Vol.XVII No.V Pg.7
July 1980

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Is Christian Church baptism valid? Could it put one in the true church?


Let's begin by asking, "Is Church of Christ baptism valid? Could it put one in the true church?" And then we may add, "Is baptism a "church" ordinance; or does any church, including the "true church," validate baptism?

The Lord's church is not measured by our directory, or by those who meet in our building. It consists of all who genuinely and sincerely give themselves to Christ in humble, submissive obedience to His commands. As sincerity, humility, and trusting faith are things we can but imperfectly judge, we may think one has come into Christ who is, in reality, yet a child of Satan. And we may also judge one unworthy, whom Christ receives.

Our fellowship (joint participation) must be established on the basis of our judgment of external fruit (Matt. 7:15-20) and we are urged to make "righteous" (just) judgment, and not be fooled by superficial matters (Jn. 7:19-24). And let's be very careful not to make sectarian judgments — accepting one because "our" preacher baptized him, and rejecting another because the preacher who baptized him "followeth not with us" (Lu. 9:49-50). The validity of baptism is not determined by who did the baptizing, or where it was done.

One's baptism depends upon the genuineness of one's faith in Jesus Christ. It is not "for remission of sins" because someone said this at the time of the immersion, but because divinity gave it this purpose (Acts 2:38, 22:16). It does not bring into the "right" church because it is an initiation ritual of any church, but because the Lord's church consists of all who come to Christ, and baptism is the final move, the symbolic burial before the resurrection to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-11).

I question people who come from churches I believe to be in error because I am concerned for their souls. I want to know if their allegiance was to Christ, or to some "church." You might say I am questioning their faith rather than their baptism. So many of my own brethren have proven their allegiance to be to "church" instead of to Christ, that I assume this could certainly be prevalent among those who have been in error on so many other things. The fact that they are leaving some sect encourages me, but I don't want them to be simply "changing sects." And if they had no genuine conversion to Christ, I do not want to give them a false sense of security. They should learn truth and fully commit themselves.

But if they tell me they were baptized because they understood this was the Lord's command; that they were, and still are striving to do all He commands; I can question their heart only to the extent their life is inconsistent. If they need to know more and better understand (and who doesn't?) a sympathetic, helpful atmosphere is more conducive to this than sectarian abuse. The Lord judges Christian church members on the same individual basis He uses to judge us.