Vol.XVII No.V Pg.2
July 1980

"Sectarian" Baptism

Robert F. Turner

This month's question, p.7, is one that stirs feelings among brethren, and challenges the best in us. It is easy to state one's opinion on the subject, but giving a consistently scriptural reason for that opinion is another matter. If we are not careful we will end up by measuring others by ourselves, and asking others to answer to our conscience.

In the early days of what is now Oaks-West church, Burnet, a young man answered the gospel invitation by declaring his faith in Christ, and his desire to be baptized into Christ. We asked the preacher of another church in Burnet (they had no elders at that time) if we might use their baptistry, but we were refused. He said, "You will baptize him into a sect; bring him to me, and I'll baptize him into Christ." I replied, "You mean the one baptizing him makes the difference?" There was no reply to that. We took the boy to a lake and baptized him "into Christ" — not because we did the baptizing, but because the boy was obeying Jesus Christ.

The boy's views on institutionalism, if he had any, had nothing to do with validating or invalidating his baptism. He had learned that he was a sinner, that Christ had died for him, and wanted him to trust Him, repent and be baptized. In doing that, the young man came into an acceptable relationship with Christ, his sins being forgiven. When questions concerning worship arise, those "in Christ" are anxious to learn the Master's desire and instructions. They study the inspired records carefully, doing only that for which there is authority.

The young convert had that obligation and his continued faithfulness to the Lord depended, upon his response. The same can be said for his obligation to "follow Christ" with respect to church organization, his personal life, and his "joint participation" with others in worship, work, etc. There are many ways in which he could deny the Lord later in life, but if his initial coming to Christ was genuine, the later errors would not invalidate his baptism.

It is certainly true that today's world is filled with people who have "joined a church" with no real commitment to Christ. Thousands are on the rolls of Churches of Christ, who will not objectively consider His will in questionable matters. Saying, "the 'true church' is not like that" does not prove identity. We can best do that by recognizing the individual and direct relation of saints to God, avoiding "judgments" only God can make, and teaching everyone to live in all good conscience toward God.