Vol.XX No.III Pg.8
May 1983

Stuff About Things

Robert F. Turner

On a recent C.B.S. "Morning News" Diane Sawyer told of a man who came to a preacher requesting baptism. In the process he stole the preacher's wallet. He should have known preachers do not carry large sums of money in their wallets. They must appear lean and hungry; so their wealth is put into stocks, bonds, or CDs, and kept in a bank lock box.

But the unmitigated gall of the man requesting baptism is oft repeated. Some boy is baptized ("ducked") in order to get parental approval to marry a certain girl. I once talked with a person who thought baptism was a fraternity type "initiation" into the church. There are many cases of pseudo-conversions as part of a "con" game, to get money, food, gas, or lodging from unsuspecting brethren.

Some years back a man duped a number of southern California churches by "going forward," being "baptized" (?), and then "taking" them for money and other valuables. A chance communication between two preachers revealed the farce, and further investigation showed its extent, but by now the culprit had left for parts unknown. A few years later a So. California preacher was in a meeting in Texas and at the invitation the fraud came down the aisle asking to be baptized. The local preacher was about to follow the usual procedure, but the California evangelist asked for permission to speak. He praised those who would truly give their life to the Lord: dying to their old life, and being buried with Christ in baptism, arise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-11). "But there are deadbeats —" and he began to pour it on. As more and more details were revealed, the "candidate" began to squirm. Finally he could take it no longer, and arose to leave the building. The speaker stopped him with, "Hold on, I'm not through with you yet"; and continued to expose the man for what he was.

Wouldn't it make a great story if the man had acknowledged his sins, and been baptized for the remission of sins, through the mercies of God? (Mk. 16:15-16, Acts 2:38) It didn't turn out that way, sorry to report. As in John's day, people are baptized for improper reasons (Matt. 3:7-f) but this does not negate scriptural obedience nor our obligation to teach it.