By Mel Futrell Shades Mountain church of Christ
You can’t be taught wrong and baptized right and you can’t be baptized wrong and be right was the old saying of many sound gospel preachers through the years and for that matter still is. I’ve heard it all my life and believe that in principle it accurately represents the teaching of the New Testament. But growing numbers in the church today would have us believe that some denominational groups are our brethren because they immerse and therefore we should have some level of fellowship with them. At the outset I remind you that the General Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Seventh-Day Adventists also immerse and claim to do it for the remission of sins. Are they then our brethren?
In answer to this I’ll begin by asking two companion questions: Are there Christians in the religious denominations? and Can one be taught wrong and baptized right? Let’s now review these related concepts.
I want to be clear that when I ask, Are there Christians in the religious denominations? I am not referring to New Testament Christians who have departed from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1), then joined some religious denomination and are now correctly considered apostates. Rather, we desire to know if it is possible for one to become a New Testament Christian by obeying human denominational doctrines? We answer it is not! Brethren, if one can become a member of the Lord’s church (Matthew 16:18) by obeying human denominational doctrines, then salvation is based on error rather than on the knowledge of the truth. Yet the Scriptures affirm that we can know the truth and it is the truth, God’s word, which makes us free (John 8:32; 17:17). Therefore, it is not error or even the combination of error and truth that saves one, but truth and truth alone.
The Lord said in Luke 8:11, Now the parable is this; the seed is the word of God. This seed, the word of God, [truth] when believed with the heart (Romans 10:10) and obeyed from the heart (Romans 6:17) makes Christians, the only Christians, and nothing but Christians. The New Testament knows absolutely nothing of a:
Mixed-breed of people somewhere, such as Baptist-Christians, who have been immersed in the name of Jesus.
You should know that no one becomes a Christian by obeying human denominational doctrines. Likewise, one does not accidentally obey the gospel of Christ and trip or stumble into the kingdom of God. Christianity is a taught religion. Jesus said in John 6:45:
It is written in the prophets, and they shall all be taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.
The order is apparent; we’re taught, hear, learn and then and only then do we come to the Lord through loving obedience.
Now to the second question, Can one be taught wrong and baptized right? In response, I ask you to consider Acts 19:1-7 and the ac-count of the twelve Ephesians. The Biblical record reads as follows:
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus; and finding certain disciples, He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve.
After having read the above, here is the thought I want to suggest to you. If it was possible in the First Century for twelve men (vs. 7) to be taught wrong and submit to the wrong baptism (vss. 3-4) and then to be taught correctly and baptized correctly (vss. 4-5), it is possible today. Please remember what has transpired here. These 12 Ephesians had submitted to John’s baptism [immersion], which was for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). It seems apparent they had done such after the establishment of the church when John’s baptism was no longer valid. They no doubt did it out of a sincere motive, to obey God. Yet their baptism wasn’t valid. If this is not the case then why didn’t Paul accept their first baptism? Why didn’t he just say, Well now, since you’ve been properly taught and you have previously submitted to immersion, everything is just as it needs to be. The plain truth is, they had submitted themselves to a system of religion that was no longer the Lord’s thus their baptism was invalid. And the same thing hap-pens today! Remember what we said at the be-ginning of this article, You can’t be taught wrong and baptized right and you can’t be baptized wrong and be right.
Brethren, all kinds of good people sincerely, but erroneously, believe they are saved (Matthew 7:21-23). They belong to ―churches‖ that were not founded by Christ (Matthew 15:13; 16:18-19), but by mere men. Knowing this should propel us into action in carrying out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
Simply put, one is either in the church of Christ or he is not (John 8:44; Galatians 3:26-27). Questions like, Who is a Christian?, Are there Christians in the denominations?, and Can one be taught wrong and baptized right? can all be answered correctly by understanding and accepting the New Testament doctrine of the one true church belonging to Jesus Christ.
In Christ, Steve Preston
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