Must One Understand the Purpose of Baptism?

It was in 1825, eleven years after his baptism, that Alexander Campbell concluded that baptism was for the remission of sins. Austin McGary established the Firm Foundation in 1884 with the intention of discussing this subject. His firm "yes" caused many to think him an extremist; and he and David Lipscomb (who answered with the then popular "No") engaged in journalistic cross-fire on the subject for several years (Search for Ancient Order, West; vol. 2, p. 405-f); which proves nothing scriptural, but may prompt a more objective look at matters.

Forgiveness of Sins
Many denominations teach that somewhere along the line of hearing the gospel, learning, believing and obeying, we have remission of sins. Now ask, "At what point along the line?" and let the scriptures answer. They affirm it is at the point of baptism (Acts 2:38, 22:16). This is when forgiveness does take place, regardless of what Campbell, McGary or anyone else thought about it.

Knowledge and Submission
Must the candidate know that he or she must be baptized? Must implies submission to an authority and suggests an adverse effect should he or she fail to comply. The scriptures say the Lord is that authority -- not some "church regulation" or accepted social practice. Frequently people equate the "doctrine of the church" with the teaching of the Lord -- when in reality they may have little in common. If one's allegiance, and hence one's submission, is actually "to the church" -- having little or no knowledge of the teaching of Christ -- how can their baptism be "to obey the Lord."

Why Baptism?
Try honestly to consider the passages that teach that you must be baptized and see if you can avoid the WHY? Consider such phrases as: to "fulfill righteousness" lest you "reject the council of God" against yourself; "shall be saved" or "make disciples, baptizing" "for the remission of sins" or to "wash away thy sins", etc. The details, the fine and technical points, might easily be missed -- but by the time one has learned that he or she must be baptized, he or she would have learned enough of the reason to make baptism valid.

The matter hinges on -- was the subject properly taught, so that he or she came to Christas a result of being taught, hearing, and learning Christ. This is the only valid way (John 6:45) to be baptized. The subject's understanding, not the preacher's, is the key.

by R. Turner

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