Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 9, 1964
NUMBER 9, PAGE 1,9-12a

Churches Of Christ Vs. Baptist Churches

By Herschel E. Patton

Differences in the belief of those who make up the church of Christ and Baptists do exist. The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Nashville, Tenn., has published a tract entitled "Campbellism And The Church of Christ" by E. C. Routh wherein some of these differences are pointed out. It is claimed that churches of Christ are unscriptural in much of their teaching and misrepresent the Baptist position. We make the same charge against Baptists. The truth can never be ascertained by charges, but by carefully measuring the position of each with what the Scriptures actually teach. It is my purpose to examine Baptist teaching, and the reasons given for such teaching, on the subjects discussed in the above mentioned tract, while also presenting what I believe and teach, and why, on the same subjects. The reader is asked to carefully examine the different positions, in the light of the Scriptures.


The church of Christ is said to have Alexander Campbell as its founder. However, in about 58 AD., Paul wrote to the Romans and said "The churches of Christ salute you." This was some 1749 years before Thomas Campbell came to America. There were churches known as "churches of Christ" in Paul's day. They were not known as "Baptist Churches," "Catholic Churches," "Methodist Churches," "Presbyterian Churches," etc. Such are not mentioned in the New Testament.

The slogan adopted by Campbell, "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent," if followed, could result in nothing more than that which we read about in the Scriptures and which was called "churches of Christ" in Romans 18:16.

Men like Walter Scott and Barton Stone, in different parts of the country and at different times, came to hold the same beliefs as the Campbell's as a result of their own studies in the Scriptures. They did not learn from the Campbell's, but they and the Campbell's learned from the same source — the Bible. Furthermore, there is no teaching or practice peculiar to those who make up true churches of Christ that can not be found revealed in the New Testament. How can it be said that a group of people who believe and practice nothing but that believed and practiced by people in New Testament times owe their origin to the work of men who came on the scene some eighteen hundred years later?

The Significance Of Baptism

Members of the church of Christ believe and teach that there can be no remission of sins and acceptance with God until after baptism. Baptists, on the other hand, believe that remission of sins and acceptance with God are enjoyed before and without baptism.

Acts 2:38

The claim is made that "The Greek preposition translated 'for' in Acts 2:38 has many meanings besides 'for'." (ibid. p. 4) Matthew 3:11 and 12:41, where "eis" is translated "unto" and "at," are given as examples. This claim is admitted, but Greek Lexicons show that this word always points forward and not backward. Even concerning the expression "repented (eis) at the preaching of Jonas" (Matt. 12:41), Dr. J. W. Wilmarth, a Baptist scholar, says "The idea is direction of the mind of the hearer toward the preaching." Baptists object to the idea of baptism being unto — in order to — looking forward to — the remission of sins, but the American Standard Version translates "eis" in Acts 2:38 "unto."

Many References To Salvation Do Not Mention Baptism

In order for this argument to have any merit, there must be NO New Testament passage mentioning baptism along with salvation or the remission of sins. But there are passages which "DO conduct baptism and salvation or the remission of sins (Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, and Acts 22:16). It is wrong to build a theory of religion upon just one, or a few, passages which will not harmonize with the whole. Acts 2:38 does not mention belief; only "repent and be baptized... for the remission of sins." Romans 10:10 connects belief and confession with salvation, but no repentance is mentioned. Shall we conclude that belief and repentance are not necessary?

Other passages often cited by Baptists as they make this argument are Matt. 26:28, Luke 24:47, John 1:12, 3:16, 5:24, 10:9, 11:25-26, Acts 3:19, Eph. 2:8, and Heb. 9:22. When you look at all of these verses, and those given above, you can see that Jesus, as the door, His blood, faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are all essentials to "life," "salvation," or the "remission of sins" because each of these is connected with salvation in the Scriptures.

Many References List Baptism Subsequent To Remission Of Sins

Cornelius and those with him are thought to be examples of salvation before baptism. However, there is nothing in Acts 10 to prove this. The coming of the Holy Spirit upon them was to fulfill prophecy and to convince the Jews who came with Peter, and later all the Jews, that God was willing to accept Gentiles. (Acts 10:45, 11:17-18.) Nothing shows it was to save them or to signify they had been saved.

Acts 16:30-31 is another reference which Baptists think shows baptism to be subsequent to or follows salvation. The Jailor asked what to do to be saved and was told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. The next verse says they "spoke unto him the word of the Lord." This would enable him to do what had been commanded for faith comes by hearing the word (Rom. 10:17). Verse 33 shows penitence on his part, as he washed the stripes of Paul and Silas. Next, we find him being baptized, he and all his, straitway. Verse 34 pictures rejoicing, and declares of the jailer and his household, "believing in God with all his house." The context shows that baptism was involved in believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Not To Baptize"

I Cor. 1:17 "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" is quoted and thought by Baptists to show that baptism is non-essential to salvation. However, it will be noticed that Paul's converts were always baptized. From this text, we learn that Crispus and Gaius had been baptized by the apostle himself (vs. 14). The reason Paul was thankful he had baptized none but Crispus and Gaius was "lest any should say that I baptized in mine own name" (vs. 15). Baptizing was not his main mission, though it always followed his preaching.

The Holy Spirit

On this subject, the tract published by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention mentions three things concerning which members of the church of Christ are thought to teach error. (p. 5).

(1) We are charged with teaching error when we contend "The Holy Spirit works through the word in conviction and conversion." Baptists believe that the Holy Spirit in conversion works separate from the word.

(2) We are charged with not honoring the supernatural power of God in making alive those who are dead in trespasses and sins. Baptists believe in a supernatural power being exercised in conversion.

(3) We are said to teach error when we insist that the sinner is active in his own regeneration. Baptists believe that the sinner is so spiritually dead that he can do nothing without a supernatural power being exerted, namely the Holy Spirit.

A Supernatural Work — Man Inactive

Ephesians 2:10 " For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works;' according to Baptists, shows that regeneration is effected by the supernatural power of God and that man is inactive. The statement is often made, "We are his workmanship, not our own." If the statement "We are his workmanship," means everything is done supernaturally by God, and nothing by man, then believing and repenting would be nonessential for each of these require action on man's part.

God is the one who made possible our regeneration through the gift of His Son on the cross. Just because we must demonstrate our faith in repentance, confession, and baptism does not destroy the fact that we have become new creatures by God's grace — by His plan — and are therefore His workmanship.

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you..." (Ezek. 36:26-27) is thought to prove man is inactive in conversion. God, in these verses, does promise to give a new heart, but they say nothing about HOW God will do this. Baptists assume it is done miraculously and that man is inactive. However, that which is assumed is contrary to other plain passages and to the examples of conversion recorded in Acts.

Spirit Separate From or Through The Word When we learn how God changes the spiritual man, we will see how the Spirit works in conviction and conversion. Jesus said that coming to Him (salvation) involves hearing and learning. (John 6:44-45). The Holy Spirit was to guide the apostles "into all truth" (Jno 17:17). Peter said, "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Pet. 1:22).

The things declared in these verses are illustrated by the incidents of Pentecost. Read Acts 2. After the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, with demonstrations, the people were amazed, in doubt, confounded, and marveled. But Peter lifted up his voice and freely spake unto the people, showing undeniable facts about Jesus whom they had crucified, declaring that God had made this Jesus "both Lord and Christ." Verse 37 says "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart." At this point, the people are convicted, by the Spirit's message through Peter. He answered their question, "What shall we do?" by commanding them to "Repent and be baptized... in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins " The people obeyed and were added, by the Lord, to the church (vs. 41 & 47). They were regenerated or born again. The Spirit, using His sword, which is the word of God, through Peter, brought conviction to what had previously been hard, impenitent hearts Upon hearing and learning, they complied with the conditions divinely laid down — their faith thus expressing itself — and were "born again."

The Nature Of Faith

Members of the church of Christ are accused of "belief in one fact — that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, a 'historical faith', and submission to an institution (baptism), are all that are required for admission into the church" (ibid. p. 6). Baptists say "the Scriptures tell us that not only must we believe that he is the Son of God, but we must believe in or on him, trust him, commit our way unto him" (ibid. p. 6).

We do not teach "belief in one fact — that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God" distinct from trust and submission is sufficient. When it comes to WHAT we are to believe, the answer is — "That Jesus is the Christ — the promised Messiah — the Son of God." John tells us that believing Jesus to be the Son of God, because of evidence presented, is that which brings life (Jno. 20:30-31), So far as the THING to be believed is concerned, this is sufficient. But when we come to consider BELIEF ITSELF as to its NATURE, DEGREE, AND KIND, we may find in various ones a degree or kind of faith that would not be sufficient. Just such an example is found in John 12:42. Some rulers believed on him but their belief was not strong enough to bring forth acceptance and trust.

There is nothing wrong with claiming that belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and submission to baptism are all that are required for admission to the church. On Pentecost, belief in Jesus as the son of God was produced (Acts 2:33, 36, 37). Obedience to the command "Repent and be baptized" showed the genuineness of their faith. This faith, expressed in their obedience, was all that was required on their part for admission into the church (Acts 2:41 & 47).

The true nature of faith — the kind that brings blessings — may be seen by reading James 2:14-24 and Hebrews 11.

Church And Kingdom

Members of the church of Christ believe that the Kingdom of Heaven and the church are equivalent. The Baptist position is stated in another tract, published by the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, entitled "These Things We Believe." In this tract we have this statement: "With us there is no such thing as an aggregate Baptist church — a centralization of local churches into one body, claiming or manifesting legislative and executive control over all or any of the separate churches. Baptists have no such organization as is meant when we hear of 'The Methodist Church,' The Presbyterian Church,' or 'The Episcopal Church.' We believe that the term CHURCH is never applied territorially or ecclesiastically in the New Testament to a group of churches" (p. 6-7).

Church In The Aggregate

I agree that the Scriptures reveal no earthly legislative and executive body which exercises control over all or any of the separate churches, as is true of many denominational bodies. There is no such body to be found with churches of Christ. However, I deny that there is no such thing as the church in the aggregate.

Our Baptist neighbors err in failing to notice the two senses in which the word church is used in the Scriptures. The word is used in a general or universal sense (Matt. 16:18, Col. 1:18, Eph. 5:25). The church (singular), as used in these verses, embraces all Christians everywhere — all who have been sanctified — washed in the blood of Christ — and who have Christ as their head.

The word church is also used in a local sense (I Cor. 1:2, Acts 20: 17). Besides Corinth and Ephesus, we can also read in the New Testament about the church at Philippi, Colosse, Jerusalem, Laodicea, etc. These churches were made up of the redeemed (saints) in these places. Considered together, all of these made up "the church." Yes, there is such a thing as "the church." It knows no earthly legislative and executive body, for Christ is the head, and He is in heaven. His followers receive orders from Him through His word and are charged with "abiding in the doctrine" and forbidden to go beyond (2 Jno. 9-11),

Are Church And Kingdom The Same?

Do the terms church and kingdom refer to one and the same thing? Members of the church of Christ say "yes." Baptists say this is error. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus uses the terms "church" and "kingdom" interchangeably. The context shows Jesus had not changed subjects and that that to which Peter was given keys was the church Jesus promised to build. Peter used the keys on Pentecost when he stated the terms for the remission of sins compliance with which resulted in being "added to the church." (Acts 2:41 & 47).

Hebrews 12:23 mentions "the general assembly and church of the first born" and in verse 28 these are said to have "received a kingdom" or "have been made a kingdom" (R. V.).

Paul wrote to the saints at Colosse (Col. 1:13) and said that the Father "hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear son." In being delivered from the power of darkness, the Colossians entered the kingdom. When people are saved, they are added to the church (Acts 2:47). Those in the kingdom at Colosse were the church at Colosse. Furthermore, it is obvious that the lessons of Jesus' parables, wherein he said "the kingdom is like unto..."find fulfillment in the Church."

Church Members Not In Kingdom

Baptists claim there is a difference in the church and kingdom for "There were members of churches who, obviously, were not members of the kingdom" (ibid. p. 6).

Judas (John 6:70-71). Baptists assume that the apostles were the church at that time, but there is no evidence that such was the case, yet much to the contrary.

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-9). It is obvious that Ananias and Sapphire were a part of the church in Jerusalem. Since the church and kingdom are the same, if they were members of the church, they were citizens of the kingdom. Theirs was a clear case of apostasy. Baptist doctrine does not allow for apostasy. This is one reason they make a difference in the church and kingdom, for it can be claimed of an apostate that he got in the church but never was saved or in the kingdom.

Simon (Acts 8:21-23), Diotrephes, Demas and Alexander the coppersmith, we are told, were not in the kingdom. One who holds the doctrine that a child of God can never apostatize and be lost would naturally claim that such backsliding characters were never saved — never in the kingdom.

True Citizens

Since the church is made up of the saved and the kingdom is made up of those translated out of darkness, and it is the Lord who saves and adds, He is the one who has the true and exact list of the citizens. It will be admitted that one may obey the gospel in form, but not from the heart and be listed as a member of some local congregation, but this does not mean that such is a member of the Lord's body — the church. There is a vast difference in being "added to the Lord," which is the same as being added to the church, and in being identified with, and having fellowship with, the saints of a local congregation. Saints, not being able to discern one's motives and look into the heart, may be deceived and extend fellowship, but the Lord is never deceived. It is the Lord who adds to the church and he only adds the saved.

Old And New Testament

Baptists claim "Churches of Christ do not regard the Old and New Testament as of equally binding authority upon Christians" (ibid. p. 7). This they believe to be error, for it is their belief that the Old and New Testaments are of equally binding authority upon Christians.

If this contention be true, then a Christian is as obligated to render obedience to the commands found in the Old Testament as he is to those found in the New Testament. For example, the Old Testament authorizes a Levitical Priesthood, the tabernacle or temple worship, animal sacrifices, burning incense, and observing the Passover, yet none of these things are observed by Baptists today. The New Testament authorizes baptism, the observance of the Lord's Supper and other things not required in the Old Testament. If the Old and New Testaments are of equally binding authority upon people today, how is it that baptism and the Lord's Supper are included in obedience to God today while worship and service through a Levitical Priesthood and the offering of animal sacrifices are not?

Old Testament And Binding Authority

I do not deny that the Old Testament was characterized by binding authority. Binding authority is a characteristic of both the Old and New Testament, but the thing I deny is that they are of equally binding authority UPON CHRISTIANS. The Old Testament or law was God-given, of binding authority, to the Israelites. (See Ex. 31:1316 and Ex. 20). The New Testament is the Law of Christ for those to whom he hath spoken "in these last days." It was God's purpose for the Old Law to be superseded by the New. (Col. 2:14-16, Rom, 7:1-6, and 2 Cor. 3:7-11).

Baptist doctrine fails to make a distinction between the law of Moses and the gospel as a system of law itself. They see only one law which they claim to be eternal and unchangeable, thus are unable to distinguish between the territories of Judaism and Christianity.

Baptists think that because the Old Testament Scriptures foretold Christ, were constantly quoted by Christ and the apostles, were inspired, profitable, and cannot be broken (Matt. 5:17-19, Acts 3:18, 10:53, Gal. 3:6, I Pet. 1:11-12, 2 Pet. 1:21, Jno. 10:35, 2 Tim. 3:16) they must be equally binding on Christians. (ibid. p. 7).

Naturally, Jesus and the apostles would make use of the Scriptures that had foretold and prefigured the Lord's coming. This would convince the people and prepare them to accept "that prophet like unto Moses" that was to be raised up and whom they were to hear, Jesus nowhere taught that the law of Moses was to be obeyed always, but often indicated a higher authority in their midst. "Ye have heard hath been said...,but I say unto you..." (Matt. 5). Paul referred to acts of little faith and disobedience to God, on the part of the Israelites, to warn and admonish Christians. He even declared that the things that happened unto them are examples unto us.

I do not deny that the Old Testament Scriptures were inspired, say any of them failed of fulfillment, or contend that they are of no profit, even to Christians, The thing I do deny is that both the Old and New Testament are of EQUALLY binding authority on CHRISTIANS.

The Law Of Expediency (?)

The tract being reviewed in this study contains this statement: "Churches of Christ relentlessly criticize other groups (Baptists in particular) for what they term unscriptural teaching and practice. They furnish a loophole for themselves in what is known as the 'law of expediency'." (ibid. p. 7). The author refers to a statement in "Christian System" by Campbell wherein he said "There are many things left to the law of expediency, concerning which no precepts are found in the apostolic writings." This, Baptists think, is a "loophole" for our doing things without Scriptural authority.

It is unfortunate that Campbell used the term "law of expediency" for there is no such thing. The mistake of many, including Campbell, is in thinking that whatever is expedient "apt and suitable to the end in view" or "Suitable means to accomplish an end" is lawful. This thinking led him to endorse the Missionary Society and it has caused many in these days to endorse numerous institutions and organizations for evangelistic, benevolent, and edifying works. This is the thinking behind instrumental music, suppers to raise money, and various entertaining and recreational activities. Such actions are not true representations of those who truly "speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where it is silent."

Proving a thing to be expedient does not make it lawful. Only lawful things can be justified expedients (I Cor. 10:23). In order for something to be proven right and acceptable we must first find authority for it. Expediency alone does not constitute a law. Before anything, classified as a matter of judgment, may be practiced, it must first be authorized by general authority, yet not specified. For example, the command to assemble necessitates a place and time, but these are not specified. The meeting house and hour would be matters of judgment. The command to "go...preach the gospel" (Mark 16:15) necessitates some means of going and these are not specified. Walking, flying, riding in an automobile, etc. would be expedients. As means of going, these would be authorized. They inhere within the command to "go." Walking, flying, etc. are not laws themselves. They are simply MEANS for obeying the law to "go."

Instruments Of Music — Radio

The author of the tract under review thinks we have no right to criticize Baptists for using instruments since we use radio. The use of radio is a means of teaching. Teaching the lost and the saved is specifically commanded (Matt. 28:18 20). Radio, a printed tract, a tape recorder, a film strip, are all MEANS of teaching, just as riding, walking flying, etc. are means of going. Hence, these things are clearly authorized by the law or command to TEACH, even though not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures.

Does instrumental music qualify as Scriptural in this manner? Before anything can be justified as an expedient, it must be lawful (I Cor. 10:23). The law of Christ plainly commands "singing and making melody in the heart" (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16). There is no law in the Scriptures to PLAY upon instruments. In order for instruments to be justified as expedient, they must be MEANS of singing. PLAYING upon instruments is not a means of SINGING. It is another action entirely. Using a song book, singing bass, alto, etc. would be means of singing. The latter can be done by Scriptural authority as expedients, but playing upon instruments of music as worship to God is an addition of human wisdom. It is, therefore, a matter of going beyond that which is written.

— Box 282 Lawrenceburg. Tennessee