Posted in Announcements, Baptism, Debates, Salvation

Livestream link for Deaver-Rodriguez Debate 2021

The four night debate will happen April 26-29 beginning at 7:00 p.m. each evening. It is to be streamed live on Facebook at this link:

We hope all of you will be able to watch it in person or online and thus participate in the study of this vital topic.

Posted in Doctrine, Expository, Salvation

Letter and Spirit

Have you ever heard someone say, “Well, that may be in accordance with the letter of the law but certainly not with the spirit of it”? When such is said, it is offered as some kind of criticism as though the stated obligation as to its overt requirement or outward form has been met, but somehow the proper disposition (or internal requirement of heart) intended as obligation has not been fulfilled. That is, the statement is suggesting that someone has “gone through the motions” of doing what law required, but his heart wasn’t in it or he did not comply with the intent of the requirement. He did only what the minimum requirement was, as stated or legislated, rather than the maximal and intended requirement which obligated him to do whatever he was to do with proper attitude as well regarding the purpose of the requirement.

Of course, it is very possible for a person to “go through the motions” of some realized obligation without thinking about what he is doing. A person can sing without understanding. He may move his mouth while his mind is on lunch (cf. Eph. 5:19; 1 Cor. 14:15). One can worship without worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), but if a person worships in truth, he must worship with his own spirit under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Jude 20).

This idea of (1) complying with stated requirement and (2) at the same time not complying with motive/disposition requirement is mistakenly thought by some to explain certain Bible passages contrasting “law” and “spirit.” We have some passages that do mention and/or discuss the contrast between “letter” and “spirit.” Romans 2:27-29, Romans 7:6, and 2 Corinthians 3:1-11 do this. According to Bible teaching, however, there is no such thing in Scripture as faithfully complying with legislated obligation by overt action when the action does not derive from proper disposition. For example, whatever the Jew under the law of Moses was commanded to do, he was obligated to do it with love for God and neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). If he failed in disposition, he failed in overt action.

The Lord’s disciples were once criticized for transgressing the tradition of the elders (Matt. 15:1-2). Jesus accused the critics of transgressing the commandment of God because of their tradition (v. 3). They were in fulfillment of one of Isaiah’s prophecies, “This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me” (v. 8). It wasn’t that they outwardly obeyed and inwardly disobeyed. They altogether disobeyed, and their disobedience entailed hypocrisy (v. 7). Honoring with lips only amounted to violation of law and, actually, to no honor at all being given to God. Pretense is not partial obedience. Hypocrisy is not law compliance with one’s obligation to any degree.

And yet, we do find in Scripture the contrast between “letter” and “spirit.” We must, however, keep the contrast in its context and not make the contrast become what it never distinguished. If we fail here with such a disregard for context, we wind up with concepts that do not derive from Scripture.

Let us briefly point out a few things that, when the contrast is made in Scripture between “letter” and “spirit,” the contrast cannot possibly mean. It is not a contrast between—

1. Being a stickler for accuracy on the one hand and, on the other, having the proper over-all disposition toward God, but without being all that concerned with the details of obligation. Have you ever heard a Christian explain a given passage in just this way? Sometimes Christians have wound up, even if unintentionally, justifying disobedience by thinking that “letter” and “spirit” suggest that accuracy of interpretation and action does not really mean much to God in the Christian dispensation. How many times have cautious brethren been accused of being “legalists” or “five-steppers” or described by some other conceptually kindred term? Such criticism may be offered because of the failure of the critic to grasp true contrasts as opposed to false ones. The Bible contrast between “letter” and “spirit” is never a contrast between accuracy with regard to divine information (the supposed “letter”) and good disposition without necessarily having accuracy of information (the alleged “spirit”). This is a humanly imagined contrast, but Scripture does not authorize it.

This suggestion that we do not really under New Testament authority have the obligation to be accurate as to information and correct in the practice of our obligations is never made in Scripture! In fact, the New Testament obligates us to know the truth (if we want to be saved) and to practice the truth (John 8:32; 1 John 3:18; Heb. 5:8-9). No Bible writer ever undermined knowing truth for certain and doing the truth. Preachers of another generation used to speak of our having purity of doctrine and practice. Amen! Those today who would have us suppose that, somehow, the grace of God is going to cover the sins of people who never know God and who never obey the gospel are wrong and dangerous (2 Thess. 1:8). Furthermore, no man can have the proper attitude toward God while at the same time trying to devise ways and means of opposing what God, who cannot lie, has already said (Rom. 1:18; Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2; Rom. 3:4). One prominent preacher among us several years ago claimed that it is the case that men must be right about Christ but that surely we can be wrong about everything else. His apostasy is sad, and his comment is unfounded.

2. Having a law and not having a law. Have you ever come across a Christian who takes the position that we do not have law from God today? Well, if we do not have law from God today, then we have no obligations from God today, if the idea of law entails obligation. In fact, if we have no law from God, we currently have no obligation to God. But, the matter of obligation is the dominant concept in “law” as described in Scripture. And that is why “law” as such is said to be unable to save anyone (cf. Rom. 7:11-13; Gal. 3:11). Law obligates, sin violates, grace eliminates. Again, we must keep contrasts in context or we wind up imagining what is never declared. For example, in Romans 6:14 Paul affirms that Christians are not under law but under grace. Now, if someone reads that and knows nothing of what Paul had already said in the same document or he does not know what Paul says later or he knows nothing of what other Bible writers say about law, he may well draw an erroneous and dangerous conclusion that Christians are not under any law whatever. But such is not expressed by Paul in this passage, however, or in any other one for that matter. In Romans 4:15 he had said that if we do not have any law, we cannot have sin. In Romans 6:1 Paul asks if we Christians should continue in sin that grace may abound. We should not, he affirms, but the possibility of even attempting this (continuing to sin so that grace may abound) is only possible because Christians do have law. In context Romans 6:14 is saying that our law (or gospel) is not a law system. And no law systems (Gentile-ism and Judaism) can save; they only condemn because there is in them no provision for actual forgiveness. Forgiveness in these systems could only be prospective (cf. Heb. 9:15; 10:1-4; Rom. 3:25-26). It was the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ that made forgiveness actually possible. That is why the gospel can be called “a law of faith” (Rom. 3:27). Why? Because, unlike Gentile-ism and Judaism, we can trust—or, have faith—in the gospel itself to save us (Rom. 1:16-17). No Gentile (under moral-law-ism or Gentile-ism) and no Jew (under Judaism) could trust in his law to save him. He will certainly be judged by his law (Rom. 2:14-15), but his salvation (if such there be) would have to come from God outside of the system of law under which he lived. The gospel is not like that (Rom. 1:16). We can trust it to save us, or to put it another way, we can trust God by trusting his message to save us! This is why the gospel can rightly be called “a law of faith.” The gospel is “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). It is “a law of liberty” (Jas. 2:12). In fact, it is the “perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25). It sets us free—not from obligation, but from sin (guilt, practice, consequence).

3. Abiding by law and merely following the supposed “intention” of the law without doing what it says. Some evidently have subscribed to the notion that since we are under grace and not under law that we are at liberty to do pretty much what we want even though we do have definite and specific obligations stated in the New Testament. But what are specific obligations among friends? As long as we follow the intended purpose of an obligation, we stand all right before God, it is thought by some, even while we violate the specificity of the obligation as stated. The question is: How in the world can we follow the “intended” purpose of an obligation if we do not submit to the obligation as stated? This issue is settled by interpreting Scripture, understanding Scripture, and rightly applying Scripture. There is no scriptural authority for the concept of (1) disobeying a specific obligation and yet at the same time (2) obeying its intention. Cannot God properly describe what it is that he does and does not want me to do? How can I know what his intended purpose is beyond what he declares? If his purpose is not revealed in the specific obligation, how in the world could I find it outside of and beyond the stated obligation? Can God not make himself clear?

This approach to contrasts is a way of justifying the claim that we do not or perhaps even cannot know truth for certainty regarding obligation, but that we can comprehend God’s general intention behind the stated obligations. But then the question arises: How can we know, generally speaking, God’s intention from Scripture, but that we cannot know specific obligation from Scripture? After all, the supposed comprehension of the divine intention is derived from the articulated obligation.

The fact is that in 2 Corinthians 3:1-11, Romans 2:27-29, and Romans 7:6, where we find the contrast between “letter” and “spirit,” the contrast is between the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ.

Posted in Christian Living, Doctrine, Salvation

We Can Keep the Commandments

The only faith that saves is the faith that obeys (James 2:26; Heb. 5:8-9). Paul speaks of the “obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5; 16:26). Jesus said that love would demonstrate itself by keeping his commandments (John 14:15) and that his friends were those who did that very thing (John15:14). Solomon in the long ago concluded that the whole of life was in fearing God and keeping his commandments (Eccl. 12:13-14). Anyone today who undermines the concept of keeping divine commandments does so to his own peril. But notice that we can only keep divine commandments if—

  1. There is a commander. The eternal God and creator of everything other than himself is in position to exact from humans what he wishes. In the three divine religions of which we read in Scripture (Gentile-ism, Judaism, Christianity), God obligates according to his holy and perfect will. Today, since the last will and testament of Jesus Christ is in effect, we are to listen to him (Matt. 17:5; Heb. 9:15-17; 12:25; 2 John 9-11). Anyone who would approach God today must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him (Heb. 11:6; 4:16; 7:25).
  2. There are commands. Unfortunately, many have misconstrued the notion of salvation by grace to mean that there is complete exclusion of the requirement for obedience. There can only be obedience to commands, and if there are no commands, there can be no obedience. And if salvation by grace excludes commands, then obedience is not required. Some brethren take passages on grace to mean this very thing. For example, in Rom. 6:14 Paul wrote, “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace.” Notice that Paul said that sin would not have “dominion” over a Christian, for a Christian stood under grace while Jews in the previous divine regime stood under law. John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; ‘the’ grace and ‘the’ truth came though Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Paul in Rom. 6 did not say that Christians had no law but that law itself could not hold sway over them because of the grace they had received. They surely had obligation and where there is obligation there is law, but Christians were not under the law of Moses (the contrast between law [which killed] and grace [which made alive] is elaborated in Rom. 7 and 8). Sin cannot dominate the life of a Christian because of the grace made available by the law (gospel) itself. Paul had in Rom. 6:1 earlier raised the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Of course, the answer was “no.” But the question is absurd if there is no law, for if there is no law, one could not commit sin, much less continue in it.
  3. We do know where to find them. We cannot obey the commands if we do not know where the commands are located. Where should a man go in order to find his obligations to God? First, he looks at his own conscience which declares to him the significant moral difference between right and wrong. Furthermore, his conscience convicts him of guilt when he violates it. He sees, or should see, that his own conscience is guiding him to find the source of it who is also the Creator of all. Paul told the Athenians that man was made to look for God who is not far from any man (Acts 17:27-28). Paul also told the Athenians that they (and we) would be judged by Jesus (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus had once said that anyone who rejected his sayings would by the Lord’s word be judged in the last day (John 12:48). If the word of Christ is the judge, and that word is the equivalent of his last will and testament (our New Testament), then men today will be judged by the New Testament. That is where we find our current obligations imposed on us by God. That new testament (or covenant) is now in force (Heb. 9:15-28).
  4. We do know what they are. One could conceivably recognize that the New Testament is the will of God operative today without really ever learning much about the contents of that will. He might never be serious in study so as to survey the scene to find his duty. The New Testament contains facts, promises, obligations. If a man would know what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37; 16:30), he must study and find divine answer to that question and accept no mere man’s conflicting answer to counter what God has said. Since the answer to the question is given in various pieces and places in Scripture, he must be diligent in his search to know all that he must do to become a Christian and to remain a faithful one. Can a man know “all” he must do to become a Christian? Indeed, he must know all. Can a man know all the principles to which he must submit in order to remain a faithful one? Of course. How can a man remain faithful if he does not know how to do so? Jesus promised that the knowledge of truth which would provide spiritual freedom would be accessible to those who would abide in his word (John 8:31-32). Christians today who deny the knowability of truth (that is, they deny that we can be certain about it) do not believe what the Lord taught about it.
  5. We have the right attitude toward them. Can a man obey a command of God without proper regard for or respect for the command? Can a man say, in effect, “Well, I’ll do it, but I don’t like it”? We might recall that Naaman had to put aside his anger before he would do what God’s prophet instructed him to do (2 Kings 5:8-14). Would not an honest sinner welcome the information regarding his duty to God? Is it possible for a practicing sinner to become a Christian while not loving God and not welcoming the saving information he has learned? Paul informs us that godly sorrow that produces repentance brings no regret (2 Cor. 7:10). Furthermore, if faithful Christians find grief, they do not locate it in the commandments of God (1 John 5:1-3).
  6. They mean what they did when first given. The duties imposed on all men today through the law of Christ are the same permanent obligations which rested on the first century church. We are far removed in time from that period in which the first obligations were preached to the whole world. The divinely given duty to take the gospel to the world was given to the apostles (Matt. 28:18-20). In thirty years they accomplished that noble and necessary assignment that once and for all changed human amenability from Gentile-ism and Judaism to the gospel (Col. 1:23; Mark 16:19-20). And the same obligations that were preached to sinners and saints still reside in God’s book, binding on men today our duty to God. The warning was early on given not to go against the gospel that was revealed (Gal. 1:6-10). The apostles’ doctrine or teaching (Acts 2:42) was the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 1:7). The pattern was and remains set regarding obligations (2 Tim. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:16; Heb. 8:5). No one has the authority to change them. They are not fluid in nature. And translation does not alter human obligation.
  7. We have inherent capacity to obey. There are those who still maintain that a sinner cannot on his own make any move toward God, but that he must wait on divine help in order to get to repentance. The Bible simply does not teach this unholy doctrine. We simply cannot move from sinner status to saint status without utilizing our will to make the move. Do we want to do the right thing? Do we want to obey God? If we do, can we obey the gospel? If damnation is pronounced on all who sin and who do not obey the gospel, then either we can obey that gospel or God does not want us all to be saved. Damnation is pronounced against all sinners who obey not the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-10), and yet God wants all men to be saved (2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:4). Then, it follows that there is an inherent capacity within the sinner to learn and obey the gospel. He can come to faith, repent of his sins, confess his faith, and be baptized into Christ (John 8:24; Luke 13:3; Matt. 10:31-32; Mark 16:15-16). And every Christian (one in whom the Holy Spirit now dwells per Rom. 8:9-11) has divine help within that helps him to hold sin down (Rom. 8:14) in the production of Spirit fruit (Gal. 5:22-24).
Posted in Baptism, Doctrine, Expository, New Testament, Salvation

Baptism In One Spirit Per 1 Corinthians 12:13

Last Sunday, I listened to a faithful gospel preacher as he misinterpreted this passage. Sadly, I misinterpreted this passage most of my preaching life. It was all because I failed to understand that Holy Spirit baptism entailed no miracle whatever! As you, I was taught that there are three measures of the Spirit among men (while there actually are none—John 3:34), and that baptism in Spirit was a miracle. But this was all wrong, so sadly wrong, and these mistakes affected all of our biblical interpretation of passages that mentioned the Spirit and his relationship to us.

Think about the words in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13: “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were made to drink of one Spirit.” Please go immediately to Galatians 3:26-29 for the language of Paul there. And please return to John 7:37-39 immediately for the language there. Do you see concept and language connection?

But, because (1) we all knew there was only one baptism, and because (2) we all knew that water was for the remission of sins, we concluded that we must “interpret” 1 Corinthians 12:13 to mean that we were baptized “by” the Holy Spirit (usually taken to mean by the teaching of the Holy Spirit). How many times have you heard this “interpretation”? We were told that we were baptized in water in harmony with the teaching of the Holy Spirit. My, my! This was an honest but ignorant and unintentional interpretive mistake that we made. But most of us made it. Think! Is there any other passage in the New Testament that supports the claim that the Spirit is an AGENT who baptizes anyone? No! However, we do have passages that claim that JESUS HIMSELF would be the agent who baptized in the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16).

Interestingly, Luke in describing the difference between John’s baptism and the Lord’s baptism, says that John baptized “with” water, using the dative case of the word “water.” However, he used the preposition “in” (Gr. en) when he said that Jesus would baptize “in” Holy Spirit. Now, we do not reject water as the element in the first baptism on the basis that the proper translation is “with water” rather than “in water.” Do we? No, we do not. Secondly, John said that Jesus would baptize not “with” the Holy Spirit but “in” the Holy Spirit! So, we allow “with” to mean “in” but in 1 Corinthians 12:13 we force “in” to mean “by,” and the only reason we did this was because we took baptism “in” Spirit to mean a miraculous baptism! We were trying, in our ignorance, to be logically consistent.

Too, in Matthew’s rendering of the account, in both references to water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism, he uses the same preposition, “in” (Gr. en). Whatever John was doing with water, Jesus would do with Spirit. If John immersed people “in” water, then Jesus would immerse people “in” Spirit. There is no getting around this. John in his preaching used both water and Spirit as elements. John and Jesus were both agents! We must be fair with the text. Ephesians 5:26 is no help in trying to get around what Matthew says that John did. Paul in Ephesians 5:26 says that Jesus cleansed us by “the washing of the water with the word.” But “the word” is applied to cleansing, and not to regeneration. And they are not the same. So, the passage does not support the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:13 that the Holy Spirit “baptizes” us through his teaching in his word!

Also, if Jesus in John 3:3-5 said that a person must be born of both water and Spirit, and if to be born of water means to be baptized in water, then just so does to be born of Spirit mean to be baptized in Spirit.

My good friend, Glenn Jobe taught me several years ago that Acts 1:8 proves that there is no miracle in Holy Spirit baptism. The verb “is come” is an aorist participle which indicates action antecedent to that of the main verb, “shall receive.” That is, the power which would enable the apostles to be the Lord’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” came after their reception of their baptism in the Holy Spirit. The power did not come before nor at the same time as but AFTER the baptism! The KJV is helpful in its translation: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” We have correctly taught that salvation follows baptism in water as Mark 16:16 teaches. The passage says that the one believing and being baptized shall be saved. Both “believing” and “being baptized” are aorist participles which indicate action prior to that of the main verb, “shall be saved.” It is an aorist participle in Acts 1:8!

Furthermore, while water baptism in the book of Acts is always connected to remission of sins, baptism in Holy Spirit is not. It follows forgiveness rather than to provide it. It is the regeneration of which Paul speaks in Titus 3:5-6. Only a forgiven man can then be given spiritual life! But, think about it: when we were baptized in water, we had to come up out of and leave the water. Water is not the church! When we came up from the water, we were already in the Holy Spirit, and remained in him! Jesus had immersed us in Spirit while we were being immersed in water. This is how and why it can correctly be said that we arise to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4) because life was given us while we were under the water following forgiveness! But we remained in Spirit after we left the water. Following our immersion in water, we came up from it while remaining in Spirit! We are, Paul says, “in Spirit” (Romans 8:9). Being in Spirit is being in the non-personal but spiritual body of Christ (Romans 8:1; Colossians1:18). And just as with regard to any physical human birth, our spiritual birth entails two elements (John 3:3-5). And remember, before Paul mentioned our baptism in Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:13, he had already reminded the brethren at Corinth that the Jews had been baptized unto Moses by being baptized in two elements (1 Corinthians 10:1-2).

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 Salvation

A Misunderstood Death

By Marlin Kilpatrick

There are numerous events recorded in the Bible about which we may misunderstand; this is why we need to daily study our Bibles. What the death of Christ makes possible for all people everywhere is often misunderstood by those who are in denominationalism. Very few people who have actually studied the Bible and ancient world history will deny there once lived a man named Jesus. And this Jesus, according to the New Testament, lived among men and was finally crucified by the Roman soldiers on a hillside outside of Jerusalem. So the historicity of the death of Christ is not man’s problem. But, through the perversion of the Scriptures by false teachers and their doctrines, there are many folks who, today, sincerely believe they are saved, when such is not true.

I once was in a private discussion with a denominational preacher. He claimed he believed in baptism as much as I, but not for the same reason. I pointed out to him that if we both do not believe that baptism is for the remission of our sins, we both are lost. I cited Acts 2:38, to which he replied, “I know that my Redeemer liveth and that he died for my sins on Calvary’s cross.” Dear reader, in such a claim lies one of the most misunderstood facts about the death of Christ. This preacher also claimed that Christ did everything for man on the cross and there’s nothing for man to do but accept the merits of Christ’s death and be saved. Such claims are indicative of a gross misunderstanding about the death of Christ.

Did Christ accomplish everything at Calvary? The answer to this question depends upon what is meant. For example, if it is meant that Christ accomplished everything he intended to accomplish in his death, the answer is yes! If, however, it is meant that by simply believing that Christ died for our sins, and without any further act(s) of an obedient faith, we are saved, then the answer is no!

Precious people, it is true Jesus did die for our sins on Calvary’s cross. In fact, the apostle John wrote, concerning Jesus’ death, “And he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). While Jesus died for the sins of mankind, this does not mean that all of mankind will be saved. On the contrary, Jesus said the majority of mankind will be lost (cf. Matt. 7:13,14).  If Jesus died for all men, but not all men will be saved, then what is the explanation of Jesus’ death?

Jesus died to make salvation possible for all men. When Jesus died he shed his blood (cf. John 19:34). The shedding of Jesus’ blood provides for all men the opportunity to be saved. The death of Christ only makes possible this opportunity, but to be saved, we must be washed in the blood of Christ (cf. Rev.1:5). Sinners are only saved when they are baptized into the death of Christ, in which they are washed from their sins; this is why baptism is “for the remission of sins” and why “…baptism doth also now save us” (cf. Rom. 6:3,4; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21).

Friend, have you obeyed the gospel of Christ? If we fail to obey the gospel, we will be eternally lost (cf. 2 Thes. 1:7-9). The churches of Christ stand ready at any time to assist you in your obedience to the gospel. Think about it.

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 Doctrine, Salvation

Who Is Added To the Church–Saint or Sinner?

By Mac Deaver

For several years we have maintained that in order for a person to enter the church, several things must occur. Most of us are very familiar with the plan of salvation or the steps of obedience, so that we are clear on the fact that one must move from personal faith to repentance to confession of his faith and then to baptism. We have believed and taught this developmental procedure for years and years. And we have been correct.

But there is another procedural point that is not at times rightly comprehended because insufficient thought has been given to it, and that is that sinners must become saints before they can enter the kingdom. Now why is this so? It is so because it is either the case that (1) the Lord adds sinners to the church or (2) the Lord adds saints to the church. And to get the matter straight in our heads, we have got to comprehend when forgiveness transpires. Furthermore, we need to know just who it is that God forgives in the act of conversion. God either forgives (1) the sinner, or he forgives (2) the saint. Whom does he forgive?

I have explained both in book and in public debate that in the process of conversion, a person is forgiven of his sins (Acts 2:38), then he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5, 6), and then he is indwelled by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:6), and then he arises to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3, 4). This is the chronologically correct conceptual order and actual event order. Now, to be sure, the forgiveness, regeneration, and indwelling, all take place within the blink of an eye. And they all take place while the human body is under the water! Following these conceptually distinctive events, the baptized person is then lifted up. He breaks the surface of the water, but by that time, he is already a forgiven, regenerated, indwelled Christian. He arises to walk in newness of life. This is the essential conceptual and actual event order in the process of conversion as it entails the momentary transition from sinner status to saint status. Scripture makes it plain that this order cannot be gainsaid. When one attempts to change the sequence of events in the process, he faces doctrinal implications that are incoherent regarding the nature of salvation.

Let us make this inquiry as simple as we can. Let us, then, imagine an alien sinner responding to the gospel invitation, stating his desire to become a Christian. Based on his repentance and now on his having-been-taken confession of faith, he withdraws to the dressing room, from which he then enters the baptistery. Who walks into the baptistery? A sinner or a saint? Unlike most denominationalists, we in the churches of Christ have for years correctly defended the view that a sinner enters the water (Acts 22:16)! Faith alone cannot save (John 1:11, 12); faith with repentance alone cannot save (Acts 2:37, 38), and the confession must be followed by baptism in order for it to contribute to salvation (Rom. 10:9, 10; 1 Tim. 6:12; Rom. 6:3, 4).

Now, the baptizer and the alien sinner stand in the water before the audience. The sinner is then lowered (immersed) in the water. What happens while he is under the water? The first thing that happens is that God forgives the man, and that forgiveness takes place in the mind of God. God no longer counts the man a sinner! Since he has done everything that the New Testament requires of him to become a child of God, God now grants that much desired forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 22:16). The human spirit is now clean (Eph. 5:26; Heb. 10:22). Second, God regenerates that human spirit since it is now forgiven of all sin. This means that the Holy Spirit actually and personally and directly contacts the human spirit and changes its nature! The human spirit is revitalized; it is given spiritual life (Tit. 3:5, 6). Its nature is now altered (2 Pet. 1:4). Now, why must regeneration follow forgiveness? It must follow instead of precede because if the alien sinner were still in his sins, then God would be giving spiritual life to one who remained guilty of his sins. Any sinner must be forgiven before he can be granted spiritual life! If someone objects to the Holy Spirit’s being placed within the body of the baptized person in order to regenerate the spirit of that person, he must remember that the Holy Spirit is being given to a forgiven person! At this point of the process, the Spirit is within the body but outside the spirit of the person. He works from the outside of the human spirit or heart to regenerate it. Why? Because the nature of the forgiven person must be changed before the Spirit can take up his permanent abode! But if someone objects and says: “Yes, but Mac is saying that the Holy Spirit is within the body of a person not yet in the kingdom,” my response would be that (1) certainly he is within the body of a person not yet in the kingdom, but (2) he is in the body of the person who is about to enter the kingdom and who is under the water, and (3) he is in the body of the person who stands already forgiven!

Then, following the forgiveness and regeneration, the Holy Spirit moves to within the spirit or heart of the person who is immersed in water. How do we know that this act takes place at this time? We know it because Paul tells us. “And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6). Paul doesn’t simply state that the Spirit moved to within our bodies, but into our hearts. And he cannot take up his abode in an unholy place. His “abiding” in this permanent location is the indwelling of the Spirit, which takes up his abode for holy purposes (Rom. 8:9-11; cf. 1 Thess. 4:1-8; Gal. 5:22-24; Eph. 1:13, 14; 1 Cor. 6:12-20).

Now, as proven in our book, Except One Be Born From Above, the water in baptism is for the remission of sins. John’s baptism was water baptism, and it was for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4). But water baptism alone could not and did not ever put one into the kingdom. This is what Jesus was telling Nicodemus. It is likely that Nicodemus himself had already received John’s baptism, but whether he had or had not, the Lord made it clear that water baptism alone could not secure entry into the kingdom (John 3:3-5). But another point that we have often overlooked is that the continuation of the fact that water alone as continued under the “great commission” assignment could not provide entry into the kingdom any more than it could during the days of John’s ministry. As I explained in tedious detail in our book, this is what Luke is telling us in Acts 8:12-17 and in Acts 19:1-7. Water alone never put anyone into the kingdom even under the “great commission” assignment given the apostles! Water, in the story of redemption, has always been for the remission of sins (of course, in the sense of a stipulated requirement). But it has never been by itself a way into the kingdom. It has been a requirement of the gospel because only forgiven people can enter the kingdom!

Now, let us seriously consider Acts 2:47. “…And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved.” The KJV has “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Actually the word “church” is not in the Greek text. But clearly, somebody was being added to something or to somebody else. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Marshall puts it, “And the Lord added the [ones] being saved from day to day together.” The words “being saved” come from an accusative, plural, masculine, present, passive participle. The word “added” is a 3rd person, singular, imperfect, active verb. So, the verb indicates that at the time that Luke was recording the account, God had been adding together or placing together (and Luke says it was on a day by day basis) some people. Now who exactly were being placed together? The “being saved” ones. So, as sinners were being saved, they were being added to the rest of the saved. But the question with which we are now most interested is, “Were these people sinners or saints at the time that they were on a day by day basis being added together by the Lord?” Precisely, the question entails the following theoretical possibilities: That is (1) the Lord was adding together all saved people, or (2) he was adding together all lost people, or (3) he was adding together some lost people to already saved people, or (4) he was adding some saved people to already lost people. Now, dear reader, which is it? To a Bible student, the answer is obvious! The tense of the Greek verb by itself cannot answer this question. Dana and Mantey inform us that “…in dealing with the present tense we must consider not only the fundamental force of the tense, but also the meaning of the verb root, and the significance of the context” (A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p.181).

Now, we know that those referenced by Luke in Acts 2:47 were not being added to the church or to the rest of the saved prior to their own conversion. If the saved constituted the group to which others were added, obviously then those being added could only be more people who were being saved without destroying the nature of the group. This much should be certainly clear. But the point of controversy is the point at which the being-converted ones or the being-saved ones are precisely being added to the rest of the already-saved. We know that it happens while the person being baptized is still in the water. But we are attempting to point out that there is even more explanatory precision that is provided for us in the New Testament. Our concern just now is to locate the exact point at which the being-converted ones are being added to the rest of the saved. So, let us consider, in the light of Acts 2:47, some True-False questions:

  • T/F 1. God added forgiven sinners as sinners to the church. (False)
  • T/F 2. God added saved men as saved men to the church. (True)
  • T/F 3. God added neither sinners nor saved men to the church. (False)
  • T/F 4. God added both saved men and sinners to the church. (False)

The reader should have absolutely no trouble whatever in coming up with the correct answer to the above. So, now let us move on.

  • T/F 5. God added forgiven men who were not yet regenerated to the church. (False)
  • T/F 6. God added only regenerated men to the church. (True)
  • T/F 7. God added neither regenerated nor non-regenerated men to the church. (False)
  • T/F 8. God added both regenerated and non-regenerated men to the church. (False)

Is this hard? Surely, any member of the church ought to be able to answer all of the above with ease. If someone is not clear on the last set of questions, he should realize that to regenerate is to give life to, to make alive, to revitalize. It is not the same thing as forgiveness. That is why we know that regeneration follows (rather than precedes) forgiveness. If it preceded forgiveness, then we would face the absurd situation of a sinner’s being made spiritually alive while still in his sins! Most members of the church understand that in some situations there is the necessity of conceptual order (for example, faith must precede repentance, and repentance must precede baptism).

But just here and before proceeding with what happens while a person is in the water of baptism, let us go back for a moment and revisit the concept of a necessary sequential order in the plan of salvation before one enters the baptistery. And we see that it is not simply a conceptual order but it is a chronological order as well. That is, just as there is a conceptual order to the topics of faith, repentance, confession, and immersion in the life of any man who becomes a Christian, just so there is a time sequence in which each item must exist. I am reminded that years ago I received a phone call from a Baptist preacher whom I was about to engage in public debate. He assured me on the phone that when he said that we are saved by “faith only,” that he was including repentance! My, my! How convenient, but it is ludicrous. “Faith only” is not only faith if repentance is added to faith. Language cannot cover such misguided conceptual confusion. My opponent’s definition of his expression contradicted the words of the expression. If I were to claim that “baptism only” saves us but then added that by “baptism only” I mean to include faith and repentance, “baptism only” is not only baptism.

In his second negative of the Warren-Ballard Debate, brother Warren said regarding Ballard, “He said repentance and faith are joined together. Where is the Scripture that says it? Where is the Scripture that says repentance and faith are joined together?” (p. 44). Of course, there is none! The steps in the plan of salvation are not simultaneous steps. That is, since one can come to faith without yet repenting, we know that faith must come before repentance can occur (Acts 2:37, 38). And since one can arrive at faith and yet refuse to confess his faith, and since we know that one cannot rightly confess what he does not believe, we know that confession of faith follows the initiation of faith (John 12:42, 43). And since baptism transfers a person into Christ (Gal. 3:26, 27), we know that faith, repentance, and confession must precede baptism.

Now, let us get back to the baptistery and again focus on the conceptual distinctions and the chronological order of the sequence of events that transpires while the person being baptized is in the water. We have already determined that prior to the sinner’s entering the baptistery, (1) he has come to faith, (2) he has repented of his sins, and (3) he has confessed his faith. Now he steps down into the water, and someone (usually the preacher) then immerses him in that water. Now, regarding the most serious topic of salvation and kingdom entry, what is the order of spiritual events that transpires while the person being baptized is yet under the water (immersed in or submerged in that water)?

Is water baptism for or unto the remission of sins? Yes (Mark 1:4; Acts 2:38). Can God regenerate or make spiritually alive a person who is yet dead in his sins while he is still in his sins and yet to be forgiven? No. Then, regeneration must follow forgiveness (Tit. 3:5, 6). So now we have the chronological order of (1) forgiveness of sins and then (2) regeneration. Now, notice that regeneration is changing the nature of the dead human spirit into a live human spirit by virtue of its having its nature changed. This is 2 Peter 1:4. While in the water, the baptized person’s nature is changed, so that now he is considered not only forgiven, but regenerated or revitalized by God’s Holy Spirit so that he is now at a higher level of association with God than his being in sin allowed him to be (See the discussion of this vital point in chapter 13 of our book, Except One Be Born From Above—especially look at the “Scale Of Connection” on page 218). Now, understand that it is the regeneration (which is what being born from above means) that makes one finally fit for the kingdom. It is the “regeneration” that belongs to the washing, that now causes God to consider this forgiven person as now finally his child! Forgiveness alone doesn’t make him a member of the church; it does not transfer him to the kingdom. It takes both the water of forgiveness and the regeneration of the human spirit by the Holy Spirit to make one fit for the kingdom! Read Titus 3:5-6 very carefully along with John 3:3-5.

In talking with Nicodemus, Jesus said that a person cannot enter the kingdom unless he is born of water and Spirit. If to be born of water is to be baptized in water, then it cannot be successfully gainsaid that to be born of Spirit is to be baptized in Spirit (See our book, pages 109-117, for a more thorough discussion of this point and for refutation of the suggestion that to be born of Spirit simply means to be baptized in harmony with the teaching of the Holy Spirit). And for the elaborated proof that water-only baptism has always been baptism into the name of Jesus only (and not into the names of the Father and Holy Spirit), see our book, chapter 1 (as well as pages 61-68).

Follow this carefully. It is at the point when a person (still being under the water) is not only forgiven but now has been regenerated in his spirit by the Holy Spirit of God, that God now sees that person as a spiritual child of his! That is the time at which God then, because he now recognizes him as no longer guilty and no longer dead, sees him as a son! Notice that Paul tells us specifically that God sends the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those whom he considers his children (Gal. 4:6). Please observe that God does not send the Holy Spirit into the hearts of (1) those not yet sons, (2) those not yet sons in order to make them sons, and not even (3) those not yet sons who are already forgiven! It is when a forgiven person is completely regenerated by the Holy Spirit of God (and, of course, while the person is still in the water), that God moves the Spirit from the outside of the heart to the inside of the heart as well. Now, not only does the Spirit enclose the heart, but it indwells the heart. I discuss this point in detail in our book to show why the idea that we are “in” Spirit is equally accurate to the expression the Spirit is “in” us. This is what makes it possible for the person under the water to arise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3, 4; 2 Cor. 5:17)!

If someone objects to the foregoing and says that there is no detailed chronological order to the events that transpire while the person is under the water, he must face the numerous logical contradictions that his suggestion necessarily entails. If someone says that what we claim is false because we have a “forgiven” party not yet “regenerated,” and we have a “regenerated” party not yet in the kingdom, the first thing that we need say is that the not-yet-in the-kingdom-party is still in the water. And we are, after all, discussing the transition from sinner status to saint status! And secondly, we must remember that Jesus told us that the birth of water and Spirit was required in order for any man to enter the kingdom (John 3:3-5). Unless we are born both of water and Spirit, we cannot enter the kingdom! We can only enter by virtue of our being baptized in both water and Spirit. Read John 3:3-5 very, very carefully.

Now, we see the person being baptized in the baptistery. And we know that while his body is submerged in the water, that God forgives him. And we know that forgiveness alone is not enough to catapult him into the kingdom. But we do know that birth of water along with birth of Spirit can do that very thing. Thus, today when the believing penitent who has confessed his faith now has (1) a body under the water, and (2) a human spirit or heart regenerated by the Holy Spirit himself, having been dispatched to that person from Jesus Christ (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16), he satisfies the twofold requirement that the Lord gave Nicodemus. He is now born of water and Spirit, and just as the person’s body immersion is a baptism in water, just so his spirit or heart immersion is a baptism in Spirit!

If someone objects to the order of events as here described as occurring while a having-confessed, penitent believer is being baptized in water, and claims rather that everything happens simultaneously (forgiveness, regeneration, indwelling), then (1) he faces not only the logical contradictions that his denial implies, but (2) he contradicts the very notion of the essentiality of sequential events as described in Scripture.

Now let us consider one final point. One is either in the kingdom or out of the kingdom. Our discussion of what happens while a baptized person is under the water, helps us to see where the line is crossed from being outside the kingdom to being inside the kingdom. According to the Bible, since God can only add the saved to the rest of the saved (the church), a person has to be not only forgiven but regenerated. And today in every occurrence of kingdom entry, it is always at the point of regeneration that one is added to the church. [I have to say “today” because in the cases involving initial entry of the three major ethnic groups (Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles) into the kingdom in the first century era, there was a time lapse that occurred (1) between the time that some entered the water and the time in which they received the Spirit or (2) between the time in which they received the Spirit and the time in which they entered the water (see Mark 1:4 with Acts 2:1-4; Acts 8:12-17; Acts 10:44-48)]. Today every person who enters the kingdom enters the water first before he can receive the Spirit.

Following regeneration, the person is now a son into whose heart the Spirit then goes. So, notice the following conceptual stages: (1) forgiven, (2) regenerated by Holy Spirit, (3) identified as spiritual kinfolk (sons and daughters of God), so that we are then (4) indwelled by Holy Spirit. Since point (2) is the point at which our nature is changed, that is where we become the sons and daughters of God. Because we are his children, then, he sends the Spirit to abide in our hearts (Gal. 4:6).

So again, if objections come which claim that this makes no sense because we then face the fact that (1) a forgiven person is not yet in the kingdom, and (2) a regenerated person is not yet indwelled, and that (3) a son of God is recognized as a son without his having the indwelling Spirit within his heart, remember that all of these events take place in the blink of an eye while the baptized person’s body is under the water as he is being changed from sinner to saint. And the process is not over until each stage is reached. And the complete process is ever so quickly completed while one is still under the water! But conceptual distinctions must absolutely be observed. If we deny them, we wind up in conflict with the doctrine of salvation as explained in Scripture and have to face the logical contradictions that are by the denial implied.

To clarify, let us say again that (1) we are not added to the kingdom at the point of forgiveness because we have not yet at that point been immersed in Spirit. (2) We are then regenerated by the Holy Spirit, which regeneration constitutes the baptism of the Holy Spirit. (3) We are not yet added to the kingdom at the point of regeneration, but we have by this point been born of water and Spirit. The body is immersed in water and the human spirit is immersed in Holy Spirit. (4) Now we are added to the kingdom because as recognized children of God, God sends his Spirit into our hearts per Galatians 4:6. This encompassing Holy Spirit (surrounding my human spirit in regeneration) now moves to the inside of my heart. His now being within my heart constitutes the indwelling. It is now true that (1) a person is then “in Christ” and that (2) Christ is “in him” or, to say it differently but equally truthfully, that (1) a person is now “in Spirit” and (2) the Spirit is “in him.” And when a person is in Spirit and has the Spirit within him, he is in the kingdom (Rom. 8:9-11; Luke 17:20, 21). God only adds his spiritual children to the kingdom. He only adds saints (and not sinners) to the church!

If one attempts to deny the “process” of salvation (whether before the water or while one is under the water), he faces great difficulty. We have historically known about (1) the difficulties that denominationalists have faced when attempting to dismantle the logical steps in the plan of salvation or by combining concepts that cannot be joined (cf. Warren-Ballard Debate again). But what about (2) the difficulties that we face as brethren if we attempt to deny the process and the distinctions that the Bible makes as to the sequence of events that transpire while the baptized person is under the water? What if someone claims that there is no process so that everything takes place at once? What if all that occurs, occurs simultaneously? Well, let’s consider that.

If it is true that, while a person is being baptized in water, “everything takes place at once,” it either takes place inside the kingdom or outside the kingdom. Which is it? We know that the sinner entered the baptistery. Now if, while he is under the water, “everything takes place at once,” then let’s consider the first option. Let us say that he is forgiven, regenerated, recognized as a child of God, indwelled by God’s Spirit while he is still outside the kingdom. Is this possible? Is it possible for a forgiven, regenerated, recognized, and indwelled child of God to be outside the kingdom? NO! Why not? In the first place, it is “no” because only those who are in the kingdom (or church) can finally enter heaven, and the indwelling Spirit is the earnest of that inheritance (Eph. 1:13, 14), and in the second place, when a person is indwelled by the Spirit, that means that since the Spirit of Christ is now “in” him, the kingdom is “within” him (Luke 17:20, 21). Consider the chart:

While Under The Water
Remission of sins → Regeneration → Recognition → Residence

It is at the point of “Residence” that the Spirit resides within the heart of the forgiven, regenerated, and now recognized person! At the point of “Residence” we have (1) the person’s heart residing within the Holy Spirit, and (2) the Holy Spirit residing within the heart of that person. This is why Jesus could say that “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, 21), and Paul could say, “But ye are not in flesh but in Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). On the chart the transition of the forgiven, regenerated, recognized party takes place as the person moves from “Recognition” to “Residence.” One is not in the kingdom until he reaches the point where he resides in Christ by residing in the Spirit of Christ and where Christ by his Spirit resides in that person!

Let’s try the second option. The person in the water, let us say, is forgiven, regenerated, recognized as a child of God, and indwelled by God’s Spirit, and all of this while he is inside the kingdom. But we all surely know that if a person is forgiven and regenerated while he is inside the kingdom, we are saying that he enters the kingdom before he receives such forgiveness and regeneration. In other words, this position implies that one must enter the kingdom in order to receive forgiveness and regeneration! So, as it turns out, the claim that all that occurs while one is in the water occurs at the same time actually implies an impossible chronological process of its own! The view implies, if one takes the second option, that one must (1) enter the kingdom, or church, in order (2) to receive forgiveness and regeneration!

Now, if someone suggests that Paul did claim in Ephesians 1:3 that all spiritual blessings are “in” Christ rather than outside of Christ to bolster the claim that initial forgiveness of sins must be then found “in” Christ, we examine the claim first by asking, “What did Paul mean?” Consider the following argument that recently appeared in print:

Major Premise: If the Mac Deaver doctrine of present day Holy Spirit baptism is true, then the doctrine that alien sinners receive the remission of sins before and without entering the spiritual body of Christ is true.

Minor Premise: The doctrine that alien sinners receive the remission of sins before and without entering the spiritual body of Christ is not true (Eph. 1:3, 7).

Conclusion: Therefore, the Mac Deaver doctrine of present day Holy Spirit baptism is not true.

This is a valid argument form called modus tollens. However, it is not a sound or dependable argument because a sound argument is not only valid, but its premises are true as well. In this argument the minor premise is false. That means that the argument is not sound!

If the expression “all spiritual blessings” includes initial forgiveness and regeneration, and if the expression “in Christ,” means “the church of Christ,” then it is clear that one must enter the church of Christ before he can receive initial forgiveness and regeneration! That is, the sinner must enter the church as sinner, and then he must after being admitted to the church as sinner, receive forgiveness and regeneration, which means then that at first he is a sinner in Christ but afterward he is a saint in Christ! But we know that this is not so. The saved are added to the rest of the saved, as we have previously proven. So, this implication is false. It is simply false doctrine to contend that “initial forgiveness of alien sins” is found “in Christ,” taking that expression to mean in “the church of Christ.” That will not work! So, we have to determine what spiritual blessings are being contemplated in the passage and/or we have to more carefully define what “in Christ” in the passage means.

Look at it like this: Is the Bible a spiritual blessing? If we answer “yes,” then we can see that either (1) the Bible is being excluded from the category of spiritual blessings as contemplated by Paul in Ephesians 1:3 [so that only spiritual blessings that only Christians actually have access to are being included] or (2) the Bible is being included in the category of “spiritual blessings” being referenced by Paul, but if it is, then the expression “in Christ” must refer not to the church of Christ but rather to the person of Christ since many people outside the church of Christ have access to the Bible.

If we answer the question (“Is the Bible a spiritual blessing?”) with a “no,” we find ourselves having to face the implication that then it is either not spiritual or not a blessing. And since it is the most spiritual book we can have, being produced by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:12, 13; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Pet. 1:10, 11; 2 Pet. 1:20, 21), we wouldn’t say it is not spiritual. And we certainly would not deny that it is a blessing!

So, the answer to the question (“Is the Bible a spiritual blessing?”) must be “yes.” But that means we have to face the implications that then (1) it is excluded from Paul’s comments in Ephesians 1:3 or it is being included. I do not think that the context will allow for its exclusion, but if someone suggested that it must be excluded because the expression “in Christ” can only refer to the church of Christ, then I would suggest that then on equal grounds, the concepts of forgiveness of sin and regeneration can be equally excluded from the expression as found in the passage, so that Ephesians 1:3 lends no support whatever to the view that “forgiveness and regeneration” take place “in Christ” meaning “the church of Christ.”

But, since there is no way to exclude the Bible from the category of spiritual blessings, the expression “in Christ” must mean, not the church of Christ, but the person of Christ himself! Paul elsewhere clearly does make the distinction between the Lord’s spiritual body (the church) and himself. In fact, later in the book of Ephesians, he does this very thing, distinguishing between glory being “in the church and in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:21). Furthermore, in the letter to the saints at Colossae, Paul claims that “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ (Col. 2:2, 3). This is claiming that it is by reason of the person of Christ (not the church of Christ) that this wisdom and knowledge are available! And this lends support to what we have said about Ephesians 1:3 not excluding the Bible from the category of spiritual blessings. It is by means of the Spirit of Christ that we have the Bible (1 Pet. 1:10, 11; 1 Cor. 2:12, 13), but people outside the church of Christ have access to it. It would be absurd to claim that Paul was excluding the Bible from the category of spiritual blessings to be found “in Christ” when writing to the saints at Ephesus, and yet locate all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge “in Christ” when he writes to the Colossian brethren (2:2, 3)!

So again, I reiterate: Anyone who says that since all spiritual blessings are in Christ (meaning the church of Christ), and since initial forgiveness of sins is a spiritual blessing to be found in Christ (meaning the church of Christ), is taking the Baptist position that one must get into Christ before he is baptized!

Finally, the reader by now should be able to answer the following True-False questions without difficulty.

Before One Enters The Water

  • T/F 1. Before the sinner is immersed in water, all that he does he does outside the kingdom. (True)
  • T/F 2. Before the sinner is immersed in water, all that he does he does inside the kingdom. (False)
  • T/F 3. Before the sinner is immersed in water, some things he does he does inside the kingdom and some things he does he does outside the kingdom. (False)

As One Is Immersed In Water

  • T/F 1. As the sinner is immersed in water, all that he experiences, he experiences outside the kingdom. (False)
  • T/F 2. As the sinner is immersed in water, all that he experiences, he experiences inside the kingdom. (False)
  • T/F 3. As the sinner is immersed in water, he experiences at least some things from outside the kingdom (forgiveness and then regeneration), and then he experiences at least one thing (indwelling) which transitions him from outside the kingdom to inside the kingdom. (True)

Note: At some point while under the water, the person has to go from outside to inside the kingdom!

  • T/F 4. The sinner leaves sinner status and gains saint status while he is under the water so that he can arise to walk in newness of life. (True)

When One Arises From The Water

  • T/F 1. As a saint all that he does he does inside the kingdom. (True)
  • T/F 2. As a saint nothing that he does he does inside the kingdom. (False)
  • T/F 3. As a saint only some things that he does he does inside the kingdom. (False)

May God help us to come to a greater understanding of and appreciation for the new birth. And let us all be united in the truth that the Lord adds only saved ones to the kingdom.