October 1980

What Those "Steps Mean

Robert F. Turner

It was less than 150 years ago that Walter Scott devised a simple way to impress his hearers with the relation of obedient faith to the blessings in Christ. He taught children to count on their fingers: Believe, Repent, be Baptized, Remission of Sins, Gift of Holy Spirit. Then, and now, it is obvious that children and adults could learn those "steps" without understanding salvation in Jesus Christ. How sad that some have made this almost the whole of the gospel of Christ.

Although believing (trusting) in Christ can have meaning only when it follows an intelligent grasp of divine testimony (Rom. 10:17), it is far more than an acceptance of historic facts. The learning must have become apart of us, so that we make decisions upon its base. We not only "believe that He is" but also that "He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). The heart purified by faith (Acts 15:9) is the center of ones thoughts, emotions, and will cleansed from its previous self-centeredness and now given unreservedly to Christ. We act, seeing the unseen. Our sinful condition before God and the certainty of judgment are so real to us that we recoil from them. We are so convinced that Christ is the sole and gracious solution for our condition that our heart leaps with joy as we reach out for Him.

In the process of arriving at such a faith we realize that our former ways were our downfall, separating us from God. We are humbled in shame, overwhelmed by sorrow (Rom. 2:4, 2 Cor. 2:7) and turn about, change the direction of our life. This is repentance (Matt. 21:28-f). It is "toward God" in that it recognizes that our old life was an affront to our Maker; and it involves a genuine determination to "sin no more." Now, and only now, are we ready to be "buried with Him" no more to live as before.

And that burial of the former life with the subsequent rising to walk in a new life is the spiritual significance of baptism (Rom. 6:3-18). Beautifully recalling the death, burial and resurrection of Him who became a curse for us, immersion in water has been commanded by our Lord (Acts 10: 48; 2:38), and those who would come to Him submit to this figure; in fact, can not have a good conscience without it if they have been properly instructed in His will (1 Pet. 3:21).

Baptism is neither a church ordinance nor a "sacrament" that, per se, dispenses grace. It is only for believers (Mk. 16:16, Acts 8:36-37), so that the burial of an infant in baptism — and certainly the bogus act of sprinkling a few drops upon its head — can have no religious significance whatsoever. Submission to baptism is the conscious act of a penitent believer, and it marks the point at which such are promised forgiveness and blessing.

The faith that saves does not stop here — in fact, this is the beginning of the life of service in the Lord's vineyard, growing in grace and knowledge (Acts 2:41-47, 1 Pet. 2:). Gentle reader, can you be serious about heaven, and ignore God's word (Jn. 12:48)?