Vol.XI No.III Pg.7
May 1974

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

A letter from Pennsylvania asks if one must understand that baptism is for the remission of sins before he can scripturally baptized.

It was in 1823, eleven years after his baptism, that Alexander Campbell concluded that baptism was for the remission of sins. Austin McGary established the Firm Foundation in 1884 with the intention of discussing this subject. His firm "yes" caused many to think him an extremist; and he and D. Lipscomb (who answered with the then popular "No") engaged in journalistic cross-fire on the subject for several years (Search For Anc. Order, West; Vol. 2, p.405-f.). Which proves nothing scriptural, but may prompt a more objective look at matters.

Many denominations teach that somewhere along the line of hearing the gospel, learning, believing and obeying, we have remission of sins. Now ask, "At what point along the line?" and let the scriptures answer They affirm (it is not our purpose here to argue the case) it is at the point of baptism (ACT.2:38, 22:16). This is when forgiveness does take place, regardless of what Campbell, McGary or anyone else thought about it.

Must the candidate know that he must be baptized? Must implies submission to authority and suggests an adverse effect should we fail to comply. And the scriptures say the Lord is that authority — not some "church regulation" or accepted social practice. Frequently people equate the "doctrine of the church" with the teaching of the Lord — when in reality they may have little in common. If ones allegiance and hence ones submission is actually "to the church" — having little or no knowledge of the teaching of Christ -- I do not see how their baptism could be "to obey the Lord." (I am fully aware that many candidates have put their trust in a sectarian concept of "The Church of Christ" and I will repeat for emphasis, I do not see how their baptism could be "to obey the Lord.")

Try honestly considering the passages that would teach you that you must be baptized, and see if you can avoid the WHY? "Fulfill righteousness" lest you "reject the council of God" against yourself, "shall be saved" "make disciples, baptizing" "for the remission of sins" "wash away thy sins" etc. The details, the fine and technical points, might easily be missed — but by the time one learned that he must be baptized, I believe he would have learned enough of the reason to make baptism valid.

The point IS NOT that someone other than a gospel preacher "did the baptizing" or that "the right words" (whatever they are) were not uttered at the time of the baptizing; or that "it was not Church of Christ baptism" (whatever that is); or, etc.,etc. The matter hinges on — was the subject properly taught, so that he/she came to Christ, as a result of being taught, hearing and learning Christ This is the only valid way. (JOH.6:45)

The subjects understanding, not the preachers, is the key. Often the years dim or change ones concept of what his understanding was at the time of baptism, but he must face God with his conscience, not mine.