1 Apr 2017

April Fools Day Musings on Context and Sectarianism

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Baptism, Bobby's World, Exodus, Forgiveness, Grace, K. C. Moser, King James Version, Precision Obedience, Restoration History, Sectarianism

Today is April Fools Day. Sometimes I wonder if April 1 is the only day. This very morning my “news feed” on Facebook was hit by a number of very foolish and down right wrong “memes” posted in various “Church of Christ” groups in support of the identity markers of our group. The exegesis is as sectarian as Westboro Baptist Church and simply wrong. Some examples of things I read just this morning: the NT church does not use instrumental music because God rejected it in Amos; the King James Version is the only non-New Age Bible; Church of Christ is the only name of God’s church; and the “Plan of Salvation” with a cool graphic of steps with “hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized” all in ascending steps. There was a big down ward point arrow between the step of confession and the step of baptism that says “point of salvation, enter into salvation.” These brothers and sisters are loving and sincere I am sure but this is an instance of false teaching. All of these are. So I wrote the following …

April Fool’s Day Controversial Musings on Context and Sectarianism, I stress these are MUSINGS …

I begin with a question: How do I know if I am a sectarian? One indication is, do I misapply or ignore a biblical text to “prove something” to another individual that in its own context the passage does not support or teach. Let me give a personal illustration – you may or may not be able to identify with it.

When I was younger than I am, I was taught and used various techniques to convince other people that they were wrong and needed to be baptized. One memorable technique was what I call the “Unto, Unto, and Into” argument. This is a widely used argument. Here is a direct quotation from a church website, I saw this today so and it is not uncommon (I copy and paste it unedited)

The prepositions “unto” and “into” are grossly misunderstood by many religious people, and they fail to come to a knowledge of the truth because of persuasive but misguided teachers of false doctrines.

‘Unto” means toward, or in the direction of. “Into” means inside of, or within. Paul stated in Rom. 10:10, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Thus literally, belief and confession are unto (toward, or in the direction of) righteousness and salvation. But they do not put one INTO Christ.

Notice how entrance INTO Christ is obtained! The Apostle Paul stated (Gal. 3:26-21), “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” He further stated (II Cor. 5:11), “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” Baptism is the only act that the Bible says puts one INTO Christ. The other obedient acts point in that direction. When you enter a building, you may take many steps which bring you closer, or “unto” the building, but there is one distinct step which gets you “into” the building. UNTO” is not nearly the same as “INTO“. (End of Quote)

The biggest problem with this argument is that it is nonsense. It is wrong. It is false. It is an argument that can only be made only with a 406 year old version of the Bible, the KJV. 

This false teaching is based upon the unique idiosyncrasies of the King James Version and cannot be sustained by the Greek NT nor any modern English Bible. The argument is put forth to convince the person to do what you want them to do – it is not put forth in an effort to find truth.

So as in some kind of “step” or “ladder” repentance merely points to forgiveness; confession merely points to salvation/forgiveness; but baptism actually is “INTO” and not merely point to salvation. In fact this is graphically laid out in innumerable memes (usually a staircase or ladder) across the world wide web.

In fact the very texts quoted above (Romans 10:10 and Galatians 3.26f) destroy this “unto” and “into” argument. Does it ever occur to the person using it that the exact same Greek word is used in both texts to express relationship to salvation or Christ? That word is “eis.” Yes, “eis.”

For one believes with the heart and is so justified {or believes unto righteousness} that is EIS dikaiosune … and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved (EIS soterian). Romans 10.10. Faith is eis justification and confession is eis salvation. (In the Greek the word translated as “righteous” is rendered “justified” too. So we have that we need to deal with and is synonymous with “salvation.”)

Galatians 3.27 says we are baptized eis christ. This preposition does not mean something different in these contexts. K. C. Moser years ago (1957) in his brilliant little Gist of Romans quietly put to rest this argument that was birthed out of a need to win an argument with the Baptists and not from reading the New Testament itself.

I am not attacking the importance of baptism. But baptism derives its meaning from faith and repentance and not the other way around.

I do not want to denigrate faith as if it simply points to salvation.

Faith is eis salvation
Confession is eis salvation
Repentance is eis salvation

If we are to be biblical we need to hold these texts together and see how they function in their contexts.

Trying to be “distinct” from others often results in some interesting aberrations. The unbiblical, yes the language of Ashdod, that I have heard from every preacher I’ve ever witnessed perform a baptism is but one example.

“I now baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of your sins.”

I ask anyone to demonstrate that the addition of “for the forgiveness of your sins” to the words of the Great Commission is anything but the doctrines of men (in fact there is not a single example of anyone even being baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” much less all that plus “for the forgiveness of sins” anywhere in the New Testament). Give a single example of any NT baptism with that lingo used.

Where did Paul or Peter or Philip or anyone do such a thing? The addition is a human invention and a polemic against (again) the Baptists developed by some of our Re-baptist brethren. Alexander Campbell rejected the addition of the phrase as both unbiblical and sectarian. Baptism expresses FAITH in the Crucified Christ. It expresses repentance as well since we are burying one that has died to sin. This is why Mark 1.4 calls baptism “baptism of repentance eis/for the forgiveness of sins.”

One last notion. People grow in their knowledge. This includes baptism. Every text written by Paul, or Peter, that mentions baptism are, without exception, are addressed to people already baptized and not non-baptized people about to get baptized!

Romans 6 is telling already baptized people what baptism did. Galatians 3 is telling already baptized people what baptism did. Colossians 2 is telling already baptized people what baptism did. First Peter 3 is telling already baptized people what baptism did. Context matters.

The goal is to witness (Luke’s word) to fulfillment of God’s Promises in Jesus of Nazareth. My goal is not to witness to baptism. There is not a single sermon “on” baptism in Acts or the entire NT for that matter. When a person comes to faith in Jesus – not baptism – we do baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit or as in Acts they are baptized in the name of Jesus. This person will learn about the MEANING of their baptism just as a person that just got married will learn about the MEANING of the marriage as they live the marriage.

So I return to my opening question. If I deny the plain teaching of Romans 10:10 because it conflicts with my inherited (“denominational”??) identity then I just might be a sectarian. Paul himself obviously had no problem with saying what he said about faith, confession or baptism.

Maybe instead of a ladder that we climb we need to recognize that we are saved by faith in the faithful Christ. We do not have faith in a plan but faith in a Person. We express our faith in him in many ways, changing our lives, making him Lord, following him to the water … all expressions of faith itself.

Part of a piece. Don’t use sectarian arguments because they allow you to win an argument. Musings concluded

3 Responses to “April Fools Day Musings on Context and Sectarianism”

  1. Dwight Says:

    Bobby, I am studying salvation, but my conclusion is that Jesus saves, because He is the Savior. All other things (faith, baptism, repentance, confession, etc.) are responses to Jesus the Savior.
    Paul taught Christ crucified, same as in Acts 2, not the steps of salvation.
    It is sad that within the coC we have, in conjunction with other groups, placed our faith in baptism, while others have placed their faith in confession and others have done so with faith.
    Ironically as we teach that we must be baptized for the remission of sins for the baptism to be good baptism, we forget that those in Ephesus were baptized for repentance unto to the remission of sins and were not saved. They had placed their faith and baptism in John, not the Savior.

    I know many of us beat up on the Baptist because they believe they are saved before they are baptized, but then again I was baptized during an era (80s) where baptism was a work and thus works saved. Many would now say that works don’t save and baptism isn’t a work, but what this does is condemn thousands of people who were baptized under the wrong concept (although we would never go backwards to our own timeline), that is if we believe that a misunderstanding in baptism doesn’t save, even while you believe in Jesus.

    The more and more I hear lessons on IM, and institutionalism, and point of salvation, and correct names, etc. the more I see us driving a wedge between us and those of the same faith.

  2. Jenny Says:

    Every text on baptism is addressed to people already baptized and not non-baptized people.

  3. Jenny Says:

    You’re quite right about texts explaining baptism being address to people already baptized. It really irks me how many Christians expect perfect and complete knowledge, not only from their fellow believers, but from the unsaved. If we were capable for perfect and complete knowledge, would we really have a need for God? Similarly, texts written to imperfect believers, telling them to correct their sin have been used against unbelievers as a measuring stick to be allowed in our special club. Again, if we were capable of perfection, would we really have a need for God?

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