Churches Of Christ/About Baptism

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QUESTION: hi, I have many questions but ill try to keep this short, Im confused about water baptism, lets start with john the Baptist, jesus says you cant bear fruit unless your in the vine I think he says you cant do nothing unless your in the vine john 15 5 (or in Christ), how did the old testament people bear fruit prior to baptism if they were not in Christ. When did old testament people receive the holy spirit because no-one cant enter heaven unless their born again? I understand acts 2 38 and mark 16 16 but to me that is based on belief its just making a true statement if you believe and baptized you will be saved just like romans 10 9 if you confess and believe in your heart you will be saved, what if you cant confess but believe in you heart are you saved? Do I need someone to baptize me in water or someone to confess to to get to the blood of Christ(can I baptize myself)? aren't you coming between me and jesus (noah circumcised himself)? Going back to bearing fruit it seems to me john was wanting to see if they were producing fruit of the spirit (you have 2 tunics give one away), when did Cornelius hear why he was being baptized, peter did make sure to tell him the same gospel that paul talked about in 1st Corinthians chapter 15 before the holy spirit descended upon him and then he says whoever believes on him will have remission of sins. I understand the belief of water baptism because if they (old testament) were showing fruit and regenerated and in Christ why did they have to be rebaptist in act 19 2, like I said im confused and  I don't really understand as much as I need to, your help would be greatly appreciated, thanks.

ANSWER: Randy,

I am so sorry that I have not responded yet. I did not know until now that I missed your question. I hope the subject of baptism is still a part of your study. Your questions are great and worthy of much study.

First, John's baptism was separate from that from the baptism in Jesus' name that Jesus established when He was resurrected (Matt. 28:19, Mark 16:16). John's baptism was no longer valid as seen in Acts 19:1-6. There is only one baptism (Eph. 4:5). This one baptism must be the baptism that Jesus instituted.

Those in the Old Testament were not born of the Spirit, because the indwelling of the coming Spirit was predicted and He had not yet come. Jesus said to His Apostles the night of His arrest, "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:17). The Spirit did dwell with Israel, but not in them. Being born of the Spirit was uniquely a part of Jesus' Gospel. The only way that Israel was baptized was under the cloud and through the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1-4).

Concerning being born of the water and the Spirit in John 3:5 and Titus 3:5, notice that believers are born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet. 1:3), and this is by obeying the Truth through the Spirit being born again through the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:22-23). That is why 1 Peter 3:18 says that the one, who puts to death the flesh, is made alive by the Spirit, and 1 Peter 3:21 says "Baptism now saves you [...] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ". The resurrection of Jesus Christ is distinct to the New Testament. God's salvation for us comes through the Gospel being the death, burial, and resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. With real faith, we will conform to the Gospel (Phil. 3:10-11). Ephesians 2:4-6 shows that believers are made alive from death in trespasses and saved by grace when Christ raises us with Him. When are we raised with Christ? Colossians 2:12-13 shows that we are raised and saved by grace when we have died to sin and have risen with Christ. We must die to sins with Christ, be buried with Christ in baptism, and be raised with Christ in living in the newness of life (Rom. 6:3-7). There is God's grace and there is the Gospel by which believers are saved. This why Jesus commanded belief and baptism with salvation to follow not just at belief but also after baptism (Mark 16:16). This is why forgiveness comes from being baptized in Jesus' name (Acts 2:38, 22:16).

Cornelius' household were forgiven in Jesus' name. What were they commanded do in Jesus' name? They were baptized (Acts 10:47-48). Although having the Spirit, they were not yet born of the water and the Spirit until baptized. In Acts 10:43, Peter taught Cornelius' household, "To Him all the prophets witness the forgiveness of sins through His name for whoever believes in Him." Forgiveness is in Jesus' name. Baptism in Jesus' name is throughout the New Testament (Acts 8:12), being when one is forgiven (Acts 2:38), in water (Acts 10:47-48), a washing of sanctification and justification by the Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11). Before one is baptized, that person must believe (Mark 16:16), repent (Acts 2:38), and confess Christ as the resurrected Lord (Rom. 10:9). We know that faith is a part of all of this, and that faith without works in dead (Jas. 2:14-26). Real faith produces confession, repentance, death to sins, burial in baptism, and life and resurrection with Christ. The initial moment when we first believed does not save us or even the demons would be saved, who believe, fear, and tremble (Jas. 2:19). We are not saved by faith before and without Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. We must conform to this Gospel of salvation (Rom. 1:16, Col. 2:12-13).

Concerning someone baptizing you coming between you and God, no one is coming between you and God in salvation. In fact, confession shows real faith, and baptism requires no one's effort other than submitting to being immersed in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is by God's command, so there should be no way that someone is coming between another person's faith in God or Christ would not have instructed His Apostles to make disciples by baptizing them (Matt. 28:18-20).

While late, I pray that by God's providence that these words are timely. God bless and thank for the questions. I am very happy to discuss this further.


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QUESTION: Thanks for responding, ive went to a church of Christ church before and I was very knew and did not understand a lot of what they were saying (that was the first church I went to as an adult) so  now im staying home and trying to figure this out myself. Again im still stuck on some key questions, you say your not coming between me and jesus but can I baptize myself if I cant then I need someone to baptize me in water, if I don't have anyone to put me in water then I cant get saved, right ? I think you have a 5 step plan of salvation and 3 of them involve another person being their, I can understand hearing you need someone to preach jesus to you (but this brings up Hebrews 10 16 and the new convenant, do you believe the holy spirit helps you interpret the bible because ive heard different opinions) but confession and water baptism im confused about. Do you believe in a works salvation (not talking about baptism im talking about a lifestyle change, the law (bearing fruit), do you believe you earn your salvation) To me repent is change of mind from unbelief to belief, to me your lifestyle changes after your belief not before romans 4 3, Abraham believed and was found righteous, noah was a righteous man before he built the ark ? If the old testament people didn't have a regenerated heart by the holy spirit why do we need the holy spirit to regenerate (or circumcise) our heart, look ive thought about going back to a church of Christ but they have different beliefs just like the Baptist and everybody else, ive been told you need to know why your being Baptist, again Cornelius never knew why, the thief on the cross died after jesus so would he need to be baptized ( a testament starts as soon as the testator dies but ive been told baptism didn't start until Pentecost and it doesn't mention the apostles baptism, what does john 13 10 mean when he tells the apostles their clean ? if you would like to keep discussing this I would appreciate it (if you have the time if not I understand) maybe I should start  visiting a lot of churches and try to figure this out, thanks.

Answer
Randy,

Again, forgive my delay. I knew that this answer would be long.

Of course you cannot earn your salvation, we cannot boast. We are saved by Christ. Yet, 1 Peter 3:21 says "Baptism now saves you" "through the resurrection". See, Ephesians 2:4-7 says that we are saved when we are raised with Christ. This is not works as Ephesians 2:8-9 says, but we are thus created in Christ for good works (Eph. 2:10). We are raised with Christ and saved when we have been baptized (Col. 2:12). This is also when we are forgiven, and the word for forgiven in Greek is the verb form of grace (Col. 2:13). Back to 1 Peter, Peter taught that we are born again through the resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3). Read 1 Peter 1:22-23 too about this. Baptism is a humble state of submission and obedience, and yet we do no work in being baptized. Someone else baptizes us, and we do no work. Baptism is the perfect act of subordination without a work. You need someone to baptize you as the Scriptures teach and the Scriptures teach us to assemble together (Matt. 18:20, Heb. 10:24-25).

If we truly believe, we will produce works. Faith without works cannot save, and it cannot justify (Jas. 2:14, 24). Read James 2:14-26. Those who do not produce works from their faith do not really believe. Rather, these are like the demons who believe, fear, tremble, and are condemned (Jas. 2:19). Those who reject Jesus' command to be baptized do not have the faith that works so that they do not die to their sins and be raised to live in newness of life. Remember that the Pharisees refused to be immersed by John the Baptist, and Jesus asked them where John's baptism came from either men or heaven. They responded that they did not know, because the people accepted John as a prophet.

The "5 steps" is more child-like simplified teaching, and an organization of men. I prefer to simply teach the death, burial, and resurrection, which is the saving Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). I could add love to one of the steps make it 6. The "steps" are simply a guide. Being baptized correctly implies having died to sins and being raised to newness of life with Christ (Rom. 6:3-7). See, repentance, baptism, and living faithful are embedded and the Gospel. Also being baptized implies that one confessed faith, and confessing faith implies having faith, and having faith implies having heard. We cannot say that Cornelius did not know why. He was clearly taught the meaning of baptism before being immersed like everyone else. As for the thief on the cross, he may have been baptized by John or Jesus' disciples, and yet Jesus had not even established His baptism yet. Remember after Jesus was resurrected, then He commanded His baptism (Matt. 28:19-20, Mark 16:16). This was after the thief died. See, Jesus had not yet died, been buried, and resurrected to the established Gospel and baptism's part in it. With Jesus commanding this, the Apostles must have obeyed it although there is no specific account of their baptisms and there is no account of their deaths except James.

The Holy Spirit did work with those in the Old Testament. Moses did His miracles this way. Read Number 11:24-30. Jesus said to His Apostles about the Spirit, "He dwells with you and will be in you" (John 14:17). Things were changing as predicted in Ezekiel, Joel, Isaiah, and Zechariah, the Holy Spirit would poured out them at the time of Christ's coming and death (Zech. 12:10, Joel 2:28-29, cf. Acts 2:14-17).

Regarding the churches of Christ, yes you will find varying beliefs and opinions, but that is not to divide according to Romans 14. As long as, we continue in the Gospel and doctrine of Christ, then we are united. We must be united in the 7 ones in Ephesians 4:1-7. All because a church sign says "Church of Christ" that does not make that congregation of Christ. Yet, a congregation struggling with error can still be "of Christ" like the Corinthians (1 Cor. 3:23). Honestly, the plea of the Church of Christ is to simply be Christians (neither Baptist nor Catholic, etc.). This is my most basic plea to you is to be a Christian. I do not think that you will find a more sincere and loving people than those who are truly of the Church of Christ. There are a lot good people like Cornelius in other churches who are not saved yet like many Baptists. If a Baptist has not become a Christian having died with Christ, been buried with Him, and raised with Him, then he is not saved yet, because he has not risen with Christ. See, Cornelius was not saved yet until he heard the Gospel. Although he received the Spirit, he had to also be born of the water, because he was not yet saved being forgiven in Jesus' name as he was taught in Acts 10:43. Therefore, he was baptized in Jesus' name in Acts 10:47-48. I hope these words help your study,

May God bless you in your studies. I would be happy to continue this discussion, but please forgive me for being so busy studying with many others lately.

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Scott Shifferd

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My education and experience allows me to answer most questions related to the Bible by giving scripture and other supporting sources usually without giving the standard response. I prefer to allow the inerrant scriptures to interpret themselves, and I encourage you to take the scriptural understanding of scripture over any of my interpretations. I am very capable of addressing matters in the Greek New Testament.

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