Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, New Testament

Abusing Cornelius

Members of the Lord’s church have in Bible class abused Cornelius time and time again. And, too, he undergoes false accusation as well in sermons. How many times have you listened to someone trying to explain (1) how Cornelius received the Holy Spirit while (2) being a sinner? Imagine, the Holy Spirit entering the heart of someone presently practicing sin and thus bound for hell!

It is absurd. Cornelius was no sinner. How many times does Luke have to describe Cornelius for us until we finally admit his righteousness? See Acts 10: 2, 4, 15, 22, 28, 31, 35. Luke made seven attempts to describe Cornelius for us so that we would see that he was a righteous Gentile when the gospel reached him. How could he be? He was answerable to God through “Gentile-ism” or “Patriarchy” or “moral law-ism” (Romans 2:14-15). Remember the then Bible (law of Moses) had been given to Jews only (Psalm 147:19-20). The Gentiles up into the first century were answerable to God through moral law only. Had Cornelius died the day before Peter came to his house, he would have been bound for glory. Cornelius was a righteous Gentile just as much as Abraham in his own day had been.

Yes, but an objector replies that I am forgetting that Peter preached to him words whereby he would be saved (Acts 11:14). Indeed, but the salvation he received is not what most of us have taken it to be. He was saved in that he was delivered from “Patriarchy” which no longer for him would be operative as the divinely arranged system of religion for his people. Brother A. J. Freed, like most of us in the past, did not understand Holy Spirit baptism, but he did understand Cornelius’ condition. He correctly denied that Cornelius was an alien sinner, and he wrote, “He is told words by which he is saved from the sinking ship of patriarchy” (Sermons, Chapel Talks, and Debates). Amen! When the apostles, following Peter’s explanation of what happened at the house of Cornelius, concluded, “Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18), that was a summation statement regarding the general condition of the Gentile camp which was usually one of sin (cf. Acts 17:30-31). It was not a description of Cornelius, his household, nor his friends. This is proved by Luke’s description of Cornelius and by the fact that Cornelius and the other Gentiles with him were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15; 15:8). The first Gentiles to enter the kingdom were already living up to their spiritual obligations before the gospel reached them. Therefore, they were in a clean spiritual condition which allowed the Holy Spirit to enter them. After that they submitted to water baptism (Acts 10:47-48), but it was not for remission of sins in their case. It was, however, as per the words of Jesus in John 3:3-5, an absolute requirement (as was Holy Spirit baptism) to kingdom entry!

If, dear reader, you think I am abusing the word “saved” as applied to Cornelius (Acts 11:14), remember that we have to consider biblical words in their contextual use. Noah’s family was also “saved,” and it was even a salvation through water, but it was not salvation from sin (1 Peter 3:20). According to Paul, the unbelieving mate is “sanctified” in the believing mate, but the sanctification has nothing to do with the unbeliever’s salvation (1 Corinthians 7:15). We cannot impose a presupposed definition gleaned from other contexts onto a word in its own context that forbids the application of the presupposed definition. We have sadly done this in Acts 11:14, and abused Cornelius unmercifully!

Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, New Testament, Salvation

How could we miss it so badly?

What we in the churches of Christ have done to Acts 1:5-8 is almost unbelievable. Of course, we simply accepted what was handed down from a generation of brethren who had been taught wrongly on the passage as well. And we thought the way we handled the passage was true to Bible teaching on the Holy Spirit in other passages, and our inherited view kept us from endorsing modern day miracles. It is hard to imagine now in the year 2020 that we could miss the correct interpretation of that passage so terribly.

How did we miss it so horrendously? (1) We took the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be miraculous and temporary, and (2) we took the “great commission” to be permanent and obligatory! And each interpretation is wrong.

Since the words of Jesus to Nicodemus were spoken in John 3:3-5, there has been only one way into the kingdom. I have had debate opponents admit this. Well, how did the first entrants enter the kingdom? If you look at Acts 1 and 2, you will find that the first disciples including the apostles entered the kingdom having already been baptized with John’s water only baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 7:29-30) when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). How did the apostles enter the kingdom in Acts 2? They had already been baptized in water for the remission of their sins which is baptism into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12, 16; Acts 19:15). But they did not enter the kingdom until they were baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4), which is baptism into the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Their kingdom entry entailed baptism in both water and Holy Spirit which is the one baptism of John 3:3-5 and Ephesians 4:5. If you and I entered the kingdom, we came in just as the apostles did. There has never been any other way into it. Their water only baptism was not enough to propel them into the church. When we concluded that Holy Spirit immersion was a miracle, we made a horrible mistake! The Greek grammar of Acts 1:8 shows that the power came “after” the coming of the Spirit, so that it did not come (1) before the Spirit came, and neither did it come (2) at the same time that the Spirit came.

Too, in our wrong handling of Acts 1:5-8, we concluded that the so-called “great commission” (to distinguish it from the “limited commission” of Matthew 10) was permanent and obligatory. Our false conception of the passage has over many years created (1) imbalanced preaching, (2) a great sense of spiritual insecurity, and (3) guilt-evangelism! Elsewhere on this site is an article, “The Great Commission Has Been Fulfilled,” that provides in-depth analysis of this point. The “great commission” was an assignment given to the apostles only (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47), divinely managed to its completion (Acts 16:6-10; Colossians 1:6, 23), and entailed inspired preaching and miraculous signs (Mark 16:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13). This was God’s way of changing human amenability once and for all. The Gentiles were brought out from under their obligation to moral law only (cf. Romans 2:14-15; Acts 10), and the Jews were brought out from under their obligation to the Mosaic law which legally had died at the cross (Colossians 2:14). The announcement of (1) the passing of past obligation and (1) the creation of new obligation to Christ was made over a period of thirty years. The apostles and other brethren were involved, but only the apostles were given the specific assignment to see that the gospel went throughout the world. No other Christian ever evangelized because an apostle told him that he, too, was under the assignment of the “great commission”. While many helped in the work, only the apostles would stand before God as responsible to see that that assignment was carried out. The apostles alone were Christ’s ambassadors, a select group, who had been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20; 12:12; Acts 10:40-43; 22:15; 26:16).

If we today were successful in carrying the gospel to every creature in the world, we still would not be “fulfilling” the “great commission” because we cannot now accomplish what its completion in the first century did. All men by it were made answerable to Christ (Acts 17:30-31). All men still are, whether we preach or not. Today our evangelism in based on the “great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-40) rather than the “great commission.”

Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, New Testament

Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 5: Has the Great Commission Been Fulfilled?

Note: The “great commission” has been fulfilled because the purpose of its completion was to make all men answerable to the gospel. The book of Acts is not basically about conversions or even about kingdom entry, though it certainly discusses this in detail, but it is about how God changed human accountability for all time from Gentile-ism and Judaism to Christianity, thus making it possible for the reconciliation of two heretofore separated groups of people (to each other and of these people to God) by means of one divinely authorized approach (Eph. 2:13-22; cf. Acts 19:9). We cannot now do what the apostles were commanded to do (see chapter 15, “Facts That Paint the Picture of Acts” in Except One Be Born From Above).

  1. The apostles were the ones to whom the commission was given (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:44-49; Read carefully Mark 16:15-20; cf. Heb. 2:1-4; cf. Acts 8:1-4).
  2. The ones responsible to the great commission were the “ambassadors” of Christ, distinguished from the rest of the church (Acts 1:21-26; 26:16; 2 Cor. 5:18-20; Acts 1:22).
  3. Two of the apostles were even given special assignments entailed in their great commission (Matt. 16:19; Acts 1:8; 2:1-4; 8:14-24; 10:44-48; Gal. 2:7; Acts 9:15).
  4. Each apostle had “witnessing” power unavailable to other Christians (1 Cor. 12:11; 14:1, 13; 1 Tim. 4:14; 1:6; 2 Cor. 12:12).
  5. Not all Christians were given the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 14:6, 22).
  6. Even if it could be proven that the early church bore the same relationship to the commission that the apostles did, we today still could not have that relationship to it (Eph. 2:20; 4:11; Heb. 2:1-4; the apostles were in a category all their own: Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 4:9-13; 2 Cor. 12:12; Matt. 18:18 with Matt. 16:18-20; 19:27-28).
  7. During the thirty year period of evangelism in all the world, God was miraculously managing the whole affair (Acts 13:1-4; 16:6-10; cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-13; Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:8, 9, 11; Rev. 3:7; Col. 1:16, 23).
  8. Passages that obligate Christians today to teach cannot in and of themselves prove that the evangelism is to be based on the great commission (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Matt. 22:37-40).
  9. God has withdrawn all miraculous assistance, which was absolutely necessary to carrying out the commission in the first century (Mark 16:15-20; 1 Cor. 13:8-13; cf. Acts 17:27; Matt. 7:7-11 with Luke 11:13; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4).Note: Our world is not like that of the first century (transition era)! Today all men outside the church die in sin when they die without obeying the gospel. In the first century, there was a way (Judaism and Gentile-ism) for men outside the church to be saved before the gospel reached them because of the religious arrangement that had been made by God for them! Gentile-ism (Patriarchy) and Judaism were finally superseded by Christianity!

Consider these arguments:

Argument #1:

  • All assignments that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working are assignments that Christians today cannot carry out.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that the apostles were given to do that required the capacity for inspired speaking and miracle working (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:12-13; Heb. 2:3-4).
  • Therefore, the assignment to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature was an assignment that Christians today cannot carry out.

Argument #2:

  • Any assignment that the apostles were given which changed human amenability on earth for all time is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
  • The assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment which changed amenability on earth for all time (Col. 1:23; Acts 10:36; 17:30-31).
  • Therefore, the assignment that the apostles were given to go into all the world and to preach the gospel to every creature is an assignment that cannot be carried out following its fulfillment.
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, Salvation

Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 4: Correct and Incorrect Reasons for Rebaptism

I. Some incorrect reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I knew only a little truth when I was first baptized (cf. Heb. 6:1-3; 1 Cor. 3:1ff.).
  2. Others for whom I have love or respect have been rebaptized (cf. Acts 19:1-7).
  3. I would feel better if a certain preacher baptized me (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10-17; 3:4-9).
  4. To increase the “chances” of my eternal salvation (cf. Col. 2:12; Luke 10:31; Eccl. 9:11).
  5. My baptism was ineffectual because I could not make the confession with my mouth or I did not make the confession before many men (cf. Matt. 10:32-33; Rom. 10:9-10; Rev. 3:5; 1 Tim. 6:12).
  6. I’m not sure the water was pure (cf. Heb. 10:22; Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26).
  7. The person who baptized me was not a Christian or later apostatized from the faith (cf. Luke 8:11; cf. Demas in 2 Tim. 4:10; Col. 4:14; Philem. 23).
  8. I did not realize at the time that I would receive the actual baptism of the Spirit (Acts 2:38).
  9. I was baptized because I didn’t want to go to hell (cf. Acts 2:40; 1 John 4:18).

II. Some correct reasons for rebaptism:

  1. I was baptized simply because others wanted me to be (Rom. 6:17).
  2. I really didn’t understand what I was doing (John 6:44-45).
  3. I did not have faith that I was being saved from sin (Col. 2:12).
  4. I did not really repent of my sins (2 Cor. 7:10).
  5. I thought I had already been saved and that I was being baptized to join some church (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21).
  6. Even though I was an innocent child (having no sin), I was taught that I should submit to baptism in order to be like Christ (Acts 22:16; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5-6).
  7. I was “baptized” when I was a mere baby (cf. Matt. 18:1-6).
  8. I never heard anything about the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 19:2).
  9. I did not know that in baptism I was leaving the world and entering the church (1 John 4:4; 5:19).
  10. To have a clear conscience and make my calling and election sure (2 Pet. 1:10).
  11. When I was baptized, it was for the remission of sins, but I did not believe that Jesus was divine (cf. Matt. 16:16; John 9:35-37).
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, New Testament, Salvation

Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 2: Was the Baptism of the Holy Spirit a One Time Event Only?

Discussion: No, because —

  1. There are no measures of the Holy Spirit (John 3:34).
  2. All who obeyed the gospel received the Spirit (Acts 5:32). [Question: Why didn’t the kingdom arrive ten days prior to Pentecost?]
  3. Baptism in the Spirit is no more miraculous than the forgiveness of sins is (Romans 8:2).
  4. There is only one way into the kingdom (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 4:4-5). [Note: If some entered at the point of Spirit baptism (Acts 2:1-4), and if some entered at the point of water baptism (Acts 10:44-48), then all entered when water and Spirit were combined in their human experience (John 3:3-5)!]
  5. Of the meaning of John 3:3-5.
  6. Of what Jesus did not say in John 3:3-5 —
    (1) Water must come first and then the Spirit;
    (2) Spirit must come first and then the water;
    (3) Water and Spirit must come at the same time;
    (4) One’s forgiveness had to occur at the moment of kingdom entry;
    (5) Forgiveness would occur in every case of water baptism;
    (6) One born of water only could enter the kingdom;
    (7) One born of Spirit only could enter the kingdom.
  7. Entering the spiritual body of Christ (the church) is accomplished by means of entering the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11; Galatians 3:26-27).
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, Salvation

What Happens While We Are Under the Water

By Mac Deaver

Tarlac Bible Forum

[The Tarlac Bible Forum was conducted in November 2014 at the Nick Hotel in Gerona, Tarlac, in the Philippines. Five lectures were presented by Mac Deaver on the theme of “The Baptism of the Great Commission.” We are publishing his teaching outlines here in the order delivered.]

Lesson 1: What Happens While We Are Under the Water

  1. We are delivered, forgiven, and redeemed (Colossians 1:13-14; Acts 2:38; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
  2. We are regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-6; Matthew 19:28; cf. Acts 3:19; Romans 6:3-4, 11).
  3. We are indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32; Romans 8:9-11; Ephesians 1:13-14).
  4. We are added to the saved (Acts 2:47; Matthew 12:46-50).
  5. We are transferred (Colossians 1:13).
  6. We are made sons by birth (John 3:3-5; Ephesians 1:3-5).
  7. We make the great escape (2 Peter 1:4; 2:20-22).
  8. Our nature is altered (2 Peter 1:4; Galatians 6:7-8; John 15:1ff; Galatians 5:22-24).
  9. We are spiritually circumcised (Colossians 2:11-12).
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine

A Brief Response To Massive Confusion

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!

Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, Marriage

What About Divorce and Remarriage Before Baptism?

By Weylan Deaver

It goes without saying our society has put a chasm between itself and Bible teaching on marriage and the family. Divorce is pandemic, and often followed by second or third marriages entered without any regard for what Jesus taught on the subject (e.g. Matt. 19:3-10, etc.). The pressure exerted by Satan on the church can be tremendous. The devil would like nothing better than to get Christians to compromise the gospel without realizing that is what’s happening. While the devil tempts us to fold up, God tests us to hold out and lift high the banner of divine truth—even if most turn a deaf ear (2 Tim. 4:1-4). While the world runs rampant in sin, the church is trying to reach out to save some souls. This leads to inevitable contact with couples in a second, third, or fourth marriage who may want to become Christians. There are two basic approaches to such a scenario.

The first approach says that Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage (cf. Matt. 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:10-11) applies to everybody—Christian and unbeliever alike. Jesus’ gospel is for those in the church, as well as those outside of it, and the same commands, truths, and principles apply to all. Therefore, if a couple finds themselves in a marriage out of harmony with what Jesus taught, repentance demands they cease their unscriptural marital relationship. Put simply, they must get out of the marriage. Dissolving a sinful marriage is easier said than done, and may incur a plethora of difficulties, but the question needs asking, “How badly do I want to go to heaven?” Remember Jesus remarked, “there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:12, ESV). Tragically, most are not willing to do whatever it takes to be saved.

The second approach says that God has separate requirements for Christians, which the world is not expected to obey, and that Jesus’ teaching on divorce fits in this category. In other words, when Jesus said, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9), he was teaching something unbelievers were never obligated to listen to. Therefore, unbelievers are free to marry, divorce, remarry, divorce, and remarry again (ad infinitum) and, if they ever decide to become Christians, they can be baptized and keep whatever spouse they have at that time. Only after baptism do they become accountable to Jesus’ teaching, and they are expected to obey it from then on.

We believe this second view is fraught with error (not least of which is that Jesus’ original comments in Matthew 19 were directed to unbelieving Pharisees, not Christians). Consider but two brief arguments showing the second view to be wrong.

Argument #1

The combination of two simple verses should conclusively settle the matter. “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9). Those words were initially spoken to unbelieving Jews (should they have replied, “Jesus, we’re sure glad you’re not talking to us!”?). Whatever else the New Testament says about divorce does not contradict what Jesus here plainly taught. All Scripture harmonizes with itself. Here is the second passage: “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48). Notice Jesus’ words are specifically said to be what judges those who refuse to receive them. What will judge the unbeliever? Jesus’ words will. And, Jesus’ words include what he taught about divorce! Put in logical form, the argument reads:

  • All unbelievers alive today are people who will be judged by Jesus’ words (John 12:48).
  • The words of Matthew 19:9 are Jesus’ words.
  • Therefore, all unbelievers alive today are people who will be judged by the words of Matthew 19:9.

Any Christian or church that believes pre-baptism marriages can be washed away, or that a pre-baptism unscriptural marriage can be turned into holy matrimony by baptism, has got to ignore this argument, or else try to falsify it. Yet, we see no way it can be successfully disproven.

Argument #2

Any position which implies an untruth is itself a false position. God is the God of all truth, and truth is consistent with itself. No Bible teaching implies error. No error can be proven by the Bible. And, any position implying an unbiblical conclusion cannot be true and should be abandoned.

The view that unbelievers are not accountable to Matthew 19:9 (etc.) implies error. How? Suppose Mike (a Christian) marries Jane (also a Christian). All sides agree Mike and Jane are bound to abide by Matthew 19:9 (since both are Christians). Suppose that Jane divorces Mike because he is too much into sports. All would agree that this divorce is not authorized by Matthew 19:9, and is contrary to what Jesus there taught. Now suppose that Jane marries Bill (an unbeliever). What would Jane and Bill’s relationship be? On Jane’s side, she is a Christian who had no right to divorce her first husband, and thus, had no right to marry Bill. Per Jesus’ teaching, she is now in adultery. But what about Bill? Those who insist that Matthew 19:9 does not apply to Bill (an unbeliever) must say one of two things. Either (1) Bill is in a God-sanctioned marriage to Jane, or (2) Bill is not in a God-sanctioned marriage to Jane.

If (1) Bill is in a God-sanctioned marriage to Jane, then that would imply that Matthew 19:9 does not even apply to the believer (Jane), in which case Jesus’ teaching on divorce applies to no one today. Any position which implies Jesus’ teaching on divorce is not applicable to anybody is a false position.

If (2) Bill is not in a God-sanctioned marriage to Jane, then what is it that would make Bill’s marriage wrong, since Bill’s marital status is allegedly not dependent on being in harmony with Matthew 19:9? If it is true that unbelievers are not under Jesus’ teaching, then no one can appeal to Jesus’ teaching to either justify or condemn an unbeliever’s marriage. If Bill and Jane’s marriage is adulterous, then Bill (an unbeliever) must be amenable to Matthew 19:9. But, if Bill and Jane’s marriage is not adulterous, then Jane (a believer) must not be amenable to Matthew 19:9. Either way, the belief under review runs aground, smashed on the rocks of inconsistency. That which implies error is itself error.

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matt. 19:6). A marriage is real only if God does the joining, and a divorce is actual only if God does the separating, and God joins and disjoins only according to his will, which is revealed as the New Testament! Does God join Bill to Jane (since he is an unbeliever), but not join Jane to Bill (since she is a believer out of harmony with Jesus’ teaching)? Are we to believe that Bill and Jane’s relationship is half adultery (i.e. on Jane’s part) and half holy matrimony (i.e. on Bill’s part)? Scripture knows nothing of such a hybrid marriage monstrosity. Every marriage is either adulterous or non-adulterous; there is no half-and-half. We can state a formal argument thus:

  • Any doctrine implying that a marriage can be simultaneously adulterous and non-adulterous is a false doctrine.
  • The view that unbelievers are not under Matthew 19:9 (etc.) is a doctrine implying that a marriage can be simultaneously adulterous and non-adulterous (see above).
  • Therefore, the view that unbelievers are not under Matthew 19:9 (etc.) is a false doctrine.

Far more can be said on the issue, but if the view under consideration can be falsified by one or both of the above arguments, then that is sufficient. A doctrine need not be disproven from multiple angles before we give it up. All it takes is one sound argument. And, if there is a single sound argument proving that a position is wrong, then the position is wrong, no matter what else may be marshaled in its defense. There seem to be far too many congregations who think Jesus’ teaching (at least on divorce) does not apply to people until after conversion. Yet, we have shown that to be error. If society had not drifted so far away from biblical teaching, the church might not be divided on this issue. But society has drifted. And the devil wants to take the church along with it. If we believe John 12:48, then we must believe that Matthew 19:9 will judge the unbeliever. It is that simple. If we do not believe Matthew 19:9 will judge the unbeliever, then we trample John 12:48. What will it be? “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Heb. 13:4).

Posted in Baptism, Doctrine

Consequences of Baptist Doctrine

By Roy C. Deaver

[The following is excerpted from Deaver’s book, The Baptist Church and the New Testament Church, pp. 47-49.]

In view of the study already made regarding the Bible teaching on the essentiality of baptism, we need to consider now some of the consequences of the Baptist doctrine that one can be saved before and without baptism.

First of all, the teaching that baptism is not essential to one’s salvation means that the Baptist church is not necessary. Baptists teach that one can be saved without baptism, but that one cannot get into the Baptist church without being baptized…And, in which case the Baptist church is not necessary to one’s salvation.

Secondly, the Baptist idea that one can be saved without baptism means that it takes more to get into the Baptist church than it does for one to go to heaven. Baptists hold that one is saved by faith, the moment he believes, and that he is later baptized into the Baptist church because he has already been saved. If one can go to heaven because he is saved, and if one is saved by faith, and if one cannot get into the Baptist church without baptism—then, obviously, it takes more to get into the Baptist church than it does to go to heaven!

Thirdly, the doctrine of salvation without baptism means Baptist preachers cannot follow New Testament examples of conversion…The following quotation is from a book called The History of the Denton County Baptist Association and the Sixty Churches in Its Jurisdiction. This book was written by Mr. J. N. Rayzor, a prominent Baptist of Denton, Texas. The quotation is found on page 82. Here it is:

“An incident occurred in the Pilot Point church during Rev. J. B. Cole’s pastorate, which involved a point of doctrine that subjected Pastor Cole to criticism, and gave the incident much publicity and notoriety. Pastor Cole went fishing one day with a business man who was not a Christian, and he availed himself of the opportunity to talk to the lost man about his unsaved condition, and led him to an acceptance of Christ. Jo Ives, the man converted, said to Pastor Cole, ‘Here is water, what doth hinder me from being baptized?’ Obviously Brother Cole thought of the story of Philip and the Eunuch, and taking that incident an example, he led Mr. Ives out into the water and baptized him. Rev. Cole had been a Baptist but a short time and was not up on their conception of baptism, and how and when it should be administered. The news of the incident soon spread among the members, and then the show began. The following Sunday Mr. Ives presented himself to the church, asking membership, and his application was rejected and he was hurt at the action of the church and turned to another church which readily accepted his baptism. The criticism of the pastor caused him to ask a committee of eminent brethren to sit in judgment upon his conduct—Dr. A. J. Holt, J. B. Link, and R. C. Buckner. After reviewing the details of the incident they wrote the church, advising it to drop the matter, and Pastor Cole to go his way, but not to repeat the act.”

Note that Pastor Cole was advised by his eminent brethren never to follow this Bible example again. This is the story of a man who knew something about the Bible, and little about Baptist doctrine, and who thought he could follow a Bible example of conversion. But, he learned that such would not be tolerated.