Muscle & Shovel”: Chapters 36 – 38 (Shank is baptized; No creed but the Bible)

muscleshovelWe are considering Michael Shank’s book Muscle and a Shovel.

Shank describes waking his wife up at 11:30 PM to discuss the conversion of Paul and his baptism.

“Jonetta, I was baptized for the wrong reason and if that’s the case my baptism is no good. I’m still in my sins at this moment. I’m not a true Christian.” …

His wife later said,

“I’ve been studying those tracts that you brought home. I’ve been reading through them for the last couple of months now. I wondered how long it was going to take you to see it for yourself.”

(Kindle Locations 7257-7259, 7296-7297).

Now, I agree with Randall and his tracts that we are supposed to be baptized for the remission of our sins, but Shank misses a turn here. As he earlier explained, the Greek word eis translated “for” really means “into.” Peter told his audience to be “baptized into the remission of sins.” Peter’s sermon describes the result of baptism, but not the necessary subjective intent.

The premier dictionary of Biblical Greek, BDAG, defines eis as having the following primary meaning —

indicating motion into a thing or into its immediate vicinity or relation to something

Now, eis, like all prepositions, can take on a wide range of meanings depending on context, just as can the English “into.” But the primary, root meaning of eis is “into” and the other meanings spring from that.

Eis can take on the meaning of “in order to obtain,” which would give some credence to Shank’s argument, but to again note Shank’s own research, if “baptize” is a mere transliteration that should have been translated “immersed,” then when the Jews heard “immerse eis” they would naturally hear “be immersed into” because “immerse” refers to motion into something.

Thus, if we take the most natural reading, supported by Shank’s own research, what Peter’s audience heard is that they were to be immersed into forgiveness of sins. And that means that the consequence of baptism is forgiveness. The sentence says nothing about an essential subjective intent. Rather, Peter promises them an outcome. What the convert should be thinking is simply not the point Peter cares to address — rather, he is promising them what they desperately want: forgiveness and the outpoured Spirit.

Shank says that his earlier baptism was invalid because it was an “outward show of an inward change,” but that’s in fact true. The water does not forgive sins; God does that inwardly. The baptism displays what is in fact going on in heaven and in the convert’s heart. So his purpose in being baptized was true — although he was in error as to when salvation occurs.

I mean, baptism does many things, and remission of sins is but one. To argue for remission of sins is not argue against the others. And what on earth privileges remission of sins as the only legitimate purpose when there are many other possibilities found in scripture?

Tens of thousands of Church of Christ members, including Shank and Randall, were baptized for remission of sins while denying that they would receive the personal indwelling of the Spirit. And that’s error. And if error in understanding the consequences of baptism necessarily damns, they are all damned.

And that’s all just crazy. Again, a person new to Jesus and the scriptures cannot be held to such a high standard. I have Greek resources that only one in a thousand have, and I have decades of study and learning — and I often find myself in disagreement with others who are similarly blessed.

God saves those with faith in Jesus. When someone comes to be baptized, we ask for them to confess their faith in Jesus. We find that sufficient and so we admit them to baptism — gladly.

But Randall and Shank seem to want us to also have faith in baptism because unless we have faith that baptism remits our sins, we are damned. And that’s sadly mistaken.

It wasn’t until around 1884, when Austin McGary founded the Firm Foundation in Texas, that anyone in the Restoration Movement doubted the sufficiency of Baptist baptism. The Restoration Movement disputed the Baptist understanding of baptism from early on (not the beginning of the Movement, but early in its history), but in the 19th Century the Movement did not doubt the sufficiency of Baptist baptism.

Alexander Campbell even declared one preacher a “heretic” for insisting on re-baptizing Baptists, because “heretic” in the Greek refers to a divider of the church, and Campbell saw declaring Baptist baptism inadequate to save as dividing brother from brother.

During the early decades of the 20th Century, David Lipscomb, as editor of the Gospel Advocate, battled McGary, arguing for the sufficiency of Baptist baptism, despite the error in it. Only several years after Lipscomb’s death did that publication begin to reject Baptist baptism.

The result of McGary’s work in Texas was to create a mean-spirited, pugnacious, judgmental spirit among our preachers, turning what was once a unifying movement into a collection of warring, divisive segments, none of which recognized the others as saved. Once we began to damn the Baptists despite their faith in Jesus and their immersions as believers, it was easy for editors and preachers to find other things to disagree over — and the same arguments used to damn the Baptists were used to damn other congregations and members of the Churches of Christ.

So I’m saddened and frustrated to read Shank and his wife not only doubting their own baptisms, but feeling the need to treat all Baptists as damned because they had an imperfect baptismal theology — all while Shank and his wife got a different imperfect baptismal theology from their collection of Church of Christ tracts.

Chapter 37

Shank and his wife get into their car and head toward Randall’s all-black congregation’s church to be baptized.

Chapter 38

Chapter 38 describes the baptisms of Shank and his wife. And I’m delighted that they have faith in Jesus and they repented of their sins. And if they had doubts about their baptisms, I’m not going to get bent out of shape over a re-baptism — except I really wish that their confidence would be in Jesus and not their understanding of baptismal theology.

You see, it’s a dangerous thing when we rely on our intellects for our salvation rather than on a person — Jesus of Nazareth. Our intellects are unstable, uncertain things. We are easily fooled, but Jesus is certain and sure.

(Eph 3:11-12 ESV) 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

(Phi 3:3 ESV)  3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh–

(1Jo 4:16-18 ESV)  16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.  18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

No creed but the Bible

After his wife’s confession and immersion, Shank concludes,

She now was no longer a member of any denomination. She now wore no other name than Christian. The Bible was now her only creed and she was now a sister to every Christian we read about in the pages of the Bible.

(Kindle Locations 7490-7493).

Of course, she’d learned what she’d learned by reading tracts from Churches of Christ. They’d written down what they believed, which is, of course, just fine. So what’s wrong with a “creed”? Isn’t a creed just a written statement of what a church or denomination believes? Don’t most Churches of Christ post a “What We Believe” statement on their websites?

Well, at the beginning of the Restoration Movement, the saying was “We have no creed but Christ, no creedbook but the Bible.” Over time, this was changed to “No creed but the Bible.” The only explanation I’ve heard from modern Church of Christ members for the wrongness of a creed is that it’s unnecessary, because if it says something not in the Bible, it’s wrong; and if it says what’s in the Bible, it’s not needed. Which, if true, would make the tracts wrong or unnecessary, too.

But in the 19th Century, the various denominations used their creeds to determine who was saved. Unless you agreed with the creed of X denomination, you could not take communion at their churches. Hence, creeds were tests of fellowship containing inferences from biblical truths that not every believer agrees on.

And Stone and the Campbells decided that they would extend fellowship across denominational lines without regard to creeds — written or unwritten. Hence: “No creed but Christ.”

More on why the Churches of Christ originally rejected creeds in the next post.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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37 Responses to Muscle & Shovel”: Chapters 36 – 38 (Shank is baptized; No creed but the Bible)

  1. Price says:

    Jay, you gave the definition of “eis” and included in that definition this phrase, “or relation to something.” I guess that’s where I keep coming to in my conclusions. Rom 6 is a great chapter of how we symbolically identify with the sacrifice made on our behalf. Surely, no one really believes that we are somehow literally were crucified, buried and resurrected.. It is symbolic but highly significant as we identify and benchmark our commitment to live differently than before.

    Is it not possible to take that definition and see “eis” as being just that, doing something in relation to what has already been done? A symbolic identification with the forgiveness of sin that was provided by the sacrifice? Heb 9 says that there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood. No one sheds blood in the waters of baptism..

    It’s also interesting to me to read Peter’s second sermon in Acts 3.. He first identifies faith as the primary means of healing. vs 16… Then he repeats his assertion that “they” were responsible but had acted in ignorance..vs 17… That scripture foretold of Christ’s death and suffering on their behalf.. vs 18.. then this… [Act 3:19 ESV] 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,”.. That sure looks like forgiveness of sin to me… and a noticeable absence of immersion required to obtain it… Then, as in Chapter 2 the consequence of this repentance is what? [Act 4:4 ESV] 4 But many of those who had heard the word BELIEVED, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”… Now that’s either 2,000 more or an additional 5,000 who BELIEVED… Not one mention of immersion.. It may be fair to assume that they did but is it not a glaring omission to those that depend on water to be saved ?

    Paul chastises the Galatians and says this about their receipt of the Holy Spirit…. [Gal 3:2 ESV] 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?”

    Jesus said to make disciples and then to baptize them.. Surely no one believes that someone signs up for discipleship 101 and is baptized as a result of signing up. No, one would be taught and instructed and at some point would come to believe in the teaching of the teacher..

    Personally, I don’t see the whole point of arguing the point of WHEN one is actually saved. Any faithful person will be baptized at some point as a matter of “faithfulness” which is a word you often use. One could only question the sincerity of one’s faith if they refused the command to be baptized.. But, to “identify” and proclaim one’s allegiance seems to me to be quite different from saving oneself.. I just can’t get past the statement that we are “saved by Grace through Faith.” I believe Jesus did it all… All to Him I owe. My identification with what He did does not allow me to take credit for what He did…

    I know of few who declare that someone on the way to the baptistery is eternally damned if they died before their nose broke through the water.. Most defer to the Grace of God in that instance. But, if you believe that water immersion is essential to one’s being saved you can’t believe in that. You must be believe that a person is eternally damned by a delinquent faith or you must accept that God’s intent was to save us, not condemn us by sending Jesus and that we are indeed saved because of His Grace that we received by our belief and trust in Jesus as Lord.

  2. Ray Downen says:

    Jesus calls for us who love Him to tell others about Him and to baptize those who believe. Why are some so eager to think Jesus was wrong? It’s almost as if they don’t realize that HE commanded us to baptize, so they decide that baptism isn’t really very important and people can be saved without it. It’s surprising that some don’t believe Jesus and argue vehemently against what He requires.

  3. Johnny says:

    Ray, I read every comment on this page daily, I have yet to see anyone disagree that those who believe should be baptized. Why must you accuse others of something they do not believe or say?

  4. laymond says:

    Mat 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
    (NLT But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.)
    Mat 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
    We might argue about what happens in baptism, but there is no argument that God requires it, and he likes when we do it.
    Mat 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

  5. Grace says:

    I walked into the wall, I guess that makes me a wall.

    I agree with Price’s comment.

  6. laymond says:

    Baptism may be required to show an act of obedience, plain and simple.

    Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
    Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
    Mat 7:24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

  7. Ray Downen says:

    Price argues in defense of salvation prior to being baptized into Christ. He writes

    It’s also interesting to me to read Peter’s second sermon in Acts 3.. He first identifies faith as the primary means of healing. vs 16… Then he repeats his assertion that “they” were responsible but had acted in ignorance..vs 17… That scripture foretold of Christ’s death and suffering on their behalf.. vs 18.. then this… [Act 3:19 ESV] 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,”.. That sure looks like forgiveness of sin to me… and a noticeable absence of immersion required to obtain it… Then, as in Chapter 2 the consequence of this repentance is what? [Act 4:4 ESV] 4 But many of those who had heard the word BELIEVED, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.”… Now that’s either 2,000 more or an additional 5,000 who BELIEVED… Not one mention of immersion.. It may be fair to assume that they did but is it not a glaring omission to those that depend on water to be saved ?

    No, it is not a glaring omission for Luke to not mention baptism of the additional 2,000. Why would anyone want to assume that Peter had changed his mind or his message between the Day of Pentecost and the day following? If Luke had assured us that the 2,000 were NOT baptized as were the 3,000, we would have reason to change our minds about the necessity of obeying Jesus and baptizing new believers.

    But Jesus doesn’t need to repeat and repeat that new believers are to be baptized. Once is sufficient in order for His Word to stand. Once is enough for us who love and trust Him. It’s obvious that some do NOT trust Him and feel it is necessary that there be no cases where the obedience of baptizing each new believer is not mentioned or else we are free to assume that baptism really isn’t necessary at all.

  8. Ray Downen says:

    Johnny suggests,

    “Ray, I read every comment on this page daily, I have yet to see anyone disagree that those who believe should be baptized. Why must you accuse others of something they do not believe or say?”

    I note that some argue against any need for baptism into Christ. They are saying (implying) that what Jesus commands is optional. The reaction of FAITH is obedience. The reaction of disbelieve is disobedience. Why does anyone not realize that teaching salvation without baptism into Christ is teaching “a different gospel”? We suppose it’s because the false teacher is unaware of the apostolic teaching, so we repeat and repeat and repeat what is taught in hopes that some will be persuaded to cease their false teaching.

    Salvation is promised to those who OBEY the gospel. It’s promised only to those who do obey. And Luke makes clear how the obedience is shown and known. Repentance is internal. It doesn’t show on the outside. Faith is internal. It doesn’t show on the outside. Baptism is external. It can be seen. Jesus commands that new believers are to be baptized. He did so not because faith alone saves, but because faith alone and even a repentance heart cannot be seen. But obedience through an immersion in water and being raised up out of that water can be seen and can’t be disguised.

    Is that not why He explained that entrance into HIS kingdom was by way of “water and spirit”? A dry conversion is not “into Christ.” But that’s what is taught by advocates of salvation by faith alone. They urge, “Just change your mind and say you’ll change your actions, and you are SAVED!” But that is NOT what Jesus says or what His apostles say is necessary.

  9. Price says:

    Ray, you once again bring the “faith only” argument into the discussion when nobody else does. No one is saved by faith… no one is saved by baptism.. .Salvation is an act of Grace meaning there is nothing that anyone can do to force God into saving them… I don’t understand your insistence to defend against something that isn’t being put forth…??

    I notice that you did not address the Acts 3 sermon by Peter wherein no mention of water is suggested for the removal of sin… Perhaps you could focus on that if you wish to argue the moment one is saved. Why would Peter emphasize faith and belief and totally forget to mention water ? Did he really forget the only thing that actually saves us ? Or, do you assume that faith and belief would have lead them to be baptized but because of the significance and sheer enormity of it’s salvific nature, Luke just forgot to mention it…?? How does one forget to mention the only thing that saves us ? Or, was that what was intended by emphasizing faith/belief ?

  10. John says:

    If Paul could exhort the Romans in chapter 13, verse 14, to “…put on (clothe yourselves with) the Lord Jesus Christ…” which did not carry the literal meaning that they were “unclothed” with Christ, why would “into” have to mean that one is outside of Christ? When the children of Israel were “baptized into Moses under the cloud and in the sea”, they were not separate from Moses untill they had crossed.

  11. John says:

    The baptism of the children of Israel was indeed the final act of salvation from the Egyptians; but it began with the blood of the passover with Moses, who was with them through their baptism. As was Jesus when we accepted his blood (his death) as a sacrifice for sin.

  12. John Fewkes says:

    I could wish this comment could be shorter, but then the thought would be incomplete. . .

    My first year Greek professor J W Roberts has this to say regarding “eis”
    The claim for a causal meaning of eis in Acts 2:38 has led to a discussion of the use of eis in other contexts. 1 One of the passages for which a meaning of “because of” is claimed for the preposition is Matthew 12:41: “Because they repented at the preaching of Jonah” (hoti metenoiesan eis to kerugma Jona). Typical of the comments is that of Robertson in his exegesis of Acts 2:38. He says the meaning “because” is “seen in Matt. 12:41 about the preaching of Jonah . . . They repented because of (or at) the preaching of Jonah.”
    The purpose of this short paper is to demonstrate that this exegesis does not represent the consensus of the standard grammars and lexicons and that it does not satisfy the idiom.””
    End of quote.
    Roberts concludes:
    It is admitted that the reason for the repentance of the city of Nineveh was the preaching of Jonah. But it is denied that this is what is expressed by repentance eis. If Jesus had meant to say this he would certainly have made his meaning plain by using dia with the accusative, the regular preposition to express cause.
    On the basis of this study, it is quite evident that Matthew 12:41 means that the people of Nineveh reacted toward the message or proclamation of Jonah by repenting.
    End of quote
    More to the point is NOT how Matthew, but how Luke use the preposition. Those who would try to PROVE haw an author uses language should find their examples primarily the that author uses the language, not some other author. “Don’t put XXX’s words in my mouth.” Work your way through Luke-Acts and try to substitute “because of” in the place of “eis”; you will gain perhaps a better insight. I have done so (I have it in a Word format if anybody would want it (let me know, I would send it on).
    Dana and (esp.) Mantey try to make the case for causal use in their Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. (1955 edition, page 104) referring to Lk. 12:32 (typographical error, the passage is Luke 11:32) again referring to the preaching of Jonah as in Matthew. (So Robert’s comments would apply there also.)
    In as somewhat obtuse, but I think is a scholarly slap of the hand Bruce Metzger, Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, 1969 pg. 8, in defining “eis” says
    “with the acc., into (eisegesis, faulty interpretation of a text by reading into it one’s own ideas.) END OF QUOTE
    E.A. Sophocles A Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (B.C. 146 to A.D. 1100) does not as far as I can see, give a single instance of eis meaning “because of” as primary or in any cognate. But of course, he only reviewed 255 and 339 ecclesiastical sources!
    Of course, eisegesis does not occur in the NT nor in any Greek, Roman, or Byzantine literature, so I think Metzger’s intent is clear. Eisegesis is not a Biblically approved practice, but one practice in which too many (on any “side”) are willing to participate.
    We should not have to plumb the depths of philology to understand Biblical principles. J. W. McGarvey was (and still is) wrong about “measures of the spirit” but was (and still is) right in saying “When the wish is the father to the thought correct exegesis (again, not a NT word) is like water off a duck’s back” Christian Leader,, 1905.

    would not stand with any who say water is the magic that saves. If that were so, let us get out our shotguns and drive the multitudes to the river! Peter makes that clear (1Pe 3:21). We are saved NOT by any one act, but by the TOTALITY of a faith response to the gospel.

  13. Ray’s continued screed about baptism reminds me of the old Perry Mason TV shows. Remember? He’d drag a theory into court without any evidence of any sort and keep hammering away at people until somebody in the courtroom broke and confessed his guilt in the last two minutes. So, brothers, which of us is it going to be? Which of us will eventually jump up and shout in a voice of guilt and anguish, “I DID IT! I’m the one who didn’t think anybody needed to be baptized! Yes, I implied my socks off! I just didn’t want to obey God! I just wanted to do things my own way! Mr Mason, er Mr. Downen was right all along!”

    A few aching sobs will probably be required.

  14. Royce says:

    The sad thing is, Christian church folks like Ray have complete agreement about baptism with most all of the coc folks, yet many of the coc folks will declare Ray damned because he worships with instruments accompanying the singing on Sunday morning. And Ray declares everyone who disagrees with his version of correct baptism lost, especially Baptists. Neither group seems to exemplify the love of Christ.

    Jesus came to earth to die for sinners. He came for ungodly people, not good people. And in his name we can’t love and accept others who are not like us who also claim Jesus as Lord and live lives just as devoted as we? I fear we fail the love test. Not only do some of us think Baptists are lost, but some seem to be glad they are.

    Do you not remember how Jesus corrected the disciples who tried to stop some folks from doing good things because they were not exact replicas of them? “But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”When did that change? And do you remember Paul’s response to those who were preaching Christ out of impure motives? Instead of damning them he praised God that Christ was preached. Can you praise God if a Methodist or Assembly of God preacher preaches Christ? If you can’t you need to get right with God yourself.

    Don’t be a Diotrephes

  15. Price says:

    Mr. Fewkes, that was informative. Thanks for sharing… Acts 3:19 also uses “eis”… It is translated in the ESV as “that.” [Act 3:19 ESV] 19 Repent therefore, and turn back,THAT your sins may be blotted out,” However, it seems that repentance and turning back were the action steps in this second sermon before thousands… same result it seems..

    I’m obviously not a Greek scholar so perhaps you would have some insight on my question which is…. would the lack of even a mention of immersion in Peter’s second sermon have any bearing on the context of “eis” in his first sermon ? Thanks..

  16. Price says:

    Ray forgets that Peter’s audience wasn’t the same as on the day of Pentecost..and most likely didn’t have a copy of the book of Acts to compare notes… What Peter told them was all that they were to hear prior to being added to the church… I’m sure it’s easy to forget… But, the people that were added, at least 2,000 people were the ones that were told that they should repent and turn back for their sins to be blotted out.. Luke records that they indeed believed and were added to the church…

    But, now that we have the entire NT we can read that somewhere around 60 or so times we are told that we are saved by grace through our faith/belief without any mention of immersion… It is odd that the HS insists on repeating Himself this many times… Perhaps it’s difficult for some to grasp.

  17. John Fewkes says:

    Would we not consider it a bit tedious if we received a letter in which the author sought to repeat in full everything that had been said previously? Thus I think Acts 2 and Acts 10 (first the Jew, then the Gentile) are particularly informative. Peter’s sermon in Acts 10 must have included teaching on “means of salvation” or the hearers would likely have questioned Peter’s command (a military term: prostasso) to be baptized.

    Perhaps the greater question is, “Why would anyone not, in the light of the NT example, want to “make haste” to the water?” I studied at length with a couple who went on their way without being baptized. A few weeks later he called to tell me that he had been baptized for the remission of his sins at XXX Baptist church. I believe I taught him faithfully, he believed he responded in faith, If “perfect understanding of doctrine is required” whose understanding of doctrine is so “perfect” that he is not damned.

    At the end of the day, I have to come back to an old song with still a message for today:

    Perfect Submission…. Perfect Delight … I in my Savior . . . .

    It may well be that Lack of submission more than lack of understanding will result in condemnation

  18. Grace says:

    Jay and some others in the CofC camp want to say their theology about baptism is not the same as the CofC baptismal theology. They say that God gives grace to those of us who have “imperfect baptisms or faulty baptisms” as Jay likes to put it in so many of his posts. They are saying God’s grace of forgiveness is given when people act obedient to be baptized, people have to act in obedience to earn His forgiveness. But they won’t admit it. They try to get around it interpreting Peter saying in Acts 2:38, God’s grace of forgiveness is given when people act obedient to be baptized, except for the exceptions He makes giving forgiveness to all who have faith.

    “I have Greek resources that only one in a thousand have, and I have decades of study and learning — and I often find myself in disagreement with others who are similarly blessed.”

    “But of course, he only reviewed 255 and 339 ecclesiastical sources!”

    These are the things CofC denomination folks say as an attempt to make it sound as if their studies are better than other scholars that disagree with them. Guess what, scholars that disagree with them have also studied just as much and even more so than the CofC preachers and professors.

    Royce has pretty much summed up what we will see coming from the majority who are in the CofC camp, “The sad thing is, Christian church folks like Ray have complete agreement about baptism with most all of the coc folks.”

    Anyone whose study doesn’t match up and teach that of the CofC denomination’s study is just not as good.

    CofC 101-Rule #2 Don’t disagree with our baptismal theology on Acts 2:38.

    Price’s comment gives exactly where the CofC baptismal theology ends up at, “I know of few who declare that someone on the way to the baptistery is eternally damned if they died before their nose broke through the water.. Most defer to the Grace of God in that instance. But, if you believe that water immersion is essential to one’s being saved you can’t believe in that. You must be believe that a person is eternally damned by a delinquent faith or you must accept that God’s intent was to save us, not condemn us by sending Jesus and that we are indeed saved because of His Grace that we received by our belief and trust in Jesus as Lord.”

  19. Price says:

    Mr. Fewkes… I think if you look at the NT you see that saved by Grace through Faith/Belief is made clear some 60 times.. That’s more than repetitious… but, that’s not the topic at hand.. The people who Peter preached to the 2nd time weren’t privileged to have a copy of Acts or Galatians to compare.. They had to DEPEND on what they were told. Peter told them to Repent after speaking of the Faith in Jesus that was able to heal… According to Luke some 2,000 or 5,000 depending on how one reads it, believed and were added to the church.. No instruction from Peter whatsoever to the audience to be immersed..

    You may however be right about the duplicity involved.. It does seem odd, to me at least, that the mention of Faith and Repentance were not omitted from the recorded sermon… If something other than those two things was the single salvation event, does it make sense to repeat non-significant instructions and leave out the most important one ? I find the argument that essentials to salvation need not be repeated with non-essentials are to be less than convincing..

  20. John Fewkes says:

    RE: Act 3:19 eis “that” certainly includes the idea of purpose. Would it may any sense to read Repent “because” your sins are already blotted out? I think that not even John Calvin would go that far , bu t maybe he would. I am certainly NOT a TULIP Calvinist. BLOTTED OUT is EXALEIPHO – – a middle or passive infinitive (same form in the Greek, context determines): passively we allow God to save us; understood in the middle (Causative/Permissive [subject ALLOWS something to be done for him] or Reciprocal [effort between subjects]) voice we participate / share / act in concert with) in the action (save yourselves from .. ., work out your own salvation).

  21. R.J. says:

    The Greek word “prostasso” does not Always imply a military connotation anymore then our English term “command” does.;)

  22. John Fewkes says:

    The writer of Hebrews (6:2) considers baptism “elementary-NIV, ESV” arche (Gk, from archo) “to be first”. I do not intend to “rum from” Ac 2:38 but toward it with all speed, and hopefully with submissive understanding. Taking a most clearly stated if >then statement IF baptized > THEN gift of the Holy Spirit. The wo seem most clearly tied together, do they not?

    Please do not try to label me as coc denominational — Mac Lynn identifies at least 39 “branches of coc” and I have no idea if I fit into any of them, nor do I care to fit into anyone’s pigeon hole.

    Why would anyone shy away from baptism? Either one is baptized BECAUSE of faith, THRU faith, as a RESULT faith or they are not. It is faith working in love (appreciation) that matters. Baptism has NEVER been a WORK leading to salvation, just sinners saying “Here am I, save me.” God saying, “Be washed in the blood of the lamb (Jesus).” Baptism so perfectly pictures that to the point that I could never step aside from its’ importance. When Paul write to the Corinthians (ch. 15) about first importance, he has already commented on the importance of baptism and its’ mistaken nature by some (ch, 1). Luke, Paul, others wrote to those without centuries of Christian theological baggage to muddle through . . . .

  23. John Fewkes says:

    prostassw in Acts 10:48

    1. The word is often used for “to order (validly)” of those who have the right to command, so rulers, Plat. Resp., I, 339 d, legislators, V, 746 a, the law, 745 a, similarly pap., also God:
    , Plat. Ap., 33 c, nature, Phaed., 80 a, kings, Jos. Ap., 2, 141, the Athenians, through laws, 172, the Jewish laws, 149, the Law, 202, Plato as law-giver, 257, Moses, 12, God, Ant., 1, 51 and 59 (in an individual direction), also God in Philo Vit. Mos., II, 63,

    ; men should command women, Test. R. 5:5. In Stoicism the word has the special sense “to impart an ethical direction or norm.” The law can only forbid and not command the wicked because they are unable to do what is truly right, Plut. Stoic. Rep., 11 (II, 1037 c-d). But cf. Philo: It is unnecessary to command or forbid the perfect man . . . who is of God (® II, 392 , 11 ff.), Leg. All., I, 94. One also reads that it is the task of the king “to command what is necessary and to forbid what is unlawful,” Vit. Mos., II, 4, through laws, 5;

    2. In the LXX the word means “to command,” of God in Lev 10:1 Jonah 2:1 Jnh 4:6-8; of Moses in Ex 36:6; Dt 27:1; kings in 2 Ch 31:13; 1

    3. The fixity of usage outside the NT may be noted in the NT too. The apostle orders the baptism of those on whom the Holy Ghost has descended, Ac 10:48. Moses in the Torah gave statutes which are to be kept, Mk 1:44 and par. The angel of God gives an individual instruction, Mt 1:24. In Ac 10:33 the content of Peter’s preaching is called that which is laid upon him by God, here in a statement which is neutral in respect of content and asserts both the authority and also the dependence of the apostle. God is the One who orders in Ac 17:26 (® V, 453 , 22 ff.)
    (from Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Copyright © 1972-1989 By Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. All rights reserved.)

    Sorry if an abbreviated comment above caused consternation to some. If Peter ORDERED baptism, how shall we diminish its’ importance?

  24. Royce says:

    Has anyone commenting on this blog recently said “baptism is optional”, or “baptism is not important”? I don’t remember seeing that if it’s true. What some of us question is if baptism by immersion is the split second when God saves a sinner and gives the Holy Spirit.

    Good, honest, well meaning people have reached different conclusions, all claiming biblical authority for their positions. (David Koresh claimed biblical authority for his wacky views too by the way…)

    Abraham, before he crossed his property line, before he fathered a child in old age, before he offered that child at God’s command, and before he was circumcised was declared “righteous” by God. Why? Because he took God at his word and simply believed the heavy promises God laid on him. He was saved by faith. The faithfulness of his faith led him to every obedience we read about. He was not declared in the right because of his faith-filled exploits, they resulted from his faith. Read Romans 4 written by an Apostle, a converted Jew, and one chosen by God to minister to us Gentiles. It is so clear only an unbelieving heart will miss the truth of it. God saves by faith.

    Jesus comes along, lives a perfect life fulfilling the law to the tiniest detail, gives that perfect life willingly for us and takes all of our combined sins upon himself and dies like a common criminal, outside the city gates on a cross. One of his last acts before he gave up his spirit was to grant grace and forgiveness to a convicted and soon to be executed criminal. “Today you will be with me…”

    Now another Apostle, Peter, empowered by the Holy Spirit, preaches Christ to a large audience of Jews from all over the world and 3,000 were saved. They heard the message of the Christ, they were convicted of their personal sinfulness (“cut to the heart”), repented of their unbelief, and were baptized. And, over 2,000 years later it’s still happening. Over the world, even in places where there is no church of Christ, people are preaching the gospel, sinners are repenting and believing, and tens of millions have been baptized.

    Shouldn’t we be more worried about preaching Christ in the Spirit’s power than fussing about the split second of salvation? If sinners hear the good news about what Jesus has done for them, some of them will believe and be saved. I’m willing to let God sort them out.

    One thing is crystal clear and can’t be denied. God has NO obligation to save everyone we immerse in water. The only ones who will be saved are those who are trusting Christ and his claims the best they can. I know for certain that many people are baptized who have no clue about the meaning of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The reason I know is that I have communicated with some of the preachers who themselves don’t know.

    All of us had best start majoring on Jesus Christ and his work for the ungodly. There are people who may never hear a clear presentation of the gospel of Christ because we are fussing about the meaning of a Greek word. Shame on US!

  25. Actually, John, Hebrews 6 considers baptisms (plural) elementary. There is more to baptism than water. But delving into that would require more inquiry into the passage than we seek from a simple proof text.

    And I must confess that the quasi-inductive “why not” nature of John’s reasoning leaves me a bit flat. Why would not one “hasten” (however fast that is, he fails to quantify) to the water? I don’t know. Why would not one meet daily with the believers? Why would not one sell his possessions and give the money to poorer brothers? Why would not one continue his speech until midnight? Or go catch a fish with which to pay his taxes? Why would one not greet his brother with a kiss? Why would one not desire to prophesy? Why would one not spend all day asking “Why not?” as though that were a substitute for explaining “Why?”

    Again, we find the bridge to the baptistry barred by same hardy strawman which Ray has already battered, a poor hay-stuffed Horatius, holding back the pentitent Tuscans from the baptismal font. It might be an interesting argument– if anyone had presented it. But, alas, no one here has suggested that we shy away from water baptism. Or that baptism should be eschewed or even marginalized. No, that argument has not been made. It is only argued against in absentia. And unconvincingly at that.

    As to “working out one’s own salvation”, it is my opinion that there is actually precious little “fear and trembling” in the man who thinks he has the wherewithal to produce part of his own salvation by his own efforts and has the self-esteem to try to demonstrate that. Such a stance speaks much more of hubris than humility.

  26. Shank’s wife gets thrown under the bus in this chapter. I really can’t believe she’s as hard-mean-spirited and foolish as Shank paints her.

    Shank finally determines that he remains a hell-bound sinner because his previous baptism doesn’t meet spec. But her response is not to beseech her beloved husband, dangling over the fires of hell from the hands of an angry god, to repent of his botched baptism and be saved. No, after enough exposure to CoC tracts, her response to her still-as-yet damned husband is, “I wondered how long it was going to take you to see it for yourself.” Oh, for a helpmeet such as this!

    Shank also has his poor wife, who has apparently known for some time prior to chapter 36 that her eternal soul was in jeopardy due to defective dunking, but could naught but wait upon the leadership of her husband before submitting to baptism herself. Here, Shank is not only the head of the wife, but the entire spinal cord as well. She can’t move until he does.

    I’ve never met Shank’s wife and I have a higher opinion of her than he does.

  27. Royce says:

    Very well said sir Charles!

  28. Monty says:


    Have you ever commented on the Baptist theologian G.R. Beasley-Murray’s works on baptism? If so, could you direct me there? If not, I think they are pertinent to what you are discussing. As you may know he differed from his Baptist camp and believed baptism into Christ was part of the saving experience, along with belief, repentance, and confession, and receiving the Spirit. He however refused to say that baptism was the exact moment of salvation. He took the approach that everyone(those who taught and preached) all were on the same page early on. He taught that the above mentioned happened generally the same day, if not the same hour of the night, or sooner. He blames later day theologians for dissecting the elements of saving faith, and for cutting loose baptism as something that can be postponed as something after the fact. A mere outward sign.He did not seek to divide over the issue but was much in thought(seems to me) like that of Alexander Campbell, (like you) taught unity in matters where baptism wasn’t understood correctly.

  29. Skip says:

    It is interesting that in the past we have often interpreted that all NT salvation scriptures are subsumed by Acts 2:38. Thus all faith only scriptures are interpreted through the Acts 2:38 lens. Why can it not be other way around? An Acts2:38 centered theology will always force all other salvation scriptures to be interpreted through that one verse. Seems to me that this inherently is a flawed approach. Let all salvation scriptures stand on their own merit. This is similar to the Calvanism/Arminianism debate. Each group proves its point with its pet scriptures and ignores all contrary scriptures.

  30. John Fewkes says:

    I’ll repeat with what I closed my last comment: Perfect Submission . . . . Perfect Delight . . . .
    no room for self, ego, pride, works, or the like .. just Thank you Lord. . . Here am I, do as you wish

    We will NEVER completely understand the things of God, but will be held responsible for the things we do understand (Campbell said as much). The tendency to OVERTHINK the simplest things may sometimes (not always) be a symptom of pride that leads to the “my way or the highway”. Looking at 1 John those who went out thought they had a higher view of Christology: their Christ was so high and holy HE would never suffer in the flesh. In much the same way, those who would divide, excuse me, should stay STAND FIRM (2Thess) often portray a similar sense of spiritual superiority, as would some who would declare themselves free from restraint – – both sadden me as the people of God show a distinct lack of love. I freely confess my personal enjoyment in “digging in” to a passage and understanding its nuances, but at the end of the study, that is all they are — nuances to be placed well below in importance to the core of the text itself. Perhaps as this discussion goes further the IF>THEN I posited earlier can be explored.

  31. Jay Guin says:

    From a reader,

    I agree with your review of Muscle & a Shovel. I followed the brother’s line of reasoning for years, coming out of the Methodist ministry with my Baptist baptism intact. One question for my clarification. You said it was dangerous to “depend on our intellect for our salvation rather than a person.” I understand the point, but couldn’t someone counter by saying one must depend upon that same intellect for our salvation to believe or have faith in a person, therefore if one is dangerous, so is the other?

    I wrote,

    You see, it’s a dangerous thing when we rely on our intellects for our salvation rather than on a person — Jesus of Nazareth. Our intellects are unstable, uncertain things. We are easily fooled, but Jesus is certain and sure.

    I suppose that it’s impossible to entirely escape the need to trust our own intellects but there is a very real difference.

    “Faith” as used in the NT is about belief that Jesus is the Messiah, faithfulness to him, and trust in him. Of those three elements, only belief that Jesus is the Messiah is fundamentally intellectual. And while some people come to this element of faith through intense intellectual inquiry (Lee Strobel comes to mind), most people come to faith based on experience and their trust in Christians they’ve met. That is, for most people, even belief is more experiential than deductive reasoning.

    And, of course, one could become faithful and trusting as a result of intellectual inquiry. But most people get there by other paths, in my experience. I mean, apologetics is not usually how people are converted, although some are, of course.

    Even so, the scope of the intellectual question is ultimately very narrow: Does God exist? Is Jesus his Son and Messiah? Was Jesus resurrected? And these issues are dealt with at the time of conversion.

    For someone who thinks like Michael Shank, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of very difficult questions that we must get right to REMAIN saved. If we are wrong on whether we can have a “personal relationship” with Jesus, we’re damned.

    Randall opened his Bible and found his target. “Mr. Mike, having a personal relationship with Jesus is a hoax. It’s one of the greatest false teachings of modern-day religion. You know why? Because it’s not taught anywhere in God’s Word. No one was ever told to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, nor is the principle taught in the Bible. A personal relationship with Jesus mocks God because it infers that God is a respecter of persons and He is not.

    Shank, Michael (2012-06-01). Muscle and a Shovel Edition (Kindle Locations 2439-2443). Michael Shank. Kindle Edition. See also Kindle Location 8132.

    What would be the best way to pervert God’s will and devour men’s souls? How could the Adversary lead people into apostasy, heresy and eternal destruction? Satan’s strategy? Lead mankind to division. Cause each division to hold to some Truth and do some good. Let them get close to Truth, but keep them just at the cusp of rightly dividing the Word. Get them to think they’re saved by perverting the simplest elements of God’s plan of salvation . Keep them in this state until they die and the strategy succeeds.

    Shank, Michael (2012-06-01). Muscle and a Shovel Edition (Kindle Locations 4960-4969). Michael Shank. Kindle Edition.

    Per Shank, every single issue that divides denominations is a salvation issue. Close to the truth does not save. Rather, perfect doctrine is the standard.

    It’s one thing to require that we understand that Jesus is the Messiah and quite another to require the right position on every doctrine that divides. Who can pass such a test? A 10-year old can understand what’s necessary for salvation. But D.Min.’s and Ph.D.s don’t agree on many of the issues that Shank would damn over.

    Hence, when we recognize that grace covers even doctrinal error — other than a failure to have faith in/faithfulness to/trust in Jesus — then we truly base our salvation on the cross of Jesus and the grace of God.

    But when we damn over every nuance of doctrine, then we impose an unending list of doctrinal requirements as a condition to salvation, forcing us to trust our own ability to read the silences and dissect the Greek. It becomes about how smart we are and how expert we are in the scriptures rather than leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus.

    See /2010/03/the-fork-in-the-road-the-perfectibility-of-the-intellect/ for further thoughts along these lines.

  32. Price says:

    Had to laugh despite the seriousness of the implications of this post….Where I’m from, the reason that most people came to be baptized, which was THE measure of whether one had a relationship with God and weren’t going to hell was because your parents would have made life miserable for you if you had not. The rest of the assembly would have made life miserable for your parents if you had not. You were at church because basically you had no choice and perhaps rightfully so. America would be a much different place if kids were growing up in a church environment instead of on the street. But, it wasn’t because of the great influence and faithfulness of people we knew.. It was because of Mom.. Thinking back, she had more influence than Jesus on the subject. Jesus didn’t own a flyswatter or a switch. Yep, the churches of Christ in my area grew in numbers and participation because of the Mom’s in the assembly. Say what you will but there wasn’t a single one of them that “remained silent” when it came to matters of their family. Just sayin’

  33. laymond says:

    “Yep, the churches of Christ in my area grew in numbers and participation because of the Mom’s in the assembly.”

    amen, seems to me I read somewhere that in the beginning it was the women who were the devout followers of Jesus, even the apostles (men) had their doubts.

  34. laymond says:

    Charles Mclean said ; “A few aching sobs will probably be required.”

    That will come later, Charles, much later.

    I thought of Charles when I saw Bobby Jindal was having a prayer meeting in the superdome with all the evangelical “healers and raisers from death” present. It didn’t help Gov. Perry any, I can’t see where it will help Gov. Jindal.

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