Vol.XVII No.VI Pg.7
August 1980

?You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

How much and what must one know to be scripturally baptized? Could it be learned in one sermon, as in Acts 2?


"Scripturally baptized" must be accepted as meaning baptized in the way taught and exemplified in the New Testament, and I proceed on that basis.

The record of Acts 2: describes "devout" Jews, i.e., zealous in their allegiance to Judaism. They looked for a Messiah, but misunderstood the nature of such a Savior. They had rejected Jesus as the Christ, and were responsible for His death (v.23). But Peter and the other Apostles convinced them that Jesus was Christ and this placed a heavy guilt upon them. "What shall we do?" is a cry for help. How shall we escape our condemnation? And the answer, "Repent, and be baptized ...in the name of Jesus Christ" said in essence, "Submit to His authority and He will forgive and bless you." Scriptural baptism indicates a recognition of past sin, a willingness to "die" to that old life, looking in complete trust to Christ for forgiveness and a new life (Rom .6:).

I believe this could be learned in "one sermon," but Acts 2: is not the best example. Those Jews had a scriptural background and respected Jehovah, albeit in a way heavily colored by traditions. Some may have heard Jesus teach, and now, believing Him to be the Messiah, recalled and accepted what they had heard. In some ways they were like people today who have spent years in tradition-bound "christian" sects before hearing unmixed New Testament truth. One can't say they learned ALL in one sermon. But they were made to see Christ in an entirely different light, and being conscience-smitten, bowed to Him.

Other N.T. cases have the same essential ingredients, viz., recognition of sin, of Jesus as the Savior, and the need to submit to whatever the Christ commands. There is little evidence of "church" indoctrination prior to baptism. In Acts 2: "church" at best said "group" or "assembly" to those Jews; perhaps reminding them of the congregation of their forefathers in the wilderness (Acts 7:38). The "continuing steadfastly" of v.42 refers to days that followed — a record written many years later. Early evangelists did not appeal to aliens with "church" sermons. At the direction of the Holy Spirit they spoke of sin, right-standing before God, and judgment to come (Jn. 16:8; Acts 24:25. They told of the rule and realm of Christ, and how to come to Him (Acts 8:5, 12). I conclude that these are the things that lead to scriptural baptism — today, even as then.

Today's circumstances call for contrasting truth and error in many different fields — calling people out of denominationalism. But even here the bottom line is trust in the Christ of the Scriptures (not of men's creeds). Learning this, one may be scripturally baptized; and will continue to go to Christ for answers regarding work, worship, the church, etc. Failing to teach this, we may preach hundreds of sermons on matters vital to saints, yet never bring one alien sinner into fellowship with Jesus Christ.