Reflecting on “Restoration”: The Necessity of Baptism and John Thomas

John Thomas_3In my previous post, I reflected on the Restoration Movement (RM) as it concerned Barton W. Stone. My conclusion was in essence that Stone and his views ought to be shown and acknowledged for what they were: unbiblical. This conclusion was based on the fact that he denied the deity of Christ and the substitutionary atonement. I also based it on the fact that the revival at Cane Ridge included “religious exercises” that do not appear to line up with biblical theology. In this post I would like to reflect on another key player in the history of the RM: John Thomas. I would assume that not many people (including those in the RM) recognize the name John Thomas. However obscure, my introduction to Thomas played an important part in my thought journey concerning the RM.

Before I get to the discussion of Thomas, I would like to stress again my thesis and hope of writing this series of blogs. First, my intention is not to tear down the RM and watch it burn. As I said previously, I have benefited greatly from the RM and continue to have wonderful Christian friends in this fellowship of believers. Moreover, there are aspects of the RM that are biblically sound. Although some may disagree with me, I do not believe it is rotten to the core. My hope, as stated in my first post, is simply this: that the RM will become more biblical in belief and practice. I would also add that I would like to see it become more gracious. The one way I see that these things may occur is by evaluating the RM’s past and present with sound biblical theology. I feel like this is what I have been attempting to do in the privacy of my own mind, and now I simply want to share my thought journey. Feel free to share yours. Now on to John Thomas.

John Thomas and Rebaptism

If Barton Stone represents in a sense the progenitor of liberalism and loose theology in the early RM, John Thomas represents the other end of the spectrum, a kind of hyper-conservatism or legalism (as Alexander Campbell accused him of). Although it was his views on the afterlife (namely, annihilation) that sealed his fate in the early RM, I am concerned here with his view on baptism, what Roderick Chestnut terms a “hyper-exclusivistic” view.[1] It seems to me that if the RM wishes to go forward more biblically and even more graciously, then the view of Thomas ought to be jettisoned once and for all.

John Thomas was a key figure in the early RM before being ostracized and effectively excommunicated by the movement and going on to start the Christian cult known as the Christadelphians (as a side note, I find it interesting that many who defect from the RM go on to start cults or leave the faith entirely). Thomas immigrated from England in 1832 and upon entering Cincinnati met Walter Scott, a very well know leader in the RM who continues to be held in high regard (although he believed in perfectionism and spent at least 100 pages in his publication The Evangelist developing and defending his views).[2] Scott convinced Thomas that he needed to be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which was a teaching that had become accepted among the RM at the time and continues to holds sway for much of the RM.

It was not too long after Thomas’ baptism that he began his publication entitled Apostolic Advocate. In the October 1834 issue of this publication he wrote the article “The Cry of ‘Anabaptism,'” which argued that for baptism to be effective for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the one being baptized and the one baptizing had to know what baptism was for.[3] As Chestnut describes it succinctly, “When that knowledge is lacking the act is meaningless.”[4]

Thomas’ argument was based upon one basic idea: that the Greek word for baptism (baptisma) means “to dye by immersion.”[5] He concluded that this meant that the word “immersion” was only a partial definition of the word “baptism.” One must include the idea of “dyeing.” To be baptized, then, meant that a person is being “dyed” in the blood of Christ in the waters of baptism as a garment is dyed in water to color it. Thus, Thomas argued that “the fluid into which he [the sinner] is plunged must be tinted of bright scarlet color,” the blood of Christ.[6] Of course, Thomas did not believe the water itself is actually tinted with the real blood of Christ. Rather, he explained, “The eye of faith . . . must be open in the person baptized or dyed, as well as in the dyer or baptizer.” He continues,

A dyer accustomed to look upon colored fluids may imagine water in his vat to be so; his imagination, however, will not dye the cloth; so may an administrator of baptism imagine that the subject recognizes the blood of Jesus, but his imagination will not supply the defect thereof. No! the subject must believe and confess for himself or his dipping will be mere immersion and not baptism.[7]

Practically, then, what this means is that every person who does not believe or understand that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins and gift of the Holy Spirit must be rebaptized, including those who practice baptism by immersion. Thomas concluded, “I therefore do not believe that sins are remitted by popular baptism [like that practiced by Baptists or other denominations]; which is itself a sin that needs to be repented of. Nothing but the ‘one baptism’ can impart remission, and that ‘one baptism’ is very rarely practised by the sects [denominations]. There are a few exceptions, and exceptio probat regulam, the exception establishes the rule.”[8]

In summary, Thomas believed and taught that baptism was for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this to occur in baptism, however, both the one being baptized and the one baptizing had to know that this is what baptism is for in order for the baptism to be effective. Otherwise, the person being baptized remained unsaved and would continue in that state until he was “rebaptized.”

Thomas’ article did not cause much consternation at first. Problems arose when he began practicing his teaching in the local church where he preached. As Chestnut relates, Thomas began removing the deacons at his church after finding out they did not know baptism was for salvation when they were baptized.[9] They had believed it was only a symbol of one’s salvation. Thus Thomas’ deacons were not saved yet and did not qualify to be deacons. Some had difficulty accepting Thomas’ hyper exclusivist view of baptism and began speaking out and even writing to Alexander Campbell about the issue. Campbell responded loudly.

Thomas Receives a Rebuke

Alexander CampbellCampbell’s reply to Thomas’ view on baptism may be summarized in six short points, and in my view are mostly spot on.[10] First, Campbell labeled Thomas’ view as legalism, much like how believing Jews required Gentile believers to be circumcised in the manner of Moses before they could become Christians. Thomas’ distinction between “baptism” and “immersion” was mere logic chopping, reminiscent of Pharisaical practice. Besides this, Campbell retorted that if Thomas were to be consistent, then some type of council ought to pass judgment on every one’s baptism to see whether he understood why he was baptized. Campbell, however, preferred that each person examine himself to see whether he was in Christ.

Second, Campbell argued that Thomas’ view led to the conclusion that every Christian’s baptism throughout history was invalid and thus they were lost, and this was an insult to all those who genuinely sought salvation in Christ to the best of his knowledge. Thomas’ view effectively “paganize[s] all immersed persons, and [places] the world, the whole world, Jew, Gentile, and Christian, just as it was on the day of Pentecost.”[11]

Third, Campbell stated that if one had to know what baptism was for in order for it to be effective, then one’s faith is ultimately in baptism itself rather than in the blood of Christ. Faith, in other words, is to be in Christ not in the meaning of baptism. Campbell stated poignantly:

Who is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven? I answer, every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah the Son of God, and publicly confesses his faith in his death for our sins, in his burial and resurrection, by an immersion into the name of the Father,  the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Every such person is a constitutional citizen of Christ’s kingdom.[12]

Fourth, if every person had to understand the meaning of baptism completely in order for the person to be saved, then all the Christians whom the Apostle Paul wrote would have needed to be rebaptized, including the Romans, Galatians, and Corinthians. In each of the letters to these Christians, Paul expounded upon the meaning of baptism (which, by the way, is much more than just “salvation” proper), which means they did not entirely comprehend its meaning. Given Thomas’ view, they would all need to be rebaptized.

Fifth, as hinted at in the previous paragraph, baptism is said to confer all kinds of blessings to the Christian throughout the New Testament. Thus Campbell believed it was not necessary to understand every single blessing that baptism brings. If it was necessary, then certainly rebaptisms would have been plentiful throughout the New Testament, but none is found. It is a one time event, and the only requisite to baptism is belief in the Son of God to take away sins.

Campbell’s sixth point was made in response to what is now famously known as “The Lunenberg Letter.” In a letter written to him by a supposed sister in Christ inquired about his view of baptism: when is one correctly called a Christian? If salvation occurs at the time of baptism, then how can anyone without it be correctly identified as a Christian? Campbell replied very clearly and to the point: if a person’s baptism does not save someone because he did not believe anything occurred at that moment, then the gates of Hades prevailed against Christ’s church, the very thing Jesus said would never happen. If there are no Christians in the world except those in the RM (because they believe that salvation is conferred during baptism), then those who lived throughout history who failed to understand the meaning of baptism were lost. Campbell essentially finished his reply decisively:

But who is a Christian? I answer, Every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to the measure of the knowledge of his will. A perfect man in Christ, or a perfect Christian, is one thing; and a “babe in Christ”,” a stripling in the faith or imperfect Christian is another.[13]

And the clincher, in Campbell’s own words:

I cannot, therefore, make any one duty the standard of Christian state or character, not even immersion into the  name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. . . . It is the image Christ the Christian looks for and loves; and this does not consist in being exact in a few items, but in general devotion to the whole truth as far as known.[14]

Campbell never gave up his view that baptism was for salvation. He was simply unwilling to make it the linchpin for one to be considered a Christian. This is not an inconsistency, for one can follow the commands of Christ without knowing exactly what the benefits or fruit that result from following them. What Campbell appears to be ultimately concerned about is what is in the person’s heart–whether the person is honestly putting faith in Christ and following him to the best of his knowledge. The rest God’s grace will cover.

Campbell’s thorough reply to Thomas finally settled the issue in the early RM. Thomas was eventually ostracized and effectively excommunicated from the RM for his hyper exclusivist and divisive views of baptism (along with his other heterodox views). Thomas and his band of followers eventually began what is known today as the Christadelphians.

What About Baptism Today?

BaptismThomas’ view of baptism continues today in some RM circles. Some insist that a person must understand what baptism is for in order for him to be saved. Some also argue that one’s baptism does not save if the person doing the baptizing misunderstands its meaning. In other words, everyone who does not understand correctly the meaning of baptism and is not baptized by a person who also understands it must be re-baptized because the first baptism was not salvific in effect.

It seems to me that many of Campbell’s criticisms of Thomas’ view are still valid today. First of all, if someone must know correctly the meaning of baptism for it to be effectual, this would mean most Christians today who do not hold such a view of baptism are not saved. The gates of Hades hath prevailed over Christ’s church. Moreover, only those in the RM would be Christians because in essence only the RM holds that baptism is for salvation (forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit) outside of Luthernism.  Wouldn’t this render the old RM adage of “we are not the only Christians; we are Christians only” invalid?

I have brought this up to some in the RM before, and the response is typically that someone in the denominations must genuinely believe accurately about baptism and thus the adage is still valid. It seems to me, however, that not many would affirm this, effectively making only some in the RM truly saved (not everyone in the RM even believes that baptism is for salvation as can be observed by many church websites).

Second, why is knowledge of baptism limited to just forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit in order for the person to be saved? As Campbell pointed out, Scripture teaches a lot more than these two things concerning baptism. Logically, one would need to be re-baptized every time he learned something new about the meaning and effects of baptism. If not, where does one draw the line and why?

Campbell’s view of who a Christian is seems amenable to me. It is one who places faith in Christ and repents and obeys him to the best of his knowledge. Moreover, most people in fact obey the gospel in its entirety–believe, repent, and are baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Why should complete knowledge of the meaning of baptism be required? I am unclear where to find this in Scripture, not to mention that Campbell makes the apt observation that the passages that deal with the correct meaning of baptism were written to Christians. Evidently, even some in the NT were unaware of what is was for.

Moreover, I would question whether many truly understand the complete meaning of belief and repentance when one comes to faith in Christ. Do new Christians have a complete understanding of whom they have placed belief in and all his (Christ’s) works–propitiation, redemption, love, wrath, incarnation, kenosis, etc.? I highly doubt it, and I think it would be too much to bear to require such. Wouldn’t this be placing faith in one’s complete understanding of baptism, repentance, or belief itself rather than Christ? (I would certainly agree that there is a basic level of understanding needed, but I think the view being discussed here just goes too far.)

Before some conclude too quickly that I have capitulated to the idea that baptism is simply a sign of one’s salvation (a Zwinglian view of baptism), let me emphatically say nothing could be further from the truth. I truly believe that at the time of baptism a person who has faith in Christ and has repented receives salvation. I believe this because this is what I take Scripture to teach and the historical church from the first century through the Reformation (including Martin Luther) believed this. I simply do not believe that someone has to understand the correct meaning of baptism perfectly in order to receive salvation. If a person obeys Jesus’ command to believe, repent, and be baptized, then such a person is saved–no matter what he thinks baptism does or does not do. I am unwilling, along with Campbell, to make one single Christian duty a test of whether someone is a Christian, even baptism. God is gracious, and I think his grace is able to cover those who misunderstand the meaning of baptism. (Ironically, Campbell himself was baptized as an adult when he was convinced that Presbyterian infant baptism was unbiblical, but he still believed baptism was just a sign of his salvation. Thus if one has to believe that baptism is for salvation to be saved, Campbell–the very one who began the RM–has been eternally condemned.)

It should also be mentioned that it would be ideal for a baptismal candidate to understand what baptism is truly for. In the case he does not, however, it seems to me that such a person will be saved based upon the “available light” he has. I agree with Jack Cottrell on this point when he says that “those living in the NT era who through no fault of their own never come to know about the requirement to be baptized for salvation, but who are sincerely doing the best they can to live a life of submission to Jesus as Savior and Lord” will be saved. He continues,

It has rightly been said that at the final judgment God will judge every one of us according the principle of CONSCIENTIOUS RESPONSE TO AVAILABLE LIGHT. Many people, even in the context of Christendom, are through no fault of their own in complete darkness about the NT’s teaching that baptism is a salvation event; they are the victims of centuries of false teaching. Nevertheless they are in their hearts conscientiously submitting to the light they do have about Jesus. If so, even if not immersed for forgiveness of sins in this life, I believe God will accept them on the Day of Judgment based on this principle.[16] 

In the end, then, such a person may not have been biblically baptized, but he may be saved. (If you have not read Cottrell’s article, I strongly recommend it. It can be found here.)

There is certainly much more to say concerning baptism and it’s likely that many more questions have arisen from reading this essay, but the main point here is this (let’s not miss the forest for the trees): just as I wrote about how the early RM accepted Barton W. Stone’s unorthodox theology (see here), so shall the RM accept John Thomas’ hyper exclusivist view of baptism. This essentially means that those who are more moderate and even liberal leaning in the RM today must willingly accept with open arms those who believe one must have an accurate knowledge of the meaning of baptism for the person to be saved. If the RM is willing to accept a theology on one end of the spectrum (liberal), it should allow a theology at the other end (conservative). What leg does anyone in the RM have to stand on to ostracize someone for holding an unbiblical theology? It seems to me that the answer is “none,” for from the very beginning the RM has had liberal theology and hyper conservative theology. In essence, there is no theology that can be objected to in the RM, given its history (not to mention its fear of creeds or even statements of faith).

And this is the very issue which concerns me: the RM has absolutely no theological framework. From the very beginning the RM has accepted liberal as well as conservative theology (perhaps for the sake of unity?). Both the more liberal leaning and conservative leaning desire a no-holds-barred theological framework. “This would be a creed!” they both say, and creeds are an anathema. But certainly there is something that makes a Christian a Christian and if one denies that “something” he is no longer a Christian. Surely there is also something that makes Christianity Christianity, and if that “something” is denied we are no longer talking about Christianity.

I am keenly aware that the reply to my concern is something akin to “our creed is the Bible.” Perhaps (and this is an emphatic perhaps) such an idea was acceptable before Modernism raised its ugly head and denied any kind of objective truth with respect to religion and morality. But we live in a post-modern era, one in which “following the Bible” has taken on numerous meanings. Ironically, Stone and even Thomas believed they were “following the Bible.” I have a suspicion, too, that the famous RM dictum that “in essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things love” has been a culprit in this theological morass.

It seems to me that, at the end of the day, some kind of theological framework must be utilized to identify what is acceptable theology and what is not–what is false teaching and what is not–even as an identifier of what the RM is. But what exactly does this look like? I will pursue this question at a later time. Let it suffice to say that what the RM needs is not less theology, but more–more sound biblical theology–and some way to clearly articulate what the RM sees as true and false. Do you have any ideas? I’d love to hear from you!

Notes

[1] Roderick Chestnut, “John Thomas and the Rebaptism Controversy (1835-1838),” in David W. Fletcher, ed., Baptism and the Remission of Sin: An Historical Perspective (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1990), 203. This chapter by Chestnut is a great summary of the baptismal controversy that arose between Campbell and Thomas. I rely heavily upon this chapter for this blog.

[2] This is an irony, considering that a few decades ago a small controversy erupted in the midwest among some Independent Christian Church folks teaching perfectionism. This controversy has practically led to a schism with the perfectionists being ostracized and disfellowhshiped by some. We must ask, in a similar manner as we did in the previous post on Stone, if one of the early leaders of the RM (Walter Scott) was accepted while teaching perfectionism, then why are those who are teaching it now disposed? Interestingly, no one seemed to bat an eye at Scott’s perfectionism in the early RM.

[3] John Thomas, “The Cry of ‘Anabaptism,'” Apostolic Advocate 1 (October 1834): 121-29.

[4] Chestnut, “John Thomas,” 207.

[5] Thomas, “Anabaptism,” 122; see also Chestnut’s discussion throughout in “John Thomas,” 216f.

[6] Thomas, “Anabaptism,” 122.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 126.

[9] Chestnut, “John Thomas,” 207.

[10] These points are taken from Chestnut, “John Thomas,” 223-34. Campbell’s original reply is found in Alexander Campbell, “‘Reply’ to Susan,” Millennial Harbinger 6 (September 1835): 417-20.

[11] Quoted in Chestnut, “John Thomas,” 225.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Quoted in Chestnut, “John Thomas,” 230.

[14] Ibid.

[15] See any book on the history of the RM for this, but one can also see Chestnut’s article “John Thomas.”

[16] See Cottrell’s article “‘Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?’ Questioning the Question” here.

This entry was posted in Ministry, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Reflecting on “Restoration”: The Necessity of Baptism and John Thomas

  1. Lawrence R. Carlson says:

    Immersion is really necessary for salvation and receiving the Holy Spirit.
    One does not need to be baptized again each time something new is learned.

  2. Jeff Mize says:

    I am almost in complete agreement with you on baptism. Thomas’ view of baptism is nearly identical to the view held by the non-instrumental churches of Christ, and by many of the more conservative and traditional CC’s in the Bible belt.

    What I don’t understand is your contention that because the RM tolerated unbiblical beliefs from the beginning, we must continue to do so today. Why should we be bound by bad decisions made 200 years ago? Movements are not static. The RM is always changing.

    Also, you do know that the famous RM dictum you quote originated with Augustine?

    • prasor says:

      Jeff, thanks for your comments. The easy stuff first: yes, I realize that the RM dictum did not originate with the RM. However, I was under the impression that it was someone else rather than Augustine who came up with it. I will research that again.

      The reason why I somewhat contend (for the sake of argument) why the RM ought to tolerate unbiblical beliefs today is because (1) it already does, (2) this would be consistent with its history, and (3) what would stop the RM from doing so? I say “for the sake of argument” because I do not believe it should continue to perpetuate unbiblical beliefs. But logically speaking, there is precedent for it.

  3. Mark W Duhon says:

    I teach that an individual must have a basic belief in the working of God (COL 2:12) at immersion, namely that in the immersion event God (per ACT 2:38) will a) remit sins to Jesus, who takes them away in His sacrifice and b) bestow the Spirit as the beginning of sanctification, empowerment for the life we’re called to live, and surety of the promise of eternal life.

    It is farcical to speak of being re-immersed with each new understanding, but it is essential that the basic understanding acceptable for candidates on the afternoon of Pentecost be preached and acknowledged. If a person submits to immersion as a ‘theater’ (an outward show of what he already believed happened – as what happens in most of ‘Protestantism’), then there is NO faith in the working of God in the meeting He prescribed (under the water). Will God act where there is no faith? Doubtful, if the Spirit’s simple statement in COL 2:12 is to be taken seriously.

    As I see it, most adult-immersing churches preach John’s baptism – a statement act rather than an actual transaction event. You know as well as I that the Spirit considered that immersion ineffective (ACT 19:1-5), as no promise from God was attached to it nor expected from it. It is grievous (and some would say egregious) to stand opposed to the enormous numbers of ‘baptized’ people, stating the their faithless immersion was at best a worthless bath (assuming no soap was had) or a boring swim, but shall I wink to accommodate feelings or be a clear clarion calling them to “wash away their sins” (ACT 22:16 by means “of water and the Spirit” (JOH 3:3-5), having faith that God will do the ‘heavy lifting’ of remitting sins to the Sacrifice and indwelling the new creature (ACT 2:38)?

    Certainly much more could be said, but I’ll let these few syllables suffice for the moment.

    As a side note: Whatever may have been the practices of earlier ‘movement’ men, their actions are not standards to perpetuate. They made poor decisions (theologically, doctrinally, and in practice), but their wideness and / or slackness is not legacy to continue but errors to examine as we improve living out the Savior’s calling.

    • prasor says:

      Thanks, Mark, for your comments. One thing I would point out is that in Acts 19 the men who had not been baptized into Jesus but only in John’s baptism were actually called “disciples.” I wonder what, if anything, this implies when considering this issue?

      • Mark W Duhon says:

        I take it you’re fishing for an implication as to whether they were born again or not? And if they were not, does this leave us with the uncomfortable notion of unregenerated (thus, unsaved) followers of Christ?

        Well, when would they have been born again? The Spirit later proclaims the maxim through Peter “immersion now saves you” (1PE 3:21). This was not a new teaching, but a reiteration of that which was known. If these followers of Christ needed to be “immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus” (ACT 19:5), I believe it’s a certainty that they had not yet had their sins remitted nor been indwelled (and regenerated) by the Spirit – the very definition of “saved” (per ACT 2:38).

        All immersions of believers are not Christian immersions, as the Spirit’s record of Apollos (ACT 18:24-28) and the above-mentioned disciples show. As I stated in my original reply, I believe most churches teach John’s baptism – a show of repentance – which neither instructs the candidate to expect (in faith) the working of God nor regenerates the candidate so that he may rise from the water to “walk in newness of life” (ROM 6:4).

        For us to begin to equivocate on this issue is to lose a major distinctive of the movement and, instead, add to the confusion and misinformation of the entry point into the kingdom of God. It sounds baptismal regenerationist in tone, I know, but the Spirit has called Christian immersion “the way of God” (ACT 18:26b), and we must, like Priscilla and Aquila, not be blinded by the truths espoused by other denominations (as Apollos spoke “accurately the things concerning Jesus”) to the error in their teaching on Christian immersion.

        “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (MAT 7:21). The only ones who would call Jesus “Lord” are those who believe they’ve come under His authority. This verse isn’t about back-sliders, but busy disciples. The most chilling part of the passage is the beginning of verse 23, where Jesus says, “I never knew you….” They had never been saved, though they’d acted as though it were so. This, I believe, is the plight of so many of both the Roman and Reformed lot.

        • prasor says:

          Mark, thank you for the discussion. I will not entertain all the details you mention here, but I will respond to the idea about the RM losing its “distinctions.” First of all, my position presently is that of Alexander Campbell’s, probably the progenitor and the greatest leader of the RM, so the RM would not be losing its distinctiveness–it has believed what my opinion is from the very beginning. Second, the main point of my article is really not about baptism as such, but about the lack of theology in the RM. The RM really has no distinctives today, and I think historically (at least at the beginning) they did not want any.

      • brian says:

        sir Peter Rasor…

        first i must admit that i am not a theologian so i still lack much knowledge about many issues in the RM that you guys are discussing about.

        with regards to your comment …
        “the men who had not been baptized into Jesus but only in John’s baptism were actually called “disciples.”

        may i know what exactly are you trying to imply?

        thank you sir

        • prasor says:

          Thanks, Brian, for your comments. Really, I am not trying to imply anything. I just wonder why the men in Acts 19 would be called “disciples” if in fact they were not in some sense “Christian” before receiving baptism into Jesus? Just a curious question. Thanks!

          • Jason says:

            Well the simple answer to this is disciple does not mean Christian. Now in Matt. 28:19 we are instructed to baptize the disciples we have made. Disciple simply means ‘follower’ just indicates a student of the teacher, but as happened to Jesus many times followers don’t always mean believers (see John 6:66). As disciples in Acts 19 they were told to make the ultimate “leap” in their discipleship and that was to get rid of their sins and become full in their faith. More than likely these disciples became that way after hearing of Jesus’ resurrection (conjecture) but had only previously been disciples of John.

          • prasor says:

            From the context, Jason, it appears to me that the term “disciples” means disciples of Jesus, not John the Baptist. I take it this way because the book of Acts is being told by Luke, a disciple of Jesus, and it is clear that Paul is asking them whether they received the Holy Spirit when they “believed.” This can make sense only if the disciples are disciples of Jesus. Thanks for your response.

    • Sharyl Cobb says:

      Amen!

  4. Edmonds says:

    ‘available light’ is an excuse for false doctrine. If the bible teaches something, then that must be obeyed when it comes to salvation. It is requisite. Otherwise, Mormons have available light, J.W. etc… It is a rationalization to hope that faith only folks are Christians because they act or feel like they are. There are some essentials: immersion for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the H.Spirit are non negotiable.
    If you have a problem with valid immersion vs non valid immersion–then you could argue sprinkled babes have no need of immersion when the age of accountability occurs.
    If you don’t know why you are being baptized and you have no valid ‘faith’ then of course your sins are not forgiven and you are deluding yourself.
    Thinking that a biblical view of immersion is legalistic is perverted..and heretical in itself.

    • prasor says:

      Hmm. This is interesting. Thanks, Edmonds, for contributing to the discussion.

    • Jason says:

      I have always said that legalism is not illegal. The problems with the Pharisees and their legalism is that is was also sprinkled with man-made doctrines. NEVER did Jesus rebuke them for fully adhering to the law of Moses (legalism).

  5. Michael Hines says:

    Thomas’ views were limited by the extent of his paper’s circulation. He was influential in parts of Virginia but not much beyond that region. His influence suffered because Campbell called him to task and eventually disfellowshiped him. His lack of influence can be seen in the fact the Christodelphian cult has never gained much momentum. Sadly his ultra views on baptism contine in some more radical elements within the acappella churches and independents.

    It is incorrect to label all acappella churches with Thomas’ view. The “grace wing” certainly did not and the “law wing” tied baptism to a different sort of legalism. There is currently some interesting discussion in the acappella wing on the nature and purpose of baptism. John Mark Hicks, a professor at Lipscomb, presented an interesting paper on the subject at this summer’s NACC. He also has several relevant essays on his web site. Google his name.

    I discuss Thomas and his false teaching in my book, A History of thevAmerican Restoration Movement, along with assessment of some current directions. I am also about to make some revisions to bring the book current.

  6. Lowell White says:

    Interesting article. You make some great points that I plan to think about and study more. There is an error in one of the sentences that needs to be corrected, I think. Under the heading, “Thomas Receives a Rebuke”, you wrote, “Third, Campbell stated that, “if one had to know. . . then one’s baptism is ultimately in baptism itself.” Did you mean, “then one’s ‘faith’ is ultimately in baptism itself”?

  7. Daniel Cobb says:

    I have developed this view of baptism and how it relates to our current situation today independently by simply reading the Scriptures and applying what I have learned about God and His Word. I’m very thankful for the historical perspective that was brought to light by this article! I have thought for a while now and firmly believe as is put forth in this article that it is FAITH IN CHRIST that saves at baptism not faith in baptism at baptism.

    Thank you very much for writing this article it was very refreshing and enlightening!

    • prasor says:

      Daniel, thanks for your clarity here! You have picked up one of the points I was trying to make. Thanks!

  8. Matthew Sullivan says:

    Good Stuff my friend. I agree with your thoughts. I would hate to be responsible for total knowledge of everything Baptism does for the repentant person.

  9. Jim Webster says:

    Is there a difference if the person does not know the real purpose of baptism (i.e. they are getting baptized to submit to Christ) vs. the person is being baptized thinking it is an outward sign.

    What if the person doesn’t have the proper information about being immersed and so they are “baptized” by being sprinkled? Are their sins forgiven and therefore do not need to be immersed? Can a person have the right reason (forgiveness sins and the gift of God the Holy Spirit) and the wrong mode (sprinkle / pour) and still be in good standing before Almighty God?

    • prasor says:

      Thank you for your response, Jim. To answer your first question, yes. The difference between the two people is that one understands correctly the meaning of baptism and the other does not. But as I discussed in the article, I do not believe this means one is saved and the other is not.

      As for your other questions, I would refer you to Cottrell’s article I mentioned above. Just click on the link provided.

    • Jason says:

      If it were not for denominationalism and their hijacking of the word ‘baptizo’ (meaning to dunk or immerse) then there would be no question as to the answer to your question. Thankfully, God in his ultimate wisdom has given us plenty of proof to know what we are to do through His word without knowing the exact meaning.

  10. Many of us who studied with Dr. Jack Cottrell understand believers are justified by grace through faith in baptism. Most in the RM understand immersion is the only valid biblicl mode for baptism. In his response to the “Lunenburg Letter” Campbell points to a correct baptism as a means of “assurance.” He seems to intimate a sincere believer may be mistaken about the mode and purpose of baptism and still be found among the redeemed. Certain elements within the RM grasped at this in order to support the practice of “Open Membership.”

    Throughout the “Lunenburg Letter” correspondence, Campbell continually points to Mark 16:15, 16 as the basis of one’s assurance. He was willing to enjoy relationships with those in the sects but I seriously doubt he would ever suggest receiving them into membership of a local congregation. I speculate–and that’s all it is, a speculation–he would follow the principle found in Acts 19. However, by his own words he never considered those immersed into Christ as less than Christian brothers and sisters. He never required those immersed to be immersed again.

    The fact is, I may speculate and have my own opinion of the possible salvation of an individual who truly trusts in the blood of Jesus but is mistaken about the proper mode of baptism. Two things I know for certain: (1) He who believes and is immersed will be saved (Mark 16:16). (2) He who does not believe will be condemned (Mark 16:16). [I know that verse is not in some old mss, but the same truth is taught elsewhere.] Beyond those two biblical truths I remain agnostic. I do not know what God will do. It is my opinion God will be merciful and extend grace, but I do not KNOW that because there is no testimony regarding it. Therefore, I have no right to offer assurance to anyone who has not been scripturally immersed into Christ.

    By the way, I am uneasy about your constant references to a lack of a theological framework within the RM. You are aware, are you not, that in the early church there was no formal framework such as you suggest for over 200 years? The earliest “framework” was merely a series of interrogative questions establishing one’s faith in Christ. Only when pressed by the proponents of false teaching did these questions shift to formal statements ultimately codified in the creeds. The creeds were defensive mechanisms to “keep out” the false teacher and those with whom they disagreed.

    Nothing is safer than a prison. If you want security, safety, and every need provided then prison is the place to be. The same can be said for a “theological framework.” If you want to guarantee that you “all speak the same things” and all agree on every detail then by all means take the safe route and develop a theological framework. Then you won’t have to think for yourself or wrestle with the deep truths of God’s Word. You only need consult the approved “theological framework.” It is obvious all too many of our young preachers do not want to wrestle with the Word for they are all too ready to accept Evangelical teaching and the predigested teaching of the Reformed “theological framework.” It is safe, after all, and you don’t have to think for yourself.

    It is better to take 2 Timothy 2:2 seriously. If churches stray from biblical teaching it is because lazy preachers and leaders failed to take Paul’s words seriously. Those who wander off into false teaching have only themselves to blame. All too many are so enamored with church growth (contrasted to biblical evangelism) and “meeting needs” they have forgotten “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”

    • prasor says:

      Thanks, Mike, again for your continued discussion. Just a few thoughts:

      First, there have been “creedal” or theological framework statements from the beginning of the church in the NT. For example, 1 Tim. 2:16 and 1 Cor. 15:3-5 come to mind, which quite possibly may also be added Philip. 2:6-11 and Col. 1:13ff.

      Second, I do not understand how a theological framework can be “a prison.” A theological framework brings clarity to what one believes to be truth; truth is not a prison but freedom. If we take a look at the Nicene Creed for example, I don’t think believing that Jesus is God and the statement that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins are a “prison”–I happen to agree with these statements and find them to bring freedom (and clarity). Ironically, it seems to me that the traditional RM is the only Christian group that can actually agree with the Nicene Creed in total.

      Finally, everyone is working from some kind of theological framework. For example, it appears the kind of theological framework you work from is one that says “he who believes and is immersed will be saved,” a part of your framework that I happen to agree with. The question, really, is not whether we are going to have a theological framework (because everyone has one), but which one are we going to use? In fact, the reaction this essay has received illustrates very well that everyone is working from a theological framework–some are saying that one’s knowledge of the meaning of baptism saves and others say it is not necessary. These are theologies that are coming from some kind of “framework,” whether we want to admit it or not. In fact, it seems to me that the RM, at least historically, has had a theological framework (or identity, if you wish)–it’s just unspoken, at least until someone writes an essay like mine.

  11. Jeff Brown says:

    Hey brother, please correct me if I am wrong but it seems like from your article that you agree that a person needs to have some basic understanding of who Jesus is and the purpose of repentance but they really don’t need to have any basic understanding about baptism as long as they do it. Is that correct? You said “I would question whether many truly understand the complete meaning of belief and repentance when one comes to faith in Christ.” I think most people would agree with you about having a “complete meaning” but we still expect them to have SOME basic understanding of belief in Jesus and what repentance is, do we not? If baptism is part of the conversion process why is it the only element we give a pass on as to not needing to be understood at least on some basic level i.e. the timing of God’s forgiveness and imparting His Holy Spirit as Acts 2:38 reveals to non-Christians? It does concern me that in defense of you understanding of baptism you quoted Campbell extensively and not Christ and His Apostles.

    • prasor says:

      Jeff, thank you for your thoughtful kind words as well as your good questions. It seems to me that a basic understanding of belief, repentance, and baptism are necessary. The problem, however, is what we mean by “basic understanding.” What shall we include in this term for each element (belief, repentance, and baptism)? Surely there is no question that we can agree that belief in Jesus to save us from sin and is the Son of God is basic and that repentance means to at least be sorrowful for one’s sins and a desire to put away sin. But what about baptism? That’s the rub. Scripture, whether we like it or not, gives multiple ideas of what baptism is, including that it is a symbol of one’s death to sin and resurrection to life. It doesn’t seem from your comments that you would like this basic understanding, but would rather include the idea of at least “forgiveness of sins.” But what about the gift of the indwelling Spirit? I assume you would want this, too. But how many people understood what this even meant when they were baptized? I know for a fact I had no clue. I heard the words, but I had no idea exactly what they meant. In fact, I know a lot of people in the RM who have no idea what it means today–and some of them (ministers included) teach it incorrectly!

      This is my thinking: a person who responds in faith, repentance, and baptism is saved. Why? Because they obeyed the Gospel call to do these things to be saved. Did such a person explicitly know that baptism was the time he was forgiven? It seems inconsequential to me because (1) God is going to do what he promises to do in baptism whether we believe it or not (it is a promise of God and is thus not dependent upon human volition to “activate”), (2) the NT clearly shows that faith is the means of salvation and is thus requisite to baptism, and (3) the person is responding to the available light to which he has (see Cottrell’s article mentioned in my post, which will point out the exceptions that I agree with). As a side note, what did you think of my main point that the RM needs some kind of theological frame work?

      • Jason Carnley says:

        The most basic understanding of baptism comes in it’s most obvious symbols rebirth, and washing. Remember Christian baptism didn’t happen out of blue. Really how long does it take to say “get up and be baptized washing away your sin as you call on the name of the Lord.”? It actually takes professional help to misunderstand it. The deeper meaning of connection to the death, burial and resurrection, as well as OT anti-types were probably taught later. You may also be thinking that instantaneous conversions were happening all the time in the first century. I think then as now most adults considered it carefully over a long period of time. That is why Paul went to the most receptive people first the synagogue gave the church a huge jump-start. For them the only hurdle to faith was deciding who God was and who Jesus was–baptism was a non-issue– it was easily excepted in that culture.

        • prasor says:

          Jason, I think you are probably correct, and I do not really disagree with what you say here. Unfortunately, 2000 years have passed since then and things have gotten really messy and ugly and misunderstood. Again, I do not question at all the traditional understanding of baptism from an RM perspective. Really, my main point is that the RM’s theology is all over the place–from one end of the spectrum to the other. Unfortunately, it seems my main point has been missed. I suppose I should have used another example other than baptism to make my point, but I could think of no other doctrine on the opposite end of the spectrum from Stone that would aptly illustrate my point. I guess Thomas’ view has more of a stronghold in the RM than I realized.

  12. Jason Carnley says:

    We could all write books in response. This is probably the main issue many of us have struggled with for much of our Christian walk. We are surrounded by some wonderful and sincere folks in denominational circles and we wonder as to their eternal destiny. In fact we argue intensely with one another about it. So let me throw my two cents in the ring and make a few points.
    1. I think a lot of us desire to see a broadening of who will make it to heaven because it makes us feel good. Let us be very careful about making ourselves feel good.
    2. I’m often very surprised by the righteous judgments of God and utterly amazed by His graciousness. Uzziah is struck down for touching the ark, Achan’s children are killed along with him, Peter warns us that judgment will begin with the people of God. Many of us say “I feel sure, God will accept so an so because they have obeyed to the best of the light they had available.” I’m in the same boat–that is what I say and hope for, but I realize this is my OPINION and God would not be in the wrong for not agreeing with me.
    3. The hyper conservative position isn’t allowed for “baptism” but it is concerning the deity of Jesus. So commonly we excommunicate people for deny the deity of Christ or claiming that He didn’t come in the flesh, or saying He didn’t bodily rise from the dead. This seems inconsistent when I note that Paul says there is “One Lord, One Faith, and one baptism” We defend the One Lord to the bitter end and frequently cower in defending the “one baptism.”
    4. I ask the question “Is baptism part of the gospel message?” It was a command from heaven, given in the great commission, and was part of what Philip preached when he “preached Jesus.” I submit that it is then part of the gospel and if you change the preaching of the gospel Paul said “Let them be eternally condemned.” How can we be so sure that other immersion preachers are just fine. As teachers they incur a stricter judgment and are in some way willfully ignoring plain teaching.
    5. You and Campbell make a serious error when you say that Paul teaches on baptism to clear up the misconceptions of the early Christians. My reading is that in almost every case baptism is being used to make a point. Most teaching to Christians consists of reminding them of something they have forgotten or getting them back to a position they used to hold. Strangely enough in the first century church a proper view baptism is almost always still being held even when they were wrong about the second coming, the resurrection, or a point on the nature of Christ!

    I realize that you were using the baptism controversy to make a deeper point about how we could somehow attain to a stronger sense of unity within the movement–“a theological framework.” I believe this task to be impossible from a human perspective. I have long thought that if we were meant to have one God would have given it to us. As messy as the NT seems I take it that it is the least troublesome format God could have given us. We have “everything we need for life and Godliness.” Problem is history, tradition, and human nature. We can have fine unity with some of the brothern and in a local congregation but the Macro unity we think we need can’t be achieved in this life. I’m basing that off history and experience.

    Back to my points

    6. There is no structure for including or excluding people who disagree with the “main body.” The denominations and creedal systems have only made matters worse. The RM must remain a loosely affiliated bunch of local congregations. I feel comfortable in some non-instrumental churches and not comfortable in some of ours. Each church will take on a particular flavor based on the leadership, traditions, and membership of the local body. While this is messy business it is biblical and has unforeseen benefits. Our goal as always is to personally remain faithful, preach the word, strive for graciousness, and grow into the fullness of the measure of Christ. I don’t see how we can be happy worrying about things out of our control or influence. We can only touch those to who we have relationships.
    7. There is no solution to the fracturing of the church. If it begins to heal it will likely be do to outside forces set into action by God–but prophetically I don’t think the scripture teaches this. I really don’t see any use in trying to work on any level other than trying to make cogent arguments in favor of Biblical truth, and constantly striving to help individuals come to Christ and then be the best Christian they can be. If we would worry more about fighting in the trenches maybe we would stop messing up the master plan so often.

    Realistically what more could be done?

  13. Sharyl Cobb says:

    Ultimately, God is the Judge, and He is both a just and a gracious Redeemer. However, didn’t Jesus say that the word He spoke would be the standard of judgment on that day? (John 12:48) Wouldn’t that also later include what the apostles taught? (John 16:13-15) Yet, how can we do God’s judging for Him with regard to those who died before having a chance to fully comprehend the truth? He knows their hearts and their situations, not us. So, why do we try to judge EITHER way?
    There are some things, though, that we can correctly judge because the Word does the judging. People, even in our generation, who lived a God-fearing life, regardless of their knowledge of Christ, may well be in Heaven with us. GULP. Does that make you feel like you are touching spiritual leprosy? Well, let’s consider:
    I am impressed, owing to my understanding of Romans 2:14-16, that many died and were yet secure in God’s grace during the hour and afterward, that Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost, without ever hearing of Christ. Many people in the far-flung globe did not get the privilege of that saving message before they died. Many native Americans that believed in “the great, white Spirit” and tried to do right, as evidenced in history may yet rejoice in Heaven with us. There have been many “unreached people groups” throughout history. Have we yet found all the tribes in the depths of the jungles? God knows. He will judge them by the book of Creation, according to Romans 1:18-20 and the book of their own, God-given conscience, according to Romans 2 above.
    Why do we stop with trying to do God’s judging for Him only in the matter of the pious but clueless immersed? What about the pious unimmersed? What about those who were shown such a bad example of true Christians that they rejected Christ out of hand? Ah, there are many “situations,” friends, that God knows how to rightly judge, but WE DON’T. We are PRIVILEGED to have had an opportunity to study God’s Word and are far better off for it. Indeed, many of us may have perished in our sins without it, for many were deep in sin when God grabbed us by the scruff of the neck through the Gospel and rescued us out of the muck of our filth.
    But for those of us with a reasonably intelligent brain and a Bible in our own language, what did the apostles teach we should do to be saved? Were there ever any reasons to be accepted or promises to be believed attached to any of the responses needed by the sinner? (“Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins” comes to mind, as one brother already said.) Why would anyone who is truly a disciple want to believe or do less than what is right there in the Word so plain? Oh, yes, I know why. Personal ambition comes to mind. Pride in “I’m always right” has sometimes reared its ugly head. Group loyalty is a HARD thing to overcome, except as we yield to the pricking of the Spirit through His Word. Following “the trends,” which is really just following man rather than God also is apparent and has always been biting at the heels of the church as a distracting temptation as it marches on. “Trends” are often just a bunch of clueless people all gleefully marching off the cliff together. Homosexual marriage and “open marriage” comes to mind, but I digress.
    Why should it matter why we are baptized? Well, if God said it, it just MIGHT MATTER. The purpose for repentance and baptism seemed to never have been under question in the First Century. People just heard the preaching, believed it, obeyed it, and EXPECTED the results, the promises, and the purposes to affect their lives, and they rejoiced in that faith and began immediately to follow Christ in the way He continually revealed to them in a fuller way. No, they didn’t need to be “re-baptized” every time they learned something deeper or more extensive about it. All that Paul expounds on later is in the germinated form in the simple command, given from the beginning, to “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the FORGIVENESS of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
    Which, by the way, brings up Galatians 3:2. The Galatians originally had received the Spirit by “the hearing with faith.” Faith-onlies love this verse, for it seems to say, on the surface, that we receive the Spirit by faith BEFORE and without consideration of baptism (ignoring the fact that repentance is also not mentioned.) What “hearing” and what “faith” brought them the Spirit of God? Was it a partial Gospel or the original Gospel? Was it a dead faith apart from the appropriate response, as outlined in Acts 2:38, or was their faith a living, responsive, obedient faith that gave them the Spirit? Do we not, then, have to receive the Spirit BY FAITH in the true Word of God and its promises? Maybe so? Am I missing something here?
    As far as having “faith in Christ” as opposed to “faith in baptism,” as is argued from Colossians 2:12, that isn’t what the verse states. It says, “through faith in the WORKING of God.” He is the One who does all the “work” as we are baptized. He worked harder than any man or group of men could ever work to bring about our salvation. It is His work that completely erases our sin in that moment and imbues us with His Spirit. No, it is not faith in “baptism” that saves us but faith in God’s work, faith in His promises to us, faith in what He did at the Cross, AS we simply obey Him and trust His promises, gladly receiving His Spirit by faith.
    Yes, things have gotten really “muddled” since those early days when the disciples gladly continued in “the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.” Peter, Jude, and Paul warned of coming apostasy from which many of us, including myself, have had to extricate ourselves out of that mud to come into the clear water of Christ’s cleansing, the clear message of His Word.
    Of course, many of us know that the mode and candidate rather than the purpose of baptism later came into question. Baby baptism did not come until a century later. Then came a false “baptism” that was really “rhantism,” a sprinkling of water as a substitute for a full immersion, which sprinkling pictured an incomplete death and burial of the old man of sin and contained no rising to walk in newness of life. In sprinkling there is no re-living the death of our Savior and our co-death, co-burial, and co-resurrection with Him.
    And, we need to understand that when we are truly buried with Christ, it is in a spiritual, not just a symbolic sense (the word “symbolic” is not there!)
    That the connection between Jesus’ death and our death to sins is a real, spiritual experience is a given. It is rather spiritually blind not to realize that we are, truly, in a real, spiritual experience “united with Him in His death,” rather than the merely symbolic ritual that the religious world often tries to make it, denying what is really taking place. Getting back to the original point, sprinkling does not reflect this experience at all, at least, not as I can logically fathom. So what about the “sincere, pious” people who once were sprinkled, whether as babies or adults? Shouldn’t we give them a “free pass” as well? They meant well.
    Yes, what about the many SINCERE people in the past who never heard of Christ, never heard of the Church of Christ, only the apostate “Catholic” churches, either the Roman one or the “Greek Orthodox” one? Maybe they turned away from Christ because of that bad example of fake discipleship? While God might, in His mercy accept their lack of knowledge but sincerity in doing what is right, He can likewise, then, accept the sincere Buddhist, the sincere Islamist just as handily, and He might! Nevertheless, how did the apostles deal with ignorance or an only partial obedience? Did they just accept folks with “open arms,” or did they teach them the truth and require them to respond to that before they were taken into fellowship and recognized as being part of the body of Christ?
    For those who have a Bible and have spent years reading it, how could it possibly escape them what the Bible actually teaches is the purpose, faith, and result of baptism? If they reject that, have they not gone apostate? Are they not in rebellion? If their reading skills are poor, God is merciful, and I’ll let Him judge that, for I know it will be right, whether they were ever immersed or even sprinkled or ever knew of Christ.
    Knowing the truth, but rebelling against it, however, is a different situation. It doesn’t matter what the issue is that we rebel at in the Word of God. Maybe it’s the Bible’s definition of “marriage” or why Jesus died for us, or our need to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, or the fact that men ought to love their wives and women to submit to their husbands. Anyone can come up with excuses for disbelieving and disobeying the Scriptures on any point. God will examine our hearts and our REASONS for rejecting His Word.
    Keep in mind that it is a FACT that every Christian spoken about in the First Century KNEW the reason why they were to repent and be baptized. It was preached by Peter on Day One, and none of the other apostles disagreed with that or tried to implicate that baptism was NOT for the forgiveness of sins. The solution to the dilemma is simple: just encourage people to believe and obey the Bible and FOR THE REASON AND PURPOSE STATED. We have the example of Acts 19:1-5 to show us what to do if our faith or understanding was lacking, even if our sincerity and repentance weren’t. In these disciples’ cases, “sincerity” was not enough! Nor did they argue about how “good” they felt previously after being immersed into John’s baptism. They didn’t try to argue how pious they were, how sincere. They realized that Paul had been sent as an apostle of Christ to tell them the truth. So, they just obeyed without questioning. What a great example for all of us today! The Apostles Paul, Peter, and the rest still speak to us, and their message hasn’t changed, so let’s just accept it gladly and obey it. What a great deal of doubt, wondering, and assumption that automatically takes care of! As for the rest who have never had a Bible in their own language, I’m persuaded that God knows perfectly well how to take care of that.
    As far as A. Campbell, he doesn’t define my faith. Jesus and His Word is all I care about. I’m grateful, though, that God used him to help others on to a greater understanding of baptism and their need to obey the original Gospel and get out of denominationalism. I don’t agree with most of his “reasons” why we must accept the “pious, clueless, unscripturally immersed,” especially the idea that “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” We simply DON’T KNOW who obeyed the Gospel during the Dark Ages. That history was wiped out by the RC Church. I do not define my understanding of Scripture based on what man MAY have done or MAY NOT have done in times past or even are doing today. My faith is in the Word of God. Whether there were generations where nobody obeyed the Gospel correctly does not negate Jesus’ promise, anyway. We are past the Middle Ages, and the Church is here! “The seed is the Word of God.” As long as the Bible is available, sincere, honest, thoughtful men will read it and obey it, if there be such in their generation. What does it say? Let’s do that and quit quibbling!
    God used faith only preachers to help me see that Jesus is the Christ. He once used an agnostic to persuade me to study my Bible more. He once spoke to a prophet through a dumb donkey, and he used that apostate prophet to correctly prophecy about “a star out of Jacob,” Messiah, the Christ. I say, leave ALL the judging to God, and let’s get back to persuading a lost world that they need to believe in Jesus, repent of their sins, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and to live a godly life. If people want spiritual “fellowship” with me, they will have to agree with what Peter said, or they are simply in denial and possibly in rebellion. I don’t have to waste my time on them, once I have shown them Scripture and prayed for them and continued discussions with them as long as seems fruitful.
    If we are truly in the “Restoration Movement,” it would seem to me that we would be intent on actually restoring the message and the ministries to what they were in apostolic times and would not call preachers “pastors” or one elder “the pastor,” robbing the other elders of that divinely-given title, authority, and work. We would, indeed, cast off the useless appendages and unscriptural language of denominational history and just stick with the Bible. That’s the safe course, it seems to me.

    • prasor says:

      My, you had a lot to say! I won’t reply since you bring up so many issues. I will just let your comments stand. Thanks for reading!