Photo: by Gabriël Metsu -
National Gallery of Ireland, Public Domain
As I sit, acting as if I’m watching
college football, I decided to begin this little treatise. I am still
healing, in shoulder, knee, and foot. I must do something more
constructive than watch football. Limited physically as I am, my mind
Last Sunday, 10/23/2016, our youngest
niece was “saved,” as my brother related by text then by phone
conversation. “Saved” is in quotations, not as if I doubt the
spiritual transaction that occurred, but that I may elaborate on the
concept, scripturally. A week has gone by, but our niece will be
immersed tomorrow. Better a week late than never. Of course, I am
proud of our niece, for she made the faith commitment, with immersion
forthcoming, to be saved.
My purpose is to discuss briefly the
biblical act of being saved, by God’s grace, with emphasis on the
full faith response of the person who is saved.
The historical backdrop is that I was
raised in the Baptist Church but that I was truly “saved” in the
Church of Christ. This is not because I could not have been “saved”
in the Baptist Church. It is because my Baptist Church experience was
more from peer pressure than from the heart. My Church of Christ
experience was most definitively from the heart, in that I knew
exactly what I was doing and why.
Multiple scriptures teach that we are
saved by grace through faith. See, for example, Jn. 3:16, Eph.
2:8-10, etc. What, however, is saving faith? What does it involve?
A study of scripture indicates that
saving faith involves active commitment. For example, see Eph.
2:8-10, Jas. 2:14-26, etc. Faith must lead a person to do something.
It is not just intellectual consent.
In the New Testament, saving faith
always includes repentance (i.e., turning from a sinful to a
godly lifestyle), confession of that faith, and immersion. “Faith”
does not save unless it includes repentance, confession, and
immersion. At this time, I will side step the debate on whether, to
be saved, one must understand that immersion is essential to
salvation and not what one does after being saved. Since immersion is
always included, quite promptly, in the saving
faith response to grace, it is essential, regardless of whether one
thinks he is saved before or after immersion. The following records
of conversion in Acts prove this clearly. Please note that
repentance, confession, and immersion are not stated specifically
each time. This is as if Luke, the inspired author, assumed saving
faith included these.
-- The Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2). Note verses 38, 41.
-- Priests and others “obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).
-- The Samaritans, Simon, and the Ethiopian (Acts 8). Note verses 12-13 and verses 35-38.
-- Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9; 22; and 26). Note 9:18 and 22:16.
-- Cornelius and household (Acts 10; 11). Note 10:47,48.
-- The proconsul and the Gentiles (Acts 13:12,48).
-- Those at Iconium and Derbe (Acts 14:1,20b,21).
-- Lydia (Acts 16). Note verses 14 and 15.
-- The jailer and his family (Acts 16). Note verses 30-34.
-- Those at Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens (Acts 17). Note verses 4,12,30,34.
-- Crispus, his family, and Corinthians (Acts 18). Note verse 8.
-- The Ephesians (Acts 19). Note verse 5.
See also the inspired statements in
Acts of Peter (3:19) and Paul (13:39; 15:11; 20:21; 26:20).
Sunday, 10/30/16, 6 PM
Well, I had to stop yesterday, to go
with my wife to her parents’ house, for their wedding anniversary
supper. Before this hour today, I reviewed and finished the Acts
references, which I did not have time to do yesterday. By the way,
I drove the car for the first time, this afternoon. I drove my wife,
among other nearby places, around the House Mountain parking lot.
So, to get back on point, what is my
point? A reading of the Acts texts (above) makes clear that a
believer is immersed immediately, with the emphasis on life-changing
faith, which precedes immersion. Clearly, immersion is a prompt act
of saving faith.
I, therefore, critique both the Baptist
Church and the Church of Christ. How? The Baptist Church emphasizes
salvation by faith, usually by means of a prayer request for
salvation. (By the way, Acts contains no instance of a person’s
faith response, to God’s saving grace, to include a prayer! Of
course, if the person praying is making the required
faith, repentance, confession commitment, then the prayer is just the
expression of these, without which the prayer is meaningless. I,
however, digress.) The Baptist Church critique is that they wait, a
few days, a week, a month, or longer, before the person’s faith
response is finalized in immersion. Immersion, and its immediate
connection to faith, as Acts indicates (see above), is not honored.
(Halloween and our doggy, Molly’s “birthday”)
Now, how about my Church of Christ
critique? The Church of Christ so emphasizes that immersion is
essential to salvation that it downplays the required faith
commitment, which should be obvious in the immersion step. How many
times, in the Church of Christ, have I heard and read about someone
“being immersed,” “obeying the gospel,” “being added to the
church,” etc., without one mention of saving faith or of “being
saved?” The consequence of this “rush to immersion” is that
some (God knows how many) do not truly make the required faith
commitment, which includes repentance, as reflected in how little, if
any, their lives are truly changed by what should be (i.e.,
immersion) an immediate response to a genuine faith commitment to
Christ. Immersion without faith just gets one wet.
So, aside from filling the hours of
boredom, as I slowly recover physically, what have I accomplished,
aside from venting steam? Hum. Well, I suppose that I write this for
the benefit of my brother and his family, initially. Further, this
thought in writing demonstrates that God could still use me, in his
service and ministry, if he would just open a door for me to do so.
Scarred spiritually and physically as I am, I would still find life
purpose in God’s service, instead of what I have been doing all
these years since Mom went to be with Jesus. (Of course, this opens
up a far deeper discussion, into which I have delved elsewhere in my
Of course, I have written to state that
no one church (i.e., Church of Christ) is without fault in scriptural
understanding. God, however, in his grace, includes in his Son’s
church (i.e., the little ‘c’ church of Christ) all those who in
genuine faith -- even if mistaken in some areas -- devote themselves
to his Son. We are saved by grace through faith, not through
perfect doctrinal understanding.
Finally, I have written to honor my
brother and his family, as they walk with the Master, as a family,
along life’s journey. Perhaps God will be gracious toward them,
granting them life peace and fulfillment, without the type of useless
sufferings that I have and am facing.
In closing, I will now step directly
into what I side stepped earlier: whether, to be saved, one must
understand that immersion is essential to salvation and not what one
does after being saved. A Church of Christ member tries to “convert”
a Baptist -- because the Baptist thought he were saved, before
finalizing his faith in immersion -- while not realizing that the
Baptist may have a more genuine faith commitment than he does.
A good father tells his son, if he
wants a candy bar, to dig up the garden weeds and water the corn. The
son, eager to please his father, and get a candy bar, digs up the
weeds, accidentally with some potatoes, and forgets to water the
corn. The good father gives his son the candy bar, with a hug, then
reminds him to water the corn, which the son does promptly. How much
greater is our Good Father?
So, “Father, I think that I was saved
when I turned from sin and toward you, but before I was immersed,
which I did very soon afterward. Is that okay?” “Yes, son, it’s
okay. You are my child. Just remember that immersion is included in
saving faith, when you tell others.” “Thank you, Father! I will!”