Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 27, 1956
NUMBER 21, PAGE 3,4b

"Christian Church" Baptism -- A Reply

Jerry Culley, Dallas, Texas

Is Christian Church baptism valid? Robert West, in the August 9 issue of this periodical, both asks and answers this question. His answer: It is not only invalid, but sinful! Between the question and the answer lies some very interesting reasoning. Let us examine it.

Brother West begins his argument with a logical form:

"1. All 'brethren' were baptized into the one body. (1 Cor. 12:13.)

2. But the members of the Christian Church are 'brethren.'

3. Therefore, the members of the Christian Church were baptized into the one body."

But unwilling to accept this obvious conclusion, he makes his first assertion. "The Christian Church and the church of Christ are two separate distinct bodies." Thus members of the Christian Church are not in the "one body." Here we might raise a question. Does the fact that the two groups exist mean that only one of them can compose the body of Christ? If so, what about the two dozen (more or less) distinct groups within the so-called Church of Christ? There division exists over classes, cups, cooperation, etc. If division excludes all groups but one from the "one body," which of the two dozen is the one body?

Within the "Christian Church" are many conservative congregations which use the name "Church of Christ" and do not support the Missionary Society. They differ from "The Church" on one point — instrumental music. If division over this point puts them out of the body, then division on any other point would have the same result. We repeat, which of the two dozen or so divisions of the "Church of Christ" is the Lord's body? The use of such a principle soon leads a man to withdraw from virtually everyone and conclude that the Lord's body consists of only one member — himself! Surely there is another possibility. Though all the groups mentioned are separate and distinct, their difference over cups, music, order of worship, classes, and other things do not exclude them from the body of Christ. All were baptized into Jesus, and were added by the Lord to his body. Misunderstanding or false teaching may cause them to affiliate themselves with different groups; but this does not invalidate their baptism. When one is baptized upon faith in Jesus, God has promised to forgive his sin and add him to the church. Doctrinal misunderstanding cannot invalidate baptism. Which brings us to the second consideration:

How Much Must One Know?

Brother West affirms that one must not only realize that baptism is for remission of sins and that such an act will place him in the one body, but he must know the identity of that body! Thus he concludes that Mormons and "Christian Church" members are not in the body, even though baptized for the remission of sins, since they did not know the identity of that body. (Note: For Brother West this means "The Church of Christ"--God's "favorite folk.") How complicated can salvation become? The Lord of Glory said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16.) Who dares to add to the divine requirements? Faith in Christ, seen by submission to him in baptism, will justify. Where in all the conversions recorded in Acts can we find a sermon on "What is the Church of Christ?", or where in that book is there one instance of the church even being mentioned until after one is baptized? The apostles did not preach about the "one body" or about the Church of Christ! They preached Jesus, and salvation in him through faith. Even baptism was mentioned only at the question, "What shall we do?" All who accept by faith the Lord Jesus, and are baptized in view of that faith, have done what God commands, regardless of any other misunderstandings they may or may not have.

"The Point Of Sin Is Christian Church Baptism"

This our brother concludes on the reasoning that "We have already seen how the Christian Church is a denomination separate, distinct, and in no way connected to the one body of Christ. Hence, being without authority for its very existence, the 'Christian Church is sinful." He then quotes 2 John 10,1.1 "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker in his evil deeds." This he misapplies (It has reference to one who "confesses not that Jesus is come in the flesh" — verse 7) to mean that when one is baptized into the Christian Church (a sinful body) he commits sin. Even were we to grant that the Christian Church is a sinful body, and that his use of 2 John 10, 11 is correct, the fact remains that one is not "baptized into the 'Christian Church." Here the whole argument falls down. When one obeys the impulse of his faith and is immersed, he is immersed into Christ — not into the "Christian Church," the "Mormon Church," or the "Church of Christ." He is added to the body of Christ — not to any distinct group or organization. These he may join, but he is not baptized into them. Baptism puts one into Christ, and nothing more. But, says someone, is he not in the one body? Certainly, but he may not even know it! How much did the Jews on Pentecost know of the "one body"? How much did the eunuch know? Or Cornelius? Or the jailor? The expression only appears in Paul's writings — and these are to Christians!

But let us take an example. A man hears the gospel from a "Christian Church" preacher. He believes what is said and is baptized. But he thinks instrumental music is allowable, and so identifies himself with a Christian Church. He did what the Lord commanded, but Brother West would have us believe he sinned in so doing, simply because he misunderstood a point of doctrine. Imagine! How many of us would be saved if we had to know enough about the one body to definitely identify it from all its counterfeits?

Summary And Conclusion

1. The Divine standard: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.

2. There is no record of any apostle ever including the "one body" in his message to the world.

3. Lack of understanding regarding the identity of the "one body" cannot invalidate the immersion of a penitent believer.

Is Christian Church baptism valid? If such a thing exists, the answer will have to be "It is as powerless to save as 'Church of Christ' baptism." But if it be advanced that the "Church of Christ" practices the baptism Jesus commanded, then we must be as charitable with the Christian Church. They teach what the Lord commanded for justification. They are our brethren in Christ Jesus. Let us treat them as such.