By Mac Deaver
The reader may be aware that not long ago I wrote a lengthy article exposing an unsound syllogism that had been written, the writer of which was trying to falsify our contention regarding what happens when a sinner is baptized into Christ. The article was entitled, “Who Is Added To the Church—Saint or Sinner?” The syllogism had been written by Daniel Denham whose name I did not call in the article. However, now he has placed a brief statement on Facebook which I have been sent. According to Denham, my whole article “can be falsified with one simple question. Mac Deaver, when an accountable person receives the remission of sins in baptism is he at that point saved or lost?” Then he goes on and refers to the law of excluded middle, showing that the man is either saved or lost, one or the other. My response: of course!
Denham’s confusion is apparent. He thinks that my article indicates that I would have trouble answering the question. Hardly! In baptism, when a person’s sins are forgiven, he is at that moment saved from those sins! But the problem is that Denham assumes (without proof) that the remission of sins is the same thing as entry into the kingdom. And this is where he is wrong!
Remission of sins is one thing; entry into the kingdom is another. And according to the Lord, entry demands not only immersion in water for remission of sins, but immersion in Spirit as well (John 3:3-5). So, again I raise the question, “Who does the Lord add to the church?” Denham is already on record as implying that the Lord adds a sinner to the church so that the sinner can now “in Christ” receive the spiritual blessing of the remission of his sins! In other words, Denham has taken the position that requires the sinner to bring sins into the kingdom so that while in the kingdom he can receive the remission of those sins! And he incredibly thinks that his one question somehow destroys the force of my article. Amazing! Consider:
- T/F 1. The Lord adds a sinner to the church (False). It is false because one has to be forgiven in order to be added to the church (cf. Acts 2:47). Denham is already on record as declaring that one must be in Christ in order for his sins to be remitted. He implies that a sinner must bring his sins into the kingdom, and then while being in the kingdom, he receives the spiritual blessing of forgiveness per his wrong understanding of Ephesians 1:3, 7. So, Denham has the Lord adding sinners to the church in order to be make saints out of them after they have been added to the church! Why must they bring their sins with them into the church? Because forgiveness is a spiritual blessing, and it is only granted to those who are members of the church (according to Denham’s wrong view of Ephesians 1:3, 7).
- T/F 2. The Lord adds a saint to the church (True). Only the saved are added to the rest of the saved (Acts 2:47). Sinners must become saints before they can enter. They must be born of both water and Spirit, and not just water (John 3:3-5). Kingdom entry entails being born of both water and the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Water only is not enough.
- T/F 3. The Lord adds both saints and sinners to the church (False). Obvious! If sinners could enter the church as sinners, then there would be no point in their becoming saints. God is in the church and the devil is in the world, and the world cannot enter the church while still existing as the world (1 John 4:4; 5:19; Acts 2:47)!
- T/F 4. The Lord adds neither saints nor sinners to the church (False). Since a church exists, somebody has entered it.
Denham’s confusion centers on his assumption that forgiveness equals entry. And his assumption is false. If his assumption were true that all cases of forgiveness granted in association with water baptism and based on the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ equaled kingdom entry at that moment, then that would imply that all of John’s disciples including the apostles would have entered the kingdom ten days before Pentecost of Acts 2. Why would the implication follow? It would follow because all of those disciples were baptized in water for the remission of their sins (Mark 1:4; Matt. 3:11), and the Lord died for them, was buried for them, and was raised for them, and remained on the earth 40 days following his resurrection. The forgiveness of their sins was granted ten days prior to Pentecost! And yet they did not enter the kingdom until they were immersed in the Holy Spirit ten days following the Lord’s ascension (Acts 2:1-4). But, if Denham’s assumption that forgiveness equals kingdom entry is accurate, then these disciples entered the kingdom ten days prior to Pentecost! The fact is that the kingdom’s actual coming was identified by the empirical miraculous power that verified the presence of the Holy Spirit (Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8).
According to Paul in Romans 6:3-4, a person is baptized into Christ Jesus. He is not baptized in Christ. If he were baptized in Christ that would mean that his baptism took place while the man was already in Christ. And this is the Baptist position on baptism! Paul does not teach that, but Denham by implication does. Given his confusion on Ephesians 1:3, we face the following:
- T/F 1. Every spiritual blessing is in the church of Christ (True per Denham).
- T/F 2. Initial forgiveness of sins is a spiritual blessing (True per Denham).
- T/F 3. Initial forgiveness of sins is found only in the church of Christ (True per Denham).
- T/F 4. One must be in the church of Christ in order to receive this remission of sins (True per Denham).
- T/F 5. One then must be in the church of Christ prior to the remission of his sins (True per Denham).
- T/F 6. Remission of sins is granted only to those who are already in the church of Christ (True per Denham).
Does the reader detect a problem? Unlike Denham, Paul teaches that through baptism one is forgiven first and then the forgiven party is regenerated and indwelled by the Spirit so that the party can arise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). It is certainly true that by means of baptism one enters Christ. But the problem for Denham is that he can’t see that the sinner cannot be added to the church while a sinner; rather, the forgiven party must then be regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit, and recognized as a son (Titus 3:5-6; Gal. 4:6). Then, based on this recognition as a child of God, God moves the Holy Spirit to within the heart of that child (Gal. 4:6). Only his children are added to the church. So again, which is it, Denham? Does God add sinner or saint to the church? All of us ought to know that we cannot enter Christ (the spiritual body of Christ, or, the church of Christ) as sinners. But we also need to know that forgiveness does not by itself equal kingdom entry. Kingdom entry requires not only the water of forgiveness but the regeneration of the Holy Spirit so that we become partakers of the divine nature (John 3:3-5; Titus 3:5-6; 2 Pet. 1:4)! In baptism the Holy Spirit enters the body of the forgiven party, regenerates the human Spirit, and moves into that spirit (or, heart) to indwell (Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5-6; Gal. 4:6).
The man who is baptized into the death of Christ is the sinner who needs forgiveness for his sins by means of the Lord’s death (Rev. 1:5). The man who arises to walk in newness of life is the saint who, because of his forgiveness and regeneration is now a child of God. The saint is the one who now arises to walk in newness of life with the Holy Spirit in his heart as God’s own pledge of heaven to come (Eph. 1:13-14). The sinner was forgiven and the saved man was then added to the church! Consider:
- T/F 1. The sinner is baptized into the death of Christ in order to receive remission of his sins (True).
- T/F 2. The saint is baptized into the death of Christ in order to receive remission of his sins (False).
If #1 were false then no sinner can be saved by water baptism. If #2 were true, it would mean that saints (those persons already forgiven) would have no sins to be forgiven.
- T/F 1. The sinner arises to walk in newness of life (False).
- T/F 2. The saint arises to walk in newness of life (True).
If #1 were true, then forgiveness is not granted in water baptism (and that would mean that water baptism is not for the remission of sins!) and the sinner arises still in his sins. If #2 were false, then the sinner does arise to walk in newness of life while still in his sins. So, just as the Bible teaches, while under the water the sinner is forgiven of his sins. The forgiven party (Acts 2:38) is then regenerated (Titus 3:5-6 —being made partaker of the divine nature— 2 Pet. 1:4), recognized by God as a son, then indwelled by the Spirit who moves to within his heart (Gal. 4:6). The child of God then arises to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). Denham cannot answer correctly the question, “Who does the Lord add to the church—sinner or saint?” without contradicting his position on Ephesians 1:3!