Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 27, 1949

"Is Water Baptism For This Age?"

Felix W. Tarbet, Colorado Springs, Colorado

If we remember the story correctly, "Cowboy" Crimm, a sensational Baptist preacher who was very popular in Texas a few years ago, is said to have stated in one of his sermons that he had tried for thirty years to explain "baptism for the remission of sins" of Acts 2:38 without teaching the necessity of water baptism. Finally, while praying one day in his private closet, the Holy Spirit revealed to him the fact that the baptism of Acts 2:38 was for Jews only and was never required of any Gentile. Evidently, B. B. Crimm had been reading Scofield's reference Bible and had mistaken the comments for the text of the Scriptures. Recently, coming from so-called Fundamentalists in this country, there has been a flood of literature that teaches the same theory. Numerous teachers and scholars connected with Moody Bible Institute at Chicago are being quoted in support of this view. Dr. Ironside, James M. Gray and Kenneth Wuest are among those quoted. We do not charge these men with teaching this theory in its entirety but they have certainly lent their support to it. Scofield's Bible certainly teaches the fundamental thesis of this theory and Nathan J. Stone said that it is "thoroughly sound" in his column in the Moody Monthly for July, 1949. He added: "dislike of this Bible might well be a reflection upon those who don't think much of it."

One such writer is Cornelius R. Stain, In a tract,-"The Lord's Supper, Its Distinction from Baptism and Its Place in God's Program for This Age," he says: "It cannot be denied that from John the Baptist right through Pentecost water baptism was stated to be a requirement for salvation." Then he gives several passages in support of his statement, including Acts 2:38. He even included the baptism of Saul of Tarsus and said that it was necessary to salvation. He also said that everyone "should see that the fact that it is not said to be essential in every single case does not alter this in the least. Faith is not always said to be essential to salvation, but it is." Still again he said: "The fact that when the first general baptism was practiced it was proclaimed as a requirement for salvation. (Mark 1:4). Under the so-called 'Great Commission' it was a requirement. (Mark 16:16). At Pentecost it was a requirement. (Acts 2:38). And, even at the conversion of Saul it was still a requirement. (Acts 22:16)."

But, according to this writer and others of the same stripe, the baptism of John, the baptism commanded by Jesus and the one commanded in the Book of Acts was for JEWS ONLY. John and Jesus had announced that the kingdom was at hand and baptism in water was a kingdom requirement. "Except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5). But because the Jews rejected Christ he did not set up his kingdom, we are told. To use the words of one of these writers, the establishment of the kingdom was "interrupted but will be taken up before the Lord comes to deliver Israel at the last." (The Testimony, by Dr. R. F. Suerig, page 14). This 'doctrine goes on to argue that the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, offered the kingdom to the Jews again after the death of Christ, but that the Jews rejected it, so Paul came and established the church and brought in the age of grace. So, during the age of grace, baptism in water is not required but when the kingdom is established it will be required. The age of grace is for the Gentiles so no Gentile need be baptized. It is argued that GRACE is far superior to the kingdom that Christ intended to set up and will set up at some future time. If this be true then the establishment of the kingdom (in the future) will be a retrogression, a throw-back and not a step forward.

In this connection I cannot help but think of the words of Jesus in Mark 9:1, "Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power." Jesus did not say I will send you the kingdom or I will establish the kingdom, provided the Jews accept me. He unconditionally promised that the kingdom would come during the lifetime of some who were standing in His presence. If this unconditional promise of the Lord Jesus Christ has not been kept, if the kingdom has not been established, if it has not come, if the devil had enough power to interrupt Jesus and keep him from establishing his kingdom then, how can we trust in the power of Jesus to succeed the next time he tries? If he failed once, how do we know but what he will fail again? Dear friends, I do not believe that Jesus failed. I believe that He accomplished what he intended and that he intended to keep his promises.

In the Book of Colossians, which the "dispensational preachers, - as they call themselves, - consider a book for the age of GRACE and which is not supposed to apply to the KINGDOM age, the apostle Paul said in the first chapter, thirteenth verse: "Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the KINGDOM of his dear Son." This makes it plain that Paul understood that he was in the kingdom and at the same time in the age of GRACE. So, if baptism in water is a kingdom requirement it is also a grace requirement because to be in grace is to be in the kingdom. I remember also that Paul wrote: "For the Kingdom of God is not in word, but in power." (1 Cor. 4:20). How could the kingdom of God be in power, if there is n o kingdom of God yet? Also, in Colossians 4:11 Paul speaks of his "fellow-workers unto the kingdom of God." If water baptism is a kingdom requirement then these fellow-workers with Paul had to be baptized because their work was in relation to the kingdom. Remember again that those who make the dispensational argument consider the Book of Colossians for the dispensation of grace. Again, John, who is the only one of the apostles that these dispensational preachers give credit for preaching the gospel of grace along with Paul, said in Revelation 1:9, "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." John considered himself in the kingdom. He considered the brethren in the churches at Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea in the kingdom. Paul had a great deal to do with the church at Ephesus and wrote to it very emphatically about grace but John considered that he was a brother in the kingdom to the Christians at Ephesus. So, if water baptism is a kingdom requirement, the Ephesians had been baptized in water. In fact Paul said this to the church at Ephesus: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." (Eph. 5:25-26).

It is also argued that Peter preached the gospel of the kingdom and that Paul preached the gospel of grace. It is admitted that Peter demanded baptism as a condition of salvation and baptism in water, too. No wonder, for Peter said, "While the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." (I Pet. 3:21). But we are also told by these uninspired men that the gospel which Peter preached was "done away." We are even told by these "dispensational preachers" that during the age of grace it is "not necessary to be born again" to be saved. That being born again was and will be necessary to entering the kingdom. But if they would only believe that Peter was an inspired apostle they would believe him when he said, "BEING BORN AGAIN, NOT OF CORRUPTIBLE SEED, BUT OF INCORRUPTIBLE, BY THE WORD OF GOD, WHICH LIVETH AND ABIDETH FOREVER." Again he said concerning this gospel which he was preaching: "But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you." (I Pet. 1:23-25). To reject water baptism in this age is to reject the writings of Paul and Peter, and a slap in the face of Jesus. It is rebellion, disobedience and will be punished with everlasting destruction. Peter told what would be the end of those who "obey not the gospel of God." (I Pet 4:17). Paul answered that the "Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." (2 Thess. 1:7-8).