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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

What is the truth about baptism?




Some Fundamentals About Baptism


David Anguish


1.     For several years in one church where I worked, we adopted a uniform curriculum Bible study plan in which all our adult classes studied the same subject (with different teachers). One area of study we selected was baptism.

2.     One teacher objected, arguing that we all knew the subject thoroughly and so would not benefit from the study. I questioned then, and would now, whether we knew it as well as he claimed.

3.     I raise that question in the conviction that there are important reasons for teaching on baptism, despite the many sermons and recurring emphasis on the practice

a.     Many who are older did hear what may have been a disproportionate number of sermons on baptism.

b.     But even after all those sermons, did we know the New Testament subject of baptism well, or just some things about baptism well?

1)     The New Testament mentions baptism/baptize 108 times; have we studied all of those texts? Were we aware of all of them when we were baptized? Are there things taught in them that go deeper than the ideas repeated in the evangelistic sermons we heard?

2)     That members of other fellowships have and are writing books of many pages on baptism ought to at least make us wonder whether there are depths to the subject we have not explored.

c.     Have we ensured that those who are coming after us know it well?  If it's as important as we have typically stressed, should we not make sure we continue to teach it well?

d.     Does our ability to talk about it with others match the claim that we know the subject so well? Only thorough study will prepare us to share any part of Christian teaching with others. If baptism is as important we have said, shouldn't we be sure we can defend it (1 Peter 3:15)?

4.     The idea of explaining why we believe what we teach about baptism points us to another reason for periodic study of the subject.

a.     Since others are talking and writing about it, we have an opportunity to interact with them regarding the New Testament's teaching.

1)     What does it say about interest in baptism when we see the original edition (1977) of the book, The Water That Divides: Two Views on Baptism Explored, by a Baptist and Anglican (Donald Bridge & David Phyphers), revised in 1998 and reprinted in 2008?

2)     What of the opportunities presented by a book like Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ (Thomas R. Schreiner & Shawn R. Wright, eds., 2007), including a 40-page essay, "Baptism in the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement" (pp. 285ff.)?

b.     Evidently, there is interest in this subject which may lead to opportunities to clarify New Testament teaching about it.

5.     But as important as it is to explain what we believe about baptism, it is perhaps more important to understand its significance for our faith and growth.

a.     What does baptism do and mean? It is more than a rite of initiation.

1)     Paul referred to that aspect of baptism in Romans 6:3-4.

2)     But he did so to encourage a new way of living with different priorities and standards (Romans 6:8-14).

b.     Paul's emphasis suggests that lessons on baptism for the church should be more than polemical discussions that free us to sit as observers without thought about how this applies to us. These are opportunities for our growth.

6.     So, we begin a study of baptism as part of our study of things we should believe. We will not seek to be exhaustive, but to say enough to develop capable understanding and lay a foundation for future study of baptism's implications.

a.     We'll talk about such things as baptism and Jesus, its connection to forgiveness, some questions we often face in response to our teaching on baptism, and its connection to our lives of active faith and the church.

b.     We'll consider, too, some questions of practice that arise, e.g., who may baptize, how baptism is to be done, and when it should occur.

7.     In this installment, we'll focus on some fundamental matters that provide the necessary framework for our study.


I.      The Norm: There Are No Unbaptized Christians.

A.    Part of the reason there is so much interest in baptism across denominational lines is because "the NT speaks of only baptized believers (as far as we can tell)."[1]

1.     In Acts, for example, as Luke records his story of Christianity's initial spread across the Roman Empire, he includes multiple representative accounts of conversion, repeating the detail that people who responded favorably to Christian preaching were baptized.

a)     No special attention is given to this; rather, he mentions it as if it's just something to be expected, the reasons for which were widely known.

b)     See Acts 2:41 (Pentecost), 8:12, 13 (Samaria), 9:18 (Saul; 22:16), 10:47, 48 (Cornelius & his household), 16:15 (Lydia in Philippi), 16:33 (the jailer in Philippi), 18:8 (Corinthian synagogue ruler Crispus), and 19:3-5 (John's disciples in Ephesus).[2]

2.     Paul sometimes grounded calls for specific insights, behaviors, and growth on the knowledge that his Christian readers had been baptized (Romans 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; Galatians 3:26-27).

B.     While much popular-level preaching today envisions a circumstance where someone can be a Christian for a time prior to baptism, many of those preachers teach that it is expected for the full practice of Christian faith.

C.    We'll consider the issue of whether one can be a Christian before baptism later; for now, we need to notice that New Testament Christianity sees baptism as in some sense vital.

II.    The Manner: Baptism Is Immersion.

A.    We need to clear away some misunderstanding here.

1.     The English "baptize" is defined, "to immerse in water or sprinkle or pour water on in the Christian rite of baptism."[3]

a)     Bear in mind, dictionary definitions reflect current use.

b)     Remember, too, that in this case, the English word has been transliterated from the Greek term (βαπτζω, baptizō).

c)     Finally, recall that our concern is with what it meant in the New Testament, not how it's come to be used today.

2.     That said, when they saw the word βαπτζω, they would have understood it as "dip, plunge, immerse, wash completely."[4]

B.     Beyond the definition of the word in New Testament times, other evidence points to immersion as the normal manner of baptism.[5]

1.     Jewish ritual washings in New Testament times involved complete immersion.

2.     New Testament descriptions of baptism imply dipping or plunging (John 3:23; Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:38-39).

3.     The symbolism of baptism as burial and resurrection fits with immersion, but is hard to visualize with any other method (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12).

4.     "The evidence of early church history is conclusive on early Christian practice."[6]

III.   Subjects: Baptism Is for People Capable of Faith and Repentance.

A.    The English definition cited previously seeks to clarify by adding, "They baptized the new baby." An additional definition listed says, "to give a name to at baptism; christen."[7] Again, these definitions reflect current use, not New Testament use.

B.     New Testament evidence.[8]

1.     In fact, only adults are mentioned as being baptized in the New Testament.

2.     "Every account of baptism in the New Testament shows it to be a response by believers (cf. Acts 18:8 as representative)" (Ferguson, 196).

3.     The evidence of church history shows that the practice of baptizing infants began at the end of the second century.

C.    In the NT era, baptism was for "penitent believers, or believing penitents" (Ferguson, 195).

1.     It was an act of faith and repentance (Acts 2:38; 8:12).

2.     It brought forgiveness of sins to those who had been convicted in their hearts (Acts 2:37-38).


8.     In the last part of the second century, Clement of Alexandria expressed the significance of baptism as understood just decades after the close of the New Testament era:

In baptism, we are illuminated; being illuminated, we are made children; being made children, we are perfected; being perfected, we are made immortal. . . . We who have repented of our sins, renounced our faults, and been purified by baptism run back to the eternal light, children running to their Father.[9]

9.     In light of statements like that, it is little wonder that baptism has commanded so much attention throughout church history. It is just as vital today, the point at which we move into the realm of forgiveness (Acts 2:38) and salvation (1 Peter 3:21), the time when we enter into Christ (Gal 3:27) and find newness of life (Rom 6:3-4).

10.  Are you enjoying the purification that leads you back to the Father?

June 28, 2009


[1] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 371.

[2] For a discussion of this point, see my tract, Baptism: Some Reasons and Answers, 2-3.

[3] baptize. Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. (accessed: June 26, 2009).

[4] See e.g., Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG), ed. Frederick William Danker, Third  Edition, 164-165. Compare Josephus, who used βαπτζω to refer to someone drowning (War 1.437; Antiquities 15.55) or of a ship sinking (War 2.556; 3.525, 527; Antiquities 9.212)

[5] Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology For Today, 201-202.

[6] Ibid., 202. See also his Early Christians Speak, 33-54.

[7]  baptize.

[8] See Ferguson, Church of Christ, 195ff.

[9] Clement of Alexandria, Instructor; 32.1, in Everett Ferguson, Inheriting Wisdom: Readings for Today from Ancient Christian Writers, 127.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district

What's In a Name?

Luanne Oleas writes: When the 1960s ended, San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district reverted to high
rent, and many hippies moved down the coast to Santa Cruz. They had children and got married, too,
though in no particular sequence. But they didn't name their children Melissa or Brett. People in
the mountains around Santa Cruz grew accustomed to their children playing Frisbee with little Time
Warp or Spring Fever. And eventually Moonbeam, Earth, Love and Precious Promise all ended up in
public school.

That's when the kindergarten teachers first met Fruit Stand. Every fall, according to tradition,
parents bravely apply name tags to their children, kiss them good-bye and send them off to school on
the bus. So it was for Fruit Stand. The teachers thought the boy's name was odd, but they tried to
make the best of it.

"Would you like to play with the blocks, Fruit Stand?" they offered. And later, "Fruit Stand, how
about a snack?" He accepted hesitantly. By the end of the day, his name didn't seem much odder
than Sun Ray's.

At dismissal time, the teachers led the children out to the buses. "Fruit Stand, do you know which
one is your bus?"

He didn't answer. That wasn't strange. He hadn't answered them all day. Lots of children are shy
on the first day of school. It didn't matter. The teachers had instructed the parents to write the
names of their children's bus stops on the reverse side of their name tags. The teacher simply
turned over the tag. There, neatly printed, was the word Anthony.*

What's in a name? Anthony would probably have preferred to be called by his real name.

Names are used for identification. They can be descriptive. They can be honored or dishonored by
the one wearing the name.

There is one name that outranks all others. It's the only name in which there is salvation from
sin: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men
by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). That name is JESUS, the Son of God, who died on the cross
for our sins so that we can have forgiveness and receive the gift of eternal life.

In order to be saved and to wear His name as a Christian (Christ-ian), one must place his faith and
trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess the name of
Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts
2:38). Then, one must seek to honor that Name by reflecting His love and light by following Him
faithfully (1 John 1:7-9). "If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him
glorify God in this name" (1 Peter 4:16).

There IS something in the name of Jesus: salvation! In fact, there are many spiritual blessings in
Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Won't YOU take on His name through your trusting obedience and then seek to
honor that Name for the rest of your life?

-- David A. Sargent

* Slightly adapted from Luanne Oleas in Salinas, Calif., Reader's Digest, as found in

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

What are some basic Bible truths?

“According to the plain teaching of the New Testament, the church is a spiritual body, Christ is head over it, every Christian is a member of it, and there is no organization in it but local congregations.  All Christians are ‘one body in Christ;” there are ‘many members, yet but one body;” that one body is the church.  In New Testament times the Christians in each locality formed, or constituted, a congregation for religious work and worship.  Each local congregation thus formed or constituted was the church—the body of Christ—in that place, and every Christian in that locality belonged to it because he was a Christian, and worshiped in it and worked through it because there was nothing else for any Christian to be a member of or to worship in and work through.  Thus they kept ‘the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’  There were no ecclesiastical brotherhoods [“tribes,” “traditions,” “fellowships,” “denominations,” etc., hf] in Christianity in New Testament times.  Christ and all Christians were one, as the vine and its branches are one” (F. D. Srygley, Letters and Sermons of T. B. Larimore, Volume 1, reprinted by Guardian of Truth Foundation, 2006, p. 208).




“Paul argued that the Roman Christians had ‘become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God’ (Rom. 7:4).  They had ‘been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter’ (7:6).  Paul defined what he meant by referring to the law that said, ‘You shall not covet’ (7:7; Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21), the tenth of the Ten Commandments.  Paul later noted, ‘For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes’ (10:4)” (Phil Sanders, “Rome: Capital of the Empire,” The Spiritual Sword, Volume 50, No. 4, July 2019, pp. 38-39).




Of significance is the fact that Christ our Savior did not say to His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the torah  (the five books of the law of Moses) to every creature.”  Rather, He said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16, emphasis mine, hf).


Of further significance is the fact that the apostle Paul did not say, “For I am not ashamed of the torah of Moses for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  Rather, he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16, emphasis mine, hf).


Of still further significance is the fact that Paul did not say that Christ will take vengeance “on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the torah of Moses.”  Rather, he said that Christ will “take vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:6-9, emphasis mine, hf).




“New Testament churches are under a new covenant (Heb. 8:7-13).  Churches in the New Testament honored the day on which Jesus was resurrected from the dead (Mk. 16:9).  The disciples assembled on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). The apostle Paul admonished the saints to lay by in store upon the first day of the week, knowing that was when they would be assembled (I Cor. 16:1-2).  The new covenant would not be like the old covenant (Jer. 31:31-32).  The Lord’s Supper would not be the Passover, and the Lord’s day would not be the Sabbath (Col. 2:14-17).  The priesthood would not be after the order of Levi (I Pet. 2:9), and the law would not be the law of Moses (Heb. 7:12)” (Alan E. Highers, “Characteristics of New Testament Churches,” The Spiritual Sword, Volume 50, No. 4, July 2019, p. 40).




“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing [handling aright, ASV] the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15, NKJV).


Hugh Fulford


Saturday, August 3, 2019

Michael and Terri Hawthorn

Safe at Last

Dawson, age 15, and his six siblings ranging in age from 11 down to 8, had experienced a horrible
home life. They had endured verbal and physical abuse, a lack of food, and unfit conditions in
their home. At times, they had received gifts through Angel Tree or other groups, but their
parents, who were addicted to drugs, would take them away from them. For a while, this was the only
life that these children knew; it was normal for them.

Then the children were taken from their abusive parents and placed in foster care. For nine months,
they were separated from each other but they prayed that they would be together again.

Their prayers were answered.

Now these 7 children all wear the last name "Hawthorn" having been adopted last year by Michael and
Terri Hawthorn. The seven siblings - Dawson, Kyndal, twins Lacy and Layna, Addiley and Arria, and
Nixson - were also welcomed by two other adopted children (Korgen and Haizlee) and four biological
children (who have grown and are out on their own).

So Michael and Terri Hawthorn have 9 children living in their home, and they are loving it! A photo
was taken in the courtroom of the Saline County Courthouse on the day of the adoption of the 7
siblings. Mom, Dad, and the seven children are wearing black t-shirts with the name "Hawthorn" on
the back. The children are standing by the judge on his bench with Michael and Terri out front
holding a sign that says, "You think our hands are full; you should see our hearts."

The children love their new family, too.

After his adoption last November, Dawson told Fox News, "I'd been praying to have a family that I
can enjoy Christmas with. You're safe. You know you're not going to leave and it's good to know
you're in a forever family and you won't have to worry about danger."

Terri joked, "I always wanted a dozen [children], and 20 years later, God's blessed me with my dozen
plus one." *

Even though our sins put us in a deplorable condition, God loves us and wants to adopt each of us
into His Forever Family, the Church. He paid the price for our redemption and adoption by giving
His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 1:7). Through Jesus, we can be adopted
into God's Family, safe at last in the Father's care.

The Apostle Paul wrote these thrilling words to some who had accepted God's offer of adoption: "For
you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by
whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are
children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we
suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together" (Romans 8:15-17).

God will forgive and adopt into His Family those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts
16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans
10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will
continue to cleanse from sin and give eternal life to those who continue to walk in the light of His
Word (1 John 1:7-9).

The Fox News article that tells about the Hawthorn family contains a photo of another of the adopted
children, Korgen, standing beside a poster on which is written from the standpoint of one of his
adoptive parents, "I didn't give you the gift of life. Life gave me the gift of you."

God gives us the gift of life, and He also wants to give us the gift of eternal life as a part of
His forever family. He will, if we will only accept His offer on His terms.

Won't YOU?

-- David A. Sargent

* Information gleaned from "Arkansas couple adopts seven siblings at once, giving them a 'forever
family' ahead of Christmas" by Caleb Parke,, December 19, 2018.

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