same boat as the rich fool in Luke 12 whose soul was required of him that very night.

Second, multitudes in the Lord’s church bank on God’s grace to save them even though they live in an adulterous marriage.  Repentance demands cessation of sin, and coming out of an adulterous marriage is no exception, regardless of the wonderful grace of God. 

Third, an occasional response to the Lord’s invitation on Sunday morning without any real change in life is abusing God’s grace.  Where are those souls who have come forward, seldom with tears in their eyes or a heavy burden on their heart,  asked for forgiveness, and then fail to even darken the doorway of the church for another six months or so when, once again, they attend, come forward, and “ask for forgives for some vague wrong doing, or for having said some things that might have offended others. 

Finally, do we not abuse God’s grace when we fail to attend, pray, study, visit, help with the work of the church, et al, and then sing with a loud voice on those occasions when we happen to be present with the saints, “God’s grace lifted me”?  Lifted you from what?  To do what?   Let us never forget that passage in Titus 2:11-12:  For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (emphasis mine, TW). 

God has prescribed the proper balance when it comes to His grace.   Faith in His gracious gift, and a response in loving obedience.  Nothing else will work!