What Are The Prerequisites to Scriptural Baptism & Membership in the Body of Christ?
January 03, 2002
If we can't know the answer to this question how may we know if we are "citizens of the kingdom" or "members of the body of Christ?" In other words just who is a Christian, a child of God, a brother to Jesus Christ and to others who are in fellowship with deity (1 John 1:1-7; 1 John 5:10-15)? Just who are citizens of Christ's kingdom?
I have no illusions that I will be able to answer these questions to the satisfaction of every reader. I may not answer them to anyone's satisfaction. I do hope I can answer to Christ's satisfaction however (1 Peter 4:11; 1 John 1:1-7; 5:10-15; John 8:31-32;1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Revelation 14:13; 22:14; Hebrews 5:9; 1 Peter 1:22-25; Mark 16:15-16, etc.)
More Prerequisites Than Many Think
Evidently there are more prerequisites to "salvation from alien sins and membership in Christ's blood bought body" than many (even among us who call ourselves just Christians) understand or believe. Let me put it this way for a beginning. I suggest that the "sum total" of what the New Testament cases of conversion following the "Great Commission" given by Christ to His apostles involved, forms the pattern for how one may be a convert to Christ and a member of His blood bought body today, just as was true in the beginning.
Some say that "just so long as one is baptized to obey Christ, their baptism is valid, even though they have associated themselves by choice with a Protestant church." If this be true, then I suppose all "brands" of Baptists are our brethren even though they may not acknowledge us as their brethren. Why do I say this? Because according to every creed I have read among them, they all admit to the following. "Baptism is not essential to salvation,...but it is essential to obedience, since Christ has commanded it..."(Note 8, Pg. 20 Standard Manual For Baptist Churches by Edward T. Hiscox, D.D. 1961 edition) The articles of faith among them may vary in how they state this, but basically most all of them say much the same. They often accuse members of the body of Christ of believing in "baptismal regeneration" which they all denounce. What they evidently do not realize is that we do as well. "Baptismal regeneration" would be true only if we thought that baptism alone saved one like the rituals performed among the Catholics and some others, and that, even of infants. We are as opposed to such as are our Protestant friends. However, when preceeded by the proper teaching, baptism is referred to as "the washing of regeneration..." (Titus 3:5). Too, the apostle Peter said plainly "...baptism doth also now save you..." (1 Peter 3:20-21). I like to refer to baptism as "the final act of the new birth of the water and of the Spirit," without which one may not "see" nor "enter" into the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5).
ARE ALL WHO HAVE BEEN BAPTIZED "FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS" OUR BRETHREN IN CHRIST?
Some with whom I have discussed this matter will answer in the affirmative! My next question is, are the Mormons our brethren? The Mormons baptize by immersion "for the remission of sins." Yet they do not believe in the same God nor the same Lord Jesus Christ as do we. Usually the one who has just stated the above affirmation will all of a sudden be unwilling to be consistent with what he has just affirmed and will not accept members of this Cult as his brothers in Christ. How, I ask, if his premise is correct, can he deny this conclusion? I deny it because I believe there are several other prerequisites to scriptural baptism. Inspired apostles and evangelist took into account just where folks were in their understanding of some essential beliefs before they would baptize folks into Christ. For example when Paul preached on Mar's Hill he instructed them concerning the nature of the "one true God and His Son" for without this knowledge even if he should have baptized them, they would not have been saved (Acts 17:22-31; John 8:21-24; Hebrews 11:6).
REBAPTIZED EVEN THOUGH THEY HAD BEEN BAPTIZED FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS BY JOHN'S BAPTISM (MARK 1:4).
When Paul encountered some folks who had been immersed "knowing only the baptism of John," he realized that they were not converts to Christ and were in need of submitting to "baptism by Christ's authority" which was not only "for the remission of alien sins, but into Christ and into the one body," His blood bought church. These folks were immediately baptized scripturally. You can read the account in (Acts 19:1-7) See also (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Acts 2:38, 40-41; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 2:13-16).
Some time ago I was reading from a publication of the Assemblies of God denomination in which it was suggested that one should be "baptized in running water to wash away their sins." I wondered how this baptism could do as they suggested when in other places in their own literature they claimed salvation when they came to the alter, accepted Christ and prayed for salvation? Do you get what's wrong with that picture? While a good Bible passage is alluded to which is (Acts 22:16), their application isn't parallel to the case of Saul of Tarsus. He was lost until he obeyed the Lord's commandment as to "what he must do," which was, now that he was a penitent believer who had confessed faith in Christ, had prayed and even fasted, "...arise and be baptized and wash away your sins..." (Acts 22:16; John 3:3-5). Are members of the Assembly of God our brethren in Christ? I wish they would learn the truth and become such, but as things now stand the answer must be no!
WE HAVE LONG TAUGHT THAT "ONE CANNOT BE TAUGHT WRONG AND HAVE BEEN
BAPTIZED RIGHT." WERE WE CORRECT IN THIS CONTENTION?
My answer is we were, and we are correct when we maintain the above affirmation. Why do I say this? I rely on Paul's inspired remarks in the Roman letter where he affirms that until or unless one "obeys from the heart that form of doctrine they were delivered" they remain lost. In other words it takes "obeying from the heart" a form of Christ's D.B.R. to be made free of alien sins (Romans 6:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). "Obeying from the heart" means (if I understand the inspired language) "with one's understanding" of what constitutes Scriptural baptism, and why one is being baptized. He must believe, before he goes down into the waters of baptism, that he is lost and in need of cleansing in the blood of Christ and believe when he arises from said immersion it is to a newness of life and that then, and not before, he becomes a servant of righteousness and a member of the blood bought body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).
The conversion of the Queen's treasurer is an interesting case pointing of another prerequisite to Scriptural baptism. When Philip "preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:35), as soon as they came to water the treasurer requested baptism and asked, "what doth hinder me to be baptized"(v-36)? He was told that he must "believe with all of his heart" before he could be baptized. In order to know that he did in fact believe on Jesus Christ he had to confess his faith with his mouth just as Jesus and later Paul had also affirmed (See Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10; Acts 8:26-39) See also (1 Timothy 6:12).
ONE DOESN'T ACCIDENTALLY GET INTO THE CHURCH
I don't happen to believe that the New Testament teaches that one can accidentally get into the "one body," the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. I see in (1 Corinthians 12:13) reason to believe that these folks knew into what relationship baptism would place them since it was "by one Spirit they were baptized into one body." By one Spirit means simply the teaching they received from men who were guided by the Holy Spirit they knew they were being baptized into this one body where reconciliation unto God is to be found (See Acts 2:1-4; 22-38, 40-41, 47; Ephesians 1:22-23; Ephesians 2:13-17; Ephesians 3:1-6; Ephesians 4:1-6; Ephesians 5:22-33).
Hearing and learning are prerequisites to conversion or the "new birth" of "water and of the Spirit" (John 3:3-5; Titus 3:3-5). Jesus said so in (John 6:44-45). When the Great Commission was faithfully taught by Christ's apostles the people were being taught by God through these inspired men. The passage reads:
"No man can come to Me except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God, every man therefore that has heard, and has learned of the Father, cometh unto Me" (John 6:44-45).
While not all cases of conversion to Christ spell out all of the steps that are prerequisite to salvation, since some simply say something like, "many of the priest were obedient to the faith" (Acts 6:7), and "believers were the more added to the Lord..." (Acts 5:14), still when we take each case of conversion a normal progression follows which we have come to list as the "five steps into Christ" 1. Hear the gospel. 2. Believe the same. 3. Repent of sins. 4. Confess one's faith in Christ. 5. Be baptized into Christ and into the one body for the remission of sins. Those steps aren't listed anywhere in your new testament in that exact form, but a gospel preacher by the name of Ben Franklin, if I am not mistaken, many years ago properly put them in this order (which is the only logical order leading to full conversion) so the "five finger method" of teaching others could be easily utilized in converting others to Christ.
Let me share something else that is interesting to me. Foy E. Wallace Jr. -told this story and I have it on tape. He was in a gospel meeting and a woman came out after the service and told him, "brother Wallace, you converted me to Christ but your brother Cled baptized me." Foy said "no lady you're wrong about that." She was quite disturbed with him and repeated the statement and Foy denied her claim once again and added "If I didn't baptize you, I did not convert you, for one isn't converted until one is scripturally baptized." He then paralleled (Acts 2:38 with Acts 3:19). In Acts 2:38 Peter told believers to "repent and be baptized...for the remission of your sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" and in (Acts 3:19 he said to another audience of believers that they must "repent and be converted when times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Father." See the point? He used "converted" as parallel to "being baptized." Therefore, one isn't converted until and unless one is scripturally baptized - See? Beside that, see the parallel between (Acts 2:38 and Matthew 26:28). The same reason Christ shed His blood is why we are to be baptized "for (in order to) the remission of sins." This is an ungetaroundable argument. It can be denied but it can't be disproved.
As I stated in the very beginning, "I doubt that I will be able to satisfy everyone on this matter" but let me say again, "I do not believe one can be taught wrong and baptized right, nor do I believe one can slip up and accidentally become a member of the body of Christ without knowing it."
WE ARE BAPTIZED INTO A NAME AS WELL
Everyone who is "baptized" is "baptized into some name." For example if a joint meeting of various denominations was engaged in and they decided to "divide the spoils" of those whom they believed were "converted to Christ" by "faith alone" or at the point that each "accepted Jesus as personal Savior," let me ask you. What are those so called "converts" religiously at this point? Now let us suppose the meeting was jointly conducted by the Methodist-Baptist-Presbyterians and Lutherans. How do those they claim are converts to Christ get to wear these various names? You know as well as I it is when which ever preacher from each group "baptizes them" that they take that name whether it be "Baptist-Methodist-Presbyterian or Lutheran."
Conversely to the above if a penitent believer in Jesus Christ is baptized into Christ and into the name of Christ as well as into the only body, he takes the name Christian, a name which unites and doesn't divide (See Matthew 28:18-20; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-6; Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16; Acts 4:10-12). Think, my friends and my brethren as well.
ARE THERE CHRISTIANS IN THE VARIOUS DENOMINTIONS?
There is only one "plan of salvation." So far as I know everyone who "obeys from the heart that form of doctrine is made free from sins and becomes a servant of righteousness" (Romans 6:17-18; Colossians 2:12). If after thus obeying one decides to "join" himself or herself to a manmade denominational body, they had better get out of that "plant not planted by the heavenly Father," for sooner of later they will be rooted up (Matthew 15:13; Psalm 127:1; Ephesians 5:22-33). It is certain the Lord "has never added one to a human denomination." He only adds the saved to his blood bought body when they obey the gospel (Acts 2:22-38, 40- 41, 47; Col. 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Those who "obey not the gospel" will suffer everlasting punishment following judgement day according to the words of the inspired apostle Paul in (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). If you have yet to "obey the gospel of Christ" and this lesson has convinced you of you need to attend to this matter, get in touch with us and allow us to assist you in your obedience.
Kenneth E. Thomas